On the day that our young harpsichordist and geologist, Nunu, now approaching her sixth birthday, was ready to ascend into the heavens with Vinja, Ung's Ministress of Land, aboard an Air Tuva maxi-jet, I called Fstambolc and told him to come with Mbaliderv in a palace linousine. In addition to Vinja, Nunu and their baggage, Ezmeraudia, Zevanardia and I would ride to
Originally, Nunu said she was going to wear one of her Eldor Geese volleyball uniforms on the trip, but Vinja said she would have to wear a plant uniform instead. All personnel, guests and tourists at the Oirad and Turfant-Tuva Projects wore white elasticized cotton twill coveralls. Nunu would also have to wear a hard-hat, a sort of helmet made of high-density polethylene with nylon straps inside to raise the inner surface a small distance from the scalp. Nunu's helmet was white and it bore the letters NUNU, which were about four centimeters tall. The uniform and the helmet had to be made specially for Nunu, as generally there were no six-year-old girls on the site. Nunu was perfectly adorable in her little uniform.
Vinja was a very fashion-conscious person, and, whenever she was in Mecnita, she wore a gown, a sari, a stola or a peignoir wherever she went. On this occasion, however, she too had donned one of her plant uniforms and a white hard hat. Her hard hat bore the letters VINJA. The letters on the two hard hats were from Nuu's alphabet of 328 letters, which are quite different from Roman-English letters, showing tone, nasalization and labialization, typical features of Nuu.
Vinja could have waited till they got to Qizilot before donning her uniform and having Nunu don hers, but she felt that this would be an interesting touch to add to the preparations for their flight. The twill coveralls did not lessen Vinja's beauty. Her incredibly shapely figure was still very much in evidence when she picked Nunu up and seated her on her shoulders as they began to climb the boarding ramp. Ezneraudia, Zevanardia and I, glimpsing them from afar, waved a final farewell, and smiled when they waved back. This would be so exciting for Nunu!
Nunu had also manifested an interest in sewing. When we went to Cissi's in New Ozgingd, she was awed by the hundreds of state-of-the-art sewing machines, with all sorts of attachments and features, and she was in love with the throng of pretty young seamstresses who worked there, manufacturing intimate apparel for a city of 100,000,000 souls, 99% of whom were ladies and girls. We did of course have some sewing machines at home, in Bo House. Is it conceivable that the entrepreneuse of the world's foremost lingerie company would not have a couple of personal machines in her residence? So Nunu got a chance to try her hand at sewing. Just as she and Vinja were getting ready to depart, I had Nunu gather her work, fold it neatly and put it in one of the drawers of her dresser, so that, on her return, she could fetch it and continue. She had been making a pinafore dress, or jumper-and-blouse ensemble, for herself, red and white. The white blouse matched the white tights or stockings she said she'd wear with her dress. The red was exactly the same shade as the red of the leotard and miniskirt of her Eldor Geese uniforms.
The next few days were gloomy and dreary without Nunu to cheer things up, so we invited Jina to Bo House for supper one evening. Jina was by no means a gourmet, so we felt completely comfortable serving crisp, tasty pizza along with beer, cola and iced tea, to each as she preferred. As usual, upon Jina's arrival, everyone greeted her with a hug and a kiss, but I noticed that Ezmeraudia was especially delighted to see Jina, her former schoolmate at
Forgsha Station is the largest train terminal on the Nyatic planet, and in the waiting room, acres wide and stories tall, there are murals depicting all the scenic wonders of Ung--lofty peaks, wind-swept palm beaches, mighty rivers, forests of towering conifers, endless plains, gleaming cities, quaint villages, and the great highways and railroads that bring them within reach. We all surveyed the paintings with a feeling of holy awe, but eventually recalled that Ezmeraudia and Jina had to be at Gate 109 in just 10 minutes. We walked them over. Everyone exchanged hugs and kisses, and then they stepped up into the passenger car, just as the train began to roll, the coupling rods of the locomotive's wheels reciprocating rhythmically, faster and faster, till they were a blur.
Of course, Ezmeraudia and Jina might have flown to Psebol in a mere three hours, while the train ride took a whole day, but I had explained that, traveling by train, they'd see Glozbanc Forest, the Hestadespa Mountains, including 100,000-foot Mount Oboglavd, Ung's supreme peak, waterfalls, geysers and the great tractors and harvesters of Psebol Field, mechanical titans as large as stadiums or hangars.
In 110 square miles of the Unbrab District of Psebol stood 3,000.000 concrete grain silos over 100 feet tall. They could accommodate 3,000,000,000 tons of wheat, which was equal to the total annual crop harvested in Psebol Field's 1,500,000 square miles. The yield of 2,000 tons per square mile is double the average yield on planet Earth, though there are some tellurian regions that approach the higher figure. Our abundant crop is due to the perfect climatic conditions in the vicinity and also to the genetically-improved strains of auxin that characterize our species of wheat, Triticum ungicum. The silos dispense their tonnages into coverable highside railroad gondola cars--11,000,000 carloads a year--that haul it to all the far-flung corners of the Ebbic continent. Trains of 100 cars apiece leave Psebol at the rate of 263 per day in our 418-day year, with 37 of the 263 destined for Jilmzbra Bakery in Mecnita.
Water is provided by desalting seawater in scores of nuclear boilers and geothermal wells at the rate of 600 cubic miles per year. This enormous watery product is spilled into the
Tractors 300-feet wide that advance at 9 miles an hour plow the whole length of the field in 14 twelve-hour days, each making a single pass from west to east. When the wheat is ready to be reaped, 300-foot harvesters, each with a 150-foot stainless steel sphere mounted on top and tires as high as a ten-story building, harvest 375 miles at a time, the wheat eventually funneling onto conveyors that take it to the silos.
This is all done by automation. Whereas it would take 5 million employees on planet Earth to maintain such a leviathan wheat conglomerate, we do it with 5000, most of whom are lady inspectors, programmers, security guards and guides. If special maintenance or repairs are required, contractors are engaged on a job basis, inasmuch as the equipment is so well-engineeered that mishaps and failures are seldom.
Psebol Wheat Company's founder was King Zhwem, who built the cyclopean facility back around year '240. Now Queen Udi and the Vrikshayas were seeking to build an even larger facility in western Ub. Udi had initiated the Ubbic reclamation project before she met and married Ajinblambia. Now Ajinblambia had taken the lead, putting her cousin Vinja in charge. The project was 15 years old at the time Vinja took Nunu to see it, and it looked as if five more years would be required.
Naturally, everyone who goes to Psebol visits the vast facility. A helicopter flight enables you to view from on high the gargantuan agricultural machines, the endless colonnades of silos, the thousand-toothed combs of branch railroad tracks, the reactor-studded shoreline, the enfilades of towering pylons, and mammoth
Even a minimal visit takes three days. An extensive tour could take 20 days or more.
As much as Ezmeraudia and Jina would be overawed by the great perpetual-motion machine that is the Psebol Wheat Company, they probably would enjoy even more the sights of the metropolis itself. They liked to ride, and there were bridle paths. They liked to cycle, and there were biccyle paths. They liked to dance, and there were dance floors, both indoors and out, under the stars. They liked to swim, and there were beaches on the
Years earlier, Udi and I had stayed in Escovralla Inn, in the Dlapstong District of the city. Wondering if the inn was still in business, I was pleased to learn it was. The people at the inn even remembered that Queen Udi had stayed there long ago, though they had forgotten me. So I'd reserved a room for Ezmeraudia and Jina, and instructed Jiji, the manageress, to send a driver to meet them at Gwedbaj Station at the appointed time. I'd collected the documents from my scrollphone, which had a mini-printer, and I'd handed them to Ezmeraudia along with a few one-florin banknotes. Our florin is worth about 100 Earth-dollars.
I knew that, when Zevanardia and I got back to Bo House from Forgsha Station, there would be a tremendous wrestling match on our large canopy bed. Now that Ezmeraudia and Nunu were not about to inhibit Zevanardia's erotic aggressiveness, I was really in for it. She had me down on our batiste-covered eiderdown comforter just seconds after we entered the empty house. Suzi, my pet cockatoo, hearing all the commotion, came flying in, and perching on the horizontal brass rail at the top of the foot of the bedstead, she croaked, "My word, ladies, whatever are you two up to? Please try not to kill anybody. I hate funerals." This, of course, was just a bit of psittacine hunor. Birds do have a witty side. It's just that most cannot make the jokes they would if they could.
"Please, Suzi, just go back to your cage. If we need you to referee, you'll be the first to know about it."
The next few days were fairly hectic, as Zevanardia and I redoubled our administrative efforts to make the time pass faster. More and more, Zevanardia was paying attention to Cissi's Newsletter instead of
All our absent friends returned to Mecnita on the same day. Early in the morning, I got a call from Ezmeraudia, who said she and Jina would arrive at Forgsha Station at 3.5 Ungi (8:24 AM). Zevanardia, Fstambolc and I were there to receive them, and, Fstambolc, tooling his sapphire blue automobile onto Pongdoir Expressway, where he reached a speed of around 200 miles per hour, got us back to Bo House in a flash. Before Fstambolc had even gotten ready to depart, I received a call from Vinja, informing us that she and Nunu would arrive at
Now Vinja was wearing one of her magnificent gowns and Nunu finally had on her red and white volleyball costume. They were, oh!, so beautiful as they issued from the airbridge onto the upper story of the "international terminal", a designation technically obsolete since the unification of Ung as the sole nation on the planet but still in vogue colloquially. In less than an hour, Fstambolc had us back at Bo House. I invited him to join us for lunch, which I'd have delivered from Rose Verandah I. Though Fstambolc was a chauffeur and a male, we considered him a benefactor rather than a servant. He was remunerated handsomely and treated courteously by all the ladies of the ruling class, among whom I myself was merely a peripheral. We had a hearty lunch, with a carousel of chops, steaks, kebabs, chicken breasts, rice, yams, beans, corn, buns, butter and apple cobbler. Then Fstanbolc went back to
As soon as we had cleared the dining room and put the dishes in our automatic dishwasher, we repaired to the living room with our guests. Immediately Nunu started telling us excitedly about some of the things they had seen on their tour of the Oirad and Turfant-Tuva Projects. Flying about in a helicopter, Vinja, Nunu, and a couple of lady employees from the project had viewed desert stretches, semi-arid and arid, with shifting dunes in some locales. They had overflown canyons, ravines and coastal cliffs. And they had seen the vast tracts where extracted groundwater and desalinized seawater were already greening the land.
"We went way down into the interior of the planet in an elevator, and we could see huge cauldrons where seawater is boiled by subterranean heat..."
"But isn't it hot down there?"
"We were in an air-conditioned observation room miles below the ground."
Vinja interrupted to explain that the geothermal wells were sunken at depths of one to thirty miles, depending upon local conditions.
"You can see the striations of soil and stone as you go down." Nunu continued. "We also went down into a cavern to see an underground river. Some of this water is being used to irrigate the desert around there, but the water table is sinking too fast, so Vinja is desalinizing seawater to make up for it."
"Well, Nunu, I'm not actually doing it myself. There are hundreds of thousands of employees. I'm merely administrating the projects on behalf of Ajinblambia. She's the real brains of the projects."
"I thought you were the brains."
"She is," Zevanardia interposed herself, "She's being too modest."
"Hundreds of thousands?" I exclaimed.
"That's only until construction is complete. After that, I imagine it will take five or ten thousand at the most. They will just monitor and regulate the installation once it's done."
"Then you should see the way they're laying those big pipes," said Nunu. "Each section of concrete pipe, up to 300 meters long, has extra-wide gauge railroad tracks cast in its upper surface. When a dragline excavator has dug a huge trench for a section of pipe, the new pipe goes along the rails on top of the pipes already laid. There are a few bogies under the new section, and a special locomotive pushes the whole thing. Cranes place the pipe, and the bogies and locomotive return to get ready for the next section."
I never would have guessed that our harpsichordist and dressmaker would also be so enthusiastic about great earthworks, but here she was, as excited as if it had been her birthday. In fact, her sixth birthday was upon us, as the end of year '405 approached.
Nunu told us about how the continental shelf was being lowered by underwater rock removal operations in order to accommodate the extremely deep keels of the huge ships that brought materials to the site. A draft of 300 feet was not unheard-of with these mile-long ships.
She told us about the nuclear reactors that desalted water and cogenerated electricity for the area. She mentioned that there was another terawatt station in western Ub. She was probably thinking of Thlipso Station, in Eb. when she said "another." I didn't even know she knew about Thlipso Station. She must have read about it online or heard about it from one of her tutoresses.
As I may have mentioned in this chronicle, Thlipso Station, the premier power station on the Nyatic planet, is rated at one terawatt, that is, 1,000,000 megawatts, and delivers electricity at 10,000,000-volt potential all over the Ebbic continent. Vinja's projects, however, were in Ub, the other continent. There were over 150 nuclear stations along the western shores. Turfant-Tuva #19, originally planned as a much smaller unit, was now being enlarged to a capacity of one terawatt, just like Thlipso. Ub is much larger than Eb, so even Turfant-Tuva #19, which, in any case, was not centrally located on the continent, would not make the same impact. Other stations would be constructed in the east of Ub, in the
Our little Nunu carried on excitedly about her adventure for quite a while, but finally sat back quietly, while Ezmeraudia and Jina told us about their vacation, which had turned out to be a honeymoon, as they chose to wed in Psebol. What could be more gorgeous than a marriage of two beautiful girls on a planet where advances in genetic engineering make it possible for them to bear daughters?
"I suppose that we should really find other housing," Ezmeraudia probed.
"Oh, no, no, no!" I pleaded, "That would crush Nunu. She loves you so much! Why don't you just have Jina move to Bo House? We have room."
"Are you sure that won't be an imposition?"
"Imposition?" I exclaimed. "Since when is having a girl like Jina in the house an imposition? That's like saying that roses spoil the bush."
And so it came to pass that Jina, the one-time captainess of the Eldor Junior Geese, having grown to be a lovely young lady. took up her residence in Bo House. Ezmeraudia had a very commodious bedroom in any case, so nothing further needed to be done. Jina, of course, would have the run of the house. Nunu was jumping for joy!
King Ajinblambia Day, day 400, was a beautiful festive occasion in honor of our lady king. The playoffs of the Old Chiliad of volleyball teams were stalled one day to mark the holiday, especially since the festival would preempt
For the first time in several years, the Ramdonia Roses did not triumph in Gvagma's finals. Instead the Egshirvazi Comets won them handily, and so were hailed as the best of a thousand teams. This was really a precious moment for us, as Jina was the captainess of the Comets now. She had begun with the Comets in '402, and because of her amazing agility and elegance on the volleyball court, had been made captainess. This added to the exuberance of joy that we all felt as Nunu turned six, on the last day of the year.
Nunu was so impressed with Jina's championship that she said she wanted Jina to teach her to play volleyball too. Though Nunu had a number of little volleyball uniforms that had been presented to her by the girls at Cissi's in New Ozgingd, she hadn't played a single game of volleyball. To her, the uniforms were very pretty and she loved them.
Jina quipped, "Well, if I taught Sissy, I guess I can teach you too."
"You taught Sissy?" asked Nunu incredulously, "But she's so much older than you. How is that possible? You're just teasing me, aren't you?"
"No, I'm not teasing. I taught Sissy to play volleyball."
I knew it. I knew it. I knew that, eventually, Nunu would hear the whole story about the Goslings. In fact, I had half-expected that Vinja would tell her on their trip to Ub, but this, apparently, had not been the case. Now the hour had come.
Jina explained that everyone felt, years ago, that my ineffectual playing was handicapping the Eldor Geese, so a second team, the Eldor Junior Geese, or informally, the Eldor Goslings, was created for girls 8 to 12 years old.
"Sissy was transferred to the Junior Geese," Jina explained, "It was hilarious to see a grown woman, with lyre-horns yet, playing volleyball with little girls, and not so terribly well either. I was captainess of the Junior Geese, so Ajinblambia instructed me to give Sissy special coaching. Later that year, however, the Eldor Junior Geese were dissolved, because attendance was not very good, and Sissy was returned to the Eldor Senior Geese, where Riya had taken her place. Everyone agreed that Sissy's volleyball had improved during her apprenticeship on the Junior Geese."
I shrugged it off, but everyone teased me for a while. Finally, the reincarnated anecdote died again, and all returned to normal.
I sensed that Jina may have felt like an intruder, despite our reassurances that she was welcome to live in Bo House as long as she chose now that she was married to Ezmeraudia. To make her feel more at home, I had one of Gvagma's lady attorneys prepare title deeds making Ezmeraudia and Jina joint owners of Bo House, with exclusive rights to their own quarters and a general permission to use the larger common rooms of the house, like the living room, the dining room and a study-library that we had, which was a thing apart from my own personal alcove, also constituting a mini-study. My alcove would be semi-private, but of course anyone might knock on my door, if it was closed. Ezmeraudia and Jina were delighted with the new arrangement, In this way, we became a household of five.
But all this meant nothing inside Bo House, where Zevanardia ruled like a queen. As far as Zevanardia was concerned, everybody in the house had to do her bidding. Whenever a controversy or uncertainty arose, Zevanardia settled it imperiously. I loved her decisive manner and authoritative voice.
With all our holdings, we might easily have purchased a palatial residence, mansion or chateau. We might have engaged a staff of servants to maintain everything and to impress our associates. We might have accumulated valuable works of art, the finest furniture, lavish hand-woven rugs, and gold and silver utensils.
But this was not what we wanted. Bo House was a fine house, but not way above the general standard for houses in Mecnita. We had no staff, but attended to our light duties ourselves. Once in a while, we would engage someone to paint, make repairs or do "spring cleaning". Otherwise, we handled it all ourselves.
What we lived for was not our own comfort and glory, but the prosperity of our various enterprises, which we saw as assets to the community. If we were able to provide culture and entertainment for our citizenry, we were happy. We did not need portraits of our ancestresses hanging on the walls of our house, as if we had been heiresses. We were happy to leave such distinctions to Ajinblambia and Udi.
It was almost a year that Chlembia, Formola and Odgi had been tutoring Nunu in Ungi grammar, mathematics and music. Nunu was doing exceptionally well. The three tutoresses were amazed. They had never encountered such a brilliant young girl. The ladies of the Royal Council, as well as Ajinblambia and Udi, were in raptures, since it looked as if another Vrikshaya was in the making. Nunu had been treated by geneticists to endow her genome with some of the characteristics of the Vrikshaya genome, making her the nearest thing possible to a natural-born Vrikshaya, which sat quite well with her I.Q. of 250.
However, none of the three ladies was versed in geology, and this seemed to be a discipline in which Nunu was particularly gifted. So, with Ajinblambia's authorization, we engaged a fourth tutoress, Jasperina, who was a retired geology professoress from the
This was early in year '406. Just how long all this special education would go on no one seemed to know, the idea being to keep teaching Nunu until she knew as much as her intelligence allowed her to know.
Nunu also continued with her dressmaking. Here I considered myself an authority, and so I engaged no special instructress.
At about this time,
The platform of the buggies upon which the ladies stood was elevated 42 inches above the pavement of the medians on the Avenue of Ung, in order to enable more spectators to see. So there was a panel beneath each buggy, disposed longitudinally, and the panel was painted in gorgeous colors with designs of flowers and birds. The transparent vinyl canopy above each buggy, slightly concave, was heaped with flowers, and there were banners, streamers and balloons sailing along with the motion of the train. It took all morning for the two runs to be made, but by around noon, all 55,000 ladies were in the
In any of the dozens of small auditoriums where contestants would be judged, spectators sat in rows of seats, much as they would in a cinema theater. On the arm rest of each seat, there was a selection module, slightly reminiscent of a television remote-control device, except that it was not movable. As a contestant walked across the stage, each spectator would press a number between 0 and 100, indicating her opinion of the contestant's beauty. By the time a contestant left the stage, an aggregate score would be calculated by computer. She might be rated 43, 68 or 92, for example, the higher number signifying wider approval.
The preliminary selections went on for hours, but there were winners from each auditorium with the same or very nearly the same score. So there were semi-finals and finals. The queen of the whole show was called Miss Gvagma '406. Her name was Vinarvi, from the Pycyby District. None of us had ever heard of her, but we were all in agreement that she did deserve the honor. Each y in the word Pycyby is pronounced like long German u-umlaut, the c is like English k, the accent is on the first syllable, which is in the rising-falling (sic) tone, as is general with proper nouns. The second and third syllables are toneless. Pycyby is 20 miles due west of Eldor.
Vinarvi was invited to Eldor Palace, where a great banquet was given in her honor. She was not a volleyball player. She was a figure skater and had appeared in Rosebush Stadium a couple of times, but without attracting a great deal of attention. She skated regularly in Pycyby Ice Hall.
Actually, we had not been paying as much attention to figure skating as it deserved. It is, of course, entirely as lovely as ballet. With Vinarvi's ladyship of our premiere beauty contest, that picture would change. I myself was getting too old to contemplate debuting as an ice-skater, but it was conceivable that either Ezmeraudia or Jina, or both, might be prompted to try it out, and, so, to limn Bo House with more eclat and kudos.
Earlier in the year, the Gvagma Wheel had marked its tenth year of operation. As I mentioned elsewhere, the original cost of the ferris wheel was 300 talents, or $300 million Earth-dollars, more or less. We had set the price of a ticket at 4 dirhams, that is, 4 dollars, and that had not changed, since our economy is entirely non-inflationary. We had estimated that ridership would come to 100,000,000 over the coming decade, and so proceeds would pay for the wheel as well as the cost of financing. In this, we had not been disappointed. Quite the contrary, ridership had reached 150,000,000, thanks to additional evening hours of operation that we had introduced eventually. So the wheel would have been standing like a great mass of capital, ready to be reinvested. However, we had already mortgaged it in part several times to secure capital for other amenities, like the Gvagma Spiral and the
A regular maintenance contract had been awarded to Flestermon Mechanical Monitors, a firm that serviced the wheel at regular intervals. At the end of a decade, though, we felt that a thorough inspection was due. Flestermon Mechanical Monitors would check for fatigue, ruptures, laminations, porosities, slag-inclusions, crack propagation, wear-and-tear, and so forth. They would employ X-ray, ultrasonic, magnetic-particle and other non-destructive testing. We closed the wheel for three days, and later we received a document certifying that the wheel was 100% safe. We posted the document in a glass case near the entrance, where anyone could read it.
All of us at Bo House were pleased with these developments, as were the royal couple and the Geese.