Nadalia was going to wait outside for Mari, but Mari asked her to go backstage too. They all squeezed into the tiny back room, and found space on the worn old sofas. Elvira switched on the battered old radio in the corner, tuning it to a music station. After a few drinks, Aleyn asked Mari “So how did you two get to be friends?”
“We met at one of your shows, actually,” replied Mari. “It’s a weird little story, goes back before you had much interspecies appeal.”
“Yeah, I think it was about ten years back,” Nadalia interjected, “you were moaning about having to sit right at the back, remember?”
“At the back and next to a part time fish, as I recall. Wasn’t it your first time out of the blue district?” Until recently, any species that needed a lot of water around them to survive had been mostly confined to the blue districts in each region. “You were so worried about dripping on anyone you hardly moved,” said Mari.
“Anyway, we’d both had a bit to drink, and for some reason, when we got out, Mari thought it would be fun to try swimming, didn’t you?”
Mari cringed. “I still blame the drink.”
“So she was splashing about panicking, no one else seemed to know what to do, so I jumped in and shoved her out.”
“Didn’t you also say something like ‘what did you do that for, you stupid furball’?”
“Probably, but it was a little stupid, how often do cats voluntarily leap into pools?”
At this point, the club owner came in to kick everyone out so he could close up. The band wished Mari a happy birthday and went to pick up their equipment, and Nadalia and Mari set off for home.
Listening to the official broadcast a few months later, Nadalia heard an announcement that Korian would be making a speech in the area, details to come after the main news about a politician called Saphrax.
“Recently voted out as governor of Region Two, Saphrax hasn’t had much success in politics for the last few years,” said the news reader, Tsoline. “For those of you unfamiliar with his career so far, here’s a quick review;
“Fifteen years ago, on the major landmass Primus, Saphrax was voted Representative of the South Quarter. He held the position for five years before losing popularity with some controversial policies, at which point he moved across the continent to begin a campaign in the west.
“He enjoyed moderate success, though never reached such a powerful position as before. After another seven years of moving between regions in the West Quarter, Saphrax headed over to our island, reaching the position of Region Governor last year in Region Two.
“We caught up with him earlier and persuaded him to pop in for an interview. So Saphrax, it must have been awful to hear you’d been voted out so soon.”
“It’s certainly a setback, I can’t deny that, however I’m hoping to regain popularity quite quickly so I can begin to implement some of my slightly, was it ‘controversial policies’ you called them? You see most people only think of the short-term implications, and don’t see any of the long-term benefits I hope to achieve by…”
What a load of rubbish, thought Nadalia. This guy just likes hearing himself talk, he hasn’t really said anything yet.
“Can I just ask about a couple of your more, er, radical policies?” The newsreader had managed to squeeze a word in. “Your idea to restart visual transmissions, for one. Surely that can’t be a good plan, it’s been proven that they cause severe psychological damage with repeated exposure.”
“Well firstly, I don’t buy into all the mad theories about brainwashing and falling intelligence, it just sounds like some paranoid scientists coming up with a lot of waffle –“
Of course, you would be an expert on waffle, thought Nadalia.
“ –and secondly, I think that if people want to waste their time staring at a screen, then that’s their choice, isn’t it?” said Saphrax, with the impatient tone of someone talking to a complete idiot.
“Anyway, before we run out of time I wanted to ask about your ‘a place for everyone’policy. Many people have said that it sounds like an attempt to reinstate the species separation of centuries ago. How do you respond to these accusations?”
“As I said earlier, people only think in the short-term. Admittedly, there would be a certain amount of inconvenience to begin with, but after a few years people would settle in and be far more comfortable in a more natural environment. Primates like myself, for example, would likely be better off in a forest type surrounding, the aquatic and semi-aquatic species would be better off in lakes and the oceans.”
“Okay, that’s all we’ve got time for on this. A quick word on the weather now, then some details of Korian’s upcoming speech in Region Three.”
Mari called from the next room “Who was the obnoxious sounding bloke?”
“Politician called Saphrax. Stuck in the dark ages, from what he was saying.”
The newsreader came back on and announced that Korian’s speech on reptile rights would be next week, in the central white district of Region Three. Anyone wishing to attend in person should add their name to the list at their Region Governor’s office as per usual.
“I assume you’re off to the governor’s office in a few minutes then, Nads?” Mari said as she came in the room.
“Yep,” Nadalia looked at Mari. “You look fantastic, going somewhere?” she asked.
“Erm… there’s a science lecture on in a little while, thought I might look in on it.”
“And you’re dressed up because?”
“Oh, alright,” said Mari. “I’m meeting Elvira, she’s invited me to a party. Apparently she thinks I’m very interesting.”
“Nice one,” Nadalia said appreciatively. “You have fun, I won’t wait up. Will you be wanting hangover tablets left on the table for the morning?” she asked.
“That would be a great idea. I’ll probably see you some time tomorrow then.”
“Okay Mari, just remember not to go swimming this time!”
Mari’s response was pulling a face and closing the door.
“… I mean, all right, I don’t always do things right away, but that doesn’t mean I won’t do them at all, does it? Why can’t she understand that? And another thing…”
“Drystan, please! I will talk to your mother later,” Korian interrupted his nephew’s monologue about how annoying his mother was. “Right now, I need to practise my speech, which is in ten minutes time.” He glanced up at the old portrait of his many times great grandmother, Sarinda, and wondered if her sister had had to put up with this kind of thing when she had been World Leader decades ago.
Drystan sighed as he leant back in the cushioned chair. “Sorry to moan so much uncle, mum just really gets to me sometimes.” Sunlight streamed in through the large window and illuminated his face.
“I know, Nazeli can be a little difficult at times, she was the same growing up. Losing your father was very hard on her though, and I know she sees a lot of him in you. Try to understand that, and I’ll see if I can get her off your back about things.” Korian smiled across his desk at the young boy.
“Alright,” Drystan reluctantly agreed. “Can I go hang out with Zenobia now?”
Almost as though I’ve been making him stay here, thought Korian. I don’t think I’ll ever understand this boy. “Sure you can. Back by midnight though, okay?”
Drystan mumbled something that might have been ‘okay’as he ran across the thick blue carpet and out the door.
Nadalia couldn’t help wondering about the guy next to her in the crowd. Why anyone would wear such a thick, heavy coat in the height of the hot season seemed totally incomprehensible. Then again, she thought, it could be one of these weird fashion trends. Primates have the strangest ideas about clothing sometimes.
As Korian walked to the podium and began his speech, the crowd fell silent and many gazed in open admiration at the charismatic leader. He had a knack of seeming to speak to every member of his audience personally, even though there were over a thousand people there, of several different species.
With Korian in full flow about equal rights and opportunities for lizards, and the audience captivated by his speech, Nadalia was the only one who noticed heavy coat guy fidgeting. If he’s that uncomfortable, she thought, why doesn’t he take the stupid thing off? Just as she thought this, the guy elbowed her in the side. She turned to ask him to keep still and saw him taking aim with a shocker pistol through a gap in the crowd… straight at Korian! Without really thinking, Nadalia flung herself sideways and knocked the guy to the floor. The bolt of electricity flew wildly over everyone’s heads, and the crowd erupted into shouting and screaming.
“You achieved nothing,” the guy said. “Others will succeed where I have failed, Saphrax will reign!”
With that, he put the shocker to his own chest and fired. Nadalia was thrown backwards by the electric shock, and lay dazed on the ground a little way off.
“Are you alright?” said a pleasant voice close by.
“I think so,” Nadalia replied, attempting to sit up and watching everything blur out of focus. “Is Korian okay?”
“Thanks to you, I’m fine,” the voice said.
Nadalia blinked, and the fuzzy thing in front of her resolved itself into the leader’s handsome face.
“Can I get you a coffee? There’s a nice little place just over there,” he asked.
“Yeah,” she said nervously, “yeah, okay.”