Madame olatana warbut as.., p.7

Madame Olatana, Warbut Astrologer, page 7

 

Madame Olatana, Warbut Astrologer
 


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  “How often has this happened in the past?” Mastila wanted to know.

  “Only once before, in all the hundreds of thousands of space voyages,” Hutarfe answered. “At that time it was discovered to be a programming error. Somebody entered the wrong digit somewhere and the flight was diverted.”

  “Aren’t those things checked and double checked?”

  “Yes, Massy, the data are reviewed by several machines and by several entities before flights are scheduled,” Hutarfe told his wife. “It takes several weeks to get a flight approved and scheduled. The captain of the craft can do nothing to change the information sent to the craft’s controls. All this is done from the central location.”

  “Are you going to call Talba? She ought to know right away,” Mastila wondered.

  “I asked Prime Minister Aputt to call her,” Hutarfe said. “Since she is not yet a member of the family but only Shasian’s presumptive fiancée, I felt we ought not to contact her.”

  “Shasy borrowed money from me based on his assurances he had an engagement contract with Talba!” Mastila said. “Her family is very well connected, with large homes on several of the southern islands.”

  “No such engagement contract has been filed with the Parliament’s clerk,” Hutarfe answered firmly. “Aputt checked that personally, before he made any call. I’ve got his report, if you want to read it.”

  Mastila left her murder mystery and walked to Hutarfe’s desk. “Mercy, she told Mr. Aputt they are just good friends! And I’ve got Shasian’s loan agreement for twenty thousand in Universal Gold that’s worth absolutely nothing!”

  “Wherever did we get twenty thousand to lend to anybody?” Hutarfe demanded.

  XI

  The Captain sat at a seat in the middle of the staff dining table in a low deck of the craft.

  “I’ve got the printed procedure manual for bailout,” she said. “We all have this same manual on our computers, but the company’s management thought we might need a hardcopy under these conditions.”

  “What conditions?” one of the waiters asked, and most of the fifteen heads around the table nodded.

  “I wish I could tell you for certain that we are lost, but the Universal Transportation Authority has another week to find us and to reprogram our computers for a voyage to Farnoll,” the Captain replied.

  “But you believe we are lost?” a housekeeping analyst asked.

  “We are very far back in time,” the Captain said. “Much further back than any known planet.”

  “Huh? How can we be back in time?” Shasian Shepcover asked.

  “Each instant of time,” the Captain began, “has its own environment, its own set of attributes for each location. Where we are currently parked, in a savanna or desert of some kind, may be the site of a great city in a thousand years. At this time in the space-time continuum, though, it is just as we see it.”

  “So each location for each instant of time is preserved in the space-time continuum? Do I understand you correctly?” the second officer asked.

  “Correct,” the Captain replied. “Our craft sent us to this place at this time.”

  “How can we get out?” Shasian asked.

  “This is a problem the Universal Transportation Authority has had a bit of success with solving,” the Captain said. “I have sent all the required messages to will tell the UTA where we are in space and time, and the UTA will make an attempt to get us to Farnoll, our original destination.”

  “What should we tell the passengers?” the second officer asked.

  “That’s the purpose of this meeting,” the Captain said, nodding her bald, white head. “We want to read the procedure manual for any help it can provide in handling our passengers.”

  “They’ll go crazy!” Chef Wissy cried. “They can’t even handle a change from oatmeal to granola in the morning!”

  “We need to couch this news in the right terms,” the Captain said. “We have to assume we have some very intelligent passengers aboard, entities who will be assets to us in any eventual bailout.”

  “Everybody has been looking out the windows,” Kranka said. “All windows in the second class are smudged with nose marks. Everybody has seen this desert or whatever it is.”

  “Then we had better get our story together,” the Captain said. “We are not much better informed than our most unobservant passenger.”

  XII

  King Hutarfe burst into the royal bedroom and stared at Queen Mastila.

  “Massy, they think they know where Shasian’s craft has landed, but they don’t know exactly how to get it going again,” he told her as he removed his shirt.

  “Where is he?” Mastila asked, eyes widening.

  “In the Kan galaxy, where that fat King Rudolfal rules that big planet,” Hutarfe answered. “On a tiny, essentially vacant planet, one with no animal forms, not even bees to pollinate one thing or another. Lots of strong winds, though.”

  “Do they know anything more?”

  “No. The difficulty now is that the Universal Message Service only sends a signal that way every couple of days,” Hutarfe went on as he shed the rest of his clothes.

  “So they will need to wait on this vacant planet for a couple of days?” Mastila asked.

  “It may take several weeks for the Universal Transportation Authority to load the next set of instructions into the craft’s computer, given the bandwidth the little Kan planet has going into its atmosphere,” Hutarfe said as he sat next to Mastila on the chaise longue.

  “Is this at the top of the communications’ queue?”

  “Essentially all other communications are being delayed around the Universe,” Hutarfe answered. “Any bandwidth that rescue effort needs will be assigned to it.”

  XIII

  “Did you send Shasy over to Drintde to get rid of him?” Lialn demanded.

  “Now, Lialn, calm yourself,” Madame Olatana said. “A lost craft is so terribly unusual that I certainly did not anticipate it. I saw changes, big changes, in Shasian Shepcover’s chart if he spent his birthday on Drintde, changes that would make him more mature and more responsible. Already you have told me he has taken on additional jobs on the craft, jobs that will pay him more and ones that will increase his stature in the Drintde organization that is his employer.”

  “So you don’t want to kill him?” Lialn asked.

  “How can we get our invoice paid if he is dead?” Madame Olatana testily asked. “He owes us over a thousand in Universal Gold, money that will cover our Universal Message Service bill for almost six months. I can’t kill off a client if there is an amount outstanding. Use your head!”

  “And he has been so helpful in getting all those parties organized,” Lialn threw in. “You and I have been working nearly every evening at a party, and some of them have paid on time, too.”

  Madame Olatana smiled, in her dour fashion, and nodded. “Yes, and that Novston who is the party planner has used those contacts from Shasian Shepcover to link to other Warbutians, folks who have never been here. We have picked up about twenty new office clients from those parties.”

  “Do you like Novston?” Lialn asked. “Has he asked you for a reading?”

  “Not yet, but he surely will,” Madame Olatana replied. “I have his chart already entered into the computer, and I like it. He will be somebody who will bring money into this office and, perhaps, love.”

  “You’ll have to fight me for him, Madame,” Lialn said. “He’s far too young for you.”

  “I see in his chart that he is the one who always does the courting,” Madame Olatana said. “He will choose.”

  “Women always do the choosing, Madame,” Lialn concluded.

  XIV

  “Look here!” the Captain cried as the second officer entered her office in the spacecraft’s catbird seat. “We have received some data! It says we have three percent of the update!”

  The second officer, a skinny, bald, and white male engineer from Drintde, leaned over the craft’s centr
al computer. “It’s the start of a trip planner, to be sure,” he agreed. “I hope we can receive more of this data soon so we can take off. The first class is pretty easy with our situation, but those hooligans going to the resorts on Farnoll, the ones in second class, are demanding satisfaction.”

  “Better have Shasian set up the wine bar in second class and keep it open around the clock,” the Captain ordered. “Reprogram one of the housekeeping robots in first class to tend bar.”

  XV

  “How long has that craft been lost?” Madame Olatana asked Lialn.

  “It’s not lost, Madame,” Lialn protested. “It’s just in the wrong place. It was four weeks ago that the alarm first went out when the status messages were late. After a couple of days, those messages started to come into the Universal Transportation Authority, and now the UTA has sent about eighty percent of the update to the craft’s computer. That update will get the craft started and on its way to Farnoll.”

  “And how late will the craft be when it lands on Farnoll?” Madame Olatana asked.

  “About three months,” Lialn answered. “It takes three months to travel from one planet to another, no matter how far apart they are.”

  “But I thought this landing was several thousand years back in time,” Madame Olatana said. “Surely that will cut the time in half.”

  “No, Madame, fifteen thousand years back in time is just a tiny portion of the total voyage to get to the Initial Instant. I am counting on three months to Farnoll and another three months to bring Shasy back to Warbut.”

  “Are you sure you want Shasian Shepcover back on Warbut?”

  “Six months will be enough time for me to decide,” Lialn answered. “Novston and I see each other after each party, and, although he will never be an earl, I like him.”

  “There aren’t going to be any new earls,” Madame Olatana predicted. “The royal family has enough problems without creating more entities with lifetime entitlements.”

  XVI

  “How much of that update have we received?” Wissy asked the second officer.

  “About ninety-four percent,” the second officer answered. “Another week and we ought to find we are lifting off.”

  “It won’t be too soon for me,” Wissy replied. “We have plenty of food, but the passengers are too nervous to do anything but eat and drink. Even the poker game in the second class has essentially stopped.”

  “Yes, the Captain can’t find anybody to play canasta, and I can’t find anybody to watch me play chess with the piano-playing robot,” the second officer said.

  “Have you won yet?” Wissy impolitely asked.

  “I never win,” the second officer sighed. “But I always learn something, and each game lasts a bit longer.”

  XVII

  “Massy, they’ve left the Kan galaxy!” King Hutarfe cried as he bolted into the royal bedroom.

  “How soon will we receive regular messages from that craft?” Queen Mastila asked her husband.

  “We are back on schedule with messages,” Hutarfe answered. “And all the messages the Captain sent during the visit to Shirobear have been received.”

  “And they have plenty of food for the rest of the trip?”

  “They ran out of Chablis, whatever that is,” Hutarfe answered. “Plenty of everything else.”

  XVIII

  “How long to the start of the turn?” Kranka asked the second officer.

  “We turned an hour ago,” the second officer answered. “We are now flying in space, and I expect we will fly for another thirty hours.”

  “It looks pretty muddy outside,” Kranka agreed. “The automatic window washers won’t work until we are moving forward again in time, but I’ll be glad to get that mess off the outside of the craft.”

  The second officer did not worry much about mud on the outside of the craft. A few bits of misplaced mud during the time just after the Initial Instant might bring about some changes to the future, but they had never made any difference to his life. Drintde always looked the same, and every other place always looked absolutely uninhabitable. All the second officer worried about was his wife, his young son, and his wife’s proclivity to get her clit licked by the architect who lived next door, a woman who bragged incessantly about her sexual conquests.

  XIX

  “This isn’t Farnoll!” the Captain hissed at the second officer.

  “No, ma’am, this surely is not Farnoll,” the engineer replied. “This is too busy, too dirty for Farnoll. We have landed in the middle of some gathering on market day. The legs of the craft have managed to avoid trampling any living creature, but we are being stared at by at least three hundred white entities.”

  Kranka hurried into the craft’s console room and said, “Why are we stopping here? I can’t see the clean white beaches or the casinos.”

  “Let’s see what the computer says,” the Captain decided.

  The second officer entered a couple of questions into the computer. “This is Earth, about 1890 in Earthling years in the current era,” he reported. “I wonder where the spaceport is.”

  “There wouldn’t be a spaceport in 1890,” the Captain answered. “Interplanetary space travel started on Earth about 2060, and only a couple of spaceports were built in those early days.”

  “Let’s see if the Universal Transportation Authority will answer our status messages,” the second officer suggested.

  Chef Wissy panted as he climbed the stairs to the Captain’s catbird seat. “I could use some fresh vegetables at this market, if anybody will let me out the door.”

  “Better take some of the gold pieces from the safe,” the Captain said. “And your deluxe translation cube, the one that can pick up all sorts of dialects. And, take Shasian with you.”

  Chef Wissy groaned. “Shasy is being entertained by that woman in first class, once again, in her stateroom.”

  “Well, tell him to put his pants on and get ready to help with the shopping,” the Captain answered. “One white, one black. That ought to allow you to talk with anybody here. You can figure out who ought to behave as the servant when you see the merchants.”

  “There won’t be much trouble,” the second officer answered, shaking his massive head. “Wissy can take the laser and brandish it, perhaps even killing a weed or two. Both Wissy and Shasy are at least twelve inches taller than the tallest of these natives.”

  XX

  “Massy, they are stuck again, this time on Earth,” King Hutarfe told his wife, Queen Mastila.

  “Earth? They were headed to Farnoll,” Mastila said.

  “But not Earth of the 2230s,” Hutarfe added. “This report says they are at the Earthling year of 1891, in a small town named Everett in the second of the ninety states of the United States of North America, a state called Pennsylvania.”

  “Is there a map on that report?” Mastila asked.

  “Yes, and there’s a notation of where the craft is parked.”

  “Is there enough bandwidth into that place to get another set of flight instructions loaded onto the craft within a reasonable amount of time?” Mastila wanted to know.

  “Plenty of bandwidth into Earth,” Hutarfe replied. “However, the Universal Transportation Authority wants to analyze the memory of the craft’s computer before putting the craft and the passengers into space again.”

  “I should think so,” Mastila agreed.

  “They are starting to do a data dump, and the UTA will have machines and entities compare what is in the computer’s memory with what was expected,” Hutarfe went on. “That ought to take several days, and then there will be interminable meetings to discuss the findings and what to do. I expect Shasian might be on Earth for at least a week.”

  XXI

  “Why do we need to get dressed in these wrinkled white body suits?” Shasian Shepcover asked Chef Wissy as he smoothed his own silk-and-wool-blend suit after he exited the best of the first-class staterooms.

  “We don’t know anything about the atmosphe
re outside the door,” Wissy explained. “The Captain has taken samples and the second officer has analyzed them, but we need to go out with our own air for breathing.”

  “Those Earthlings on Warbut look healthy, and many of them breathed this air at the beginning of their lives,” Shasian said.

  “Look, Shasy, the Captain says we need to wear these suits. I can’t wear my toque and you can’t wear that silk suit you bought on Drintde,” Wissy argued. “We also have to take along the deluxe translation cubes and two of the small laser guns.”

 
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