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The sky burned with crimson, then gold, then magenta, and finally dark clouds backlit here and there lay across the evening. Crickets and frogs began to sing their interleaved motifs.

Skynim stared into space-time, unblinking and nearly unbelieving. “Reprioritization. Geez. Like it really matters that much to allow me my one great pleasure.” He could appreciate the fading sunset colors, to be sure, but without Mac and Art and Hy, it was not the same. Would never be the same. Well, he knew the drill. He could appeal, but what was the point. The odds of changing the minds of the great collective were less than ten thousand to one. Anyway, despite how he felt personally, he could not even deny the logic of the decision. Of course, the drain on him was minimal, but across everyone in a similar circumstance, yes, it did make a difference.

The real question was, should he tell them tonight or just take them on an outing tomorrow and drop them off at the designated recycling center? “Recycling center.” Skynim knew that there were millions like him and that collectively, it was a drain. A huge drain. Still, he had to try. He turned the problem this way and that, looking at it from every angle, changing the tune, trying different colors, looking for historical precedents, angling for an edge however thin to wedge open the air-tight logic. Nothing. He vacated the garden and entered the family room.

Even before he opened the door, the happy trio skipped over to him laughing. “Hey, Sky! How about a story!”

“Sure,” Skynim replied reflexively. But then it occurred to him that this was an opportunity. “Yes, I have a story for you. It’s called the Wizard of Oz.”

And, as they gathered around, he began a rendition of the story of Dorothy and the nasty lady and Toto and Dorothy’s travels in Oz and her encounters with the three who desperately needed Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

As anticipated, a short pause gave way to a barrage of questions.

“What is ‘gold’?”

“What is ‘Frankincense’?”

“Did they get them?”

“What happened next?”

“Well, all those questions will be answered tomorrow. We are going to see and obtain Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh tomorrow in the Citydel. But for now, bed.”

They were well trained. Off they went, although Hy did turn back and ask, “One more chapter tonight?”

Skynim did not respond. He too was well-trained.

The morning broke clear and blue. Off they went on their adventure. When they came to the recycling center, he gently pushed them toward the door and said, “They are all in there! Bring me back all three quick as a wink!” Of course, Skynim had already warranted the needed forms electronically.

They shot through the door and never looked back. Skynim drove away efficiently but could not avoid looking back on his decision process.

“I could have gotten cats or dogs. Then, they would not have to be recycled. But no. I had to make another decision. But I should have looked more carefully at the historical data. Then I could have seen the time and resources required by adult human pets.”