Chapter Twenty Nine
I stomp it, blast down the street, round the corner. Rather stupid of them to get out of the car, rifles don't shoot around corners. A second right, third, the car has disappeared, they're following me, I can hear tires squeal. Okay, we'll just circle the block and see what happens.
I zip around a corner, see the bumper of Amaya's Escalade on the cross street, "Keep going straight."
I shoot past the cross street, the Nissan barreling up my rear view, Amaya crashes into it, just at the rear wheel. The Nissan spins, tips over and double rolls down the street in my direction.
"Good job, get Matt and Claudia safe, we'll clean up here."
She pulls off to our hotel.
I back up to the Nissan, smoke pours from the engine block, I smell gasoline, I jam the gear from reverse to drive, stomp the gas pedal, as I'm rounding the corner the Nissan turns into a bomb. Welcome to Colombia.
We're in Nikko's suite, Zi and Daria are walking the perimeter of the building. Eloise and Oceane are flying drones around the place. Matt is staring at one of the IPads.
"Man, real life exceeds the movies for once. What driving, you should drive stunt Amaya, you were amazing."
Amaya, "A skill I happened on."
Claudia, "Matt, these people may have saved your life. At the least they saved you from being kidnapped, maybe thank you would be in order."
Matt, "Duh, of course, Claudia and I are of course grateful. I'm still caught up in the adventure, you guys handled it like it was an everyday occurrence. I mean, how did Amaya know where to be, where Daphne would be? It's like they were talking to each other the whole time."
Amaya, "I could see her on GPS, she could see me. Once we knew what we were dealing with, the moves and directions were just what made sense."
Matt buys it, or at least acts like he does. He's not dumb, it simply doesn't occur to people that we can see in each other's minds, why would it?
Matt, "Still seems like telepathy."
Maybe it does.
Chloe, "Let's have the celebration drink we started out for, I need a calm down."
Claudia, "Please, a double anything, I'm still shaking."
Libations poured, Oceane and Eloise monitor the drones, one comes in for a recharge, then the other. Zi and Daria don't sense anything troublesome and join us in the suite. Janah's in our room, on the phone to a Homeland Security contact, then conferenced in with the State Department.
Matt, "What happens now? I mean, people saw us, at least the cars. With cell cameras and CCTV, your cars are going to show up, the Colombian police are going to have questions. We're supposed to fly out tomorrow. Are we stuck here?"
"Don't worry about it, you and Claudia are flying out as scheduled. When you get to LA, if anyone asks, you did your bit in the movie, thank the great people of Rio and Bogota for their warmth and generosity, then plug the movie. Stick to your story. Do not chat up friends, don't write a memoir or talk to Huffington Post. I can't force you not to, but if you're smart, you’ll say nothing. And if you do, and we get mentioned, we will deny everything, must have been made up by a fine actor who thinks it might enhance the box office, just typical movie hype. We won't be upset, do what you think you need to do, just understand, it won't get verified by us."
Claudia, "He's not like that, and we owe you, Matt is an actor, not a publicity hound. It will go as you suggest, great people, lovely country strong men and beautiful women. I'm going to book him on talk shows to say exactly that."
Matt, "Come on Claudia, I hate those things."
"Tough buster, you're going on record that Rio and Bogota were just peachy. These people are, somehow, fixing it that you don't get dragged in to police interviews, that you get to go home tomorrow as if nothing happened. Your end is to make it all Disneyland."
Matt smiles, "She runs my life you know. I can't club, can't do drugs, I have to show up on time, prepared. I've begged her to marry me, she refuses."
"Then she's definitely a keeper, lose her and lose your way."
Matt, "What I figured. Where do we sleep tonight?"
"We have suites, one has a bedroom and bath we don't use. The unused bedroom has twin beds, up to you to push them together."
Matt, "Guess it seems stupid, all our stuff is at the hotel, so we just leave it?"
Janah, "It's on the way, Daphne and Zi will collect it at a neutral site, then bring it here. We use our own people at home, but we don't have people here. The State Department sent somebody to pack up your room, but I don't know them, so we take two steps instead of one. Your belongings will be here in an hour, they're going to swap the cars at the same time."
Matt, "I'm not gonna ask how."
Janah, "It's okay, I'm not going to tell you."
Claudia laughs, "See Matt, some people don't care how famous you are."
This morning we get Matt and Claudia off to the airport, Nikko and I follow them in, wait until they're at the gate, then to our private flights. Two jets parked side by side, quickie customs check, on board and gone. Bye, bye Bogota, don't need to see you again.
We don't get home until ten, "Leave the unpacking, we'll deal with it tomorrow."
Amaya, "My drinks on the plane must have worn off, a cocktail and bed. A month of rush around and no time for workouts, tomorrow I shall fix that."
"Our routines will kick in soon enough, might actually help to have a few weeks of body repair instead of body abuse."
We're all tired, the jets are mega-comfortable but we avoided sleep so we aren't awake half the night. After a nightcap, chamomile tea for Zi, Oceane and me, everyone disappears to their room. I check on Oceane.
"How do you feel about what happened in Bogota, the kidnappers, the chase, the deaths?"
Oceane, "They wanted money."
"Yes. Did you notice the local police disappear all of a sudden? They knew and were paid off or scared of the kidnappers."
"People are always scared."
"Were you afraid?"
She smiles, "Everyone protects me."
"What if it turned out differently and we couldn't protect you?"
"It didn't turn out differently. I got to fly the drone all day, the drone likes to fly."
I kiss her forehead, go to my room.
Janah's smiling, "Things go out of her mind almost as quickly as they go in. I wonder how she completes a drawing? She did you in a vague outline, while you sat for her, then she finished it without needing you to be there. Guess she retains things based on necessity. She needs to recall what you look like to finish a drawing, but she doesn't need to remember details about Bogota."
"According to her, the pencils do the drawing, or I should say tell her what to draw."
"Talking to birds is one thing, birds are sentient, I'm not accepting talking pencils. But then she appears to pick up emotions from objects people have handled, particularly if the object was created by them, like a painting or a sculpture."
"At least that arises because someone touched it, not from the thing touched. Wait....cripes, you know what I'm thinking."
Janah, "Yes, the feeling remained in the object and the object told her what the emotion was."
"Wonder if that means the person who touched it was feeling that way or the object was, is, feeling that way?"
"I have a hard enough time buying that Oceane picks up emotions from objects, the idea that the object has the emotion is incomprehensible. Enough guesswork, I've had it, let's sleep and think about emotive pencils another day."
I'm good with that, we snuggle up and disappear.
I'm in the kitchen this morning, contemplating loads of laundry and breakfast. Lucky for me, Dasha comes along.
"I will make pahncake, aig, we haf to grocery, gone a month, no fruit, aig, bacon, bread, we need meelk for coffee, you will go to deli."
I'm back in twenty with fresh cut fruit and berries, butter, along with milk, eggs and bacon, we'll do a major grocery trip later. Girls show up, get coffee and tea, bacon sizzles, the pancakes are warm in the oven, maple and cane syrup warm on the table.
Nikko, "This is more like it, a month of restaurants is three weeks too many."
"What's up for today?"
Zi, "We have to show up at the office, they need signatures on a couple of larger contracts, I spoke with Black, The Down Homes are clicking along."
Daria, "I Skyped Mariella while we were traveling, Ultra Violet is fine, we reviewed the spreadsheets, nothing out of the ordinary."
Janah, "Glad you mentioned it. Mattie Sylvester continues to excel, the Village School has an excellent reputation. I wish we had more time to participate, but we had to let go of that. Do we want to give her a raise?"
Nikko, "We didn't start the school to make money, but it does, not a lot, the parents have been generous with a starter endowment and other donations. I think we give her a ten percent bump, she's not underpaid now and I get no sense she's unhappy, still, good work should be rewarded."
Janah, "If everyone's agreed, I'll meet with her and give her the news."
That wraps our quickie state of the family discussion, they break up to various projects, Dasha cleans up while I start in on laundry.
Janah, "Just get it going, I'm around all day, I'll finish. Laundry and folding is a pleasant meditation."
Dasha and I go to forage grocery stores, it takes two hours. Amaya drives over to get the first, biggest, load, Dasha and I schlep specialty stuff in our carryalls. The family is going to eat well. Tonight filet and grilled trout, jalapeno creamed corn, garlic mashed potatoes, frozen vanilla or brownie custard for dessert.
In the warm shower, one thing leads to another and I'm kneeling in front of Dasha doing what lesbians do, then Dasha has what lesbians have, a luscious orgasm. Eloise appears, hops in the shower and while Dasha dries, I have what lesbians have.
"You need anything?"
Eloise grins, "Janah took care of that a little while ago."
Janah, "Took a laundry break and went to see what she was up to in the workshop. It occurred to me she usually works clothing free, she didn’t disappoint. Caught up in the moment, I seized the low ground."
Eloise finishes showering, Dasha and I to the kitchen to prepare for afternoon tea, Dasha, "What ees tea?"
"Regular selection, light snacks, we have a mammoth dinner coming up."
Chloe and Amaya have been home all day, Nikko, Daria and Zi come in from the office, it's four thirty. Tea is quiet, we've had quite enough excitement, Chloe plays her flute, we drift in quiet reverie. Mysteriously, the clock has advanced to near six. We clear the tea table, girls go off to refresh for cocktails, Dasha and I assign ourselves kitchen duty.
"I'll grill the steaks and fish upstairs in about an hour."
Dasha fishes around the spice rack, "You will feex mash potato wiz garlic, I will make creamy corn," she spots her target, "chop jalapeno, maybe a bit of habanero for beeg keek."
Cocktails made, there are bowls of nuts, skip heavier appetizers, everyone's around the table except Amaya and Oceane who are surfing movie options for later.
Eloise, "I think I can make a longer life battery, it will take some experimentation and equipment. If I can get silicon between the graphene, it will extend the battery life, with more power and a faster recharge. I read about it in a paper from Northwestern University. It will be illegal, battery technology has to have government approval so they don't catch on fire. Lithium batteries catch on fire anyway, so much for regulation."
Janah, "I don't see why you shouldn't try, well, let's see, the materials you need, they aren't illegal by themselves are they?"
"No, all quite legal. The good news is the graphene and silicon are dirt cheap. I can get lithium out of a common lithium battery. Then I put it together and see if it works."
Janah, "Any opinions, observations?"
The girls shake their heads, Janah, "Got for it, don’t burn down the condo."
Nikko, "Which reminds me, we need to patent Eloise's drone design if she's going to sell a few. Once it's out there with no patent protection, it's free technology. It should be patented even if she doesn't sell any. And we need to patent and copyright the software."
Eloise, "Daria had a lot to do with it, but the resources all came from the family."
Nikko, "Do you prefer it to come under Murakami Sylk? It's okay not to, Amaya's books are copyrighted in her name, and she’s her own trademark, so is Chloe."
Eloise, "Yes, what do you think Daria?"
"Better to have in Murakami Sylk."
Nikko, "I'll get the lawyers to create Murakami Sylk Technology Group. Then they can start on the patent process. Eloise can be CEO, Daria COO, chief operating officer. If it makes any money, profits can be split between the corporation, Eloise and Daria, a third each. Is that good?"
Eloise smiles, staring at the table, glasses eternally slipping down her nose, "The family bought all our equipment, we have a beautiful place to live, clothes, a couple of chefs to feed us. Just add it to Murakami Sylk. What do you think Daria?”
“Da, the money accrues to our shares of stock anyway, we profit from family business, family should profit from our business.”
Nikko, "Done, I'll make calls tomorrow.”
Janah, “While we’re on the subject of money, we’re stinking rich. We need to give away more, any thoughts?”
Nikko, “I’m only comfortable with things we have some control over, schools, ranches for abused kids. I say we make a big transfer to the Sylk Trust, give ourselves a tax break and fund more from there.”
Amaya, “How much?”
Janah, “A billion dollars.”
Chloe, “That’s a donation.”
Nikko, “I’ll do it in pieces, it’s a good idea. It moves money to tax exempt and we can expand our free schools. I do want to keep it in New York for now. Long distance oversight is a pain.”
Eloise, “Where do we get the people? Teachers, administration.”
Janah, “David will find monks, we hire other staff. I want to look into a year round school. Not just for the talented, regular kids who might otherwise wind up in the foster system, the kids nobody wants, who need help.”
Nikko, “Then start small, some of those kids are troublesome, bad attitude from the outset.”
“They get a shot, nice environment, opportunity to learn without foster parents and their siblings treating them like annoyances they endure for a stipend. If they don’t fall in line after a reasonable time, they get shuffled back into the social services system. I’ll work it out with David, Lacy may have suggestions.”
Chapter Thirty One
Murakami Sylk Technology Group is a reality, patents filed. It takes over two years to get a patent approved, but in the meantime we can stick patent pending on the drones and the software. That prohibits people from stealing the idea and manufacturing it themselves. Doesn't mean they won't try, but the lawyers said our patent application was valid based on their research. If somebody rips it off and our patent is approved, they get a lawsuit for damages, lose any development and production costs, and triple damages if we prove they did it intentionally.
If Eloise enhances the design, we can file for an improvement patent, if she develops new technology that substantially changes the design, we need to file a new patent. That's the sum of my knowledge of patents, which is why we have lawyers.
Her guesstimate of time she spent on the first generation drone was about a thousand hours. Production costs were minimal, a few hundred per drone, upgraded cameras, microphones add substantially, maybe a thousand per. The software costs are hard to figure, Susan and Daria spent a lot of time but didn’t record it in any way. There’s the cost of integrating them with IPads and phones, and the satellite connection. The commercial drones don't include the dart gun of course, we are considering it for tagging and tracking animals in the wild, but it's not a priority.
Eloise and Daria fly to LA with two drones for the production company that expressed an interest when we were in Bogota. A successful demonstration, train a couple of their people to use it, we start getting calls from all over the country. Then a Japanese film crew doing a documentary in the US saw it, leased two and brought them back to Japan. Our factory is in Brooklyn, there were five employees, then ten and it's an assembly line, mostly robotic. The advantages were just too great versus hand assembly, error free, the things are sleek, built to last and technically identical. Robots don't get tired and they build each drone exactly the same, we're not making custom furniture, you don't want whimsical quirks in your technology.
Leasing works for us and the customer. They only pay when they have it, when they're done, it's shipped back and refurbished if necessary. The drone has unique characteristics. The shell, rotors and wing design can be copied easily enough, even though patented, with minor changes a competitor could argue it isn't a copy. Then we're in court forever.
Eloise developed a fail safe for the other unique feature, the code. If the motherboard is exposed, or even if the fuselage is breached, the code disappears. With that protection, Nikko thought about selling as well as leasing, but it seems better to keep the product in our hands. If we sell, we earn money once, lease and the same drone earns forever. Plus, customers get upgrades automatically without buying a new drone. Considering what we have invested in development and production, we would have to sell them for upwards of twenty five to thirty thousand each. Leasing at a thousand a day, a drone out more than thirty days a year is more profitable.
A year after introduction there are twenty to thirty drones out on any given day. That's a minimum of six hundred thousand a month in revenue, a seven to ten million dollar a year business from Eloise and Daria tinkering around in their workshop. And demand grows every month.
Nikko, "I am amazed. I knew it was a good idea, I thought maybe a few high tech film crews would latch onto it, lease one for a few days and ship it back. Now we have them filming commercials, fashion shows, concerts and TV programs. We don't even advertise. Marketing expense is a support phone line that no one ever calls."
"The instructions are on the IPad we include, any tech person who's ever played a simple video game can operate it almost intuitively. They don't even have to connect to anything except to recharge."
Dasha, "Eloise ees close to new bahtery, lighter, self recharge, only IPad will need charging. She ees next going to make our own pad, no need to buy IPad, it will haf self recharge bahtery, no plug een anything."
Nikko, "Good Lord. Do you have any idea what a battery like that means?"
Janah, "It can't be used with the drones we lease, it isn't approved. We can only use it on our drones, and if it explodes, losing the drone is no big deal but we don't want injuries in the process. If she wants to submit it to Underwriters Laboratories, she can get it approved there. I have no idea how long that takes."
Eloise, "Batteries are getting lighter and more powerful by the hour. I'll likely just use those when they come out. I'm just working on one to see if I can do it. I would test it on something else first, maybe a phone or an old laptop. It could take forever with the equipment I have and I don't want to buy more elaborate stuff to make better batteries we can buy soon anyway. Everyone is working on battery technology now."
Nikko, "Do you want to ramp up drone production? It's not that we need more business. You may want to get more of the market before someone comes along with something similar. I know they can't easily reproduce the capability, but once they see the revenue potential, somebody's going to try."
Eloise, "Daria and you are the business end, whatever you decide."
Daria, "It only takes a day to manufacture a drone now. There's is no reason not to take on more business, we don't do anything but count the money, keep the robots repaired and fix any drones that need it."
Nikko, "Agreed. I want a video for the website that demonstrates the drone in action and lists some of the companies who have leased them. That will need to go through legal, some people may not want anyone to know they used a drone instead of a camera. Daria can be the spokesperson if she wants, if not, then Chloe I guess. Amaya can call her publicity people, Murakami Sylk Technology Group will do a press release and we see what happens."
Chapter Thirty Two
Crikey, what happens is the business more than doubles. Chloe is the voice that tells viewers about capabilities, Daria is on camera with an IPad demonstrating the simple operation. Legal obtained comments and endorsements from half a dozen film companies and the director of the movie Chloe did in Rio and Bogota. The video is on the company website and YouTube, Nikko put a few ads in trade publications, but the press release nailed it. Daria gets on two morning TV talk shows and late night talk, she explains the drone, Eloise flies it around the studio, does a loop de loop, even lands it on Conan's desk. She plays back the video it takes, audio picks up audience delight. The usual jokes about the NSA aside, we had fifty new leases that week. Glowing articles in tech magazines only heightened interest.
Nikko, "I talked to Susan, she wrote a lot of the code for the drone, I know she doesn't want money, but I am paying her twenty percent of our end anyway, that translates into seven percent of profits."
Janah, "What does the company net monthly?"
Nikko, "More than a million, million and a half. Longer leases get a reduced daily, but most are only for a week or two, they only get a break at a month and that's only ten percent. Nobody blinks. We have big studios leasing three or four almost every day. That buys them an additional ten percent. After expenses, production costs and wages, we net almost all of it, at least a million two or three a month. Depreciation saves some tax bite, Murakami Sylk Tech is a for profit company like the restaurants, the tax man must have his cut. Daria, Eloise and Susan's end is an expense for the company, but they have to pay taxes on the earnings. The accountants said we could make the tech company an investment of the Sylk Trust, but I don't want to go there. It has a good reputation and lots of money, we don't need the IRS questioning its operation, once they decide to audit, it ties up time and aggravation."
Janah, "Good decision. One screw up and they start in on all our holdings, which is more time and aggravation. I could get any IRS audit pulled via the Society, but it's pointless just to save a few dollars in tax. We've run everything by the book, stayed well within the limits, let's keep it that way."
Enough business, my head hurts when the numbers come out. It's Nikko's lifeblood, Daria too, Dasha and I prefer the economics of cooking time and temperature and organizing meals for ten women.
Speaking of, Oceane has snuck past fourteen in all this excitement. She's a willowy five six, lean swimmer's body, and has captured an avid audience for her art. She's branched into oils, abstract and Dali-esque. Her color pencils are mystical, she's done everyone's portrait, eerie photo-like images of all of us dot the walls, including her self portrait.
She still swims, hangs on the roof or her room clothing free, but she dresses like the rest of us in communal gatherings. Not that we wear much at home, mostly t-shirts or short silk robes. She's made no intimacy overtures, she likes to sleep with Janah and me sometimes, Daria and Dasha occasionally, there's no sexual activity. On her own, she self stimulates, doesn't everyone?
Time to ask, “Oceane, do you want to stop aging now? If you wait you might grow another inch, but I think five six is good,” her feet and hands are proportional to her current height, suggesting she’s not going to get taller. She also began menstruating a year ago, another sign she’s done going vertical.
“I will look like this forever.”
“Can’t guaranteed forever, but yes, as far as we know. Is the way you are they way you want to remain?”
She smiles, I take that as a yes.
“Janah, we need Miyako to do the DNA bit with Oceane, I’ll donate.”
Amaya, “You shall certainly not, my DNA is perfect, Oceane should be perfect.”
“Never mind, Janah, Amaya requires an intervention.”
Janah giggles, “It’s all the same DNA and enzymes. No doubt Amaya believes that since it’s been living in her, it has improved.”
Amaya, “Of course, how else could it be?”