This was all Lily’s fault. Michael and Gabriel had asked Gavantchin to pilot the ride, on what would be her last Friday on Perinent. She had accepted, and Lily – overhearing the conversation, as I had – had asked, “Will you take us for the dance?”
“One ’mobile cannot make a good dance,” replied Gavantchin. “It takes, as you say, two to tango.”
“But cannot Michael or Gabriel pilot your ’mobile in the dance?” asked Lily.
Michael said, with a smile, “I will take the fly up to dance with the bumblebee.” Gavantchin laughed.
And so, we got to experience the dance of the bumblebee.
Next day, Saturday, we began to Pull the third wave. Using three Pullers, Cees, Elise and Hoong, we aimed to bring about nine or ten individuals each day, six days a week. We would not work on Sundays.
We aimed to have all the day’s intake Pulled before 12 of the 22, so the latest arrivals would wake up before the 14. Once an individual had been Pulled, we took them on a hospital style trolley to the common room to recover, so allowing the Puller to start looking for the next. Ben was in charge in the common room, and a mix of people did the transport.
Once two or three were awake, we started a briefing to tell them what was going on. Michael, Gabriel and I together did the briefings, aiming to make them no longer than about half an hour. Next, we let each write a message to tell colleagues, friends or family to expect them back in a day or two. And Gabriel or I Pushed that message where they asked.
Then we allocated a Team member to each individual or pair, to take them to see the Punishment Pit and for a brief talk with Harv’I. Dede, Lily and Marie did most of the guiding, but in a few cases I chose to be tour guide myself. Following the visit, which lasted about two hours, we would return them to the common room.
Meanwhile, I decided who if anyone from among our trainees (whether from the first or second wave) we should pair with each member of the third wave. I tried to make sure that those from the second wave, who were scheduled to be Pushed back, had as much notice as possible of what was going to happen.
During the afternoon, I finalized my decisions on where we would Push each individual back to. Usually, this was Ramael’s ’mobile, but occasionally I would send someone directly back to their home.
Before the 17 of the 22 Perinent time, Michael, Gabriel and I gave those to be Pushed to Earth a final pep-talk. Then, at or just after the 17, Hazael sent me a mescap indicating that he was ready to receive. Sometimes he might do this from a safe place on the ground, other times from geostationary orbit. Paul and Melinda were always in the ’mobile at such a time, to take care of those we Pushed when they arrived. Sometimes there were other trainees in the ’mobile as well, other times not. It depended on the relation between Perinent time and Earth time.
I replied with the list of those we would Push to the ’mobile, the list of who should be dropped off with whom and where, and the time at which we would be ready to start. If all had gone well during the day, then we should be able to start within a few minutes. If not, it might be an hour or more before we were ready.
We generally used only one Pusher, either Cees or Elise, to send the members of the second and third waves to the ’mobile. Ramael would aim to take them to their destinations on, usually, the following Earth day. If someone was to be sent directly back home, I usually asked Hoong to do it.
Paul, Melinda and Hazael ensured that an area of seats near the back of the ’mobile was kept clear and with backs lowered, to be the target area to Push people into. They would move new arrivals into other seats as soon as they arrived. This avoided Cees or Elise having to spend time recalibrating the remote eye between Pushes.
After the final Push of the day, we exchanged mescaps with Hazael to confirm the tally was complete, and when we would next do the same exercise.
That was the plan. And to begin with, at least, it worked well. On the Saturday, the first day of the third wave, we Pulled and briefed nine. We sent them back to Earth together with three trainees from the second wave, and I nominated four trainees from the first wave to be dropped off with their sponsors too.
We had all had a very tiring week, so there was no demand to go on a journey on the Sunday. But that evening, we had a celebration to mark the imminent departure of the Brjemych, and to thank them for all they had done to help us. Many toasts were drunk, including much Hooch Juice.
The next day, Monday, I chose to act as tour guide for a member of the third wave. This individual had been prominent in the so-called opposition in his country for some years. He had just recently been elected into power, but he had not yet had power long enough to do much damage.
“You are a very lucky young man,” I said to him as we walked towards the Pit. “If you had come into power much earlier, you could easily have been one of those sentenced to the Pit you are about to see.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“You are a politician,” I replied. “But, in the Galaxy, there is no politics as it is practiced on Earth today. For today’s Earthly politics is the art of perverting law and justice, either to benefit vested interests, or to persecute those the rulers don’t like.
“If you had been in power for an extended period, you would surely before long have made bad laws to harm innocent people, and so gone seriously against Galactic law. That would have made you fit for the Pit.”
He considered this. “So, there is law in the Galaxy?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied, “there is law. But that law comes from the nature of civilized species. And it is discovered, not invented.
“In the Galaxy, the individual is central. A key part of the Galactic way is common-sense justice; the idea that, over the long run, each individual deserves to be treated as he or she treats others. And every Galactic individual, regardless of species or achievements, is equal before the law. Meaning, that what is right for one to do, is right for another to do in similar circumstances, and vice versa.
“So, Galactic law is quite a simple matter. It consists of prohibiting violent aggression, theft and fraud against Galactics or candidate species, a requirement to respect others as individuals, a requirement that individuals take responsibility for the effects of their actions, and a few provisions necessary to support those.”
He nodded slowly, but said nothing.
We came to the lift down, and he stepped in without a word. At the bottom, a Cherub met us. My companion seemed to have so little telepathic ability, that he didn’t even receive the Cherub’s thoughts – let alone mine.
We reached the punishment building, and were let inside. The shortage of food was starting to bite. There were fights all around. “These are some of your political soulmates,” I said. “Be thankful you are not among them.”
He was sick on the sandy floor, then I had to support him as the Cherub opened the door and he staggered back through the airlock.
My companion perked up a bit as we walked on towards Harv’I’s house. “You seem to think I am a bad person,” he said. “But what, exactly, have I done wrong?”
“You have been prominent in the ‘opposition’ to a criminal gang that masqueraded as a government,” I replied. “Yet you failed to oppose most of the bad things they did to people.
“You failed to oppose their policies of steadily increasing control over every aspect of people’s lives. You failed to berate them for treating human beings without respect or dignity. You failed to challenge them for treating people like objects to be exploited and taxed out of existence.
“You failed to do enough to defend freedom of speech and other civil liberties. You failed to oppose routine surveillance of everyone. You failed to oppose arbitrary police powers. You failed to oppose aggressive, immoral and unnecessary wars.
“You failed to oppose redistribution of wealth away from the people who fairly earned it. You failed to oppose a tax system that takes from the politically poor, and gives to the politically rich like bureaucrats and failed bankers.
“You failed to oppose the fraudulent accusation that, through emissions of carbon dioxide, we humans are causing catastrophic change in the global climate. You failed to oppose those whose agenda is to ration our use of energy, and to take away our right to travel by car or by air. Worse, you actively supported this fraud.
“Now that you have power – I will be fair to you – you are trying to stop, or even to reverse, a few of these bad things. But you are not doing nearly enough to end the harms that have been done to good people, and to bring compensation to the victims of those harms.”
“I am doing the best I can, within the limits of politics,” he said.
“Ah, politics,” I retorted. “Perhaps you should spend more time looking at how people see you and your damned politics. A lot of good people have become angry and disgusted with the entire corrupt system. Individuals like you, playing politics-as-usual, do nothing to help our alienation.”
“But I am only trying to make sure the government does its proper jobs,” he said. “Like defending people against terrorists.”
“Taking reasonable steps against terrorist criminals,” I said, “is one thing. Treating all of us as if we are potential terrorists, is quite another. As is allowing police or soldiers to act like terrorists. Do you understand the differences?” His reply made it plain that he did understand, but still wasn’t prepared to commit himself wholeheartedly to defending our freedoms.
“As to climate change,” he said a little later, “I know there are those – like you – who don’t believe that the crisis is real and caused by human activities. But surely you would agree that the potential damage from doing nothing is so big, that we ought to take action even if we aren’t absolutely sure? It’s called the precautionary principle.”
I snorted. “I know about the precautionary principle,” I said. “It’s philosophical junk. And I’ll tell you why. First, do you think I am responsible for the effects of my actions on others? Am I to be held responsible for any harmful effects of the carbon dioxide I cause to be emitted?” He nodded. “Yes, of course,” he said.
“So, if the problem is real, you think that I should pay towards solving it and compensating the victims, in proportion to the amount of my emissions?” He nodded again.
“Next, would you agree that the best scientific knowledge we have is not sufficient to make a clear-cut, objective decision? Which is why you want to use the precautionary principle, to force action now?” He seemed a bit confused, but eventually nodded again.
“So, even leaving aside the possibility that the climate change accusations are frauds and not genuine science, it could still be that the problem might turn out, in the end, not to have been real?”
“I suppose so.” Grudgingly.
“Right. Now, let’s consider this possibility; that the problem isn’t real, and never was real. In this case, you impose on me – against my will, and against everything that I know of the science – serious costs, financial, in lifestyle and in freedom, for which I get no benefit at all. Is that so?” Eventually, another nod. A reluctant one, it seemed.
“Do you think that, if the problem turns out not to have been real, you and others that pressured for these costs to be imposed on me should be made to compensate me?”
“Of course not,” he replied. “That’s one of the things government is for. Making difficult collective decisions.”
“There’s the problem,” I said. “In one breath, you hold me responsible for the alleged bad consequences of what I do. In the next breath, you deny your own responsibility for objective and serious damage that you cause me. I call that a foul. And if the accusations against me are fraudulent, it is a double foul.
“If you were held responsible for the effects of your decision, and made to compensate anyone you harmed if you got it wrong, you would be far less eager to use the precautionary principle. In fact, no-one in their right minds would use it. No costly action would ever be taken on any matter until the facts are settled beyond reasonable doubt.
“You may not realize it, but as a politician you are trying to use for your own benefit bad old doctrines called sovereign immunity and irresponsibility. ‘The king can do no wrong,’ and all that. You are trying to make out that politicians and other government agents may evade responsibility for their actions, while ordinary people may not. But those ideas are hundreds of years out of date. They have no place in democracy, let alone in a Galactic species. Wouldn’t the world be a far better place, if individuals in government were held responsible for their share of the bad effects of the policies they make and implement?”
My companion was spluttering, for I had challenged many of his core beliefs in only a few minutes. Fortunately, we were now approaching Harv’I’s house. “Change of subject,” I said. “You are about to meet Harv’I, our local project manager. If you are into religion, he will be of great interest to you. For his father, Jahw’I, crash-landed on Earth three thousand and some years ago, and was the first cause of what later became Judaism, Christianity and Islam.”
We sat on the swinging sofa, and Harv’I came out from his house. Greetings were exchanged. Harv’I asked my companion to outline, in view of what he had learned today, the things he would do when he was returned to Earth. As he spoke, Harv’I and I carried on a telepathic conversation.
“How sound is his mind?” I sent. “Can he be trusted, or not?”
“Most of his mind is basically sound,” sent Harv’I. “But there are areas with knots in. For example, he is very worried about what you have just spoken to him about. He knows he ought to repudiate those bad policies. But he feels he cannot reverse his past support for them, and remain politically credible.”
“He has a lot of learning to do if he is to become Galactic, then,” I sent. “Can you do anything to untie some or all of the knots in his mind?”
“If you mean, am I capable of it,” sent Harv’I, “then the answer is Yes. There is enough good in his mind to give me something I can work with. But if you mean, is it right for me to do it, then it is not Galactically illegal or taboo, but it is unusual. We Elo’I do not normally let ourselves interfere so intimately in others’ minds, particularly because the consequences of a mistake would be terrible.”
“In this case, though,” I sent, “are you not repairing his mind? Are you not like a doctor operating on him? If the operation is successful, he will become a great value to our project, and history may well record him as a great man. If not, I don’t see how he will be any worse off than he is now.”
Harv’I took quite a long time to reply. That was very unusual. “I have noticed,” he sent in the end, “that all the individuals you have brought to me so far in your third wave have had knots in their minds. Whereas, only a few of your trainees have suffered from knots, and all of the Team have clear and sound minds.”
“Knots in the mind may be an effect of taking an active part in politics,” I sent. “Politics is very corrupting of the character, and maybe that effect would be directly visible to you.”
This time, Harv’I took even longer to reply. Eventually, “Very good,” he sent. “I see that there is a case for me, where I can, to act to smooth out a mental knot or two here, a kink or two there. I will begin with this man.”
There was a mental “zing!” that went past me, and the man next to me on the swinging sofa seemed to lose his place in what he was saying. Then, he said to Harv’I, “Oh! Thank you for that. My mind feels much clearer now.” Then, turning to me, “I now understand what you, and Michael, and Gabriel have been telling me since I arrived here. I will abandon my old, wrong, political views. And I’m with you and your project. I will do all in my power to bring the human race into the Galaxy.”
“Success?” I sent to Harv’I. “Bulls-eye,” he replied. “A St. Paul moment.”
As we walked back to the hotel round the north side of the Pit, I told my companion that I planned to allocate to him one of the trainees from the first wave, who was already on Earth. This individual – none other than my European parliamentary friend – had been trained in the Galactic way of doing things, and would keep him on the path towards it.
And I reminded him that, if he didn’t do properly the job he had taken on, I could always order him Pulled back here, either for further instructions, or in the worst case for punishment. But I hoped, in view of what had happened at Harv’I’s, that I would not need to use that sanction.
To Pull the third wave, and send back all the trainees to Earth, took twice as long as I had planned – four weeks. This was partly due to difficulty in finding some of them, and partly due to some additions I decided to make to the third-wave list.
On the Monday after the last trainees left, Michael took Tuglayino and Tuglayono back to the newly refurbished Camp Four. The following day, he took Tuglaydum and Tuglaydee, their job at Camp Two now done, to the docking station for their return to their home planet. They promised that they would join us on Earth for the celebrations when the project was finished.