Friday, 18 July 2014

Chapter 39. A Tale of Four Kingdoms

In the weeks since our first visit to Camp Four, Gavantchin had brought each of Gelmar’s Team to Camp Two for a night. They met our Tuglay, and Ray, and Harv’I, and our Cherubim, as well as re-engaging with those they had met before.

Several of them found the experience difficult. “It is too noisy here,” one said to me. “I do not mean there is too much sound, but that there is too much going on.” And not all enjoyed flying as much as Gelmar now did.

It was Gelmar’s partner, Adelghem (the “gh” sounded as a very soft, voiced “g”), who told us the most about Brjemych and their civilization. She was a story-teller, the nearest Brjemych equivalent to an Earthly professional writer.

“We are quite conservative,” she said of her race. “We do not much like change. We like to do things as we have always done them, and we do things slowly if we can.”

Adelghem also told us one of her stories; and yet, its outlook was hardly conservative. I liked it so much, that I asked John to record Adelghem telling it, using a two-way translator. Then I transcribed it myself – the hard way, word by word.

* * *

“Once upon a time,” began Adelghem, “there was a world, much like yours or ours. On it, there was a large island, divided into four kingdoms of roughly equal size. Their borders all met near the middle of the island, at a place called the Four Corners.

“King Felix, ruler of the northern kingdom, did not oppress his people in any way. As long as they treated each other – and him – peaceably and honestly, he did not care what they did. Provided, of course, that they took responsibility for the effects of their actions on those around them. He had a motto, ‘You deserve to be treated as you treat others.’

“So, he let every one of them do what they wanted, subject only to the rule of law and justice. King Felix loved justice and the law, but he detested laws. ‘How does this help good people?’ he used to say when presented with any proposal for a new ‘law.’

“Being intelligent, objective and scrupulously honest, King Felix was much in demand among his people as a judge of hard cases.

“King Radix, ruler of the western kingdom, would have been a nice person, if he hadn’t been a king. He knew that every one of his people was an individual – like him – and he respected that. So he didn’t mind what they did in private.

“But he had a pet hate. He didn’t like those who developed their talents, and pushed the economy forward. So he made taxes and bad laws to harm the honest, productive, successful people he disliked. And he used some of the proceeds to buy popularity with the dishonest, the bureaucratic, the lazy and the useless.

“Radix was liked by some of his people. But those he harmed came, in time, to hate him.

“King Ferox, to the east, was almost the opposite of Radix. He wanted to expand his kingdom, to make himself Dictator of the World. But he couldn’t do that without the support of his people. So, he allowed relative economic freedom. Those who created wealth could, under Ferox, keep some of that wealth. (After the armaments had been paid for, of course.)

“So, many disaffected from Radix’s country came to live under Ferox. Yet, many moved in the opposite direction too. For Ferox rejected anyone who didn’t support his plan. ‘If you’re not with me, you’re against me,’ he said. And he didn’t respect his people as individuals at all. He had them all watched, on the chance that they might disobey some ‘law,’ and so give him and his minions an excuse to persecute.

“The fourth kingdom, in the south, was ruled by King Atrox. Atrox had the worst characteristics of both Radix and Ferox. Like Ferox, Atrox wanted to be Dictator of the World. But, like Radix, he hated anyone who was good at anything – except lying, thieving and killing people, of course. So, almost all of Atrox’s people lived in fear and abject poverty. While Atrox and his sycophants enjoyed the spoils.

“And, like Ferox, Atrox had his people monitored.

“Atrox and his minions brought to a new peak the arts of lying and deceiving. Atrox called his rule ‘democratic.’ The people, it is true, each had something called a ‘vote.’ Every so often, they had an opportunity to select one or another of Atrox’s minions to rule over them. But, whichever they selected, everything got worse, not better. For all the minions were, in reality, Atrocious.

“Now King Felix had a son, and he called him Detox.

“‘You are my eldest son and heir,’ Felix said to Detox, as soon as he was adult. ‘So, I ask you, please, to go to each of the other realms on this island, and bring me back knowledge.’

“The request was so polite, and so much what he wanted to do, that Detox obeyed of his own volition.

“Detox went first to the country of Ferox, who received him well. ‘It is good to make alliance with your father,’ said Ferox.

“Detox looked around, and although he at first liked what he saw, he was soon appalled. Surely, in Ferox’s country, good people could survive, and even make themselves wealthy, up to a point. But they were constantly intimidated by Ferox’s minions. And who would all those armaments be used against? Not his father, Ferox had said jocularly. Detox was not so sure.

“So, Detox left Ferox’s kingdom quietly at night. After a brief rest at home, he next travelled south-westwards, into the territory of Radix. Radix received him with courtesy, but also with amusement. ‘You didn’t enjoy Ferox’s company?’ he asked.

“Detox looked around Radix’s country, and found that a giant bureaucracy ruled over everyone there, and over the entire economy, without much concern for justice or individual rights.

“When he put this to Radix, the latter said, ‘I, too, am a bureaucrat. I am the chief bureaucrat, it is true. But I must play by their rules. How would I survive otherwise?

“‘But you have seen enough here. Now, it is time for you to leave me, and go to Atrox. May you enjoy your time with him.’

“Detox went to the territory of Atrox, who received him with much ceremony. ‘Now I will get my revenge on Felix,’ thought Atrox to himself, ‘for what he – er – hasn’t done to me. His eldest son and heir has fallen into my trap. I will – heh, heh, heh – educate him.’

“Under Atrox’s orders, Detox was taken to primary schools, where the message of the day was ‘How Will You Change Today?’ To secondary schools, where the message for males was ‘Boys ’R Us. If you get in our way, we’ll kill you.’ And for females – Atrox’s kingdom being for the moment under-populated – ‘Do It, Now. Just Don’t Enjoy It.’

“And Detox went to universities too. Where there was much talk of the Oneness of the One – many said that meant Atrox was divine. But even more talk of the Coming Fire, Drought, Plague, Floods, Warming, Cooling, Hurricanes, Hailstorms, Tundra-storms.

“‘And it’s all our fault,’ the academics said. Since he was in someone else’s country, Detox bit back the obvious retort, ‘Yes, it’s all your fault.’

“Now, Detox thought, it was time to go home. The direct route home lay through the Four Corners. But it was well guarded. So Detox had to pay a bribe to go round through Radix’s territory.

“When Detox reached home, his father lay dying.

“‘My son,’ said Felix, ‘what have you found?’

“‘That none of them are to be trusted. Radix is the least bad of a bad bunch.’

“‘Yet he too oppresses his people,’ said Felix.

“‘Father,’ said Detox. ‘I have thought that there maybe is a better way. A Fifth Kingdom, beside the Four, perhaps. A kingdom governed, not by a king, but by moral rules. What is right is right, and what is wrong is wrong.’

“‘And who decides what is right, and what is wrong?’ said Felix with a small smile. ‘There used to be, aeons ago, an organization that claimed to do just that. It was called the church. It was in time discredited, because its leaders did not obey its own rules.

“‘No, my son, for better or worse, you are heir to the Northern Kingdom. Rule it well and wisely.’

“Felix died.

“Now Ferox, too, died, just a few weeks after Felix. And his son and heir, Xerox, was no more than a pale copy of his father.

“Seeing this, Atrox decided to let loose war. He invaded the kingdom of Xerox. Radix, not wishing to see a second kingdom fall under the control of Atrox, launched a counter-invasion. Detox merely doubled his border guards, and bided his time.

“It was not long before Radix and Xerox, separated from their capitals and their support by Atrox’s hordes, found themselves holed up together near the Four Corners. They could do only one thing. They appealed to Detox for help.

“Detox was in no mood for compromise. ‘I am not called Detox for nothing,’ he said. ‘If you want my help, you must reform your kingdoms – you must de-tox them. You must end all political lies, redistributory taxes and aggressive wars. You must sack all your bureaucrats, and retire all your professional soldiers. You must institute the rule of law and justice, as my father Felix did. You must look to have every one among your people treated as he or she treats others.’

“Radix and Xerox agreed. What else could they do? Now, Detox’s people were the least warlike on the island. But, when they had to defend themselves, they were strong. And, because they had lived in freedom and justice under Felix, they had loved him, so they were prepared to fight for his son Detox too.

“Detox’s people were so strong, that they pushed the forces of Atrox all the way from the Four Corners, down through the southern kingdom, to the tip of the island, and off it. Atrox’s people were decimated. But Radix’s and Xerox’s people suffered even worse. For Atrox and his cruel generals had had all the male prisoners they took castrated. It would be long before the populations of the eastern and western kingdoms were back up to strength.

“I’m going to cut a long story short here,” said Adelghem. “But Atrox suicided, to avoid being castrated himself. Xerox faded, and died without an heir. Radix went mad, and was imprisoned – gently – in an asylum. And Detox married Helix, Radix’s beautiful daughter. So, eventually he passed to his son Felix the Younger the thrones of all four kingdoms.

“I can’t honestly say,” said Adelghem, “that, at the end of the story, they all lived happily ever after. But, under Good King Felix, the people of the Four Kingdoms were all a lot happier – and the productive among them, a lot more prosperous – than you or I.”

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Chapter 38. Of Galactic Education

At Camp Two, the Tuglay’s course had started on the Monday, the same Monday that I spent mainly at Camp Four.

Since we now had trainees from countries no-one in the Team knew much about – Japan, for example – I had asked those trainees to work with John and Galina, to help us find out what was happening in their countries, and to identify those in power there that deserved the Punishment Pit.

And several of the Team had expressed interest in finding out about what the Tuglay were teaching the trainees. I made an agreement with the Tuglay that Team members could sit in on classes in the common room.

Each morning, there was a re-arrangement of furniture. The plush seats of the common room were moved to the sides of the room, and enough chairs and tables for the class moved in from the dining room. And each evening, the move was reversed.

That left the plush seats to be taken by the observers. Shami, who had been a teacher back in India, was the most regular, though frequently she had to nip out to load or unload George Washing-tun. Ben, a former instructor, and with much of his work being done in the evenings, liked to observe often too. And I eavesdropped when I could.

Now, many years before, I had studied mathematics at Cambridge. One abiding memory I had of that time was of how fast the course went. It started from near zero. Even someone who had never formally studied the subject could try. But, within six weeks, all the mathematics I had learned at school – apart from a very few specialist areas – had been covered. And it carried on at the same speed for two more terms.

I survived that, but many didn’t. The drop-out rate among my peers was around one-third, in the first year alone.

And this course went fully as fast. At first, many of the trainees were blasé. “I don’t need any more training at my age,” one – in his thirties – told me. A week later, he was complaining of overload.

I came to understand why the Tuglay were so renowned as teachers. First, their own speech of susurrations and clicks was remarkably fast. Their translators were, too. The effect was little different from being taught by a native English speaker.

Second, their way of teaching was what some might think of as old-fashioned. Bring up a topic, elucidate, invite reactions, and respond. Then test the understanding of all, including those who hadn’t asked questions. And they did it always with logic, often with humour, and always with respect for the students.

Third, the Galactic way they taught had a strong moral foundation, which the trainees found natural and attractive. For most of them were more than averagely honest, productive, peaceful and individual people, even before they started the course. They would not have been picked as trainees otherwise. Even the politicians among the trainees all had far more integrity than is usual in that corrupt profession.

Gradually, something changed. Every one of these intellectuals, professionals, ordinary business people and minor politicians seemed to grow as people – as individuals. They became more open to new ideas. They became more resistant to lies, frauds and false guilt. Those among them, who were not already confident, grew in confidence. They saw themselves, and each other, for what they were; human beings, fit and ready to be invited to join in the Galaxy.

They became, slow step by slow step, apostles of revolution. But they were fifty-nine, not twelve.

One day, my European parliamentary friend said to me, “I almost feel young again.” And I, metaphorically, kicked myself. Why had I not asked for the trainees to be treated by Galant’I while on their way back to Earth? I had even made a mental note to that effect, when several of them had reported toothache. But I had forgotten about it. Slow, stupid me. Fortunately, there was probably enough time to do something about it.

As to the second wave, I had some thinking to do.

* * *

The food team of Ray, Jenna and Marie did a great job. Broadly, we had Seraphim food six days a week. And Earth’s best on Sundays, Pulled by the hunter Cees.

In the evenings, Ben became “mine host,” dispensing the wine and beer (and, on Monday nights, Hooch Juice) with the best of grace. One thing which greatly helped our beer supplies was that Cees had decided, without my authorization, to Pull as a trainee a friend who happened to be a director of his favourite small brewery. Noting the gentleman’s enthusiasm for his product, and much enjoying the drinking of it, I gave Cees’s action my belated blessing.

The monitoring continued. We were actually finding it easier than we expected to predict where those slated for punishment were likely to be at any particular time. So we spent more time looking for candidates for the second wave of trainees.

Michael and Gabriel were there now mainly to be friendly faces, and to pilot the rides. Of which there were four or occasionally five each weekday evening, from the 16. (Hoong and Lily each piloted twice a week.) As it was now autumn at Camp Two, descending towards winter, the later rides were increasingly in the dark.

* * *

Meanwhile, I was still very much concerned with Camp Four. Balzo and Odam, between them, had decided that it was too late to bring in a project consultant; we had to work with what we had. Instead, Balzo asked Gabriel and me to spend one night a week at Camp Four. This in addition to the regular radio communications, which I didn’t find nearly as effective as talking with Gelmar face to face.

So, each Tuesday, when Gavantchin took Gelmar back to Camp Four, Gabriel and I went too, returning on the Wednesday. When Zer’ael didn’t come – which was usual – Gabriel took the co-pilot’s seat, so there was space for Lily too.

Things at Camp Four had settled down a lot since the Ke’lan left. The Tuglay’s courses had restarted, and the Cherubim had resumed their role as unquestioned guardians of the Fort. My focus, in my times at Camp Four, was on trying to work out how best to organize the Brjemych equivalent of P-Day, when they would Pull the bad Brjemych for punishment. And on what we all had to do, and when, to make happen what needed to happen.

* * *

As the weeks went on, the emphasis at Camp Two moved from classes towards individual tuition.

I thought that perhaps I had gone over the top in asking our Tuglay to assess each trainee beforehand. For individuals’ strengths now were often not the same as they had been back then. But the Tuglay set me right, and amusingly.

“Nohow,” said Tuglaydum. “This course is far better because we did those assessments.”

“Contrariwise,” said Tuglaydee, “whenever we give this course again, we will always assess each individual student first.”

I smiled, in the best imitation I could of a Cheshire Cat.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Chapter 37. Of Zer’ael and Gavantchin

On the day we Pulled our last trainees – a Saturday – the Company for Galactic Advancement sent Gabriel a mescap formally approving his Clause 21 action at Camp Four. It included a personal congratulation, citing also Michael’s and my contributions.

It was signed “Nansen Ault.” Gabriel was astonished. “Nansen Ault is the General Director of the Company,” he said. “He is a Tefla, like Bart Vorsprong. We must have done well indeed to come to his personal attention.”

Later the same afternoon, a Seraphimobile landed from the north. It was much smaller than the one we were used to. The occupants identified themselves as Zer’ael and Gavantchin. Their robes were yellow too, but a much lighter yellow than Michael’s and Gabriel’s. They did not know English – they spoke a lilting language which, Michael told me, was native to Seraph. But they had, like the Tuglay, two-way translators. So it was not difficult to communicate with them.

Now, Seraphim have no gender. More accurately, they have characteristics of both male and female. But most Seraphim present themselves as male. That was true of all I had met so far. Yet, Gavantchin looked female. And she was gorgeous. Almost three metres tall – well taller than Michael or Gabriel, or even Zer’ael. But still gorgeous.

Zer’ael and Gavantchin were the Seraphim appointed to replace the Ke’lan as Helpers at Camp Four. “We have come here first,” said Zer’ael, “to confer with Harv’I, Gabriel, Michael and Neil. I think it is best if we stay two nights, then go on to Camp Four on Monday morning. One human room will be sufficient for us.”

“Sabrina has charge of room allocation,” I said. “Let us go find her.”

On the way to the Pedia room – where Sabrina spent almost all her working time – Lily came up to us. “Will you take me for a ride in your ’mobile?” she asked Gavantchin.

Zer’ael and I both smiled. But Gavantchin replied, “We plan to go, with Neil, to see Harv’I in a few minutes. We will take the ’mobile. You can come with us if you want.”

When we reached the Pedia room, Zer’ael said, “I remembered something. We have brought a device to install here, to give you communication with Camp Four. We have another one for Harv’I, which is ruggedized for high temperatures, and a third for the Camp Four end of the link.”

He went out to his and Gavantchin’s ’mobile, and brought back something looking a bit like a 1950s radio receiver, but with a lot more switches and dials. Meanwhile, I had summoned Hoong. “Install that,” I said. He was amused. “Where’s the instruction manual?” he asked.

Zer’ael was amused too. “It’s OK, I know how to set these up. But it’s the first. You won’t be able to use it until I connect others.” Hoong, nonetheless, carefully watched and noted all that he did.

Soon, it was time to visit Harv’I. It was already late, late afternoon. I would not have set out on foot at that time – particularly after my recent encounter with D’Fanjel. I said to Zer’ael, “Michael and Gabriel do not take us in comfort to Harv’I. We have to walk. Indeed, they themselves walk when they need to visit him. Why the difference?”

Zer’ael smiled. He seemed, already, almost infinitely capable at smiling. Then he said, “The ’mobile of Gabriel and Michael is a big old bus. It has difficulty near confused force fields – as in your Pit. It does not respond well to the pilot within about fifty metres of the Pit. And it is also difficult to pilot in heat gradients – as near Harv’I’s house.

“Our ’mobile, on the other hand, is a newer and nimbler model. In your terms, it is more like a touring car than that big old bus. And it has as pilot – no disrespect meant to Michael or Gabriel – Gavantchin, my love. She is a fully skilled combat pilot. Our combat pilots are few, though I understand you have already met one of them – Ramael.”

I remembered Ramael’s piloting the first time I met him – even if it was in the “big old bus.” I smiled and concentrated on the memory. Zer’ael laughed. I knew then that he, like Gabriel, was a telepathic receiver. “I’m a full telepath, actually,” he said and sent.

“Let us go see Harv’I,” said Gavantchin. Zer’ael, Lily and I went out to the new ’mobile. It was a similar in shape to a Daimler limo, and rather bigger. There were three pairs of doors. The front led to the pilots’ double seat. The rear led to a soft leather bench seat, wide and high enough to take two Seraphim or three humans. The middle row had originally, Zer’ael told us, had Seraphim seats as well. But these had been replaced by two heavily padded stalls, designed to hold Brjemych in comfort.

“Lil ava’o,” said Gavantchin. I knew what that meant before the acceleration hit, and well before her translator responded. (It said, “Relax backwards.”) The trip to Harv’I’s took less than a minute, and we were in the air less than two-thirds of that time. We finished about fifty metres north-west of Harv’I’s house.

“That was a lot more fun than shooting D’Fanjel,” I opined. “I’ll give you a proper ride on the way back,” said Gavantchin.

The meeting was more like a chat in the pub than a business meeting. Zer’ael and Gavantchin got to know Harv’I, and the reverse. Only one planning topic was discussed. Zer’ael and Gavantchin needed to bring Gelmar for regular meetings with Harv’I. “Once a week is fine,” said Harv’I. “I suggest Monday evening or Tuesday morning.”

On the way back to the ’mobile, Lily asked Gavamtchin if she could take the co-pilot’s seat. There was a short discussion. Then Zer’ael, smiling again, came to sit beside me in the back seat, and said, “Among Seraphim, I am unusual in that I am an engineer and a medic much more than a pilot. I can fly a ’mobile of course, but I am happy to relax in the back seats. In fact, I prefer it. So Lily gets her wish.”

The ride back to the hotel lasted only about three minutes, but didn’t disappoint.

* * *

On the Monday, I was taken to Camp Four again, this time in Gavantchin and Zer’ael’s ’mobile. Gabriel and I shared the back seat – under Clause 21, we both (he had issued the order, and I was “the responsible”) had to be there to introduce the new Helpers.

The Brjemych had organized a party. They offered everyone shots of Hooch Juice. Zer’ael and Gavantchin were unsure at first, but Gabriel and I took the shots, making our enjoyment obvious. And so, their new Helpers were introduced into the Brjemych family. Though, “I won’t be fit to pilot us back if I have another of these,” said Gavantchin quietly.

When I got to chat to Gelmar, I asked him, “Have you Brjemych learned to do your own Pulling and Pushing? I ask, because another species – the Skobar, who previously occupied our camp – were Pulled here, and found it impossible to learn to Pull or Push.”

“Oh yes,” said Gelmar. “Edriga taught us Pulling and Pushing, if nothing else. That was before our Tuglay arrived. The lessons were – not fun.” I made a note to tell Balzo that maybe he hadn’t correctly understood why the Skobar couldn’t learn to Pull or Push.

We left Zer’ael at Camp Four, and Gavantchin took Gabriel and me back to Camp Two with Gelmar. The padded stall fitted him comfortably. There was an under-piece, which supported his weight with his hooves just resting on the floor. There was a high, wide tail-piece which prevented him sliding backwards, a much smaller fore-piece which could be rotated to let him in or out, and two side-pieces which held him in place. From behind, he looked like a horse with large black wings. Pegasus, perhaps.

Gelmar had been worried earlier about flying, but now he was comfortable and could see out, he was ready to enjoy it. Not long after take-off, Gelmar said to Gavantchin, “Thank you. That gave me the same joy as galloping, but many times faster, and without effort.”

When we arrived, “Gelmar needs a room permanently allocated to him,” I said to Sabrina. “Zer’ael and Gavantchin need one too. They, one or both, will be here each Monday night until the Camp Four project is done.”

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Chapter 36. Of the Building of the First Wave

Next day, we could not Pull any more trainees, for Michael had to take the ’mobile again to Camp Four. First, to take Gelmar back there. And second, to see how Gabriel had fared, and if appropriate, to bring him back.

Only three humans went on this trip; myself, Lily and Cristina. I went because Harv’I had asked me to help with plans for Camp Four, so I needed to know as much as possible about what was going on there. Cristina went to comfort Gelmar. Lily went, as usual, for the ride – her offer to co-pilot having been politely turned down by Michael.

This time, Gelmar travelled in more luxury than before. We lowered the backs of a pair of seats, so that they and the ones behind them formed, in effect, a bed. He was held in place by a harness, like the ones the Tuglay used when they rode in the ’mobile. And Cristina sat across the aisle, ready to touch him if he needed it.

We reached Camp Four. Gabriel, Tuglayino and Tuglayono met us. A Cherub was there too. I was surprised.

“Much has happened in two days,” said Gabriel. “Odam of the Toronur, appointed only yesterday in charge of this project, sent a mescap dismissing Edriga and her Ke’lan from the project. They refused to comply of course, so I asked the Cherubim to guard them. The other three are now holding the Ke’lan in the common room.

“I replied to Odam that, by Balzo’s authority, we had already served a Clause 21 on Edriga. That we were looking for Seraphim as replacement Helpers, and planned to ask Harv’I if he was willing to take the local project manager role. And that we would appreciate whatever Odam could do to get the Ke’lan quickly off this planet.

“Odam was very quick, both to reply and to act. The ship to take the Ke’lan away is due about two hours from now. A Toronur ship, too. They are not renowned for comfort.”

We went inside. I said to Gabriel, “I can tell you one thing. Harv’I is willing to take on the new job. But who are the Toronur?”

“They are Galactic all-rounders,” he said. “They are about fifth best in the Galaxy at getting things done, and they are also interstellar pilots. They were originally a vegetable species, but they evolved feet and something like hands. They look a bit like Earthly crop plants, but with bigger, stronger stalks. And they can run fast when they need to.”

“Where are they in the rich-list?” I asked. Gabriel blanched. “No. 15,” he said. “Well above us.”

I ignored the drama around the common room, and went with Gelmar and his Team to an empty room. There, I asked them, “Who is your project consultant? Who in the Galaxy understands you best?”

“We do not have one,” said Gelmar, and his Team agreed. “Until you humans and Seraphim came to us two days ago, we only knew the Ke’lan, Tuglay and Cherubim among Galactic species.”

“Then how did you get here?” I asked. “The Ke’lan Pulled us here in our sleep,” Gelmar replied. “We were offered no option to go back.”

It sounded as though the Camp Four project had been set up cockeyed from the start. I didn’t know who had been in charge at that stage. I made a mental note to investigate the history. Then I switched to future orientation. “What do you Brjemych think needs to happen to make you into a Galactic species?”

There was a silence – a long silence – then eight voices spoke simultaneously. “I can take only one reply at once,” I said. “Gelmar first – he is Team Leader, after all.”

I listened to eight variations on, “I don’t know, I thought at first Edriga knew, but she didn’t. Maybe the Tuglay know?” My cup was filled.

“For the record,” I said, “I’m going to recommend a complete review of your project, ground up. I believe that Gabriel and Odam have the authority to order such a review. I do not think I will have much difficulty persuading them that it is necessary.”

* * *

Less than two hours later, a Toronur ship landed just west of Camp Four. It looked like a squat, ribbed, copper-coloured cylinder, about twenty metres high, with an equally squat ribbed cone on top. It was quieter than the Garut’nim’s cargo pod, but did not compare with the silent Seraphimobile.

A large vegetable-like being – a two metre tall wheatstalk with feet and hands, I thought – came out, and conferred with Gabriel. The conference was not long. Gabriel signalled, and the Ke’lan came out of the building, shepherded by all four Cherubim. Edriga looked drained, and was limping. The Brjemych watched silently as the Ke’lan were loaded in. Then the wheatstalk, apparently from nowhere, produced a clipboard. Gabriel gave his signature. The wheatstalk bowed, and went back into the ship. Five minutes later, it took off.

* * *

Back at Camp Two, with Gabriel restored to our company, we went ahead with the Pulling of our trainees.

It certainly didn’t go as planned, but we always made progress. For Cees and Elise had quite different approaches to the task. Cees was a hunter. If he couldn’t find the individual he planned to Pull, he would go for someone else. And so, at every try he always brought someone to us. One was not even on the list, but what the hell, Cees opined.

Elise, on the other hand, was utterly conscientious. She always got her man – or woman – in the end. It meant that sometimes she came up with no result. But equally, there were times when she was inspired. (There was one morning when she Pulled five trainees inside two hours. It made a lot of work for Dede and the rest of us.)

Our trainees were a mixed bag. Professors, writers, business people – and the occasional politician. Never too close to the corridors of power, though. We did Pull prominent anti-establishment figures from a few countries, some from prison or house arrest. One in particular, from Africa, thanked us effusively for saving his life.

We also – after a lot of thought – Pulled Ray and Jenna’s neighbours, Paul and Melinda. Paul was a doctor, and I had decided I wanted a medic among the first wave. Not so much while on Perinent, but I thought medical skills might be useful when they reached Earth.

As reserve Pullers, Hoong and I were hardly needed. Though I did insist on myself Pulling a relatively sane member of the European parliament. He survived the experience.

As the company swelled, so too did the workload on Ray, Jenna, Marie and the Aga Khan. And on Ben’s barmanship. A tipping point, though, was reached when the common room was no longer big enough to hold everyone after dinner. The company now split into three. The talkers remained in the dining room – and always asked for more wine. The relaxers preferred the plush seats of the common room, and usually asked for more wine. And the earlybeds went out two by two for some hurrah.

Cristina and Helen evolved a protocol to deal with the demands on them. Whenever they went on the daily ride, any man wanting service for the following half hour just had to sit next to one of them. They spent the evenings in the common room, taking their time about deciding who they would invite into their beds for the night. But they gave priority to those who hadn’t been with either of them for a while.

The rest of the induction process – tour of the camp led by Dede, meetings with Harv’I and the Cherubim, evaluation by the Tuglay – went about as smoothly as you might expect; not very. Some complained about toothache, and aches in other joints, when they were outside the hotel and near the Pit. I realized this was probably due to the fields, and made a mental note to see if our trainees could be offered the same Galant’I treatment we the Team had had.

The Sunday trips were also problematic at times, in particular with people jostling for places on the canyon-rides.

But, three weeks from Pulling the first, we had fifty-nine trainees, twelve couples and thirty-five singles, just nine of them female. Perhaps surprisingly, no-one had refused to join us – though one individual had demanded that we Pull his new girlfriend to be with him. We had been most happy to oblige. So, fortunately, had she.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Chapter 35. Of the Landing of the First Wave

Monday was hardly less hectic than Sunday had been.

After breakfast, I said, “I planned that we start Pulling the trainees today, in two groups. But, due to unforeseen circumstances, Gabriel is not with us today. So Michael is now our critical resource. He must do double duty. He must take Gabriel’s place in the other reception committee as well.”

Michael smiled uncertainly. Elise, with a much bigger smile, said, “That’s OK. Remember you said that we wouldn’t be using Monday mornings to Pull trainees? But I’ve done so much work on my first trainee, that I feel ready to Pull him this morning. He’s a Chinese professor of economics, by the way.”

I looked at Cees, expecting him to trump Elise’s attempt to be first. Not so. “I have, in my sights for this afternoon, a Japanese writer and his partner,” he said. “I will wait till the afternoon, when Michael is ready. But I will Pull two, while Elise Pulls only one.”

The beauty of competition, I thought to myself.

* * *

A little after the 9, Elise Pulled the Chinese professor to us. Then I went to write my report to Balzo on Sunday’s events. And to alert Harv’I that I would visit him in the afternoon with Gelmar, and with many questions.

The professor slept till almost the 11 and a half. We gathered to interview him.

He said that he had long waited for a chance to help make genuine change for the better. But those in charge of the political system had conspired against him. So, he was far more than pleased to have this opportunity to join our project.

Being the cynic I am, I would not have believed him, except... that he was on Bart’s list. And I respected Bart.

When they took the professor to the ’mobile to sample Hoong’s piloting, I went to see Gelmar. He was only just awake. He excused himself, saying that human beds were much softer than he was accustomed to.

“Enjoy our beds while you can,” I said. “It is time for you and I to visit Harv’I. It is about forty minutes’ walk each way.”

On the way out, I took one of the laser guns – just in case.

* * *

As we walked to Harv’I’s house, Gelmar told me more about his species, the Brjemych. While built much like Earthly horses, they were omnivores. They ate mainly cultivated fruit and vegetables, sometimes killed small animals for meat, and shunned eating grass unless they had to.

Their most unusual characteristic was that they had an extra pair of jointed legs, just in front of their forelegs. To the casual observer, this was not immediately obvious, because for much of the time the Brjemych held their “arms” doubled up close to their bodies. These “arms” ended in what we might call hands – with four long, flexible fingers each. It was through these that they manipulated their environment – including distilling Hooch Juice.

We reached Harv’I’s pavilion. Rather than try to sit or lie on the swinging sofa, Gelmar elected to stand at one end, but still inside the cool zone. Harv’I gave us courteous greetings.

“I have brought Gelmar here,” I said to Harv’I, “to find out whether you would be willing to take on the project management of Camp Four as well as our own. Gelmar is team leader of his species, as I am of mine.”

“You ask much,” said Harv’I. “I enjoy my leisure and my thinking time here. Yet you want to double my workload, and more!”

“Let Gelmar tell you his story,” I said.

He did. It was long, but Gelmar was a good story-teller, and a truthful one. Then Harv’I asked him many pertinent questions. He answered them well.

Then Harv’I asked Gelmar, “Would you accept me as project manager?” Gelmar said, “Please.”

“There are some practical problems,” said Harv’I. “I can get to your camp – I have my own ship. But if I am to spend time at your camp, I need a house there like this one, to contain my heat and to make it comfortable for you Brjemych to visit me. I think that may be too expensive. Alternatively, we can set up communications between the two camps.”

“I am surprised,” I said, “that there are not already radio communications, at least, between the six camps.”

Harv’I said, “I agree, Neil, it is an oversight. I doubt those who set up the camps here on Perinent thought about the need for two project teams to talk to each other.

“But even with good communications you, Gelmar, will still need to come here regularly to meet with me. That will be possible once we get here a pair of Seraphim to be your Helpers, for they will surely bring with them a ’mobile. We must make sure the ’mobile can transport you Brjemych comfortably between the two camps.

“And if I am to become project manager of Camp Four, I must review your plans. But I myself have no skill in such detail. So, I want Neil to help me examine your plans.”

Gelmar said, “What plans? I know only what Edriga told me – while I still trusted her – of what we are here to do.”

“I suspect,” I said “that for Camp Four, we will need to make a whole new plan.”

Harv’I and Gelmar both agreed with me.

* * *

We had spent four hours and more with Harv’I, and it was around the 17 and a half when Gelmar and I set off back to the hotel. It was almost autumn now. It was still warm at this time of day, but it would go dark all too soon.

Then suddenly I saw what looked like three Alsatian dogs moving stealthily towards us from half left ahead. They were D’Fanjel, I realized. If it hadn’t been for the yellow flowers, it would have been very hard to see them in the gathering dusk.

I raised the laser gun, fired and kept firing while I rotated the gun from right to left. I got beginner’s luck; all three went down. Then I saw Gelmar, beside me on my left, had turned himself round. I turned the other way – not wanting to put Gelmar in the line of fire. And I saw three more D’Fanjel, coming fast from what had been our back side.

I fired at the one nearest the edge of the crater. It was so close to the edge that, tottering for a moment unconscious, it fell down into the Punishment Pit. The remaining two took a quick look at where their comrade had gone, then bolted.

“I have some explaining to do to the Cherubim,” I said.

* * *

We got back to the hotel about three-quarters of an hour before dinner. Lily met us at the door. “It’s been an eventful day,” she said. “Cees Pulled the Japanese writer and his partner this afternoon. They will be asleep till tomorrow. And Helen has taken the Chinese professor to her bed. You missed the ride, so do you want some fun now?”

I had not often refused Lily before, but I was still holding the laser gun, and I said to her, “Look at the charge meter.”

Looking, she said, “It is under 98 per cent. You fired the gun?”

“Yes, Gelmar and I were attacked by six D’Fanjel. I stunned four – one fell in the Pit. The others fled. I am not accustomed to so much adrenalin, and I think that right now I might be a little – hasty. Not at my best.”

“After dinner, then,” said Lily. “After dinner,” I said.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Chapter 34. Of a Visit to Camp Four

In my Friday progress report, I had said unusually much to Balzo of what I thought. I had also Pushed the mescap myself from room 13, instead of letting Gabriel do it.

Early on the Saturday morning, Lily went to do some more monitoring of African dictators and their henchmen. She very soon came back, bearing a mescap. “I found this in room 13,” she said. “The message is from Balzo to you. It is long.”

I read it. Balzo had understood my concerns. He took on himself the blame for not impressing on the Tuglay strongly enough how important every detail was in Bart’s report. “But that is one reason it is good to have Tuglay as ur teachers,” he said. “They can change plans quickly – as u asked them.”

He added, “I have also a request from the managers of the Company for Michael, Gabrel and u, Nil, to visit Camp Four. Something is bad there. Will u take a look? U three are the nairest trusted individals – except also Harv’I, but I think it not right to oose him in this sitooashun, as his heat might cause fright. I want u, Nil, to lead this. Please report to me on what u find.”

Wow, I thought. I was being co-opted into the Galactic executive class. When I wasn’t even a member of a Galactic species yet.

* * *

Saturday was cool, a day of persistent drizzle and sometimes heavy rain. Expectations for Sunday locally were little better.

“I think,” said Gabriel after dinner, “that tomorrow is the right day to take you all on a longer trip than before. It’s the only time we can do a really long trip, at least until after P-Day. So, if you wish, we will give you a larger view of Perinent.

“There is also a request, which has come to us via Balzo” – and he looked at me oddly – “that Michael, I and Neil should visit Camp Four. So we will, in your Earthly phrase, kill two birds with one stone. Tomorrow, we will take you for a tour, which will include a trip to Camp Four. You will need to take your translators, in order to talk with the species you will meet there.

“But to get to Camp Four and back, you will have to sit in the ’mobile for several hours. And some parts of the journey will not be very interesting. They will be transport, not a ride, and you won’t be able to see much. For, to make the necessary speeds, we will have to fly very high, almost outside the atmosphere.

“And there will be only one trip. Including Cristina and Helen, there are sixteen of you in the Team, and sixteen passenger seats.”

“Who wants to go?” I asked.

Every hand was raised. Except Ray, who said, “I have work to do tomorrow. Duck, and accompaniments, to cook.”

I asked Gabriel afterwards, “Why did you look at me like that, when you spoke of Balzo’s request?”

“Because Balzo sent his request to you first, and to Michael and myself only later. He went against the normal Galactic protocol, that the senior species is asked first. But when we queried him, he told us that he had consulted Harv’I – who, being formally the local project manager, outranks us – and Harv’I recommended that you be asked to lead.”

“So, what do you know about the situation at Camp Four, which I don’t?”

“Only,” replied Gabriel, “that there is tension between the trainee species – who are called the Brjemych – and their Helpers, the Ke’lan. And that the Brjemych’s Tuglay teachers have taken the side of their students. And there is another problem, regarding the Cherubim at the camp. Balzo has told us nothing more.”

* * *

On the Sunday morning, the ’mobile was full indeed. Only Ray, Kenny, Tuglaydum and Tuglaydee were left in the hotel.

We went, at first, to relatively close places of interest. To the river junction, three hundred kilometres south, where we saw herds of small deer hunted by D’Pluar and D’Xhohil. To the outlier of the ocean, a thousand kilometres beyond that. Turning left, towards the south-east, we flew down the coast. It looked often desolate, but there were occasional bays of plenty, where plant and animal life flourished.

After a couple of hours, Gabriel said, “Now we will make for Camp Four. It is roughly like our own camp, but it is on an island in the ocean. And it is many thousand kilometres from here. We will need to fly high and fast.”

We did just that. The acceleration was smooth, and only about fifty per cent greater than taking off in an Earthly jet plane. But it was unending. We turned round at the midpoint, and started decelerating – backwards. This was, as Gabriel had said, transport, not a ride.

On arrival, we were greeted by an individual looking like a small, dark grey horse, about the size of a New Forest pony and quite heavily built. Gelmar, team leader of the Brjemych, he introduced himself as. (He pronounced the name as “Burr-ye-mitch.”)

“I want to thank you all for coming,” said Gelmar. “I had expected only three of you, but I am most glad to see almost your whole Team, as well as your Helpers.”

Gelmar had two Tuglay with him. They were less alike than Dum and Dee. One, indeed, was clearly larger than the other. John, who knew some Italian, named the bigger Tuglayono and the smaller Tuglayino.

Tuglayino spoke first. “We Tuglay asked the managers of the Company to send you to visit here, because the Brjemych are refusing to attend our classes. Yet it is not us Tuglay they criticize, but the Ke’lan who are their Helpers.

“There is also a dispute between the Ke’lan and the family of Cherubim who are assigned to our Punishment Fort. Edriga, the project manager, told the Cherubim to leave, because she wants to bring in more Ke’lan to run the Fort. The Cherubim refused, saying that their contract with the Company gives them control over the Fort, and Edriga has no right to dismiss them.”

“Very good,” I said. “Michael, Gabriel and I will need to meet with Edriga, to hear her side of the story. You three, Gelmar and both Tuglay, should be there too. Will the Cherubim want to be present also?”

“No,” said Tuglayono, “the Cherubim refuse to speak directly with Edriga. They have asked us Tuglay to act as their go-betweens.”

“In the meantime,” I said to Gelmar, “will you show me and my Team round your camp, and introduce us to your Team and your trainees? And, if you can provide us refreshments compatible with our biology, we would appreciate it.”

Gelmar nodded. “It will be done.” He made a sound, and two of his Team appeared. They were similar in size to Gelmar himself, and more like horses than any other Earthly animals. But they were – different. Certainly, more different than humans of different races.

The three Brjemych guided us round the camp. It was on a smaller scale than our own. But Camp Four had a far more beautiful location than Camp Two. It was on the coast, and had its own beach. The local equivalent of our Punishment Pit – the Fort – was on a small island, connected to the rest of the camp by a causeway. Alcatraz to our Hades, I thought.

After the tour, we went inside the main building. It was very like our own, although the Brjemych didn’t use beds, just mattresses on the floor. They preferred showers to baths, and their sanitary facilities were, for obvious reasons, shaped differently from ours.

There were more Brjemych there. In total there were seventy-two; eight of Gelmar’s Team, and sixty-four trainees, a full complement.

I decided it was time to appoint a deputy, to be the focus of our Team while I was in meetings. I had given thought to who it should be, and in the end realized there was only one candidate. As an ex military instructor, Ben knew how to order people around when necessary. And he not only had a sense of humour, but was an engaging personality too. As long as you didn’t get on the wrong side of him, of course.

“Ben,” I said, “I have some meetings to go to. Please take charge of the Team while I am elsewhere. Make friends, and influence people.” He smiled and nodded.

* * *

“Before we meet Edriga,” I said to Gelmar, “Michael, Gabriel and I need to understand your side of the dispute.”

“Right from the start,” said Gelmar when we and the Tuglay had found an empty room, “the Ke’lan have treated us like inferior beings or children. All the time, they have tried to make us in their image – which we are not.”

“Then, how did you acquire the Ke’lan as Helpers?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” said Gelmar. “No-one better suited to us came in for us.”

There had been many flashpoints in the relationship between Ke’lan and Brjemych, Gelmar explained, some larger some smaller. But the immediate cause of the current protest was that Edriga had forbidden the Pulling and use of what the Brjemych called Hooch Juice. This was a highly alcoholic potion, used by Brjemych since time immemorial. If you want an Earthly equivalent, think vodka.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because she says it inhibits the learning process,” said Gelmar.

Tuglayono said, “We Tuglay told Edriga the facts. That Hooch Juice, taken before class, can damage learning. But, taken after class and with enough sleep before the next, it is a positive help to learning. For, under its influence, students will unwind and discuss with each other what they have learned – so learning more.”

Gelmar said, “But Edriga does not agree. She does not drink potions, and does not sleep. Therefore, she does not understand.”

* * *

We went to the common room to meet Edriga, leader of the team of four Ke’lan at Camp Four. For those who find lionesses attractive, she was a peach – if somewhat smaller than an Earthly lioness.

But there was a hitch. “A Brjemych should not be allowed in this meeting,” said Edriga.

I took a deep breath. “I am the one appointed to report on this matter,” I said. “I will decide who may attend. I admit Gelmar.”

Edriga started to say, “You can’t be serious,” but Gabriel cut her off. “Edriga,” he said, “Michael, I and Neil need to understand your side of the matter. It is for you to tell us.”

Edriga flounced. “The Brjemych are slow, lazy and ill-disciplined students. They keep their unpleasant habits – like Hooch Juice – instead of doing things the proper Galactic and Ke’lan way. I really don’t know why I am bothering to help them.”

Tuglayino, clearly angry, said, “We Tuglay will be the judges of the quality of the Brjemych as students, Edriga.”

“And what of your dispute with the Cherubim?” I asked.

“The Cherubim too,” said Edriga, “are lazy, inattentive and unprofessional. I ordered them to leave because they would not have done a proper job of punishing the bad Brjemych. We need Ke’lan to punish them harshly as they deserve.”

I saw Michael’s eyebrows rise. Certainly what Edriga had said about Cherubim didn’t tally with my own experience of them, and I suspected Michael was thinking the same. “Is that all you have to say, Edriga?” he asked mildly.

“I really don’t know why I even bothered to speak to you,” Edriga replied. “This meeting is at an end.” She stormed out.

“You have had only a few minutes of Edriga,” said Gelmar to me with a wry smile. “We Brjemych have suffered many weeks of her.”

I smiled back. “Right,” I said, “If they are willing, I want to hear the Cherubim’s side of the matter too. After that, I will meet with just Michael and Gabriel, to decide what we do next.”

On our way out to the Punishment Fort, I caught up with Ben, who had just enjoyed a shot of Hooch Juice and was extolling its virtues. The Brjemych were a friendly bunch, he said also, and the two species were mixing well.

The Cherubim were happy to meet us, and they confirmed what Tuglayino and Tuglayono had told us. In fact, they had made a formal complaint to the Company about Edriga’s attempt to breach their contract, and had requested that the Ke’lan be removed from the camp.

“This is a rum old situation,” I said as Michael, Gabriel and I settled on one of the Brjemych’s mattresses in an otherwise empty room.

“The breakdown of relations between Edriga and the Brjemych is complete,” said Michael. “And I judge that the Cherubim’s complaint is justified. If we recommend that the Ke’lan be removed, I think the Company will act and remove them.”

“I think we should do more than recommend,” said Gabriel. “I think we must act.”

“Clause 21?” said Michael. Gabriel nodded.

“What is Clause 21?” I asked.

“It is a Company rule,” said Michael, “which allows a suitably empowered Company official to remove from post any official who has committed a serious malfeasance or breach of Company rules. Subject to review by senior management, of course. But Clause 21 is an emergency measure. Act first, review later.”

“We three have, by our remit from Balzo, the authority to serve a Clause 21 on Edriga and her Ke’lan,” said Gabriel. “But that has consequences. It would mean that we ourselves must take the responsibility of finding a replacement project manager and Helpers. To allocate a pair of Seraphim and get them here could take several weeks. Particularly since we need one who is qualified as a project manager. In the meantime, one of us would have to remain here, at least until the Ke’lan have gone.”

“Toss you for it,” said Michael to Gabriel. He produced a large coin from an inner pocket of his robe. “Neil will spin. You call.”

“Wait one moment,” I said. “I think I see why it is better for us to take immediate action – Clause 21 – than just to report the problem and let the Company sort it out. But are there no other options?”

“I cannot think of any,” said Gabriel. “Only asking,” I said.

I put out my hand. Michael gave me the coin, and I spun it. Gabriel called heads. It was tails.

“Off topic,” I said, “but is there any way we could involve Harv’I in helping the Brjemych? Balzo mentioned him as a trusted individual, and I feel he is under-utilized working on our project alone.”

“Good point,” said Michael. “But there is a practical problem with asking Harv’I to spend time here, because he needs special accommodation due to his heat. And we don’t know whether he would be willing, or how well he and the Brjemych would get on.”

“There’s one way to find out,” I said. “Take Gelmar back to Camp Two with us for a couple of days.”

* * *

We told Gelmar and the two Tuglay what we planned to do. They looked much relieved. We asked whether the Cherubim wanted to be present when Gabriel served the Clause 21 – their reply was, “We deal not with Ke’lan. Tuglay will represent us.” Michael and I summoned Edriga and the other three Ke’lan to meet with the six of us – I think they knew then what was coming. Then Gabriel did the formal bit.

We left Gabriel behind, promising to return in two days. We took Gelmar with us back to Camp Two. He was nervous about flying – it is not part of Brjemych culture – and it was not easy to fit him into human-style seats. He ended up lying on his side, with his hind quarters on one seat and his head on Cristina’s lap on the next. Michael’s piloting on the way back was as gentle as we had ever experienced.

And so, with duck and orange and a bedtime shot of Hooch Juice for each of us, ended a long and eventful day.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Chapter 33. Of a Change of Course

I soon learned how to handle the laser gun. It had Stun and Kill settings, but Gabriel would not show us how to set it to Kill. “Stun will be enough to deal with any animal you might meet here,” he said. “It will work up to about a hundred metres away.” We had two of these guns, one kept by Michael, the other by Gabriel.

The gun’s beam was wide, meaning I didn’t have to shoot too accurately. Just as well. For, as I had discovered long ago when I tried to shoot a rifle, I was no hotshot. Not only did I not have the necessary steadiness of hand to keep a gun pointed exactly where I wanted to. But also, being right-handed and left-eyed, I found my eyes having difficulty telling my hands where they should point it in the first place.

I was not alone; for Dede suffered similar problems. Despite these, we each managed to stun a deer at eighty metres or so. The animals got up after about a minute, seemingly none the worse physically, but displaying a strong desire to remove themselves from our bailiwick.

Then Gabriel showed us, in the Pedia, the animals we might need to use the gun on. “You already know the D’Fanjel, the wolves of Perinent,” he said. “You might see them here at dawn or dusk, if you happen to be outside at that time. The D’Leinotl you will not meet here; it is a mountain species.

“There are only two other predators you might encounter. The D’Pluar is big, eight-legged and hairy. It is not fast, but it is very strong and quite stealthy. The D’Xhohil, on the other hand” – the “xh” he pronounced as “sh,” and the “h” in the middle was hard, as in Lohman – “is the nearest we have on Perinent to your Earthly cheetah. It can run fast, but it normally kills only small animals. It is all but unheard of for a D’Xhohil to attack anything the size of a human.”

When the lesson was over, I asked Gabriel to give the gun to Dede, saying it was time for him to take Cristina and Helen on their tour of the camp. I would need one of the guns in the afternoon, when I went to visit Harv’I for our regular Friday talk. But the rest of the morning I planned to spend with the Tuglay.

* * *

In the last few days, since the Time of Storms, I had been worrying just how appropriate the training course the Tuglay had planned was going to be to the situation on Earth. I had tried to bring this up with Michael and Gabriel, but they seemed to have difficulty understanding the problem. However helpful they were on day-to-day matters, they appeared to have a bit of a mental block when it came to anything strategic. Thinking back, this had been so from almost the beginning, on the ship, where they had not told me about the library until I asked a question which required a visit to it.

The Tuglay themselves had been asleep, but I thought they would probably resist any attempt to question what they were to teach. I had asked several members of the Team what they thought, and got several different answers, none greatly reassuring. With Bart no longer easily available, and Balzo only as a court of last resort, I could think of only one individual with whom I could discuss the issue in depth; Harv’I.

I had gradually come more and more to appreciate what Harv’I did for our project and for me. At first, I had found it difficult to see how he could contribute, particularly being remote from us. Yet I found him, again and again, quietly adding something no-one else brought. It was Harv’I, for example, who had suggested that we send the first wave of trainees back by ship. And it was Harv’I who had first told me about mescaps.

In the last few days, I had spent hours at a Pedia terminal, discussing my concerns with Harv’I. The problem, as I saw it, was that only a few of our trainees were well known public figures. Even among these, only a small fraction would actually be in a position to take power and explicitly become leaders. Some, perhaps, might be well placed to become advisors to a new generation of leaders. Others might become persuaders and opinion formers, teachers who could lead ordinary people towards the Galactic way of thinking.

If the course the Tuglay taught was too centred on leadership, I thought, we might miss these other skills when we needed them. As well, perhaps, as alienating those trainees who were not natural leaders.

Harv’I was a good listener. He was objective, though he also had a sense of humour. He was not afraid to criticize when I got something wrong, but he was never rude or gloating about it. Over the days, he helped reinforce my conviction that the Tuglay should be ready to be flexible about what they taught to whom.

And so, late that Friday morning, I sat down in a room with Dum and Dee, and began, “I have reviewed our list of trainees. I am not sure how many are naturally fitted to be active leaders when we send them back to Earth. It may be only a few. I have also been considering how many of them are likely to get the opportunity to become leaders. For human societies have a lot of inertia in them. Except in very unusual circumstances, it is hard for anyone to become powerful unless they are already well known.

“I also think the trainees will have among them different abilities. For some humans are, temperamentally, very different from others. Some may be most effective on our project as advisors to leaders. Some may be natural teachers and persuaders. I think we need to make the maximum possible use of each talent.

“What I would like to do, therefore, is to look at what you plan to teach the trainees. I want to make sure that we understand and cover all the different ways in which the individuals you train can contribute to our project. I also want to make sure we try, as far as possible, to guide each individual towards a role that he or she feels happy with, and is likely to be good at.”

In fact, I did not get the resistance I had feared. “Our course is based on a core of Galactic values,” said Tuglaydee. “But there are also modules we can add on for individuals of different skills and temperaments. Active leadership is only one of those. We also do, particularly towards the end of the course, one-to-one sessions directed towards each individual’s needs.”

“Fine,” I said. “I think, then, that I would like you to start, as early as possible, tailoring your course to each individual’s talents. Is it possible for you to assess each trainee as we Pull them over the next three weeks, before the classroom work even starts?”

“That is unusual,” said Tuglaydum, “but not unprecedented. It will take time, an hour or so for each individual. But I think we can do it.”

“Now,” I went on, “what can I authorize Michael and Gabriel to say to interviewees about your course? I would like to stress its flexibility. I want to reassure each trainee that we will help them find a role in our project which is appropriate to them, to their particular skills and temperament. That they will have considerable choice in what they learn. And that we will try to avoid pushing them into doing anything they are uncomfortable with, or not naturally suited for.”

“You ask much,” said Tuglaydum. “Much, indeed,” said Tuglaydee. “But I think I appreciate your concern.

“Before we came here, we had heard that you humans as a whole are more collectivized, less individuated, than most species ready to become Juniors. We planned our course on that assumption. Yet we have found you and the Team to be quite the opposite. You plainly expect that the trainees will be strongly individual – as Team members are. And you want us to teach them accordingly.”

“You have understood me perfectly,” I replied. “For I think your research sources may have misled you a little. If you reread Bart’s report on us, you will find that he gave the collectivized humans the name ‘zombies.’ But by no means all humans are like that. I think I can assure you that very few of the trainees will be zombies!”

“Very good,” said Tuglaydum. “We will do what you ask. It is a significant change to what we had planned, but we see that it is a change for the good. Call Michael and Gabriel here now, and we will agree on a form of words for them to use at the interviews.”

* * *

When I met with Harv’I that afternoon, I reported the success of my talk with the Tuglay. And when I did my progress report for Balzo, I included a detailed account of the agreement we had come to. I asked him for any further thoughts he or Bart might have on the matter. And I queried, why had the Tuglay seemingly done their initial planning of the course without reference to Bart’s report?