As Mark was hiding out he heard the dreaded drone alarm. The air started to fill with the sound of tiny electric motors. Mark dashed to a hiding spot and saw multiple drones fly past at breathtaking speeds with the familiar high pitch scream. Just as he thought he was safe, a scanning drone came back and called him out for scanning. Mark slowly and carefully presented himself and prepared for the recognition process. Within seconds, he could see that the malware he implemented into the system was working, as the drone started to shake violently and spark before dropping to the ground, seemingly lifeless.
"Please tell me you have something to report... It's been a long day and I could really use a mojito right about now."
With its usual steady approach, AI drone X314 engaged its landing beams - standard docking procedure. For all the neurological advances operating at the core of this highly intelligent machine, some protocols could never change. Karen observed the robot with distraction. Mark had proved elusive so far. She could do with some good news but feared it wasn't going to be forthcoming. She glanced at X314's eye.
What was that? Something was different... If it was possible to read an expression from what was just a camera lens, somehow, something was there.
"Would you like some news?" the drone asked, with an air of smugness and superiority. Karen's job as Chief Tracker Hunter had been made much easier since these robots had joined her team, but she couldn't help despising their artificially created intelligence.
"That is your job," was her curt reply.
"No need for that!" The sarcastic tone of the robot grated her once more.
"I do indeed have something to report. Would you like to know what?" It seemed to be enjoying this. Perhaps the AI circuits had begun to learn how to wind people up as well. Karen sighed.
"It would appear that on a routine scan mission in the old warehouse district, one of our scan drones, SD124, malfunctioned."
"Malfunctioned? Is that possible?" Karen asked, surprised.
"No, it's not. That's why it is news..." Karen winced again. "The data logs read the SD124 routinely scanned a life form, and immediately began vibrating before terminating transmission and shutting down. Curiously, this scan drone recorded no other data on this mission."
"No other data? What? It had nothing?" Karen asked.
"Indeed. It was as though it was never there."
Karen was unsure of what she was hearing. Since the creation and implementation of the scan drones to monitor the citizens of the city, there had never been a failure. They were one hundred percent reliable. Until now.
"If I may speculate..." X314 started.
"Mark had access to the coding of the drones. He was an important developer in their early days. Could he have adapted their software so that if and when his face was scanned, he would not get recognized and the scanning drones data removed? We know he's been planning to escape, possibly to The Purists, for a while now. He could have been working on this for months... much longer then we thought."
X314's last words ran around Karen's mind. It had all happened so quickly. One minute Mark had seemed on the surface completely fine, happily heading up the corporation's peacekeeping and scanner drone division, the next, he'd disappeared, leaving a trail of sabotage on the internal servers and taking the core secrets of the corporation with him. If this information got into the hands of The Purists.... well, that didn't even bear thinking about.
"SEND THE PEACE KEEPING DRONES!" Karen shouted, now agitated at the thought of Mark getting another one over on her.
"Already have," was the swift reply.
Mark now knew he had precisely 180 seconds until a swarm of peacekeeping drones arrived. 180 seconds... 3 minutes. He'd only chosen that time because that was how long Jhonny took to prepare his favorite noodles at the street noodle bar close to his residential unit. Mark smiled ironically. "Why didn't I always order the ten-minute rice?" He had to act fast. He knew what he had to do. As head of drone development, he knew they would be scanning for organic matter. By covering himself in organic substance he would become invisible to the drones. Like the drones he programmed, he scanned the area. "Not that," he thought to himself as he spotted the sewage treatment plant. "I s'pose it'll have to be..." Mark ran to the silos which contained the life-giving but truly disgusting organic matter through which the drones could not detect him. He positioned himself on the edge of the sewage silo, took one last breath and dived in. Just as he fully immersed himself, he heard the tell-tale buzzing of the swarm of peacekeeping drones. He froze. Any movement now could trigger the hypersensitive motion cameras.
Karen took a deep breath, trying to ease the stress of the situation. She began the explanation. "We've successfully deployed the peacekeeping drones and we're closing in on the traitorous double-crosser Mar..."
"CLOSING IN!?" spat the CEO. "So you mean you are yet to apprehend that slithering snake?"
"Well...er...n...not exactly. But I'm confident we will have him soon."
Chief Executive Officer Rathmore looked at Karen with suspicion. She had run this corporation for many years and had never known anything like this. How could she not have seen this situation arise? She had prided herself on pushing the company forward from a struggling corner phone repair shop to this internationally recognized industrial megacorp. Now she could see her reputation starting to fall apart around her.
"When I gave you the pleasure of working for me I didn't expect you to fail me."
Her eyes burned into Karen's as she let this statement hang in the air.
Karen had no words. The guilt of knowing Mark was up to something and that she had failed to report it, ate away at her.
"Why did you not tell me about Mark sooner?"
Again Karen had no words.
Fixing the Chief Tracker Hunter with her piercing stare, she growled her final threat: "If he gets to The Purists with all that intelligence, you will never see the light of day again."
Mark knew that if he stayed calm and quiet he would be safe soon, as their programming would send them on the last known scanning mission. Hoping that this ordeal would be over quickly and that he wouldn't pass out, he held his breath in desperation. 'It better be worth all this,' he thought, praying that the organic sewage would hide his organic life form from their scanners.
"There will be a high intensity peacekeeping scan commencing in five seconds," loudly announced the drone. It then counted from five down to one. The scan started.
Absolute stillness was required. Nothing could move. Mark began to feel he like he might just be able to get through this and that for the sake of a few more seconds, he would be with The Purists, and he would be safe. And free! 'Isn't it typical that your nose starts to itch at moments like this!... And my ear... Oh, and my cheeks now too!...
Not this tank...'
The draining valve opened at the bottom of the silo, and the sewage with Mark in it started to whirlpool down, the peacekeeping drone unleashed its full arsenal of assault weapons. Marks now lifeless body was sucked into the draining system and away from the city.
As the pipework screeched and moaned, Gabe couldn't help but notice the obvious problem.
"Sam! There's another blockage in the sewage pipes in sector 4! We need to go deal with it- we don't want a repeat of last time!"
"I'm already on it!" replied Sam, running towards the groaning metalwork. Grabbing the wrench from the tool shed, she got to the pressure release valve just in time. "This blockage is bigger then the usual foxes we end up with... It's big enough to be a human!"
Gabe mocked laughter at the joke. "Yeah, yeah," he said, as he helped her to lift the cover.
They both froze. The sight that greeted them was something they thought would never actually happen.
"Is he dead?"
"Well I doubt he survived in there..."
With his final act, Mark opened up his clenched fist revealing to The Purists, the USB stick containing all the corporation's secrets and plans...