With a Little Help is a book of 12 stories: the author's first serious experiment in self-publishing.
Here's an excerpt from Liberation Spectrum:
The tiny multinational lumbered across the Niagara Falls border in its tour-bus, Lee-Daniel at the wheel, sipping iced mocha from the flexible straw that he'd threaded through a series of eyelets on his jacket. He'd been driving all the way since Akwesahsne, reciting mnemonic sleep-dep chants and steadily consuming the lethal blend of bittersweet chocolate and espresso, but after 20 straight hours he was in deadly danger of falling straight to sleep and head-onning the bus into a Jersey barrier or a bullet train or a minivan.
Once they were on US soil, he pulled the bus over at a temporary roadhouse and set the handbrake. He eased himself out of the driver's perch, chafing his narrow ass and thighs to get the blood flowing there again, and gave forth a drawn out "gaaaah" as the pins and needles stabbed into his sweat-marinated muscles. He heard the rest of the company rousing itself behind him. First, the investors in the front row, then the rest of the board of directors in the row behind them, then four rows of middle-managers and finally the great mass of front-line workers, techs, customer service reps, trouble-shooters, antennamen, switchwomen, chicken-pluckers and left-handed bottle-stretchers.
He flipped the windows to transparent and let the sun shine in, provoking groans from the company. MacDiarmid, the angel investor who'd been in since the multinational had been able to fit in a sedan, threw a strong arm around Lee-Daniel's shoulders. "You OK?" he said. The tone had phony solicitousness; MacDiarmid and Lee-Daniel had been through half a dozen disasters, from hostile takeover attempts to roadblocks to high-speed engine failure, and Lee-Daniel knew a fake when he heard it.
"I'm fixing to lay down and die," Lee-Daniel said, stretching theatrically, his pipe-cleaner arms straining. "You're street-legal in New York, right? How about you drive the bus for the next couple shifts?"
"Seriously?" MacDiarmid said. His black hair was showing grey now, but his eyebrows were still fierce and black, his eyes still sharp in their nest of whiskey-cured crows-feet.
It was rare for Lee-Daniel to cede the wheel to anyone else -- it was his damned company and he'd drive the damned bus. Lee-Daniel saw the shareholder confidence eroding before his eyes.
"Just for a while, OK? Not permanent, just for a day or two, just long enough for me to get over the sleep-deficit and re-grow some stomach lining." It was hard being CEO of a mobile multinational. The shareholder oversight was murder.
MacDiarmid looked closely at him, then smiled and gave him a burly man-hug that smelled of sandalwood soap and good liquor. "Yeah, of course, of course. I'll put it to the Board Meeting tonight at dinner. Can't have the CEO burning out at the wheel, that's what I'll say, don't worry about it, LD."
"Thanks, Mac," Lee-Daniel said. "How about we get some eats?" He put his hand on the geometry-reader beside the wheel, re-authenticated to the bus, then hit the hatches. Doors hissed open at the back, at the front, at the middle, fresh dusty air rushing in all at once in an ear-popping whoosh. The bus knelt ponderously and the company piled out.
MacDiarmid hustled away to join the rest of the investors, his exquisite hand-made leather shoes slapping the paving, the cuffs of his wool tailor-made slacks shushing over their gleaming upper, and as Lee-Daniel locked the bus down and armed it up, he watched the angel investor whisper in his co-shareholders' ears. Lee-Daniel couldn't hear the words, but six years at the wheel of Cognitive Radio, Inc. had schooled him well in the body-language of investors and he knew his days with CogRad were numbered.
The roadhouse was the kind of TAZ that got less entertaining at the square of the amount of time spent within its animated walls. The first minute was painful, an overbright eternity of authenticating to the roadhouse-area-network and establishing credit with the system. Once they had their tokens -- poker-chips adorned with grinning, dancing anthropomorphic dollar, Euro and Yen symbols -- there came the second minute, twice as horrible as the first, as they struggled in the guts of the giant vending machine, trying to fathom the actual products represented by the branded messages that tailored themselves to your personal demographic, your stated and implicit preferences, the messages that danced across your field of vision as you perused the racks in the roadhouse's aisles.
he third minute was twice as horrible as the first two minutes, as you finalized your selections by waving your poker-chip at different displays, then tried to take receipt of your goods from the floor-level fulfillment chutes while fending off the imprecations of the upsell displays set into the floor-tiles. "Lee-Daniel! People who bought tuna-melts also bought thousand-hour power-cells. People who bought OralCare mouth-kits also bought MyGuts brand edible oscopycams. People who bought banana-melatonin rice-shakes also bought tailor-made sailcloth shirts by Figaro's of London and Rangoon."
The horribleness of the roadhouse went asymptotic to infinity at minute four, as you sat down and tried to eat your rubbery tuna-melt hunkered down at a table crowded with middle-managers in need of reassurance while swatting away the buzzing aerostats that probabilistically routed towards those diners with the highest credit ratings, delivering pitches whose tone and content had been honed by genetic algorithms that sharpened them to maximal intrusiveness and intriguingness. It took a genetic algorithm to make a high colonic sound like an afternoon at a spa.
"I'm getting too old for this shit," said Joey Riel, a 17-year-old metis whose fluency in English, French and Ojibwa had made him the youngest middle manager in CogRad history, eight months before. He'd started griping about his road-weariness within days of his promotion up from antennaman. It made him fit in with the other, older middle managers, who were coffee-soured lifers whose time on the road had drummed out any footloose spirit they might have once possessed.
Further down the arcade, the investors were waving their tokens over a trading table, playing the instant futures market. An aerostat overhead mirrored the gameplay, and as Lee-Daniel watched, MacDiarmid doubled his money on a short-odds bet on two cherries and a lemon, then Earnshaw lost big when his long-odds investment on uranium and coal came back with two windmills and a photovoltaic array.
"Amen to that, bro," said Elaine, who ran two squads of surveyors. She was all lean muscle and blackfly repellent and mail-order outdoorwear, handily capable of living off the land for weeks while trekking the bush, homing in on optimal repeater locations. At the Akwesahsne Sovereign, she'd broken the hearts of a half-dozen starry-eyed Mohawk Warriors who'd puppydogged after her as she shlepped the length and breadth of their territory, warchalking neon arrows to indicate RF shadows cast by especially leafy trees and outcroppings of granite Canadian Shield. That was before the Surete du Quebec arrived on the scene and it all went pear-shaped.