Chapter IX.

6 Feb

“How is the third book progressing?” asked the daughter of the owner.

Standing across the desk from her, the pretended writer of novellae groped for an answer that would contain a minimum of intentional falsehood. After all, there was no gain in going too far with exaggerations. Some minimal grasp of reality was necessary even when one was posing as something one was not. A modicum of believable realism was a required ingredient in order to maintain some credibility. He was now an actor fulfilling the role of author of the futural series.

“It was easier to begin than previously,” he said. “Perhaps that is due to the fact that much of the narrative plot is a continuation of prior situations.”

“I never thought of it that way,” she admitted to Endo. “Tell me, is it difficult to imagine subjects in the future? They must be so different from the things around us today.”

“In some ways, it becomes much easier,” he told her with a grin.

“What do you mean by that, Endo?” she asked with curiosity.

He strained himself to answer her. “Take something like transportation. We are dependent mainly on animal power. The equines are our primary carrier, although we also have simple battery vehicles. What if we used magnetic coaches, carriages, and wagons? What if magnetized energy could perform what animals now do for us? And think what life would be like if instead of coal for heating and whale oil for illumination, we had liquid oxygen to fulfill those functions for us?

“Even travel up in the air might become possible, if our toy balloons evolved into aeroships, aerostats, and aeronets.”

“What in the world are those?” she said with an amused expression on her face. “Explain for me what you are talking about.”

Endo was about to do so, when Tado emerged out of the publisher’s private office. The smile he wore signaled some happy news about to be given out by him.

The editor approached and stood beside Endo. He spoke first of all to Paena.

“Your father is ambitious about our new system of clubs. He has arranged to hire Euphoric Hall for our author’s first public lecture. Isn’t that inspired? It holds enormous promise for us.”

“How will it ever be filled?” she sharply asked him. “It is a gigantic hall built for concerts and stage shows. How will an empty auditorium look? Are you ready to address a great multitude there?” she said, looking directly at Endo.

“Yes, I am,” he replied in a simple, concrete statement. He would have to be, he told himself silently. It was going to be an unprecedented adventure for him. Endo had never in his life addressed a large crowd of people. He had no experience as a public speaker.

Could he mobilize and energize his fans and followers?

This promised to be a very severe test of his natural abilities.

Euphonic Hall was a pure example of early Naucratian architecture, an amphiprostyle with columned porticos at each end but no columns on the sides. It was one of the oldest cultural landmarks at the center of Gath. Two high balconies soared above the main floor of the auditorium. Acoustic conditions were among the best on the planet of Horae. It was a favorite site for singers and musicians.

Rich red upholstery covered the walls and seats. Bright murals with historical scenes graced the walls on all sides.

This was a revered location of prestige and respect. Important events of interest to all the population occurred here. That was the reason it was chosen for the appearance by the new literary lion. There would be a flood of attention and publicity. The eyes and ears of the city and the entire planet would be aimed at Endo Valino.

Sucre Publications provided many large colored posters depicting scenes from the Velvet books.

The author, now known by his birth name, was to speak from a raised platform at the center of the stage. The two Sucres and Tado Foleg had comfortable guayule chairs behind the rostrum. The foursome of leaders arrived early to test the acoustics and become familiar with the great hall.

“Excellent,” announced Endo after addressing a dozen words to the empty auditorium.

At the appointed time, the doors opened and a crowd of fanatical fans flooded in. The numbers grew till every seat was taken and temporary benches were brought up from the basement.

Eager followers filled the aisles, taking all available spaces. Only standing room was left.

“This is much greater than anyone anticipated,” murmured Tado to Endo and the Sucres. “We have started a true mass movement. I feel overwhelmed. There are no limits to how far our Velvet campaign can go.”

Tado’s face glowed with joy at the prospects that seemed within reach.

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