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

Vaust

(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.

Me.

* * *

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?”

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.”