Bad publicity

752 words

Once again, never got to the prompt. But if I continue, it’ll get there, I promise. I enjoyed writing this one. Don’t know where it came from, but I have a tip for you: if you want to build suspense, make sure you have absolutely NO IDEA where your story is going. (I have no clue what’s on that drone or what, specifically, The Coil or the Middle are, in case you’re wondering.)


She dispatched the drone. It lifted off, whirring like an insect into the sun, joining the murmuration on their way to deliver their cargo.

“It’s called a ‘fervor,’” she said, shielding her eyes from the light. She’d already lost track of which drone was hers.

“What is?” he asked. He didn’t bother to look up from his glass.

She pointed upward. “A collection of drones. You know. Like how a group of geese is called a ‘gaggle’ or crows a ‘murder.’”

“A murder, huh?” He squinted at the sky. The drones danced in choreographed dips and curves, morphing into continuous, fluid shapes like a kaleidoscope. “That’s some Poe-level shit right there.” He shoved his glass into his back pocket. “I hope you know what you’re doing, Daisy.”

She stared at the horizon. “I don’t,” she said, “not at all. But it was the best thing I could think of to do with what I had. The Coil will take it from there.”

“And what if you’re wrong?” he said, sticking his hand in his pocket to join the glass. He didn’t remove it, but just feeling its smooth surface calmed him. Sending a drone was not a small thing.

She shrugged. He could tell she was trying to make the gesture look casual, but he knew she was scared. “Well, Yavin, I guess if I’m wrong, then you’ll be taking care of Panto.”

Yavin winced. He hated cats. And though he supposed Panto wasn’t quite as bad as others he’d met, that was like saying a black widow spider wasn’t quite as venomous as others. “Then I guess you’d better be right.”

Daisy shrugged again. The cloud of drones had moved on. She noticed they seemed to gather in waves like that. Of course, you’d see one or two at a time, that wasn’t unusual. But it was as if, at certain times of the day, citizens would suddenly and collectively decide it was time to send a drone. She couldn’t specifically remember what made her launch her drone at that exact time, but judging by the size of the fervor, it wasn’t an original thought. She pulled out her own glass and checked her drone’s progress. It has already landed, though its contents hadn’t yet been unloaded.

Yavin looked over her shoulder. “How long until you know?”

“At least a day or two. It hasn’t even been queued yet.” She frowned. “I wish I’d sent it earlier,” she said, tucking her glass into her shoulder bag.

“And I wish you’d sent it later. Or not at all.” Yavin stared at the darkening sky, but the drones were long gone. “I need to go. Can we start walking?”

“Sure,” Daisy said. She looped her arm in Yavin’s and bumped him playfully with her hip. “Look. I know this is a serious thing. But all of the evidence is in order. You saw it. You agreed.”

“I know I did,” Yavin said. “But that doesn’t make it something you need to go to The Coil about. This could have been handled at a lower level.”

“Oh yeah?” Daisy stopped short, her entwined arm preventing Yavin from going any further. “Okay, then. What would have made it ‘Coil-worthy’? Should I have let this get progressively worse?” Daisy unlocked her arm from Yavin’s, and stood in front of him. “Should I have let them take more from me? Like maybe my artifacts?”

“No, of course—“

“Like maybe my parents?”

Yavin’s face paled. “They can’t do that.”

“They can,” she said. “I’ve seen it happen.”

“To who?”

Daisy turned her back to him and started walking. Yavin caught up and took her gently by the elbow. “To who, Daisy?”

She sighed. “You remember Farren? She used to live down the street from me?”

“Sure. She moved away.”

Daisy shook her head. “No. That’s what they told everyone. Farren was able to get a message to me. One of the backchannels. Kite? You heard of it?”

He grimaced. “Yeah, I know some people who use that.” He eyed Daisy. “That’s dangerous stuff, Daisy. You could get caught and—“

“Using Kite isn’t the point, Yavin,” she waved her hand impatiently. “The point is they came and took her parents. They just… took them.”

Yavin looked at his feet. “I had no idea,” he said. “Poor Farren. Do you know what happened to her?”

“Yeah,” Daisy said, kicking a stone out of her path. “They placed her in the Middle. As far as I know, she’s still there. Her Kite account was deactivated. And you know that’s not good.”