Part 9: Episode 8: One Vote Never Matters
Episode 8: One Vote Never Matters
Dr. Bowman had finally finished up her lecture on MysTech. All that I got out of it was that it was another way to kill things. These robots were definitely tougher than the thugs and drug runners we had seen on Anachronox and Sender Station, so this was a welcome development. I told Pal and Grumpos to come with me while Rho would be in charge of watching the shuttle. It was her shuttle after all. She allowed Grumpos to use her FireSlag while we searched out our surroundings. The old man's eyes lit up as she handed over the stone.
"Anyway, I guess this vindicates me in the scientific community. Too bad there's no scientific community left,"
She seemed to be taking the planet's destruction in stride, probably still bitter at them for denouncing her as a heretic.
She continued, "Whoever or whatever caused that disturbance is responsible for the death of six million people, and there's nothing to suggest it won't happen again. Here. These shieldcells should give us a little protection from whatever lies ahead. C'mon, let's get off this rock."
Or who knows, maybe people will eventually deny that Sunder was blown up at all. She handed us some slightly used Callosum shieldcells. They had four times the NRG capacity as our beaten-up pre-owned shieldcells. If MysTech was going to be a serious weapon, we'd need even more powerful cells.
We continued out the hanger door and were greeted by one of the local aliens. He was humanoid with a large, completely bald head. Most importantly, he appeared unarmed.
He introducded himself. "Welcome to Votowne. My name is Keeber. I am cultural attaché and diplomatic liaison for the hospitality committee. Please accept my sincerest apologies on behalf of the Democratus High Council."
I had never met a Democratan before. They were known as strict isolationists, although they had been attempting foreign relations of late. Turning off their killer robots would be a good first step. All I knew about Democratus is that they had some antigrav technology in the Sender Theoretical Science Museum and a reputation for being nuts.
"The sentry Robodes should never have been on active duty. By the time we realized our mistake, the automatic tractor beam system was already locked on your shuttle."
I glared at him. "Yeah, no problem."
A bit flustered, he said, "Yes…well. I'll have to cut my greeting rather short. The High Council just called an emergency session, putting the entire administrative staff, myself included, on full alert. Feel free to roam the city and make yourselves at home while we resolve this emergency. I'll be in touch."
With that, he scampered off down the hallway, eventually turning aside to speak with some construction workers.. There seemed to be some sort of electrical problem. It didn't concern us, so we continued down the hall. The High Council was apparently slow to action because we ran into another batch of three sentry robodes.
Grumpos immediately reached for his MysTech and produced a fireball even larger than the one Dr. Bowman had used. My Vistin ThreeBeam was looking pretty pathetic by comparison, but I still squeezed off a few rounds.
Obviously miffed by my firing, one of the bots returned fire with a sort of lightning beam. Luckily, the new Callosum shieldcell absorbed the brunt of the damage while my stylish green coat got the worst of the rest.
Pal retaliated with a Windmill Dash, destroying the robot. The rest of the robots were dealt with in a similar manner. Slightly bruised, we continued down the long hallway.
By now it was no surprise when Fatima popped up, probably to tell us about some sort of SenderNet search.
She said, "Sorry to interrupt, but I just dug up some interesting info on this dump. Formerly known as Tevolin II," the planet of Democratus was made up of hardline isolationists before the sudden fall of Emperor Ducalion last year. They've only recently become interested in interplanetary relations. The whole planet is run by committee. They are extremely bureaucratic, with an elitist class living in a ring floating around the planet, and a working class that has been relegated to the surface. Limted-access visitors report amazing technology, but none of it is allowed to be exported. Either that helps or it doesn't. Have fun."
Fun Fact: Tevolin anagrams to Violent.
I wondered how much red tape we'd have to traverse to get our ship repaired so that we could get off this rock. Of course, I wasn't even sure what we'd end up doing once it got fixed anyway We went to Sunder to figure out how to activate MysTech, and now it's active, through no action of our own of course. I had missed my dinner date with Detta so returning to Anachronox wasn't an option. While entertaining these thoughts, I continued through the dark hall.
Ahead was a door with a Democratan standing guard outside. He yelled out to us while we walked by.
"I'd stay out of the hangar bays if I were you. Those malfunctioning Robodes will kill you without a care," he called out to us.
Malfunctioning? Keeber had told us that they were accidentally activated, nothing about malfunction. I wondered what was so important inside that door that would require a guard.
"How about letting us inside there, chief?" I asked.
"Hell, I'd be a good neighbor and invite you inside, but nobody's allowed in the Council Chambers when there's an emergency meeting in session."
"C'mon, bub. It'll only take a second. We need to ask 'em to fix our jalopy."
He wouldn't budge. "Look, I'm sure your business is all very important," he said, "but the High Council's in the middle of a very important emergency session. I can't just knock on the door and sweep you in. They're very serious about not being disturbed. Only allies of the council are trusted inside."
Seeing a possible way in, I pried for more information. "Fine, fine. How do I become an Ally of the Council?"
"Sir, in order to see the Council, you must gain their trust. And in order to gain their trust, you must prove you think like them. Why don't you vote in today's election? If you're of like mind, they will consider you an Ally of the Council."
The red tape was already beginning to chafe me. "Sounds easy enough," I lied. "Where do I vote?"
"I believe the closest voting station is outside the Votowne Administration Center. Take this hallway all the way down and you'll end up in the City District of the Ring. Just ask for directions. You'll find it easy enough."
We continued on and came to a door that opened into a breathtaking scene. A sprawling city We were on the Grand Vision, the huge antigrav rings surrounding Democratus.
It felt weird to be walking in something that could be found in a theoretical science museum.
We walked down the ramp into the sprawling city area and were greeted by Mr. Artimus Heath.
"You don't' look like youre from around here. Are you Planet-dwellers from the surface?" he asked.
"We're from all over the system."
"Well have you registered to vote? Judging from the absence of a Voting button on your sleeve, I'd say not. Here's the deal: you have to pay a loonie if you want to stay and vote. Apiece."
"Just a loonie? Hell, I guess we can afford that…"
"Here are each of your Voting buttons. Wear them proudly on your sleeve. Since you haven't any Democratan electronic voting devices, I shall give you a sample ballot on paper. Read it carefully."
Maximum ramp angle? Official color of some Festival? Is this really necessary? A planet just blew up and instead of figuring out why we're going to
"I hope that you're aware that if you don't vote in today's election," he said, "we're allowed to kill you."
Ramp angles and official colors suddenly seemed more important
"Except you, little mister robot man. Machines are not allowed to vote."
PAL shock his claw at the man. "Whatta gyp!"
"If you're looking for someone to discuss the issues of the day with you, an Ally of the Council might be of assistance. They wear 6 Pearls of Wisdom on their skull. Now you're ready to participate in the election. Once you've decided on the issues, go to the Voting Booth just down the street. Happy voting!"
Since every day was voting day on Democratus, there were posters, stickers, and buttons about the day's issues all over the city. My highly trained detective's eye noticed that one of the posters was about the Vomit Torture proposal, proposition two on our ballot.
Soon to be replaced by Vomitboarding. It feels like you're drowning. In vomit.
We penciled in the vote on our voting card.
None of the other posters had relevant information. (read: aren't clickable). They all had "WE" or "US" printed in large letters and extolled the virtues of voting and unity. We wandered through the streets, not really knowing where to find the allies of the council. Our only clue was the "Pearls of Wisdom."
Oh hey, look at those blue round things. Given our luck with things like this, I'd wager that they're pearls of wisdom, except he didn't have six of them.
He introduced himself as Buckley White. "Would you like a quick lesson in the politics of Votowne?" he asked.
"Why not? I've got all day."
Especially these people.
"In fact," he said, "if you really want to know the way the council votes on an issue, look for the Allies of the Council. They're always more than happy to spill the beans on council decisions. Allies of the Council have 6 Pearls of Wisdom attached to their skulls as a symbol of their exaltedness. Look for them."
It turned out that the blue orbs on his skull were really just the Democratan voting devices that almost every ring-dweller has and he wasn't an Ally of the Council, but he still had useful information. Apparently we had to play along with their game to meet with the Council.
If anything, the residents of Democratus were a social people, and with daily voting, there was never a shortage of things to talk about. We quickly learned that this was not necessarily a good thing as we overheard two of them talking.
"How did you vote in yesterday's election?" the first asked.
"I was all for changing the name of the Ballotron 3000. What a stupid name." the other replied.
We also learned that Heath wasn't kidding when he said we could be killed for not voting. Nearby one of the local VoCops was shaking down a non-voter.
He asked, "The Votabulator reports you didn't participate in yesterday's election. Is there any truth to this, son?"
"I was sick"
The VoCop patted the Stun Wand at his side. "You don't look sick to me."
"I'm feeling much better."
"Will you give me your word you're going to vote in today's election? I don't wanna have to come find you again. Understand?"
"No, sir. I mean, yessir. The ballot looks very interesting today."
Satisfied with the result, he took his hand away from the wand. "How's your mother doing?"
"She said the check is late."
The VoCop gave us a stern look, and we walked on.
One thing that Democratus had in common with the other worlds we had been on was crappy locks.
I picked the lock without much difficulty.
Inside was a slag of MysTech that emitted a faint white glow. We passed the MysTech around, and when it arrived at Grumpos the glow grew brighter. Grumpos kept the white slag and passed his FireSlag to PAL. The FireSlag wouldn't glow at all in my hands.
Still searching for an ally of the council, we walked the Streets of Votowne when a frantic looking Cordian came running toward us.
He threw his hands up in the air in exasperation and said, "Do you have a ship? You gotta get me outta here. Cordicom sent me here to negotiate a distribution deal with the Democratan Trade Commission."
"Sorry, chief. Our shuttle's busted," I said as we started to walk off. I had gotten my fill of Cordicans and their business jargon on Sender Station.
"HOLD ON. Before you run off to slit your wrists, lemme tell you what I know. They have AMAZING technology. You would not BELIEVE the stuff they can do. They coul be flying around here in stylized mechanoids in a beautiful zero-g city if they wanted to, but the whole planet is paralyzed by indecision and RED TAPE. They can't get a damn thing done to save their LIVES. Everyone's an administrator. I haven't met ONE scientist or artist in six months. Look around you. Unimaginative middle-management types are EVERYWHERE. I wanna blow my BRAINS out. And no one's IN CHARGE around here. They don't even have a commander-in-CHIEF for their military. No one wants to be accountable, so they vote on everything. And if something bad happens, it's not any individual's fault. It's EVERYONE's fault. I give 'em SIX MONTHS before they self-destruct. That's why I GOTTA get outta this place. PLEASE… take me with you!"
We RESPECTFULLY declined to TAKE him along with US. The Cordicans were every bit as obnoxious as the Democratans.
Continuing through the city, we saw a Democratan standing on a box preaching to other Democratans. He had the typical Voting devices, but he also had some more stones on his face. And there were six of them! This certainly was one of the Allies.
"I've only got one thing to say to anyone thinking of voting against Proposition 6, and it's this," he said, "Democratans do not eat Bipidri meat. Period. Bipidri are too productive to waste as food. Most Ring-Dwellers are unaware that nearly three thousand Bipidri were slaughtered on the surface of Democratus for the purpose of an outdoor activity called "globbering". Bipidri bound for slaughter are often crowded into cargo pens made for smaller animals, and travel many cycles without sustenance. It's painful and cruel and we must put a stop to it."
Come on man just get to how the council is voting.
He kept ranting. "Bipidri Salvation is not a collection of knee-jerk activists looking for a cause. We're responsible members of the community. I, myself, am an Ally of the Council who believes in "death with dignity" for every Bipidri. And we are open to discourse."
He was going to regret his openness to discourse. Guaranteed.
Alejandro would be missed.
The color drained from his face. "Cold-hearted people such as yourself are the reason that the High Council will vote YES on Proposition 6. We've heard your voice. We know your opinion. Please… excuse yourself."
Having extracted two of the eight votes that we needed, we progressed further into Votowne. We knew what the Allies of the Council looked like now, so the next votes would be easier to figure out.