Unbeknownst to his captors, Erziah dreamed of devices that would not enslave, but liberate; while they had him forging beasts of steel that devoured human beings, he imagined crafting wings that would take him from his hell. His wishes were so unlike theirs they never stopped to question him when he asked for new components, and when these went missing they blamed other slaves. They did not think he would rebel as long as Jarne, his only son, was given minor liberties within the compound’s bloodstained walls.
Erziah’s vision seemed simple, but it took years before his greatest work was done. By then Jarne was on the verge of manhood. While Erziah had told him stories of the better lives free people led, Jarne had more ambitious dreams. He did not just want to escape the only home that he had known. He yearned to leave the world behind, to soar beyond the brooding clouds and the poisoned tears they shed, and find eternal paradise.
Another year passed, and finally Erziah had finished two pairs of wings. He could not promise they would work, but his options were success or death. He ordered Jarne to stay with him as he made his final checks. Jarne assured him that he would. Then sirens screamed and spotlights blazed as the two made their escape with a screech of microjets and stench of burning biofuels.
The wings worked better than expected; for all the noise and smoke they made, flying was intuitive. Erziah turned to check on Jarne and saw, to his horror, his son was speeding not away but up. He followed, calling him to come back, but Jarne climbed faster; he was lighter and had the better pair of wings.
Erziah had no choice but to turn back as more ominous alarms rang out. Jarne had passed the boundaries no human being was meant to cross. As he soared ever higher, the hideous spires that had mocked him all his life grew dim and distant far below. The haze dispersed, the sky turned blue, and even through his mask and goggles, he felt a wholesome light and warmth unlike any he had known.
Jarne was never seen again. Some say he reached his paradise, but the undercity scavengers who found the remnants of his wings naively, if poetically, assumed he had flown into the sun. More likely he was shot down on the orders of the transhuman elite, who resented this mere mortal’s presence in the realm they called their own.