As I say, I had an amusing dream at Hotel Pendagart one night while I was sleeping on my eiderdown comforter on my large canopy bed. The occasion of my being at Hotel Pendagart, in Dorgdid, Ung's second city, was an invitation by Vranquelli, Dorgdid's mayoress, to join an advisory board that was planning to organize girls' volleyball in Dorgdid along the lines I had drawn in bringing girls' volleyball to its present level of success in Mecnita, the capital of Ung. In the dream, I saw myself as a gorgeous white octopus with my tentacles overspreading the continent of Eb, bringing girls' volleyball to all the great cities. Each tentacle held, first, a volleyball, and, then, coordinated bra and panties symbolizing Cissi's Intimates, the chain of apparel stores I had merged with Gvagma, the Girls' Volleyball Association of Greater Mecnita. The dream recurred several times during my brief stay in Dorgdid, so I began to consider it prophetic, signifying that I would become the high maid of volleyball throughout the realm, and not just in the capital.
In order for me to be able to come to Dorgdid, I had had to get Ajinblambia to suspend our daily sessions in her bedchamber, where I bathed and dressed her. Also, I had had to get Queen Udi to allow me to interrupt the production of panties and bras she had assigned to me. I had had to have Crasavitsa, the impresaria and prima donna of the Royal Egrets of Mecnita, our foremost ballet company, find another ballerina to dance the part of Ajinblambia in The Siege of
Innavella, the captainess of the Erizgengmo Hoopoes, had been chosen to be the High Maid of Gvagdo. High Maid was a euphemism for the coldly businesslike Commissioner that had once been used. Erizgengmo is a district of Dorgdid, and Hoopoe is a word I have used to translate Qkhu, which denotes a beautiful little Nyatic bird reminiscent of Earth's hoopoe. She was an outstanding player with good personal and intellectual qualities, according to Vranquelli. I was a little embarrassed in her presence, fearing lest I disappoint her in the high regard she probably had held. Innavella would sit in on our sessions, of course, as she was the one who would be responsible for implementing any new directives from the municipal advisory board.
Over the next few days, Innavella recorded our conversations on a voice recorder, posing many questions as we proceeded. I recounted some of the steps I had taken to get Gvagma moving in the desired direction. I mentioned the professionalization of the amateur teams. I described the loan I got on the aggregate net worth of the 1000 original clubhouses and other property of the teams. I told them about how I had financed the Gvagma Wheel and then
Vranquelli had already offered me space for a Cissi's outlet in Daccarolling Mall, in suburban Daccarolling, so the chances were good that they would be willing to give me a franchise to set up a whole bevy of stores around town. I thought that Cissi's could merge independently with Gvagdo, without obligating Gvagma and Gvagdo to merge. I was not personally against the possibility of an eventual Gvagma-Gvagdo merger, however. Indeed, this was already in the back of my mind, as the octopus in me started spreading its imaginary tentacles.
I asked Innavella if she had a lot of important matters in Dorgdid that would prevent her coming to Mecnita for a few weeks. She said she could find a girl to take her place on the Hoopoes for a while, and otherwise she was free. I invited her to fly back with me to Mecnita and stay with Zevanardia, Exmeraudia and me at Bo House. Then she could get a closer look at what we were doing in the Lady of Cities. Innavella was flattered and accepted eagerly. So, the next day at 4 Ungi we boarded a flying city, as we call our maxi-jets, at Clipsont Airport, and put down at Jezgroid Airport, near Mecnita, about an earth-hour later, cruising at 2000 miles an hour. Clixbong was waiting at Jezgroid in a fire-engine red sports car to whiz Innavella and me at 200 miles an hour along Dhnanto Var Expressway to Bo House. As soon as we arrived, I asked Innavella if she was hungry. She said she was famished. So I sent Ezmeraudia to Rose Verandah I to buy stuffed peppers, shish kebabs and pizza for lunch for four. She was back in ten minutes. Even though Ezmeraudia was a hired nanny, we did not consider her a servant. She was our darling little girlfriend, who always joined us in our meals and other activities.
The following morning and afternoon, Innavella and I strolled around
Innavella just loved Gvagma Village, and was a little apologetic about Dorgdid's not having a similar park. In the later afternoon, we walked out to see
Ajinblambia recommended that Innavella and I pay a visit to Queen Udi, whom she called on her wrist phone and whom I could faintly hear respond with, "Oh, yes, send them right over." I was still a little chary about too much camaraderie or affection with Queen Udi, as I recalled the years of absolute prohibition. However, she welcomed us into her suite very graciously, giving me a few kisses on the cheeks, with a pat or two on the derriere, which always felt very good. She liked Innavella immediately I could see, and we sat down for cafe cappuccino and almond-date cookies, chatting for a few minutes before we took our leave.
I took Innavella to see me dance at Rosebush Stadium. She liked the frightful pursuit scene in which I tossed a lariat about Casmerodia, who was dancing in the role of Oa, and ripped off her gown to reveal the leather bra and panties she was wearing, with the dagger visible in its scabbard on the panties. Then the fight ensued, and finally I wrestled Casmerodia to the floor, as the music came to a crescendo and then a coda, and the ballet was over. Innavella could hardly believe I was such an accomplished ballerina. I said nothing about the thousands of metallic neurosensors implanted within me and how I'd been programmed, as it were, to dance Ajinblambia.
The next day, Innavella and I went to
I invited her to go through any of our records and documents that she liked, as we were not practicing any proprietary secrecy. Our effort was an open book, as, with the patronage of Ajinblambia, we had nothing to fear from competition, whether licit or illicit. She asked to be permitted to make copies of some of the documents, and we were only too glad to accommodate her. I kept envisioning a Gvagma-like organization in Dorgdid that would be linked to the real Gvagma, and building rapport with Innavella seemed a promising way to go about such a union.
While these negotiations were in progress, I kept getting calls from Ecoflasc and Oaslamd about Nunu. It seemed that she was indeed learning a few words of Bhassa Pi'i, so they were having language tutors working with her intensively on learning some basic vocabulary in Nuu as well. At the time of Innavella's visit, which was around day 200, they had nothing to report on this effort. They had used a high-speed magnetic resonance imaging scanner to make movies of the region of Nunu's brain that had become active during her contact with the Pi'ian children. They felt they could develop an excitant, precursor or neurotransmitter equivalent or identical to glycoserotonin to stimulate the region, but it might turn out that applications of the excitant, precursor or neurotransmitter would have to be repeated periodically. In other words, Nunu might have to appear at the Department of Neurosciences, say, every 30 days for a new injection or radioactive stimulation, if they could not find a way to make the increased activity permanent. In that case, I would have to agree to regular visits by Nunu. It did seem a more artificial, less satisfactory, arrangement than I'd been hoping for, but if it such visits should be found necessary in order to move Nunu in the right direction, I was all for them. As it was, only half a year had elapsed since Nunu's birth, so there was still time for her to set records in Ung. Setting records, however, was not the goal. Having her prove to be a genuine Vrikshaya, with the antipodes in the palms of her hands, was the real goal.
The Gvagma Spiral would require more than 1,000,000 tons of maraging steel. At that time, this kind of steel could be bought for 5 florins (about $500) per ton at Boncfilj Steel Works, in suburban Boncfilj. Moreover, we'd have to provide electrical power for the cars, and pay for the cars themselves and other appurtenances. All expenses added together, it looked as if the total cost of the spiral would exced 500 talents but remain under 1000 talents (about $1 billion). Figures like 500 or 1000 talents scared me, as I could remember the time when I had earned ten florins or one drachma (about $1000) per year. However, Ajinblambia, with a budget of 150,000,000 talents, or 50% of the Gross Planetary Product of 300 croesi or 300,000,000 talents (about $300 trillion), was not at all daunted, and assured me that, even if costs should overrun our estimates, she'd find a way to complete the financing. This maraging steel had a yield strength of about 300 kips per square inch, in contrast with ordinary structural steel, with a yield strength of about 35 kips per square inch. The 30 massive columns forming the circular colonnade of the core of the spiral were rising upon the high-strength concrete foundation, as segment atop segment was spliced on to the lower parts of the shafts. In mid-'400, from a distance, it looked as if the 30 columns reached a height of some 4000 feet of the 12,000 feet they'd have to ascend to provide access to the guideway. The size of the Gvagma Spiral frightened me too. Of course, I had seen the drawings, but seeing the actual structure was quite another matter. I hated the thought of my being personally responsible for the spiral. Idificia, the structural engineer in charge, and Rachetina, the mechanical engineer in charge, both exuded pride, experience and confidence, which was reassuring. Were it not for their equanimity I would have fainted upon seeing the leviathan that I had brought into being. Completion was expected in mid- to late '401. As construction proceeded, pennants. gonfalons and oriflammes in bright colors were flown from the columns. These were weatherproof plasticized plain-woven nylon-fabric flags as tough as tarpaulins, and of about the same size too, as their height required for visibility from the ground. The columns themselves were covered wth a stainless steel veneer and shone beautifully in the sun that makes Mecnita the glorious city that it is.
If we could dispatch one twelve-car train with 480 passengers every 30 minutes during 12 hours a day in our 418-day year, we would have over 50,000,000 passengers in 10 years. We could therefore charge 15 dirhams (about $15 per ride), and, even considering additional costs, like interest and maintenance, recoup our expenses, if not in 10 years, then in 12 or 15 years, which was within the time frame we were contemplating. The fare on the guideway was 10 dirhams, so the whole package would be 25 dirhams, which is fairly expensive entertainment, but one doesn't ride the spiral and the guideway every day.
Innavella took a lively interest in the tests being conducted with Nunu, whom she adored. She had never heard about the talking babies and was only vaguely aware of the
And of course she was very interested in the Gvagma Spiral, which we visited more than once. We went about on the ground level, where the projecting tops of the concrete piers upon which the columns stood were visible. Huge anchor bolts, 12 to 24 inches in diameter jutted from the piers, through the massive base plates of the columns, with nuts as large as truck tires. We also rose in a construction elevator and walked some of the massive inter-columnar struts that would reduce the slenderness ratio of the columns, thereby enhancing their allowable compressive stress. Although we wore harnesses connecting us to lanyards, Innavella was scared to death. I was not exactly intrepid either, as we looked down almost a mile to the ground, but I had been up before, and managed a show of nonchalance for Innavella's sake. Innavella had brought a very fine camera and took a whole album of pictures she said she'd like to examine in more detail, academic though such an examination would be, inasmuch as she planned no spiral for Gvagdo, at least in the foreseeable future.
Innavella and I attended a fashion show at the Temple of Fashion, on Institute Way, in the Village. This was like an elegant soiree on stage. Dozens of beautiful ladies entered and left the stage by turns, each seating herself in an easy chair or on a divan and chatting with another lady for a few minutes before departing, and, of course, each lady was wearing a unique ensemble. As she sat, she would display a purse or a scarf which just happened to have a visible numeral, like 19 or 32, in embroidery or applique. Later, when we went to Cissi's in Ramdonia, I asked to see ensembles 19 and 32, which we had noted, and Innavella was surprised to see the same ensemble that we had seen at the
We had many productive, informative meetings in the next few days. but eventually Innavella said that she should really be getting back to Dorgdid. I explained that both Zevanardia and I were usually tremendously busy, and, so, would not be able to come often to Dorgdid. I wondered what she would think of my appointing some other young lady from Gvagma to reside in Dorgdid for the time being, to provide liaison between Gvagma and Gvagdo. Innavella found this very agreeable, so I invited to Gvagma Tower, first, Ellennamandia, from Cissi's in Piljandar, who had been in Gvagma since its inception, and then, Venedora, who was managing Cissi's Vintage Intimates, in the Anavana District, and who was also a founding star of our volleyball association. There they met Innavella in my presence, as I wanted to make the selection myself. The two young ladies were both so well qualified that it was hard to choose. Finally I decided to send Ellennamandia, and she left around day 225 with Innavella. Shvampronx drove them to
A few days later, I got an informal progress report from Ellennamandia by scroll phone, which is a kind of telephone with a large screen for viewing your callee. When you have finished your call, you press a button to roll the screen up in a tight scroll and withdraw it into the phone itself. She said she was getting along very nicely with Vranquelli, Innavella and the other ladies involved in the planning. They had given her an office on the 475th floor of
Around that time, Matricia and Vextoria invited me to Impulse Robot Works to see the first robot chorus girl they had built as a demonstration model. This robot stood only 10 feet high, they said, as they were thinking of ease in transporting it in order to present it to Ajinblambia, Udi and others, before full-scale girls were manufactured. They said they'd send a car for me, if I liked, but I said I'd just hop on the metro, and be there just as quickly, although it did involve some walking too. The robot girl was charming, doing graceful high kicks, moving her hands from side to side, batting her eyes and smiling. You'd have thought that when they stopped the movements, the robot would have clattered to the floor, but, no, it came to a stop, balanced surely on its small feet. They wanted me to request an invitation to show the piece to Ajinblambia in my presence, so I could try to persuade her to give her approval to proceed with the manufacture of twenty 25-foot robot chorus girls, all identical. The robot wore a black off-the-shoulder bustier or bodice, laced about the midriff like a corset, and a pink chiffon mini-skirt with several crinolines to fluff it out into a cone. There were black slippers with slingbacks on the feet. I was impressed and called Ajinblambia, who agreed to interview the two ladies two or three days later. She arranged to have a small auditorium in
The presentation went very smoothly. Ajinblambia was so delighted and amazed that she giggled aloud, which was a little out of character. "She is of our genus, genus Macs, after all," I thought, "if not of our species, species ogashta. And I suppose that allows her something so human as tittering." Without any hesitation, she voiced the approval being sought, though I might have gone ahead without consulting her in advance. She did like to be in on things, though, and I was glad to humor her in this. Matricia and Vextoria promised to have the robots ready within a year, at a cost not to exceed 50 talents. The ladies took their leave, and I would have escorted them to the garage below the northern oval, but Ajinblambia called Clixbong, who had gone to Idparcaps in a van to fetch them in the first place, and had him come up to lead them back to the garage and return them to Idparcaps in a sports car. They left the robot chorus girl in Ajinblambia's private auditorium, as she wanted to look it over at leisure. She said she'd send it back to Impulse Robot Works in a few days.
She told me to come with her to her suite. When we got there, she shocked me by picking me up in her arms and carrying me to her bed. She threw me on the coverlet and pounced on top of me, staging a mock wrestling match. She spanked me, whooping merrily, as she easily "defeated" me, pinning me to the bed and covering my cheeks with red kisses. What I had done to deserve this Heaven?
A few days later, acting upon oral agreements that I had made by scroll phone with Ellennamandia, who was negotiating assiduously with Vranquell, Innavella and the other Dorgdidian ladies, I signed an agreement granting us permission to open ten Cissi's Intimates outlets in the second city. In addition to the store in Daccarolling Mall, there would be a store in Drunscop Tower Mall, on the lower level of the chrome and black-glass skyscraper, and eight other stores in the clubhouses of some of the newly enrolled teams of Gvagdo, including the Erizgengmo Hoopoes, who had named their clubhouse the Upuparium, or Zhnoriqkhu in Nuu. Here Zh is as j in French, o is as u in cut, but in the falling tone, equivalent to Chinese's fourth tone, i is as i in kit, but nasalized and in the falling tone, and the sequence qkhu is as mentioned elsewhere. Zhnoriqkhu, translated syllable by syllable, means nest of hoopoes, which I have translated as Upuparium just for the nonce. We would occupy some of the spaces immediately, shipping consignments of intimates by air, with Air Dorgdid, so that shelves could be stocked almost immediately. Some of the locations needed decorating, so we'd have to wait 10 or 15 days before we could open. Given this time, we could ship the apparel by train, which would save us a few florins. Since this was a promising venture, I now sent Venedora to manage the new stores, while Ellennamandia continued with the discussions for the organization of Gvagdo.
In those days, I received an unexpected call from Ezmit, the mayoress of Ung's third city, Fwascren, 6000 miles due west of Mecnita, right on the Nyatic equator, in western Eb. She had read about Gvagdo in Obscont Fwascren, the edition of Obscont published especially for Fwascren, and was interested in the possibility of my taking an interest in organizing a girls' volleyball association in Fwascren too. Shades of my octopus dream! Naturally, I was glad to encourage her to come to Mecnita, as she had volunteered. I told her to tell me her flight number and arrival time when she had reserved a flight, and I'd have one of our chauffeurs meet her at
I wondered if Rubia, the captainess of the Ramdonia Roses and directress of Cissi's in Ramdonia, would be interested in traveling to Fwascren to explore the possibility of a girls' volleyball association there. I figured she could make some preliminary observations in Fwascren in 10 days or so. She could have Marivanni, also of the Ramdonia Roses, take over as captainess of the team and directress of the store, and we'd find another girl to play on the team in Marivanni's place. Rubia was thrilled to be able to travel to famous Fwascren and pleased with the honor conferred on her by this assignment. She joined Zevanardia, Ezmit and me in our talks over the next few days, getting an idea of what we had in mind. Finally she and Ezmit flew Air Fwascren around day 275. This would be a three-hour flight.
Around day 285, Oaslamd called me and said in a very excited voice that Nunu had spoken her first intelligible sentence in Nuu, clear and unmistakable. She had said, "Gepyh fra?" Here yh is voiceless y, like ch in German ich, e is in the falling tone and a in the rising tone, pronounced otherwise as in Spanish. This little sentence means, "Where is mother?" I happened to be at
When Rubia had flown with Ezmit to Fwascren, the thought that Ezmit would seek to create a third girls' volleyball association, named Gvagfwa or something of the sort, began to bother me. If other cities kept setting up leagues and making individual contacts and contracts with the original Gvagma, things would soon get very complicated. Now was the time to nationalize Gvagma, so there would be a single girls' volleyball authority in the
As always, I decided to consult our lady king, getting at least her advice if not leaving the whole matter to her discretion. When I got to her office, she was in a mirthful mood and tossed me on her bed again for another spanking, so I knew that she would prove very indulgent when I revealed my idea of nationalizing Gvagma, and by this, I meant not making it an agency of the government but rather expanding its base of operations over the entirety of the Kingdom of Ung. She and I talked it over for hours, till after midnight, forgetting the clock. When we saw how late it was, Ajinblambia told me just to sleep in her room with her. So I called Zevanardia explaining my plans to sleep at Ajinblambia's in view of the hour, supposing I'd feel a little better getting her consent, which she gave, of course, saying she'd miss me though. I was in Ajinblambia's arms a few minutes later.