The time passed quickly during the next few weeks. Working at a feverish pace, I arranged the entire group into small cells of four or five persons. I shared what little I knew of philosophy and poetry in order to help them achieve a heightened awareness and sensitivity to each other and to themselves. Within the first few days, an elite of nobility began to shine forth as certain individuals, picking up my drift, took on natural roles of leadership; and the whole project began to blossom beyond my wildest hopes and dreams. Some of it, at first, was like psychotherapy process group work, with persons encountering—some for the first time in their lives, no doubt—their own acquired, unreflected defenses. There was quite a lot of confession and sobbing as one man, who had been a policeman on Earth, recounted his abusive childhood and the father whose cruelty—cloaked behind sham robes of authority—he’d been made to idolize: this man had killed a prisoner, the crime gone undetected all these years; yet he confessed it openly to us.
In no time at all, everyone was really working at self-realization, grappling with their actual, unresolved childhood issues, identifying and locating the inner child of his or her authentic self. As I consulted daily with my trusted lieutenants, Sharon and Ted and Kim, scheduling our plans for monitoring and spurring on this wonderful work, I began to have a vivid sense of what Plato’s Academy in ancient Athens must have been like: a gathering whose sole purpose lay in discovering and speaking the truth, through a disciplined and passionate conversation. Kim was especially a source of great pride and pleasure to me: under our communal tutelage, she had lost her feign of vacillating confusion, become extraordinarily self-possessed, a graceful, eloquent woman-warrior and poet.
As I was meditating on my future plans for us, a seminar on Being and Knowledge, Àkbä appeared before me. “Well done, Sam,” he said. The group had vanished; Àkbä explained that they were being teleported to new frontiers where they could carry on with other Earthlings the work for which they had been so well prepared. He had met with other Joracians on the Council; so successful had been my little “experiment”—Àkbä used this term, he emphasized, to indicate just how tentative and skeptical some of his race had been about my chances of success!—that the Council had decided unanimously to use it as the model for the whole Intergalactic Resettlement Project. In short, I was being promoted.
“You will henceforth visit all of the colonies, overseeing the process of coordination and initiating new recruits. You will monitor the growth work you have instigated, performing special training as necessary,” Àkbä announced. “I have been authorized to present you with a new uniform, one which bears the Insignia of Imperial Splendor,” he added in a hushed tone, a tear glistening in his eye. “This is the highest recognition of merit and most sacred honor my world can bestow.” Even as he spoke, I felt my raiment undergo a sea-change, my old blue suit with the lightning-patch fell away and I stood enrobed in a radiant white gown, a purple cape and a truly boffo cap, adorned at the tippy-top by what seemed like a propeller (except it didn’t move). My old shoes were transformed into shiny, azure boots; a gold chain and medallion hung around my neck. I looked at the medallion later, but I couldn’t figure out the Insignia at all; except to see that it was obviously a cross between a hologram and The Miracle Picture of Jesus—you know, the one where the eyes seem to follow you when you walk across the room? If I held it at an angle, it looked like a few vaguely curved lines painted on black velvet, reminiscent of a flaccid cock-and-balls; but shift the angle of the medallion ever so slightly, and this was replaced by what resembled nothing so remotely as a gigantic, ornate capital “A”. I soon realized that these devices were as nonobjective as those sublime images I had earlier seen on the walls of the basilica at the Palace of Justice.
Now I stood in the warmth of Àkbä’s glowing words. “No non-Joracian has ever received such an honor, Sam.” I was speechless. “With it comes great power.” He turned and, with a wave of his arm, showed a green mushroom standing a few yards away. “The mini-ship is yours. It will take you wherever in this Universe you desire to go. It is fully provisioned and programmed with navigation instruments, libraries of data from Earth, and can easily accommodate a dozen guests. The coordinates are preset for all your work sites.” He took me on a brief tour of the ship, and we spent the next thirty minutes or so going over the controls, navigational devices, maps and other equipment and information that I would need on my journeys. Àkbä provided detailed and explicit explanations of everything pertaining to the mini-ship, its maintenance and safe use. There were also online manuals and help at the touch of a button. A sense of gratitude overwhelmed me; and I flushed at the interest, concern and care my friend and tutor had shown me.
“Great power brings with it even greater responsibility,” Àkbä said. “But it also bestows privilege. It is high time that you were initiated into the Mysteries, Sam.” At this, everything began getting grayer and grayer and grayer until finally, I blacked out altogether…