For my birthday this past year, author and podcaster John Mierau wrote a short piece for me, combining several of my stories. Check it out!
“That was four lives ago, Dizzy!” he growled. His name was Clive now, the miner finished to himself, as the airlock lights cycled from red to yellow then green.
The hammering on the outside of the door was loud enough to hear when he removed the red, dust-pitted helmet.
“Fine, yes, alright, ‘Clive’. Now really, you simply must let me in!”
The inner airlock door hissed open. Clive Deloitte Hamilton III’s wife stepped in, arms crossed and scowl firmly in place.
“Dear God, no!” the woman sighed miserably.
Cyn was as beautiful now as she’d been a decade and a planet ago. Of course, she wasn’t Cynthia anymore either, but Catherine.
“Neither of us has to let you in Disraeli! What on Earth compelled you to seek us out here?”
A helmeted face pressed up against the small window in the outer airlock door. “Oh, you know… one gets bored without challenge.”
“I’d have thought there’d have been plenty of challenge avoiding the Assassin’s Guild!” Cyn-Catherine- muttered at the figure crowding their airlock door.
“No no, the King put that all to rest. Well actually, he put the Assassin’s Guild to rest. The entire planet is like a palace court now!”
Clive had no doubt that was true, what with the Crowns of Earth doming entire gutters and lifting them up and away, and then here.
He tried to keep the smile from his face, but could not. “And what’s life without a challenge?”
Dizzy nodded fervently, conking his helmet against the airlock in the process. “Yes! I knew you’d understand, my good chappy!”
Clive looked at his wife. “What say you, dear? There’s little chance of the constabulary looking for him here, what with the amnesty.”
‘Catherine’ scowled deeper. “It’s not what he’s done that I fear, it’s what he’ll do next!” But, with a sigh, she uncrossed her arms. “But if you can talk me into moving to Mars, I suppose you can have your friend sup with us too.”
Clive smiled at his beloved, and stepped through the airlock into the foyer of their rock mansion.
He bent to kiss her, and she reared back, waving her hand between their faces. “Not until you’ve bathed-and a real bath in water, mind you. Honestly Clive, you’re CEO of half the mines on this planet, and vice-regent besides! Why you have to masquerade as a miner too…”
He slapped the heavy airlock release, and the inner door sighed closed.
“Wipe your feet on the mat, Diz,” Clive called out on the live circuit.
“Oh, you are ever too kind, Cliff—-Clive! The saints of industry will sing your praises, and your people know nothing but peace-”
“Comms off!” Catherine said in a vexed tone, before reaching out and scruffing her husband’s already matted hair.
“This will be in the gossip columns come dawn, my beloved Vice-regent and CEO husband!” And she departed for her her changing rooms, to make herself presentable for company. Even such company as Clive’s dearest and oldest friend.
“Shall I set another plate, sir,” buzzed another voice from the stairs leading down from the airlock foyer to the mansion proper.
Clive’s ‘man’ turned the corner with barely a jitter. Perhaps the servicemen had finally gotten the nanolubricant formula right. The artificial manservant had been complaining about the fine Martian dust getting in his every cog and wheel.
“Yes, please, Lister,” Clive said, a grin taking residence beneath his thin, waxed moustache. “Oh, and inform the mine that neither the CEO nor my alter ego in the trenches will be reporting for duty, tomorrow.”
“Yes sir, and may I suggest sir, you also have a word with our guest about what neighborhoods to avoid? I do recall the… gentleman… tends to wander.”
Clive pulled his last leg free of the red-stained pressure suit. He slapped his hands across the front of his sweat-stained work gear, and a small puff of red dust made him cough. The suits were airtight–where did the dust always come from? he wondered.
“You won’t find a gear anywhere, sir,” Lister said, the artificial man seemingly reading his mind. “That’s free enough of dirt not to need a good greasing, now and then.”
The little construct backed up as Clive made his way down towards his suite of rooms and the shower. Somewhere down below Disraeli was instructing the kitchen staff on his dietary requirements.
“Yes, grit gets in everything, now doesn’t it.” He chuckled, as a scullery maid emitted a peel of laughter. “…but any world would be boring without a few surprises.”
Clive stepped into the marble-tiled dressing room and allowed Lister to help him strip down for the shower, the steam from which was already drifting from the next room.
“Still,” he said aloud again. “Better make a note to contact the Office of Security and make sure Dizzy’s name gets lost, before it’s found..”
“Yes sir,” Lister said. “Very good sir.”