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And if You Think His Suit Isn't Made in New Hampshire …
Arkenay stood in the doorway livid with rage, anger and insult boiling up inside a wellspring of indignation, disgust. It was too much, too far, too great to allow much less support. Never having felt this way it was all Arkenay could do to hold in check, to stand rather than hurl bodily into Chamais’ office. Arkenay knew the depth of feeling was radiating outwards signalling to all and sundry. The entire floor staff had shrunk back and away from Chamais’ office, far enough to be unobserved but close enough to hear and feel. Arkenay braced, breathed in, stepped across the threshold and stood.
To any other observer Arkenay’s three meter frame was graceful, slight and steadily erect. No outward signs presented, all being nondescript save a small tic in one finger and the slightest dip of one earlobe regularly up and down under the close cropped fur. To Arkenay’s kind however this primal display of anger bordered closely on blood lust. Even three millennia of genetics and development could not rid either the outward signs or the hardwired reaction of those seeing it.
Chamais glanced across and noted the lack of deference, Arkenay’s omission – quite deliberately – of the required bow and request for entry. It is entirely expected and of my own doing Chamais mused.
“Enter and speak Arkenay.”
Arkenay took a further step inwards and halted two meters from Chamais’ desk, precisely at the limit of personal space.
“I would speak of the project. I would not talk as birthmates. I would not talk as partners. I will talk as one inside to one outside. I would express my disquiet at the path taken. I come to correct the error of your ways.”
Chamais was taken aback at first by the strength, but then by the formality of the language used. It followed the ancient pattern of challenge, the call to the fight. Chamais stood, dismissing the desk. With a mental switch the walls and door space became opaque. It would not do for staff to hear or see this bitter exchange Chamais thought, particularly between teacher and student. My first words will be to reconcile.
“I would hear you, and as birthmates talk. In what wise have I given offense?”
Arkenay straightened. “The planet. The policy. The placements that have taken decades you would throw away by bringing them to light. You ask of offense, is not the destruction of sixty years work on a whim cause enough?”
“Whim?” Chamais allowed a show of strength, a slight flicker across one eyelid. Arkenay was brilliant, some said perhaps a genius and not without cause. Chamais had allowed a freedom and camaraderie to both Arkenay and the section that some called heretical and others wanton folly. Over the years this policy produced results, but this tirade could not be sanctioned.
Chamais spoke slowly, measuring the carefully aimed insult.
“You speak unknowingly. You speak as both a child and apostate. You speak as our forebears, as one not yet standing upright. You lack wisdom. You lack subtlety. Why should I grant you air?”
Arkenay reeled. Although rage was unabated, Chamais’ riposte had torn through the armour. My words will not be heard, my voice lost, my height lowered Arkenay realised. The tic stopped, the earlobe steadied. Arkenay placed hands on mouth, bowed until chin touched chest, waiting. Chastened but not dissuaded.
Chamais allowed a pause. “My birthmate has replaced the bridge. We will speak. You think it wrong what has been done?”
Arkenay raised his head. “I do not understand. We wait in silence and dark, and we are to now shine the light on them? Always we are reminded to stay in the shadow.”
“As we have. Yet they are now both us and they. The shadows were for the first, the light for the followers. Have you thought how the plan could be fulfilled any other way?”
“We have done the same on countless other worlds, from shadows safe, and they believed as they must it was of their own doing. But this we change here? We cast off what has worked for what, for risk of detection?”
“There is not the rest, this you know. They differ from all others we have met, this too you know. So why can you think our plan too must not differ?”
Arkenay paused, reflecting. Why? Why. Because the plans, the others, had been Arkenay’s shared design, had worked, had brought Arkenay’s height up. In this change Arkenay had not been consulted, had been ignored; taken as insult. Arkenay’s anger dispersed. Pride had touched, had burned. Was not this the curse of the race? They had moved beyond, yet again Arkenay was reminded of the fault line possessed.
Chamais saw the change immediately. “You understand in part?”
Arkenay nodded silently.
“Then would I bring you wisdom. Would you receive?”
“Yes.” Again with head low.
“Then hear and we will grow.” A small gesture brought chairs as the floor moulded itself up to fit them, the room seemingly dissolving as they floated in a field of stars.
“That which you designed for other places could not work here, so you were not joined for this effort. Once we knew them we knew it could not. Why should we take you from success in hundreds and condemn you to failure in one? You were not consulted after the first report.”
“It is true. What I have learned I have learned elsewise.”
“And therein your fault. You do not understand them.” The black star spattered space filled with a blue green globe, faintly glowing jewel like.
“All of the species on the worlds met to this one had come, as we did, to the point of communal action. Thinking of the common good, none placing themselves too high, with reason and argument defining their paths. This is so?”
“Yes, in all. Leaders chosen by ability, populations not easily troubled and distanced from savagery.”
“Open to ideas, open to the force of argument and fact, open to us. So in that manner we came to them, in quiet and in dark, unknown and unobserved, free to influence and to mould and place, letting fact and idea seep through unseen. To go, to change, to return. And to those we have visited?”
“As if they themselves had thought and directed, as it must be. No one individual, no one group shown as catalyst. The only way to take root. And it has worked, for hundreds we have guided to safety and they do not yet see our hand and never will.”
“There is truth. They must believe it is their own to hold. As these must,” Chamais nodding to the globe.
“But this cannot be. You would have us stand to the front, to be seen, to be heard, to lead. How? They will see, they will know. At best they will be lost, at worst destroyed. It is to this I fear.”
Chamais regarded Arkenay kindly. “This is where you fail. These do not look to the group, but to the individual. They disregard reason on the basis of emotion. They do not consider the next ten years, much less the next hundred. They are as we were and how we could be if we so chose. But we do not. They do. And for us to remain in the shadows would achieve nothing. Do you think this has no foundation?”
“No, it must be as you say. You do not speak without reason.”
“And you think no plan lies beneath?”
“I do not know if one does or does not.”
“So may your wisdom grow. Their very hysteria was nearly our undoing. When we first discovered them and knew we must act they thought the skies were full of us, from many places. They became more and more obsessed and vigilant. Every light, every meteor indeed the stars and planets themselves and even their own transportation was believed us, belligerent, scheming. In fifteen of their years we went twice, yet to us was attributed thousands. Unlike your plans ours had to place us unsupported and modified into their midst. Permanently.”
“As male and female they are, we had to be and so we were modified. They live for but one fifth our span, so we must be as they. We cut our lives to match. This is the greater sacrifice. Consider one, alone, changed, life foreshortened. For the good of an unreasoning whole. We could not stay unnoticed, and would not remain undiscovered.” Chamais rotated the globe and pointed to a patch of light brown in blue.
“So here and here we placed into areas of strife, dissent and danger, chances of our hand being seen minimised. Places having no form of regular rule, no identification, no law except that of survival. Only here could we enter. Then, as conditions fell, as other areas opened to help, we joined the flow from danger to safety. In that we arrived welcomed and unquestioned, given legitimacy and place. Which itself was not enough.”
Chamais shifted slightly. “We learned their hysteria and fears are easily roused and with difficulty assuaged. Even as respected individuals in their new areas we were met with hostility or anger if we rose, spoke, or chose to be apart from the group. Yet they only look to those apart for leadership. They gave peace on one turn and hatred the next, and cited the same reasoning for both.”
Arkenay was stunned. This was beyond knowledge. “How can this be? Is this a place of lost minds? It cannot be, their technology points to high intelligence, but that? Yet if you say it has been observed …”
“As it has and as it is. So the plan was built to change, to break how we have worked before and yes, even go against all. If we do not they are lost. If we do they may be lost. Do you see the reasoning? Do you understand the risk?”
“I see, I am made wise. I see your greater knowledge. I do not see the solution.”
“It is before us, within their hysteria, prejudice and hate. One who comes from elsewhere out of mercy may not rise, but one born to someone who came from mercy may. They are accepted as their own, as proof of their moral and societal supremacy. So Arkenay, you say you are made wiser. Given this, if this were your plan, what is it that you would do?”
Arkenay paused. To build on ignorance and emotion over reason to save? “We must rise to the light, but not we ourselves but our children. They will not accept us; they will not accept our voice in the dark. If so our voice must be in the light.”
“Correct my birthmate. Do you see both error and wisdom?”
Arkenay nodded. “Yes, I do.”
Chamais motioned open the door. “Water has passed. It is as it was. Leave in wisdom birthmate.”
Arkenay left, disturbed but settled. Chamais let the door seal, remaining seated facing the globe, remembering. It had taken sixty years of patience, placing fifty of us in the lower hemisphere. Placed deliberately in danger, poverty and disease. Barely two thirds had managed to cross to the more civilised parts of the globe as refugees, obtaining shelter, safety and ultimately legitimacy. Of those a chosen dozen had managed to cross to the final destination, the large northern continent. Those left behind became industrial and financial leaders, bringing wealth and power to support. The children bred true and although fully of there were yet fully of here.
Which held of those who went to the final place. These too had children, built bases of industry, wealth and knowledge. In all truth it was all too simple, once nearly in error, far too advanced. Built and now applied as the plan came to climax. Control and power, to save them from something they did not even conceive. And for this the children were the key, accepted as their own.
They would be surprised, Chamais thought, if they knew the truth of five of the eight presented to their people. Their entertainment, paranoia, imagination and fears would fall far short of what those five held.
All had worked tirelessly, selflessly and continually. This all the more poignantly as they knew they were abandoned to live, work and die on and for an alien world that would pay them no heed. Even more for their children, knowing heirs of a civilisation they would never see.
That their work was invaluable was not in dispute. The greatest heights of altruism at times requires the basest depravities. And to Chamais, Arkenay and all their kind a life of seeking profit and power to the exclusion of all else by any means was abhorrent, the very antithesis of their culture, their beliefs. But as those on the planet would say, needs must.
After all, Presidential campaigns don’t come cheap.
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