Inverted Loops

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Author's Notes: Not betaed, mostly because I'm impatient, but partly also because this is just a short one.

We know that Nathan was Navy, but not what position he served in. The Navy does have fighter pilots and (among other reasons) I loved the idea of Nathan having been a fighter pilot, so I made him one. I may post an essay on how I got from there to him flying an F-14 Tomcat, but no guarantees.

Nathan pressed his index finger into his temple and stared down at the papers on his desk without really seeing them. He had the next day's itinerary to finalize and meetings to prepare for, background information to review, but he couldn't focus. All he could think of was Simone's visit. How could anyone be so naive? People with what amounted to superpowers wouldn't be welcomed with open arms. Power like that inspired fear, not wonder, and fear had inspired humanity to horrors more than once in their history.

For the twentieth time Nathan ran through his options if Simone decided to try going public on her own, or with the help of Peter or someone else equally idealistic and short sighted. The good news was that there was plenty in Simone's background that could be used to brand her unstable. A father recently deceased after a long decline, a heroin addict artist for an ex-boyfriend, a supposedly clinically depressed current boyfriend who had recently wouldn't be hard to spin in the right direction. The only wild card was what kind of power she might be able to have someone demonstrate as proof. Some could be discredited with a little advance preparation and some discreet special effects. But others were a little too tangible.

Like flight.

Nathan rubbed his temple a little harder. Don't think about it. But it was impossible to think of Simone's little rant without thinking of his own connection to it.

What you all can do is incredible, she'd said.

Incredible, and dangerous, Nathan reminded himself. The consequences if he was found out made his stomach turn and the muscles in his neck and shoulders tighten painfully. It wasn't worth it. Not even for the cool wind rushing around his body, or the boom of going supersonic, or the sight of the Earth whipping by beneath him, or the complete openness surrounding him on every side...

Nathan clenched his eyes shut. Not worth it.

Not even to soar? A tiny, faint voice wondered.

Nathan knew where that voice came from: a twenty-five year old young buck strapped into the cockpit of an F14 Tomcat, pulling an inverted loop and diving triumphantly on his hapless opponent.

He'd buried that kid ten years ago, but that fear soaked launch into the sky after his near-kidnapping had brought it all rushing back. He hadn't been able to resist pulling a loop, his heart pounding in his chest, adrenaline making his entire body tingle. It had been strange, feeling the wind, missing the g-force slamming him back into a seat, but being in the sky again...

Not worth it.

Are you sure?

Don't think about it, Nathan admonished himself, pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes. It was like trying to tell himself not to think of pink elephants. The more he tried, the more the forbidden thought was all that filled his mind.

Shouldn't you be sure?

It's too dangerous.

Isn't that part of why you loved it?

If I'm careful, no one will see me. If they do, would anyone really believe them? Would they believe themselves? Human flight is impossible.

Nathan rose from his desk and turned around, leaning against the edge of it to stare at the small rack of clothes he kept in his office, just he in case he needed a change of wardrobe. There was a black sweater there. No black pants, but there was a pair of navy blue dress pants. Navy blue would be less conspicuous than solid black, anyway.

Slowly, Nathan pushed off of the desk and walked over to the rack of clothes. He laid his hand on the sweater and paused for a long, long moment. Then he briskly stripped it off the hanger and changed quickly, hanging up his suit, dress shirt, and tie neatly.

Out in the hallway he nodded politely to the night security guard as he made his rounds and opened the door to the stairwell at the end of the hall without looking back. Nathan paused to let it swing shut behind him and then jogged quickly up the concrete steps. There was a door to the roof at the top. It should have been locked, but there were enough smokers working in this building that Nathan bet someone would have jammed the lock. Sure enough, a firm push swung the door open.

Nathan stepped out onto the roof and turned to shut the door behind himself. Glancing around, he found a chuck of some kind of debris and wedged it under the door to prevent it from opening from the inside. Technically, that was probably a safety hazard, but Nathan wasn't about to risk finding the roof occupied when he came in for a landing.

Sliding his hands into his pockets, Nathan casually strolled out into the open, head tilted back a little, as if he were admiring the stars. Do it fast, he told himself. The faster you are, the less chance there is someone will be watching at just the wrong moment.

He didn't take a deep breath, or brace himself, or even take his hands out of his pockets. He just launched himself off the roof as fast as his gift would let him. The rush of wind past him plastered his clothes to his body and for a moment he was intensely chilled. Then something inside him seemed to compensate and the chill faded, leaving only the faintly cool rush of wind.

Nathan eased off the throttle, slowed to a motionless hover, and glanced down. The city had been reduced to a million tiny points of light beneath him. He was far too high in the sky to be seen, especially dressed as darkly as he was. Slowly, he let out a breath and relaxed a little.

Closing his eyes, Nathan just hung there for a long moment. It was so quiet. All the noises of the city had been left far below. He was completely alone up here, in a way Nathan didn't think he'd ever been alone before. No one is watching.

Eventually Nathan opened his eyes again and considered his options. But he had no destination, and every direction was the same up here. He took off at random, fast, but not supersonic. There would be no sonic booms tonight.

The wind created by Nathan's passage through the sky rushed by him, ruffling his hair from it's carefully gelled style. Closing his eyes again, Nathan rotated his body slowly, feeling the air press against him, feeling the difference between the air that rushed by above him and that which rushed by below him. He'd sometimes felt like that Tomcat had been an extension of his body, the cut of the straps into his shoulders and the pressure of the g-force throwing him into his seat telling him about the motion of the plane, the shudder of the stick in his hand whispering the tiny details of position to him. He'd had to learn the nuances of that plane. He'd spent years doing just that, until his instincts had seemed almost like a sixth sense. The wind against his body was like that now, though he'd taken to the air barely half a dozen times. His body knew the air, the coursing wind, the gentle push of thermals.

He knew the air, and he knew that none of those currents ruled him. Grinning suddenly, Nathan threw himself in a steep vertical climb and looped over backwards, though it would have been easy enough to turn over. He dove back towards the Earth with a whoop that the wind tore from his lips and pulled himself to a hovering halt still well out of sight. His heart was thundering in his chest and Nathan found himself laughing as he took off in another random direction.

Twisting and turning through the air, he flew as much with his eyes closed as with them open, memorizing how each twist of his body or motion of his limbs changed his trajectory through the air. Ducking his head down and curving his back up sent him into somersaults through the air. Tilting his stretched out body to one side sent him on a wide, smooth banking curve. Holding his arms out in front of him made for more speed, but leaving them by his sides gave him finer maneuverability.

Every little detail carried with it deep rooted familiarity, as if this knowledge had only been waiting to be discovered. Nathan spiraled up into the atmosphere, rising until the thin air made his lungs spasm and the cold started creeping back into his body.

I was made for this.

Letting go, Nathan allowed himself to fall back into the richer, warmer levels of the atmosphere. He'd loved flying that Tomcat, had barely been able to get through the hours waiting for his next flight, but that plane had been to this what methadone was to a heroin junkie: safer, but not what he'd really craved.

Slowly, Nathan lowered himself far enough in the sky to figure out where he was. Well outside of Manhattan, as it turned out, but he hadn't left the state. Rising higher again, he headed for home.

After landing--quickly, but with more control than last time--Nathan took a moment to look up at the sky once more. He could feel the pull of it in his blood, in his bones.

Unblocking the door to the stairwell, Nathan stepped inside and closed himself off from the roof. Carefully, he smoothed his hair down with his hands and checked his clothing, tugging the occasional wind-born fold straight and smooth again.

The sky would have to wait.

He had an election to win.