‘Where are you going?’
‘I’m getting out of here, those bloody things will see us and we’ll be vaporised’
‘No they wont, stay, keep your head down.’
Steve loved watching these things, he was fascinated, he most definitely recognised it was dangerous, but still he watched.
After a few minutes of Silence laying on the hard dusty ground, Steve stood and strode out onto the road.
‘What are you'd doing you dickhead’ Jonathan exclaimed through clenched teeth as his brother for all intensive purposes was about to commit suicide.
Up on the road the smell was overwhelming, rotting flesh, it must have been there for days causing all sorts of havoc for the city dwellers. From what Steve could see there had been at-least 20 kangaroo carcasses strewn up the road, now the bulk of them were merely dark splotches on the grey ash-felt.
He was amazed at how quickly the swarm could work, how quickly it could vaporise the carcasses clearing the road for any automated transport that might come along. Two minutes at most and all that was left was a splotch of blood.
The swarm moved to the last carcass, a ‘Big Red’. The swarm didn’t start vaporising though, is landed on the carcass for a mere few seconds, then as one lifted into the air and started moving north.
Jonathan ran to the road ‘What are you doing, they could have vaporised you.’
‘No. Look.’ all around the last carcass they had vaporised lay 10 to 15 of the mechanical bees. ‘They were running out of power, you could see it, they were starting to drop like flies. There algorithm kicked in so they’ve gone back to their charging dome.’
‘Still Steve. I don’t want to loose you, can you be more careful’
‘I will. Now come on we can take this carcass home, he is not too rotten to cook, lets grab some of those bees for Wallis as well’
Steve and Jonathan worked quickly, they new at any moment a automated vehicle of some sort may come down the road. At worst a truck with advanced Human Recognition Technology (HRT) which would report their location and they’d have predator drones scouring a 20km box for them, at best a FAV (Family Automated Vehicle), no HRT, and full of people most probably consumed by their personal devices, not looking out the window a the scenery, not looking at them.
‘Here, rub this under your nose’
‘What is it’
‘Eucalyptus oil, it will overpower the smell of the kangaroo, clears your nostrils a lot, all you will be able to smell for the next two days is eucalyptus, worth it if we are going to carry this rotting fellow’
Lifting the beast onto there shoulders and taking a moment to balance him effectively between the two of them, Jonathan with the head, shoulders and mid section, Steve carrying the haunch and tail.
Stepping off the road they made there way towards the forest not four metres from the road, stepping into the cool yet scant shade provided by the tree’s. As they walked they heard the high pitched wine of a FAV, they did not even turn to look, both sweating with the effort they continued on heading back to their camp. All in all a successful morning, they’d gotten some meat for the clan as well as picked up some of those mechanical bees for Wallis.
An hour into their trip Steve called for a stop, they were both dripping with sweat, the land scape had changed no longer was it the hard landscape of a eucalyptus forrest, but the damp softness of a rain forrest filled with ferns. the ground had changed from a hard rock strewn dry and uneven surface to a smooth padded path of rotting ferns and leaves.
Taking his water bladder from his mouth, Jonathan broke the silence between the two brothers ‘What do you think is going to happen?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, we’ve been out here for a couple of years now. The technocrats seem to be getting more established, now they’ve got swarms of bee’s cleaning the roads so their FAV’s aren’t interrupted, ambushed or damaged. Meanwhile we are living off roadkill. that’s what I mean?’
‘Be patient, each foray away from the camp we learn more about what we are up against. Wallis will come up with a plan soon, I am sure of it’
‘You’ve been saying that for months, you put to much faith in that guy and the longer we wait the more effort the technocrats put into developing a network of technology to hunt us down. We get more primitive, they get more advanced.’
‘Technology isn’t everything brother, it was created from human ingenuity’ Steve ended the conversation by bending to pickup the dead kangaroo.
The two brothers walked in silence, both wrapped in their own thoughts, making there way home, the path gradually dropping on front of them taking them down to the lagoon that the camp had been established around.
Everyone was up and about as they walked into the camp, they know the sentries would have seen them and quietly passed their approach back into the camp, detailing everything about them, including the kangaroo they carried.
The clan had been living on fish and lizards for weeks, so some nice solid kangaroo meat would be appreciated by everyone, from the suckling young through to the gummy aged. The two brothers passed the kangaroo to Travis and Michael as they approached; relieved to be free of the weight they had been hauling for two hours.
Jonathan looked at his brother ‘Thank you brother for getting me home safe’
‘Thank you for the same’ they embraced each other and then turned to look at the camp below them. Jonathan looking for his wife, Steve wondering just how he was going to make things better for this motley crew of survivors. ‘Here boy!’ Steve called to a small child, the name Drew came to mind. He handed the mechanical bees to him ‘Take these to Wallis, don’t keep any for yourself and tell him I will meet with him in the morning’.
Steve turned, exhausted, not caring what the boy did and walked towards his lean to. This time round Jonathan and he had been out for three days, it was incredible they found roadkill so close to camp, much better two hours carrying that thing than a whole day. He collapsed onto his bed of fur’s covering hay, pulled the woven blanket over him and fell into a deep dreamless sleep.
Steve rolled onto his back and looked at the ceiling of his lean to. It was these moments he missed her the most, no one cuddling into him for warmth, no one caring for him enough to make sure he at least washed the three days of grime of his body before he went to bed. He was hollow, empty because of the hole in his life she had left when she died.
He sat-up, stubborn, feeling sad, sorry for himself was no way to save the clan, he had to get on, he needed to find out if Wallis had come up with any ideas over night. Generously, conveniently someone had hung fresh clothes from the rafter of his lean to. This always happened after he came back from a foray, he wondered who and why for a moment, then stripped his shirt of and moved to the bucket of water outside of his lean to and washed the sweat from his body.
Pulling on the fresh shirt as he walked across the camp towards Wallis’s tent, some people called out greeting him from their camp fires, Steve simply acknowledged them all individually and waved of their generous offerings of food and drink. It was a cold morning, his breath misting in front of his face as we walked. Pulling the tent flap aside and stepping inside, the cold vanished. In Wallis’s tent it was alway warm, if not on occasion uncomfortably hot.
Wallis, a man in his mid 40’s, younger than Steve by a few years looked so much older, he was pale, hunched and had a chain of glasses hanging around his neck, “all the better to see with he would say”. He walked stiff legged, like each step hurt, although Steve had seen him put that pain to the back and fight like the best of them to protect the clan.
Wallis looked up from whatever he was studying ‘Where did you say you found these?’
‘I didn’t. We found these ones near the Seymour town exit. from what I can tell a truck had plowed through a herd of Kanagaroo’s warming themselves on the road’
‘How did you get them?’
‘The usual way, it appears there was so much road kill they were running out of power so they up and flew back to there charging station’
‘Which way did they fly?’
‘What’s interesting Wallis? I’m tired, impatient, can you please be quick about this’
‘Well the bees you bought back yesterday are from the same swarm as the ones you collected near the Wangaratta town entrance, to me this means their charging and data station is near ‘Violet Town’
‘Ok, so we go to violet town, discover the charger, then when they are out on patrol we smash it?’
‘No, not at all. Watch.’
Wallis pulled out a small black pad and connected two wires to it, the wires running out of his tent roof, and from what Steve could tell into the canopy far above. then he dropped two of the mechanical bees onto the charger, and waited.
‘What is that?’
‘I’m charging them. it’s an old inductive charging pad, it emulates how the bee charger works’
‘Are you mad, they’ll take flight and attack one of us, try to vaporise us’
‘No, not at all, a few did’ he put up his left hand and showed some fresh scorch marks, and open wounds that he had not even bothered to bandage. ‘I’ve programmed them to only vaporise rocks just now, watch’
Wallis pulled a rock from a bag sitting at his feet, and placed it next to the charger and simply waited’ It took about 30 minutes for the first of the mechanical bees to start and take flight, it lifted a mere six inches of the charging pad, scanned the room and then settled.
‘It didn’t work?’
‘Yes it did’ Wallis explained that they are swarmers, that is they will only vaporise something if it has help, it recognises it cannot do it by themselves. A second bee rose hovered and landed, then a third, fourth until all ten bee’s on the charging matt had moved. then as one they rose in the air and descended upon the small river stone Wallis had put on the table. It vanished, they vaporised it as a swarm. The bees then returned to the charging pad.
‘Phenomenal’ observed Steve
‘Yes, it’s odd how the technocrats simply enhanced a good design, adding the vaporiser. beyond that these things really do behave like the pollinators they were originally designed for during the honey crisis back in 2020. Once they’ve pollinated, or in the case of these bee’s vaporised everything of the target material in site they return to the hive, that being their charger.’
‘Ok so this is all fascinating, what are you proposing we do’
‘Well, now we know we can reprogram them, I think we could do something creative. I am thinking if we reprogram the swarm at violet town it could intercept a truck coming from north at Wangaratta, or from the south at Seymour, if we’re lucky we could get it to immobilise the truck at violet town where we will be waiting, and we can do with it what we will.’
‘You know those things communicate continuously don’t you, they will know something is going on as soon as the swarm hits.’
‘yes but if we kill the comm’s first and let the truck keep running it’s route for the hour and a half it takes to get to violet town from either site all of the search and predator drones will be searching in the wrong area by upto 100km’
‘Ok, let’s do it, when can you be ready?’
A week had passed since their initial conversation about reprogramming the swarm. Everyone had been busy, It had been decided that only five would go, Wallis, Jonathan, Travis, Michael and Steve.
Travis Had been out to violet town and back, to find an old diesel, low tech tractor that they could use to remove the truck from the road. Wallis, Jonathan and Steve had made a couple of quick trips to test the different bees on different substances they knew to be in the trucks.
Although they had only gathered a small swarm of 40 bees they were astounded at how effective they were. One night setting the swarm onto a local farmers antenna and satellite dish, vaporising them. Another night setting the warm onto a trailer coupling they found on an old abandoned low tech truck, again vaporising that and another night, a trickier undertaking was to program the bee’s to detect the electric current that powers the truck. To do this they managed to cut the power lines to Mangalor plunging the small township into a blackout.
To Be Continued