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.

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