Security drones are not meant to be subtle. They are actually mostly used for scare AWAY people or critters rather than engage someone. However, most of the time they are equipped with glue guns. Those spray people's feet (or other mobility means) so they cannot get away. That's what happened to Aitan and the Derplicate. The last thing we wanted was to get glued to the very spot we were not supposed to be.
Doubly so with all the incriminating bits on us: clean boosters? Huuullllooo?!
Jackie, Tom and I started to bolt for the watchpoles when Veena knelt and Rosa took her backpack off. Veena had loaded up with something for her and Rosa. I had been preparing our boosters when she'd pulled it from her hideyhole. Veena laid it down and opened the pack. She studied it for a moment and tapped - actually touched it! - at an interface that had lit up. She then sprayed the whole package with something that smelled like bleach. Then she ran to us with Rosa following.
As we started running together - and tripped the watchpoles, no helping it, but still...Ooops! - I realized I was really glad I had made Tom leave behind the gun. He might have been tempted to shoot the drone. That would have been a disaster. Yes, he might shoot it down, but all bullets on Jefferson have IDs embedded in them and he'd be really, seriously, uberly busted: as in going to jail and a swarm of drones would have followed after.
What Veena had done made me curious. What could our bookworm possibly have that could help with this? I didn't need to wait long and I probably should have seen it coming.
Out of the bag came a dozen tiny drones. They flew up and around and danced in weird patterns. They lit up. They had different colors. They even started playing sounds. Music! Classical music! What else would you call music from 150 years ago?
They looped, they danced. You would swear they were doing acrobatics or were trying to impress everyone like they were fireworks. They made sure to fly between and around every single watchpole. It was a ballet of bots! It was a dance of the drones! It was beautiful and a little scary at the same time.
And then...they swarmed around the security drone.
Veena's little helpers zipped around and made a sphere around the drone. The sphere looking like models of atoms with their electrons zipped around. The sphere slowly contracted until the security drone was unable to move. Then one of them slipped in the sphere and flew up below the security drone and attached itself. The other drones scattered like they all thought, "RUN!!!!! SHE'S GONNA BLOW!!!!"
Not exactly. But then, yeah.
The minidrone suddenly DID explode, but not with fire, but it explosively inflated a giant balloon. the fans of the security drone were suddenly pushing against the balloon and the balloon was attached and thrust that kept the drone flying was reduced and the drone started falling. The fans on the drone revved up, but all it did was create a small crash instead.
The security drone landed softly, not with a bang but with a plop and as much as it tried, it couldn't drag the balloon. It was immobilized. And we were getting away.
Veena's other drones left a couple in the air and the others landed in the Jefflife trees around the clearing. Veena breathed that we had about an hour's worth of time before the drones started slowing down and not being able to cover our tracks.
I gawked at her. She was a bookworm. Rosa was smirking though, too. So I knew my Immie obsessed sister had some help in it. I asked, between breaths, how Veena had come up with the drones. She smirked and said she'd read about the idea in a book. I had to roll my eyes: of course she had, the bookworm! She explained she'd read about ballutes, balloons that act like parachutes and had been reading about how biologists used balloons attached to marine animals to help track them and retrieve data recorders, and she'd remembered the glue guns on the security drones and...
Yup. She's smart. I love reading, but she loves not just reading but putting together crazy ideas from what she reads. She did get Rosa's help though because Rosa. Rosa can make any drone do anything.
I'm so proud! My Merry Pranksters!
We sprinted down away and then did something stupidly smart: we entered a stream and ran down it for a while in the water. If we were wrong and a security drone was in the air just then or the stream passed out in the open instead of under the Jefflife trees, then we could be spotted by infrared. As hard as you might try, you can't get away from heat. You make it. Lots of it. In a stream, we would stand out like a sore thumb. The reason we took the risk was because we wanted to wipe out our tracks. No one would come after us with dogs like on Earth, but here bots could easily follow our tracks and faster than a person could run. Between the minidrones and the water, we thought we could get away.
But when we rested a good two and a half kilometers away, we realized we needed to decide what we were going to do. Do we continue the adventure or call it quits?