By Ingvar: Trigger walked down the street, looking forward to a quiet morning of a grilled synthecheese and a cup of the new special down at the Coffee Emporium. Hoping nothing untoward would happen, he stepped through the doorway and walked towards his normal table.
“Sheriff Snowflake, welcome. The usual?”
“Thank you. Everything all well with you, Miss Dimatis?”
“As well as can be expected. But I am a little bit worried, it seems as if there’s something odd happening with the Ballad Composers of the System organization. Apparently, they’ve just recently punished Venice Aresian for speaking out against planets behaviors, and stripped her of her membership.”
“Is this something that concerns the law?”
“Not as such. Or, at least not yet. But it will have repercussions for SysLiCon, so I thought I would brief you, in case Coraline takes it up.”
“Forewarned is forearmed. Tell me as I devour your delicious grilled synthecheese.”
Not long after, breakfast was served and Barbara Dimatis sat down across the table from Trigger.
“Now, something with the Ballad Singers?”
“Ballad Composers of the System, BCS for short. This is what we know, at the moment. Seven months ago, Ms Aresian wrote an LoC, calling out Suzette Hitchtale for having badly written a Martian character in a recent ballad of Hitchtale’s. This apparently ended up in a disciplinary complaint to the BCS’s ethics committee.”
“Well, at least they have processes and procedures for this, it seems.”
“This is where it starts taking a turn for the weird. The chair of the ethics committee was Ms Aresian. So the BCS board formed a shadow ethics committee, entry pulled from new members.”
“To avoid bias, I guess?”
“Well, apparently in the past, the ethics committee members have been pretty good at stepping out when bias could have been an issue, so it’s a little bit weird.”
“Fair enough. What else?”
“So, three days ago, the board published a statement, saying that Ms Aresian had been forced out of her position as head of the ethics committee, and from that point was barred from any position of trust in BCS.”
“That seems a bit harsh?”
“Maybe. I haven’t read the full text of the LoC that spurred the whole thing. Maybe it is warranted. Now, worse, it turns out that letters of comment are actually explicitly excluded from the BCS code of conduct. And since she was punished based on a breach of code of conduct, this all seems a bit odd. And, since then, multiple LoCs weighing in on one side or another have been written and published, in a variety of venues.”
“If that’s all, I shall thank you for an excellent grilled synthecheese and the information. I shall see you tomorrow, at the same time.”
After a full day of putting in a presence and patrolling Fort Corallium, Trigger eventually returned home to the Sheriff’s office.
“Beloved Coraline, I am home!”
“Trigger, darling! Have you heard?”
“The BCS thing? Yes, Ms Dimatis saw fit to brief me over morning coffee.”
“There have been developments! Seems as if the decision and support material that the ethics committee based their recommendation to the board on have been expunged! And the liaison between the new ethics committee and the Board is the Chair-Elect of BCS! And the previous Chair just stepped down! And the Chair-Elect is the new Chair!”
“Ooof, that sounds messy. Well, I guess we’ll see what happens.”
The next morning, Trigger was about half done with his grilled synthecheese when Barbara walked up to the table.
“New developments! Suzette Hitchtale, as it turns out, was not in a position to file the complaint in the first place. She’s not only a ballad composer, but also runs a company printing note sheets. As such, she’s not allowed, under the BCS rules, to file complaints against composers, but only against other sheet-music publishers.”
“More BCS? What is this, a detergent musical?”
“It certainly seems like it. Have Coraline said anything?”
“I got the same brief, in full, when I got home. With the new developments on the Chair. I think she would be delighted if you give her a call to come down and discuss the BCS Affair with you, here at the Emporium.”
“That sounds like a good idea. Coraline is so lucky to have such a considerate husband. I hope today’s patrolling stays quiet.”
“Now you’ve doomed it, Ms Dimatis.”
“Sorry, Sheriff Snowflake.”
Let us delight in our omniscient perspective and zoom not only out, but into the past. We find ourselves in a plush office, on Earth.
“Ms Hitchtale, I suspect you wonder why I invited you here?”
“Yes, Mr Nappa, I do.”
“We have an interest in common. As you are well aware, filthy no-Earthers have inveigled themselves into the very core of the Ballad Composers. Ballads are, as you know, a pure Earth form of poetry, and as such, Martians, Venusians, and other non-pure-Earth stock have no place in our hallowed halls.”
“I am not quite sure I follow, Mr Nappa?”
“Oh, call me Immanuel. I saw that nasty LoC that Aresian wrote last week. And I think this is our opening.”
“I am still not sure I follow, Immanuel? I do agree that what the Martian wrote was totally uncalled-for, and hurtful to boot. But, what does that have to do with you?”
“Ah, I have a master plan. Let me detail it for you. It is very clever and not capable of failing. You see, Aresian is the head of the BCS ethics committee…”
“I am well aware.”
“And, as such, were there to be a complaint filed against her, the existing ethics committee would all be biased.”
“Ah, so we could get a fresh ethics committee under our control in place?”
“Just so. I am also campaigning for the position as Chair-Elect, and as I am running unopposed, I am virtually guaranteed to get it. And I have some contacts in the BCS office, so we can hold up the processing of the complaint until my Chair-Elect position is confirmed.”
“How does this help us?”
“We ensure we get a new emergency ethics committee that’s under our full control. We then make a recommendation to sever Aresian from BCS, rescind her membership and throw her out. This will cause our bleeding-heart Chair to step down, rocketing me into the Chair six months ahead of schedule. We can then drop the horrendous code of conduct and emplace one that forbids speaking out against Earthians, and does not punish talking about off-planetarians.”
“I am starting to see the appeal in this line of thought. And this is a clever scheme indeed.”
“It is very clever, and I have ensured there’s no possible way this could ever come back to us. I will send you my written analysis of the plan, so you can study it at leisure. I think two-three days should be enough? I will know that you have agreed that the plan is infallible by your filing of a complaint.”
“Mr Nappa, it’s been a delight to talk to you. I look forward to a long and fruitful association.”
Trigger was slowly sipping his occasional evening tipple of Victory Wishkey, when his slow contemplation of things of legal significance was interrupted.
“Trigger, darling! Have you heard the latest?”
“No, beloved Coraline. What news?”
“It turns out the Chair, Immanuel Nappa is not actually qualified for either the Chair-Elect position, or the Chair. It seems that the Chair and Chair-Elect must have had a ballad printed in the two years preceding their taking office as Chair-Elect, or have a ballad currently under contract with a printer. And it seems that Nappa’s last ballad was printed four years ago, well outside the time limit. Apparently, he had a sworn affidavit from HitchTale’s company that he had a ballad under contract, but his husband swears blind that it is not the case.”
“Curiouser and curiouser. I am actually starting to wonder if this is not starting to encroach on my professional interests.”
“It is quite strange, isn’t it? I am sorry to have disturbed your weekly contemplation. Should I bring the Wishkey bottle, for a quick top-up?”
“No, this is, I think, more a Djinn moment. Maybe even going as far as a Djinn and Bitter Orange. Yes, Djinn and Bitter Orange, dearest.”
“Coming up, darling Small glass or large?”
The following morning, as Trigger was making his way to the Coffee Emporium, he was met by an out-of-breath Barbara, running from the Emporium to meet him.
“Trigger! Sorry, I mean Sheriff Snowflake! Have you heard the latest?”
“Now, now, Ms Dimatis. Let us not make a scene in the street. Instead, follow me to the Emporium, where we can discuss this over a cup of your most excellent Purple Granite and a grilled synthecheese. Or, if it is large news, maybe even two?”
“Right as always, Sheriff Snowflake.”
A cup of the latest beans, and a plate with two grilled synthecheese and a side of fresh chives (grown in the small hydroponic plot behind the Emporium, freshly harvested that very morning), Trigger and Barbara were sitting at a table.
“Well, Sheriff Snowflake. You will NOT believe the latest development in the whole BCS thing. It now turns out that most of the board have resigned in protest. And the expunging of the ethics committee report? It’s against process, procedure and policy! Not only that, many planetary chapters of the BCS have filed official requests to have the board forcibly stood down, an emergency election, and for the whole thing to be investigated by the Lunar Tax Office attack auditor squad!”
“Weighty news indeed.”
“The general feeling seems to be that this has all been carefully orchestrated in a vain hope that it would just slide past. I do not understand how they could not have foreseen this result?”
“Now, now, Miss Dimatis. I know that I am more familiar with the minds of ne’er-do-wells, and I hope you never gain that hard-won experience, but this does not actually surprise me at all. They probably simply thought that the bulk of the BCS membership shared their beliefs and thus could not foresee how a more enlightened population would rise up against their bad-will.”
“You are right as always, Sheriff Snowflake.”
“Hm”, said Immanuel Nappa to himself. “I should soon be able to cement my absolute power of the Ballad Composers of the System.” He walked slowly from his office door to his desk, gesturing dramatically with his right hand in the air.
“Once my absolute power is in place, I shall look into expanding my domain. I have my eyes set on the Madrigal Writers of All Planets. I feel that ballads and madrigals go together like sunshine and surf. Yes, most probably the Madrigal Writers. And the current campaign against Aresian is progressing well.”
On his desk, his phone started ringing. He lifted the bakelite handset from its resting position.
“The office of Chair Nappa, Nappa speaking.”
“Immanuel, it’s Suzette. Have you seen the latest?”
“I do not have to consider small trivial things like that, my schemes are progressing apace and according to plan.”
“No, Immanuel, they are not. It seems you have been a bit liberal in interpreting the requirements for your position, and that is now coming home to roost. You need to do something, quick.”
“What do you mean?”
“Did you read the requirements for being Chair? You are at least two ballads short of the composing and publishing requirements.”
“Ah not to worry, I have a tame printer of sheet music at hand, I will simply have them re-print a few of my old ballads with verses jumbled up and a new interesting title.”
“Oh, that’s clever. It might just work.”
“It is my plan, it is obviously flawless. Was there anything else?”
After yet another long day of patrolling Fort Corallium, Trigger returned home to the office. Wearily, he stepped through the front door and walked to his desk. He unstrapped his laser revolver belt, hung it from the hook under the desk and sat down for a few moments of blessed rest.
“What, beloved Coraline?”
“It seems that Nappa has stepped down as Chair for the Ballad composers.”
“He’s the one who might not have been qualified?”
“Yes, the very one.”
“Well, I guess he finally saw the writing on the wall.”
“I think the fact that someone started looking into his ballad composing in depth is what did it. Looks like he really didn’t have the proper prerequisites, and for at least one of the things that was listed on his life curriculum actually seems to have been faked by one of his sheet music printers.”
“I guess it is true, what they say. Love songs conquer all!”