“Poke it with a stick.” Keegan didn’t look at him as they kneeled in the brush and gazed at the grounded combat device lying at the edge of the clearing.
Reuben did cast a quick glance at the young sergeant before responding in an equally low voice. “That’s your answer to everything.”
“No, my everything-answer is to shoot it, but I know you won’t let me do that this time.”
Shooting the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle was as inadvisable as poking it. They didn’t want to give away their position, but the fact it was no longer airborne caused his suspicion to cook up various scenarios.
Earlier that day the flight under his command completed their mission of taking down a supply convoy. In typical guerilla style they disabled the vehicles, pillaged the enemy’s equipment, and scattered in sections of two. He and Keegan, with their loot of mostly communications paraphernalia, were cutting through the forest to regroup with their fellow combatants.
The sergeant had spied the derelict UAV a split second before Reuben did. They both dove for cover behind some buckbrush and used the momentary stillness to determine what course of action was most advisable now that their situation was less stable than before.
“What worries me is we haven’t heard any fire exchange.” Reuben kept his gaze on the military drone. “If that got grounded in a skirmish, it’s been there a while. Have they really lost it or are they still using it for surveillance?”
“That wouldn’t make sense.” The sergeant chewed on his lower lip. “Those UAVs are more efficient up in the air. They aren’t going to waste resources by leaving one on the ground.”
“Which brings us back to the question why they haven’t retrieved it already.” His eyes narrowed as he regarded the devious drone. “Maybe it isn’t salvageable, but considering it’s a target model, it could be either unstable enough or just reprogrammed to blow if somebody else tinkers with it.”
Keegan seemed to freeze for a few seconds before his lips pressed together. “Like a civilian hoping to cannibalize it for some parts. Jiminy, I hate it when you come up with these worst-case scenarios.”
Reuben shook his head. “Then we need to investigate it.”
“Screw that. Just let me shoot it.”
“I’d rather not advertise we’re here if we can avoid it. But if it’s active, I’m hoping to disarm it.”
“Really? And if you wiggle the wrong wire, you could find yourself disarmed. And dis-legged. And dis-headed.”
“We won’t have to get that close.”
The sergeant cast a sidelong glance at him. “What delusions of grandeur are you having now?”
“Some of our booty includes reconnaissance equipment. All we’ll have to do is pilot a micro drone down there and see what readings it gives us. If that UAV is dead, then we can scoot outta here in good conscience. If it’s booby-trapped, we’ll use the same peewee to reprogram it into pacification.”
“That’s why they made you the captain.” Keegan smirked. “But you do realize that if it’s active and we monkey around with its system, they might still figure out our position from the sensor readings?”
“The odds are much smaller than if you get trigger-happy.”
“Well, I guess I’ve had enough explosions for today. Let’s get a tactical drone down there.”
The tiny UAV they unpacked was about the size of a fat quarter sporting four round propellers. After it established its radio link to the palm-sized readout system, Reuben operated the drone while the sergeant helped to guide its position. It skimmed over the larger UAV that resembled a torpedo with extra fins.
Keegan also watched the screen as the drone’s signal fed data back to the device. “Crap, it’s armed. I hate it when you’re right.”
“Let’s see if we can get the pen to be mightier than the sword.” Reuben tapped on the screen to direct their stolen drone to sync with the UAV’s system.
“At least they’re talking to each other,” the sergeant murmured. “I just hope nobody else is listening to that conversation.”
“I doubt it’s being monitored since they wouldn’t be expecting somebody to do what we’re doing.”
“This is one time I’d be happy if you’re right.”
There was something satisfying about using the enemy’s own technology against them. As Reuben negotiated with the grounded UAV through the tiny drone, he was encouraged this plan was going to succeed. And that, said a small, still voice in the back of his mind, is when trouble happens.
His comrade drew in a sharp intake of air. “That display looked like a power spike.”
That was their only warning. With a thunderous boom, ragged metal and twisted components shot in every direction.
As they sprang to their feet to beat a hasty retreat, he thought he heard Keegan gasp “Should’ve poked it with a stick!” Considering the consequences as they galloped into the forest, he figured they might as well have.
So here is this month’s contribution to #BlogBattle. As usual, it’s sparked plenty of interesting ideas from other people, so feel free to check out the other stories that have been submitted!