As I mentioned earlier, our original sewing facility was the large Gvagma headquarters on
New Ozgingd is a suburb just north of Mecnita, along the
The new building had a floor plan precisely 10 acres in area, measuring 660 x 660 feet. The two levels provided more than 870,000 square feet of floorspace. Here spinning, weaving, knitting, sewing and embroidery were performed on a vast array of the most modern machines. We also had begun to print textiles for swimwear, now that water volleyball had been accepted by Gvagma as the companion of traditional volleyball. Uniforms for traditional volleyball were typically in solid colors: white, red, green, blue, pink, lavender, black, brown, orange, purple, a whole spectrum of beautiful colors. Bathing suits for water volleyball tended to be much bolder and vivider, with geometrics, florals, checks, stripes, rings and other extravagant designs in showy colors.
When we got up to capacity, we would have 6000 girls working. I had put the Pertenasi Pantheresses to work in New Ozgingd. Their names were Vlijanna, Ordzhozi, Mstivi, Chlapa, Endorfu and Conavash. These strange names are in the Ilocangan language, which differs widely from Ungi. The six Pantheresses had been back in Mecnita for a couple of years, after ten years of probation, during which they were not allowed to leave Ilocanga. They were very good workers, but still somewhat frightening, as they were very tall, with smart limbs and stern faces. They would make perfect supervisors if I could trust them. I wasn't sure.
I also employed the six girls who made up the Piljandar Swans, namely, Cygnia, Penna, Cisne, Buxina, Lebed and Olorina. When I made Ellennamandia, the former captainess of the Swans, assistant editress-in-chief of Cissi's Newsletter, Cygnia took over as captainess, and Olorina was selected to bring the team up to quorum. The Swans were all very beautiful young ladies. As a team, they wore white cheerleaders' skirts with self panties and white leotards with red piping along the plunging necklines, white knee socks and white sneakers. There were five blondes, but Penna was a brunette. I used the Swans as models rather than seamstresses, because they were so attractive. They worked in the showroom, where often they would model particular peignoirs and other garments that customers wanted to see.
Many of the girls who worked in Cissi's in New Ozgingd, as we styled the factory-and-showroom complex, had been transferred from
They worked on a piecework basis. They had a daily quota to fulfill, but could receive bonuses by producing more. If they found they could make their quotas easily enough, they were entitled to take breaks, come early or late, leave early or late, and generally do their hours as they liked. If they failed to make their quotas, they were returned to the big open span, with no privacy and under the gaze of supervisors. Compensation was good. Cissi's was the best employer in Mecnita, according to all the facts and figures we collected for comparison. We considered pay, hours, benefits, esprit de corps, prestige, job security and other elements of employment.
The goal was to turn out 300,000 garments a day, which was 50 garments per seamstress. Our sophisticated machines were voice-programmable, so that, knowing the computer language involved, a girl could tell her machine what to do. I smiled recalling that for several years, both my machine and I had been programmed, and had become a single entity, as it were. Of course, I had been making garments for the queen, so they were far more elaborate and challenging than some of the simple panties our apprentices were making, often at the rate of 10 an hour. They received the pieces cut, cast three or four easy seams, adding elasticized waistbands and legbands with a special sewing machine attachment that required only to have them fed along with the fabric of the panties themselves. The graceful, delicate little fingers of our young ladies took to their chores like bees in clover.
The more elaborate peignoirs, which involved a number of long seams along the sides and in the sleeves, not to mention the armscyes, collars, cuffs, sashes and pockets, could take two or three hours apiece. Of course, these differences were figured into the quotas we set. One of our top-of-the-line peignoirs might take a whole working day, because of the intricacies of the design. But they each sold for a drachma ($1000) or more.
I engaged a firm named Sky Pictures Company, which was under the direction of one Dorina, to install equipment that would produce large mid-air optical images above the facility in New Ozgingd. These would be very clear images projected by devices of post-hologram, post-laser technology without the use of screens or backgrounds of any kind. The images would just hover in mid-air, so to speak, without any unsightly backdrops, wires or steel framing whatsoever. We had used the services of Sky Pictures Company to suspend images over the factory on
At the same time that Cissi's in New Ozgingd was building up to speed, Zevanardia, Sundari and I were trying to select the members of a delegation we would send to Ub to invigorate the spirit of girls' volleyball there. As I mentioned earlier, the girls' volleyball teams of Mecnita's 400 districts had been grouped in 16 mini-associations each embracing 25 districts forming a 5 x 5 checkerboard on a municipal map. We decided merely to choose one girl from each of the mini-associations, excluding the suburban districts for the time being, because a delegation of 16 seemed about right. To make it fair and impartial, we would take the middle district of each group of 25, the one in the third column and the third row on a map. These districts were: Vrescava, Merideri, Pulrin, Priepand; Jarngna, Trandi, Rlic, Thcidno; Zanali, Clascar, Oboling, Ulfs; Cwena, Wretna, Shulics, Tpipt.
Incidentally, Ungi does not omit consonants; that is English practice whenever a cluster of consonants looks formidable. So when we say, "Rlic", "Thcidno", "Wretna" or "Tpipt", all the consonants are loud and clear, except that I have used 'th' digraphically to represent the sound it has in 'thick', while 'c' is like English 'k'. My spellings are a compromise, in that I'm respelling from a 328-letter alphabet to a 26-letter mini-alphabet. So it's important to make an effort to say them at least approximately correctly. As for the list of districts given above, each group of four goes from north to south. The next column contains the districts next on the east. I have already identified Clascar's team as the Clascar Statues, the name being an allusion to the
We appointed the captainess of each of the teams to our delegation. The composition was like this: Vnicci of the Vrescava Hummingbirds, Srini of the Merideri Terns, Vevilla of the Pulrin Seahorses, Tnucia of the Priepand Petrels; Aromandi of the Jarngna Starfish, Trepeta of the Trandi Swifts, Heggera of the Rlic Roe, Ponzi of the Thcidno Swordfish; Varsina of the Zanali Zebras, Stola of the Clascar Statues, Rujia of the Oboling Conchs, Garazmanda of the Elves of Ulfs; Muruna of the Cwena Gallinules, Voicsa of the Wretna Wrens, Pelisha of the Shulics Brants, and Pititina of the Tpipt Pipits.
Each of the sixteen teams promoted the former assistant captainess to the position of captainess, accepting a new girl as a sixth player, for we weren't sure how long our delegation would remain in Ub. When they returned, we could decide what to do with the supernumeraries.
We set aside a day-decade for orientation. The 16 captainesses and we three sponsors met for four Ungi hours (9 hours and 36 minutes in English parlance) each day for ten days. We wanted to brief them on every aspect of what it meant to offer membership in Gvagma, and also, to tailor their style to the kind of approach we thought would be most inviting and congenial. At these meetings, we had two large stainless steel coffee urns, and a small mountain of rolls and donuts, but we told our girls not to eat too many sweets, as we would be having a sumptuous luncheon brought us by Rose Verandah I in mid-day. This was usually a buffet, with cutlets of beef and pork, kebabs, goulash, stuffed peppers, pizza, sweet and sour chicken, baked ham, barbecued mutton and other dishes to choose from. At 8 Ungi (7:12 PM) the meeting officially ended, but some of the girls stayed for a few minutes talking excitedly about their upcoming adventure. It was a 15 minute walk from
It was decided that the city of
The girls would fly to
As for Nunu, the Child Development Department of the
That afternoon, before Ezmeraudia and Nunu had returned from the university, Zevanardia and I were alone in Bo House for a couple of hours, an unusuality in those days. As I went gliding from the dining room, I could see Zevanardia, her face full of playful mischief, waiting for me on the threshold of the door to our bedroom. "Oh no, I'm in for it now," I thought to myself. She grabbed me by my left horn with that powerful right arm of hers, pulled me towards our canopy bed and threw me down on the eiderdown comforter with the ruffled cotton batiste cover that was upon it. Then she picked up a pillow and started banging me with it. I sprang up to go get a towel to defend myself, but she grabbed me by the hem of the peach peignoir I was wearing and pulled me back to the bed. Reaching over to the nightstand, she took out a pair of white stockings, rolled me over prone and tied my horns with the stockings to the vertical rods that composed the head of the brass bedstead. Then she pulled up my peignoir and volleyball skirt, exposing my bright red self panties, and began spanking me merrily. At first it was fun, but she got carried away, and I had to beseech her to stop. Then we hopped up and went into my alcove where we sat down to coffee and cookies, composing ourselves, as if we had been ladies of dignity, just as Ezmeraudia and Nunu came gaily in, laughing and chattering. Apparently, classes had ended on an auspicious note.
When Nunu saw the cookies piled on a plate in the alcove, she got excited and plopped into my big wing chair, demanding cold milk to drink with her cookies. Playfully, Zevanardia put on a maid's apron and cap, returning with a glass of milk and a napkin. She gave Nunu an affectionate pinch on the cheek and then a kiss. This always put the little girl in good spirits.
We had invited Sundari to have supper with us, so we could continue our talks on Ub. Of course we'd invited Ivandra too, as Sundari and Ivandra were now married. In Ung, it's the norm for beautiful ladies to marry each other. This is not merely a token or a symbolic union, as it would be on planet Earth, for our latest techniques in chromosome-matching allow two ladies married to each other to have children receiving an hereditary contribution from each, as was the case when I gave birth to Nunu on behalf of Zevanardia and myself. And this was despite the earlier reformation whereby I became female in the first place. To earthly ears, all this may sound artificial, weird or even reprehensible, but we loved it. To seal this union, we now had Nunu, the brightest prodigy in the royal city.
Of course, Ivandra was the very tall, beautiful, athletic horsewoman who had ridden my horse with me a few years earlier pursuantly to the instructions of Ajinblambia, who feared that I would fall if I rode without a babysitter. I was enclosed in a large cylindrical drum of brass and rawhide, which was cinched with two strong girths to a powerful horse. Ivandra sat upon a modified saddle projecting from the back of the drum, so that I was clasped securely between her magnificent thighs, with my horns fastened to the straps of her bra top, which held my head in place. When Sundari had seen a picture of this, she loved it, calling it "epic, mythic, iconic, folkloric". Later she nominated me for Commissioner of Gvagma, and winning that, I began my ascent to fame and fortune.
It would have had to happen sooner or later, but with Zevanardia's prompting, Ivandra and Sundari retold the whole tale, with Nunu sitting at the dinner table in her high chair, taking in every syllable. I had been exposed to my own daughter, who insisted on seeing the pictures. "Oh well." I said to myself, as I fetched the copies of Obscont in their pebbled pasteboard portfolios from the large cabinet in the alcove.
Everyone joined in a round of teasing and laughter, and I winced to think that Nunu was hearing it all. Finally, though, the mirth stilled a little, and Ivandra asked, "I hear you were planning a totem pole. So what is the status? Is it being carved now?"
"Oh, yes." I replied quickly, glad to be rescued from the teasing, "Shall we walk out and take a look? It's only half a mile from here. They are carving the heads right now. Better yet, why don't we go in an autobuggy, so we can take Nunu too?" An autobuggy ordinarily accommodated four seated adults, but we could squeeze a little to allow Ezmeraudia to slip in. The baby would sit on Zevanardia's lap.
Five minutes later, we arrived, having driven down one of the new walks in
Basically, the stones were to be shaped according to miniature models by digital control of robotic cutters. An electronic reader translated code into instructions regulating various power saws, knives and chisels that actually cut the marble roughly to shape. But experienced sculptresses were needed to correct little defects and put the smooth finish on the heads. The upper and lower surfaces of the heads were planar and had to be ground accurately to assure full contact with the heads above and below. These surfaces had also to be perfectly level, so that, when erected, the totem pole would stand absolutely upright. A vertical hole eight feet in diameter would be drilled in each head with a massive drill brought to the site.
The high-strength concrete foundation of the totem pole had been cast and descended to bedrock, according to what I had been told. Huge anchor bolts had been set in the piers to receive a heavy-duty four-shaft steel column, built like a truss, with diagonals crisscrossed in all four vertical planes as well as transverse planes at short intervals. The column, to be erected in pieces connected with massive welded joints, would rise the full 180 feet. Then, when they were ready to be emplaced, the heads would be lifted by a tower crane and lowered down the column, like beads along one of the rods of an abacus. As each head was lowered the open spaces in the central hole containing the column would be filled with concrete.
The heads were of white marble, skilfully carved by Lady Sinsella, the chief sculptress, and her crew of 30 women. The heads had on gilt necklaces and earrings. Eyes were made of brown jade, since all the Vrikshayas, Udi included, had brown eyes. Lips were formed from dark red porphyry. From top to bottom, in order, there would be heads of Udi, Ajinblambia, Shandra, Barti, Vinja, Usha, Dhabbi, Mlechi and Oa. Oa was so homely that it was agreed to carve her more beautiful than she actually was in order not to ruin the overall appearance of the pole. So the evil one became the fair one! Queen Udi, the only adoptive Vrikshaya among the eight natural-born Vrikshayas, reigned supreme, so to speak, as Ajinblambia's beloved consort. As in real life, it was hard to tell which of the two ladies, Ajinblambia and Udi, was more gorgeous than the other, so breathtaking and heavenly their beauty.
We were hoping for completion of the totem pole before the beginning of year '404, which was still relatively far off.
"How did you come upon the idea of erecting a totem pole in honor of the Vrikshayas?" asked Ivandra.
"Oh, I don't know," I answered, "I guess I just thought it up by myself."
"Why, you're a genius, Sissy! Fine show!"
I smiled broadly, murmuring, "Oh, thanks for the compliment, Ivandra."
Mischievously, Zevanardia interrupted at this point, "She did not just think it up by herself. She saw the totem pole in Port Crelf from the
"I still think she's a genius," replied Ivandra.
"And so do I," said little Nunu defensively.
"It looks as if I've been voted down," acknowledged Zevanardia, "My apologies, Sissy, you dear little genius." Everyone laughed at that. We were on the point of going back home, when we saw that a crowd was gathering at the pool to watch a water volleyball match that was scheduled for that time. We decided to stay and watch for a few minutes and were lucky enough to get a table at poolside.
I sent Ezmeraudia home to get bathing suits for everybody. We always had a few Cissi's items at home. Before the game ended, we were in the water ourselves, in a part of the pool not occupied by the game. The water was cool to lukewarm, and refreshing. We swam and splashed around for about half an hour, then got dressed again.
Zevanardia and I laid Nunu to sleep in her tiny bed, which was covered by a blue and white flannel blanket, edged with bands of blue satin at head and foot. Then we ourselves lay down in each other's arms and fell right asleep.
The returns from Cissi's on Kralatimu were very considerable, surpassing our expectations, and giving evidence that Queen Kolomena was completely trustworthy. Elsewise she might have embezzled much of the profits. On planet Nya, crimes like commercial bribery, embezzlement, consumer fraud and so forth are very rare. Ung is a sorority of ladies who love and trust each other and who can depend on each other in time of need. So the incentive to amass ill-gotten gains just isn't there.
But I wanted Zevanardia to fly to Kralatimu anyway and survey the operation now that Kolomena had been acting on her own initiative since the beginning of year '403. It was now mid-year and it might be instructive to see why Kolomena was doing so well.
Zevanardia flew down to Badako, sailing from there to Monopeo, with a plan of accompanying Kolomena on one of her regular circuits. As I mentioned, now Kolomena had added Badako and Toa, as well as a couple other islands to her maritime itinerary, so the circuits were a few days longer than they had been originally. Zevanardia was pleased to learn that Kolomena had rented warehouse space in godowns in Badako and Toa, and was depositing Cissi's apparel in them to be sold wholesale to local dealers. Of course, in those parts, 'wholesale' might mean a bundle of a dozen bras and a dozen panties sold to a vendor. This is amusing to a sophisticated lady from Mecnita, perhaps, but Kolomena was earning dirhams that amounted to florins that amounted to drachmas, and we were grateful. Kolomena always made sure that the garments were well protected from the elements and from insects, and she always marketed them at list prices.
Zevanardia was extremely pleased with the Kolomena's energy and enthusiasm and with the efficiency of the business she was tending. She told me, when she had returned, that we should consider buying another yacht similar to RUS Gvagma and opening another route in Ungonesia, perhaps in the Peokolo Archipelago.
The Peokolo Archipelago is a scattering of 1500 small islands almost 4000 miles southeast of Mecnita, and east-northeast of Kralatimu and Badako between 1500 and 2000 miles, the intervening spaces all being maritime, without any peninsulas from the mainland. The Peokolo Archipelago was conquered in the 732nd century, that is, over 30,000 years ago. At that time, the
The largest island in Peokolo was Loana Luhu, and the chief city and capital was Saiwani. Saiwani had nearly a million inhabitants, and well-paved streets, state-of-the-art electrification and water supply. The name of the ruler was Queen Analeahi. To mainlanders, all Ungonesian names seem to spring from the same insular language, but Ungonesian ears are sensitive to the differences. Furthermore, some islands have such non-Ungonesian names as Fgrapdu, Kshmetdi and Olivampkh. Go figure!
We talked to Queen Analeahi by scrollphone. A scrollphone, of course, is a small hand-held mobile cellphone from which a scroll advances when a pushbutton is depressed. The scroll unrolls to become a screen about 2 feet by 3 feet, and when you recite the callee's name into mid-air, her image will appear on the screen instantly. This is possible because, for one thing, everyone in the
During our call, we told Analeahi all about Cissi's in Kralatimu, emphasizing how well it was doing in transacting business, not neglecting to mention the cultural aspect of joining the islands more intimately to the mainland. Analeahi was amenable to the idea of receiving Zevanardia as a guest. Zevanardia would give her all the details of the sort of enterprise we had in mind. It was decided that Zevanardia would go right away.
The next day, Zevanardia and I spent all day at Cissi's in New Ozgingd selecting the intimate apparel, swimwear and other garments we'd pack into a couple of crates for Zevanardia to take with her as air freight on her flight to Loana Luhu. She would not be able to fly direct, but would again transfer at Port Crelf to a Peokolo Airlines mini-jet. The whole trip would take five hours or so. because of the layover in Port Crelf. By evening we had gotten everything ready to be loaded.
In the morning, we went with Glafcroc is a large van to Cissi's in New Ozgingd. There a girl with a fork lift loaded the crates into the van, which had seats for four. After driving the very few miles from Cissi's along suburban streets, Glafcroc tooled the van onto Joprinx Expressway. We followed Joprinx Expressway to its intersection with Dhnanto Var Expressway, near