September 21, 2031, 11:00 AM.
A kitten slept on the dragon’s head.
Don and Tap rode the limo up to the front gate of the Dragon Ranch north of Sacramento. Two man-sized robotic dragons flanked the entrance as silent sentries. A gray kitten had climbed on top of the dragon on the left and found a comfortable spot between the ears.
Don was blown away at the beautiful detailed rendering of a traditional Chinese dragon. He opened the window on his side. “Excuse me, we are here to see Karen Purima.”
The eyes of dragon with the kitten glowed. An intercom voice spoke. “Come on in. I am in the shed on the left.”
Karen came out of the shed wearing a purple caftan and welder’s helmet. She lifted the visor. “Dr. Eagle said you were looking for me. I kind of figured. Netrosonics is like plutonium, it never really goes away.”
Don tried to be conciliatory. “We will try to be brief. What can you tell us?”
“I worked there before Tommy. They were nuts, tried to drive me nuts and I quit. They tried to tarnish my reputation, keep me from working anywhere. Told people not to talk to me. Made it real hard to pay the bills. It was like they wanted me to kill myself. They like to isolate you and make you think you are the only one it happened to. It turns out they had a history of doing this to people. I think it had to do with insurance.”
This was Tap’s department. “Do you know about the policy on you?”
Karen shrugged. “I guess so. It is not enough to bury me.”
“That is the benefit you get. They get over a million dollars. No matter how you die.”
Karen snapped her fingers. “That explains it! The other day I got a strange anonymous message on my phone. It said DO NOT TALK in big letters. Tommy called and said I should post more dragons. That night somebody tried to get on the property but one of my dragbots flamed him. It took three dragbots to put out the grassfire near the back fence. He also said that you two would be coming and to tell you everything.”
Don had to step in. “You talked to Tommy Raven? Can we talk to him?”
Karen snorted. “Sure but he will have to call you. He is a little hard to get a hold of. When Netrosonics did its little number on him he had to leave the country to find work. They have tried to stop him for years. They think he stole all their ideas but that is a joke. Tommy can come up with ideas just like that. He wound up starting all kinds of different companies in China and India. You guys started enforcing your patent laws and he started coming up with all this cutting edge stuff. He helped me get started with this whole dragbot business. People pay good money to have a robotic sentry guard their business or store. It has enormous cultural significance and I am able to create distinct identities for each one I sell to wealthy clients. Come in and see what I have done for both of you.”
Tap and Don looked at each other and said simultaneously. “For us?”
Karen nodded. “They are paid for. He is very generous. It is like potlatch. He just gives people things. Mr. Jin, here is your dragon. Mr. Kalki, here is your tiger.”
The eyes of both robots glowed and they said in unison. “Greetings from Mr. Raven. May we bring you good fortune.”
Don turned to Tap. “No doubt about it, I have to get a bigger apartment.”
Tap laughed. “I have to GET an apartment.”
Copyright 2006 DJ Cline. All rights reserved.