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Flight

Flight By Bsonk

“So, what did you call me over here for?”
“I’ve done it! Finally It’s finished!” He was a tall man, with childlike energy, who bounced all over the room with his exuberance. He wore threadbare clothes, with thick glasses and a white coat, and he had a cap over his disheveled hair. He was the picture of a garage mad scientist, and we were in his lair.

He led me through the garage, avoiding all the obstacles, while I carefully stepped over a bunch of gears laying out on the floor, around a tire inner tube, and avoided an oil spill on the floor. We went into his kitchen, where lab equipment reigned. Through his living room, which would have looked normal without all the old pieces of computers, and into his official workshop.

It was a room lined with tools and with a row of top-quality computing devices. In the middle of the room was a stand with a strange contraption on it. It was a pair of wings. A silvery, metallic pair of wings. The wings were made of a light metal that had a shiny lustre, and had so many points of flexibility that they were folded in on themselves, like a bird’s. In the center of it was a computer-like device, connected to a motor and a long, flexible, wire-like protuberance.

“What is this?” I asked apprehensively, though I thought I knew what I was seeing.
“This, is the world’s first pair of mechanical wings! A device for personal transportation.”
“You crazy old coot! It’s already been tried, you know. This. People have been trying to do this for millennia. Ever since some loony strapped some sticks to his arms and jumped off a cliff. None of these bird-contraptions have ever worked, Engler me old mate.
“But this one will work! It’s a miracle breakthrough, of sorts.”
“ Miracle breakthrough? What’s this ‘miracle breakthrough’?” I scoffed at him. Engler, was like a mad scientist in a movie! He was totally mad.
“A bird’s wings flap in a very certain way, right?”
I thought that I might as well play along with him.” Yes, they do. So?”
“Very, very fast. In fact, to properly study the movements of bird’s wings, the footage of flight must be slowed down nearly sixteen times.”
“Right. So how is your invention different from a nice sculpture strapped to your back?”
“Oh, come on. Give me the benefit of at least one of your doubts,”Engler said pleadingly.
“All right.” I chuckled slightly. “But how does it get off the ground?”
“Aha! Now that is where the magic comes in. I have spent the last year developing an advanced computer algorithm. This thing is bloody wizzard, mate! It is, essentially, a bird’s brain inside a computer box. It tells the wings how to flap. I constructed it after 5 years of research into bird’s flight. It’s the reason this thing will work.”

I had to admit, I was impressed. A thing like that you did not see every day. I looked at this thing, this little silvery box with a blinking red light, and I thought , this little thing couldn’t get a human off the ground. What’s it made of? What powers it? “What’s it made of?”, I asked.
“It’s made of lightweight polished aluminum, weighing around twenty pounds.”
Ah. That explained the silvery lustre.
“What powers it?,” I asked.
“Oh! That’s another bit of magic. You see, this thing has a 5,000-volt electric motor. The motor is powered by, oh, what do you think?”
“I honestly don’t know.”
“C’mon. Guess, man.”
I was puzzled. What could fit into that tiny space, and generate 5,000 volts?
“Er... Um... Hmm... I guess it could be some kind of thing where power is beamed to the device by laser? Something wacky like that?”
“How much excess energy do you think your body radiates in heat?”
Why was he asking me that?, I thought. “I don’t know... 100 volts?”
“More than ten thousand volts are emitted in excess energy by your body. But the amperage is so low that all that results is a few static shocks now and then.”
“Are you suggesting.... But how will you harvest the power?”
“Through that.” Engler pointed to the long, thin, cord like device coming out of a port on the motor. It seemed to have a kind of spike coming from the end.

Then I realized it. And it was scary. A sci-fi horror waiting to happen. A spike to go into the body. To power the device. It was scary, but it did sound intriguing. “So this thing goes into the body,” I said, “But where does it go in?”

Engler started taking off his shirt. “Here”, he said. The man pointed to a spot on his lower back just where his spine was. There was a metal port just the size of the spike. “It’s how the wings are steered, too. They are steered by the mind, just like another set of limbs.”
“How do we know it won’t turn you into some kind of monster, or take you over. I’ve seen plenty of sci-fi movies, myself.”
“Well that’s why we’re testing it, right? If it doesn’t work out we can always change it.”
“I guess you’re right, but I’m still rather worried.”

It scared me. I was wondering what would happen to poor Engler when he tested it. Maybe it would turn him into some kind of super villain, I thought. Then my voice of reason came in. It explained to me that the kind of thing I was thinking of only happens in children’s comic books and such.

Engler had another bit of news for me. “I’ve contacted a metalworking company and a computer manufacturer , and they’ve told me that the units can be mass-produced at 500 pounds each, and will retail for 1000 pounds a kit. Anyone will be able to get one.”
“Why, that’s brilliant!” I yelled. “People will be whizzing about the sky like bloody bees! Fantastic!”
“Yes, it is fantastic, isn’t it. I’ll be rich and famous. Amos Engler, the man who invented the mechanical wings. You can be a partner in my company. All we have to do is test and market it.”
“You haven’t tested it?”
“No, that’s why I brought you here. I wanted you to see it tested.”

I looked at my watch. It was 6 o’clock! I had wasted at least two hours, and I was terribly late back home. My wife would be furious. I decided I really needed to leave. “No, I really have to go. I’m two hours late coming home. You test it by yourself, and I’ll go tell my wife about it. Call me when I get home from work tomorrow, all right?”
“All right”, he said.” I would really have liked for you to see it tested.”
I would too, but I am really atrociously late. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
With that, I walked out the door.

The next day I had come home to our Edinborough home, and eaten dinner, when my wife and I went out to watch the sunset. I, of course, had told her all about Amos Engler and his mechanical wings. She was very excited at the prospect. “I’d by a pair. And you could too,” she’d said. “Then we would go whizzing about the countryside high in the air. It would be simply amazing!”

We were out looking across the marsh at the beautiful orange-and-purple sunset, and we saw some geese flying in a V formation. I wasn’t paying much attention to them, mostly focusing on the sunset and clouds, when...

“Dear, what is that?It looks like an angel.” It was a thing with silvery bird’s wings, and a human shape, flying at the head of the geese’s V. The thing had a human face, with long unkempt hair, and a white lab coat....
“I do believe, darling, that it’s a human. With wings.”
“Maybe Amos is testing them!” My wife squealed loudly. “Oh, call him over!” “This is so great!”
I smiled and hollered over to him, calling at the top of my lungs. “Engler! Come on over here, you rouge! My wife wants to see your invention!”

The answer was a birdlike cry that issued from Engler’s mouth. I realized quickly what had happened.

“I’m afraid, love, that Engler isn’t testing his invention.”

“What’s he doing, then?”

“Flying south for the winter.”

Nice piece, but I think it

Nice piece, but I think it could use a bit more polish. There were a few typos, but mostly my problems stemmed from the style, the wording of your sentences. I'm not sure what exactly it was, but it seemed primitive somehow, or stilted, or something. Sorry I can't be more specific. Unfortunately, what I like about the story I'm similarly having trouble trying to describe to myself. Very good imagery, at least.

Sorry for the rather unhelpful comment, maybe a better critiquer will show up soon. ;)

oops

sorry, double post ><

Are the wings based off of

Are the wings based off of hummingbird wings? Your reference to how birds' wings flap very, very fast makes me think more of hummingbirds rather than, say, albatrosses. It might behoove your mad scientist to mention which type of bird on which he based his algorithm.

Another thing I think might be interesting to mention is how the steering/power spike of the wings hacks into the human nervous system to allow the mind to control them (albeit with practice, your body would have to allocate brain space and form the connections in order to do so first, kindof like learning how to walk).

Of course, the above depends on how overly scientific you want Engler to go. But it might help with the "mad scientist" impression your narrator seems to have of him.
I love your attention to detail in describing Engler's shop/lab thing. I really felt like I could see what it looked like.

My only difficulty is understanding how the "bird brain" of the system managed to hack and take over Engler's brain. I think it would be really spiffy if you were to perhaps explain why this "couldn't" happen. However, I think your story can fly without the overblown explanation and a little mention there might help set up the end a little better.

Finally, I liked the quasi-steampunk feel I got from this. I'm not sure if it was intentional, but the mechanical wings thing seems to fall directly under the purview of steampunk more than cyberpunk. Especially since the system isn't powered directly by a power source such as batteries. But that's just my humble opinion.

Thank you for sharing this :)