Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mind the skies: A requiem for Alex Velvet

The workers at Consolidated Overmetrics insist to this day that they were not, in fact, contracted to design a piano catapult.

Court documents and deposition transcripts indicate multiple incidences where employees and executives state that at no time was their a client workorder reading, "We need something of the dimensions x, y, z, must be capable of generating n amount of torque-feet and, by the way, also able to fire a Mahogany-toned Yamaha baby-grand Model AE564 (with the Composochrome add-on package) with lethal force at a range of 400 to 500 yards." This was not part of their work order.

Realistically, however, it should be noted that all force with regard to a flying piano inevitably can be classified as "lethal."

Still, that doesn't change the fact that the few lines in the above spec sheet that did not reference said piano were indeed part of their mandate, and that the client's request form clearly asked for the capability to propel an object of comparable size and mass from "a stand-still position to a targeted destination upwards of 400 feet from source." The socio-military applications for said device remain classified, but a string of spokesmen and witness have testified under oath that its application are myriad in both the civic and public sector.

The word "catapult," of course, never appears on the form -- this was to be a Metal-Carbide Stationary Object Linear Accelerator (MC-SOLA), the kinds of which that Consolidated had been churning out for some 11 years prior to what is now only known as "the incident" at the C.O. Proving Grounds, which are for tax and liability reasons located thousands of miles away from the California-based Practical Design Group in a gated facility in western Colombia, in a town called Xiopollin.

(It should be noted that there's no guideline for pronouncing the name of Xiopollin. In terms of native settlements in the South American nation, there was no precedent for anything of consequence at the intersection of the Chucha River and the Pixto Mountain Range -- Just 10 miles away from the Gila Resort ['Ski the Experience! / Esqui la Experiencia!']. The land in fact had be regarded as generally useless if not entirely cursed for use other than grazing land for the area's migrant ranchers, an application that vanished a short time after the native peoples of the valley were vigorously encouraged to continue their nomadic ways.)

Known colloquially among its workers as  'Facility X', the MC-SOLA at Xiopollin was tested under the guidance of Tyler Tarrington, a mid-level project manager and recent graduate from the University of Florida A&M with a degree in Mechanical Acceleration, a magnet program unique to the University designed to capitalize on the area's burgeoning interest in NASCAR and its attendant pursuits. Tarrington, a man whose personnel file gives no indication of being realistically considered a stupid person, was later said under oath to be the sort of young man who lacked judgment in numerous arenas, not the least of which being where acceleration was involved.

Hired at C.O.'s Silicon Valley location, Tarrington was reassigned to Facility X to, in the words of his Employee Travel Activity Timetable packet (ETAT), "Supervise the completion of this latest iteration of the SOLA project," which had been successfully tested in multiple markets at a smaller scale. Prior company-wide success in replicating the SOLA product gave them no indicatio to Tarrington than any other project manager.

Records indicate that the construction proceeded for three months without incident up until completion of a prototype, which when raised into launch position was upwards of 30 feet tall and 20 feet long. Prototype dates are always festive around Facility X, which on that count is again no different from the Company's other locations. As such crates of dark rum, pan-fried plaintains and rolled pork tacos were acquired for the team, in addition to the above described Yamaha piano (on loan from the Gila Resort in a trade for 50 of the spare cases of said dark rum earlier that year, a result that Tarrington described as "happy" in his logs). Bartering for goods and services, again, is a common practice South America and other outlying corpro-scapes where the Company has been successful.

Testimony -- and thorough investigation of the physical area -- indicates that initial tests of the MC-SOLA involving the Company's biodegradable foam models, a series of metal wastebaskets and one 5x5 carton of rolled pork tacos were successfully discharged with a level of accuracy .07% of target estimation some 800 feet away in the unoccupied Muhuatimoc Valley on the opposite side of Highway 175 to the West. In a deposition conducted on January 5, an engineer on hand named Hiram Willits of Sioux Falls testified that the testing celebration got "a little out of hand" shortly thereafter.


Meandering along Colombia's coast like a two-laned trickle of civilization, Highway 175 is by definition  remote by most Western standards, even moreso since it was replaced by the wider, more efficient Highway 1-A as the key shipping artery for South American business. A twisting two-laned road preferred by set-in-their-ways villagers traveling from town to town to ply their wares and the unhurried tourists looking to gawk at them, 175 is a good mile and a half away from the front gate of Facility X, but switches back to a mere 600 feet from the Southeastern fenceline. One such tourist traveling along the highway on the day in question was a man named Alex Velvet, a data assistant at a small company in Vermont that coincidentally was one of Consolidated Overmetrics' vendors in the mid 80s, well before Velvet's tenure began (research into this 'coincidence' being the result of conspiracy turned up no evidence in three separate investigations).

Forensic investigations have proven inconclusive, but estimates are that Velvet was traveling 35 miles per hour on his BMW motorcycle with an unoccupied sidecar at the time of the incident. The following is an eye-witness account by Felix Hermedia, a Bolivian-born backpacker and amateur videographer who was hitchhiking along the highway's shoulder at the time.
The motorcycle had just rounded the final switchback leaving the forest, and the driver seemed focused on the road -- not one of those slow-moving touristas that clog the highway in the summertime. He was a man with someplace to go. I saw he had a sidecar so I motioned to see if he could give me a ride.
For an instant, the sun was gone, and the whole jungle went quiet. There was this explosion of sound, like an orchestra before a recital but all at once, focused.
Before I even know what had happened the motorcycle had no rider, and headed past the next turn and into the forest. Everything was quiet, and then the forest started again.
At Facility X, there was the sort of delirious celebration that comes with an unexpected triumph, the sort not unfamiliar at carnivals or perhaps traveling magic shows. Mr. Willits described the piano's trajectory as "carrying a lower angle than we expected, like a line drive but still above the brush line that frames the facility. We had no idea that it landed anywhere other than the fire zone."

Other eyewitnesses at the Facility have not been so forthcoming, but C.O. has promised their full cooperation as the investigation moves forward. One worker who has yet to be deposed and has indicated that he heard the Yamaha AE564 meet Mr. Velvet in a key that the worker identified as G but this remains unsubstantieted tho this day. Velvet, who expired on impact, was found in a clearing at the side of the highway some 681 feet from launch point, a distance that C.O. has listed in its records as "beyond scope."
 

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