The one prominent feature that makes Tribeworld different from our own is simple. It is not people’s hair or clothing; it is not the level of technology; it is not even the era or decade in which they are living. The difference is the people.
Tribeworld is a world of children, a sort of global camp for chasers of the pied piper, a world-wide Lord of the Flies.
This may seem to be a statement of the obvious, but it is the one simple fact that can be taken for granted. There are no grown-ups. It is what makes Tribeworld what it is.
Zoot had it right when he claimed “no one to tell us what to do.” Suddenly every person alive was granted both total freedom and total liability. Children were thrust out into a world without an instruction manual, and from there on……anything became possible.
Losing the adults meant losing a great number of things that had been taken for granted. Food, water, transportation. Anything built by mass-production. Any technology compiled by experts.
This meant that the modern world was suddenly, violently thrust back to the stone-age. Tribeworld is a primitive culture with a modern consciousness.
It is children starting from scratch, with recollections of how very far from scratch they can go.
In some sense then, it is not just the people, but the world itself that is a child.
Zoot’s theories of Power and Chaos, then, were not as far off as many assumed. Perhaps his words should have been taken as descriptive of the past, rather than prescriptive of the future. Destruction of the old makes way for the birth of the new.
The death of the adults leads inevitably to the birth of a race of children.
This is Tribeworld.
Are there any adults left?
The one persistent question in this bleak new world is a question of reality itself.
Is this world real? Is it lasting? Or is it just a phase; a moment of confusion?
It would only take one person to see Tribeworld un-done. And that person is an adult. Any adult.
Finding an adult in the world would counter the most basic premise of this new world. It would change everything.
For some, the possibility that there is a grown-up hiding somewhere out there becomes a dream of salvation.
Jack spends much of the first season hunting for an adult on his radio. He feels certain that there are still grown-ups, somewhere out there. And he believes that someday, the adults will return—with salvation for the pillaged planet.
Jack is waiting, listening intently at his radio. He is ready for them to come, to come at any moment. He is waiting. Waiting. Jack is waiting, yet no one comes.
Adults can become an unhealthy obsession—a fever dream or a desert mirage. They are seen as the new Deus ex Machina, soon to sweep down from the skies with promises of rescue.
Even the most reserved and cynical child can become caught up in the possibility that the adults are coming back. When the virus first returned, most of the city rejoiced, believing sick children to be de facto grown-ups.
There have been numerous stir-ups in which the kids thought an adult-sighting was eminent.
When the Mall Rats found their way to the observatory and uplinked to a satellite, the possibility seemed realistic. Could there be grown-ups floating somewhere out there in space, grown-ups who had been at their space station long enough to miss the spread of the virus? How many satellites are circling the planet, and carrying how many passengers? Perhaps one day they could all land, and astronauts could take back the planet.
Then of course, there is Pandorex, the company shrouded in mystery, some sort of bioengineering firm that seems to have created the virus—and invented the antidote. When the Mall Rats found a largish vat filled with the antidote, it seemed quite suspicious. If a cure had been discovered, why had it not been distributed? Perhaps the antidote only reaffirms youth’s natural immunities. Or perhaps there simply wasn’t enough, it was a case of too little, too late……leaving room for the possibility that some grown-ups did receive the antidote. Perhaps they took their fill and hid; perhaps they are waiting in the shadows, counting down until the right moment to re-emerge.
When the Technos invaded, salvation seemed certain. Planes in the sky were a clear sign of aged civilization. That dream was quickly crushed, but it raised a new possibility: what about the rest of the world? Without any sort of global communication, every city was an island. Perhaps the virus had been confined to certain regions, and adults in other parts of the world were simply going on with their lives, staying clear of the affected areas for fear of reintroducing the virus to the remaining adult population. This act of abandonment and betrayal could eventually prove to be a last beacon of help.
But in the end, conjecture is futile. Childhood is the situation at hand, and dreaming of the adults, is just that—dreaming.
Does it really matter at all that there may be adults somewhere, when the situation at hand remains unchanged? No matter who might be hiding in the shadows, Tribeworld remains in the hands of children.
To say that it is children who run the world, however, is misleading. Like the world around them, the orphaned children were forced to adapt to survive. Childhood, in any traditional sense, was over the moment their parents died.
What was left in childhood’s wake was a strange new breed of consciousness. An unsteady balance of innocence and inexperience countered with a street-wise cynicism. Innocents who had lost their innocence.
If the adults did somehow return one day, they would not discover a world that they could rebuild as before, or children that they could take in their arms and comfort and coddle. They would be confronted with a world that was not theirs, a world too harsh to handle. In the world that had emerged in their wake, the adults would find that they were suddenly to innocent, too naive, too pure to survive.
They would be forced to wake up and discover that they were the children.
Grown-ups do not belong in Tribeworld.
For better or for worse, whether there are adults left or not, the world has been left to kids.
Now, these children who inherited the earth… are becoming adults.