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Old 08-04-2008, 01:50 PM   #94
Steven Lyle Jordan
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Once Panda-man had vacated the green dome, Amy snuck us into the inner sanctum by simply accessing the code-lock and inputting the password, "password." We entered the round room, and as Amy headed for the central control in front of the round chair, I snuck a glance at the many views of the zoo, now dominated by empty streets, and a shot of pandas milling about down at the beach. In one view, a taxi scooted past, and I could clearly see Panda-man driving it.

"We don't have much time," Amy said as she worked over the controls. "You have to get down to the cloning control, and plant the charges. You know the way?"

"I've got it on my TomTom," I replied, calling up my favorites on its screen. At once the GPS device's voice said: "Proceed west, and take the elevator on the left."

"I'm on my way," I told her.

A quick elevator ride later, I was in front of the top-secret cloning lab's door. I accessed the code-panel and input the password: "Money." The door opened with a light hiss. I stepped inside the vast space, which was festooned with high-tech devices and sophisticated medical apparati, scary-looking gestation pods steaming with liquid nitrogen, lots of chrome and white plastic, a few biohazard stickers placed seemingly randomly on walls and other surfaces, and a panda sitting on an examination table.

Oops.

My mission was to destroy the place. I didn't want to destroy any pandas. I thought fast. Remembering that I still had a PDA in my pack, I extracted it, and handed it to the panda. The panda eyed its screen for a few seconds, then put the PDA down, and looked at me expectantly.

"Oh, great," I muttered. "I find the one gay panda in the whole place." Then something occurred to me. "Say... you must be the one that big panda was talking about!" The panda's eyes seemed to focus hard on me. "Yeah, yeah... he's been asking about you all morning, wondering why you aren't at the party... the one on the beach."

Without hesitation, the panda bounded off the table and high-tailed it for the exit.

Sighing with relief, I started to plant my explosives.

Upstairs, Amy was busy transferring evidence on publishing procedures, including those procedures designed to discourage authors from producing e-books, into her own PDA. While that ran, she occupied her time by resetting controls that would shut down the stealth equipment that kept the outside world from knowing about the zoo, and unfreezing its assets, accounts, transactions and back-room dealings from public view.

She was so busy with her work, that she was taken by surprise by a thump heard somewhere outside the control room, followed by a warning light on the console. She looked up at the wall-screens around her, until she found the one that showed Panda-man and a phalanx of operatives, sprawled on the grass outside of the front door. She grinned as she watched them collect themselves, and re-approach the door, with Panda-man pounding on the door and yelling loudly.

Amy finally triggered the front door intercom. "I'm sorry, but this publishing house is under new management. Do we know your agent?"

Panda-man blanched (not an easy thing to recognize on a black-and-white intercom monitor). "Amy?"

"Yes, it's me," Amy replied. "And it's time for your little publishing castle to be brought down around your black little ears."

"No... no! You can't!" Panda-man pushed up to the camera in panic. "Don't you realize we're the only thing keeping mainstream publishing from collapsing completely? We have to maintain the status quo! It's the only way to guarantee profits for all!"

"You mean, for those already in the publishing industry!" Amy snapped. "What about all those budding, deserving authors out there, who just want a fair chance at a literary living?"

"Bah! A bunch of nobodys? Why should we try to make any money off of them, when we already have J.K. Rowling?"

"If you don't understand why," Amy said, "there's no point in explaining it to you..."

"Wait! Wait! Amy... we can help each other! Didn't you tell me once about that travelogue you wanted to write... 'The Entire Northern Hemisphere on One Thousand a Day, Pending Local Exchange Rates'? I can make that happen for you! Just say the word, and I'll have the money in your account in the morning!"

Despite herself, Amy found her hands moving noticeably more slowly across the keyboard as he spoke.

"Think of it, Amy... your name and face, sitting on every coffee table from here to Hong Kong. Your book entertaining millions... hell, billions... at current distribution rates! We'll set up a deal with the Discovery channel... they'll follow you and document your travels! You'll be a celebrity!"

Amy's hands had stopped. "I... could have the money tomorrow?"

"By nine AM! I swear to Macmillan!"

Something changed in Amy's eyes. "And what about the digital rights? Will I retain those?"

"Done!" Panda-man replied. "We'll make sure those little e-books go out at twice the hardback price, no more than a year after printing!"

"Panda bastard!" Amy punched at a red button on the console. Outside, two small doors were sliding open on either side of the front door, releasing robotic attack-armadillos. Amy saw Panda-man and his minions scream like little girls, turn and run from the front stoop, followed by large rolling armadillo drones.

Amy hit another stud. "Get those charges set! We don't have much time!"
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