Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

It had started as a series of simple disagreements, but it was clear before too long that at the heart of the matter was a fundamental difference in driving principles.

James had spent his life in aeronautics, building anything that flew. He simply realized that he’d wanted more.

He tried so many times to get a personal flight system into development, but the company was convinced that flight was a luxury only for the rich, the powerful; the governments and the military. Flight wasn’t for the peasantry.

It was the realization that he couldn’t build another thing for the industrial complex that prompted him, one sunny Monday, to tender his resignation. He had a lab of his own, and his name on enough patents and royalty paying inventions that money wouldn’t be much of a problem for a while if he were careful.

It took the better part of a year; watching his diet and engaging in intense cardio and endurance training; designing his system and redefining his physique.

In the Spring, with the help of a local mod shop which specialized in surgical steel grafting, he began the painful process of attaching mount points to his upper arms, shoulders, spine and hips. By the fall, he’d become accustomed to the threaded stubs that peppered his back and arms. He spent hours with thin cables threaded into his body, suspended from the rafters of his shop, practicing maneuvers under stress. By the time the Clematis were blooming again, he was ready.

He carefully packed his equipment in the dark hours before dawn, and two hours later was out of the valley and up the mountain road. As the sun finally crested the horizon, he was standing with a hundred feet of sheer cliff face below him.

Two long cylinders pointed skyward, a hands-width apart, perched atop telescopic legs. He stood stripped to the waist with his back to them, walking slowly backward to close the distance. Flexing, arms spread, he activated the tether. A series of short cables snapped stiff towards his back, reaching, groping until each found a predetermined socket into which they spiraled deeply, threading down almost to the bone. Gradually a series of new cables walked down each arm, tethered themselves, pulling out the fabric as they went. James could only grin as the wind took up the slack in the material, and his flight system pulled in tight.

He’d heard vehicle traffic, but in his highly focused state, he’d paid no real attention until a flurry of truck doors opening and booted feet made him turn around. A half dozen black trucks had all but blocked the road way, coming as they had apparently done from both higher and lower on the mountain. James found himself staring down a score or more armed soldiers, faceless behind riot masks but well teethed with automatic weapons.

“It’s ok, it’s ok, I’m not trying to kill myself. Honestly.” James smiled as he held his hands outstretched at his sides, the wings casting long shadows across the soldiers before him. He could imagine how he would look from their perspective, a dark winged silhouette, with a halo of bright sunlight. “I’m a scientist, I’m testing an invention…”, he trailed off as he recognized his old corporate logo, black decal on black paint on the doors of the trucks.

He could sense the red points of light centered on his chest, and he readied himself for the leap backwards as the realization struck him. They weren’t afraid he was going to die, they were afraid that he just might live.

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