Artwork by Joey Hi-Fi

Drone Commander Tidek

Chapter 9

Drone Commander Tidek is a novelette by Eduard F. Vinyamata. Check out previous chapters here.

Tidek laughed out loud, long and hard. When was the last time I had this much fun? Then she remembered Eluard. “SwiftEye, status?” She avoided saying his name.

“Ten more minutes and it’s mission accomplished. Good job!”

Broadcast, she thought, and immediately saw a composite of her drones circling near the barricade. The police below were now clustered beyond stone-throwing reach, seemingly retreating. There were thirty thousand spectators watching the live feed. I’ve given them a show. Ops will be pleased. Will my friends be watching?

The Anonfeed cut to her pilot profile. There was barely anything but her flight stats showing her rank, flight hours and the training simulations she’d completed. But then an ‘Update’ banner popped into view and the French flag appeared. She made the feed larger, watching in disbelief. She stopped breathing, waiting for the Dominican flag to pop up by the French one, but it didn’t happen. She was half-Dominican, but Anonymous were not stupid enough as to show that.

She thought her way into a whisper. “Eluard, are you watching the Anonfeed? The idiots just revealed half my nationality.”

“Tidek, you’ve been flying in Battle Mode for a while now; your trace is becoming harder to mask. At this point, the police know not only that you’re operating from France but also that you’re doing it from the general Paris metropolitan area.”

“Shit.”

“No worries. We think at most they will be able to pin you down to your neighborhood before we…” Eluard’s voice trailed off. He closed the whisper and came back talking on the public broadcast channel. “Incoming large armored truck, front barricade,” he said. “Movement at the back too.”

Tidek waved the Anonfeed away and summoned Haf’s feed. The police at the back were just starting to pour out from the vans again, shields in hand. Will they try to advance against the back after what just happened at the front? Something has changed, Tidek considered, moving her lips, almost whispering her thoughts.

Tidek noticed increased yelling from the back barricade. Anons were preparing to face the shielded police, probably at Eluard’s command. She shifted her awareness to Kanda and thought her drones back down from flying in circles and into wall formation.

As Kanda hovered into position, she spotted the truck, making a ‘beep, beep’ sound as it slowly approached in reverse gear. It was big and painted all black. Definitely not police. I should destroy its wheels and prevent it from getting closer. But she knew that’d be hard with Riot Police lining up so close at either side.

Both the truck and the agents stopped about twenty meters away from her drones. At the back barricade, the police were completing their formation. At the front, the doors of the truck opened and a ramp lowered to the ground. Tidek zoomed in using Kanda’s camera.

“Oh putain!” Tidek heard herself say out loud in her mother’s native French. She immediately recognized the glowing blue square light, seemingly floating about a meter and a half up in the air. She struggled to come to terms with the fact that this sort of tech was here, in a city like Santo Domingo, under the command of such scrappy, low-tech police forces.

“Eluard, we have a problem,” she announced even before the rest of the humanoid robot came out of the truck.

It was about two meters tall, with two human-like legs and a V-shaped upper body all covered in black armor. Its least human-like features were the big central power source, emitting the blue light, and its head, which was shaped like a short fat telescope with countless sensors and cameras.

The robot looked around, seemingly ignoring Tidek’s drones. The Anons behind her at the barricade grew suddenly quiet. All stone throwing stopped.

“No way!” Eluard said in disbelief.

Showing some sort of emotion, finally! How were you not aware of this? she wanted to ask him staring at the latest generation, heavily armored, Atlas-class Boston Dynamics robot. GE was much more prepared than they had anticipated.

Tidek spotted, on one side of the robot’s muscular shoulder armor, a blue, black and white insignia with a black key at the center, crossed with an X formed from a lightning bolt and an arrow. There were five stars below the insignia and the number 780 stenciled below the stars.

“Facing military hardware opposition here. The seven hundred and eightieth,” she informed Eluard, pointlessly, since he too was watching her feed. Don’t do evil, she thought, shaking her head. Eluard didn’t respond.

“I’m no match for an Atlas. It’s wearing Carbyne armor,” she continued. Carbyne was the strongest material ever produced, made from chains of carbon atoms held together by complex chemical bonds. It was stronger than graphene or diamond and just as expensive. Her drones’ blades were no match against Carbyne.

The Atlas skipped down the ramp and headed towards the barricade with a confident stride. The pot-banging stopped almost instantly. Tidek noticed people closing their windows and disappearing inside. The Atlas took a series of fast, unrelenting steps, crunching discarded shield pieces under its feet and flexing its fat oversized fingers as it walked. Riot Police followed heavily behind it.

From the top of the barricade, a brave Anon threw a rock right at the Atlas. It bounced off its chest leaving not even a scratch. A second rock was aimed at its head. This time, the Atlas, with frightening speed, deflected the rock with its left arm. The few lasers that dared point at the Atlas’ sensors changed their minds about then. Tidek was sure the Anons were breaking up behind her. And with good reason.

That reminded her of Haf and the back barricade, almost faded from her view. Haf’s feed became sharp again and she saw the police formation advancing slowly behind their shields. I should–

“Tidek,” Eluard interrupted her thoughts. “Your mission objective is the same: hold the barricade for five more minutes. No matter what.”

The Atlas robot reached the front barricade and started pushing and throwing rubbish to either side of it, making a hole right at the center of the smoking heap of trash and metal.

Broadcast, Tidek hurriedly thought. Over a hundred thousand people were now watching. Atlas-class robots were not deployed lightly.

“Fine,” she said out loud. She tensed her right hand into a fist, her nails digging into her flesh. Those robot camera lenses aren’t made out of carbyne. She brought her elbow back and punched downwards towards the Atlas. Kanda, Barca and Coco sprang into action, diving towards the robot’s head at maximum speed.

The Atlas waved off Kanda as if he was a fly, crashing it’s carbyne hand against Kanda’s bumper side and sending the drone spinning against the ground with a sickening cry from his rotors. She felt three strong, almost painful stabs on her sides and her right shoulder.

“Kanda!” she yelled, almost losing her footing as the world spun and faded to black.

“Drone down. Drone down,” the DCI’s calm sexy voice kept repeating over a shifting pitch alarm.

Her view switched to Barca. He was struggling to lift off the ground, wobbling in place. A crack on his camera lens cut through all of Tidek’s vision. A police agent appeared from nowhere. He was so close to Barca that Tidek though she saw the scratches on his padded shin and knee armor. A stab on her head startled her, and Barca’s feed went dark.

The DCI’s warning alarms seemed to grow angrier and louder as Tidek was automatically switched to Coco’s feed. “Drone down. Drone down.” Coco was well off the ground but she was spinning erratically on her axis. When Coco returned to wall formation, she kept spinning in place, out of control. One of her rotors seemed to be gone, and Tidek couldn’t use her feed anymore.

Did I just lose three of my drones in a heartbeat? Tidek felt panic building up inside of her. The first two drone feeds on her lower peripheral vision were pitch-black.

Tidek waved the DCI’s warnings away and switched to Vasu. Not a minute had passed and the Atlas was already pushing its way through the barricade. The police were close behind, facing no opposition. Tidek tried to ignore the spilled innards of Kanda and Barca at either side of the robot, but swallowing was suddenly hard and a shudder ran up her spine.

“The Atlas is faster than me,” she told Eluard, unable to hide her distress. “And it’s breaking through the barricade!” She turned around, and so did Vasu. Anons were starting to retreat. Yells of anger turned into screams of fear all around her.

They need to see this isn’t over or they’ll all be gone the second the Atlas breaks through.

The thought of Anons running away from the Atlas brought focus to Haf’s feed at the back barricade. Tidek lowered her chin and her breathing rate in an effort to concentrate. The police at the back were facing almost no opposition and were at arm’s reach from the barricade, batons and tasers in hand. They had doubled in number. And they are pinching us.

Next Chapter


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Eduard F. Vinyamata is a Catalan writer in development. He was made in Barcelona and educated in the US. He lives with his dog Trutx, who is a big time foodie like him. Eduard is a traveler, a bon vivant, a geek and taller than you.

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