I come out of the desert with a new list of questions. I feel cheated somehow, as though the old list has not really been answered, but has rather been faded out of currency, or made obsolete. There is no major religion on Trinordis; that is obvious. The questions now revolve around the whys and wherefores…how did this peculiar society begin, and how can it even exist in the first place?
I caught a glimpse of what the Trinordians called “wisdom” in the desert: Qualamo and his drivel about tripping over hot meals. I appreciate good food and the necessities of life as much as the next fellow. What baffles me is how an entire planet’s population can be content with the most mundane things in life, even the most painful, atrocious things. There are no wars on Trinordis, but there is certainly suffering and death, disease and starvation, natural disasters and plague. Technologically, Trinordis is among the most backward of the inhabited planets in the Galactic Alliance, and as such they suffer the trials and tribulations of a medieval world. Those pressures that torment and frighten others so that they turn to gods cause Trinordians to feel simply alive and real, like any other creature. Is this because they are markedly simpler in mind than the other inhabitants of the galaxy, or is it because they are more complex, more advanced than what I consider “normal”?
For ethical reasons, my reports are never allowed to contain suggestions of cultural or intellectual superiority or inferiority. But the judgement is always there, between the lines. Some cultures seem more “backward” or retarded and others more “forward” or progressive. The trouble is, I cannot seem to decide whether this planet is the former or the latter.
I look around me. What do I see? bright sunlight slanting across a baked street with stone or mud houses, resilient flowers and weeds bursting out of the dirt in shaded spots, Trinordian women walking slowly, easily around their yards and through the street, carrying baskets and calling children to them. I see the same thing here as on a hundred other worlds, the same life, the same humanity. Yet there is no war, and no religion. Something must be different; some external pressure must be lacking. I tell myself that no culture can possibly be so radically different from every other culture. Every human society that has ever existed shares certain basic traits with every other.
I hurry home. When I arrive, I bound up the steps of the double-story house to my shady room, which I locked up before my excursion into the desert. No need: theft and crime are practically nonexistent here; but it was a habit I could not seem to feel comfortable without.
Rummaging through my notes, I find what I am looking for: the papers that outline my mission. I am looking for a name, a colleague of mine from the Academy that I am certain tranferred here some years back. I find it in the contacts list. Professor Artor Binere.
I nod grimly as I read the name, and I know whom I will visit when morning comes. If anyone can answer my questions, it will be Artor Binere.