Donovan reached the clearing in the woods a mile or two from Fyrkat and wiped the midday sweat from his forehead. For what he was about to try, he felt it was best attempted away from the villager’s eyes.
It had been a busy three days since the Sky Raider attack, and in that time Donovan hadn’t been able to assimilate, never mind explore, this new power he’d somehow gained. He could tell some of the others had exhibited similar… changes; Billy Joe’s enhanced physique, Edward’s awe-inspiring martial skill, even Marcus’s ability to operate the strange technology the defeated Lizard Men had left behind. But none felt more shocking than what he’d done.
Donovan looked up at the blue sky framed by the trees surrounding him. I can fly, he thought, and in that moment, thought became deed and he found himself rising from the ground, clearing the treeline at a sedate pace. He spun slowly, observing the retreating countryside beneath him.
At another thought, his ascent stopped, and he looked down at himself. Nothing was supporting himself; there were no wires, no engine, no wings holding him up. A wild laugh escaped his lips, and his heart was pounding a beat on his ears.
Even as excitement overtook him, he regarded the ground below, fixing landmarks in his mind with the experience of a pilot. It wouldn’t do to get lost in this new land. Satisfied that he’d successfully pinpointed his current location, he pondered his next move.
He remembered the trip to the plane crash and wondered how long it would take him to get there as the crow flies. Another grin split his face at the phrase. He spun to face the right direction and thought, let’s put the pedal to the metal and see what we can do.
The landscape below him blurred as sped off. His body shifted into a horizontal position and, in a moment of whimsy, he stretched one arm out while keeping the other cocked against his chest. All I need now is the big red S, he thought flippantly.
He marveled not only at the speed he must be doing, as indicated by the terrain zipping by, but at the fact he felt no wind shear and had no problem breathing. He pushed to increase his speed, and suddenly a blast of searing heat washed over him, as if he had just jumped into a furnace. He immediately stopped, and had a second to be amazed at how quickly he'd decelerated without any G-force pulling at his body before a loud explosion from behind startled him.
He turned in mid-air, panicked. It took him a second to realize he’d just heard the sonic boom caused by his exceeding the speed of sound. He hung there, slack-jawed. Jesus, Mary and Joseph! I just broke the sound barrier!
He quickly checked himself. His face felt stiff, as if he'd gotten a bad case of sunburn. His clothes gave off the syrupy smell of scorched fabric. Safety tip, boys and girls, he thought in a giddy daze, the human body is not built to travel at Mach speeds.
The noonday sun, inexplicably still not all the way up in the sky, shone in his eyes, and he looked straight up. His eyes squinted as another wild thought took over and, orienting himself, he sped up into the atmosphere.
As the ground receded quickly beneath him, he wondered what would happen next. Would he run out of air suddenly, or freeze? The thought that he could end up dead reenacting Icarus’s fateful flight occurred to him but didn’t deter from his headlong ascent.
The sun shone brighter, making it hard to see. Donovan found himself having to close his eyes and place a hand over them to ward off the intense light. Suddenly his stomach flip-flopped and he found himself flying down into the same landscape he’d been climbing up from.
What the…? He thought, shocked, as the quick change in direction caused his concentration to slip and he began falling. His body spun wildly, arms and legs flailing. His Air Force training took over and he flattened his body to lessen the spin. Once he'd gotten his bearings, he stopped his descent and hung there, his mind churning.
Had he become disoriented and tumbled in the air? Did something push him back? An odd memory flitted across his brain; years ago, he'd played around with a computer flight simulator. The program had a defined boundary to the map, and when he'd tried flying beyond it, the image on the screen had tilted sharply as the plane had automatically veered into a 180° turn. He looked up at the featureless blue sky as he swallowed the hint of vomit at the back of his throat.
The second brush with the limitations of his power burnt off the last of the enthusiasm that had sent him on this dangerous exploration, and with it the desire for any more reckless experimentation.
He descended at a more conservative speed, using the landmarks below and his innate awareness of the Center’s direction to guide him back towards Fyrkat. A quarter mile from the village, he touched down. His rubbery legs failed to support him, and he dropped to the mossy ground, his mind blank with astonishment, unable to hold more than a single thought.
I can fly.
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