Some Assembly Required
Though a few guards remained at their posts, the halls of the hotel were dim and quiet at 2am. But in Ved’s workroom
the computers hummed away as his fingers clattered across the keyboard. A smirk crept across his face as he imagined Jay’s
reaction to the announcement that would come at the completion of the project. Earlier today Ram had stopped by to check his
“Ved, Ved my boy! I knew I saw great things in you. I have many loyal people at my side but you… You have vision.
You can see the big picture I’ve been dreaming of and you have the ability to bring that picture to fruition. Not everyone
could do that.” Ram paused for a moment before adding, “Or would.”
“I know it’s a sensitive area, Ram. But I want to see this happen as much as you do.”
“Oh, I know you do,” Ram nodded at him then added conspiratorially “And it’s not going to hurt that
you surpass your big brother to become my second in command.”
When that happened, never again would Ved have to put up with Jay patting him on the shoulder and ‘little brother’-ing
him. And that look on his face – the one that always made Ved want to hit him. Jay didn’t have what it took, Ved
thought smugly. For all his talk about ‘the greater good,’ he wasn’t willing to make the necessary sacrifices.
Ved glanced across the room at the virts strapped into the machinery. Yeah, we’ll just see how noble Jay is when he
gets a taste of Paradise.
It was time for a test run. Ved strapped on the VR helmet.
Ram hung back beaming proudly as Ved went over some of the finer points of programming for the group of Technos who were gathered
around his poolside chair hanging eagerly on his every word. After a round of applause, Ram moved forward to address everyone.
“As you all know, Paradise has been my dream. But this dream would not have become reality had it not been for Ved.”
There was more applause. “And now I’m going to take some time to enjoy Paradise. During this time, I will be leaving
you all and the city in the capable hands of Ved. I’d ask you all to respect him as you do me, but I know you already
Jay stepped forward to shake his brother’s hand. “I always knew I’d wind up in your shadow someday. I could
never have accomplished what you have. Mom and Dad would be so proud.”
“Ved, over here!” Cloe waved him over and took his arm, leading him back to his room where an elaborately set
table was waiting. “You’ve been working so hard lately so I wanted to make you a special dinner – I hope
it’s okay. And if there’s anything else you want or anything I can do for you... I know you’ve got a lot
of important stuff to do but I just wanted to let you know I’m really grateful you still want me around.”
As Ved was finishing his meal, Java and Siva entered the room. “Yes, ladies?”
Java stepped forward. “Sir, as you know, Siva and I have assisted Ram with day-to-day operations on both professional
and personal matters. With Ram now on retreat in Paradise, we wanted to advise you that our duty now lies with you. Everything
we did for Ram, we now do for you.”
Giving a slight nod of acknowledgement, Ved smiled. “And I’m sure that like Ram I will have no complaints about
your service. Now, there’s a lot to be done tomorrow and it’s been a long day, I think I’m ready to call
it a night.”
The girls bustled about preparing the room for sleep – dimming the lights and turning down the bed. Slipping between
the sheets and closing his eyes, Ved yawned and asked, “So, who’s going to be joining me tonight?” He felt
the covers pulled aside and something soft on his arm. Ved’s eyes shot open in horror as he realized he was now wearing
footy pyjamas and clutching a teddy bear.
Siva bent over, ruffled his hair and kissed his cheek. “Who’s my good little boy?” she asked.
In a flash, Ved whipped the helmet off and threw it across the room. Paradise… still needed a little work.