When Ajinblambia had been in Mecnita several months, I began to hear people speak of Ajinblambia's rule. Even Obscont, Ung's most prestigious newspaper, often referred to her as our ruler. This puzzled me, for Queen Udi was the sole legitimate ruling power in Ung, and I, her husband and prime minister, was second in command, so to speak. Doubtless, Ajinblambia was influential and her administrative ability was wonderful, but, as far as I knew, she had not been appointed ruler. I even heard a few people call her the King of Ung.
Ajinblambia, gifted with psychic powers, had managed to explore and map Udi's endocrine system. Ajinblambia had also begun adjusting her own endocrine system to make it more compatible with Udi's so that Udi would feel drawn to her. This was a gradual process. At first, Udi seemed merely to admire and respect Ajinblambia's intelligence and beauty. Later, though, she found herself falling in love with Ajinblambia. So when people spoke of Ajinblambia's rule, Udi did not object at all. Quite the contrary, she seemed to be proud of her friend.
Udi was madly in love with Ajinblambia by the time that Dhabbi, Mlechi, Usha, Vinja and Barti appeared at Eldor Palace. These were five of six girls who, several years earlier, had had a volleyball team called the Kshaddi Geese, in Kshaddi, a village in Gangawar Province, in Qazudistan, a large country on the continent of Ub. The sixth girl, Meruert, missed the train from Kshaddi to Ujjama the night of a match with the Ujjama Cranes. I was in Ujjama at the time on a serious diplomatic mission for Queen Udi, but the girls, whom I already knew and whom I had just happened to meet on that occasion, asked me to substitute for Meruert, and I did so. A newsphoto of the eleven girls and myself frolicking on the volleyball court reached Queen Udi in Mecnita a few days later. Udi was angry. She had appointed me to conduct important negotiations with the revolutionary leaders of Gangawar and not to compete with girls who played on the Kshaddi Geese and the Ujjama Cranes, she railed. She stripped me of my titles and dignities, banished me to Kshaddi and assigned me to play permanently as a member of the Kshaddi Geese, replacing Meruert, who was on the point of returning home to Kara Darya anyway. Three months later, Queen Udi relented and vacated her previous orders. So I returned to Mecnita as prime minister.
Now the girls, to whom Udi had long since extended her friendship, had come to Mecnita and were on the grounds of Eldor Palace for a visit. Queen Udi was delighted they had come to see us, and proposed that, as a bit of merriment, we reorganize the team, calling ourselves the Eldor Geese. Ajinblambia wondered what this was all about, so Udi gave her a detailed account of the whole series of episodes that had come to pass.
Udi's intention was just to have the Eldor Geese play a few games for fun, but Ajinblambia suggested that we make the team a permanent adjunct of the palace. She said it would be splendid if Eldor Palace had a regular volleyball team. Udi mentioned that I had duties as prime minister that would interfere with my playing for the Geese, so Ajinblambia proposed that the office of prime minister be abolished. She felt that she could easily assume my duties and add them to her own, making my earlier role superfluous. Queen Udi thought that Ajinblambia's idea was absolutely marvelous. I interjected that my duties were not so simple as the ladies were supposing, but Udi said, "I'm sure that Ajinblambia will manage perfectly well, Sissy." When Udi addressed me as "Sissy," her tone was affectionate, melodious and playful, so I didn't take it amiss. After that, both ladies, as well as the other Geese, always called me Sissy. In my native Motinia, everyone has two names--a given name and a surname. In Ung, everyone has a single name. Ajinblambia said that this was a good time to make my name conformable to Ungian custom by making it a single word. So it was changed officially from Vocno Ganven to Sissy.
Queen Udi then related to Ajinblambia how she had once assigned me to be a permanent member of the Kshaddi Geese, in Kshaddi, Gangawar, but had rescinded her own order three months later out of feelings of guilt, as I mentioned. Now she reasoned that the rescindment had been a mistake, and that she should have left me on the Geese indefinitely, as had been her original intention. She may have reasoned thus merely to seem to justify adopting Ajinblambia's idea of making the Geese a regular team. This juncture, with the Geese now in Mecnita, was a perfect opportunity for her to restore some semblance of her original order, making me a permanent member of the Eldor Geese. Udi added, "I expect you to turn in a creditable performance as one of the Eldor Geese, Sissy. If you don't do well, I will indeed renew the order of your banishment to Kshaddi."
Ajinblambia agreed that this was a beautiful solution to some of the personal rivalries that would have been certain to start arising as she strengthened her rule of the kingdom. Udi explained to me that Ajinblambia would probably soon impose her overladyship on the entire planet, and that my reunion with the Geese was felicitous in that it would facilitate Ajinblambia's ascent to worldwide majesty. My membership on the team amounted to the elimination of one of Ajinblambia's rivals. I was expected to be grateful to make the helpful move. Yes, I was being trivialized, marginalized and miniaturized, but it would be salutary for the commonwealth.
The uniform of the Geese consisted of a red leotard, a red cheerleader skirt with self-panties, white gym shoes and white knee socks. I was issued 20 uniforms, and all my other clothes were destroyed.
I was planning to object to this transfer, but the day that I would go to talk to the royal couple, the Geese played the Maids of Tumppula, a team in the Girls' Volleyball Association of Greater Mecnita. We won the game, and I actually starred in the smashing victory. When I arrived in Udi's apartment in the Palace, the two great ladies were seated together on a couch, as if they had been making love all afternoon. They had on such beautiful gowns and jewelry that I felt entirely inane presenting myself in my volleyball uniform. Furthermore, they didn't offer me a seat, so I had to remain standing before them for almost an hour, embarrassedly pulling down my skirt, trying to cover my bare upper legs. The ladies raved about how well I had played that afternoon and about how thoroughly I had justified their decision to assign me to the Geese. Under the circumstances, I felt it was not the right time to complain about my new assignment, and, in spite of myself, I found myself thanking them for their compliment. And so it would go again and again. I could never summon the courage to tell the ladies that I wanted them to undo what they had done. I just shrugged my shoulders and accepted it. Yes, I eventually resigned myself to being one of the Eldor Geese, and we were Dhabbi, Barti, Mlechi, Vinja, Usha and Sissy.
Incidentally, in the many years I was to play volleyball, the game with the Maids of Tumppula was one of very few in which I played well. The irony of it!
Soon after the game, Ajinblambia enrolled the Eldor Geese in the Girls' Volleyball Association of Greater Mecnita, totally disregarding the fact that I was not a girl. Since Queen Udi approved, no one dared disapprove. Each of us six was also listed individually in their directory.
I was instructed to have my hair set and my makeup done professionally so that I could be photographed. Later I received a brand new identification card with my photograph, my name, my occupation as a girls' volleyball player, the name of my team, and the name of my captainess, which was Barti. The photograph made me look just like a girl, and you would never have known the difference. Ajinblambia instructed me to report for initiation to the headquarters of the Association, which turned out to be a very imposing office building in the Spranceld District. There, I was given a large manual that I was supposed to study assiduously for the next year. I would then be examined. I knew I would have to pass the test or Udi would send me back to Kshaddi.
A year before that, Udi had been the sole Queen of Ung and I had been her prime minister. Ajinblambia had been our guest. I had met Ajinblambia some years previously, in Bihaka, a city in Jhibilli Province, in Qazudistan, in Ub. There she had operated a small export-import business. Now Ajinblambia was the virtual King of Ung, the worldwide kingdom on our planet Nya. Udi was at her side 24 hours a day, clingng to her and begging for kisses. I was now known as Sissy and played for the Eldor Geese, one of about 1000 teams in the Girls' Volleyball Association of Greater Mecnita. I was also employed as a maid in the Association's office headquarters.
This was all so humiliating and embarrassing! Udi merely philosophized that humiliation and embarrassment were necessary for me to develop the perfect docility and modesty that she felt I should personify.
I was terribly affrighted that if Udi was not satisfied with my performance as one of the Eldor Geese, she would banish me again to Kshaddi, a village of 2000 in central Gangawar. So I began to study the manual--a 1000-page girl-scout manual in effect--that I had been issued by the Volleyball Association.
Though my title at the headquarters of the Girls' Volleyball Association of Greater Mecnita was maid, I was actually assigned to the clothing room, where volleyball uniforms were manufactured. I was assigned to a cubicle with a sewing machine where I would sew the cheerleader skirts with self-panties that were standard in the Association.
I really loved to sit at the sewing machine and make skirts. People said that I was unusually productive. In the next cubicle, a girl named Olivia also made skirts. It is a mere coincidence that our name Olivia is the same as a name on earth. There is no connection. Olivia was a small girl, but very fiery and passionate. The instant I first saw her, I was afraid of her. She probably had a knife in her bra, I thought. One day she asked me why I made so many skirts. I explained that I found this sort of work fascinating. She told me she wanted me to make fewer skirts because the management would expect everyone to start producing like me, and she didn't want to work so hard. I refused. I had my hair in braids that day, as always when I was at the sewing machine. Olivia grabbed me by the braids and started jerking very hard. I rose to face her, and it was then that I realized that she was fully 12 to 15 inches shorter than I. Nonetheless, she seized me by my wrist and twisted my arm behind my back. I started bawling and told her to quit, because she was hurting me, but she continued, so I cried out for help. She immediately released me, apparently because she thought someone would respond to my cries. No one came, but she chose not to twist my arm again. She said that she would catch me on the street that afternoon, after work, and beat me.
When I finished work I exited the headquarters of the Association, which was on Lanzzar Avenue about two blocks from the Rvibibsha Metro Station. When I reached the sidewalk, I saw Olivia waiting, so I broke into a run, hurrying towards the station. Olivia came running after. When I was about halfway to the station, she caught me by the wrist and kicked me in the buttocks. She pulled my braids again, and tried to trip me as I ran. However, I managed to get free and run to the station, paying my fare and entering through the turnstile just before she arrived. So I was safe, for the time being. I was in a panic, though, because I supposed that this would happen again and again in the days to come. I decided to complain to Ajinblambia and Udi at Eldor Palace.
Ajinblambia and Udi would probably be in Udi's library. This was a beautiful room where Udi had her harp and her harpsichord, her collections of gems, shells, stamps, coins and embroidery, her books, and Toto, her pet bird that could carry on intelligent conversation. I had used to go there every night, but now Ajinblambia was there instead. Ajinblambia was such a beautiful, intelligent lady that I could understand how Udi preferred to have her there every night.
As I was standing on the platform at Rvibibsha Station, I noticed a large television screen that featured news headlines of the day so that passengers could read them as they waited for their trains. I was utterly dumbfounded at the headlines that I saw: AJINBLAMBIA TO RULE THE WORLD. HER TITLE WILL BE KING. EIGHT BILLION PEOPLE WILL OBEY HER.
I couldn't believe my eyes. Ajinblambia would rule 8 billion people! Astounding! Amazing! Absolutely incredible! She would rule 8 billion people, but I would have Olivia pulling my braids and kicking my buttocks. Oh, what a difference!
When I arrived at Udi's library, Ajinblambia came to the door. "Have you come to congratulate me, dear Sissy?" she asked in a playful way. I expressed my utter astonishment at the latest developments, bowing, curtsying and genuflecting again and again. After these salutations, I told her that I had a problem that I wanted her to help me solve. She agreed cheerfully to do what she could.
"First, though, let me explain that, because of my new role as King of Ung, I have introduced intensified security procedures here in the palace. For one thing, if you visit us here in the library, I will require that you be held in a new appliance that I have had installed. It is called the harness, and it is a little inconvenient, but I hope that under the circumstances, you will understand and accept it." I assured her that there would be no problem. I appreciated the vulnerability of her position.
She led me to a spot in the room where I could see a small hole in the floor. She instructed me to stand there, with one foot on either side of the hole. I obeyed. Instantly, a chrome-plated steel rod with two small chains affixed to it rose through the hole till the top was about a foot above the floor. Each chain ended in a ring. Ajinblambia depressed a button on a remote-control device, and the rings fell open. Instructing me to put the rings around my ankles, she depressed another button, and the rings first closed loosely, contracting gradually thereafter till they fit my ankles snugly. Then the rod withdrew again into the hole, pulling the chains down also. When the chains had been tautened, my ankles had been drawn together and my feet clamped to the floor.
Next Ajinblambia pressed another button on the device and I saw two chains lower slowly from the ceiling. They were about twenty feet apart, one on my left, one on my right. Each ended in a ring. Ajinblambia, pulling the chains towards me, had me put my wrists in the rings, which she closed and tightened with another button. Then the chains began to withdraw into the ceiling again. My arms spread out laterally and upward at about 45 degrees as the chains were tensed.
Finally, a larger ring with four chains cane down right above my head. Ajinblambia placed the large ring around my neck, snugged it up, and then caused the four chains, each fanning out at about 15 degrees, to retract into the ceiling till they were taut.
Taking between two fingers one of the chains connected to my arms and observing that it had enough play that she could deflect it a couple of inches one way or the other, Ajinblambia, speaking in colloquial Ungi, half to herself and half to me, said, "These chains are as loose as the waistband of a pair of panties. Let me put some muscle in them. Sissy, brace yourself a little. I'm going to max out the chains. They need more tension."
There was a single large master button in the middle of the remote-control device that increased the tension by small degrees in all the chains simultaneously. She pressed it four or five times, and I felt almost as if I were being pulled apart. She checked the chain again. "Still a little loose." She pressed the button three more times, and when she checked the chains, they were as rigid as inflexible rods. Then she said, "That's pretty good. Just three more hits for good measure. This may seem like a complicated procedure, but it is a lot of fun, don't you think?"
After a pause, Ajinblambia continued, "Don't you remember how we agreed informally a few months ago that you would not be allowed to come within 5 feet of Udi?" It hadn't been so much an agreement as an order issued by Ajinblambia that I had accepted because I had had no alternative. Nonetheless I told her I recalled our agreement.
"Under the new, intensified security regulations, you will not be able to come within 50 feet of Udi. This will not be merely a rule of thumb as before. This will be a statute." I could see that it was at least 50 feet from the harness to where Udi was sitting on a couch. I felt that I should compliment Ajinblambia on the justifiability of the new 50-foot regulation.
The ladies wanted to hear all about my recent activities, so they held me in the harness for two hours while I gave a detailed chronology of my new lifestyle, talking in a loud, clear voice from my distance.
Finally, Ajinblambia asked about the problem that I wanted her to solve. I told her all about Olivia. I was quite embarrassed to admit that Olivia, 12 to 15 inches shorter than I, had chased me down the street and kicked my buttocks, but it was such an important part of the predicament that I was in that failure to report that fact would have created a false impression. I was relieved that Ajinblambia's attitude was that it didn't make any difference how small Olivia was. She still had no right to terrorize me.
"I'll have the Girls' Volleyball Association provide someone to escort you to and from the metro station each day. Perhaps they can select one of the girls who works there."
"One?" I asked.
"How about two or three?"
"I was hoping for five or six."
"I can have them provide even a couple of dozen if you wish."
"Oh, that would be perfect. Then there could be a massed formation of five rows and five columns, with me in the middle."
"I'll see to it."
Then she freed me from the harness and led me to the door. In the hall, she told me that she would be giving Inni Villa, one of the buildings on the palace grounds, to the Eldor Geese as a clubhouse. As she talked, I felt her fingers on my buttocks. Using colloquial Ungi once again, she said, "You're really growing a tail." By this she meant that my hips were getting plump. I was delighted with the compliment.
The next day, after work, I met the 24 girls that had been assigned to escort me to Rvibibsha Metro Station. We formed 5 rows and 5 columns, with myself in the center of the third row. Then we paraded out onto to Lanzzar Avenue. These were all younger girls, so that I stood a head taller than most of them. And I was the one being protected!
The girls had not been told that they would function as a bodyguard, so they expected nothing untoward to happen. I saw Olivia on the sidewalk again, and I smiled at her, as if I had just won our contest. When we had passed, though, she ran up from behind, burst through the ranks and kicked me in the buttocks. The 24 girls, taken by surprise, all jumped back. I tore out running towards the station, but Olivia caught me at Zhdrimbling Park, a tiny piece of greenery 100 feet from the station. She threw me prone on the grass, and sat on my back, with a knee on either side of me, facing towards my feet rather than my head. She began to slap my buttocks and pound them with the heels of her fists. However, the girls came running forward and pulled Olivia off. They did not detain her, so she bolted away.
I went straight to Udi's library, to see Ajinblambia and Udi, to complain about the latest attack.
Ajinblambia once again led me to the harness. First she installed my feet in the holder on the floor. Next, she spread my arms with the ceiling chains, so that my body was in the shape of a Y. Finally, she collared me in the larger ring, erecting my head. I already felt as if the harness had been tight as tight can be, but Ajinblambia, testing the chains and resuming her colloquial Ungi, just said, "Oh, this is as limp as a pair of panties. Let me see, yesterday it took eight or ten hits to draw it up tight." She pressed the button on the remote-control device eight times, saying, "Don't worry, Sissy, the device is designed to stop automatically if the tension gets to be more than your body can stand. So let me give it three more hits, for good measure."
Then she went back to the couch 50 feet away, and there Udi kissed her as she sat down and put her arm around her. I thought to myself, "Does she really need this heightened security, or is this just a dramatic way of showing me that Udi is hers, not mine?"
I narrated the story of Olivia's latest attack. Ajinblambia called the Girls' Volleyball Association of Greater Mecnita and learned that the girls had not been told that they would be a bodyguard. Ajinblambia, explaining to me that the girls would now be instructed better, told me to try it once again with an escort of 24. If that didn't work, we could organize a more numerous bodyguard the following day.
Then she said, "Let me disengage the harness." She pressed the off-button on the remote-control device, but nothing happened. She tried several times. Then she opened the device, saying, "Oh, it's the battery. It's dead." She called the palace repair shop, but they were out of batteries of the kind they needed in order to reactivate the remote-control device. They said they would send messengers around to the shops in downtown Mecnita to see if they could find one. They were able to procure a battery of the right kind, but it took three hours. Ajinblambia freed me and apologized, assuring me it would never happen again.
The next day at work, when Olivia passed by my cubicle, she jerked my braid again, but I knew that if I objected or retaliated in any way, things would just get worse. So, willy-nilly I accepted it.
On the sidewalk that evening though, my escort of 24 was ready to act in case of an attack, so that Olivia could not break through the ranks again. They pushed her away, and I waved at her with a triumphant smile. But I could see that she was angry.
Ajinblambia was as good as her word. Five or six days later she invited me to Udi's library, still chuckling about the incident with the dead battery. "You should have seen yourself, Sissy. You were scared to death. I assure it won't happen this time. I have spare batteries," she said as she helped me into the harness. She continued, "Inni Villa has been completely refurbished and redecorated. You'll reside there with the Eldor Geese. I apologize, but you will not be permitted to enter Eldor Palace without specific pre-approval. Just call me, and I will give you a pin number, if I decide to let you in. At the entrance, just enter your code, and the doors will slide open. Otherwise, you'll have to remain in Inni Villa. Barti will be the chatelaine. You will be required to tender absolute obedience to her in all matters, volleyball or otherwise. She is here right now."
Next Barti entered the library from a small waiting-room at the side. Ajinblambia explained that Barti, unlike me, had security clearance, with the run of the library at her disposal. As Barti stood before me, Ajinblambia had me formally acknowledge her as mistress and lady, pledging loyalty. Barti accepted me graciously as her ward. Ajinblambia had already moved me to the palace nursery and appointed me as temporary nanny to Oji, who was Udi's and my daughter. Anjardrandia, the former nanny, had completed her tour of duty at Eldor Palace. But my apartment next to Udi's remained as it had been all along. Ajinblambia had been planning to convert it into additional office space for herself anyway, its proximity to Udi's making it ideal. However, she had not yet begun the remodeling that was required, because of her numerous concerns at that particular time. My move to Inni Villa was the perfect occasion to finalize my eviction from the palace. I would still be within half a mile of Udi, she explained.
Later, when Barti had returned to Inni Villa, she told me I was to be the housekeeper of the villa. She showed me to a large utility room, which contained two clothes-washers, two dryers, a dish-washer, a refrigerator, a freezer, a stove, a sink, an ironing board with an iron, a mangle, a sewing machine, a computer with a keyboard, a vacuum cleaner, a microwave oven and a variety of smaller appliances. I learned that these were all voice-sensitive, so that I could put them to work by uttering oral instructions. It was all of the most sophisticated technology of the day. Seeing that, I was elated. I had been visualizing myself with a washboard and a galvanized tub.
"But first," Barti explained, "you'll have to be corrected." By this she meant I would have to undergo a sex-change. "I know it seems silly. You're fine just as you are. No one would ever know the difference. But we'll do it anyway." I agreed. I was excited. I was eager.
In Ung, this procedure is quick and easy. Three days later it was done. The other Geese kept pulling up my skirt to peep, teasing me mercilessly.
Now my day was long. It took over two earth-hours, that is, an Ungi tenth-day, for me to do my housework, making all the beds, gathering the bedclothes and uniforms to be washed and ironed, cooking and serving breakfast. Then I had a full day's work at the headquarters of the Volleyball Association. I had volleyball practice, and I had to study my manual. It began to seem that I had always been in Inni Villa with the Eldor Geese, and that my prime ministry had been a dream.
Olivia continued taunting me, pulling my braids or kneeing me in the buttocks whenever she got a chance, but I was ashamed to go to Ajinblambia again. She was the ruler of 8 billion people dwelling on two vast continents and a million-island archipelago. She was not the referee of every little sissy-fight in the world.
I took it up with my chatelaine, Barti, captainess of the Geese. She said she'd accompany me to work the next morning to discuss the matter with my supervisor, Oijia, a tall beautiful lady of 35 in charge of 100 maid-semptresses like me. Even Oijia seemed to me like one of the great ones of the world. I could not imagine myself supervising a staff of 100 girls.
Oijia agreed that the situation that I was in was intolerable, but rather than try to smooth things out in the skirt-making room, she would transfer me to the courier service of the Girls' Volleyball Association of Greater Mecnita. I would no longer sew, I would deliver parcels and letters around town, mostly to the quarters of the teams in the association. I would use magnificent, comprehensive Mecnita Metro to bullet about from station to station. From a station to the quarters of a team, I would skate. For equilibrium and stylishness, I would be outfitted with a large pair of white wings. I had seen these couriers many times in the past, and had always been impressed with the figure they cut as they whizzed along the sidewalk. "Oh, how thrilling!" I thought.
The Girls' Volleyball Association of Greater Mecnita, informally called Gvagma, published a directory, which had the names of all the teams and players, along with schedules and scores, a strictly factual and statistical almanac. I learned that there was no history or romance of the association, in literary style, so I decided that, when I started, I would keep a journal of my activities as I skated hither and thither. Perhaps one day I would have enough material for the epic work I was contemplating. I was planning that whenever I made a delivery or pickup at a clubhouse or other residence, I'd inquire with the captainess or another girl, seeking any tidbits of information I could get. In the evening I would record them in my journal, in a neat perfect hand. In a matter of months, I would fill a couple of volumes, but this would still be just preliminary anecdotes. "I will probably need a couple of years before I began to write seriously," I said to myself.