21 – GERIATRIC GYMNASTICS

 

Stephen King watched Lance and Kitty wander down the hall, peeking into rooms, deciding where they were going to bed down, until he heard the first notes of O Fortuna erupt from the executive suite’s sound system.

King was not at all disappointed that there would be no bedtime story. He smiled, turned, closed the door, locked it, and turned the lights off.

Following the flickering candle lights, King made his way to the bedroom, where Madonna was waiting for him, on hands and knees, on the bed, with a straight razor clutched between her teeth.

The two wrestled for position, stopping to thrash away at each other when they found a mutually agreeable one, then repeated the process when they tired of the thrust and parry limitations the position imposed.

All the way through the wild animal ballet King was thinking of Kitty, or her mother, who was somewhere in the relative vicinity of Kitty’s present age when the King of Horror had inseminated her in a cheap motel room, on a long and lonesome highway, west of Omaha.

The septuagenarian stallion wanted to make little Kitty purr like a Ferrari, and growl like a 1960’s Detroit steel muscle car. Her physical presence, natural sexual magnetism, combined with her wanton declarations and displays of untamable promiscuity had awoken his once Rasputinian appetite for hedonistic sexual congress.

Madonna, who had had her way with damn near every man she wanted since she mastered the techniques of the art of sex outside a CYO in Rochester, Michigan, thought only of Lance, son of Stephen, as she grappled with his father.

The Queen of Pop, the Countess of Coitus wanted to teach young, beautiful, hard bodied, and richly endowed Lance everything there was to know about satisfying a woman. Given his age, she knew that he could do so over and over and over again, day and night, for as many years as it might take for the tiger in her tank to taper off, if indeed that was even possible.

Over and over they fought for dominance, pulling each other’s hair, grunting and howling like rutting beasts. It wasn’t love making; it was ritualistic Klingon mutual rape.

After an hour of punishing each other mercilessly, Madonna sensed that her mate might be on the verge of a lights out, game over jammer, and delivered the coup de grace, putting him to sleep, just as she had promised.

As Stephen slept like a baby next to her, Miss Ciccone, still not fully sated, checked Pornhub to see if there was anything new under the sun. Once again disappointed that there was not, she settled for an age old, simple pleasure; a pack of Japanese midgets gangbanging a naïve, nubile, naughty Nipponese nun.

22 – KABOODLE STRUEDEL DIM SUM NOODLE

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20 – HERE BE PIRATES… NOT!

 

When the reigning, and looming Kings and Queens had been sated, they got back to business. Once again, King started, this time with a question for his son, “Before we get to piracy, clarify something, please; anyone can get a Commonwealth membership?”

“Yes, anyone. Always free. Creator, or seller, or both. You can sell my stuff, I can sell yours. This is what Kevin Kelly was talking about when he said the real innovation is the network. The network is all ready to go. We’ve just been using it all wrong when it comes to ecommerce. Anyone can sell anyone’s stuff, so long as a contract has been registered with Commonwealth. The contracts state exactly who gets what percentage of a sale, and they can name more than two parties. For example, Madge, if your manager gets a cut of what you make, off an album, or a tour, that’s all in the contract. Let’s say they get 20% of album revenue, and you are getting eight bucks per. The moment a sale is made, $1.60 goes straight to the manager’s account. Same thing for ticket sales, and that’s the end of Ticketmaster.”

“Wow! Sly Stone would have been saved by that” Madonna replied.

“What happened to him?” Kitty asked.

“He got fucked by his manager for loads of money. Ended up living in a car, because his manager stole a fortune from him.”

“There’s no way for Sly to protect himself from himself in Commonwealth, but he would have gotten all his money. His manager would have gotten his cut. And it’s all on a blockchain, so everyone can see exactly where the money went.”

“Including the taxman?” asked King.

Especially the taxman. That’s why governments will love it. In fact, contracts can stipulate that tax revenues go straight into the public coffers.”

King said, “Very interesting. But let me get back to who can sell.”

“Anyone.”

“So, the Red Sox could sell my books to their fans.”

“Yes, but here’s a better example, just to show you one of the things Commonwealth can do. European football. Soccer. The best player in the world, Lionel Messi. One of the most storied clubs in the world, and the current Champions League champions, Liverpool FC, who are owned by the same corp. that owns the Sox. Let’s say Liverpool wants to buy Messi from Barcelona, and the price is $200 million. Let’s say Liverpool has 20 million fans around the world. The club could commission a book on the club’s history from a football historian, one who can actually write. They pay the writer… let’s be absurd, and say a hundred grand. They put the book up for sale on their own Commonwealth store, and every fan buys one copy, at ten bucks. Bam! $200 million, and Messi is singing, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone,’ at Anfield.”

“It’s brilliant,” said Kitty. “And let’s say Greenpeace, with their four million supporters around the world, want to sell Riff n Raff. Riff n Raff prevent a nuclear war, solve global warming, and end hatred, so all Greenpeace supporters would be all about the book. Let’s say they do a deal with the author, a 50/50 split, on a ten buck price. And they sell a half million copies to their supporters.”

“Then Greenpeace, and the author just made $2.5 million a piece,” Lance stated.

“And Amazon didn’t get a cent,” laughed King.

“So long as none of us sell on Amazon, Jeff Bezos is living in a car, with Sly Stone,” laughed Madonna.

“And this is how Commonwealth could save newspapers,” said Kitty. “They sell anything, and everything, to their readers. They replace all the ad revenue they’ve lost to Google and Facebook with sales revenue.”

“Yes,” Lance confirmed. “Better than that, since they are no longer heavily dependent of ad revenue, they can get down to doing some hard hitting reportage on rotten corporations, and their political pawns, who otherwise would have them on leashes. Same thing applies to TV news, radio news, bloggers, citizen journalists, podcasters… anyone. If you’re a union member, and wanna support your union, buy at their store. If you’re a Republican, shop at their store. Support whoever you want.”

“But you say anyone can sell through Commonwealth,” King said.

Lance smiled, “I know where you’re going. Yes, anyone, even neo-Nazi scum. But, they’re mostly trying to make money, so we beat them at the money game, because we have a lot more of it than they do. So, for every dollar they make, we donate five to people, and organizations that oppose their ideology. The more money the Nazis make, the more their opponents make to counter them.”

“Okay, it’s genius. How do we, if I may, stop piracy? What new tech have you come up with?” asked Madonna.

“None,” Lance answered, “There’s is no new tech to do that. Never will be. No one has ever written a code that can’t be cracked. No one ever will. It’s been proven over and over. Sooner or later, if someone wants to crack it badly enough, and has the resources to do so, they will”

“But you said we could stop piracy,” said Kitty.

“We can. We can stop anyone from pirating my book by using tech that’s already available, and old fashioned name and shame.” Lance waited to see if anyone figured it out, but lost patience after five seconds. “Every product has a unique, digital identifier, so we know exactly who bought a copy that ends up on Pirate Bay, or anywhere else. We ban them from buying again, and post their names where everyone can see them. And then the hackers go after them. No, we have nothing to do with the hackers. They will rise up themselves as a police force, or more like a court, and they have all the evidence they need to convict, and punish.”

“Like they used to do at the tills in general stores in the Wild West,” said King. “Everyone in town knew who didn’t pay their tab.”

“Exactly,” Lance confirmed. “I may be wrong about this, but I don’t think most pirates are out to fuck the artists, so much as those who exploit us. And the exploiters are out of the game with Commonwealth. They don’t own us anymore. So, piracy will drop off, anyway. It remains to be seen, but that’s how I see it.”

“They don’t own us anymore, and the pirates can’t, or won’t fuck us anymore,” said King.

Lance smiled, and said, “Free at last, free at last, thank Commonwealth almighty, we are free at last!”

Father asked son, “There’s a lot more to this, isn’t there?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Maybe we pick it up after we get some sleep, yeah?” asked King, reasoning, “Kitty’s yawning, and fading, You two have had a long day, especially Kitty. And you’ve put down a lot of food for thought.”

“Yes, long day. Kitty tired,” said little Miss Kaboodle.

“You can read me a bedtime story,” King said to Queen.

“Read you a bedtime story, and put you to sleep,” chuckled Madonna.

“Oh, kinky,” laughed King

Lance couldn’t help his knee jerk reaction to the thought of old people having sex, “Eww. You two need to get a room.”

“We have every room in the place, and you happen to be n ours, so get out,” laughed Stephen.

“You really holding down the whole hotel,” asked Kitty.

“We are. Paying the wages of all the staff to stay the fuck home, and leave us alone. Just enough to provide what we need,” answered Madonna. “So, if you wanna get your rock star on, go ahead and drain all the mini fridges, and trash the place. Two hundred and sixty four more rooms, here, plus the pool and spa.”

Kitty liked that idea, and expressed her gratitude by handing Madonna her copy of The Riff n Raff Rebellions Volume 1, saying, “Read him this. It’s his fave.”

“Hey, I was gonna read that” said Lance.

“Oh, no, you’re my beta boy for KILLGOD, lover boy.”

Madonna expressed he gratitude, and curiosity, “Thanks for the book. He won’t shut up about it, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. And your new game is called Kill God?”

“KILLGOD. One word, all caps. You’ll love it. In the penultimate stage, before going to Heaven to KILLGOD!, you have to do away with the Pope.”

“Sweet,” the Catholic girl chuckled. “I’ve done it, in my dreams, many times.”

“I bet you have,” said Kitty, “But in my game it’s probably a lot harder than it has been in your dreams.”

“You kids need one room, or two,” King asked.

Lance had no idea how to answer. Kitty smiled, ”Two, please. Maybe adjoining.” All but Lance grinned. And with that, the kids were off.

King saw them to the door, as his Queen stripped herself bare. “Lance,” Stephen said, as the boy who would be King, and the girl who would be his Queen trundled down the hall. Lance turned back. “How much bigger is this idea?”

Lance smiled, “Within a year, we have our own bank, the largest in the world. Within five, we have our own sovereign nation.”

King thought about that, and said, “I believe you.”

Lance said, “Dreaming is free; why dream small?”

21 – GERIATRIC GYMNASTICS

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19 – THINGS GET GAGA IN VALHALLA

 

The conspirators took a break to check the room service menu, and place orders. Lance insisted that he be allowed to wait until everyone was done eating, and he had their undivided attention, before addressing the problem of pirating.

“Have you two heard about Dolly Parton’s latest news,” Stephen asked of Kitty and Lance.

“I hope it’s not a double mastectomy,” Lance laughed.

“No, no. Good news,“ Madonna assured the boy.

“She’s pregnant, and some lucky kid is never gonna wonder where her next meal is coming from?” Kitty offered.

“Funny,” King said. “No. She’s donating a million bucks to research efforts to find a vaccine slash cure for the virus.”

“Good on her,” said Lance.

“Yes, indeed,” said Stephen. “But this is the interesting thing, although it’s not related to the money, money, money. She’s also started a free video service in which she reads bedtime stories for kids of all ages during the lockdown.”

Love Dolly,” said Madge. “But not everyone does. I actually saw people attacking her for it.”

“Seriously?” asked Kitty. “For what possible reason?”

“The idiots are saying she is just boosting her brand,” Madonna laughed derisively.

“She’s older than I am,” scoffed King. “She couldn’t care less about the financial value of her brand at her age. She’s not gonna be getting royalty checks in the graveyard. The cynicism is just astounding. And it’s not as if this is a new endeavor for her. She’s been involved in literacy programs for years.”

Lance said, “Good on her. But she is fighting a losing battle. People aren’t reading, especially young people. Nothing long, anyway.”

“Sad but true,” Lance’s father said. “No one seems to be able to read anything more than 140 characters these days.”

“No, it’s gotten worse than that,” said Kitty. “They can’t read anything more than a ten word meme now, and it has to have artwork, and be funny, or it’s not shared.”

“I think,” Madonna interjected, “the people attacking Dolly are males, who were not breast fed in infancy, pubescence, or any time since. I think they all secretly want her to show up in person, read them a bedtime story, and nurse them to sleep.”

“I wouldn’t mind that myself,” King laughed.

Madonna feigned indignation, “What? You don’t appreciate my bedtime stories? Let me tell you something,” she said, looking at the kids. “My bedtime stories are a Hell of a lot better than his.”

“Holy shit,” said Lance. “Come to think of it, I’m glad you weren’t around to read me bedtime stories when I was a kid. Insomnia would be a self preservation instinct. I’d be a zombie.”

Laughter ensued, and no one, not even the King of Horror himself, denied the veracity of what Lance said.

“I just can’t believe the gall of people attacking Dolly for giving money, and reading bedtime stories,“ Madge said. “Pretty soon it will escalate, and they’ll be calling her a monster, something akin to a Nazi werewolf, raping children like a legion of Catholic priests with the impunity of the POTUS.”

“You really don’t like the Catholic Church, huh?” said Kitty.

“Well, let’s just say that I backed Sinead when she did her thing on SNL, and everyone else derided her. You could say that I have had problems with the Vatican.”

“Yes, and the Vatican has had its share of problems with you,” laughed King.

Madonna grinned, and feigned protestation, “I’m a good Catholic girl.”

“Sure… according to Zappa’s definition of what a good Catholic girl is,” laughed King.

“Frank knew what he was talking about,” Madonna laughed. “But, no, I am not on the Vatican’s Christmas card mailing list.”

“Who in Hell would want to be?” asked King.

“Gaga,” Madonna said.

“Oh, boy, here we go,” King sighed.

“Seriously. You don’t see her taking on the Vatican. Not in full on battle mode, the way I have. And having been born into a Catholic family, I doubt she can legitimately claim ignorance of the problems the Church makes in any family that tries to evolve socially, and spiritually.”

“Sure,” said King, “But you also say her father was a Jew.”

“Look at that hook on her face!” Madonna answered.

“Like Roman’s are not known for hooked noses,” King laughed.

“That schnoz of hers is not Roman. There’s a difference.”

“Which is what, exactly? How much money is stuffed up it?”

“Ever see a hook-nosed rabbi blowing his nose in public?” Madge laughed. “No, you don’t. And you never see Gaga blowing he nose in public, either.”

“Well, case closed, then,” King laughed, “Gaga is a Jew, whether she likes it, knows it, or would even care if she were. At least she’s not a Satanist.”

“You got a problem with Satanists?” Kitty wanted to know.

“No,” answered King. “If we’re talking about the ones who are using the Constitution to erect monuments, and saying that if you’re gonna push religion in schools, you have to include Satanism.”

“Or LaVey’s acolytes,” Madonna added.

“I think they’ve all read the Satanic Bible,” King said. “And, in reality, all LaVey did in the Satanic Bible was riff on some of Rand’s ideas, in a more entertaining way. She had some interesting ideas, but she was not a very good writer, and her disciples would be better off reading LaVey riffing on her, than reading her stuff. At least they’d be entertained.”

Kitty nodded her agreement, and added “But the lunatics who take Satanism seriously, like sacrificing cats under a full moon and all that shit, are just as bad as any other religious fanatics. There are just fewer of them.”

“Which reminds me,” Lance cut in, “I got a meme a few days ago. Hang on,” he said checking his phone. A couple seconds later he said, “What the Hell am I doing? I can explain it faster than I can find it. Two panels. In the first are a girl and a guy in a room full of pentagrams, goat heads, images of the Dark Lord. The girl, puzzled, aghast, says, ‘What the Hell did you do?’ The guy says, ‘You told me to Satanize the place while you were gone.’ In the next panel the girl says, ‘Idiot! I told you to sanitize the place.’”

“Yes!” laughed Kitty. “Dyslexics in Hell!”

And then there was a knock at the door.

19 – HERE BE PIRATES… NOT!

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18 – TWISTING AND TURNING THE TIDE

 

In the previous two years Lance had pitched Commonwealth, at length, only twice. He had struck out both times. The biggest difference between those attempts, and the one he was about to make was that this time he was pitching to artists. Creartors.

The two failed attempts were to people who made their livings off what artists create; industry people. Two members of the, “We’re so happy we can hardly count… oh, by the way, which one’s Pink?” caste. They didn’t care that artists are getting fucked. They were fat and happy.

Although they were very fat and happy themselves, his father, and his squeeze should be able to see the idea from the perspective of artists. So Lance was at ease, when he whispered, “I can’t do this with you sitting in my lap,” to Kitty, who got up and sat back in her own chair.

Madonna took note of what certainly looked to be a prodigious package in the shorts of her squeeze’s son. ‘Big boy!’ she thought to herself. Like Kitty, Madge liked big boys.

“Okay,” Lance said, “here it is. I’m not exactly breaking new ground with my idea. The foundation of Commonwealth is, in fact, a simple twist on an old idea; affiliate marketing”.

Pointing at his father, the clever boy said, “Let’s say you have launched a new book,” then pointing to Madonna, “or you a new album. Both are being sold on Amazon. I am a blogger. A critic. I have a somewhat substantial following. I have signed onto Amazon’s affiliate marketing program. I review your new offerings, and praise them both. I add a BUY NOW button to the reviews. One of my subscribers hits the BUY NOW buttons, and purchases both as downloads. Let’s lowball it and say the prices are both ten bucks.”

The reigning King and Queen smiled at the low prices, but said nothing. “I get fifty cents from the sale. Amazon gets three bucks. The rest goes to your label, and your house. They dispense your cut, according to your contract. Do you see anything wrong with this picture?”

Madge and Stephen stared at Lance silently. “Apparently not,” Lance smiled. “That’s how it always has been for the two of you, and you’ve gotten fat and happy off the system.”

Madonna feigned umbrage, “I am not fat!” The four of them chuckled, and Lance took note of the remarkably well preserved and maintained body of the woman who was well past the cougar stage of female life. He liked what he saw, and had to force himself back to his pitch.

“Here’s the problem. You created what was sold. I sold it. But the middlemen take $9.50 of the sale, despite the fact that they played no part in what you created, and I sold.”

Stephen beat Madonna to the punch, “But my publishing house did play a role, as did Madge’s label.”

“Yeah?” Lance laughed, “What did they do that you couldn’t do yourselves?” Before either of the elders in the room could interject, Lance said, “Even if you don’t have the technical skills, you could contract people who have those skills, without involving the people you sell your copyrigt to. And you would not have to give up your copyrigt to anyone, if you did so.”

“You’re rigt, we could,” said Madonna.

“That’s exactly what I did,” said Lance. “I wrote Die Laughing, a friend proofread it, gave it back to me, I did the interior design, another friend did the cover.”

“Sure,” said King, “but who markets it?”

“Yes! Therein lies the rub,” Lance said. “At the moment, only me. And that’s the problem. What I need is an army of people marketing my book.”

“From where does this army come,” Madonna asked.

Kitty smiled, and said, “I know.”

“Do you?” asked Lance.

“Yes, of course. The army comes from the Internet. Anyone with a website can join the Amazon affiliate program, or anyone else’s affiliate program.”

“So, why don’t they?” asked King.

“Two main reasons,” Lance said. “One, almost no one buys that way. They all flock to Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, or Apple, and buy there. They’ve been conditioned to do so. The second reason is that the affiliate cut is so small that trying to sell is more trouble than it’s worth. Bad ROI.”

“So, how do we get out of this trap,” Kitty asked.

“By building Commonwealth. A whole new platform. Two membership categories. Creators, and sellers. Both free. I get a creators membership. All of us do. All of us, meaning every artist who works in the digital realm, and create things that can be downloaded.”

“And all sellers, which can be anyone who has a website, get their own membership accounts,” said Kitty, grinning. “I get it.”

“Yeah? Run with it,” Lance encouraged.

“I get a project page, on which I explain my game, as thoroughly as I think need to. The page goes live. Everybody who has registered an interest in selling games gets a notification that a new game is available.”

“Yes,” Lance confirmed. “You go, little Kitty cat.”

“Those who are interested contact me, and ask to test run it. If they like it, they tell me they want to sell it.” Looking at Madge, and the King of Horror, Kitty said, “Let’s say, for example, Rolling Stone wants to sell your new offerings to their readers. They come to you and ask what kinda deal you will offer them. Working on volume, not margin, because you can make a million copies of anything digital at no more cost than it takes to produce the first, you keep the price low. Let’s drop it to five bucks.”

The elders were aghast at the thought of such a low price, but were smart enough to not interrupt.

“Because you are who you are, with millions of fans, you tell Rolling Stone that they can have one dollar of every sale they make. The other four go to you. Not a label, not a publishing house. The money goes to you.”

“I like it,” said King. “Keep going.”

Kitty pointed to Lance, who picked it up. “Unlike the two of you, I am an unknown. No following. So, I have to give Rolling Stone a better deal. I give them four of the five bucks from every sale they make.”

“But how does that make things any better for you than under the current system,” asked Stephen.

“I know,” said Madonna.

“Take it away,” Lance said.

“Because it’s not just Rolling Stone. Anyone with a website can do this. You and I could have a million people selling our stuff directly to their followers. And they’re not only selling, they’re marketing for us.”

“Precisely,” said Lance. “And if I give them 80% of the haul, they are gonna market my book more than they are yours, because you’re only giving them 20%. Profit motive. It’s all about the money, money, money, everyone wants money, money, money.”

“It’s very interesting,” said Lance’s father. “What are the mechanics of it?”

“Simple. Same as any affiliate program. A purchase is made, Commonwealth sends the product, or a download code to the buyer. The money is split instantly, according to the contract between creator and seller.”

“And how does Commonwealth make money?” asked Stephen.

“We, if I may refer to Commonwealth as we,” said Kitty, “add a small service charge. So the buyer pays $5.50, instead of five bucks.”

“So, how do we, if I may refer to Commonwealth as we,” said King, get the buying public to break their habit of going to the big guys.”

Madonna knew the answer, “We don’t do business with the big guys. The fuckers won’t have anything to sell.”

“B I N G O,” said Lance. “We don’t need them. They need us. We just need each other. I can sell your stuff, you can sell my stuff.”

“Kevin Kelly,” Stephen said.

“Exactly,” said Lance.

“Who dat?” asked Madonna.

“He founded WIRED,” said Stephen. “In 1996, he wrote a famous piece in which he said, “Forget about the computer. Everything that can be done with a computer has been done with a computer. The real innovation is the network.”

“And he was dead rigt,” said Lance. “The real innovation is the network. But we’ve been using it all wrong when it comes to ecommerce. Commonwealth will correct that mistake. In the earliest stage of the web, and the advent and proliferation of digital art, millions of stores, sellers should have been created. But, instead, a handful of giants came to be.”

“And they’ve been fucking us ever since,” said  Madonna. “And the buying public love them for it. They get damn near anything digital for free online. But with Commonwealth, we run the show.”

“What about pirating,” asked Kitty.

“That a very good question,” said Lance. “Maybe I can answer it over some food?”

“You wanna go down, or order up.”

“”Room service,” said Kitty. All agreed.

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17 – CONDESCENSION IN THE RANKS

 

All eyes were on Lance following his bold statement, but no one said a word. Lance knew they were waiting for him to explain exactly how Commonwealth would push global business behemoths into bankruptcy, and he didn’t care. He knew. If they wanted to be enlightened, let them ask.

Understanding that his son was not inclined to volunteer an explanation, Stephen tried an indirect approach. And got bitch-slapped for his efforts. “You know what Carl Sagan said about extraordinary claims?” Stephen asked. Lance said nothing.

Madonna took over, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

Lance snapped. “Don’t condescend to me, old folks. I know what Sagan said.”

“It wasn’t meant to be…” Madonna said, but Lance cut her off mid sentence.

Shut up. It was condescending.”

“It was,” Kitty agreed.

If a Mexican stand-off between the boomers and the millennials was to be avoided, the boomers were going to have to demonstrate genuine contrition. The kids would be happy to let the silence linger like a bad fart, let the stand-off drag out until the old folks died in their seats, waiting for enlightenment.

Alternatively, the kids would also be happy to draw their pistols, and engage in a firefight with the slow-on-the-draw crusties, so long as the geriatrics drew first.

Kitty demonstrated her solidarity with the boy who would be her King by getting out of her chair, and sitting in Lance’s lap.

The reigning King and Queen looked at each other, thinking. Madonna got up out of her chair, sat in Stephen’s lap, kissed him on the cheek, and whispered in his ear.

Kitty responded by literally whispering, “Sweet nothings,” in Lance’s ear, sticking he tongue in the boy’s mouth, and playing a shift of go-hard tonsil hockey with him. The feel of Lance throbbing against her ass made Kitty squirm, as she pulled her tongue out of his mouth, looked Madonna straight in the eye, and said, “It’s Britney, bitch.

Ciccone and King roared laughter. Madonna busted into the Wayne and Garth meet Alice Cooper bow down and chant, “We’re not worthy,” routine. Stephen followed her lead, and they did it three times.

Madonna said, “You two are fantastic together. You have that much chemistry going on, and you haven’t even been together for a full day, yet!” Then she turned to King and said, “You’re rigt; they are gonna rule the world.”

Kitty and Lance were expressionless, silent, still waiting for contrition. Madonna clued in. “You’re rigt, we were condescending. All apologies. Sincerely.” She was sincere

Stephen followed up by saying, earnestly, “It’s a bad habit of mine, especially with young people. I apologize. It won’t happen again. But if it does, bitch-slap me for it, and keep doing it until I get it into my fat head.”

Kitty and Lance looked at each other, Lance still throbbing against the girl’s ass, the girl still subconsciously squirming, and moistening. The insult had been to Lance, so it fell to him to accept the apologies, and he did. “Okay. I understand. And now I know where I got that shit from. I wonder how many of my other bad habits come from your half of my DNA.” Father shrugged. Lance reversed field by saying, “I guess they’re a small price to pay for getting your wordcrafting, and storytelling skills.”

“Atta boy,” said Stephen. “Now, where were we, before I fucked up?”

“We were waiting for Lance to spill his idea,” Madonna answered.

Lance looked at the oldsters, and said, “Yes, you were. And you’re gonna keep waiting until we get some answers.”

Madonna returned to her own seat, as King leaned forward and asked, “What do you want to know?”

“I wanna know what you know,” was Lance’s answer.

“Specifically?”

“About the virus. How, when, and where it was created, by who, and why.”

“Whom.”

“Fuck you.”

King laughed, “Fair ‘nuff, Lance. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, and I don’t know.”

“Would you tell me if you did?”

“Maybe. If you knowing were beneficial to the greater cause, I would. If not, probably not. A lot of it is about trust. I have to be able to trust that you can handle shit. Heavy shit.”

A scowl broke across Lance’s face, “You’re a fine one to be talking about trust, my dear, old, deadbeat dad.”

“We will get to that. And soon. But not rigt here, rigt now. We’ll do that by ourselves, over a beer. Or two.”

“Okay,” Lance replied, “But you’re buying.”

“Deal” King agreed. “But seriously, I don’t know the answers to your questions, which are the questions everyone in the world is asking.”

“You have no idea,” asked Kitty. “C’mon.”

“I didn’t say that,” said Stephen. “I said I don’t know. I have some ideas, suspicions, and we’re looking into them.”

“You and your friends in weird places?” Kitty asked.

“Yes, me and my friends in weird places.”

Lance asked the obvious questions, “Who are these friends of yours, and how weird are they?”

“If I told you…”

“You’d have to kill us, or your friends in weird places would?” Kitty asked.

“My friends in weird places might kill us all. In fact, they just might do that before this is all over, for one reason, or another, or just for the Hell of it.”

“But you trust them?” Lance asked.

“So far, so good, and we’ve worked together before.”

“When and where?” Kitty asked.

“I really would have to kill you, if I told you that.”

Lance and Kitty looked at each other, silently, attempting to read each other’s minds. Kitty turned to Madonna, “What’s your role in all this?”

“Lance isn’t the only one in the room with game changing ideas. I will ante up soon enough. And lay my cards on the table for inspection.”

“When?” Lance asked.

“When we get to Vancouver.”

“What’s there?” asked Kitty, who had always wanted to go.

“Not what, but who?” Madonna answered, with a grin.

“Okay, who’s there?” Lance asked.

“A couple friends who have a big role to play in this, but have yet to be recruited.”

“You gonna keep their names from us, too?” asked Lance.

“No. Their names are Harry and Meghan,” Madge answered.

“The royal runaways?” asked Kitty, just to be sure.

Madonna smiled, and answered, “None other.”

18 – TWISTING AND TURNING THE TIDE

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16 – THERE IS NO MONEY IN VALHALLA

 

Stephen King got up before the count of ten. Looking at Lance he said, “Well, if I had a knife, I’d cut off a piece of your ear.”

Lance laughed, and replied, “And if I had a chair, I’d bust it across your teeth.”

“Then we’d crash through the wall…”

“And into the street…”

“Kickin’ and a gougin’ in the mud and the blood, and the beer…”

Lance paused a couple seconds, and then said, “But you never named me Sue, anyhow, so I guess we can skip all that, yeah?”

“I think that would be wise. We’ve got work to do, if this is all through.”

Lance shrugged, and said, “Let’s get to work, then.”

“You and I will talk later,” said his father.

“Yes. Yes, we will.”

The four of them made their way to the executive suite, and seated themselves in a circle. The King of Horror started the session. “Sun Tzu said that victory comes from finding opportunities in problems. Twenty five hundred years later, it’s still true. The world is now faced with the greatest problem humanity has had to deal with in written history, and with it the greatest opportunity for change.”

Stephen paused. He expected no argument, and got none, so he continued. He looked at Lance, and said, “Daffy Donald is rigt, it’s all about the money, money, money.”

“You read my book?”

“It’s brilliant,” said Lance’s father.

“It’s hilarious,” Madonna added.

“You need to send me a copy,” Kitty said to Lance. Then, thinking quickly, she said, “Never mind. It’s all about the money, money, money. I’ll buy it.”

The boy who would be King was very much enjoying this brief, very flattering interlude, but snapped back to the matter at hand. “Yes, it’s all about the money, money, money. But, as Daffy points out, until some sci-fi geek figures out how to get us from where we are, into the future where there is no need for money, money is a big problem in general, and a big part of the big problem we face with this virus.”

Madonna was laughing, and begged the indulgence of all to go off on a quick tangent. Permission was granted. “Kitty,” said the Queen of Pop, “in one of Daffy Donald’s routines he says that only the sci-fi geeks are clever enough to find a way out of money. You never see money in any futuristic sci-fi. So, we have to start a contest in which sci-fi geeks try to come up with a way to move us beyond money. Tough task, so the reward has to be big. And it can’t be money, because money will be worthless shortly after the contest. So…” Madonna interrupted herself with a burst of laughter, than composed herself, and continued, “so, the winner gets a date… with a real, live pretty girl.” And the executive suite exploded in laughter.

Stephen raised his voice over the laughter, so he could make more of it, “Not a fuckbot. A real, live, flesh and blood pretty girl.”

Another explosion of laughter filled the room. Madonna picked it up, “But, because we all know how that’s gonna work out, we better throw in a fuckbot, too!”

And another explosion of laughter filled the executive suite of the Valhalla Inn, just outside the Thunder Bay city limits.

Kitty couldn’t contain herself. She just had to throw her own curveball into it, “Me!” she said. “I’m pretty. I’ll do the brainiac geek! No fuckbots necessary. This is a job for Kitty Kabboodle, or my name isn’t Kitty Kaboodle.”

Stephen, King of Horror, Madonna, Queen of Pop, and Kitty, Mistress of Mmmmeeeeoooowww, roared laughter. Lance didn’t think it was funny. At all. But knowing the joke would be on him, if the others discovered his opposition to the plan, he faked it well enough to not be found out.

Madonna threw her hands up in the air, and sang,

Super Kitty!
Super Kitty!
Rah rah rah

Super Kitty!
Super Kitty!
Sis-boom-bah!

When the merry died down, Stephen got back to business. “I saw the video you made about the economic paradigm shift that is already underway,” he said, looking at Lance. “As profound as was the shift from feudalism to capitalism.”

“I can’t take any credit for the transformation that’s happening, obviously. Or even the observational theory that it is happening. I just stumbled across it, and realized it applies to my Commonwealth idea.”

“But you’re dead certain that Commonwealth can be a big part of the transformation away from crony capitalism, and into a new era of capitalism with a human face, as you so eloquently put it?” asked the boy’s father.

“Just as certain as Dubcek was when he said his Prague Spring was all about creating communism with a human face.”

Madonna looked at Lance, and asked, “And you are equally certain that Commonwealth can challenge Amazon, Apple, Spotify, Netflix, Ticketmaster etc.?”

Lance smiled, “No.” Three pairs of eyebrows rose. Lance grinned maniacally as he said, “I am dead certain that Commonwealth can wipe them all off the face of the Earth.”

17 – CONDESCENSION IN THE RANKS

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