The world had changed drastically since the day Michael had picked me up on that heath. For a start, the name of the planet had changed! Well, not exactly. The word “Earth” was still very much in circulation. But the name of our sun, as far as Galactics were concerned, had changed. It is traditional in the Galaxy to name stars after the Galactic species who inhabit their systems. So, Sol became “Hooman.” And Earth became Hooman-3, and Venus Hooman-2.
Some may wonder why our sun was not called “Human,” with a y-sound after the “h.” I can tell you. There were several members of lizard species on the Board of the Galactic Association.
Long-distance travel on Earth had changed a lot in thirty years. There were still planes, it was true. And supersonic planes were back. But it was clear that planes had a limited future. For they now had strong competition from Seraphimobiles.
The ’mobile had already revolutionized group and charter travel, for using vertical take-off and landing it could offer door-to-door service. To begin with, though, progress had been limited by the small number of ’mobiles there were on Earth. That was, until some savvy Indians had started building ’mobiles under licence. Others got in on the act, and now there was also a cheaper, cut-down version, able to do everything a standard civilian ’mobile could do except go off-planet. Meanwhile, the market in training people to pilot ’mobiles was booming.
To compete with scheduled airlines, many ’mobile operators offered what was, in effect, a shared limo service. It could take a while to get from A to B, because of the many stops to pick up or drop off passengers. For that reason, the bigger the ’mobile, the cheaper the ticket. But, over intercontinental distances, even 64-seat ’mobiles were faster door-to-door than subsonic plane journeys. And far more convenient, not to mention a lot more fun.
The high cost of building them meant that ’mobiles had not yet begun to compete with cars. But that particular battle was looming. Already, there were many ’mobile taxis, which would take you in the air if you were willing to pay the premium.
I say again, the world had changed drastically, and for the better, with our Awakening and the consequent extinction of the politicals. Wars, dishonest politics, borders and controls, the EU and the UN, propaganda, media bias, redistribution or confiscation of fairly earned wealth, perversion of law, bureaucratic meddling, governments spying on people, treating good human beings as less than human, were all now things of the past. Socialism, fascism, communism, nazism, conservatism, religious fundamentalism, marxism, authoritarianism, racism, environmentalism, terrorism, statism; all those evil –isms were no longer. Only historians used such words any more.
The human population on Earth had all but stabilized, at around eight and a half billion. That didn’t count the half billion who had emigrated into the Galaxy. Immigration from the Galaxy to Earth was smaller, only about three hundred million. But they made a huge difference; they made Earth cosmopolitan.
The age of big, political government was over. There were still governments, indeed. But what they did was confined to the one and only proper purpose of government – implementing justice. And the justice they all strove to deliver was objective, individual, common-sense justice.
Indeed, you would hardly know that governments were there, except in three situations. The first was if someone harmed you, beyond the limits of civilized, mutual tolerance. Then, you could go to a court, and claim compensation from those that had harmed you.
The second was if you were asked to do jury service. Or, perhaps, a spell as a magistrate.
And the third was if you yourself maliciously used aggressive violence, theft or other sub-human behaviours like fraud. Then, you were caught, brought to justice, and punished as you deserved. As well, of course, as being made to compensate your victims.
Better yet. We humans had already, just thirty years after our Awakening, entered the Galactic rich-list top 500, in 498th place. And we were already fourteenth among Junior species. We had done that in little more than a generation! Faster than the Avor’I had managed anything like it, indeed.
The solar power project had helped a lot, too. For we now had, for the foreseeable future, enough energy to power our civilization, at a cost we could afford. And we understood the technology well enough that we could replicate it if and when we needed to.
Yes, we humans had Awakened. The Personal Transition had elevated the individual above the herd. The Social Transition had brought peace and objective, common-sense justice. The Economic Transition had brought prosperity for all those who deserved it. The human race, at last, had left stagnation behind, and was going forwards and upwards.
We visited John and Galina near Bordeaux. They had had some difficulties initially, because the locals were very conservative. They did not like growers of “foreign” grapes invading their territory. But a single glass of wine, from Seraph grapes grown in the Médoc, could change the perceptions of the drinker. Few refused a second glass. And – in time – their hybrid grapes had become even more successful.
John was over 100 years old now. But he didn’t look old at all. The Galant’I treatment had not only rejuvenated us at the time, but had all but stopped the aging process. Lily and I had benefited from that, too. As had all the rest of the Team, the first and second wave trainees, and Cristina and Helen as well.
We visited Ben and Sabrina in Cape Town. They had a very successful business, training people in how to use portals and retals. They were busy and happy.
We visited Shami and Dede in Delhi. They had returned to Earth after two years studying Tuglay methods of education, and eight years learning by practising the trade in backwaters of the Galaxy. They now ran the biggest adult education company on Earth. And they had spin-offs on other planets too. They were happy – and very, very busy.
We visited the Galactic Embassy in Virginia. Cristina and Helen were still there, as hostesses for newly arriving Galactics. They were happy, too.
Hoong and Elise also lived in Virginia, near the Embassy. The solar power project had been completed in about ten years, but there was still much maintenance work to do. After the bulk of the Piantur team left, Hoong had been made director of the project. He and Elise were happy.
Harv’I was still in his house in the Embassy, and he told us about his meeting with the pope. No, he hadn’t gone to Rome to visit the pope. Rather, the pope – a new, young pope – had come to Virginia to meet Harv’I, son of Jahw’I. And had been both amazed and delighted.
Harv’I also thought he might have found out why the Elo’I colony on Venus had failed. It looked like a combination of two factors. First, an enfeebling disease, which caused them to become complacent and unwary. And second, by amazingly bad luck, an asteroid hit directly on the colony. If he was right, then the colony could be re-established. And Elo’I and humans could be planetary neighbours, and watch out for each other.
Benno Adam’s book, An Awakening, had been a best-seller. It had sold far beyond the market of history buffs it had been aimed at. It had become a book of the people. It had been translated into more than a thousand Galactic languages, including, of course, English. It was still in print on Earth, too. Lily and I picked up a copy for each of us, and a third to preserve.
Benno was a good writer. He had researched his subject thoroughly, and he had added much detail from eye-witness accounts. He described particularly well the feelings good people had in the run-up to the Awakening. First disquiet, then incomprehension, then fury at what the politicals were doing to them. Then – a feeling of separation. And a desire to be rid of their enemies, that had fooled them and fouled them for so long.
But Benno had gone further, and had traced human history back far enough that his readers could see the big picture. Looked at that way, the Awakening had been coming for many centuries. Like the contractions which precede the birth of a baby, there had been motions, often alternating, of forward and backward, of progress and regress.
The Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the computer and communications revolution; those had been forward motions. Nationalism, socialism and communism, sham “democracy,” welfare states, the green agenda, the surveillance and database state; those had been backward motions. But, in the end, the good had triumphed. We humans had Awakened.
I lay in a hotel bed in the Scottish Highlands, enjoying Lily’s Special. Tonight, it was particularly slow and comfortable. As my mind wandered, I contemplated what Benno Adam had told us. And, at last, I found the right word to describe the jobs Lily and I had taken on.
We were midwives – Galactic midwives.
“Here’s to the midwives!” cried Lily, speeding up her motion, and taking me up a long crescendo of pleasure to an overwhelming climax.
Next day, our taxi driver took us up to a well-known beauty spot. We left him at the pass for a three-hour, paid lunch break. He was a student; he could use those hours to read his books.
We climbed the hill, up a slaty track. It was a small hill, compared with its neighbours. I had been there in (if I remembered right) 1985. That day, the weather had been at its best; as it was today. It was a very warm, dreamy afternoon, without a cloud in the sky and with visibility as good as it gets.
To the west, we had the island of Skye spread out below us. To the north, a great green mountain. To the east, we could see through a small gap in the hills to blue water.
Lily and I picnicked. The food was from Fortnum and Mason, of course – but the one in Piccadilly, this time. With it, we shared a bottle of John and Galina’s best.
There was no-one else around. So, we enjoyed Lily’s Special. It wasn’t nearly as comfortable as the previous night in the hotel. But it was more romantic.
This is a better world now, I thought. A peaceful world. A prosperous world. A just world. A Galactic world. A human world.
Almost four hours later, our taxi driver, whose name was Steven, came to wake us up. And led us down the hill, back to his car and Galactic civilization.