Eagle Eye on the Job

By: David Ihnen

NOTEUniverse by Erastus Centaur
UNIVERSEProfessional Animal
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This story is Copyright by David Ihnen. Please do not distribute without permission.

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The taxi's radio rattled out the latest on the city scandal, and shifted to the traffic. The driver left off honking and yelling out the window and turned it up. "...eagle eye in the sky, Mike?"

The transmission was slightly obscured by the sound of rushing air and distorted by the radio transmission. The voice held a reasonant power, but an odd accent marked by clicks on consonants. "We have an accident in the leftmost of eastbound 820, the slowdown goes all the way back to the arena. Rubberneckers slow your journey in the westbound lanes. There is also an accident on Main at White. This report brought to you by Ultraslim styling technologies, the Ultimate diet! For WTRF, This is your eagle eye in the sky!"

High above the city, a huge bird relaxed his talon, cutting off the transmission. He had a massive wingspan - well over twenty feet from tip to tip. The broad feathers twitched and guided the sleek body of a golden eagle. His large head and neck were covered with light brown feathers, which also touched the leading edges of his wings. The rest were a dark golden brown. Wide straps crossed his chest and back, a box bearing an antenna on the back, a smaller pack centered on the chest. An earphone wire curled from the box on the back to one ear, a narrow coil continuing to a windscreened microphone strapped to the end of his large beak. The tinny radio feed cut off and the DJ's voice came on.

"Thanks Mike, hear from you in ten, and that'll be it for the day!"

He acknowledged the transmission briefly and shrugged, trying to settle the straps around his torso that held his radio equipment. They were starting to bind on his feathers again, but it couldn't be helped. He beat his powerful wings twice, gaining altitude and carrying him back over the coal plant. The omnipresent updraft over the cooling towers made it easy to glide there, even if the air did feel a little damp. He soon rose another thousand feet, to where the updraft petered out. He chuckled at the tickle of the spreading air current on the underside of his wings. He banked steeply and glided northwards, flapping a couple times to gain altitude as the turbulence over the city caused him to dip downwards.

This was the part he loved, why he had always wanted to be styled as an eagle. Wings spread, breeze ruffling his feathers, supporting easily him upon the air currents. The sun was warm on his back, the air current countering with a cool nip at this altitude. He still wasn't used to the clarity with which he could see, even after a year in the form. He could spot movement up to a mile away - even only the size of a house cat. But he was up here professionally, for traffic today. There was a series of rapid, irregular explosions to his left, distorted by the haze of late morning atmospheric distortion. His eye easily picked out the flashing lights atop the police car through the shimmer, a good two miles away, parked on the street in a slummy neighborhood. He shook his head and scanned the traffic far below him. He was actualy watching as an accident happened, almost directly below him.

A large white truck was merging right to exit as a small convertible going at least 30 miles an hour faster tried to whip around him. There wasn't enough room, and the convertible tried to use the shoulder. He hit loose gravel and slewed, the back end sliding along the sound wall. The truck driver reacted and swerved back, braking hard. Other drivers caused two fender benders behind him, but it didn't look like anything serious. He could hear the distant, delayed sound of screaming metal on concrete, after the vehicles had stopped visually. Both the right lanes were now blocked. Mike shook his head. All that so you could get past a truck? What a waste. He shifted a leg and keyed the police frequency, flipping a switch strapped to one leg with a talon.

"Metro Police dispatch this is Eagle One traffic with WTRF. I have an accident to report."

"Metro Dispatch, continue"

"Highway 410 northbound just before Jordan Boulevard exit, exit and right lane stopped, fender benders and soundwall crash."

"Ten-four Eagle one, thank you for the report"

He glided for long minutes, relaxed into the air, letting his eye be caught by the various glimmers and movements of the city. He loved the way the reflections of the moving, polished vehicles sparkled. His earpiece crackled again, startling out of his revrie. "Mike, you're on in thirty. Sponsor is "your community college career programs, providing training for the next generation""

He acknowledged the dj, turning in a slow bank as he scanned the roads again, lining up the report in his head. You couldn't take notes while flying. He had executed a 360 and seen all the accidents once again when his earpiece crackled to life, bringing the feed from the station for synchronization.

"...a press conference just moments ago, the mayor categorically denied any involvement in the recent scandal. "I wish to assure the public that this misconduct on the part of my office was entirely without my knowledge..." The DA stated minutes before that an investigative task force had been convened to determine the truth of the matter. And now our final traffic report for the morning from our Eagle Eye in the sky! Mike?"

He took a breath an keyed his mic. "Thank you, Sam. We have a new accident on 410 northbound at Jordan Boulevard, blocking the exit and right lane. The accident on eastbound 820 has been cleared, but traffic remains slow back to the arena. There is also an accident on Main at White, now in final clearing stages. This report brought to you by your community college career programs, providing training for the next generation. For WTRF, This is your eagle eye in the sky!"

The resumed feed from the station was cut off after a few seconds, and Sam came back on. "Thats a wrap. Seeya in the morning, birdy. Hey, Artie says your check is at the front desk."

Mike acknowledged, and banked sharply, scanning the buildings below. Once he spotted the radio station office by the telltale uplink tower, he pulled his wings half in, diving steeply. He could feel the air pressure increasing as he decended, the wind rushing around his wings and body. The flatness of the valley below quickly rose in relief, the low bumps of trees and buildings rising until they reared overhead. He waited until the last few seconds before he fully extended his wings, flapping hard to slow himself. He came down a little too hard, bending his knees and taking a few hurried steps across the disused helipad by the parking lot. He still didn't have that quite right. He tucked his wings up, ruffling the feathers to fit right as they slid against each other. He stalked across the parking lot, his gait odd due to the birdlike bend of his knee. He pulled the glass door open with his beak and walked into the lobby, ducking to fit through the door.

"Mike!" exclaimed the receptionist, hurrying around her desk around to give him a hug. He made a mewing noise that seemed to come naturally and ran the end of his beak through her hair. She had a thing for feathers, he found. She had actually suggested he apply for this job, way back when he confessed to his longtime friend that he wanted to be styled as a bird. It was a perfect synergy for the budget strapped station that needed traffic reports to compete, but couldn't afford a helicopter. Thanks to her, they paid for the expensive styling, and his current salary was more than enough to fuel this form and have his own apartment. He hugged her, his feathered arms enveloping her in warm softness. She made some muffled happy noises. He pulled his wings back to his sides.

"Hey Sara, how're you?" he asked.

"You know, just gettin along." she responded, breaking off the hug and moving gracefully back around the desk. She rummaged in a drawer and came out with an envelope. "Here's your check."

Mike shrugged again, trying to settle the harness over his shoulders more comfortably. He stepped forward, leaning his head over her shoulder, presenting the pack at the center of his harness to her. She tucked the envelope inside.

"Thanks honey." he said, rubbing her cheek gently with his beak. Having wings for arms made it much more difficult to do the fine manipulations. He had often surprized what he could do with a talon and beak though. He simply didn't have the use of arms. It was worth it though, to fly. He ducked back through the doorway, held open by an open-mouthed child. There were a bunch more outside, with an older man, probably a teacher. Yes, there was a school bus parked in the lot now.

"Excuse me." he said quietly, careful to keep the large talons on his legs from brushing any of the youngsters.

"Itsa birdy!" said one of them.

Mike nodded to the teacher, and took a few deep breaths as he readied to fly again. He heard the gasps of the students as he spread his wings to their full extent. He always felt so big down on the ground. Up in the sky, it was different. He took a few running steps and beat his wings, the ground rapidly falling away as he rose, well under the power lines, and then up into the sky. The blocks glided by below, he banked south and headed for the fish market by the bay. He was famished!

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