A "Winds of Change" Story
I could have gone to visit Charlie in Berkeley. You never find yourself in danger visiting a computer programmer, I thought, but nooo. I had to fly down to Carlsbad...
First, I find myself between a buck and a doe and now I'm going to be part of the Thin Blue Line between angry gang members and the general populous. "All things considered," I muttered, "I'd rather be in Boston."
Nightsky turned her head back to look at me, "Huh? What'd you say?"
"Nothing. Anything that you need to tell me before we go up?"
"Not really." She said as we entered a small outfitting room. "You'll help direct the officers on the ground. The patrol units all have number designations on the roof, so that shouldn't be a problem. How well do you know the streets in Carlsbad?"
I shook my head, "I'm just down for a visit. Last time I was even in the region was probably 10 years ago."
She pulled out a dark blue padded vest, "Okay, anyone ever teach you compass directions?" She asked as she handed me the body armor.
I smirked, "I was an Eagle Scout."
She paused for a minute, then turned back to the supply locker, "Figures."
She handed me a night vision scope, which had obviously been refitted to go over an eagles head. I strapped it on but left it high on my head. She handed me a police radio which I strapped to my arm. It was different than the flight computer I was used to, but close enough that I wouldn't have a problem using it.
Nightsky paused for a moment. Then she walked to a locked steel cabinet and pulled out a semi-automatic pistol. "Have you ever used one of these, Mr. Coe?"
I took the pistol from her hand, inspected it, slapped the 9 bullet clip into the bottom, double checked the safety and pulled back the slide, loading the chamber. "Glock 9mm semi-auto. I was a pro-marksmen before the Change, and then my vision stank."
She nodded, "Okay, but this is only for you protection if you get into trouble. Cops have very specific rules about use of these things, and you're not trained with those. I'm giving this to you despite my better judgment. By the way, do you have any Power that I should be aware of?"
"I have an involuntary shield that comes on when the adrenaline is pumping."
She looked a little relieved, "How strong is it?"
"I survived hitting a glass display case at high speed."
She looked me over again. "I'm not going to ask. Well, maybe if we survive this. Lets head to the roof. We don't have a lot of time."
We got up to the roof and found a couple other bird morphs, a peregrine falcon and a seagull, waiting for us. The seagull looked right at me. "Who's the eagle, Captain?"
"He's a friend of Jon's. His names Brian and he'll be giving us a hand tonight."
They looked me over for a minute and seemed satisfied. I just hope they don't ask about my experience...
Nightsky took off first, followed by me. I glanced back to see the other two take off. I looked down to the parking lot and in the fading light of day could see the police cruisers starting to move out, their blue and red lights flashing. I didn't see Jon, though. He must be in one of the cruisers, I thought.
Nightsky fell back a little and pointed to a looming cylinder in the distance. "That's where we're headed. That thing is the smokestack over the power plant."
"Captain, what exactly is going on? I'm a little new to all this."
She shrugged in flight. "Best case, this is a inter-gang war that we'll need to contain."
My beak hung open a little, "That's the best case?! What's the worse case?"
"Do you really want to know?"
She flapped a few times and got a head of me. I shook my head and started looking to the ground. We were about 2000 feet up and could see most of the region from here. I could also see the flashing lights of all the cruisers around the city. Most of them were concentrated in a column leading from the police department office. There were a few others converging on the area from other directions.
The ground started to loose contrast, and I pulled the night scope over my eyes. There was still a little too much light out there, and it took me a minute to adjust it down. I focused on the area around the power plant, and what I saw had me more than a little concerned.
I looked back at the falcon behind me, "Do you see what I see?"
He looked at me and then brought down his own scope. "Damndamndamn." He flapped harder to catch up with Nightsky. "Captain, I don't think that we can handle this without more help!"
"What do you mean?" Owls, it seems, may have great night vision, but not nearly as clear as a eagle or falcon.
"I'm counting about 200 individuals in the fields east and north of the power plant."
She stabbed a button on her radio, "All units, most activity seems to be centered around the north and east. Converge from all directions, though, try and box them in!" She hit another button, "Dispatch, this is bigger than we though. Get a hold of the highway patrol and contact the neighboring cities. Hell, contact the LAPD."
I heard the same female voice I'd talked to earlier from Jon's apartment (that already seemed like a long time ago) and she wasn't as calm as before. "Got it."
In the distance, I could see a couple other bird morphs flying our way. "Captain, any other birds in the department?"
"A few, and I'm sure that some from other areas are coming, why?"
"Well, we're about to get met up by three of them."
Just then, the falcon pulled his pistol. "Those aren't cops!"
I looked back at the three forms coming at us just in time to see a muzzle flash. Nightsky shouted, "Down!"
I was already headed in that direction when I head a piercing scream behind me. I looked back to see the gull fold up a wing and start to plunge to the ground. I barely had time to react when the falcon passed me like I was standing still. He grabbed the stricken gull and shouted into his radio. "Steve's been hit! He's bleeding pretty bad from his wing."
Two more shots rang out and I kept twisting to avoid them. Nightsky didn't bother with a radio, she just shouted, "Get him to the hospital and get back here ASAP." She looked at me, "That gun isn't a decoration!"
I pulled the pistol and flipped off the safety. How did I get into this? By this time, we were pretty close to the three attacking birds. None of the three were familiar species, though one might have been a raven. Nightsky and I tried to return fire, but it was tough. Without anything to hide behind, we had to keep moving in the air to avoid the shots from the other birds, and we were rapidly loosing altitude. I may have been a marksman, but that was with stationary targets from a prone position.
I suppose I shouldn't have worried, I was protected by a shield. But the force of whatever hit me had to go somewhere, and I'd never been hit with anything close to a bullet. Even if my shield could handle it, I was certain that I could still be hurt.
We were about three hundred feet above the ground when the most bizarre thing I'd ever seen happened. There was a moving flash of light, and the one that I'd pegged as a raven sorta...exploded. Not like blood and guts, but it was like he'd been plucked of most of his feathers. His friends, who had been pretty close to him, both tumbled in the air a few times, dropping their guns and flew away.
The raven was still falling, and I dove down and grabbed him around the shoulders. He was still conscious, though it looked like he was pretty stunned. He looked at me blankly and asked, "Are you a cop?"
I smiled as best I could, "No, can't you tell? I'm Federal."
I don't think he got the joke. He just passed out in my talons.
Nightsky joined up with me. "Just circle down. There's a prison bus coming up the street, we'll toss him in there."
I looked at her, "What the hell just happened? Did you do that?"
She looked down to the street, "Is that unit L-56 down there?"
I looked down to see two police cruisers parked by the side of the road. One was L-56. Standing next to it, I could see Jon.
And in the enhanced light of the night vision scope, I could see his antlers glowing slightly. I pieced together what I knew. "Jon did that? From three hundred feet?"
"That's nothing. A few weeks back he took out a brick wall. You didn't know?"
I was suddenly very shaky in the air, "No. He didn't tell me much about his Power." And if I'd known, I doubt that I would have tossed pepper in his face.
We were circled down to about fifty feet when the police bus rolled up. On Nightsky's orders, I dropped the slightly fried raven to the road in front of the other parked cruiser. I waved to Jon, "Thanks, I think I owe you one. And I need to have a long chat with you later..."
He just grinned and waved back, then he and Mike jumped back into the cruiser and sped off in the direction of the power plant. Nightsky was busy talking in the radio. Then she looked back at me. "Okay, We've got to get back overhead. I need you to stay close. You've got better eyes than mine and so we can go higher. CHP is sending a chopper and a couple of birds our way, so keep an eye out for them, too."
We started to climb in the air a little. As we passed back above a couple hundred feet, I could see the chaos brewing around the old power plant...
Copyright 1997, Brian Eirik Coe
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