We neared the crest of the hill. Fortunately, it was forested and bushy with lots of different, relatively benign, Jefflife plants. It gave us lots to hide in. Before we crested the hill though, we stopped and talked about what we were going to do. We wanted to make sure no one had changed their mind and no one wanted to go back. We also wanted to make sure no one had crazy ideas as to what they were going to do if the adults, BII agents or Marines were there either: no one tries to bolt, we turn ourselves in. We also wanted to be clear if we found our troublesome Indian friend or friends, we reached out to the adults immediately. We wanted an adventure, not to, well, you know, get killed. Yoats are one thing. People in powered armor, another.
People don't generally kill people out here, but people in powered armor are meant to.
Thinking about that made me wonder about the wisdom of being here. Tom, get out of my head!
Yet this was an adventure. Something we'd have for the rest of our lives. Even if they were cut short by a barrage of missiles, a hail of railgun rounds or the flash of a laser.
Note: do not look into the laser with your one remaining eye.
Rosa unpacked one of her Immie drones and communed with it. She set it to cyber attach to a small repeater she carried. The drone would talk to the repeater. The repeater would talk to us. if someone traced the drone and its signal, the repeater would buy us time to get away because it would seem like the source of the radio traffic was in one place while we split faster than a cybernetic gymnast. We were connected to the repeater in via visible light rather than radio. One of the nifty things I had done to the boosters was put lasers on them to allow them to communicate much more stealthily. However, they had to be lined up to do so and not moving around a lot. useful, but limitedly so.
The drone rose and zipped just centimeters above the ground down away from the Church. It circled around to come from a different direction than where we were, it actually came UP the bay to the tidal island. The drone slowed and rose up to head height. We had all closed our eyes and were watching. All except Jackie. She kept watch for Yoats or grownups whether Indian, American or government type.
Communing with a drone is a heady thing. I am sure you Earthers have done it. Here it seemed like, in our minds' eyes, we were the drone. No different than flying there ourselves and wherever we directed our attention, we could see around us in any direction. The drone slowly moved through the streets. The decay had continued, but slowly since my Dad had brought me there. Now, there were more vines and some saplings, a few of the saplings from before were true Jefflife trees now. Small animals darted about. No sign of loogers though. No creepy bushes either. Not that we'd want to, but that meant no hiding from the adults there if worse came to worst.
The bots had built well though. This would last like the Mayan cities back on Earth even though nature, this alien nature, would consume the place.
I noted the sculptures and fountains and detailing on the buildings. A lot of love had been put into the design of this city. It was heartbreaking to think about how that love had turned to bitter disappointment with the demise of the Church members' dream of a new Eden on Jefferson.
The town was in a circular pattern. The Church of the Sky Father Christ in the middle on a mound with the plaza of the town before it. The roads were concentric rings around. There were seven roads and each had a ring of buildings. Some homes. Some were others. I imagine it was all symbolic. All of it was beautiful. All of it was decaying though. It was sad. Especially when you thought about the people who died there. Yet it was still a place of wonder.
The Immie drone zipped and dipped and for the longest time found nothing. I was beginning to wonder if this was all going to be a big waste and we were going to get into serious, serious trouble for a long time for absolutely nothing. I worried about that, but I worried more about my friendship with my Merry Pranksters. We were going to be severely tested when we got home and I don't mean by a math class! Our friendship was. And while we had always stuck by each other through thick and thin, this was thicker than anything we had ever faced.
I was fretting more than paying attention to the virtual reality feed from the drone to my mind, when Veena called out:
"There! In the window!"
Rosa stopped the drone and peeked through the thick distorted glass. This was one of the reasons people working together can be a good thing. While bots can notice more than we can, people often see things that may or may not be there. This leads to a lot of false leads or false positives, as Dad calls them, or more plainly just being wrong, but it also allows us to see things the machines STILL can't really.
Veena had seen something.
And here and now, so did we. It looked like a body. Sort of. The glass was distorted. All the glass in the city, at least that was still intact, made looking through hard. However, it looked like there was a person sprawled out inside. A person not moving. A person without a helmet. We thought. We were not 100% sure.
We agreed to send the drone around to find a way in. There on the far side, we did find a broken window, a single pane gone. The drone was quite small, so getting through was no problem, but once it was inside, almost immediately, we lost connection.
The drone was gone.