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One thing about Tupelo that took some getting used to was its inordinately prolonged day. It wasn't quite 34 hours long, but the Earth-human clocks said it was—it was easier to deal with an "hour" that was only 59 and a bit minutes long than to try to handle an odd fraction of an hour every day.

Sunrise was at 10 hours. That's when Earth humans usually had a breakfast (actually, their second of the day) and started their day's work. At 16 hours was lunch, then siesta until 19 hours. Then the afternoon's work went until 22 hours, when it was customary to have a break for afternoon tea. Evening work was from 23 to 27 hours, which was sunset. Dinner at 28 hours; nighttimes free for whatever the persons wanted to do until 32 hours; then sleep. Since Earth humans could hardly ever sleep for more than 8 hours at a , stretch, they generally rose at 6, had their first breakfast while it was still dark, and then were on their own until sunrise at 10. It made for a long day, to be sure. But because of the midday siesta, it wasn't an exhausting one.



Time was, back on Earth, when Giyt might hear someone refer to an elected official as a "servant of the people" and take it as a joke. It wasn't a joke here, though. Here his constituents took it seriously. They called him on the net. They showed up on his doorstep. They buttonholed him in the street; and they all wanted something—sometimes a transfer to a different job, perhaps an increased line of credit at the hypermarket even some private tutoring for the child that wasn't doing well in school. At first most of the requests struck Giyt as easy enough to handle—"Actually," he would say, "that's not my department; you'd better talk to Hoak Hagbarth"—but then it turned out that a lot of the petitioners had already talked to Hagbarth, and Hagbarth had said no.

Hagbarth even said no to Mayor Giyt when Mayor Giyt asked him about some of the petitions. "Take Kettner off the farm and transfer him to the Pole? Hell, no! Listen, don't pay any attention to that bad back he keeps talking about; he just wants to sleep away his shift in a factory instead of running a cultivator. And how can we raise Gottman's credit limit past what the computer says he can pay? We plug in his income; we plug in his present debt balance; we plug in his past payment record. The rest is just arithmetic. Gripes, Evesham, you ought to know that for yourself; you're the guy who rewrote the programs."

It all made sense once Hagbarth explained it. It was just a little surprising to Giyt to have Hagbarth say no to him, since he'd never said no before.

On the other hand, Giyt realized, he had never asked Hagbarth for anything before.

It wasn't just the endless demands for favors he didn't know how to give, either. The real time destroyers were the endless extracurricular duties of a model citizen mayor. For instance, he was expected to show the flag when the Slugs had their annual eisteddfodd. That meant two hours of squirming in damp, uncomfortable seats in Slugtown, pretending to enjoy the sounds of the Slug choir baying and moaning at the bright Tupelovian stars. Well, it was interesting to see how the Slugs lived, in their mud huts just below the old dam on the far side of the lake. It made him wonder why they chose to live by themselves instead of bunking in higgledy-piggledy with all the other races, the way everybody else did. (But then the Slugs liked the climate moister than anybody else.) Rina sat loyally beside him at the sing, showing no signs of concern that her brand-new boots were getting all muddied up. But she did mention to Giyt her interesting observation that, although half a dozen other Earth humans had gamely showed up for the event, neither of the Hagbarths were among them.

Then there was the business of the volunteer fire company. Lupe insisted on taking him to the station herself so he could meet the others. Unpleasingly, the fire chief turned out to be that general handyman and admirer of Rina Giyt, Wili Tschopp, Giyt knew that it was unreasonable to take offense at the way the man looked at Rina. Lots of men had looked at her that way back in Wichita, and it had never bothered him. Still, it made him uncomfortable in Tschopp's presence. Then, as soon as he entered the firehouse, one of the other men buttonholed him to ask why he and his family couldn't be transferred to the north polar mines on a permanent basis; it was cooler there, the man explained, and his wife really hated hot weather, and what was the use of having a damn mayor, and one, he pointed out, that he personally had voted for, if he couldn't get a little help from the man now and then?

Giyt promised to think about it. He knew he would, too, because he was already thinking, a lot, about these endless requests.

The firehouse was interesting, though. Giyt was impressed, not to say amazed, by the mass of heavy-duty fire-fighting equipment the company possessed: three great tankers, four pumpers, and a chief's car. "But what burns here?" he asked the chief. "I mean, everything I see is fireproof, isn't it?"

"Brush," Chief Tschopp said succinctly, opening a beer. "Want one?"

Giyt didn't want any beer, exactly—he would have preferred a decent white wine—but he took the beer and listened to the chief's stories about how when the droughts came, they turned the chaparral and the stubble in the farmlands on this side of the mountain into tinder. That made sense, though it had never occurred to Giyt that the island could ever suffer droughts. But the important thing was that Tschopp seemed to be doing his best to be friendly; and when the company voted Giyt in that night (Lupe told him later), it was Chief Tschopp himself who made the nominating speech. All the same . . .

All the same, although each of the little new drags on his time was reasonable enough, and maybe even kind of fun—Giyt was actually looking forward to the time when he himself might be driving one of those huge pumpers to a fire—there were a lot of drags on his time.

Giyt wasn't used to that. He'd devoted his life to making sure nobody would ever be in a position to tell him that he had to do this or that at such and such a time. He'd made it happen that way, too, if you didn't count the times when he rented himself out for a few weeks as a master debugger. Even then those times were short and he could quit when he liked.

Here it was different. Here there was always some duty he was supposed to perform, and some of those duties took actual work.


The fact that it all took time meant there wasn't much time left over for his former hobbies. Rina noticed that was true when, digging through the datastores for her schoolwork, she stumbled on an old TV series that she knew he would like. It was so old that it was just flat pictures, and black-and-white at that, but it was a documentary of Oliver Cromwell subduing the rebels in Ireland. But then, a day or two after she'd given him the locator data, she asked him how he'd liked it. "Haven't had a chance to look at it," he confessed.

"But I thought I saw you . . . Never mind," she said sunnily. "What would you like for dinner?"

She really had seen him sitting before the screen, watching something or other; but it wasn't his usual fare. For the first time in his life Evesham Giyt had become a news addict; it was the only way he could hope to understand what his constituents were going to ask of him. Tupelo news came over the net and it was delivered by a sharp-faced, homely-featured woman Giyt recognized; her name was Silva Cristl, and she was a lieutenant in the volunteer fire company. Tupelo news wasn't much like the stuff he'd avoided in Wichita. There were weather reports, introductions of new arrivals, personal messages (the Dunbay teenagers offering babysitting services, the Carlyles wanting to know if anyone else was interested in Zen chanting), once in a great while an obituary, details of who was in the hospital, new births, standings in the bowling league—well, there was all sorts of stuff there, delivered in Silva Cristl's hokey jes'-folks dialect It didn't matter if you 'got interrupted in the middle of it. Giyt hated having someone bother him when he was in the middle of a good story of some exciting conquest but with this stuff there was no problem.

When he found out all five of the other races had their own equivalent news programs he tried to access them as well. It didn't work. He got only garbage. Each eetie race had its own transmission codes, and none of them were in the least like Earth's.

That was a tough technical problem to solve, or would have been for anyone else. For Evesham Giyt, however, it was just a matter of decryption, and that was the thing he was really good at. It took him a while to solve the basic protocols that went into Petty-Prime electronic communication, but he did it . . . and was rewarded with what appeared to be an installment of an interminable Petty-Prime soap opera. And then, while he was trying to puzzle out just why the two young males were refusing to mate with the older female—who already seemed to have several husbands, all of whom were urging the males to take her on—he heard Rina call his name. "Shammy? Aren't you supposed to chair the commission meeting today? You don't want to be late for it, do you?"


He wasn't late in arriving at the Hexagon, But he wasn't really ready for it, either. As he called the meeting to order he realized he hadn't read over all the department reports so he could summarize them for the other commissioners. Besides, he was still a little worried about the Delts' copepod problem.

But the Delt General Manager accepted without demur Giyt's promise that the matter was being looked into, and actually, it was the Kalkaboo High Champion who made the only fuss of the day.

Even in this whole zoo of weirdly designed extraterrestrial beings, the Kalkaboos struck Giyt as being pretty much excessively weird. They were vaguely primate in shape. That is, they had two arms, two legs, and a head, though the head looked truly bizarre with those enormous ears napping around it. But they looked more like skeletons than people. They seemed to have no body fat at all; and their skin glittered with metallic scales.

Which, Giyt learned, were actually some sort of photovoltaic cells, and what the Kalkaboo High Champion was pissed off about was that their perfectly reasonable requirement for a new and larger radiation house to soak up ultraviolet in was being deferred because of the need to conserve power. It wasn't anyone's fault that Tupelo's sun was deficient in the intense far-UV radiation they liked, the High Champion admitted. On the other hand, it was definitely everyone's fault that they were wastefully burning up so much electrical power for their own frivolous purposes that none could be spared for this urgent requirement of the Kalkaboo horde. The most wasteful people of all, he pointed out, were the new immigrants, of whom so many continued to flock in.

As one of the new immigrants, Giyt knew who the creature was talking about. What he didn't know was what to do about it. It was the Principal Slug who came to his rescue with a proposal. Each race, he suggested slobberingly, should make a survey of its power consumption and at the next meeting come in with plans for reducing their demand. On a strictly temporary basis, of course. Until the added generating capacity was on line. He expressed confidence that there were plenty of reductions that could be made without seriously discommoding anybody, and then perhaps the Kalkaboos could have their new radiation chamber right away.

Moved, seconded, and passed; and then, surprisingly, the meeting was over.

Giyt hurried out of the Hexagon before anybody could raise any more problems, feeling he had dodged a bullet. He didn't like the feeling. He needed to get ahead of these problems, and the way to do that was to have a talk with Hoak Hagbarth.


He found Hagbarth at the EPR terminal in Sommermen Square, but—Wili Tschopp explained—if Giyt wanted to talk to him about this power-conservation matter, he would have to wait, "It's Cargo Day, for Christ's sake," Tschopp told him. "Hoak has to be in the control loop."

"Control loop?"

Tschopp looked at him without patience. "The keys to the portal. Every race has a key. The portal can't operate unless all the keys are used, didn't you know that? So you'll have to wait. Just stay out of the way."

Giyt had seen the great portal before, of course; in fact, he had come through it himself with Rina, because how else could you travel the vast distances from Earth? But he'd never seen it from outside with power on, when it was already wreathed in the golden glow of what he had learned to call the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen field and thus was ready to receive a transmission from Earth. Inside the chamber Giyt could see crates of merchandise ready to ship. He knew what they had to be. At the polar factories the Earth colony had a small production line that turned out various kinds of toys, trinkets, and knickknacks to export to the home planet—nothing very valuable, but, Giyt supposed, every little bit that helped offset the cost of the Tupelo colony was worth having.

The thing that struck Giyt as curious was the number of nonhumans at the terminal. Five of them—and Hagbarth—were seated or slumped at workstations around the terminal. That made sense. As Wili Tschopp had explained, there was this rule requiring all six races to be present whenever the terminal was operational. But there were at least one or two others present of each race, and what could interest them about a purely Earth matter?

He got the answer in a moment. There was a blue-and-white warning flare; then a faint hand-clap of air as the stacked merchandise disappeared; a moment later a gentle puff as the export crates were replaced with others. At once the nonhumans descended on them, opening every crate and peering inside. It looked like a customs search to Giyt, and then recognition clicked in his mind. It was a customs search. The nonhumans were looking for contraband, and they were being damned thorough about it. Wili Tschopp was protesting vigorously, but the eetie representatives were insisting on opening every carton.

Hoak Hagbarth abandoned his post at the controls and, yawning, strolled over to where Giyt stood. Giyt blinked at him. "That doesn't bother you, what they're doing to the shipment from Earth?"

"Naw. Those guys are always like that. Look, Wili said you wanted to see me about something."

"Oh, right." Giyt was still staring at the commotion before him; a Kalkaboo had opened a crate of chiplets, the microcontrollers that ran most devices, and Wili was profanely urging him to be careful, while the Slug and a Delt were pawing through containers of personal goods meant for various human residents. "It's this power-rationing thing. The Kalkaboos say—"

Hagbarth sighed. "I heard all about what the Kalkaboos say. Same old crap; don't sweat it. I'll cook up some kind of an airy-fairy program for you before the next meeting. Nothing that we need to take seriously, of course."

"But if the Kalkaboos really need the power—"

Hagbarth chuckled unpleasantly. "Need it? Do you know what they need the power for? They use UV radiation to get high. You see how they go around naked here, with all those little photocells on their skins? Well, they don't do that on their home planet. They'd be buzzed from the radiation all the time, so there they go covered up totally. When they have a party they take off all their clothes and get smashed from the ultraviolet."

"Oh," Giyt said, abashed. But as he turned to leave, Wili Tschopp came toward him, grinning, an opened carton in his hands. "Might as well take this with you, Giyt," he said. "It's for your wife. I always said you were one lucky guy." Giyt looked after him, puzzled, as the man walked away, chuckling. Then he looked into the carton and understood. It was a selection of chains, handcuffs, and a fancily pink-wrapped packet of what the label called "marital aids." And yes, the whole box was addressed to Mrs. Rina Giyt.



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