The knocked-out burly man is dragged out of the throne room, carried by three men all heaving as hard as they can.

Now having proven myself in the world’s oldest sport, I steal a look at King Bodhi with my most smug expression possible.

She looks positively pleased.

“You’re pretty good, Eryk Solbourne,” she says. “I’m almost impressed enough to clap.”

Almost… Darn, I am still not good enough.

“Well, then, I would like to continue the agreement we decided on before the test was to begin,” I say. “Free room and board, and the ability to trade our gold for your currency.”

King Bodhi makes a rapid series of snaps with her left hand, but does not break eye contact with me to look at the (blonde curly haired, tan) woman who approaches the throne in response. “Yes, your majesty?” the woman asks.

Still looking at me, she says, “Prepare the VID Suite postehaste. Our distinguished dudes shall be lavished with honor and praise for their revolutionary actions and for Eryk’s mighty strength.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the woman says. She bows and makes a hasty exit.

“We will see to it that you three are treated with the utmost care and respectability,” King Bodhi tells me. Normally, a phrase like that would make me slightly suspicious from the wording alone, but this teenage girl does not appear to have any malice in her heart. Her words ring true.

“I am glad for your hospitality,” I say. “Even despite the fact that you claimed to want to execute us just minutes ago.”

“My mood can change quickly. Pray it does not alter again.” She sits up and straightens her posture, then adds, “Now, as for your gold, we can offer a very good value. But I will let my financial advisor explain. Brett?”

Another shirtless young man who also has blonde, curly hair and tan skin enters the throne room and steps slightly in front of King Bodhi. This is Brett. “Santa Barbara has the most revolutionary currency system in the world. As the newest sovereign state recognized by the United Nations, we are expected to hold greatness for our government. But unlike the other 287 sovereign states, we have blazed a trail in modern technology and commerce to set us far apart.”

“Oh, I see.” I understand nothing.

“Instead of a traditional fiat currency, we have Burb Bucks. Santa Barbara’s own crypto-app currency,” he explains, to no avail to my understanding. “We use our vast servers outsourced from Silicon Valley to mine a cryptocurrency known as Wavecoin, which is in finite supply and the vast majority of it owned by the Kingdom itself. So these wavecoins act like the gold that once backed currencies all over the globe. But we do not use wavecoins for our actual currency. Instead, we use Barb Bucks, an in-city system that can be accessed from an app on all mobile devices. With the app, you can store money, exchange it for goods and services, and even earn more for watching paid ads or working at a Kingdom-sanctioned job.”

Delta leans in to whisper to Francis. “Do you follow any of this? Any of this at all?”

“No, not really,” he whispers back.

Brett continues. “Because we have full control over our currency system, we are not dependent on the US dollar except for the initial buy-in for new residents who wish to exchange their currency. You unfortunately cannot remove Barb Bucks out of the system, and you cannot trade them except for specific goods and services, so there is no way to convert Barb Bucks into foreign currency. You can only convert foreign currency into Barb Bucks. However, our exchange rates are tremendously generous. Even though the current wavecoin price is $15 USD to one wavecoin, we are currently offering a limited-time option: $50 for three hundred Barb Bucks!”

“But what is the normal, non-limited-time price for one wavecoin to Barb Bucks?” I ask. “I cannot compute the value here without—”

He ignores me. “Thanks to Santa Barbara’s highly connected financial system, our goods and services dynamically change price based on the Barb Buck’s value compared to the wavecoin. So you will never feel the need to be upset when the prices at stores do not match their value; they’re always changing!”

“I fear I am not intelligent enough to understand such a currency system as this. I simply wish to know how much you are willing to offer for these four gold bars.”

Brett turns back to King Bodhi and they begin discussing in hushed whispers about the situation. If only I hadn’t discarded the [Super Hearing] Destiny Card…!

After more than a little while of waiting, it appears that they are finally ready to announce a decision. Brett takes a deep breath, gulps, and says, “We will give you two million Barb Bucks.”

“That’s incredible! Huzzah!” I exclaim. “Wait, what is that in value? How many swords could I purchase, for instance? I am slightly confused.”

Brett refuses to elaborate. And with no further options, we are forced to accept it as-is. We take out our phones and have the two million placed in a joint account. If there is no lodging fee, then we certainly have a large amount of money to spend on whatever it is we want. We could replace the items we lost fleeing Paso Robles, or we could buy brand-new equipment to help us in our further adventures. The possibilities are limitless, assuming this much in Barb Bucks translates to roughly the equivalent of six and a half pounds of gold.

“Now that that is out of the way,” King Bodhi says, “it is time to let you go free. Hopefully you three shoobies won’t get into anymore trouble with my citizens, but if you do, do not hesitate to eviscerate them in combat. You have my permission.”

I nod. “We will do our best to keep the peace, unless the peace is broken before us.”

“Oh, also, I wish to make a formal request of you. This week celebrates the first anniversary of Santa Barbaran Independence. We are embarking on the Great Barbara Games, a summer appeasement festival meant to honor the Gods of the Surf and relive the glory that came with winning our freedom. The tryannical California is gone, and now we can live how we choose, without the obligations of the typical industrialized capitalist system that holds back most liberal forms of government. Instead, we are a free people. And the Great Barbara Games will showcase our freedom at its best.”

Once again, I am completely lost in what King Bodhi says. She says many words that I simply do not understand the true meaning of. We speak the same language, but sometimes that language is less similar than one might think.

“You wish us to attend these Great Barbara Games?” I ask, hoping that my assumption is correct.

“Yes, precisely that. You three shall be our guests of honor, and will see the most impressive extreme sports the world has ever seen. The X Games can suck it.”

“I understand. We will be there,” I say. “Thank you for your graciousness, King Bodhi. It was an honor to have met you.”

“Now, begone from my presence,” she says. “I wish to take my afternoon nap. Otherwise I get kinda grumpy.”

We decide to be gone from her presence before she grows irritated and changes her mind about her hospitality. King Bodhi, a teenage girl who is the leader of an entire nation that won its independence just one year earlier. I have no idea how any of that could have transpired, but I respect it nonetheless.

Now, it’s time to spend some money!