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Monday, June 18th, 2001

Time Event
10:12a
Diary of the 21st Century Spring-Heeled Jack
My prototype lorica is nearing completion. Mike cast the mask in its near-final form for me last week.

I decided on a slate-black, full-sized helmet with no visor. He thinks he can rig the helmet and torso chassis to seal together like an environmental hazards suit, or a NASA space-walk suit, but we're still not sure how that would work. The mask itself is the same general design as our previous versions. Mike used my sketches and art clippings to sculpt the likeness of a late 19th century devil's long, pointy face. It has a hooked nose, jutting metal beard, sunken cheeks, and two up-turned, foot-long horns above the sharply relieved eyebrows like two beckoning fingers. The eye holes gave us trouble, as I originally wanted lifelike eyes through which my own eyes would peer, but it proved much too difficult to clearly see my surroundings, especially in free-fall. Peripheral vision being indispensable, we had to settle with one rectangular slit from temple to temple. I may wear a sheer mesh over my true face to obscure my skin and eyes. The ear grids are finer now, and I can hear well enough through the mask. I want to somehow give the mask hair. I think a flowing ponytail on the crown of the helmet would be gorgeous, like a barbarian or a knight. We could punch some holes and run hair extensions into them, or somehow fasten a wig to it. Feathers, maybe.

I didn't back down about the gloves. I knew I wanted huge claws on a monstrous hand, but I didn't want to compromise the ability to grip objects. The double-glove idea was mine; Mike created it. Each glove is really two gloves, one set in the other. The metal gloves are shaped like spindly, Nosferatu hands. These are the gloves witnesses will see: diabolically long black fingers and black talons arching six inches out of the tips--but my hands will not be inside these gloves. Instead, they fit inside straps on the underside of each metal glove, so that, in effect, the metal gloves are marionettes to my own hands. The hinges don't bend as much as my real knuckles do, but this lets me securely grasp things, such as the edge of a roof while in mid-flight--something I've been practicing diligently. To be sure, I have yet to make a jump wearing the full metal gloves: the danger involved in leaping perilously into the air while wearing claws half a foot in length is too much even for me; I took the claws off at the last hinge. When I feel comfortable enough, I'll reattach them and hope not to impale myself.

I do jumps with the chassis and arms on now. I've gotten used to the weight and stiffness of the chassis. Segmenting the upper and lower-torso has gotten rid of the back pain that once plagued me. Mike loosened up the hip area and fixed the pelvic joints so that the plate-skirt doesn't cut my crotch off when I crouch, and so that I can more easily run. Doing so tires me a great a deal, but I don't expect to do much running if I can simply leap over a house. As we'd expected, I can only lift my arms up to about a hundred degrees, but we can't afford to open the shoulders any more. Similarly, the curved horns on my elbows hit my upper arms when I extend to near-straightness. I get an intense pinch in my neck if I look down too far, so the chin of the mask needs to be bent out a little. The spinets fastening the breastplate to the shoulders obstruct the arch of my swing when I pretend to wield a weapon. Some other ticks of the lorica will be changed, but we're mostly concerned about the jumps themselves, and their failures. After all, I can't afford to break my wrists and ankles too many more times.

Half of the danger comes from the boots, naturally, since they are my propellers into the sky. The other half comes from my own ability to correctly wind up, make a clean jump, guide myself through the air, prepare for whatever landing I desire, and properly return to the earth. I know almost immediately when a jump is going to go wrong. If I'm unsure of my balance; if my footing isn't even and one foot leaps earlier than the other--that's when I go shooting off sideways. Or If I'm poorly tilted backward or forward--that's when I fall and break a bone. Fortunately, my plate-skirt has kept me from breaking my coccyx in the case of a backward fall, because otherwise, I'd be bedridden. In his observation of protective sports-gear, Mike added to the suit what we affectionately call my "handle brakes": Metal tongues jutting over my wrists from the cusps help distribute the shock of impact up my entire arms, hopefully preventing fractures.

Over a period of about two years, the boots have evolved in concept from spring-coils (which were too fragile and unstable), to jets (much too ambitious and expensive), and finally to what we're calling the stilt design. I don't have a deep understanding of the mechanisms involved, but, in essence, the stilt design is this: two "stilts" the length of my shins, on either side of each leg, are welded to a "sole" under each boot. By putting my weight on the soles, the stilts telescopically retract into the upper portion of the contraption, where they engage a lock, and the soles meet the bottom of my boots. In this retracted position, I can walk around semi-naturally in the clunky metal shoes. They're almost as comfortable as ski boots.

I don't know how the suspension system that hugs my thighs works, and the compressed-gas propulsion is equally mysterious. All of that is Mike's department. He's not sure how to inconspicuously route the triggering button up to my hand. These days, we're only testing the lorica as a functioning unit, so whatever isn't critical will be taken care of later. Right now, I just hold the trigger in my hand, and the wire connecting it to the stilts dangles. When I press the button, the stilts project out, shoving the soles against the ground--shooting me into the air.

Mike says the lorica--specifically, the stilt design--is an incredible feat of engineering. Nobody, if he knew the meagerness of our resources, would believe its capabilities unless he saw it in action.

Even while wearing the massive, metal lorica, I can regularly jump twenty feet straight up. However, the finished suit will be a few pounds heavier, and I'll be wearing a kevlar body-suit, underneath it. We need to make it better. We need to pound out that damn kink in my back. The stilts need to be more efficient so that I don't run out of compressed gas in the middle of my missions. I have to go higher than all Spring-heeled Jack's before me: twenty-five, thirty-feet. I have to be invincible, uncontainable.

I have to heal my left ankle before I make another jump.

Current Mood: Industrious

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