I always went the Boardroom when I visited the Mare Inebrium. I was a businessman like my father and grandfather and I traveled frequently. I was sitting at my regular table having a drink when the waitress delivered a message to me. It said, "William, It is time to talk of sealing wax and whether pigs have wings. In other words, join me for a drink. A. Selkirk."
I had seen this barfly every time I came to the boardroom. He never seemed to leave and everyone seemed to know him. He seemed to know me but I didnít know from where. The fact that he quoted Lewis Carroll also piqued my curiosity. Very few people knew that Carroll was my favorite author. Well, I had to find out more so I went over to his table.
"William, so glad you could join me", he said rising and talking my hand.
"Have we met before, Mr. Selkirk"?
"Yes, but it was a long time ago. You were with your grandfather."
"I remember going on a trip with my grandfather, I was, I was eight years old at the time. That canít be right, youíre younger than I am."
"Yes and no. Let me get to the point. Your grandfather and I were business associates at one time. We were quite close. Anyway, that time you were with him, he asked me for a favor. I remember him saying, ĎYou know Alex I think my grandson is going to make a fine businessman but I think he is going to impulsive like me. One day, when he needs it, I want you to set him straightí. And he was right. I have kept track of your career and you have all the makings of a great businessman. However, you have made some serious errors."
"Well, unfortunately that is correct. I am not sure where I went wrong."
"Iíll tell you. You are like your grandfather and me to a certain extent. You have very good instincts. There is nothing wrong with that, but, you donít do your homework. I was like you once and that is what got me marooned at the Mare Inebrium."
"Marooned?" "I have seen you here often but-"
"I am not here often kid, I live here. I mange to scratch out a meager living by buying and selling business information. You can learn a lot by keeping you ears open in a bar. I suppose your wondering where all this is going?"
"It has crossed my mind."
"I am going to tell my story, kid, and I want you to take it to heart. This is my way of paying my debt to your grandfather. Years ago, I was a wunderkind of the business community. By the time I was twenty I had amassed a fortune. I was in fact a genius. Itís not bragging if you can do it. I was also full of myself. A group of my friends wanted to teach me a lesson. Bring me down a notch so to speak. They made a bet with me that there was a business deal that I could not pull off. Naturally, I disagreed with them and told them I would accept the bet up front without knowing the terms."
He was silent for moment and stared into the bottom of his glass. "What was the bet?", I asked.
"That I could not buy a Promethean jewel"
"I have heard of the Prometheans," I said. "They are a race somewhere out on the rim. They are supposed to be a thousand or more years ahead of us in technology. They are also rather reclusive. No one has ever opened business relations with them."
"No one but me. I am the only person of any species to have bought a piece of their technology. The jewel. Do you know what it does?"
"I think it increases, their life span."
"By a factor of twelve."
"Thatís why. ."
"Thatís why I am 95 five years and still look twenty. That is why I will probably live a thousand years, God, help me. I was here in the Mare Inebrium when they beamed it to me. Matter transmission, think of the business possibilities. Anyway, it is keyed to the person that owns it. You have to stay close to it in order for it to work. If you are separated from the energy field you die. The Prometheans were it around their neck."
"I donít understand, you should be proud of your accomplishment."
"I didnít do my home work, kid. If I had I would have know that that Prometheus is a low gravity world and that the Prometheans are the size of Terran blue whales. Did you notice the rock garden in the main foyer when you come into the Mare Inebrium. Do you remember the blue boulder in the center of it."
"Oh my God."
"Thatís the Promethean jewel. I weighs over five hundred pounds. Obviously I canít carry it around with me. And the energy field of the jewel is only slightly larger the Mare Inebrium. When the weather is nice I can have lunch at the outdoor café, but, that is as far as I can go. Any farther and I die. So, remember, kid, always do your home work. And also remember this", he said raising his glass with a rueful smile. "The devil is in the details".
"To the devil", I said clinking my glass to his.
To this day, I always do my homework.
© 1997 by Dennis Tallent
You can e-mail Dennis at: tallent@earthli nk.net
Dennis Tallent is a native son of the state of Texas; the direct desendent of an officer of the Texas Revolutionary Army. He is anactive member of MENSA, The Libertarian Party and Tebala Shrine Temple. At the moment he is a nursing student at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Illinois.
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