Chapter 7 Travellers
After two weeks of travel in the most luxurious as well as slowest air-liners Anira and Ailu had arrived at their first destination. Usually Anira was used to feel relieved to be finally out of the ship at the start of mission but that was because she usually took express clippers or travelled third class or below. This time was different. She was not a secret agent but a representative of the Free Agency on a information gathering expedition. She did not have to hide her identity quite the contrary now she almost had the duty to be very clear about her status as a prime consultant for the Free Agency. As such she had to mind the image of her employer in mind. This meant mandatory first class. Just to make sure Anira and Ailu each had ordered the most expensive suites on the ships they where travelling in. Once they had to bribe the shipping company to get rid of a lesser noble who had reserved the only other suite on one of the ships they had taken. all of the bills were sent back to the Agency going to the treasury after Kelsheron had been very clearly inserted into all the forms as the man responsible for the expenses. One would have thought that travelling in a slow airship with nothing much to do but enjoy the sights would become boring soon. But being spoilt rotten by a staff that was only the ring of a bell away at every time of the day had a strangely addicting effect. Anira and Ailu had started calling each other 'Your Highness' courtesying each other entertaining for a short moment the idea that the best way to find the living city was to continue travelling by air-ship until they spotted it on the sky-shell. In the end professionalism won.
"OK So this is?" Anira asked looking around the small but very well kept airport where they had gotten off the ISS - Spiral Dancer.
"Welcome to the democracy of Khirlon, the number one exporter of high quality heart-woods in the eastern quadrant and home to some of the best wood sanctificers anywhere you'd care to mention." answered Ailu making a dramatic sweep with her hand pointing outside the large windows to their left showing a rather idyllic, Anira's first association was boring, city that was carefully built into a sprawling forest stretching to the horizon.
"Democracy? Haven't been in once of those in quite some time. What form is it, representative?"
"Nope direct. The Khirloniads like to claim that their democracy is the purest of them all, pointing out that their success strongly supports their claim."
Anira had stopped at the panoramic window and was looking out. "Does it? This place looks like its strongest claim is to a cure for insomnia. This place does not look sleepy it seems to be in a coma."
"Khirlon while small is one of the greater economic powers of the eastern quadrant and has not lost a war in the last 200 years or so. Which is quite the feat considering that the people here are quite pacifistic." Ailu was now in her encyclopedia mode. At the start of each mission she would always give Anira a short résumé about the most important facts of the nation they were in as well as the possible targets. Anira had a suspected that Ailu had way to much fun with her little talks, but then Anira enjoyed her little lectures. Ailu always kept it short and usually kept the most interesting bits for later, by now this had turned into one of their typical mission rituals.
"OK what is their secret."
"Well the Khirloniads are always prepared for war. Every single one of them goes through two years of military service before they are considered full citizens and adults. When they beat their enemy back they unfailingly invade the attacker usually taking some small village or unimportant outpost." Ailu paused.
"Why is that?"
"It is meant as a warning."
"How is taking some backwater village a warning?"
"Every settlement they have ever taken remains fiercely loyal to Khirlon." Ailu said with a faint smile dawning on her face.
"And how pray, do they manage to turn the conquered into such enthusiastic citizens?" here it comes though Anira.
"They turn them all into a part of the democracy."
"That is all?"
"Remember how I told you that they consider themselves to be the purest democracy of them all?"
"Yes." Anira played along.
"They achieve this magnificent feat by implanting artefacts into the brains of all the citizens. The moment a Khirloniad is born before he or she even gets a taste of mothers milk a special rod shaped device is shoved through the hole in the cranium into their brain that takes root there connecting them with everyone else."
". . ." Anira looked at Ailu with eyes wide open "OK. Even I think that is creepy. Are they some kind of hive mind?" she looked around slightly nervous.
"No. The implant works subconsciously. Everyone's opinion, believes, wishes etc... are taken and transmitted to everyone else. So every individual influences the others and is influenced by everyone else. That way the majority decides what happens."
"I can see how that turns the new acquisitions into happy new citizens but how does their government work? If everything is done subconsciously?"
"They have a lottery. Whenever someone is born here a lot is drawn most of them are blank but every once in a while a green one is drawn which means that these children are going to become politicians. A great honour but also a great tragedy for the families involved."
"This is going to get even more creepy, isn't it?"
Ailu grinned. "Very. These children are taken away from their families, they get more implants than anyone else, their personalities are suppressed for the most part the one thing governing their behaviour above all else is the will of the people." Ailu made a tadaa movement with her hands.
"That is deeply disturbing. Now tell me why we are here and why I should not walk right back into the ship and leave this fucking place?"
"Because a seed of the Living City lives here." Ailu responded.
"Ailu I know a dozen cities with seeds of the Living City and not one of them, not one of them is half as disturbing as this cursed place."
"And that's why we are here. The seed can't become a citizen. While the Khirloniads are very tolerant of outsiders they will never accept an alien into their midst. If you are not part of the democracy you are not part of the community. The seed is being shunned by almost everyone. It is bored, in dire need of company and probably even a bit scared. Getting some information out of it should be easy. "