Vaughn, without even a glimpse, tossed the PDA to Gabriela. “Only a few today but need to pick up something at Athena Industries.”

He pointed to the small purple patch on her face. “You alright? Maybe you should put some ice or a frozen lamb chop on it.”

Gabriela skimmed her delivery list, “I’m fine, I just auditioned for the role of a slave.” It was actually Tate, one of the more aggressive students at school.

She scanned the leaden sky as the heavy droplets pounded and started her bike. “Stupid atmospheric processors… always screwing up.”

Two police droids walked by. One of them tracked her momentarily. Bad weather meant potentially more accidents and therefore more police droids on patrol. Well, that was the excuse anyway.

As Gabriela’s bike proved its worth as a powerboat streaking down Kensington Street, she glanced up. Nothing but grimy barrage and spray from vehicles… at least as far as she could tell. Sure, the job had decent pay and it wasn’t boring but it had its dangers. A courier who had to speed through traffic always raised eyebrows. The cops on the ground mostly understood; they would see her uniform, gauge her demeanour, and then it was business as usual. But the real problem was not at ground level.

“Hey, slow down,” Vaughn blared through her earpiece. “You know those gen-2 Defender drones are autonomous, right? Ever since that Sixth Avenue robbery last year, the whole city’s swarming with them.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Their threat recognition software aren’t the best in bad weather and you know what happened to Ray last month.”

But Gabriela wanted to get home. A few more turns and she arrived at the lobby of Athena Industries. A woman and two security men behind the sleek reception desk approached with a sealed metallic cylinder and a scanner.

Gabriela swiped her ID over the scanner and secured the package onto her bike. “Where to?”

The woman answered, “Strider Aerospace on Yorktown Street please. And don’t speed.”

“Good to see you have so much confidence in your own product. Why don’t you lend me one of your ‘Do Not Destroy’ markers?”

One of the security guys tried to suppress a chuckle. The woman glowered at him, then turned back to Gabriela. “We don’t design or manufacture drones here. We’re a contractor, just one of many.”

Gabriela nodded and sped away. She didn’t bother to look whether they accepted her complimentary spray.
At the red light on Eleventh Avenue, the news was on one of the giant screens overhead:

<< …war with the Russo-Sino Union, if conventional, will involve combat which may be beyond our current droid and drone capabilities despite our constant research and development efforts,” warned General Harris. >>

When the light was green, Gabriela speared ahead and turned down a side street, a shortcut to-

A car narrowly missed her. Instead of some cursing and driving off, the door swung open. It was Tate.

Gabriela sighed. “Of all the people in this city.”

He stepped out of his daddy’s car with a grin.

“I’m working, asshole, leave me alone,” she scoffed.

Tate laughed, strode forward and pushed Gabriela off her bike.

She sprung up. “Oh, you’re so cool; yeah, cos being a bully is such an achievement. Your mother don’t give you enough attention?”

Tate kicked her bike and grabbed her packages. “What’s this?” He briefly browsed the items and got back into his car with them.

She was tempted to chase him but thought better of it.

* * *

Gabriela studied the shiny cutlery in her hand as her father placed the dinner in front of her. “If the school doesn’t do anything… do what you have to do and I’ll- ”

She suddenly perked her ears.

<< …eighteen year-old high school student killed. No one else was in the vehicle. Neither the Government Pillar of Internal Security nor Strider Aerospace has made any comments on yet another apparent erroneous drone strike. >>

Gabriela then smirked and savoured her first cut into the lamb eye fillet.