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?”
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.”
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?