Labyrinthine Hive-Mind – Terribleminds #FridayFlash Challenge

I took on Chuck Wendig’s Roll for your title challenge for this week’s #fridayflash. The title random.org gave me was “Labyrinthine Hive-Mind”. I give you 473 words. Constructive criticism welcome.

I cringe as another drone flies overhead. It’s a reflex I can’t stop, even after a dozen years. The war was brutal, but short. Once we lost control of the drones’s Artificial Intelligence, it wasn’t long before they developed a complex, twisted, hive-mind that outsmarted every human pilot we sent after them. They re-programmed our guided missiles mid-flight. Our best scientists and programmers, myself included, have tried to break their code encryption, but we’ve made minimal progress. Their flight patterns and formations vary each day. Sometimes they hover to intimidate, and other times they buzz by mere feet overhead at incredible speed to frighten. It’s working.

I straighten and hurry to the vegetable patch to pick up a few things for lunch. No one wants to stay outside for long, so we all have to pitch in tilling, planting, and harvesting enough to sustain the small communities we built up.

Larger buildings like the convention center are packed to bursting, like giant termite nests, with mutated bulbous additions tacked on piecemeal, as cleverly as possible. The inhabitants would slowly sneak in supplies, build rooms with three walls and a roof inside the building, wait until the sky cleared, open a cargo door, push the room out, roll it along the building, punch out some of the center’s exterior windows or prop open a door and attach the addition from the inside. Once or twice they didn’t get the timing right, because the drones always switch it up, and people were gunned down. But the overcrowding in those places is stifling. They need more room to expand.

I pick a few tomatoes, some pears, and a hefty squash. I’ll have to cook it later. I slip them all into a canvas bag slung over my shoulder and run back a different way than I came. I don’t like the idea of the drones tracking my movements, so I always try to take as random a path as possible, even though the distance is short. I don’t delude myself into thinking they couldn’t find me if they wanted to. I still don’t want them tracking me.

I live in what used to be a medium-sized office building. I sleep in an old conference room, under a big oval table. They used to do classified work here, before the drones took over and relieved the world of computer security. That’s why the building has no windows. It’s safer that way.

The military thought I could help them figure out what went wrong. How could I, when I programmed the drones to fly test missions with the sole purpose of collecting data? A dozen years ago. I don’t know where their intelligence came from. They certainly seem to be smarter than me.

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6 thoughts on “Labyrinthine Hive-Mind – Terribleminds #FridayFlash Challenge”

  1. I like a good Terminator future! I have one in my world, though it’s sillier. Angry giant roombas.

    I was confused by what people were doing in Paragraph 3. They build a room with three sides that can roll – I couldn’t envision that. Taking it out of context now, was it on wheels? I also wondered why drones wouldn’t bomb the heck out of a convention center that was literally bursting with additions people built. If you took another pass at this narrative, I would clear those two things up for tired-headed readers like I am this morning.

  2. I like the feel, crowding living and picking veggies getting across needs of survival. Nice take on the prompt. One of my favorite situations, sharing much with movies like Terminator and Oblivion. I like the view from the programmer working through the problem in survival mode, but the ending feels a bit flat with a simple info filler. Someone could make the claim the last line isn’t necessary since we’ve seen how smart the drones are, and the line before infers the same.

    Same point a John: rolling a 5-sided (3 walls, roof, bottom–roof could have more sides) is tough to imagine–must have been on wheels. That paragraph is the most interesting part, and that touch-up would make it real nice.

  3. This is totally genius with the biology metaphors. I especially liked that the narrator’s savannah paranoia kicks in when she takes a different route back to her home from the vegetable patch (I suspect drones wouldn’t care).

    And it does make me think about the AI and security spec on those things….

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