It was just my luck that my turn at recon took place in the middle of the summer. Republican radar worked poorly in snowy conditions. Rain did not provide as much cover. The goddess of the aerie had been with me because I was above the gun ship when it came out of the mist. If I had been below them they would have spotted me for sure. It would be dark soon and the hunter would have to leave. I think I could remain perfectly motionless and hang on until then but I was not feeling very optimistic about my prospects. I was momentarily blinded by a bright flash. Damn, it shot a neutron shell into a cave on the northern side of the ravine. If there was any living thing in there it was dead now. Good, it began to move out of the canyon. I began to breathe again. It was always a bad sign when the Guard sent out search and destroy missions into our territory. It meant that someone was stirring up the voters to wipe out the nest of Satanís children. Which meant someone was running for high office again. The Mile High Menace was always a good vote getter. Hell, it would have gotten my vote if I had been born into the voter public. The experience of my former life told me that we could expect to see an escalation of military operation against us and soon. What a strange flight plan I had filled for myself. Once I had been a willing participant in punitive expeditions against the aeries and now here I was living with them.
The gun ship moved out of the ravine and I relaxed my death grip on the rock precipice. That was close. I felt so secure that I jumped off the ledge and plummeted down into the gorge. Odd that I should be afflicted with vertigo and enjoy free fall at the same time. Just as I was about to belly flop into the river I leveled off and flew towards the cave that had been nuked.
I raced across the face of the water. I was an odd Flyer. Every one I had met was like an albatross. They flew long and slow over great distances. More than once I had been carried by a cousin on our annual migration. At first I found that to be acutely embarrassing. That is until I had refined my own talent. I was like the sparrow hawk. I could fly with blinding speeds and make drastic turns that were impossible for my companions. Though I could not do it for extended lengths of time it got us out of trouble on more than one occasion. Over the years, with my speed and the help of some hand grenades, I had destroyed four recon craft that had been scouting our movements. Once I even took out a gun ship that had jumped us over the Rockies. After that victory none of my kin ever complained about having to carry me. That was how I earned my aerie name of Ace. According to my father-in-law it was a title bestowed on ancient Flyers who had destroyed five or more enemy aircraft. He said I was the first Flyer, born or adopted, to earn that warriorís name in living memory. I was more than proud to have brought that honor to my family and aerie. Maybe it was because I was adopted that I felt I always had to prove myself. Understand that I never liked killing people but I held a guilty wish that all the guards on the craft I had attacked were dead. If that was true none of them had filed an Intel report on me and my unique talent would still be an advantage for us. If I ever went up against a gun ship that was prepared for me I would be as easy a target as any other Flyer. No use worrying about that now. I would file that flight plan when I came to it. I alighted near the mouth of the of the cave. As I thought the mouth of the cave was just big enough that the gun ship must have gotten a thermograph reading of the interior. The idiots probably thought they had bagged themselves a Flyer. As we would live near the bottom of a ravine instead of on the mountains. I pulled out my handlight and looked around This wasnít a cave but the entrance to a mine. The inside was square, instead of being round and it had ancient wood shoring bracing the walls. Obviously this had not been drilled out with a plasma dragon. Imagine, this place had been dug out with tools and human sweat. It was well made too because the neutron shell had not brought down the walls. This had to be one of the silver mines that the old 99ers dug. If this was metallic ore! I rushed towards the back of the mine. I found him in a side tunnel laying unconscious by a camp fire. That explained it. The heat of the fire reflected off the walls lead the gun ship to think there was a person in here. They did not bother to investigate thinking they had sterilized the area. However, the ore sucked up all the radiation. The lucky bastard had only been stunned by the shell explosion.
I turned him over. Correction, I turned her over. She had on standard Repub issue fatigues with no stripes. She was another deserter looking for freedom. I slapped her face and she started to come around.
"Oh, my head. What happened"Ē she said groggily.
"Neutron shell. Youíre OK. This is an old silver mine. The ore took all the rads for you. You were just knocked silly by the shell burst.
"Hey, are you a Flyer?"
How many times have I been asked that question over the years? I understood her desire because I had been a deserter myself. "Let me guess, you deserted from the army in hopes of hooking up with a Flyer Wing."
"How did you know that?"
"Kid, thatís what they all want."
"Of course. If you want to be truly free you join up with the Flyers."
"You kids are never told the facts about the Flyers. One of the facts in that only about 3% of the Caucasian population have the genes you need to be a Flyer. Thatís why most of them are people of color. The levitation genes are more prevalent in those groups. That, aside from the fact that they live life on their own terms, is just one more reason the white boys in the Federal District love them so much."
"I guess that means that you are not a Flyer."
If I had said yes, that would have meant having to listen to her beg and plead for me to take her to a Flyerís nest. I couldnít handle that anymore. It was easier to lie. Besides I had the gift that all Flyerís had to spot a potential Flyer. When I first met the Flyers they knew at once that I had the right stuff. They were so in-breed that they never missed a chance to recruit a new member. Even a white boy like me. I could see that the kid was a marginal. Maybe if she drank the Pegasus solution the levitation genes would kick in. Then again if she didnít have enough of the right stuff it would kill her. I had also seen too many marginals die from drinking that bug juice. I couldnít handle that anymore either.
"No," I said lying through my teeth. "I am one of the Freesiders." She didnít say anything but I could tell she was crushed by the news. There was no reason for her to act like that. The Freesiders were a great bunch of guys. They were a colony of deserters that lived on the other side of the mountain that was just outside the territory of the True Republic of America. I spent many an evening drinking and playing cards with the boys. That, however, came to a halt when I flew through the bedroom window of the summer tree house. Damn, was my wife pissed at me. Didnít I know how dangerous it was to drink and fly. Well, I had a choice. I could keep drinking with the Freesiders or find myself another nest to sleep in. Guess which choice I made.
"I am a trader. I do business with the Flyers," I said.
"Please, take me to them," she pleaded.
Oh goddess, was I still going to have to deal with this shit!
"Put that thought out of your head. Every deserter thinks they have the genes to be a Flyer."
"I might have."
"One out of ever 100,000 Caucasians have the Flyer genes. And out of that 3% half of those donít have enough to make the grade. Your odds are better at winning the national lottery. Let me guide you to the frontier."
"To the Freesiders encampment," she said with contempt.
"I know that is not as romantic as enlisting with the Flyers. Who hasnít dreamed of flying through the clouds being answerable to no one but yourself. Who hasnít dreamed of giving the finger to the tyrants of the Republic. To be able to smoke a cigar, drink some scotch, or read a book. To live without curfews, to travel without an internal passport, to love whomever you want, to simply live life on your own terms."
"They do all that?"
"Yes they do. The Freesiders also to a lesser extent. Unfortunately they, ah we, have had too much republican discipline drilled into our head to be able to live with true freedom."
"I had my heart set on. . ."
"So did I," I replied with mock sincerity. I was laying it on so thick I was making myself sick. I would never make it as a politician. "Come on soldier letís move out."
"Itís dark outside."
"There has been heavy Repub recon the past few weeks. I think there are planning to move against the aeries again. Right now it is just too dangerous to move around in the daytime."
"It not as if I had anyplace better to go."
We left the mine and I paused to look down on the river. I loved looking at water by moonlight. My late wife and I often spend a romantic evening at places that overlooked the water. Just as I turned to comment on how lovely it looked the young woman pushed me over the cliff. With a reflex born of years of earth bound living I grabbed hold of her coat pulling us both over the edge.
We both screamed as we fell into the ravine. Then I felt stupid. What the hell was I screaming for? I could fly. I touched that place in my mind that controlled the flight response and immediately started to slow my descent. I caught the traitorous bitchís ankles and lowered her to just above the river bank. Then with a smile I dropped her into the mud.
"You no good son of a bitch!" she screamed up at me. "You lied to me! Youíre a Flyer!"
"And you are a god damn infiltrator," I yelled back.
"I Ďm not an infiltrator but I thought you were. You seemed to smart and smooth to be a Freesider."
"I have had years to improve my mind by reading books. Go back home and try reading one, madam Intelligence officer- if they still exist. Read about the real history of America. Read about how we gave away our birthright to a greedy government. But you wonít do that. Youíll follow orders and march in lock step with all the other robots in the republic," I said slowly lifting away from her.
"No, wait come back. I swear I am not an intelligence agent."
I didnít believe her. Army Intelligence had been trying for years to plant a spy amongst the Flyers and this had to be another ploy. I almost felt sorry for her. It didnít go well for Intelligence officers who failed in their missions. Then I felt the joy that came when I soared up into the sky.
I was forever free.
I was a Flyer.
Copyright 1997 by Dennis Tallent
You can e-mail Dennis at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dennis Tallent is a native son of the state of Texas; the direct desendent of an officer of the Texas Revolutionary Army. He is an active member of MENSA, The Libertarian Party and Tebala Shrine Temple. At the moment he is a nursing student at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Illinois.
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