Monday, 29 September 2014

Chapter 47. An Awakening - Part 1

(Neil's note: Because this is the longest chapter in the book, I've divided into two parts. Here is the first).

The next problem we faced was that, because of unrest in some countries on Earth, we could not safely drop off the trainees for those countries. There were about a dozen of them left, besides Paul and Melinda, who had – gladly – agreed to be last out.

Not that these trainees as individuals were complaining. They spent their days riding round Earth in Ramael’s ’mobile, and their nights in five-star hotels. They were enjoying the best worldwide Grand Tour anyone had ever had.

Ramael concentrated on three things. First, dropping off the members of the third wave, and all the trainees he safely could. Second, regularly checking the well-being and progress of those he had previously dropped off. And third, touring the globe making sure people knew he was there.

Only once during this time did Ramael need to take violent action. A few days after the completion of the third wave, an Asian country – whose dictator we had Pulled to the Pit, but which had then been taken over by family members – threatened to attack one of its neighbours. Ramael went in and, in less than a minute, reduced three large government buildings in the capital to piles of sand. He did it without damaging their neighbours, even slightly. “Now you know more about what we can do if we need to,” Hazael broadcast. “Anyone that starts or threatens a war will be treated the same way, or more harshly.”

A week after the last trainees had left Perinent, Cristina and Helen elected to be Pushed back to Earth. “There is no-one here who needs our services any more,” said Helen, “but there are still several trainees in the ’mobile who could enjoy us.” That left in the hotel at Camp Two just Michael, Gabriel, the Team and Kenny.

To try to defuse the problems of unrest, those of us remaining on Perinent began to Pull leaders from each conflict. We usually Pulled them in pairs, one from each side. We let Harv’I, using knowledge John and Galina had collected and his ability to read minds, decide which side we should support. The loser then went in the Pit – along, shortly, with his lieutenants. The winner (usually the resistance leader) was fully briefed by Michael, Gabriel and myself, then Pushed back to the ’mobile. And soon dropped off – openly, and with a public promise of support if it should prove necessary – by Ramael and Hazael, who sometimes left a trainee with them as well.

And where tyrannies were still in place, even after we had Pulled the worst of the tyrants to the Pit, we went on a spree. We Pulled more and more of those in power in such countries to the Pit. And we again sent to Earth film of what was happening to them, although this time more geographically targeted.

* * *

You, dear reader, may be too young to remember the decades, which historians later called the Nasty Noughties and Terrible Teens. If so, lucky you; for it was a bad time.

The politicals – which description fitted not only politicians, but also politicized officials, media and educators, and those that promoted, supported or enforced their agendas – behaved as if they were a superior species to us humans. They set out to control us, to rule over us against our wills. They lobbied for, made and enforced bad laws. They made regulations to hem us in, and set traps to catch us out. And they treated us like herd animals, as if we were unable to make our own decisions or to act on our own initiative.

They spied on us with cameras everywhere. They recorded our phone calls, our e-mails and our use of the Internet. They demanded vast amounts of information about us, and stored it in insecure databases, which they regarded as a “single source of truth.” They routinely treated us as guilty until proven innocent. They took joy in ordering us around. They used every crisis as an excuse to expand their powers to harass us. They claimed privileges and immunities they denied to us, and evaded responsibility for the damage they caused us.

They polluted our mental atmosphere with lies and propaganda. They indoctrinated the young with their claptrap, calling it education. They promoted altruism, trying to fool us into subordinating our own interests to the interests of others, or of something they called “the community.” And they bombarded us with fear and guilt. Fear of terrorism, fear of overpopulation, fear of runaway global warming (or was it cooling?) because of our emissions of carbon dioxide, which they falsely claimed was a pollutant. And guilt for lots of things we did in our daily lives – like using energy and driving cars.

They accused us of damaging our environment. They told us that we had to make drastic changes to our lifestyles. They tried to make out that our civilization based on economic productivity and trade was not sustainable. They hated human industry and prosperity, individuality and independence. They hated deserved success, and those who earned it. They tried to imprison us in a mental atmosphere of ever shrinking horizons, of no way forward and no way out.

All this they fuelled with money which they took from us through taxation, that is to say, by fraud and threat of force. They made a big smokescreen about helping the poor and needy. But in fact, what they did was loot resources from the honest, productive and deserving, cream off a large portion for themselves and their politically connected cronies, and redistribute the rest, most of it to the dishonest, the lazy and the undeserving. This, of course, also bought them popularity with the recipients. So, societies became more and more corrupt, as the incentives grew and grew for individuals to behave dishonestly.

In some places, political governments simply ruled by force and fear. In others, a past history of relative freedom meant that they needed to be more subtle, and to try to enlist the support of sufficiently many of the people using propaganda, vague promises or shares in the loot. These politicals claimed that their system was democracy, and that it gave power to us the people. We had the vote, didn’t we?

But most of the candidates for office, that had any serious chance of winning, were politicals. And of the few decent people who did try to go into democratic politics, most were either corrupted or silenced by the political party system. They were intimidated into being loyal to whatever policies were dreamed up by the panjandrums currently in power in their party. So, even if an individual’s vote could have made a difference – which it never had, of course – there was no-one worth voting for.

And even if we could have voted someone decent into power at the national level, that wouldn’t have even started to solve the problem of bad policies imposed by the EU (European Union) or UN (United Nations). King Atrox would have smirked at the cleverness of it all.

* * *

But then, the Personal Transition began to kick in among human beings. Many people, at much the same time, woke up from the zombie state in which they had been held by the battering of lies and propaganda from the politicals and their media and “educators.” People started to think, Why should I put up with this claptrap any more? And they started to feel better about themselves.

It was as if, after decades of ever increasing madness and badness, some threshold had been reached, beyond which the political system could not hold together. It was as if, after a long, dark night, there had come a sudden, bright dawn. And people began to see clearly where they were, and what was around them.

Good people, who all their lives had been bombarded with false guilt by politicians, educators and media, snapped out of it. They no longer felt guilt for using energy, or failing to recycle, or because they were – falsely – accused of wasting natural resources, causing dangerous global warming or endangering species. They no longer felt guilt for being successful through their own efforts, or being prosperous, or looking after their own interests. They no longer felt guilt for spending their fairly earned wealth on the goods and services they wanted, and on the people who provided those goods and services.

They no longer felt guilt for driving cars, or flying in aeroplanes, or eating meat, or not eating enough fruit or veg, or drinking alcohol, or smoking. And they no longer accepted any guilt at all for anything they as individuals had no control over.

People came to understand that as long as they behaved up to basic human standards – such as honesty, peacefulness, responsibility and respect for others’ rights – they were not guilty of anything. And it didn’t matter what “laws” anyone made.

Instead, good people started to feel pride in their own achievements. They felt a renewed love of individuality, independence, economic productivity, progress and justice. They felt change for the better in the mental climate. They felt a new atmosphere of optimism, of expanding horizons, of confidence in themselves and in the future.

Very suddenly by historical standards, people stopped believing, or even being interested in, what they were told by the politicals and their media. They began to understand the frauds that had been committed against them. People fell out of love with politics, and with the political state. And they began strongly to react against its worst abuses. Against aggressive wars. Against violations of rights and liberties. Against lies, dishonesty and double standards by politicians, officials, celebrities and media. Against redistributory or confiscatory taxation.

Perhaps the strongest reaction was against the environmentalist or green agenda. At the end of the Nasty Noughties, the greens had almost succeeded in taking over the world with their humanity-hating agenda of destroying prosperity, stopping progress and ending individual freedom. Of course, they didn’t put it like that. They bleated about the environment, or polar bears, or “saving the planet” from climate change. But they put no value at all on us human beings, our nature and our rights and freedoms.

But, with the Personal Transition, people saw this agenda for what it was. They came to understand that the environment which we must preserve and cherish is the environment for human beings. That peace, prosperity and justice for human beings are far more important than polar bears or saving a few watts of energy. They saw that there was a way to a sustainable future, and it wasn’t the greens’ pipe-dream of using less and less resources. Instead, the way forward was to create more and more wealth.

And people felt a new kind of fellowship. They cared about the good people they dealt with in their daily lives. They cared about their customers and their suppliers. And they cared about those good people worldwide, who shared their basic human values like honesty and peacefulness. But, on the other side, people also came to understand that those that failed to make the effort to behave up to human standards were not their fellows.

There were other changes in people’s perceptions too. The idea, that people owed allegiance to some country or state, began to seem strange. The idea that governments had rights to stop people from passing across arbitrary lines, or to take a toll of goods passing across such lines, was seen as ridiculous. The idea that governments had a right to tell you who your friends and enemies were, was seen as crazy. For it was now obvious to everyone, that your friends are those who treat you well, and your enemies those that treat you badly.

And the idea that those who happened to live in a geographical area were owed compassion and support from others in that area, no matter how badly they behaved, began to seem even odder. Honest people started to think, why should I care about the dishonest? Peaceful people started to think, why should I care about the warlike? Dynamic people started to think, why should I care about the lazy? Those, who had been victims of bad political policies, started to think, why should I care about those that assaulted me?

Not that anyone was any less inclined to be charitable than before – as long as the recipients deserved it. But those that didn’t deserve charity – the lazy, the dishonest, the aggressive, the violent, the political – were shunned. And that was entirely their own fault.

At a higher level of thinking, people began to see politics for what it was – an outdated way of dealing with others, based on nothing better than violence, dishonesty and intimidation. They came to compare and contrast it with the way of dealing with others, which is natural to human beings – economics. A way based on being a value to others, and trading with them in an environment of peace, honesty and justice.

All along, so good people now understood, it had been the political way of doing things – their system – that had been unsustainable. There was nothing wrong with our way of doing things, the economic system, that couldn’t easily be solved given the will and a bit of effort.

People came to see political policies, designed to harm innocent people, as assaults against those innocent people. And to see those that promoted, supported or enforced such policies as criminals and worse, deserving nothing but contempt and loathing.

So, those that robbed good people through redistributory or confiscatory taxation, were seen as the thieves they were. Corrupt corporate bosses, that ran to government to get subsidies, or to bring harm to their competitors, were seen as the crooks they were. Those that ordered aggressive wars, were seen as the mass murderers they were. Police, soldiers and others, that behaved with brutality, were seen as the brutes they were.

Those that spied on innocent people were seen as the stalkers they were. Those that lobbied for bad laws were seen as the perverters of justice they were. Governments that oppressed, impoverished or aggressed against innocent people were seen as the criminal gangs they were. And those that promoted the “human activities cause catastrophic global warming” fraud – wanting, as they did, to destroy industrial civilization for the sake of nothing more than a pack of lies – were seen as the traitors to humanity that they were.

There grew also, in the minds of good people, a divide, a separation, from the politicals. Good people began to see the politicals as something different from themselves, as less than members of the human species. Neanderthals, some called them.

And there grew in the minds of good people a demand to bring the politicals to justice. All those that had taken an active part in politics deserved to be thoroughly investigated, scrutinized and judged as individuals. And those – whether politicians, lobbyists, bullying bureaucrats or officials, media, corrupt corporate bosses or other vested interests – that were found to have used political ruses to harm good people, or to profit at the expense of good people, deserved to be made to compensate their victims, and to be treated as the criminals they were. It was now their turn to feel fear and guilt.

But the most significant change of all was that people came to think of themselves, and those around them, as individuals. What mattered was not where people came from, or what colour their skin was, or even what religion they had been brought up in. What mattered was how each individual behaved. That, and only that.

One by one, the zombies awoke, and found that they were human.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Chapter 46. Of the Third Wave

I, too, was in the air. On the Friday evening ride, the same day Ramael had invaded Earth. Under Gavantchin’s piloting, the big old bus was dancing. Round and round it went, like a car on an Earthly waltzer. The acceleration back into my seat was luxuriously crushing, but there was plenty of movement in other directions, too. And, occasionally, the dance partners separated, doing turns or loops. Then, the force moved to mainly down into my seat, and became, if anything, more crushing.

This was all Lily’s fault. Michael and Gabriel had asked Gavantchin to pilot the ride, on what would be her last Friday on Perinent. She had accepted, and Lily – overhearing the conversation, as I had – had asked, “Will you take us for the dance?”

“One ’mobile cannot make a good dance,” replied Gavantchin. “It takes, as you say, two to tango.”

“But cannot Michael or Gabriel pilot your ’mobile in the dance?” asked Lily.

Michael said, with a smile, “I will take the fly up to dance with the bumblebee.” Gavantchin laughed.

And so, we got to experience the dance of the bumblebee.

* * *

Next day, Saturday, we began to Pull the third wave. Using three Pullers, Cees, Elise and Hoong, we aimed to bring about nine or ten individuals each day, six days a week. We would not work on Sundays.

We aimed to have all the day’s intake Pulled before 12 of the 22, so the latest arrivals would wake up before the 14. Once an individual had been Pulled, we took them on a hospital style trolley to the common room to recover, so allowing the Puller to start looking for the next. Ben was in charge in the common room, and a mix of people did the transport.

Once two or three were awake, we started a briefing to tell them what was going on. Michael, Gabriel and I together did the briefings, aiming to make them no longer than about half an hour. Next, we let each write a message to tell colleagues, friends or family to expect them back in a day or two. And Gabriel or I Pushed that message where they asked.

Then we allocated a Team member to each individual or pair, to take them to see the Punishment Pit and for a brief talk with Harv’I. Dede, Lily and Marie did most of the guiding, but in a few cases I chose to be tour guide myself. Following the visit, which lasted about two hours, we would return them to the common room.

Meanwhile, I decided who if anyone from among our trainees (whether from the first or second wave) we should pair with each member of the third wave. I tried to make sure that those from the second wave, who were scheduled to be Pushed back, had as much notice as possible of what was going to happen.

During the afternoon, I finalized my decisions on where we would Push each individual back to. Usually, this was Ramael’s ’mobile, but occasionally I would send someone directly back to their home.

Before the 17 of the 22 Perinent time, Michael, Gabriel and I gave those to be Pushed to Earth a final pep-talk. Then, at or just after the 17, Hazael sent me a mescap indicating that he was ready to receive. Sometimes he might do this from a safe place on the ground, other times from geostationary orbit. Paul and Melinda were always in the ’mobile at such a time, to take care of those we Pushed when they arrived. Sometimes there were other trainees in the ’mobile as well, other times not. It depended on the relation between Perinent time and Earth time.

I replied with the list of those we would Push to the ’mobile, the list of who should be dropped off with whom and where, and the time at which we would be ready to start. If all had gone well during the day, then we should be able to start within a few minutes. If not, it might be an hour or more before we were ready.

We generally used only one Pusher, either Cees or Elise, to send the members of the second and third waves to the ’mobile. Ramael would aim to take them to their destinations on, usually, the following Earth day. If someone was to be sent directly back home, I usually asked Hoong to do it.

Paul, Melinda and Hazael ensured that an area of seats near the back of the ’mobile was kept clear and with backs lowered, to be the target area to Push people into. They would move new arrivals into other seats as soon as they arrived. This avoided Cees or Elise having to spend time recalibrating the remote eye between Pushes.

After the final Push of the day, we exchanged mescaps with Hazael to confirm the tally was complete, and when we would next do the same exercise.

That was the plan. And to begin with, at least, it worked well. On the Saturday, the first day of the third wave, we Pulled and briefed nine. We sent them back to Earth together with three trainees from the second wave, and I nominated four trainees from the first wave to be dropped off with their sponsors too.

We had all had a very tiring week, so there was no demand to go on a journey on the Sunday. But that evening, we had a celebration to mark the imminent departure of the Brjemych, and to thank them for all they had done to help us. Many toasts were drunk, including much Hooch Juice.

* * *

The next day, Monday, I chose to act as tour guide for a member of the third wave. This individual had been prominent in the so-called opposition in his country for some years. He had just recently been elected into power, but he had not yet had power long enough to do much damage.

“You are a very lucky young man,” I said to him as we walked towards the Pit. “If you had come into power much earlier, you could easily have been one of those sentenced to the Pit you are about to see.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“You are a politician,” I replied. “But, in the Galaxy, there is no politics as it is practiced on Earth today. For today’s Earthly politics is the art of perverting law and justice, either to benefit vested interests, or to persecute those the rulers don’t like.

“If you had been in power for an extended period, you would surely before long have made bad laws to harm innocent people, and so gone seriously against Galactic law. That would have made you fit for the Pit.”

He considered this. “So, there is law in the Galaxy?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied, “there is law. But that law comes from the nature of civilized species. And it is discovered, not invented.

“In the Galaxy, the individual is central. A key part of the Galactic way is common-sense justice; the idea that, over the long run, each individual deserves to be treated as he or she treats others. And every Galactic individual, regardless of species or achievements, is equal before the law. Meaning, that what is right for one to do, is right for another to do in similar circumstances, and vice versa.

“So, Galactic law is quite a simple matter. It consists of prohibiting violent aggression, theft and fraud against Galactics or candidate species, a requirement to respect others as individuals, a requirement that individuals take responsibility for the effects of their actions, and a few provisions necessary to support those.”

He nodded slowly, but said nothing.

We came to the lift down, and he stepped in without a word. At the bottom, a Cherub met us. My companion seemed to have so little telepathic ability, that he didn’t even receive the Cherub’s thoughts – let alone mine.

We reached the punishment building, and were let inside. The shortage of food was starting to bite. There were fights all around. “These are some of your political soulmates,” I said. “Be thankful you are not among them.”

He was sick on the sandy floor, then I had to support him as the Cherub opened the door and he staggered back through the airlock.

My companion perked up a bit as we walked on towards Harv’I’s house. “You seem to think I am a bad person,” he said. “But what, exactly, have I done wrong?”

“You have been prominent in the ‘opposition’ to a criminal gang that masqueraded as a government,” I replied. “Yet you failed to oppose most of the bad things they did to people.

“You failed to oppose their policies of steadily increasing control over every aspect of people’s lives. You failed to berate them for treating human beings without respect or dignity. You failed to challenge them for treating people like objects to be exploited and taxed out of existence.

“You failed to do enough to defend freedom of speech and other civil liberties. You failed to oppose routine surveillance of everyone. You failed to oppose arbitrary police powers. You failed to oppose aggressive, immoral and unnecessary wars.

“You failed to oppose redistribution of wealth away from the people who fairly earned it. You failed to oppose a tax system that takes from the politically poor, and gives to the politically rich like bureaucrats and failed bankers.

“You failed to oppose the fraudulent accusation that, through emissions of carbon dioxide, we humans are causing catastrophic change in the global climate. You failed to oppose those whose agenda is to ration our use of energy, and to take away our right to travel by car or by air. Worse, you actively supported this fraud.

“Now that you have power – I will be fair to you – you are trying to stop, or even to reverse, a few of these bad things. But you are not doing nearly enough to end the harms that have been done to good people, and to bring compensation to the victims of those harms.”

“I am doing the best I can, within the limits of politics,” he said.

“Ah, politics,” I retorted. “Perhaps you should spend more time looking at how people see you and your damned politics. A lot of good people have become angry and disgusted with the entire corrupt system. Individuals like you, playing politics-as-usual, do nothing to help our alienation.”

“But I am only trying to make sure the government does its proper jobs,” he said. “Like defending people against terrorists.”

“Taking reasonable steps against terrorist criminals,” I said, “is one thing. Treating all of us as if we are potential terrorists, is quite another. As is allowing police or soldiers to act like terrorists. Do you understand the differences?” His reply made it plain that he did understand, but still wasn’t prepared to commit himself wholeheartedly to defending our freedoms.

“As to climate change,” he said a little later, “I know there are those – like you – who don’t believe that the crisis is real and caused by human activities. But surely you would agree that the potential damage from doing nothing is so big, that we ought to take action even if we aren’t absolutely sure? It’s called the precautionary principle.”

I snorted. “I know about the precautionary principle,” I said. “It’s philosophical junk. And I’ll tell you why. First, do you think I am responsible for the effects of my actions on others? Am I to be held responsible for any harmful effects of the carbon dioxide I cause to be emitted?” He nodded. “Yes, of course,” he said.

“So, if the problem is real, you think that I should pay towards solving it and compensating the victims, in proportion to the amount of my emissions?” He nodded again.

“Next, would you agree that the best scientific knowledge we have is not sufficient to make a clear-cut, objective decision? Which is why you want to use the precautionary principle, to force action now?” He seemed a bit confused, but eventually nodded again.

“So, even leaving aside the possibility that the climate change accusations are frauds and not genuine science, it could still be that the problem might turn out, in the end, not to have been real?”

“I suppose so.” Grudgingly.

“Right. Now, let’s consider this possibility; that the problem isn’t real, and never was real. In this case, you impose on me – against my will, and against everything that I know of the science – serious costs, financial, in lifestyle and in freedom, for which I get no benefit at all. Is that so?” Eventually, another nod. A reluctant one, it seemed.

“Do you think that, if the problem turns out not to have been real, you and others that pressured for these costs to be imposed on me should be made to compensate me?”

“Of course not,” he replied. “That’s one of the things government is for. Making difficult collective decisions.”

“There’s the problem,” I said. “In one breath, you hold me responsible for the alleged bad consequences of what I do. In the next breath, you deny your own responsibility for objective and serious damage that you cause me. I call that a foul. And if the accusations against me are fraudulent, it is a double foul.

“If you were held responsible for the effects of your decision, and made to compensate anyone you harmed if you got it wrong, you would be far less eager to use the precautionary principle. In fact, no-one in their right minds would use it. No costly action would ever be taken on any matter until the facts are settled beyond reasonable doubt.

“You may not realize it, but as a politician you are trying to use for your own benefit bad old doctrines called sovereign immunity and irresponsibility. ‘The king can do no wrong,’ and all that. You are trying to make out that politicians and other government agents may evade responsibility for their actions, while ordinary people may not. But those ideas are hundreds of years out of date. They have no place in democracy, let alone in a Galactic species. Wouldn’t the world be a far better place, if individuals in government were held responsible for their share of the bad effects of the policies they make and implement?”

My companion was spluttering, for I had challenged many of his core beliefs in only a few minutes. Fortunately, we were now approaching Harv’I’s house. “Change of subject,” I said. “You are about to meet Harv’I, our local project manager. If you are into religion, he will be of great interest to you. For his father, Jahw’I, crash-landed on Earth three thousand and some years ago, and was the first cause of what later became Judaism, Christianity and Islam.”

We sat on the swinging sofa, and Harv’I came out from his house. Greetings were exchanged. Harv’I asked my companion to outline, in view of what he had learned today, the things he would do when he was returned to Earth. As he spoke, Harv’I and I carried on a telepathic conversation.

“How sound is his mind?” I sent. “Can he be trusted, or not?”

“Most of his mind is basically sound,” sent Harv’I. “But there are areas with knots in. For example, he is very worried about what you have just spoken to him about. He knows he ought to repudiate those bad policies. But he feels he cannot reverse his past support for them, and remain politically credible.”

“He has a lot of learning to do if he is to become Galactic, then,” I sent. “Can you do anything to untie some or all of the knots in his mind?”

“If you mean, am I capable of it,” sent Harv’I, “then the answer is Yes. There is enough good in his mind to give me something I can work with. But if you mean, is it right for me to do it, then it is not Galactically illegal or taboo, but it is unusual. We Elo’I do not normally let ourselves interfere so intimately in others’ minds, particularly because the consequences of a mistake would be terrible.”

“In this case, though,” I sent, “are you not repairing his mind? Are you not like a doctor operating on him? If the operation is successful, he will become a great value to our project, and history may well record him as a great man. If not, I don’t see how he will be any worse off than he is now.”

Harv’I took quite a long time to reply. That was very unusual. “I have noticed,” he sent in the end, “that all the individuals you have brought to me so far in your third wave have had knots in their minds. Whereas, only a few of your trainees have suffered from knots, and all of the Team have clear and sound minds.”

“Knots in the mind may be an effect of taking an active part in politics,” I sent. “Politics is very corrupting of the character, and maybe that effect would be directly visible to you.”

This time, Harv’I took even longer to reply. Eventually, “Very good,” he sent. “I see that there is a case for me, where I can, to act to smooth out a mental knot or two here, a kink or two there. I will begin with this man.”

There was a mental “zing!” that went past me, and the man next to me on the swinging sofa seemed to lose his place in what he was saying. Then, he said to Harv’I, “Oh! Thank you for that. My mind feels much clearer now.” Then, turning to me, “I now understand what you, and Michael, and Gabriel have been telling me since I arrived here. I will abandon my old, wrong, political views. And I’m with you and your project. I will do all in my power to bring the human race into the Galaxy.”

“Success?” I sent to Harv’I. “Bulls-eye,” he replied. “A St. Paul moment.”

* * *

As we walked back to the hotel round the north side of the Pit, I told my companion that I planned to allocate to him one of the trainees from the first wave, who was already on Earth. This individual – none other than my European parliamentary friend – had been trained in the Galactic way of doing things, and would keep him on the path towards it.

And I reminded him that, if he didn’t do properly the job he had taken on, I could always order him Pulled back here, either for further instructions, or in the worst case for punishment. But I hoped, in view of what had happened at Harv’I’s, that I would not need to use that sanction.

* * *

To Pull the third wave, and send back all the trainees to Earth, took twice as long as I had planned – four weeks. This was partly due to difficulty in finding some of them, and partly due to some additions I decided to make to the third-wave list.

On the Monday after the last trainees left, Michael took Tuglayino and Tuglayono back to the newly refurbished Camp Four. The following day, he took Tuglaydum and Tuglaydee, their job at Camp Two now done, to the docking station for their return to their home planet. They promised that they would join us on Earth for the celebrations when the project was finished.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Chapter 45. A Friendly Invasion

I did not personally experience what happened on Earth in the aftermath of P-Day. Instead, I later gathered accounts from Ramael and Hazael, and from the trainees. And I used the detailed journal which Melinda kept.

The first-wave trainees woke in Ramael and Hazael’s ’mobile. They could see Earth far below them. They were all a little bit stiff, having been asleep in the ’mobile for several days.

Ramael switched off the quiet-mode field, which had made the ’mobile invisible. He chose to approach from south to north over the South Atlantic, as this seemed the least obviously threatening area to come from. That done, he turned north-west, towards the nearest Earth had to a capital city – Washington, where it was a bright, cool Wednesday morning in March.

Ramael’s piloting on the way in was energetic. The passengers weren’t sure whether he was trying to evade missiles, to show off his piloting skills to the people of Earth, or to give them a good ride. Or, perhaps, all three.

Ramael had no trouble at all in evading the missiles sent to blow him out of the sky. They did, indeed, explode. But by the time they did, they were at least a million kilometres from Earth. The pilots that scrambled to intercept him suddenly found themselves a thousand kilometres or more away from where they had been a moment before.

Hazael turned a switch, and broadcast on a lot of radio frequencies at once. “That was not very kind of you. If anyone attacks us again, we will be forced to defend ourselves actively,” he said.

No-one took up the offer. And so, Ramael flew the ’mobile ostentatiously over Washington, and brought it in to land on the White House lawn.

The incumbent was away, having been Pulled to the Punishment Pit. It was easy to imagine the hordes of scurrying officials trying to work out what to do. But Hazael chose to make life simple for them.

“I’m from the Company for Galactic Advancement, and I’m here to help you,” he broadcast. “Will someone who has authority to speak for the people of this country please come out of that palace, and parley with us?”

After a short delay, two bureaucrats that had drawn the shortest straws came out. Hazael, in his pink robe, and two white-robed Americans from among the trainees, got out of the ’mobile.

“I,” said Hazael to the bureaucrats, “am Hazael of the Seraphim. And this gentleman and lady are two of your own. They have been trained in the Galactic way of doing things. We have brought them here so they can help the best of your leaders, and all good people on your planet, move Earth societies into the Galactic way of peace, prosperity and justice.

“I must warn you, do not do them any harm, or allow anyone else to harm them. Neither I nor my pilot would be at all pleased if anything bad happened to them. I am sure you already have some idea of what we can do if we need to. And my project managers also can punish wrongdoers most harshly, if they wish. Think about what happened recently to your president and his predecessor.

“Is that clear? Do you agree to protect this gentleman and lady, and to let them access your leaders and advise them?”

The bureaucrats hesitated. Did they believe Hazael and his friends really could do what they threatened? Eventually, “Yes, he can,” one of them murmured. The other nodded to Hazael.

“Good,” said Hazael. “Let us drink a toast to seal our agreement.”

Another white-robed trainee came out of the ’mobile, bearing a tray with five glasses of Seraphim red wine. He offered them to the two bureaucrats, then to Hazael and the two trainees. He went back inside.

Hazael raised his glass. “To humans as members of the Galaxy!” he said, and drained the glass. The two trainees repeated the toast and the action.

After a pause, “Who could say no?” said one of the bureaucrats. And they both drained their glasses.

Hazael bowed to the others, and re-entered the Seraphimobile. Ramael gave the warning cry of “Sit back,” and took it off. Straight up for fifty metres or so, then the nose lifted and the ’mobile powered upwards and to the east, turning, weaving and occasionally looping as it went.

“Show-off,” said Hazael to Ramael, who beamed.

* * *

In the first day’s work, 12 hours or so, they dropped off about a dozen of the fifty-nine first wave trainees in their own countries. Without subjecting its passengers to uncomfortable accelerations, the ’mobile could get from anywhere on Earth to anywhere else in a little over an hour. So they had time to visit Europe as well as the Americas.

On that first day, they used, as their targets, presidential palaces and similar haunts of ruling élites and their hangers-on. So, the ceremony was similar each time, although sometimes the trainees had to interpret. The only effect the repeated doses of wine seemed to have on Hazael, was that he became a little more verbose each time.

Ramael had told the trainees about the third wave. He explained that those being dropped off first were considered the most likely to remain safe, even without a third-wave member in their country. He told them that the later drop-offs – and those in the second wave – would often be accompanied by a sponsor from the third wave, who was likely to be close to, or even possibly in, power.

After a good day’s work, they returned to Washington for the night. A tycoon had radioed Hazael and offered rooms for the party in his five-star hotel. The trainees were glad, because they felt a strong need to stretch out in bed for a while.

The ’mobile simply landed on the roof of the hotel. The owner greeted the trainees cordially, and in return was offered a ride in the ’mobile the next day. Ramael and Hazael told him that they did not need to sleep, and so preferred to remain in the ’mobile. No-one from the government dared to bother them.

* * *

As the days unfolded, the trainees of the first wave were gradually unloaded. As time went on, the drop-offs became far less public. Though, whenever the ’mobile came flying low near a neighbourhood, there was no shortage of people coming out to see if it landed, and if it did, to mark where it landed and who came out.

Ramael had a list from me, of who he should look to drop off where and when. But he had full authority to make changes as needed. And trainees sometimes wanted to be dropped off somewhere I had not expected. This meant a fairly substantial admin task for someone in the ’mobile itself. Knowing that she was to be among the very last to be dropped off, Melinda had volunteered to be the one to keep track of what they had achieved, and what they still had to do.

The third wave of sponsors, and the second wave of trainees, were Pushed from Perinent into the ’mobile while it was at rest relative to the Earth, then taken to their drop-off points. Each night, those remaining took advantage of the Washington tycoon’s offer, or of one of a number of similar offers from hotel owners in other countries.

At least, that was the theory. But, as had happened with the Brjemych, there were some troubles. There was unrest in a number of countries, particularly in tropical South America, the Middle East and parts of Africa. And there were places, where even Pulling the main culprits to the Pit had not loosened the grip of tyrannical governments.

We had agreed that Ramael would not, initially, interfere unless the ’mobile was threatened or a full-scale war was about to be started. We would try first to deal with these problems from the Perinent end, by Pulling more bad individuals to the Pit, or potential leaders to be briefed and sent back. Only if that failed would we send Ramael in to assist one side or the other.

But otherwise, things went well. No-one made any attempt to attack the ’mobile, or anyone from it. And a swathe of the media, at last, started to tell the truth. John and Galina’s bombshell had had its effect. People knew instinctively that what was happening was so big, that it couldn’t be ignored, or hand-waved or politicked away.

Change for the better was in the air.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Chapter 44. Of Trouble Down t’ Pit

I ordered, for those who had worked through the night – Seraphim excepted, of course, “Eight hours of sleep-gas for all of us. Let’s have a meeting of everyone, at the 16. Ray and Jenna, please prepare dinner for the normal time.” I asked Michael and Gabriel to tell everyone about the meeting who didn’t already know.

I got up around the 15, and spent some time in the Pedia room telling Harv’I what we had done. While I was there, John and Galina came in. “I have checked the Earthly news media,” said Galina, “and I find surprisingly little. There were a couple of unconfirmed stories about politicians disappearing, but since then – nothing.”

Typical, I thought, of the mainstream media. Ignoring the facts right in front of them, while keeping to the party line – not rocking the political boat.

“Then,” I said with a smile, “we are going to have to give the media a scoop or two. Now it is time for you to take your recorders down to the Pit, and to get filming. If you like, you can start right away – this is more important than coming to the meeting at the 16.”

“We’re on the case,” said John, and the two departed to get their equipment.

At the meeting, I told everyone that Ramael would be landing the ’mobile openly on Earth at 9 of the 22, our time, the next morning, Friday. And that we would start Pulling the third wave on the following day, Saturday. We planned to have the third wave Pulled, briefed and sent back in approximately two weeks.

The second wave of trainees, too, would be sent back during this period. They would be Pushed into the ’mobile on Earth, then delivered in it to their own countries.

The other announcement to be made was that the first of the Brjemych would leave Perinent on the Monday. Gavantchin would pilot them to the Naudar’I docking station. As the ’mobile could take only two Brjemych at once, four trips would be necessary. These would take almost three Perinent days. And Gavantchin and Zer’ael themselves would go back to Seraph, leaving on the Thursday.

* * *

After the meeting, I went to the Pit. It was going dark. I took with me a laser gun. Not only for fear of predators; but also, to have something nasty-looking to point at the politicals I hated and despised so much.

There was no Cherub to guide me from the lift. But I could walk easily enough, for Hoong’s lights were still – mostly – on.

As I reached the outer door, a Cherub came out of the airlock behind it. “Greetings, Neil,” he sent. “You come opportunely. There is much to see. Compose yourself.” He led me inside, through the lock and then the inner door into the punishment building. Though the light was brighter than outside, it took me a while to adjust to what I saw.

To my right, Galina was filming, and behind her John keeping up a commentary. A second Cherub was near them. The remaining two Cherubs were on guard, to prevent any inmate of the bunks interfering with the action Galina was filming.

Two well known ex-politicians lay in their suits, sweat-soaked, on the sandy floor. One trying to break the windpipe of the other, the other trying to scratch out the eyes of the one. It was a very ugly, slow-motion dance.

Further to the left, a fat slob of an ex-politician had fallen off its top-tier bunk – or, perhaps, been pushed. It lay grunting and wheezing, body broken. No-one moved to help.

These were the most obvious, but there were other scenes of distress too. And only about half the inmates had woken up yet! It would be worse later.

“Nice work,” I sent to the Cherub. He genuflected, and led me back through the airlock.

* * *

John and Galina came back to the hotel, looking satisfied, about the 18. “We have plenty of material,” John said. “Including some shots which will enable viewers to recognize the individuals concerned.”

“How quickly can you edit it and get it out?” I asked.

“Tonight,” he replied. “We will skip dinner, if Ray and Jenna will provide us room service. Then we will work as long as it takes. Before the morning, what we have recorded will have been sent to hundreds of news outlets on Earth.” “Good,” I said. “Go to it.”

After dinner, I stood up and said, “I’ve been working on a few things not all of you may have been aware of.

“Firstly, I asked Gabriel and Tuglaydum to teach Galina how to Push mescaps quickly to several destinations on the same planet. And I asked Gabriel to procure several hundred low-quality mescaps to be sent to Earth. There’s no danger – we won’t be trying to Pull these back. We’re doing a mailshot, folks.

“Secondly, John and Galina have recorded some brilliant material from the Pit. I witnessed a little of it myself. They are working through the night – again! – to edit it, then they will make many copies and send them to Earth. Newspaper and TV editors, beware.”

Cees smiled, for he now understood why I had, weeks earlier, asked him to Pull two laptop computers and several hundred memory sticks from Earth. And Marie understood why, earlier still, I had asked her to design a cartoon to attract the attention of media editors.

“Thirdly,” I continued, “I have set up a mechanism for Pulling food from Seraph for the inmates of the Punishment Pit. Gabriel is doing the Pulling work. But there will also need to be a transport team, like the one we had yesterday, to wheel the supplies down. Volunteers gratefully accepted.

“And please don’t think I am being kind to our enemies. I have set the level of supplies at three-quarters of what they need to survive. I want them to keep fighting each other.”

Monday, 25 August 2014

Chapter 43. Of P-Day

As we set ourselves at last towards P-Day, the Team became restless. They understood that our project, if successful, would change all the cultures they had grown up in. Nothing would be left untouched. And they had committed themselves to making it happen. They were not sure they had decided right.

The trainees picked this up too. They had doubts. And the Tuglay reported that they were being asked many difficult questions.

It didn’t help that it was now the sharpest period of winter. The winters at Camp Two were continental – think Minnesota. Going outside the hotel for any length of time became a major undertaking. Even the twenty metres from the east door to the big old bus’s normal parking spot was now a jog, not a walk. And I could only visit Harv’I when Gavantchin was with us to take me in her ’mobile.

Michael and Gabriel did what they could, and it was much. They were always available, always smiling, always helpful. But that was not enough.

I noticed that it was those, who had often before been outspoken and cynical, who were now the staunchest supporters of what we were doing. Ray, in particular. And Ben. Elise, more gently, weighed in too. “What was the point of coming here if we don’t change the world for the better?” she asked.

* * *

Over the weeks, the news from Camp Four got better and better. The alliance of the Sixty-Four Kings (well actually, sixty-two kings and two presidents) was rapidly taking control of the Brjemych planet. There were bloodless coups in many realms and in several republics. Violence was down, happiness was up, and even the economy was starting to recover from all the bad kings’ predations.

I worried that Voltan, who was clearly the first among equals and the king-pin of the Sixty-Four, might try to make himself emperor. But Harv’I – on one of my, currently rare, visits to him – put me right. “I mind-scanned him when we met,” he said. “I took a complete dump of his mind. That is Galactically taboo, but I did it anyway, because the matter is so important. Voltan is trustworthy.”

All the Brjemych trainees had been sent back within the first three weeks after B-Day. Maijier and his advisor had been the last to go. There were now only eight Brjemych and two Tuglay left there, along with Zer’ael and Gavantchin. And the only reason Tuglayino and Tuglayono were still on Perinent, was that they had volunteered to stay on, to be the teachers for the next species to use Camp Four.

Meanwhile, I had some more planning to do. I put to Balzo the idea that we should have a Third Wave. We would Pull some of those with a good chance of acquiring power in the aftermath of P-Day. We would brief them. We would show them the Punishment Pit, and take them to meet Harv’I. And we would then send them back to play their parts in the revolution. With assistance, where appropriate, from one or more of our trainees.

I wanted to keep the second wave on Perinent until the third wave was properly started. I wanted to send them to a “safe house” – Ramael’s Seraphimobile, where they would join those still remaining from the first wave. And then, to distribute them round the planet as needed. That was ultimately why I had decided to Pull Paul, and with him Melinda. I wanted a doctor on board that ’mobile.

I also spent much time exchanging ideas with Ramael and Hazael while they were on Socotera. Because of the physics of the force fields, it is not possible to contact Naudar’I ships in flight, even by mescap. So, once the first wave left Socotera, my next opportunity to communicate with them would be when they were in geostationary orbit above Earth.

We agreed that Hazael would send us a mescap when they arrived there. That would be the signal that we could start P-Day. My plan was for the Seraphimobile to land – very publicly – on Earth exactly forty-four hours, that is two Perinent days, after we began P-Day. A further twenty-two hours later, we would start Pulling the third wave.

* * *

As winter at Camp Two turned into early spring, the anxiety passed. Yes, people came to think, this really can work. We, we lucky few, really do have the chance to change for the better the lives of all the peaceful, honest, productive people on Earth. And to punish the political class for their crimes and injustices. So let’s do it.

We in the Team spent a lot of our time detailing who should be taken in the third wave, and monitoring them. They were a mixture. Some were prominent opposition leaders. Some were heirs apparent to power, should there be an emergency. Others had only very recently acquired power, and had not yet done too much harm.

A week before P-Day, we had news via Balzo that the Board of the Galactic Association had considered the Brjemych’s application for Galactic status, and had formally accepted them as Juniors. Several hundred Galactic dignitaries would gather on the Brjemych planet for the celebrations in approximately eight Perinent weeks. And it was time for Zer’ael and Gavantchin to make the arrangements for Gelmar and his Team to go home.

I urgently asked Balzo to make sure that the Brjemych didn’t leave Perinent until after they had helped us with our own P-Day. He agreed, but said they would have to come to Camp Two almost immediately, as Camp Four was to be prepared for another species. So, I had Gavantchin bring in relays the entire Brjemych Team of eight, with their three Pulling and Pushing machines, to Camp Two. Zer’ael, Tuglayono and Tuglayino came too. We had enough rooms for them all – just.

* * *

P-Day was set for a Wednesday. On the Tuesday afternoon, Gabriel came to me with a mescap. It was from Hazael, who was now in Earth orbit. The trainees in the ’mobile were under sleep-gas; they could be woken up at eight hours’ notice. I replied that we would start the Pulling at 9 of the 22, Perinent time, the following morning. And that the trainees should be woken up in time for the landing on Earth forty-four hours later. That would be Friday morning, our time.

Wednesday came. It was a sunny late spring day, cool but promising warmth later. All was in place for the Pullers. Michael had mixed several hundred large sleep-gas doses, which he would administer to keep those we Pulled unconscious for about a Perinent day. As well as a similar number of smaller and quicker-acting doses, to be used for the act of Pulling.

Gabriel, Cees, Elise, Hoong, Galina and three Brjemych Pullers would each work at a dedicated machine for as long as it took. Gelmar would be reserve Puller, ready to step in while people were eating, or to take over from anyone who became too tired. And I would do the occasional Pull too, if only to keep my hand in.

With much ingenuity, Hoong had rigged up some lights, both on the way from the hotel to the Punishment Pit and between the elevator and the building in the Pit itself, so that we could continue to work at night if we needed to. And the strongest among the second wave of trainees had been co-opted into the transport team. Some of them would wheel those destined for punishment from our building to the elevator, down into the Pit, and to the punishment building. Ben would organize them. Others, down in the Pit, would take on the really heavy job, of loading the sleeping prisoners on to their bunks. Lily would direct this work. We had Gavantchin and Zer’ael to help too; they were each as strong as two humans.

The Cherubim were primed to keep a look out for anyone we brought that they thought did not deserve punishment, as their fellows at Camp Four had done for Maijier.

Sabrina had on hand all the information on which of those to be punished would likely be found where and when. John was ready with camera and sound recording equipment. Dede and Marie were the runners, carrying messages wherever they were needed – and, in particular, taking to each Puller the dossier on whomever they were to Pull next. Since the Brjemych could not read English, three of our trainees were ready to read out the dossiers to Borong and their two other Pullers. Ray and Jenna were in the kitchen. I was ready to oversee the whole, and to react to anything that might happen, as it happened.

As he had been earlier at Camp Four, Cees was a Trojan that day. Despite all the monitoring work we had done, it was harder to find those to be Pulled than it had been with the bad Brjemych kings. Still, Cees averaged a Pull every twenty-five minutes throughout the day. This time, Elise was only a little slower, about thirty-five minutes per Pull. Gabriel worked at about the same rate as Elise. Hoong, Galina and the three Brjemych each averaged around one Pull an hour.

We didn’t stop for lunch, we didn’t stop for dinner. Anyone who felt hungry simply went along to the kitchen and grabbed tea or coffee, and whatever they fancied from Ray and Jenna’s ever-changing menu.

Night fell. Our tally was in the 120s. We were a little over half-way to today’s target. We were going to have to work through the night. We were going to have to work right until the first of those we had Pulled began to wake up.

We Pulled dictators. We Pulled warmongers. We Pulled presidents, prime ministers and former occupants of those posts. We Pulled senior UN and EU bureaucrats. We Pulled politicians and “scientists” that had fraudulently claimed that human activities caused catastrophic climate change. We Pulled many of those that had ruled over people by lies and deception. We Pulled a good selection of those whose disappearance would bring joy to the hearts of the people they had mistreated.

The Cherubim remained silent throughout. Obviously, we had not made any mistakes like the one Mittveld had made over Maijier.

Things went wrong, of course. Some of Hoong’s lights failed, and I had to ask Zer’ael to fix them – which he did, quickly. One trainee, hauling a laden trolley too enthusiastically over the rough ground, sprained his ankle. Zer’ael couldn’t fix that instantly, but he could lessen the pain. Having a combined engineer and medic in my team was a boon.

It was an uncanny scene that I saw in the sputtering light. Some of the worst individuals on Earth, strapped to trolleys, being wheeled unconscious towards their nemesis – and good riddance. Many of them in suits, some in pyjamas. A few, indeed, in evening dress.

Down in the Pit itself, as the bunks were slowly filled, it felt even more eerie, though the building had far better lights than the ones Hoong had installed.

By 6 of the 22, after nineteen hours of concentration on the work, even Cees had begun to flag. I determined that we should stop when the tally reached 200. That would be enough to make our point. We could – and would – Pull more later.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Chapter 42. Of the Second Wave

Voltan was happy to accept Mittveld as his advisor. He did another service for us before he left. He provided a list of eighteen names, of kings he thought were worth Pulling to Perinent and asking to join our project. One was Maijier.

Cees Pushed Voltan back to his own kingly mattress, and Mittveld to a, by Brjemych standards, luxurious guestroom in his palace. He Pushed her an hour or so after Voltan. Partly to make sure that he woke well before she did. And partly because she showed signs of undergoing an epiphany.

“Under my king,” Mittveld had said to me, “if I was the key witness in a failed prosecution, I would myself be punished for my failure. Yet you have not only let me go unharmed, but have given me exactly the assignment I wanted. And with a good king like Voltan!”

“Mittveld,” I said to her, “your king – an Atrox – is already in the Punishment Fort. Did you not realize how bad your king was?”

“I was foolish,” she said. “I was so bound up in my community and my country that I did not realize that the king was evil.”

“Understood,” I replied. “But, before you go to join Voltan, you owe Maijier an apology.”

Which was given. Face to face, honestly and fulsomely.

I also had to apologize to Maijier, for my part in having him wrongly Pulled to Perinent and imprisoned. I did it, awkwardly. He laughed (whinnied).

Maijier was a medium-sized, brown Brjemych, neither young nor old. He said, “It is fortunate that my realm is stable when I am away. Ha! For my brother Riccart is an excellent administrator, but he has no great appetite for power. But, even if I do not lose my realm, I understand that under Galactic law I still can claim compensation for my treatment from the Company you represent.”

“That is what I understand too, from what Gabriel has told me. But I do not know the details. I will ask Harv’I, our local project manager, to find out what you should do to get compensation.”

“Oh, I may not even bother,” said Maijier with a grin. “I am intrigued by your project. I have studied Voltan for many years, and know that he never jumps until he has sized up the fence. It could be gainful, to us all, for me to become one of your Sixty-Four Kings.”

I grinned back. “Indeed, Voltan suggested exactly that. Let us take you to Camp Two to meet Harv’I. Then you can discuss both these matters further.”

* * *

I had daily contact, over the radio link, with Ben at Camp Two. I told him now that it was time for Michael to bring the ’mobile back to pick up those he had brought to Camp Four five days earlier. Lily and I would travel separately with Gavantchin, as we had another Brjemych to bring to meet Harv’I.

Meanwhile, under Adelghem’s direction, the Brjemych were sending back by mescap to their planet pictures of what was going on in the Punishment Fort. These had an immediate effect. In several of the troubled kingdoms, violence lessened or stopped. And in them, and in many others, the Brjemych held rallies and parades to celebrate being rid of the kings they had hated.

It was Saturday when Gavantchin took Gelmar, Maijier, Lily and me back to Camp Two. I had planned that we all spend two nights at Camp Two, and meet Harv’I on the Monday. For I wanted time to talk to Maijier. And to relax a bit.

Being back at Camp Two was like being home after a foreign adventure. Despite all that was going on, it seemed familiar, quiet and comfortable. And to taste Earth food again – Cees and Ray having plotted so that we had Earth food (and beer) on Saturday as well as Sunday – was a bonus.

On the Sunday, we again went to walk in the mountains to the south-west. But it was now winter, so conditions were far more difficult. There was a mixture of sun and snow showers. We had to wear three or four sets of underwear beneath our robes to keep warm. And there were many trainees to transport, so Gabriel ran a shuttle service between the camp and the mountains.

Gavantchin, Gelmar and Maijier came walking with me and Lily. Gavantchin turned her ’mobile over to Michael, so he could follow our group.

The conditions meant that we could do only about half of the walk we had done before. Fortunately, the upper – and prettier – half of it was still passable, as far as the foot of the green mound.

Early on, Lily decided it was too cold to walk, and accepted the ride which Michael offered. So, I had plenty of time to talk with Maijier. I tried to enthuse him about staying on Perinent until the full complement of sixty-four kings was filled. “I think you, as a king, have a better chance of persuading other kings to join our project than Gelmar and his Team would on their own.”

“True,” said Maijier.

“I am sure you have ambition to be the second of the Sixty-Four Kings, after Voltan,” I said. “But I would be happier if you were the sixty-fourth. Is there not more honour in being chief recruiter and leader of the rearguard, than in being second in the van?”

Maijier laughed. Something I had grown used to, for he laughed often.

We came to the mound, which today was a mixture of green and white. The two ’mobiles were dancing around each other in the air above the mound, like a pair of giant insects. Gavantchin looked up approvingly. “That is good piloting,” she said. “Though it does put the passengers under a lot of acceleration. I am particularly impressed with Gabriel, for it is hard to make a big old bus dance.”

By now, I was feeling cold and tired. I was very glad when, at last, the pilots finished their dance, and Michael came to pick us up at the bottom of the mound.

* * *

I spent a frantic Monday catching up with what had been going on at Camp Two, writing a belated progress report to Balzo, and preparing for the meeting with Harv’I and Maijier.

The second wave of trainees, Ben opined, were better than the first. At least, they gave less trouble. Perhaps, he thought, this might be because there were more business people, and less academics and minor politicians, in the second group than the first. The Tuglay, too, were pleased with the second wave’s progress. I made a mental note to do my own checking, as soon as I could get free of my urgent duties to the Camp Four project.

We went in the afternoon to see Harv’I. If Maijier had not already convinced himself to join our project, he certainly was convinced after speaking with Harv’I. And he approved my plan, that he should be recruiter for the Sixty-Four Kings, and should stay on Perinent until all had been selected.

Then we went back to Camp Four, where the panic of B-Day and its immediate aftermath was dying down. There were still lots of loose ends to tie, though. The major one was filling the tally of the Sixty-Four Kings. Voltan, in addition to himself and Maijier, had suggested seventeen names. The Brjemych Team and trainees, between them, came up with twenty-five, all of whom they believed to be Felixes. Maijier added another twelve kings he knew well, and two presidents of well above average integrity. We were still six short, not allowing for any that might refuse to join us. We decided that we would have to be open to further suggestions from those who committed to join us.

Another loose end was our offer to Voltan to provide radio communications equipment to the Sixty-Four Kings, so that they could easily talk to each other without leaving their realms. We set up a system in which the Brjemych would Pull radios, like those we used to communicate between Camps Two and Four, from the manufacturers. Then, Zer’ael would configure each one individually for use on the Brjemych planet by a particular king. And then they would be Pushed where they were to be used.

We also planned how the project team would keep in contact with the kings. We decided we should Push and Pull pieces of paper only, and should not risk using mescaps. One of Gelmar’s Team, Borong (pronounced “bow” as in archery, followed by “wrong”), volunteered to be the dispatcher. I wondered if he realized that he had just taken on the hardest job at Camp Four, as Sabrina had at Camp Two.

All these things could be handled, day-to-day at least, by Gelmar and his Team. I could now reduce my commitment at Camp Four back to one night a week. And turn my attention to P-Day.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Chapter 41. Of a Practice Run

Now, things at Camp Four were moving. We had, at last, a list of bad Brjemych to be Pulled for punishment. Most of them were kings, so there was little difficulty in finding them, unless they were away from their palaces.

I had no idea how the Brjemych trainees had been selected, yet they seemed a good bunch. But I was still concerned over how the Ke’lan had become involved. I worried there might be something about the Brjemych I needed to know, but didn’t.

I asked for and waited for enlightenment, and had, at last, a mescap from Odam, explaining what his predecessor as project manager had got wrong.

As Odam told me, the Brjemych had been almost ready to become Junior Galactics for thirty of their generations. Yet, it hadn’t happened. The Brjemych, even by their own admission, tended to be slow to make things happen. So the Company had authorized a project at Camp Four.

The Voxh (pronounced “Vosh”), a hive-mind, had volunteered to be overall manager of the project. The Company had accepted this, because no-one else came forward. The Voxh had chosen the team and trainees, and chosen them well. But then, he had appointed the Ke’lan as Helpers, expecting that they would jolt the Brjemych into action.

But, as I saw it, the Voxh’s choice of Helpers had been plain wrong. There was a fundamental incompatibility between the Ke’lan and Brjemych approaches to life. The Ke’lan were focused, ordered, and – despite their Galactic status – not above a little persuasion of the uncomfortable variety. But the Brjemych – for the most part – just did what they did. In Brjemych culture, the most dynamic individuals, such as Adelghem, became story-tellers, not entrepreneurs or field marshals.

Since Zer’ael and Gavantchin arrived, the Brjemych had relaxed. They referred to their new Helpers as “Dad” and “Mum.” (No translator needed.) They had already started to use English! It’s catching.

But the Brjemych project was still less sure of success than it should have been. And, I realized, it was now my job to fix the problem. Surely, Harv’I had the responsibility in title, and his contributions were most valuable; but he was remote. Gabriel, too, had a part to play, but he was now visiting Camp Four less and less frequently.

No, I was the one on the ground. I was the one who had to turn excrement into increment.

I decided on an aggressive strategy. Two days before B-Day, the Brjemych’s P-Day – which was also two weeks after the course for the second wave began at Camp Two – I had Gabriel, Cees, Marie, Elise and Hoong brought to Camp Four, with four of our five machines. Michael piloted them, and more than a week’s supply of Fortnum and Mason food, Dutch beer and Seraphim wine accompanied them – for the Brjemych are not renowned as cooks. Only Galina, among those able to Pull and Push, was left at Camp Two.

It took Gabriel most of the following day to configure our machines to access the Brjemych home planet. That done, we had seven machines – three of the Brjemych’s and four of ours – ready. And six dedicated operators, three Brjemych and three human. While Gabriel and I would share the seventh machine, and Gelmar would be ready to take over from any of his Team who became too tired. Meanwhile, members of the Brjemych Team or trainees would stand beside us and help us find those to be Pulled.

B-Day dawned, and we went to our tasks. Cees was at his very best that day. We had one hundred and fifteen kings, and forty-one others, listed to be Pulled for punishment. Cees averaged, throughout the day, one Pull every seventeen minutes. Elise was about half as fast, and Hoong and the three Brjemych team members vied for third place. Gabriel took six, and I five. Gelmar took only one.

After thirteen hours, we had Pulled one hundred and fifty. Only six short of the target! Of course, we had to get each of them into the Punishment Fort. Brjemych were not physically well equipped to move their sleeping fellows. So, the transport team – using trolleys we had brought from Camp Two – consisted of Zer’ael, Gavantchin, Lily and Marie. I did a few trips myself, while Gabriel was Pulling. Though the ground was level, it was hard work under the equatorial sun. And Brjemych were heavy!

We finished late. We were happy, we were tired. We ate well, we got drunk, we got sleepy.

I was woken by commotion. Adelghem, and the other Brjemych team member who specialized in news gathering, brought bad tidings. Our Pulling of the worst kings had not had at all the effect we had hoped. At least twelve violent insurrections had begun in the realms of kings we had brought for punishment, in the hours since we began B-Day. And four in other kingdoms, too.

That was not all. For one of the Cherubim was demanding to speak to me and Gelmar. The Cherub sent to us, “One Pullee, we think, does not punishment deserve. His name is Maijier.” (He pronounced – if that is the right word for a telepathic nuance – the name as “My-year.”) “We think he has suffered a bad name wrongly given.”

Now, I knew that Cherubim were among the strongest telepaths in the Galaxy. They could easily make themselves understood to species where the majority are poor telepaths, like humans or Seraphim. And they could, at need, read the minds even of species most of whose members had no telepathy at all – like the Brjemych. No wonder they were in demand as police. But they were honest police. They would never help to prosecute or punish those they knew to be innocent.

So I said and sent, “Please hold Maijier for now within the Fort, but in reasonable comfort, and with adequate rations. Gelmar and I will judge him later.”

The Cherub bowed – even, I might say, genuflected – and returned to the Fort.

* * *

Voltan, his name was. He was Gelmar’s king. Gelmar had told me that his king was a Felix; I hoped he was right. Cees Pulled Voltan, and he woke before any of us expected.

Voltan was, by Brjemych standards, huge – about fifteen hands, by Earthly horse measurements, or more than a metre and a half tall at the withers. He was a grey stallion in late middle age, and he had a beard. Not a goatee, but a real beard – a fringe of long, white hair all around his muzzle.

When he woke, Voltan said, according to my translator, not the usual “Where am I?” – but “Who called me?”

“I called you,” I said to Voltan, handing him a translator. He took it in his left hand, and attached it to himself. He waited for me to speak.

“Voltan,” I said, “I brought you here because I need your advice. We are engaged in a project to bring you Brjemych into Galactic civilization. It is not going well. We have brought the worst of your kings and republican leaders here for punishment. Yet, instead of change for the better as we hoped, it seems to have caused chaos.”

Voltan looked at me, Gabriel and Gelmar, then said, “What do you expect? Good kings rule with the consent of their people. Bad kings, by force or fraud and with the hatred of most of their people. Republicans, with the consent of some, but the hatred of the rest. Unseat bad kings and bad republican leaders, and those they and their cronies oppressed will revolt, looking to bring the oppressors to justice. Simple. Why are you so slow?”

The last sentence, as it came from the translator, sounded like my mathematics supervisor, after I had done a good piece of work but couldn’t see – obvious to him – where it led next. There was even a trace of his Hungarian accent.

I smiled. “Thank you, Voltan. I would like you to stay here two or three days. Do you want to send a message to your friends, telling them you will soon be back? I assume you have someone to fulfil your duties while you are away for a short time?”

“Yes,” said Voltan. “I am the captain of a team, and I have a vice-captain. I should alert him that I will be off the field for a few days.”

After the mescap was sent, Gavantchin took Gabriel, Voltan, Gelmar and myself to Camp Two to meet Harv’I. On the way, we told Voltan about what had been going on at Camp Four.

At the meeting, Harv’I gave Voltan the background. “Our goal here is to bring the Brjemych through what we call the Social Transition,” he said. “That is a necessary stage towards becoming Galactics. What that transition involves is replacing outdated political organizations – including, I must be frank, monarchy – by societies which allow individuals the maximum freedom to be themselves, and reward them according to what they do.”

“I have considered this problem,” said Voltan. “Do not think that we Brjemych are unaware of the Galactic Association, or of the potential benefits of joining it.” At this, Gelmar started, and I took a big breath. Neither of us had been previously told that the Brjemych – or some of their kings, at least – had already been contacted by Galactics.

“But we are very slow to make such changes,” Voltan continued. “And not only because we are conservative. Much of the reason, I think, is that compared to other species who have experienced monarchy, we have very many good kings. Those who live under good kings have little incentive to agitate for change. Particularly when they see what goes on in the republics. And the kings themselves, good or bad, have even less incentive for change.”

“Yes,” said Harv’I, “I am glad your thinking confirms mine.”

“Going on,” said Voltan. And then, addressing me, “Neil, I do not think you should be worried about the troubles you and Gelmar have stirred up on our planet. What you have done is exactly right to help the people in the bad kingdoms and republics. There will be much cheer when the images of punishment arrive on the Brjemych planet. But a period of violence, I think, is inevitable. You should be more worried about how you are to create change towards the Galactic way in the good kingdoms and the – very few – good republics.”

I almost laughed, for an idea had come into my mind. “We have here sixty-four Brjemych recently trained in the Galactic way of thinking and doing,” I said. “We intended to send them back to their homes, to do what they can to spread the transition in their own countries. But now, Voltan, you have given me a better idea. Why do we not Pull here, for a short time each, sixty-four of the good kings? And send back, with each king, one of our Galactic trainees? You, Voltan, can be the first such king.”

“Yes, I see,” said Voltan. “Galactic agents – if I may call them that – could be far more effective under the protection of a sympathetic king, than they would if simply returned to their former lives. That is, of course, provided the king is sympathetic. A big provided.”

“I agree it is a big provided,” I said. “We have to solve that problem while they are here. We have to sell them on the idea of going Galactic. If we succeed, we send a trainee back with them. If we fail, we send them back alone, and we have to find another king to Pull.”

“From my point of view,” said Voltan, “and I think I can probably speak for many other kings too” – and here he snorted – “it is a trade-off. The prospect of losing title, and perhaps power, may turn some against the Galactic project. Others may support it, because they see a chance to be remembered in history.

“Then,” he said in a musing tone, “there is another aspect too. We kings often form alliances, but they are rarely large. If sixty-four kings, all committed to the Galactic project, allied together, they would be a huge force. Unstoppable, perhaps. Particularly if they had Galactic technology to help them.”

Voltan had not actually phrased that last as a question, but it hung in the air. After a few seconds, Harv’I answered. “Yes, we could supply some Galactic technology to help you. For communications, certainly. Or transport, if necessary. Even, perhaps, defensive military technology. But our help must be covert. And we do not condone aggressions.”

There was a pause. Then, “Very good,” said Voltan. “I will join your project. I will be the first of the Sixty-four Kings. But you must understand that I will surely hold you to your promises.”

* * *

There was one more issue to be dealt with before Voltan could be returned to his home. I wanted his help in the matter of Maijier. He had been acquainted with Maijier, and could tell us what he knew about him. But I asked Voltan not to say anything more about Maijier to any of us until he was formally asked to do so.

My investigations with Gelmar had showed that the accusation against Maijier had come from one of the trainees, Mittveld. She lived in one of the neighbouring kingdoms, and as a young foal had lost her parents in a raid led by Maijier’s father, who had been a bit of a Ferox. She suspected Maijier of involvement.

I convened a court. Gabriel was judge.

Under oath, Mittveld made her case. Maijier defended himself, saying that he had been away from home at the time of the raid. And that once he had become king, he had never raided anybody. One of the Cherubim explained why they had brought the matter to my and Gelmar’s attention. And Voltan told of his dealings with Maijier, who it seemed was quite unlike his father – more a Felix than a Ferox.

The court was rough and ready, but it was all done in the best spirit of Galactic law and justice. And Gabriel found Maijier not guilty.

“Now,” I said, “there is another matter. This one is mine and Gelmar’s to judge. And Gelmar has already agreed with my opinion.

“We are forming a group of sympathetic kings, who will promote our Galactic project. Voltan is the first. To each king who agrees to join, we will assign one of the Brjemych who have been through the Galactic training course. Mittveld, today you have made yourself” – and here I cleared my throat – “visible. I therefore appoint you, if Voltan is willing, to go as advisor to his country with him, and help him to move our project forward.”