12 Days (pt. 10/12)

plane

“Are you ready to find out the truth?” a man’s voice whispered.

Lila whirled around, binoculars held like a club in her hand.

Ian moved quickly to locate the source of the voice and after a brief struggle put the stranger into a chokehold. The man thrashed about and then went limp.

“Light,” Ian said in a low voice.

Lila fumbled in her handbag, pulling out the small LED flashlight she kept in there. Flipping it on, she shone it in Ian’s general direction.

Ian winced. “A little lower with the light, please.”

She dropped the angle of the flashlight and peered at the man being held by Ian.

“Mitchell,” she whispered. “You got here fast.”

“As did you,” Mitchell said quietly. “If you look up, you’ll see a plane approaching the airstrip over there.” He inclined his head toward the area south of the towers.

They glanced up in the darkening sky and saw a small airplane approaching. It came in quickly for a landing while they watched.

“If you’ll release me?” Mitchell addressed Ian, who still maintained his hold.

Ian stepped back, allowing him his freedom. Mitchell nodded toward the plane. “You’ll want to see this.” He motioned to the binoculars Lila clutched in her hand. Lila immediately put them up to her eyes.

In the gathering dusk, she could make out two men unloading what seemed to be a heavy box. They struggled to carry it over to a 4-wheeler that looked more like a golf cart with seating and a roof for shade. Task accomplished, one of the men returned to the plane with its engine still running and prepared to take off, while the other man drove away on a dusty track toward the towers.

Lila quickly passed the binoculars to Ian. He sized up the situation and turned to Mitchell. “Drugs? Weapons?”

“Anything can be a weapon depending on how it’s used,” Mitchell replied cagily.

“Get to the point,” Ian said.

“A drone; competition to the one that you saw recently. This one has the capability to direct a high-energy laser beam at an identified target. Before this, you needed a turret-sized mechanism to deliver the hit.”

“Is that what was used at the exhibition that killed Regelmeister?” Lila inquired.

“Yes, it had a self destruct function activated. Costly to lose the equipment, but with the bounty earned from a targeted hit and the opportunity for a public test trial of the equipment, well worth it.”

“Wouldn’t someone notice a laser beam?” Lila asked skeptically.

“Not a nearly invisible pinpoint of light.” Mitchell continued, “Drones will soon be ubiquitous in our environment. No one will question seeing a police drone or military drone overhead for surveillance in almost any city. Now, with the proven ability to target with great accuracy, there’s a lot more at stake. For instance,” he paused, “who owns the technology?”

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