King Ajinblambia, our lady king, was really gratified that our two guests, Queen Marcatarc and Queen Zipsi, rulers of the lunar Kingdoms of Liscarn and Shwea, had fallen in love with the city of
"Why don't we call Queen Shandra and Queen Mer Elicsi to invite them to return to Mecnita right away, while Queen Marcatarc and Queen Zipsi are still here. I'm thinking of requesting that they form a council of lunar queens."
"Why do you want to form a council of lunar queens?" I asked ingenuously.
"It would be salutary for their own welfare, of course. It would promote peace and commerce."
"What about all the other lunar kingdoms?"
"Let's not wander too far into the future. Let's let things happen as they will. For now, we have four queens who are very favorably disposed towards our realm. Perhaps we might offer them an opportunity to join the Ungian family of nations."
"The Ungian family of nations! When did this come into being?"
"Don't you think it sounds a little patronizing to offer them an opportunity to become provinces?"
"Hmm, I suppose so."
"We call the countries of Ub provinces because we annexed Ub as a consequence of the Qazudi Revolution. My idea now is a completely voluntary membership. I know Queen Shandra, who is my cousin and one of the eight natural-born Vrikshayas, will agree to this. You might say that Ufzu is already semi-officially in partnership with Ung. The question is whether Queen Mer Elicsi would be hesitant about such an alliance."
"Perhaps we can have Shandra go see her and guide her gently along."
"Why, Sissy, you must be reading my mind!"
"It's not as if it had been difficult to see whither the drift of your new idea, Milady," I said with a blush.
"Very well. Since we are in agreement, why don't we call Shandra tomorrow? You know her so well that I think a conference call by astrophone is in order."
I was immensely flattered, almost as if I had become prime minister again. Of course I agreed that a conference call was a splendid idea.
"For now," Ajinblambia continued, "why don't you come sit in my lap for a while?"
Feeling a rush of estrogen within me, I fairly raced to her massive wing chair and clambered onto her thighs, with my face towards hers. She did give me a few passionate kisses, and then we just relaxed. Apparently I dozed off in her embraces, for I woke about midnight, and told Ajinblambia I had to hurry home. Zevanardia would be worried.
I reported the following morning to Ajinblambia's office again, as she had instructed, and we did hold a conference call by astrovideophone. With such a phone, one can project a scrolled screen from the cell and unroll it by pressing a button, so that the callee may be viewed, while the callee may see the impaled images of both callers on her own screen. The astrovideophone is more powerful than the mere videophone. They are also known as scroll phones. My inclusion is the conference call turned out to be a mere token, as the conversation that ensued was strictly between the two great Vrikshayas.
The discussion was exactly what we expected. Queen Shandra thought that the idea of a council of lunar queens was brilliant and heartily approved of an invitation to join the Ungian family of nations. She said she felt sure that Queen Mer also would like the mooted alliance, but that she would have Mer travel posthaste to Vavlu, Shandra's capital city, for a consultation, during which she would broach the subject tactfully and optimistically. If she should find Mer amenable, they two would board a Photon spaceship immediately, which meant that, within 4 or 5 days of our call, the two queens would be in Ajinblambia's office.
"What do you think, Sissy?" Shandra asked, as if feeling guilty on account of my not having participated in the conversation at all.
"Oh, I think it's a wonderful idea, dear Queen Shandra."
"Very well, Sissy. We'll see you very soon," said Shandra, as she concluded the call, disappearing from the screen. Ajinblambia and I retracted our screens into our phones, as she had Grishcanca bring us a late breakfast of smoked ham, fried eggs, fried potatoes and coffee. Grishcanca was one of Ajinblambia's beautiful young housekeepers.
Four days later, Shandra and Mer Elicsi arrived aboard Photon X. Shvampronx drove me in Udi's white V30 to Pongdoir Field to meet the royal ladies, and we were back in
The next morning all four lunar
The negotiations proceeded as swiftly as lightning and, on the second day, a preliminary treaty was drafted and signed by the five royal ladies. The treaty specified that a 30-day period would be allowed so that they all could review the terms and request any changes or additions they deemed desirable. At the end of the thirty days, a more comprehensive treaty would be penned and signed into law.
"All hail the Lady of the
On the following day, after I queried the four queens about Gvagma and Cissi's and won their complete approval to proceed on the moon at my own discretion, I saw them off at Pongdoir Field, with Shvampronx at the wheel. Then Mecnita and
As a matter of fact, the 100 ambassadresses of goodwill, led by Rubia, who had gone to Mli some time earlier, had helped organize several girls' volleyball teams and had drawn up tentative contracts to open branches of Cissi's Intimates on the moon, in the four realms we had just dealt with, so it was very timely that formal negotiations were under way that would cement the union. My idea was to use the name Gvagma, the Girls' Volleyball Association of Greater Mecnita, even on the moon. It was a widely recognized name with a good reputation, so that the etymology was not terribly important. Or putting it another way, I was broadening the meaning of the phrase Greater Mecnita to include lands hundreds of thousands of miles away, in outer space, as it were.
I asked Rubia to remain on Mli for as long as a day-hundred or more, creating definite volleyball districts and leagues, drawing up schedules and rules of play, in order that Gvagma-on-the-Moon be brought up to the standards we ourselves observed in Mecnita. Also, she would arrange for playoffs and championships.
Early in year '404, the 180-foot Vrikshaya Column, as we finally decided to call the totem pole in
Even though everyone had seen the totem pole as it was being sculptured and erected, and so knew exactly what it looked like, there was a dedication, with tens of thousands coming to the site to see the massive sculpture. There were festoons of roses and lilies, streamers of pink and white crepe paper, and a veritable legion of pink and white balloons. Thousands of pork and beef cutlets were grilled under the open sky. Jilmzbra Bakery catered with piping hot poppy seed twist, fresh from their truck-mounted ovens. Pecans, pistachios, almonds and cashews filled jute sacks. Punch, wine and ale flowed copiously. The Vunu Vunu Singers intoned some of the most beautiful songs in Ung, throwing wide the doors of Vunu Vunu Hall, where they gave recitals, at first, and then appearing in the bandshell adjacent.
In the distance, the walls of Cissi's Press could be seen nearing completion. From the vantage point of the totem pole, only nearly blank walls with a row of windows near the top were visible. The tremendous doors through which the presses and other heavy machinery would be brought in were on the southeast side, because an access road had been built there for the express purpose of hauling the titanic machines. The southeast side of the building lay along the edge of
In the late afternoon of the day of the dedication of the Vrikshaya Column, when I had greeted literally dozens of people and received many fine compliments for this sculpture that I had planned and financed, I returned home to Bo House, where I expected to find Zevanardia, Ezmeraudia and Nunu. Zevanardia and Ezmeraudia were sitting at the dining room table, drinking cappuccino coffee and chatting. I glimpsed Nunu in my alcove, at a small table next to my roll-top desk. I could see that she had scissors, a ruler and several pieces of paper, both white and colored.
Curious about what she was doing. I stepped into the alcove.
"Hi, Bibi," said Nunu. She called me 'Bibi'.
"Hi, Nunu. What are you doing here? You look so busy with your project. What are you cutting out? It looks as if you have cut out some little triangles in different colors. What are you going to do with the triangles?"
"I'm going to paste them to these white pages and put the white pages in the sheet protectors that you gave me."
"Why are you going to paste colored triangles to white pages?"
"I'm making a workbook for my geometry and trigonometry lessons."
"Your geometry and trigonometry lessons! Where in the world did you get that idea?"
"I found some lessons on the computer that you gave me, so I worked out some problems, and I'm going to save them so I can look at them again if I forget."
"What kind of problems did you work out? Do you understand what you are doing?"
"Of course I understand. But I would still like to check them again to see if I did them right."
"Tell me about some of the problems you solved."
"Oh, Bibi, it's just easy stuff, like sines, cosines and tangents. Now I'm trying to learn the law of sines and the law of cosines so I can work oblique triangles too."
"Oblique triangles? What about right triangles?"
"I already know about right triangles. They're so simple a baby could figure them out."
I called my two dear friends so they could come share my amazement. Both Zevanardia and Ezmeraudia knew basic plane geometry and plane trigonometry, as does every grown woman in Mecnita, but neither had ever heard of a case in which a four-year-old had taught herself to triangulate.
The next morning we all went back to the Child Development Department at the
When we got back to Bo House, Ezmeraudia asked if she might take Nunu on the Gvagma Wheel that afternoon. Nunu had never ridden our famous ferris wheel, but now that she was getting to be a big girl, I agreed to let Ezmeraudia do as she had asked. She said she'd also take Nunu to Gvagma Village Robot Theater, if the time was convenient. Then they would eat at one of the Rose Verandahs. They'd be back around 7.5 Ungi (6 PM).
When they had left, Zevanardia and I began tugging at each other in a mock free-for-all. She tossed me on our bed, but I hopped right up on the other side, rushed around while she was still standing there and pushed her face-forward onto the bed, pounding her with a pillow. Then we wrestled, but she got me down. I lay there supine at first, but a minute later, she rolled me over so she could spank me for pushing her from behind, calling me a "sneak".
After she paddled me a while, she pinched me on the left buttock as I rose again and started walking to my alcove. "You're gaining weight," she said, "Maybe you should think about going on a diet."
"Going on a diet!" I exclaimed, "I don't believe you." I looked in our full-length mirror opposite the foot of the bed and I looked the same as always as far as I could see.
"No, no," said Zevanardia, "you're not gaining weight in front; you're gaining weight in back. Here let me take a photograph of you, so that you can see for yourself."
"Oh, very well, Zevanardia, get your camera, I know this is some kind of silly game you're playing, but I'll humor you in it, or else you'll be impossible to live with."
When we had the photograph, I could hardly believe my eyes. I was indeed gaining weight in back. My derriere was becoming very full. I was shocked, but I was not altogether displeased. There was something exciting about I thought.
"What do you think, Zevanardia? I still think it looks good."
"That is absolutely the most sissified rump that I have ever seen!"
"Oh, thank you," I said with a blush.
"You could at least wear some control panties," said Zevanardia with a peal of laughter.
Pursuant to our little conversation, I did decide to diet a little. In fact, I fasted for a few days. And I did lose some of the weight I had gained. Zevanardia took another picture, and my buttocks had become slimmer.
I'm getting ahead of myself a few days though. A couple of day-decades before Zevanardia had taken the second picture, she and Ezmeraudia and I returned to the university to talk to Carcsi again. Carcsi said that she had tested Nunu again and that she now had an I.Q. of 250.
"I thought that I.Q. was a fixed quantity, that everyone had an unchanging I.Q." I said.
"Well, that is approximately true, but there are factors that can promote change. Because of Nunu's neurologically introduced production of glycoserotonin, a process that she now continues without further intervention, she may experience sudden upticks in intelligence. In fact, the Neurosciences Department has found that she is now secreting a new strain of glycoserotonin, which we call glycoserotonin-beta and which the neuroscientists are trying to isolate and synthesize for the benefit of other children. So your daughter may hold the key to a new era in intelligence here in Mecnita."
I almost fainted when I heard that. Carcsi said she wanted to have Nunu remain in the Child Development Department for five days for further observation. We agreed to bring Nunu and leave her there for five days. We did visit daily during that short stay though.
I kept getting messages from our party of 16 goodwill ambassadresses who were traveling around on the Ubbic continent. When they had done all that they could do in Futsugawa, they had gone on to Fai Kwa, the capital of Ong Pang, just west of Futsugawa. There too they had enjoyed moderate success, taking part in the formation of an embryonic girls' volleyball association of eight teams. They had also signed a contract to open a branch of Cissi's Intimates in Fai Kwa Mall, a large, showy mall in the otherwise somewhat backward capital. From Ong Pang, they had gone to Ceveristan, a petroleum-rich country with its capital at Kholodsk. Kholodsk was a sprawling modern city, planned and built by the late Dolomarps, former director of Capoco--Ceveristan and Paltievsk Oil Company. His successor, Rozanna, installed by Vinja, was very enthusiastic about forming cultural and commercial links with the world metropolis. So it was easy to organize a sizable league and win franchises for half a dozen Cissi's Intimates outlets on the broad, shady streets of the maritime city. Kholodsk lay on the shores of the Northern Ocean and boasted dockage for 25 ultrasupertankers.
From Kholodsk, the group had gone on to Donkers, the capital of Aigenshlink, a landlocked, mountainous country north of Ilocanga. They had established a small volleyball league and opened two stores.
This completed the northern leg of their journey. They decided to group the four cities they had visited--Tsumufuchi, Fai Kwa, Kholodsk and Donkers--into one super-association that would include around 75 teams in all, teams which would play primarily in their own countries, but hold regional playoffs as well. They called the association Gvagma-in-Northern-Ub, and when this association had produced a championship team for a season, the team would be sent to Mecnita to play in the world playoffs in Rosebush Stadium.
I suggested to the sixteen young ladies in the delegation that they return to Mecnita for a vacation, as they had been traveling the better part of a year. Then if they liked, they might undertake a southern tour, or barring that, we could select new delegates, whatever they preferred.
So far now we had 150 teams in Ub, including those in Qazudistan and elsewhere on the dark continent. Cissi's Intimates now had around 25 stores in Ub. This was a tiny number compared to the 2200 that we had in Mecnita, but it was a beginning.
As the construction of Cissi's Press proceeded, you could see the caravan of new pylons bringing in high-voltage lines to power the presses. The pylons, white concrete transmission towers over 100 feet tall, were spaced at intervals of 1000 feet. Though they were very handsome, power was brought from the southeast, so that basically only a few pylons could be seen from Gvagma Village. The other facilities in Gvagma Village had their own sources of power, most of which were operating near capacity, so it had been needful to add new lines. Piping had had to be laid in underground pipe chases, walled in concrete, as the presses depended on a copious supply of water, the newspapers being printed on wet paper that would be dried, cut and folded before being bundled for delivery. Major pipelines in Mecnita are generally laid in pipe chases for easy access and maintenance, rather than being buried under soil, as on some planets.
As I mentioned, ballet was performed regularly in Rosebush Stadium. The most prestigious ballet company in Mecnita was the Royal Egrets, which was owned by Cissi's, and they were the ballerinas whom we featured most often, although there were a few other dance companies in the capital. The Royal Egrets maintained a School of Dance, where they trained promising girls for the stage. The School of Dance, long directed by Zhvizhvi, was on Gullav Avenue in the Spranceld District. In a little interview that she and I had in Gvagma Tower, we agreed that it would be advantageous for the School of Dance to relocate to Gvagma Village, next to Rosebush Stadium. She and I were thinking of an expanded facility with more instructresses and more students. There was room on the southwest side of Rosebush Stadium, 150 feet or so from the entrance to the Gvagma Spiral and adjacent to the Orchid Walk.
I asked Zhvizhvi to accompany me the following day to Ajinblambia's office to talk it over.
"Oh, I thought you made all the final decisions about Gvagma Village," observed Zhvizhvi.
"I do," I said patly, "but Ajinblambia likes a preview of everything, you know."
"Hmm," she said knowingly, as if I had lost face in her sight. I guessed I would just have to swallow my pride.
"Well, good morning, Sissy and Zhvizhvi," said Ajinblambia, greeting us in her usual merry, affectionate way. I had called her and asked her to receive us, and she'd agreed. She had already met Zhvizhvi a few times. so no introductions were necessary. "What is the occasion of this honor?" she asked, as she nodded her head towards Zhvizhvi.
"We're considering moving the Royal Egrets' School of Dance to Gvagma Village, and would like to learn what your opinion may be."
"I think that it's an excellent idea. How will you finance it?
"We can probably raise enough money by having Cissi's let us sell the old School of Dance on Gullav Avenue," Zhvizhvi answered.
"If not," I interposed myself, "I can make a contribution by mortgaging Rose Verandah II or some other property on the compound."
"Oh, I don't think that that will be necessary. I'll provide a loan guarantee you can present to Usha in lieu of a complete down payment, if your financing falls short," Ajinblambia offered with a big smile, as if she were proud of me for sponsoring such a thing.
"That's most gracious of you, Your Majesty," replied Zhvizhvi.
"You see," I explained to Zhvizhvi as we strolled the regal corridor to the bank of elevators on our way out of the northern oval, "it is usually worthwhile to keep Ajinblambia apprised of every little thing. That's the way she is. She likes to be in on everything going on in the kingdom, and, with her great mind, she can oversee a million affairs all at once."
I again contacted Amponia and Lidia, the lady architects who had designed so many of the buildings around Gvagma Village, and, after a preliminary chat with them in Gvagma Tower, I commissioned them to design and oversee construction of the new three-story school. I recommended that the front of the building feature a colonnade of ballerina-like caryatides in ivory-colored marble with goldleaf to effect a chryselephantine appearance, real ivory, of course, being unavailable in the necessary sizes. They liked the idea and promised to use it in their design. Later, however, the idea of using ivory marble and goldleaf was dropped because of technical difficulties brought to our attention by Sinsella, the sculptress who'd actually be carving the columns. Sinsella chose gray granite instead.
Wishing to assure myself that this was not merely a case in which she who paid the piper called the tune, I said, "No, don't promise anything. I'll leave it all to your discretion." I was gratified some time later when it emerged that they would use the caryatides in any case.
This building was due to be completed in year '405. I wondered if there would ever be a time when everything was done. The requirements for water and electrical power for the School of Dance would, of course, be very modest, so no new installations of the kind were planned.
In bygone ages, before the rise of electrical power, Ungians took advantage of winds and streams by building windmills and waterwheels. In these, vanes or blades were moved by pneumatic or hydraulic pressure sufficient to turn mechanisms for the purpose of grinding grain, sawing timber, powering lathes and drills, and so forth. These windmills and waterwheels are not widely used today, but many remain standing, like heirlooms of a picturesque past. Some of the more beautiful windmills and waterwheels attract numerous visitors every year. So it was proposed to me to have a windmill and a waterwheel constructed in Gvagma Village on the pattern of some of the more sightly ones still extant.
There was a stream running through the thicket of bo trees in which Bo House stood, but I did not want a waterwheel drawing tourists to be built too near Bo House, spoiling the idyllic peace that Zevanardia, Ezmeraudia, Nunu and I enjoyed there. But I noticed that there were rapids about 300 yards from Bo House, along the southwestern edge of Southeast Gvagma Village. This stream had flowed for years without any care having been taken, but I hired a team to dredge the stream and clean and landscape the banks, planting a grassy lawn at a point convenient to site the waterwheel. This was a quick project. Within 30 days, they'd be building the mill itself, and that would take only another 30 days, the construction company salvaging aged building materials from other mills around the country that were slated for demolition.
Only a few yards from the future waterwheel, there was a gentle eminence, that is, a small rocky hill, where a windmill could be sited. The construction of the windmill would be concurrent with that of the waterwheel, and the same policy of redeeming stone, timber and fittings from older windmills was employed here too, the whole idea being to give the new windmill an aged look, evoking memories of traditional mills.
In the area of the mills, a few small silos and grain bins were erected to give the site the appearance of a real farmstead of yore. The whole thing would be done by mid '404 or shortly thereafter.
The two proposed mills would be located in Southeast Gvagma Village, the new one-mile-square annex that Ajinblambia had granted us. The only other construction in the annex consisted of Cissi's Press, the Vrikshaya Column and the massive swimming pool with its canteen, cabanas and other appurtenances. So we had plenty of room for other projects.
Incidentally, the swimming pool with its appurtenances would be dubbed A Bit of Ungonesia, while the water wheel and the windmill would be called The Mills of Gvagma.
We had good news from Saiwani, the capital of the island of Loana Luhu and of the entire Peokolo Archipelago of which Loana Luhu was a part. There, RUS Gvagma II, one of our yachts that had an intimates boutique in the superstructure, had been entrusted to Queen Analeahi, who would sail a circuit of a few of the islands of her archipelago in order to sell intimate apparel, swimwear and related goods to the ladies in the insular towns. She generally spent most of a day in each of the towns on her itinerary, and sailed in the early evening hours, the distances between isles being merely a matter of ten to twenty or thirty nautical miles.
Queen Kolomena of Kralatimu had organized a similar operation in the western part of Ungonesia, under the supervision of Zevanardia, and had proven herself to be a capable and reliable businesswoman. So Zevanardia had invited her to supervise Queen Analeahi in eastern Ungonesia, as Analeahi started her own operation, using our second yacht. Queen Analeahi was also proving herself to be competent and trustworthy. So the two companies were merged into one, which we called Cissi's in Ungonesia. This name was chosen with a view to further operations in the million islands of Ungonesia. For the time being, Queen Kolomena was named directress of Cissi's in Ungonesia, but this would be largely titular, as a working union of two circuits so widely separated geographically was not entirely feasible at the moment.
For the most part, the insular ladies preferred water volleyball to land volleyball, so our sale of volleyball apparel was limited to two-piece bathing suits, some of which were designed to resemble ordinary volleyball uniforms, with wraparound skirts, like sarongs, which were generally shed once the ladies entered the water. Beneath the wraparounds, of course, they had the bottoms of their two-piece outfits, but quite often the tops came off, as the islanders were fairly uninhibited about baring their bosoms.
Gvagma was enrolling quite a few water volleyball teams, and some of them visited Mecnita, to play in the new swimming pool in Southeast Gvagma Village.
We were getting good reports from Dorgdid and Fwascren, Ung's second and third cities, where divisions of Gvagma had been established. Vranquelli, the mayoress of Dorgdid, was very attentive to the development of Gvagdo, the Girls' Volleyball Association of Greater Dorgdid, and was genuinely concerned with the multiplication of outlets of Cissi's Intimates in Dorgdid. Dorgdid had for centuries tried to keep abreast of Mecnita as a cultural capital, and the Gvagma-Cissi's conglomerate was a useful tool whereby to promote this sort of competition. Vranquelli was also building a ferris wheel, which would be called the Gvagdo Wheel, on the analogy of the Gvagma Wheel. I was flattered by the implied compliment. I loved Vranquelli anyeay. She was such a lovely, charming lady, with such an elegant, exciting figure!
As for Fwascren, there too, Ezmit, the mayoress, was busy fostering the growth of Gvagfwa, the Girls' Volleyball Association of Greater Fwascren. Fwascren already boasted a whole host of ferris wheels in its downtown district around Nurushul and Squingba Boulevards. These had nothing to do with Gvagma or Gvagfwa. They had been there for decades and were one of the attractions of the City of Flowers, as Fwascren was nicknamed. Cissi's Intimates had already opened several stores there, so there was no complaint on those grounds certainly.
The treaty whereby the Council of Lunar Queens was formalized had been in effect for some time, and the expression "the Ungian family of nations" had gained currency. The four lunar queens--Shandra, Mer Elicsi, Marcatarc and Zipsi--would hold quarterly meetings with Ajinblambia, our lady king, in Eldor Palace, in Mecnita, as a matter of course. Ajinblambia also enjoyed the right of convoking a special meeting at any time whatever, while any of the four lunar queens might also request such a convocation,
Strangely enough, uranium exploration was being conducted at that time on Dli, or Dlivandor, another planet in our solar system, which has Dyo as its Sun. So the idea of a transdyotic empire began to be mooted about. But this was a matter for the future.