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Scurrying Into the Darkness

My bunker would not be safe for long. Our group of about 15 people, hurried to grab gear, food, and water. There were two electric golf carts parked in the back lot, but I wasn’t sure if anything would work. EMP is supposed to disable everything. But for how long? There was no time to think about that. We had to keep moving, keep positive, and most of all, keep out of range of the video cameras and GPS trackers looking down from above. We could hear the corporate drones buzzing by outside. The government had gotten their first birds back in the air. It was going to be dangerous.

“Okay, people, it is go time. We have got to stick together, keep our heads and electronic signatures out of the viewfinders of the bots, cameras, androids, and government agents already tracking us down. We’ve got a destination. If we’re lucky, we’ve got transportation. Either way the mandate of the day is “Silent Running.” No words, no signals, no tech to track us with. Keep your phones powered off. Keep your eyes on the eyes ahead and behind you. They are everywhere. They look like us. They look like birds and cats. You can trust no one who is not in this room right now. Look around. We are the future.”

I took a beat.

“Are there any questions?”

I scanned the ragtag gang. Most of them looked terrified. They needed me to be strong, to give them a plan. I had no plan. The plan was: get out of range and reach of the government systems and GAA. We had a short timeframe before the “war” would be declared. Martial law and nightly curfews would put a pause on our escape.

“Good. It’s time to go. Please follow me out the back door.”

There was an audible sigh as the group picked up their bags of supplies, looked at each other, and realized we did not have a fighting chance in hell of getting more than a mile before the “bugs” found us. They probably recorded my entire speech. It would be broadcast on the nightly Community Update.

Headline: Traitors responsible for the outage flee into the Black Forrest.

When we came through the metal door at the back of my compound and emerged out into the real world of chaos, it was clear the “system” was not functioning yet. Drones buzzed around like mosquitos. The heavy vehicles and the androids were still slumped or silent in the shadows. The disruption, whatever had caused it, had blasted good and bad tech equally. At this moment in time, we were on an even playing field. For the next few hours, we had our best chance of vanishing from the grid and into the woods. There was no Grandmother’s house. Yet.

I jumped in the first electric golf cart and pushed the start button. Nothing. Out of habit I jumped in the other one and was surprised when it fired up. “Okay, people, drop your supplies and water onto the cart. We’ll take it with us.” I waited while most people dropped their bags and boxes and bottles onto the back seats of the golf cart. “Is there anyone here who needs to ride? This is going to be a long walk. If you need help, we can have two people on the golf cart. But, if you can walk, please leave that spot for one of our elders.”

I know they were looking at me when I said that. I have shockingly white hair that sticks up toward the sky like a punk rocker of the last century. “Or, anyone who’s feeling hurt or overwhelmed at the moment. Let’s go. We need to get moving.”

One young child was brought to the cart by his mom. “Can my daughter ride for a bit?” the mom asked. “She’s on the spectrum-y side and is unable to speak at this moment.”

“Yes,” I said. “Put her in the passenger seat and buckle her up. Can you drive?”

We limped out the back of the parking lot toward a known gap in the 30-foot-high fence, currently unelectrified. Without the power, we could get the entire group through the narrow gap. We’d probably have to lose the golf cart, but that was a few hours away, at best. And that didn’t take into consideration if the government got more muscle back online. For now, I was keeping my panic just below the surface. I had to be strong. I needed them to believe in my plan and my leadership. So far, I have no plan. And, so far, it was working.

I was bringing up the rear of the line, while Astrid took the lead position, taking us deep into the forest and away from the noise of the city in reboot mode.

A tiny drone appeared inches away from my left eye. It looked like a wasp. Red, menacing, huge black dome eyes scanning me. Nothing really prepared me for the fear that jolted my brain in that second of recognition. “This is danger. This is not a wasp. This is THEM.” I’d never seen one of the micro-drones. We knew they existed. We’d seen the wreckage and trash while searching through the government’s tech-dump.

I swatted at the small metal insect and missed. It almost seemed like the wasp did a backflip to taunt me. I pulled the machete from my backpack and took a more calculated swing upward. The uppercut sheered off the wasp’s left wing. There was a clicking sound as the red bug spiraled down and landed in the middle of the forest trail with a dull thud. It was much heavier than I expected when I picked it up. There was no light of movement. I was tempted to bite the head off the red wasp, but I restrained myself. I threw the droid into the dirt and crushed the rest of its form into bits.

I didn’t say anything to my fellow sojourners. We shuffled silently into the tree-lined trail as it descended steeply away from the city. As the roar and hum of the city behind us faded, I noticed the chirping of some actual insects. I didn’t see any other wasp-drones. They were certainly nearby, but keeping their distance for now. Tracking our movement, at this point, was more urgent than mounting any attack. We didn’t have much time.

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