Updated: Jul 25
A Different Sort of Falconry
Most guys would drive to where they needed to be. Orville flew.
For Orville, it was a most liberating feeling. To feel the wind rushing through his silver hair, to swerve and dive, to gaze down and watch people and vehicles the size of ants going about their daily lives, oblivious to the man with wings above them. Even though they were made of alloys and powered by hydrogen, even though they were artificial placeholders to make up for what was lost years before - Orville was grateful for the wings on his back.
He surveyed the busy highway below him and spotted his partner’s muddy grey van. Once she’d turned off the motorway and made it to an empty country lane he soared down and landed its roof with a thud.
Justine yelped and stuck her head out of the open window. ‘Seriously? You really have to do that every time, you can’t just drive with me?’
Orville shrugged and folded in his wings as the van slowed. He slid his body over the edge of the roof and shuffled into the open window on the passenger’s side. ‘I like the fresh air,’ he remarked. ‘Besides, you haven’t exactly chosen the largest of spaces to sit in for a half a day.’
‘You said go inconspicuous.’
‘Yeah, but something with a little room for two people would have been nice.’
She grinned. ‘Well, we’re not far now. The farm’s just after the next field. You sure you’re ready?’
He felt taken aback by this comment. ‘Ready? This is your first field day. Why would I be the one who isn’t ready?’
Justine shrugged. ‘I’m just saying, I’m not the one obsessed with catching this guy.’
‘Obsessed? I’m not-’ He shook his head. ‘It’s not about obsession, it’s about putting bad people behind bars – especially if they’re like us!’
‘Like you, you mean?’ she corrected, her tone disappointed.
‘Ah, come on Justine, you might not be able to fly or breathe underwater, but you’re far more talented than any regular human we know. Your coffees for instance-’
‘Oh great, my coffees. Guess I’ll hurl a cappuccino at Claw if he tries to get away.’
‘He won’t be able to resist.’
‘In all fairness, not having any weird abilities has its advantages. I don’t have to pluck feathers from my skin like you do.’
‘How do you know I do that?’
‘Oh, come on!’ she said laughing. ‘You think I don’t notice the bright red dots on your arms?’
The farmhouse was an insignificant speck on the burning horizon, overlooking acres of golden wheat. Orville’s stomach turned slightly. He couldn’t afford to butcher this opportunity, not again. He’d had countless opportunities to catch Claw in the past, each time getting ever closer before his enemy would slink back into the shadows. Today, Claw’s gang was isolated in the country. He wouldn’t fail again.
Justine pulled over to the roadside and they both left the van, agency-branded energy pistols in their hands set to incapacitate. They would have to cover the remaining distance on foot; the only way you could catch Lucius Claw was with the element of surprise.
They marched a mile in complete silence, finally reaching a small English cottage beside a metal barn. They crouched behind a hay-bale while Justine pulled out an infrared scanner.
‘I’m getting six heat readings in the house, two in the barn. Can’t tell which is Claw. Should we split?’
Orville shook his head. ‘We stick together. This is your first mission. I wouldn’t want to risk losing you.’
‘I can handle myself, Orville.’
‘I’m well aware of that, but you’ve got years to prove yourself. We’ll just have to wait for-’
Suddenly the barn door creaked open, and they heard a sharp, well-spoken English voice. ‘I explicitly said to use a brush! Don’t disobey me again, boy, understand?’
Orville knew that voice. ‘That’s our guy,’ he whispered.
‘Yes, sir,’ another voice replied with a wavering cockney accent, an early teen from the sound of things.
‘Good,’ Claw growled. ‘Now get out of my sight and go cook us some dinner.’
Orville peered over the top of the hay-bale and watched a scrawny child begin to leave the barn. Before the boy opened the door, however, he hesitated, and looked back at Claw, who Orville still could not see from behind the hay. ‘Somebody’s here,’ the boy said. ‘I… can hear ‘em.’
The boy pointed to the hay-bale and Orville ducked. ‘The hell?’ he muttered. There was no way that boy could have heard him.
Orville heard Claw take a few steps across the damp grass. ‘I appreciate you telling me this time, Daniel. I’m glad we won’t have to repeat that atrocity in January. Neither of us enjoyed it very much, did we?’
Orville heard the boy’s footsteps fade and the farmhouse door slam, leaving just Claw on the other side of the hay bale.
The man began sniffing in an almost comedic fashion like a dog following a scent, each inhale growing louder as he approached. Justine was about to make a run for it, but Orville grabbed her wrist and kept her down. This was not a man you could simply run from.
‘It’s been a while, old friend’ Claw said. ‘Have you finally come to take me in?’
Orville did not reply. Justine looked to him in panic, but he just put a finger to his lips and listened, his other hand hovering over the pistol holstered in his belt.
The sound of Claw’s feet against the damp grass grew louder still. ‘To think I haven’t seen you in what? Just over a decade? How time flies. And how we age! Though I expect that’s not a problem for you, you’ve had grey hair since your twenties.’
Orville remained silent and lifted his firearm, ready to move.
‘For goodness’ sake,’ he snarled. ‘This is getting boring, so how about we cut to the part where you try to shoot me?’
There was the sound of one loading shotgun. Orville and Justine looked at each other with terror.
‘Or,’ Claw continued, ‘the part where I shoot you.’
The agents leapt to separate sides as a deafening blast resounded through the air, and the hay bale exploded into a confetti-burst of straw.
Orville fell into a forward roll and rose to his feet, his energy pistol aimed at the bony man before him. Claw requited; his shotgun aimed at Orville’s head - ready to fire.
‘I knew I’d find you again,’ Orville taunted. ‘It was only a matter of time before you’d start showing off.’
Claw shrugged. ‘Well… careful what you wish for.’ He cocked the shotgun with a blank expression.
‘I wouldn’t pull that trigger if I were you!’ Justine shouted.
Orville glanced sideways and saw that her firearm was also pointing at Claw. ‘Justine,’ he warned her, ‘what did we say about keeping you safe?’
‘I don’t believe we discussed a scenario where you’d be in danger,’ she retorted. ‘Two weapons to one, Claw, and you’ve got a shotgun. You won’t reload quick enough to take us both down.’
Claw laughed. ‘Well, I’ve got to say Orville, your partner over there’s terrifying. Excellent choice. Though I think her threats would have a little more substance if either of you were able to kill me with those pistols.’
‘These may not kill you,’ Orville reminded him with gritted teeth, ‘but I imagine the wolf clans will take it upon themselves when the Agency hands you over to them. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of capital punishment, but I’ll make an exception for the man that murdered three of the only people I ever cared for.’
Claw rolled his eyes. ‘Must you have to bring that up every time we meet? It’s getting a little boring don’t you think? You know why I did what I did, I don’t have to explain it to you.’
‘No, but you will have to explain it to the entire High Court of Bestia Mutans, so good luck with that. Oh, on the subject of explanations, you mind explaining why you’ve been stealing chemicals from us lately? Surely it would be easier for the great Lucius Claw to lie low for a few more years, no?’
‘“The great Lucius Claw” isn’t stupid enough to tell you that Orville. Although I will tell you one thing: you’re not going to survive long enough to find out.’
Orville turned in an instant as Claw fired the shotgun, and the shell blew a chunk off his artificial right wing. The force of this sent him flying forwards onto the grass, and a sharp pain shot up his back. He lifted his head and watched Justine fire three unsuccessful blasts as she ran into the barn, Claw reloading his shotgun as he chased her. Orville reached into his belt to grab his stun grenade and hurled it at Claw just before he could fire at her. It went off with a bright flash at his feet, sending Claw stumbling backwards so he misfired into the sky.
Claw turned to Orville with a huff, cocking the shotgun once more and fired another shell. Orville ducked so it hit his curled right wing. Claw then snapped open the shotgun, allowing the two shell casings within to fall out. He pulled another two from his pocket – but Justine was now running back, her pistol high. She fired and Claw ducked, the energy blast whizzing just inches from his scalp. In a desperate attempt at escape, he ran into the farmhouse.
‘Follow him,’ Orville wheezed as he lifted his pained body off the floor, releasing his broken wings so they fell to the floor.
He stopped at the door with Justine and heard the distant shouts of Claw. ‘We’re leaving. Olivia, deal with those two.’
The door swung open and Orville found his path blocked by a muscular woman with blue hair, her arms crossed and face relaxed. He attempted to push her aside, but she grabbed his wrists and shoved him against the door frame, leading him to drop his pistol. Orville struggled as Justine ran forward to help him but was instantly kicked by the blue-haired woman, whose grip was so firm on Orville’s wrists that he felt as if they would snap backwards. After much struggle, he managed to get his right leg around hers, making her lose balance momentarily and release her grip. He shot his hands towards her torso and brought her down to the ground, before reaching for the pistol and shooting a red blast into her chest. Her eyes rolled backwards as she fell into a deep slumber.
He entered the house, and glimpsed at the last member of Claw’s crew running to the kitchen at the back. He glanced behind to check on Justine, held his breath and approached the kitchen door with light footsteps.
He pushed open the door in a flurry and pointed the weapon to the first sign of movement. When his thoughts slowed down to consider what he was seeing, however, he found he was aiming his gun at a boy, who mustn’t have been any older than thirteen. He was pale, thin, shaking, his eyes wide with panic. His hair was an unusual grey colour, which, for whatever reason, struck a note of familiarity with Orville.
‘Are you here to… to hurt me?’
Orville lowered his weapon slightly, examined the boy to see that he was unarmed, and placed it back into its holster. ‘No… no, we’re just looking for a man who lives here. Lucius Claw.’ He crouched down to be at the boy’s height. ‘I take it you know him?’
The boy nodded. Orville glanced at Justine, who gave him a reassuring smile.
‘Would you mind telling us where he is?’
The boy hesitated and shook his head.
Orville nodded understandingly. ‘You’re afraid, aren’t you?’
The boy looked at him blankly and then spoke. ‘No. He just told me to buy him some time.’
There was the sound of revving engines outside, and Orville was filled with dread as he saw the boy grin with self-pride. He and Justine sprinted out of the back door and watched a van accelerating to leave about ten metres ahead of them. He reached for his belt again, retrieving a small, flashing red disk, and hurled it at the now moving van. It snapped to the bottom of the bumper with a magnetic click.
A throat cleared behind him. They slowly turned to see the boy with an energy pistol aimed in their direction. Orville sighed, and felt at his weapon-less holster, before lifting his hands in the air. ‘Look kid, we don’t want any trouble.’
The boy raised his eyebrows. ‘Oh good. I mean it’s not as if you came to the house of a murderous werewolf. What is it you want, anyway?’
Orville tilted his head a little as he heard van getting further away. It was now just a grey speck heading into the forest. ‘We want your boss. He’s a bad man, kid. What’s your name again?’
‘Daniel,’ the boy said blankly.
‘Your boss is no good, Daniel, and I think you know that. He’s killed many people and is continuing to steal from and kill more. If you don’t drop that gun, we won’t catch him in time and more people will die. Please, kid, would you just… lower the gun?’
Daniel frowned, conflicted, and finally lowered the weapon. Orville sighed in relief and turned his head to the van, which was beginning to disappear into the treeline.
‘We lost him. At least we’ve got the kid to-’
He turned, and saw that Daniel now had his blaster aimed at Justine, his face blazing with rage. Orville dived in the way as the trigger was pulled and felt an excruciating blast flood through his body.
He collapsed to the floor and a dark cloud grew around his vision. The boy began to run, as Justine stood over Orville, mumbling in panic. She then chased after the boy, firing her blaster, but she missed. He slipped past the house and ran out of sight.
Orville fell into unconsciousness.
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