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Feather by Jason Buchholz

Leaves and twigs crackled under his boots as he slowly walked along the forest trail, a wind storm the night before having brought down branches and displaced some of the vegetation found in this expanse of trees and brush. Luckily, no trees had fallen over the trail to impede adventuring, as strolling through the woods was his way of unwinding and letting his mind settle down from a busy day of work. Sometimes, his best work had come after a jaunt in the forest, spending time away from screens and technology while embracing nature and all it had to offer.

          A highly experienced robotics engineer with a penchant for creating small androids and automatons, Raymond Carmichael had recently completed a project that he had himself conceived of and built. A highly sophisticated device that could hold the brain waves and thought patterns of a living being. It was ahead of its time but came with the simple issue of having nothing to test it on. He wasn't about to harm his own tabby cat in the name of science and engineering, nor was he willing to take a life of any kind.

          Stopping to take a sip from the water bottle slung over his left shoulder, Carmichael ran a hand through his slightly greying but still presentable short, brown hair before taking a gulp of the cool water. In his forties but still in decent shape, he found it wise to take breathers every so often not so much to rest, but to take in the scenery. His love of the physical world and all the wonders in contained both living and static gave him purpose, and a reason to carry on every day of his life.


          Slinging the bottle and harness back over his shoulder, Carmichael continued down the forest trail and planned to take a branch trail soon, when something caught his eye ahead of him. Sitting on top of the leaves was a solitary feather belonging to a red-tailed hawk, and it looked recent.

          'Beautiful, he thought to himself as he stooped down to pick it up and examine it in further detail. The reddish-brown colour and fine texture of the feather was stunning, if not close to perfection. Intending to save it and study it at home, he got back to his feet and carefully pocketed the feather before continuing on. Minutes later, a strange sound filled his ears, almost like a cross between screeching and whimpering. To his surprise, laying on its side in the middle of the trail ahead of where he had just come to a halt was a large, red-tailed hawk, whose chest kept rising and falling.

          "You don't look well," he muttered, kneeling down again to assess the hawk. It moved its eyes to look at the human, and opened its beak a bit to make more noise, but didn't do much else. The large bird looked not only scared, but helpless. It was then that Carmichael saw the blood coming from a gash on its underside that was exposed, and deduced that the bird didn't have much time at all.

          'I need to do something!'

          Taking a plastic bag from a zippered pocket in his jacket, he used it to wrap up the hawk as best he could and put it gently under his arm, hurrying back down the trail and towards home, hoping to do some good.

          'Perhaps my invention will be of use in this situation.'

          Carmichael suddenly upped his pace, determined to salvage one of Mother Nature's amazing creations.


          Working as quickly as he could without compromising the quality of his work, Carmichael could see that the hawk was near death, its eyes slowly starting to close for the final time. With two laptops and other equipment hooked up to the project, he prepared to transfer the bird's brainwaves and whatever else to a storage module while finalizing the design of the new android in which those patterns would eventually go.

          Using his expertise and vast engineering knowledge, he would construct a new body for the unlucky hawk and transfer its core being to the automaton and give it a new lease on life, so to speak.

          'In theory, it should work.'

          Feverishly working his controls, Carmichael keyed in commands and re-checked his devices several times, stopping once to re-adjust the hollow half sphere that sat snugly over the hawk's head. Inside the device were an infrared scanner and laser pulse reader that could transmit & receive certain types of electrochemical and electromagnetic engrams and copy them to a storage device to preserve them.

          'Hold on just another few minutes, Razor.'

          Upon returning to his home lab from the forest, he had named the bird 'Razor' due to the sharpness of its large beak, and had kept talking to it to keep it alert and focused on something to give him time to save its personality and brain waves. Carmichael gave Razor a quick glance, and could see its eyes move once more before going still, the eyelids now closing for their final time. Keying a couple more quick commands into his computer, a small graphic popped up that told him the transfer was now complete. Razor's core being was now inside a computer, saved on a flash drive.

          Carmichael got up from his swivel chair and looked to Razor in sadness, realizing that the bird's physical form was now dead. He wrapped the large bird in a cloth completely before taking it outside to the perimeter of his back yard, and used a small spade to dig a hole big enough for Razor at the tree line. After carefully placing the deceased form into the ground, he filled in the hole and covered it up, marking the spot with a single wooden stake.

          'One day, you will fly again....'

          For the next several weeks, he holed himself up in his lab, only stopping for food and bathroom breaks periodically so as to complete the new android, eager to see the culmination of his work and all the testing he had done with his new invention since its completion and first use as of late. Creating the android body of a hawk was difficult enough, but replicating the detail of feathers, facial features, and other attributes were taking a lot more time than he anticipated.

          "For Razor's sake, I must succeed here," he said to himself.

          As the automaton took shape and the details started to show, he knew it wouldn't be long now until he was able to transfer the consciousness into it, and observe the results as they occurred. He knew that Razor would fly again, and soon.


          The exhilarating feeling of success had been thrust upon him in the last two days, having successfully transferred the brain waves and personality of Razor into its new android body before it came to life in the most extraordinary way. The adaptive yellow LED microcamera eyes lit up almost instantly, the automaton getting to its feet and stretching out its wings on the deck built onto the back of Carmichael's house. Once the bird shook off the initial disorientation, it flapped its large wings and headed into the sky, circling the house once before flying off.

          Carmichael had captured it all on digital video, and couldn't help but jump for joy at being able to achieve what he did, never mind save the life of a beautiful creature, in a manner of speaking. While it could lead to grants and/or money to do further research, it had always been about lending a helping hand to nature, above all else.

          'Intellectual gain is much better than financial gain, always.'

          He descended a few short stairs to his mud room, putting on his hiking boots and jacket before slinging his water bottle and holster over a shoulder, intent on going for a long walk and reflecting on recent events. This time around, he arrived on the trail and saw that the leaves and small debris had been blown to either side of the dirt trail, making the trek a lot easier and not as slippery. Carmichael maintained a decent pace down the crumbly path, stopping again every so often for that quick break.

          A short time later, he was getting close to the spot where he originally spotted the hawk feather before locating Razor, but this time he saw something different catch his eye on the trail, sitting in the dirt before him. Carmichael knelt down and picked up another feather, this one synthetic and most familiar. It was one of the many artificial feathers he had outfitted onto the automaton, complete with a colour pattern he had himself chosen to simulate that of a real red-tail hawk.

          'Oh no,' he thought to himself. 'I hope that the new Razor hasn't met with some kind of misfortune out here.'

          Frowning, he stood back up and pondered the possibilities for a moment, before he heard a screech, like a hawk calling out into the world and letting everyone know it was there and able to make its presence felt. To his surprise, sitting on the trail upright a few meters ahead was the new Razor. Its eyes glowed a brilliant yellow as they stared at Carmichael for what seemed like an eternity before anything else happened. Then without warning, the artificial bird took flight and zoomed past Carmichael, before ascending into the air and turning right around to make a pass.

          The new Razor shrieked happily as it flew over the man's head and higher into the sky before disappearing from view completely.

          "Was that a thank you of sorts?" he wondered aloud, believing that Razor had been appreciative of being resurrected and given another lease on life. Carmichael looked to the sky and smiled.

          "You're welcome, friend...."

          He had been there for Mother Nature and 'saved' a life in the only way he knew, and it had all started with a single feather and a desire to do some good.

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