Mack Megaton Story, Part 1

Hi, everyone.  It’s been a while, but remember when I had people vote on a short story I’d write?  Here, at last, is the first part of it.  My goal is to add a new section every Friday until it’s done.  We’ll see how that goes, but I figure that if it’s out there, at least I might get motivated to finish the damn thing.

So here is the first part of an untitled Mack Megaton short story.  Hope you enjoy it.


My first question wasn’t why anyone would steal five dinosaur robots? My first question was how did nobody noticed until after the fact?  The robots had all been life size and while the citizens of Empire City were used to seeing a lot of weird sights, I had to assume five dinosaurs stomping their way through the streets was bound to draw some attention.

That’s what I got for assuming.

Because five robots were gone, and I’d been called in to take a look around.  Grigori (with two I‘s, his assistant had reminded us.  Twice.) Alexandrov had been a Russian immigrant, chasing the American dream with only his chipper demeanor and a small fortune in his bank account.  It must’ve cost him a big chunk of his cash to have his personal vision of artificial paleolithic paradise constructed and stocked with robotic reproductions of his favorite dinosaurs.  His butler or manservant or whatever (I didn’t get the exact title) showed us to the tremendous dome and left us there.

Jung sniffed a frond.  His nostrils flared.  He snorted.  “Plastic.”

Alexandrov stepped from behind a bush.  “Of course, it is plastic.  Robots don’t need to eat, do they?”

Jung shrugged.  While he was a civilized ape, I got the distinct impression that this plastic jungle didn’t sit well with him, put him on edge.  Jung had been born in captivity.  He’d never been in a real jungle.  And after mutating to his current levels of intelligence, he wasn’t interested in going home.  But I imagined this artificial realm reminded him of some of the things he’d lost.  There had to be instincts still buried under there.

Or maybe not.  Maybe the place just smelled bad.  I couldn’t tell.

Alexandrov studied me.  “You are the robot detective?  The one I sent for?”

“That’s me.”

He glanced behind me at Jung.  “And this is your monkey assistant?”

“Gorilla,” I said.  “And he’s not my assistant.  He’s my partner.”

Alexandrov chuckled.  “Fine, fine.  I like monkeys.  They are funny, are they not?”

Jung said, “I’m going to take a look around.”  He loped off with a frown.

Alexandrov said, “Did I hurt monkey’s feelings?”

He seemed honestly perplexed.  Like a lot of rich guys who surrounded himself by toadies, he most likely didn’t understand.  Guys like him weren’t capable of grasping a world outside of their control.  If they offended someone, they could always just ignore that person.  And if necessary, they could throw a few bucks at the problem.  Jung and I weren’t people.  And technically, we weren’t, but it wasn’t our non-human status that caused Alexandrov to see us as animated dolls.  It was probably how he saw everything in this world.

“I trust my people informed you of the situation?” he asked.

I nodded.  “Five stolen robots.  Tyrannosaurus, stegosaurus, brontosaurus, triceratops, and a pterodactyl.”

“Six robots,” said Alexandrov  “Five dinosaurs and a–”  He mumbled to himself in Russian.  “–caveman.”

“Caveman?” I asked.

He shook his head.  “Yes, yes, I know.  Dinosaurs and caveman don’t live at same time.  I know this, and I don’t care.  My jungle.  My robots.  If I want caveman, I get caveman.”

“Fair enough,” I replied.

“So you will find my robots, yes?”

“How hard could it be?” I asked.

“And you will bring them back, not broken.”

“I don’t know if I can promise that.”

Alexandrov grumbled in his mother tongue.  “No, no, no.  You must bring them back to me.  They are expensive.  That is why I chose you.  They are robots.  You are robot.  You will have special insight into problem.  You will understand how important and precious they are.”

I didn’t correct him, but I’d sent my share of robots to the scrapheap.  He greatly overestimated my respect for his menagerie of novelty drones.

“What if they’re already broken?” I asked.

“Why would anyone steal my robots to break them?”

“Parts?” I said.

He laughed.  “What good are parts?  They are nothing special.  Custom made, yes, but all very standard guts.  Ordered from catalogue.  Not even most expensive parts.  I am rich, but I am not stupid.  Easier to buy the parts yourself.  So if someone steals my dinosaurs, someone doesn’t steal them for parts.”

His logic was solid.  There was plenty of loose tech floating around the city.  If someone wanted the scrap, there were simpler ways to get it.

“You take case then,” said Alexandrov.  “You will find my robots.”

It was an order, not a question.  But he was right.  I took the job.  Jung and I rode back in our skimmer.  He drove.

“Are you okay working for this guy?” I asked.  “After the monkey comment?”

“Alexandrov’s a jackass,” he said, “but his money spends the same as anybody’s.  If we worked only for people we liked, we wouldn’t work at all.  And some of us don’t have rich girlfriends to pay our bills.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

I scanned through the police report Alexandrov had supplied.  There wasn’t much to it.  He’d awoken two days ago to discover his dinos missing .  No sign of damage or break-in.  The security system had been disabled.

“Inside job,” said Jung.

It added up, but so far, the cops hadn’t found any viable suspects among Alexandrov’s employees.  Most had alibis.  Those that didn’t seemed unlikely to be involved.  And those with a questionable background always had the same question.

Why would anyone steal five dinosaur drones and a caveman auto?

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  1. Julie Smith
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    More more more! Good stuff sir.

  2. Jesse
    Posted April 21, 2012 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Will you release it as a free/cheap download from the kindle store by any chance?

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted April 21, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      Most probably.

  3. Richard
    Posted April 21, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Yay, this is great. You’re too good to us ALM!

  4. Posted April 22, 2012 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    You got some good fast character-building going on here. The gorilla’s got to be male, right?

    The case is presented as another interesting job with an interesting mystery question because Alexandrov [later revealed as ex-KGB?] didn’t make me believe the dinos are that “precious.” The guy’s rich and could just buy more if these aren’t found, right? At least, that’s my first impression.

    I don’t like rich guys, shows about rich guys: TV’s Revenge, Ringer, half of Downton Abbey. It’s just me.
    Coming from that, my personal interest then has to be in the Jung and/or Mack. I could grow to like/love them, but it might help if my empathy had something in the opening to latch onto, like why they need to solve this case, get paid by a certain date–to save their underwater mortgaged house, or pay for the operation that Grandma needs real quick.
    This may sound like the typical “up the stakes” advice, but at this hour of the early morning, it’s what I’ve got.
    I assume that typos, etc. shouldn’t be dealt with here.

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted April 22, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the comments.

      Mack and Jung are from my novel, The Automatic Detective, and I wrote the story with the assumption that folks would have at least a passing acquaintance with the characters and their world. Obviously, you aren’t one of those people, and that’s cool. Glad you could follow the story.

      Appreciate the thoughts, but the stakes aren’t going to get much higher for our heroes. It’s just a chapter in their lives, an interesting case, and a chance to revisit characters from a previous novel. Though I don’t want to throw any spoilers, if you’re looking for more than a case of runaway dinosaur robots, you’ll probably be disappointed. But maybe not.

      I look forward to your thoughts when we reach the end.

  5. Charmscale
    Posted April 22, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Highly entertaining. I look forward to reading the next chapter.

  6. Posted April 24, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    great! thanks!

  7. Kelly
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Looking forward to the next installment! Your work is always enjoyable. Thank you.

  8. Posted May 14, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Dear Lee,

    Grimlock, Slag, Sludge, Swoop, Snarl.

    That is all I have to say…

    Ok, that and you took two of my favorite characters I’ve read in the last decade – Mack & Jung and combined them with something that seems very much like the DINOBOTS!

    This got me fired up. — Thank you.

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted May 15, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      These robots weren’t intentionally designed after the Dinobots, though I do love the Dinobots. But the Dinobot designs were chosen because they are the iconic dinosaurs, so that’s why I chose them for my design too.

      But, yes, I love the Dinobots, so the similarities are something I enjoy very much too.

  9. Posted May 27, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    OK, where is the first Mack Megaton story? I was directed to this website by the back of _The Automatic Detective_. The story kept referring to previous events surrounding Mack’s decision not to follow his original programming, so I got the impression I was reading Book 2 of a series. But when I look at the descriptions for your other books, none of them seem to be the Mack Megaton Book 1. Does that exist? Was it a short story? I would like to read it.

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted May 28, 2012 at 5:19 am | Permalink

      Good questions.

      So far, there is only one Mack Megaton novel, and aside from the half-finished short story I am currently working on, no other Mack stories.

      Mack’s backstory is interesting and full of some useful tidbits that only I know. Originally, I had some thoughts of including them in the novel, but decided expanding on them was unnecessary. I know it’s unusual to have a robotic protagonist where we don’t talk about where he came from, how he was made, etc., but I try my best to treat Mack like any other protagonist (who just happens to be a robot). The way I look at it, if Mack were just a regular reformed criminal trying to go straight, we wouldn’t have to spend a lot of time exploring why he chose to do so. Many crime noir stories start with the basic premise without spending much time on how our hero arrived at this particular decision. So Mack’s backstory will remain, for the time being, largely an informed quality. Sorry for the confusion.

      Oh, and there are elements of that story that even he doesn’t know about. But I see no reason to tell them either.

      I know it’s unusual, in this day and age, to choose NOT to do a prequel, but it’s the right decision, and I stand by it.

      Hope that answers your question. And thanks for the comment.

  10. Posted June 2, 2012 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    I wasn’t expecting the backstory because Mack was a robot. I deny any charge of biological bigotry. It was more the way the events and characters in the backstory were described–intriguing and important and like I was missing out on a joke because I hadn’t read the previous volume. Still, it’s better to have your readers asking for more, than wishing you hadn’t explained so much. I loved the narrative. Thank you for writing it.

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted June 4, 2012 at 2:16 am | Permalink

      Thanks for the comment. For the record, I wouldn’t want to accuse you of “biological bigotry” and am very happy to hear your thoughts on this.

  11. Aaron Worthington
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    First became a fan by reading “In the Company of Ogres” and have raided the local library for every other book they have of yours. Your characters are wonderful. My type of humor. I feel like your books aren’t so much about the plot twisting but about enjoying the ride along the way with some good friends, be they wimpy looking vampires, a god in human form or a young witch.
    So stop reading my comments and write us some more of your unique, colorful stories! And thank you for brightening my days with your books.

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