Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

Eight: The Man With The Golden Gun

8. The Man With The Golden Gun, Lulu. Rollicking good fun, Bond might have said, and a song that is unquestionably about the movie. It takes a goofy title and makes a great song out of it, and Lulu (otherwise best known for “To Sir With Love”) delivers a smash. It’s a little campy, but perfect for the seventies and still tons of fun to listen to. John Barry, who wrote it, would disagree, calling it “bad,” and the song is the only Bond theme that did not chart in either the US or UK. But this is my list, and I like it.

Fiction: The Man With The Golden Gun

Shuttle traffic to the Ceres mine had grown along with the chatter on the ‘net as the day of the vote approached. A simple measure of unionization had exploded into fragments as jagged and dangerous as the asteroids themselves: the question of whether the union would impede the growth of free enterprise in the mostly-unregulated asteroid belt; the question of whether humans would be allowed to join the union simply by virtue of living closest to its physical location; the question of the authority of Gl’zar over the Ceres Mine and of Cerean secession. Ejectionists from Earth arrived with signs that read “Gl’zar Go Home Or Hell Whichever Closest”; Gl’zaran activists arrived with signs that read either “Rights for Workers” or “Work for Rights.” The Cetians, who had no stake in either the mine or Earth/Cerean sovereignty but liked a good fight, showed up with their plasticuffs in high good humor.

Chu Len, the token human assistant to the Gl’zaran administrator of the Cerean mine, had been following his boss around for the week leading up to the vote reading off reports as they came over his ‘net. “Fight at the Grand Stellar Binary Hotel…fight at the Slender Whistle…oh dear, a fatality at the Perennial Wandering Soldier…”

Leatham Twenty, the administrator, liked to hear the ridiculous human translations of the elegant Gl’zaran names. “Cerean, Cetian, human, or Gl’zaran?” he asked.

“Gl’zaran,” Len replied. “Aggressor and victim both. Neither Cerean.”

“Deport the aggressor. Send the victim back to Gl’zar.”

“Yes, sir. Already done. But sir…” They were walking through the mines in virtual space courtesy of a floating drone that was physically present, and the the blue-skinned hulk stopped it to examine a particular area.

“Illuminate that,” Leatham ordered, gesturing with an arm the size of Len’s torso. Two of Leatham’s eyes remained focused on the shadowed crags of the mine while the others turned toward Len, anticipating his question.

Len activated the lights on the drone and focused them on the area in question. “Sir, how will the vote proceed? The fighting is getting worse–this is just in the past hour–and we will never succeed in bringing order. The police are occupied just picking up fatalities and three of them were injured breaking up fights in the past week.”

Leatham examined the mine, then indicated his satisfaction with a gesture. Len turned the lights off and the tour resumed. “Yes,” Leatham said, “I have come to the same conclusion. Tell me, Chu Len, if security measures are necessary, could their cost be borne by the Union, to come from the dues of the new branch should it pass?”

“I believe…the union representatives I have spoken to feel confident that it will pass. I am sure that in order to ensure a vote, they would bear a cost.”

A link appeared on Len’s ‘net. “Make sure of it,” Leatham said. “Then call that man.”

“Will he arrange security?”

Leatham made the growling sound that Len had learned was Gl’zaran laughter. “He is security.”

* * *

The morning of the vote arrived as scheduled under the Cerean dome, with the images of the yellow Gl’zaran mist creeping up the rim of the sky. Len met the dawn at the port, where a single elegant silver vessel with a golden spiral around it was dropping like a raindrop to the broad port surface. Out from it emerged a single Gl’zaran, a male double the size of Leatham, his skin mottled green with age, swathed in a sweeping cloak that glittered with gold and diamond. Though he had only six eyestalks, when they all focused on Len, the human felt his knees weaken. “Greetings, Cordwainer Seventy,” he managed. He’d seen males before, though usually it was the neuters who came to Ceres, but none of the males he’d seen matched this one’s stature and elegance.

“Human, eh? Fascinating.” The Gl’zaran followed Len to the skimmer, and even when Len’s back was turned, he felt the weight of those six eyes on it, the bulk behind them moving almost silently so that the swishing and crackling of the cloak was the loudest sound that reached his ears.

At the Mother’s Firmament Dazzle Hall, the crowds of humans and Gl’zarans and Cetians choked the plaza, and Len had to stop the skimmer. “I’m sorry,” he said, pointing ahead to the vast double doors that stood vainly open. “We will have to walk.”

Cordwainer sat still for a long moment, so that Len cleared his throat, unsure if the alien had understood him. But then the immense bulk shifted, and one arm reached for the skimmer door. “Time to work,” he rumbled, and threw the door open.

At first, nobody noticed save those just nearby, all attention focused on the hall and the doors. Signs and shouts flew and echoed and already Len could see fights going on like boils in the seething crowd. And then he heard something, a low hum that made his ears itch. Gl’zaran and human and Cetian alike began to turn.

Cordwainer stood beside the skimmer, and in one massive arm he held a weapon. His fingers curled around a handle that protruded from the base of it, and above his hand spread out a dozen golden nozzles, surmounted by a spinning globe that threw off sparks and seemed to be generating the hum. Shouts faltered, fights slowed, signs lowered. The Gl’zaran’s voice rang out clearly. “We are all now to behave ourselves.”

Slowly, he began to walk toward the hall. He’s crazy, Len thought, someone’s going to jump him. But the crowd parted, and Len hurried to follow the massive Cordwainer, even though the hum continued and he had to rub at his ears. And through the silent crowd they walked, to the double doors where Leatham awaited them.

Leatham bowed and exchanged some words with Cordwainer in Gl’zaran, and allowed the massive warrior and his golden gun to take up station inside the hall. Gl’zarans and humans filed in mutely, recorded their votes, and walked out undisturbed by the crowd. And over it all, the Gl’zaran watched, his golden gun at the ready, and never did it need to do more than hum.

 

(Yes, this is a deliberate sort-of homage to Cordwainer Smith’s classic “Golden The Ship Was–Oh! Oh! Oh!” Well spotted. :)

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