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07 Dec 2019

Foundling

Fiction

One thing Penny enjoyed about working late was the streets being mostly empty while she walked home. The lights brightened when she approached, and dimmed behind her, and crickets sang in the mild air. It was hard to tell if the occasional rustle in the public greenery was a bird or rodent, but it added interest, and low traffic Penny didn’t get odd looks from fellow humans when she peered in the shrubs to try to spot the animal.

One particularly loud noise, suggesting a thrush’s stirring twigs, caught Penny’s attention. Her head snapped around and she caught sight of something bright in a dog rose bush, flapping erratically.

Instinctively approaching to help, Penny wondered what had been caught there. Birds rarely got themselves tangled in shrubs, but albinos were more likely to be injured by predators…

“Oh!” That was no bird, but a small ornithopter, its paper wings torn, still flapping occasionally, trying to break free. Now that was a thing…

Looking up and down the street, Penny spotted no-one who seemed to be looking for anything, only someone in a too-heavy greatcoat walking towards the inner city.

With a sigh to blow away worries about what her family might say, Penny stepped on the low wall bordering the patch of green, and rolled up her sleeves. “Aaaw, calm down,” she said quietly. “Everything will be all right.” Humming and cooing, just like when dealing with a pigeon, she pulled some twigs to the sides to make a hole big enough to reach into the bush. “Here, come on out.”

She wasn’t even sure the construct could hear her. At least it didn’t panic. Could it panic?

Penny grabbed the central spindle, the body, as it were, and pulled. Some superficial rose thorn scratches later, she could use their left hand to hold down the wings, folded naturally. Or rather, as they had been designed.

When Penny had the ornithopther cradled against her chest, trying to not feel weird about murmuring reassuringly to a manufactured thing of metal, wood, and paper, it stopped trying to flap its wings.

Just like a bird, then.

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