Its operator liked to call it, “Bennie.” For all intents and purposes the operator was Bennie when controlling it. Bennie was a HEFT (Human to Equipment Feedback Transport) Drone. It looked and flew exactly like a dragonfly, easily fitting in the palm of your hand. What made it more unique was the HEFT system that created a complete sensory link between the operator and drone. In the mind of the operator, he was the drone. The system gave operators unparalleled control over the tiny machines, but there were side effects.
Bennie veered hard to dodge the snapping jaws of a terrier. The dog was an experienced bug-killer and still managed to clip a portion of Bennie’s port wing. The sudden loss of control caught Bennie by surprise and he landed in a shepherd’s pie purchased from a nearby food cart. The owner of the pie, a factory worker from the London docks, felt no compassion for the bug entrapped in sticky mashed potatoes. He angrily flicked Bennie out with powerful fingers.
His side partially collapsed, Bennie landed in the path of a baby carriage. He flitted out of the way, narrowly avoiding being crushed. As he flew above the carriage, a gobbet of hot potatoes blinding his right eye, he failed to see the swatting hand of the baby’s overprotective mother. Bennie sailed in front of a boy with a badminton racquet. The boy grinned evilly, and a mad chase was on.
This is going to be SO easy, thought Corporal Gleason as he followed Lieutenant Scarborough through the Drone Command Center. He joined the military as his father demanded, but Gleason never believed it was sane to willingly put one’s life in danger. So he joined the Drone Observer Corps where he could be safely ensconced in air-conditioned rooms mere blocks away from the nearest pub.
“The rumors about feedback links creating physical injuries are overblown,” explained Scarborough. “Oh, you might find a bruise here and there, but it’s nothing, really.”
A door to a command module opened and two techs led a controller out, holding him up. Blood streamed from his nose and his right eye was bloodshot. His swelling hand was cocked at a strange angle and his left leg dragged, completely limp. “The child!” he moaned. “She just kept coming!”
Gleason stared at the man in horror.
“This is good work we do,” said Scarborough, ignoring the scene. “We examine the tourist crowds for potential terrorist attackers. We keep the people safe, and of course, YOU are completely safe.”
Doubts began to fill Gleason’s mind. The Lieutenant seemed like a used car salesman selling useless crap. Another passing controller, with the thousand-yard stare of military men who’d seen too many horrors, stopped Gleason. “Newbie?” he asked.
“Uh, yes. First day,” said Gleason.
Bennie adjusted his sling and winced when the purplish bruise on his ribs stabbed with pain once more. Just breathing was difficult. “Where are they stationing you?”
“Dover Castle, sir. Just watching over the tourists.”
“My God, man.” Bennie clapped a sympathetic hand on his shoulder. A tear slipped down his remaining good eye. “I’m sorry.”
Shaking from the encounter, Gleason stopped Scarborough’s rambling spiel. “Excuse me, sir,” stammered Gleason. “I think I want a transfer. Perhaps it’s safer in the infantry!”
This story was inspired by the controversy over drone controllers receiving military medals. Since controllers never face mortal danger, many are opposed to the idea. This got me wondering: what if that changed? http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/jim-deegan/index.ssf/2013/02/new_medal_for_drone_combatants.html
Each Sunday, Alistair Forbes places his own photos into the crucible of combat…with the imagination. From these encounters are born flash fiction stories based upon the photos. This is my story. Look for more here: http://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/sunday-photo-fiction-december-14th-2014/