Madame olatana warbut as.., p.6

Madame Olatana, Warbut Astrologer, page 6

 

Madame Olatana, Warbut Astrologer
 


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  “The Earthlings mostly come from a cooler climate. They don’t know about temperatures here in the capital that average well over one hundred degrees every day of the year,” Mastila soothed. “And you were smart enough to put them on that northern island, the one where it snows about a quarter of the days, year in and year out.”

  “Yes, but I did not imagine they would want to take tours of our capital, just as an amusement! Yet here they are, roaming in packs around the Parliament’s building and gawking through binoculars at our humble home, hoping to get a glimpse of us in our birthday suits,” Hutarfe went on.

  “At least there is some good news for you today,” Mastila said.

  “I can use good news.”

  “It’s about Shasian,” Mastila said. “He’s found work.”

  “We never should have had cousins,” Hutarfe joked. “We should have set against it from the start.”

  “And this work will take him to the planet of Drintde, within the next two months,” Mastila went on.

  “And he can tell everybody on Drintde how I am going to have Parliament vote him a fabulous annuity and name him an earl,” Hutarfe said. “I know there are people here on Warbut who have believed that, even a few who actually know him.”

  “He’s the white sheep of the family, that’s true,” Mastila replied. “He has been mooching off everybody for years, ever since he got back from college on Farnoll. Every job offer he received was too inglorious for a member of the royal family, he said.”

  “Everybody else works,” Hutarfe reminded her. “Even my brother, the one who wanted to marry you, is a police officer and a very good one. What is Shasian going to do about all his debts? The ones he pestered you to pay?”

  “He has made arrangements for payments over time, as he says. The tailor was willing to accommodate him, and so was Madame Olatana,” Mastila told her husband.

  “Madame Olatana!”

  “Yes, he sees her quite regularly, and now owes her over one thousand in Universal Gold,” Mastila said. “Of course, it is something of a status symbol here in the capital to owe Madame Olatana a pile.”

  “People talk about it, do they?” Hutarfe asked, stupefied.

  “Oh, yes, and bills from the milliner and the grocer, too.”

  “I’m glad I don’t run in your circles, Massy,” Hutarfe laughed. “Now, what is Shasian going to pretend to do on this new job?”

  “He’s working for an outfit from Drintde that runs about two dozen spacecraft. He’s to be the head waiter in the first class, sucking up to the moneyed entities from all over the Universe,” Mastila said.

  “A black headwaiter with all those pale Drintde people? No doubt telling them his earldom is just around the corner,” Hutarfe guessed. “A job as a head waiter will allow him to be well dressed and snooty, things he has perfected. I’m glad the family’s Beau Brummell has found a use for all those clothes.”

  III

  Lialn slipped into Madame Olatana’s consultation room and whispered, “The next client has been here for half an hour. Are you ready?”

  “Must be very anxious about something,” Madame Olatana muttered.

  “Sitting on the edge of the chair,” Lialn said.

  “Did Shasian Shepcover leave from the spaceport on time yesterday?”

  “Yes, I received a few words from him last night over the Universal Message Service,” Lialn answered. “The craft had just passed a data intake station in the space-time continuum. It will pass one every six hours as it goes back in time to the Initial Instant, and Shasy says he will send me a message as often as his work allows.”

  “Now, Lialn, don’t get involved with him,” Madame Olatana repeated. “Your chart and his are very different, and he is a person who will take advantage of you and your youth. He likes pretty girls like you all around him, but he never can bring himself to commit to anybody. That title is probably just a fantasy of his, even though he talks about it incessantly.”

  “But if I could be a countess!” Lialn said dreamily. “He says he can have up to four countesses!”

  “Again, do not get mixed up with Shasian Shepcover, Lialn,” Madame Olatana said firmly. “The king is too smart to allow such a person to have a title of nobility.”

  “But the king’s brother is a duke,” Lialn insisted.

  “It is one thing to be the younger son of a monarch and quite another to be a distant cousin of the consort,” Madame Olatana said. “Stay away from Shasian Shepcover. Write him a breezy note from time to time, but don’t get further involved.”

  “But I really love him,” Lialn confessed.

  “You really love his beautiful clothes,” Madame Olatana concluded. “As soon as our receivables are in better shape, we can call in the tailor and get ourselves measured for some very smart garments. The kinds of things the wealthy Earthlings wear when they come into town.”

  IV

  Message from Shasian Shepcover to Lialn

  From Drintde Starship 10347, Log Day 91466, Time 2237

  Dear Lovely Lialn,

  I’ve been on this unworthy craft for over two weeks now, and the crew is just as inept as ever. I hear continual effronteries, as if I were just another scullery maid. The paying customers, all sixty of them in the first class, do not seem to notice.

  This craft, an oldie originally outfitted on the planet of Octula and later refurbished by some Earthlings who liked the colors of red and orange, is now headed back to the Initial Instant, a time one of the Earthlings aboard still calls the Big Bang. We estimate reaching the point where it is two minutes after the Initial Instant after going back in time for 64,800 minutes. At that time the craft will stop in time and will fly about 6,000 miles in space, to just the place where Drintde will form. Then it moves forward in time for another six weeks.

  The passengers won’t know anything, unless they look out the windows and see stars falling apart while we go back in time. Around the Initial Instant everything will be a muddy grey-brown, but somehow the craft will navigate all of that muck.

  I miss you terribly, as I told you in my last letter. I need to have you here with me, just as we were in your bedroom during my last weeks on Warbut. I know you are waiting for me to return to you, faithful and upbeat, and your pussy is dripping with thoughts of only me.

  Of course all my household items are in your garage, so you can’t forget me. Each time you have to park your autoplane on the street outside your house, you will remember me.

  I received a nice tip from an Earthling guest after I seated him next to a real swell from Farnoll. Everybody wants to get into bed with the rich fellows from Farnoll, and I was happy to help. Since that time, though, that Farnoll male will only take his meals in his suite, so my chances of increasing my income have been somewhat limited.

  My first salary payment was deposited in my Warbut bank two days ago, and I am sorry to say there was nothing left over to send to you. Nothing for Madame Olatana, either. The tailor got sixty percent and the Warbut tax collector took ten percent. That left just a pittance for me, enough to buy a few little items in the first-class gift shop.

  The crew, myself included, gets to eat whatever is remaining from the buffet, and there is never enough of the best stuff for everybody. I’ve lost about four pounds, but most of that may be due to running to and fro in the dining room during meals. You would be amazed to see how inconsiderate the guests can be, never giving anybody a moment for a break. The waiters are used to it, of course, but I have never before been at the beck and call of anybody.

  I’ll send another message in a few days, when the captain says I may have a meal in my miniscule cabin.

  Your lord,

  Shasy

  V

  “No, your chart does not indicate any good fortune for you on Drintde,” Madame Olatana told Lialn. “Shasian Shepcover’s chart is entirely different from yours, as I have told you before.”

  “But I am so lonely here, Madame,” Lialn replied.

  “Y
our fate is to be happy very soon,” Madame Olatana said. “Meanwhile, you need to keep entering the facts from our clients into the computers. We have seventeen men from all over the Universe who want readings, based only on being rejected by one of my former clients.”

  “That Doctor Weathers?”

  “Yes, but Doctor Weathers is now out of the picture. These men are looking for help with finding career success and, perhaps, love. We need to concentrate on the work we have in hand and not worry ourselves about opportunities on Drintde,” Madame Olatana went on.

  “But Shasy says there are job openings, lucrative opportunities, on Drintde for people who can control computers. That’s all I do here, but I haven’t had a raise in three months,” Lialn said.

  “Our clientele has not increased in three months,” Madame Olatana reminded Lialn. “We have openings on our calendar, openings that could be filled if you were to call people who have not been here recently.”

  “And push them into coming in? When they don’t pay anyway?”

  Madame Olatana sighed. “It is better to have a receivable on our books than nothing at all. It costs us next to nothing to do an extra reading since all the fixed costs are paid for.”

  “Fixed costs?” Lialn asked.

  “Yes, the costs we would have to pay if nobody ever came. The office rent, the electricity, the computer and its programming,” she explained.

  “So you have to pay rent even if you have no business?”

  “Yes, that’s the way this works.”

  “Why don’t you just go to people and not have them come here?”

  Madame Olatana nodded her head. “Yes, that would be a plan, except that I have over one hundred pounds of computers that hold the planetary and star data from many planets all over the Universe. People tend to ask questions that I had not anticipated, and I need all my equipment to answer them.”

  “Not if you said, in advance, you could answer only questions involving Warbut’s star system,” Lialn reasoned. “For other questions, you would insist on an office visit.”

  “If you can set up readings at private homes, I’ll pay you ten percent of whatever I collect from those readings. But you will need to mark up those readings above office readings so I can pay my taxi fares,” Madame Olatana agreed.

  VI

  Message from Lialn to Shasian Shepcover

  Dear Lord Shasy,

  Take note, dearest, of a fabulous opportunity I have negotiated with old Madame Olatana. She will pay me ten percent of whatever she collects from your friends and relatives for readings in their own homes! And I can add that money to our savings! All you need to do is to spend your off-hours writing to friends and relatives to beg them to schedule these readings!

  It might be fun, I think, to have parties with readings. The host can do all the collecting, and you and I can think that our marriage and our new home is just that much closer to realization. And when you return to Warbut after the four voyages you have committed to, you will have a bit put away to help pay for your investiture gown.

  Longing for you,

  Lialn

  VII

  Madame Olatana poked her amble nose into her office’s reception room and asked, “Lialn, did Shasian Shepcover spend his birthday on Drintde?”

  “Yes, Madame, he did. He wrote to me that the crew was there on a two-week layover, and the chef took him to a nice restaurant to celebrate,” Lialn answered.

  “In the capital city?”

  “Yes, just a mile from the Parliament’s building,” Lialn said. “Shasy bought a new suit to mark the occasion.”

  VIII

  King Hutarfe looked up from his desk in the royal couple’s bedroom.

  “Here’s an interesting item on the news, Massy,” he said to Queen Mastila, who was reclined on the chaise longue, reading a murder mystery.

  “What’s that, Hutty?” Mastila asked, looking up.

  “A craft traveling between Drintde and Farnoll is missing and hasn’t been heard from in fourteen hours,” Hutarfe said. “There’s a warning message for all heads of state here on the Universal Message System, posted just ten minutes ago.”

  “Mark that for immediate updates, if you will,” Mastila said. “I think Shasian was on Drintde just a week ago, and he may be on that craft.”

  “I’ll just query the passenger list,” Hutarfe said. “The crew ought to be listed, too.”

  “Find anything?” Mastila asked apprehensively.

  “Yes, a very light load, going to Farnoll. Those practical and businesslike entities from Drintde are not likely to go to the great resorts of Farnoll, so the craft has only a dozen paying customers, most of them in the second class,” Hutarfe reported.

  “And Shasian?”

  “Yes, he’s on the crew list,” Hutarfe said. “Just two first-class passengers, so he ought to be having an easy time, wherever they are.”

  IX

  “Where are we?” Shasian asked the Captain, a tall, white, and bald female from Drintde, as the Captain and the second officer leaned over the spaceship’s control panel. From the windows in the Captain’s catbird seat they could see great stretches of desert with very little vegetation.

  “This can’t be right,” the Captain said. “This says we are on the planet of Shirobear in the Kan galaxy in the year that corresponds to the Earthling year of 10,542 B. C., just about the time the great Sphinx in Egypt was being built.”

  “What does the computer know about Shirobear?” the head housekeeper asked.

  “Kranka, there are no known intelligent entities on Shirobear,” the Captain replied. “We have never had any flights on or even near this planet. The nearest civilization is on a much larger planet in this same star system, but that planet is millions of miles away.”

  “How about the time?” the chef asked. “Is anybody close by who can fly in space to rescue us?”

  “Wissy, only five planets are known to have interplanetary flight capabilities at the time this computer is telling me we are situated in, but all those planets are light years away in space,” the Captain replied.

  “Can we communicate at all?” the chef asked.

  “I have sent six messages and have received no replies,” the Captain said. “How much food is on hand?”

  “Plenty, at least enough to last two years with this small number of entities on board,” the chef said. “How about fuel?”

  “No problem with fuel, Wissy, and no trouble making all the water we need,” the Captain replied. “Shasy, have you inventoried the medicines lately?”

  “Just before takeoff on Drintde, Captain,” Shasian Shepcover answered. “Enough for a full complement of passengers. Some passengers, though, may be taking medicines we know nothing about.”

  “True,” the Captain agreed. “Let’s make that a topic of our meeting.”

  “Meeting?” Shasian asked.

  “Yes, we need to inform the passengers and the rest of the crew of our situation,” the Captain said. “We need to solicit ideas about what we should do if no answer to my messages is received.”

  “What do you mean, no answer?” the chef asked. “Surely there is somebody at the Universal Transportation Authority who will reply.”

  The Captain looked directly at the chef and said, “Wissy, we may be lost, perhaps forever. This planet looks forbidding, but we may need to learn to live here.”

  “You mean we have to step outside the craft?”

  The Captain nodded. “We will need to see if the craft will hover so we can find land that might be able to be cultivated. Shasy, what is the status of the supply of seeds?”

  “I inventoried the seeds, Captain, before takeoff, and we have everything the manual says we should have,” Shasian Shepcover replied. “All seeds are fresh.”

  “Perhaps we need to have a meeting with just the crew first and review the steps in the procedures for a landing on an inhospitable planet,” the Captain ordered. “We are indeed here, I have sent all the required message
s, and we need to start to make plans for our survival.”

  X

  “Any news about Shasian?” Queen Mastila asked King Hutarfe.

  “The Universal Transportation Authority writes to me every hour,” Hutarfe answered. “The last 253 required status messages from the craft have not been received, and there is no idea from the programmers where the craft might be.”

 
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