The sheep were made wolves by desperate times, by devious minds; the shepherds kept them lean, taught them loyalty and order. The shepherds didn’t want their meat, just the power they provided, in number and tenacity. They watched their flock, cultivated those who turned on their own, trained them to stand on two legs and made them dream of being shepherds some day themselves.
Clara was a wolf in wolf’s clothing. She saw them for what they were, animals dreaming of individuality and power. She saw the tricks the shepherds played, and played them back: dominance a fuzzy thing when both sides knew the rules.
And so they, none the wiser, trained her as she saw fit. The San Francisco desert became her plaything, and she culled their guardians, her competition, as they expected. She learned the secrets of their power, one by one—the isolation, iconoclasm, but most of all, the paucity of resources. This they did not control, but they allowed, and they did nothing to ease it.
The ruins that she had claimed gave her many things: most importantly, ideas, and the means to make them happen. Old technologies grew themselves inside her, giving her more strength and more capacity for those ideas and their solutions.
Clara read in books of times before, and technology. Technology not scavenged, but made; and she learned the difference, to see it. The shepherds still made their own tech, though they seemed to not push the boundaries of what the time before them knew. The wolves, they used what tech they could find, and it was a rare one that could put two things together to renew what had been drained or broken.
She was rarer still, of course. She made her own tools, finer than anything the shepherds left for them to find. Those tools made her other tools, and information was unearthed deeper than the shepherds scoured. She fell one day upon the answer to it all: rain, falling from the sky. If she could make that happen, the shepherds’ hold would wane. Communities could form, more than gangs, and not sutured to the shepherds’ teats.
She poured herself into that one vein of research, then, opening information from times and places gone—and from places far away, though she could not make sense of every piece: putting seeds into the sky to make the water-bearers grow.
Seasons turned, the inevitable montage of trial and error, made all the more difficult by the need to keep the shepherds from growing suspicious. But finally she had her device. Several, because she knew that though she might have another chance to fire them, perhaps fine-tune them, she would be a hunted wolf. Her abode, her way of life, forfeit.
She dispersed them as eggs about the city, buried, waiting for her breath of life to hatch and fire.
To her credit, the first went off without a hitch—a flare of iridescent beauty in the early twilight. It flew with design and alacrity, burst into uncountable particles, squiggles, written in the sky like newsprint. It was a story, a prayer, a command: make the rain come. The sky shimmered orange, red, brown as particles blocked the sun, reflecting and refracting. Dry rainbows sparked and died.
And then the rain came, dirty, muddy, wet. Life-giving.