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The Money Reform Party

Star Woes

Chapter 3

On Bacchanalia, the first few years of successful colonisation had also resulted in a feeling that the ‘let's all pitch in and help one another' ethos that had dominated the community's early days was enabling some to get more out of the communal effort than they were putting in.

Inevitably, the brewing of alcohol had been an early skill mastered by the Bacchanalians, and after several pints of the drink that they called XXXX, fights would break out after arguments as to who had done what for whom and why whom had not yet done anything for who, even though whom had been doing things for other people who in turn had done things for who. It all became very confusing.

A meeting of the Council of the Commonwealth of Bacchanalia was convened It was reckoned that it would be a significant event in the community's development, so everybody attended, quite unusually. All the adult members of Bacchanalia's population came along to watch the fireworks.

Bruce Brewsterson was one of the most vocal critics of the existing supposedly laid-back system. After a long tirade of very colourful words, directed at certain of his neighbours, who were fortunately insufficiently inebriated to deck him just yet, he ended with the comment:

"We need to pay for things like we did on Tattoo One."

"With money?" queried the council chairman, Howie G'dbody.

"Of course, with money, Howie. What else?"

"Okay, Brucie, don't get excited. I'm just checking the facts here."

"Yes, money. Then those lazy bastards that want to lounge about all day drinking will be able to do so only as far as they can afford to. When they run out of money, they'll have to do some work like the rest of us and earn some."

"Fair enough, Brucie. That's a good point. Now Sheila, you wanted to speak?"

"I thought that the point of this colony was to get away from chasing after money?" Sheila Diggerdigger reminded them.

"I'm not blaming you, Sheil," voiced Bruce. "We all know you're one of the hardest working people on this planet, and you don't drink much neither, but let's face facts, things are not working as they should."

"True, but the problem is, Brucie," interposed Howie, "we don't have any money. You know that."

A hush descended upon the council as everyone considered this salient fact. Then Sheila stepped forward. She looked at all the other women in the room, one by one, and received barely perceptible nods from each in turn.

"That's not strictly correct, fellers," she ventured carefully.

"What do you mean, Sheil?" queried the chairman.

"I mean that all the women in this colony did bring some Imperial Credits with us. A hundred each, isn't that right, girls?"

The other women nodded.

"But we were all thoroughly searched...?" gawped the chairman in amazement.

"There are some places that not even a well-bred young Imperial Customs Officer would considering looking!"

"You mean? Shit!"

"No, the other one."

Chairman Howie G'dbody gazed around at the hubbub. Women were coyly holding their partner's hands.

"Any family not got any money?" he asked.

No one answered in the affirmative.

"Then that's it then, let's just get out there and buy and sell like we did on Tattoo One. No worries!"

"Wait a minute," cried a concerned voice from the crowd. "we're still not permitted to use Imperial Credits. Just suppose some Imperial Patrol Ship should happen by?"

"An Imperial Patrol Ship?" gasped an incredulous Brucie. "Do you know just how far this planet is from the nearest other galactic civilisation, Dewie? It'd take them months at standard patrolling speed. There ain't gonna be no ‘passing Imperial Patrol Ships'. No, mate, we're well out of it. C'mon fellers, let's have a beer to celebrate!"

A cheerful and relieved collection of Bacchanalians emerged from their meeting hall into the bright light of the planet's twin suns to see a pin-point of light diving down through the atmosphere towards them.

"Better hide your money, girls. It looks like the Empire has not forgotten us after all!"

Yet, it was soon clear that the craft that headed towards them was nothing to do with officialdom, neither military or civilian.

"What a weird looking craft."

"Certainly is. Weirder than the animals on this planet, even."

"Sort of thing that you'd design after a few beers!"

A door in the starship opened and there emerged a large slug-like creature, who oozed down the ramp surrounded by acolytes and guards of various sizes and species.

"Greetings, people of this fair land of Bacchanalia," was the message that emerged from his electronic chest translator. "My name is Barcla the Hoard, and I am come here to trade with you."

Howie stepped forward.

"G'day. Barky, I'm Howie, this here's Brucie. Welcome to the Commonwealth of Bacchanalia."

"Barky? I am Barcla the Hoard..."

"Yeah, we know who you are, mate. We're from Tattoo One. How is the old planet?"

"Dry. Yours, I see, is much less dry."

"Yeah, it's not too bad. It's still pretty warm, which is nice for a barbie, but we can get a good crop out of the ground. Mostly hops and barley, of course. What can we do for you, mate?"

"Mate? Hmm. I am here to trade with you."

"Oh, great, what you got?" called Bruce Brewsterson.

"You wish to buy?"

"No!" urged Howie. "I'm terribly sorry about this, Barky me ol' cobber, but we're a Restricted Planet, not allowed to trade off planet," explained Howie.

Then he whispered fiercely in Bruce's ear.

"It could be a set up."

"What? Oh, yeah."

"Do not be afraid of trading with me, ladies and gentlemen..." The Bacchanalians gazed about themselves to see whom the great slug was addressing. "... I have no truck with the Imperial authorities. I too am an outsider, trading unofficially when occasion demands, if you gather my meaning."

"Yeah. No worries, right?"

"Indeed, I have recently been engaged in establishing a business partnership with the good people of Standardia..."

"Standardia?! Hey, that's Texy's and Jeffy's lot!" cried Bruce.

"Jeffy? No, think that one's best left as ‘Jeff'," corrected Howie.

"So, how're they getting on?" called Bruce.

"Prospering. Do very nicely. Indeed, rarely have I seen such a thriving flag making industry..."

"Flags?"

"Yes, they are very partial to flags."

"Oh, but what's their beer like?"

Barcla the Hoard shrank back in horror.

"Beer?" he managed.

"Don't you like beer?"

"Like it? I love it, but I cannot..."

"What, you get dead drunk?"

"No, my fate would be far worse than that. Please do not mention it again."

"Well, Barky, me ol' mate, I reckon you're a bonza fellow. I reckon we can trade... We've got loads of hops and barley, and there's only so much bee... drink we can make at anyone time," decided Howie.

"I have no wish for hops or barley, whatever they are for... Unless they are narcotics, of course... No, I rather thought that you would be interested in borrowing some money."

"Borrow some money?"

"Yes, if you have none."

"Whoa, hold it right there, Barky me ol' mucker. Who said that we had no money?"

"Are you not a Restricted Planet?"

"If you have things to buy, we might be able to lay our hands on some Imperial Credits. So what have you got?"

"Droids, second-hand, but excellent condition?"

"Nope, we're not really set up to use droids."

"Weapons?"

"What?! For this drunken set of bastards? Far too dangerous."

"Narcotics?"

"Nah, we'll stick to bee.. drink."

"But do you not need to borrow some money, for your own internal trading, perhaps?"

"Nope, no need for that."

"Got any brewing equipment?" queried Brucie Brewsterson.

"No!!"

"Well," finished Howie, "its been nice meeting you, Barky. You're a good shooter, but if we can't share a beer together, and you've nothing we could use and we've nothing that you want, then maybe we're wasting each other's time. We've had a busy day and want to chill out with a few bee... drinks. So I'll bid you g'day."

"Good-day to you."

Barcla the Hoard slithered back up the ramp and, in less time than it takes for a Bacchanalian to down a pint in one, his weird craft, whose shape reminded some watchers of their own native fattypus, had shot up into space and was gone.

Next: Chapter 4

Previous: Chapter 2

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