Vanna had been forced to trade her rifle to Lukas for an SAM. Lukas was the team’s best shot, Deirdre had argued, and she needed Vanna to help confuse the drone. After the first shots, the drone would swoop in below the trees to kill them all. When that happened, Vanna would hit it from above, hiding in the canopy. Drones had mechanical brains that could be smarter than people in most ways, they could still be confused by some very simple tactics.
So Lukas would take the big freaking laser gun, and Vanna would get the missile and an SMG.
It was hard to give it up to anyone. It had been her grandmother’s, stolen the same night she and the rest of the Twelve had started the revolution. Still, there were heirlooms, and then there were operational priorities. If things didn’t work out, it’s not like she was going to leave the gun behind; they were all going to be just as dead.
Vanna’s position was the furthest forward, high in the trees. Vanna could never name the trees. She knew they had names, long scientific ones and shorter ones too, but she just knew them by climbability and coverage. One kind was easier to climb than a ladder, but the leaves were sparse and a drone didn’t even need sensors to spot you, another might be a pain to climb, but the foliage was so thick even you might not know where you were. The one she’d selected for this operation was not the best for coverage, but the limbs were thick, and it grew close to a few other trees equally climbable. If the drone turned its guns in her direction, her only chance was to not be there when it started shooting. So she picked a spot where she could downclimb or traverse to another tree quickly.
She wrapped the blanket tight around herself and her gear, which was hard to do while wedged in the spot where limb met trunk. The blanket barely covered herself and her gear, and she was constantly aware of ants on the tree that occasionally felt the need to crawl over Vanna and bite her, but she did not move once she was settled. She just waited, and watched the eastern sky. Already she could see the clouds she’d spotted earlier rolling over her tree. The occasional purple flash from the clouds broadcast that this was one of the new storms.
Vanna’s grandmother had told her the storms had still come before the Invaders attacked, but they had done something, put something in the atmosphere when they’d arrived, and now every storm was a terror alive with radiant death. Some said the Invaders had been trying to stop the storms, make them milder, so that their occupation would be easier, and it had backfired on them. People liked that version of the story. It made every storm, no matter how deadly, a testament that the Invaders were not infallible, that even they could not command the whole of the planet. Deirdre had laughed at her the when Vanna had said that. Deirdre was normally nice, but that night in New Paris, when everyone else was drunk on victory (however small) Deirdre was just drunk. Drunk and depressed. She’d said nobody could ever know if that was true, but for her money, she reckoned that the Invaders had made the storms worse on purpose. She drained her beer and explained what she thought, that the Invaders had tried to make the world outside the slave quarters so harsh and hostile that eventually the people would have to accept their new masters. Then she had spit and laughed and shouted for all to hear that she’d rather be dead than a slave. A cheer had gone up to that sentiment, but Vanna could tell that the smiles were hollow and the cry was not a triumphant one, but merely resignation to a horrible truth. Death was better than the slave barracks.
Vanna wondered, up in her treetop perch, if that wasn’t why they were attacking the Drone. I had been a year since New Paris, the last real partisan victory. Sabotages and random bombings weren’t victories, they were nuisances. More people had been captured or killed in the last year than any other year since the revolution began. Even New Paris had been taken back by the Invaders, after having been liberated for less than 3 months. They needed a real victory, a real hurt inflicted on their enemy. They needed the weapons aboard the drone. And Deirdre, it seemed, was willing to risk their lives to get them.
Vanna nearly fell out of the tree when she heard it. She’d been so lost in her thoughts she hadn’t been watching for it. The drone whirred its way over her head slowly, moving in slow serpentine path. A scanning pattern, just like Deirdre had said.
Vanna shifted under her blanket, holding her breath as she readied her SAM, shouldering the lethal tube as the drone flew past. She didn’t breath again until she heard the rush of air and screech of a missile coming from the forest floor, erupting up through the canopy and exploding against the drone’s shield. The shimmering blue bubble rippled and buckled with the force of the explosion, but it held. The drone abandoned its lazy, ambling flight and dropped swiftly down below the treetops, its quiet whirring replaced by a hiss and crackle of readied weapons, and a hundred pinpoints of red light covered the forest floor as it sought out its target. Vanna hoisted her missile tube, prayed they were fighting a particularly stupid drone, and fired.
-To be continued-