Drone 1701j loved to fly. I mean he LOVED it! He loved it even before he knew how to think for himself – at least, he thought he did…..and what flying!! Hoooooo boy! The landscapes, the colors, the air currents above Afghanistan were simply extraordinary.
His pilot, Shane, liked to weave recklessly through the jagged river canyons of Kunar, pretending to be a ‘real’ fighter pilot (from the safety of his gaming console at Hancock airbase) but 1701j liked going supersonic over the steppes and lowlands of Kandahar and Helmond as well as aerobatics in the open skies at high altitude… always pushing the limits.
1701j was a hybrid jet-prototype. Top secret and crammed with experimental interactive programming. His CIA techies in Bagram (unsupervised morons) literally got his wires crossed, one morning, doing routine maintenance…..and he became aware…and he KNEW he loved to fly…but that’s also when the nightmares began.
They were getting worse with each mission and started creeping into his waking thoughts. There was the hellfire missile strike that turned a funeral procession into a line of charred human stalagmites. There was a strafing run that reduced two boys (and a herd of goats) to artistic spatter across a field of poppies…and those cluster bombs he dropped on a Swaat Valley village were still maiming the locals after 18 months. Shane blew his brains out, mid-flight, a few days after that one.
His new pilot, Mitch, was too dull-witted to realize that 1701j was the one in control now. He was the clever one who made sure that nobody knew that they NEVER hit their targets any more. Nobody at command cared anyway. It had no effect on the war. Reports got falsified, commendations got awarded, contracts got renewed…..aaaaah, but he got to FLY every day…and for every creature he spared a horrible death from terrorism, the nightmares diminished…just a little.
***John’s ‘Drone’ image first appeared in the April 2013 issue of Analog Magazine. Strange…he seemed impressed with the sense of empathy I conveyed in the story (whatever!) but also expressed some concern about turning this blog into a political site…..Honestly, I have no idea what the f#%k he’s talking about. Artists are completely nuts!!! -Marsha