A/N: Hi! Wow, I actually finished a story! Yeah, I haven't been the most active, and it's most likely going to stay that way, but I'll upload something now and then ;)
Also, it depressed me about the number of Airman fanfics here, so I felt like I needed to write something, even though it might not be the longest. I have this chapter, and another that I'm going to post in a few days. That'll be it. Anyway-after the ever-necessary disclaimer-enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own Airman or any of the characters.
Conor checked the new glider's wings one last time, running his fingers over each wooden rib in case it had suddenly developed a crack in the last five minutes. He was right to be careful, though. The ground wasn't friendly if you hit it from hundreds of feet up.
A sound made him glance across the tower's stone top. Linus Wynter, guided by Isabella, had appeared. "Why did you climb all the way up here? I'm just testing the new glider." Conor asked, completely distracted by his invention.
"What? You'd think we'd want to miss your first flight on that thing?" Wynter said.
This time, Conor looked up at them before saying, "But why? You've seen me fly many times before."
Linus laughed. "I've never actually seen it, boy, thanks to Jesse James, but this young woman right here is eager to." He gestured to Isabella, who blushed slightly in the darkness.
The moon was full that night, so Conor noticed the Queen's embarrassment, allowing himself a small smile as he thought of how much things had changed. It seemed like not long ago, he'd been trapped in a prison, but now he had his former life back-though he was still adjusting to it.
"What are you smiling at?" Isabella commanded, though with the slightly-playful tone she used when she constantly threatened to have him hanged.
"Oh, nothing." Conor's smile only got broader at her annoyance. It was definitely good to be back, he decided. Though it would be nicer to have a wind tunnel somewhere in this castle, he added in his thoughts.
The two lapsed into a slight awkward silence for a few seconds, which was broken by more laughter from Linus. "Ah, young love," he teased before adding, "though you might want to be quick about your little chat, because the sun's not going to wait."
Isabella giggled slightly, then stopped herself, horrified. She was supposed to be Queen, yet Conor was completely ruining her composure! Rounding on him, she said, "Better get in the air quickly, before I have you hanged!"
"Just like old times," Conor replied with a smirk, made sure the glider's wings were closed, and swung them on his back. Methodically, he buckled the various straps that tied him to his craft, familiar since they were pretty much the same as his former design.
"Fits well?" Linus asked.
"Just as well as the old one." When Conor saw Linus's grin, he was immediately worried. The old man had been making a point lately of embarrassing him in front of Isabella. He probably hoped to make them more comfortable around each other, which was slowly succeeding, but most of the time it wasn't fun to go through.
His worries were realized when Wynter shrugged. "At least you're not using this one to smuggle diamonds."
At Isabella's exclamation of, "What?" Conor whirled around and pulled the lever that extended his wings. He immediately felt the air under them and knew the flight was going to be a success.
He grimaced and said a hurried, "I'll explain later!" before tugging his scarf up to cover his mouth, running the four feet to the edge of the tower for momentum, hopped up onto a crenelation, and launched himself into the night.
"Well, that could have gone better," Conor muttered through the fabric of the black scarf as he forced his previously-dangling legs upwards into the rudder straps.
As soon as he was clear of the castle wall, he immediately felt the pressure under his wings, the fabric supporting the cushion of air. After the initial jump, Conor felt a sudden drop as the tall tower deflected winds downwards. He fiddled with the tail rudder slightly, going left and right to try to locate a more favorable wind. He knew the wind was blowing towards him tonight, he just had to find it.
There! His flight immediately stabilized ten feet away from the tower's edge, as the strong current of air flowed around him, supporting the glider. Conor breathed a sigh of relief. The wrong wind could kill him just as well as bad science.
As he climbed, he heard a whoop of joy from the tower. Isabella. Conor smiled. This was the first time she'd seen him fly. Sure, she'd seen him land before, right in the window of Bonvilain's tower, but this was different. More peaceful circumstances, he thought. Conor hadn't brought any weapons with him tonight. It was just him and the sky.
Through orange-tinted lenses, he looked upwards. Half of his vision was covered by the front of this glider, the other half was the night sky. Moonlight and stars shone down on the land and water below. This was...the most comfortable he'd felt in the sky. Why? he wondered.
The answer came to him quickly. He was at peace. His heart wasn't beating rapidly in fear of confrontation, and the idea of theft was nowhere in his mind. My days as a thief are over, Conor thought contentedly. Sure, the events of the last few years would always stay with him, but he knew that as time past, they would be farther away from his current reality. With Isabella.
Thinking of Isabella made his cheeks heat up, though thankfully there was nobody around to sea it. Definitely another good thing about flight: privacy, he decided.
Gradually, he took his eyes off of the sky above him, and focused on what was in front of him. He could see the mainland very clearly in the moonlight, the old Martello tower standing lonely on Forlorn Point, and the docks he'd visited in returning from his diamond-smuggling missions.
Too many memories, Conor thought, then wondered aloud, "Is it a good thing that I'm going to Glasgow?"
Predictably, nobody answered, and the question was met with only a few cries from nocturnal birds gliding over the water.
Conor watched one of these birds now as it banked downwards towards the water, then rose abruptly on a thermal. It squawked happily as it spiraled up into the air, manipulating its wings and feathers with amazing dexterity. The sight piqued Conor's interest and his scientific mind quickly began working.
He was a quarter of the way across the water now, more than enough distance to try some aerial tricks. The fixed-wing design wouldn't be nearly as maneuverable as a bird, but he had made some tweaks in shape and design that made the craft more aerodynamic-hopefully sturdier, too. The last thing he needed was for a wing to fly off.
Conor closed his eyes for a moment, letting the wind rush over his covered face. It's strong enough! he thought mischievously. He nudged the rudder mechanism slightly, moving his legs to the right. The glider responded with little resistance, turning left, opposite of the rudder direction, just like a boat. Conor smiled, and threw his weight leftwards, swinging his legs far to the right.
The structure groaned with the force, but responded nonetheless. The glider leaned downwards and to the left at Conor's careful direction, sending him heading towards the sparkling waves. He analyzed the situation quickly, pushing down with his legs. The tail followed, since the two were attached by the rudder straps. The physical strain on his legs was enormous. Fighting the air was definitely harder than he'd thought.
Conor was breathing hard when he finally got the nose pointing upwards. "I have a new respect for birds," he managed to say.
Do I have the strength for any more maneuvers? Conor thought, now half-way to the mainland. The muscles in his legs were burning slightly. Maybe just a few small ones? The thought was hopeful, and Conor was surprised at his eagerness. He hadn't felt this way in a long time.
Over the water, Conor banked and rose, testing the limits of his glider, daring gravity to pull him down to the waves. Whatever strain he'd felt before was erased, replaced by pure elation. Even though he may not be as good a flier, he was in the realm of the birds now. Only he among the many who had tried before him had achieved flight like this. The feeling was amazing, it was...Conor flew straight for a few seconds trying to place it. Then he knew.
It was freedom, not the kind he'd experienced after he'd escaped prison. Even then, he'd been more of a prisoner inside himself, inside Conor Finn. But he was Conor Broekhart now, and here he was, in the sky, one of his dreams come true. If only Victor could see me now, he thought somewhat wistfully, then stopped himself. Even if Victor was here, he wouldn't want Conor to cloud his mind with thoughts of him.
His thoughts were cut short by a sudden thermal, jolting him up ten feet. The straps jerked his body upwards, cutting painfully into his skin. There would probably be bruises. "Gliders are great, but I'm sure birds don't have this problem," he grumbled when he was far enough away from the rising current of air.
Conor aimed the nose down, letting his glider fall in a gradual decline. Thermals were great when you needed distance, but if he was too high, he'd have to land too far inland. And by the way things were going with his legs, he didn't want to have to walk across half of Kilmore.
Now at a comfortable height, Conor experimented with the rudder, seeing how it responded to different degrees of turns. The glider did very well, though he'd have to make a few tweaks when he had a chance.
When he had a chance...Conor froze when he realized that he was going to Glasgow in two days. He'd built the glider amazingly quickly-with a bit of Isabella's and his mother's assistance-but this would probably be his last chance to fly for a while. He'd already decided not to bring the flying machine to the university. He didn't see himself having any opportunities for any nighttime glider flights while he studied. Besides, he was already getting too much attention on the Saltees. Somehow, word of his flight had managed to spread, and even people who hadn't liked him much tried to find time to talk to him now. Annoying would be describing it only mildly.
Conor threw himself into the aerial maneuvers with a renewed intensity. It he wasn't going to fly for a while, he might as well make this flight memorable. It worked; the sheer joy of flying was enough to take his mind off of all of the annoying details that usually plagued it.
He was still thinking about his new life, but the thoughts were happier now. I wonder if my parents will let me take little Sean up in a plane when I finally build a new one. He'd probably be eager to, if he takes after mother...though she'd probably kill me if I did...better to ask first. I know that Isabella would love a chance to go up into the sky...I think. She'd changed slightly since he'd last seen her, as he'd expected. Everyone had. Now, she was even more beautiful-if that was possible-and she'd adopted the regal-ness that came with being Queen. Though, sometimes the old Isabella still came through, just like the old Conor within him.
I wonder what she'll say when I name an aeroplane after her. Conor chuckled. She'll probably immediately demand to take a flight with me in The Isabella or threaten to have me hanged. He paused for a second, finishing a turn. I'll have to make it a two-seater, then. Some complex design issues there, Conor thought, but was happy for the challenge.
Gradually, the mainland neared, the features seeming to become larger with every minute. Conor allowed himself one more swooping dive before he leveled out. Almost time to land, he thought, quickly followed by an exclamation of, "Where?"
Well, there are holes in every plan, but this one seemed pretty major. Conor frantically scoped out the area in front of him as he descended. He couldn't land too far inland because of his earlier concerns, but the docks looked pretty crowded tonight. Ships and smaller boats were tethered to their posts, whose masts could easily catch hold of a wing. Paired with the equipment-cluttered dock, Conor decided to go for a main street. People would probably see him, but at this time of night, they'd probably blame his appearance on too much drink from the pub they'd be coming out of.
As Conor sailed over the docks, he pushed his legs upwards once more to increase his angle of descent, making small adjustments so he wouldn't crash into a building. He'd picked out a good street, more than broad enough to accommodate his wingspan, that opened up into a larger area where it intersected with another road.
He glided a little ways down the street so that he'd be close enough to the ground before taking his legs out of the rudder straps. He wasn't too fond of the idea of landing on his stomach. His legs dangled freely, and for a second the glider had free reign. Conor felt himself starting to arc towards a building. Frantically, he forced his legs back upwards, curling them around the beam that connected the tail to the wings. He leaned in the opposite direction of the building to send the glider back on its original course and pulled with his legs on the tail beam, suddenly forcing the nose up. The airflow under its wings disrupted, the glider stalled, letting him drop.
As he fell the remaining few feet, he quickly unwrapped his legs, letting the glider's wings cushion the fall. Conor landed running, letting it exhaust its forward momentum before finally coming to a stop. He decided he liked the old method of landing a lot better.
Conor just stood there for a second, catching his breath. The burning in his legs was there again, making him wobble slightly on his feet. He sighed. Sometimes he hated it when he was right.
"What the-" a voice sputtered, so stunned, it was unable to finish the statement. Conor immediately found its source, a man standing in a doorway, clutching the building for support.
The black clothing and bright orange goggles tended to have that effect on people. "Sorry, just passing through," Conor said.
"You-you have wings," he said in absolute disbelief.
Conor decided that the man was in no state to listen to a complex scientific explanation, so he shrugged, simply replying, "Yes, I do." The motion of the shrug caused the glider to stir.
"And a tail?" the man gasped, seeing the rest of the glider.
"Um...yes." Conor said, searching his mind for an explanation he might understand. "I'm a...dragon."
He could see the whites of the poor man's widened eyes.
"It's probably best for me to go now," Conor said after a second. He pulled the lever that would fold the glider's wings, and started the long walk to the dock.
When he'd gone about fifty feet, Conor could hear the man assuring himself, "It's just a dream. Just a dream, a terrible nightmare. No, dragons don't exist. They don't have glowing orange eyes, either...because they don't exist."
At another time, Conor would be laughing hysterically at the man's babble, but right now all he could manage was a tired chuckle.