Thursday, 25 December 2014

Chapter 52. A Better World

It was thirty years later, that Lily and I took one of the extended furloughs which are normal in the Galaxy. And we went back to Earth. Without the ’mobile; for I had persuaded Lily to take a holiday from piloting. We did the grand tour of Earth, staying in the best hotels, and using the most comfortable transport available.

The world had changed drastically since the day Michael had picked me up on that heath. For a start, the name of the planet had changed! Well, not exactly. The word “Earth” was still very much in circulation. But the name of our sun, as far as Galactics were concerned, had changed. It is traditional in the Galaxy to name stars after the Galactic species who inhabit their systems. So, Sol became “Hooman.” And Earth became Hooman-3, and Venus Hooman-2.

Some may wonder why our sun was not called “Human,” with a y-sound after the “h.” I can tell you. There were several members of lizard species on the Board of the Galactic Association.

* * *

Long-distance travel on Earth had changed a lot in thirty years. There were still planes, it was true. And supersonic planes were back. But it was clear that planes had a limited future. For they now had strong competition from Seraphimobiles.

The ’mobile had already revolutionized group and charter travel, for using vertical take-off and landing it could offer door-to-door service. To begin with, though, progress had been limited by the small number of ’mobiles there were on Earth. That was, until some savvy Indians had started building ’mobiles under licence. Others got in on the act, and now there was also a cheaper, cut-down version, able to do everything a standard civilian ’mobile could do except go off-planet. Meanwhile, the market in training people to pilot ’mobiles was booming.

To compete with scheduled airlines, many ’mobile operators offered what was, in effect, a shared limo service. It could take a while to get from A to B, because of the many stops to pick up or drop off passengers. For that reason, the bigger the ’mobile, the cheaper the ticket. But, over intercontinental distances, even 64-seat ’mobiles were faster door-to-door than subsonic plane journeys. And far more convenient, not to mention a lot more fun.

The high cost of building them meant that ’mobiles had not yet begun to compete with cars. But that particular battle was looming. Already, there were many ’mobile taxis, which would take you in the air if you were willing to pay the premium.

* * *

I say again, the world had changed drastically, and for the better, with our Awakening and the consequent extinction of the politicals. Wars, dishonest politics, borders and controls, the EU and the UN, propaganda, media bias, redistribution or confiscation of fairly earned wealth, perversion of law, bureaucratic meddling, governments spying on people, treating good human beings as less than human, were all now things of the past. Socialism, fascism, communism, nazism, conservatism, religious fundamentalism, marxism, authoritarianism, racism, environmentalism, terrorism, statism; all those evil –isms were no longer. Only historians used such words any more.

The human population on Earth had all but stabilized, at around eight and a half billion. That didn’t count the half billion who had emigrated into the Galaxy. Immigration from the Galaxy to Earth was smaller, only about three hundred million. But they made a huge difference; they made Earth cosmopolitan.

The age of big, political government was over. There were still governments, indeed. But what they did was confined to the one and only proper purpose of government – implementing justice. And the justice they all strove to deliver was objective, individual, common-sense justice.

Indeed, you would hardly know that governments were there, except in three situations. The first was if someone harmed you, beyond the limits of civilized, mutual tolerance. Then, you could go to a court, and claim compensation from those that had harmed you.

The second was if you were asked to do jury service. Or, perhaps, a spell as a magistrate.

And the third was if you yourself maliciously used aggressive violence, theft or other sub-human behaviours like fraud. Then, you were caught, brought to justice, and punished as you deserved. As well, of course, as being made to compensate your victims.

Better yet. We humans had already, just thirty years after our Awakening, entered the Galactic rich-list top 500, in 498th place. And we were already fourteenth among Junior species. We had done that in little more than a generation! Faster than the Avor’I had managed anything like it, indeed.

The solar power project had helped a lot, too. For we now had, for the foreseeable future, enough energy to power our civilization, at a cost we could afford. And we understood the technology well enough that we could replicate it if and when we needed to.

Yes, we humans had Awakened. The Personal Transition had elevated the individual above the herd. The Social Transition had brought peace and objective, common-sense justice. The Economic Transition had brought prosperity for all those who deserved it. The human race, at last, had left stagnation behind, and was going forwards and upwards.

* * *

We visited John and Galina near Bordeaux. They had had some difficulties initially, because the locals were very conservative. They did not like growers of “foreign” grapes invading their territory. But a single glass of wine, from Seraph grapes grown in the M├ędoc, could change the perceptions of the drinker. Few refused a second glass. And – in time – their hybrid grapes had become even more successful.

John was over 100 years old now. But he didn’t look old at all. The Galant’I treatment had not only rejuvenated us at the time, but had all but stopped the aging process. Lily and I had benefited from that, too. As had all the rest of the Team, the first and second wave trainees, and Cristina and Helen as well.

We visited Ben and Sabrina in Cape Town. They had a very successful business, training people in how to use portals and retals. They were busy and happy.

We visited Shami and Dede in Delhi. They had returned to Earth after two years studying Tuglay methods of education, and eight years learning by practising the trade in backwaters of the Galaxy. They now ran the biggest adult education company on Earth. And they had spin-offs on other planets too. They were happy – and very, very busy.

We visited the Galactic Embassy in Virginia. Cristina and Helen were still there, as hostesses for newly arriving Galactics. They were happy, too.

Hoong and Elise also lived in Virginia, near the Embassy. The solar power project had been completed in about ten years, but there was still much maintenance work to do. After the bulk of the Piantur team left, Hoong had been made director of the project. He and Elise were happy.

Harv’I was still in his house in the Embassy, and he told us about his meeting with the pope. No, he hadn’t gone to Rome to visit the pope. Rather, the pope – a new, young pope – had come to Virginia to meet Harv’I, son of Jahw’I. And had been both amazed and delighted.

Harv’I also thought he might have found out why the Elo’I colony on Venus had failed. It looked like a combination of two factors. First, an enfeebling disease, which caused them to become complacent and unwary. And second, by amazingly bad luck, an asteroid hit directly on the colony. If he was right, then the colony could be re-established. And Elo’I and humans could be planetary neighbours, and watch out for each other.

* * *

Benno Adam’s book, An Awakening, had been a best-seller. It had sold far beyond the market of history buffs it had been aimed at. It had become a book of the people. It had been translated into more than a thousand Galactic languages, including, of course, English. It was still in print on Earth, too. Lily and I picked up a copy for each of us, and a third to preserve.

Benno was a good writer. He had researched his subject thoroughly, and he had added much detail from eye-witness accounts. He described particularly well the feelings good people had in the run-up to the Awakening. First disquiet, then incomprehension, then fury at what the politicals were doing to them. Then – a feeling of separation. And a desire to be rid of their enemies, that had fooled them and fouled them for so long.

But Benno had gone further, and had traced human history back far enough that his readers could see the big picture. Looked at that way, the Awakening had been coming for many centuries. Like the contractions which precede the birth of a baby, there had been motions, often alternating, of forward and backward, of progress and regress.

The Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the computer and communications revolution; those had been forward motions. Nationalism, socialism and communism, sham “democracy,” welfare states, the green agenda, the surveillance and database state; those had been backward motions. But, in the end, the good had triumphed. We humans had Awakened.

* * *

I lay in a hotel bed in the Scottish Highlands, enjoying Lily’s Special. Tonight, it was particularly slow and comfortable. As my mind wandered, I contemplated what Benno Adam had told us. And, at last, I found the right word to describe the jobs Lily and I had taken on.

We were midwives – Galactic midwives.

“Here’s to the midwives!” cried Lily, speeding up her motion, and taking me up a long crescendo of pleasure to an overwhelming climax.

* * *

Next day, our taxi driver took us up to a well-known beauty spot. We left him at the pass for a three-hour, paid lunch break. He was a student; he could use those hours to read his books.

We climbed the hill, up a slaty track. It was a small hill, compared with its neighbours. I had been there in (if I remembered right) 1985. That day, the weather had been at its best; as it was today. It was a very warm, dreamy afternoon, without a cloud in the sky and with visibility as good as it gets.

To the west, we had the island of Skye spread out below us. To the north, a great green mountain. To the east, we could see through a small gap in the hills to blue water.

Lily and I picnicked. The food was from Fortnum and Mason, of course – but the one in Piccadilly, this time. With it, we shared a bottle of John and Galina’s best.

There was no-one else around. So, we enjoyed Lily’s Special. It wasn’t nearly as comfortable as the previous night in the hotel. But it was more romantic.

This is a better world now, I thought. A peaceful world. A prosperous world. A just world. A Galactic world. A human world.

* * *

Almost four hours later, our taxi driver, whose name was Steven, came to wake us up. And led us down the hill, back to his car and Galactic civilization.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Chapter 51. Of New Horizons

Next day, Sunday, I spent six hours telling Benno Adam my story. I told him all I knew about the Awakening, and about my role in it; just as I have humbly set these matters down for you, dear reader, in this brief history. But with the more intimate and personal details omitted, of course.

Now we had another eleven ceremonies to do. That was my fault!

I didn’t march with the Band again. Though I was admitted into the “Friends of the Galactic Marching Band,” and I kept in contact with Mostro for many years. Instead, at each of the ceremonies, I shared with Elise the back seat of Mirandin’s ’mobile. Hoong piloted in the even numbered ceremonies, and Lily in the odd numbered ones. Both were excellent pilots, but Lily was better, I thought. Elise disagreed, of course.

The rest of the Team, rather than standing on a hard and, at the northern hemisphere ceremonies, cold podium, elected to watch in comfort – along with Cristina and Helen, and Olgal as well – from Ramael’s ’mobile. They enjoyed the dance at the end, too.

Rrrela had left Earth on the day after the first ceremony. So it was now Othriel who was the mouthpiece of the Galaxy. He was a much better speaker than Rrrela.

Balzo and Bart Vorsprong had to depart after only two ceremonies. Tuglaydum and Tuglaydee left after the third. They were all busy individuals, and though the Galactic way of doing things allowed them to take as much time off as they felt was necessary, they all wanted to get back to work. But, before Balzo left, Lily and I agreed with him the detailed terms for our new Avoran-based jobs. We would travel to Avoran, with Olgal, soon after the ceremonies on Earth were completed.

The last ceremony was in a freezing Beijing near the end of November. By this time, the Galactic presence on the podiums had reduced, from about six hundred in Washington to less than four hundred in Beijing. Most of those who now remained planned to stay on Earth for a while. Many were entrepreneurs, looking to be early into a new market of several billion individuals. But there were academics too, seeking new knowledge. And tourists, just enjoying being among the first on a new Galactic planet.

There was, however, a group – mainly of Piantur engineers, but also including skilled individuals from other species such as Avor’I – who planned to remain on Earth for several years at least. This was the team, who would build our solar power system. For my suggestion, of solar power to be collected in space and beamed to Earth, had indeed been agreed on as the gift the Galactics would give us to celebrate our new status.

Michael and Gabriel departed in the ’mobile, two days after the last ceremony. They were going to take a holiday, then return to Seraph to look for new work. I told them that, when the next suitable candidate species came along on Perinent, I would be urging Balzo to hire them as Helpers. They laughed. “Been there, done that,” Michael said.

Ramael and Hazael took a two year contract on Earth, as pilots for the staff of the Embassy. And, in the unlikely event it was needed, they could become again the military wing of the Galaxy on Earth.

With Cristina and Helen already working at the Embassy, and Harv’I too now comfortably housed there and taking up his father’s project, that left just the core Team, fourteen of us. Lily and I were already committed to going to Avoran. It was time to find out what each of the others planned to do next.

John and Galina teamed up with a pair of Seraphim – none other than our dark blue robed, food-producing friends, who had named themselves Fortnum and Mason. Together, they bought a vineyard and winery not far from Bordeaux. They planned not only to grow the traditional grapes, but also to experiment with grapes from Seraph, and hybrids. Galina’s expertise in plant genetics would be useful here.

Ben and Sabrina also planned to remain on Earth. Now, a few of the Galactic entrepreneurs had brought with them what they called (when translated into English) “portals.” These machines allowed commercial agreements to be recorded, and goods to be Pulled or Pushed, or physically moved in or out of the portal, accounting for them according to those agreements. And they were integrated with the Galactic banking system.

Portals solved, for example, the problems we had had with paying for that first barrel of beer Cees had Pulled. There were also “retals,” which were sales outlets – essentially, portals with a small showroom attached. Ben and Sabrina planned to gain a good understanding of portals and retals, and to get early into the Earthly market for selling them, and training people in how to use them.

Hoong and Elise also stayed on Earth, after a fashion. For they applied to the Piantur to work on their solar power project. Hoong said that he wanted to make absolutely sure that someone from Earth – that meant him – fully understood all aspects of the new technology. His background as an electrical engineer, and his ability as a Seraphimobile pilot, made him well qualified to help the project. His and Elise’s ability to Pull and Push was useful too. So, they struck a deal with the Piantur, including a ’mobile solely for their use.

Ray and Jenna planned to go with Cees and Marie (and Kenny) to Seraph, and open a restaurant there specializing in Earth food, not to mention Earth wine and beer. We had a somewhat drunken after dinner conversation about what they might call it. I suggested they might name it after me, “The Tiddly Pom.” The suggestion was not taken up.

Shami, I thought, had been the most enterprising of all. She wanted to go back to her old career of teaching, but in a Galactic way. So she had talked with Tuglaydum and Tuglaydee, and arranged to go to the Tuglay home planet to learn their techniques of education. Dede, being Dede, was happy to go along with this.

Shami’s decision was a cleverer business move than might appear. For the gravity on the Tuglay home planet is only around two-thirds that on Earth. Tuglay are not comfortable for any length of time in gravity much higher than Perinent’s. They are, therefore, unable to work at their best on planets like Avoran, or even Earth. There was a potentially huge market for education in the style of and under the brand of the Tuglay, delivered on planets with gravity equal to Earth’s or greater.

While in England for the London ceremony, I had visited my old home. For just long enough to order it refurbished and put up for sale. There had been one other thing Lily and I needed to do before we left for Avoran. Which was, get ourselves a Seraphimobile. And that proved easy. For we heard that Othriel, in his new role of ambassador, was going to need – and was about to receive – a larger ’mobile than the one he and Mirandin currently had. So, I and Lily put in an offer for their old one. Which Othriel and Mirandin accepted graciously.

Ben said to me, laughing, “You’ve bought a used car from a politician. And it’s more than a hundred years old, for goodness’ sake!” (Which was true.) “Was that really wise?”

I replied, “Othriel and Mirandin are not politicians, but Galactics. We have a Galactic contract making clear what they sold us, and there is a fresh twenty-year guarantee.”

Lily and I loved that ’mobile. She loved it for its responsiveness and manoeuvrability. I loved it for its luxurious back-seat comfort. Everyone we took for a ride in it, even Ben, agreed with both of us.

Nine days after the ceremony in Beijing, Lily became the first human to pilot a ’mobile off a planet. She took me and Olgal to the Naudar’I docking station for our journey to Avoran.

* * *

But Lily and I could not, of course, travel the Galaxy entirely independently. We could pilot ourselves to the docking station; and we could put ourselves under sleep-gas for the journey through configurational space. But, at the other end, we needed to be retrieved from the docking station, and taken to our room to sleep off the dose.

When we joined a ship, or went to a cosmopolitan planet like Avoran, it was easy. There were many eager to please Seraphim offering the services we needed. But arriving at Perinent would be another matter. In the end, Balzo had to ask Nansen Ault to negotiate an agreement with the Naudar’I. That, where it was not practicable for us to be picked up by others from a docking station, they would leave it there long enough to give us time to wake up, and to leave in our ’mobile for the planet below.

* * *

Avoran was, as I have said, a cosmopolitan planet. It was a little larger than Earth. There were about eight billion Avor’I on it, and around a billion other Galactics, of almost a thousand different species. The Seraphim population there numbered about twenty million. The human population numbered two.

The Avoran day was longer than the day on Earth or Perinent, almost twenty-nine hours. Avor’I had an eight-day week, of which they generally worked six. And an almost ten-hour standard working day. The fifteen per cent higher gravity than Earth’s, combined with the longer day, was wearing on us physically. So Lily and I needed a twelve to thirteen hours’ dose of sleep-gas each night.

Our workplace was in a large, attractive building near the original capital city of Avoran, also called Avoran, which was in the northern temperate zone. It was set in parkland, as most such buildings were. For the Avor’I no longer had cities as we would think of them. A small fraction of the land on the planet, including its most spectacular physical features, was set aside in the form of reserves. A certain percentage was farmland. Most of the rest was what some might unkindly call suburbia. Homes, shops, businesses, and recreational spaces, all mixed. And without the heavy hand of any central planner.

The Avor’I had air-cars. They operated on the same principles as Seraphimobiles, taking energy from the magnetic and other force fields when they accelerated, and returning it when they slowed. The passengers simply stood against a padded wall. That was fine for Avor’I, who stood up all the time except to sleep. But it was uncomfortable for many other species. So, Seraphimobiles, and the air vehicles of other species, were popular on Avoran.

Almost everyone on Avoran had an air-car, or equivalent. And that meant traffic congestion; which was resolved by computers. Every Avor’I air-car, every ’mobile on the planet had the necessary software. You selected your destination, and were taken to it. It was only permitted to manually pilot ’mobiles when above the usual limit of Avor’I air-cars, about ten kilometres up.

From the office I shared with Lohman and Odam, I had a view of the area where air-cars waited to take off. It was quite a sight. A dozen or more parallel lines of machines, moving slowly forward. At peak times, there could be fifty or more in each line. Then, one or several in the front rank would suddenly and silently accelerate. They left the ground after only a few seconds. Some turned left, some turned right, some went higher, some stayed lower. The computers kept them out of each other’s way.

The work we did in that office, planning and directing the Galactic nursery projects on Perinent, was most interesting and challenging. Every project was different, because every candidate species was different. As was every combination of project consultant (when there was one), Helpers and local project manager. We often found ourselves having to make up the rules as we went along.

Next door, Lily worked in the research department with Olgal and two young Avor’I, Varazh and Belxham. They dug up information about candidate species, and evaluated it. They found, and qualified, the data on which Lohman, Odam and I based our decisions.

Lily and I took an apartment about ten kilometres from the office. The building was in an area where many Seraphim lived. We had about a hundred metres to walk to an excellent Seraph restaurant, where we breakfasted every day, and dined most evenings.

Surprisingly, the Avor’I’s own food was also very good. Descended from predators, they were meat ’n’ taters people. Simple tastes, like mine. But, instead of hunting for meat, they now grew it synthetically in huge vats. Though there were, it was said, still a few reserves where the best-heeled Avor’I could go hunting.

Regrettably, Avor’I are not winemakers; we had to confine ourselves to Seraph’s best. They brewed beer, though, and it was good.

At weekends, we would often go in the ’mobile to beauty spots, of which Avoran had many. In the heavy gravity, we could not comfortably walk as far as we could have done on Earth or Perinent. But the scenery was spectacular, and the paths were mostly easy.

There were plenty of other things we could do. Many different kinds of sporting, musical or cultural entertainments were available. Or we could take the lazy option; stay in bed and enjoy a few hours, or even a whole day, under the influence of recreational drugs.

Apart from the long day and the gravity, there was one more downside to living on Avoran. Our contracts with the Company were, by Earth standards, financially far more than generous. But it was an expensive place to live. Hardly surprising, as it was the home planet of the third richest species per head in the Galaxy. “On Avoran,” went the saying, “you have to pay for everything, even the ground under your feet.”

* * *

Our work took Lily and me back to Perinent twice each Avoran year. Which was much the same length as an Earth year, although it had fewer days. Each time, we would spend eight or nine local weeks on Perinent. And, because Avoran and Perinent are close in Galactic terms, it was only about a Perinent week each way by Naudar’I first class ship.

Much had been done since we had left Camp Two. A room had been built for me and Lily at each of the six camps. At my insistence, radios, like those we had used between Camps Two and Four, had been installed at all six camps.

And an amphibian linguistic and communication expert, Xhovar of the Talaxh, had been recruited to work with the species at Camp Three. Xhovar looked like a large yellow frog, about fifty centimetres long. He could survive on land, or in fresh water, or even – at need – in salt water. His job was to unscramble for us the musings of species such as the Pelino’tqvam and the carnivorous fish they Helped, and to re-scramble our ideas for them in return.

* * *

I have space here to tell you about only one of my exploits in my new job. That was on my very first trip. It was at Camp Four, with the Feh’in. I had previously visited them, and Zherhat of the Toronur their local manager, when their project had only just begun. And everything then had looked good – on the surface.

But now Lohman was very concerned. For things were going slowly at Camp Four. Selecting and Pulling the trainees had taken many times longer than it should have. And the trainees themselves seemed lackadaisical. Although they were unfailingly courteous towards their Tuglay teachers, they were learning only slowly. Lohman sent increasingly strongly worded messages to Zherhat. What he got back was mostly excuses or evasiveness.

I expected that, when I got to Camp Four, I would find Zherhat negative. Perhaps he might even think that I had been sent there to spy on him. But instead, he treated me like a long lost friend, and opened himself to me.

“Lizards!” he said. “Lizards! I’m having enough of lizards!

“Don’t get me wrong. The Feh’in are fine people. They are so nice and kind and polite. But they won’t damn well do anything I tell them to! And our Avor’I Helpers are, again, nice people. But so inexperienced! And Lohman – another lizard! – nips at my stalk all the time. He wants progress reports, and non-progress reports, and whys, and why-nots, and ifs, and buts, and ands.”

I considered, then said in my not-really tone, “Perhaps that may be because he is a monitor lizard?” Zherhat paused for a couple of seconds, then asked his translator to translate what I had said as if it was a joke. Then he waved his leaves in Toronur laughter.

Having worked with Odam for many weeks already, I had learned quite a lot about Toronur. Their society is somewhat hierarchical. While individuals can rise or fall on merit, everyone, at any given time, knows where they stand and who they must obey. There is, therefore, in their language no room for any word like “please,” except for an extremely fawning one.

But Olgal had found out some new (to us) information about the Feh’in, just days before Lily and I left Avoran. It seemed that they had an elaborate ritual of please and thank you, which came into play whenever one wanted another to do his or her bidding.

I decided to test this. I asked the Feh’in team leader, whose name was Dulsada, if she would please come for a private talk with me. And, before she could answer, I told her that our ’mobile was very comfortable, if it pleased her to take a ride in it.

“Thank ru. Thank ru.” said Dulsada. At least, that’s what the translator said. But Dulsada had used two quite different words. Olgal was on to something, I thought.

From my conversation with Dulsada in the ’mobile, it proved to be as Olgal had said. Fail to say please – in at least one of its fourteen variants – when you ask a Feh’in to do a thing, and you will achieve little. Fail to say one of the Feh’in’s eleven different kinds of thank you after the thing was done, and you would not get much co-operation the next time. Why hadn’t we known that before the project started? I made a mental note to investigate when I got back to Avoran.

There remained the technical problem of teaching Zherhat how to say “please” and “thank you.” It wasn’t easy. In the end, we found two “click” sounds he could make, which he didn’t use in his normal language. Then we set up his two-way translator to output these as Feh’in versions of “please” and “thank you.”

From that moment, the Feh’in project went faster and more smoothly than any that had gone before. I was reminded of a phrase, which we humans often used as a happy ending for a children’s story. And I adapted it into the Galactic context, as follows:

And they all worked together successfully ever after.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Hot Air and Justice

(Neil's Note: This one comes from 2007, but it's very relevant right now.)

One night, I had a dream.

In my dream, I was on the jury in a court of law. The judge had a long wig and a smug expression, the prosecutor a smaller wig and an evil-looking grin. The defence counsel's seat was empty. And in the dock, gagged and unable to speak, was someone who looked more than a bit like me.

"This case", began the judge, "has been brought against Human Civilization and all its shareholders and employees. You, Mr Human" - waving a hand towards the dock - "and those you represent, stand accused of causing catastrophic warming of your planet, by polluting it with emissions of hot air, and in particular of a foul gas called carbon dioxide. The penalty for causing this warming is that you should all be forced to stop flying in aeroplanes, driving in cars, or doing anything else that causes that foul gas to be emitted.

"Mr Green", said the judge, signalling towards the prosecutor. "You have the floor".

"Thank you, Your Honour" said Mr Green in a smarmy, self-satisfied voice. "The facts of the case are clear; there is no denying them. Human civilization emits carbon dioxide, and over the last century has been emitting more and more. Global temperatures over the last century have gone up too. Many well qualified scientists say that the cause of the warming is very probably the hot air - I'm sorry, I mean carbon dioxide - emitted by human activities.

"Many people, some of them scientists, believe that, if human civilization doesn't stop emitting this gas, there will be abrupt, catastrophic warming in the next century. The effects of this warming, some scientists say, will include huge rises in the sea level, more and worse droughts and hurricanes, extinction of species, mass migrations and total economic disruption. And the consequences have been estimated to be so disastrous that we must take strong and severe action NOW! to stop all this happening".

The man in the dock struggled with his gag, but to no avail.

"I call Mrs Fear as my first witness", said Mr Green.

Mrs Fear was a large, buxom lady who was a voluble and rather incoherent witness. Her evidence, in a nutshell, was: This is the worst problem we've ever faced! Everybody agrees it's all the fault of those horrid, greedy capitalists, entrepreneurs and hard workers, with their business and industry and whadyoumacallit. Everybody knows they aren't interested in anything but making themselves rich. It's terrible. TERRIBLE! And why doesn't somebody DO something about it?

"I next call Professor Storm", said Mr Green.

The Professor was neat, bearded and pedantic. He showed us, at great speed, charts and graphs which, so he said, proved that the warming was real, that it was out of the ordinary, and that it was caused by human emissions of carbon dioxide. He told us that many scientists, funded by political governments, had spent the last fifteen years and more developing models of the Earth's climate. And that they all - well, mostly - agreed that catastrophic warming was inevitable if we didn't halt our carbon emissions now.

I scribbled a question, and had it handed to the judge. He pulled a wry face, but asked my question anyway. "These climate models which predict big warming in the future - how well do they explain the temperature measurements made in the past?"

"The data don't matter", answered the Professor. "We are basing recommendations on the models".

My second question caused the judge to look even sourer. "How do we know that more carbon dioxide causes higher temperatures, and not, perhaps, the other way round?"

"The models say so", replied the Professor.

At my third question, the judge looked sternly at me, and said, "You jurors aren't here to ask awkward questions. You're here to find the defendant guilty". And then, after a pause, "I'm sorry, I mean find whether the defendant is guilty".

The man in the dock squirmed and tried to speak. Seeing this, the judge said, "All right, I'll ask the question. Aren't there other factors, such as variability of the Sun, which affect global temperatures, and how do these compare in significance with human-emitted carbon dioxide?"

"Of course", said the Professor, "there are other factors. But they don't affect the consensus among the scientists who are being bribed to hype the issue - I'm sorry, being paid to report on the issue. They all think that human emissions of carbon dioxide are the cause of the problem".

The Professor continued, with maps and more charts, which seemed to show great increases in droughts and hurricanes in recent decades. I knew these data were dubious at best, but there didn't seem to be much point in challenging them.

The Professor told us about the horrors of rising sea levels - a rise of three hundred feet would wipe out almost the whole of eastern England. And finally, he told us about Nicholas Stern, who with a large team, all funded by the taxes we had paid, estimated the costs of the damage (supposedly, I said to myself) to be caused by this (unproven, I reminded myself) human-caused warming. The figure was staggeringly large - big enough to tempt the gullible into thinking that any other outcome would probably be preferable.

I scribbled a question on my last scrap of paper. "Why are Stern's figures for the damage several times higher than those of others who have tried to estimate the same things?" The usher gave me an angry look, but still took the question to the judge.

"You again!" said the judge to me in a voice of thunder. "I'll have you thrown out of court if you ask one more impertinent question". Then, to the Professor, "Please continue, Professor. Ignore this troublemaker".

Professor Storm had almost finished. He ended by saying, "Ten years ago, environmentalists said that we may get to the point where the only way of saving the world will be for industrial civilization to collapse. I believe we have now reached that point".

Next, Mr Green called Professor Perrill, an expert on risk. He told us about the precautionary principle, which the European Union had mandated to be used on all environmental issues. "This means that action must be taken", he said, "even if there is doubt over how real or how big the problem is. It also means that the burden of proof is shifted. It is for those alleged to be causing a problem to prove that their actions do not threaten any risk of harm. And absence of evidence of risk is not to be taken as evidence of absence of risk".

When Professor Perrill had finished, the judge asked Mr Green, "Is that your last witness?" "Yes, Your Honour" replied Mr Green.

"Right", said the judge. "Now it's back to you, Mr Green, for your summing-up".

The man in the dock rolled his eyeballs, and my neighbour - having finally twigged that something bad was going on - scribbled a message for the judge.

The judge read the message, and laughed. "Doesn't the defence get to present its case? Ha, ha, ha! You jurymen are behind the times. You ought to know that Mr Human, and all the other flat-earthers that dispute the reality or the seriousness of human-caused catastrophic global warming, aren't to be allowed access to the media any more. And they aren't to be allowed any other forum where they can persuade people, either. That includes this court."

Mr Green the prosecutor gave his summing-up, which was more of the above.

"Now", said the judge to us, "it is time for you to consider your verdict. You must use only the evidence, which has been presented to you in this court. And I will re-phrase what Professor Perrill said: Absence of evidence of guilt is not evidence of absence of guilt.

"You must find Mr Human and his civilization guilty of causing catastrophic global warming if he has not completely proved his innocence beyond all possible doubt.

"And you must reach your decision quickly. I give you two reasons for this. First, I'm going to find Mr Human and all his friends guilty anyway, so what you the jury think is entirely academic and you shouldn't waste time on it. And second, I've a plane to catch. In fact", looking at his watch, "my limo to the airport should be arriving any time now".

The judge smiled. "Would you like to know where I'm going? I'm off to an environmentalist conference in Bali. Having presided over the conviction of Mr Human and his civilization, it will be fun for me to watch the politicians plan the punishment. Knowing, of course, that the bans they will propose on activities like flying and driving won't apply to persons of quality like me".

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Chapter 50. Of the Galactic Marching Band

There were still twelve days to go before the first and biggest of the ceremonies, which was due on the last Saturday of October.

The Galactic embassy was a hive of activity. Parts of it were already in full use, housing and serving the many Galactics who had already arrived. Other parts were still being built. There were many Garut’nim busy assembling things. Even busier were a species called the Piantur. They looked like tall, purple penguins, and Michael told me they were the Galaxy’s top engineers – 18th in the rich-list.

Ramael and Hazael met us when we arrived. With them, I was surprised to see, were Cristina and Helen. “We didn’t want to go back to our old life in Amsterdam,” Cristina said. “So we stayed with Ramael and Hazael in the ’mobile. Now, we have taken jobs on the staff of the Embassy, and this is our home.”

Hazael gave us copies of the detailed plans for the twelve ceremonies, which he had put together based on my list. Looking at the plans, I noticed that the Galactic Marching Band was due to play a leading part. “That might be fun,” I said to Gabriel, “for those of us, who are musicians, to play in the band at the big ceremony.” “It can be organized, I think,” he said with a smile.

As it turned out, only Marie and I from the Team were musically inclined. Gabriel took us to meet Mostro of the Vivar, the captain of the band. He was from the planet Vivro-2, and his species’ own induction into the Galaxy had been famous – enough so, for Bart to have used it as one of the examples in his report on us.

Mostro was physically closer to human than any other Galactic I had yet met. In fact, if his skin colour had had a little more pink and a little less blue, he could have passed as a Scandinavian.

Now, there is almost no discrimination in the Galaxy. Beyond, of course, the obvious and rational discrimination; those who behave well are treated well, and those that behave badly are treated badly. But the Galactic Marching Band was an exception to this rule. To qualify, you had to have exactly two legs, at least one windpipe, and a certain degree of musical ability.

But all was not lost for musicians of other bodily configurations. For quadrupeds, for instance, there was the Galactic Trotting Band, which had been centre stage at the ceremonies for the Brjemych. And, for insect species, the Galactic Six-legged Harmony, and for spiders the Galactic Eightfold Way. Regrettably, species with odd numbers of legs, such as the Galant’I, had to be left out of the fun.

Marie and I both qualified on legs and windpipes. But musical ability? Mostro said to us, “I will audition you the day after tomorrow.” Michael took Marie back to her home to pick up her flute, while Gabriel organized the loan to me, from a local enthusiast, of an E flat bass tuba.

Galactic musical notation is, at first sight, very different from Earthly. But it follows almost exactly the same principles. So, it is not hard to learn; nor is it hard to transcribe between the two. And a march, after all, is a march, is a march.

The audition was a breeze. After I played a few bars to Mostro, he said, “That is good, but you could play louder.” I obliged. Of course, that was playing while sitting – marching is another matter. So, Marie and I had several days of tough practice ahead.

But I determined to do yet more. With the help of several Band members, I re-arranged for the Band “The Liberty Bell” and a march I myself had composed years before. And we translated them into Galactic notation, just in time for the Band to learn them. It was a hectic week’s work.

Lily, on the other hand, was interested less in the band than in the aerial display and fly-past which would conclude the ceremony. “I want to pilot in the display,” she said to Gabriel, in my hearing. “You and Michael will be on the podium, won’t you? So can I please borrow your ’mobile for the ceremony?”

Gabriel paused, then said, “We can do better than that. Othriel and his partner Mirandin will be with us on the podium, and their ’mobile is not so far planned to be used in the ceremonies. It is the smallest and easiest to pilot model we make. It is much the same size as an Earthly family car. It has only two passenger seats in the back.”

We went to meet Othriel and Mirandin. Their robes were a dark, lustrous green. Othriel was taller, and looked older, than any Seraph I had yet met. He told us that he had now completed his stint as Chief Seraph, and had been offered – and had accepted – the post of Galactic ambassador to Earth.

Mirandin, like Gavantchin, presented herself as female. She was quiet and soft-spoken, but she also laughed a lot. And it became clear how this partnership worked. Othriel dealt with matters mental, and Mirandin with matters physical, including piloting.

When Lily asked Mirandin if she could pilot her ’mobile in the display, she said, “Yes, of course, as long as you first satisfy me that you are a good enough pilot.” So, Mirandin took us to her mobile. I rode in the back. The leather seat had been much sat in; for Othriel was a back seat passenger. It was also soft, deep and luxurious.

Being near cities, we avoided interfering with Earthly air traffic by first going straight up like a lift, to a height of more than fifteen kilometres. Then we flew north and west, to near Churchill, Manitoba, where it was polar bear season. There were hundreds of the critters. And to think that politicians had tried to tell us that we were endangering them.

* * *

After Lily had passed her test with Mirandin, we went to see Bart Vorsprong, who had arrived a day or so before. He had another Tefla with him, whom he introduced as Benno Adam. “Benno is a field historian,” said Bart. “That means, he collects eye-witness accounts of historical events, and assembles them so his readers can understand the processes at work. He has come here to find out about your Awakening, so he can write a book about it.”

“I would like to talk to you, and to each of your Team,” said Benno. “To get your view of what happened.”

“I doubt that we the Team can be of much help,” I replied. “After all, we were on Perinent until just a few weeks ago.” “I understand,” said Benno. “But you have had a large-scale view of the Awakening. Your evidence will be of great value to me.”

I made an appointment for the day after the big ceremony.

* * *

It was Saturday. It was Washington DC. It was the end of October. It was early afternoon. It was cloudless and cold, not far above freezing. We, the Galactic Marching Band, assembled near the Capitol. Our uniforms were black and yellow, very bright and striking.

Normally, the band had 48 members, not counting Mostro – a 12x4 formation. With Marie and me as well, we had 50 – so Mostro had ordered 10x5. Marie with her flute was in the second rank on the right, and I with the tuba was in the middle of the back rank.

We set off, playing the Liberty Bell. There were thousands – no, hundreds of thousands – of people lining the Mall. They cheered.

There was no “security” presence. Nor any need for one; for Ramael was hovering his ’mobile just ahead of us and to our right. In any case, with so many good people around us, if anyone had tried to make trouble they would have been very quickly either shot or lynched.

I looked up at Ramael’s ’mobile during a few bars’ rest, and saw Cristina waving to me. She has the best seat in the house, I thought.

It was three kilometres down the Mall to the Lincoln Memorial, where Rrrela would welcome humans into the Galaxy. And it took a while. For, even not counting us humans, there were 20 different species among the players in the Galactic Marching Band, and all had to go at the pace of the slowest. Which was about three-quarters the pace of an Earthly marching band.

About half-way down, I turned the music, and my march was next. I had named it “The March Without a Name.” And I fondly remembered the Lewis Carroll-esque conversation I had had with Mostro…

“The march has no name?” he asked.

“No,” I replied. “The name of the march is ‘The March Without a Name.’”

“Ah, I see. So the march is called ‘Without a Name?’”

“No. The name of the march is called ‘Sine Nomine.’”

It went on for a while. Then Mostro cried, “So what is the march?”

In reply, I played the first four bars on the tuba…

We marched on, and came to the Memorial, ending with the Liberty Bell again. We pulled away a little to the right, and on our left there came up a parade of a hundred or so Earthly movers and shakers, who had followed us from the Capitol. More than half of them, I am proud to say, members of our first, second or third waves.

Rrrela Himself stood on the steps of the Memorial to welcome us into the Galaxy. He was flanked by Othriel and Mirandin. Behind him were Michael, Gabriel, Balzo, Bart Vorsprong, Tuglaydum and Tuglaydee, and ten of the Team – but not Lily and Hoong, who were completing final preparations for the display. Behind them, again, were several hundred other Galactics, including Olgal and Benno Adam.

Rrrela’s speech was not memorable. But what he said didn’t have to be memorable. The pictures told it all. Humans joining the Galactic fold at last. Peace, prosperity and justice beckoned.

Then came the display, led by Ramael, who suddenly took his ’mobile up, and looped it. Then the other Seraphimobiles arrived. There were about two dozen of them, and they performed a silent, complex looking dance above the heads of the crowd. Among them was Mirandin’s ’mobile, piloted by Lily and co-piloted by Hoong. Lily was doing a grand job; no casual observer could have told that one of the pilots wasn’t a Seraph.

And then, higher up and not so silent, came the interstellar ships. Four Toronur, three Piantur. Two roaring Garut’nim cargo pods.

And, last and loudest, Harv’I of the Elo’I.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Chapter 49. Of Our Return Journey

The next day, I had a mescap from Hazael. He reported that he had formally announced to the people of Earth that they had been accepted as Junior Galactics. He had announced, too, that there would be ceremonies and celebrations. They would begin once the several hundred Galactics who would attend, including many dignitaries, had had time to travel to Earth.

Hazael had a question for me. He wanted to be able to tell people in which cities and on what dates the ceremonies would take place. He knew what was normal in such cases; eight to sixteen ceremonies, in different cities of the planet, usually over twenty-five to thirty-five days. Plainly, the first and biggest ceremony would be in Washington. But no-one had given him a list of the rest. And he was well aware that some on Earth might feel a bit sour, if other people’s countries were awarded ceremonies, but theirs weren’t, without there being a clear reason why.

Normally, Hazael continued, this decision would be made by Bart Vorsprong, as project consultant. But Bart was away, travelling on a Naudar’I ship, and so not reachable. Hazael had tried Balzo, who had merely told him to ask me. So, if I could possibly..?

Actually, it didn’t take me long to work out a scheme. The members of the Team were from twelve different countries – if, as I did, you counted Hong Kong as separate from China. We had been selected, by Bart himself, to provide – among much else – wide geographical coverage. So, one ceremony in a major city in each of these countries would fit the bill. I decided, on a whim, to put the list – apart from Washington, which had to come first – in the same order in which we had been picked up. So the list of twelve I came out with was: Washington, London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Moscow, Sydney, Cape Town, Freetown, Delhi, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Beijing.

Maybe, I thought, I was being a bit tough on the South Americans, whose two planned Team members Gabriel had not managed to pick up. But on the other hand, it was the South Americans’ own fault, for firing the missiles that had delayed him.

* * *

I took the opportunity, provided by an unusually warm day for the time of year, to pay a final visit to Harv’I’s house. Harv’I was in a buoyant mood. He told me that, for his next project, he would base himself for a while on Earth. He planned to continue his father’s researches into what had happened to the Elo’I colony on Venus.

Harv’I told me that Hazael had negotiated long leases on several pieces of land in Virginia, in total a dozen or so square kilometres, to become a Galactic embassy and accommodation base. In this base, Galactic engineers would create environments for many different species. And, in particular, homes from home for those visiting species – such as Elo’I – who would not be comfortable if exposed directly to Earth conditions. Harv’I was now waiting only for them to build a house for him in the accommodation base.

Then there was the question of what to do with Kenny. It was not normal for pets to be accepted on Naudar’I ships. So, if Kenny travelled with us, he would have to be asleep for the whole voyage. Ray and Jenna eventually chose to have him Pushed back into the care of Paul and Melinda, who were now at home in Australia and – unlike most of the other trainees – had resumed their old lives.

The week and a half before we left Perinent were a time for looking back fondly. We had the final Friday ride – a repeat of Gabriel’s very first. And the last dinner, which, very conveniently, fell on a Sunday. Roast lamb, of course. Pulled from a different president’s store this time, in exchange for a case of Seraphim wine.

At that dinner, Gabriel told us that he had had exciting news. Rrrela Himself would be there at the ceremony, and would personally welcome us into the Galaxy! That was most unusual for a new Junior species.

“Who is Rrrela?” asked Ben. “The Galactic president? Or some kind of religious figure?”

“Not either, really,” Gabriel replied. “Rrrela is – you might say – the spirit of the Galaxy. In fact, some say that, in a sense, he is the Galaxy. After all, he owns most of it – everything that isn’t owned by anyone else. Which makes him No. 1 in the Galactic rich-list.”

Then, laughing, “I can see you’re confused. I know I’m not making myself at all clear here. But take it from me, Rrrela is a very powerful individual, in his own quiet way. He is indestructible, for one thing. And he’s a really nice guy.”

“Does he look like a big brown squirrel?” I asked.

Gabriel blinked. “Yes, he does. How did you know that?”

“I already met him,” I said. “When I took the train to Segment 24 to meet the Skobar. And I agree with you, he’s a really nice guy.”

* * *

We left on the Monday morning. While still on the ground, we were given a big dose of a very pleasant, slow acting sleep-gas, like the one we had taken for the Time of Storms. We were about half way out, when Michael took the ’mobile off and gave us, for the brief time until sleep overtook us, a ride to remember.

I woke next to Lily in a big, comfortable bed. The lights in the room were on, but the curtains were closed. As on the first ship, the room was recognizably a hotel room, and designed for Seraphim. But this hotel was clearly five-star. The furnishings were very plush, and everything was... just so. The one odd thing about the room was that it was long and thin, much thinner than normal for a hotel room.

We washed and dressed. Then we opened the curtains, to reveal picture windows, which looked out on a park-like landscape. And the landscape was moving slowly. Or – no, it wasn’t. Actually, we were moving. We were in a train!

We went out of the room, and found ourselves in a corridor. I saw Michael coming along the corridor from my right. “Welcome to the Naudar’Ient Express!” he said. “Or, to give it its proper name, the Naudar’I First Class Far Transport Vessel 4144-B. The dining room is to your left, two coaches along. Breakfast should just about be ready now.”

Good, I thought. I was hungry.

At breakfast, we learned more about the B-class ship we were in. While shaped like a cone, like the V-class in which we had travelled to Perinent, it was far, far smaller – only about forty kilometres long. And at the point where we were, a little above the middle, it was only twelve and a half kilometres around. It rotated about four times as fast as the other ship – one revolution every ninety seconds or so.

One reason, why the accommodation on Naudar’I first class ships took the form of trains, was to enable each group of passengers to choose a place in the ship where the gravity was exactly as they wanted it. Some liked to start at the gravity of the planet they had just left, and to move their train gradually towards the gravity of the planet they were going to. Others just picked whichever of the two was greater. We, for example, were now moving to park at the point where the gravity was the same as Earth’s. Aha, I thought, that is why I feel heavy today – I had got used to Perinent gravity, which was only ninety per cent of Earth’s.

A second reason for the trains was so that different groups of passengers could meet easily. When one group wanted to meet another, they simply agreed on a meeting point, and moved both their trains to that place. (There were many sidings at regular intervals along the track, some of which were reserved for trains to cross, and others provided places to park.)

We could, of course, get down from the train and go walking in any direction we chose. Though we had to be aware that the train might move off! Fortunately, it wasn’t common for the trains to move either very far at once, or very fast.

Michael and Gabriel’s ’mobile was stored in a hangar next to the tracks. On a ship this small, it was not permitted to fly a ’mobile inside. Instead, we had to take the ’mobile through the locks, and fly it outside the ship but within its envelope.

There was one thing I insisted we agreed on at that breakfast. From now, we would return ourselves to the Earthly day-cycle of 24 hours.

* * *

There were passengers on the ship for many destinations in the general direction of Earth, not only for Earth itself. But, as the journey went on, we met more and more individuals, who like us were headed for the celebrations on Earth.

Since Avoran was fairly close to Perinent, and not far away from the direction towards Earth, one of the first species we met were the Avor’I. A party from Avoran joined the ship a few Earth days after we did. Their train spent most of its time some way down-axis from ours, as the gravity on Avoran was fifteen per cent greater than on Earth. But it was easy to arrange a meeting. And so, at last, the Team met Balzo in person.

He was a very upright, tall, gnarled lizard with a light blue robe, a deep bass voice, a confident and direct manner, and a quick smile. He had with him also Olgal. She now wore a dark purple frill, which among Skobar was reserved for officers of the Company for Galactic Advancement, and was a badge of high status.

* * *

Balzo wanted to talk privately with me and Lily. So he came to our room.

He did not waste time. “I have a proposishun for u, Nil and Lily,” he said. “I have recently been promoted. I now have charge of all the Company does on Perinent. I am making a noo group to manage all the projects. I have already Lohman, and Odam has now jonned me. I have also Olgal and two Avor’I in my research group. Would u two like to jon my team?”

“What, specifically, would you want us to do?” I asked.

“I would like u both to spend about a third of ur time on Perinent,” Balzo replied. “To work with the local managers, project consultants and the candidate Teams. To monitor and check their progress, and to suggest what they might do for the better. For the rest of ur work, it is on our planet, Avoran. Nil, u can do the planning with Lohman and Odam. And Lily, I would like u to help in the research.”

Lily and I looked at each other. This sounded like an offer we would be dumb to refuse.

“Spondulix?” I asked Balzo. He looked confused, so I said “That is English for, ‘How much money?’”

“Oh, I see, which Galactic Scale,” he said. “Both ur posts will be well higher than the contracts u have now. I can confirm for u the numbers when we reach Earth.”

Lily and I looked at each other again. “Tap your right hand on the table, twice for yes, once for no,” I thought. She tapped twice.

“Very good,” I said to Balzo. “In principle, we accept your offer. There will be more details to agree. Let us discuss those when we reach Earth.”

* * *

Our time on the ship lasted twenty-five Earth days. At the end of it, we were again put under sleep-gas in the ’mobile. The next we knew, we were coming in for landing at the Galactic embassy in Virginia.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Chapter 48. Of Choosing a Gift

After Hazael reported that events on Earth had reached their tipping point, we on Perinent entered something of a no man’s land. The success of our project was now all but assured; and our Pulling workload was dropping steadily, as the need for us to interfere in what was happening on Earth became less and less. Yet, until the Board of the Galactic Association had formally adjudged humans as fit to be Junior Galactics, we had to stay on Perinent.

The following Monday, Balzo sent a mescap reporting that he and Bart Vorsprong had completed the formal proposal for our admission to the Galaxy. It was now being reviewed by the top management of the Company for Galactic Advancement, including Nansen Ault. Balzo expected it to go to the Board, and for them to decide, in three Perinent weeks or so.

But I, at least, was not allowed to be idle. In that same mescap, Balzo asked me to visit all the other camps on Perinent – and nominated Michael as my pilot. “Take a look,” Balzo said, “and report what u see at each camp. No preconcepshuns.”

Four of the five other camps were at much the same distance from Camp Two, a little over ten thousand kilometres. Camp Five, being directly opposite our own camp on the globe, was twice as far. But the ’mobile could reach even Camp Five in not much more than an hour. So, Michael and I planned five day trips, over a couple of weeks. In each case, Lily – as ever – came along for the ride. Other members of the Team came on some of the trips too, if only to get away from the Camp Two winter for a few hours.

I went back to Camp Four first. The candidates who had replaced the Brjemych were a lizard species, the Feh’in. Physically, they were not unlike the Skobar, if a little larger on average, and with unusually short tails for lizards. They were still settling in, and learning Pulling and Pushing. They had not yet started even to identify their trainees.

The Feh’in had as Helpers a young, enthusiastic couple of Avor’I. It was their first project with the Company, and they clearly meant to make it work. As local project manager they had a Toronur, Zherhat by name, who had come highly recommended by Odam, and who was obviously well organized. And Lohman, Balzo’s principal assistant, was in overall charge of the project from his base on Avoran.

Tuglayino and Tuglayono appeared relaxed among the Feh’in. The Cherubim, too, seemed content. But I was not totally convinced. It did all seem rather too good to be true. So, my report to Balzo on the new project at Camp Four was, “Too early to tell. Monitor closely.”

My visits to Camps One, Five and Six turned up little to worry about. The species at Camps One and Six were both plodding along steadily at their own pace. And those at Camp Five were in much the same situation as we had been after P-Day, two-thirds of a Perinent year before. The project was clearly going in the right direction, but they still had a lot of work to do.

The visit to the equatorial Camp Three was the most difficult, as this was the camp with facilities for amphibious and aquatic species. The candidate species here were metre long, carnivorous fish. Even with my new two-way translator, the best that Seraph industry could produce, I could find no way of directly communicating with them. (I certainly wasn’t going to go in the water!) I couldn’t even find out unambiguously what their species name was.

Their Helpers and teachers were a team of four amphibians, from a species called the Pelino’tqvam. While I could converse with them, the import of our conversations was never very clear. It was as if their thought processes moved, for the most part, at right angles to my own.

My report to Balzo on Camp Three was that we needed the help of experts on communicating with species such as the Pelino’tqvam, if we were to understand better how these projects were going.

* * *

It was three weeks later, on a Wednesday morning, that Gabriel came in to breakfast with a mescap in his hand and a beaming smile on his face. “Here it is,” he said, raising the mescap. “We have confirmation from the Board that you humans have been accepted as a Junior Galactic species.” There were cheers all round.

“This means,” continued Gabriel, “that we will leave for Earth in one to two weeks from now. But there is much more to be said.

“Firstly, the Board has accepted humans as a whole into Junior Galactic status. But they wish to reward those like yourselves, who have done so much good work, with more. So, the Board has conferred full Galactic citizenship on all of you the Team, on the trainees of your first and second waves, and on Cristina and Helen too. They will also confer full citizenship on those members of your third wave who deserve it; which individuals, will be decided during the ceremonies.”

“What does full Galactic citizenship mean to us, as opposed to Junior status?” asked Marie.

“It means,” replied Gabriel, “that you as individuals can go anywhere in the Galaxy, and do anything permitted for Galactics, on your own initiative and without any kind of supervision. It also means that you are no longer required to wear white on weekdays or on Naudar’I ships. White is the colour of novices, but you are no longer novices. You can wear your Sunday robe colours every day. You may be surprised how much difference this makes to how other Galactics will view you.”

“It sounds, then,” I said, “as though we have another procurement job to do.”

Gabriel nodded. “We will have enough of the right size and colour robes for the whole Team ready on Seraph by tomorrow. It will then be a matter of Pulling them and sorting them.

“Secondly,” Gabriel went on, “after the ceremonies on Earth are completed, the project, and your contracts on it, will be over. This means that you need to think about what you do next. You can stay on Earth if you want, or go wherever else in the Galaxy you wish.

“It also means that you will need to start supporting yourselves financially again. Since you left Earth, your Galactic bank accounts on Tener-3 have been building up. It is now time for you to learn how to use them. We have ordered a training course, which we expect to arrive by mescap tomorrow, and we will load it into the Pedia.

“Thirdly,” he continued, “it is traditional for a species, when they are accepted as Juniors, to be given a substantial gift from the Galaxy.

“In some cases, it is obvious what that gift should be. For example, when the Tefla were admitted as Juniors, their most urgent need was to be able to communicate easily with others in the Galaxy. So the Tefla were given translators adapted for their particular abilities. In the case of the Tuglay, their biggest need was mobility; so we gave them their transport boards. In your case, though, there doesn’t seem to be one gift you obviously need ahead of anything else. So, we would like your thoughts on the matter.”

“If the decision was up to me,” I said, “I’d probably go for something like large scale, cost-effective solar power. Perhaps collecting energy outside the Earth’s atmosphere, then beaming it to receiving points on Earth, from which it can be distributed to where it is wanted. We could develop that on our own, but it would probably take many decades. Using Galactic technology to speed up the process could give us a big benefit.”

“That is definitely a possibility,” said Gabriel, and several others agreed.

“How long do we have to make a decision?” I asked.

“A few weeks,” Gabriel replied. “It will be announced during the ceremonies on Earth. But bear in mind that all of us here will be in a Naudar’I ship, and so not contactable, after the next week or so.”

“I suggest,” I said, “that we ask Ramael and Hazael to take a poll among the trainees and the members of the third wave. We the Team will send our own votes to them before we leave Perinent, to start the ball rolling.

“Democracy, anyone?” I asked, with a grin.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Chapter 47. An Awakening - Part 2

The Personal Transition, in its turn, fed the Social. And here, we were greatly helped by a group of our first-wave trainees, who had had ample time for discussion and planning on their journey home from Perinent. This group formed a society, which they called the Galactic Movement, and whose purpose was to catalyze the social changes necessary for humans to join the Galaxy.

The Galactic Movement was open for membership to anyone worldwide, who was prepared to commit to behaving up to Galactic standards. The founders had written these standards down in a brief, clear document. Broadly, they were honesty; non-aggression; peacefulness except under attack, or defending others against attack; taking responsibility for your life and for the effects of your actions; striving to create wealth; respecting others as individuals; tolerating difference; treating others at least as well as they treat you; practising what you preach; and respecting the rights and freedoms of everyone who behaves well enough to deserve them.

Members were required, each month, to sign a confirmation that they remained committed to living up to Galactic standards. And there were public, honest and transparent mechanisms by which those, that were found to have lied about their commitment, could be expelled from membership.

The Galactic Movement, its founders made very clear, was not a political organization or party. Indeed, it was adamantly against all politics; all aggression, all thieving, all dishonesty. But, where appropriate, it would offer public support to, and provide volunteers to help, those members in good standing who chose to make themselves candidates for election to public – not political – office.

So, there were defections of a few savvy, and not too badly compromised, democratic politicians from their parties to the Galactic Movement – becoming ex-politicians in the process. The occasional prince or president, who had been infected with the Galactic bug, joined in too. More than half of the third wave members, along with many of the trainees from the first and second waves, became prominently committed to the Galactic way forward.

At first, the Galactic Movement and those it sponsored were ignored by the great majority of politicians, and by practically all the media. But it very quickly gained traction on the Internet, and even more by word of mouth. Soon, the official line was to laugh at it, and to make personal insults against its members. Not long after, it was smeared as evil and in the pay of Big Capitalism or Big Socialism, according to the preference of the smearer.

Then, briefly, politicians in many countries declared the Galactic Movement illegal, and harassed and criminalized its members. The EU and UN, too, got in on the act, trying to force national governments to shut down the Galactic Movement in their areas, and to bankrupt its supporters.

These attempts ceased suddenly, after Ramael one Saturday evening, having given twenty minutes’ warning, lifted one of the UN office buildings in New York off its foundations. Flew what was left of it, dangling from the ’mobile, slowly eastwards for a few hundred metres. And dunked it in the East River.

* * *

The Social Transition began in different ways in different places. But, once a government friendly to Galactic principles had been installed in a country, they took broadly the same steps in each case.

They repealed bad laws en masse. They ruthlessly pruned all unjust or intrusive laws from the statute books. They withdrew armies from conflicts around the world, and radically downsized them. They reduced the functions of government to their core – civil justice, criminal justice, and defence against aggression. They took down spy cameras, and closed communications interception centres.

They abrogated all commitments to the EU and UN. They sacked all government employees that failed to deliver a service people were voluntarily willing to pay for. They transferred control of services like schools and hospitals to the people who delivered those services. They freed universities to set their own fees, and to teach whatever they thought was best. They opened their borders without formalities to all members in good standing of the Galactic Movement.

They cut taxes enormously. They converted politicized “welfare” into honest insurance. They converted pensions into savings schemes. And they made sure that those, who had already paid for future expected benefits, did not lose their investments.

They stabilized their currencies, by ceasing to print money that did not represent wealth. They wound up the morally and financially bankrupt political state, in the same way as any other bankrupt entity. And they distributed its assets among its creditors.

They brought to justice those that, in the name of or in collusion with bad governments, had committed crimes against innocent people. And those, that had ordered, promoted or taken part in redistribution or confiscation of others’ fairly earned wealth, were made to compensate their victims.

Looking to the future, the new Galactic style governments committed to principles, which the founders of the Galactic Movement had laid down for the conduct of all human governments. Never again to make any individual pay more than their service was worth to that individual. Never to interfere without reasonable suspicion of real wrongdoing. Never to obstruct freedom of speech, opinion, religion, association or movement without good and provable reason. Never to violate anyone’s privacy without good and objective cause. Never unjustly to favour some over others. Never to lie to or to deceive the public. Never to obstruct honest business or trade. Never to allow officials rights or immunities denied to ordinary people.

* * *

The first countries to implement the Social Transition were, naturally, those in which members of the third wave were already in power. Soon they were joined by several democratic countries in which there was a conveniently timed election. For the effects of the Personal Transition were so strong, that no political party could compete in a fair election against the new independent leaders who were committed to Galactic principles.

The Social Transition spread to most of the rest of the world in just a few months. It happened in three main ways.

Plan Z was reserved for the difficult cases. Either a bad government received a little gentle persuasion of the military kind from Ramael, or we on Perinent pulled the worst of those in power to the Pit, or both. It wasn’t usually too long before the rest of the people got the message.

In Plan Y, democratic or supposedly democratic governments were brought down by scandals or by public demonstrations, and the way was then clear for a fresh election. In most cases, this produced a new government committed to Galactic principles. If not, we put them on the list for Plan Z.

The third way, Plan X, was like a domino effect, and happened particularly in Africa. Once a country had a Galactic style government, many people from neighbouring countries wanted to flock into it. But what the Galactic style government did, instead of having people moving across its borders, was to move its borders across the people. They admitted those who wished in the neighbouring countries into the Galactic Movement, and promised to defend them – with Ramael’s help if needed – if they were attacked by the local political government. These people became, in essence, Galactic colonists, while remaining in their own homes. Once there were enough of them in an area, the collapse of the old-style government in that area became inevitable.

* * *

The Personal and Social Transitions now, in their turn, fed the Economic. The more incentive good people had to be productive, the more productive they became. Without the dead weight of the politicals holding it down, the worldwide economy became truly sustainable – in the same way as a bush fire or a nuclear reaction is sustainable. And, in place of the politicals controlling us, we human beings began to take control of our world.

Good people started to receive, at last, the economic rewards they deserved. And that gave them the incentive to build on their talents, to develop their skills, to produce yet more. Success bred more success. Competence bred more competence. Prosperity bred more prosperity. Technology leaped forward. New, small companies flourished. A new generation of entrepreneurs began to bring their projects to fruition. Many became rich, as they deserved. And, by the miraculous phenomenon which economists call “trickle-down,” opportunities started to come even to the very poorest among good people. And so, their standard of living began to rise greatly – as they too deserved.

It got better. Now that people had incentives to be honest and dynamic instead of the opposite, many of the formerly lazy became dynamic. Many of the formerly dishonest became honest. As well as a big positive effect on the economy, there was, not surprisingly, a big improvement in the tone of societies, and so in the quality of life.

As to natural resources, we humans began at last to use them wisely. We stopped wasting them on wars and politics. We used them to benefit good people, not bad ones. We used them to help us gain access to more and more resources. We used finite resources wisely to get us towards the point where we wouldn’t need them any more, because by that time we would have developed better alternatives.

Meanwhile, the politicals were faced with a straightforward choice. If they wanted to survive, all they had to do was become human, behave up to human standards in future, and compensate those they had wronged. And where the compensations were financial, they had to include interest and 100 per cent damages.

But, unless and until the politicals reformed themselves and delivered the compensation they owed, good people didn’t waste time, resources or compassion on them. Those, that failed to become human, were frozen out of human civilization. And, far from being hailed as the superior species they had thought themselves to be while they were in power, they were derided as failures. Born with the potential to become human, but having failed to realize that potential.

If good people bothered to give them any attention, it was, perhaps, to spit on them. Or to bait them with words, such as “If you really believed carbon dioxide was a pollutant, why didn’t you stop breathing?” Or “If you really thought the world was overpopulated, why didn’t you kill yourself?” Or, for that little bit of extra special satisfaction, to give them a good kick in the goolies.

* * *

There was still much mopping up for us to do on Perinent. There were still politicians, bureaucrats and generals to be Pulled to the Pit from those places where the Social Transition was moving slowest. This went on for about 20 Perinent weeks, just over four Earth months.

Though we did have a break in the work. For we had now been on Perinent more than a local year, and the Time of Storms was again due, when we would be out of action for a week or more. As that time approached, we looked forward to our bed-rest, since we were all tired. Perhaps not surprisingly, for I and the rest of the Team had been working continuously at or near our peak for almost a Perinent year.

This year, the storms came almost a week later than they had the previous year – eleven Perinent weeks after the invasion, and seven after the departure of the last trainee. They lasted eleven days and nights.

In August, just five Earth months after the invasion, Hazael reported that human civilization had reached the tipping point towards going Galactic. For the Personal Transition was driving the Social, which drove the Economic, which in its turn fed back into the Personal. On our planet Earth, for the sixth time in Galactic history, a species was Awakening.