Pay the Piper – Prologue

(Found this when poking through the back end this week. It was scheduled to go up two weeks ago, on the 15th, but due to incompetence on my part got stuck in limbo instead. So I moved it up to this Friday, originally intended as a blank. Instead enjoy the prologue to Pay the Piper, my next fiction project, and look forward to chapter one next week!


“That is a delivery truck.”

The one snorted at the other’s obvious statement. “I have eyes. So far all you’ve proven is that your satellite uplink can handle livestreaming video.”

The truck was shakey in the frame about thirty to forty feet below the camera. There was a moment as the other fiddled with the camera controls, then the image steadied and zoomed in until it seemed the drone was only a dozen feet up. “That’s better. Noise canceling feature removes the shaking from the frame and keeps it focused on the truck.” The other sounded proud of the tech on display. “Would you like a blow by blow or do you wish to just watch things unfold at their own pace?”

“The truck’s making a left turn,” the one noted. “There’s not much to see. Am I supposed to be impressed that you’ve commandeered a delivery truck?”

“Ah, but that’s just it,” the other replied gleefully. “We haven’t commandeered the truck. It remains in the hands of its rightful owners.”

“Then you’re watching it with a drone.” The tone was dry and rueful. “You’re doing a poor job of convincing me this is the next frontier of warfare. Why should I trust you again?”

“The secret to evolving warfare is to apply the newest tools to the age old problems of attack and defense. This is the age of asymmetric war, when knife and gun are replaced with cunning and preparation.”

“I wish you wouldn’t try to wax poetic,” the one said. “It makes you sound silly. War has always relied on cunning and preparation as much as-”

“Fine,” the other cut in irritably. “We’re more prepared with the new tools at hand. Watch.”

And there was something to watch. The delivery truck came to a stop at a stop light and as it idled there for a moment a second drone dropped into view a few feet behind the truck then, in an impressive display of precision control, slid under the bottom of the vehicle and disappeared.

“Self-guided flight?” The one asked.

“Laser guided by a spotter on the balcony across the street.”

“You won’t be able to keep it there, then. What are you hoping to accomplish?”

“Once it’s under the truck electromagnets secured it to the chassis,” the other said with satisfaction. “It doesn’t require piloting anymore. And no one ever bothers to look under a vehicle at checkpoints. It’s a foot in the door.”

“You’ll need more than that. The payload on that drone is what, five pounds? Ten?”

“All we need, and it was cheap to boot.”

Two blocks later the truck came to a stop just outside the loading dock of its next stop. There was a brief pause as the doors to the building began to open and the other filled the time saying, “Morale has always been a huge part of warfare, and in an asymmetric war in particular how you look to the public is vitally important. Appearances matter so much more than substance, you know. And the brilliance of this plan is that it will allow us to strike without any of the worst kinds of PR. For example.”

The box truck began to pull into the door, only to sputter to a stop halfway into the loading dock.

“What happened?”

“A low strength EMP, taking advantage of the electromagnets already built into the drone. So much of a vehicle is computerized now, all it takes is a little scrambling and they come to a stop. And!” The other smiled an unpleasant smile. “Now we have an even bigger foot in the door. There’s a gap in their defenses just big enough for the killing thrust.”

The truck’s driver and a handful of uniformed building security officers were working to try and push the truck into the loading dock, only to scramble out of the way as a pale blue SUV suddenly revved it’s engine, served hard to the left and slammed into the back of the truck, pushing both vehicles up and out of sight.

“Cutting it a bit closeto keep up your appearances, don’t you think?”

“But no one was hurt.”

The one snorted. “Except your driver.”

“A self-driving car.”

“Oh? Sounds quite traceable.”

“It wasn’t built as one. We stole it and modified it ourselves.” As the other was explaining the video feed from the drone cut out. “And that would be the second EMP. Most of the cabin of that car was stripped out and replaced with capacitors and coils. It’s hard to predict how much damage it did, but if nothing else I expect that block will be without power for most of the day, if not longer. Best case scenario, the world’s largest online payment processor has just lost a quarter of their processing power on this continent.”

“They can share the work out, I’m sure. The losses won’t be as bad as you might think. Hardly an auspicious start to a civil war.”

You would be the expert on that, to be sure. But even if the can adjust their work loads, the appearance of problems will still hurt confidence in their product and slow investor growth. Wars tend to grow out of the problems we think will be simplest to manage, after all.” The other turned away from the blank monitors and headed towards the door. “It’s not a bad opening salvo. And it ensures the key player in stage two will take an interest.

“You’re sure of that?” The one asked, still staring at the blank monitor.

The other paused in the door. “Of course. We used his calling card, after all. A chink in the armor.”

Next Chapter


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