Brian W. Antoine
February 13, 1993
"There, that should do it." I reached over and punched up the diagnostic mode of the monitor panel. Dozens of leads snaked across the table from it to disappear inside the sensor pod I'd been working on. After a few minutes the monitor beeped to itself and decided that all was well. "Hah, got it, Goddamn loose connections." I began to gently unhook the diagnostic leads and resealed the pod.
In front of me on the table was the latest addition to Pennys remote sensor arsenal. It was a small silver ovoid about six inches in diameter that I had packed with every kind of sensor I could imagine. It contained a small version of the Momentum-Wave Drive to give it mobility and I had cast a spell on it that made it almost impossible to detect when it was outside the lab.
I picked the remote up and set it in its recharging cradle to make sure the internal power stores were at full capacity, and got ready for yet another test. "Penny, give it another try. One of the drive coils had been knocked out of alignment, that's why it barely even came online last time."
"Ok, here goes nothing."
"Now what a minute. How about having a little faith?"
"I had faith the first three times."
I turned towards the computer room door and stuck my tongue out. "Bah-- Just activate the remote."
"Yes master. Right away master ..."
I turned back to the cradle to watch the test and muttered something about smartass computers and Cobol. The sensor pod began to hum and after a few seconds lifted from the cradle and hovered above it. "Hah, oh ye of little faith."
"Pure luck, that's all it is."
"Critic... Ok, try putting it through its paces again." This time the sensor pod moved around the lab in smooth motions, instead of the jerky stuttering that had ending in it crashing into the wall last time. It stopped and scanned one of the various test targets I had placed around the room to verify that particular sensors were operating correctly, then moved onto the next.
"Looks good, boss, I'm reading everything from just above DC to well into the gamma range."
"How's the drive doing, any signs of instability? Any noticeable delay between command and execution?"
"Nope, this thing will turn on a dime. Hmm..."
"Huh?" As I watched the remote, it flew up to the ceiling and began to work its way towards the niche that I had carved into the wall for Smaug to use as a sleeping area. At the moment he was sound asleep, after having eaten his dinner a few hours earlier. He was still adjusting to increased gravity here, and tended to rest a lot in his niche. The remote came to a stop just above the entrance, and then poked its visual sensor around the edge. I could guess what was about to happen next, and sat back to watch the fun.
The sensor pod moved to a point where it was plainly visible in front of the niche and then Penny activated the external speaker and began making enough noise to wake the dead. It worked pretty much as intended, because a few seconds later the remote took off around the lab and Smaug came tearing out of the niche, out for blood, and cheeping for all he was worth.
After a quick look in my direction to see if it had been me that had disturbed his nap, he spotted the remote hovering in the air and launched himself after it. I have no idea just what he thought the remote was, but the way his tail was tracking he must have decided to see if it was edible. His problem was the he was just plain outclassed in the air. Penny would get him flying after the remote and then change direction ninety degrees and leave him skidding through the air trying to match her course changes. I was having a good laugh watching their antics and Smaug apparently picked up some of the emotional spillage, because he stopped at one point, and just stared at me as if to ask why I wasn't helping him.
Then he changed tactics. As I was quickly discovering, Smaug was nothing if not a quick learner. He began to hang back and watch the remote as if he was looking for a pattern to its movements. During one chase down the middle of the lab he made his move. Before the remote had made it to the far side, he disappeared with a pop and reappeared directly in the remote's path. Now it was Pennys turn to scramble as Smaug stabbed at the remote as if flew by. She must have decided to reduce Smaug's advantage a little because the chase now moved to floor level. Penny hovered behind a bench or something while Smaug searched, and then a mad dash would ensue until she lost him.
Finally the inevitable happened, as Smaug was hovering near the roof of the lab trying to spot the remote from above. Penny raised the remote above a table top to try to spot Smaug, and he spotted her trying it. With a loud cheep that sounded a like the dragon equivalent of ‘Gotcha!’, he went into a power dive for the bench. Unfortunately, he was unable to pull up in time when the remote ducked back behind the bench. With a loud crash, he skidded across the top of the bench, through a pile of glassware and came to an abrupt stop as he landed on the floor.
What happened next was even funnier then the dogfight. Both the remote and Smaug turned and looked at me to see what my reaction was going to be. I thought to myself for a second or two, and then put on my best angry face and jumped from the stool I'd been sitting on.
"Arggghhh! What have you done to my equipment!" And I began to stomp towards the pair of them. Before I had taken two steps, the remote zipped across the lab to its cradle, and Smaug took off at top speed, headed for his niche. I walked over to the pile of broken glassware, and started yelling at the top of my lungs about how 'Dragons are so stupid and that I'd be better off with a PC clone instead of the hunk of junk that I was stuck with for a computer!’
After a few minutes, I pretended to calm down and went over to Smaug's niche to see if he was all right. He had pretty tough skin, but that had been a lot of glass he had flown through. As I bent down I saw that he didn't seem to be any the worse for wear, but that didn't stop him from feeling terrible.
"Come on, that's ok" and I stroked the top of his head. "It was only some glass, I can fix it up as good as new again."
"That's right, come on out. I'm not mad at you." Between the tone of my voice and his own empathic abilities, he must have decided that things were ok. "Besides, I'll bet it was more that mean old Penny's fault anyway."
That got me a rude noise from the computer room, which I ignored. "Come on, you can give me moral support as I clean up the mess." As I began, Smaug sat on the nearest bench and cheeped instructions at me like some kind of foreman. I just chuckled and made a mental list of breakables around the lab that I would have to keep packed away when I wasn't using them. Having a dragon for a companion looked to be a lot like the stories I'd heard about small kids. 'Keep everything you want to keep safe locked up out of harms reach.' With a pet that could fly, that could be almost anything and everything.