Chapter 62: Drone
Lisa (Giovanni) Nichol’s POV
The last four days had been very interesting. We had driven back to the Thurmont Pack the day after the pool party and Alpha Summit ended, leaving Patricia with Charlie. His trial with the Alphas would take place in a month, after this all blew over, and after they saw just how valuable his information was. Many of us would be making pleas for mercy on his behalf, and I hoped to God that they listened. Patricia was a good woman, and she deserved to keep her mate alive.
Enrique was traveling with us, he and his road show of electronics and gadgets. He had approached me privately before the Alphas got together and presented an idea he needed my help on. It was beautiful, it was perfect for our needs, and it was exceedingly dangerous. The group of people aware of what was going on was limited to the two of us, Ross, Ella and Renee. This could not trace back to us, the blowback would be catastrophic and destroy our species within days.
He had been holed up in a room at our Pack since we arrived in the middle of the night. He didn’t interact with the Pack, I brought him all his meals and took care of anything he needed. I didn’t understand half of the things he needed, but I got them. All activities were performed by layers of Cartel agents that we controlled, people who were true believers or paid off. We’d contact them using the information Charlie gave us, using burner phones or phones he had cloned from higher level people. Some things were simple; rent a car and leave it in a location or rent a box at a UPS store, pick up a package and leave it somewhere else. One of our Pack members would get it after the agents left it at a dead drop, a place with no cameras to trace it back. We would wire them money after the job from a Zeta Cartel offshore account that was still active.
We were getting close; after I brought him lunch, he showed me a device. It was only a couple inches square, with four small propellers. It was an advanced mini-drone, but it was much more advanced than the ones in the toy store. He had five of them on his desk. “Toys?”
“Nope, I call them AFRAID.” He picked one of them up, using his laptop he entered some information and the drone activated. It rose off the desk, hovering near the ceiling. The image from the drone was linked to his laptop; it focused on my face, boxes appeared, then it moved to his. “Call your mate in here.”
”Ross honey, Enrique asked for you to come to his work room,” I sent. A minute later, he knocked on the door.
“Watch the screen,” Enrique told me. “Come in Ross.”
Ross opened the door and the drone focused its camera on his face. The word MATCH came up around the boxes surrounding his face in the image, and suddenly the drone shot across the room and stopped in front of his face. It was so fast Ross was caught off guard; he swatted at it, but the drone moved away just as quickly and hovered there. “The FUCK was that,” Ross said as the door closed.
“AFRAID. Autonomous Facial Recognition Artificial Intelligence Drone,” Enrique said as he shut the drone down. “It’s a highly advanced miniature drone with a high-resolution camera; I programmed it to look for your face. It uses GPS and image analysis to fly without the need for a remote operator, and has a twenty-minute flight time and range of several miles. It automatically scans faces in a crowd for a match.” He handed Ross the drone, it looked like a hummingbird when it was flying, in his hand it fit on his palm with room to spare.
“So? Cool stuff, but how does that help?”
“I program them to recognize and dive-bomb their selected target, then I have this.” He took another drone off the table and opened it up, inside was a tiny white putty, cup shaped with the opening forward. “It doesn’t look like much, but this is three grams of shaped explosive. If the drone puts it within an inch of someone’s skull and detonates it, the shaped charge will send a stream of gas and shrapnel through their brain.”
“A killer drone?”
He nodded. “We’re ready to deploy to the five targets we selected, we just have to get them all together.”
They both looked at me. “Tomorrow, the President will be having a press conference to discuss the growing Cartel war that is spilling over into the United States. The Secretary of Homeland Security, Attorney General, FBI Director and other high-ranking officials will be present, and some will give short speeches before the President arrives. That’s our chance.”
“I have work to do then. I’ll get the GPS coordinates off the satellite images, what I need is a good launch point. We’ll do it from a vehicle, so a parking garage with an open top floor, a half-mile away or less, would be perfect.”
“You handle the tech side, we’ll set the trail,” Ross said. “All you need is a minivan with the back open, right?”
“Yep. These drones can be remotely activated, from there the AI program takes over. Once released, they are done. I’ll program them to travel and attack together.”
Ross and I moved to the other table, working through our list of agents. We broke the logistics down into pieces, making sure no two people saw each other or us. It took us most of the afternoon to give the directions, then Enrique made the bank transfers. “That should do it,” he said. “When the investigation begins, it’s going to be huge. Not only will the people we kill be exposed as Cartel agents, but so will the lower level. All the trails will lead back to the Zetas.”
“So how do we justify them killing their own guys?” Ross hadn’t been privy to everything, even I didn’t know.
“They were working for the Pacific cartel as well,” Enrique said. “They don’t know about it, but I simulated private phone text traffic and bank transfers from a Pacific account. I have messages ready to go that will confirm they have taken out the traitors.”
Ross looked around the room, running the scenarios through his head. “You’re sure nothing gets back to us?”
“Yes, all the emails, texts, and transfers are run through a maze of false servers, they won’t get back to us. Plus, once they start focusing on the Zetas, they will see that all trails lead to them, they don’t need to keep peeling the onion.” He smiled. “We’re really good at this, it’s how we survived the war.”
“And as soon as the Zetas are identified as being responsible, the full might of the United States is going to fall on them.” I smiled a bit. “And it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of guys.”
The next morning, we had an agent rent a minivan and leave it in a remote parking lot of a park. We drove to a remote road near the park boundary, and I shifted. He put the bag with the programmed drones in a bag, then put it around my neck along with a collar. I looked like a huge dog at a glance, but I was the smallest of the three and closest to the size of a German Shepherd.
“Remember to get dressed before you approach the van,” Ross said. “Enrique will be flying a drone high above to watch for people, but keep your senses forward. Stay well clear of any humans.” I chuffed, rubbing against his leg, before I took off through the woods.
“Jogger on trail ahead, stop and let him pass,” Ross sent to me as I ran through the tall trees. I stopped, taking some time to sniff around on the leaf litter. I loved being in wolf form, I needed to talk to Ross about getting out on runs more often. My wolf was calmer and we were both happier when we had our time in fur. A few minutes later, he cleared me to go and I started running again.
I reached the area near the parking lot, stopped and shifted. The bag had a T-shirt, shorts, and running shoes that I put on, along with a set of rubber gloves. Enrique had carefully cleaned and stored each of the drones to make sure there were no fingerprints, hairs or other evidence that could lead back to us. I couldn’t leave anything on the van.
I found the key under the rear wheel well and opened the rear hatch. Taking the soft-sided case out with the drones, I placed it in the back and closed the door again. After replacing the key, I walked into the woods and behind a tree. I put my gloves and clothes into the bag, shifting again I picked it up in my teeth and started to run back. “On my way,” I sent.
“All clear, have a good run,” Ross replied. They had the door open when I got back to the road, I jumped into the back seat and Enrique drove off. “Time to put the disguises on,” he said.
Facial recognition and cameras were in use all over the District of Colombia, so we had to take countermeasures. Some things, like the distance between your eyes, couldn’t be faked, but it all worked on finding combinations of things. Enrique and Ross put on beards and dark sunglasses; I put on a wig, floppy hat and a pair of those big-lens sunglasses. The car we were driving had been rented by a dummy corporation, not related to the Cartel.
It took ninety minutes to drive into the District and park a few miles away from the White House. We stopped outside a coffeehouse with free Internet access so Enrique could use their signal. “Is this going to be enough?”
He smiled. “All we are doing with this is watching C-SPAN. All the other stuff is automated from back at the Pack House.” He pulled out a burner cell and attached a voice modification device to it, it would hide his voice from the NSA’s recognition software. “Our agent is already in place and waiting at the parking garage, he thinks we’re going to meet up,” he said.
We watched C-SPAN as the press conference started. The President was expected to speak at noon, so we verified the time and Enrique called the agent ten minutes prior. “Frank, get out of the car and open the back hatch,” he told him. He had hacked into the feed for the parking garage so we could see what he was doing. The man, a mid-level DEA agent who had turned a blind eye to Cartel smuggling routes in Florida, did what he was told. “Now open the case.” He did, and he talked about how cute they were. “On the bottom of each is a small power switch. Take them one at a time, holding them away from the car at head level, and turn them on then let them go.” A minute later, five drones were hovering in formation before climbing into the sky. “That’s all, return the car to the park and get back in your own car.”
We had C-SPAN full screen now, the President had just walked out, his staffers in a line behind him. “Flight time is two minutes,” Enrique said, “So we have another minute. The drones are programmed to work together, they won’t attack until each has locked onto their target or two minutes hover time elapses.”
The Secret Service agent behind the President was first to notice anything wrong, but he couldn’t react fast enough to change anything. Five drones dove into the press conference at full speed, their targeting systems locked on the people they were programmed to attack. In rapid succession, I heard four BANG noises and a thud, and all hell broke loose.
There were screams, the cameras were panning around looking for the threat, and the Secret Service agents surrounded the President and dragged him back inside. He wasn’t moving, his feet were dragging the ground as the men pulled him along. The staffers had scattered along with some of the press, leaving four men on the ground. The Attorney General, Homeland Security Chief, a DEA District Manager and a powerful Senator were quickly identified as the victims, cameras captured the medical personnel working frantically to save them. None were moving, and blood was seen pooling under their heads. “Sending the messages,” Enrique said as he sent an innocuous email out to his laptop back at the Pack.
“Let’s get out of here,” Ross said. We pulled into traffic, heading out of town as Washington DC and the nation went into a panic.