Side Effects – Sunday Photo Fiction

Photo by: Alistair Forbes. A view from Dover Castle.

Side Effects

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!”
Author’s notes:

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?

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:

About EagleAye

I like looking at the serious subjects in the news and seeking the lighter side of the issue. I love satire and spoofs. I see the ridiculous side of things all the time, and my goal is to share that light-hearted view.
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12 Responses to Side Effects – Sunday Photo Fiction

  1. List of X says:

    Ah, so I’m not practicing my badminton skills in vain, then… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. List of X says:

    I actually kill flies (if they ever get into my house) with a badminton racquet. So if Hezbollah ever gets bug-sized drones, I’d be happy to take them down.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Al says:

    That was fricking awesome. I loved it. I can imagine that “My god man! I’m sorry!”

    As an aside, Dover Castle will be in a couple of upcoming films. Into The Woods starring Emily Blunt, Chris Pine, Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp and James Corden. And … dan.dan.daaaan … Avengers 2 Age of Ultron

    Liked by 1 person

    • EagleAye says:

      Hehe. I imagine you’ve spent some time in touristy areas. I tend to avoid them because they’re usually overcrowded and filled with pushing, shoving people. It seems like a war zone to me sometimes. Then I wondered what it would be like for a drone operating there and I thought, “My god, man. I’m sorry!” Hehe.

      Looking forward to those films. I’ve got a major crush on Emily Blunt. And Avengers 2? Oh yeah! I am SO there!


      • Al says:

        Yeah, I like Emily Blunt. Avengers 2 starts a series of films that will carry on over several of them including Avengers 3, Captain America 3 and possibly Amazing Spiderman 3.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Lyn says:

    Ouch! That’s one job I’m not going to apply for, no matter how exciting it might seem. Good one Eric 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • EagleAye says:

      Me neither! Those weekend crowds can be murderous for anything insect-sized, and by extension truly hard on the drone operators. I think professional boxers get less beat up than that. Thanks kindly, Lyn!


  5. Oh dear (she says again). I stand still by ponds so dragonflies land on me, their iridescent wings like stained glass. I guess I’ll have to be more careful in the future. Though in the US, they might use a different insect. Probably butterflies which I like the feathery feel of on the skin.
    Great take on Al’s photo, and I love the line that got your story flowing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • EagleAye says:

      So cool! Dragonflies are quite common here in the States. Drone versions would fit in perfectly. I have a number of pics of dragonflies I took here on my blog. If you do you search you can see them.

      Glad you enjoyed the story. Thanks much for stopping in! 🙂


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