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[I wrote this piece in January 2014 as a perceptive story of the end of the world, excepting, the last drone (perhaps I should rename it that now). With the recent flurry of alarmism from Elon Musk and Steven Hawking (just to drop a few names) I felt it was worthy of bringing out of mothballs and re-promoting it. Enjoy]
The Hawk perched precariously on the power line. Its claws tingling from the residue of voltage feeding along the frayed cable
Somewhere a generator was still running, drip feeding electricity. Not enough to run anything, but enough to give you pins and needles if you came into contact with it.
A small silver ring on the hawks' leg carried an inscription 'Property of the NSA' .
The bird looked out over the horizon. Dispassionately noting the thousands of broken buildings disappearing off into the distance: A decoupage of infinite depth; an endless panorama of destruction.
Everything seemed to have suffered impact damage from the west, affecting all buildings equally. Whatever the cause, it had occurred above the building line bursting downwards upon the concrete and glass structures disfiguring their symmetry, in some cases disemboweling them totally.
Quartering the ground in a way that ensured every metre was covered, the bird's keen eyes looked for signs of life. A scooting mouse or a trailing butterfly would indicate good news. There was nothing. Its sharp predator lenses didn't miss anything, but nothing was what they saw. Just mile after mile of lifeless terrain. Devoid of all movement, not even a gust of wind to whip the dried and dead vegetation.
The bird cocked its head and looked up, as if sensing something, only the sky bereft of cloud, the haze in the upper atmosphere cutting out direct views of the sun, gave nothing away. No dot of life, no com-trails from high flying aircraft, no twinkle of silver bodies flitting across the depth-less heavens.
Shifting its position on the cable the bird spread its wings to take in energy from the few rays filtering through the upper atmosphere. Sparse enough, but at a pinch sufficient, the feathers adjusting to increase the effectiveness of its solar power collectors.
These small photo-voltaic cells built into its artificial plumage were highly efficient; absorbing enough energy during flight to maintain its body in the air indefinitely. It needed a lot of additional power so it was also adding to its batteries through additional contacts built into its titanium claws.
The sky slowly changed colour, the blue giving way to shades of indigo as the Earth moved on its axis rotating the land away from the sun. The Hawk was now ready.
As the darkness grew, the bird appeared to hunker down. There were no witnesses to the sudden illumination from within its skull that gave off a ghostly and surreal red glow through its eyes.
Internally, the Hawk viewed a menu of commands which appeared and just as quickly disappeared while the inner workings of the bird's programming carried out essential maintenance of its components. Reports came in and displayed as the artificial brain received input.
When it was ready it pulled up a new menu and selected
CONNECT TO EARTHLINK.
The option illuminated briefly as the command was sent from its circuits along tiny filament fibre optics to the tail feathers which had fanned out to create an antenna array.
The array seemed to quiver as the artificial tail feathers altered their angle in an attempt to find an NSA relay station within range.
At the end of four hours of searching it had found nothing. Finally, Its chronometer flashed up as it recorded the negative result along with all the others.10,824 hours without contact.
Unconcerned, the Hawk routinely compressed its files and stored them in its memory banks contained within its body.
Electronic motors hummed quietly as power usage increased and despite it being dead of night, the bird spread its wings and launched itself into the blackness.
Proceeding to the next city on its GPS co-ordinates, the hawk continued to seek a relay station to uplink its data files to the satellite.
Over the next three months the Hawk added sixteen major cities to its database of visits. During that time it saw no sign of life - anywhere.
It was programmed to record life wherever it saw it yet in 14,232 hours of flying it had not seen a single living creature.
No operable up-links had been found and the bird was now 8,000 hours over its mandatory maintenance recall. As a result some of its rechargeable cells had become defective and a memory chip was failing. In its current condition the hawk's lifespan was measurable in months.
Nearly a year later the now bedraggled bird finally arrived at the location where it had originally been activated.
It felt no sense of elation or satisfaction, its work was done, objective now reached, it required only to release its burden of data and then await further instruction.
It made several attempts to land, more difficult now due to lost wing feathers, Finally, it alighted on the top of a long pole, beneath it hung the faded remnants of a rotted flag.
The Hawk had successfully circumnavigated the country of its creation and recorded its findings from every major city on its programmed route. Now, as it fanned its tail feathers one last time, it was able to achieve a connection with a working relay station that had been erected on the building below it.
Uploading Agent Recording..
618 records received...
adding records to database...
Displaying records from all Agent uploads.
14,343 – Total records received
....NO LIFE DETECTED......