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As he flew back to continue his conversation with CUCKOO, EAGLE sent out a short message to activate some precautions. He wasn’t seriously concerned, but, from a professional point of view, an assassination attempt was not something to be ignored.
Eagle was not prone to introspection, though he had to admit that under CUCKOO’S influence, he was certainly thinking much more than he had been.
It was counter-intuitive, but his experience was leading him to the view that thinking was considerably more exhausting than flying.
Perhaps the time had come for him to pay more attention to his Irks. Irks were useful eagles who read a lot, and were competent technically, but, all too often, were pretty indifferent Flyers. Normally, they weren’t big and strong like Flyers, but they thought a lot, and asked difficult questions. Generally speaking, the Flyers gave them a hard time and got the prettier girls. But over time, he had noticed that Irks had a tendency to catch up, and perhaps excel.
He knew that certain eagles were granted special powers by the Spirits and had long thought little more of it. Now he wondered why he was so honored. He merely had to think a thought, and go into a certain mindset, and he could communicate to every eagle in existence for thousands of miles. Given a little fine tuning, and he could communicate to most other species.
Some were more difficult than others. Hawks and falcons were easy. Owls, the dumbest birds in the sky, were tedious. Snails, naively thinking their shells insulated them from the real world, would pretend they had heard nothing. All could be persuaded to listen.
He received a message and looked up. A flight of eagles – four in number – was now flying top cover.
A similar team was keeping an eye on CUCKOO.
A full commando of eagles – forty-eight - was now at work eliminating the local snake population. It was really not a good idea to mess with an eagle; and it was a terminal idea to mess with EAGLE himself.
He switched his mind to EAGLE-LAND’s plight and ran through the points CUCKOO had made. Did he believe CUCKOO? Yes, he did. He had put his Irks to work checking and double-checking, and he’d been to Europe to see for himself. There was no doubt about it. The average European was significantly better educated, and better off, than the average American. And they spent half the amount on medical care that America did, yet Europeans lived longer. They ate better and took longer vacations so were less stressed. They had decent pensions so weren’t worried about retirement. Third level education was virtually free there.
The list of European advantages went on and on. This didn’t mean that Europe was perfect. Its banks were nearly as corrupt and stupid as American banks; its political leaders were slow to act; and the structures of the European Union were still in the process of being erected. Nonetheless, he was of the opinion that, on a day to day basis, most Europeans were significantly better off.
Then there was also the question of lifestyle. Here Americans seemed to be bent on mass suicide. Air, water and the very earth were polluted, the food chain was corrupted, almost no one took any exercise, and more than half the population – and practically all seniors – were dosing themselves on legal drugs. Hell, even the children weren’t immune. Showing spirit meant you were diagnosed with ADD and pumped full of Ritalin. If you were an eagle, you got a cuff about the head.
He was glad he was an eagle, yet he was desperately concerned about his human people. He was their symbolic head. Duty commanded that he stop this rot.
He needed to find out more about the causes. America had ended WW II war powerful, and – as best he could recall – doing mostly good things.
But then matters had gone drastically wrong from the Seventies onwards.
He needed to know why and how in more detail.
All eagles had extraordinary eyesight, but EAGLE but was in league of his own. He was still some distance from his eyrie when he saw what looked like a man in long robes – the shape was more impression than substance - settle into where CUCKOO normally perched. But, when he looked again, it was CUCKOO.
A trick of the light. It had been a long day.