Lance was the last of the four to saunter into the restaurant. The sexagenarian at the table smiled as the boy pulled out a chair and seated himself. “Hi Lance. How did you sleep?”

Lear smiled back at Madonna, and answered, “It was quite… satisfying, when I finally fell asleep.”

Kitty resisted the temptation to ask about his dreams, and went the opposite direction instead, “What kept you up? It was a long day.”

“Your game, in fact. I couldn’t get anywhere at all. My reaction times were way off.”

“Understandable,” Kaboodle said, “Everyone has a lot on their minds.”

A waitress appeared, Kitty placed an order, and Lance said, “That sounds great. I’ll have what she’s having.”

Lance asked no one in particular, “What madness in the world have I missed, while daring to sleep?”

This time Kitty couldn’t resist cracking wise, but kept it short, and cryptic, “Per chance to dream?” Lance looked at Kitty, but her eyes were on King, as he answered his son’s question.

“Trump and Trudeau are circling like bull rams, and getting ready to bash heads over cross border medical shipments. Trump has invoked something called the Defense Production Act, to prevent US based manufacturers from shipping critical goods out of the country, in this particular case, N-95 surgical masks.”

“America first is his pledge, so that’s no surprise,” said Madonna.

“There’s been an outbreak in the ultra orthodox community in Israel,” King reported. “Religious leaders all over the world are still trying to deny Galileo. They figure that if they can just get enough of the fervent together in one place, at the same time, they can pray loudly enough to get God’s attention, and he will smite the scientists, who are all the devils in disguise, and restore order to his Kingdom, with the priestly class back in charge. That’s always been the plan, and God damn it, they’re sticking to it, even if it kills them, and everyone else.”

Madge quickly offered an outside the box, comical solution “Maybe Samuel L should dress as an Hasidic rabbi, and do another reading of Stay the Fuck Home, in Yiddish.”

King laughed, “That’s good. But, as is his wont anyway, he should be waving a big ass gun around when doing it. Given how many of the chosen people will die after gathering to pray for protection, I wonder if anyone has considered accusing orthodox leaders of being Nazis.”

Kitty offered a prediction, “There will be gun battles, at least south of the border, when the cops and National Guard try to impose do not gather orders at churches.”

“Praise the Lord,” said Lance, before all four of them followed it up, “and pass the ammunition.”

The laughter that ensued was terminated when Madonna said, “That’s gonna happen in every corner, of every continent.”

Kitty pounced, “Not Antarctica.”

Madonna asked, “Penguins don’t pray?”

“I take it you didn’t take a deep dive into Riff n Raff, before you want to sleep?”

Madge grinned, and said, “No. I did not.” King smiled a satisfied smile, which made Kitty smile, but she chose to leave it alone.

“There is something hopeful in the Financial Times,” Madonna reported. The others gave her their attention. “An op/ed by Arundhati Roy.”

“Who dat?” asked Kitty.

Madonna fielded that one quickly, before moving along to read the lead, “Writer. ‘Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.’”

Stephen clapped his hands, “Bravo, Arundhati. I’ll read that in full, later. Brilliant lead, and a perfect segue back our business.” Turning to Lance, he said, “Three D print designs can be sold on Commonwealth.”

“Of course. Anything digital.”

Stephen continued, “And in the post-Corona world, 3D printing tech will explode. Eventually, every hospital on the planet will have top grade 3D printers, so they could print their own masks, ventilators etc.”

“Yes, Lance confirmed. We are going there with, or without Commonwealth. Commonwealth just makes it easier, and allows more people to make money from it. There will be a 3D printer in every house, soon enough. Factories will close, supply chains that span the world, leaving toxic waste in the wake, will dwindle.”

“And if Commonwealth were a reality rigt now, everyone could be ordering all their entertainment from research labs, and hospitals.”

“Yes. If those entities had a Commonwealth store operating. They will be simple enough to set up. But, in a case like this, I think we would just ask creators if they would be willing to sell directly through us, and we would disperse the funds. We could be raising billions and billions of dollars, rigt now, to fund the search for a cure.”

“Amazing,” King said.

Lance nodded, and continued, “But only in emergencies like this would we ever do that. We will not compete with our sellers. We take a service charge on every order, all around the world, so we will not be short of capital. We will own the digital download sector, globally, in perpetuity, and people will be absolutely loyal to us, because we will use the money we make to build a better world.”

Madonna jumped in, “Who else knows about Commonwealth?”

“Aside from a handful of friends, who I used as sounding boards, only two people, and whoever they told. As you know, I couldn’t get anywhere near Branson, so I made my way down my list of people who had at least a chance of getting it, and running with it, if they were so inclined.”

“Entertainment industry players, or tech titans?” Madge asked.

“Show biz,” Lear answered. “The Radiohead guys made an impression by fucking off their label, and putting their shit out themselves, while railing against the injustice of steaming service royalties, so I took a run at them.”

“They didn’t get it?” Madonna said, astonishment dripping from her voice.

“Didn’t get it, so to speak,” said Lance. “I only got as far as their manager…”

“Cliff Hufford?” Madonna asked.

“Yeah. That’s the one. He told me it wouldn’t work.”

“Why?” asked Kitty.

“He had no reason. Just said that was his instinct. He didn’t even attempt to make a case. I asked him to at least pass it along to the band, but he either cock-blocked me completely, or they’re just posers.”

“Who else?” Madonna asked.

“The CEO of Live Nation.”

“Mike Rapino?”


“He blew you off, too?” Madge said, astonishment again dripping from her voice.

“Fucker wouldn’t even speak directly to me. He deigned to exchange Facebook messages, but refused to VOIP with me,” Lance answered with a bit of a snarl. “I told him that Commonwealth poses an existential threat to the universally despised Ticketmaster. I told him it was a mistake to keep all his eggs in one basket. Advised him to diversify. As much as any other entity in the world, Live Nation has benefitted from the Internet, digital recording, file sharing, Youtube etc. No one can sell an album anymore, so the only money in music is concerts, and the ticket prices have gone through the roof. Live Nation has made a killing from it. Well, now they’re fucked. They took a billion dollar hit as soon as the virus came to the West. And if it lingers, there will be no concerts for the foreseeable future.”

“Wait,” said Madonna, “Mike just fucked you off?”

“I suppose he read what I sent him, but he wouldn’t engage me.”

“You know he’s from here, yeah?”

Lance laughed, “That’s rigt. I did note that, when I was researching him. But forgot all about it. When Kitty told me we were headed for Thunder Bay, the name was familiar, but I couldn’t place it. That’s why. Rapino is from here. Well, if the plague persists, he may find himself rigt back here, working at the mill, making toilet paper.”

Madonna laughed at the idea. “I know both those guys. They’re not monsters.”

“I didn’t say they are. But they lack vision, lateral thinking ability, hunger.”

“Fat and happy,” Madonna said. “I can call them.”

Lance was quick, and adamant. “No fucking way! Pearls before swine. I offered it to them, they fucked me off, and Rapino wouldn’t even fucking talk to me. Fuck them both. They’re not only not necessary, they’re not wanted on any fucking Arc I am helping build.”

“Tell us how you really feel, Lance,” King laughed.

Lance turned on King, quickly and vehemently, “Don’t you fucking start with me, old man. You knew I was trying to find someone to pitch this to. And you fucking ignored me. Me! Your own fucking son. Fuck you! Don’t fucking start with me, or I’ll fucking well leave you here to wait for Boomer Remover to deal with you.”

The table fell silent as Lance got up, and stormed out of the room.




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