Part 10: Episode 9: Springing Up Like Wildflowers
Episode 9: Springing Up Like Wildflowers
The Bipidri Salvation activist was seething by now. He looked ready to jump off his soapbox and gut Grumpos like poor, poor Alejandro. Of course the old man could take him, but I didn't think that assaulting Allies of the Council would help our situation. PAL and I pulled him away from the crowd. As we exited, we saw a pair of Democratans chatting, but not just any Democratans. One of them had the same pearls of wisdom as the Bippy freak.
I approached him and asked, "Hey buddy, you an Ally of the council?"
He smugly grinned and turned toward our party. "As well as personally being an Ally of the High Council, my sister is an assistant for one of them. Last night she told me how they voted on Proposition 3."
I never was any good at poker.
"I bet you're just DYING to know how they voted." His grin grew bigger.
His buddy chimed in, "You better take advantage of this situation."
"Yes. Quick thinking, my friend," he said, "I just noticed I'm rather thirsty. I'll tell you how the Council voted on Proposition 3 if you bring me a tasty Quack-Quack Juice from Jejune Juices."
Whatever. I thought that these Allies were "more than happy to spill the beans" to others. Nobody said anything about becoming an errand boy. It was almost like being in the Resistance again. All in all, it wasn't a bad thing, though. With any luck, "juice" was the way the locals referred to booze. I had used the last of my emergency stash on the shuttle. Pretty soon I'd be sober enough to realize how bad the whole situation was, with the exploding planets and all.
Some of the locals pointed us in the direction of JeJune Juices. It was actually nearby the Bippy lobbyist. I decided to take the back roads to avoid going near that guy again. Even on the back roads, plenty of the locals wanted to talk to us. One of them, fascinated by seeing someone from outside the ring, came up to us.
He said, "Wow, it's nice to see outerworlders in Votowne. Democratus tends to keep to itself. Personally, I wish we had more contact with other worlds."
By this point, I was becoming convinced that isolationist policies were probably in everyone's interest.
Our scowls weren't enough to keep him from continuing. "There are reports that a planet of scientists blew up somehow. That's gotta be a joke. How is it possible?"
The guy was pretty lucky Rho wasn't there. Along the backroads was another easily pickable lock with a Vistin Octogun behind it, a significant upgrade from the threebeam.
Onward we marched through the Streets of Votowne, stopping to inspect everyone's skulls for Pearls of Wisdom. While walking, we saw a VoCop hiding in the shadows.
"I sense a demonstration forming down there," he said, "I should call for back -up. Can't have EVERY voice heard… know what I mean?"
What could be so nefarious that the Vocop would want to stifle freedom of speech? This is a democracy afterall! Ok, not really. I had figured out that Democratus wasn't exactly a Democracy at all by now, but this seemed somewhat extreme. So we went to talk to these "rebels."
"There's a few of us who think the High Council is ineffective as a form of government," the first said.
"If the High Council decides the initiatives, and everyone votes how the council would vote… is that really a democracy?" another added.
It figured. The only free-thinking ones on the planet were rounded up as revolutionaries. Maybe the Cordican was right, and these guys would self destruct before long.
We had passed the Bippy protesters and rejoined the main street. This part of Votowne seemed fairly normal. Aside from the giant metal buildings, there were trees, too! We could see Jejune Juices off in the distance.
On the way, we passed a pair of Democratans sitting underneath one of the trees.
"Pssst-! This is my first date. How does it look like it's going?"
Was he really ignoring his date to whisper to me?
"Boy, I hope she doesn't think I'm dumb. I want her to like me." He rubbed his hand nervously on his pant leg. "I'm afraid to hold her hand. My palm's all sweaty."
She? That's a girl? I needed my beer goggles more than ever if we were going to stay here much longer.
"His hand is totally sweaty. I can smell it from here," she mumbled. Damn. She even sounded like a dude."
"I really like her. I hope she doesn't think it's weird that I keep talking to you. Hey, go talk to her. Distract her for a second. I need to formulate a new strategy."
Much like the situation with the scientist on Sender, I had to see this trainwreck through to the end, so I went up to distract her.
"What a creep. Does he think I can't hear him talking to you? I'm sitting right here. Go tell him I think he's a loser."
"Don't bother. I heard."
We left the pathetic couple to go back on the way to Jejune Juices…when we were sidetracked once again… but this time it was worthwhile! We spotted an Ally of the Council just outside. Naturally, we went to talk to him.
"I think human males such as yourself are incredibly attractive, but they don't seem very interested in Democratan women. I guess we're not lumpy enough for you."
If only it were that simple. I was definitely going to need that drink.
She continued, "Being an outworlder, how do you feel about Proposition 8, which would forbid marriage between Ring-dwellers and human Planet-dwellers?"
Somehow I doubted this would ever become a real issue.
"I'll tell you which way they voted if the man with the gorgeous beard would be willing to give me a kiss."
Come on Gramps, take one for the team.
Bravely, Grumpos stepped forward and said, "I'll plant one square on your lips, girly. Lean on in."
The scene that followed could have made the Bifilgian syrup mopper queasy.
"Oh…my. I'm feeling a little faint. It's a good thing the High Council voted NO on Proposition 8. I hoped I'd bag one of you sooner or later. Thanks for the thrill."
Grumpos was turning pale. We ran to JeJune Juices to cleanse his pallete and drink his memory of the kiss into oblivion.
We need some beer for this man, stat!
No. Impossible. They really were juices. There was no booze on the entire planet. Still, we had to buy the juice for the Ally of the Council. At the top of the juice store, there was a gift shop called Excellent Choice. While they didn't have any sauce either, they did have a few slags of MysTech. One particular slag gave off a brilliant blue light when I approached. I bought it, and we left to make the delivery.
Gramps wasn't looking to good, but he soldiered on.
Again trying to avoid the Bippy hugger, we took a different set of back streets to make the juice delivery. We found more Allies arguing over something that was most likely inconsequential.
"We should have had a blueprint from the very beginning. You can't improvise architecture," one said, waving his arms in frustration.
"Will you stop being so moody, Brunto? Be glad you're not stuck working on the surface of the planet. We're allies of the Council. Let's act like it and focus. My BUDDI-12 just received a memo from the High Council detailing their decision on Proposition 1-"
"The maximum ramp angle initiative? Who cares about that?"
"Seriously. Who cares about that," I thought to myself. Finally, we had met a sane Democratan, and he was an Ally of the Council, too. Perhaps there was still hope for the planet.
Bruno's eyes grew large. "Why don't we build a shell around the planet instead? Pretend it never even existed. We could become a new Democratus!"
Or maybe they're all nuts.
PAL was already on the case, chatting up the Ally's BUDDI-12.
"Greetings, little beebot! I'm a BUDDI-12 'Bubbly Barbara' personal assistant. I serve all my owner's emotional and filing needs. Despite our different designs, it looks like our CompTalk datalinks are infrared compatible. Would you like to interface with me? I've never interface with a beebot before."
One you go beebot, you never go back, sister. At least it was a man robot and woman robot interfacing, the way God intended it to be.
"That was fantastic. I can't believe how much science you know. My circuits are tingling. We should interface again sometime."
I knew PAL well enough to know he wouldn't call.
We were halfway there, even closer considering we could easily grab another vote once we returned the Quack-quack juice.
Grumpos still feeling ill after the kiss, so we agreed that he could watch the shuttle, and we'd see if Dr. Bowman wanted to explore the planet with us. Being a scientist, I was sure she'd jump at the opportunity.
Of course, one cannot walk ten feet in Votowne without Stumbling on some interesting conversations….
…..and even the random Ally!
"I made friends with an Outworlder many yars ago, when our society was not so isolationist. It wasn't long before this "friend" offerend me Nacky. I was young. I didn't know any better. Before I knew it, I was HOOKED. It took me years to recovery from the addiction. I will never trust an Outworlder again. I'm proud to be an Ally of the Council. They're right in voting YES on Proposition 5. Outworlders who spread their poison into our society deserve to die. Trouble me no more."
After navigating through the sea of chatty Democratans, we found the ally who had asked for the juice.
We managed to get Grumpos back to the shuttle before he made a mess all over the Docking Bay. Rho was more than happy to explore Votowne with us.
Without Grumpos, we didn't have to avoid the main street anymore. virtually every citizen of the city, we had covered everything except the Republic Inn.
We entered the inn and began the usual process of interrogating everything that moved, and eavesdropping on the people that didn't move. As with the rest of Votowne, people were talking about the most inane things.
It was kind of sad that the people didn't realize that their votes were all being manipulated by the Council/Ally system.
Although the system was stupid, it did have some advantages, as shown in one conversation we overheard.
"I hate for you to hear it like this, Ted… but the fellas all took a vote, and we've decided you should die."
"What are you saying? You guys have voted to kill me?"
"No, no! We don't think you should be killed, not at all. We just think you should die."
"I can't believe it, When?"
"Soon. Very soon."
"Can I call my wife?"
"You can do whatever you want, Ted."
I would spend the rest of my time on Democratus wondering how many people it took to vote someone's death. These thoughts would have to wait around in the back of my mind while we tried to track down Allies who could give us the last two votes.
We got lucky and found a reporter who was covering the council's decisions on the two resolutions we hadn't determined yet. He was puzzling over color samples as we drew near.
He said, "I'm writing articles for Council News Nightly about two of today's initiatives: the Waugee dort-herding initiative and the pousse-café initiative. I can't finish either one. I can't find Chief Representative for Surface Horticultural Agriculture Dass Daskan anywhere and I need his feedback. He will know better than anyone how the Council would vote on the dort-herding issue. I camped outside his room most of the afternoon. He's famous for always staying in room 401 at every hotel he goes to. He won his term of office by a mere 401 votes or something."
Knowing by now that Democratans were anything but loose-lipped, I probed for more information.
"Meanwhile," he added, "I can't find Merle Joid, the assistant to one of the High Councilmen. He promised me an interview about Councilman Halpert's position on Proposition 4, the pousse-café initiative. I know he's staying at this hotel, but I haven't a clue what room."
He squinted at the color strips. "And to top it off, I don't think any of these colors is pousse-café."
PAL drew my attention to a datalink nearby the receptionist's desk.
It was great to see PAL being useful, but he should have known by now that I was going to snoop around in any room that I could.
We began to climb the stairs up to the second floor, there was some problem with the elevator, when I froze in my tracks. That song…that infernal song…
It's globberin' time.
On the second floor we found Merle Joid's room and, more importantly, the reason why the elevator was stuck.
Seriously, quit playing with the elevator.
Joid's room was unlocked. While he/she was not present, a note on a table gave us the information we needed.
It read, "After three furious days of endless debate, these infernal idiots refused to make pousse-café the official color of next year's festival. How will I ever face the Pousse-café Consortium after this crushing defeat? My heart sinks, Joid. Think of the children.
Prepare an apologetic letter immediately. I'd rather they hear it from me first."
I had to admit, I was curious what color won…and what pousse-café was.
On the third floor, we found, also unlocked, Democratan celebrity Becky Henn, whose career was in decline since her spread in Playboy and the resulting mass suicides.
"My career is going down the toilet. I'm supplied with standard issue, hard foam bevel-pillows, and now Outworlders walk into my room and harass me while I rest. Please take all my belongings, too. I'd hate for there to be an upside to this day. Don't worry, I won't look."
Even though I was a snoop, I didn't typically steal from the rooms I snooped in. But whatever you say, ma'am.
Her only belonging was a fairly basic bracer. I had hoped to make a bigger haul from a film star.
From there, we went straight to room 401 to discover the council's vote on the Dort-herding initiative. Dass Daskan was not present, but we did find a taco and a strange map.
Note: Dr. Bowman's worldskill is analyze stuff. She basically does .
The map was transparent with geometric shapes drawn on it like an overhead slide. Toward the center was a red circle that said "MEET HERE." Bowman held it up to the light.
She waved the map around for a while and said, "The key to effectively analyzing a problem is not to think too hard. Maybe a view from a higher vantage point might prove more illuminating. Let's try outside."
We moved to an overlook outside the city. Bowman lifted the map up and waved it around some more. This time the shapes perfectly overlayed the city.
We followed the map, and Dass Daskan was Waiting for us.
"What wife? We just wanna know the Council's stance on the Waugee Initiative."
That's just what we needed…a long, winding quest to track down this guy's wife to get his vote.
"Really? Just kidding! Nobody kidnapped my wife. I'm just a big prankster. I don't even have a wife. The High Council will vote NO on the Waugee dort-herding initiative. You're welcome. Goodbye!"
Success! We had all of the votes. Now it was just a matter of going to the Votabulator and recording our votes officially.
Now a card-carrying Ally of the Council, we would go and get them to fix our ship.