Panties and Bras



A Tale of Ung


Chapter 14






Harbor Cranes at Port Crelf





Queen Udi and her Vice Queen Ajinblambia, dressed in festive floral prints with light, full, knee-length skirts, like sisters, greeted me at Pongdoir Field as if I’d been a hero, laden with my bundles of reports and records and my bags of yams and gourds. They’d come in the V30 limousine, without Ezvlando, and parked it near the gates. A porter from the field helped me load my baggage in the long convertible, with its roof down at that particular moment, and the two reginal ladies got in the front seat, with Udi at the wheel, while I got in the seat behind them. Soon we were racing swiftly as the wind along Pongdoir Expressway, laughing, jesting, making merry. I’d momentarily forgotten Hennamarn’s mad prophecy. It was a glorious, sunny midday in Mecnita, warm and still.

I mentioned my discovery of Vavlic yams and how I had in mind to set up an experimental farm somewhere in the west of Ungia. I spoke in glowing terms of feeding millions in the future, and though I thought it might readily appear that I was copycatting Ajinblambia in her great wheat-growing achievements, neither she nor Udi said as much. Rather, they oohed and aahed ostensibly enthusiastically, making optimistic comments and offering marvelous suggestions. Ajinblambia said that she’d flown in from Dorgdid for a day or two, just by chance as Udi had gotten word of my departure from the moon. Udi and Ajinblambia were delighted when I told them Shandra planned to visit Ungia that summer. Then I thought of Hennamarn but didn’t say a word about her. Reaching the crest of Flenjculd Hill, we could see over the walls of Eldor Palace the gardens of flowers and the arboretums all around, and in their midst the nine white marble ovals with their gold and garnet doors. Soon we were in the basement of the northern oval with its 20-foot-round columns and its stainless steel doors. In seconds we reached Udi’s study, always fresh and fragrant as cologne of lemons.

Toto greeted us, "Is Vocno back from Mli already?"

"Already?" I exclaimed, "Didn’t you miss me, Toto?"

"Of course I missed you," said the bird, "I was only teasing."

Ajinblambia said she was in Mecnita to meet with Arcusleb, director of Queshganc Cement Works, which was in the Queshganc District of the capital. The aerospace facility in Dorgdid would need mountains of cement—10 million tons or more. Initial shipments would have to come by rail from Queshganc. The Modern Ungi word that translates ‘limestone cliffs’ is ‘gwezhjench’, but in Medieval Ungi the equivalent was ‘queshganc’. One immediately appreciates that ‘gwezhjench’ comes from ‘queshganc’, if someone points it out. Otherwise, you’d never guess. The medieval version of the word survives in ‘Queshganc Heights’ and ‘Queshganc District’. One can verify this by reviewing isoglosses of Medieval Ungi on microfiches in the Museum of Mecnita. Anyway, Queshganc Cement Company’s main offices are at the corner of Drejpulv and 982nd Streets. A golden comet makes the 50 miles from Ramdonia Circle to the stop at Queshganc and 1000th Streets in 15 handy minutes, and 5 more minutes in a minibus will stand you on the doorstep. Although Dhnanto Var Expressway parallels the subway, you gain nothing if you drive. You can’t outrun the metro. The limestone cliffs that dominate the Queshganc District and Queshganc Heights cover several square miles. Among those cliffs, Queshganc Cement Works quarries its raw limestone. Awesome extractors like tyrannosaurs of steel savagely attack the lofty cliffs and break off house-sized chunks of limestone. These fragments of 3000 tons apiece are spilt into huge crushers that smash them into chunks as large as autos. The car-sized fragments empty into smaller crushers that shatter them in pieces just like watermelons. These in turn are tumbled into other crushers to be broken into egg-sized bits. Finally, a superfine white powder is produced, advancing into 18-inch-thick pipes with a 30-foot outside diameter, to be calcined and refined as the pipes continue turning. Robot packaging machines bag the newly-made cement for shipment and specially designed conveyors stack the bags in top-openable railroad boxcars, hardly a human hand having helped the whole heat. The total cost of Queshganc Cement Company’s main facility in Queshganc was 50,000 talents—about $50 billion—which may seem very, very steep, but when you consider that its annual capacity is 2.51 billion tons—a cubic kilometer—of cement and that the plant will last 100 years, it comes to only 20 cents a ton, a fraction of the cost of labor or material. Another way to see it is to realize it costs Mecnitans just $500 per capita, or $5 a year apiece for those 100 years.

Not only would she place an order for 500,000 tons of their cement, to get things started at the aerospace facility, she’d also try to talk to Arcusleb and get him to reveal some of his production secrets. Although Ung had neither patents nor a patent office, with all techniques and processes considered intellectual properties of the royal government, often men like Arcusleb were very jealous of their expertise, the ichor of their various careers. But Ajinblambia applied her charm and bent their wills certainly at least more skillfully and more successfully than I could. The brilliant lady did go down to Queshganc, ordered her cement and fascinated Arcusleb, enrolling him as a member of her cheering section, so to speak. He promised with remarkable alacrity to put at her disposal all and any information he had in his possession, though, of course, she would not depend exclusively on adopting others’ methods but instead would streamline and perfect them with originality and genius.

When Ajinblambia had completed her errand in the capital, she went back to Dorgdid, with Queen Udi exclaiming ever and again what a genius Ajinblambia had shown herself, and how she had no doubt Macs vrikshaya did constitute a different and higher species. Udi’s adulation, though not at all unjustified, was becoming a source of some concern to me, so I called Cocothrasp again.

"Have you made a firm determination as to whether Macs ogashta has inhabited every quarter of the universe?" asked Cocothrasp when finally I reached him on my scrollphone. This was a medical man’s mild mockery, faint and clever. I winced wondering how naïve he must have thought me.

"No, but I’m still doing research on the question. I understand you have some supersophisticated instruments for studying the nervous system. I’d like to tour the Department of Neurosciences, if I may."

"Since you’re prime minister of Ung, your wish is my command. Please name the day," said Cocothrasp congenially.

"What about the 40th?" I asked.

"Agreed. I’ll be your guide myself."

I had put off the appointment a few days in order to have time to slip away to Ungonesia and talk to Tufiatani, the beauteous clairvoyant of the isle of Ulunono. Fulumoan Airlines, actually a department of the government of Ung, has around 100 of the minijets standard on our planet, providing flights to and from Badako, the capital of Fulumoa, Ungonesia’s largest island, and other places in the archipelago. The flight between Mecnita and Badako takes less than two earth-hours; it’s only some 3000 miles. But I decided to go by train and ship, the same way that the queen and I had traveled on our honeymoon. This was a sentimental journey. I’d fly back with Fulumoan Airlines.

So a few days after my return from Mli, I caught a golden comet whose destination was Port Crelf, an important port on the shores of the Southern Ocean, 1750 miles south-southeast of the capital, Mecnita, just 8 earth-hours away. Port Crelf, with a population of 12,000,000, is Ung’s 15th largest city, sprawling over some 1255 square miles, 90 miles long and 14 wide, the length, of course, along the shore. The shore is full of wharves and quays, docks and harbors. Parallel, and running the whole city long, is Crelf Expressway, 20 lanes, with golden comets in the median.

Beside the vast expressway, Rallas Drive serves as a thoroughfare for local traffic. On the landward side of Rallas Drive, there’s an endless row of wholesale and retail outlets for merchandise arriving on the water. Further inland, supplying all these outlets, stand the mammoth warehouses and depots, entrepots and godowns of the city. A largish godown might be a mile long, 1000 feet from front to back and 500 feet in height, usually with a central well 150 x 150. The distance from the central well to a point 300 feet amidships of the cutwater of a ship riding at anchor or moored along a pier is nearly half a mile, over the wholesale and retail outlets, the inner drive, the expressway and the quay. That point marks the location of any of the many harbor cranes that load the vessels or unload them. The stiffleg of the typical such crane consists of four great cylinders of solid steel on the corners of a square 100 x 100 feet, each cylinder with a 27-foot diameter. These columnar cylinders are laced together with 96-inch wide-flange diagonals and struts. On the stiffleg, the titanic boom revolves, carrying a cage that describes an arc upon a radius of 2500 feet. The cage is 100 x 100 x 100 feet inside, and holds 1,000,000 cubic feet of cargo that weighs 100 pounds a cubic foot, or 50,000 tons in all, exclusive of the cage, which weighs 10,000 tons itself. The maximum stress in those enormous columns is less than 30,000 p. s. i., while the allowable is 300,000 p. s. i., more than satisfying royal regulations requiring harbor cranes to have a safety factor of 9.75. Since such a crane can reach only 2800 feet out to sea, Ung’s longest ships, with lengths up to 10,000 feet, have powerful conveyors in their holds that move the cargo towards the prow to be accessed by the cranes. The crane lifts cargo from the ship, revolves it to the godown and lets it down into the well, where a battery of other swift conveyors removes it instantaneously. A ship that had 2,000,000 tons of cargo could, in theory, be unloaded in 40 simple lifts, say in 20 hours, but owing to light cargo and irregularity of shapes, it usually takes from 50 to 100 lifts, about 2 days at most. The water at Port Crelf is everywhere at least 300 feet in depth, thanks in part to massive excavations undertaken by the realm.

I walked along the quay to marvel at these engineering wonders and watch them, as like mantises, they preyed on blocks of cargo. I was delighted also when I saw the totem pole presented to the city of Port Crelf by the Kingdom of Kulukanongga, coextensive with the island of Kulukanongga, in the archipelago of Ungonesia. The totem pole consisted of 30 nearly spherical carved heads, each measuring some 20 feet in height. The heads depicted 30 kings who made two dynasties that ruled the kingdom for the last 900 years. During my previous visit to the southern port, the individually shipped heads had been in the process of being set in place, one atop another, in the 600-foot-tall talisman now warding evil from the harbor. Of course, the Kingdom of Kulukanongga is a part of Ung, but it’s still called a kingdom.

At one point along the quay, I saw a ship moored with its stern backed up against a wharf, and standing fully open with enormous gates swung wide, admitting trains of 100 cars apiece. When three trains had entered on the lower level, they were secured with blocks and capstans, jacks and couplings. Then the entire wharf, which had received three other trains, was elevated by immense hydraulic lifts, so that the second group of trains was able to advance to the deck above the first group. This whole procedure was repeated, until the ship held nine long trains, and then the gates were closed. Someone told me that the trains would be delivered to various ports of call in Ungonesia, some of the larger islands having their own railroads. Empty trains would be collected and returned.

I walked the quay for miles and miles, and saw a million wonders.

Finally, I embarked upon a ship called ‘Fnothcerd’, that is, ‘Southern Scimitar’, named for one of fifty constellations in our southern hemisphere. The voyage to Badako would take about two days. I merely relaxed upon the deck, watching the play of clouds and waves, sun and stars, with an occasional booby, albatross or petrel winging overhead.

I got to Badako in the morning and decided on a visit to Chief Tamufala of Lobilaka, 13 miles east, in the tangles of the jungle. The only problem was the ten-foot Fulu warriors were somewhat ill-disposed to mainland Ungians, among whom they’d consider me, being altogether oblivious of Motinia’s existence even. Chief Tamufala was exceptional, primarily because I’d helped him wring a handsome ransom from the xenophobes, Dleodaz and Pangsba, and burn them at the stake as anti-Fulumoans. However, reaching Tamufala across a 13-mile stretch of jungle full of sullen giants was risky and unnerving, and there was a chance that Tamufala’s attitude towards me had changed or that he wouldn’t recognize me or remember me at all. Nonetheless, I hired a driver and an elephant and climbed into the howdah, though not without some trepidation. The proboscidean was a quadruped par excellence, a real mammoth with tusks as stout as pipal branches. The Fulumoans, despite their height, did respect those mighty javelins apparently, for we advanced through 13 miles of muddy jungle slums without an incident. The lofty primitives continued charring pigs and chickens spitted over fires, and boiling rice and fish in kettles black with soot, before their stilted houses. Three hours later, we gained the safety of Sambakang Temple, a wattled courtyard sentineled by horrid wooden masks. In a museum in Mecnita, the crudely-crafted masks would have elicited a faint, wan, patronizing smile. In Lobilaka, though, they were just as terrifying as their maker had intended. I recoiled in some nameless holy dread recalling my captivity hereat. Inside the temple, a bloodstained sacrificial altar—really just a block of granite—attested the savage sanctity of the sylvan shrine. Here mayhem was taboo, so we were safe. We paid our respects to the congregated aborigines and went upon our way. Soon we found Tamufala’s house, the largest house in Lobilaka.

I was delighted to find that Tamufala did indeed remember me and seemed very glad to see me, bursting into hearty laughter the moment he laid eyes on me. In a trice, he had two strapping Fulu girls place palm fronds on a low round table of rattan and arrange around it cushions stuffed with kapok and upholstered in a cloth woven from bark fibers of the paper-mulberry trees that grow on Fulumoa. Charred pork and chicken were heaped high upon the palm fronds, and a mildly intoxicating amaryllidaceous beverage the Fulus call ‘melana’ was decanted into goblets made of coconuts. The elephant driver joined the feast, interpreting for Tamufala and myself. After an exchange of reminiscences and greetings, I asked Tamufala if he remembered Tufiatani, the lovely psychic, and told him I was on my way to Ulunono, just across the Straits of Temekuku, for a visit at her house. Yes, of course, he said, he could remember Tufiatani and her assistance by clairvoyance in securing the gold and skulls of Dleodaz and Pangsba, the conspirators of Plubac. He would like to see her too.

Next morning, Tamufala and the driver of the elephant and I ascended the huge beast and made our way back to Badako. There we found a man with a catamaran to raft us all to Ulunono. We found the beautiful clairvoyant in Moon Park in the village of Kuneo.

"Vocno! What an honor! We don’t see many prime ministers in Kuneo." Tufiatani’s Ungi was absolutely perfect but there was a pretty little archipelagian accent in her words. She greeted Tamufala in Fulumoan, the lingua franca in this part of Ungonesia.

Tufiatani had on a spotless parchment-colored caftan with flowing sleeves. Her hair was of a beauteous raven black, freshly brushed, so that you could sense the electric nature of its softness and its fullness. Her chocolate complexion shone with the fragrant oil she exuded in the southern sun. On her slender wrists she wore several silver bracelets, and her nails were lacquered letterknives. When she moved her arm ever so slightly, I caught a fleeting glimpse of a perfectly shaped breast, a teardrop clinging where it’s shed. Her voice was honey, her breath was cinnamon, her lips were rhododendron petals.

"Tufiatani, is Queen Udi safe and sound? Will she continue on the throne of Ung?" I asked immediately once we’d said hello to one another, "What do you prophesy?"

"Queen Udi shall abide as Queen of Ung many and many a year!"

"Thank you! Thank you! What a great relief!" I answered, but I decided not to mention the lunar lunacy of Hennamarn, the charlatan of Vornda. I had my assurance from my beloved Tufiatani. I made her a present of several golden florins. She did have a family to house and feed and clothe after all.

Tamufala, Tufiatani and I chatted pleasantly a good long while, with the help of our interpreter, exchanging anecdotes and greetings, handshakes and embraces. Finally, the driver of the elephant, the man with the catamaran, the Fulu chief and I ploughed the main again. It was late when we got to Badako. The two Fulumoans returned to Lobilaka, while I caught a midnight flight on a Fulumoan Airlines minijet, arriving at Eldor Palace in the wee hours. Udi was asleep, so I just went to my apartment and got the better part of a normal night of sleep—easy, deep, untroubled sleep.

The 40th arrived. I went down in Udi’s private elevator to the subway station in the basement of the palace. There a golden comet came to whisk me to the university, whose 25-square-mile campus is coextensive with the Plembrust District of Mecnita. The University of Mecnita’s student population of 300,000 makes it easily Ung’s largest school. Of course, it’s also the most famous and distinguished. Earlier, I’d consulted Zhbengorg, head of the Department of Linguistics there, in regard to the provenience of some foreign-sounding names, like ‘Jvashna’, ‘Dhandwa’ and ‘Dilafti’, receiving from him clues that led me to the continent of Ub. I’d also talked to Vovovon, head of the Botany Department, about the paper in those counterfeit securities I mentioned. His insights had enabled me to link Qazudistan to Jilndij. Now, as if on an endless spiral of investigation, I’d talk to Cocothrasp in reference to Macs ogashta. Emerging from the Plembrust Station platform underground, I hopped onto an autotaxi, really a motorized, computerized three-wheeled scooter. Just choose your destination on the campus with a pushbutton and away you go, soon to be delivered at the doorstep effortlessly.

Cocothrasp stood waiting in the lobby of the bottle-green and onyx-black tall tower housing his department. Rising in a chrome-doored elevator to the 97th floor, we exited the shining cubicle in just 4 seconds, entering an acre of a room chockfull of medical machines all humming, buzzing, whirring, ticking softly. I saw electromyographs, electroencephalographs, electrocardiographs, and magnetic-resonance, computerized-axial and positron-emission tomographs, along with other electronic and mechanical devices, many of which my host identified as we went walking by. A few he took a minute to explain; others he would demonstrate with a perfunctory dexterity. He knew I’d come primarily to see the superscanner, the Neurosciences Department’s pride and glory, so he led me presently to that vicinity.

The theater that held the superscanner was partly hemispherical, like an astronomical observatory or planetarium, but it had a longish hall adjoining it, with a high wide screen mounted on the far end. Many rows of seats filled a depression in the hall and there observers could seat themselves in comfort. At the very center of the hemisphere, a glass compartment 10 x 10 x 10 seemed to hover in midair. Cocothrasp pulled down a switch upon a console opposite the glass compartment. A buzzer sounded in the hall, and ten young men and women in beige smocks and pants appeared, taking their positions on the landings and the platforms of a very large machine or projector like a telescope.

Another man, named Thorfclon, came when Cocothrasp called out this name. After he received instructions, he took off his smock, his pants, his shoes and socks, so that he was clad in nothing but bikini briefs, and then he climbed a ladder up to the compartment. Cocothrasp depressed a button on the console, and a horizontal sheet of light bisected Thorrfclon and the chamber. Then he made the plane of light turn about the intersection of planes transverse and coronal, in other words, about the X-X axis with Thorfclon as its origin, an entire revolution, so that it resumed its original position. Next he turned it round the intersection of planes transverse and sagittal, that is, the Y-Y axis, and finally about the intersection of planes sagittal and coronal, the axis geometry calls Z-Z. After those three revolutions, he held the sheet of light in a transverse position and moved it cephalad and caudad, up and down. With the plane now coronal, he moved it dorsad and then ventrad, or back and forth, and with it sagittal, he moved it sinistrad and dextrad, that is, left and right, demonstrating that the sheet of light could be positioned at any location and orientation whatsoever in the glass compartment. Choosing a location and an orientation entirely at random, but so the plane bisected Thorfclon’s body, Cocothrasp depressed another button, and the section that the plane had cut was projected on the screen exactly lifesize, in other words quite small considering our distance from the screen. Entering a magnification of 10 by punching keys upon a keyboard, he produced a larger image. Then he increased it to 100, and only a small portion of the section remained upon the screen, but magnified a hundredfold, so you could see some detail. Next he tried 1000 and 10,000 and so on. At 1,000,000, individual cells had become discernible. With a magnification of 100,000,000, he was projecting but a fraction of a cell, with centrioles and mitochondria, nucleoli and ribosomes, or suchlike little specks appearing. When he pressed 1,000,000,000, we saw molecules upon the screen. At last, the neuroscientist returned it to 10-power, and cut a section through the model’s head. Asking if I’d like to see the cranial nerves, he pressed another button and the cranial nerves went ultramarine, contrasting sharply with the beige of all the other structures, as if we had been viewing an anatomic diagram rather than a tomogram. Noticing that this was still confusing, he remarked, "I’ll graduate the saturation, so every nerve will have a special shade, like highways, borders, railroads and rivers on a map. It takes a little sort of algebra, a kind of neurological topology, so give me just a minute. There, there, we have it, do you see? Olfactory, optic, oculomotor, trochlear, trigeminal, abducent, facial, acoustic—that is, tympanocochlear—glossopharyngeal, vagal, accessory and hypoglossal, in order, from very, very dark to very, very light. Now how do you like that?"

"Very, very good. I’m quite impressed," I said all full of awe, as if Cocothrasp himself had designed and built the superscanner, which I learned later was not so far from truth as I’d supposed. "Thank you for the demonstration."

Depressing yet another button, Cocothrasp produced a color-copy of the ultramarine-and-beige schematic of the tomogram of Thorfclon’s head, which was laminated automatically in clear vinyl as it issued from the scanner. "Just a little souvenir," he said. "That’ll be ten drachmas," he chuckled, as if he considered non-doctors children who must be entertained with little jokes, like invoicing me $10,000 for a tomogram. "Seriously though, it would have cost that much if you hadn’t been as distinguished as you are." I wondered if the cost of medical treatment was so high in other galaxies. It makes you shudder just a little.

Taking my leave, I returned to Eldor Palace, pondering my next step in the process of collecting information for the biography I was assigned to author. I’d brought a number of the color-copies, and I studied them at length, trying to devise a method of attacking all the problems facing me, least among which was the book on Ajinblambia, if you can sense my meaning. But things did return to normal for a while.

I persuaded Udi to allow me to devote some time to studying the feasibility of introducing yams into the agriculture of the realm, perhaps, I had explained to her, as much as half a year or more, during which, of course, I’d continue with my biography, remaining for the most part right in Eldor Palace. I had not been able to enjoy as many evenings recently as I’d have liked in Udi’s study, and it would be a pleasure to relax at home with her. Evening after evening, I’d just appear upon her threshold at 8 Ungi, ready to hear her harpsichord or harp, a fugue or a sonata she’d composed herself or chosen from her books, or maybe an impromptu suite of variations. Sometimes she would paint in watercolors on expensive paper. With her deft hand, she could paint a gannet or a cormorant, a nomad on a camel or an olden monastery with like facility, and have a pretty picture in an evening. I’d just sit and watch or make passing comments or ask little questions on technique or style. I didn’t feel I’d have much success if I’d tried to emulate her in her art. I’m just not a painter.

At other times, she’d do embroidery. I liked this better and would join her, creating lilies-of-the-valley in shades of green and white, or glossy green-and-scarlet holly, or little multicolored irises and tulips, with lightning-swift address. I liked tapestry as well and worked on Udi’s loom. But I kept thinking of the dark blue book. Finally, I yielded to my desires and designed a dress, claret satin and rose chiffon with dainty gold-braid trim in a lozengy motif. This was a labor of six evenings, during which the queen continued with her arts. I drew the dress once and again, till I had it exactly as I like. The quality of my drafting was only mediocre, but the design itself was very chic and elegant, if I say as much myself. Udi liked it.

"Why don’t you go ahead and make it?" she suggested.

"Make it? You mean cut and sew it?"

"Go select the fabrics and the thread, draw the pattern, cut it, sew it, try it on."

"Try it on?" I was shocked and scandalized.

"Try it on a mannequin or dress-form," smiled Udi mischievously, revealing that her double meaning was deliberate. This was all the encouragement I needed though.

"Just study these and figure out exactly how they’re made," she said, giving me a dozen dresses. "Here too are several books that teach you how to sew. I’ll have Hromdoi get you a machine." Hromdoi was a mechanic at the palace. Thus I became a couturier and would design creations for the queen in aftertime.

During daytime hours, though, when Udi was busy in her office, where she ruled the far-flung continents and isles of her kingdom, I was busy too in my own office, a room accorded me by Udi as a place to draw the plans for my experimental farms.

Ung is a tremendous place, with several hundred million square kilometers, many extensive tracts almost empty of inhabitants and some of them consisting of the finest land, with rich black soil, adequate but not excessive rainfall, balanced throughout the seasons of the year, and plenty of warm, sunny weather. I would just select a number of fit places, set up little farms of several acres each, and see how Vavlic yams grew in Nyatic soil. I was thinking of a plough that would dig trenches, crumble, sift and fertilize the soil, and replace it loose and friable. I was also trying to devise a harvester that would move along the trenches, scoop up the loosened soil in which the yams had grown, shake the yams to rid them of the clinging earth and again replace the soil loose and friable. My knowledge of mechanical engineering and of agriculture was not exactly nil, since I could boast the wide experience of my involvement in the Ubbic projects. Nonetheless, I was devoting time to thermodynamics, metallurgy and other disciplines. I was trying to select a cycle, be it Otto, Diesel or Carnot, to satisfy requirements I saw my engines having, and I was trying to select all-purpose grades of steel for my pistons, shafts and gears. One question was, "Should I content myself with numerous small ploughs or should I contemplate leviathans like the ones in Tuva?" Money was the vector directed towards the answer, its length proportional to the remoteness of that answer from the reality I sought. But I struggled day by day until late spring of year 393. There were many matters I’d have liked to talk about with Ajinblambia. I lacked confidence. But of course, that would upset the apple cart of my competition with the vice queen.

In midyear, Barti came to the capital for an extended stay. She’d been on the Ghasbi Project now two years, and the infrastructure was by and large complete. Naturally, the entire drainage system would be regulated by computer, and Barti planned to buy ready-made computers or have specially designed computers built, depending on that most important of commodities—money. For some time, I’d been out of touch with the Qazudi girls. Vinja was in Tuva, the others in Mecnita, but busy with their own affairs and ministries. I’d forgotten how they were growing yet. Accordingly, I almost fainted with amazement when Barti appeared in Udi’s royal office, 6’-6" tall and lovelier than ever. "Now that’s what a ministress of Ung should look like, " I said unto myself, as I went over to greet her and adore her.

"Vocno," she exclaimed, "you’re letting your hair grow long. I like it. You’re such a little doll." She ran her fingers through my hair and hugged me and kissed me on my mouth.

Udi, she and I had lunch together at the courts, with big fat sausages and purple onions, ryebread and alcoholic rootbeer. Incidentally, these were the cantaloupe-sized onions developed by the botanists of Ung. is the perfect venue for panties and bras.
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Harbor Cranes at Port Crelf:

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