Nami straightened her white business dress as she entered the elevator. She had to go over the names one more time.
“Riku Dold: Vice President, Kyros Dold: Bad Hair, Victoria Dorman: Deserves Better,” She said, assigning titles to the names she had to remember. “Riku, Kyros, Victoria, Riku, Kyros, Victoria, and I am Nami.”
She checked her watch. Three minutes late, but she wasn’t going to show it.
Once the doors opened, she put on a friendly, yet competent smile.
“Welcome to Little Garden.”
She led the Vice President of Verizon and his two associates. Nami made sure they got the best service on the plane to Costa Rica, the best seats on the ferry and the monorail, the best rooms in the hotel, she even sprung for a female escort to be in the VP’s room; a little something to curry his favor.
She had done this a hundred times before. She was a businesswoman, it was in her blood. She always knew the end result. If Verizon agreed to sponsor the new asset, that would mean more beris in the bank and secured attendance records for the next five years.
To soften them up, she took them on an impressive tour through the genetics lab in the visitor’s center. A lot of tourists go to this attraction hoping that they will get to see some new-born dinosaurs. They’re usually disappointed. However, it was still the factory floor for Little Garden.
As they walked, she told Verizon the problem that they had a solution for.
“While year over year revenue continues to climb, operating costs are higher than ever,” she said as she led them. “Our shareholders have been patient, but, let’s be honest; no one is impressed by a dinosaur anymore.”
They passed through two tour groups looking in on the eggs incubating.
“Twenty years ago, de-extinction was up there with magic. These days, kids look at a stegosaurus like an elephant from the city zoo.”
She led them into the gene-splicing room.
“But, that doesn’t mean asset development is falling behind. Our DNA excavators discover new species every year.”
She took her stance next to the incubators.
“But consumers want them bigger. Louder. More teeth.”
The Verizon representatives looked a little confused at what she was saying.
“The Good News?” Nami continued. “Our engineers in gene-splicing have opened up a whole new frontier.”
She continued leading them through the lab.
“We have learned more in the past decade from genetics than a century of digging up bones,” she said as she led them to the touch screens with the DNA sequences. “So, when you say you want to sponsor an attraction, what do you have in mind?”
Kyros and Victoria looked at each other, trying to see if either of them knew what to say. Riku, the Vice President knew what to say.
“We want to be thrilled,” he said.
“Don’t we all?” Nami said, without missing a beat.
She turned to the screens with the DNA sequences, swiped the screen and spun the DNA strand around, showing it off to the sponsors.
“The Donquixote Rex,” she stated to the sponsors. “Our first genetically modified hybrid.”
“Donquixote?” Victoria asked.
“Named after the once powerful king of Dressrossa,” Nami responded.
“The one who went mad and killed all his subjects?” Victoria continued.
“The very same,” Nami smiled. “It adds to the fear he’ll bring.”
Kyros looked even more confused.
“But, how did you get two different kinds of dinosaurs to…y’know…” he said, placing one hand over the other, simulating the act.
That was when the head of genetics division of Little Garden saved the day. Caesar Clown, an award winning bio-engineer and geneticist, he had been working on the attractions since the day it was founded by the great scientist, Vegapunk himself. Every dinosaur that was bred in the Garden was designed and supervised by him.
“Oh, Donquixote wasn’t bred,” he said. “He was designed. He will be fifty feet long when fully grown. Bigger than a T-Rex.”
“Every time we’ve unveiled a new asset; attendance has spiked,” Nami continued. “Global news coverage, celebrity visitors, eyes of the world.”
“When will he be ready?” Riku asked.
Caesar Clown almost said something, but said something else, instead.
“He already is,” he smiled.
* * * *
“C’mon!” Chopper shouted as he rushed through the crowds and headed towards the visitor’s center.
“Dude, chill,” Sanji said.
They had just made it to the main street and already, Chopper was making a bee-line for the nerd pyramid.
The both shoved the double doors open and the PA system greeted them on time.
“Welcome to the Innovation Center, where technology meets pre-history. Join us on an exciting journey sixty million years in the making.”
Just then, the hologram pad in the center of the show floor beamed on a life-sized image of a moving, vocalizing Apatosaurus.
Sanji had to admit, it was kind of impressive.
Everything else was geekily gimmicky and aimed towards kids. There were kids dusting off dinosaur bones the same way as real-life paleontologists did, kids “Wow”-ed at an HD video of the dinosaur’s extinction via a massive meteorite slamming into the Earth, and people looked at maps of the world that showed where the dinosaurs used to roam.
Though, Chopper made a beeline for the only exhibit untouched by most people; the DNA Sequencer. He was going at it like crazy.
“Cytosine, Guanine, Argenine, and Thymine,” Chopper said as he selected the molecules. “Same four things in everything that ever lived!”
Sanji finally caught up with him.
“Hey, don’t wander off, alright?” he said in all seriousness before going in for the verbal jab. “Mom’s not paying me for babysitting.”
“Hey! Is that you?”
Chopper and Sanji turned around to see Nami standing on the staircase.
“Aunt Nami!” Chopper shouted as he ran towards her.
He would probably have been less excited if he realized Nami was actually talking on her cell.
“Ok. Yeah, I’m going to have to go, my nephews are here,” she said before hanging up.
She walked onto the hologram pad and gave a cheerful “hi” to her nephews.
Chopper ran up and gave her a big hug.
“Oh-ho-ho!” Nami laughed, confused with the surprising affection. “Oh, my gosh, you’re so…you’re so sweet!”
That was when she got a good look at Sanji.
“Whoa, Sanji,” she said, legitimately surprised. “Last time I saw you, you were like-” she lowered her hand to about Chopper’s nose level. “-that must’ve been what? Three-four years ago?”
“Uh, seven,” Sanji corrected. “Seven years, but close.”
Nami looked a little sheepish at her goof, but she regained her composure and continued.
“So, I see you already got your wristbands,” she handed them and envelope. “And this is for food and Viola here is going to take great care of you until I’m done working tonight, ok?”
The smiles faded from Chopper and Sanji’s faces.
“You’re not coming with us?” Chopper asked.
Nami felt a twinge in her heart when she saw that face.
“Oh, I really wish that I could, but…um…tomorrow I can take you into the control room!” She tried to make it sound exciting. “Show you behind the scenes and all of that. That’s…that’s gonna be cool, right?”
The only response was the inhaling and exhaling of the Parasaurolophus hologram that had been up since she was hugged.
Thankfully, her phone ringing gave her an opening to end this conversation.
“Ok, so…um…I will see you tonight at…uh, six.”
“Nonono!” Viola stopped her. “Don’t forget, you have…uh…”
Nami seemed to understand.
“Right, of course. I will see you tonight at…eight? What time do you go to bed or do you go to bed at different times?”
Chopper turned to Sanji and for the first time since they arrived on the island, they had the same thought: she was really out of touch.
“Ok, so, have fun,” she said to them before turning to Viola. “And take very good care of them.”
She answered her ringing phone and walked right through the Parasaurolophus hologram.
She hasn’t changed, he thought.
* * * *
A quick elevator ride later and Nami was on her turf: the control room.
The control room had a massive main screen displaying an entire map of the park, showing asset territories throughout the park. All the herbivores had free range throughout the park. The carnivores were confined to individual paddocks that served as the attractions. On the sides of the map were camera feeds throughout the whole park. Every line at every exhibit. The PA system was listening in to some chatter about a couple of juvie triceratops were ‘going at it’ in the Gentle Giants Petting Zoo. The handlers were calling in to ask whether they should be tranquilized or whether they should be moved to greener pastures. On the floor in front of the displays were at least five rows of computer control panels, each with a technician at the helm.
Nami came up between two of these technicians, Usopp and Kaya.
Usopp was a long nosed, goateed, rather scruffy-looking technician that had been with the park for about three years. Kaya was a prim and proper girl in a dress sitting next to Usopp.
“What’s the live count?” she asked Kaya.
“Twenty two thousand sixteen,” Kaya responded.
“Yeah, six kids in the lost-and-found,” Usopp said. “Uh, twenty-eight down with heat stroke, and some-”
“What is that?” she said, staring at his chest.
Usopp looked down and saw the shirt he had put on that morning. It was an old “Little Garden” t-shirt. From the old park.
“Oh, what? This?” he said. “I got it on eBay! Yeah, it’s pretty amazing! I got it for a hundred and fifty beris, but the mint condition one goes for at least three hundred each.”
“Didn’t it occur to you that, maybe, it’s in poor taste?” Nami asked.
“The shirt?” Usopp said, looking like he got caught. “Y-yeah, it did. I mean, I understand people died, it’s just terrible, but that first park was legit! Y’know, I had a lot of respect for it. They didn’t need these ‘genetic hybrids’, they just needed dinosaurs! Real dinosaurs! That’s kind of e-”
“Ok, just don’t ever wear it again,” Nami finished with him.
“Yeah, wasn’t gonna,” Usopp responded.
“So, did you close the deal?” Kaya asked.
“Looks like it,” Nami said. “Verizon Wireless presents: the Donquixote Rex.”
“Ugh, that is so terrible…” Usopp groaned.
Nami looked at Usopp almost the same way an army general looks at insubordination.
“I mean, why not just go the distance, Nami and just let these corporations name the dinosaurs? They’ve got all the ballparks, why stop there?”
Nami noticed a new update on the main map.
“Why are all the west plains closed?”
“Another pachy roaming outside his zone,” Kaya answered. “But, he’s fully sedated and ready for relocation.”
“Pepsisaurus…” Usopp muttered to himself, still disgusted. “Tostitodon...”
“Security said that the invisible fences were a ‘no-fail’,” Nami growled. “That is the second time this month!”
“Well, the Pachys short out their implants when they butt heads,” Kaya explained.
“How much longer until they get it out of there?”
“He…just got five milligrams of carfentanil,” Kaya said.
“I guess he’s very stoned,” Usopp said. “So, why don’t we show a little sympathy?”
Nami turned to look at him with a weird look again.
“I mean, you do understand that these are actual animals, right?” he asked.
“Clean up your work space,” was her response. “It’s…chaotic.”
Their differences were clearly seen in their workspaces.
Kaya’s was organized and clean, with papers stacked neatly on the side. The desk was free of food-clutter, as well as being devoid of any “personal items”.
Usopp’s was cluttered, with papers strewn around the desk. He had some Taco Bell wrappers off to the side of the desk, despite the fact that a trash can was nearby his console. The drink was at least three quarters empty and near the edge of the desk. And to top it off, the front of his desk was lined with little plastic dinosaur toys.
“I like to think of it as a ‘living system’,” Usopp said as he made a slight adjustment to his personal favorite, the Apatosaurus. “Just enough stability to keep it from collapsing into anarchy.”
Unbeknownst to him, Nami deftly nudged the trash can to be directly under his desk. As Usopp reached for another one of the toys to adjust it, his elbow bumped his drink and sent it toppling off the edge of the desk. Thankfully, the trash can caught it, without making a mess.
Usopp made and embarrassed sound and quickly took his drink out of the can.
Nami left, smiling to herself.
Just then, radio chatter came in through the helicopter headset.
“Inbound chopper, Garden One ETA five minutes.”
That’ll be the boss, Nami thought.