And now we speak with Jeffrey Busybees, the founder of BusyBee, the world’s largest Internet retailer.
We’ve automated just about everything in our warehouses for years now. The delivery trucks are driven by computer. We do find it’s helpful to have an actual human jump out and hand the package to the customer. Put a human face on it, you know? Most things in China’s factories are being built by robots. Automation is Good.
Our next step? Well, that’s to automate consumption! We’ve already implemented that on the production side. When factories, warehouses or the delivery system need something, the robots just place an order with BusyBee. The next step, and I believe this is a natural leap, is to have robot consumers. Humans are fairly predictable, but not predictable enough. Humans are inefficient. If we are going to continue to have the kind of share value growth we want, we need to drive consumption on the curve we’re looking for by ourselves.
That’s why we’re introducing our new BusyBee Robotz. They will have their own bank accounts and apartments across the world. This will keep the humans busy building new apartments for Robotz, construction crews can order anything they need and get it delivered same-day from BusyBee. When we want more sales, we will simply have the Robotz buy stuff. Lots of stuff. We take our cut at every step of the way. When the Robotz apartments are completely stuffed with kitchen appliances, home electronics, wonderful toys of every description… That’s where the humans come in again.
You see it’s quite hard to automate recycling to reclaim as close to 100% of the raw materials as possible, and we need to feed those raw materials back to the factories. Humans are great at smashing things. Give them a hammer and they will smash stuff all day. Then they sort the bits into the correct bins, which we sell back to the factories. All the BusyBee products the Robotz buy, they get recycled. This is going to be great for shareholder value, the economy and the entire world!
Yes, you are right. There is still a yawning demand for fresh raw materials if we are going to continue to grow our consumer economy. That is why we are going to Mars and the Asteroid Belt. Endless supplies of the raw minerals to mine, absolutely zero environmental degradation. It’s a win / win!
Have you had a chance to interview any of our BusyBees on Mars? Talk to my people and we’ll get it set up. See you on Mars!
“Tell ’em that one,” rumbled Hank as he set his Mai Tai back on the bar. “The one about Hazy Jim and how he finally got back to Earth.” Big Eddy stretched his lanky body like he was looking to make more space inside it and glanced between Hank and the tourist couple seated in the palm fronds. They had dressed for the occasion in snappy Hawaiian shirts. She even had a plastic flower in her hair.
“Now, Hank” started Eddy. “You know these nice people came in here for their colony required doses of Vit-C and Vit-D and not for crazy stories that don’t end well.” Mrs. Entz spoke up, the curiosity clear in her voice “One of the colonists got to return to Earth?” Hank reached for his drink again, knocking back the nutrients that are essential to maintaining Human life on Mars. “Wahl, sure. In a way.”
“How’d he do that? Sure, thanks to the Musk Foundation, we get a round-trip in return for our social-media influencer status.” Mr. Entz spun a ring on his pinky and the tiny camera eye on the Flamingo Room pin on his bright shirt flashed briefly. “That one’s going on our Tiki Bar Blog. We’ve got elite status among the Vlergs.” He gave a little wink and a knowing nod. “You guys doing the work of keeping this place going… not so much. I mean about getting a return trip.” One quick slurp and his Zombie achieved zero extra liquid mass. “Tell you what, I feel like I could use another dose of Vit-C. Tell you what. How about you line me up another Zombie, and if you put an extra drop o’ Tink in it and a story, I’ll make sure there will be something extra for you in your end.” There’s that smile, little wink and nod again.
Eddy produced his shaker and jigger and commenced measuring rum. “Okay fine-sees then. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.” He jabbed a thumb Hank-wards. “You see that genius there? He survived.” A sly smile creased Hank’s pale face. His big fingers toyed playfully with the parasol in his Mai Tai mug. “Curiosity didn’t injure this Ocelot. I’ll tell ya, it was quite a ride.” Clearly the colonists had the tourist’s attention now.
“You see, Hazy Jim used to get bored quick.” Eddy was carefully metering the lime juice. “Punch me, Eddy. I need to feel something.” he used to say. “He kept getting in trouble for trying to do donuts in the surface rovers. He once managed to lock himself in one of the sun rooms for almost 24 hours. We called him ‘Lobster Man’ for a long time after that.”
“He just lived in kind of a haze, that’s why he’s been known as ‘Hazy Jim’ since.” explained Hank. “So, sounds like he didn’t take to living on Mars?” asked Edna. Hank gestured a few feet away to a wicker chair under a large sun lamp with a palm tree. “He used to sit in that chair and make up stories about Hawaii. He’d never even been there.”
“Somehow he managed to plant a secret avocado tree, that’s kind of restricted you know as the colony still needs to be careful with our limited supply of fresh foods. When they came and took it away, man you should have seen him cry.” Hank looked mournful. “Yeah, he missed God’s Green Earth, but he had years to go on his contract before any chance of a ticket out.” “That’s when the really crazy stunts came out of him.” Added Eddy. “‘I gotta get out of these tunnels, man!’ he used to say.”
“How about that time he decided to go hang-gliding? Imagine.” Hank stretched his arms out wide, making whooshing noises with his mouth. “How’d that go?” asked George between slurps on his straw. Hank worked on his own straw. “Jim figured, less air but less gravity. Just make the wings bigger. Almost worked. He got lucky. When he augured-in he found himself in a soft dust dune canyon close enough to get picked up by a rover.” Eddy refilled Hank’s mug with colonist-class pre-mix. “About that time I decided maybe I should hang around him more, maybe keep an eye on him some. For his own safety.”
“This place is a bit like living in a submarine.” spoke Edna quietly. Hank breaks in “…and drinking your own pee.” Hank tipped his mug towards the woman, who now looked at her own mug, a bit concerned. “They don’t like to tell you that, but ha’in’t much water on Mars.” Edna spoke up again, “Ok, I’m starting to see why a man might take some desperate chance to get back Earth. How did it happen?”
Eddy leaned both arms on the bar. “You know how when Elon Musk’s ‘Mars Mining and Exploration Company’ discovered Martian Lava Worms… now there was money on the table so that’s when they invented the Rock Launcher. You probably toured that yesterday.” George rattled the ice in his mug. “Sure, that’s where those rails come down to the mountains with the Lava Worms to that big building and shoot them into space, right?”
“Right, so me and Jim are up on the side of the Pindus Mons works where the auto-diggers are cracking the big chunks out of the mountain and he’s looking at that big open hopper on wheels and that long rail down the big hill to the valley and even with our visors on I could see the wheels turning.” A husky hand set a small dish of salted peanuts in front of Hank. “For you señor.” Marigold’s voice was serious. Surprised, Hank asked “what did I do to deserve these?” “It is a hard story you are telling. Be sure to tell it right.” and with that the Mexican man vanished into the foliage as quickly as he had appeared.
Clearly surprised: “His name is ‘Marigold’…?” Edna blurted, forehead crinkled. “Sure is,” replied Eddie, “but that’s a story for another time.” “Well, don’t that beat all?” She turned to her husband. “Hon, did you get that?” The ringed fingers of George’s left hand were dancing about as if he was playing an invisible piano. “Just sent it out to the Vlergs, darl.” He leaned forward. “Say, are those snack peanuts I see in there?”
“Yes…” Hank leaned forward presenting the bowl to the tourist couple. “As our honored guests you should have them.” They both leaned back and shook their heads. “Oh no… Thank you, but no thank you.” The couple glanced at each other for a moment. Edna began solemnly , “We couldn’t possibly, we know what those mean up here. We know what it means to have a snack. We want you to have them.”
Hank held their gaze for a few seconds and then returned the dish to the bar in a spot in reach of both himself and Eddy. “Very well, thank you ma’am. I’ll share them with Eddy.” He selected a peanut, examined it for a moment and then chewed it quietly, eyes closed. Finished he took a breath and sat up. “Now where was I? Oh, yaas.”
He continued. We’re on the side of this mountain looking in this hopper car and I’m watching Jim trail his gaze down its track to the launcher long and slow, like he’s thinking about something. He turns to me and says, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Hank reaches for another peanut. “No Jim. I do not. Sex maybe? The way boobies float in zero-G?” “Not this time my buddy.” Jim pats the side of the hopper car. “How long has it been since you rode a roller coaster? How long is it gonna be?” Jim leans in close to me, and I can tell he’s got one of those wicked grins on his face. Ya know, like he’s got one of those ideas.
Just like that, he’s used one hand to vault over the side and into the hopper. “Jim, you’ve got the control box… right?” A giggle comes over the radio. “Sure do, good buddy. Are ready for some Earth Fun?” I start to freak out, I can already feel the sweats hitting me. “Are you nucking me? You want to end up in the launcher and out in orbit?” It doesn’t take but a moment and he comes back with, “Nah, don’t worry. We don’t have the mass those big hunks o’ Larva Lava have. Hopper’ll slow down and we’ll just jump out. Don’t think about it too long. I’m going with or without you.”
The bar has been pretty quiet. “So, what did you do?” asks George. Hank put his hands on his hips and regards the couple silently. “Well, I’m sitting there thinking. Fool me, I also left him with the authorizer for the rover. Figured it made him feel like he was in control of something. Cheezus, he’s going to get hisself killed for real this time. I’m sweating, looking down that longgggg slope towards that launcher, then the hopper, then back down the mountain and I’m biting my lip and all along Jim’s giggling over the comms.”
“Didn’t you try to stop him?” asks Edna? “With what? A stick? We’re on Mars! Then it comes to me. I’ll leap in too, and real quick like, I’ll just grab the control box out of his hands and we’ll be safe.” Hank’s making snatching motions with his hands. “So that’s what I do. Two hands, I’m over the side.” Hank’s miming all the movements. His audience is leaning forward, listening close. “Sure as shit, shinola and a shoe-shine that laughing bastard sets the hopper rolling down that hill.” Hank stands up and reaches for another peanut.
Edna breaks the silence.”…and…you grabbed him, right?” Hank shakes his head. “Yeah, I wish. Larva Lava hopper cars don’t have what you’d call a smooth ride. In a half of two seconds we’re both crumpled against the back wall bouncing up and down like rag dolls while that thing gathers speed. Sure, mine rail is a cheap and fast way to get your petrified mars worms down the hill, but it sure ain’t made for humans.” Hank starts waving his hands again. “All this time Jim’s giggling, he’s having a great time. I’m just hoping not to lose all the atmo from my suit. Dang, if the thing isn’t like a roller coaster you can take my left nut. We’re bouncing up and down, zipping down that mountain faster and faster. I can see that fool has smashed the control box. No chance of the e-brakes now. I’m seeing big black dots in front of my eyes … I must have passed out … then…” Hank sits down and reverently picks up another peanut and regards it slowly. “…then, that’s when things got bad.”
“The hopper flips over and we’re flying towards the running conveyer belt that runs to the launcher to orbit. Jim lands on the belt in front of me and I’m looking for something, anything to stop me before it’s too late but they don’t put safety rails in those things. I start crawling back towards the hopper, and I’m not making much progress because the damn thing is bouncing and moving faster than me. Jim’s pulling away from me, still giggling like mad. Damn, I wish they’d let us have cigarettes here.”
George is doing a tap dance with his ringed fingers again, rapt. “I hear a final WHOOP! out of Jim and the comm goes quiet. Totally quiet. Nothing. I pause for a second to look behind me, and it’s right there – the orbit slingshot. I have a half second to thinkFUCK YOU ELON MUSK! and then it’s POW!” Hank smacks his hands together, launching one off the other. “I’m gone like Long Tom Tomorrow. I black out from the G’s. When I wake up, I’m in space.”
“Say, what?” asks George. “You survived that?” looking askance. “It was a surprise to me, too.” Hank sits back down. “I’ve got this incredible headache when I come to and I’m slowly spinning. I’m seeing Mars. Then Jim. Then Mars. Then Jim. My atmo meter says I’ve got about 30 minutes of breathe time left so I do my best to calm down and I start punching every alert button on the comm before it happens.” “Before what happens?” asks Edna.
“Before we’re swept up by the orbiting slingshot that shoots the rocks out towards Earth, you know that. A big nudge in the right direction, on the right path and in a few years they are snagged by that net in Earth orbit. Or hit the moon, depending where Musk & Co prefer to pick ‘m up.”
“So, you’re here. Where’s Jim?” George asks. Hank picks up another peanut softly, chews it slowly. “That’s just the thing. Bradbury Base was alerted to anomalous behavior by the hopper just in time to be watching what happened. They could tell those two objects were not the rocks they would expect.”
“So,” Edna interjects “when you hit up your comms they came and caught you.” Hank nods, “yeah, just in time.” George perks up a questioning eyebrow, “but what about Jim? Wait. Jim didn’t turn on his comms.” He pauses. “Do you think he was…” “Dead?” Hank finishes the thought for him. “Well, I kind of hope so, but we’ll never know for sure.” The man looks into the distance for a moment.
“Jim finally found his way back to Earth.” Edna adds with finality.
“Yeah, yeah he did. Well, it’s a long trip. It’s gonna take a few more years.” Hank raises his mug. “Here’s to Hazy Jim.” The other three join in. “To Hazy Jim!” Down the hatches, all. George sets his drained mug on the bar. “Hey, I think I’m done in. I’m a lightweight, even back on Earth!” Edna chuckles, “if you don’t mind Hon, I’m ready to go too.”
George sticks out his hand for shakes all around. “Thanks for a great story, gents. Make sure this all goes on our tab.” Eddy nods, “Thanks for coming to Mars.” As the couple turns to leave Edna quietly takes something out of her purse and places it on the bar. Then they are gone.
Marigold appears out of the back. “Holy crap, you’re never going to believe this.” exclaims Eddy. “We’ve never had a haul like this!” follows Hank. Marigold comes in close for a look.
“Hey, I’ve got a client who wants me to find a horse who wants to fight crime.”
Chew. Chew. Chew. Stare. Chew.
“Ya wanna fight some crime?”
“Nod once for yes, twice for no.”
Chew. Pause… Chew. Nod.
“Alright then, we’ll be in touch. Here’s my card.” Fact Finding Timmy takes his diminutive foot off the bottom rail of the fence and turns away. Over his shoulder, “A whole new world is about to open for you, pal.”
Banana Man is a mild-mannered janitor at night. Straps a banana to his head and fights crime during the day. Mostly littering.
Banana Man at home, in his tighty-whities. In his easy chair, laptop open. Banana Man is spending some quality time on YouTube. He’s watching old episodes of David Letterman. Letterman is interviewing Michael Keaton about his role as Batman.
One moment it’s not there, the next moment is. A large pig with a pocket watch on its head.
Then it’s gone.
Banana Man narrows his eyes.
He puts down the laptop, goes to the TV-VCR combo set and pops in one of his Batman movies. There’s Cat Woman, same pig right behind her.
He stops the tape, goes to the bookshelf and picks up his copy of The Dark Knight Returns. There’s the same pig in the Bat Cave, looking right at him.
Banana Man, out of costume, steps out into the hallway.
There he is, clearly heading out.
Tall, plain white t-shirt, clean jeans, sharp black shoes. Clean shaven with a strong chin, medium length black hair sticking up like someone had stuck it in an electrical socket. Dark glasses that wrap around to look like goggles.
“Hey Doc, I need some help.”
He stops. “Oh?”
“There seems to be a pig haunting my TV. And my computer. And my library.”
Banana Man is a mild-mannered janitor at night. Straps a banana to his head and fights crime during the day. Mostly littering. Twice a month he gets his son for the weekend. Kid Banana
Returning from Banana Patrol, Banana Man is cornered by The Landlord on the stairwell before he can get away.
“Dammit! Where’s my pet deposit? That’s $100. And I need it. IMMEDIATELY!” The Landlord is not happy. As usual. His face is turning red. “And take that damn banana off your head, you look like an idiot!”
Mumbling, “I’ll get you a check by monday.”
“You better!” The Landlord stomps off.
In the apartment Banana Man stares at the ferret in the cage. The ferret stares at Banana Man.
Banana Man is a mild-mannered janitor at night. Straps a banana to his head and fights crime during the day. Mostly littering.
Sunlight filters through the dusty blinds, throwing a few rays over the figure of our hero, sitting in his stained tighty-whities in the battered beige Lay-Z-Boy facing the unblinking eye of the TeeVee.
The TV is not on. Banana Man is staring at the motes of dust floating in the sunlight. He is thinking about his #1 nemesis: Time Horse.
How do you catch a villain who can simply time travel away just as you are about to apprehend him? Also he can gallop.
Banana Man narrows his eyes. He has no plan, but it Must. Be. Done.
“Dad, my banana is slipping.” Kid Banana fusses with noggin-mounted banana.
“Yeah, they do that. Let me take a look.” Banana Dad fiddles with Kid Banana’s headgear. “There, that’s better. Let’s go.”
They are in the park, fighting crime.
“Dad, Mom says you’re weird.”
“You mom says a lot of things. The court says you’re with Dad alternate weekends. On weekends we fight for Justice.” Banana Dad scans the area for crime. Doesn’t take long. A crumpled gum wrapper in the grass. The perp? Long gone, but still.
“Kid Banana? Fight for Justice.” He points to the wrapper. “Grab that. We will dispose of it properly. Let’s keep going.”
“Ok, Dad.” They slowly perambulate the park in a circular fashion. Eyes sharp on the lookout. They smell it before they step in it. Road apples, a huge steaming pile. Horse pucky appears in the path directly in front of our heroes.
Banana Dad balls his fists and screams to the sky:
Banana Man is a mild-mannered janitor at night. Straps a banana to his head and fights crime during the day.
Banana Man huffs down the stairs. It is time to fight for Justice before his shift. Nearing the ground floor, he slows. He knows who often lurks in the tiny lobby by the battered mailboxes.
On the second to last step Banana Man stops, and carefully peers around the corner.
Sure enough, he is there. The Landlord. Damn! Looks like he’s mopping the floor.
Sticking his back to the wall, Banana Man silently creeps back up the stairwell, staying out of sight.
The Landlord smokes fat, cheap cigars while he works. Sweating through his stained wife-beater t-shirt. Banana Man can hear him grunting. Banana Man waits.
Slop, slop. Grunt, grunt. Finally. Banana Man hears The Landlord heft the bucket of dirty water and retreat to the basement. Banana Man careful descends the stairs again. A quick look – the coast is clear. He sprints across the slippery floor and is out the door!