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Wings of Freedom
“Wings are far more than feathered arms. They are part mystery – and part miracle. For what bares high the body may also give flight to the soul.” From The Wings of Merlin
I pedaled hard. The wind swept back my hair and I flung my arms out wide, enjoying the feeling of wind rushing past me. With my eyes closed, I envisioned myself not on a bike, but with wings of my own, soaring on the sky.
Alas, friction slowed the bike down, and I came back to reality. I’m the product of a very premature birth from two aerodynamic engineers. I am tall and thin. Very thin. And I eat a lot. Go figure. Another fun catch is that I’ve been surrounded by airplanes and flight all my life. I used to love to go and look at the cockpits of the passenger jets I flew on so often. My greatest dream when I was little was to fly an airplane. I never did get a pilot’s license due to a move my family made. Although I’ve given up on becoming a pilot, I’ve never given up on flying. I have dreams of flying on my own wings, wings of flesh and blood, across the sky. I’m going into my senior year of high school and I am hopeless dreamer. I’ve researched all sorts of things on genetic engineering, and I know that a sort of human-avian cross is impossible. Birds are built for flight, humans are built for brains.
I pull in to my driveway, noting with caution a black van I have never seen before. My mom’s company, AIR (Aerospace Innovative Research) has done some backroom research work for the government that she doesn’t tell the rest of the family. I’m the systems administrator for her company, so I pretty much know exactly what she’s doing. I haven’t told her I know, because I’m embarrassed about it. The only reason I’m the Systems Admin is because she is tech illiterate. She needs someone to do it and I work for dirt cheap. Another reason not to tell, I could find my job outsourced to someone else.
I walk in to my house on the alert for anything unusual. The man in the suit with dark shades on my couch factors a 10 on the unusual scale. Ridiculously, the first thing I think of is how clichéd the man looks. Nervously I say, “Hi. I’m Jack, Beth’s oldest son. I’m the Systems Administrator for her company”. He smiles, “Your parents have already told me all about you”. Why do you want to know about me?, I wonder. I sit down saying, “Well then you have me at an advantage, Mr. ?” “Blockwood. Now, can you tell me about this?” He holds up a notebook. I see the cover, and feel my anger replacing caution. “How much have you read?” There is an edge to my tone. “Enough”, he responds flatly. “That was personal, I never meant for anyone to read it or even know about it”.
What he was holding up was a notebook I wrote all my dreams of flight in. Sometimes, I’d draw pictures of the anatomy of humans with wings, and which organs would be needed and such. Sometimes, my entries were just rambles on how much I wanted to fly. It was all deeply personal stuff.
“Well, you have quite--”, I cut him off. “How much have you told my parents?” “They already knew”. “What? I never told anyone about that book!” “Well, when you leave a notebook out, people tend to read it”. My rage switched targets. How dare they infringe on my privacy like this! “Now back to what I was saying. It seems you would like to fly. Well, I think we can arrange something…” “What are you talking about?” Curiosity held my anger back now “We can give you wings, Jack. Wings for flight”. “Who is ‘We’ and how come everything I’ve ever read points to the ‘your lying your face off’ category?” “If you knew who ‘we’ were, we’d have to kill you. We have a new DNA treatment we’d like to… ah… test out so to speak”. “Something tells me that the mortality rate is high here, or I’m a guinea pig for something that scientists don’t quite understand… deals off”. “I was afraid you might say that. Let me show you something”. He passes what looks like a miniature T.V. to me. What I see in the screen takes the breath out of me. Mom, Dad and My 10 year old little brother, Jeff, are bound and gagged and there is a gun pointed to the back of Jeff’s head. “Oh my god…” I glare at him. “This is horrible! If I say I’m in will you release them?” “Yes”. “I’m in then… and screw you”. He pulls out a cell phone. “Yes… release them, he’s in”.
He walks out of my house to the black van; I follow after arming the alarm and locking up my house. I climb into the passenger seat in the front. “Here. It’s the scientific dissertation of what our DNA treatment does”. “This is huge”. I thumb through the pages. 200 and some odd pages! I’d better know exactly what the hell was going to happen to me. Looking over at him, I respond, “Your people aren’t big in PR are they? Because right now, the last thing I want to do is take a road trip with you”. His response shocks me to silence. “I didn’t want to do it either… I’m sorry. I hope they didn’t hurt your family…”
I spent most of that road trip reading the dissertation. It took 3 days to get from where I lived to about 40 mi. out of Phoenix, Arizona where the lab and living quarters were. I also befriended Blockwood. He really was not a bad guy. He was struggling to make ends meet as a police officer in southern Louisiana. He took this job because he needed the money so his daughter could get through college. He hated some of the tactics the lab used to get potential ‘recruits’. However, when I pressed about who the other people where, he remained silent. I also managed to get in contact with my family from a payphone outside of a Motel 6. They were all fine. I silently prayed I’d be fine too.
Basically, the scientists at this lab had engineered modified avian DNA that would allow my body to blend the aspects of bird and human. Before any genes were added or even taken away, a bit of specialized RNA unzipped my DNA and cut it where new DNA would be placed. It also sped up the development of new organs to match my human age. Finally, it made my body receptive to DNA change. Quite a biological marvel. The bird DNA was engineered to fit where the new brakes were and take away some of my human DNA as well. The last bit, to me at least, was the most important. Another bit of specialized RNA would run through my DNA strands and check to make sure it all worked out. If it didn’t, the RNA would find the DNA necessary and ‘fix’ and problems. This eliminated any chance mutations due to the process. This whole process worked due to some nanotechnology that AIR had helped develop during a backroom deal for the government. Funny how sometimes what you do and don’t do can come around. Real funny.
“Well, it looks like they piggybacked the whole thing on a modified virus… I’ll might get sick for a while…”, I say hesitantly. “I don’t like that… not at all”. The van stops. Blockwood looks at me. “Sorry for all of this… and good luck”. I smile. “Not your fault. Tell your daughter to study hard and stuff”.
I walked into a white building with a sign that said ‘Reception’. Blockwood had left in the van. It was HOT out here in Arizona. As I walked in the air conditioning hit me at full force. A receptionist smiled at me and said, “Hey. You must be Jack. Last but not least I always say.” She was WAY too happy. So happy, it was annoying. “Yeah… so where do I go?” I say quietly. “Just follow me.” She was… bubbly. I can’t think of a better word. Happiness just bubbled over in her like a bottle of shaken soda. I waked into a waiting room. Again I lost my breath on who I saw there.
“Jake? Max? What the hell are you guys doing here?” “Same as you man… though its nice to see another familiar face”, Jake said. “When do they start?” I asked “Tomorrow… that’s why they prepped you on the drive”. “Oh…” I turned to bubbly lady. “Can he show me around? We are friends.” I tried to smile. I really did. “Sure.” Still annoyingly happy. Max got up, “Come on, we’ll show you around.”
For the next hour or so, I learned about the compound. Jake and Max somehow got here a day earlier, even though we were abducted on the same day. I asked them how they felt about the whole thing. Max was all for it. In fact, during the ‘tour’ he would go into all the possibilities flight and wings would bestow on us. Jake wanted absolutely nothing to do with all of this. He had tried to escape last night. The guards found him and brought him back. (Yep, they surrounded the place with barbed wire and armed guards. Very cliché) I fell somewhere in the middle. I wanted wings, yeah, but this was wrong…
After the tour, which ended in our shared room, Jake said, “O.K. guys, I got an idea for getting out of here tonight…” “Why?” Max responded. “Think about all we can do with wings! Flight for Christ’s sake. We’ll be able to fly!” “No… we’ll be outcasts from society, never allowed to set foot in any town or city! We’ll be freaks! Don’t you get it?! Get your head out of the clouds, Max!” Jake yelled. “We’ll find a way! We’re smart Jake! Don’t forget that you have that tracker on your wrist from the last time you tried to run. We don’t have enough time to figure out how to run…” Jake looked cast fallen. “Oh yeah… Jack… you can use my plan… the main gate shifts guards at 9. You can sneak through then…” “And leave you two here? We’ll get through this together. We’ll find a way to be normal Jake…I promise you.” Where the hell did that come from? A single tear rolled down his cheek. “God, Jack… look at yourself. I’ve never seen you so resolute or determined about something before…” Jake said. “How though? We’ll have huge wings on our backs…” “We don’t know how much we can fold them…we may be able to look normal in loose clothes. We worry about one problem at a time, O.K.? First is this DNA treatment. We can’t escape, I doubt we can fight, so we take it. Then, I don’t think we’ll just be free to go. We’ll escape here, and maybe figure out if there is a way to undo what will be done to us. Got it?” Where the hell was all this coming from? I was not a leader. “Sounds good to me.” Jake said with a smile. Max spoke up, “Your plan is good and all, but what if some of us don’t what to change back?” “Then don’t.” I smile. “Lets get some rest.”
The sun streams through our window. I blink back at the light as I wake up. My friends are already up. Someone knocks at our door. “Rise and shine, nestlings!” Oh, God it was bubbly lady. Wait, nestlings!? I sigh in relief when I realize I don’t have wings. Max chuckles at my sigh. “You really don’t like her, do you?” “No… when she said… you know what? Forget it”.
We ate a huge breakfast at the mess hall. “How many kids did you say are here?” I ask Max. “Dude, about 200… it’s a miracle there hasn’t been any leaks about all of this.” “Yeah.” I shudder to think of some of the tactics that must have been used. I wonder what they made Mr. Blockwood do for them. “Attention all patents! We will start with the oldest of you to the youngest.” Smart, the oldest were the most likely to try to escape. “So all 17 year olds please report to the lab.” As we walked out, we saw armed guards watching our every move and also watching the mess hall for any signs of escape. We arrived at the lab, a huge 5 story building. “Ok, all patents First names A through J please enter the building. I trust you can find your way to your respective room; it has your name on it. You should not have to go above the third floor. Good luck”, a man in a white laboratory coat said.
I said my goodbyes, and found my room on the third floor quickly. When I got there their already was a doctor and a few nurses ready to go. So much for a wait to collect my thoughts. As I got on the bed, my arms and legs were tied and bound. “Knock me out… right now. I don’t want to remember any of this. Not even hazy” Thankfully, a nurse slipped a mask over my mouth, and I lost consciousness.
I woke up to a throbbing between my shoulder blades. I rolled over on my bed to in a better position. That’s the problem with wings, can’t lay on your back at all—wait wings?! I was up in a flash. I sat up and stretched out my wings. My god, they did it… I wondered how long I’d been out. My God… My God… wings felt so weird, and yet also so right. I tried an experimental flap. No that can’t be right… the air wasn’t under my wings right. I knew a lot about aerodynamics, and that was not right. Max woke up second. He yawned, then stretched his wings until the wingtips until they touched the ceiling. His eyes opened wide. “No way…”, I heard him mumble. He sat up too. “How long have you been up?” He asked me. “A few minutes at most”, I responded. Jake’s eyes flicked open. His hand brushed against his wing when he rolled over for a better position. His eyes opened so wide, he looked like he should be in some cartoon. “They did it”, he said simply. I got up, and realized that the shirt I had been wearing was gone. I looked back at my bed, and saw the torn fragments of it. Wow. I looked in the dresser for the first time, and found the shirts there had slits in the back for wings. I put a shirt on, and then told my friends, “I’m gonna go to that big field in the center of this compound and see what’s up with everyone else”. I got a pair of nods, then I opened the door, walked through, and hit my wings on the closing door.
I muttered a curse under my breath, and then clenched my wings as tightly as I could. Well, we could fold them in tight enough to slip a windbreaker over, so no worries with us never being able to blend in. Yeah right. As I walked to the field, my mind filled with worries. When could I go home? Could I ever lead a normal life? What if the wings don’t work? What else in my body was changed?
I walked out toward the field, then found about 30 winged mutant kids had already woken up, and were exploring like I was. I asked some of the older kids how their ‘operation’ went, and got stories similar to mine. Several kids were trying to fly. The range of motion was off. Our wings were attached to our backs, maybe our shoulder blades. They were flapping perpendicular to the ground, so the best they could hope for was to blow themselves down. I stretched out my wings and tried to figure out what I could do with them. I maneuvered my wings several ways, but could not seem to be able to get the wing to ‘cut’ the air at a parallel level to the ground. After I figured that, hopefully a running jump could get enough air movement for a takeoff. BAM! I stumbled and nearly fell over. Spinning around, I glared at a big kid (10 bucks says he’s a football star). This kid was unnaturally ripped. It was almost disgusting how big his muscles looked. Then I noticed something quite crazy. He did not have wings. Somehow stopping my mouth from dropping open, I said, “Hey, watch where you’re going!”
Normally, I would have let the whole thing pass. But, today I was frustrated with my inability to fly, and really worried about my future and my friends.
“Why should I have to worry about some mutant freak?!”, he responded. Fighting words. “What, mama’s boy is sad because his body is too fucked up with steroids to undergo a DNA treatment?” Now, that was quite a few guesses in there. Mostly, I was just looking for insults. I was letting all my anger and stress out at someone who was quite a bit bigger than me. I win the noble prize for stupidity.
“Shut up, freak!” He yelled (with a surprising amount of venom) and aimed a punch at me. I was never a fighter. The last time I got into a fight was in the third grade, which I started and lost. That tends to kill any desire to start a fight again. Ever. However, to my fast bird-biased reflexes and vision (I learned this later), he was moving in slow motion. Adrenaline pumping, I stepped back to doge his punch and then leapt in the air (unnaturally high, I must have gotten two feet up) and delivered a snap kick to his face. His head snapped back to a crazy angle and blood seemed to pour out of every pore in his face. Apparently, I was also unnaturally strong. His head seemed to bounce back to a more normal angle, and his eyes rolled up inside of his head. Crazy. I just knocked out someone with one kick to the head and busted up quite a bit more. Scary. His body fell backward with a horrible sounding thud
A low approving whistle came in from behind me. Jake had seen the whole thing. “Wow… dude, that was crazy…”, his mouth was open so wide, I could have fit my head in it. Easy. However, now that the adrenaline was wearing off, I saw how much damage I did. Fuck, I may have killed him. “He needs help!”, I yelled at Jake. Blood was everywhere. On the ground, on my shoe, in his hair, in his shirt, and his face looked like someone covered it in red paint. Jake ran off to find a doctor.
“What happened here?” Oh boy, a guard. Just what I needed right now. Awesome. “Sir…” well, the truth will set you free right? “Sir, he tried to attack me. I was acting in self defense.” “Oh? Is that why you have no bruises or scrapes at all and his face looks like it went through a meat grinder?” He grabbed the body. “Come along with me.” Crap.
“Well, you broke his nose, jawbone and wrecked his mouth, not to mention some muscle damage in his throat due to the whiplash”, the doctor/scientist said. I saw how much damage I did on an x-ray. Wow. “I did not know I was that strong, sir”, I said, trying to look innocent. “We need to run a few tests on you to see what other surprises your body has in store for us”. “Wait, you’re not mad?” “Not in the least. We knew you would get stronger, but had no idea how strong. You had no idea. However, due try to be more careful”. I gave him a somber nod. “Yes, sir…. But” “What?” He was curious, it was written all over his face. “Why did he not get wings… ok by that I mean, why did the treatment not work on him?” “You guessed it right, according to the testimony by your friend. His body was no longer receptive to our serums because of drug use”. “O.K, what kind of test are you thinking about?”
Several tests later…
“Well, I’ll be damned”, the doctor breathed. “You are predominantly human, but you have quite a few avian aspects to you… and some aspects that are totally new”. “Please fill me in…” I said nervously. “The totally new stuff is your heart and lungs. You heart is super-efficient and also beats very quickly. Also, your blood cells are capable of transporting more oxygen than a human or bird. You have slightly expanded lungs and air sacs, like birds, to get enough oxygen for flight. Your bones are ultra-light, but not brittle in the least. They are actually quite strong. You’ve grown about 3in. with the operation, and actually lost some weight. Your muscle structure is astounding. It seems like you can rotate your shoulder blades outwards to provide a more horizontal axis for your wings… amazing”.
I was free to go, so I said my goodbyes and walked out into the midday sun. I went to the mess hall and ate a ton. I’m not joking. I’ve never eaten so much in my life… ever. I caught up with Max and Jake, who had spent the morning trying to fly, and trying to look normal, respectively. In fact, Jake had a windbreaker over his shirt and wings, and looked rather normal, quite unlike the 17 year old avian-human cross he was. That was good. We could at least try to live semi-normal lives after all this. Max was frustrated by his failure to take flight. He’d been trying to fly for about three hours. “Max, I think I know why you haven’t--” I was cut off. “Attention, all patents. We would like to run several tests on all of you. This may take several days. So that none of you accidentally slip out and get lost, we are placing trackers on all of you”. What? Time to leave. My friends and I rose up out of our chairs and ran toward the exit. No Good! It was blocked by two security guards, who deftly grabbed us as we tried to stop short of running into them. I felt a cold metal band around my wrist, and heard one say, “Well, our near escapee tries and fails again…” I was shoved through the door, along with my friends.
The next three days were amazingly boring. My mind was consumed with worry. Worry for my friends, worry for my family, and worry for my self. For two days I struggled with out any success to get my tracker off my wrist. I also never remembered to tell Max that we could angle our wings more horizontally. I forgot about that myself. Jake disappeared for three days, only to show up in our room to go to sleep. He eventually showed us a notebook that had all the guard shift times. Studious to say the least. Max had been also off to himself. He walked in our shared room the same time Jake showed me the notebook. “We can’t fly man…” max moaned to me, “The wings are all show…” Then it hit me that I never told Max what the doctor told me. “Umm… Max did I ever finish telling you what I started to tell you in the mess hall the day we got trackers?” “Ummm…” a pause. “No you never did. What were you going to say?” “I know how to fly.” At that moment, a kid busted in our room. He had wings, but looked scared and flustered. “Has any of you seen my brother?” “What?” I answered. “Slow down kid, tell us the whole story”. “My brother was in the first group of kids to get tested, but they never came back! It’s been three days! He was always kind of a loner, but I never wanted to loose him! Please, has any of you seen him!” I realized at that moment that the kids they called for testing never came back. All my internal alarms went off, but I managed to remain calm. “Kid, he may be in another room… keep looking”, I said. He just ran off. I turned to my friends. “We got to get out of here, now. The tests that they are running are just a way for them to get at some of the kids and drag them away from the rest of us. I don’t know what they are doing to the selected kids, but it can’t be good. Max, the secret to flight is we need to angle our shoulder blades more horizontally, in order to catch the wind in the right direction, after that… remember to flap”. Jake looked at me. “O.K, so the next guard shift is in 10 minutes at the east wall, but this is all null and void if we can’t get these things off”, he said, showing me our trackers. “We just have to risk it”. “No you don’t”, said a voice I never thought I’d hear again. Mr. Blockwood! I spun around and saw him holding a key chain with a huge amount of keys on it. “I lifted this from a rack in a lab. Here are the three keys to your locks”, he said handing us the keys. I took my tracker and stuffed it under my pillow, my friends did the same. “I’ve heard what they eventually want to do to all of you, the scientist that did some real tests on you told me. You don’t want it to happen to you. We’re working together to try and free all of you, but you’ve got to tell me how and if you kids can fly”, he asked me. “We just move our shoulder blades out…” I showed him how I managed to curve my wings more horizontally. “After that, a good running jump should get us high enough to get lift on a powerful down stroke. After that, well… remember to flap”, I said. “Gotcha… I’m sorry about all of this. That scientist is sorry too. You boys get out of here, and don’t turn around for nothing!” As we ran out into the hall, a compound guard noticed me with out a tracker. “Hey, what is going on here?” he demanded at me. I spun around ready to show him not to mess with a mutant freak, when Blockwood put a hand on my shoulder. “You, fly away. I got this guy.” Blockwood charged him and took him out with a roundhouse kick. “I’ll help the others, you guys get out of here!”
As we ran out to the central field, we sped past several other kids. I had been so lost in my own problems, that I never saw how few kids there were around. Maybe Blockwood and the scientist had only just started, I thought. But as I glimpsed the starry sky, I remembered all the names they had called in for ‘testing’. I would not have been surprised if more than 100 kids had been called. The guards were ready for us, already spreading into a circle to trap us in. Bubbly Lady was in the center. She called out to us as we ran toward her, “Going somewhere, dears?” She still sounded happy! Max and Jake where yelled out instructions on how to fly. I smiled. You might want to try a cage, I thought, to capture something with wings. I slid my shoulder blades out and sprinted. Leaping forward and up I flapped down hard with my wings. I did not hit the ground. I flapped again. I gained altitude. I was flying!
Flying is one of those great indescribable things. It’s part euphoria, part freedom. It feels like nothing can take you down, like you’re in control of the whole world. You feel stronger, and more powerful than ever before. With each down stroke I felt better and better. As I beat my wings, I yelled insults and threats to the astonished faces of my captors. I heard from below, “How did they figure out how to fly?” I yelled back, “We’re part bird, nimrod! We’d figure out how to fly eventually!” I heard the distinctive sound of gunfire. All of the sudden, a bright patch of red appeared on the wing of the girl above me. She fell fast. One of the kids below us caught her, and I yelled, “Come on! Lets fly away from these poor chemistry dropouts!” I smiled as we flew far from the compound into the starry sky.
An hour or so later…
By some bizarre group impulse, we all (more or less) camped at the same stretch of desert. Several kids had several fires going as we all camped in our own groups. I sat, looking into the fire Jake had made, and just relaxed. The last hour or so had been crazy. The guards had followed us for a time before giving up. I saw at least three kids go down with gunshot wounds. My worries had seemed to mount up even after my escape. Where the hell were we? Did anyone still have a tracker? Was everyone O.K.? What were we going to do next? I was starving. I had only eaten a huge dinner, what 5 hours ago? How could I be so hungry? What time was it for that matter? Where my parents O.K.?
That last question changed my focus. I’d take a rest here for the night, but after that I was off to find my parents. Hunger could wait. I told my plan to my friends my plan. Max nodded, but Jake seemed a little more worried. “What if… what if our parents don’t want us anymore? I don’t know if they’d like the wings and stuff…” I put my arm around him. “They won’t mind the wings. Your parents will love you no matter what you look like. At least we came out of this with out any mental damage, and can still use our limbs. We’re stronger, more agile and can see better than the average human. We can hide our wings somewhat. All in all, I’m worried about my parent’s safety more than how they’ll perceive me when I get them”. Max then spoke up, “Look, we don’t know where we are, how do we know which direction to fly in?” I faced east. “Well, we go east until we see a town, then we pick up a map and figure it out from there”. Wait, how the hell do I know which direction is east? I point toward the distance. “Do you guys think this is east?” I got a pair nods, and then a pair of startled glances. Max figured it out. “We’ve got a hawk’s vision so I guess we’ve also got a hawk’s directional sense”. That made sense. I nodded. “Good night”, I told my friends. I curled into a ball on the desert sand, and folded my wings over me like a blanket. I must have been tired, and was asleep in seconds.
The next day…
“There is no way this is 180 miles from the other town. This map must be wrong”. We had got up early, and took off before dawn. We stopped in the first town we saw. We then got lucky. Jake still had his windbreaker, so he went into town. An errant man left his credit card at a gas station. Now I am against stealing, but I am sure this man was a Good Samaritan and would have let us ring up some crazy charges on his credit card. Anyway, Jake went into a Gap outlet and bought us all new clothes. There was also a McDonald’s, and we caused a bit of a disturbance with the amount of food we ordered. Apparently, it is uncommon to order 2 double quarter pounders per person. Who would have thought? I had a theory about why I could eat so much. Flight was very energy intensive and we had super fast metabolisms to make the energy required. We also found an AAA outpost and managed to pick up a map there. We then flew for two hours. Apparently, even though Max could not believe it, we managed 90 miles an hour. Plus, we don’t need to worry about traffic. It’s rather cool.
However, I was hungry again. Also, my wings burned. Flight was exhausting. We stopped at another tiny town the seemed to be built for a mall in the middle of nowhere. According to our map, we were somewhere over Texas. I told my friends that we were stopping there for a refuel and take a needed break. I got two tired nods of assent. We dove down about three miles away from town. I hoped to God no one saw us. We tucked our wings in and pulled our windbreakers over them. At the mall, we got an entrée from nearly every spot at the food court. Several amazed people watched us eat the large amount of food we ordered. In fact a well-meaning father walked up to us and said, “Are you boys O.K.?” Before I could stop him, Max got up and said, “Yeah, flight just really makes you hungry”. We left the mall before the man could recover. I looked at Max wrathfully. “Look, the way that guy looked was funny as hell, but we really can’t afford to drop ‘hints’ about our wings, alright?” He chuckled, “Yeah, whatever”.
We flew for another two hours, then decided to get dinner and crash for the night. We stopped at a Wendy’s. Again, we shocked the staff with the sheer amount of food we ordered. I had a feeling I needed to get used to that. We then checked into a Motel 6 and promptly crashed for the night. We locked our door, threw the dead bolt and put a chair against it just to be safe. After closing the curtains, we all let our wings stretch out a bit. I think I fell asleep before I hit the covers.
The next morning, we found out that our credit card had been canceled when we tried to buy a bag to carry in flight rations on. Looks like the last leg of our journey would be one straight shot home. We were looking at about 5 hours in the air. Fuelled on by a big breakfast from the hotel (it was complementary), we started this marathon flight. It was rough. About three hours in, my stomach started to growl. Four hours in, my wings began to ache. I did not think I’d be able to make it. At one point, I was only able to keep going when I thought about what the lab people might do to my parents. Sheer willpower kept me in the air. I was boosted on however, when I began to see familiar sights. We landed a few miles outside of town by the interstate. We split up when we got to town with a promise to call each other about our families ASAP. I walked up to my house uncertainly. My mind racing I knocked on the door.
“Hello? Oh My God… Jack!”, my mother embraced me warmly. “It’s so good to have you back!” She was crying on my shoulder. “Mom, I can’t breathe. Let’s talk inside”. My mom nodded and called my Dad in. We sat down on the living room, and I told my parents the whole story. Every last bit. For my mom’s sake, I left out all the connections with AIR and the lab people. When we got to the point where I got wings, I pulled of my windbreaker and showed them my wings. Both my parents were totally awestruck. I began to tell them my warning when I was done. “Mom, they might come after you or Dad next, to try and force me to go back. You’ve got to leave, disappear. Stay at a relatives house or something, just drop off the grid. Please”. At that moment, the door bell rung. Two large men with pistols at their hips in suits where at the door. I guess we did not travel fast enough after all. I got up and glared at them. My fingers curled into fists. I’d been worried sick and running for two days. Inwardly, I knew that normally I’d be much stronger and faster than them, but after my marathon flight, we’d be more even matched. I smiled as they opened the front door. It was fighting time.
“Well, Jack, you’ve ran right home, just like a little kid. And here we are, the big bad men, here to take you back. Perhaps you’ve should of thought more about all of this”, the man on the left said. “I don’t know if you talked to a certain doctor, but I’m close to three times your speed and two times your strength. You two overgrown buffoons have nothing on me”, I replied. “We’ll se about that!”, the one on the right raged as he dove at me. Jeez, talk about over inflated ego. I jumped left and brought all my strength into an overhand strike. My hands slammed into his back, knocking him to the floor with an oof. The other pulled out his gun. I rushed him. Unprepared for my speed I slammed my fist in his gut and grabbed his firearm and wrenched it from his grasp. I tossed it away. The other got up and tackled me from my blind side. With some hidden instinct, I moved with the grab, and managed to flip him over my shoulder. As I completed the throw the other punched me hard getting me across the face. I staggered back and he followed through with another punch and a kick to my torso. I slammed in the couch. I saw stars, but managed to will my self to get up again. My vision was blurry.
I heard my mother yell in the most pained voice I’d ever heard. Like her soul was being wrenched in half. “NO! Not my son, don’t you DARE--”, then her voice cut out. White hot fury replaced my exhaustion. “I did not fly all this way to let you take my parents!”, I yelled. I was up again. I shook off the pain I felt. My vision cleared. One of the men in suits had my Mom and was telling her to shut up or die. I lept up from my position and sprinted at the man holding my mom. I jumped over both of them then spun around and aimed a powerful kick to the back of the man’s knee. He crumpled and fell. I rushed the second man again. My furry lent me strength and precision I never knew I had. I hit him with a right hook, than an uppercut with my left hand. As he staggered back I kept running at him and kicked him with the same snap kick I used on the kid in the field. My kick did not do nearly as much damage, perhaps cracking his jawbone. I walked back to the first and relieved him of his fire arm. Cocking it, and fusing around with it I managed to flick the safety. “Now both of you get the hell out, and don’t think of coming back. If your lab people send more goons, I’ll give them the same beating I gave you two. Get out of my life. Now.” They were up in a flash, and pulling out of my driveway even faster. I slumped down and felt myself beginning to fade.
I woke up in my bed. I was still hungry, but my head did not hurt and my chest felt better too. As I slumped out of my room, I found both my Dad. He had a huge meal ready on the table. Dad saw me and smiled as he called me to come over and eat. I laughed (and surprised my self when it didn’t hurt) and told him, “You probably didn’t make enough. I eat a lot now”. Dad laughed. “I made quite a bit of food… you’d better be eating more now”. I ate almost all of it. Dad was surprised to say the least. After I finished, he spoke up. “Son, your mom went out grocery shopping. We need to talk about some things your mom and I discussed. We are going to stay here…wait before you object.” He held up a hand, and I fell silent. “You are going to take self defense courses, and other than that we are going to lead a normal life”. “How?”, I questioned. Dad smiled. “Your mom came clean with me, so I guess you should know too. The people--”. I stopped him. “The DNA therapy treatment thingy worked with some nanotechnology developed by AIR, I knew all about it”. Now Dad was silent again. “How did you know?” “I saw every document she ever wrote and out on the web or sent by e-mail. I’m her systems administrator, so I got access to everything she did”. “Oh. Well, anyway, we’ve blackmailed the company. We threatened to expose them if they ever tried to kidnap anyone ever again. They agreed to stop kidnapping in exchange for secrecy”. I smiled. “You clever rascals. However, won’t they still come after us? They might not be able to kidnap anyone, but if they get us… wait, how do we even know they kidnapped someone? It’s not like they left a huge trail when they kidnapped me”. Dad shook his head. “We won’t be able to stop them totally, but they can’t touch anyone we know without getting at us first. Both your friends, Max and Jake that were involved in the whole thing have all the info we do. So, they have to get all three of you, and your families to totally shut us up”. I looked at my Dad. “It’s not foolproof. I would feel safer if we just dropped off the grid for a while”. “Son, we can’t do that…we have lives here, lives we can’t just give up”. I nodded quietly. “O.K. I see your point… I need to sort out all my feelings though, these last couple days have been one hell of a rollercoaster ride”. I walked out to my garage. I got on my bike and rode off, smiling as the wind blew back my hair. Flight was so much better it wasn’t even funny.