The Drone Poacher

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

When Derrick's friend adopts a destructive new hobby, he must choose between comfort and the good of the community.

“I don’t understand my own mind.” That phrase broke my train of thought again and again as emergency crews wheeled two battered and burned husks out of the plastic inferno that used to be my home. Scorched carbon fiber wings jostled coming over the pavement like they were still caressing the skies, business as usual. I can still smell the corrosion in my nostrils all these years later. I could just as easily have left it all alone.

By now I’ve coped with this all too well to mope and call my life forfeit. Needless to say, the 2030’s weren’t exactly my decade, but they say you can write off two or three before the panic sets in proper. I’m no longer trying to salvage my life from the wreck. I’m numb enough now to offer the events as they were.

I can’t tell if I’m well adjusted or trying and failing to sublimate this crushing sense of sadness over the whole fucking shit show. Perhaps there is some part of me that still wonders whether I was the wrong person at the right time, or whether I was the right person at the wrong time.

“Arrived,” said the car. I nodded and rose from sleep, cracked my shoulders. The day was crisp and dry like a pill-bug gathering dust at the bottom of a stairwell. The grass was greener than it should have been. It may have been an ordinary prefabricated domicile, but Marshall’s house really was the ugliest of the neighborhood. I gave the door a reluctant knock.

“Do you have an appointment?” it asked.

“Yeah, tell Marshall it’s Derrick.”

“Who?”

“Derrick.”

“Who?”

“Derrick!” I said directly into the speaker’s mesh.

“Prove it.” I cussed under my breath and showed my ID to the doorbell. “I’ll let him know you’re inside,” it said, bored after giving me a rise. I tapped my foot and saw vultures circling somewhere on the other end of the development. Finally the door swung open with an insipid audio clip of fanfare to welcome me in. I held my nose at first to avoid the smell. Passing through the mounds of boxes and clothes clogging the kitchen and living room, I knocked on the door at the end of the hallway. The sound of post-metal drowned everything out.

“Is it even worth it?” I asked myself as I knocked again. I heard a very faint, “Come the fuck in already!’” from behind the door. I stepped inside. The entire room was covered in refuse. Marshall sat scratching a rat on his desk behind the ears as it nibbled on a bit of mozzarella. “Get a new pet?” I asked. Marshall turned to look at me and saw the rat. He flinched and fell out of his chair. In an instant, the rat was gone, never to be discovered again. Marshall clambered back into his easy chair. He’d become quite a sight as he approached his thirties. He was only wearing an undershirt and a pair of boxers. There was what looked to be a live feed of the coast. At first I thought Marshall was playing a video game. I was wrong.

“I’m drone poaching,” he said. I blinked.

“That’s what you’re doing?”

“Yeah, yeah I bought this model new and reworked it a bit. Took more patience than usual but goddammit I did it. Now I’m a bonafide outlaw.” I squinted at the screen. That was the bay alright. The drone was circling above the neighborhood, watching, waiting. “I got it set up to find non-commercial drones and home in on them. With the kind of hardware this thing’s rockin’, they won’t have a prayer.”

“Who’s ‘they?’”

“Annoying little kids mostly, sometimes hobbyists.”

“So you like… knock these things out of the sky?”

“I take them out of the sky and give them some shade in my garage.” I grimaced at my old friend.

“For what?” I asked.

“I sell them to annoying little kids and hobbyists. Usually the grappling hook does some damage, so I give them a fair markdown and some sob story about a goose.”

“Do you tell them there’s some assembly required?”

“I say they’re ‘lightly used.’ Caveat emptor,” he mumbled as an indicator came up blue. “Oh shit, we got one Derrick. Time to go fishing!” He was the happiest person I’d seen in years. His target finally strayed into the video feed. It was a little drone some six feet in diameter. It was a cute little thing, almost like the four-fanned drones available in the 2010’s. “Watch this,” he said he fell upon it like a peregrine. He pressed a button on his keyboard that he’d painted red. I saw his prey spiraling out of the sky. “Fuck, that’s not what I meant to do.”

“What happened?”

“The grappling hook just went straight through. Fuck, I dunno if I’m gonna be able to salvage that. We’ll see…” he mumbled as he tried to reacquire the drone’s position. We found it shakily trying to balance with only two functioning fans. “There it is… What a mangled piece of shit.” He spat as his reticule locked on again. His computer churned. “New pair-a-shoes!” he yelled as he fired again. It was a direct hit. The grappling hook latched on in a death grip. “WOO!” he shouted. He was almost shaking with excitement. Somewhere a child was looking up into the sky in horror. I imagined the heartbreaking conversation between mother and child.

“It wasn’t an accident mom! Someone took it!” they cried.

“That’s okay, we’ll get you a new one.”

“I saw him take it.”

“I’m sure it was an accident. People don’t go around poaching drones.”

Marshall cracked his favorite craft beer and chugged it.

“Want one man?”
“You know Marshall… I’m a little tired. I don’t think I slept very well last night. I’m probably just going to go home.”
“Aw come on, don’t be like that. I’m totally getting away with this!.”

“I know you are,” I said as I turned the knob on his bedroom door.

— — —

The next morning I was typing this up in my journal:

I sat up all night thinking about the toy truck Roy Baker stole from me in the 2nd grade. It was after show-and-tell. I went collect my things and it was gone. The next day at recess Roy dangled it high over my head before dropping it on me and snatching it up again to play the same shallow game. His mother was the teacher. I remember he got her to hold onto the thing. She called me a liar to my face when I came crying to her about her kid. Sitting on an eroded embankment by a dried up brook, I thought to myself that if I ever saw someone pulling that kinda shit again I would do something about it. I pulled out my phone. Marshall was inviting me to come and eat lunch with him.

— — —

“I thought we were going to eat lunch.”

“The sooner we catch this mouse the quicker we eat…” he whispered into the monitor. The apartment was absolutely filthy. Drone parts littered the floor “They’re all… They’re all pretty much useless. I don’t think the new harpoon is warranty friendly. The best I can do for these is get them recycled, recoup some lost value with the raw materials…”

“Lost value? You’re talking about these hunks of shit like they’re a batch of apples that went bad in a crate. You ripped these things out of the sky.”
“It’s a tough economy.”

“Yeah, for people besides yourself.” Marshall swiveled to face me.

“I’ve known hunger. It’s not my fault people don’t recognize a good deal when they see it.”

“You’re not dealing at all. You’re just ripping people off,” I said. I was beginning to lose the battle against my temper.

“You got such a big fucking problem with the way I cut corners on rent? Why don’t you go talk to my landlady? Hell, why don’t you weld a fucking harpoon gun to a drone of your own? Because standing there moping doesn’t do a lick of good for anyone,” he said. He paused for a response. Turning, he realized the room was already empty.

— — —

I got a harsh knock on the door.

“Hello?” I said my trust pink cylinder.

“It’s Marshall. I know you have my drone.” I kneaded my brows in confusion and stepped to the door.

“Can I help you?”

“Yeah, you can. Where’s my fucking drone?”

“The hell if I know. Maybe some Captain Ahab in the stars took it. Go take a nap, you look… really unwell”

“I’ve been working — ”

“Poaching.”

“I was minding my business when you got the drop on me. You bought the biggest, baddest harpoon you could afford didn’t you? You laughed while you ripped pride and joy apart and hauled her away!”

“That’s neither my business nor my problem. Maybe you should just accept you had it coming,” I said, spitting on the ground for good measure. Marshall seethed.

“You did do this. Where is it?” I felt his fingers snake around my neck.

“Marshall — ”

“WHERE IS IT???” Marshall shouted as he delivered the first blow. I held my nose together with both hands as I retreated into the garage. I could hear Marshall breathing down my neck as I ran. The second I got the garage door open he kicked me down the wooden stairs. “Where is it? Where is it? Where is it?” The rage in his voice became panic which withered into tears. The garage was empty. He sank into himself. “Oh my god… What have I done? Where is it? What have I done? Where is it?” He went on like that. He left without an apology. I pulled out my phone and told my big purchase for the year to retract its harpoon and come home. It would wait with Marshall’s crumpled steed under a tarp in the garage as the days dimmed and grew darker, waiting for the drone poacher to return. I wouldn’t have to wait very long.

It was only a week later when my car pulled up to the smoldering remains of my house. In an act of petty revenge, Marshall had wiped out just about everything I owned in the world. He must have broken in and given the garage more than a panicked once-over. I could have just as easily left it all alone.


Submitted: December 20, 2020

© Copyright 2021 william edge. All rights reserved.

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