After weeks of frantic activity, and then finding time on their hands as their plans were taken forward by others, the thoughts of Tamara, Mark, Kerry and Jerry turned towards what they now regarded as their home planets.
Following discussion, it was decided that Bacchanalia would first need to be helped and then Standardia. Elysium should be managing its affairs without difficulty, but it would be as well to drop by if passing, to make sure that everything was all right.
The people of Standardia gathered at the Standardia City Interplanetary Spaceport as they had come to gather every year for the past four years. Sure enough, on the expected day a starship spun out of the clear blue sky and came into land. There was flags and bunting everywhere, and an enthusiastic crowd had gathered with banners and placards to welcome the familiar slug-shaped vessel.
When Barcla the Hoard oozed his way down the ramp, he could not believe his eyes. He had heard of Greenboi's reception the previous year and scarcely believed it, so this year he had decided to check it out himself. The people were screaming and yelling, and whistling and cheering. For a rather nasty, big fat slug who had never been cheered before by people not in his pay, it was a strange and rather exhilarating experience.
He started composing in his mind the suitably serious speech that such an occasion demanded. He stood and smiled and waved, and gradually an expectant hush descended.
"People of this fair land of Standardia," he began, to be cut short by a short burst of cheering. He continued.
"It is now four years, since I first had the pleasure of visiting your delightful planet..."
"Four more years!" shouted a man at the front, and this slogan was taken up as a chant by the whole crowd.
"Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!"
For the first time in his life, Barcla the Hoard found himself unable to get a word in edgeways, and for the first time in his life, he found himself not minding the fact. Governor Stardust joined the fat financier, and they held each other's arms aloft to enjoy the cheers of the crowd.
The crowd continued their cheering as man and slug processed to the Governor's Residence.
When the crowd had largely begun to get bored with their cheering, which was not for some time, Barcla and the Governor were able to get down to business. Governor Stardust paid up the five hundred and twenty dollars that was the interest due and collected another six hundred dollars as a further loan.
Barcla hung around to receive more ovations and to be presented with a baseball cap marked up with ‘I © BtH', examples of which were also worn by a large section the crowd. Then, with tears in his eyes, he returned to his starship and sped off into space.
There was a part of him that was tempted to release this good and enthusiastic people from the terrible fate that was in store for them, but it was not a very big part of him and the rest of him easily managed to overcome it.
At much the same time, another starship was due to make a visit to Bacchanalia.
Here an injection of cash had also boosted the planet's economy, although the Bacchanalian cultural aspirations were not to work hard in order to be seen to be a hard-working and respectable member of society, but to work just sufficient to enable themselves to spend as much time as possible on the beach drinking beer and surfing.
To this end, they finally managed and decided to move the settlement from its previous location so that it would be right by the beach. This had involved much spending and earning of Imperial Credits, but thereafter behaviour had settled down to the normal rather laid back order of things, which gave everyone time to think and consider.
Most people just thought about how they could do the barest minimum of work to earn what they needed, but Sheila Diggerdigger, as befitting her name, had begun to consider their community's financial matters more deeply.
She sat enjoying a beer with her husband Lewie together with Brucie and his wife, Kayley.
"You sorted the money you owe that slug, Brucie?"
"The interest? Sure have, Sheil. Have you?"
"Oh yeah, no worries. But, I am worried about next year?"
"How come, Sheil?"
"Because our income is dependent upon the amount of money that everyone one else has got to spend."
"That's the same for all us, Sheil."
"I know that, Brucie, I'm not saying we're different. In fact that's the point. If we're going to struggle to find next year's money, so will everyone else."
"But why should anyone struggle?"
"Because they'll be less money about."
"So how'd you work that out?"
"Because we're all paying the slug interest, right?"
"So we'll have less money to spend, right?"
"No, that can't be right, Sheil."
"I've done some calculations. We started off with a thousand Credits between us. We spent about five hundred on surf-boards and borrowed another thousand. That gives us fifteen hundred in circulation, but we have to pay two hundred in interest, so we'll be down to thirteen hundred in circulation and... we will still owe the flat slug that thousand."
Bruce Brewsterson thought for a minute, as owner of the largest business on Bacchanalia, the brewery and bar, people naturally regarded him as the money expert. He allowed himself to consider his own financial position. He owed the slug two hundred, and had to find forty Credits this year to service the debt. He had more than sufficient to pay his interest and enough to pay off the rest of his debt. Takings were up on the previous year, which had been something of a poor year, before that extra thousand had been borrowed. In fact they were almost as good as that first year, when he had borrowed that first five hundred to set up the brewery. The pattern was clear, borrowing equated with profitable years, no borrowing meant poor years.
Bruce Brewsterson was glad that he himself would be clearing his own debt, but he saw clearly that if the rest of Bacchanalia paid off theirs, the economy would collapse again. Following Sheila's calculations, if everyone else did pay off their debts then they'd only have about three hundred Credits between them.
"I shouldn't worry about it, Sheil. No worries, she'll be right."
The starship that came down to land by the beach, was a very respectable-looking one and the two humans that emerged from it, sombre suited as they were, could well have been Imperial officials. The people of Bacchanalia cast nervous glances at each other.
"Greetings, people of Bacchanalia. We are seeking Howie G'dbody and Bruce Brewsterson."
"Well, you've found Bruce Brewsterson. That's me. Lewie, see if Howie's about, would you? What can we do for you fellers? You fancy a beer?"
"Thank you, no. My name is Neem Greitor, this is my colleague Suff Hirtle, we are the Outer Rim Z-Sector representatives of Western Credit. You may have heard the name?"
"Yeah, back on Tattoo One, that was one of the banks."
"You want me, Brucie?"
"It seems like these two fellers from Western Credit want us both, Howie."
The newcomers paired off with Brucie and Howie, and they sat down at separate tables to conduct their business, which was simply to announce that both of the debts that were owed to Barcla the Hoard, two hundred Credits from Bruce Brewsterson and one thousand from the Commonwealth of Bacchanalia had both been sold by Barcla & Hoard Ltd to Western Credit Ltd. As the bank's representatives, they were there to collect the interest that was due thereupon. They produced the documents that gave evidence of this transaction.
If either Bruce or Howie were bothered that their debts could be bought and sold like a tangible entity, they neither of them demurred. Indeed it was with rather a look of triumph that Bruce produced not only the forty Credits interest, but the two hundred Credits that he still owed. For some reason, Suff Hirtle, who took the money, did not seem very pleased about this.
Howie, in his capacity as President of the Commonwealth of Bacchanalia, paid over the two hundred Credits that was due on that loan. He did not offer, nor was he asked for any repayment towards the principal, however he was offered a further loan, this he refused as they had money enough in the Bacchanalian economy. Hands were solemnly shaken and the two men from Western Credit departed whence they had come, but not before refusing a beer each and the chance to enjoy some surfing.
The crowd at Brucie's Bar were still sitting by the beach when a second starship appeared in the sky.
"D'you think they've forgotten something?"
"Maybe they did fancy some surfing, after all."
"No, it's a different ship."
"Quick, hide your money. It could be Imperials!"
It was not Imperials but the Jubilee Endeavour that came in to land on nearly the very same spot that had been so recently been vacated by the Western Credit vessel.
Kerry and Jerry came down the starship's ramp to stand and admire the new beach-side location.
"So this is what you get up to when we're away!"
"Oh, hiya, fellers, come and have a beer. Who's your friends?"
"This here's Tamara and Mark, Captain Dan Polo and Hewie. Hewie don't say much."
"Glad you could drop by. Have a beer. You're in luck, we'll be having a barbie later."
"We have a barbie most nights, Brucie."
"Okay Kayley, I'm only saying. Where have you been then, Jerry?"
"Oh, all over the place."
"So working behind the bar for Barky didn't work out then?"
"Barcla! Hah, that is one nasty piece of... I won't say the word ‘cos there's ladies present."
"Oh, I found him just a regular businessman," said Bruce, the contented businessman himself.
"How'd you mean, Jerry?" asked Sheila sitting up.
"Well, Sheil, it seems like he was trying to ensnare a couple of Restricted Planets into becoming his debt-salves. We were one of them, but he sold our debts to Nathan West, the feller who runs Western Credit. You could be getting a visit from them any day."
"They just left," said Brucie
"They just left, a couple of hours ago."
"Hell. I'd hoped we'd get here before them. What's the damage?"
"What do you mean? What's the damage?"
"What's the financial situation?"
"No worries, Jerry. It's all under control."
"I'm not sure it is, Bruce," interjected Sheila.
Emboldened by Jerry's concerns, Sheila called to Howie and Lewie, who came and joined them, as did Kerry, whilst Mark and Tamara looked on, beers in hand. Sheila addressed the council President.
"I think we need to consider our whole financial situation, Howie, for the whole of the Commonwealth of Bacchanalia. Like how much we owe, and what that means for the future. Tell him, Jerry."
Under Mark and Tamara's approving eye, Jerry laid before those citizens of Bacchanalia who deigned to concern themselves the whole plan of getting planets ensnared in a debt that they could never repay in order that the debtor could assume complete control over its people.
"Looks like you arrived just in time," remarked Sheila.
"But you said that West's men had been and gone."
"Yes, too late for this year, but not too late in total, because we've still got enough to pay off all our debts next year, when they come. We still have thirteen hundred by my reckoning."
"How'd you get that, Sheil?"
"Think. We started off with a thousand, right? We spent about five hundred on them blasted surf-boards, leaving us with five hundred. We borrowed a thousand, making fifteen hundred in total, we've just paid two hundred in interest. We have to pay them another two hundred in interest next year when they come, but we can do that and still pay off the thousand principal. They won't enslave us!"
"Hey, you are forgetting all Brucie's debts?"
Bruce stood up, his hands in the air.
"All gone, mate, all paid off."
"Yes, I don't owe a thing to anyone on or off this planet."
"Right, so that's you clear. Okay, it'll work, but we'll have only a hundred Credits between all of us. Economic stagnation, again," declared Howie.
"Not necessarily," said Jerry, and he went on to explain how they could set up their own bank. One side of the bank, the money creation side, would work for the Commonwealth of Bacchanalia. It would issue money to pay for the cost of capital works for the benefit of the people of Bacchanalia. That would be the source of the money supply. The bank's other side would have accounts for individual citizens, where they could save or borrow. The savers receiving interest in their deposits. The borrowers paying interest on their loans, with no more borrowing permitted than there was money already in existence and held on deposit as savings.
Sheila Diggerdigger made notes on all this and got the general acceptance that such a plan should be put into existence, taking especial note of the importance of ensuring that the money that they created was spent, not lent, into existence. Bruce Brewsterson looked on sceptically.
"You say that money must not be lent into existence," he challenged Jerry.
"That's right" replied Jerry.
"But we're using Imperial Credit Notes. They're not lent into existence."
"That's right," agreed Jerry. "They are fiat money. Money that is legal tender because the government says it is, but here on Bacchanalia, because you have no outside revenue and you spent most of the money on imported things, so much so that the Credits that you borrowed became the money supply, then to all intents and purposes, so far as the economy of Bacchanalia is concerned, your money supply, as opposed to that of the wider Imperial economy, has been created as an interest-bearing debt."
Bruce rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
"You will use our new money, won't you, Bruce?" asked Sheila with concern.
"If I can buy my hops and barley with it and pay my staff, of course I'll use it," confirmed Bruce "But I reserve the right to hang on to my Imperial Credits."
"But Bruce, we need all of them to pay off this debt."
"I haven't got any debt."
"Leave him be, Sheil," urged Howie. "We'll sort this out, no worries."
When the travellers of the Jubilee Endeavour left later that day, they left rather more in hope than in expectation that the people of Bacchanalia would be able to sort out their problems, but they could not stay as they had other places to go and things to do. The next place on their list was Standardia. Tamara was under no illusions as to the nature of her welcome there.
The sign welcoming visitors to Standardia City Interplanetary Spaceport was easily read from space by any starship equipped with normal vision intensifiers and so the Jubilee Endeavour came into land in the appropriate place.
The crowd that watched it land, however, was a small one, as its visit was quite unexpected. Only a few passers-by stopped to watch its arrival, including Jefferson Clintwood who had recently come around to thinking that when Tex Stardust stood down at the next elections, he would have a shot at standing for Governor himself.
The spaceport was not far from the Governor's house, and Tex Stardust was soon on the scene to greet his new visitors, but he stopped in his tracks when he saw who led the party that made its way down the starship's ramp.
"You!" he cried, aghast and amazed.
"Me!" agreed Tamara.
"Who?" asked a puzzled Jeff Clintwood.
"Her!" declared the Governor.
"What?" asked Mark, anxious to discover the problem.
The answer would not come from the Governor, however, for he promptly turned on his heels and stomped off back to his residence. Everyone watched him go for a minute before turning to one another once more.
"I heard how you an' him had a bust up," said Clintwood. "Must have been mighty important."
"I think so, Mr Clintwood."
Clintwood studied the newly returned Tammy Woodsawyer in her fancy up-market clothes, with her party of attendants and, seemingly, her own private starship, and he decided that maybe this young woman had something to say that was worth listening to.
"Care to join me for a drink at the saloon?" he suggested.
"Certainly, Mr Clintwood. And my companions?"
"Oh, bring ‘em on. What's their names?"
"This is my long lost twin brother, Mark."
"Mark? Just Mark, you don't have another name?"
"My full name is His Highness Prince Marco Rexinlu Nathan Abasil of Aldershott, Lord High Admiral, Marshall of the Royal Aldershott Army, Duke of Loquascia, Viscount Fopp, Lord of Hassk, Derentoo and Bugaritt, Keeper of the Royal Sanctum and Master of Plin, but my friends call me Mark."
"Sure thing, Mark, let's be friends. How'd you like your bourbon?"
"And these are Kerry and Jerry."
"Glad to know you Kerry and Jerry... and whatever else you might be."
"Oh, we're nothing else."
"I see. Mark here nicked all the jobs, did he? Well, you just make sure that he does 'em all, that's what I say."
They settled themselves around a table in the saloon, away from the piano player in the corner, the good-time girls at the bar, and the card sharks at their poker game.
Settling themselves to their drinks, Tamara told Clintwood all about her fears for the future of Standardia. He did not understand half of what she said, but it was clear from the nods and helpful interjections of her friends, that they knew about the problem and that it was serious. Eventually, with the confidence of a few drinks inside him, he leaned forward to ask the question that came into his mind.
"Are you telling me that from the moment that we first took out that loan, we weren't never gonna repay it on account of having no external income?"
As Mark, Tamara, Kerry and Jerry had, each in their own fashion, just spent the last hour telling the man that very fact, the four of them all nodded sagely. Only an hour, wow, this guy was sharp!
"And there ain't nothing we can do about it?"
"Not without outside help," said Tamara.
"Listen, honey. You should know. We're the Great Society of Standardia. Asking for outside help ain't on the agenda."
"It will be eventually," Tamara explained. "This is how I think we should do it..."
Tamara's plan never got explained however, as their talk was interrupted by the loud entry into the saloon of a large garrulous man who stomped across the floorboards leaving a trail of trail-dust in his trail.
"Gimme the best bottle of bourbon in the house!" he ordered the bar-tender.
"You celebrating?" asked the bar-tender.
"Sure am. You know them thar hills on the western horizon?"
"I seen ‘em, sure."
"I jest come from them thar hills."
"So? You got the money for this here bottle?"
He pulled from his pocket a large lump of jagged yellow rock which he dumped down on the bar.
"Looky here! There's gold in them thar hills!"
"Gold!" cried the bar-tender.
"Gold!" cried the good-time girls.
"Gold!" cried the card sharks.
"Gold!" cried the pianist.
"Gold!" cried Jefferson Clintwood.
The people of Standardia City, once they heard the news, paused only briefly to shout ‘Gold!' a few times at each other and then, as if they were a single entity, they rushed off in a mad-cap dash to the western hills. Some managed to collect a pick or spade on their way. Jeff Clintwood grinned broadly at his guests.
"Looks like we's gonna save ourselves after all!" he called gleefully, and high-tailed it off along the western trail.
Mark, Tamara, Kerry and Jerry remained seated around the saloon table, watching the dust of the departing townsfolk gently settle.
"I think we're going to have to come back later to sort out Standardia," said Tamara.
"But surely," put in Jerry. "Now that they've discovered this gold, their money problems are over!"
"I'm afraid not."
"Because Barcla the Hoard is not interested in gold. He wants control of this planet."
"But he can't refuse payment in gold."
"Oh, yes he can. Gold is not legal tender. Only legal tender cannot be refused for the settlement of a debt. They can find a whole mountain full of gold, and it won't save them. Still an' all, they might as well have these two dollars of mine. They'll pay for another round of drinks, and the folks here are going to need every dollar they can get. Where to next, Mark?"
"I thought to pop along to Elysium, if you don't mind. I should think everything is all right, but it would be nice to make sure."