Friday, 28 February 2014

Chapter 23. Of a Progress Report

Elated after my speech, but somewhat drained too, I set off to see Harv’I. I told him, at length, about what had happened during the week. I apologized for not spending more time communicating with him.

“No,” Harv’I said, “I am happy as things are. You are already doing very well. Please ask John and Galina to put your speech on the Pedia, so I can think about your questions too.”

I asked Harv’I if it was OK for the Team to come and meet him the following Sunday. “Fine,” he said. “But you must divide the Team into several smaller groups. There is not space enough, on that sofa you are sitting on, for more than four.”

“Will you tell your father’s story to each group in turn?” I asked. “Or would you prefer to write the story once, and put it on the Pedia?”

“I will tell it to each group,” Harv’I replied. “A story told twice is a story told better the second time. And, when John and Galina come, they can record me telling the story, too. So you can have it on the Pedia, as well as hearing it directly from me.”

Harv’I and I parted with many felicitations, and I walked on towards the elevator to the Punishment Pit. As I neared it, the lift arrived and its door opened. Perhaps Harv’I had sent a telepathic message to the Cherubim to tell them I was coming?

I got in the lift, and stood with my back to the blue wall. There was no button for me to press – as soon as I touched the wall, the door closed. I was better prepared for the near weightlessness than I had been the last time, but the deceleration was knee-bending. I made a mental note to look at equipping the lift with seats, or perhaps asking if the Cherubim could run it more slowly.

All four Cherubs greeted me at the exit. After the pleasantries, I said and sent to them, “I will come here to the Pit to meet with you every Friday, after I have spoken with Harv’I. If there is anything we need to talk over, that is the time to do it.

“Today, I want to ask you if it is OK for me to bring the Team to meet you, and to see the Pit, this Sunday. I expect there will be several small groups.”

“That to us good is,” sent the nearest Cherub. “You come four by four, is best.”

“I also noticed,” I sent, “that your lift, which I came down in, is very fast. Standing up, the extra weight put quite a strain on my body. If we are going to come here regularly, I would like to put seats in the lift. Alternatively, I don’t know if it’s possible to run it a bit slower?”

“We make it go slower,” sent the Cherub. “Half gravity, not full. You try on way up.”

There being no further business, we exchanged cordial partings. The journey up was indeed gentler than before – thirty seconds to cover the distance, instead of twenty. My knees remained intact. And, in place of the earlier weightlessness, I felt half my normal weight. Pleasant.

I continued on my trudge, back to the hotel.

* * *

I sat in the Pedia room, composing my report for Balzo. This is what I eventually wrote.



  1. The Team have settled in. The accommodation is comfortable. The food and drink are excellent. The clothing facilities are adequate. The evening rides are most enjoyable.

  2. The Seraphim, Harv’I, the Tuglay and the Cherubim are all working well with the Team.

  3. Five of the Team have learned to Pull and Push inanimate objects. Four have Pulled small or medium-sized animals from Earth to Perinent, and a fifth is close. One has Pushed a medium-sized animal back to Earth, and a second is close.

  4. Many questions regarding project planning have been circulated to the Team.
  1. Continue preparations for Bart Vorsprong’s visit, and the detailed project planning.

  2. Continue Pulling and Pushing training.

  3. Assure that food, alcohol and other necessary supplies can be scaled up to match future predicted loads.

  4. Make the Team aware of the full implications of what we’re doing.
  1. We have committed a potential security breach, by sending a mescap to Ray and Jenna’s neighbours in Australia. Address by monitoring. In extremis, Pull them here
  1. We don’t yet have enough knowledge to anticipate what Bart Vorsprong may require of us when he visits.

  2. I have no visibility of the project budget.

A good start. Much yet to do.


Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Chapter 22. Many Questions

Our project was now gathering speed. On the Wednesday afternoon, I Pulled my first mice. Hoong just beat me to it, so pushing me (no pun intended) down to fourth in the Pulling and Pushing rankings.

Later that afternoon, Gabriel came to me with a mescap. “This is a reply from Balzo,” he said. “He did not wait for me to Pull it back, but one of his staff Pushed it. From Avoran to Perinent is a truly remarkable Push, for it goes right against the grain of the force fields.”

“Did you translate it?” I asked.

“No,” said Gabriel. “It was not necessary. Balzo must have a full-function message translator, for his message is already in English.”

He handed me a sheet of paper, and I read. I’ll leave out the [HEADERS] and the [TRAILERS].

* * *


[FROM]: Balzo, Avor’I, Company for Galactic Advancement, Avoran-2

[TO]: Gabrel, Seraph, Project Helper, Perinent-2


[ABOUT]: Progress on Perinent


Greetings, Gabrel. I greet also Nil, Team Leader of the Hoomans at Camp Two on Perinent.

I hair of ur progress so far, and it is good.

When Bart Vorsprong is with u in fifteen to twenty Perinent days, I shall be mostly at my base office. I will happily make some time then to meet with u by mescap.

To Nil: I hair u already make much good forward movement. Will u, if please, send to me by mescap a regoolar report? Each seven Perinent days would be good. My thanks.

I relay also hearty greetings from Lohman and Olgal.

[SIGNOFF]: Gabrel and Nil, may u enjoy the whole time all the pleasures u earn.



* * *

“He wants me to write him a weekly progress report,” I said. “I was thinking of doing it anyway.”

It took me much of Thursday to decide what to do, and to chat it over with Michael, Gabriel, the Tuglay and Harv’I.

“Right,” I said as I got up to speak after dinner, “I’ve decided to devote my Fridays from now on to progress assessment and reporting to Balzo. That means I want to hold a meeting after breakfast each Friday to work out where we are, and to get input from all of you. Tomorrow morning will be the first such. Then, you won’t see much of me for the rest of Friday – I may be with Harv’I, or perhaps the Cherubim, or writing in the Pedia room. But I’ll be back with you in time for the ride.”

* * *

And so the next morning, Friday, our ninth day on Perinent, I stood up and began, “What I’m going to do today is ask questions.”

I had asked John and Galina to record my speech – audio and video. They could now do so, thanks to Gabriel’s friend on Seraph, who had made five adaptors so we could use or recharge Earth appliances (European and Russian standard) from the local electricity supply.

“I want you all to think about these questions,” I continued. “When Bart Vorsprong is here, we will work out what we will do, based on the answers to them.

“We are here to bring our human species up to minimum Galactic standards. That means ending the bad political system, that allows criminal gangs to masquerade as governments, and to rule over good people unjustly and to their harm. And replacing it by a better way, a Galactic way, in which all individuals are treated fairly and justly; good people well, bad ones badly.

“We have, thanks to our Galactic friends, at least two sets of things we can do to speed this transition.

“First, we can Pull bad individuals – dictators, warmongers, violators of human rights, lying, thieving and deceiving politicians – here for punishment. We can submit them to the tender mercies of our friends the Cherubim and their Punishment Pit. And we can record their punishments, and Push that record back to Earth. So, good people will know that someone, at last, is starting to work on their behalf to avenge what the politicals have done to them.

“Second, we can Pull good individuals – those with humanity, honesty, integrity and leadership potential – here for training. We can submit them to the equally tender mercies of our friends the Tuglay.” Some laughter here from the Team, and a bow from Dum and Dee. “And afterwards we can Push them back, so they can lead or help lead the people of Earth into a new Galactic era of peace, prosperity and justice.

“Now, the questions. How do we pick the particular individuals to be punished? We can take less than four hundred – at least, until the first lot are dead. How do we make sure we get all the very worst? How do we find and track them? When do we Pull them – all at once, in a concerted operation, or one by one? How do we make the record of their punishment available to everyone on Earth?

“And more questions. How do we pick the particular individuals to be trained to lead the human race into the new world? How prominent should they be already? What, if anything, do we tell them before Pulling them? What, if any, message should we leave behind after we Pull them? How long will it take to train them? Should we Push them back all at once, or should we Push them back one by one, as they are ready? How do we make sure they are safe, and able to do their job, after we send them back?

“Yet more questions. How do we make sure the politicals don’t find out what we are doing? We have already made one security error – my fault, asking Jenna to send that mescap to her neighbours about Kenny. And how do we make sure the politicals can’t damage us, for example by planting a bomb among the supplies we Pull?

“And a final question team leaders rarely ask. What have I missed? Is there anything else any of you can think of, which has a bearing on what we should do?

“I don’t want you to try to answer these questions today,” I concluded. “Think about them, sleep on them. Let’s have an ideas session next Friday.”

I stopped. No-one moved or spoke for several seconds. It was John who spoke first. “I got all that,” he said. Galina gave a thumbs-up, too.

The others all seemed a little dazed.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Chapter 21. Of a Cat and a Capuchin

Elise’s error caused more chuckles than censure. Particularly when, after dinner, Michael stood up and said, “I must take a lot of the blame. I mixed some small doses of sleep-gas as tests, to see which could best be used when we come to Pull people. But Elise took some of those doses for her mice, and I failed to tell her how short their action would be. So, the mice woke up and escaped.”

Cees smirked, for he had Pushed his dozen mice back whence they came within a very few minutes of Pulling them to Perinent.

“To make up,” continued Michael, “I have this afternoon mixed some larger doses of Numbers Two and Three. These are the sleep-gases Lily and Sabrina – as well as Neil and Ben – pronounced to be the most effective to help with Pulling. Any animal you Pull using the new red or blue capsules will be out for at least two hours.”

It was my turn. “Another of my random thoughts. Should we, perhaps, Pull a Team pet? I can think of two reasons. One, to confirm that Pulling doesn’t have any bad after-effects on the conscious beings we Pull. And two, the people we Pull for training may feel more comfortable if there’s a pet around. Your views, anyone? I’ll declare an interest – I’m not a dog lover.”

“I want a cat,” said Elise. Michael, Gabriel and the whole Team collapsed in laughter. Even the Tuglay waved their branches in what looked like amusement.

“I want a particular cat,” said Jenna, very forcefully. “Ray and I had a lovely cat in Australia. We had to leave him with neighbours at short notice, when we came on this project. His name is Kenny. I would love to have him here with us.” The Team, as a whole, agreed.

“What are the practicalities of having a cat here?” I asked Michael.

“You would need to make sanitary arrangements inside,” Michael replied. “I don’t think it is possible to have a cat-flap – the robots would close it again as soon as we made it. And you should be careful about letting the cat stray too far from the building. But survival should not be a problem – we can Pull cat food and milk from Earth. Or from Seraph – we have cats on Seraph, too.”

“Are all, then, agreed that we should Pull Kenny to be our pet?” I asked. There was assent.

“Elise,” I said to her, “will you please make up for your murine mayhem by Fetching our feline friend?” A few titters. “Jenna, please go with Elise tomorrow morning and show her where to look. And help her locate and Pull what is necessary to keep a cat here. You should also think about what, if anything, you want to tell your neighbours.”

Cees looked annoyed. And I knew why. He was our top Puller and Pusher, yet I had given this commission to Elise rather than to him. Michael picked that up too, and said to me as soon as he could talk with me privately, “Why did you make Cees angry like that?”

“It’s called encouraging competition,” I replied.

* * *

Next morning, Elise’s Pull was hitchless. Another first-time success. Gabriel and I watched it, but had no need to do anything to help. By 15 of the 22, Kenny was with us, awake and about. And Jenna had all the necessaries to feed him and otherwise take care of him.

Kenny was a black, three-year-old neutered male. He soon proved to be a typical cat, sleepy and supercilious at the same time. He liked best to curl up on the window-sill at the end of the dining room – the southernmost, and sunniest, place in the building. He also enjoyed insinuating himself between our legs whenever he could. It seemed to be his way of preening himself.

Jenna sent, via Elise, a mescap to her neighbours. It told them that she and Ray were fine. That Kenny was now with us, and he was fine too. That they shouldn’t worry about the odd means of communication. And please, please, to keep all this to themselves. She would explain when she got back.

Cees, on the other hand, was annoyed by Elise’s success. He took Tuglaydee to the room where he did his Pulling, and they plotted. Just after 16 of the 22, Cees came to me in the Pedia room – where I spent most afternoons – and announced that he had Pulled a monkey. A Capuchin, to be precise.

Almost the whole Team rushed to see. There, fresh from the jungle of Panama, was a fast asleep, rather ugly and very smelly monkey.

Cees had obviously solved one of the problems which had been worrying me about Pulling conscious beings, how to break the sleep-gas capsule at the right height. In Pulling Kenny, Elise had Pushed the capsule about five centimetres above the floor, right in front of him. The fall had broken it. That was good enough to put Kenny to sleep, because his head was close to the ground. It worked the same way for mice. But, “How did you put the monkey out?” I asked Cees.

“I dropped the capsule on to its forehead,” he replied.

“Now Push the monkey back, please, Cees,” said Ray. “I don’t know what it lives on, and I don’t want to have to prepare it.”

“It’s a capuchin,” I said in my I-don’t-really-mean-this tone. “So called, because it lives on capuccino.”

“Yes,” said Ben, “I suppose it’s deeply religious too. That’s why it’s called a monk-ey.”

“Exactly,” I said. “Cees, congratulations for Pulling the monkey here. Your next task is to Push it back. Let us now, please – everyone – get ourselves out of Cees’s way.”

* * *

Those of us waiting for the daily ride were astonished to see Cees coming towards us, obviously angry with himself. “I haven’t been able to Push the monkey back,” he said. “I don’t know what I am doing wrong, neither does Tuglaydee. I need Gabriel’s help.”

I spoke to Gabriel as I got into the ’mobile, and said to him, “I judge that we should give the monkey enough sleep-gas to keep it out till morning. Then let us review where we are.” “Agreed,” said Gabriel. “Do you want to wait while I do that?” “Fine,” I said.

It was only a few minutes before Gabriel came back. “Job done,” he said. Then, “Sit back,” said Michael at the controls.

This time, we went out straight up like a lift. Fast.

* * *

The following morning, Wednesday, after Cees had made no further progress in two hours of trying, we met in the room he used for his Pulling and Pushing. Besides Gabriel, I invited Elise there, and both Tuglay. Michael as well, in the hope that, not being directly involved, he might have a wider view. And, if it came to (metaphorical) blows, he might help me to restore order.

Cees showed us how he had tried to Push the monkey, and failed.

“Is the target area fully suitable?” asked Gabriel. “Even deeply asleep, a conscious being cannot be Pushed unless the place he or she is going to is safe and comfortable.”

“It is a decent bower,” replied Tuglaydee. “And we have tried several different places.”

“Is there an asymmetry?” I asked. “Is it, perhaps, easier for you to Push one way – left to right, perhaps, than the other?”

“I have not noticed any great difference,” said Cees. “But I will try the other way round.” Michael and I moved the monkey to the other end of the bed, and Cees tried again. No result.

I decided to drop a bombshell. “Would you like to give Elise a go?” I asked Cees.

Proud though he was, Cees wasn’t stupid. To refuse would make him look bad. “OK,” he said.

Elise took the controls. After a minute or so, she asked me to move the monkey half a metre to the right – back towards where we had moved it from before. I obeyed. Then Elise Pushed. The monkey disappeared, and re-appeared in the remote eye.

“Ah,” said Gabriel, “I understand now. The force fields are waves, not particles. Pushing a conscious being is the hardest Push of all. It is even harder if the fields tend to cancel out where the subject is.

“Cees was unlucky – the monkey was at a spot not well placed to Push from. But Elise seems to have the knack of reading the fields.”

Monday, 3 February 2014

Chapter 20. Of Mice and Mescaps

Next morning, it was my job to start learning Pushing. In theory, it was the same as Pulling, only the other way round. But I found it a lot harder. It took me five tries before I Pushed my first pebble.

My breakthrough came when I drew a second chalk circle, well to the left of the first one, and placed the pebble in it. Now I could use the same left-to-right wrench to Push as I had done to Pull. The pebble disappeared obediently, and re-appeared on the remote beach. Two more tries worked perfectly, as well.

“Aha,” I said to Gabriel, “it looks as if I naturally wrench from left to right. I find it much harder to do it the other way.”

“That is not unusual,” said Gabriel. “For most purposes, it does not matter which way round in your view the local and remote eyes are before you Push. By all means, build up your strength at Pushing whichever way suits you. However, before you can Pull people, you will have to learn to Push small objects, at least, the other way. For in order to Pull a conscious being, you must immediately before Push a sleep-gas capsule to put them out. Didn’t Lily tell you that yesterday?”

“Yes, I will have to learn to Push right-to-left too,” I said. “Unless, of course, I stand on my head to do the Pushing.” It seemed to take Gabriel a second or so to work out that I wasn’t serious.

Gabriel left me to practise Pushing on my own. He had to help Cees and Elise learn the next stage, Pulling small animals. And the Tuglay were occupied with Hoong and Galina. By the time he came back, I had managed to Pull and then Push back objects up to the size and weight of a volume of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Sometimes, even, with a wrench from right to left.

“You’ve made a good start,” Gabriel said. “You will need more time to improve your Pushing than you needed with Pulling. But there are two weeks and more even before Bart Vorsprong arrives.”

I noticed then that Gabriel was carrying a battery in one hand, and what looked like a large blue book in the other. I looked at him quizzically. Holding up the battery, he said, “Galina has Pulled her camera-recorder from Earth. This is its battery, and I want to send it to a friend on Seraph-2 to get an adaptor made, so we can charge it here. Of our five machines, only this one has the settings for Seraph. I need to use it for a few minutes, please.”

“No charge,” I said, oblivious of my pun. “But what is that in your other hand? Is it a mescap?”

“Yes,” replied Gabriel. “How did you know?”

“Harv’I told me about mescaps, then I looked them up in the Pedia. Some of the protocols for sending and receiving messages are very complicated.”

“Too true,” said Gabriel. “But in this case I already know the individual concerned and his location. So there is no problem Pushing the mescap to him. The difficulty is in retrieving the reply. Because of the force fields, it is much easier to Pull a mescap to Perinent from Seraph, than to Push it from Seraph. So, I will use the fixed-return protocol. After I Push the mescap to my friend’s incoming queue, I will retrieve it at a stated time, from his outgoing pigeon-holes.”

Gabriel took out of an inner pocket of his robe two sheets of paper and a pen. On one sheet, he took about a minute to write something in a flowing script. “This is my request to have the adaptor designed, and an order for five of them,” he said. “I know that Galina and John want to use some other Earthly equipment as well, beyond the camera. I have also written here the authorization to charge our project for the work.”

Gabriel opened the mescap, which was hollow. He put in the battery and the sheet of paper. He closed the mescap, and turned a catch. Then, on the second sheet, he wrote some things in the same script. “First, I put the address of my friend, in case the mescap goes astray,” he said. “Then, a statement of the protocol we will use. Last, my signature and return address.” He placed it in a transparent sleeve on what would have been the front cover of the mescap, if it had been a book.

He took my seat at the machine. I watched from behind as he used some controls I hadn’t noticed before. “I am switching the focus to our planet,” said Gabriel. Then he placed the mescap near my chalk circle. During which time, I had a clear view of the surface of the planet Seraph. I was the first human ever to see the home planet of a Galactic species. Though, at first sight, the landscape didn’t look much different from Earth or Perinent.

Gabriel came back to the machine, and started to manipulate the rollers. The view changed. I saw a few Seraphim walking by, wearing robes of different colours. Then, I saw what looked like a very boring basement. Gabriel gathered himself, and Pushed. The mescap disappeared with a small pop, and re-appeared in the remote eye.

“My friend’s standard terms for such work are two Seraph days, excluding Sundays,” Gabriel said. “That is almost three Perinent days. Now, it is Wednesday on Seraph, so there is no Sunday in the way. So I will retrieve the mescap three Perinent days from now, at 12 of the 22 on Thursday.”

“That is good,” I said. “I want Galina to have her camera-recorder ready when the Team visit the Cherubim and Harv’I next Sunday. But I must ask you something else. When Bart Vorsprong is here, I would like, if possible, to involve Balzo, our overall project manager, in the discussions. Harv’I suggested we might use mescaps to contact Balzo. What do you think?”

“You ask much,” said Gabriel. “First, Balzo has many claims on his time, beyond this project. He is a busy lizard. Second, I do not know where Balzo will be at the time Bart Vorsprong is here. It may be hard, or even impossible, to contact him.”

“Yet,” I said, warming to my task, “it must be possible to send a mescap to his base office? I think we should inquire whether, if it is convenient to him of course, he can be available to communicate with us at the time of our meeting.”

“OK, I will do it,” said Gabriel. “But it is a big job. I expect it will take me all afternoon.

“First. I will have to configure the machine with the settings for Avoran-2. That will take a couple of hours at least. Then I need to translate the message into a language Balzo can understand. I would like to use the Basic script, which is designed specifically for mescaps. But neither your translators nor ours support it. We had not envisaged needing to send messages to any planet other than Earth and Seraph. Perhaps, though, the Tuglay’s translators can do Basic. If not, I will have to Pull a full-function translator from our home planet.”

“Good,” I said. “Please get that message to Balzo this afternoon. Now, let us break. It is nearly time for lunch.”

We had only just left the room, when an animal, tiny and very much alive, rushed along the floor past us. This was followed shortly by Elise, looking very flustered, and brandishing a dustpan and brush. “My mice! My mice!” she exclaimed. “I Pulled twelve mice, I didn’t give them enough sleep-gas, and now they’ve woken up and escaped!”

Initially, Gabriel and I were very unhelpful. He merely laughed. And I said, “Why don’t you Pull a cat?”

Elise stopped, and looked at us woefully. We all paused. Then, “You have not done anything wrong,” I said. “None of us here have been harmed, or are likely to be harmed.” Then, to Gabriel, “Unless there is a disease dimension I don’t know about?” “No,” he said, “there are enough protections in place that no Earth animal can cause an epidemic on Perinent.”

“But can Earth mice survive here?” I asked Gabriel. “Maybe,” he answered. “There are plenty of plant seeds just below ground for them to eat. The sugars are the right way round. And this place is not nearly as desert as it may look at this time of year. But I worry whether the mice will be able to find water. Most of the water here is well below the surface.”

“Let it go,” I said to Elise. “If these mice die, they die. If they survive, they have established an Earth outpost on another planet. Either way, you can’t do any more.”

She relaxed, and then suddenly laughed at how silly she must look, hunting mice with a dustpan and brush.

“However,” I thought to myself, “maybe Pulling a cat here is not such a bad idea after all.”