Pluribus 8

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September 15, 2031, 10:00 PM.

He was a monster with a pedigree.

Mel Antzen would be the first Netrosonics employee Don Jin would meet. As Don scrolled through the dossier, he was appalled.

The Antzen family had a colorful history in the state of California. Mordecai Antzen, prodigal son of a Ruritanian duke, so scandalized the family that the serfs raised enough money to send him to America, just to protect their children. After a brief and lucrative career on Wall Street, his fellow stockbrokers suggested he go west. Trapped in a Sierra mountain pass for the winter with three Indian guides, a plump Mordecai made his way down to Sacramento that spring…alone.

He immediately married a cousin of the Mexican military governor and proceeded to gain control of as much land and water rights as possible, naming his estate San Diablo. When gold was discovered, Mordecai was there to sell prospectors whatever they wanted. The resulting fortune made it possible for his son Milton to invest in railroads in the 1860s. Milton was one of the first to hire Chinese labor and the last to pay them.

It was Mark Antzen in the 1890s that really added to the family fortune, with mining, newspapers and more real estate. In 1904, he managed to clear Deer Creek Canyon of its last orphanage and monastery to build the Diablo Dam. This foray into power generation led to electrical utilities and oil refineries.

The Great Depression put a dent in the family coffers. It was hard to make profits off of Okies picking fruit. A big break came when Milhouse Antzen grabbed the small farms of Japanese interned for World War II and turned them into segregated suburbs in the post-war boom.

Monty Antzen iced the cake by leasing land in Silicon Valley to high tech companies during the 1960’s. He used part of his fortune to create the University of South Pacific in Modesto. It was the largest institution in the country dedicated to musical theater. It was also the only way his son Melvin Antzen was going to stay out of Vietnam.

Fortunately, the war ended before it was necessary to put Mel Antzen in uniform. A bit of a rebel even for man descended from sociopaths, Mel decided to strike out on his own. He did manage to set up a small programming sweatshop from Vietnamese refugees in the 1980s. He sold his company, DeeDee Now, to Netrosonics in 1992 on the condition that he could never be fired.

Netrosonics promptly turned the fifty million dollar company into a five million dollar division as part of its tax dodging strategy. It helped that Mel had misstated earnings. As a reward, he was given free rein to create other money losing opportunities in the company. Mel would find a project that couldn’t be done and make sure it didn’t happen. One day Mel’s name showed up on the same e-mail as the Pluribus project.

Eventually, Netrosonics successful strategy of failure ran out of gullible investors. Since then, Mel had gone into the online entertainment business in San Fernando.

Don’s attention was diverted from the dossier to their helicopter landing at Burbank Airport. He had met many monsters working as a detective. He wondered if he was ready for this.

Copyright 2006 DJ Cline. All rights reserved.