Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Free Falling 2

The door opened silently and the three engineers gathered around Melissa's hammock. The bindings she had released enabled them to work and treat the leather and their priority was to stretch it out and dry the rainwater. Their earlier checks had confirmed there were no structural faults with the system so they were not unduly concerned about the work required.

As they straightened the wings Melissa's rhythmic snores were interrupted by grunts and her arms twitched violently. She murmured and shifted her head restlessly but remained unconscious. The three men worked oils into the various joints, pistons and gear works that made up the external workings of the wings. Where the structures disappeared under her skin, they were unable to treat or repair. Nevertheless they unfastened her flightsuit and manipulated the muscles that surrounded the structures clamped onto her skeleton to ensure there was no significant internal damage. 

They all knew this stage was both unnecessary and useless - the previous year, in the first few months using the wings, Melissa had broken one of the struts in a catastrophic fall. She had been in searing agony over the following days as the broken end repeatedly sawed through her muscles each time she flexed or unconsciously shifted her wings. It was only the intervention of a new electromagnetic treatment that enabled the inventor to fuse the two pieces of metal together that had allowed them to continue using the wings and this same issue was why Melissa was still the only flight specialist in the world. 

Despite knowing that if anything of this severity had happened Melissa would not be soundly sleeping the engineers made the same check each time she returned because they had all witnessed that fall and although she had never been told, they were convinced that it had severely weakened several of the internal joints and it would only be a matter of time before another broke. If it did, there was nothing they could do, unless they could get her to the inventor of the wings to carry out the repairs. While they were more than a few miles away from him it would be impossible - moving Melissa by road or ship would cause irreparable damage, infection and probably death. 

Nevertheless, they religiously checked and Melissa - who was occasionally conscious through these treatment sessions - made absolutely no complaint. It was bliss to her to feel the over exerted muscle being corrected, tension released and fresh blood whirling through the tired area. 

Eventually the three men had completed their work and as the leather was still a little damp they hooked the wings up to a pulley system and ran the ropes for the quick release to hang in front of Melissa's eyes. 

Almost eight hours later, Melissa awoke. She had been so deeply asleep that she hardly felt refreshed or rested and she contemplated remaining in the hammock until she was convinced she had fully recovered from her previous exertions. However, her body had reached the stage where it was sufficiently well rested to complain about the need for food and toilet facilities. Quickly snapping the rope to release her wings, she refastened her flight suit, but left the wings out. She picked up a simple shift which had been customised to expose most of her back and threw it on. Without conscious effort, her wings swept up through the unusual gap and shook themselves out as she walked forward tying an easy girdle slightly beneath her bust. 

She left the room and strolled down the dark cramped corridor, ducking and weaving to avoid fellow sailors, low hanging beams and the occasional lantern. After a few minutes' detour she arrived at the kitchen area and the cook spotted her. Fully accustomed to her almost savage hunger after flying, the kitchen had prepared trencher loaves and cold meats in advance for her to dine on while she waited for them to cook her something hot. Thirty minutes after she began tearing into the pre-prepared food, she was presented with a steaming pile of boiled potatoes and stewed beef. They also kept her well stocked with mugs of ale, fresh water and three tots of gin, all of which she guzzled down.

Finally satisfied and somewhat bloated she went on deck and sat gazing over the vast expanse of sea surrounding them. Her flight suit meant they were in the unique position of being able to sit further off the coast than most ships and so they were outside the busiest shipping lanes. Nevertheless, there were signs of other ships passing across the horizon and every now and then a little cutter or frigate would meet with them to exchange information. For now, they were isolated.

Within twenty minutes her reverie had descended into snoring once again. Almost two hours later she awoke and felt ready to take on the world. Fortunately, there was a message waiting for her to meet with the captain to receive her next set of instructions.