They Also Serve

Thanks to Brad, for the inspiration and feedback.

Microphone in hand, Lens glowing on wrist, the man stands in the shade of a majestic tree with spectacular gold, red and purple foliage. He is speaking into a telerecorder hovering silently—except for the slight whisper of magnetized tape being pulled from spool to spool—a short distance in front of his face.

“Welcome back to the Universal Telenews extended coverage of this year’s Tellurian Lensman graduation ceremony.

“I am your reporter, Lensman-Diplomat Shannon Branda. Feel free to go ‘on the Lens’ with me if you are following this broadcast live. I’ll also be hosting an interactive televisor forum on the new Universal Citizen Interactive Network straight after this broadcast concludes.

“This is the 100th anniversary of the first graduation from the still-remarkable Wentworth Hall. Commissioned by the visionary Lensman-President Wentworth Kinnison, the ‘ninety-story edifice of chromium and glass’ visible behind me still sparkles as dazzlingly this June morning as it did on the very first event all those years ago.

“I have always felt sad that Wentworth Kinnison, the third Kinnison to have held that venerable office down through the many years since the historic founding of the Galactic Council, passed away shortly before the first sod was turned on the project and so did not get the see the magnificent result of his plan.

“Wentworth Hall may be practically unchanged, but in this broadcast I am taking a look at how the Lens is improving a number of areas of all our lives.

“First up, I am interviewing Phillippe Squire. Phillipe is a Lensman-Psychologist par-excellence, and the composer of the Galactic Patrol’s new anthem: ‘Our Patrol.’

“Phillippe, I well remember the thrill of graduating in the historic remains of The Hill to the strains of ‘Sol’s Golden Rays.’ That was amazing, but your new work ‘Our Patrol’ simply leaves me speechless.

“The stirring melody and the terriffic lyrics are simply astounding:

‘Clothed in the blackness of space
The silver of stars light up our eyes
For civilization, freedom and valour:
Our Patrol!’

“Gets me every time.

“How has your Lens helped you create such a wonderful work?”

As Branda finishes, the hovering telerecorder repositions itself to ensure that his somewhat shorter companion is correctly incorporated into its recording stream.

“First, let me say that the wonderful, moving libretto is the result of a lot of hard work by my colleague and fellow Lensman-Psychologist, the great poet Sipho Okoro. Any plaudits that come my way must be shared equally with him.

“It is true that I am trained as a psychologist, but my talents are best expressed through the structure, rhythmn and melody of music.

“We all know that music has both intellectual and emotional components. My Lens has given me the ability to not only listen to the music of many thousands of races from all across the galaxy but to also better understand the emotional perspectives and intentions of the original authors.

“There is a piece of Dorgian nose-flute music called ‘Coming home to find a cold hearth’.” Squire laughs. “The piece moves me to tears every single time I hear it!”

Branda laughs from out of frame: “A Universal Telenews exclusive: even Lensmen cry! You heard it here first, folks.”

“I have been able to bring my new-found understandings to my works, and the result is ‘Our Patrol.’

“Even more than this, our wonderful, stable, cosmocratic society gives me a heretofore undreamed-of opportunity to study and create music that can touch and enrich the lives of all Tellurians.

“I feel that all my life has been spent preparing to write ‘Our Patrol.’

“Thank you, Phillippe. ‘Our Patrol’ truly is a work for the ages.”

Branda moves to directly address the telerecorder.

“My next interviewee is my old personal friend Akio Imamura, known to many as ‘The Gardener Lensman.’ One look at his ongoing work on the beautiful and unique grounds around Wentworth Hall will tell you why that particular nickname has ‘stuck.’

“Welcome Akio. Of course, you are not actually a gardener, are you?”

There is a slight pause as the hovering telerecorder pulls back slightly. Akio Imamura is unusually tall, given his heritage.

“My official designation is actually ‘Lensman-Biochemist’ but the true expression of my calling is working alongside the team here at Wentworth Hall attempting to develop valuable hybrid alien/tellurian plants.

“My Lens has enabled me to introduce Lens-mediated conferences and projects involving horticulturalists, botanists, pharmacists, electronicists and chemical engineers of many, many races. Most of the entities I work alongside are not themselves Lensmen but still we are experiencing never-before-seen progress in developing new drugs and compounds that can improve everybody’s lives.

“I assume that your viewers have heard of the astoundingly successful anti-cancer compound ‘Xynoglorphin-X7’? One simple tablet is all that is required to defeat this long-time scourge of humanity. Xynoglorphin-X7 is derived from the very trees currently giving us shade. These particular trees are hybrids of Australian Jacaranda, the Chickladorian Singing Redwood and the Vegian Catnip Tree. I have been privileged to be a member of the inter-system team that created this compound.

“Our approach has allowed us to cure long-time scourges like fin-rot in Nevians, pigmentation loss in Chickladorians and thin-blood syndrome in Valerians. We are even beginning to finally look forward to a cure for the common cold.

“That so many of these amazing plants are so incredibly beautiful is a wonderful bonus to me, and to all who come to Wentworth Hall.”

“Did you hear that viewers? He said: ‘A cure for the common cold.’ That would be wonderful, indeed!”

“Akio, have you found that people are slightly confused regarding those few of us Lensmen who are apart from the military. Do you have a viewpoint on this?”

“Let us remember what First Lensman Samms himself said when addressing an early cohort of graduating Lensmen:

‘Our current civilisation is the best that ever has been, thanks to
the strength of the Galactic Patrol and to the efforts of the Lensmen. I
believe—I know—that we will build a greater civilisation still. I am firmly
of the view that future cohorts of Lensmen will be able to achieve the
same great advances within the civilian branches of our society as has
already occurred in policing and our military.’

“You may know, dear viewer, that Shannon and I were among the first Lensman to help realise Samms’ vision. We both obtained our Lens way back in ‘27.

“I just heard Phillipe say that his talents were best expressed via music. Something similar is true for me: as I tend my garden, hybridise new forms of plant life and synthesize and create new compounds, I am fulfilling my destiny in a unique way that ultimately promotes the greatest good for the greatest number.”

The hovering telerecorder tracks back to Branda in preparation for the next guest.

“Thank you, Akio. These remarkable gardens and the produce arising from them surely do provide a great good for a vast number of entities. To my eyes, the gardens around Wentworth Hall are indisputably another work for the ages.

“Last, but in no sense least, I would like to present Lensman-Economist Walmond Scherr.

“Walmond has recently developed the ground-breaking idea of micro-economics.

“I’ll let him explain. Walmond?”

As it has done several times before, the hovering telerecorder again adjusts its viewpoint, this time bringing the unexpectedly rotund figure of Walmond Scherr into frame.

“If we examine our wonderful civilisation, we can see that many great advances have taken place: we have the highest amount of wealth-producing enterprise ever, the lowest taxes in history, enormous growth of inter-world commerce, petty regional conflicts are lessening, corruption and graft is now almost unheard of and—except for the organised zwilniks and pirates—general lawlessness is greatly reduced.

“The Galactic Patrol has achieved all this for us, but the Galactic Patrol is a Big Time Operator. The Biggest. Of necessity, the Patrol plans and operates only on a huge scale: planets, sectors…the whole galaxy.

“Individuals have somwhat more modest dreams, plans and operations.

“The more I worked on the enormous operations of the immense machine that is the Galactic Patrol, the more I saw the need to support the small-scale social fabric of our great civilization. In effect, I asked the question: ‘how can we be a truly great civilization if we don’t ensure that an individual’s dreams and aspirations can be achieved?’

“With this in mind—and with enthusiastic support from the Galactic Council—I have recently established ‘Tellurian Capital.’ Not a bank, but a truly honest system for micro-brokering needed resources.

“You all know that the Lens is a symbol of incorruptibility so you can be assured that ‘Tellurian Capital’ is a trustworthy endeavour to support the independent entrepreneurs in our civilization and enabling many skilled, talented, dedicated individual citizens to better achieve their desires and goals.

“In a few short years, ‘Tellurian Capital’ has elevated and enriched the lives of millions of Tellurians, and with them each of us!

“You can discover more about ‘Tellurian Capital’ on the Universal Civilization Network, of course.”

The telerecorder tightens into Branda’s face for the closing close-up of the show.

“Thank you Walmond. A most impressive new development.

“There you have it viewers.

“Each of the Lensman I have interviewed today is at the absolute pinnacle of our civilisation, helping to drive our fantastically rapid advances in both sociology and technology, but none of them are associated with the policing and military activities with which the Galactic Patrol proper is primarily concerned. They are none of them warriors but nevertheless, they are still members of the finest body of intelligent beings yet to serve under one banner.

“Our sons and daughters sadly are still dying at the hands of civilization’s foes it is true, but I, for one, am supremely confident that this fight will be won. Through their focus on heart and mind, it will be heroes like my three guests who will have had a pivotal role in ensuring that ours is the victorious civilisation.

“Lensmen always ‘go in’, it is true, but that does not necessarily mean that the fray they join will always be military in nature; there may exist other fronts—equally important ones—that demand attention. The ancient Tellurian poet John Milton wrote: ‘They also serve who only stand and wait.’ In closing then, I would like to take the liberty to paraphrase this piece of ancient wisdom, thus: ‘Lensmen also serve who do not go in and fight.’

“This is your reporter, Shannon Branda for Universal Telenews signing off.”

Its task performed, the ‘Recording’ light on the telerecorder darkens and the machine gently lowers itself to the ground.

As he begins to pack up his equipment Branda Lenses his three guests.

“QX fellows. Thanks. We all know how much the Council is worried about the effect increasing pirate activity is having on morale, so it is valuable to remind the citizenry of the good things in their lives.

“Who knows, maybe that youngster Kim Kinnison can help us along. The Kinnison clan has always come through for civilization and I think Haynes has something special lined up for him now that he has graduated.”