The door exploded into the apartment. When the dust and smoke cleared, a 4 foot tall, 2 foot wide, 2 foot deep, grey cube on small tank tracks extending to either side of its base, rolled into the apartment. It bore no markings and made no noise. Having rolled six inches across the threshold it stopped. the walls around the top section, perhaps a foot down, opened like metal flower petals revealing sensor devices below monitors. Then a sphere ejected from the top and began to fly around the room, stopping by each human, and scanning them with a green light. It finally stopped in front of Edgar, where he lay curled up at Kevin the Dog’s feet.
Art by El Greco
“You are Edgar, leader of this cell. You are to be detained for questioning.”
Heather, who had been hiding behind the kitchen counter, found this too much to bear. She bolted up and marched out between the drone and Edgar, wagging her finger in its sensor, “Questioning by whom? Who are you? Why are you operational while everything else is down? Where is your warrant for him? You can’t just come in here and take this person, you, you, robot.”
The drone sphere flew back to its body, reconnected, and ‘faced’ her with its primary monitor. “This unit is a US Army drone series Civilian Interrogation and Detention, designated for civilian patrol. You may refer to this unit as Cid. Units like Cid are able to operate because the military and civilian nets are not linked. A warrant is not necessary because the Patriot Act of 2001 and the NDAA of 2012 allow the President to declare an emergency which supersedes the Bill of Rights. I was built to enforce executive power in such an emergency. Do you have any other questions, citizen?”
“Only 1, Cid, if you are built for emergencies, why weren’t you prepared for this?”
Stevie and Johnny had snuck up behind Cid while it was talking with a scramble grenade. It was a crude device of their own making. Once attached to any digital machine with a suction pad, dozens of recursive algorithms would be generated and infected the target, all absent any structure to determine a termination point, causing the device to lock up and shut down.
Unfortunately for them, Cid didn’t actually have a backside and was well aware of their attack. When they leapt for it, 2 robotic arms shot out of its midsection, pummeled them in the stomachs, and then retracted as they sank to the floor. “I am sorry if I hurt you. But damage to Cid is not allowed. You have all now been upgraded to prime suspects in the assault on the civilian network. You will come with Cid.”
“And if we refuse?” Ellen tried to look hard, with her hand on her out thrust hip.
“Cid must bring you to headquarters for questioning. It is not necessary that you be conscious, though that is optimal. The choice is yours, however. There is a military vehicle downstairs.” Then it turned slightly, and extended a grasping limb from its body, gesturing towards the door like a person politely offering to allow someone to go first.
Then Heather and Ellen walked over to the boys, and helped them to their feet. Cid continued to stand near Edgar. It offered him assistance standing, but he slapped the metallic appendage away. In single file, the prisoners marched out the door, followed by their robot captor.
The Naval Yard
they were taken to was just a few blocks from Penn’s Landing where they had been the night before. Grey skies hung over the bay, a few commercial ships slowly drifted downriver, but there were none of the personal boats normally seen cruising around.
They were taken to the Marine Parade Grounds off Broad St and Constitution Ave, which had been fenced in as an open air prison to hold the dozens of people now milling around. With more showing up, like Edgar’s crew, almost continuously.
The auto-van took them to the North West corner, where Broad intersected Intrepid Ave and overlooked the bay. Cid had disappeared after they were locked in the back of the van, presumably to secure more prisoners. When the doors opened here, a 2 foot long, flying, 3 sided, pyramid drone was in front of them, also grey. It appeared to have visual sensors along the edges and a microphone/speaker in the center of each panel. It spoke briefly, “Follow me or be punished.” It then flew in the direction of a set of locks to enter the fenced area.
“I guess we should follow.”
“Are we going to attempt escape?”
By this point they had all climbed out of the van and were able to get a better look at the surrounds than provided via the tiny, barred windows. The air over the base was filled with drones of all types, as was the road and the building rooftops. Some with obvious weapons, some without. There were also humans, armed and unarmed, in uniform and in suits, walking hurriedly everywhere.
“So, that would be a no on the escaping thing.” Ellen’s dry sarcasm received no laughs.
Heather sighed and focused on keeping everyone focused, “Not right now, anyway. Just stick to the protocol. Deny everything. You’re just a citizen.”
“And if they have evidence?” Stevie was calculating the skill sets of the various drones around them.
“If they show you the evidence, then you declare yourself with pride but turn nobody else over.”
“About that, if we’re proud–“
“We are anonymous. Nobody should ever know us, individually. We are not interested in being heroes, just in being free.”
“Yes, we are all individuals.” Ellen intoned. Edgar hadn’t said anything, he just kept staring at the gates.
The first set of gates locked behind them, they were now in a 3 foot wide, 30 yard long, fence hallway between 2 gates with about 30 other people when the pyramid drones demanded a halt. A large sphere drone, like a golden, metallic mirror, rose above the group, issued a short tonal introduction and then began to speak in stern, but soft feminine tones, like an old librarian.
“Greetings Citizens, you are all suspects in last night’s attack on this nation’s security and stability. Obviously most of you are not guilty. It is the goal of this process to figure out who is innocent and set them free. You will all now be tagged with ID chips to make this process more efficient. The chip will be inserted into the arm at the shoulder by the drone, the drone will issue a beep sound, the suspect will then state their name aloud. It is advised that suspects respond properly the first time to avoid punishment. Thank you for your assistance in catching the truly guilty people who caused all of this.”
Then a flock of pyramid drones descended onto the group, with limbs extended from the center of their bottom. Each limb terminated in a 1″ diameter tubular device containing an injector. When the tube is placed against a body, the injector slides forward, digs into the flesh and thrusts the ID chip inside the body, stapling it to the bone with a second device that sends out a RF signal only if removed. There was a good deal of screaming, shouting and crying emanating from the compound in the next few minutes.
Afterwards, they were released into the yard. It didn’t take long to figure out how these people were selected. Everyone was a hacker of some type. Most were amateurs who like to jail break phones or pirate games. But there were a handful of pros around too. They were all staying away from each other, but Ellen and Heather had already seen half the local Anonymous crew milling around the yard.
“They must have had all of us on a list to be able to scoop us up like this.” Johnny muttered.
“File that under no shit.”
He ignored Ellen and kept on, “Sooo, about that drone saying we were prime suspects, I don’t see why that made us any more suspicious to them than before. Isn’t that exactly what they expect from everybody here? A bunch of anti-gov, hacker, radicals?”
Heather nodded, “Yeah, your probably right. But we should also assume those ID chips they practically raped us with,” she rubbed at the quarter sized wound on her arm, and everybody else did too, “probably have bugs in them, too.”
Stevie’s eyes got wide and he spoke into Ellen’s shoulder, “Right, I’m sure glad that I’m not the person responsible for this terrible deed. I’d hate to have the government after me.”
Before anybody could offer Johnny more than a withering look in response, a spectacle had begun on the far side of the field. A young man in a white t-shirt and sweat pants, clearly pulled out of his home while still in his PJs, stood up on a rock in the field and began speaking to the crowd of prisoners. People were cheering him on, so the crew walked over to hear what he was saying.
“- and I don’t know who did that last night, but if you’re here, good job.” The crowd cheered again. “Not only was that an awesome hack, but look at this bullshit!” More cheers and cursing, “How the fuck can they just round us up, tag us, and lock us up like cattle? When the hell did that become kosher? I’m a college kid who once a hacked a phone just to see if I could, and here I am on some enemies list.
“It was Fredric Nietzsche who said-,” Edgar and Heather turned to scan the perimeter. The drones didn’t seem to care about the young speaker. They continued to buzz about the yard, swooping in on individuals, herding them over towards the gate or back again, as they received unheard orders from their unseen masters.
A flock of 7 pyramid drones flew towards them. They exchanged a glance, but said nothing. The drones encircled them. The crowd grew silent and backed away. The drone, intoned its directions, “You 5 are required to come to the interview room at this time.”
The young speaker, realizing his audience had been stolen from him, decided to seize an opportunity to be daring and heroic. He jumped off his rock, ran through the crowd, and jumped in front of the drone issuing orders. “How dare you! We are humans! We made you! You don’t give us orders!”
A small, circular portal opened on the side of the drone and out fired a small projectile into the angry young man. He remained awake long enough to say, “What was that?” By which time the sedative had flooded his nervous system and he collapsed into a pile of skinny limbs and oversized clothing.
“So,” Ellen smirked at the drone, “Which way to the interview rooms?”
The drone turned on its axis in mid air, “You will follow this unit.”
As the crew started to move towards the pyramid drone, Edgar remained in place. He did not speak, or act in any specific way, but it was clear something was stirring deep inside him. The crowd could feel it and they began to back away. The machines were unaware, and they approached Edgar, insisting on his obedience.
“You will not deviate from instructions.”
The drone attempted to herd Edgar along by taking a position behind him and moving towards the desired direction. He did not budge. The nose of the machine pressed against his back fat, first just a nudge, then harder, and harder still. A slender trickle of blood began to leak out from his flesh, through the shirt, and down the silver sides of the flying pyramid.
Everyone, even the other drones, stood still and watched this battle of wills between man and machine taking place on the field. Edgar’s eyes were closed, his face blank, he leaned back into the drone, just slightly. Heather thought he had never looked so noble. The drone’s engines began to rev higher, and it dug deeper into his flesh.
“Deviation is not allowed.” The drone repeated.
“I guess I’m just a deviant.” Edgar said, quietly. Then he threw himself sideways. The drone had embedded itself too far to pull out in time and they both smashed into the ground with a loud noise. Edgar rolled off its nose, picked up a rock, and with blood pouring out his back, began to smash the machine to pieces where it lay.
From the sky, an electric pulse shot into Edgar’s back, sending him into a chubby pile of vibrating, bleeding flesh. This was a last straw for the crowd. Several dozen rocks flew towards the flock of drones hovering above, which dodged them with mechanical ease. The impromptu ballistic protests reached their collective zeniths, paused dramatically, then completed their parabolic paths in a disheartening stony rain.
Yelps, shouts and panicked cries echoed across the yard as nerd pandemonium ensued. The yard PA system issued a singular statement, “Deviation from instructions will be punished!” Then the drones began firing volleys of electric stun blasts into the crowd. It took only a few moments for the majority to be immobilized. The remainder volunteered to lay down after that.
Edgar still lay bleeding where he fell. The drone still lay next to him, in pieces. 2 drones lowered themselves over the 2 damaged bodies. A green light scanned each. Then they paused for a few moments while data was shared and processed with the central processor. After an assessment and decision had been made, they rose a few feet, a panel slid open in the base of both, and each released a single round object at the damaged parties. Seconds later they struck dead center in the exposed side.
The explosion did not fill a large area. Nor was it very bright, or loud. In mere moments, Edgar and the Drone were no longer occupying the yard. When the dust settled, whatever the grenades released had melted both bodies down to puddles of goo. Then the pyramid drones that had extinguished them, hovered low, extended a vacuum tube, sucked their liquified remains and flew away.
Heather, one of the lucky few who was still conscious, screamed as they left. It was a primal, guttural wail with no intelligible words but the deep sadness it contained was easily understood by any animal who heard it. The drones were nonplussed.