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Master Entertainer Telafalarn
looked down from his balcony
over the Corral where the
Apprentice Entertainers worked.

Abetai and Trelu were fighting again,
and this time the exchange of words
had degenerated into an exchange
of wadded paper balls flung over
the heads of their hangdog coworkers.

Telefalarn marched down the ironwork stairs
and said, "That is enough! Quit acting
like a pair of unlettered hooligans.
Haze Leaves is not some Purist rag
that runs its print on a wish and prayer.
We are going to settle this like scientists."

Abetai hunched down at her desk.
"Sorry, Master Entertainer," she said.

"We'll clean up the mess," Trelu said,
hastily picking up the balls within reach.

Telefalarn crossed his arms. "That's a start.
But you two are going to do some
empirical testing about your little argument
over who writes better and whether the fans
prefer geometric puns --" he nodded at Abetai
"-- or algebra jokes in Science Romance."
He turned to Trelu. "I'll handle the statistics."
That was his own hobby, and he always
enjoyed finding ways to use it at work.

"What are we counting?" Abetai asked.

"Words first," Telefalarn said. "Each of you
will write a 500-word tickfic for Quick Bits.
There will be a reader poll to measure
the popularity of author and topic."
He grinned at them. "Winner gets
my endorsement for promotion to Junior, and
a 2000-word slot in The Tenday Indulgences."

The two Apprentices shoved the last few
paper scraps into the wastebaskets
and dove for their desks, all thought
of mischief abandoned in favor of fame.

Honestly, Telefalarn didn't care who won.
They were both promising young writers,
or he wouldn't have hired them in the first place.

At the end of the month, Quick Bits
came out with Abetai's "Angling for Success"
against Trelu's "Playing the Straightedge."

The votes were duly collected by the ragstands
and handed back to Haze Leaves, where
Telefalarn counted them three times
before admitting the obvious.

It was a tie.

"Empirical testing doesn't lie," he said.
"I'll write you both a recommendation letter
for the Entertainment Guild, and you'll each
get a 1000-word slot in The Tenday Indulgences."

"Thank you, Master Entertainer," said Abetai.

"We'll get right on it," said Trelu.

"Now I expect you two to agree that
your respective talents and topics
are equally popular," Telefalarn concluded.

The two Apprentices looked at each other.
"Conceded," they chorused, and shook hands.

Author's Notes

This is the freebie for today's fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from ellenmillion and LJ user Je_reviens. It also fills the "mathematics" square in the Science Bingo Fest public card.

Publishing in the Empire means that most writers are professionals in the Entertainment Guild who work for a licensed press. Haze Leaves is a popular press known for promoting its writers based on their popularity with readers.

Geometry, algebra, and statistics are major math fields. In the Empire, even people who are not scientists often have a scientific hobby.

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Characters Featured:
Abetai, Trelu, Telafalarn,

Referenced Articles:
Publishing in the Empire

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