The Flying Pig

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Part one: Infinor

1: The Mysterious Note

The Flying Pig Never Dies. That was all the note said. Just those five words, in neat, old-fashioned handwriting. Black ink on rich, almost creamy paper. Silas Fuller studied the note and the envelope it had arrived in. Addressed in the same neat handwriting, to Silas and his brother James, the mysterious missive had only recently tumbled through the letterbox, mid-morning on a bright and breezy Saturday in early spring.

“There’s no stamp,” said James. “It must have been hand delivered.”

“The Flying Pig never dies,” Silas said. “What on earth does that mean?”

“I have no idea,” replied James. “Turn the note over. There might be something written on the other side.”

There was. In the same handwriting, a simple instruction: Please report to Brighton Park at exactly 11.30am. As a signature, only three initials, printed in capital letters: C.A.F.

“What time is it?” asked Silas.

James checked his watch. “Eleven twenty-two!” he exclaimed. “We’re meant to be there in eight minutes!”

“And that park is eight minutes away,” said Silas, already looking for his shoes. “We’d better get moving.”

Thirty seconds later the two boys were sprinting out of the house and out into the street. “No time to lose!” Silas shouted to his parents, who were peering, confused, out of the living room window. “We’ve got to get to Brighton Park!”

Silas and James reached their destination at exactly 11.30. As the creaking, green-painted metal gate clanged shut behind them, the boys cast their eyes eagerly around, looking for… what? The park seemed absolutely normal, the same as it always was. The usual wide, flat square of grass with the long path running around the outside. The park benches and the flowerbeds. The various dogs investigating interesting smells.

“What are we looking for?” wondered James.

“I don’t know,” said Silas. “I thought maybe there would be a sign, or another note.”

James noticed something. “Look, Silas,” he said, “over there, under the climbing tree.”

Silas squinted, focusing his gaze on the shady hollow under the famous climbing tree, the best one in the area. There was something there. It was quite difficult to tell what it was, with the shade and the fact the something was mostly hidden by a shroud of smoke or steam. But it was definitely something, and Silas and James were the first to find it. The brothers sped across the park, lest anyone else suddenly turn up and claim the discovery as their own.

As Silas and James neared the climbing tree, the strange fog around the object began to clear. At first, the boys could make out only tangles of tubes and pipes, thick bundles of cables and wires, and hundreds of mismatched nuts and bolts. It looked to be some kind of machine. The fog cleared further, revealing a small metal plate, painted with neat red capital letters.

“The Flying Pig,” Silas read.

“The note!” exclaimed James. “That’s what it said on the note! The Flying Pig never dies! We were meant to find this!” He paused, staring intently at the strange contraption. “But what is it?”

“Let’s pull it out into the open,” Silas said, “so we can get a better look.”

With some tugging and shoving, and pulling and prodding, Silas and James managed to drag the strange machine out into the sunshine. The boys examined it in close detail. They found straps, nozzles, knobs, handles and levers. They discovered dials, gauges, meters and buttons. There was a whole section that looked a bit like engines, and a tank labelled Fuel: Use only water. There was a cockpit with a radio and a compass, and notches scratched in the paintwork, recording a count of who knew what. There were two steering wheels, chopped off at the top and bottom, like those of an aeroplane. There were two seats, side by side.

“Whatever it is,” began Silas, “I think it’s for two people. In fact… wait a minute. Do you think it could be… a jetpack?

“A jetpack,” James said, “like, for flying around in?”

“Yes,” said Silas, “look at it. It’s a bit of a mess, but it’s got everything you’d need.”

“Actually, I think you could be right,” said James. “Oh my word, this is amazing! We’ve found a jetpack. We’ve found an actual jetpack! And look, here’s something else!”

James plucked another note from behind one of the seats. It was written on the same rich paper, in the same old-fashioned handwriting.

“This is the Flying Pig,” James read. “This craft has a long and storied history, passing down the generations as a guardian of justice and valour. You have been chosen as its next pilots. Treat the Flying Pig with honour and respect: it is your future.”

“Let’s get it home,” said Silas. “If we’re going to fly this thing we need to figure out how it works and fix it up a bit. It looks like it might need a few repairs.”

Silas and James carried the Flying Pig back home. It was tough going, banging and clanking all the way. The jetpack was heavy and cumbersome, and the two boys had to stop frequently to rest their arms. Silas and James received more than a few confused glances from passers-by as they made their difficult way down the High Street. “It’s a jetpack,” said James occasionally, to nobody in particular.

Eventually, arms burning and shoulders sore, the boys arrived back at 35 Shore Lane, their home. Silas clattered the letterbox in the way he always did when he wanted his parents to let him in. The door opened, and the boys’ mother Sadie found her two sons standing in the front garden, beside what – to her – looked awfully like a pile of scrap metal.

“What on earth is that?” Sadie asked.

“It’s a jetpack, Mum,” said James. “We think.”

“We found it in Brighton Park,” added Silas.

“Brighton park?” asked the boys’ mother, narrowing her eyes, “Are you sure? I’ve never seen anything like that in Brighton Park.”

“We’re sure, mum,” Silas reassured her. “It was left there for us. Look!”

Silas proudly held out the note James had found behind the Flying Pig’s seat, so his mother could read it.

“Treat the Flying Pig with honour and respect,” Sadie read. “It is your future.”

“It’s the same handwriting as this note,” said James, showing Sadie the piece of paper that had sent them up to Brighton Park in the first place. “And that was in an envelope addressed to Silas and me. So we were definitely meant to find this jetpack.”

“I suppose you had better bring it in then,” Sadie replied. She opened the door wide, so Silas and James could pass, and turned back into the house to shout down the hallway. “Henry, the children have brought home a Flying Pig. Could you come and help them get it inside?”

Silas and James’s father emerged from the kitchen and walked down the hall to the front door. “Nice!” he said, when he saw the Flying Pig. “What is that – a jetpack?”

Silas and James nodded enthusiastically.

“Great find,” their dad continued. “Looks a bit worn out though. I’ll clear a space for you in the shed and you can get to work on fixing it up. But first it’s time for lunch.”

*

Over the next few weeks, the boys spent all their spare time working on the fantastic Flying Pig. It was a strange machine, at once fiendishly complicated, yet easy to understand. Silas and James felt immediately at home, dismantling components and repairing systems, as if they had been doing this sort of thing all their lives. They made good use of their father's tools (always being very careful to put them back where they found them), and recycled every bit of old electronic equipment they could find. When the boys ran out of stuff lying around the house or tucked away in the attic, they pestered their father for repeated trips to the local scrapyard. There, they looted old fridges, TVs, computers and stereos for the circuits, wires and switches that they thought the Flying Pig would need.

“I’m glad you're finding a use for all these old things,” said Sadie, as she watched her sons dismantle a broken CD player. “It saves me from having to clear out your room. What are you going to use that bit for?”

“This is a laser,” mumbled Silas, a screwdriver pinched between his lips. “All jetpacks need lasers. Lots of lasers.”

Working beside Silas, James carefully attached two wires to a tiny motor he had removed from an ancient mobile phone. “That thing is older than you are,” his dad had said. “But you should be able to find some useful parts in it, and its better off in a jetpack than in a landfill site.”

Slowly, the Flying Pig returned to what Silas and James imagined must have been its former glory. But the boys went further. With the modifications and additions they had made, Silas and James created a new Flying Pig. A jetpack that not only paid tribute to the machine the boys had found in Brighton Park, but also looked forward, confidently into the future, ready to face… anything.

It was a masterpiece. Two seats, (from an old sports car, complete with racing harnesses), were built into a pod, a giant eggshell of a thing, cut in half lengthways then squashed together side-by-side. Where the two sides of the pod met, between Silas and James’s seats, there was an instrument panel covered in switches and buttons. This panel stretched down to between the boys’ feet, then split, wrapping up into two dashboards, one each in front of Silas and James. All of the most important controls were on these dashboards, including the engine system, navigation, radio and communications… and the weapons.

All along, it had been clear to Silas and James that a machine designed as a guardian of justice and valour would probably need to fight a few bad guys once in a while. The boys hadn't gone too crazy; they thought a few plasma cannons, rocket launchers, electro-magnetic pulse bombs and mega-lasers were probably just about enough. These were arranged around the central pod: slung underneath, bristling from the sides, and jutting out over the boys' seats, like the antenna of some fearsome giant insect.

The jetpack's engines were at the back, hung off the pod behind Silas and James's seats. The boys didn't quite understand how these engines worked; apart from the tank that required only water, there was no other fuel source they could find. The engines were built to a very specific pattern though, one that Silas and James thought best not to change when they were making the repairs, even though they couldn't really say why.

The engines and most of the weapons were surrounded by a shell of armour. This resembled nothing so much as a giant beach ball which had somehow frozen in space in the middle of an explosion that had blasted it into a thousand fragments. Each piece of the armour shell had been painted matt black, for stealth. In the gaps between, the weapons and engines glittered. The Flying Pig looked awesome, even when it was just sitting on the ground doing nothing.

When the repairs were finally done, Silas and James gave the jetpack a last clean and polish. Then, they added the finishing touch. Very carefully, they repainted the metal plate that bore the jetpack’s name. At last, the Flying Pig was complete. It was ready to take to the skies once more.

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