Things are beginning to become hectic so I'm posting this now rather than waiting until Tomorrow afternoon. - Anesidora
The next morning as Candy was getting into her friend’s car to ride to work my little Lincoln limo pulled up. She was off before she saw who it was that came out for the ride, although she could probably guess from what I had told her last night. As far as my ride went, traffic was a bit heavy going in so we were just pulling up at studio 14 promptly at eight.
“Gee. This place looks like a hangar. What are they shooting here?”
“Part of a new pilot. This is where they are doing some of the initial special effects to see how they look before actually using
them on the show. The pilot should be out in five or six months at a guess.”
“Cool. I’ll have to remember to watch for it. Need me to hang around?”
“No.... thank you. If the mucks decide I’m supposed to go somewhere else I’m sure they’ll make arrangements. If I’m still here this afternoon, I’ll call for a ride home. Thanks.”
“No problem, lady. Same time and place tomorrow?”
“I don’t know. I’ll make the arrangements for tomorrow when, or if, I get home this evening. I’m running late, got to go, Thanks for the ride.” I waved as I hurried toward the hangar’s office door.
He waved back then got back in the car and drove off immediately after talking on the radio. I didn’t see any cars or golf carts outside the building but the door was unlocked so.... in I went. After making my way down to the door which allowed me to enter the hangar portion of the building, I discovered I had beaten Adam to work. I made my way across to the bench near the manikin and wings, putting down my purse just as one of the large doors down at the end began to open and a silhouette went back out of sight followed by ten to fifteen seconds before a car drove into the hangar. I remembered the car as being the one which was parked in here yesterday and surmised, therefore, that it was Adam. After he parked his car he closed the doors again then walked across the hangar until he was standing across the table from me.
“Good Morning. Ready to practice some more?”
“I thought you’d never ask. One thing though. Could I have two buttons? I would like to separate the landing and the actual shutdown of the wings. It’s a little difficult to balance when the wings are folding without providing any lift almost as soon as I’ve just landed. If the wings remain out it will help me catch my balance for a moment before I tell them to fold. I think I could regain my footing and balance more rapidly that way.”
“No sweat, milady. It’ll take me a few minutes to program it. Why don’t I give you three buttons? Deploying the wings or folding them on the same button, climbing or landing on a button, and hover on a button. I’ll put the wing shut down on the left box and the rest on the right one. How’s that sound?”
Giving that some thought, “what happens if I accidentally press the fold the wings button while I’m still hovering, climbing or landing?”
“Hmm, you could be in for a rude surprise if you weren’t on the tether and didn’t have that ‘McNeil Descender’ to slow your drop. The wings have sensors which can tell if there is a load on them or if not. I’ll use that as a program fail safe to prevent you from folding them until there is no further significant load.”
I was surprised at his reference to the movie ‘Entrapment’. Once again that had me wondering if he hadn’t been told about me and began my internal debate about should I or shouldn’t I?
“Once I’m more proficient and have learned the controls better then could we remove that fail safe if we needed to do so?”
“Sure. But why wouldn’t you want to keep it?”
“I can think of a couple of stunts which might be interesting if I could fold the wings and begin to drop then deploy them immediately into a sort of a glide, using the momentum from dropping to give me the speed I need for a high speed pass lower to the ground. I don’t know what all they might want me to do as stunts for the show but I know that sort of thing would likely fit right in with the premise behind the script.”
“Oh? That’s not something I’m comfortable with, especially using this set of wings but if it was done carefully and a sudden halt in the air wasn’t called for, then the wings could probably handle it. If you dropped twenty or thirty meters and tried to halt your fall instantly, you would likely snap the wings right off the vest. But if you went head down and slowly asked the wings to give you something akin to a glide then leaned back and pulled up gradually.... Yeah, it could work. I wouldn’t try it without a tether the first few times though. I’ll try to think about a way to beef up these connections to their vest. If I can come up with something that doesn’t look hokey and isn’t too expensive to implement then maybe we could increase the instantaneous load limit of this pair of wings. The newer versions have a completely redesigned connection. It isn’t cost effective to modify this package to that design, but I’ll give some thought to a possible alternative solution which would beef them up a little. We’re working on version four of the wings. That version scaled down a little could be used by a woman but they’re still at least two months away from test, possibly even three or four.”
“Thank you. Stronger is better in my book.”
He laughed as he replied, “Don’t mention it. Give me a few minutes to do the programing changes we talked about and then I’ll help you put on the vest.”
Going over to the vest, I noticed a cord was plugged into it and I spent a few moments tracing it back to some sort of pack. Reading the labeling on the box, I discovered it was the charger for the wings. That surprised me since the batteries were supposed to be such high capacity things. The box wasn’t much larger than a cigar box. A fan was blowing air through it but the air seemed quite cool so I assumed it had completed charging the wings some time ago.
“If the charge in the wings is completely used up, how long does it take for this to recharge them?”
“Hmm?” Adam asked since he'd been concentrating on making the programing changes. “Oh. Uh, about two hours. It charges to around eighty percent in forty minutes. The last twenty percent is accomplished in two stages and requires another hour to ninety minutes. It isn’t a good idea to charge it to only eighty percent very often. These batteries like to be fully charged and then fully discharged. It’s a peculiarity of the type of battery. I brought the fourth one in again today and after we recharge the vest at lunch time I’ll install it so there will be four in the vest.”
“Could you place it into the vest before we do anything this morning? I think the vest would dig into me a lot less if both sides were filled out the same. It sometimes hurts a bit the way it is now.”
“Sure. Except it will take about twenty minutes to accomplish that so we won’t be able to get into flying for about a half hour or maybe a little longer. The additional battery is charged so we could begin using the extra capacity right away if we needed it. There, I’ve finished the programming. Let me install this battery, go through fitting the vest to you again once the additional battery is in it, then I’ll explain the controls I’ve made available to you. I’m also going to change the wireless link to a cell connection. That way I can contact the vest from my notebook even if you are in the air and several miles away. The connection isn’t as fast but it uses cellular technology so I can contact the vest and you and do data transfers from almost anywhere.
“Do you have much need for something like that?”
“No, not really. It’s a precaution we go through now, though. We had a bird run into one of the test pilots during a flight and it knocked him out. The wings began reading his shifting weight as a desire to fly in one direction and then another which varied as he flopped around in the air. We had a hell of a time following him. He woke up enough to land after traveling about twenty kilometers. We halted the test flights until we had both a means of remotely taking control of the wings and of communicating with the pilot if necessary.”
I was looking at him, quite incredulous, “He was knocked out because he collided with a bird?”
“Yeah. It sounds like something from a bad movie script doesn’t it.”
“It sounds impossible. I would have thought birds would go to great lengths to avoid something that large which was flying along.”
“Oh no. Birds even collide with aircraft quite frequently despite the noise the engines produce. These wings are much quieter. Guess it takes them by surprise. You can also fly much faster than most birds. There are a few which could keep up if you were at.... say, a third of your maximum speed but after that you’re in the realm of aircraft and slow super heros.”
I didn’t laugh at his joke, I now had another concern, “What about me colliding with an aircraft?”
“You really don’t have that much to worry about. If you stay away from airports, and cities then most of the aircraft will be far above the height at which you will be flying. You might need to be careful above fields of crops though. You will need to remain lower because after all, the studio couldn’t keep a camera trained on you if you were very high. Most of the shots they will likely want will probably be of takeoffs and landings so you won’t need much more than thirty meters – maybe a hundred meters altitude at most, and I’ve flown higher than that. The greatest problem I think you might encounter would be power lines strung across a field or along a highway. Just remember to watch out for and avoid the areas between the poles or towers.”
Now I was beginning to wonder, “Shouldn’t I have a pilot’s license?”
“Nope. There’s no engine on here and you’re not ferrying anyone around but yourself. Did Superman need a license? You’re pretty much in the ultra-light category.”
The Superman quip got me to laugh this time, “No, he didn’t. But Superman was a fictional character and he flew faster than most aircraft or missiles.”
“Well, flat out you could come pretty close to keeping up or beating most helicopters and do a great job of keeping a small single engine private plane occupied if it wasn’t going flat out. The wings can maintain a pace of about 280 Kph for well over two hours on a full charge. With four batteries you might even make three hours of flat out flight time. I wouldn’t try it without a breathing mask though since the wind can suck your breath right away. You could still fly a bit faster than terminal velocity.”
“What's terminal velocity?”
“That's how fast a free falling body drops through the air. Air friction slows your fall until gravity and air friction find a balance. It varies person to person but is somewhere around 200 to 220 Kph. You can drop faster if you go head down but generally flopping around usually lands you within the limits I just mentioned.”
“I don't suppose a parachute would be much use?”
He laughed again, “At the altitude you'll be flying you wouldn't have time to deploy one.”
“Terrific.” I mumbled under my breath.
“Let me finish installing this battery and the link and then we'll get you started again. As far as the aviation industry is concerned right now, these wings are considered to be akin to a single seat Ultra-Light so no license is required. I expect that to change once the newer versions of the wings come out or more idiots fly into restricted air space or kill themselves while flying Ultra-Light aircraft. The newer wings are capable of slightly faster speeds than this set and are also resilient enough to be used to perform aerobatics.”
I wandered around the table and generally gawked at his odds and ends while he busied himself with installing the stuff he brought in with him this morning. I even got a glance at the screen of his computer which was covered in some sort of gibberish I didn't understand. Some kind of programming shorthand related to the wings I suppose. He finally finished, then called me over so I could put on the wings again. I still couldn't get over how soft they were. He swore they were made of metal though.
“How does that feel?”
“We need to loosen this side a little. It's tightened down a bit too much so now it's too tight and the new battery is digging into me.”
“I'll shift the program around to the new flier point again and we'll let it get accustomed to you gradually again. Think you can handle that two minute interval again?”
“Now that I know what to expect, not a problem.” Not looking forward to more salt shaker action but this time knowing what to expect.
He went over to his notebook and typed away at a few keys. A second after he finished, the vest suddenly became considerably more loose but the new battery was still digging in a bit. When I mentioned that, he halted the program run and we spent about thirty minutes making changes before we were both satisfied for the moment. He went back to his computer and pressed a few keys which caused the vest to give several beeps a number of times during the process. Finally he came back and disconnected the fiber cable before going over to hit a few more keys eliciting yet another beep. I suppose he was testing the wireless link. Finally he turned to me, “okay, here goes. Three, two, one....”
I was once again at the mercy of the computer as it reassessed the data which had been previously stored and adjusted to the vest and flight suit once again. This time it took only a little over a minute. Adam said that was because much of the data hadn’t changed so all that was done was a compare of much of the data which was unchanged rather than a resave of all the data. That allowed us to speed through the data that was the same.
Now he begin explaining the use of the buttons which he reprogrammed for this change in their use. Without flying, he asked me to move the wings to their operational position and then back into their non-flight storage position. If I wanted to show them off then they could be set out like plumes behind me without them moving around very much. Operational position had a sort of live action feel to it since there was a slight continuous movement of the wings to give them more of a realistic look for anyone observing. Wings that were real wouldn’t just stick out or just sit there all poked out like stiff pieces of cardboard or something. That occasional movement apparently was intended to make them appear to be more realistic and somehow a part of me rather than something I was wearing. It felt a little weird having this - movement, at my back.
Eventually the non-operational but deployed position for the wings became second nature to me but it took me a couple of weeks to get to that point. By then I had also tried several costume design changes as wardrobe hunted for a design which didn’t cause additional problems with the wings.
I quickly became accustomed to the way they worked and moved as they shifted from stored to deployed position or back. The slight shift of their eighteen kilograms affected me less and less as I learned to accept and automatically counter the effect of their movement to those positions. It still took me by surprise if they began to slightly flap whenever they were in the deployed position though. They didn’t do it often nor very hard but it was enough that I could feel the effect as well as the slight breeze they caused when they did it. Usually they just moved around slowly.
Adam asked me to deploy the wings again then try walking around. That, too, felt a little strange. My balance was a bit out of kilter, but I figured that a little practice walking around with them out like that would have me adjusted to it in short order. It still felt weird as they almost randomly altered shape or position slightly while deployed. The way they caught the air as I was moving around shifted when they did that. If I was just standing then the deployed wings helped me to balance but the air they caught if I walked anywhere made me sometimes feel like I was trying to wade through deep water. I also noticed the right side seemed slightly different than the left. Possibly a little heavier or maybe dragging a little more like those wings were catching the air a little differently than the one’s on the left which took my balance off slightly. I mentioned this to Adam and he seemed surprised.
Checking his notes and data for this set of wings he looked at me with a strange expression on his face, “That's right. This pair of wings has four or five hundred grams more weight in the right set of wings due to manufacturing differences. I'm surprised you noticed the difference since each wing set weighs close to nine kilos, give or take a little. The flight program has offsets which take the weight of each individual wing into consideration during their operation. The weight differences translate into both positive qualities and negative qualities. The additional weight means that any given wing is stronger in its carrying capacity and also more powerful in its control of the air. However, the additional weight means the wing requires more battery power to operate, though not much in this case, and as a result of the difference between the wings more computing time is required since each of the wings has a different feedback thus requiring slightly different control of each to accomplish any given task. That means the computing processors are also drawing more power in order for them to handle the calculations involved in those differences. Again, not a great deal of change, perhaps five to eight percent so a hundred and fifty minutes of flight time battery would become a hundred and thirty or forty after everything was taken into account. Not a big difference. The last set of wings we manufactured had a much greater difference in weight, close to a kilo and a half, so we had to separate the set and make two more to try to match each of them. Too large a difference will cause the computer to spend too much time computing and slow down reactions to outside stimuli. In a life or death situation that could be bad.”
“If you change the mounting of the wings to the vest in order to strengthen them more for those aerobatics we were talking about yesterday, what will that do to the flight time?”
“Probably drop it another twenty to thirty minutes. Perhaps as much as forty, it depends on the changes and how much energy they require. I would think the addition of the fourth battery in the pack would easily make up for those losses. My testing program said the addition of that battery will add roughly fifty to sixty minutes to the overall time for this set of wings. We made out much better than I had expected.”
I brightened at that and smiled. It dawned on me that I'd been standing here all during our discussion and turning to face him as well as moving around a bit while the wings were in the deployed position. What reminded me was one set decided to take a stronger grip on the air for a moment and that actually pulled at me for a moment. At first I thought they were going to take off until they quickly settled down again. Maybe this distraction will diminish after a couple of weeks. It was a little weird though and I mentioned it.
“Is this movement of the wings something you usually have them doing?”
He smiled, “No. That was a slight programming change for the movie since these wings were supposed to be something real. If you watch a bird or a butterfly you’ll notice that even when they aren’t flying they will move their wings once in a while. A butterfly does it more often than a bird.”
Thinking about that I remembered watching a butterfly which had landed on a flower. It was like the wings were helping it balance or moving slowly to help take away heat. At least if they became too annoying I could place them back into the stored position which, thinking about it, I did right now so I could walk around more easily. The tether didn't help with that but on the ground I was becoming quite accustomed to the weight and the demands the wings placed on my otherwise normal movements. The downside was that any time I was outside the small distance either side of that monorail up at the roof line, the more I needed to be concerned about the tether interfering with the wings movement. I probably wouldn’t need to worry about that so much once I had more experience and was disconnected from the tether.
He motioned toward the riser, “go on, get back up there and we'll begin the session.”
I stepped up onto the shallow riser and at Adam’s command, deployed the wings then activated ‘lift’ as he instructed me. After I was roughly three meters off the ground I went into hover. That was still a little frightening since being that close to the ground allowed me to see not just the 'bounce' effect between the wing’s flaps in much greater detail and which occupied something close to a quarter or half a meter of those three, but it also was insufficiently high to negate some of those ‘effects’ which were caused by the air bouncing off the floor in every direction and causing eddys which the wings were causing stability problems as the wings tried to adjust for something which was only there for a split second. For something so delicate looking these wings moved a surprising amount of air around. I guess they would need to do so since that was the thrust which held me aloft. That meant they were throwing the equivalent of close to a hundred kilos of air down continuously to counter both my weight and that of the wings, pack and my clothing. It’s funny that I had never given a thought to air being sufficiently substantial that it could be used to provide enough lift to take me off the ground. After all, when I walked around I didn’t need to wade through the air like I was in the shallow end of a swimming pool.
As I hovered, it was a bit disconcerting to see the ground coming up at me, even though slightly, then drop away once again with the next set of flaps of the wings even if it was in increments as each wing of the set did its thing. Stupidly, I reasoned I would like to climb a little more and pressed the button for 'climb' having temporarily forgotten that the next action that button would afford me was to land. Again I wound up at the end of the tether flailing around trying to upright myself. I put the wings into stored position to try to prevent damage to them and Adam assisted me in standing again.
“What happened?” he asked me with some concern.
“I forgot I couldn't press the climb button to go higher after I was hovering. The wings went into 'landing' mode and I wasn't ready for it. Could we do something which will allow me separate control of climbing and landing?”
He looked at me as though he was trying to judge my future ability to fly with the wings.
“We do have a different set of control boxes which will work with these wings but we don't usually start using them until someone has close to a hundred hours experience with the wings. Those boxes offer a great deal more control but have fewer fail safe functions available to them. I don't think you're ready for them.”
“Couldn’t we just separate all the things I am allowed to do onto separate buttons for now?”
“Yes....” he said hesitantly, “I suppose I could do that. It will probably make it more difficult for you later but for now it could give you greater control for now.”
Twenty minutes later I was flying once again and this time I had more control. I could deploy the wings, climb, hover, climb again, begin to land, hover, climb.... In short I could make more decisions as to how I wanted the wings to respond and control felt a little more natural to me.
I was in my fifth intensive session of the morning when he spoke to me through the com his link established between the computers, “You have been up for fifty minutes this time. You have twelve minutes capacity remaining. Would you please land and I'll go over some more controls we can add for you to learn and use while the batteries begin to recharge.”
“Coming down, fasten your seatbelts and put your seats and trays in the upright and locked position.” I replied over the link.
I saw him laughing even as I heard his voice come back over the com channel. In a few seconds I landed, regained my balance within a moment or two; then once I was confident I wasn’t going to fall over, I moved the wings to the stored position.
“You're getting entirely too comfortable with those wings, young lady. You are taking to them like a seal takes to water.”
“I'll grant you that. I enjoy using the newest pair. I've got about two hundred hours on them.”
“Wow. What do I have? Five? Six?”
He called up a screen on his notebook, “Nope. Just a little shy of three and a quarter. The computer tracks your actual flight time and maintains a log to the second. We might see forty to fifty minutes but you might only have spent thirty to thirty five actually in the air. Standing on the ground with the wings moving doesn’t count. The pack records the duration of each flight and the flight computers log the data to my notebook through the link the next time the pack communicates with its home computer; which just now is my notebook. Deployed wings don't count, not even if they are flapping. Only actual 'off the ground and in the air' time is logged. Here, take a look.”
He called up my flight records and showed me how my first five minute 'flight' today actually only occupied two minutes and two seconds. However, this last fifty minute flight recorded forty seven minutes and twelve seconds of actual in the air time.
“If that's true then there should be nearly fifteen or twenty minutes more time remaining in the batteries than that which you just told me was there.”
“Deployed wings use power, and we’ve been keeping you closer to the ground during your training. That uses more energy as does hovering because the computer is working more to cause the wings to hold you steady. That uses battery power much faster than flying at a higher altitude does. If you were flying along and suddenly flew over a building then the wings would be working harder to hold you aloft during the period you crossed the roof of the building. It’s only in the stored position that the minimal amount of energy is used and that’s actually for the computers standby power and their cooling system. So long as the six switches are in any position other than all off then the pack is using battery power for the wings in one manner or another.”
I quickly clicked the six switches to the off position.
“Hey,” Adam immediately called out to me, “I was programming. I can't download your newest commands unless those are turned on.”
“As soon as the new commands are downloaded can I shut these off without causing problems?”
“Not right away. Turn them on to computer only so I can work with the pack while everything else is in minimum energy mode.”
“Which way is computer only?”
“First switch on each box is on.... No, not like that, remember the boxes are mirrors of each other so on the right hand box the other end is the first switch. Once those switches are on then the computers will ‘boot up’ and after a minute they are ready to accept input either from the data link or from the control boxes.”
I made the appropriate change and he went back to his notebook to work with my flight pack. Fifteen minutes later he was finished. It would have been much faster but just as he nearly finished he realized I was accustomed to certain buttons doing certain things even though that was a temporary expedient so he spent another ten minutes creating a new button map which would allow a location for everything while still fitting in with what I had already learned.
“I'm beginning to think we should probably make a clean break after you learn to do a little flight then switch to the other controls. You're learning fast. I'm going to add limited flight to your available controls even though you have less than four hours time with the pack. You can get into a lot of trouble with flight capability so we will work at teaching you the do’s and don’ts of flight the rest of today and likely tomorrow as well. I'll bring the more advanced control boxes with me tomorrow in case you are able to handle flight more easily than most. You seem to handle the hover and slow transit stuff just fine as well as that slight 'bounce' which also occurs when you are flying. Just remember not to panic like you did this morning.”
“That was a result of my controls not doing what I asked them to do. I didn't have a problem after you changed them.”
“True, but you still panicked and that can be a killer when you’re off the tether. At the rate you're learning that might not be all that far away and you need to learn to control your panic. You never know when something unexpected might happen. You've got to keep your head on your shoulders and quickly think your way out of the problem. That means you work, and you work, and you work some more to master these wings because in only nine more days they will be starting shooting, and less than a week after that they’ll probably want you to be able to do some flight and possibly even some stunts. Somehow I don't think they will simply expect you to fly around in a circle or in a straight line.”
Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence.
Adam checked the time and decided we would continue this after lunch.
“A lunch break will give the pack some time to recharge as well as give you a full charge on which to learn more about flying during this afternoon.”
“I thought you said the batteries like to be fully discharged before they are charged again?”
“There's something less than five minutes remaining now that I've spent some energy loading and storing the new commands. That's easily low enough we can recharge the pack without losing any battery capacity to speak of. We can take a leisurely lunch, come back to review how the new commands will work as you use the simulator which will allow the pack more time to continue to charge. Then we’ll go over a few of the fundamental precautions necessary for semi-restricted flight before you start flying. That should be plenty of time for the pack’s batteries to reach a complete charge.”
He helped me take off the pack and then I helped him place it back onto the mannequin before I put on my blouse and blazer. Oh, did I forget to mention that after my very first day, or afternoon really, I learned it was a good idea to take off my blouse since the vest would adjust itself to fit me very snugly. There is no way I was removing my bra even though it tended to create problems for me since it was under the flight suit. Both the suit and the vest were basically form fitting so parts of the bra became a little uncomfortable under them but still.... The flight suit helped to buffer that a bit though. This whole thing was kind of neat actually. When I was wearing the vest/ pack/ whatever, it was difficult to realise the flight suit I was wearing happened to be more than just something covering my body. With my clothes on, it was hardly noticeable.
The on-board computer controlled the vest and the flight suit to a limited degree, in addition to its primary use of controlling the wings themselves. When I was wearing the vest it was difficult to notice at a distance since it was basically close to skin tone, or at least my skin tone. Adam told me that wardrobe here had made up a new outfit which I needed to try but so far I hadn’t seen it. He was concerned the skirt portion which was flowing and billowy might present problems for the wing stability program. He was still pressing for something shorter so the wings wouldn’t have so many calculations to do. The counter to that was the need to prevent me from becoming cold due to the wind going past me during my flight. That was part of the reason there were heating elements in the flight suit which, of course, used more battery power when they were in use. I thought back to when I played the part of that Amazon, I had seemed to have been wearing next to nothing. Not as bad as a bikini though but still.... This costume had to have more to it than that costume did.
We left the hangar to go eat and were careful not to mention anything specific about the wings themselves while we were out at lunch. For the moment, the show and everything to do with it were still a closely guarded secret.
We spent our lunch discussing the controls, the changes and a few of the precautions I would need to take once I began the flight portions of the training.
“As is, you now have a little under four hours training time and that's about a third to a fourth of the amount we usually require before graduating to actual supervised flight. Your initial flights will be in the hangar and on a tether. We won’t move on to free flight until you pass the tests which will provide me with a feel for how well you are likely to handle an emergency. Believe me, simple things which you would shrug off here on the ground can be very frightening when you are in the air.”
A couple of guys seated at the next table had been listening to our conversation, “Ahh, Ultra-Light flight I take it?” one of them commented.
“Something like that.” Adam replied.
“I lost part of a wing during one flight.... hit the end on a tower guy wire that I didn't see or expect. The broken part of the wing stayed connected but I lost the lift from that portion of the wing and it also caused a bit of a drag. That was a scary ride before I managed to land. Practice all you can, lady. Then practice some more. When you are up there,” he pointed at the ceiling which caused me to glance up for a moment before understanding the reference motion, “it's just you and the birds, and they can't really help you. Everything needs to be automatic.”
“Thank you for the advice.” I said to him, but now I began thinking about the possibility of losing part of a wing or maybe several of them during flight. That whole idea was far less than attractive.
“Not a problem. See you around, we've got to get back to our studio.”
They got up, cleared their table and departed. Their table was soon repopulated by others who finally had their break for lunch. As the two men who had spoken with us walked away from the commissary, we watched through the windows from our location at our own table as they wandered off. Once they were out of sight we got up, put our trash and trays at their proper locations prior to departing the commissary for our ride in Adam's car back to the hangar.
It was a little before one when we entered. Adam asked me to go ahead and sit down while he went to the trunk of the car to pull out a large presentation pad. He arrived at the table shortly after I did and sat next to me before he began to flip through the pages of the pad while he discussed the meaning of each page with me. Finally we graduated to his notebook computer and I watched nearly a half dozen short movie clips of flights, each about five minutes in duration. We then went over each clip and the things which I could learn from them. Some of them we went over several times before he pulled out two control boxes which he connected to his notebook through a USB port. He did some typing and clicking on his touch screen as I watched. I noted he was mapping the controls to respond the same way as I had learned to use them during my previous training.
“Now. As you watch the next clips, I want you to do whatever you think might work to try to get out of the predicament. The computer will allow you to make the changes and show you the results. That includes allowing you to crash. Fortunately you can't be hurt if you crash during the simulations. You will not be flying again until you are able to successfully pass twenty simulations in a row.”
I really didn't want to hear that. I liked being up there with those wings flapping and the air rushing around me.
About half-way through the afternoon I managed to correctly get nineteen simulations in a row but didn't come any closer than that the rest of the day so, of course, Adam resisted my nearly constant attempts to cajole him into allowing me into the air even if in the simple and restricted manner which I had previously been allowed.
Five o'clock rolled around and we quit for the day with me no closer than I had been two hours previously. I think he 'stacked the deck' against me just so I couldn't get up there right away. Here, I've spent much of the day in lessons and now I'm to go home without any reward. And once home I'm scheduled to go through a couple of hours of 'girl' training at the hands of my fiancee. Is that fair I ask you?
After supper Candy and I spent some time practicing the lines she had for tomorrow’s scenes before we eventually retired. At least that hadn't changed much despite these things attached to my chest and in my hair. It was a little embarrassing to spend so much time talking about 'girl' things with her but she said that was one of the changes she liked in all this. She enjoyed having a boy friend with whom she could discuss things important to her as well as the things which were important to me. I thought I always listened to her and talked with her about girl things but she said I did it “much more naturally” now that I was learning to act more female. I couldn't see it but if she was happy, I was happy.
The next day I tried to convince Adam to allow me to fly but, once again, I found myself sitting in front of his computer, running simulations.
“Twenty in a row. And the computer decides if you made it, not me.”
I turned back to the computer, “I suppose you won't listen to my arguments either?” When the computer didn’t do so much as beep at me, I continued, “No, I didn't think so.”
That got a laugh out of Adam.
An hour and fifty minutes later, “That last landing was a success, I didn't crash.” I complained, the little disaster scene the computer was showing to me not withstanding. It showed me standing amidst a pile of wreckage which at one time had been the wings my animated self had been wearing.
Adam looked at the screen then at me, “True, you did manage to land on your feet and walk away unhurt but the wings were damaged beyond repair. To be a successful flight both you and the wings must survive.”
I glared at him, “But that was my nineteenth landing. I only needed one more.”
“Sorry.” Adam puts up his hands in defense, “Twenty according to the impartial referee there.” He pointed to the computer. “After that we will begin simulations using the new control boxes which have the joy-sticks. That shouldn't take more than another day or two then you'll be in the air again.”
“What? I don't get to fly even after I pass twenty? And I don't suppose threatening you will help me pass, either?” I said to the computer.
Adam continued, “You need to become accustomed to the regular controls and the regular applications. That way you could use any of the packs and wings. Your learning of the basics will be over. When you finish this exam, you graduate to the more advanced lessons.”
“I suppose I don't get to fly until I pass twenty more simulations using the new controls?”
“Not at all. We'll have you in the air on a tether as soon as the computer says you instinctively use the normal controls properly. Probably Friday or Monday. That will be when your real learning begins. At the rate you pick up on this stuff, we will probably be flying you off tether but at minimal altitude in another week. That will give you a week to practice flying and to graduate to a level where you could begin some of the easy flying for the movie. Shooting of your non-flight stuff begins next week so I'm really hoping we start with the normal controls sometime relatively soon.”
I hoped so.
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Cover image under extended X license - The Green Pixie - © Atelier Sommerland/ fotolia. (See title page)
The Last of the Fey Copyright © 2012 USA, Earth by D. A. Trask.
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