Sunday, 10 August 2014

Chapter 41. Of a Practice Run

Now, things at Camp Four were moving. We had, at last, a list of bad Brjemych to be Pulled for punishment. Most of them were kings, so there was little difficulty in finding them, unless they were away from their palaces.

I had no idea how the Brjemych trainees had been selected, yet they seemed a good bunch. But I was still concerned over how the Ke’lan had become involved. I worried there might be something about the Brjemych I needed to know, but didn’t.

I asked for and waited for enlightenment, and had, at last, a mescap from Odam, explaining what his predecessor as project manager had got wrong.

As Odam told me, the Brjemych had been almost ready to become Junior Galactics for thirty of their generations. Yet, it hadn’t happened. The Brjemych, even by their own admission, tended to be slow to make things happen. So the Company had authorized a project at Camp Four.

The Voxh (pronounced “Vosh”), a hive-mind, had volunteered to be overall manager of the project. The Company had accepted this, because no-one else came forward. The Voxh had chosen the team and trainees, and chosen them well. But then, he had appointed the Ke’lan as Helpers, expecting that they would jolt the Brjemych into action.

But, as I saw it, the Voxh’s choice of Helpers had been plain wrong. There was a fundamental incompatibility between the Ke’lan and Brjemych approaches to life. The Ke’lan were focused, ordered, and – despite their Galactic status – not above a little persuasion of the uncomfortable variety. But the Brjemych – for the most part – just did what they did. In Brjemych culture, the most dynamic individuals, such as Adelghem, became story-tellers, not entrepreneurs or field marshals.

Since Zer’ael and Gavantchin arrived, the Brjemych had relaxed. They referred to their new Helpers as “Dad” and “Mum.” (No translator needed.) They had already started to use English! It’s catching.

But the Brjemych project was still less sure of success than it should have been. And, I realized, it was now my job to fix the problem. Surely, Harv’I had the responsibility in title, and his contributions were most valuable; but he was remote. Gabriel, too, had a part to play, but he was now visiting Camp Four less and less frequently.

No, I was the one on the ground. I was the one who had to turn excrement into increment.

I decided on an aggressive strategy. Two days before B-Day, the Brjemych’s P-Day – which was also two weeks after the course for the second wave began at Camp Two – I had Gabriel, Cees, Marie, Elise and Hoong brought to Camp Four, with four of our five machines. Michael piloted them, and more than a week’s supply of Fortnum and Mason food, Dutch beer and Seraphim wine accompanied them – for the Brjemych are not renowned as cooks. Only Galina, among those able to Pull and Push, was left at Camp Two.

It took Gabriel most of the following day to configure our machines to access the Brjemych home planet. That done, we had seven machines – three of the Brjemych’s and four of ours – ready. And six dedicated operators, three Brjemych and three human. While Gabriel and I would share the seventh machine, and Gelmar would be ready to take over from any of his Team who became too tired. Meanwhile, members of the Brjemych Team or trainees would stand beside us and help us find those to be Pulled.

B-Day dawned, and we went to our tasks. Cees was at his very best that day. We had one hundred and fifteen kings, and forty-one others, listed to be Pulled for punishment. Cees averaged, throughout the day, one Pull every seventeen minutes. Elise was about half as fast, and Hoong and the three Brjemych team members vied for third place. Gabriel took six, and I five. Gelmar took only one.

After thirteen hours, we had Pulled one hundred and fifty. Only six short of the target! Of course, we had to get each of them into the Punishment Fort. Brjemych were not physically well equipped to move their sleeping fellows. So, the transport team – using trolleys we had brought from Camp Two – consisted of Zer’ael, Gavantchin, Lily and Marie. I did a few trips myself, while Gabriel was Pulling. Though the ground was level, it was hard work under the equatorial sun. And Brjemych were heavy!

We finished late. We were happy, we were tired. We ate well, we got drunk, we got sleepy.

I was woken by commotion. Adelghem, and the other Brjemych team member who specialized in news gathering, brought bad tidings. Our Pulling of the worst kings had not had at all the effect we had hoped. At least twelve violent insurrections had begun in the realms of kings we had brought for punishment, in the hours since we began B-Day. And four in other kingdoms, too.

That was not all. For one of the Cherubim was demanding to speak to me and Gelmar. The Cherub sent to us, “One Pullee, we think, does not punishment deserve. His name is Maijier.” (He pronounced – if that is the right word for a telepathic nuance – the name as “My-year.”) “We think he has suffered a bad name wrongly given.”

Now, I knew that Cherubim were among the strongest telepaths in the Galaxy. They could easily make themselves understood to species where the majority are poor telepaths, like humans or Seraphim. And they could, at need, read the minds even of species most of whose members had no telepathy at all – like the Brjemych. No wonder they were in demand as police. But they were honest police. They would never help to prosecute or punish those they knew to be innocent.

So I said and sent, “Please hold Maijier for now within the Fort, but in reasonable comfort, and with adequate rations. Gelmar and I will judge him later.”

The Cherub bowed – even, I might say, genuflected – and returned to the Fort.

* * *

Voltan, his name was. He was Gelmar’s king. Gelmar had told me that his king was a Felix; I hoped he was right. Cees Pulled Voltan, and he woke before any of us expected.

Voltan was, by Brjemych standards, huge – about fifteen hands, by Earthly horse measurements, or more than a metre and a half tall at the withers. He was a grey stallion in late middle age, and he had a beard. Not a goatee, but a real beard – a fringe of long, white hair all around his muzzle.

When he woke, Voltan said, according to my translator, not the usual “Where am I?” – but “Who called me?”

“I called you,” I said to Voltan, handing him a translator. He took it in his left hand, and attached it to himself. He waited for me to speak.

“Voltan,” I said, “I brought you here because I need your advice. We are engaged in a project to bring you Brjemych into Galactic civilization. It is not going well. We have brought the worst of your kings and republican leaders here for punishment. Yet, instead of change for the better as we hoped, it seems to have caused chaos.”

Voltan looked at me, Gabriel and Gelmar, then said, “What do you expect? Good kings rule with the consent of their people. Bad kings, by force or fraud and with the hatred of most of their people. Republicans, with the consent of some, but the hatred of the rest. Unseat bad kings and bad republican leaders, and those they and their cronies oppressed will revolt, looking to bring the oppressors to justice. Simple. Why are you so slow?”

The last sentence, as it came from the translator, sounded like my mathematics supervisor, after I had done a good piece of work but couldn’t see – obvious to him – where it led next. There was even a trace of his Hungarian accent.

I smiled. “Thank you, Voltan. I would like you to stay here two or three days. Do you want to send a message to your friends, telling them you will soon be back? I assume you have someone to fulfil your duties while you are away for a short time?”

“Yes,” said Voltan. “I am the captain of a team, and I have a vice-captain. I should alert him that I will be off the field for a few days.”

After the mescap was sent, Gavantchin took Gabriel, Voltan, Gelmar and myself to Camp Two to meet Harv’I. On the way, we told Voltan about what had been going on at Camp Four.

At the meeting, Harv’I gave Voltan the background. “Our goal here is to bring the Brjemych through what we call the Social Transition,” he said. “That is a necessary stage towards becoming Galactics. What that transition involves is replacing outdated political organizations – including, I must be frank, monarchy – by societies which allow individuals the maximum freedom to be themselves, and reward them according to what they do.”

“I have considered this problem,” said Voltan. “Do not think that we Brjemych are unaware of the Galactic Association, or of the potential benefits of joining it.” At this, Gelmar started, and I took a big breath. Neither of us had been previously told that the Brjemych – or some of their kings, at least – had already been contacted by Galactics.

“But we are very slow to make such changes,” Voltan continued. “And not only because we are conservative. Much of the reason, I think, is that compared to other species who have experienced monarchy, we have very many good kings. Those who live under good kings have little incentive to agitate for change. Particularly when they see what goes on in the republics. And the kings themselves, good or bad, have even less incentive for change.”

“Yes,” said Harv’I, “I am glad your thinking confirms mine.”

“Going on,” said Voltan. And then, addressing me, “Neil, I do not think you should be worried about the troubles you and Gelmar have stirred up on our planet. What you have done is exactly right to help the people in the bad kingdoms and republics. There will be much cheer when the images of punishment arrive on the Brjemych planet. But a period of violence, I think, is inevitable. You should be more worried about how you are to create change towards the Galactic way in the good kingdoms and the – very few – good republics.”

I almost laughed, for an idea had come into my mind. “We have here sixty-four Brjemych recently trained in the Galactic way of thinking and doing,” I said. “We intended to send them back to their homes, to do what they can to spread the transition in their own countries. But now, Voltan, you have given me a better idea. Why do we not Pull here, for a short time each, sixty-four of the good kings? And send back, with each king, one of our Galactic trainees? You, Voltan, can be the first such king.”

“Yes, I see,” said Voltan. “Galactic agents – if I may call them that – could be far more effective under the protection of a sympathetic king, than they would if simply returned to their former lives. That is, of course, provided the king is sympathetic. A big provided.”

“I agree it is a big provided,” I said. “We have to solve that problem while they are here. We have to sell them on the idea of going Galactic. If we succeed, we send a trainee back with them. If we fail, we send them back alone, and we have to find another king to Pull.”

“From my point of view,” said Voltan, “and I think I can probably speak for many other kings too” – and here he snorted – “it is a trade-off. The prospect of losing title, and perhaps power, may turn some against the Galactic project. Others may support it, because they see a chance to be remembered in history.

“Then,” he said in a musing tone, “there is another aspect too. We kings often form alliances, but they are rarely large. If sixty-four kings, all committed to the Galactic project, allied together, they would be a huge force. Unstoppable, perhaps. Particularly if they had Galactic technology to help them.”

Voltan had not actually phrased that last as a question, but it hung in the air. After a few seconds, Harv’I answered. “Yes, we could supply some Galactic technology to help you. For communications, certainly. Or transport, if necessary. Even, perhaps, defensive military technology. But our help must be covert. And we do not condone aggressions.”

There was a pause. Then, “Very good,” said Voltan. “I will join your project. I will be the first of the Sixty-four Kings. But you must understand that I will surely hold you to your promises.”

* * *

There was one more issue to be dealt with before Voltan could be returned to his home. I wanted his help in the matter of Maijier. He had been acquainted with Maijier, and could tell us what he knew about him. But I asked Voltan not to say anything more about Maijier to any of us until he was formally asked to do so.

My investigations with Gelmar had showed that the accusation against Maijier had come from one of the trainees, Mittveld. She lived in one of the neighbouring kingdoms, and as a young foal had lost her parents in a raid led by Maijier’s father, who had been a bit of a Ferox. She suspected Maijier of involvement.

I convened a court. Gabriel was judge.

Under oath, Mittveld made her case. Maijier defended himself, saying that he had been away from home at the time of the raid. And that once he had become king, he had never raided anybody. One of the Cherubim explained why they had brought the matter to my and Gelmar’s attention. And Voltan told of his dealings with Maijier, who it seemed was quite unlike his father – more a Felix than a Ferox.

The court was rough and ready, but it was all done in the best spirit of Galactic law and justice. And Gabriel found Maijier not guilty.

“Now,” I said, “there is another matter. This one is mine and Gelmar’s to judge. And Gelmar has already agreed with my opinion.

“We are forming a group of sympathetic kings, who will promote our Galactic project. Voltan is the first. To each king who agrees to join, we will assign one of the Brjemych who have been through the Galactic training course. Mittveld, today you have made yourself” – and here I cleared my throat – “visible. I therefore appoint you, if Voltan is willing, to go as advisor to his country with him, and help him to move our project forward.”

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