The Passage of Virtue

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“Well met, brother,” a dull, blue-eyed man says as he squats down by the fire, a drink in his hand, “What have we learnt?”

Barbarians are screaming around them. Somewhere a woman is climaxing loudly, and the fire is chasing its sparks up into the twinkling cosmos, ever-watching and eternal.

A strikingly-handsome, green-eyed man turns to the speaker and grins.

“Nothing,” he spits into the flames, “They are a bestial species, caring only for their immediate impulses. Hunger, lust, greed, anger… These are the foundations upon which they live, and they are unstable. I see no future here.”

The blue-eyed man pauses, takes a long sip and nods.

“Yes, I’ve seen those qualities too but they are loud and get a disproportionate amount of exposure. There is complex beauty there. Forget love, we both know that its little more than chemicals for reproduction and survival. No, there is an existential craving for a purpose. I see it deep inside all of them. Each one of these animals wants to know why and what to do next?”

The green-eyed man snorts, finishes his drink and nods.

“Fine, I’ll back your motion. Give them a couple more centuries. Who knows, it’s a young species and I like spending time with their female gender.”

The fire crackles and the woman finishes loudly.

Suddenly, there are just barbarians around a fire with its sparks rising up into the dark, infinite cosmos looming above. The blue and green-eyed men are gone.

***

“Well met, brother,” a dull, blue-eyed man says as he sits down by the bar, “What have we learnt?”

The handsome, green-eyed man nods at him and motions at the barman for a drink for both of them.

“They make something called whiskey around here,” the barman fills up both of the men’s glasses, “It summarizes my answer.”

The blue-eyed man takes a sip and contemplates it. Drunken Scots begin shouting angrily at each other on the other side of the bar. He opens his mouth to reply but the green-eyed man cuts him off.

“It is silk but wrapped in fire. It is bottled happiness but it costs the ruin of so many. It is hope but it only offers despair,” he downs his whiskey in a single sip, “I love it and hate it all at the same time. Such base emotions inspired by such a base species.”

The blue-eyed man smiles and downs his drink. His eyes twinkle a little in mischief.

“But, yet, they have discovered freedom, independence and tea. Many of them fight for these things and, though their path to virtue is far from complete, the dark beginnings only serve as a magnification for what they are achieving. And, let’s be clear, brother, they are achieving great things already.”

“Yes,” the green-eyed man chuckled, “But slavery, war and the justification and rationalization of these acts also exists. Yes, they had their revolutions but what about how they treat those weaker than them? Or poorer than them? Yes, they build pyramids and monuments but at what cost to their lives? Thin-skinned dictators rule over so many and disease infests their cities and their media. Freedom, independence and quality tea are far from universal in their factional lands.”

“Everything begins at the beginning. Give them time, brother, give them time. They have not yet failed the Third Test.”

The drunken Scots are now hugging and their friends calling for more rounds for the lots of them. One of them starts singing and others join. Soon the whole bar is a joyful wave of heart-moving harmony and brotherhood.

The green-eyed man glances at them, smiles and nods.

And, suddenly, the bar is filled with drunken Scottish lads. The two men are gone.

***

“Well met, brother,” a twinkling, blue-eyed man says appearing out of the darkness in the desert night, “What have we learnt?”

The tired, green-eyed man nods at him and glances back at the fire blasting from the starship as it punches up and into the twinkling cosmos, ever-watching and eternal.

“They are stepping off-world, brother. They are actually stepping off-world. This changes everything.”

In the darkness of the desert, on the fringe of civilization, both men stand there in silence. The weight of history weighs heavily on them as each second that passes the starship punches higher into space…

Further from Earth.

Nearer to the future.

“I don’t understand,” the green-eyed man says, sighing, “They still hate, fight and lust. Some still believe in primitive mythologies. Their leaders are mockeries of the very word and they despise vast swathes of their own species for minor differences to their own, microscopic herd. Why… How could they have gotten this far?”

The blue-eyed man smiles and sadly shakes his head. He turns and squeezes his brother’s shoulder.

“You really don’t remember our beginnings, do you, brother? We were once little more than them. All species–indeed, all life–has its own path to virtue. If it cannot adapt to survive, then it dies. If it cannot evolve to rise above the other species, then it dies. And, finally, if it cannot leave its own homeworld, then it dies. Those are the Three Tests. The only tests, really, barring what they face next…”

The green-eyed man nods and shrugs his shoulders.

“Well, I guess we should let father know.”

The blue-eyed man’s face hardens and he nods.

“Yes, we must alert father that there is a new member to our Galactic Council. They will either accept the terms, or we will find out how well their millennia of weaponry technology holds up against our own.”

And then the desert night is empty. Indeed the planet is too. The two men are gone.

By now, the starship is little more than a flicker in the night sky. Like a spark from a fire rising into the twinkling cosmos, ever-watching and eternal…

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