Losses, Gains – Ch. 32

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The blue tarp that enveloped Mr. Wang looked magically out-of-place as the two drone legs carrying him descended into the orange flames and thick black smoke. It was partly because of the strange beauty of this scene that Aria couldn’t take her eyes off of him. Another reason was that she felt duty-bound to watch. She had commanded these particular legs of Drone 1 to place Mr. Wang in the center of a group of burning conifers; she had to face the consequences of her action.

Although the rest of the drone did its best to hover above the flames, it and its cargo, including Aria, were all fairly close to the flames. Aria could feel the fiery heat on her dangling legs.

Then the drone let go of Mr. Wang.

With a soft thud, he landed. The drone quickly rose in the air. But before they put distance between Mr. Wang and themselves, Aria caught a last glimpse of his one-hundred-and-twenty-year-old face. This was the older version of the face that she’d so frequently seen in the documentaries. It belonged to the man who had led her up to this point in her life, directly and indirectly, for better or for worse.

Then the drone rose even higher. Smoke and fire swallowed Mr. Wang. Tears welled up in Aria’s eyes. Half of it was from smoke, the other half was meant as a goodbye. But strangely, her injured fingers with Natasha Stravinsky’s bite marks weren’t trembling as much as before. Maybe it was because they knew she had to make the most of this situation. Now that she’d chosen to leave Mr. Wang here and pick up Vera, she had to succeed, otherwise she would be abandoning him in vain.

She clutched the laptop and typed. She didn’t need to see clearly to know which keys to press, she was so used to them. Once she landed, she wouldn’t have time to add commands. So, she had to design the steps now, carefully, without error.

When she was done, she finished by typing Go. The drone extended a free leg. From a very tall, still-upright-standing tree, it broke the top branch. It dipped the branch in the fire, lighting one end.

The drone flew toward the cabin. Aria tucked the laptop into her duffel bag. She didn’t need it until she made it back. She wrapped the threads around her tighter. Hopefully, they still meant a lot to Lucious Bold.

Once the drone got close enough to the cabin, Aria noticed that the door frame was empty. The door had been torn from the hinge, then thrown somewhere, or set on fire. Vera was kicking at the Black Suits, who refused to let go of her and tried to squeeze her through the frame.

Drone 1 handed Aria the branch torch. She took it. Promptly, the drone dropped her.

© 2022 Ithaka O.

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This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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