Cycle

Haze changed down a gear to allow for the increase in gradient. A heavy sweat began to trickle down his back. There was a time when cars sped up this hill with the minimum of effort, slipping down into third to cruise past the trucks stuggling up the outside lane. Strange how these huge hulking roads use to refer to their divisions as lanes. Now of course all motorways had been reduced to just the two cycle-lanes, the extra were being gradually broken up and given back to nature.
It was heavy-going, but he finally reached the top, straightened up, changed up and relaxed to enjoy the steady descent towards the abandoned flyover. The rest wasn’t quite enough to make up for the effort of the climb, and Haze decided to stop for a while.
This lay-by was near to one of the most important battlegrounds of the late Nineties. Lone-Oak, near Newbury. Well, important in that nobody else was battling at all. Eco-rights were just so passe back then. Now it was an essential concern for everyone. The likes of Balin and Swampy were just underground fairy-tales, told by old-age travellers to put their grandchildren to sleep.
Haze had heard tell of these tales. How Balin had spent sixteen days atop a tripod attached to the lone oak, with only chocolate and hash to keep him going. He had only saved one tree, but his act was an inspiration to many others, many were to copy his endurance. Swampy for instance, the mad mole, who had burrowed for an entire week, chaining himself to the root of a tree twenty feet under the ground. These men were the forerunners of many mass protest groups who began to mobilise themselves in the Nineties. Without them there would never have been Millenium Party, who memorably occupied the M1 for two whole months, neccessitating the introduction of the armed forces to clear them away.
The lone oak was once one of many, and as a tribute to the mighty Balin, his children had planted many saplings along the roadside to replace its former neighbours. One day it might reclaim its old name of Middle-oak. Haze closed his eyes and tried to picture the scene before him as it once had been, before the cuts and disections had been made to the landscape. His own picture, no matter how luscious, couldn’t compare to the actuality, to all the gentle hills, to the dense woodland that had been desecrated.

Learning to fly

THE LIFT EQUATION FOR RIGID WINGS ARE STRAIGHTFORWARD ENOUGH . BUMBLE-BEES ARE FAIRLY BIG , WEIGHING ALMOST A GRAM , AND HAVE A WING AREA OF ABOUT A SQUARE CENTIMETRE . WHEN ALL THE FIGURES ARE COMPUTATED , YOU FIND THAT BEES CANNOT GENERATE ENOUGH LIFT AT THEIR TYPICAL FLYING SPEED .

>I HAVE TO BE AT THE ZENITH OF HUMAN CONDITIONING IF THIS IS GOING TO WORK . FASTER , HIGHER , STRONGER . NOTHING HAS BEEN LEFT TO CHANCE . MY DIET , MY EXERCISE , MY SLEEP , EVEN MY URINATION AND EXCRETION HAS BEEN PLANNED AND CAREFULLY TIMETABLED .

AN INSECTS WING WORKS BY ENCOURAGING AIR TO FLOW OVER IT IN SUCH A WAY THAT WHEN THE AIR LEAVES THE REAR EDGE OF THE WING IT MOVES DOWNWARDS . THE RESULTANT EDDY PRODUCES AN UPWARD THRUST ON THE WING .

>I RUN TWENTY MILES A DAY . IN THE LAB ON A TREADMILL OF COURSE , SO THAT ALL OF THE NECESSARY DATA CAN BE PROCESSED . I DON’T DOUBT MY PHYSICAL ABILITY , IT’S JUST THAT IT ALL GETS SO TEDIOUS . I YEARN TO BE RUNNING BAREFOOT THROUGH THE TREES , DODGING IN AND OUT OF BRANCHES, CHASING AFTER RABBITS.

UNFORTUNATELY, IT TAKES TIME TO PRODUCE A GOOD EDDY , AND THE WING HAS TO MOVE A DISTANCE A FEW TIMES ITS LENGTH TO GET THINGS STARTED .

>TODAY THEY TOLD ME ABOUT THE GRAFTS . APPARENTLY , IT TAKES FOUR YEARS TO GROW A SET OF WINGS BIG ENOUGH TO CARRY A HUMAN . THEY TAKE A DRAGONFLY FEOTUS , AND EXTRACT THE DNA SPECIFIC TO ITS WING GROWTH . THE WINGS ARE THEN GROWN FOR THE FIRST YEAR IN A PETRE DISH . ONCE LARGE ENOUGH , THEY ARE GRAFTED ONTO A SUCESSION OF BIGGER AND BIGGER ANIMALS . EACH ONE ,LIKE ME , IS A PERFECT SPECIMIN , AND THEY PUMP THEM FULL OF GROWTH HORMONES . THEY ARE FORCED TO EXERCISE CONSTANTLY BY VARIOUS MEANS , TO KEEP THEIR WINGS HEALTY . AT LEAST I HAVE THE BIGGEST CAGE OUT OF THE LOT OF THEM .

THE MAXIMUM TRAVEL OF A WING IS ROUGHLY ITS LENGTH , AND VERY LITTLE LIFT IS GENERATED FOR MOST OF THE STROKE . NATURE HAS COME UP WITH A NUMBER OF INTERESTING SOLUTIONS TO THIS PROBLEM , OF WHICH THE “CLAP-FLING” IS A GOOD EXAMPLE .

>ONCE THEY HAVE BEEN GRAFTED TO MY ARMS , I WILL BE ALLOWED SOME REST BEFORE RETURNING TO THE EXERCISE PROGRAM . WHEN I’M BACK UP TO FULL STRENGTH , THEN I START TO TRY OUT THE WINGS . JUST FLAPPING THEM GENTLY AT FIRST , LEARNING HOW TO BUILD UP THE RYTHYM .

WHEN A BEE WANTS TO TAKE OFF , IT NEEDS A LOT OF LIFT.

>I’M READY NOW. THEY HAVE JUST GIVEN ME THE INJECTIONS.

IT THEREFORE BRINGS ITS WINGS TOGETHER ABOVE ITS BACK SO THAT THEY CLAP .

>I JUST HOPE THAT THIS IS GOING TO WORK .

THIS THEN EXPELLS THE AIR FROM BETWEEN THEM .

>THEY THINK THAT NOW I’VE MASTERED THEIR USE , I WILL BE READY TO TRY THE “CLAP-FLING” .

WHEN THE WINGS THEN SEPARATE , AIR IS QUICKLY DRAWN IN TO FILL THE VOID . THE WINGS ARE FLUNG APART AND LIFT IS GENERATED IMMEDIATELY BECAUSE THE AIR IS ALREADY MOVING IN THE CORRECT WAY .

>NOT EXACTLY WHAT YOU WOULD CALL A SUCCESS . THEY HAVE PROMISED ME THAT BECAUSE OF THE GREAT LEAPS FORWARD THEY HAVE MADE IN THE COURSE OF THIS EXPERIMENT , IT WILL ONLY TAKE ANOTHER TWO YEARS TO GROW ME A NEW PAIR OF ARMS .