The low, soft hum of the Quadrotor drone was drowned out by the squeals of delight of the children who had been invited to Dee-Dee's twelfth birthday party. Parents for Dee-Dee's five invited friends had dropped them off earlier and now all six of the girls were playing in our back yard as they awaited the announcement that the cake and ice cream were ready.
I sighed as I thought about that – OUR back yard.
Yeah, it had been OUR back yard up until the final divorce decree about two months ago. Now, it was just MY back yard; unless you considered that it also belonged indirectly to my son, Dylan, age 14 – who was sitting on the patio, looking on with a put-on air of indifference – and my daughter, Deanne (we call her Dee-Dee), age 11 ... well, 12, as of today; thus, the birthday party.
Wow! My little princess was only a year away from teenage. God help me!
We had survived Dylan's rite of passage ... well, so far. Now, I just had to find a way to help Dee-Dee navigate her way through that minefield on her path toward womanhood without having the guidance and assistance...
Shit! This is Dee-Dee's special day; the last birthday party of her time of childhood; before entering into the dramatic, luxurious, and painful time of adolescence.
I had already decided in the days leading up to this that I would NOT let the joy of this day be soured by thoughts of Dee-Dee's bitch of a mother; my ex-wife, Donna. Instead, I would focus on giving Dee-Dee a memorable time; as well as preparing for the entertainment I had arranged with my friend, and now partner in our exciting – and promising to be lucrative – business venture, Nirmal Pradhan.
"Easy, Diz," I told Nirmal, as we guided our remotely-guided aerial platforms by means of the tablet controllers that each of us held. "You don't want to drop it too early. They might be able to scoot away and we would miss out on the full effect."
"Just make sure that you bring the other one in low over the back fence and hit the lights at the right time," replied my Indian-born friend. "Once y'all have them focused away from the real threat, then ... bombs away!" He had all but lost his sing-song sub-continent speech rhythm after his six years here in the U.S.; in fact, his living in Tennessee for four of those six years had caused a Southern softening of his pronunciation of English; and the introduction of terms like "Y'All" into his daily lexicon – sometimes he even joked with me that he had learned in Knoxville that "Y'all" was singular and "All y'all" was plural.
The six preteen birthday party girls were now moving around the back yard as they looked up at the Quadrotor hovering over them. It emitted a low hum as it moved a bit in one direction for a short distance, only to hover again. The girls tracked it and followed in order to be under it. It moved again in another direction for approximately twenty meters, and the girls flocked in that direction.
Suspended beneath the Quadrotor drone that moved above them at an altitude of approximately eight meters – the one we called 'Enola Gay' – was a round object with ribbons streaming all around it. We had given the impression to the girls that it was an aerial piñata and that it would drop small candies on them at an appropriate time.
So far, we had kept the other Quadrotor – the one that Diz and I called 'ET' – out of sight. I was the one actually controlling it, and I had it shut down for the time being. It sat in quiet preparation in a small clearing in the woods just on the other side of our back fence.
I had lain my tablet controller down so that I could reach for my bottle of Budweiser Black Crown. I had selected that beer more often lately, since I was feeling a need for the slightly higher alcohol content ever since the unpleasantness of the events surrounding my divorce. But I was not going to get a buzz on today, since I would have to drive later; I just enjoyed the taste of it. Thus, I was limiting myself only to two.
I coughed as I swallowed wrong because of the momentary distraction of HER arrival. I knew that Dee-Dee had invited Donna, my ex-wife, to her party; but it still upset me to see her as she breezed out the back door to the patio as if she owned the place; still the arrogant queen bee, lording over any and all that came within reach of her evil sphere of influence.
She had surprised me, as I had not noticed her car arrive. I had to cough a couple of times to clear my breathing passage of the errant flow of beer that had worked its way in there when she had distracted me for a split-second.
Donna still looked good, but not quite as spectacular as she had looked only a few short months earlier. Her shoulder-length blonde hair, green eyes, and fantastic body had always been able to get traffic at least to slow down – if not stop entirely. These days, she was still very attractive, but she had put on a little weight that I am sure she resented having. The status that she had claimed for most of her life, since turning fifteen, of being the most attractive female in sight was now in danger of slipping away.
After she had placed a wrapped package on the table that was set aside for Dee-Dee's gifts, she looked over directly at me. At first, showing no expression whatsoever; her face morphed quickly from brief delight to an absence of any emotion; then to a brief moment of sadness, followed by a clear look of resolve to face the moment. She gave a visible sigh as she made an attempt to put on a polite smile of greeting.
"Glenn," was all she said as she walked over to where I was standing.
"Donna," was the limit of my reply as I turned back toward our daughter and her friends.
I made a somewhat successful attempt at dissipating the tension that had crept into my body simply at her mere proximity. She could still stir me up, but it was a different type of stirring these days.
I looked at my watch and noticed that the time would be getting away from me if I were not more careful. I put my beer bottle down and picked up my tablet controller.
"It's time, Diz," I said to my friend standing a few feet away from me with his own controller in hand. With his focus on controlling Enola Gay, I could not tell if he even knew that Donna was here. I knew, though, that, apart from finding her presence here mildly distasteful, he would not really care one way or the other about her being here.
"Okay," he replied, simply nodding as he maneuvered Enola Gay closer to the back of the yard and nearer to the fence.
I picked up my own tablet controller and touched the spot that would activate ET remotely. I could not hear it hum to life just beyond our back yard fence, but I noted the system status indicator in my tablet that informed that all systems were "Go," as they would say at NASA.
With Diz moving Enola Gay around a bit to distract the girls, I lifted off ET from its holding site and sneaked it to an elevation that would just barely clear the trees in its path toward our yard. An inset screen in the lower left portion of the tablet's screen allowed me to see what ET was "seeing" via a miniature camera transmitting over a carrier wave in the wireless frequency band to my controller. With another onscreen set of controls, I could move the camera remotely so that its field of view could swivel in a 360-degree arc on a gimbal mount and even zoom in and out; but that was not really required today. Nor was the remote recording capability built into the tablet controller necessary.
The girls were now so focused on Enola Gay that they did not see ET descend from its altitude as it cleared the last trees en route to our back fence. I heard Donna next to me take a deep breath in her surprise at seeing ET; she was about to shout a warning, when I growled at her.
"Not a peep!" I was not looking at her, but I could tell she was slightly pissed. Up until our divorce proceedings had started, I had not been one to utter a cross word at her, and she was not used to being on the receiving end. I don't know if it was the determination in my voice or her surprised momentary outrage that got her to exhale instead of calling out to the girls and ruining the surprise. I only know that she chose, for her own reasons, to remain quiet as I guided ET remotely over the back fence and moved it nearer to where the girls were grouped – but behind their field of vision.
I touched two spots one after the other on the control screen, rapidly engaging the two capabilities of ET necessary to carry off the surprise.
The two very bright red and green strobe lights began to flash alternately as ET hovered at an altitude that was safely just over head height of the tallest girl in the group. Just a split second later, the sound effect let loose.
"Whoop! Whoop!" came the loud alert that mimicked the chirp of a police cruiser.
The girls screamed and turned in unison to see the frightening display of two bright blinking strobe lights just above and behind where they had been standing. During that moment of paralysis, I heard Diz utter, "Bombs away!" and looked up from my tablet to see Enola Gay release the round, ribbon-festooned object hanging beneath it.
.... There is more of this story ...