ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the June 7, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] shiori_makiba. It also fills the "opportunity" square in my 6-1-16 card for the Cottoncandy Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by LJ users Ng_moonmoth and Book_worm5. It belongs to the Polychrome Heroics series.


"The Pilot Soul"


There was a squirrel
who loved flying machines.

Every day he would watch them --
the little ones in the park that was
his home, and the big ones that
flew in sky high above.

He watched the humans
come and go, sending
the little planes up.

One day the humans left
a splendid blue-and-yellow plane
sitting out while they sat down
at a picnic table to eat.

Usually the squirrel watched them
for dropped food, but today offered
something far more exciting.

He seized his opportunity.

Darting across the grass,
the squirrel dove into the cockpit
of the plane and quickly began
trying to figure out how
to make it fly.

The humans shouted and
ran toward him, waving their arms.

Frantically, he pushed buttons
and pulled levers as fast as he could.

The engine growled to life.

Urged by the squirrel,
the little plane took off
just as the bigger human
made a swipe for its tail.

"It's a genius squirrel!
Rad!" shouted the smaller one.

That would do for a name,
the squirrel decided, since
the humans were so fond of
attaching sounds to everything.

Rad the Squirrel soared up
into the clear blue sky.

Oh, it was glorious to fly!

Below him the park was
a patchwork of brown and green.

Around him, the startled birds
gave way, squawking and flapping.

The humans had stopped running
and just stood there now,
staring up at him.

Rad soon figured out
the fine details of the controls,
steering the plane in wide circles.

At last, he spiraled lower
and lower until he touched down.

The landing was a bit bumpy.

The humans were running
toward him again, though,
so Rad shook off the daze
and darted back to the trees.

"The engine is the heart
of an airplane, but the pilot is
its soul," said the larger human.

"Tell me we got that on camera,"
said the smaller human.

"The cockpit camera is live,
so yes, we did," the larger replied.
"We should send a copy to SPOON.
Something about that squirrel
is just not natural."

Rad didn't know what spoons
had to do with him. He hoped
that it meant they were going
to eat again, but they didn't.

So he went off in search of other food.

* * *

Notes:

Rad the Squirrel -- He is a squirrel of ordinary size but extraordinary intelligence. He has reddish-gray fur. He is very clever with his paws, able to understand and even manipulate technology as long as it's small enough for him. Rad's level of Super-Intelligence places him on par with a bright human gizmologist. His name came from someone exclaiming, "It's a genius squirrel! Rad!"
Rad grew up in a park near an Air Force base outside of Westbord. At first Rad just found humans a useful source of dropped food. Later he realized that they played with the most fascinating toys. He watched them with their miniature flying machines and became more curious over time. One day the owners turned away briefly and Rad seized his opportunity! Scrambling into the cockpit, he examined the controls and discovered how to take off just as the humans ran to intercept him. After an exhilarating flight, he landed the plane and scampered away.
Video from the cockpit camera was enough to pique the interest of SPOON. Because Rad has no human speech or telepathy, at first he had no way to communicate his sentience. But the superheroes figured it out anyway, and showed him how to use a touchscreen communication interface. Now he loves to chat with human friends, especially other gizmologists.
Rad earned his sport pilot license in 20 hours and has been working his way up through higher grades. He now flies gizmotronic aircraft designed especially for him, maintaining the original blue-and-yellow color scheme. The first is a front-prop plane named the Flying Squirrel. The second is a sleek little microjet that can actually reach Mach 1, named the Rocket Squirrel. Rad works for the Westbord SPOON base as an aerial scout, able to access places that larger people and equipment could not reach safely. SPOON is careful to inform local air traffic control, both for safety reasons and because of laws discouraging the use of dronecraft -- people need to know that there is a tiny little pilot in there. His favorite song is "Mississippi Squirrel Revival."
Origin: Rad was born near an Air Force base, so the general suspicion is that some kind of experimental substance or force leaked out from there into the environment. Investigation is ongoing and the Air Force is dragging its feet on the matter, citing 'national security' concerns. Yeah they might have thought of that before they accidentally made a squirrel that can fly an airplane.
Uniform: Blue vest with reflective yellow trim, to mark him as a person rather than a wild animal; and gold wings with the central oval marked with two crossed spoons, to mark him as a pilot in service with the Westbord SPOON base.
Qualities: Master (+6) Squirrel, Expert (+4) Gizmologist
Powers: Master (+6) Super-Intelligence
Motivation: "What does this thing do? Oh wow!"

Closeup of Rad. Rad sitting in plane before takeoff. Arlo chasing Rad. Rad aloft. First Custom Plane: the Flying Squirrel. Second Custom Plane: the Rocket Squirrel.

See a video of the flight. The original intent was more like this.

Read the lyrics and listen to "Mississippi Squirrel Revival."


Arlo Raubinger -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short dark hair that is going gray and also receding. An Air Force veteran, he indulges his love for the sky by flying model airplanes. However, arthritis is making it harder for him to manipulate the controls. So he's trying to build a plane with a robotic pilot that can be programmed in advance to manipulate manual controls.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Air Force Veteran, Expert (+4) Radio Controlled Aircraft Hobbyist, Good (+2) Environmental Tolerance, Good (+2) Gizmologist, Good (+2) Guy Talk
Poor (-2) Arthritis

Mick Everest
-- He has fair skin, blue eyes, and light brown hair cut short. His agility and followship skills make him effective in the Air Force. He also enjoys flying model airplanes.
Qualities: Good (+2) Agility, Good (+2) Air Force Corpsman, Good (+2) Follower, Good (+2) Logical-Mathmatical Intelligence, Good (+2) Sense of Humor
Poor (-2) Can't Say No to a Pretty Face

* * *

"The engine is the heart of an airplane, but the pilot is its soul."
-- Walter Raleigh

Radio controlled aircraft can be a fun hobby. Drones raise many ethical considerations which most L-American people are ignoring. T-America solves those by avoiding or limiting most uses of unpiloted flying anything. There are recreational places set aside for flying toys, and organizations such as search-and-rescue have to be very careful not to violate people's privacy or cause accidents with their tools.

Animals with superpowers have appeared in many comics. This does not count the many species-standard abilities such as infrared vision or sonic blast which would be superpowers in an individual from a species that does not customarily have it.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-20 04:39 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Yipe! Mach 1?! You sure his name isn't Rocky? ;)

Reminds me of a Cubs game this once, the Braves had invaded Wrigley... and just at the end of an inning, so did this squirrel. Some wag in the Braves' production van got a wild idea during the break, and when they came back from commercial, they had a camera on the fuzztail, with a player legend: UTILITY INFIELDER ROCKY J SQUIRREL

L-America is beginning to severely restrict drones now. Anything over 8 ounces must have an FAA tail number, and remain below 400' above the surface... you can fly them for fun without a license, but if you're flying them for pay, you must get a *commercial* drone license (new thing).... this even includes aerial pictures of houses for realtors. (There *may* be a loophole that if the realtor herself is flying and not paying *anyone else* to do it, nor is getting paid by the hour from her agency.... but it's a seriously grey area.) The other big restriction is Class B Airspace (i.e. close to a large airport like Chicago or SeaTac); if you're within about 5-10 miles of one of those, forget it. Ditto any kind of major sporting event... and if you're within 5 miles of a smaller airport with a tower, you have to coordinate with them. Oh, and if you're *anywhere near* the District o'Crime? I wouldn't even fly a paper aeroplane. Don't get me started.

Further deponent tries not to even THINK ABOUT too loud.

But, yeah. A three-channel (up-down, left-right, fast-slow) bird flown by a supersquirrel? BIG FUN.

Hmmm. I'm guessing something that small isn't going to make *much* of a bang when it breaks the sound barrier... :)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-20 05:07 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Just like cracking a bullwhip. Maybe a little louder.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-20 06:00 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
I know from personal experience that a .22LR round makes at least that much noise, and that only weighs a tenth of an ounce. We're talking several pounds of jet, and another pound or two of squirrel.

One extenuating factor: It's illegal for ANYTHING to go >250 knots below 10,000 feet without some fairly serious authorisation... at least on this side of the tesseract... so if the little guy goes high to go fast (which also makes sense since jets are MUCH more efficient at high altitudes) he won't make nearly as much perceived noise on the ground.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2016-08-20 06:09 pm (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
It turns out that the length of the aircraft has a strong effect, too -- longer is quieter. That's because it increases the distance between the bow and tail shocks.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-20 05:18 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
This was entertaining. I enjoy the animal supers!

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-20 12:37 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
Awwwww. <3 Hi Rad! I enjoyed this one. The image of a super squirrel in a plane is seriously adorable, and yay, Rad getting off the ground in his borrowed aircraft before getting caught. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-25 05:09 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
This is adorable. And OMG, that video! That's definitely a case of "truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to make sense".
(deleted comment)

Yay!

Date: 2016-08-20 04:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I'm glad you had so much fun with this. :D

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-20 04:32 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (yay)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Oh, I love this! And the video -- both videos, the one of the story (how'd they make that?) and "The Mississippi Squirrel Revival".

«Rad earned his sport pilot license in 20 hours»

I assume SPOON covered the costs. But I'm wondering how they managed the equivalent of "student flies, instructor sits copilot, ready to override if necessary". I guess with controls basically like what Arlo was building, plus direct manual (ungular?) control and remote-override ability.


•splendid blue-and-yellow plan
-> plane

•After an exhilirating flight
-> exhilarating
If that was not just a typo, a good mnemonic for the spelling is to think of "hilarious".
Edited Date: 2016-08-20 05:00 am (UTC)

Thank you!

Date: 2016-08-20 05:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> I assume SPOON covered the costs. But <<

Yes, they have funds for soup support.

>> I'm wondering how they managed the equivalent of "student flies, instructor sits copilot, ready to override if necessary". I guess with controls basically like what Arlo was building, plus direct manual (ungular?) control and remote-override ability. <<

Yep, that's it. There's no way to copilot normally when Rad needs a totally different size of aircraft than everyone else. Sizeshifting exists but it's a rare ability -- I've only seen a few characters with it, and far as I know, none of them are pilots.

Thanks for catching the typos. I have fixed them.

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