Glimpses of Opal City
Ikki's grapnel caught on the first try.
"Smooth, Ik, that was smooth!"
"Thank you, thank you," she said hoarsely, climbing up to join Pero on the otherwise inaccessible maintenance ledge, "my Q-dep is posted. Feel free to contribute to the cause." This far off the deck, and clear of any artificial gravity plates inside the building, they were only two-thirds as heavy as normal, and the climb was simple.
"Pay me back that century you owe, and maybe," the man remarked. He was never going to see that money again, but that was the joke.
The next hook took a few tries, Sowanna doing his best.
"Ah, you suck," Pero ribbed.
"I really do," Sowa, agreed, but then it caught, the multi-pronged climbing line flipping over a projecting spar, and holding fast upon itself when he pulled it taut. In moments, he was standing beside them, the three having only a thin data cable to hold onto for balance.
The three friends then took a moment, standing side-by-side on the ledge, staring down at the city far below. A slight breeze, caused by Coriolis-based turbulence at this high elevation, flipped Ikki's long, dark bangs into her face; she puffed at them with curled lips. By climbing to the ledge, they had a clear vista; nothing in the way, and nothing to foul them up.
"You need a haircut," Pero observed idly, never taking his eyes off the station at night, public lights dimmed to twilight levels, sparking like gemstones on velvet.
"You need need my foot in your face," she replied, entirely free of animosity. Pero needled when he was nervous. It was part of his process. They all had one.
It was so quiet up here by the overhead hull. It had taken a bribe that put them all in the hole in order to get the security guy to look the other way. The building clung to the inside upper ceiling of the station's ring, reaching downward, instead of up. Home of the wealthy, home of the elite. You had to be one of them yourself, just to have a legit reason to be here.
"Ready, boys?" Ikki asked, crouching low and flexing her lithe form, the suit responding with a ripple, as if it were a living part of her. For Ikki, it almost was. Once in air, she was like a bird, an angel. It was only when her feet were on the deck that the flaws all caught up. Not tonight, though. Not tonight!
Never content with the mundane, Ikki canted over on her heal when she leaned out, and just fell off the catwalk backwards, her wings held tightly to her sides, dropping off into the quiet gloom and disappearing from sight. They had her in their goggles, of course, through an augmentation layer that showed her spread her wings wide in a three-dimensional projection map of the environment around them.
Sowanna dropped then, doing a forward flip that would allow him to snap open his glider membranes right below the level of the hightower, and maintain altitude for extended minutes. He floated off, just under the metallic ceiling of the ring, and was away.
With the platform clear now, Pero took a step back, and then jumped forward with a loud hoot, spreading his fingers just enough for the responsive wings to open a hair; it put him into a forty-five degree angle, and he cleared the undertenna off to the right. Their stunt would be noticed, and investigated. They'd never have access to this spot again; the guard would be fired, or new policies would be put into place to make it more difficult or even impossible to use this upside-down building as a launch point again.
They had to make it worth the bridge-burn!
Sowanna was high above, keeping his altitude. He didn't go in for all the aerial acrobatics, preferring to set duration and flight goals that were, in their own way, just as hard to achieve as anything the other members of the Seagull Human Flight Convention, with their daredevil souls, could hope to do.
"Looking good, Pero!" Sowa said, the goggles being fully networked and wired for sound.
"Yeah, man!" he cried, and they could all hear his grin. "I'm gonna do it! Migney Towers, coming up!"
And indeed, he was fast approaching three buildings, laid out in the same place on three consecutive blocks, and outwardly identical. His burning desire, which he'd expressed many times, was to serpentine glide between them, weaving like he was putting a stitch into fabric. There'd been mixed opinions as to whether it was worth the effort, but Pero wasn't one to ever be deterred by naysayers.
He peeled off to the left, and disappeared around the first tower, while Ikki dove hard, following straight alongGrand avenue, careening down, and then up almost perpendicularly when she flexed her wings. She was moving too fast to see any people or details on the deck below, but she hoped someone down there was catching some vid. The Seagulls always made vids about their exploits, along with riotous, drunken breakdowns of their activities of the previous Quarter. The vids were popular on the rec-sport channels.
"Tower One down!" Pero cried in her audio feed.
"How's your height?" Sowa asked. He was up out of sight, and probably far behind by now.
"Fifty-two meters," came the reply. "Ringing Tower Two now!"
"You got this!" Ikki cheered.
"You'll have to turn left after Tower Three, and ditch in the pond." Sowa predicted. He was referring to one of two artificial bodies of water in Edge Park, on portside of the ring-shaped station. The designation for port and starboard followed the rotational axis of the station. It was going to be a tricky maneuver for the big man, but they'd gone over this likelihood a bunch of times.
Then, the worst happened.
"Ah!" Pero called in surprise and frustration. "Police drone on my tail!"
"Oh, man!" Sowanna said. "It's 'cause you're so low!"
"We'll come bail you out if they don't get us,too," Ikki assured.
"Okay," their weaving friend announced,"just clearing Three now, and...did it! Heading to Derber Pond...they'll have me then."
His friends offered him sincere congratulations. Sowa stated that, from his vantage point above, he'd caught some footage of the gliding weave through the buildings through his goggles' telescopics.
In a few seconds, they heard bumps and oofs over comm from their friend, before he reported a safe(ish) landing.
"I tumbled when I hit the surface. Right wing is broken. All the struts snapped."
"That'll be expensive," Sowa offered, by way of sympathy.
"Hey, any landing you can swim away from," Ikki declared, and the other two agreed.
By now, she had regained some of her altitude. She wasn't going to ring Opal City Station this night, but only Sowanna had ever really wanted to. You had to maintain your altitude to go the distance. Only a couple members of the team had ever done it before, and none in recent years. OCPD were vigilant. That was why the three friends had left from one of highly secure overhead hightowers, where bribeable private protective services monitored the airspace, instead of the cops.
"I'm not going to make it to Venice," Ikki declared after another minute of swirls, loops, and dives, bleeding altitude freely. Her goal had been to drop into one of that neighborhood's many canals. "Going for a skid-stop under Spoke One."
"Oh, Ikki, flat approach! Flat as you can!" Sowa instructed. Of course she already knew that, but coming in gently and landing on her back required a slow approach to the concrete surface of the plaza at the base of the massive supportive strut of the station (one of six), before pulling in her wings and twisting over.
"Ikki, slow approach!" Pero advised emphatically. He was still on the line, because the PD were just then pulling up to the pond.
The slick, ultra-puncture and abrasion resistant material of their wingsuits made this possible in theory, but the lander's technique mattered at least as much. Broken necks had occurred over the years, along with high-speed collisions with everything from street signs to people.
There was a lot of noise then from Ikki's comm line, including clattering thumps, a screech, and a series of painful grunts. Her friends called her name simultaneously.
"H...here! I made it! Ah, crap! My leg is broken for sure!"
"Any landing you can crawl away from," Pero said happily, then added," Okay, going dark: Johnny Law's got hand on me." And he was gone.
"You gonna make it, Sowa?" Ikki asked. She was crying now because of the pain, but it was no reflection of her nerve. Broken bones, pain, crash landings, water ditchings...these were every-flight occurrences for the Seagulls.
"Yeah, I've got the height," he replied. "I'm gonna do it! Here comes the hightower again, up high and to my right, and...yes! Passed it! First ring in years! Foot-landing in Goldenberg in...two minutes!"
"Go Sowa! Do it!" Ikki encouraged, deeply cheerful through her agony.
The station sure was beautiful at night. Sowanna loved this town, this tiny bubble of life in the middle of so very much nothing. He shed altitude, continually manipulating the cloth scoops in his suit, and maintaining control.
No police drones behind. No random aircars ahead. Goldnberg Park coming up...
At the last moment, he swooped in between nighttime ball players on one of the game fields, some of whom shouted in surprise, while one dove out of the way, though they weren’t even close. Sowa pulled up tightly then, scoops open full, braking him to a near stop in the air. He stalled only three meters above the grass. With his wings outstretched to slow his drop, he positioned both feet, knees bent, and landed easily.
He stood upright, looking around.
"I'm down!" he announced, but Ikki wasn't on the line anymore. Likely, she was being helped by passersby. Pero would be in tapecuffs by now. This was Sowanna's moment alone.
"You alright, mister?" one of the game players asked, running up with surprise and concern written plainly on her face.
"Oh," Sowa laughed, pulling off his helmet, "you have no idea!"