edited by Chelle Parker
Content note (click for details)Content note: death of a child
Do not distribute, the feds don’t take kindly to these handouts.
Hey, kid. Ol’ Buddy here, your favourite underground, pamphlet-writing canuck. I hope, whoever and wherever you are, you’re well. Keep the generator full, the firewood chopped, and the contraband hidden.
Yeah, I said the next guide was going to be about rainwater collecting, but this topic is pretty fucking overdue for a pamphlet. File a complaint, if that bothers you. (Too bad this is real paper, asshole! No comment section!)
Those idiots in the US-of-fucking-A would have you believe drones are state-of-the-art, heavy-duty, kevlar-coated BULLSHIT. They’re called drones for a reason, see? Because the military drones on about them. Like if the marketing has six different hyphenated words for ‘expensive’, they’ll become invincible.
I know you’ve lost someone to these drones. I sure have. It doesn’t matter how many people you lose, grief always finds a new way to sneak up and sucker-punch ya, trap you under 500 tons of black seawater and make you think there’s no way to fight back.
But drones aren’t invincible. And I’m going to show you how easy they come down.
Now come on. Get up before dawn and make some coffee, if you can spare the water ration. Start your car while it’s still cold enough to see your breath, grab your 20-gauge pump, and stuff your pockets full of shotgun shells. Then get your ass in gear. You and your dear ol’ Buddy are going hunting.
Obviously, the feds aren’t going to sell you camo gear and guns since Canada lost the war and big brother America moved in. But get your hands on other stuff: hippies, or waders. Big warm coats. Ear protection. (Why ear protection, you ask? Anyone who’s ever fired a shotgun is laughing at you, kid. But it’s alright. You’ll learn.)
See what you can find at MEC or SAIL, or call up that one guy you know who can get anything if you pay well and don’t ask questions. But you stay warm, and you stay dry, okay? Buddy’s rules.
When my son Colton and I go hunting, I make sure he’s so bundled up he looks like a linebacker. Same applies to you, kid.
These drones are tiny, they’re moving, and the best way to shoot them down is to hit their propellers, so rifles are out. A single round from a rifle is a near-guaranteed miss, and a high-velocity bullet can travel pretty damn far before coming down, which means you have no idea what it might hit. Grab yourself a shotgun instead—it’ll give you a wide spread, and because the drones need to fly low under the treetops, they’ll be nicely in range.
You ever hunt duck? I figure it’s the same principle, only ducks don’t come kevlar-coated.
I separate drones into three categories: Surveillance, Sporting, and OH SHIT.
Surveillance: These are your run-of-the-mill drones, your bread and butter. Recognizable features include ugly grey/green paint, lots of lights, and cameras mounted to their bellies that gleam like the eyes of our all-American god.
Sporting: Used by men rich enough to afford hunting permits, they’re big and quiet, with custom paint jobs, wi-fi signals, and pricy cameras.
Kid, I know how this sounds. That’s expensive gear, you’re thinking. If I shot one down, it’d see my family through winter. They’d be so proud.
Fuck, I know the temptation. But you gotta listen to ol’ Buddy when he says LEAVE THEM ALONE. The second one of those drones goes down, a phone goes up, a call goes to Washington, and the government comes hunting you. Understand?
That’s how you die.
OH SHIT: That’s what you’ll say when you see ’em. Military hunting drones. The ones designed to hunt YOU. (That’s why you’re reading this, right? You’ve seen what happens when those drones come out to play. Or you’ve heard stories. Or, right now, you’re as deep in the woods as you know how, waiting for them to pump you full of more lead than you thought could fit inside a person. It’s okay. Deep breath, kid. We’re gonna get you out of this.)
The first rule: GO TO THE DRONES. I cannot state that loud enough. Here, I’ll do it again. GO. TO. THE. DRONES.
Yes, that scares you, but let’s play out two scenarios.
In the first, you kill a drone in the woods. Within hours that whole area is overrun with sniffer dogs and fucks with automatic rifles, if you’re lucky. It’ll be OH SHITs if you’re not. Scenario two, you’ve listened to ol’ Buddy. You go to the drones’ charging pads and pick them off on their own turf. Then they’ve got no way of knowing where you came from or where you’re going.
Then, you’ll live.
This shouldn’t bear mentioning, but the first time you fire a shotgun better not be now. Practice beforehand or you’ll die of embarrassment before the feds have time to make you die of something else. First time Colton fired a shotgun, it knocked him on his ass so hard I thought the poor boy was going to be concussed.
So here you are, at the asscrack of dawn with ol’ Buddy, parked in a copse of tamarack trees, near a lake that America is slurping dry as the spoils of war. You’ve had your coffee, warmed your hands on the radiator, and we’re ready to roll.
Set up well out of range of the cameras, sensors, and barbed wire around the charging pad. You’ve already done your due diligence checking the site and making sure they can’t see you before you start hunting, because you’re not a dumbass. (Need help? See if you can find a copy of BUDDY RAYMOND’S NO-BULLSHIT GUIDE TO CASING THE JOINT)
First, timing. The drones that fly by night roost at these charging pads before heading back to base. We’ll set up before sunrise, and catch them coming in low as a flock. Drones only transmit live feed to base if the algorithm senses an anomaly. But they record everything and upload it for review when they’re locked in and charging.
This means there’s a pretty twenty-two second window when they’re not transmitting. When they’ve pinged home base as Returned, but haven’t actually crossed that barbed wire fence. That’s when we hit. And you better hit hard, kid. Think about whoever you’ve lost to these goddamned drones. Get so mad your teeth ache with it. Then pay America back in bullets, the only language they understand.
So you’ve shot down your first drone and you’re feeling like a million bucks. And you should! Good shooting! Ol’ Buddy is so damn proud of you, kid.
But you ain’t clear yet. If you wanna take home drone souvenirs, DON’T LEAVE THE SITE!
All drones got a GPS tracker under their front left wing, and you’re gonna need to take that out. If you want to give those fucks in Washington something to chew on, grab a slingshot and fire it over the fence. Buys you more than just time to get gone—a broken drone means no military, just a technician sent out to fix it.
Kid, if you don’t mind, I’m going to imagine you’re like my son. Colton’s a lanky boy. Scruffy hair. Teenage acne. A little boneheaded (he got that from his daddy) and always stealing my coats. But a good heart. He wouldn’t stick around to hassle those technicians, and neither will you. They’re poor suckers trying to afford water for their families, same as the rest of us.
Besides, taking potshots at technicians is a surefire way to get military eyes on your locale. And I already told you that’s how you die.
Once the GPS tracker is dealt with, take that drone back to your commune, your trailer, your little hovel. Then start stripping it for parts. For tips and tricks, ask around and get your hands on BUDDY RAYMOND’S NO-BULLSHIT GUIDE TO REPURPOSING AMERICAN MILITARY HARDWARE.
But I’ll tell you this: everything in that drone can be reused. Hell, if you’ve got some hacking know-how, you can turn it into a productive member of society. (The hardware connection ain’t hard—drones all use USB-C. Lazy fucking Americans.)
WHEN IT GOES WRONG
Sometimes, you fuck up. It’s not your fault, kid. We’ve all done stupid shit to make the ones we love proud. But there’s a chance you won’t have the luxury of hunting drones on your terms.
Sometimes, the drones are hunting you.
And maybe you’re in the woods, alone. You’re scared. Can’t go home, not with a drone on your tail. Can’t plan, or run. You’ve got a jammed shotgun, a big coat, and more bravery than a kid your age should have, but that ain’t gonna matter. Your daddy is going to find you far, far too late.
Deep breath. You’re gonna get out of this, okay? Listen to ol’ Buddy. Those algorithms are trained to sense things out of the ordinary: strange colours, movement, human shapes. So you gotta blend in.
If you’ve got camo on, go low. Hide your face and bury yourself under cold leaves, rocks, and long grasses. It’ll take hours for those drones to give up. Don’t move, even if your arm is asleep and your leg is cramping and you have to piss so bad you think you’re going to explode. Even if you think you’ve been there long enough. Even if you think it’s impossible for them to still be looking.
If you’ve got no camo gear because today you took your daddy’s warm red coat with you, the one you haven’t quite grown into yet, turn it inside out. Roll in the mud, even if it makes your teeth chatter and your fingers numb. Rub dirt and moss through your hair. See if you can find a cave to hide in. Don’t move.
Please kid, don’t move. Wait for someone to come find you.
After hours and hours, after you’ve swung from scared to bored to self-loathing and back again so many times your brain feels numb, if you really, really, truly think you’re safe…
Move slow. Twitch a finger. Curl your hand. Shift your arm. Your head and torso move last, understand? A bullet to your arm, even a dozen, hurt bad. But they won’t hurt near as bad as one to the head.
You’re going to get home, kid, because you followed Buddy’s advice.
Your daddy won’t have to find you, hours later, cold and still in that bright red coat. Your daddy won’t have to realize it ain’t the bright red of the coat he’s seeing, but the blood soaked through the fabric.
Your daddy won’t be too late.
So there you have it. Another Buddy Raymond guide, straight from my printer to your hands.
I don’t normally like my pamphlets distributed, but for this one I’m making an exception. Give this to everyone you know. Everyone with a chip on their shoulder. Everyone who lost someone because I didn’t write this goddamned guide sooner.
Now, grab your gear, grab your gun, and get going. Go kill every fucking drone from Bonavista to Vancouver Island, and tell ’em Colton’s dad sent you.
I’m proud of you, kid.
I was always so damn proud of you.
– BUDDY RAYMOND
© 2024 by Gillian Secord
Author’s Note: I’ve always thought there’s something really interesting about combining very old ways of doing with hyper-new ways of being. Duck are ancient animals. Drones are a new technology. And yet, it seemed plausible that in some dystopia five minutes into the future, some backwater hunter would just reuse duck-hunting methods to fight new threats. Originally, this guide was part of a larger piece, but I found as I wrote it that I was far more interested in the opinionated hunter writing the guide than anything else, so I got out of his way and let him do the talking.
Gillian Secord is a speculative fiction writer and Aurora Award finalist from Toronto, Canada, whose work has appeared in Fireside Magazine, Cossmass Infinities, and others. When she’s not writing, she’s scouring the city for good coffee shops and collecting vinyl. She has two cats and has yet to convince either of the fuzzballs to pay rent. You can find her online at gilliansecord.wordpress.com and on twitter @GillianSecord.