Central Colloquium met at least once a month, more often if something particularly knotty was before it. The Central Colloquium had twenty members selected randomly from the entire Outpost society; they served for five years and in effect comprised its brain. The purpose was exactly what the name said: to talk, specifically to talk out problems of the widest interest. The members did not decide anything, except perhaps internally and as individuals. They talked; their talks were available on skene throughout the Outposters’ world, including the farthest reach of the asteroid patrol, both live and archived. If a decision were needed, all Outposters voted in a referendum (or as many as were physically able to vote; it was assumed that everyone would vote if he could or she could, voluntary avoidance of voting being strongly discouraged from the first year of school as ‘unOutposter’).
Ganesh Larsonsdottir had been a member of Central Colloquium for three years and a bit. He wanted his participation to end. The travel for him was far easier than for, for example, somebody from the Mars Outpost, but it was nonetheless a couple of days of travel plus the day or days of colloquium itself. He didn’t mind the talking; they were, after all, a talkative people. Some of his fellow talkers nonetheless wore on him, but all Outlanders were used to that sort of annoyance. Listening while being annoyed was part of the push-pull of talk. But Ganesh wanted something more active – asteroid patrol, an earth dig – so he was eager for his five years of membership in Colloquium to end.
Yet there he was, two months after his chat with Nonno, half-reclining on his couch in Colloquial Hall at Moonbase, the rest sitting or reclining on their couches – an idea handed down by one of the Founders from what she had called ‘the ancient Greeks’, lying about with light food and drink handy and talking. Modern-day Outposters had no more idea of Greece and the Greeks than they had of Alpha Centauri (less, actually), but they knew some Greek ideas and could identify them as Greek and even as Aristotelian or Platonic, thanks to Founders who had written down what they had held in their brains when they had left earth. (No other ancient Greeks had made it through the Founders’ filter – individual memory – however.)
If quasi-Greek reclining made people drowsy, then it was the responsibility of an official called a beadle to rouse the drowser and suggest a turn in the exercise rooms or perhaps a stimulant. Being roused was found amusing, always welcomed as a break in routine; not only the drowser but also several, sometimes many others trotted off to work out or guzzle ‘coffay,’ which had taken its name from something remembered by the Founders but which was an entirely artificial concoction that had enough stimulant to keep the drowsiest member awake for six or eight hours..
Ganesh was not at the moment drowsy. He was afraid that in a few minutes, however, some of his colleagues would be. He was about to introduce them to the idea of a reenactment – on earth. He had some doubts about their response. It was only seldom that Outposters thought of any of their activities as ‘distraction,’ much less ‘entertainment.’ They still had at the assumptive roots of their culture the Founders’ pioneer work, also gung ho and even laborkultur. They were pioneers (kibbutzim, a mostly forgotten term had it) and they had had to work to build a world from nothing. Or they had had to long ago; the actual pioneer era had lasted three hundred years and was now long over; work had become intellectual innovation, expansion, perfection: the three words were in fact engraved on many structures across Outpostland. Now Ganesh was going to propose something that would take a great deal of work but would be in its final form ‘entertainment.’
He cleared his throat and heard the sound repeated in his ear chip. He touched the green button beside him; a small bell rang; the rest of the Central Colloquium, who had been mostly standing in twos and threes, flowed rather sluggishly toward their couches. He knew them all now, although they had begun mostly as strangers; he knew which ones would talk so as to take part but wouldn’t lend much substance, which ones would tend to attack simply because any idea was meant to be torn apart and sewn back together. Which ones would hang back to listen, then come in slowly with, sometimes, wisdom.
He pressed the button again; the bell chimed louder and the last ones fell into their couches. Ganesh raised the end of his couch with a touch and turned so that he was sitting as if in a chair, his feet on the floor; whatever the Greeks had done, he knew that it was impossible to recline and talk without getting a backache. He used a vernier control to bring a lap desk to him and took several seconds checking that the screen there worked and that it held his notes.