Siege of Drone Base Gloria

I recently read a book called The Siege of Drone Base Gloria, by Antje Bas. It’s a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the nature of drone warfare, future dystopia, as well as the “culture of protest” response by the public. An obvious, though thought provoking, comedy I give it only 6 out for 10 for observational humor, forward thinking, but an easy read that drags on a little too long.

The scene that sort of sets the stage for everything in this book is that the United Nations finished building a global “Drone Star,” or what is effectively a Death Star-like space station that orbits the earth. It’s role is to operate as a drone station. Drones with the capability of flying in both space and Earth’s atmosphere will actually stay at the Drone Star to recharge their electric engines using solar power and take on new ammunition, which have been stored at the station in mass quantity. When various UN counsels give their authority, the drones are activated, swoop down to earth and kill whomever the unelected global bureaucrats decide. Obviously, these counsels are easily swayed by donations from the nations or individuals involved.

Anyway, multiple in-power nations have access to the Drone Star, but very quickly the base was used for non-UN assassination purposes. For example, both Russia and the United States used Drone Star to support their respective sides in the same proxy war. Meanwhile, other nations were picking up the tab by paying dues to the UN. In one case a nation paid a large share of building Drone Star, in the hopes that it too could have access to it, only to have Drone Star used against it for having citizens openly critical of global democratic socialism. The population was subsequently disarmed less they try to assert their “rights.”

These drones still need to be piloted by individuals. So, in any country that has access to Drone Star, there are one or more bases for operations. Drone Base Gloria is a large warehouse like complex in Salt Lake City not far from the massive government data mining facility built in Operation Stellar Wind, which began in the Bush administration. The rather secretive drone base is commanded by Colonel Sheila Bernstein, who is known for sleeping with subordinate service members and for having an on-base nursery built for her bastard toddler. A series of sycophantic middle managers then take orders from her and in turn rule over 20 and 30 year old ITT Tech graduates who actually pilot the drones through videogame-like interfaces. Being a government operation, drone base security is manned by distribution hires, whose morose demeanor, poor customer service, sheer incompetence and rudeness rivals even the worst experiences the reader might have had with the TSA. All hands report to the drone-base in 9-to-5 fashion, regardless of whether or not Drone Star is being actively used. When it is being used, they still punch-out at 5, because working too much is in violation of the International Drone Pilot Union regulations (again, they are partially under UN dictates, not just the US military – and there is an entire team of HR people to deal with this issue). For the garrison of Drone Base Gloria long and generally inactive days are a recipe for shenanigans, and for “Colonel Ms Sheila” it is a chance to engage in her extracurricular activities, or as she calls it “milking her platoon.”

With an economy in the toilet, the powers that be in the federal government decided it would be wise to bomb the slums of Los Angeles, with the logic being that the “increased demand” for homes and infrastructure would stimulate recovery. The small area bombing could just be passed off as a military accident. For example, they’d just have the media say it was a plane full of ammunition that tragically lost control and smashed to the ground. Well, for this economic stimulus they turned to the international Drone Star rather than the US air force. Why have the US taxpayer foot the bill, when you could have the global taxpayer foot the bill via the UN?

Back at Drone Base Gloria, the drone operators were fighting off boredom slumped in front of their computers watching pornography or managing online businesses. When the call came, in they procrastinated a few hours and eventually shuffled over to their drone interfaces. Colonel Ms Sheila had a frantic and emotional reaction to all the excitement, muttering, and inconsistently and verbosely expressing orders that were often contradictory. Hundreds of miles above the Earth, Pelosi class bombing drones then unlocked from Drone Star and aligned themselves for reentry. Moments later, a small unsavory part of Los Angeles turned to a flaming cauldron, as the drones began their egress. But one drone had smashed into the earth because the operator was picking his nose. Another drone was later reported hovering over a group of middle school girls on a southern California beach. The latter instance was normal enough – a government agent acting in a sexually distasteful fashion toward their citizen employers – but the loss of a drone was rare. Fortunately, any wreckage from the crashed drone would soon disappear, as local population, impoverished by monetary debasement, would gather and sell the scrap metal in an attempt to make ends meet.

Despite the fraudulent press releases, it became known that Drone Star had been involved in the incineration. One of the officers at Drone Base Gloria had blogged about it, while several other service members had boasted about it to casino workers and underage prostitutes when on a celebratory binge in Las Vegas. A month later Drone Base Gloria was surrounded by a tent village of disaffected youth, aged hippies and a carnival of thieves, homeless, and middle class pseudo-intellectuals. Slowly but surely, the encampment grew, with amateur bands giving offbeat performances and failed artists trying to sell their wares. Eventually, a large effigy of a drone was built and burned in a fashion similar to the infamous Burning Man festival.

The siege drew on and on for over a year. Though police forces had dispersed the protestors repeatedly, what was effectively continuous protestor occupation had altered the nature of the local economy. Hence, the permanent removal of the protestors would cause a cascade of retail establishment failures, which would ultimately decrease city tax revenue, and hence the local police force could not be paid the luxurious overtimes they had enjoyed since the siege began.

Eventually a media sensation related to a kindergarten bullying case in Pennsylvania caused the public to lose interest in politicians using Drone Star to buy votes from large construction companies. The protestors began to depart from the area of Drone Base Gloria on their own accord. The result was that month after month stores closed causing increased unemployment and a decrease in home prices. Though government officials suggested that the local economy would actually increase due to a multiplier effect created by public unemployment payments, the boom failed to materialize. The Colonel worked with local government officials on a plan to force protestors to stay encamped around the base. Indeed, there were Clinton class aerial urban guard drones that could be brought down from Drone Star to patrol the tent village and neutralize anyone attempting to leave the perimeter recently erected to enclose both the base and the tent village. (The base staff were provided with a special tunnel to enter and exit the area.)

To further support economic recovery in the area the government gave all the protestors SNAP and welfare credit cards. The people were then taken out in groups, so that they could visit the local stores and spend the credits. This situation went on and on such that nobody ever questioned that things were ever any different. By the end of the book there is basically a slave camp surrounding the drone base.

By this point that book just gets boring and just drags on. The type of humor that it has gets evermore predictable and increasingly outlandish as story goes on. But there’s some funny repartee in different parts and the idea of a Drone Star is well ahead of its time. The action and consequence of various decisions and occurrences make the story fluid and unfold into new events. Still it outlives its lifespan and there is no real ending. Perhaps the lack of a conclusion is what we have to look forward to as we continue to ride the slow inter-generational train wreck of losing economic and personal freedoms.