By Sam Davey

Jasmine didn't really know why she was back on the bus, but she did know that there had been something in Jake's text that had her scared. His place was just near the {{factory}}, but she got off early on {{factory street}} so she could get a four pack of Red Bull from {{beer-store}} and a refill for her e-cig. She'd been at Jake's last night after college with a few more of the guys and Nikki. {{#equals (weather) "clear"}}The afternoon had been clear and she'd broken her own vow and taken a drag on Nikki's fag- her friend the whole while explaining the nature of her crush on Jake.{{else}}Rain had pissed down until after it got dark so she and Nikki had made inky black coffee on Jake's Dad's espresso machine, her friend the whole while explaining the nature of her crush on Jake.{{/equals}}

Jasmine didn’t envy Nik her feelings and hoped her two mates would hook up- and soon, so she didn’t have to be sympathetic to Nikki’s scientific analysis of her own hormones anymore.

So there’d been nothing wrong with Jake on {{dayofweek minus 2 days}}, but today’s message had mentioned their final project, the only thing they talked about these days: ‘come over quick- my balloon has just flown us all from the field into a storm of shit xxx’.

A couple of days ago the gang had all been hanging around the field with their drones. The drones were their project, were the culmination of their entire diploma really. They were friends because they were all doing the computer science course at {{University}}, all of them laughing at the name of the course on their first lesson. It was rare enough that anyone used the word 'computer' anymore anyway.

The field was just {{field}}, but they called it the field. Each machine was different. Jasmine's ran a subscription to the .gov land registry and took a snap and logged a grid ref every time it flew over a small patch of brownfield. Because of this hers was a classic quad-copter, up at forty meters relative and running a grid she'd set, knowing that the tallest buildings were over in {{supermarket city}}.

Nikki's on the other hand was a blimp type, dressed in those aggressive grey diagonals used by the navy in world war two. Hers had a rifle-mic that collected ambient sounds from wherever the lowest numbers of mobile phone pings were and stretched them into ambient music-tracks. Jake's was also a small blimp-type, an egg-blue envelope of helium with an infra-red camera and a nasty little algorithm that could run a wi-fi log check of the target’s phone and work out their identity with a 99% certainly based on data matching with other local collectors.

He’d called it the ‘fly-by-alibi’ but it was anything but. He’d wanted to sell it to the police if he could prove it worked by the end of term.

It was this, worried Jasmine, that had gotten Jake into trouble. Jas had run her test and gone home after an hour- walking home in the dark. Jake and Nikki though had left their rigs up to extend their search areas and gone to {{burger-joint}} together.

Jasmine paid for her stimulants and absently left the shop- she’d forgotten her change but the pavement of {{burger-joint 2}} held her attention now as the cracks became search-pattern vectors in her sleep-starved mind. Had Jake run his drone into {{golf-course}} and started a fire?

In the end it was nothing like that. Jake's was a fairly typical suburban street: narrow houses of brick with white plastic and a roof of concrete tiles. Tatty front gardens of patchy grass, all the front doors different colours but the same in their shared reach for individuality. She knew she didn't need to ring the bell, her RFID unlocked the door as she reached it. She headed straight upstairs past the front room where the fug of smoke showed where Jake's elders insisted on ending their lives with actual tobacco. Jakes bedroom door was a little different.

Jake Sat her down in front of her own monitor: she was being shown video from the other night, it was all in the shitty pixelated-blue of low infrared. Data scrolled letting her know that this was from 02:24 the morning after the {{dayofweek minus 2 days}} night on the field. Suddenly a cluster of orange blobs appeared on the screen, hot bodies. She couldn’t see exactly how many, but it was at least four. The POV was high and drifted sideway, she assumed as Jake, operating from his table in the diner, had cut the motors so as not to alert the people below. A cursor whipped across the screen, pulling up menus, this was obviously a recording direct from the feed of Jake’s phone. Four boxes and then a fifth popped into view, code blurred past then coalesced even as the drone’s-eye-view span and Jas could clearly make out five figures, one of which was distinctly feminine. Names and probabilities now floated next to each person. The four men she didn’t know but ‘Daniels, Stephanie: 98%’

was clear enough. Jakes camera had caught {{burger-joint city}}’s MP meeting in the dead of night.

The figures were moving, something was exchanged and a large cool mass was moved from the rear of a van and carried by two of the men to the open boot of a car, overseen by the other pair of heavies. The woman shook hands with both men, climbed into the car to be followed by one man. The van turned and was moving out of frame when the view expanded. Jake had gained some height to keep it in, and see which way the van went. The noise though seemed to have alerted the last man. He turned and looked directly up at the camera. He raised his arm and pointed a hot object at her. Nothing happened. After a little while the man regarded the object he’d aimed, turned for the car and got in the drivers seat. It sat for a while, the seeping heat through the bonnet showing the engine running before it too backed away and headed down the road the opposite way to the van. The feed ended. She turned back to Jake.

‘Who were the other two men?’

‘The one’s with the van?’


'I ran a search, the big one's been arrested several times for assault, but he's an ex-soldier, served in the war in Romania. The other one used to work in the museum mines in and is now a lecturer.' He paused. 'A lecturer in commercial explosives. That kind of gives you idea of what I've got us into.'

'What do you mean?'

'Well, this wouldn't be a problem if I hadn't been tagged. We didn't witness any crime as such, but you saw it's as dodgy as fuck and you can bet they'll come after us'


'That guy who pointed his phone at my drone was running software similar to mine, I didn’t mask my IP.’

'Why have you left it two days then, and why are you still here!?'

'Because of this' he tapped something and gestured toward the monitor. Jasmine turned back to look and read the email displayed.

“Share any information you have from that night and they’ll be a house-fire at your address We’ll be making a visit to yours in two days.”

Downstairs the bell rang.