Xylpygic lay dying, entangled in the twisted wreckage of his speedster. The red-hot glowing livid gash slicing along the vessel’s once proud hull bore violent testimony to the titanically disruptive powers that had recently been unleashed upon it. Xylpygic had triumphed of course. The pirate vessel that had been his target was no more, reduced to its component atoms streaming through interstellar space. The final energy blast mustered by the desperate pirate ship during the last millisecond of that pyrrhic battle had been too much for his shields however and now Xylpygic’s squid-like, multiply-tentacled, superbly streamlined body lay immobile, life-giving fluids leaking away onto the rocky landscape of this airless, nameless moon.
A thought rolled into Xylpygic’s pain-wracked, anguish-ridden mind.
“Gray Lensman Xylpygic, you are shortly to die.”
At the first touch of thought, Xylpygic’s pain vanished.
Amazement flooded Xylpygic’s entire being, leading relief and sweet, sweet hope.
“Aside from trivial analgesia, there is nothing I can do.”
The fresh emotions drained away as rapidly as they arrived, leaving behind only the bitterness of loss and regret.
Mentor’s serene, sonorous thought continued to roll through the Lensman’s mind.
“You keenly feel the loss of your kith and kin. You will miss the Patrol. These emotions are right enough, for who knows what awaits in the next cycle of existence. You feel regret at not seeing the job through ‘to the end.’ Your feelings are natural given your vitality, strength of mind and will, but I am here to show you the fallacy of these feelings. Be at rest knowing that your contribution was essential, invaluable. Your life was Necessary.”
“Good to know.”
“As your death is also Necessary.”
“Less good to know.”
“I am come in your final millisecond to share with you my Visualisation of the Cosmic All, that you may know the value of all you have done and all that you achieve here today. Thus I work to facilitate your passage from this cycle into the next.”
There opened into Xylpygic’s mind the full, minutely-detailed Visualisation. He examined it, and in so doing knew what the Arisians had done in seeding the known universe with their spores, knew the genesis of the current struggle with the Eddorians and what cost was being borne by the Arisians. Xylpygic saw the role of the tool that was his beloved Galactic Patrol and he finally perceived the fabulous galaxies-spanning civilization that the Patrol was destined to bring into being.
As Xylpygic—under Mentor’s gentle guidance—examined the plan spread out in his mind, he ran a full gamut of emotions: shock, awe, anger and fear, giving way to final understanding of the full measure of his own contributions. With that understanding came the realisation that his work WAS done well, that he had nothing to regret, that his job truly had been done “to the end.”
“Thank you, Mentor, for this boon.”
“Go with our gratitude, Xylpygic, for your life and your life’s service.”
Xylpygic’s life came to its end.
On far Arisia, the Attendant Encilianas feels her connection to Xylpygic wrench away, observes the Lensman’s now dull, gray, also lifeless Lens start to disintegrate and knows that the Lensman has died.
Although not yet a fully developed adult, no mere watchman was Encilianas. As an Attendant, hers was a specialist task: masquerading as Mentor to ease the passing of each and every Lensman, wherever situate, and to witness the passage of that Lensman’s vital force from this plane of existence.
Encilianas directed a thought towards the Elder Drounli who—as one of the four Arisian Moulders of Civilisation—was known to Lensmen everywhere as the Mentor of Arisia that trained them.
“Father Drounli, I am truly saddened by this event. The loss of Lensman Xylpygic seems to me to be a setback greater than any other at this time. A mighty force he was and surely could have joined the ranks of the Second Stage Lensmen. This is a loss that will be keenly felt across the two galaxies. My Visualisation does not make it clear to me as to why we did not allow him to develop further and so use him to his fullest abilities. I seek to understand better the reasoning behind this.”
Drounli’s calm, measured reply came immediately and was replete with sympathy.
“This is indeed a lamentable passing but a little thought should help you better understand the importance of what we have to do. Consider: although Chromium is a beautiful and shiny metal, it is fragile and brittle. A skilled metallurgist knows that in small quantities it can bring strength to an Iron alloy, but will be careful to not overuse the element lest new weaknesses develop. The same is true of what we do here: because they are few, our Second Stage Lensmen currently operate unnoticed and thus to great effect. Although it is tempting to do so, developing more of them would ultimately catastrophically weaken the fledgling tool that is the Galactic Patrol and present victory to the Eddorians. While Xylpygic was mighty in his own right, the full strength of the Galactic Patrol is ultimately to be derived from the composite whole.” Drounli’s thought became a veritable embrace. “Know that our Visualization will be true and that Xylpygic and the many other Lensmen which whom you interact will not have sacrificed in vain. Never despair, my daughter. You perform a worthy task, one which is undeniably difficult given your youth: while not a parent yourself, in loco parentis you give succour and kindness to these, our manifold children.”
Better knowing her own essential role in the scheme of things, Encilianas directed her attention to the next broken, suffering, selfless and extraordinary Lensman.