Author : Kraig Conkin

Being a state of the art security drone, the People Pleaser 2200 didn’t feel the need to celebrate milestones. It held no sense of personal accomplishment, so when it’s internal logic board reported that ten days had passed without a single safety call from any of the 233 stores of Fauxhall Shopping Center, it experienced nothing akin to pride, just automated concern.

As the most widely used security drone in the world, over a million People Pleasers served humanity every day, serving their communities as guards and police, and of the models in use, the 2200 ranked as the most technologically advanced of all. Still, the recent safety report registered as anomalously perfect, so, after undocking from its over-night battery charger and starting the morning patrol, the drone initiated a self-diagnostic.

As its internal processor shifted through memory files, the PP2200 detected an intruder on the basement level of the shopping center and its mall greeting protocol kicked in. Black propellers lifted the drone from the food court floor. It whirred into the open space above the skating rink then spiraled between the escalators to enter the basement.

It lit gracefully on the floor, careful not to leave a scuff mark. Once grounded, the drone armed its anti-personal weapons array and scanned for thermal readings.

The absence of shoppers and the stores sitting quiet registered as incorrect, but the drone couldn’t place exactly why. The lack of people in Fauxhall could explain the recent lack of calls, but where did the people go?

Perhaps the diagnostic would shine light on that as well.

The drone located the target in the Nacho Pretzel Hut and moved to intercept.

Rolling toward the entrance, it attempted to pinpoint the target’s heat signature, but as his system was concurrently performing the diagnostic, the process was taking longer than usual.

Before the drone could lock, its exterior microphones picked up a high pitched hiss. The target, its furry face covered in nacho cheese, sprang from the darkness, past the drone and into the mall proper.

The creature identified as Procyon lotor, a North American Raccoon, and an unauthorized intruder.

The drone planted its firing stabilizer and unloaded. A wicked cascade of rubber bullets and bolts of green electricity erupted from his turret and instantly transformed the raccoon into a lump of burnt hair and flesh.

As its diagnostic entered its final stage, the drone paused over its most recent kill .

Something about killing the animal read as problematic, like the lack of shoppers, but, again, the drone couldn’t place the reason.

The diagnostic finished and the drone quickly reviewed the results. All systems functioned at one-hundred percent efficiency. Only one anomaly stood out. An unauthorized upload.

Ten days ago the drone had powered down unexpectedly and new perimeters had been uploaded from an unspecified source. The file registry indicated the update had been mass-distributed to every PP2200 in service- although it didn’t carry the usual encryption codes.

Yet, somehow, its records showed the upload as successfully initialized. Such a thing shouldn’t have been possible.

The PP2200’s safety perimeters, intruder definitions, and several aggression threshold protocols had all been altered. The previous files had been erased, so the drone had no way of knowing exactly how the files had been altered, but the update almost certainly explained Fauxhall’s recent security record.

The PP2200 had been improved.

Relieved in its synthetic way, the drone expertly scooped the raccoon’s remains into its undercarriage compartment. The PP2200 noted that this body was smaller than the shopping center’s previous intruders. Dumping the carcass in the underground parking lot wouldn’t take nearly as much time as the other bodies.

The drone could be back on patrol in no time.