“Let’s make this real simple,” Sanders said. “You want apples. I can sell you a ton of them from Earth for forty million dollars. Do you want them or not?”

“Uh huh, I guess. How much again?”

“A ton. For forty million dollars.”

“What’s the price?”

“Forty million... Look, put your father on the line, will you?”

“Sure!” Sasha called up a new screen on Zoom. “Dad! Mr. Sanders wants to talk to you!”

“Your son is hopeless,” Sanders said.

“He’s twenty three. He just needs experience.”

“He just needs a brain. Let’s wrap this up. A ton for forty mill. Do you want us to export it or not?”

“For thirty-eight mill, maybe. You can delay shipping to us for a month, if you want to wait for a new launch window towards Mars.”


“But I’d like you to close this deal with my son. Hello?” Andrei sighed and signed off. Sallow and gaunt, he rubbed the bags beneath his eyes, blackened by the long nights and years that he had spent building a family business. All for a toehold in politics. All for his son.

“Dad?” From the doorway, all elbows and eyes, Sasha peered uncertainly into Andrei’s office. “Can I take over now?”

“We lost our connection,” Andrei lied. “The phone system on this planet is so antiquated. Even the emergency line, 911, is decades old.”

“Maybe I can fix it when I get to be Governor.” Sasha beamed.

“No ‘maybe’ about it. You will.” A flashing light on Andrei’s phone signalled an incoming call. He looked at the caller’s code, and his stomach tightened. “Son, let’s plan a little later how to close the deal.” Sasha nodded vigorously and disappeared.

“You were supposed to call me back,” X said.

“Sorry. Pressing business.”

“More pressing than snuffing the Governor? Where’s your down payment for the hit?”

“I’m still thinking about it.”

“You can think for one hour more.” Click.

Another call. “About your gun collection,” his wife said. She must have been on a rare break from her TV binges. “How should I clean them?”

“I’ll take care of them tonight.” They were proof of his membership in Mars’ macho culture, which was in equal parts Russian and American, thanks to the cosmonauts and astronauts.

“I have a question.” Laura hesitated. Squat and rheumy-eyed, she seemed to have trouble looking into the camera.


“I know it’s just a rumour, but… are you planning to kill Dad?”

“What?” His father-in-law was the long-time Governor of Mars—his wife’s idol, and the lackey, he thought, of the United Nations, which ran Mars as a colony for profit in trade. “Of course not. Any more moronic questions?”

“I’m sorry.” Another pause. “Farewell.”

He hung up. He had married her only because she was the daughter of the Governor, who distributed import licenses. Soon he would no longer require her.

Outside his enormous window, the Martian sky darkened into a lurid red. His oval office cooled, as if a storm was brewing. He looked around. Facing the door, on an elegant stand of gold, was a holograph commemorating his arrival on Mars in the first wave of entrepreneurs, twenty years ago. Standing next to him was his then-new friend from Moscow, X, wearing his signature not-so-cheap sunglasses. These days, X was firing on all cylinders. He was head of the Martian mafia, Laura’s bosom friend, and Andrei’s partner in cornering import licenses. That business was lucrative, and sometimes Andrei thought that X hankered after his own half of it. Fortunately, he, Andrei Andreiovich Khrushchev, had all the brains in the operation.

Andrei’s flashing phone ended his reverie. “Your verdict,” said X.

“All right.” 

“When will you wire the million bucks?”

“Already have, as agreed.”

“Perfect.” X chuckled. “We’ll deliver immediately.” 

A banging commenced on Andrei’s door. A pudgy foot kicked out the oaken panels. His wife, gleaming pistol in hand. “You lied,” she said, and fired.

As Andrei crumpled, she waddled to the far side of the office, sat down, and watched. He was gurgling, minutes from death. 

Sasha dashed in. “What was that? Oh! Don’t worry, Dad! Help is on the way!” He fumbled for his phone and punched in 911. A tinny robotic voice emitted from the phone. “We’re sorry. The number you have dialled is—”

Sasha couldn’t hear the end of the message. The second shot had claimed Laura’s second victim.


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