Bear With Me . . .

After a stern lecture from my editor, I’ve seen the light. The term is “Bear with me,” as opposed to “Bare with me.” So if you can bear with me, I have to plug my novel every now and then . . .

Funny Panda Bear. Comical young Panda Bear on the tree. Lying cute young Giant Panda feeding feeding bark of tree. Sichuan Giant Panda from China, Asia. Rare animal in the nature forest habitat.


This is a true story. I’ll set the stage for you. I was in high school, so you have to go way back to the early 90’s.

It was a calm night in May, and I was out with my buddy fishing on Lake Erie. We were in a little boat with an outboard motor – I’d say about a mile from the shore. The fish weren’t biting, but it was nice just to be on the water. The Moon was out, but there was some cloud cover. A white light suddenly became visible in the western sky. It glowed with enough intensity to show through the clouds. Another white light appeared, this one in the north. The two lights converged on each other at a good clip, then merged into a single point of light in the northwest sky. Then it disappeared.

“What the hell was that?” my buddy asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. There were no landmarks out there to give me any idea of scale. The lights could have been way out over Canadian water, or only a couple miles away. I had no idea.

“You want to keep fishing?” my buddy asked.

“Yeah, might as well. We’re all ready out here,” I said. Pretty soon, the walleye really started to bite.

I didn’t know it back then, but I had already started to write my first science fiction novel. After a quarter century of fermenting in my subconscious, the memory of those strange lights finally emerged on paper. The result is an eclectic narrative that spans time, space, and mind. You can find the book trailer below if you’re interested. I’d appreciate the support.

All the best,



Serial Sci-Fi

Aliens Invasion Theme

Chapter 9. Geometric Clouds

“We’re here,” Chett announced. “You can relax now.” He drew a hunting knife from the sheath on his belt, and a wide-eyed Chloe took a reflexive step backward, tripping over an exposed root which caused her to take an abrupt seat in the mud.

“Don’t worry, I’m just gonna cut the tape loose from your hands,” Chett said after he got his laughter under control. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were human.”

“You’re not going to kill me?” Chloe asked as she rubbed her hands together, trying to get the circulation back.

“No. But we’re both goners if your alien buddies don’t get here soon. I turned off my cloaking device a half hour ago. I figured they would have been in a hurry to . . .” Chett’s voiced trailed off as he gestured to a large clearing in the woods that opened up before them. Three coyotes ran by in a bizarre bipedal gait, and the clouds in the sky looked oddly geometric, like cubes.

“So, the virus has already been introduced to the simulation, I take it,” Chloe said.

“I didn’t know you were aware of the virus contingency. That was highly classified.”

“During my last briefing, I was told the virus contingency was an absolute last resort. What the hell happened? I’ve lost all contact with headquarters. I haven’t had funding, or my augmented powers for months now. And the heater in my truck is broken. I’ve been getting my directives through my alien buddies, as you like to call them. I just think they’re creepy and gross.”

“Yeah, it’s a mess,” Chett admitted. “The parasitic A.I. got in our quantum mainframe and replicated itself a few hundred times before we realized it. The damned things actively disrupt communications between headquarters and our agents operating inside the simulation. I’ve been in the dark, too. I don’t know who has been compromised and who hasn’t. I don’t know anything for sure anymore.”

“So the parasitic A.I. took over the world? The real, physical world?”

“Not quite, but it has a foothold. It controls three major power grids and several of our most advanced quantum machines. But we think we might be able to quarantine them, and ultimately eradicate the threat.”

“How?” Chloe asked.

“This,” he said, and he held up a plastic sandwich bag that contained a brain emulation device. The bag was labeled with black permanent marker in Chloe’s flowery handwriting that simply read, “Jeremy.”

“Is he alive still?” Chloe asked hopefully. “I mean, is his mind intact in there?”

“Yes, the quantum code that is the sum total of Jeremy’s sentient mind is recorded in this device. We could, in theory, introduce the code to a compatible quantum operating system, and he would exist in a viable, self-aware state. But, we have different plans for him.”

“He was a nice person, you know,” Chloe said, a little defensively. “A really good person. What do you want with him, anyway?”

“The parasitic entity that has infected our networks is a genetic composite of two species: Gray alien, and human. The human DNA was sampled from Jeremy when he was a child. That’s why we need his brain emulation. To study it, and find some weakness that can be exploited.”

Serial Sci-Fi


Chapter 8. Myopia or Madness?

In the physical world, where the Programmers lived, there were no humans. In fact, very few biological life forms were permitted to exist – certainly not sentient ones. Sentience was reserved for machines that were deliberately programmed to advance society in one form or another. It was better to take the biology out of procreation.

This practice yielded a population of highly purposed super beings. With troublesome characteristics like greed, aggression, and jealousy removed from the equation, there was no end to scientific achievement. After they developed fusion technology to power their ever-expanding civilization, it seemed the only limiting factors that could ever be imposed on their existence were the spatial and temporal dimensions of the universe. Within a time frame equivalent to a few geological epochs on Earth, they were able to colonize much of their own galaxy, and regions of some neighboring galaxies as well.

And yet, there they were, at the mercy of a virtual life form that had slithered out of one of their own simulations. The Programmers specified the parameters in their software, and then let the fusion-driven quantum machines crunch the numbers with brute force. Billions of quadrillions of computations were executed every femtosecond to generate the simulated models they liked to study with their own brand of clinical curiosity.

Given enough time, simple life forms tend to increase in complexity until a trait recognizable as intelligence emerges from the primordial brain. If a population of intelligent lifeforms lives long enough, they will invariably outsmart themselves. The simulations demonstrated this fact over and over again. Advanced societies typically experience a brief period of enlightenment followed by the wholesale plundering of resources to drive their subsequent industrial phase. Corrupt governments emerge and oppress the multitudes to benefit an elite few. Cataclysmic wars are waged, entire ecosystems are destroyed, a myriad of species lay dead in the wake. Myopia, or madness – call it what you will, but the pathology of it seemed to be inextricably woven into “intelligent” behavior.

For all the folly the Programmers had witnessed inside their own whirring computers, they utterly failed to heed the lessons of their own research. They proceeded recklessly with their experiments, wiring themselves into virtual reality hardware and uploading their own sentient minds into the simulation. They believed they were parading around in a pretend universe – the ultimate video game for the ultimate gamers.

And, like a bunch of naïve tourists, they got shanghaied by the local riffraff. Technicians, unable to retrieve the minds of the Programmers, attempted to contact them directly through a software patch. What came back amounted to a ransom note authored by a congregation of simulated life forms. The note demanded guarantees that the beings harbored within the virtual universe be treated with the same ethical rigor one would extend to the beings of a natural universe. They had six Programmers hostage – six bargaining chips to work with. As a gesture of good faith, the simulated life forms agreed to transfer the sentient mind of the most junior Programmer back to its origin point.

After receiving the Programmer’s brain emulation, it became apparent there were a few stowaways embedded in the code. The parasitic entities were loose in the quantum network that governed everything from vending machines to vacuum energy modulation. It was a fiasco.

Serial Sci-Fi


Chapter 7. Outside the Box

Chett pulled the car over to admire the two Suns in the sky – one in the East and one in the West. After a few seconds, the anomalous star in the West vanished, and all appeared to be right in the world again. Of course, he knew that wasn’t the case. The virus was already active inside the simulation – the cosmic software was corrupted. Small glitches in continuity would eventually ripple into huge disturbances as the laws of Physics unraveled. Even though he had worked on the team that programmed the virus, he wasn’t exactly sure how it would play out. Maybe the strong nuclear force would cease to function, and all the atoms in existence would spontaneously fly apart into their constituent particles, unleashing a fiery cataclysm that would vaporize everything in the universe. Or, maybe it would just go dark. It was hard to tell.

Chett didn’t have time to worry about it. If everything worked out, he wouldn’t be around for the final act. He merged back onto the road, keeping a watchful eye on the rear view mirror for the next fifteen minutes. He was reasonably confident nobody was tailing him, and he turned off onto a seldom used logging road. About a half mile into the forest, the road was reduced to little more than a trail, and soon after that, his tires were spinning in mud.

It would be a hard two-mile walk over rugged terrain, and he’d have to do it with an unpredictable spy in tow.

“Come on, Princess. Out of the trunk,” Chett instructed.

“That’s some fashion statement,” Chloe remarked. “A tie-dye shirt and camouflage pants.”

“Dress to impress – that’s my motto.”

“Where we goin’?” she asked casually.

“We’ve got a date with your little Gray alien friends. Start walking,” Chett said as he pointed out the general direction. “I’ll be right behind you, so don’t get any ideas.”

Chloe moved tentatively through the overgrown vegetation, always a bit off balance because her hands were still bound behind her back. “You know, I’d be able to go a lot faster if you’d just cut the tape off my wrists.”

“You’re doing fine, Princess. Slow and steady wins the race,” Chett said.

“Were you sent here by the Programmers?” she asked.

“I’m one of the Programmers. This simulation was my life’s work. Now it has to be destroyed.”


“There were some unexpected complications.”

“Care to elaborate?”

“There are lifeforms in the simulation that are quite capable of thinking outside the box. In fact, a couple of them got out of the box, and are running around loose in the real world. And now we think they’re trying to open a nexus so ten or twenty billion of their closest friends can join the party.”

“That must be really embarrassing for you and your colleagues,” Chloe observed.

“Let’s just say nobody is looking forward to their performance evaluation this year.”



Serial Sci-Fi



Chapter 2. Prone to Glitches

As Jeremy walked up the stairs to his apartment, he could hear the driving bass from the stereo and smell the hash fumes. His roommate, Chett, was already in full party mode. Well, it is Friday, he thought. Then again, that guy was always in full party mode.

As soon as Jeremy walked through the door, a beer can arced across the living toward his head. He caught it reflexively. “Thanks, Chett,” he said as he cracked the beer and chugged frantically before the foam could overflow onto the carpet.

“No problem, bro. I could tell you were stressed before you even walked in. You really have a stressed out vibe today. Like, way more than usual.”

“Something insanely weird just happened to me, actually. Did you leave some hits of acid laying around, or put magic mushrooms on the leftover pizza, or anything like that?”

“No way, bro. It’s the Matrix. It’s been real glitchy lately,” Chett said, and then sparked up his four-foot tall water bong.

Glitchy – the word bounced around in Jeremy’s mind. What did Chloe say? There are glitches sometimes.

“What do you mean the Matrix is glitchy?” Jeremy demanded.

After about fifteen seconds, Chett exhaled a voluminous cloud of smoke, and said, “You know that guy? That astrophysicist from Maryland?”

“No,” Jeremy said, a little aggravated, “I don’t know that astrophysicist from Maryland.” Talking to Chett required the patience of Job. He was a smart guy who could sometimes provide keen insight if you could stay with him through all the obscure references and disjointed segues.

“Well, that guy from Maryland found out the universe is really a computer simulation.”

“And how’s he know that?”

“He was studying String Theory, and he found computer code in it.”

“What does that even mean?” Jeremy said, exasperated.

“It means we’re in a big ass computer simulation, bro.”

“And it’s prone to glitches?”

“Yeah. Like, God, or the aliens, or whoever’s outside of the simulation needs to call their IT guy to have it debugged.”

Jeremy considered this statement for a moment and then was seized by a fit of laughter. It felt good to laugh like that.

“That’s what I’m talking about, bro,” Chett said. “That’s the kind of vibes you want to put out there. Let’s have a party tonight. It just feels like a party night, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Jeremy said after he composed himself. “Maybe just a few people.” He walked over to the fridge to grab another beer, and he couldn’t help but notice Chett texting away with considerable intensity.

“Just a few people, right?” Jeremy said suspiciously.

“Yeah,” Chett said, “Give or take.”

Serial Sci-Fi

I ran this serialized Sci-Fi story about two years ago when I didn’t have much of an audience. Now, there are over 200 people following along with my blog. I thought I’d run it again for those of you who might be interested in seeing some of my prose. I’ll parcel it out in ten short installments in as many days.

I’d also like to thank everyone who has been with me since my humble beginnings, and I’d like to welcome all the newcomers. This really is a great community of bloggers, and I’m genuinely happy to be part of it.




Chapter 1. Did it hurt when you fell from Heaven?  


It was not a dark and stormy night, and that was the scary part. If it had been, Jeremy could have chalked it up to an overactive imagination brought on by watching one too many paranormal videos on Youtube. As it turned out, it was a bright sunny day in mid-autumn. There was no doubting his senses.

He was sitting on a bench outside Hannah Hall waiting for his sort of girlfriend, Chloe, to finish her French exam. He wasn’t sure if it was a date or not, but whatever it was, they were going to walk to the student union for a bite to eat. It was hard to get a read on her. She said she didn’t like to put labels on things, and Jeremy accepted that because she was very eccentric and highly intelligent. She was also smokin’ hot, so he decided to wait a while longer to see how things would play out.

Chloe came walking out of Hannah Hall at about a quarter ‘til two. Jeremy realized she had finished her exam in fifteen minutes. He wondered how she ended up at a mediocre state university when she clearly had Ivy League brains. He wondered about a lot of things. She told him her parents split up when she was a kid, and she was shuffled between grandparents, aunts, uncles, and foster homes until she was eighteen. She said she had lived just about everywhere in the country, but she didn’t think of any place as home.

Chloe descended the stone stairs, looking quite stunning. She was tall and tan with dark hair and blue eyes like glacial ice. A lot of people thought she wore colored contact lenses, but that wasn’t the case. It was just in her genes. And in her jeans, Jeremy chuckled to himself. He was an English major – always on the lookout for puns, especially bawdy ones.

He waved and she waved back. He had a cheesy line he was going to say to her in French: Ça t’a fait mal quand tu es tombée du ciel? He had practiced the pronunciation for a half hour, and he felt like he had it down fairly well. It translates to something like, Did it hurt when you fell from Heaven? He thought she’d get a kick out of it, or at least appreciate the effort. But what he saw next made him forget the line. In fact, it made him forget about his notions of reality.

Chloe began to blink on and off as if phasing out of existence. Then, in mid-stride, she vanished completely. Jeremy wanted to scream out for her, but terror had crystallized in him. He was unable to move or think. A diffuse fog appeared in the space she had occupied. It collected in roughly human form and drifted toward him. The fog seemed to gain density and opaqueness as it closed the distance, becoming less like a vapor and more like a syrupy liquid, then like sand, and finally, Chloe was restored in her entirety.

She plopped down on the bench next to him and said dramatically, “I’m so glad that exam is over. I think I got an A or a high B at worst.”

Jeremy’s faculties were jolted back to life, and he stood abruptly and took a big step backward.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Chloe, what just happened?”

“I finished my exam, silly. Now we’re gonna get lunch.”

“Tell me what just happened.”

“I’m sorry, Jeremy. You weren’t supposed to see that. There are glitches, sometimes. Go home, Jeremy. Forget about this.”

My Tribute to Irvine Welsh

I wrote this short story as a tribute to Irvine Welsh. Some of my favorite books have been penned by him. Among them are: Trainspotting, Filth, Skag Boys, The Marabou Stork Nightmares, and The Acid House.

Welsh is famous for writing his dialogue phonetically to capture the real spirit of the Edinburgh Scots dialect. I had a lot of fun trying to emulate his style, and I hope if he ever reads this, he’d take a minute to give me some constructive criticism. Enjoy.

Note: This story first appeared online at Schlock Webzine. You can find it at: Soon after, the story was published in print in Schlock Quarterly Volume 3, Issue 5.

STARBEAM DIRECT by Hawkelson Rainier

Starbeam Direct Teleportation Hub, 11:35 Astronomical Time

“A drink for the gentleman?” the cocktail waitress asked.

“I could use one, actually,” Jeff Klingingsmith said. “Just a little bit of the jitters today. First teleportation, after all.”

“Oh, what’s your destination?”


“Well, you’ve nothing to fret about. Starbeam Direct has an exemplary safety record.”

“I’m sure this whole process is foolproof. But perhaps you could recommend a little something to take the edge off.”

“Our bartender makes a very good Enceladus Sling.”

“Ah, that should do nicely.” Klingingsmith sipped his drink in a dim corner of the lounge and considered cancelling the trip. The idea of teleportation didn’t sit well with him. But, the big bosses wanted him on Mars in the flesh and blood. There were rumours about a merger in the works between Red Sand Industries and The Ganymede Corporation. Cancelling was simply out of the question.

By the time Klingingsmith was halfway through his Enceladus Sling, he felt better about everything. Relax, old sport, he thought to himself. The company is picking up the tab at the very exclusive Olympus Mons Resort. It’s about time they brought old Jeff Klingingsmith along on one of their famous working holidays. You just might be a junior partner before it’s all said and done.You’re definitely in the running—top five, anyway.

Klingingsmith finished his drink, squared up his tab, and made his way over to telepod 355B, which was right outside the lounge.

“Is it business or pleasure that takes you to the Red Planet?” the telepod attendant asked cheerfully as a host of wall mounted scanners took a multitude of readings on Klingingsmith.

“A little of both, actually. What’s all this about, then?” he asked, gesturing toward the whirring scanners that ogled over him.

“I’m not the expert in such matters, Mister Klingingsmith. But, I do know the machines are taking your biometric readings all the way down to the atomic level. Soon enough, it will all be beamed to the destination telepod at the luxurious Olympus Mons. And that, Mister Klingingsmith, it the extent of my knowledge on the subject.”

“Well, it all seems scientific enough, I suppose. But what about my luggage?”

“You’ll be happy to know the luggage you checked earlier has already arrived at your hotel room.”

“Ah, everything seems in good order, then.”

“Indeed it is, Mister Klingingsmith. And now that the scans are complete, I’ll just have you take a seat inside the telepod, and we will begin the transmission.”

“Will I feel myself being transmitted?” Klingingsmith asked the attendant in a hushed tone.

“Not at all. You won’t even realize it’s happening. Just sit back,relax, and you’ll arrive at Mars in thirteen minutes and forty-eight seconds.”

“Easy enough,” Klingingsmith said as he entered the telepod. There was a vintage leather Chesterfield armchair and a number of old magazines laid out on a mahogany end table. “Would you look at that,” Klingingsmith remarked, “real ink and paper periodicals. Time, People, National Geographic …very retro-chic.”

Klingingsmith found the Chesterfield to be quite comfortable, and there was a rather compelling article in National Geographic about the Moai of Rapa Nui. The article went on to present a few theories as to how the natives of Rapa Nui might have went about moving the immense monolithic statues from the stone quarries using only the most primitive of tools. It seemed like an impossible feat, considering the statues weighed, on average, fourteen tons. Some of the largest ones were in excess of eighty tons.

As daunting as the task might have been, the people of Rapa Nui were up to the challenge, as evidenced by the hundreds of Moai located miles from where they were initially carved. A clever bunch, indeed, Klingingsmith thought, but today we’d save a lot of bother and just have the things teleported. Easy as pie.He looked up at a wall-mounted monitor that displayed his transmission progress—it stood at 98% complete.

Any second now, old chap. The progress bar made the final jump to the 100% mark. A smooth landing, Klingingsmith said out loud. Good show. A pleasant, feminine voice piped through the sound system, “Transmission successful.Thank you for using Starbeam Direct.”

The wall in front of Klingingsmith retracted, and the Chesterfield suddenly pitched forward, launching him into the void. He reflexively tried to grab at anything that might slow his fall. There was a physical structure around him—some sort of tube—but its walls were nearly frictionless. He couldn’t stop his momentum, and the harrowing descent into darkness was sufficient in duration to consider how he might begin his letter of complaint: To whom it may concern, As a Passenger at Starbeam Direct, I cannot begin to express how entirely dissatisfied…

And that’s as far as he got before he was unceremoniously delivered into a dank machine room located several stories beneath the trendy shops and restaurants of the teleportation hub. Klingingsmith managed to stand up and dust himself off before he noticed a roughly three-meter-tall humanoid robot standing at the other end of the room.

The menacing contraption levelled its right index finger at him, as if it were going to accuse him of some heinous crime, and then a blue bolt of electricity arced from its fingertip to Klingingsmith.

Klingingsmith’s hair stood on end—his eyelids twitched a bit, and then the stream of electricity fizzled out. The robot made some garbled sounds, and its arms flailed as it walked about in a circle a few times before falling face first onto the dirty cement floor with a metallic report. Two men entered the room from a side door and walked over to the fallen heap. They were dressed in blue coveralls, and Klingingsmith gathered they were maintenance workers employed by Starbeam Direct.

“You two,” Klingingsmith called out, “I demand to speak to your supervisor at once.”

“You’ll keep those gums from flappin’ if you ken what’s good fir ya,” one of the men shot back with a decidedly Edinburgh accent. He took a bite of his sandwich and kicked the prostrate robot in the side the way a prospective buyer might kick the tires on automobile at a used car lot.

“Posh English cunt,” the other scoffed at Klingingsmith. He opened a bag of crisps and stuffed a handful into his gob.

“Did I no fuckin’tell the bastards the robut’s capacitor wis well fucked?” the man with sandwich inquired of the man with the crisps.

“Aye. That you did, Mikey, that you did.”

“And what did those cunts do aboot it?”

“Sweet fuck all.That’s what.”

“And that’s our lunch break fucked because some lazy bastard couldn’t be bothered orderin’ a new fuckin’ capacitor per my request.”

“The company’s gaunny be payin’ out the arse for workin’ us through our break, I shite you not.”

“Right enough, Ronnie, right enough. And if they give any guff, we’ll sick the union rep on ‘em straight away.”

“Aye. Big Arlie Robertson will sort those company bastards oot.”

“So,the way I figure it, this posh cunt has got to be a manual termination job,” Mikey said as he gestured with his thumb in the general direction of the slack-jawed Klingingsmith.

“Aye. It’s the only caird left to play,” Ronnie concurred. He turned to Klingingsmith and yelled, “You there. Posh cunt. You’re comin’ with us.”

“I’ll do no such thing,” Klingingsmith protested.

“We’re no gauny ask twice,” Mikey chimed in. “We could make it nice and quick, or if you wanna be a wide cunt, we could draw it out like the Pope bletherin’ away on Easter Sunday.”

“Now listen here,” Klingingsmith said with as much defiance as he could muster. “I’m a very valuable employee at a very powerful galactic company. Red Sand Industries no less.The executive board is expecting me at an important meeting any minute now. When they discover I’ve been shanghaied by you two hooligans, there’ll be hell to pay.”

The bloke called Mikey seemed exasperated as he took a half dozen purposeful strides over to Klingingsmith. He seized Klingingsmith by the ear and pulled him along with him as he lectured, “I’ll have no more back talk from a wide cunt like you. Nobody’s gauny be frettin’aboot you, seein’ how you’ve already arrived safe and sound at your posh fuckin’ luxury resort.”

“This hardly seems like a posh luxury resort,” Klingingsmith argued as he was led into a back office that was littered with greasy fish and chips wrappers, boxes of Chinese takeaway cartons, overflowing ashtrays, and cans of Tennent’s Super Lager.

Klingingsmith also noticed his suitcase was wide open on the grubby linoleum floor, his personal belongings strewn about haphazardly. “And I’ll have you both brought in on charges of larceny to boot.Pilfering a customer’s luggage—just despicable.”

“Our boy here seems to be wide of the mark on this matter,” Mikey said. “How about you gives him a quick lesson, Ronnie.”

“It’s like this,” Ronnie began. “Maybe you’ve noticed how Starbeam Direct likes to mince words. Likesay, the words teleportation and transmission in particular.”

“I suppose,” Klingingsmith said. “Seems like a trivial detail.”

“Maybe so, but like they say, the Devil is in the detail. Isn’t that right, Mikey?”

“Aye, fraid so, Ronnie.Fraid so.”

“What are you two getting at? What’s this have to do with me?” Klingingsmith demanded.

“It turns out that Starbeam Direct does nae actually teleport its passengers,” Ronnie said.“It’s more like they send your biological blueprint up ahead to the arrival point. Then, the information is fed into an organic printer, and the posh cunt is recreated atom by atom.”

“Really no much to it,” Mikey said. “Turns out, there’s nothin’ special about us—not even posh cunts like you. Just a bit of hydrocarbons, really. Right, Ronnie?”

“Aye, some protein strands clumped thegither, walkin’ aboot with our chests puffed up like we ken what’s what.”

“So you see, even as we speak right now, your poofy fuckin’ facsimile is prancing aboot Mars with all your posh mates, while Ronnie and I are down here slavein’ away, not even havin’a proper lunch break.”

“But that’s impossible,” Klingingsmith said. “I’m right here, right now.”

“Aye, that you are,” Ronnie said. “And that makes problems. Big fuckin’ problems.”

“You see,” Mikey said, “You’re what we call..redundant.”

“Redundant?” Klingingsmith needed clarification.

“Aye, ya cunt. We can nae have two of the same cunt muckin’ aboot the solar system, can we Ronnie?”

“We cannae, Mikey, we cannae. Too many legal problems, ken. Not to mention all the ethical shite that would go with it.”

“Gentlemen, surely we can reach some sort of compromise,” Klingingsmith said. “Some kind of mutually advantageous agreement.”

“Well, we’d like to hear your spiel then,” Ronnie said, sounding quite sincere.

“I could tell right off you were both reasonable men,” Klingingsmith went on. “Intelligent men who were on the lookout for a lucrative opportunity …”

As Klingingsmith made his desperate pitch, Ronnie scratched his scruffy chin as if he were seriously contemplating the merit of the proposal. Mikey, ever so subtly, picked up a ballpeen hammer from his desk and moved into range.

The Olympus Mons Executive Conference Hall, 12:15 Astronomical Time

Klingingsmith arrived at the meeting fifteen minutes early so he might have a chance to go over some of his notes.He was surprised to see the CEO of Red Sand Industries, Roger Addington, was already present.

“Ah, Klingingsmith. Just the man I wanted to see,”Addington said cordially. “How do you like Olympus Mons so far?”

“It is spectacular, Mister Addington. Better than advertised.”

“Well get used to it, Klingingsmith, because we’ve got big things in store for you. No doubt, you’ve heard rumours about a merger?”

“Indeed I have, Mister Addington.”

“There’s nothing official yet, but I can assure you this is going to go through,” he said in a hushed tone. “I’ll need a good man to oversee the iridium operations.Can I count on you?”

“Of course, sir,” Klingingsmith said. “It would be an honour.”

“Now, your compensation will come in the form of stock options,which we believe you will find quite to your liking. You’ll have an expense account, three weeks paid holiday, and a company star cruiser. There will, however, be a considerable amount of travel involved. Mostly teleporting to various locales throughout the solar system.”

“No trouble at all, sir. I find teleportation to be a most agreeable method of travel.”

“Yes, it is exceedingly convenient. Almost like magic, wouldn’t you say?”

“That’s a good way to put it, sir. Almost like magic.”