Ice Planet (Alive! Book 10), page 1
Copyright Caravan Publishing 2018
Published by Caravan Publishing
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This is a work of fiction. Although the underlying events are based on situations, events and facts that are true, the characters and events are entirely fictional and have no relationship to real persons. Any similarity or resemblance to such persons is accidental and not intended.
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“The tale of our civilization, in my opinion, cannot be adequately told or explained by the conventional history that has been taught us for many years, but there is no other history available to us. Contriving a history from the myths and legends handed to us by people who have an interest in telling a particular story is not enough. It remains for archaeologists, the people whose ranks you hope to join, to formulate a story that meets the facts that are available to us, a true story of our history from the earliest possible time until now.” The Professor looked around at the faces staring at him. He had dropped this bomb on them without warning. He knew that the organized religions would be hopping mad about what he had just said, if they got to hear it. And they would get to hear it, the Professor knew. If one member of the class, or probably more, did not tell them, the StateSec people certainly would. It had become an accepted norm of the society that any snippet of information that might polish one’s image in the mind of the State would be passed on to the organization that, supposedly, protected the security and integrity of the State. Unfortunately, the Professor knew, the ‘State’ had become separated as a concept from the ‘people’ who made up the ‘State’. The passing on of such information was the surest way to gain advancement in one’s chosen profession, a more certain method of gaining advancement than gaining additional knowledge. The sort of heresy the Professor had uttered, although permitted by any realistic interpretation of the Constitution’s provision for freedom of speech, could be construed as a direct attack on the very foundations of the religion sponsored by the Government, a religion that held that the world had been created for the benefit of the humans who lived in it a little over seven thousand years ago. The Professor was old enough to remember a time when the State was not so pervasive in the society, when one could truly trust those one believed to be friends. That time had passed, with the new order becoming entrenched a little at a time, with only a few thinkers, the prophets of doom, as the President called them, noticing the small encroachments on the freedoms they enjoyed. Each such encroachment had been justified by the State as a necessary regulation of the activities that brought harm, real or imagined, to the citizens. That had been accompanied by the appointment of certain people who had the authority, vested in them by the Creator, to pronounce on the intentions of the Creator. The strengthening of the status of the religious leaders had come about also as a result of a ‘need to support the morality of the people’, and it had brought into the fold many of those vocal persons who were anxious about the trend of freedom in civil society. They believed that excessive freedom of expression would lead to excessive freedom of thought, and that would lead to questioning of the religion they needed to support their views. Those people had failed to notice that the religion had been hijacked by a group of men and women who were in control of the State, as a means of increasing their power, and gaining control of the body of those who viewed their religion as having supreme authority. The faith went on to detail the convoluted story of the development of the world from the date it had been created to serve the needs of Humanity, telling of numerous challenges to the people who lived in it, and dozens of tribulations designed by the Creator to test the true faith of the citizens, to determine whether they were worthy of the gift of life. The fact that those people had it in their ability to make the ultimate selection of the ruling class to preside over the secular State was never stated, or even hinted at, except at the levels of decision-making that were not accessible to ordinary mortals. The fact that the leaders of the theological State were appointed by the President and worked closely with the Government to ensure that the religion worked hand-in-glove with the Government towards the same end was never discussed, because that might end the cozy cooperation that kept those leading persons in power. In turn, the StateSec, the feared State Security Police, worked nominally under the cover of the Constitution to suppress any criticism of the religious leaders and their dogma.
That had not always been so, as shown by the fragments of historical texts, written in archaic language, which had been carefully hidden from the representatives of the State, who had expunged them from the historical records of the distant past. Those fragmentary records were jealously guarded by people like the Professor, who believed passionately that the history of the race should be as correct as it was possible to make it, regardless of the threat that might pose to the people in power. The Professor knew that he was one of a diminishing number of people who did not believe that the Party had a God-given right to rule the people. Many of his friends, including the Professors and lecturers who had trained him to believe that his function as a human and an educator required adherence to the absolute truth, had wound up in one or other of the brutal prisons that had proliferated since he was a student. Once there, they were forgotten, except by their families and friends, and only a few had been released to serve as examples of what happened when one spoke out against the State or the religious leaders. Those few were broken men and women, their minds destroyed by the privations they had undergone, even, it was rumored, the torture. Their presence in open society served to remind those who might insist on their rights what results such an insistence might bring. The Professor knew that his statement put him at risk of becoming one of those people, but he also knew that it was his duty to pass on to those with enquiring minds the facts that ran counter to the accepted wisdom, and the desire to learn the truth. He knew, if he did not fulfill that duty, the State would win, and the people would lose. He had always understood that the increasing power that the State took to itself was contrary to the interests of the citizens, but, like many people, he had not planned his actions to avoid attracting to himself and those close to him the dire results that the undue attention of the State or the religious Leaders might bring. The death of his wife last month, a result of the failure of the State-controlled pharmaceutical industry to produce the medication on which her life was dependent, had removed the last impediment in the Professor’s mind to the performance of his duty, as he knew in his heart it to be. He had no responsibilities any longer, no-one dependent on him, other than these students sitting here and
“It will not be an easy journey for you, but it will be one that you will find remarkably fulfilling, providing that you keep to the absolute truth. There will always be a temptation to adjust the facts to suit a theory, whether your own or one that is imposed on you, but if you succumb to that temptation, you will betray the fine traditions of this profession. Thank you all for your attendance at my lectures.” With that the Professor gathered up his few notes and left the room. He had work to do, to ensure that these students were given the acknowledgement they deserved for their work over the past years. His greatest fear was that he had little time to do that before he was arrested and taken to some Hellhole as punishment for his temerity in telling the truth.
Savi collected his notes together thoughtfully. He shared his classmates’ astonishment at the statement of the Professor, although he had made up his mind last year already that the authorized history of the race could not be correct. It simply did not accord with what he knew to be facts.
He looked at his watch and started. He was due at the next lecture, the final lecture in his course on geology, within five minutes. As usual, he did not have the luxury of sufficient time to join his classmates in the animated discussion of the Professor’s statement. He had taken on the burden of a course in archeology, a luxury to satisfy his desire to gain the knowledge that would enable him to understand more of the findings that his activity as a geologist would turn up, in addition to the advanced degree in geology that he had undertaken as a preparation to earn an income in the outside world. He had not regretted that decision, although the huge workload the two degrees imposed on him had precluded the development of friendships with other students in his courses. That was a double burden for him. He had never had the ability to develop friendships easily. He was not really introverted, but he did not enjoy the light casual conversations he heard between lectures, the meaningless exchange of unconsidered views, and that ensured that the other students viewed him as being aloof and unapproachable. That factor had been self-reinforcing, leading him to being isolated from much of the student activity that, he knew, was an important part of a university education. Savi did not enjoy that, but he accepted it as a part of the price that had to be paid to reach his goal. He wanted to become a Senior Lecturer, and in due course a Professor in Archaeology, which would allow him the opportunity to indulge his passion for research into the origins of his people, and to make the facts of those origins known to them. That would not be easy, but he believed that he had achieved the first part of that goal in scoring the best results on record in each of his two degrees. Only another week until he reached the end of the courses, and then three weeks to write the exams. He packed the last piece of paper in his bag and walked out, moving quickly to the next lecture. He could not afford to be late.
Savi was called in by the Professor a week after he completed writing the final exam. The summons came as a surprise. He did not think that the meeting was to discuss his exam results, but he could not imagine what else might be on the Professor’s mind.
The Professor did not beat about the bush after he had invited Savi to take a seat.
“I asked you to come urgently as I don’t believe that I have much time in this position, Savi. I know that the results of the exams are not due to be published for another two weeks, but I have seen them, and they are only subject to a few adjustments to be made in the case of other students. I’m satisfied that I can implement a decision made by the Senate. I wish to offer you the position of Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology. If you accept my offer, you can look forward to a rapid promotion to Senior Lecturer and then to Professor. Your scores throughout the course have been excellent, and they will go some of the way to entitle you to those positions, and, of course, there are not many candidates for those jobs in the Faculty.”
Savi knew that was true. A number of the staff had been forced to double up their lecturing work during the time he had been a student, to make up for the lack of qualified people in the field and the depletion of the ranks of those who held such positions. There was also a rumor that the second university in the city was struggling to keep afloat, and was thinking of cuts in the staffing of the Departments that offered courses that were not in strong demand. That, of course, would reduce the attractiveness of that university as a center of learning, and hasten the decline. He did not hesitate.
“I’ll accept the position, Professor. I’m very grateful for the offer.”
The Professor smiled. He had expected that Savi would accept, and he was delighted that the Faculty would be augmented by the bright mind, the skills and the knowledge that this young man had displayed so consistently through the years. He slid a folder over the desk to Savi.
“There’s a summary of your duties, pay grade and entitlements. I’ve taken the liberty to include outlines of the courses you’ll be lecturing on, although I expect that you will want to make your own modifications. There should be enough time for you to prepare the courses before they commence in the next term, and, of course, all of us in the Faculty will be available if you need assistance, advice or even just an opinion.” The Professor smiled at the withdrawn young man. “I wish you luck, Savi. The teaching of truth and of thinking to the young are amongst the most important things in our lives. There is not enough of either in our modern world, and we need to conserve what few remnants there are.”
“Thank you, sir. I agree with you completely in that, and I will do what I can to follow in your footsteps.”
The Professor stood, to signify that the meeting was at an end, and Savi left the office, elated and worried. The offer was the first of the targets he had been aiming for, and he would now be able to shift his aim to the next target, Senior Lecturer, to be followed by a Professorship. Savi’s elation was tempered by a concern. He was worried by the look of resignation he had seen in the Professor’s face. He wondered what had caused that emotion. For all his withdrawn personality, Savi was keenly attuned to the body language of those around him, and he had seen clear signs in the Professor’s demeanor that went far beyond concern for the abilities of the new appointee.
The reasons for the concern displayed by the Professor became clear the next morning, when Savi was drawn from his new shared office down the corridor from the Professor by the sounds of an aggressive demand by the StateSec visitors that the Professor accompany them. The State Security agents had finally acted on the report by one of the students that the Professor had been guilty of sedition. He would be tried and imprisoned, all without any public notification, and his absence from the University would be notified to his fellow staff members without explanation. Those fellow academics would know what that implied, and they would adjust their own behavior to adhere more closely to the Party line. In support of that, the very public arrest of the accused, accompanied by a level of brutality, was designed to reinforce the supreme power of the StateSec. The officials had often found that the tendency of those who held guilty secrets to avoid confrontation, or even an innocent interaction with the StateSec Agents, was a good indicator of who should be investigated.
Savi worked hard at drawing up the courses he was
Eight months after he took up his position, Savi was preparing his lectures for the next day when he was disturbed by a knock at his office door. He opened it, to find Professor Gerven, the man who had taken the position of Dean of the Faculty after the arrest of his predecessor, standing there alongside a serious-looking young woman.