The Raven Haired Rogue by John Zakour, Illustrated by John Dallaire

RHR07 imageVote at the end of this episode!

In the previous episode, Saturn, the dog from Mars that Zach has been tasked to find, was captured by a dog-catcher bot. They needed to decide what to do next and readers voted that he just blast it.

Episode 7

I watched the net from the dog-catcher bot move closer and closer to Saturn.

“I didn’t get this close to be stopped by some two-bit bot,” I snarl.

“Zach, DCBs have way more than two-bit processors. While they are not nearly as advanced as me, they still need processing power to identify a dog, determine if it is a stray and then apprehend it.” HARV notices me glaring at him. “Oh, perhaps you are referring to the price of the bot using an antiquated term? If so I must inform you that DCBs cost far more than two bits…” HARV’s eyes start to flash. “In fact they cost 20,000 credits.” HARV studies me for a nanosecond. “Therefore if you are planning to blow away the bot the fine will be 20,000 credits for the new bot plus another 25,000 credits for discharging your weapon in public without cause.” HARV points a finger at me. “I’m sure you are aware that even licensed PI’s are not allowed to do that.” HARV puts his hands on his hips and lifts his head in thought. “Still, Merinda is paying you 200,000 credits for finding Saturn. So, you would still turn a profit despite the charges.”

I scratch my chin. “Yeah, but those fees are obscene. This is a matter of principle. What are my or your chances of reasoning with the dog catcher bot and convincing it to give us Saturn?”

“The dog or the planet?” HARV asks.

“The dog,” I sigh.

“You would have just as much chance as getting the planet from the DCB. DCBs are very single-minded. Once they capture a dog they will only release it to its owner after they pay a 20,000 credit fine.” HARV’s eyes blink red. “Plus there would be a 25,000 credit processing fee.”

“Doesn’t that seem a bit excessive?” I ask.

HARV nods. “Apparently they do not want people letting their dogs roam free and doing what dogs do all over town. Frisco prides itself on cleanliness.”

“Plus, it is kind of irresponsible to let your dog roam free,” Carol adds.

I take a deep breath and think about my options. Saturn is now in the DCBs net so I don’t have a lot of time. I need to blow the bot away but in a quiet way that won’t attract attention. “HARV, are dog-catcher bots EMP-proof?”

“Actually, no,” HARV tells me. “Interestingly enough the new Frisco City Council did debate the issue five years ago but considered it to be too cost inefficient even in a city with Zachary Nixon Johnson.” HARV smiles at me. “How nice they recognize you.”

I reach down into my left ankle holster and pull out my backup weapon: GUS. GUS looks harmless enough, like a long white tube. GUS is actually one of the most powerful weapons on Earth. I don’t like to use him much because, well, he has a personality.

As soon as my hand touches GUS he glows into life.

“GUS, reporting and ready for action, Mr. Johnson Sir!!!” he shouts. “How are we saving the world today?”

I aim GUS at the dog-catcher bot. “You’re going to fire an electromagnetic pulse at that DCB.”

“That doesn’t sound very sporting,” GUS says.

Having a weapon with a personality can be a real pain in the behind. I always have to convince GUS that he is being used properly.

“GUS, if we don’t do this a poor innocent dog who doesn’t know our laws will be put in doggy prison. Who knows what could happen to him there?”

GUS hums for second. It’s the theme from Jeopardy.

“Acknowledged,” GUS says. “EMP fired.”

The dog-catcher bot drops from the sky. Carol and I rush over to Saturn. As I remove the net from Saturn, Carol sends out soothing mental messages to the crowd of onlookers to make sure they don’t question my actions.

Saturn looks up at me and grins. He is groggy but conscious. “Nice job, Mr. Johnson,” he thinks to me. “You passed our test. We have a problem. One of her staff wants to kill, Merinda. We need you to find out which one…” Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.

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