Practical Applications in Whole Form Augmentation
Somewhere inside the DNA of every species that’s survived there sits a kind of oracle dictating when the proper genes should mutate. The interval between the initiation of this process and the mutation expressing itself can be long and even after the mutation happens, it often looks like a mere abnormality at first. The first “natural” homo aves were thought to have been born with grotesque birth defects. The twisted limbs, locked shoulder sockets, webs of flesh extending from along the ribcages to the underside of the arms were corrected over the course of several surgeries. It wasn’t until a pair of Christian fundamentalists, who viewed it a sin to alter the child god had given them, watched as their daughter jumped from the roof of a carport and soared several hundred feet did people begin to see the possibilities.
It’s hard to say where we’d be now if that first act of flight had not been filmed and then streamed later. Up until then, those born into the state of flight were thought freaks, a sign of something malign lingering in our genes. The amount of land on the Earth’s surface was sufficient enough then that few recognized the necessity for such a change. Many decades were still to come before the traits that freed us from the bonds of gravity were seen as desirable.
Even for a long time after the first appearance of the earliest homo aves, the “birding” of the human form was at best seen as a fad and at worst considered utter butchery. Initially, those who could afford the expensive surgeries lived on the coasts, thus perpetuating the notion that "birding" was, first and foremost, some odd affectation of the wealthy rather than the next stage in human evolution. Few understood that in places like Seattle, Boston, New York and Los Angeles, tower condominium complexes became perches of a sort. Many of these coastal metropolises were turned nearly uninhabitable so quickly that if it were not for such brave souls these cities would’ve eventually deteriorated to ruins.
The memory of those earliest augmented human birds lives on now most vividly in the military. At first, recruits into this newly created branch of the service were equipped only for search and rescue. The increasing suddenness and power of the flooding epidemic made them a dire necessity. Places that had never flooded before found themselves underwater in a manner of hours, sometimes even less. It forced so many to take to their roofs that shots of people waving desperately at news helicopters became a clichéd feature of news streams. The specially augmented human bird corps could pull whole families off of roofs within minutes, not even the best trained helicopter crews worked as quickly.
As the number of recruits going through the original augmentation process grew, the need for so many of them soon began rapidly decreasing. Cities and towns were being replaced by the dryzone plateau camps whose conditions, bad enough under government control, became almost uninhabitable once they were turned over to private enterprise. The payment structure for these companies was based on how many people were under their administration, which made retention their top concern. At first, traditional methods like higher fences, barbed wire armed guards were employed but the unprecedented growth of the refugee population threatened even the best run dryzone company’s bottom line.
Ever responsive, the military’s top brass ordered an enhanced augmentation process be developed. Nanotechnological improvements helped with oxygenating the blood, which enabled individuals to fly higher and remain up there longer. A synthetic fiber suit made them look more like birds. Fairly extensive surgery on the vision center not only greatly enhanced a recruit’s vision but also so allowed him or her to interface directly with central command. The additional expenses incurred were offset somewhat by requiring these recruits to sign up for tours that were twice sometimes three times longer than their non-enhanced counterparts.
So now, birdmen (and women) have gone from search and rescue to patrol and retrieve. Those born as natural homo aves cannot hope to escape the augmented military version. Typically, an escapee’s flight will be brief and low, allowing them to be plucked mid-air like wounded sparrows. Returned to the relative safety if not exactly comfort of their dryzone, they have their wings clipped immediately.
It would seem that where altering the human form for flight is concerned our military scientists are beating nature. We are, however, hearing reports of refugees being born not only with wider wingspans but skin of such a blue that we may soon see the day when a man (or woman) soars away from a camp and loses him or herself in the sky never to be seen by the patrols. Such is the duel in which nature engages us.