Chapter 1 Bad day at Red Rock

 “She handles like a dream doesn't she?,” Ben said as twists to look at the driver and dredges up his best number six smile. The pinched faced older driver glanced back and grudgingly said, “Well I have to admit it seemed the price was a little too good to be...” When as he turned into the used car lot a sharp whine was punctuated by a thump and noisy screech. The wheels locked and it jerks and comes to an abrupt stop. The driver contemplates the wispy black smoke now curling up from underneath sneers, “I should have known better. You guys are all liars and thieves.” He opens the door, gets out, and slams it shut. Muttering to himself he angrily storms off the lot.

Ben's chagrin was interrupted by hearing, “Ben Thompson, get your ass over here now.” Looking up Ben saw old Mr. Griswold wildly waving his arms at him while using somewhat odd and probably obscene hand gestures. Ben sighs, eases his lanky frame out of the no longer functioning vehicle, and slowly walks over to see what his florid-faced boss is going to say. His keen instincts are advising him that this was not going to be a joyous conversation. “Thompson that's the third customer you have lost this week, you can't seem to close a deal” sputters Mr. Griswold. Ben stands there for a few seconds trying to muster his thoughts and blurts out, “You told me that this drive unit had just been fully rebuilt by your worthless brother-in-law. I think he just threw in some old junk super magnet coils that were at the end of their life. How am I supposed to sell this crap if it won't even make it around the block?” Mr. Griswold swells up and then stares at his sleeping brother-in-law slumped over open-mouthed in a chair under the awning. A steady stream of gelatinous drool is winding its way down his sagging multiple chins. He stares back at Ben, suddenly deflates and rasps out  “You're fired Ben, just get out of here.”

Gathering his meager possessions from his desk he walks out into the heat to head home. Wincing at the remaining 46 credits he had left, and with an impending sense of desperation goes across the street to the Swifty Nifty store to buy a six pouch of Buzzed beer and a pseudo meat sandwich to take home. The garish vid displays were scrolling headlines as Ben stands in line. “Starlet gets the third breast transplanted, says two breasts aren't enough for me.” “Remake of “Battle Field Earth” goes straight to download. Actors blame the director, who blames screenwriter, who blames Xenu.” The clerk snaps him out of his reverie mumbling “Is this all buddy?” and promptly deducts 11 credits from his balance.

Ben trudges into his micro-unit apartment building. Smelling the ever-present mustiness of the lobby he suspiciously eyed the rickety lift and opts to take the stairs. He had just walked into his tiny unit and plunked down when a banging started on his door. A tinny metallic voice loudly declares “Mr. Ben Thompson, you were seen entering this unit. I am here to collect your debt of 1136 credits owed to Galactic Charge all. This is being recorded for our legal purposes. I am programmed to stay here until you pay your debt. Present your reader for payment immediately,” drones the credit bot. The message and loud banging on the door starts again now even louder.

A vision suddenly flashes before Ben's eyes as he sees the frying pan with the remnants of his breakfast still sitting on the cooker. In a burst, he jumps up, grabs the pan, snatches the door open and hurls the pan at what he now realizes is a frantically retreating and extremely dented credit bot. Ben watches transfixed as the events unfold in slow motion. The rotating pan continues on its high-speed trajectory just missing the credit bot by inches. It impacts the hallway wall directly in front of ancient Mrs. Gold with an impressive thud splattering its contents everywhere. Mrs. Gold pales, gasps and promptly faints. Her “kick me” mutt starts yipping furiously at  Ben and the pan. The retreating credit bot squawks garbled noises that sound profane but staring at the mess Ben gives up on the idea of trying to throw the pan again as the credit bot whizzes at high speed around the corner.

Spinning into overdrive he scurries back into his unit, gathers cleaning supplies, and a pouch of what passes for spring water. Quickly reviving Mrs. Gold he helps her back on her feet and shoves the water pouch into her gnarled hands. Frantically sopping up the mess Ben hopes the only remaining evidence of this unfortunate incident will be Mrs. Gold's addled memory and the dent in the hallway wall. The constant yipping of the lap mutt draws the attention of the building super who comes upstairs to see what the racket is about. Looking at the still wobbling Mrs. Gold, the pan in Ben's hand, and the dent in the wall he hollers over the shrill barking, “Ben you're two months late on the rent already, and now this! Be out of here at the end of the month,” and stomps off shaking his head.

After cleaning the mess up, Ben collapses on his couch fuming. “Whoever named this stinking dust bowl of a planet Bliss had a weird sense of irony. A fat lot of good that engineering degree does for me. What a crappy day. I had no idea those credit bots could move so damn fast.” He belatedly returns to scanning the help wanted ads. “Nope, not selling shoes. Repair credit bots? Nah, you mostly need to have experience in a body shop”, and dozens of others until he sees a small ad that simply says, “Salesman wanted, some experience desired, high pay, travel required, apply in person, 26 Blossom Street.” He rips open another Buzzed beer and reads it again.