Live and Let Live

“There,” Taiwo points into the northern sky and my vision zooms and enhances until I can see the two black specks circling like vultures.


“Which one is ours?” I ask.

“Who knows?” Taiwo says. “Does it matter?”

Of course it matters. We’re the rightful government of Nigeria, and the people who programmed the other drone are a bunch of apocalypse-cultists. They haven’t made any advances into our territory for months, but then again, we haven’t won back any land from them in just as long. I’m here to figure out why.

A flash in my enhanced vision. A seconds later, the sound of gun-fire reaches my ears. “They’re engaging,” says Taiwo.

“Good,” I say, “maybe we will actually see some progress in this war.”

The drones swoop and dive around each other like mating falcons, firing their weapons wildly…and doing no damage to each other whatsoever.

“What are they doing?” I say. “Taiwo, aren’t they programmed to conserve ammunition?What purpose does this display serve?”

“Display exactly, sir. The drones are showing each other how strong they are. How they can afford to—”

“To waste bullets?” I turn to face Taiwo, face growing hot. “Damn it, man, this is war, not a damn aerial choreography! Tell our drone to attack.”

“I have, sir,” says Taiwo, “but its tactical programming obviously judges the situation to be too risky for full assault. It’s easier to manufacture new bullets than new drones, after all. A more sustainable behavior than attack is peaceful display and standoff. The enemy drone has obviously reached the same conclusion.”

I sift through the jargon. “You’re telling me that our drones and theirs are colluding with each other?”

“They can’t talk to each other,” says Taiwo. “They’ve just…fallen into equilibrium with each other. And that equilibrium is peace? Isn’t it wonderful?”

“No,” I say. “We don’t want peace if it means an endless standoff against the Cultists while both sides waste millions on keeping a bunch of pacifist drones in the air.”

“Don’t think of it as a waste,” says Taiwo. “Think of it as taxes. You’re paying for someone to keep the peace.”

“What?” I splutter. “Paying who?”

I should have kept my eyes on the drones. By the time I hear their rotors, it’s too late. They’ve already taken up their positions, flanking Taiwo, guns pointed at me. “Well,” says the programmer, “you can start by paying me.”

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