Friday, 7 February 2020
THE THREE WISE OLD COUNTS STICK THEIR OAR IN: Seventh Chapter of BRAIN GAMES ON QINSATORIX
BRAIN GAMES ON QINSATORIX
by Tom Leonard
FIRST SIX CHAPTERS
CHAPTER 7: THE THREE WISE OLD COUNTS STICK THEIR OAR IN
On New Year's Eve 2712, Dirk and Tamzin Eradacus held a grand party in their baronesque mansion by Lake Akhenaten in Trivoli, the City of Lanterns, a party fit for purpose for a Foreign Secretary and his pregnant indentured wife. Even the smarmy First Minister was in attendance, with his largely silent Talking Koala spouse, though the elderly Emperor and Empress sent their apologies from their tortoise-shaped palace by Lake Nefertiti.
Tamzin was very nervous at putting in an appearance, since she feared that she would be lacking in etiquette due to her lowly upbringing. She thought that she would be out of sink with all the guests and very likely to say the wrong thing, She however felt that she was in some sense superior to the entire lot of them, since they'd got there by exploiting hard working people while selfishly enjoying the luxuries of life. She didn't know what the word 'socialist' meant, and simply assumed she was thinking common sense.
Tamzin became ever increasingly bored listening to an impassioned lady from University Heights rambling on about her favourite brand of herring-bone corsets. And she was very irritated when a handsome, swaggering Icarian tried to tell her all about the biological idiosyncrasies of the multi-fanged kamikazi dragon.
However, Tamzin was fascinated when one of the guests, an elderly, bearded astronomer from Ur-in-the-Chaldees, held forth about the intricacies of the forthcoming double eclipse of the two moons with the Aton Sunstar, which was to occur on 3rd. August 2713. But Tamzin was about to inquire about the potential psychological effects of the changes in the forces of gravity, when Dirk's overbearing gibbon-faced mother tactlessly remarked that 3rd. August was her daughter-in-law's (Tamzin's) due date, plus or minus twenty-four hours, and wouldn't it be auspicious if her seventh grandson was born during the double eclipse?
Tamzin felt embarrassed by that part of the conversation, and retreated to her tiny box room in the rafters to pray. And she had every good reason for praying. She begged Yahweh that the stroppy, judgemental Apollo Lettuce maternity doctor at Sunrise University Hospital would keep to her promise and not let on to her husband that she was expecting twins, quite apart from the dreadful rest of it.
Later on, Dirk saw the bearded astronomer plotting deviously in the corner of the drawing room with his two decrepit, even older travelling companions from the City of Ur. Dirk was perhaps unduly perplexed as to what they might be conspiring about, and, being a touch paranoid, he told the Apollo Lion security guards to encourage the old dodderers to leave. Maybe my scatty boss has something to be edgy about, thought the craftier of the Apollo Lions, chewing his gum.
In the meantime, Dreyfus Dreadnought, feeling remarkably pear-shaped, was seeing the New Year in Cymbeline Grotto Hall on the Isle of Caleb, where his friends at Alpha-Omega Academy were enjoying a well-earned frolic. Dreyfus hadn't even been examined by a maternity doctor, and he was keeping his little secret to himself in the hope that it wasn't really true, The proud transgender Apollo Unicorn thought that while the other blokes might well tease him for being pregnant, they wouldn't suspect that he actually was pregnant. What he would do when the confounded little Sunkist plopped onto the bed-sheets was a problem which his mind couldn't even handle, and he therefore shoved further thoughts on the matter to the back of his uniquely structured head.
Pippa saw Dreyfus moping in the corner and came up to console him.
"Why don't you let me massage your big fat tummy, dearest one?" she suggested. "It'll be good for your digestion."
"Do go ahead," replied Dreyfus. "It feels as if the Walrus Triads stuffed ten packets of Angel's Dust down my gullet."
"Do fish them out," joked Slim. "Then we can all get high together."
"Better not," said Pippa, with an eerie chuckle. "Heaven knows what I'd turn into. I might even feel the desire to tumble."
At least Slim's not the daddy, thought Dreyfus, in relief.
As New Year's Day was a Saturday, the farmers from all around Dune County brought their produce and a colourful variety of household wares into Trivoli to sell from their stalls on the eight sidewalks surrounding the lawns in the Capitol Octagon. This was part of a major weekly social event, attended by a good many of the local bourgoisie. Bands would play, and acrobats would perform, and comedians fall about laughing amidst all the other activities on the luscious bluey-green grass that stretched between the sidewalks and the beautifully preserved Planet Capitol building at the centre of that celebrated public arena.
Tamzin Eradacus set off for the Farmer's Market in mid-morning, arm-in-arm with her big Apollo Gibbon husband and her uptight mother-in-law. I find it difficult to believe that I'm still human, she deliberated. Maybe I've turned into a morang-utang, or even a stalking eagle.
While they were walking along the northern shore of Lake Akhenaten, platopyruses and quack ducks dived and splashed among the splat leaves, charorobins and squintfinches played in the palm trees that rose from the fizzy waters, and tiny otters leapt ashore and played games with the chumpmunks. But Dirk and his mother strode on regardless, eyes to the front, while Tamzin struggled to maintain the connections of her spirit with the feelings of nature, and her sense of the everlasting influence of the pantheistic demi-god Merlinius who'd been ever present in her thoughts since early childhood (Tamzin's impoverished parents had also worshipped Qianquiz, the Goddess of Fertility and Light during playful blood-letting ceremonies in the woods near her home in Bethlehem).
"If I'd lived in olden times, then maybe I'd have been a green witch," Tamzin said, out loud, but neither her husband or.mother-in-law took any notice.
They entered the Old City through the medieval Arch of Triumph from the east and proceeded along High Fleancegate past the Jorvik Arms and until they reached the lofty Cathedral of St. Basil of Confucia. When they turned sharp right, the mighty dome of the Planet Capitol building loomed even higher above them, and they found themselves struggling among crowds of diverse humanoids and sub-humanoids as they entered the universally revered Capitol Octagon.
Tamzin's mother-in-law bought a small packet of Rosemary at a herb stall operated by a bearded Prolak who sold his wares all around Dune County and beyond, from his family herb farm near Wyalusing and the confluence of the mighty Dnieper with the Treblefish. Pippa set her eyes on a dazzling emerald brooch at a jewellery stall, but her husband told her it was too expensive,
Tamzin was still trying to hide her disappointment, and her irritation, when they bumped into a bumbling parliamentary whipper snapper who told Dirk that the First Minister would welcome a brief chat on the nearby steps of the Capitol building.
"Not that boss-eyed twerp again!" muttered Dirk, under his breath, and the whipper snapper smiled gleefully and trotted off wagging its tail.
Tamzin listened to everything that was said between the First Minister and Foreign Minster that morning, and was most perturbed by most of what she heard..
The First Minister snorted, rubbed his noise with an off-white handkerchief and expressed some serious concerns. "Hummings and I are most disturbed at the way our high class golden Icarian brethren on Ceres and Gallium are being enslaved and mistreated by the stupid Grottzappers and inane Psychlops. They seem to think that we're the inferior species, and I do believe that they're practising Eugenics in reverse! Social murderers! That's what I say.--- Social murder? Now that's a neat expression. I'll start using it in my public speeches."
Tamzin thought that the anarchist 'Evil Eyes' Hengels had coined the term 'social murder' when she was a child, but appreciated that she might have be mistaken.
"Yes indeed, First Minister," replied Dirk, with due courtesy, "and we should always follow Hummings' penetrating advice even if the scumbag is out of Basin Street. The A.I. boffins on Daedalus created both those ghastly species a few centuries back by rewiring their primeval antecedents. That may be why both species have developed ridiculously exaggerated senses of their own superiority."
"That's only too true. But divide and rule! That's what I say. Isn't that a neat turn of phrase? Why don't we try to split their alliance and spark off a Q.I.A.-style 'conflagration' that would kill off the whole bluddy lot of them? Please put this on the agenda for your next meeting with your junior ministers."
Tamzin recalled a newscaster once saying that the term 'Divide and rule!' had been introduced by Baldric Ballflower in 2617 when he planted a colony of very worthy Diffids in the middle of Stashestan thus creating a North-South division between the two main rival tribes, but that's another story.
"Great idea, First Minister," replied Dirk, with a condescending smirk, "but maybe we should consider a more diplomatic approach as a possibly feasible alternative. We could offer these monsters a better trade deal, in return for fully restoring the civil rights of all Icarians on their planets. Indeed, I could take a delegation to Ceres and Gallium in a month or so and attempt to negotiate with the heathen scum."
"What a wonderful conception!" backtracked the scatterbrained jackanape. "Yes! Indeed, my buddies Balthasar, Melchior, and Caspar are cogitating along similar lines. You must have met them already. They were at your reception last night. They travelled in a bullet camel train all the way from Ur in the Eastern Provinces to talk to me one more time."
Dirk didn't want to say that he'd chucked the decrepit old men out of his house.
"I--er--must have missed them," he lied."There were so many deeply insightful people at my party, some almost as insightful as your very self."
"Ah well! You'll have an opportunity to meet the Counts of Belperville later! The Archbishop of Madron will be introducing them to the assembled masses. I understand that they have something highly illuminating, maybe even prophetic, to say."
When the Eradacus's retreated onto the lawn, the children were playing Pookerbee and the jugglers performing their magical acts. Mrs. Eradacus Senior promptly pulled a flask out of her red bag, and they sat down on a memorial bench for a piping hot cup of tea.
And then, at noon, the sounds of the blowing of trumpets rent the air, and the crowds directed their gaze towards the Palatine steps. When the Archbishop of Madron spoke into an old-fashioned shriek-speaker, Tamzin wondered how on earth the massive Apollo Frog could have made it with the lascivious Princess Royal during that sex scandal awhile back, and why on earth he still had the temerity to make public appearances.
"I am honoured to introduce you all, my dear friends, to the Three Wise Men of Ur," announced the caecilian archbishop. "They wish to prophecy a happy event that will, in all likelihood and with probability approaching 99.99994%, come to pass during the Double Eclipse in August. According to their mathematical calculations, they believe that the Silver Cometron of Lilith will emerge from the Quanta-Universe during the eclipse and shine briefly upon Qinsatorix. The wise men's calculations and prophecies have never proved wrong yet, according to our statistical records that is, and they haven't been hacked in living memory. Indeed Balthazar is sometimes referred to as the Saint Isaiah Iscariot of the post-modern era. Now, I fully appreciate that some of Isaiah Iscariot's predictions were copied and pasted into the Old Testament after the Penultimate Supper, but it's a totally different story nowadays. So here he is; your very own Count Balthazar of Belperville! Don't forget to sprinkle the Holy Water, Ned."
Count Balthazar was the least elderly and decrepit of the Three Wise Men. But when he rose to his feet he was greeted by a clutch of unnecessarily rude catcalls and boos from the atheistic yobs in the crowd. He fluttered his hands in forgiveness, and when he spoke it was with a Sluvian-Girish lilt.
"Unto you a child will be born," enunciated the count, without further ceremony. "He, the soul-son of Yahweh and Asherah,will be called Joshua and, unlike King Joshua Le Terrible who slew the blessed Arcsimoses in the desert, he will be blessed with the All-Seeing Spirit of the Invisible Eye. He will be born on this planet during the next Double Eclipse of the Inner Moon, the Outer Moon, and the Aton Sunstar in a building on which the Silver Cometron of Lilith focuses its rays. He will be the tenth humanoid manifestation of the eternal Messiah who lives on Castellos."
He's trying to predict that my slave-wife Tamzin will give birth to a manifestation of the Messiah," surmised Dirk. God damn the devious son of a bitch! My verbal-diarrhoeal mother should have kept her mouth shut at my house party. She shouldn't have let on about Tamzin's due date.
"Religious hogwash!" shouted a hoodlum from Dingwall, and the crowds applauded wildly.
"And he will be called wonderful and a ruler of hearts and minds," continued the gravelly-voiced Count Melchior, without even batting an eyelid, "and he will set all humanoids and intelligent sub-humanoids free, and stop the climates of the eleven planets from causing eternal destruction and damnation for all."
"Climate change is a feckin myth," shrieked a stout Apollo Komodo. "It's a fake rumour put about by the feckin Slutskyists."
"And he will lead the sub-humanoids of Qinsatorix and intelligent humanoids on Ceres and Damien out of slavery," screeched Count Caspar, "and he will take the animals of the eleven planets to fertile pastures, and the birds and reptiles to a living Nirvana, and he will be called the Tenth Messiah. When he is born we will bring enough gold and frankincense to set him up for life, not to forget the frigging myrrh. "
"Why does it have to be a bloke?" howled a Pythonesque lady in a tight purple dress. "The first nine humanoid Messiahs were blokes. This is sexual discrimination!"
"Such is the word of the Grand Creator," replied Balthazar, with a dark frown, "and he gets mighty ancy when he's feels he's being frustrated. Beware ye the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, ye stupid woman!"
A hooligan from Strumpshire reacted to that unholy piece of verbiage by hurling three pebbles in Balthazar's direction. As if by divine providence, the second one hit the old fool smack on his nose, and the third flew straight into his gaping mouth.
"Heretic!" howled the hooligan, as the blood poured from the Count's face. "Sexist ! Death to the Sexist! Death to the heretics!"
"Death to the heretics!" roared the crowds, in unison, showering the unfortunate speakers with pebbles, coins, plastic bottles, and pony dung.
And the three wise counts staggered up the stone steps and into the Capitol building, in fear of their lives.
The Eradacus's didn't quite know what to make of the prophecies, and they discussed and argued about them for weeks on end. Tamzin certainly didn't need any Messiahs in her family.
Pippa and Slim were planning to spend their Spring Break with Dreyfus in a log-cabin on Loch Dram, fishing for rainbow-trout. But their plans were thwarted when Headmaster Alistair McCull summoned them to his office opposite the music room at the top of the stairs in Galton Tower. Slim was wearing three pairs of dirty underwear, since he thought that he was about to get an old-fashioned leathering for neglecting to wear his school-tie in Assembly, and he was therefore quite relieved when McCull invited him and Pippa to sit down on the leather couch under the giant cactus tree.
"The Foreign Secretary has just q-mailed me, suggesting that we provide you with some valuable unpaid work experience during the Spring Break," explained McCull, giving Slim a curious right eye. "He and Dr. Ket Martingale are leading a peace mission to Ceres and Gallium, and they'd like the pair of you to work as their special assistants. Now I do hope you're not going to goof up. The honour of the school is at stake."
"But we were planning to go fishing on Loch Dram," complained Pippa, bitterly.
"And I wanna complete my Pigthagorian Geometry project for my Celestial Mathematics class," whined Slim. "I don't wanna go."
"Enough of your confounded cheek! Two of our remote controlled security guards will escort you to Edwards Space-Force Base on Sunday week. I'll instruct them to throw you in the hold of the copter if you show any more insolence."
"Screw that!" howled Slim.
The creepy headmaster grinned like a lynx, opened his desk drawer and whipped out a centuries-old cat-zinger.
"Oh!"he exclaimed, with an evil gleam in his left eye. "I almost forgot, Mr. Quick. You copycatted your last homework, about Odysseus and the magic prism, didn't you?"
"Not the bloody zinger again!" wailed Slim, sinking into his seat.
"And it's a dose of three moodyfeenal a day for each of you," added McCull, with a hint of a smirk. "It cuts down sleep and invigorates the mind, and there's only a small chance of your skin dropping off. If we used it on the proles, it would be worth two or three dead babies a year."
Pippa thought that she'd prefer the cat-zinger. Slim was glad when McCull relented and gave him some invigorating amisulphiride for his slurpy mouth instead of the cat.
Dirk Eradacus and Ket Martingale met in the hipsteristic Cardinal Cafe off the Capitol Octagon for a chat about their forthcoming peace mission to Ceres and Gallium. While Eradacus was a long-established politician, Ket's career since graduating in Fine Arts from the University of the Sunrise in Trivoli had been a chequered one. He'd worked on a zero hour, minimum wage contract selling books in Watersmith's before getting into an affair of the heart with a stern and very butch Professor of Keynesian Economics. After he'd played the spoilt house-husband in his alpha-plus-male spouse's mansion on Shorewood Drive for eleven years, Ket had picked up enough bits of Kahnesian Prospect Theory to be able to regard himself as a budding expert in Psycho-Economics, though how any of the Kahnemann-Tversky claptrap related to reality he didn't have a clue.
Ket's sugar spouse, who was by then a much less butch, beta-minus-male, wisely financed his partner's two year BBB (Bachelor's Degree in Big Business) at Nefertiti Tech (on the tiny Isle of the Genomes in the middle of Lake Nefertiti). Ket passed with flying colours, with a minor in sub aqua diving, and was then appointed to the Planet Parliament as a lowly paid junior assistant, and everything had gone, give or take an occasional nose-dive, from there. He'd been promoted to his current position (Chief Economic Advisor to the First Minister) in 2710, and was suddenly a force to be reckoned with. He'd since made valuable incursions into other areas, for example by recommending hallucinogenic herbal tea for the ground troops. This made them less susceptible to pain, and highly aggressive.
As Foreign Secretary, Dirk Eradacus was also the member of parliament for Trivoli North-East and Crieff, and the less said about the scandals in Crieff the better (a leading Lib Dem had hit the dust there in 2706, and the 'totty' in the 'Hotel de Grief'' had tempted many a fine politician to sow their oats during the years since). Dirk had first been elected to his constituency in AD 2695, on the third attempt, after working as Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Population Supply and Control. His protocols on 'Slavery and Forced Sterilization of the Indigenous Peoples' were much respected, and the foundation of a highly successful career which some thought might lead to even greater, interplanetary, things in the future.
The Apollo Snail owner of the Cardinal Cafe, who was also a City Alderman, came out and served his two eminent customers with large mugs of Drambuie-laced chocolat au lait, and he was promptly invited to join the conversation.
"So here's our little plan," began Dirk Eradacus, with a light-hearted grin. "Our flying saucer Die Friedensstifterin will be accompanied to Carthage by the battle-cruisers Illustrious and Indefatigable, While we're orbiting Ceres, the battle-cruisers will spray the planet surface with tiny globules of undetectable phlostijohn. That will have the long term effect of separating out the humanoid bits of the ghastly Grottzappers from the mechanical bits. When we land, we'll offer the Grottzappers lower tariffs on their wheat and cotton exports in return for full citizenship for all the non-indigenous Icarians on their confounded planet. They can lose their indigenous Icarian slaves down the tin mines, for all I care. I'm an Apollo Gibbon, and proud of it."
"What a magnificent plan!" exclaimed the Apollo Snail proprietor. "I simply hate Grottzappers! One of them came in here last week, and asked for some cooking oil to lubricate his limbs, would you believe? I told him that cooking oil only came with the rump steak. When the meal came, he poured the boiling oil into his armpits, complained that the steak was underdone, and refused to pay up for it!"
"How utterly uncivilised!"exclaimed Ket Martingale. "But what more would you expect from those abhorent relics? And what will we be spraying the surface of Gallium with, Dirk?"
"With invisible dulphoperidoxol, of course, Ket," replied Dirk, with an evil snigger. "That'll turn the Psychlops into rusty crustaceans and they'll be totally extinct within fifteen years."
"I hate Psychlops--," began the Apollo Snail proprietor.
"And we could offer them a fair price for their magnetic bullet trains, in return for the release of all hardcore non-indigenous Icarian criminals from their concentration camps, " interrupted Ket. "We need a few more talented fraudsters to help with the banking system on Qinsatorix."
Dirk loosened his old school tie, and took a sip of his drambuie-chocolat concoction."You're catching on, Ket, old bean."
"I simply love Apollo Gibbons," beamed the proprietor. "You're welcome to come back and try our escargots hylobatidae anytime. It's such a delicious concoction,"
Dirk coughed up a bit of phlegm. "I love the way you mix your Latin with your French, but I'd prefer one of your delightful goo sandwiches."
Come the Spring break, Pippa and Slim were bundled into a bubblecopter and flown from the Isle of Caleb to Edwards Space Force Base on the Trystonian mainland. And then, as the Sunstar was setting in the East, they set off into orbit in the flying saucer Die Friedensstifterin. As the saucer exited its second orbit of Qinsatorix, two Imperial battle-cruisers, each fully a thousand feet long, appeared side by side and from out of nowhere to escort the golden space-capsule into outer space. The Illustrious and Indefatigable had been involved in several brutal interplanetary wars , and now seemed to Pippa to be totally out of place for a peace mission. Indeed, she wondered when the four dozen battle cannon would start firing.
Pippa and Slim sat in touching distance of each other on a circular satin sofa in the tiny gumdrop-shaped Planetarium. Dirk Eradacus and Ket Martingale sat opposite them, flanked by two plump and prosperous Icarian aides with broad beams on their faces.
"My aunt and uncle live in a tiny village in the outback of Ceres," explained the spotty-faced aide, rubbing the red freckles between his spots, "They're forced to subsist on white rice even though they have Diabetes Type 2, their hair's beginning to fall out, and there's not a drop of Metformin on the entire planet."
"My cousin works as an overseer in a munitions factory outside Carthage," added the aide with massive ears."He has to thrash the living daylights out of any of our kith and kin who fall short of their quota of a hundred bullets a day."
"What a wonderful idea!" exclaimed Dirk, lighting up a cigar. "We should introduce similar policies in our arms factory in Zamara. The lazy Apollo Lizards get let off much too easily."
"The golden-skinned Icarians are a cut above those creepy lizards, even on Ceres,"asserted Ket, sniffing his brandy de luxe. "We're all descended from the mighty Nefertiti, when all's said and done,"
The spotty-faced aide flashed his green eyelashes, and glanced playfully at Pippa. "I do believe you're one of those human being creatures. Why don't we all play a game of 'Piggy in the Middle' together?"
Pippa took an immediate dislike to the fellow. "Not with you," she retorted, irritably. "I'd prefer Spatial Monopoly. It's even more feckin monotonous."
The aide took offence at Pippa's response, and scowled at her, intermittently, for the remainder of the voyage to Ceres. Pippa scowled back.
Slim didn't like the plump aide with huge ears. He reminded Slim too much of his father.
When Die Friedensstifterin entered the stratosphere of the Planet Ceres, Pippa saw the two Imperial battle-cruisers breaking ranks and heading at speed towards the planet surface. She was wondering what that was about when she saw a myriad of flashing red lights criss-crossing the green landmass below. Then while the space-craft were gliding at low altitude towards Carthage, it was overtaken by a coven of silver owl-eagles out on the roost.
How magnificent! thought Pippa, only for the owl-eagles to start threshing their wings in anguish and to fall writhing in a twisted mish mash to the ground, as if struck by a divine force from above.
"Stupid birds must have got their knickers in a twist,"chortled the plump, spotty-faced aide with the red freckles, munching his salmon and partridge sandwich and patting his very replete belly.
Sommat's afoot, concluded Pippa, though she didn't quite understand what.
The Imperial flying saucer landed at Carthage Space-Force Base shortly after the battle-cruisers. When the Imperial deputation disembarked, they were greeted effusively by a select group of applauding Grottzappers. These highly intelligent, humanoid-created creatures were renowned for their cherubic faces and flat, muscular chests which contrasted with their brass arms, four steel legs, and copper plating that covered the rear halves of their pegasus-like bodies.
"We will refuel you in the Carthage Best Western, and then take you to meet our leaders," said the aide to the Home Secretary of Ceres, most graciously, while they refuelled her bodily fluids from a portable pump, "and now let us embrace you with these garlands of peace."
The Imperial deputation met with the political leaders of the Grottzappers in the Hannibal Penthouse at the top of the Capitol Spire in Carthage, Pippa and Slim enjoyed the beautiful views of the Old City, while the politicians formulated a broad-ranging Peace and Reconciliation Treaty, whereby non-indigenous Icarians on Ceres would be granted full citizenship, with all the rights that entailed. In return, the Qinsatorans agreed to reduce the tariffs on a wide range of exports from Ceres, including farm produce, children's toys, Scotch whisky, and squeegie rubbers.
After the details of a preliminary treaty had been appropriately initialled, the President of Ceres, a delightful redhead from Baalbek, proffered a toast to her new allies, and invited everybody present to a big celebration in the Pan and Pitys Hotel, where a troupe of bronze indigenous Icarian slaves would be providing the 'adult entertainment'. The two plump, golden-skinned Icarian aides were enthralled by this prospect, and rubbed their hands in anticipation.
Pippa and Slim got bored extremely quickly by the antics at the hotel, and when a burly Grottzapper offered them a copper-plated-back ride over to the Best Western, they gladly accepted. In the meantime, Dirk and Ket met up with a trio of bronze pansexual slaves and plied them with drinks. Their two plump aides were meaner with the alcohol, and became meaner and meaner to the bronze lasses as the night progressed.
The following morning, Pippa, Slim, Dirk. and Ket were taken by limousine to the Space-Force Station soon after their skimpy breakfast in the Best Western. Ket had received a message from the Pan and Pitys saying that the two plump Icarian aides had stayed there overnight and would meet them by their flying saucer just before take-off.
But, as they alighted from limousine, a stroppy-looking Grottzapper galloped over from behind the flying saucer, and angrily declared, "The President wishes to advise you that our security sub-stations detected the phlostijohn which your battle-cruisers spread around the planet surface immediately prior to your arrival yesterday. I'm sure that you idiots will have noticed the flashing red lights. Fortunately, our scientists were able to neutralise the dreadful poison with a secret antidote before any appreciable harm was perpetrated on our populations. In the circumstances, the President would like to emphasise that she expects the Qinsatoran Parliament to abide by the terms of our recently negotiated Peace and Reconciliation Treaty. Failing this, further reprisals should be anticipated. Now, get the fuck off our planet!"
"Further reprisals?" stammered Dirk Eradacus, all aghast. "What do you mean by that?"
"I'm so glad you asked. A thousand socially inferior golden-skinned Icarians are already in custody awaiting summary nose-slitting and subsequent dissection. One of your aides, the one with big ears, has been put into suspended animation while we eat his vital organs for high tea. He had an IQ of about 83, and that's over a standard deviation below the mean."
"What about our other aide?" shrieked Ket Martingale, in fright.
"The spotty-faced one has already been hacked to pieces for his uncouth, degenerate behaviour. You can find his entrails hanging over that fence."
Dirk went manic at that. "Imperial Guards, to the rescue!" he howled, wildly brandishing his fists. "Bring on the Boys in Blue! And the R.C.M.P. too!"
(The Royal Crustacean Mounted Patrolmen or R.C.M.P. were no longer mounted on camels or zebra during those years, and they wore jackboots and spiked helmets to distinguish themselves from the Praetorian Guard.)
"You'll find those cowardly creatures chained together in the holds of your battle-cruisers. Don't worry! Our crews have taken over the controls, and they'll take you on safely to your next destination, You tossers regard yourselves as superior, and yet you're the scum of the Universe. Now go!"
And so off, in sheer fright, they went.
During their space voyage to the Planet Gallium, Dirk and Ket frantically discussed how they could put the dire situation on Ceres in the best light. They decided to report, on the 'space pigeon' waves, to the First Minister of Qinsatorix that the peace negotiations had been highly successful, and that the two Icarian aides had remained in Carthage to discuss the fine details of the proposed tariff reductions Absolutely no mention would be made of the terrible atrocities perpetrated by the Grottzappers on the thousand highly unfortunate Icarians.
Pippa and Slim were, quite naturally, appalled by this political stitch-up, and they expressed their feelings to the crooked government officials in extreme rude and indescribable ways. Dirk and Ket laughed, savoured the Laphroaig hundred year old malt whisky, and nodded off to sleep.
Pippa awoke from a gentle slumber, only to see something quite bizarre happening beneath the battle-cruiser to the larboard. The supply chutes were being lowered before landing. And then, to her absolute horror, a writhing mass of soldiers in blue uniforms tumbled higgledy-piggledy through the chutes and dispersed at different tangents, still thrashing wildly while choking through the oblivion of space.
The evil Grottzappers are disposing of our Boys in Blue! agonised Pippa, only to perceive, out of the corner of her eye, a morass of red-clad humanoids tumbling out of the supply chutes beneath the battle-cruisers to the starboard.
Not our beloved R.C.M.P. too! Pippa relapsed into a totally traumatised state. Since Dirk, Ket, and Slim were all fast asleep, they remained blissfully unaware of the terrible tragedy. Afterwards, Pippa wondered whether it had all been an hallucination, She therefore kept quiet about it.
When Die Friedensstifterin landed on the tarmac outside Antioch, the capital city of Gallium, Pippa was surprised that a group of well-dressed golden-skinned Icarians were waiting to meet them, accompanied by two very tall Psychlops military officers with faces like death-masks.
A non binary Icarian with purple hair and a mink coat stepped forwards. "Why hi there,folk. They call me 'Handy Sandy', and I'm the high-living High Head Eunuch Slave of this merry planet. I'm sorry that none of the Twelve Sultans are here to greet you, but the political situation here has changed during their twilight years. Nowadays, it is I and my fellow Icarian eunuchs, rather than the high falutin' Psychlops, who really rule this planet, and we keep the inferior species firmly under our thumb. If they try to wriggle then then they get squashed by our very complaint Psychlops military. The troops are on halolestrogen of course."
Dirk smiled somewhat grimly, and peered down his nose at the sassy creature."We're here on behalf of the government of Qinsatorix to negotiate a fair trade treaty with the Sultans in return for full citizenship for all non-indigenous Icarians on this planet."
"But the well-hung ones already have full citizenship, ducky, along with all the other proles on Gallium. We, the ten thousand Icarian Eunuch Slaves, keep the uncastrated Icarian proles' feet on the treadmill and their noses to the grindstone just like the rest of the silly buggars. We don't need any democratic rights, since we, the slaves, are effectively in complete power anyway, as long as we remain supportive of the thoroughly lazy Psychlops bourgoisie. "
"Sounds almost as all-accepting as the Ottoman Empire," responded Ket, with a sigh of relief. "It looks as if we'll be able to go ahead with our fair trade negotiations without further ado."
And so it came to pass, A new trade treaty was agreed in a full meeting of the Council of State, with all twelve of the slightly rusty, Psychlops sultans in attendance ( while the bronze indigenous Icarian sub-slaves scrubbed the green bits off their metallic limbs and cowered at their feet). The treaty included an excellent cut price deal for the Galliumian's magnetic bullet trains, and reduced tariffs on a variety of their exports, including the luxurious toilet tissue which was manufactured by the indigenous Icarian sub-slaves in the Land of Nev.
Several golden-skinned Icarian fraudsters in the Barwinnie prison swamp were offered free pardons, together with top brass anti-corruption positions in the Qinsatorix Stock Exchange and knighthoods for their services to humanoid civilisation. They promptly exchanged their convicts' sack-clothes for pin-striped suits.
Moreover, an 'enhanced citizenship' bill was approved whereby all the uncastrated golden-skinned Icarian proles were guaranteed regular food rations, cosmetics, tampons, and basic level medical treatment with rudimentary anaesthetics on condition they worked at least sixty hours a week. Non-indigenous Icarian 'breeders' received an extra loaf of bread a week for each of their first two children, though not for subsequent children (who were subject to summary decapitation under the terms of the Extra Child Execution Act of AD 2701).
Both Dirk Eradacus and the High Head Eunuch Slave gave evocative speeches which were broadcast around the planet, and the crowds came out in all the major cities to celebrate in the streets.
There was much kissing and patting of backs, and Dirk and sassy 'Handy Sandy' embraced each other in mutual admiration.
The lives of the Qinsatoran crews of the Illustrious and the Indefatigable had been spared by the Grottzappers who accompanied them from the Planet Ceres, and they were advised that they would be permitted to navigate the battleships while escorting the flying saucer Die Friedensstifterin back to Qinsatorix
When Dirk and Ket discovered that their battalions of troops were no longer on the battle-cruisers, they were completed bewildered as to what might have happened to them. But they decided to advise their First Minister that the Boys in Blue and the R.C.M.P. were remaining on Gallium to help the Psychlops to put down a revolt of the Talking Herons in isolated Okyfranalia.
The three space-craft performed three full orbits of the yellow-and-green striped planet before setting course for Qinsatorix. Pippa cuddled into Slim on the velvet V.I.P. futon and tried to block the recent atrocities from her mind. Then she remembered Hera Herrera, the leader of the mammashunters and her prophecy to the effect that she, Pippa no less, would visit the eleven non-extinct planets to learn more about the behaviour of humanoids, for the benefit of the Grand Creator when he was wondering how to concoct future populations. The behaviour of humanoids in power, for example the Icarian eunuchs on Ceres, together with Dirk, Ket, and Sir Alistair Sunkist and the rest of the duplicitous Shiners on Qinsatorix, particularly appalled Pippa, as did the suffering of repressed humanoids and sub-humanoids everywhere.
But how can the inequalities be reversed while also ensuring the survival and vibrancy of our societies? Pippa wondered. The over-idealistic anarchists have clearly got the wrong idea, because their sort of Utopian society can never be sticky-taped by a people's democracy. Maybe Hera has some better ideas. Or perhaps the three wise old counts from Ur will find the answer somewhere in the scriptures. -----Wowee! Maybe the sort of 'sympathetic' Capitalism proposed by Amos Carrot in 'The Wealth of Planets' could still be cobbled together. Carrot said that 'all value is created by human labour', though he also tried to justify the land grabs. The centuries-old moral philosophies of the Erectus-Icarian Enlightenment may be relevant into the future, though they would need to be sensibly adapted.
Slim woke up, and gave Pippa a poke. The northern polar icecap of Qinsatorix was visible above the asteroid belt, with the Outer Moon hovering above it.
A vision of a Christ Child with golden horns and a rosy-red face appeared above Qinsatorix, and a voice from the Heavens said,
"He is my son and your son. He and his blood will lead the way."
"What a strange hallucination," deliberated Pippa. "I can't fathom it at all. And I'm not sure whether Joan of Arc would have understood it either."
"You must be going stark raving bonkers," yelped Slim. "The meaning is perfectly clear to me."
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Chapter 8 : A CHILD IS BORN