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.”

Friday, 8 August 2014


(Neil's note: We interrupt our regular transmission for this piece of fun from the past - originally written in 2009. Enjoy).

Once upon a time, there was a scientist. His name was Dr. Vaust.

Vaust did science for a living. What is science? It is the way in which we human beings increase our knowledge of ourselves, our planet, our galaxy and our universe.

And what does “for a living” mean? It means he was paid. It means someone valued his contribution enough to give him money in exchange for it.

Now, how is science done? It’s very simple. You study some aspect of your surroundings. You try to work out patterns of cause and effect. When you’re ready, you make a theory, like: “Cause A implies effect B.” Then you test your theory, by observation or experiment.

Testing means trying to catch yourself out. Setting the hardest tests. If A happens in a situation, and B doesn’t, your theory is wrong. You have to extend it, modify it or discard it.

In a bid to keep scientists honest, there is something called “peer review.” When a scientist reaches a conclusion worth publishing, other scientists are called in. Their job is to try to tear apart the work, like a pack of Rottweilers. Peer review is the hygiene of science.

Another test of scientists’ honesty is called “replicability.” That is to say, what is published should be detailed enough to enable other scientists to repeat or “replicate” the work. By doing this, they can find any problems there might be in the work.

But Vaust lived in bad times. Government, the institution which ought to protect good people against violence and fraud, had been taken over by the fraudulent and their violent comrades. And they looked for ever more reasons to impose their illegitimate power on everyone.

A government official approached Vaust and said, “We want your help. We already tax people out of existence. But we need new excuses to take away even more of the wealth they earn, so we can rule over them ever harder.

“There is,” said the official, “a hypothesis that human emissions of the 'greenhouse gas' carbon dioxide are causing, and will cause in the future, runaway warming or “climate change” on a global scale. With consequent catastrophic effects, such as more droughts and tornadoes, and huge sea level rises.

We’d like your help to spread this idea. Whatever you can do to show that human emissions of carbon dioxide are damaging the planet, we will pay you very well for. And we’ll make sure your papers are waved straight through peer review, even if the work isn’t replicable. You’ll have the chance to make yourself famous.”

“That sounds cool,” said Vaust. The rest is legend.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Chapter 40. Of the Departure of the First Wave

As the course at Camp Two turned from classes towards individual tuition, all seemed to be going well. So I threw myself into the work at Camp Four. My one night a week there extended to two or sometimes three. And Lily went often with me. We even took to Camp Four a human bed out of one of the monitoring rooms.

I talked a lot with the Brjemych, both their Team and the trainees. I began better to understand them and their societies.

The Brjemych had on their planet three hundred or so greater or lesser kingdoms, along with a few dozen republics. Adelghem’s tale, although it was just that – a tale, helped me understand that Brjemych politics shared much with Earthly politics. They had the right wing – those that like to dominate others by violence and fear. They had the left wing – those that favour domination by suppressing economic success. And they had what I will call the down wing – those that want power to suppress others by whatever means they can.

But the republics, so said several trainees, were on balance worse to live in than the kingdoms. For, in each case, the character of the society was determined by the character of the ruler or rulers. And while kings didn’t – except the worst of them – feel much need to be dishonest or devious, the leaders of the republics most certainly did.

I helped the Brjemych clarify, in their own minds, their attitudes towards the leaders of their societies. I thought they might find it helpful to judge each of these leaders into one of four classes, for which I suggested the names Felixes, Radixes, Feroxes and Atroxes. Then, when time came for the Brjemych equivalent of P-Day, we would look to Pull for punishment all the Atroxes, and the worst of the Feroxes and Radixes.

Although the Brjemych were behind us in their Tuglay training course, the fact that we had two waves of trainees to their one meant that their P-Day would be ten weeks or so ahead of ours. I sensed an opportunity to use the Brjemych as a practice run for our own P-Day. The lessons we learned from Camp Four could then be put into action at Camp Two.

I explained this to Gelmar, who was more understanding than I had feared he might be. He asked only that I should bring several members of my Team to Camp Four to help with the Pulling and its aftermath. Cees and Elise, in particular.

A few weeks into this process, I saw that I had, almost without realizing it, cut out for myself a new role among the Brjemych. Then, suddenly, I realized that Balzo and Odam had not been stupid, when they chose not to bring a project consultant to Camp Four. For they already had someone they wanted to grow into that role.


* * *

Meanwhile at Camp Two, much had gone right. The Tuglay were putting the finishing touches to our trainees’ understanding of what they had to do when they reached Earth. Balzo had arranged for those members of the first wave who wanted it to receive the Galant’I “service” and rejuvenation treatment while they were on Socotera.

As to the second wave, neither time nor budget allowed for a Galant’I to visit Perinent. But there was an alternative. The Galant’I would allow qualified members of certain species, whom they considered competent, to administer their “service kits” under their direction. The Seraphim were one of those species, and we had already on Perinent a Seraph medic, Zer’ael. Because he had not administered Galant’I kits before, he would first have to take a training course – but this was possible by mescap. Odam had agreed for Zer’ael to do this work, with the proviso that before he treated humans, he must first give similar treatment to the Brjemych.

There was more good news. Ramael and Hazael had volunteered to be the pilots to go to Earth. And they would come to Perinent to pick up the trainees, in time to dock with the Naudar’I ship which would take them to Socotera.

And yet more. In recognition of my extra role at Camp Four, my contract had been upgraded to Galactic Scale 21C. I was now the highest paid member of any not-yet-even-Junior species on the entire payroll of the Company for Galactic Advancement!

* * *

The Tuglay’s course for the first wave finished on a Saturday. On the Sunday, around midday, Ramael and Hazael arrived. Their ’mobile was larger than those we had so far seen – 64 passenger seats, big enough to take all the trainees together. It also had, though this was not so obvious, a serious amount of weaponry, both defensive and offensive.

I had suggested that Zer’ael and Gavantchin bring Gelmar, and with him Adelghem, up from Camp Four a day earlier than usual, as Sunday evening would be festive. It was, indeed, an end-of-term party. Ray and Jenna excelled themselves with the food, and the beer, wine and Hooch Juice all flowed copiously.

Lily button-holed Ramael, and asked him about some of the finer points of piloting. In particular, how did he dock and undock with Naudar’I ships, when they were already in motion at a mind-bending speed?

“When a ship is to pick up passengers from a planet,” said Ramael, “the Naudar’I provide a docking station. This is like a hollow rock with, usually, three entrances. It is put into an orbit a million kilometres or so from the planet, well before the ship passes. It has living and sleeping quarters as well as space for ’mobiles, so we can drop off passengers if we are not ourselves travelling too. The docking station, and everything inside it, will be flung into the ship’s envelope as it passes. Undocking is the same process in reverse.

“I’m not sure of the detail of the physics, but to reach such a speed so quickly, you have to go through something called configurational space. It’s quite a wild ride. So we make sure our passengers are deeply asleep, usually well before we reach the docking station.”

I was more interested in the possibilities for communicating with Ramael and Hazael when they were on Earth or Socotera. “When we are on Socotera, you will freely be able to use mescaps to communicate with us,” said Ramael. “But when we are on Earth, you will only be able to use mescaps with us when we are stationary relative to the Earth’s surface. That means communications will need to be initiated from our end. Fortunately, Hazael is a strong Puller and Pusher.”

* * *

On Monday morning, it came time for the trainees to leave. There were many farewells. With their meagre possessions, they trooped into Ramael and Hazael’s big ’mobile. It was hard to believe that these people would, in just a few months’ time, be instrumental in changing human history for the better.

We gathered outside the east door to watch them go. But there was a wait of several minutes, while the passengers were put under a strong, slow acting sleep-gas. Then suddenly, silently, and with amazing acceleration, the ’mobile bounded forward and took off. The nose lifted, then the ’mobile went almost straight up. Within fifteen seconds of it starting to move, we had lost sight of it.

“Right,” said Cees in a businesslike tone. “I have a Canadian professor to Pull this afternoon. Michael, Lily, are you ready for the interview?”