The Revolution of the Sky

They’re givin’ you the business and puttin’ on a show
You’re a million dollar man that ain’t got no dough
But critics still continue to plaster
My name and discredit my fame

“Good morning, my name is David Ariadne. Today marks a turning point in human history, a day when the world becomes both smaller and greater. A world where anyone can explore with ease. My thanks go out to everybody who invested in helping me develop the Petrad. I hope that the twenty thousand of you around the world who will receive your Petrads will be honoured as contributors towards a revolution in modern transport and society. There is no more for me to say, except thank you all,”

I upload the video to the Petrad YouTube channel and await the bombardment of comments in response. My last video attracted the record amount of comments the site has ever witnessed. ‘Go live’ day is tipped to smash all previous records. 

Nothing had prepared the world for the sight of a Petrad in its full majesty. Nothing had prepared the world for the imminent revolution. The system has gone live, the time is now.

Comments begin flooding in within seconds of the upload. I am used to the deluge now. Within five minutes there are thousands of comments, likes, dislikes, abuse and praise. 

I start reading the most ‘liked’ remarks. 

‘You’re a genius, Dave!’

‘They’ll come for you mate. The elites will bring u down’

‘I hope you fucking crash and burn, you lying bastard’

The abuse bothered me at first but now I find it amusing. Once you’ve received your ten thousandth death threat and no one has tried to hurt you, you tend to ignore them. It is quite frightening to think about the hatred coursing through some people. If only they could direct those powerful emotions in more practical ways then who knows what they could achieve?

Ten years of planning, of eighteen-hour days engineering and refining the most amazing product. But it nearly all crumbled following a television appearance. Some say it was an ill-fated decision but I learned more that experience then all the positive feedback I received from friends and family.

The show was called ‘The Creators’ and it featured all kinds of inventors trying to win funding to bring their products to market. I was confident. Actually, I was over-confident and forgot to check a vital system before taking my prototype on the show.

I followed a woman who had presented a teddy bear that could teach languages to children. I’m not sure why they were in such a sour mood but the three judges seemed unimpressed by my idea.

“It’s just a drone,” a female journalist for a shitty tabloid said.

“Well, it’s a type of drone but with the safety features and reliability of a family car.” I said.

“This is nothing new, I’ve seen this in China,” said the engineering expert, a tall socially abrupt man. 

“The difference is in the engineering. If you look at the Ehang drones, the blades are unwieldy and stick out of the vehicle. I have invented a system of incredibly powerful mini-blades that are efficient and sit underneath the vehicle. Even if five of the six mini-blades fail, the Petrad will still be able to safely reach the ground.”

“What does Petrad mean?”

“Personal Transport Device,” I replied, “If you would allow me to demonstrate?” And with those seven words, my life was turned upside down. Quite literally.

Within seconds, I managed to somehow tip up the Petrad and thump hard onto the floor. My plan (and my ego) was in tatters and as I lay on the floor I knew this would be going viral and that my head bloody hurt.

The media picked up on the story and began hammering every aspect of my character and my idea. I was labelled a charlatan, a bullshitter, a snake oil salesman. 

But as the attacks on me grew, something else happened. Visitors to my website vastly increased and they could see the quality of the product. People were pouring money in to help fund my design and within three months I had the finance in place to build the first batch of Petrads.

Seeing the little beauties come off the production line was like watching my children graduate. The Petrad official app was released to accompany the machine. By placing your smartphone in a gap on the dashboard you can fly and manage the mechanics of the machine simply by using the touchscreen. 

By using the app, you can arrange for the Petrad to fly autonomously to your destination so you don’t even have to be in the vehicle to control it. With enough luggage space for two suitcases the potential uses multiply. And my patented electric battery means the machine can fly for over five hundred miles without re-charging. 

As the hype built, the media stepped up their attacks on me. The aviation and car industries began spending billions on propaganda attempting to undermine my invention. They tried raising questions about the safety of the Petrad. In response, I uploaded videos showing the results of independent studies that proved how incredibly safe it is. The videos were hugely popular and helped to counter their message. No matter how much paid bias was splattered against me, by messaging the world directly, the fatcats could not gain the upper hand in the publicity stakes. 

Once governments began to question the legality of the machine, it only amplified the revolutionary nature of the Petrad. When I announced the first release of twenty thousand machines to my investors, the investors in return pledged to all fly on the opening day. How could the authorities fight against that? With the second tranche of vehicles being built right now, no government could stop progress. The government was backed into a corner and they confirmed the product was legal with strict controls for flying near sensitive areas such as airports and prisons. I created a map which showed banned locations so every flyer would be aware.

I check the comments on YouTube and customers are already sending links to allow people to view their first flights thanks to the onboard HD cameras. A seventy year old man in the South of France is posting footage of him flying above blushing vineyards. A young Chinese woman is flying around San Francisco Bay. As the camera pans to the Golden Gate Bridge I almost want to cry.

I switch to my website and I see orders are flying off the scale. Sixteen thousand more orders in the hour since official release. I switch back to YouTube and hundreds of people are showing off footage of their Petrads. Streams can be watched of beach resorts on the English coastlines, the train stations of Tokyo, the favelas of Brazil – the world is in the hands of the people.

With a joy in my heart that I sincerely believe has never been rivalled by anyone else, I decide to head out to my own personal Petrad. It has been charging overnight and is now ready for a spin. I exit my apartment by the Thames and as I step outside my joy reaches unfathomable new heights. The sky contains about twenty or thirty Petrads buzzing around. 

On the roof of the apartment I enter my Petrad and place my phone in the dashboard slot. I power up which takes a few seconds and begin rising into the air.  A low hum is the soundtrack of my ascent. The thrill of flying never ceases to amaze me.

The laws regarding how near flyers can get to airports have been clarified and I can see no one near London City Airport. People are simply enjoying the delight of flying around their city. I see people on the ground pointing up at the circling Petrads.

I swoop past Canary Wharf with workers agog at the windows of the skyscrapers and bring my craft back over the river. I start looking at Twitter to see if we are trending. Number one in the world ahead of the latest crackpot meanderings from the American President. 

As I swipe through the comments one of the tweets catches my eye. It is from an account called the Society of No-Fly Warriors and states that they have hacked the Petrad app and will be ending the unnatural machines within minutes. I almost start laughing at their daft tweet when I see a comment from a girl flying over the Barbican Centre nearby.

She is claiming to have lost control of her Petrad account. I switch to her livestream and she is shouting:

“Oh my God, I can’t control it. I can’t control it!”

I’m puzzled and shocked, what is going on? The woman states that the machine is heading in its own direction. She must be lying or doing something wrong. I switch to the Petrad app and a popup comes on screen and tells me this vehicle is now being controlled by the Society of No-Fly Warriors. 

My stomach lurches, then my Petrad lurches too. Nothing I try to do on the controls is changing anything. I have lost control. The Petrad turns nearly one and eighty degrees and heads off in a direction seemingly of its own volition. The woman on the livestream is shrieking. I switch screens back to her and I see her vehicle is flying over the Thames in the direction of Big Ben and Westminster.

Somehow, my stomach lurches even deeper. I know now where she is heading. Many of the abusive messages I received were from people saying I was trying to destroy the fabric of society, that I was a new age Guy Fawkes. 

The hackers are going to destroy my invention. Who has paid them? The government or the industrialists? 

On screen the Houses of Parliament grow larger. The girl is whimpering and she opens the door and leaps out of the Petrad from a thousand feet above the river. In the distance another Petrad has crashed into the roof of parliament. A large explosion rocks the building and I can hear it roar from my position near Blackfriars Bridge.

Did the girl survive the leap from the Petrad? Her vehicle continues towards parliament and within seconds the screen crackles and goes blank as it crashes into the Big Ben clocktower.

I flick to a twenty-four hour news channel and they are showing footage of Petrads flying in to the seat of government every few minutes. Fighter jets have been scrambled to take out other threats to life.

My Petrad is now on a collision course with parliament. The huge Gothic building is now engulfed with flames, it is a truly astonishing sight. The roof is a carpet of roiling flames. The knowledge that I am about to enter the inferno scares me shitless. The news is stating that vehicles have crashed into the United Nations building in New York and the Élysée Palace in Paris.

Everything has fallen apart. My dreams of freeing man to fly as the birds do have disintegrated. Do I accept my fate and burn up in the flaming parliament or try my luck plummeting into the Thames? I open the door to my right and see the river flowing below. I can’t jump but I know I have to. I raise my eyes and stare out of the window. In the distance I see the shape of a fighter jet heading towards me. Perhaps the decision has been taken out of my hands.

by Martin O’Brien based on Show Business – A Tribe Called Quest

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