by Petri Salin

The first bombs wipe Norcea's HQ off the face of Titan
Destroy them, the CEO's yells echo - destroy every last one of them/ and we do not question his orders, we question nothing
When our killer robots land the survivors arise from their underground/ bunkers like the undead and begin their resistance but we beat them on that/ terrible day, with terrible casualties, and when everything is well nigh over/ I take a hit and my plane is lost in a void and that is when I see them/ the three hag mongrels, holograms, appearing out of the vacuum
I hear them salute me and utter my name

All hail McB3, hail to the Lunar Marketing Director
All hail McB3, hail to Operational Head of Martian Ventures
All hail McB3, that shalt be the Company's CEO hereafter

What are you and how know you who I am? say I and
they laugh and say that they know what I am and
they laugh and say that they know what I shall be and
they laugh and laugh and laugh
so I fire my last missiles at them
but one cannot kill holograms

When they are gone I find my squadron and we return to HQ
where the CEO gives a short speech lauding the Company spirit and/ thanking us for our selfless sacrifices to obtain a crucial competetive edge/ in this strained business atmosphere wherein the unethical acts of competitors/ force a company with higher ethical standards to combat evil and/ set the entire trade a positive example with its noble corporate principles
Our market share within the Solar system, says the CEO, is now a record breaking/ forty-seven percent and beyond its parameters even greater
We shall not rest, says the CEO, until we have absolute market leadership/ for that is our prerogative and our duty and our mission in life
Those fallen in the line of labour are taken leave of with proper circumstance/ and the vacancies left after them filled equally properly

McB3, says the CEO, excellent marketing, quite excellent indeed
The Operational Head of Martian Ventures, says the CEO, was
caught red-handed doing a spot of industrial espionage for Norcea
wherefore he now fertilizes Titan's crisply burnt ground
Thou, McB3, art now Operational Head of Martian Ventures

Which slightly surprises me and gets my thought circuits going
If the holograms are right about my becoming Head of Martian Ventures/ why, then, not about the other matter as well?
the matter of which I dare not speak aloud?
If the holos, the weird sisters, can look into the seeds of time
and say which grain will grow and which will not
know they which path the future does choose, which it does discard/ there is nothing anyone can do about it/ nor can any man flee his destiny
If they are but dream or nightmare
if everything is but coincidence
better were it for me to wipe from my mind the hollow echoes of their words

Of course you will be the new CEO, says my wife
think not otherwise
dare not believe otherwise
you shall become the Company's CEO
I guarantee it
says she
and I loose myself in her embrace and she
looses herself in mine which is the same
as her embrace
and no one can stop the continuum of space and time
nor revoke the future
for at this very moment the future has chosen itself for eternity

If it were done when it is done
then it were well it were done quickly
When it is done
it will be done quickly

When the CEO arrives to inspect the Martian HQ
he stays at our home, as our guest
and in the name of hospitality my wife hands me a dagger
and in the name of hospitality I wield it
for so I must
for it is so written
I have no option

The CEO is dead, I proclaim, and the Company without a lawful ruler
The Assistant CEO, I proclaim, has betrayed the Company and fled the planet/ his minions' hands soiled with our CEO's blood
And we deal them swift Company justice before anyone
has time to question my authority
The CEO is dead! Long live the CEO!

I do what I have to, with heavy heart, with cold hands
no longer closing my eyes for I do not wish to see my deeds anew
nor do I have to close them to see my ghosts stand afore me

During my inauguration I give a speech to clarify the Company's future code
As the new CEO of SolarMcDonald's I would, my dear staff, say
a few words: We are entering a new age, a good age
An age of heretofore unforeseen expansion and fruitfulness
No more shall the Company policy be governed by sporadic bestiality/ but, dear friends, by logic and reason and fairmindedness
The Company tree shall be cleansed and sanitized and pruned
All branches with insufficient profit margin shall be taken care of
terminated with extreme prejudice
Every obstacle standing in the way of an ever increasing profit margin/ shall be removed and obliterated and ground to dust
Our new market will be the fabrication of a hamburger based on oil for robots/ and a hamburger for inhabitants of other stars - were such creatures ever found
Our new corporate strategy is to exploit the resources of our competitors/ in the form of utilizing their staff as raw material for our nourishing/ and superlatively delicious and very reasonably priced product
It is my duty to see to it that the Company's expansion never ceases but goes on
The Universe knows no boundaries
Neither time nor eternity know limits
Therefore the Company must know none
We shall not rest until the Company and the Universe are one

The wars go on and we form new alliances
destroy former allies, present allies
devour them before they devour us
grow so big that none can threaten us
not even BurgerKingHut, now shrivelled miserably into a white dwarf/ grow so mighty we have no external enemy
We are a black hole that gobbles up everything
until nothing is left

In honour of our victory I give my lackeys a great banquet
invite them to the new HQ I have erected on Mars where
I can rely on the loyalty of my underlings
unlike on other planets and moons and satellites
My wife oversees the arrangements for the banquet but
suddenly the sight of bloody hamburger meat makes her sick
it will pass, it always does pass
I let set a plate for those of my guests whom I trust and just the blade for the/ renegades, those who have masticated their last hamburger
Only a minority of the guests leave on their own two feet while the rest, the/ happy ones, now get to serve the Company's revenues with their bodies/ get to serve the Company to the last
Their sacrifice is not in vain
Their unselfishness guarantees the Company eternal life

Life, say I unto my wife, is now as good as it gets
Better than this, say I, it cannot get
This I know, says my wife, nothing will ever get better
Then we toast and accept the adulation of our grateful subjects

And each night I am awakened by my wife's cries
and each night she walks in her sleep
in her white nightgown
attempting to wash her hands
never getting them clean, the blood never coming off
her creamy white hands
the constant rubbing has torn them to a bloody pulp
her medication can no longer bless her with artificial rest

She mourns the offspring we never had
She mourns our last attempt at cloning, the last of many
but not every seed takes, not every embryo flourishes
not all blood is meant to flow forward through the rivers of time
McB4 may we never hold in our arms
nor his clone, nor his clone's clone
The brightest stars burn but a brief while
leaving behind them a chaos of heavenly coldness
the brightest star burns but a brief while

How brief?
Once the question is voiced the words keep haunting me
How brief?

I take the Company jet and return to Titan
Where are you, shout I
Come forward! shout I
Show yourselves! shout I
I circle Titan and try to find the enchanted cursed place
where last I encountered them, but cannot
I cannot find them for they do not exist
I turn my vessel to return and there they are
in my monitors, smiling their toothless smile
Tell me what I wish to know, say I
And they step out of the monitors
And they tell me

Beware McD9, whispers the first holo
Be bloody, bold, and resolute, whispers the second holo
laugh to scorn the power of man for none of woman born shall harm you
Be lion-mettled, proud, and take no care, whispers the third holo
McB3 shall never vanquished be until Pluto collides with Mars
and they grab each other by the hand and form a circle and start
dancing faster and faster until one can no longer tell them apart
then they are gone, my darkened monitors exhaling a foul black smoke

I laugh, I am invincible
no human can touch me
I shall never vanquished be until Pluto collides with Mars
(how could Pluto collide with Mars? impossible!)
McD9 cannot defy me and I may as well let him live
or not

Company vessels find me in space and escort me home
My lord, says my head of intelligence, McD9 has fled and
along with the others, gone forth and joined the forces of BurgerKingHut
Destroy his offices, say I, and all his employees
and his family
and his children
destroy them all
and they do it
I cannot revoke my orders nor bring back anyone I have slain
not even imagine it

Nor do we still become absolute market leaders
not even when we slaughter all our opposition
Do we have to, shout I at my underlings, slaughter all our customers as well?
Why do they not love me? I shout and see a steward stand before me/ he bends over and whispers in my ear and I smite him with my sword/ but one cannot kill a robot

I hasten to my wife's chambers and behold it with my own eyes
a sight not for this world
nor for the next nor for the next
She is dead, bereft of life, has abandoned me in this wasteland
Why did you leave me my love? I whisper in her ear
she answers not even though I carry her in my arms and rock her so very gently
She should have died hereafter
with this I must live
tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
now I am alone and know not where to turn
and know the blame is mine and mine alone
I press her against my heart
maybe she will awaken
press I hard enough

It takes a long time before they dare tell me
Norcea's survivors have teamed up with BurgerKingHut's survivors/ and the Company traitors have, along with McD9 and the assistant CEO, joined them/ now their fleet of war is on its way here
Let them come, say I, they cannot touch me
I hardly recall what fear tastes like and what horror tastes like and/ what humanity tastes like
No one can touch me, shout I and bare my sword
To the final battle, say I and look around me and see how
most of my men have deserted the Company and deserted me and
joined Norcea/BurgerKingHut's gigantic fleet
Go all, I do not need you, I do not need any of you
McB3 shall remain unvanquished until Pluto collides with Mars
The traitor fleet approaches the planet and their foremost fighter gets hit/ starts to wobble, the pilot loosing his control of the craft completely/ the craft getting hurled on Martian ground, setting the world on fire
I behold the name of the fighter and it is Pluto XIII

I leap into my fighter and charge the enemy
the front lines oscillate and the enemy keeps coming on all sectors/ the fight is terrible, in a frenzy I blow away fighter after fighter but/their numbers never diminish
Where are you McD9! Show yourself, coward! Come out and fight me!/ and McD9's vessel floats in front of me and we go at it like crazed bulls/ hammer one another like two/ blood-thirsty boars
I strike and he receives my blow, he strikes and I receive his blow
there is no one else in this war, only I and he, and none else is needed
Suddenly McD9 veers away, I lock my cannons on his tail and fire
but it's a trick - he swirls and then he's behind me and I can't
shake him nor can I escape before his rockets tear off my wings
I spiral downward and can't straighten my fighter, can't
escape, no way out, I fire my last missiles and somehow they hit his/ side and an immense explosion tears the vessel apart/ he falls from the sky like a rock, as do I

McD9! I shout and dig my way out of my fighter's smoking carcass, where are you?
Fight like a man if you are one!
Let me rip the flesh from your bones and irrigate the ground with your blood!
McD9 stands before me, sword hoisted, face devoid of expression
I strike him and his armour holds, I switch up to full power
he strikes back and I ward him off, smiting heaven and earth for
I fight them as well, I fight the Universe
McD9 strikes, I strike, he strikes, I strike
we dance the terminal dance

I never wanted you against me, say I, lay down your sword
walk away, I have waded in blood deep enough already and want not you on my soul/as I have on my soul your wife and your children and hundreds more/ lay down your sword and save yourself and live
McD9 lets his sword answer my words and on we dance

I am battered and bloody and don't even notice it
McD9's concentration sways for a second, only a second
My sword cuts through his body armour, cuts to his heart
pierces it and the force of my blow fells him on his knees, then
on his back - none of woman born shall harm McB3
The blood pumping from his chest is no blood
it is black and thick and almost like - oil

My sword's power is nearly down to zero
yet there is still enough for one last strike
McD9 gets up, I bury my sword in his back
he turns, he smiles, he raises his sword
None of woman born shall harm McB3, says he
his armour is split and his chest is open and -
His entire torso is full of tubes and wires and computer circuits
One cannot kill a robot
I can't escape nor do I wish to

He lifts his sword and smiles

I do not feel a thing

(Published in Portti Special English Issue 2003)

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