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    By Rob Preece Exclusive, December 2004

    Scott Anglewood switched mode to audio on his latest eBook so he could keep his eyes on the road. Not that he needed to: His new Lincoln drove itself. Still, he liked to override when he saw a chance to pick up some time - and time was money.

    He was late again. Lisa wouldn't be happy, but she had her own business designing foods for the latest concept restaurants. She'd understand.

    He did override when he saw the legless man begging on the side of the road.

    "Spare me 20 bucks?" The Lincoln's air conditioning automatically picked up when it sensed the odor seeping through the open window.

    Scott thrust out his business card. "My company makes cyber-prosthetics. You can refit yourself and be as good as new. Get a job or whatever. No reason you should have to panhandle."

    "Yeah, sure. And how am I going to pay for that?"

    "Take out a loan. You're worth it. Once you're on your feet, you'll be able to pay it back in no time."

    "You think that's pretty funny, don't you, rich guy? Back on my feet - very funny. But legs or no, I got no job. Who's going to hire me?"

    Scott was losing sympathy fast. "Then start your own company. Like I did." Pretty much everyone he knew had started their own companies. America didn't have a lot of jobs working for someone else any more. You had to use your creativity to create something new, not use your muscles to re-create billions of the same old thing. The Chinese and Indians were too good at the mass production stuff.

    "I lost my legs fighting for my country. I think maybe my country owes me something for that."

    "Contact the VA office. Or universal health care. They'll pay for your legs if you can't. I've got to go."

    "But how about a few twenties?"

    "Sorry, I've got no change."

    Lisa was waiting for him, looking gorgeous as always, in a one-time dress that uncovered parts of her body while he watched, flashing back to opacity just when his eyes started to focus on whatever was revealed.

    "I thought those were old-fashioned."

    "Everything old is new again. You know that." She ran a hand across his smooth cheek. "Looks like you finally went in for a permashave. It'll make things more comfortable when we smooch."

    All of a sudden, Scott was in a hurry. The Chamber of Commerce meeting was important, of course. He got lots of business from the networking he did there - and Lisa got even more. But a night alone with Lisa was worth sacrificing a few bucks. Unfortunately, though, Lisa liked to draw out the suspense, make him wait, impatiently, until she decided she was ready.

    "Come on. I got a new car, I'll drive."

    She had one of the new solar jobs, practically weightless and actually environmentally positive, according to the sales material. Scott preferred the weight of a steel and plastic vehicle and good old-fashioned fuel-cell technology to power it. Still, Lisa was more into style than he was, and hers was the more impressive conveyance. It would get them noticed at the COC meeting, let Lisa brag about the styles she was bringing to the dinner table.

    He figured the COC meeting was practically the same as the ones his father would have gone to - if his father hadn't been a union man rather than an entrepreneur. A fast-talking inspirational speaker wasted a few minutes, then they got into politics.

    "We need a more business-friendly government," Scott observed to the woman on his right - a woman whose right eye was one of his products, a special that let her zoom in, eliminating the need for a microscope, telescope or any other sort of scope.

    "Business has never been better," Martha reminded him.

    "Yeah, but taxes stink." Nobody ever liked paying taxes, although the high income of the all-entrepreneurial economy made the burden bearable.

    "Oh, Scott. You are so right-D. Don't you think Scott is a right-D, Amy?"

    Of course Amy would think so. She thought anyone who didn't mind taking occasional bucks from the government to deliver health care products was right-D. She also disliked Scott because she'd had a crush on Lisa going back for eons - even after she'd hooked up with Martha.

    "Maybe so," he said. "But just because they're wrong about some things doesn't mean they're wrong about everything."

    "Hey, break it up, you guys. Josh here has finally had his breakthrough. You really want to hear about it."

    Josh had been on the verge of a breakthrough since 2005, so Scott wasn't holding his breath. On the other hand, letting Martha and Amy gang up on him wasn't a great plan. "What do you have, Josh? Finally cure cancer?"

    Josh gave that the half-laugh it deserved. "Diabetes. One of the 3,000 stem-cell lines that went public domain last year did the job. Poof - no more insulin, no more needles, no more people losing their feet and sight."

    Scott joined in the applause. Josh would be rich. Well, he'd paid his dues, even worked for Scott for a while until he built up the funding he needed for his own lab.

    The rest of the COC meeting was same-old. Scott got a few business leads - one from an Egyptian, and another from a Frenchman of all things. Lisa persuaded a major Chinese restaurant chain to trial-market one of her dinner plans.

    Traffic was light as they returned home, Lisa's solar job barely grinding along at 70 because she'd parked it in the shade that afternoon and the batteries were running down.

    "You really are a right-D," she murmured to him as she switched the car onto full auto and cuddled up next to him. "You don't really think things would be better if the hard-R's hadn't imploded back in '04, do you? I mean, they preached the same low-tax pro-business line you talk."

    He shuddered. Before he'd decided on robotic prosthetics, he'd studied economics. "Come on, Lisa. Without some sort of health care system, we could never have had the explosion in entrepreneurship that created the new economy. Plus, they wanted to drive the gays out of the country - half our best ideas came from them. Besides, I'm a scientist. And a 5 percent tax rate isn't really killing us."

    Lisa nodded. "They said that letting gays get married would mean an end to marriage, and look at us. We've been dating for years and no ring."

    Scott grinned. "I'm going to take that as a proposal. And the answer is yes."

    BUSINESS TRIUMPHANT was a finalist in the MSNBC Red, White and Bluetopia Contest. Thanks to all of you who voted for it.