We’ve had some dark comedies so far in #SFSwap, and this one is properly pitch-black. The prompt from @jamesk was powerful in itself, and @wobbington made it all the more so for tackling it directly. There’s no last-minute twist here – the reality of the situation is grimly obvious early on, and the rest is just like watching a fist come towards your face in slow motion. Let’s hope this remains fiction.


STORY NUMBER: 29

PROMPT PROVIDER: @jamesk

AUTHOR: @Wobbington

TITLE: {Top game suggestions for you}


Happy Helicopter! Climb aboard, strap yourself in, and get ready for a hyper helicopter hootenanny! Take flight above the colourful worlds of ShineLand, drop gems for the villagers below, and avoid those pesky dragons roaming the countryside. There are nine different helicopters to pilot, and no two levels are the same! Happy Helicopter! is literally free to play right now (In-app purchases necessary for all helicopters, gems, and play time)!

“The fuck is this?” Egan thought, as he lazily pressed the install button. The game looked like shit, had no reviews, and sounded like it was made for five year olds, but he didn’t really care. It was 4AM and insomnia had strangled the life out of another night’s sleep. He opened the application, and with his phone docked in the arm controller, lowered the cheap VR set over his head. A helicopter with wide cartoon eyes on the windshield flew toward the twin panels of the low-res screen, rotor blades gleefully chugging, and attached to its tail, a banner with the game title in primary colours:

Happy Helicopter! (c) 2026 Elbit Systems.

Egan prodded his finger in mid-air to select the only option: “Play.” A cacophony of low-bitrate sampled effects blasted through the set-mounted speakers, as the one available helicopter lifted off from its grassy landing pad, its pale blue paintwork and smiling white teeth the only point of interest against a barren carpet of green.

Pi-Yon-Yan, Stage One. Drop gems for the villagers! Hit the targets for a high score multiplier, and watch out for DRAGONS!

Elsewhere

The summit had reached its climax, and the kilometres of red tape peeled back from what was now out of their hands. Governments from world nations had come together in silent agreement, to remove themselves entirely from direct conflict across war-torn nations. The ‘2026 International UCAV End User Licensing Agreement’ ruled that, in return for full non-disclosure from all co-signatories, military activities would henceforth be solely conducted by unwitting third parties, controlling unmanned combat aerial vehicles through a mobile application interface.

The Happy Helicopter! front end, sponsored and created by Elbit Systems in Israel, was localised to Russian (Счастливый Вертолет, “Schastlivyy Vertolet”), Arabic (طائرات الهليكوبتر سعيدة,tayirat alhilykwbtr saeida), Chinese (乐直升机,Kuàilè zhíshēngjī) and others. Once the game loaded, server side dependencies would randomly assign a regional proxy, which determined the drone aircraft each user would control, and within which country the sorties would be flown. Elbit themselves lent a fleet of Hermes 450s for test runs; hangars across the coastal Pacific, Middle East, former USSR and others were ready to go with MQ-9 Reapers, Boeing X-45s, MQM-107 Streakers and EADS Barracudas. The ‘gem drop’ on villagers within the game would trigger munitions bays to deploy GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs, JDAM-converted Mk84s, and myriad other guided bomb units on civilian districts, military warehouses, schools, and other high-priority targets selected from its colossal database.

Payloads could be disrupted by users playing Dragon Dancer, a cross-platform utility which controlled ground to air missile silos; when matched against a Happy Helicopter! pilot, the ‘Dragon’ would interrupt drone craft with MIM-104 Patriots, SA-2 Guidelines, and refurbished Soviet S-75 Dvina missiles. The engagements were massively weighted in favour of the UCAVs, but opposition was enabled and mostly encouraged, as per the guidelines of the EULA.

The first unmanned mission in the Happy Helicopter! project was undertaken by an anonymous user somewhere in North America, who was assigned to a bombing run of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. Crucial landmarks – including the Ryugyong Hotel and the Mansudae Assembly Hall – were obliterated, despite heavy anti-air strikes from within Dragon Dancer. The Tongdaewŏn-guyŏk residential ward, east of the Taedong River, was left with thousands dead and tens of thousands more injured, and forced into makeshift shelters in the East Pyongyang multipurpose sports stadium. The following day’s news report in the Rodong Sinmun indicated nothing with regards to any airstrikes against its people, and led with a story of the Supreme Leader posing for photos with delighted and awestruck workers at a textiles factory.

First Flight

It was surprisingly addictive, Egan thought, as minutes flicked over into a few hours, and he made progress through a steady stream of missions. The helicopter would glide into position over the red crosshair targets with a flick of a finger, and each gem dropped would raise a ‘THANK YUO!’ speech bubble from the pixel villagers, which he couldn’t believe got through quality assurance, but made him smirk every time. The dragons, when they appeared, were low-polygon models but with impressive dynamic lighting, which made them look like the menaces they were meant to be, and were almost impossible to avoid once they spotted the helicopter. Egan had pumped a few dollars for extra lives, invincibility shields, bonus gems, play time extensions, variant paint decal upgrades, five new helicopter models, and early access to future events. More than a few dollars? Ten or a hundred or so, he thought, probably; he stopped counting once he set payment confirmations to automatic. Egan stopped thinking after a while, letting muscle memory take control, as his happy helicopter fluttered on its merry way.

He tapped the villagers, and the gems dropped, again, and again, and again.


PROMPTa govt uses drone weapons, & has secretly plugged them into a mobile game for gamers to control