The Drone
By: Jim Bates

This Sci-Fi series has to do with the impact of global warming on one family in the year 2220.
The story so far:

Episode 1 - At the Biodome
We meet Quinn an engineer at a wind farm and his son Matt on a field trip and learn about life in the year 2220.

Episode 2 - The Test
We meet Karen and learn about Quinn and Karen's life together.

Episode 3 -Millennium Microbial
We learn about Karen's job as a biochemist working on improving the world's food supply and meet Jen.

Episode 4 - The History Center
Quinn kidnaps Matt on a field trip and goes on the run.

Episode 5 - The Hideout
Karen visits Quinn and Matt at their hideout and makes a big decision.

Episode 6 - Preparations Are Made
Jen joins Quinn and Karen and Matt and they get ready to escape from the city.

Episode 7 - Fugitives
Quinn and Karen and Matt and Jen leave their hideout and make their way to edge of the city near the Food Storage Facility, one step closer to escaping the World Order Security Police who are looking for them.

Episode 8 - Escape
Quinn and Karen and Matt and Jen make it past the security forces safely only to be confronted with the wasteland known as No Man's Land.

Episode 9 - No Man's Land
Quinn, Karen, Matt and Jen are forced to cross a forbidding wasteland before they run out of supplies.

Episode 10 - The Mountains
Quinn, Karen, Matt and Jen must find their way through the mountains on their way to what they hope is a better life. But they have run out of supplies. The group is saved when they met Aaron who befriends them and shows them the way.

Episode 11 - Lost
Quinn and Karen and Matt along with Jen are making a life for themselves in the small village of Nedlaw. However, when Matt befriends a dog and follows it, he almost loses his life when he falls into the rain swollen rapids of the Willow River.

Episode 12 - Joey
Joey further endears himself to the family by becoming instrumental in helping to rescue Quinn from a bad fall while hiking in the mountains with Matt.

Episode 13 - The Drone

Buck Benson, former security squad leader for the Regional Food Storage Facility, had never gotten over that fiasco from nearly two years ago. His boss wouldn't let him forget it either.

"You know, Buck," general Rawlings told while they were having drinks at the Last Outpost, a sleazy bar near where they worked, "Commander Langer from the World Order Security Police wanted me to fire you."

Buck nodded his head glumly. "Yeah, I figured he would."

"I saved your ass."

"Yeah," Buck responded morosely. "Now I get to work doing roving security like that idiot Anderson used to do." Anderson had been the security shift leader on that infamous night and had been demoted by Rawlings to a computer tech in the IT room. Benson had taken over Anderson's job, a demotion from security squad leader he didn't appreciate. "Thanks a bunch." He slammed down his Sortabeer and signaled for another. Then he took a small container from his pocket and popped a pill.

"At least you've still got a job," Rawlings reminded him, then pointed to the pills and said, "Better go easy on those bad boys. Don't want to get drunk. Big day tomorrow."

"You mean with that nut-case Langer coming by to read us the riot act? Big friggin' deal."

Fearful someone would overhear, Rawlings quickly glanced over his shoulder. When he was convinced no one was paying them any attention he whispered, "Look, I know what you mean. Just cool it, okay?"

Buck snorted derisively. He made a move to put his container away, but Rawlings stopped him. "Wait. Give me one of those." Buck handed over one of his "relaxer" pills as he called them to his boss. Then he took another for himself while waiting for his drink to arrive. They both knew tomorrow was going to be a long day. There was talk of going after the escapees that had been slipping past the Food Storage security team the last couple of years, a number that seemed to grow larger with every month. If that happened chances were excellent the ending could get messy and both of them knew it. When Buck's drink arrived the men didn't notice, they just sat staring into space and contemplating the future. It didn't look pretty at all.

***

After a rainy week, the day of Jen's commitment ceremony dawned clear under a cloudless sky.

"Look at the sunrise!" she exclaimed to her friend Karen who had come over to her quaint cottage early to help with final preparations.

"Looks great," Karen said with hardly a glance. Known for her scrumptious dark brown whole wheat and honey bread, she was trying her hand at making blue berry muffins and having a hard time of it. She slammed her wooden spoon down on the table with an accompanying, "Damn!" and said, "I think I'll take a break." She poured a cup of chamomile and fennel tea and joined her friend looking out the window.

Jen pointed, "See."

The sun's rays were racing across the valley floor as it rose over the mountains to the east. The snow was gleaming white on the tops of the peaks reflecting the golden dawn light that was bringing with it the promise of a lovely fall day. Songbirds were greeting the sun with jubilant singing and there was a pine scented freshness in the air from the ever-green forests doting the nearby hillsides. In the distance the rushing rapids of the Willow River could just barely be heard as it tumbled over its rocky stream bed on its way through the valley.

Jen had opened the window and calico curtains wafted in a light breeze. Karen took a deep breath of the fresh mountain air as she sipped her tea and immediately began to calm down. "That's better," she said. "Much better," she smiled at Jen. Then, after gazing at the sunrise for a minute, she sighed and said, "I do love it here."

Next to her, Jen smiled, "I know. Me, too. We were slowly dying in the city. The pollution. The Lifeline. Crap jobs. The Security Police watching our every move."

"Not to mention the big wigs at the World Order telling everyone what to do. God, what a life. I'm glad we escaped."

"You don't mind not having a lot of the conveniences that we had back there?"

"Like running water?"

Jen laughed. "Yeah, it did take a while to get used to pumping our own. And making most of our own food. But I like it. It's making me feel independent." She flexed her muscle. "Not to mention stronger."

Karen laughed. "It's just an adjustment, that's all. I don't mind. I'm learning new skills, and Quinn and Matt and Enya are happy. Life is good."

"Speaking of Quinn, where is he? He's coming to the ceremony, right?"

"Wouldn't miss it. He and the kids are working in our garden digging out another plot for next year."

"Joey helping?"

"Matt's dog?" Karen grinned. "Of course. After helping to save both his life at the mill and Quinn's life in the gully, Joey's a bonified member of the family now."

"Don't let it go to his head."

"No way. He may be smart, but he's humble. You can just tell."

Jen looked at Karen and grinned, joking, "Sounds like you've thought about this a lot."

"I guess I have." She laughed. Then she turned to the worktable where the dough was waiting. "Better get back to these muffins."

Jen said, "I'll help. We've got time yet. The ceremony's not until high sun."

"You excited?" "Yeah, I am. Aaron and I get along well. We make a good team."

Karen laughed. "Sounds romantic."

Jen laughed with her. "You know what I mean."

Karen did. The success of her relationship with Quinn was their willingness to forgo personal idiosyncrasies for the good of their family, relying on each other's strengths to form a strong family unit. They'd been together for seven years and were still learning about each other.

Back in the City, all unions between a man and a woman were prearranged. A couple was allowed one child, who was then taken from them and raised in a government run dormitory. Visits were only allowed once a week for four hours per visit and by only one parent at a time.

Quinn had kidnapped Matt during one such visit and gone on the run. Karen joined him and so did Jen, her friend and co-worker at Millennium Microbial. They had escaped the City through a chain-link fence surrounding The Regional Food Storage Facility and made it across No Man's Land into the mountains where Aaron had rescued them and brought them to the little village of Nedlaw where they'd begun a new life. That had been nearly two years ago. Yes, life may have been more challenging without all of the amenities of the City, but their new life along the banks of the Willow River in the pristine mountain valley was much more gratifying.

Jen interrupted Karen's thoughts, "You know, I think we should hold the ceremony outside instead of in the meeting hall. It's just so nice out!"

Karen looked up from kneading the muffin dough and out the window. The autumn day was indeed glorious. "Go for it. It's a beautiful day for a gathering."

"We'll hold it right outside the meeting house."

Karen wiped her hands on her apron and joined her friend, both of them looking outside. "It's your day, and your idea sounds perfect."

"Let's do it, then," Jen said, and suddenly broke into a spontaneous set of dance moves and concentric twirls around the kitchen. Breathlessly, when she was finished, she smiled, "You know, I've never been happier."

"I can see that," Karen grinned at her. "Me, neither."

***

Benson shifted uncomfortably in the hard-plastic chair not at all happy with what Commander Langer was saying.

"In summary, you've all been screwing up. People in ones and twos and small groups have been escaping the City as long as I can remember and I'm sick of it. It's got to stop!"

The overweight man stopped his tirade and wiped his massive brow with a stained handkerchief. Benson leaned over to Rawlings who was sitting at attention, and whispered, "Is this guy for real? Who cares if a few people leave the City? It means more of everything for us, right? You know that food is in short supply."

"Langer's a jerk. He's ego is so huge it won't let him live with the fact that he can't control everyone."

"I hate him."

"Shh. Don't let anyone hear you," Rawlings put his finger to his lips and looked around. Fortunately, the one-hundred or so people in the meeting hall were paying rapt attention to the head of the World Order Security Police.

He continued, his voice shaking with rage, "I'm telling my men from now on to set their laser guns to "Kill" and they are under strict orders to not take any prisoners if they come across anyone trying to escape or even look like they're trying to escape." He pointed at general Rawlings, who, Benson noticed, immediately had sweat droplets bead up on his face. "And I want you, Rawlings, to do the same with your men. Too many people are getting through the wire fence surrounding your facility, not to mention those three scientists and that kid a couple of years ago. That still pisses me off!" He slammed his fist on the podium causing the microphone to emit a high-pitched screaming feedback that forced all those present to cover their ears. He jabbed his finger at Rawlings, causing him to flinch, "You got that?"

"Yes…" he said, clearing his throat. "Yes, sir," he barked. "Understood. Sir."

Benson glanced at his boss as Langer continued in his diatribe against the world in general and how incompetently the City was being run in specific. Rawlings was visibly shaken that the Regional Food Storage Facility he was in charge of had come under such microscopic scrutiny. Benson felt for him. Rawlings wasn't a bad sort, but Langer was an entirely different beast. In Benson's mind, the guy was a psychopath. You never knew what he was going to do or come up to have others do for him.

Benson gave Rawlings the universal 'thumbs up' sign, letting him know he was on his side. Rawlings returned it before taking a drink of bottled water. Then he leaned over and said, "I'm going need your help. I'm going to give you your old job back. No more roving security for you. I want you to be in charge of the patrols like before. You'll be Security Squad Leader." He looked Benson right in the eye. "And this time don't screw up!"

Benson gulped. Shit. This wasn't what he wanted. He liked the anonymity of being a roving security guard. "Are you sure, sir? I really don't mind what I'm doing now."

"I know, but Langer sent me a message earlier today and asked for you specifically. Said that it was time to see if you'd learned your lesson."

"Great," Benson said, sarcastically. "Just great."

"Oh, and one other thing," Rawlings leaned closer. Benson could feel the heart emanating from the general's body, and he wondered how much of it was fear. "He wants us to take the lead on surveillance in this location."

"What's that entail?"

"Among other things, he wants us to send out our drone and comb the area looking for escapees."

"Really?" Benson was suddenly enthusiastic. He liked playing with gadgets and the drone was one of the best, much better than the video games he was addicted to. "Yeah. Starting today."

"That's fantastic. Where are we going to concentrate? "I'm thinking well scour No Man's Land and see what there is to see. If we don't find anything, we'll send it into the mountains."

Benson was excited. This would be something new, and a chance to do something different for a change. Suddenly, he was looking forward to it. "Sounds great, sir."

"I want you to pilot the drone."

"You mean command the software, right?"

"Of course. You'll be safe in the control room the whole time."

Having a hard time keeping his growing excitement under control, Benson managed a subdued, "Sounds good, sir." Inwardly, though, he was thrilled. Maybe this new assignment would be his chance to finally prove himself after letting those three scientists and kid escape. He hoped so.

They turned their attention to Commander Langer who was now talking about how great the City was going to be in five years. Both Benson and Rawlings were thinking the same thing, God, would this guy never shut up?

***

Quinn placed a big bowl of blackberries on the food-laden table set up in front of Aaron and Jen, gave them each a good luck hug and went back to join his family. All the villagers had congregated on the front yard of the meeting house across the street from the village green, a park that was a gathering place for the four-hundred or so citizens of Nedlaw.

Matt tapped his dad on the shoulder and asked, "Why are we here again?"

Quinn smiled, "It's for Jen and Aaron's special ceremony. They're going to make a commitment to be with each other for the rest of their life."

"The rest of their life?" Matt's eyes grew wide. "That's a long time!"

Quinn grinned and looked at Karen who was holding seven-month-old Enya. "If you love someone enough it's actually quite short."

Matt made a face. "Yuck." Then he looked around, hoping to spy Gary his best friend from school. Next to him, Joey, his feisty little terrier, sat quietly taking it all in. The day had warmed up and most of the villagers were wearing summer clothes even though it was late fall. The harvest was nearly complete, and winter was just around the corner. Quinn had been busy cutting firewood to augment the solar collectors on their cabin and generally getting ready for the snow. It was to be their second winter and he knew they had to be prepared for cold weather and long days of snow-bound isolation.

"Okay, everyone, we might as well begin," Aaron said.

"First of all, welcome," Jen spread her arms wide. "We're glad so many of our friends could join us on this beautiful day."

Quinn listened as Aaron and Jen talked in simple terms about their love and commitment for each other and then finished by both of them saying, "So let us celebrate not only our life together, but our life together with you our cherished friends and our wonderful village."

There was good natured laughter and applause. A fiddle, guitar and wooden flute began playing a lively reel and people moved to the front and started dancing. Quinn reached over and gave Karen and Enya a hug. "That was nice," he said.

"Yes, it was," Karen smiled. Then a worried frown crossed her face, "Wait a minute. Where's Matt?"

Hearts racing, they both looked quickly around, panicking that he'd run off like last year and fallen in the river and nearly drowned. After a moment, though, they were able to sigh with relief. He was with his friend Gary. They were pointing to the sky and Quinn walked over to find out what was going on. "Hey there, guys. What're you looking at?" "Look, Dad." Matt pointed to a small object circling over the valley about one-hundred yards off the ground. "Is that a bird?"

Quinn squinted against the sun and took a look. Then a closer look. His heart leaped into this throat as knelt down and pulled Matt to him. He looked him in the eyes and said, "Go to your mom. Hurry. Gary, run to your mom, too."

As the boys sped off, Quinn ran up to Aaron who was dancing with Jen. "Aaron, we've got trouble," he said, pointing to the sky.

Aaron smiled quickly faded, "What?"

"Look," Quinn said.

Aaron quickly focused on the object. "Damn," he swore, "A drone. Must be from the City."

"What are we going to do?"

"I've got this. Go wait with Karen. I'll join you in a minute," Aaron said. Then he quickly took charge. "Okay, everyone." He pointed to the sky. "There's drone in the area. Don't panic, but hurry and get out of sight. Those of you that can make it to your homes please do so." He and Jen began to usher people away from the front yard of the meeting house, repeating again, "Okay, a drone is in the area. Get to your homes. Get into hiding." As the villagers hurried away and everything seemed under control for the moment, they ran to where Quinn and Karen were waiting along with Matt and Enya and Joey. Aaron spoke urgently to Jen, "Okay. We talked about this. Remember?"

"Yep, I do," she said, and handed Enya to Quinn. "Take Matt and Enya back to the cottage and stay put." She saw the questioning look in his eye and said, "Don't worry. We've planned for this." When Quinn hesitated, Karen pushed him, "Go. Now!"

He went, carrying Enya as he began running with Matt and Joey. He couldn't help but notice the drone circling closer and closer. He glanced over his shoulder and saw Karen running toward the river with Jen and Aaron. Where were they going?

He put his worry aside. If there was one thing he knew, it was that Karen was the most level-headed person he'd ever met, just the kind of person that was needed in a situation like this.

"Come on, Matt. Let's get home," he said taking his son's hand and running even faster, Joey right beside them. Above them, the drone circled ever closer, watching their every move.

To Be Continued…

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