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The Election

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Darkness. A blue-green planet moves across a starry sky.

This planet, this serene blue orb, is our home: the Earth. Wrapped snugly in its blanket of clouds, it looks very calm, very still. Beneath those clouds, though, we know it is very often anything but.

Our viewpoint sweeps to the left, passing strange stars and galaxies, until we come to a little grey planet, all on its own.

When we look out at the night sky, out across the vast reaches of space, we may imagine other worlds circling some of those distant stars. Worlds like the one that the Clangers live on. It looks very bleak and dull compared to ours - but maybe it is more peaceful, too.

Or then again, maybe not.

 

Deep underground, all is still - still, but not quiet, for a hubbub of shouting voices and stamping feet can be heard coming down from above. Tiny Clanger emerges from her bedchamber, looking around with evident confusion.

And here is Tiny Clanger. She's been woken from her sleep. Whatever can be making all that noise?

Tiny goes up the stairs and out of the door. Outside, three froglets are marching round and round in circles, while the Soup Dragon stands on a rock, making a speech to nobody in particular.

Tiny whistles a question. The Soup Dragon stops, leans down to pin a badge on Tiny's clothing, then resumes her speech-making. One of the Froglets hops forward and pushes a leaflet into Tiny's hand.

Oh, it's election time again!

Tiny looks blank.

You know, election time. It's when everybody votes to choose a leader.

Tiny whistles a question.

But why do you need a leader? Well, because -

The Soup Dragon interrupts, hopping down off her rock to talk to Tiny. She makes what is clearly an impassioned statement, waving her arms for dramatic effect, and looking very satisfied with herself when she's done.

There, you see. If you vote for the Soup Dragon she'll make sure that everybody has lots of hot soup to eat. You wouldn't want to run out of soup, would you?

Tiny looks thoughtful. One of the Froglets jumps up and down, calling for Tiny's attention, and makes a speech of its own.

Oh, but the Froglets are saying it's not fair for dragons to be in charge of all the soup. If you vote for them, they'll also make sure everyone has soup, and they'll stop any dragons from nibbling the notes off the music trees.

The Soup Dragon swishes her tail and burbles an angry reply.

Now that's not fair, says the Soup Dragon, that only happened once - and the Froglets should consider themselves grateful to have any soup at all, considering that they don't make anything themselves.

The Froglets and the Soup Dragon begin to argue. Tiny looks at the Froglets, and then at the Soup Dragon, and then puts her hands over her ears.

Tiny has had just about enough of this. There's only person that she thinks should be leader.

Tiny jumps down one of the doorways, and returns moments later, wearing a large pink rosette. She whistles for everyone's attention.

Vote for me, vote for me! says Tiny Clanger.

The Froglets and the Soup Dragon stare at her in silence for a moment, and then all burst out laughing. Tiny's ears droop and she lets out a long, sad whistle.

Oh dear. It's not easy, starting out in politics.

 

The Froglets and the Soup Dragon are still arguing as Tiny walks away. She wanders over the rocky plains, down to the grove where the music trees grow. Small Clanger is there, playing a tune on the budding notes. Tiny stops and whistles a greeting.

Small Clanger, will you vote for Tiny?

Small considers it. He asks her a question.

Tiny thinks hard. It was clearly a good question, because it takes her a while. Eventually, she answers, pointing to her rosette.

Because she's got the biggest rosette? Small Clanger isn't very impressed. If Tiny wants to win the election, she'll have to try harder than that.

Small's ears prick up as he's suddenly struck by an idea. He whistles, gesturing to Tiny to follow him, and they both dash off back home.

Down they go, to work on Tiny's campaign.

Together, Tiny and Small work on publicity materials. Tiny ties the biggest, shiniest ribbon she can find into her hair, and poses dramatically while Small paints her portrait for some posters. They write out leaflets and work on speeches, Small whistling suggestions while Tiny stands on the table making lofty-sounding pronouncements.

Mother Clanger comes in, gives them a bemused look, and whistles.

You had better get down off the table, Tiny. Even politicians mustn't stand on the furniture.

Tiny looks rather put out, but Small reassures her with a pat on the shoulder. He pins a poster to the wall of the burrow, then gathers up the rest.

Never mind, says Small Clanger, they're ready now. Now it's time to go and campaign.

They go outside and begin the work of spreading the word. Tiny makes speeches and passes out leaflets to the members of her family that pass by, while Small goes to put up posters everywhere he can: on the music trees and the soup wells, on one of Major Clanger's rockets and on the side of a space probe from Earth that's been sitting in a crater gathering dust. He even gets into one of the hoopicopters and flies up to put a poster on the side of the Iron Chicken's nest. (The Iron Chicken looks at the poster, gives it a moment's thought, and promptly eats it.)

Tiny, meanwhile, is in the process of trying to give a speech to a thoroughly uninterested cloud, when Small passes her by, whistling loudly.

Oh, listen, Tiny! Small is trying to tell you something.

Small whistles and points.

You'd better come quickly. The voting is about to begin!

 

Everyone has gathered, Froglets, Soup Dragon and Clangers alike, all looking in awe at a huge metal machine covered in buttons and blinking lights.

Look, Major Clanger has built a special voting machine. Doesn't it look splendid?

Major Clanger demonstrates how to use the machine, pressing a series of buttons and pulling the handle on the side. At least, that's how it's supposed to go, but unfortunately, the handle sticks. Major Clanger gives it a good hard yank, hanging onto it with both hands, and the handle comes off altogether.

Major Clanger whistles something that is probably quite rude.

Oh dear, that wasn't supposed to happen. Now what will they do?

Tiny and Small hastily confer. Tiny darts off and returns bearing a box and some pieces of paper.

Good thinking, Tiny! Everybody can simply write down the name of whom they wish to vote for and place it in the box.

Tiny passes out paper to the assembled crowd. One by one, they write down their votes and put their papers in the ballot box, until everybody has taken their turn to vote.

Mother Clanger tips the box out onto the ground, unfolding the pieces of paper and sorting them into little piles.

There we are. Now all we need to do is count the votes.

Everyone moves in closer, watching with eager anticipation as Mother Clanger gives out the results.

Four votes for the Froglets. Four votes for the Soup Dragon. Four votes for Tiny Clanger. And one vote for -

Mother Clanger squints at the last piece of paper.

One vote for 'more soup'? Well, which of you promised more soup?

The Froglets, the Soup Dragon and Tiny all clamour for attention.

All of you promised more soup?

The argument becomes increasingly heated, until Major Clanger calls for silence, waving the broken handle of the voting machine aloft like a staff.

There's only one way to solve this, Major Clanger says. Since all three parties got the same number of votes, all three parties have won. You'll have to rule as a coalition.

Tiny whistles irritably.

But nobody voted for that? Well, no. But that's democracy, I'm afraid.

Tiny takes off her rosette and throws it to the ground, stomping away in disgust.

What a pity. But then, Clangers never have cared much for politics. Not like human beings. And aren't we lucky something like that would never happen here?