“We’re in orbit!”
Captain Haddock nodded in the direction of the navigational officer. Then he turned to his first officer.
“Pellton, explain it to me again.”
Pellton rolled his eyes. “Are you wasting time, Captain?” He wanted to know. “You will not be able to avoid it. With all the strange occurrences, especially around Uranus, we have to make a little good wind with the praetor.”
“By going to his son’s wedding?”
“It’s an event! And we are the BOURGOGNE! We have made a name for ourselves. Even with the Praetor of the Lokubami.”
“Lokubami … I always thought that sounds like Wobani.”
“Wobani? What is that supposed to be?”
“I have no idea. I dreamed it as a child.”
Pellton nodded. “I’ll have the shuttle prepared now. Then we’ll fly down to the planet.”
“There is no other way.” Haddock sounded desperate. “People and their rituals. Why can’t you just marry quietly and in a small circle and leave innocent people like us outside?”
“This wedding is a wedding, a great wedding. Possibly the greatest wedding in the history of great weddings.”
Now it was Captain Haddock’s turn to roll his eyes. He couldn’t understand. The man was just babbling. He made up words and let them fall unchecked out of his mouth. That was all. How the flying spaghetti monster had it happened that this man of all people was promoted to the post of praetor? Oh yes, in the same way that many praetors had been appointed: because they knew powerful men behind them. Lokubami’s electoral system was tainted and corrupt. That had been known for years. But none of those in power had dared to do anything about it. Not even the moderate praetors. That was kind of disappointing.
“And of course,” continued the praetor, “a great wedding also includes a great son. Of course, he could only bear this great name that my parents gave me: Dvalo! As it should be, he has chosen the greatest bride. “
Praetor Scurro grinned. Haddock looked at Pellton in horror. Pellton looked just as horrified at Haddock. The grin didn’t bode well. The two fleet officers suspected what was coming. They hoped it wouldn’t happen.
“Just watch out, my son,” said Scurro. “You have chosen a great bride that I might want to hit on myself.”
Laughter broke out among the guests at the wedding. It was the kind of laughter a group would throw up when trying to flatter whoever had just made a bad joke. How could this comedian with residual hair, who called himself praetor, make a joke in the presence of his own wife about poking the bride of his own son – and that at the son’s wedding? That was disgusting in so many dimensions that well-known physicists would have to make completely new calculations. But that was what the praetor was known for. Haddock tried to put a smile on his face, but he couldn’t. He looked like a horror clown whose makeup had been stolen.
“Are you not feeling good about the food, either?” Pellton asked softly. “You look like you’ve got a stomach ache.”
Now Haddock really had to laugh. The Lokubam cuisine was not known for particularly delicious specialties. On the contrary, everything was somehow chopped into small pieces, added fat and sugar, and baked in too much fat before being served with drinks that contained so much sugar that they were barely liquid. And of course there had been steamed hoosheln for dinner. Hoosheln was a piece of massacred meat between the slices of what appeared to be an old, ragged bun. There was an indefinable mush on the meat, which ran out of the edges with every bite into the bun. Indeed, Haddock could already feel his stomach rumbling. In one article he had recently read a warning about steamed hoosheln. If you eat too much of it, it would destroy your taste buds.
“As a father, I can’t be more proud. And I was certainly a great father, as my son always said.”
“Self-praise stinks,” Haddock whispered so only Pellton could hear. Scurro was a master of self-praise.
“It couldn’t be nicer at this point. It’s a great time.” Scurro paused dramatically. Haddock, who had actually only listened with one ear and otherwise thought about it, got straight to the point. His instinct for danger spoke. He had heard many speeches from Scurro – too many, in his opinion. Scurro was a simpleton. He could not play sonatas on the keyboard of politics. It was only enough for something roughly equivalent to “All my ducklings”. He always did the same. And such a dramatic pause in speech, together with the arrogant look he had put on, meant nothing good.
“I am particularly pleased,” he began, “that we have representatives from ASTROCOHORS with us today. There are great people who fought great battles, outside, by the shit hole in Azeria. The moon that the Terrans ‘Oberon’ after a legendary prince, although that gives the Azerians too much honor. “
In a legend of the planet Terra, Oberon was an elven king, and the Uranus moon was named after this figure. Azeria was called by its residents. Azeria was independent, as were most of Uranus’ moons. That had long been a thorn in the side of the Lokubami.
“I’ve also heard the news that the aggressors are said to be a secret fleet of the Usovai’i. But my secret service … and it is a great secret service, maybe even the greatest secret service in the entire solar system … my secret service tells me otherwise. “
“What?” Whispered Pellton. “Does he know something we don’t know?”
“Wait and see,” Haddock replied. “I bet it’s just a lie again.”
“My secret service tells me the other moons have teamed up to take over Azeria because of the raw materials. So sad. The other shit holes are fighting another shit hole.”
“Did the Praetor of Lokubami just accuse the governments of the Uranus moons of attacking one of their own?” Pellton asked in disbelief.
“I told you so,” replied Haddock. “Let’s see how much he’s beating the nationalist drum again.”
“We know it’s wrong!” Insisted Pellton. “The evidence…”
“What evidence?” Asked Haddock. “We have the report from one of our agents. A Praetor Scurra will not recognize it. And that’s it.”
“I’ve said it for a long time and I keep repeating it,” Scurra continued, “we of the Lokubami are chosen to restore and maintain law and order in the solar system. Perhaps we should start with this in front of our own door Great job. These are times of crisis and my political opponents have nothing better to do than hold me on in endless procedural questions. But they will not succeed. Senator Inkibus challenged me. Well, he should. But you will see, me will emerge stronger from the confrontation! Stronger and greater than ever. “
“When is the confrontation?” Asked Pellton.
“In a few days,” replied Haddock. “He has to face the Senate and the representatives of the provinces. If his challenger Inkibus succeeds in convincing the senators and other politicians, there will be a change of government.”
“Who is this Inkibus?”
“Adjunkit Inkibus, Senator himself. Not necessarily the best choice, but better than what is currently in the position of Praetor. The procedure is quite complicated. It is on purpose, it was introduced so that the common people would not understand what going off. “
“We are a great people on a great planet. Today Lokubami belongs to us, tomorrow all the provinces …”
What was that? Haddock couldn’t believe it. Was Scurra really talking about ruling the whole planet? Uranus itself was divided into two realms, Lokubami and Lokubami Aquilon. One tends to forget that in view of the Lokubami’s megalomania. So did Scurra want to conquer Lokubami Aquilon?
“We will pacify the moons,” Scurra continued. “We will bring our great spirit over the planets of the solar system! And then we will have it, peace.”
The way Scurra pronounced the word “peace” sounded like a curse. Worse, all he said was a promise. He was determined to make that happen.
“Pellton, remind me we’re going to be in touch with the Aquamarinon agent,” said Haddock. “I need to know a few things again.”
“Why is that, Captain?”
“It’s interesting, don’t you think? Scurra says stiffly that the attack on Oberon is an internal conflict between the Uranus moons. I want to know how he came up with it. And how do we know he’s wrong.”
Pellton nodded. Then he noticed a light blinking on his bracelet. A visual signal that BOURGOGNE tried to contact him. He had muted the signal.
“Captain, the BOURGOGNE is calling us. I’ll just ask what’s going on.”
“Make it that way.”
While Praetor Scurra continued to rant about his greatness, Pellton broke away from the crowd and walked a little way from the event. The wedding of Scurra’s son took place in a large building on a rock, from which one could see far into the country. Pellton went out on the balcony, making sure no one was around. Then he activated the communicator.
“Pellton here. Speak, BOURGOGNE!”
“Villers here, Commander. It is imperative that you and the captain return to the ship.”
“Why what’s going on?”
“The Ift is fully charged again. The field is interfering with ASTROCOHORS CLUB’s communication. We have to do something.”
“And another interruption in communication. How could that happen?”
“According to our scans, the Ift is being charged from Uranus.”
“Uranus? Wait a minute, isn’t one of Scurra’s followers a director of a company that makes such technology?”
“An arms manufacturer, sir. Yes, that’s right.”
“Do we know that for sure?”
“Then we have to bring this forward! We have to inform the Solar Federation.”
“I hate to disappoint you,” said Villers, “but that won’t do anything. I remind you that Uranus is also a member of the Solar Federation and has a seat on the Grand Council? If we report this, the Federation can do nothing without it Do the Lokubani consent. Scurra will claim everything is misinformation and will refuse to investigate. “
“But what does he get by having a war on the doorstep?” Asked Pellton. “Oberon is a moon of Uranus!”
“He can present himself to the senators and the people as a strong man.”
Pellton nodded. “Yes. And turn the confrontation with Senator Inkibus in his favor. That’s his plan.”
“What I still don’t understand,” said Villers, “what do the Usovai’i get out of it? Praepositus Pupepa is wasting energy and time on these skirmishes in the solar system. What does he want?”
“Pupepa and Scurra are like twins. They could have the same parents. Both are power-obsessed and, to a certain extent, megalomaniac. Villers, you can assume that Pupepa is taking some advantage out of this. Otherwise, as you say, he wouldn’t waste energy and time.”
Pellton looked into the distance. He sighed. “I’ll let the captain know,” he said then. “Get ready to pick us up here. It was a boring event anyway.”
“Nothing exciting happened?”
“Scurra played the March of Nationalism and showed how great it is. And we ate extremely bad. The Lokubani just can’t cook. If you can even call the munching up of shredded ingredients cooking.”
“A true royal wedding then?”