All We Want Is Wings That Work

July 31, 2014 Falcon meets up with a mechanical mechanic

Mutant Town — New York City

Mutant Town isn't so much a slum or ghetto as it an enclave. Sure, it started out as something else, but it's big enough now to have its own personality and, frankly, subcultures within the larger… uh… subculture.

Regardless, it's as eclectic and unpredictable as its inhabitants. Which means: Very.



  • Random Mutant Kid

Mood Music:
I want to fly away

"My parents think my robot's trouble," the song comes up from under the near-junker car parked in front of a brownstone apartment in Mutant Town. The day is clear, shiny, summer, hot. The mutants who don't photosynthesize, aren't cold-blooded, or melt in heat, are avoiding the outdoors, while the others are out in force. Kids are playing games. It's summer.

"How much longer," a guy with three eyes and a business suit says. "I gotta get to that interview!"

"Almost done," the voice says. The car rises up off the ground, and a gold-skinned manlike shape moves out from under it; it lowers again. "Should work now, Jin, give it a try?"


Look: up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's… it's a man with a very small plane strapped to his back to make him look like a very large bird!

Sam Wilson is soaring on New York's midday updrafts, testing out his newly acquired wingsuit. It's a copy of a copy of a copy of the Exo-7 he tested for the military, and it shows: no matter how much grease he has applied, the suit grinds and protests as he puts it through its paces. Its speed and especially its maneuverability are far below spec. Bits keep jamming, too: the suit needs more downtime for maintenance than uptime for flying, making operating it a hell of a time sink. But knockoff or not, inferior quality or not, as soon as Sam gets this thing in the air, he feels like he was born to fly it.

The flier hasn't noticed that his midair meanderings have taken him over Mutant Town: frankly, the landscape below him isn't really as important at the moment as keeping a keen eye on the function of the new wings and exploring the currents of the air. The former, however, becomes especially important when several of the featherlike metal ailerons near his right elbow manage to tangle themselves up, jamming like an old-fashioned typewriter. Sam dips to the right before he manages to compensate and level off, and now he's losing altitude fast. With a muttered curse word, he aims for the street where Mike is working as though it's a runway. He nears the ground, jerks back, and cuts back his airspeed with a mighty gust of wind before dropping to his feet and losing the rest of his momentum in a few running strides.


The three-eyed man gets into the car, turns the key - the engine starts, making a purring noise completely out of keeping with the shoddy exterior.
"Awesome! Thanks, Mike! Thanks so much!" he says, and (not quite running over the human in the street) takes off to his interview.

"Drive safe, Jin," Mike (the gold robot-looking guy) shakes his head as the car speeds out of sight.

And then he sees that fly-suit. He visibly stares, although, not being the alien type robot, his eyes do NOT stick out on stalks and there is no strange cartoon noise. He waves at the wing-suited guy.

"Hey, step out of traffic, man. That's an awesome suit! Did you invent that?"


Falcon is only too quick to duck out of the street — he knows all too well how people drive in this city. He folds his left wing into the casing on his back and jogs up into the driveway Mike seems to be offering him, although he eyes the young man warily behind his goggles.

"Uh, no. I helped test it, though. Or the original, anyway." His enthusiasm for the suit breaks through his standoffishness for a second, and he flashes a smile.

"It is pretty awesome, though." He lifts his right arm, spreading that wing as wide as he can, and starts to poke at the ailerons with his opposite hand. "Occasional jamming problems aside, anyway…"

Mike looks with interest at the ailerons, touching one and causing it to pop back into place; the others un-jam.

"This isn't the original? Hm. I see. That would explain why the tolerances are so sloppy on that jointure," he mutters, "and I'm almost certain those pinions should be slightly different shapes, not identical."

He looks up at Falcon. "I'm kind of good with machines, do you mind if I look closer?"


His curiosity getting the better of him, Falcon finally asks the question that has been on his mind since Mike started talking to him.

"Good with machines, huh? So, are you a machine, or is that a mutation? You look … pretty metal. Not in a 'rawk!' way" — he throws the horns up — "but, you know." The question isn't delivered with malice or suspicion, just curiosity. Sam grew up in a project, and he's been around all types enough to not react badly.

In fact, he seems pretty pleased when Mike's touch causes the metal to fold back into the correct configuration, restoring the wing's mobility.

"If you can do that with a touch, you're welcome to take a look at it all you want," he answers, unfurling the opposite wing as well. He glances over his shoulder as he does so, taking in his not entirely hospitable surroundings. "You got a garage or something, though? I feel kinda conspicuous out here."


"I have a basement, if you don't mind my mess," Mike answers. He points to the doorway under the stoup of the brownstone - down a short ramp, the doorway doesn't have a handle, but it opens when Mike points at it.

"Yeah, I'm both. Anyone who thinks evolution has a brain, I'll argue with that one. My mutation guarantees that I won't reproduce, how useful is that?"


"Hell, lots of people get dealt that card," Sam answers to the last point. "I wouldn't worry too much about it — you look a little young for kids anyway."

His joking aside, he does cast a suspicious glance at the entrance as it opens up for them. Come into my basement, little birdie? He's normally not one to worry too much about his personal safety, but Mike is about as big as he is and made of metal. Something tells him a sleeper hold won't cut it if the mutant gets pushy.

Then again, if this is as innocent as it seems, it could be a big payoff, and Sam has never been one to run away scared. He gives Mike a tight smirk, says, "The mess won't bother me," and heads down into the basement workshop.

"I'm Falcon, by the way. Or at least, that's what I think I'm going to call myself."


"Cool, Falcon is a great name. I'm thinking if I end up having to do the code-name thing I'll end up with something like Metal, just to keep them from calling me something stupid like Golden Boy," Mike answers. The hallway behind the door - and there IS a visible doorknob on this side, well, more of a slam-bar allowing emergency escape for fire. The hallway has a door forward labeled STAIRS, a door left that says Mike Drakos (PRIVATE), and one to the right marked STORAGE. Mike opens that one, finding it kind of stuck, so he shoves harder. Something goes PTANG with a sound of breaking and he looks inside.

"Crap. Someone's shoved broken bed springs in here. Man, the super here lets 'em get away with anything."

He closes the door, and opens the one marked (PRIVATE) to reveal … another hall! With a double-wide door (without a door in the frame) opening to a boiler room sort of thing on one side, and an actual apartment door on the other.

Mike tilts his head at the closed door, "My apartment. We can work here in the heat pump room, though. More room anyway."


"Works for me," Sam answers. Not even much of a layout to remember. "So, can I call you Mike?" he asks, pointing back at the door with the sign. He hesitates for a moment before unlocking the flight system gauntlets and undoing the straps, starting to remove the suit. He just got this thing, and he's a little protective of it, but 'Metal' seems to know what he's doing. In less than a minute, he has the pack off and is holding it, looking around for the best place to put it down. "You do mechanic work, I guess?"


"Yes, please do," Mike says. "I'm told I do good work. My Father even admits it sometimes when we sell a car," and Mike looks at the suit coming off.

"Just a sec," he says, and pops into his apartment, returning momentarily with a T-shaped metal frame about the same size as his own body. He gestures at the frame while looking at Falcon as he de-suits, and it reshapes into a sort of wire-frame dummy that matches the man's dimensions nearly perfectly.

"This'll help. Let's hang the suit parts on here so I can tell where it's … oh man that motor is sick, ill, and also not happy."


"Handy," Falcon comments as he watches the metal reshape itself into a makeshift tailor's dummy. He hangs the wing harness on the frame, spreading the wings open for inspection.

"You can call me Sam, I guess. Not really sure I'm going to go with the whole secret identity thing — Captain America doesn't need one, right?"

Mike's comment about the motor draws his concern, and he peers at the main casing. "What? Why? I haven't done anything to it, I swear. I take care of my kit." He actually reaches out to lay a protective hand on the hard shell of the engine as he looks for some sort of damage to it.


"Well, I don't really have one, but I'm SRD compliant because they've been following me since I was a kid," Mike says. "But if you have people who can get hurt and you end up doing high-profile stuff, then yeah, the secret can be good."

Mike looks up at Sam from where he's attaching the last part of the harness.

"No, it's nothing you did, it's… There's some nice engine design work in there that feels to me like it was copied over from the original plans by a cross-eyed dyslexic illiterate one-handed monkey. The power-plant has some bugs that were clearly IP protection measures, it would be stupid to actually build them that way… the conduits… those are the wrong material, you're getting heat transfer that's going to the gears. Do they tend to jam up after about five minutes?"


"Yeah, they do. Like clockwork," Sam answers with a broad smile, clearly impressed. "You got all that just by looking at it? That's one hell of a mutant power."

He crosses his arms and launches into a more complete explanation.

"From what I was told, the guys who built this version weren't even working off the originals' schematics. They had lifted the testing reports — tolerances, work orders, orders for replacement parts and modifications, that sort of thing — and had to put the core of the thing together from inference."

He runs a thumb along the edge of an aileron gently. "In a way, it's amazing that it flies at all. Do you think you could fix those problems?"


"Not precisely looking. I can sense metal and tech directly, it's really distracting to go into a Radio Shack. And I can try to fix those issues. Hand me that brick from the corner, OK?"

Mike taps on the shell of the engine unit. "Open up, Murgatroyd. No, I'm not gonna break you, I'm going to fix that heat pipe… because it's made of aluminum, that's just silly."

Yes, he's arguing with the engine. The shell pops open. There's a faint singed-metal tang. Mike shakes his head. "No. Smoke, get back in the little can."

The stink goes away.

"My chemistry teacher hated me when I showed him that trick," Mike grins. "He kept muttering about direction of entropy, as if I were doing magic. I'll talk out loud, Sam, so you can tell what I"m doing."

The heat pipe is pretty obvious - an elegant looking construct.

"OK, aluminum, let's start by you spinning out excess mass," and a wire begins to extrude and coil in the air, "yeah, like that. We're gonna need the structural part, but, ah, thanks for the brick. OK, Brick, you're calcium silicate and silicon dioxide with some iron, so calcium, you're the metal here, let's spin… uff, ok," and the brick begins to spin out 'threads' that weave into a structure, white-and-yellow, with a black blob of iron forming where the string is coming out. It takes remarkably little time for the heat-pipe to be replaced with a metal-reinforced calcium-silicate ceramic structure.

"Now for the power coupling. You're light-gauge wire. Let's change that out for something a little better,' and a thin stream of golden-colored metal comes off Mike's skin to run into three wires.

"Last thing," Mike says. "Going to change the shapes on these pinions. This is kind of intuition - Oh, and I see why they wanted looser tolerances, but that's because they were solving the wrong problem. Let's tighten those up at the jointures."

Nothing is visible there, except a slight gleam across the surface of the flight vanes. You'd have to look at where the pinions connect to see the changes. The engine compartment snaps shut.

"Did you have any other problems with the performance?"


Sam is a little reluctant to hand over the brick at first, thinking for a wild second that Mike is going to use it to smash open the housing, but is soon enthralled by the magic show of the suit modifications. By the time Mike actually takes the brick, he's just standing there slack-jawed, watching the Exo-7 weave itself into a smarter machine before his very eyes. It takes him a second to realize that he's been asked a question.

"I…uh…the casing rattles when I go into a full speed dive," he finally says. Fortunately, his experience testing this sort of machinery wins out over his amazement, and he actually has some useful feedback to offer.

"That might be harmonics — reshaping the pinions could do the trick — but it could also be an issue with the aerodynamics of the housing itself."


"Hm. Let's look," Mike says, taking the blob of iron and the leftover aluminum and flowing them out into a fan blade. The blade starts to rotate, blowing air at the case, while Mike looks at it from various angles, sensing the forces acting on the metal.

"I can … yeah, it's both. The housing here, looks like they tried for more lift in glide but at speed in a dive, it could do bad things."

He grabs the fan (which stops spinning and wraps around his wrist like a bracelet) and says, "Hey, control box. Yes, you, the flight pinion control. How'd you like another control surface to play with? You would? Nice. Let me introduce you to this housing here. Let's connect that motor there…" (ker-tink) "with that motor here with a nice linear induction … both sides, let's make it redundant, OK?"
The housing develops a sort of seam where there wasn't one before, and curves slightly. Then it begins wiggling back and forth.

"You like that? Good. That's for those steep dives."

Mike grins at Falcon. "It's kind of like talking to a baby dragon should be, just wants to fly."


"You're damn right it does," Falcon answers, running his fingertips along the new control surface. "That's incredible." He laughs and turns to look at Mike, continuing, "You know, the engineers at the test program used to make fun of me for the way I talked about my rig, like it was alive. Nice to know I'm not the only one."

He takes a step back from the flight harness and puts his hands on his hips. "You really just chip in at your dad's garage? You've got a real talent, Mike. If this suit flies as well as I think it's going to, you should think about doing something with those abilities of yours."


Mike grins, and hands Sam a card. |Mike Drakos, Drakos Motors, custom vehicles for the discerning …|

"Normally for this kind of work if I was doing it for the government, I'd be charging about $5K an hour because I can. We make maybe ten cars a year, and they start at $150K, before customization. But this is fun so it's free. Any time you need a fix, let me know. But first, let's make sure I didn't break your machine."


Falcon takes the card and whistles as he listens to Mike's explanation.

"Okay, my bad…guess your dad's garage is a little more upscale than I assumed," he admits with an easy laugh. "You're the guys who make cars for Jay Leno and Nic Cage. That's a pretty cool gig."

Not needing any more goading, he slips the harness off of the frame and puts it over one arm at a time. He secures and tightens all of the straps that hold it in place, then disengages the wings so that they snap back into their case.

"Even that felt better than it used to," he comments with a grin, heading for the exit. "Can't wait to feel how she flies."


Mike grins, "And for Tony Stark but not Lex Luthor because he tried to power-trip low-ball my Dad on a contract. My engine design won at the Indy when I was 15." He follows Sam out so he can observe the test flight, leaving the dummy in place but off to one side, in case there are future fixes. The doors open ahead of Sam and close behind them as Mike follows him out.


Sam runs through a quick pre-flight check, using a readout on one of the harness gauntlets to make sure that all systems are in working order after the modifications. Everything seems fine, so he lowers his goggles over his eyes and, without further ado, jumps upward and lets the propulsors kick him vertically into the sky. He can immediately tell that the wing system is faster, smoother, and more responsive than it was on the way over. Grinning, he executes a series of tolerance-pushing maneuvers: barrel rolls, loops, high-G turns and swoops.

That done, he gains altitude rapidly, tucks the wings behind him, and dives, maximizing his airspeed before pulling up into a flat path and rocketing past Mike's house. A wide, banking turn brings him around and back to his point of origin, where he pulls himself into an upright position, kicks his legs out in front of him, and slows to almost perfect stillness with three powerful flaps of his metal wings. That done, he drops a mere foot back to the pavement.

"Daaaaaaaaaaamn!" he hollers, whipping his goggles back off so fast that he nearly sends them flying. "No wonder they pay you the big bucks!"


Mike is grinning all the time that flying stuff's going on. Also, considering what he has to do to adapt things into his own jetpack armor design, because those wings, make everything more awesome. He offers the high-five to the pilot.

"Feel free to come back if you have any requests for fixes or improvements. My number's on the card. Although, I'm not sure what more we can do without a wind chamber."

One of the mutant neighborhood kids comes over to Mike and says, "Can I have one of those?"

Mike's answer, "Go ask your mom. If she says it's OK, we'll talk."


Sam's high five would probably knock a less sturdily built man's hand off his arm. As it is, he's the one who has to shake it off — in his enthusiasm, he may have forgotten that the mechanic's limbs are made of metal. "That's amazing work, Mike, seriously. I can't thank you enough," he says. "At the very least, I'll send you some referrals. I know some people with some pretty … advanced mechanical needs."

The flier grins at the kid, drops into a crouch, and tells him, "Try cleaning your room and washing the car first as a surprise. My mom was always a sucker for that one."


"Awesome," Mike says. "I'm kinda hanging out here to get my social skills back - I went hermit for a couple years when I went full-metal, so my schedule is mostly open. I'd appreciate the work, as long as they have no problem with mutants or robots or mutant robots."

He nods to the kid, "but beware, she might want you to pay for it. We'll see what she says, OK?"


"Man…like I'd hang out with a bunch of bigots," Falcon answers almost reproachfully. "Kind of people I know care about results, and you seem to have those on lock." There's a flicker of genuine empathy below the surface when the mutant mentions going into isolation, as if, in spite of his easy manner with people, Sam knows about what drives someone to that point. He keeps the tone light, though, flashing a bright grin and adding, "Thanks again, Mike. Glad you're back out there in the world." His wings extend in preparation for takeoff.


Mike salutes lazily, "Fly safe, Sam!"


Falcon returns the salute, then launches back into the sky.

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