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Grade
8

Raven woke up excited.  It was the morning of her science field trip.  Her class was going to the Engineering Museum.  Since she had science first thing, Raven would even get to miss English.  She got to the bus stop ten minutes early, a new record, for fear of being late.  Waiting for the bus, she imagined everything she might see.

When she got to school, she had five minutes before the bell.  She stopped by Allison’s locker briefly to talk.

“I’m so excited,” she said, grinning at her friend.  “It’s such a shame that Calanthe isn’t here.  She would have really enjoyed the trip.”

“Yeah.  Hey, do you have time to fix my phone, like you fixed Calanthe’s camera last year, and my old drone awhile ago?  It fell, and now it won’t turn on.”

“Sure.  Here, give it to me.”  Raven took the phone, examined it, and then took off the case and backing.  She took the battery out, cleaned the contacts, and put it together again.  Raven held the power button, and then handed the phone back. The phone vibrated.

“Thanks!”

Raven checked her watch and realized she was late.  “I should go. You may want a new battery soon, but give that a try first.  And, the drone wasn’t that impressive.  I just had to minorly redesign the stabilization circuit.”  She waved goodbye and hastened to her locker, and put her things away.  She grabbed her binder and pencil case.  Halfway to science, she realized that she had her social studies binder.  Raven hurried back to her locker.  She rummaged through her books, papers, tools and pencils frantically, eventually finding her science binder inside of her math binder.  She rushed to her class, leaving her locker in total disarray.

But by the time she got to class, the door was locked.  Peering inside, she could see that the class had left.  From a nearby window, she saw the bus pulling out of the parking lot.

Raven swore under her breath.  She briefly considered going to the office.  They would probably make her wait there until her next class started, and she could work on a few projects.  Or, she could explore the school’s heating system in the basement.  The door was in the stairwell, and it was often left unlocked.  She had never gotten a proper chance to do more than glance into the depths of the basement and was unlikely to get such a splendid opportunity again.

Her decision was easily made. Raven was about to go to the stairwell when she heard something strange outside.  Ms. Olson’s room was nearby, so she decided to attempt to look out her windows.

“Ms. Olson?  I missed the science field trip, and I was on my way to the office when I saw your classroom door was open.  I just wanted to thank you for helping me so much with English last year.”  Raven strolled to an open window.  “It’s still not my favorite, but I’m not struggling at all this year.”  Leaning out, she nearly gasped, but caught herself.  Above her was something quite large, metallic, and winged.  She forgot the basement, and decided to get outside.

Ms. Olson laughed.  “I’m glad you’re surviving English this year, and I hope you’ll learn  to like it.”

Raven nodded.  “I’d better go now, but thanks again.”  She walked briskly down the stairs and across the lawn until she could see the winged thing.

It resembled a pegasus, though it looked like it was entirely metal.  The wings were probably bronze, and the body bronze and steel.  The pegasus glided towards her. Raven, squinting into the sun, saw a rider on its back.  And then it was in front of her and the rider dismounted.

“Calanthe?  Where did you get this?  It’s gorgeous!  I thought you were sick.  Has something happened?”

The pegasus took a step forward and stumbled. Raven looked at her friend.  “Is it alright?  What’s going on?”

Calanthe grinned weakly.  “I’m so happy to see you.  A lot of things are going on.  I’m very worried about Trexis.” Seeing Raven’s blank look, she added, “The pegasus.”

“What’s wrong with Trexis?  You look worn out.  Can I do anything?”

Calanthe smiled gratefully.  “Trexis isn’t walking well, and she has been making some funny noises when we fly for long.”

“Oh dear.  Do you think those are related?”

“I don’t think so, but I’m not sure.”

“Hmm.”  Raven thought about it.  “Have you oiled her recently?”

Calanthe considered.  “Last week, but normally we only do it monthly.”

“Have you been flying or walking more than normal?   Let’s go to my place to get oil.  Can Trexis take us both, or should I catch a bus?”

“Trexis can do it.  You should sit in front, and I’ll try to explain.  And I haven’t been flying recently, but Trexis sometimes flies without me.”

Raven mounted, barely avoiding the wings.  Calanthe mounted easily behind her, ducking.  Calanthe reached around Raven, slapped a plate on Trexis’ neck, and said, loudly and clearly, “Fly, Trexis.”

Trexis trotted forward, wings spread, and beat her wings powerfully.  She soared upwards, and Raven laughed in pure delight.

Raven turned her head to look at Calanthe.  “At this pace, we should be there in five minutes.  That’s not a lot of time, so you’d better start talking.”

Calanthe grinned at this, but her smile faded quickly.  “You know that my mom is a scientist, and that she works for the government, creating automatrons.”  Raven nodded.  She had always liked Calanthe’s mom, Accalia, because she dealt with machines too.  “Well, she developed prototypes of a few different machines that can almost think for themselves.  She modelled most of them off of animals, like pegasi.  The prototypes are top-secret, so I’m not supposed to tell anyone about them.  Ah, well.  Desperate times, desperate measures”

By this time, Trexis was making a few, quiet creaks.

“Those are the noises I told you about.  They usually don’t start so soon, but it must be harder carrying two, I guess. Anyways, the Chinese government got wind of Mom’s machines.”  The Chinese and the Americans were constantly trying to outdo each other.  “And then Mom went missing.  The government isn’t worried yet because she was supposed to be on vacation anyways.  The police say to wait a few more days, and then ask again.  But I can’t wait that long!  I plan to fly to China with her roc.  It was her first large project and it is connected to a tracking device she had implanted in herself. I should be able to use the roc to find her.  Right now it is pointing me towards China.  But I can’t cross the ocean to get there if Trexis is breaking down.  Will you help me fix her?”

“Of course!  I’ll see what I can do for Trexis now.  That’s my house, next to the one with the bright red roof. Do you want me to come with you?  And, what exactly is a roc?  I’ve never heard one”

Calanthe nodded.  “First, I recognize the driveway.  Second, you should stay here.  This might become dangerous, and I don’t want Trexis flying long distances with two  people. Also, I’m pretty sure that this whole endeavor is highly illegal.  After all, I am going to China with top-secret technology.  And, what else?  Right, a roc is essentially a giant eagle.  My mom’s is smaller than the actual mythical ones.  It will lead me to my mom, and then she can ride it back.”  She gently pushed Trexis’ head down and towards Raven’s house.  Trexis landed smoothly on the grass, with minimal creaking.

Raven led Calanthe to her workshop, a corner of the garage, and grabbed her oil.  She and Calanthe went outside next to Trexis.  Raven gently moved the left wing up and down, and, hearing a creak, oiled the joint.  She did the same to the right wing, and than asked Calanthe to take Trexis flying to see if that solved the problem.

Calanthe came back grinning.  “It’s great!  Can you fix the walking problem too?”

“What’s wrong with her walking?  Does she hop, or creak a lot?”

“She always stumbles.  I suppose it could be a problem with just one leg.  She walked somewhat similarly when one foot was badly dented.”

Raven carefully examined all four legs.  “This one looks a bit shorter than the other ones.  Or is that just me?”

Calanthe hurried to see.  “No, that plate should be longer. We can’t compare it to the other legs, because Mom did modifications.”

Raven lifted the leg and pulled, and the plate expanded.  “Is this the length it should be?”  When Calanthe nodded, Raven continued.  “Then the outer plates are layered like scales, so something inside the leg most likely broke.  If I can take that apart - yes, good - then I should be able to see what went wrong.  That piece broke.  I have something that may fit.”

Calanthe smiled.  “Thank you!  I had been hoping you could fix her, but this is spectacular!”

Raven raised her eyebrows.  “Don’t thank me yet.  I still have to find the replacement piece.”  She went over to her work area, and grabbed every piece that looked like it might fill the gap.

Comparing sizes, she narrowed her options down to two pieces.  One of them fit if it was turned slightly.  Raven pushed it into place, replaced the plate, and straightened.  “There.  Try it.”

Calanthe touched the plate that enabled voice commands, and said, “Trot in a circle.”  Watching Trexis, she could see nothing wrong.  “Thank you so much for fixing her.  You’re the best!.  Well, I should go, since I have everything I need now.  You should probably go back to school so that you don’t get into trouble, if you think you can manage without getting in trouble.”

“My mom can probably drive me or talk to the office.  Should I tell her about Trexis, or just say that I missed the bus?”

“Just tell her I needed help with a project.  Will that work?”

Raven considered. “Probably.”

 

Five days later, Raven got a phone call from Calanthe.

“Hey Raven.  We just got back, and everything is fine now.  You know how I told you that the government wasn’t worried that Mom was missing?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, that’s because my mom was on a clandestine mission with the government to look at a Chinese machine.  They couldn’t take it back to America because if someone noticed, we could end up at war.  Anyways, my mom had to go to China, and then something happened, and she got separated from the rest of her group without a passport.  That was about the same time that I decided to go after Mom.  I’ll tell you all about it after school tomorrow.”

Raven grinned.  “You’d better.  I’ve been worrying for five days straight, and collecting homework for you.  See you then!”

State
MI
Zip Code
48104