"actually it isn't, roy. my time isn't valuable any more and neither is anybody else's. and do you know why?"
"because we've conquered time. isn't that great? that's the latest modern invention - inflatable time. there is all the time in the world now. so it isn't worth anything."
roy stared blankly at jerry.
"the news hasn't been released to the general public yet. so you're one of the first to know, what do you think of that?"
"jeez, jerry, i'm honored. really honored and touched. i mean, what will these scientists think of next?"
"well, they had a little help from the galactic federation. you know how it is."
there was a knock on the door. after a couple of seconds dorothy entered with the bottle of water and small container of strawberry yogurt that roy had asked for.
dorothy looked at jerry. "the ambassador called."
"' the' ambassador? which ambassador might that be?"
dorothy glanced at roy and silently mouthed the words "betelgeusean".
"you can talk in front of roy. he's family. aren't you, roy?''
"thank you, dorothy. tell the ambassador i'll call him back in about an hour."
dorothy went out and closed the door behind her.
"all right, where were we?"
"i was telling you about what happened in - in - i'm not sure where."
"that's all right, it probably doesn't matter - "
"i think it was bangkok."
"bangkok is always good. you can't go wrong with bangkok."
"it was someplace exotic."
"that sounds like bangkok."
"bangkok is exotic."
"especially the back streets."
"so what happened to you, roy, or what you saw - was it in a back street?"
"good. now we're getting somewhere."
"i had a few drinks. and smoked some stuff. i didn't - wait. i think i know where i was - it wasn't bangkok, it was minsk!"
"minsk - i like minsk. is that fried chicken place still there - eddie's?"
"uh - i don't think so. fried chicken - fried chicken - no, i would have remembered that."
"all right, no harm. eddie used to have the best fried chicken in central europe - but i guess those days are gone forever."
"i was just starting out when eddie was in his prime."
"yeah, well - speaking of prime, and the old days and all that stuff, that sort of brings me to what i wanted to talk to you about."
"i'm getting there."
"good. how's the yogurt?"
roy looked at the cup of yogurt that dorothy had placed in his hand. "i haven't tried it yet."
"try it. it's good. give you a little energy boost. you o k with the little plastic spoon? i can get you a silver spoon, if you want."
"that's all right. if i'm going to eat yogurt i might as well eat it with a plastic spoon."
"that's the spirit."
roy took a little taste of the yogurt. "say, jerry - "
"do you think - do you think you being such an important person now and all - do you think you could get me some real food? a roast beef sandwich or something?"
"uh - why don't you tell me your story first. if it's a good one, or maybe even if it isn't, maybe we can go out later and rustle up some old-fashioned grub. i can't make any promises - but i'll see what i can do."
"i mean, i served my time with the good old u s of a and then the universe - just a roast beef sandwich - "
"eat your yogurt, roy, it will help you concentrate."
"i'm starting to bore you."
"not at all. i'm on the edge of my seat. i'm really curious now about who - or what you saw. and like i said, i got nothing but time."
roy took a swallow of yogurt. "you'll never guess who i saw."
"i'm sure i never will. so why don't you just tell me."
"you never heard of minnie ming?"
"i hear a lot of names. why don't you refresh my memory?"
"minnie was a devil doll. the devil doll - she was the most devilish doll of all, back in the old days when the pacific was crawling with devil dolls."
"um - that was just before my time, but i've heard stories."
"stories! minnie was no story."
"i believe it." jerry pressed a button on the underside of his desk. "so when you met minnie, in minsk, somewhere besides eddie's fried chicken, did she have anything to say, or did she just glow like a burning coal, plucked from the dying embers of memory?"
"she didn't look too good."
"the years hadn't been kind to her."
dorothy came in with a bottle of water, put it on jerry's desk and went out again.
"it was really sad to see. minnie ming!"
"you know how it is, roy. some stay on board. some cling to the side of the ship. others fall in the water." jerry took a sip from the bottle. "so did our old friend minnie have a tale to tell?"
"she sure did - about brock!"
"brock. brock." jerry looked out the window. "you mentioned that name when you came in. i think it might ring a distant bell."
"brock was a legend. but he's been gone a long time."
"least everybody thought he was long gone. probably nobody but real old timers like me would remember him at all."
"let me guess - minnie saw him someplace."
"actually, it turns out she's been seeing him for thirty-two years - in her dreams!"
"in her dreams."
"well not dreams exactly, to hear her tell it - more like cosmic telepathy or something. " roy leaned forward. "or beamed from some alternate dimension. i mean, you can't say that's crazy these days, can you?"
"no, no. this is getting interesting. "
"you see, he's been lying unconscious all these years - meanwhile his aura or something has been traveling out in the universe somewhere - somewhere far away! "
"i see. beyond the galactic federation?"
"way beyond - at least according to minnie."
" i take it minnie doesn't know where he's been located."
"are you kidding? if she knew, she would have got a gang of her girls together and rescued him!"
"i mean, the old minnie would have."
"that's great, but maybe we can find him. see if his travels through the universe are of any interest. i mean, we have a bit more resources at our disposal than poor old minnie."
" oh, i forgot the most important thing."
"and what's that?"
"he's disappeared! after all this time, minnie has lost contact with him!"