Saturday, 24 May 2014

Chapter 33. Of a Change of Course

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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