Klaus heard them first. He usually did. The cochlear implants could cause some pretty splitting headaches and sometimes present terrible feedback, but they were better than being deaf, and a bit of tinkering meant they could be superhuman for a short while. His pale face just lit up, a grin rapidly spreading.
However, it was David who got scared before him, dragging his smaller and younger friend off to the side of the road, pushing him into a ditch, and breaking a few low branches to cover them. The bigger person was dark, scared, and a little too rough.
"Wa-what are you doing?"
"Keeping us safe, what do you think?"
"I hear helicopters - doesn't that mean other people have found us?"
"It depends on how you define people Klaus."
Klaus gave a sideways glance. It was mannerisms like that that which made him look too young to shave, rather than simply fastidious about appearance. "I don't understand?"
"Six to four says they're citizen helicopters."
"Aliens in helicopters... but aren't they too small to reach the collective and control column and see out the windscreen?"
"Not if they built them. Its not like they have space ships, walking, and noting in between.
A machine appeared over the horizon, looking like a hybrid between an old airplane and an inverted dragonfly. The front had two large bulges slung from underneath the front, looking much like transparent compound eyes, and an arched, but narrow fuselage following behind it. Large antennas splayed out in a V from just behind the spheres. A bit farther back, twin engine pods jutted out on top, a set of counter-rotating helicopter rotors rising up in between. From there, the fuselage contained another two meters, before thinning out to a downward angled strut and not retracting tail wheel, looking much like a stinger. Small downward canted wings were located behind the engines, but their shape was hard to notice thanks to the yellow and green disruptive camouflage.
"Half Beard" David announced after it passed, sure to announce both syllables. "Its often used as a flying crane - the bubble cockpits in front
"How do you know so much about it?"
"I was in the army. You really learned to loathe those choppers. Without tanks of their own, their usual counter to ours was to send out attack helicopters with missiles. Our anti-aircraft weapons did a number on them, but when you have only seonds to see one pop out from behind a hill or building, some are going to get off shots. That kind isn't even the dedicated tank hunter. Those are more wedge shaped with barbettes on the side."
"Isn't halberd a human word?
"Its half beard, but yes, you're correct. We gave them nicknames in the old NATO reporting name tradition - Fighters with F, Helicopters with H, Power armor with T and so forth. We don't know the real names, and it probably sounds like "squee squee squee" to human ears anyway. Speaking of - do you still hear it?"
"No, its gone."
David removed the cover, stood up, brushed the dirt off, and then helped Klaus stand. "There are really only two vehicles the citizens don't have. No tanks, and no large ships. Of course, given that the space ships are only so big, not transporting a large blue-water navy is kind of understandable."
"I don't know. I guess they just have a different history. Tanks as we know them started with the first world war, and evolved in the second. No battle of the Somme, no showdown at Kursk, nor a need to rush the Fulda gap."
"Why haven't they built any since they saw ours?"
"If they're smart, they have, we just haven't seen any yet. God help us if they do - fuel shortages aren't going to let us meet them on even terms."