Water slowly dripped from the kitchen tap. The slow, methodical plopping  sounds echoed through the small, cramped space, occasionally blending with the  muffled dialogue of a daytime soap seeping through the walls from the neighbour’s  television. 

In the distance, sirens filled the air.  

“We interrupt this programme with an important announcement. Crime rates in  Singapore have increased by more than five hundred percent in the last ten years.  Many memorials have been held to honour the thousands of our police officers who  have fallen in the line of duty, even as the public protests the excessive loss of  human life. The Defence Ministry is therefore hosting a nationwide gathering of the  best drone engineers tomorrow. The Participants will compete to build a state of the  art Assault Drone to take the place of Police Officers on missions to take down  criminals.” 

The metallic voice on the radio jolted Lara as she slowly etched another mark  on a wall.  

There had been 2501 sirens since he died. 2501 officers dispatched to fight  violent crimes. Only half of them had ever returned safely. And her father had not  been one of them. 

This was her chance. Tomorrow was the day she would try to make a  difference.  

Lara turned off the television. She turned to face her drone, which was  charging in its corner. She gently picked it up. 

“I won’t let you down, Dad.” She made a silent promise to herself. The whirring of drones filled the air as she walked into the large practice field.  Her jaw dropped and she clutched her drone closer to her chest. These drones were  huge. They had wingspans that were ten, twenty times larger and as if their majestic  size was not impressive enough, they sported elaborate titanium alloy armours; their  exteroceptive sensors were mounted with lasers, and some were equipped with  vicious claws and twenty feet propellers. Compared to the microwave oven-sized  drone she held in her arms; these were monsters. 

At the registration counter, a bespectacled lady handed her a form. Lara  hurriedly filled it in and slid it across the counter. The lady sighed and tapped the  clipboard aggressively.  

“The drone’s name?” She spat.  

“N-name?” Lara mumbled. “I haven’t thought of one yet.” She said. The lady  rolled her eyes.  

“Oh for Goodness’ sake. I’ll just write here Red Drone since you’ve painted it  red.” she said snarkily, snatching the clipboard and shooing Lara away. “Red  Drone?! What kind of name was that? Oh well, no time to come up with something  else now”, she thought resignedly. 

The midday sun hit her eyes causing her to flinch. Drones were lined up along  one side of the stadium. On the other, there was an elaborate aerial obstacle course.  Rising about 80 stories high, giant rotating pinwheel-shaped blades lined the front,  guarding the entrances to tunnels that zig-zagged across the course. Lara whipped  out her binoculars so she could study what lay ahead carefully, mentally visualizing  the flight path she would take, when all of a sudden, she noticed a small tunnel that  led right to the exit. She blinked to make sure she had seen it correctly. It was indeed a small opening to a tiny tunnel about five metres away from the finish line. It was  covered with overgrown shrubbery, so it was easy to miss. She was sure none of the  larger drones were on the lookout for tiny tunnels. None of them would spot the easy  shortcut.  

The announcer walked up to the microphone just as Lara lined Red Drone up  with all the others. She flicked the power switch and watched the friendly, glowing  eyes of the drone’s camera blink to life. Glancing at the enormous drones next to it,  she wished she had made it look more intimidating instead of its tiny, nondescript  form. 

A loud voice interrupted her thoughts. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready?” The announcer yelled into the  microphone, “Remember, the fastest drone to successfully navigate the aerial  course, destroy the enemy target and cross the finish line on the other side of the  stadium wins the glory of building the drone that will be used as the Prototype  Design for our country’s next-generation Assault Drones’. 

Lara’s mouth went dry, as her nerves started getting to her.  

“I can’t get nervous now, I have to do this,” she said to herself determinedly. Flexing her fingers, Lara picked up Red Drone’s controller. Slipping on large  blue headphones, she could now hear everything Red Drone was transmitting, and  through his camera, see everything too. Lara’s thoughts were interrupted with the  shrill blare of a horn. 

The air rumbled with the whirring of motors.  

“Go!” The announcer shrieked.  

Drones speedily soared up into the air. Red Drone glided alongside the  others, its bright red hue standing out among the dull blacks and greys. Soon enough, the drones arrived at the first obstacle. The giant rotating pin-wheel spinning  blades. The drones leading the pack started dropping like flies as they were sliced  into shards by the glinting blades.  

Beads of sweat dripped down Lara’s face, as she started to manoeuvre Red  Drone towards the hidden tunnel. With one swift turn of the control, he was in the  tunnel. “Yes!” Lara sighed in relief, feeling proud of her decision to drop weight in the  design of Red Drone’s body in favour of better aerodynamics. He zoomed through  the tunnel easily, while the others were mercilessly struck down behind her. 

Suddenly, Lara heard a loud crash. One of the large drones had been hit just  above the tunnel that Red Drone was in. Lara spotted the flaming drone falling  rapidly and colliding with the tunnel. The heavy weight of the broken drone caused it  to collapse completely. Red Drone hurtled out of the falling tunnel and barely  escaped unscathed.  

 There was no time to waste. She flew her drone higher and turned her  camera to aerial view mode. She had a bird’s eye view of what lay before her. She  could see only two other drones at her tail and in front of her, the enemy target. If  she managed to destroy the target with the small warhead mounted on Red Drone’s  artillery holder, she would be on her way to the finish line. Could it be? Was this the  final stretch? She could barely control her excitement as her hands started shaking.  “Keep it together Lara. Slow and steady…’ she heard her Father’s words.  

Focused intently on the small screen on her controller, Lara almost missed  one of the other drone’s stealthy approach until it was a mere centimetres away.  Pulling herself together, she slammed her thumb onto the steering wheel  control, veering Red Drone out of the way. The other drone, which was made of white, sleek chromium, quickly gave chase. It was bigger, stronger and had  produced a pair of huge claws, that sliced through the air menacingly.  Lara chewed the inside of her cheek. How am I going to shake it off my tail?  She thought desperately as Red Drone flew into a mass of clouds. As if by instinct,  she saw her opportunity and manoeuvred Red Drone just above the white drone’s  massive body. 

Before she could give herself a mental high five, the white drone’s claws did  an elegant 180-degree rotation and positioned themselves once again menacingly  above Red Drone. She had not managed to stay hidden.  Its claws gripped around Red Drone. Through her headphones, she heard a  sickening c-c-crunch, and the remote-control screen went black. 

Lara stood still. Her hand dropped limply to her side. Her head tilted  downwards slightly, as she began to tremble. In the distance, she heard the victory  horn as all around her, thunderous applause and cheering broke out. The mighty  White Drone had won the competition. 

 No, no! How could this have happened? How could it end like this? Tears  streamed down Lara’s face. She had not cried since Father’s funeral. Clenching her  fists, a wave of defeat washed over her as her mind drifted to the first time she had  picked up a screwdriver.  

Her father had rushed over to six-year-old Lara and plucked it out of her hand.  Smiling warmly, he had taught her how to hold it properly. Day after day, the two had  spent their weekends in the garage, tinkering as they built all kinds of gadgets. He  had taught her so much. And now, the drone she had so painstakingly built with all  the skills he had shared with her, lay decimated on the field. 

All her hard work, all that time spent, all for nothing. The promise that she had  made to not let him die in vain, had all come to nothing. It took all her strength to  trudge through the field, littered with metal debris, in search of her fallen drone. He  wouldn’t have wanted me to give up like this. 

Please. Please, she repeated, over and over in her head. Something red  glinted in the corner of her vision. Heading towards it, she knelt down in the dirt,  cradling the ruined drone in her lap. Turning him over, Lara traced the crooked  propellers and his not so shiny red body, now dented with claw marks. At that  moment, something feebly knocked against her hand. What? Looking down, Lara  noticed that Red Drone’s right propeller had begun to feebly spin again as if saying:  I’m alive. A gasp slipped through her lips. He was still here.  

Lara was too caught up in her own disbelief to notice the rumbling of an  engine nearing her, the shiny black military car pulling up behind her.  “Down but not out huh?” A deep voice boomed behind her. Turning around,  Lara was met with the striking uniform of the Lieutenant-General of the army. He was  flanked by two other men in military uniforms. Lara’s eyes widened. Fumbling  clumsily with a weak salute, she stood up abruptly, brushing the dirt off her legs. “What is your name?” He asked authoritatively. 

“L-Lara…” She replied weakly.  

“And…what do you have there?” He asked, gesturing at the mangled mess  that lay on the ground behind her. 

“My d-drone?” Lara said haltingly.  

“Can I see it?” He asked, holding out his hand. Lara gathered up the drone  and handed it over to him tentatively.

He spun the propeller and studied the wing structure for a few minutes, before  asking,  

“Can you make another one just like it? With a few… improvements?”  Lara’s mouth dropped open as she stared at him in surprise.  

 “Really? But- um sir, it didn’t even win the competition…” She stuttered.  “Not this competition. But I was watching how you were flying it and it’s  remarkably agile and fast. Durable too. After all that, look, it’s still spinning.” “Yes sir… that part was deliberate.” She mumbled. 

“I have a proposition for you, young lady. How would you like your drone to be  used as a prototype for a medical drone that we are thinking about? It will be used  specifically for flying out emergency medical supplies into the field, so we need  something small but fast. I can’t guarantee that it will definitely be used, but it would  be a great addition with some modifications. If we could make it work, with your help,  of course.” He said with a smile. 

Lara opened her mouth, before closing it again. She could not believe that  such an opportunity had been handed to her. He wanted her drone. Her drone! It  was not exactly the prize that she had worked so hard for, but it was something.  “Y- yes sir. I would like that. Very much.”  

“Just one more thing, Lara.” He said, handing the drone back to her.  “Yes?” she replied.  

“Any idea what you’re going to name it?” 

“…Yes sir.” She said with a firm nod. “His name is Harvey.”  

“Harvey?” he asked, 

“Yes sir.” She said, 

“That was my father’s name.

We did it, Dad. 

Ayla Hampartsoumian (Class of 2023) is a rather spontaneous writer, and writing is how she comes to interpret the world around her. It is a retelling of what she sees, feels, and observes. She enjoys creating characters as she weaves small parts of herself into each one.