I scanned the area but saw nothing moving, apart from the other hoverdrone beside me. Powered by the Earth’s electromagnetic field, these sleek, baseball-sized, metal spheres were the best in cutting-edge technology. And we were on the hunt! Oh sure, our bodies were miles away strapped into virtual reality machines, but with our minds, we were in these hoverdrones, out in the wild lands! The ancient, tall trees stretched towards the sky and provided a canopy of green above us. From all around came the sounds of birds, as rushing water thundered somewhere nearby.
“I think I see something,” said Persia. “Over there!”
I turned my drone to see what she was looking at. A flash of brown in the underbrush!
“It looks like some sort of little animal,” she pronounced.
“Shall we kill it?” I asked.
“Let’s try!” she squealed.
You’d think it would be weird hearing her voice coming from a speaker, but this was the only way I had ever heard Persia speak. We had been friends for as far back as I could remember, and yet we had never actually spoken face to face. Both of us still lived with our parents. Persia would be eligible to get her own place next year. I would need to wait two more years. Modern housing consisted of hermetically sealed units, and the upper class very rarely ventured out. For people our age, there were very few personal encounters in the real world.
“Let’s go,” I whispered, so as not to startle our quarry.
We sailed towards the place where we had seen the animal take cover.
“There it is,” said Persia, even more softly.
I saw the outline of a tiny brown rabbit amongst the dried leaves and pinecones.
“It looks like a young one,” said Persia.
We moved in for the kill.
“Hey, look at that!”
Instinctively, I turned to see what had captured Persia’s attention, but quickly turned back to finish off our prey.
“Agh!” I exclaimed. “The rabbit got away!”
“Forget the rabbit,” said Persia. “I’m tired of pounding rabbits anyway. You’ll never believe what I saw! Come on!”
I followed Persia’s drone through the woods towards the sound of rushing water. We burst out of the trees to find a wide, quickly flowing river. Only a little ways downstream, it plummeted away to the valley below in cascading waterfalls.
“Oh wow!” I said, checking my GMaps data. Mercy Falls.
“Not the waterfall,” responded Persia. “That.”
There, at the river’s edge, crouched a young man who appeared to be washing his face in the water.
“What’s he doing way out here?!”
“How would I know?” Persia retorted. “All I know is…he’s next.”
“He’s one of them!” Persia said tensely. “That’s why he’s out here. We’d be doing the world a favor.”
It was true. He must be one of them.
“Let’s go,” I said. We moved toward the youth.
The youth must have heard the quiet hum of our hoverdrones because he turned to face us as we approached.
“Hello,” he said, his long brown hair draped around brown eyes. It was not a very intimidating look for a savage and a follower of ‘The Way’.
We made no reply and continued our approach. Persia struck first. Metal collided with flesh and muscle with a thud that was picked up by the microphone in my hoverdrone. The youth fell backwards into the river.
“What do you want?” he cried out as he splashed into the water. He tried to stand up but I rammed into his head. The youth was not unconscious… yet. He struggled to right himself and ward off the blows with his hands. Soon, though, our attacks had forced him out into deeper waters. The current tugged at him and carried him away.
Persia pulled back. “Let’s watch,” she said.
We flew up into the sky and watched the semi-conscious figure as he neared the edge of the falls.
“This is it,” said Persia, with finality, as he neared the edge.
Then the youth spoke. Even amid the sound of rushing water, my microphones still picked it up. “Father, forgive them, for they don’t understand what they’re doing.” Then he was gone, tumbling towards the rocks far below.
I knew Persia had heard him too.
“Let’s go home,” she said. “I’m tired.”
Silently, I turned to follow her. Putting my drone on auto return, I slipped away.
When I opened my eyes, my dimly lit bedroom slowly came into focus. Shakily, I unplugged myself, unstrapped, and climbed from the virtuo chair. I didn’t like my thoughts so I made for the bed. This day was over and I couldn’t wait to put it behind me.
I awoke in darkness to the chirp of my iTab. A message had come in. I grabbed the device from my nightstand and clicked it on. An email was waiting for me… from my father. I tapped the screen and the message opened.
That boy you injured is in the hospital. His parents brought him in. The police have pulled the video footage from your hoverdrone, remotely. Whatever where you thinking?! Just because he’s from some religious sect doesn’t mean it would be ok to kill him! I have spoken to my lawyer. We could lose everything if he decides to sue. Go to Hospital J16 and fix this. Have the boy (Daniel James) sign the attached document. Go NOW!
My father had just sent a message – not bothered to call. It was typical. There had never been love between us and now I had disappointed him again. I walked to the front door and shoved on my shoes. For a while, I just stood there with my iTab tucked under one arm. I had never used the transport system alone before. Taking a deep breath, I opened the door.
When I arrived at the nearly silent, entry hall of the hospital, I was even more afraid than on the transport. It was a place of germs and disease, of sickness and death. At the front desk, I asked for young man’s room number. The lady there wirelessly transferred a map to my iTab. I made my way to his room through a labyrinth of silent halls filled with nothing but still, sterile air. Once I found his room, I pushed the door inwards and saw a bed with someone lying on it, under white sheets. Sunlight poured in through the open window.
Hesitantly, I stepped towards the head of the bed. He was up looking at me, through me; his brown eyes were penetrating my soul.
“Hi,” I stammered. “I’m sorry.”
“So…you did this to me?” he asked.
“The doctors say I won’t be able to walk again.” Still he stared at me. “Come here.” He held out his hand. I moved closer and passed him my iTab. He placed it the table nearby without looking at it, then held out his hand again. I held out my hand too, unsure of what he wanted. He clasped my hand in his and pulled me to his bedside. My eyes were drawn to his gaze. He did not seem mad at me. But…what did he want?
“My dad wanted me to ask you to sign a paper,” I said weakly, “um… saying you won’t sue us.”
“I’ll sign it,” he said easily, still gripping my hand, “because I forgive you.”
I stared down into his face, hardly able to breathe. He forgives me? As I looked into his kind eyes, I felt an ache in my chest and a burning in my eyes. Suddenly, all the feelings from being unloved came flooding out in great sobs. Awkwardly, I tried wiping at my eyes with my other hand. I had not cried since I was a very young child. He sat up a little then and pulled me into an embrace. Hunched over his bed and feeling his strong arms wrapped about me, I felt mercy falling down on me. I felt… loved.
“It’s okay,” he said.
The tear-storm finally ended, and he released me. I felt so weak that I could barely stand. “Sit down for a minute, if you like,” he said indicating a chair near the bedside. “My name is Dan, by the way.”
I sat down. When I looked over at him, he was smiling.
I smiled back at him. I felt…safe.