A girapod’s tale
Zher trotted onto the wide, green lawn surrounding a structure her galactic guidebook merely described as a white house. If she’d timed it right, today should be election day and this would be the epicenter for whatever that meant.
Most girapods thought “election day” was a euphemism for some sort of seasonal mental illness suffered by these Terran humanoids. But the historian in Zher knew there must be more to the ranting observed in the archival vids, and she trusted her instincts. After all, wasn’t she the one who’d proven the paper trail was real and who’d tracked it to the lost origins of Makemake’s corporate oligarchy?
“This is not just any election day,” Zher proclaimed, recording the lecture for the students she mentored. “We are here to observe the guru of civil disobedience’s arrival at the dawn of the Golden Age. He’s revered as the father of the fabled galactic lottery.”
A scowling red-faced humanoid on the white house’s second-floor balcony gesture wildly at a shouting, placard-carrying throng gathered outside the fence that bordered the lawn. Nope, no guru here. Disappointed, she restlessly pawed the air beneath her hooves.
If only her partner Enk was here to share this adventure, but he was off on another mission to subvert the oligarchy and befuddle the Audit Police. Her withers shivered, ruffling her short-cropped, rainbow-colored mane. Enough of that. This was her quest, not Enk’s, but she could still show her former student a thing or two.
Zher pulled her faux fur stole closer and lifted her full skirt to her fetlock. She clicked her hooves together three times and transported to the next location on her list—election day headquarters.
Here two gray stone buildings sat across from each other, divided by a busy street. One had blue banners and the other had red ones framing the door. Looking through the large front windows, Zher saw agitated humanoids jumping and screaming each time the numbers flashed and changed on the large electronic boards at the front of the rooms.
“We have Florida!” an excited voice called out in the red building.
“Arizona’s ours!” proclaimed someone in the blue building.
Secure behind her invisibility screen, she spoke into the microphone embedded in the diamond bracelet on her foreleg. “My research shows election day ‘voting’ was the way Terrans expressed their deeply held opinions about those who governed. And it wasn’t always pretty.”
Zher’s tail bristles raised, alerting her to danger. Seconds later, a loud, gruff voice commanded, “Zher Nine Hundred, by the power of the Intergalactic Credit Compliance Code, I order you to return at once to Makemake to face an official inquiry!”
Startled, Zher whinnied. She twisted her elegant, long neck into a C to meet the Audit Police Maximum’s dirt-brown eyes. His leonine head only reached her withers, but a thick, tawny mane made his burly torso look even bigger.
Her nostrils flared. He still smelled like cat piss. She snagged a white lace handkerchief from her pocketbook with her teeth and shook it, releasing a fresh, lavender fragrance as it drifted within the time bubble.
“Not you again!” Zher sighed. The last time they’d met, the A-Pol Max had tried to catch her using a modified credit wand. He hadn’t succeeded. Ever since then, she’d been careful to always stow her iridescent modified wand in a separate pocket universe so it couldn’t be tracked. That had been her first taste of civil disobedience. Now she challenged the corporate oligarchy’s corrupt system whenever she could.
“You will obey, Mentor!” he growled.
Zher motioned gracefully with her free hoof. “You can see I’m here on vacation. No students. Completely alone.”
“You don’t fool me.” The A-Pol Max furrowed his wooly black eyebrows. “There’s only one reason you’d come to this time in the past-present. And I won’t let you get away with undermining our system before it begins.”
“Must I remind you that harassment is a violation of the Citizens’ Bill of Rights of 2909?” Zher said softly.
He flexed his curved, clawlike fingernails and snarled.
Zher flourished her credit wand in front of his face. “You’ll find it’s authorized, authenticated, and fully loaded.”
He pulled out a clicking oval device that looked very much like a curry comb, dutifully scanned her wand, and carefully examined the time bubble in which they levitated. “I’m documenting this for the inquiry. If anything upstream in our timeline changes, I’ll be able to prove you were the cause.”
“I have nothing to hide.” Zher silently promised herself to change that as soon as possible. But first, she needed to lose her catty shadow.
The A-Pol Max squinted his predator eyes and gave a deep-throated purr. “I’ll be watching.” He snapped the device shut and disappeared.
Relieved, Zher sucked in fresh air. Despite centuries of genetic modification, ungulates like her couldn’t help but feel intimidated by his kind, particularly since felines still controlled girapods’ lives.
Zher checked her guidebook for information about the next stop. “Casino. A building used for entertainment, especially those equipped with gambling devices.” With three clicks of her hooves, she transported.
The loud clanging startled her. All around Zher, humanoids sat transfixed before very noisy and shiny metallic machines. Puzzled, Zher stepped closer. A humanoid pressed a button on the base of one machine, which made the images whirl and lights flash. When the pictures stopped moving and arranged in a line, he sighed and tried again. And again.
She pulled out her guidebook. “Gambling… playing a game of chance for money.” She couldn’t see how her surroundings matched that definition. She knew money was like credit, but it still made little sense. And how did it relate to election day?
Zher loped around the cavernous building, examining row after row of the silvery boxes and averting her eyes from the gaudy red and gold carpeting. The humanoids weren’t chained to the devices, so why did they stay?
She rounded a corner and entered a large room with tables covered in green fabric and more clanging machines. But the humanoids all now stood completely still, mesmerized by a white feather floating down from the ceiling.
“Did you hear that?” A brown-haired humanoid asked a gray-haired one.
“Yeah, I heard that,” Gray nodded. “Did you see that?”
“A two-legged red giraffe wearing a white feather boa?” Brown asked.
“Yeah. With golden eyes.”
“Floatin’ in the air?” Brown said.
After listening to their descriptions, Zher knew she must have just missed seeing the guru. And he sounded suspiciously familiar.
“I saw what I saw, and I heard what I heard.” Brown quipped. “I say we do what he said.” The two turned in unison and walked toward a large electronic board with flashing numbers.
Others seemed to be coming to the same conclusion and soon a large crowd had gathered. Her ears twitched, as they did when a memory tried to surface. She sensed something familiar about the board but couldn’t quite place it.
Then it came to her. If it hadn’t been for the A-Pol Max’s accusation, she might not have made the connection. Even when she was planning her itinerary, she’d wondered why history linked the guru to a casino. She looked at the board and pictured the ones in the election day headquarters. Was voting like buying a lottery ticket? Before the guru, had the lottery been about money?
A humanoid dressed all in black stood in front of the large white board. “I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of all the political games,” he said. “Now we’ll make the rules and have fun, too!” The crowd cheered.
“Tell everyone what you heard here today,” he said. “With our online gaming system, we’ll be able to launch the new lottery app nationwide well before the polls close today. To keep things simple, we’ll call it ‘Election Lottery.’ Anyone who doesn’t have access to the app on their phones or online can come here or to the casino nearest them. Before the ‘official’ winners are declared in today’s election, we’ll all be the real winners.”
Zher followed him up the stairs into a glass-walled room filled with computers.
“You heard what the… “ The humanoid sucked in a deep breath. “…what the alien said?”
“Yes, boss,” a uniformed humanoid mumbled. “Do you think it can work?”
The boss spoke into his phone, explaining what needed to happen, before resuming his conversation with the worker. “I’m sure it can.”
“So, you want me to program the lottery so everyone who enters becomes a candidate, like the alien said.” The worker looked over at the boss, who nodded. “Their names will be randomly assigned a number. All I need is a list of all the political races to associate with the Powerball number for each drawing.”
The boss grinned. “It’s time to call in a favor. We’ll get the master list for each state from the election commissioner himself.” A few hours later, the worker had the Election Lottery app up and running.
“What’s it looking like?” the boss asked.
“I’ve never seen so many people playing the lottery,” said the worker. “I think I’ll enter, too.”
The boss also tapped in his lottery entry. “If we no longer have election red tape and political shenanigans, just think what could happen.”
“You mean we might actually get something done?”
The boss shrugged. “Well yes, and people will have more time to gamble.”
They both laughed giddily.
Zher couldn’t believe her luck. During the Golden Age, the galactic lottery had given many worlds a way to choose their leaders randomly, but little had been known about the actual process. Until now! Waving her diamond bracelet with excitement as she recorded, Zher said, “This is it, the beginnings of the fabled lottery that revolutionized the Terran world order. And then the galaxy’s!”
She clicked her hooves three times and transported to the last stop on the itinerary she had set before leaving Makemake. Once more, Zher arrived a moment too late. Again a white feather drifted lazily down from the ceiling. Three open-mouthed humanoids stared upward, watching it fall, as tripod-mounted cameras whirred. Behind the long desk where they sat, monitors showed the two election centers draped in red and blue and another showed the boss in front of the lottery board at the casino.
The female humanoid sitting in the center glanced at her companions, then faced the camera. “We’re part of history in the making.”
The images behind the desk shifted to the casino and a close-up shot of a girapod’s face.
“I knew it!” Zher exclaimed loudly. The sound reverberated, trapped within her time bubble. “It had to be you.” But why didn’t you tell me, Enk?
“If you are just tuning in,” the female said, “you are probably already aware that an alien visitor just revealed how we can circumvent the political wrangling that has left our great nation a house divided against itself. If you haven’t yet put your name forward, you have until midnight to nominate yourself to serve. The lottery will ensure all our voices are heard.”
The camera shifted focus to the humanoid to her left, switching between him and a speaker on another screen.
“We’re honored to have Supreme Court Chief Justice Orion to speak about the legality of superseding the Constitutionally mandated election process in favor of the new lottery.”
The elder justice cleared his throat. “Obviously, contact with a superior alien intelligence changes everything. In a unanimous vote moments ago, the Court ratified this lottery as a viable replacement for the outdated electoral college process. It actually marks the return to sortition, or selection by lottery, used by the founders of democratic governance. Furthermore, Terra is honored to be chosen to lead the galaxy in this endeavor.”
The camera shifted to the humanoid seated on the right, and a new speaker who stood in front of a blipping blue-gray weather radar. “Dr. May Lorenz, please tell us why chaos theory is fundamental to this process.”
“You’ve heard of the butterfly effect, yes?” she said. “Each of the lottery winners can make a very small change and that can have a profound influence on our society. Some systems—for example the weather,” she pointed to the radar screen, “might appear random, but chaos theory says they may instead have underlying order. Similarly, incremental changes will have the effect of more fairly representing the voices of all the people.”
“So, no need to be concerned about opposing views since we can all directly affect how we are governed?” the reporter said.
“That’s right. Order in chaos,” Dr. Lorenz said. “Mathematically, it’s brilliant! It makes expensive and polarizing political campaigns obsolete, and it disenfranchises the politicians and lobbyists who’ve been able to force through legislation that only made the rich get richer. ”
Suddenly Zher’s nostrils flared at a familiar, pungent odor.
“And here you are, after I warned you!” the Audit Police Max roared. “Your wand.”
She placed her authenticated wand in his extended paw and said, “As your presence in this time bubble confirms, I have done nothing but observe this historic event.”
He growled and scanned her wand again.
Fearing more images of the alien visitor might be shown, Zher grabbed her wand from his paws. “And now I must leave!”
Moments later, she materialized in Makemake on her home portal’s ruby disc. Inside the spacious stall, Enk reclined on their turquoise chaise lounge, wearing nothing but his white feather boa and a smile.
“I can always depend on you to create a diversion,” Enk said.
“You used me!” Zher stomped her hoof on the orange shag rug.
Enk steadied the lava lamp on the jostled end table beside him. “I would’ve told you what I was doing, but then you wouldn’t have reacted as the innocent you are when the A-Pol Max arrived.”
Zher considered what he said for a full minute, then grudgingly nodded.
“I couldn’t have done it without you, my love.” Enk’s golden eyes glowed with sincerity.
Zher slowly returned his smile and winked, acknowledging the truth of his statement. “Until next time, my dearest guru.”