"Harvest moon come; soon time to pick new chief. This our chance to show white man we just as civilized as he."
"Understood, Red Dog. Me go now to rig voting apparatus and sow blind fanaticism among bloodthirsty young braves."
"Ugh! You good fellow, Screaming Eagle. Great Spirit speed you."
"You got him?" said Alcestis anxiously.
"At the cost of about an ounce of skin," Jonathan retorted, thrusting the squirming moloch into the cage. "The kinds of potential animal soulmates some people have…"
Alcestis preened her own fur, self-consciously demure. "Well," she murmured, "we can't all be soft and fuzzy."
"Are you nuts, Harris? We can't print this."
"But, Boss, it's the scoop of the century. An exclusive interview with the Martian All-Mother? No sponsor's interests can be worth passing that up."
"No, I mean we can't print these crazy Martian diacritics. Rewrite the names in English, and we'll talk."
Elissa's apotheosis accelerated; all Laniakea unfolded panoramically before her, and the lucid majesty of its ageless dance made her eyes brim with tears.
"What's that bit in 'Clancy of the Overflow'?" she murmured. "The wondrous glory of the everlasting stars…"
"Everlasting?" The Gel-Mind laughed softly. "You are very young, child."
"Are you sure this is a gallery of illustrious women?" I said. "I've never even heard of this one."
Kirsten glanced at the portrait I'd indicated. "Anne Hyde Stuart?" she said. "The woman who made a Catholic of James II?"
I blinked. "Did she?"
"What an illustrious woman."
"Behold a new triumph of evolutionary progress!" the Ichthyostega proclaimed to the indifferent beach trilobites. "Through me, the Vertebrata pass today into an irreversibly terrestrial future! Never again will my descendants be shackled to aquatic lifestyles! Never again…!"
"He said that?"
"Idiot," the Plesiosaurus pronounced, and the Ichthyosaurus agreed.
"Egalitarian crabgrass?" said Amanda Lintner.
"Ostensibly," said Claudia Kopalu. "Really, it's just an excuse to ignore my commands and keep overrunning the island, since the local flora 'don't deserve special consideration'." She sighed. "How arrogant of eggs, to pretend to be all the same!"
"A saying back home."
"Quebec?" said Miloš. "How does Atlantis's greatest navigator aim for Madeira and end up in Quebec?"
"Simply enough," said Alessandra. "He forgot about that little wobble in Earth's axis. He was reckoning from Vega, not Polaris."
Khamvraal scowled. "Go off-planet for a few millennia, and they change everything on you…"
"You've heard, Israfel?" said Abraham. "With Zondar-ek-Spreien's arrival, the saved number exactly 272,258,594,416,455,721,934,432." He chuckled. "Faithful who promised, indeed. It took 400 gigennia and 72,000,000 planets, but my children are officially as numerous as the stars."
"Fine," said Israfel. "I can blow this Trump now, then?"
"Oh, yes, go ahead."
"If one might ask, Reverend," said the agent, "what's an old Negro spokesman like yourself doing pricing cotton land?"
"Bearing witness," Dr. Gannes replied. "A landless people is halfway to slavery – and we mustn't have that again."
The agent nodded thoughtfully. "Reckon that's fair enough," he said. "How's Plevna sound?"