Lensman: For the Most Troublesome

Triplanetary 4 – Chapter 2: The Fall of Atlantis

Welcome to the read! In the Critias of Plato, the story of Atlantis is said to take place around 9500 BCE, so while we are still deep in the past, we are picking up the story approximately two billion years after the last chapter ended. It’s an interesting technique to set up the Eddorians and their super-science shenanigans, then skip an unimaginable distance forward in time, and come to a period associated with prehistoric fantasy stories. For instance, the supposedly unrecorded Hyborian Age that Robert Howard’s Conan stories take place in is supposed to begin after Atlantis sinks.

1. Eddore

“Members of the innermost circle, wherever you are and whatever you may be doing, tune in!” the All-Highest broadcast.

Using what are essentially radio terms for telepathic activity is something of a signature for this series, but while it works to increase relatability when the humans and other younger races do it, having the ancient cosmic big bad yell ‘tune in!’ damages its already tenuous mystique.

“Analysis of the data furnished by the survey just completed shows that in general the Great Plan is progressing satisfactorily.

This banal line also damages that mystique. Here’s a truly fantastical being, and he’s going on about survey data. It’s possible that juxtaposition could have been made interesting, but it isn’t.

There seem to be only four planets which our delegates have not been or may not be able to control properly: Sol III, Rigel IV, Velantia III, and Palain VII.

So it seems the Eddorians have by this point turned most of the actual work over to underlings. The four planets named eventually produce some very special individuals, and it seems like an open question as to whether the life on these planets has developed in a way that is particularly incompatible with Eddorian control, or whether organic lapses in that control allowed the planets to better develop the conditions for such individuals to arise.

Also, consider the term ‘only four planets,’ as opposed to ‘only four known planets’ or ‘only four influenced planets.’ The implication is that Eddorian control, however indirect or limited, touches every planet in both galaxies.

All four, you will observe, are in the other galaxy. No trouble whatever has developed in our own.

Location does make some difference, apparently. I’m not sure what the capabilities of the Eddorian operation are supposed to be at this point, so it could be a purely technical matter. I like to think that the Eddorians have retained some subconscious aversion to the Arisian’s home territory, so it gets less attention.

“Of these four, the first requires drastic and immediate personal attention.

First, go Earth! I think this is a deliberate ego-stroke for the human reader; our species is the most troublesome. Second, this is a strange statement in context. When you see what the solution is, and then later what some of the Eddorian minions are capable of, it doesn’t seem like this mission actually requires an Eddorian. Maybe it needed Eddorian judgement to decide on the most appropriate course of action, or maybe they have no minions nearby and haven’t shared their most advanced transport tech yet, so that only an Eddorian can get there in a timely fashion?

Its people, in the brief interval since our previous general survey, have developed nuclear energy and have fallen into a cultural pattern which does not conform in any respect to the basic principles laid down by us long since.

As far as I can tell, this may be the first published depiction of Atlantis as a nuclear power. Ignatius Donnelly, father of the modern Atlantean mythology, writing in 1882, portrayed Atlantis as being about as advanced as 1700s Europe; but my Google-fu doesn’t turn up any other published atomic Atlantean scenarios until the late 60’s, which this predates by ~20 years. So not only do we get to see a sci-fi Atlantis, we get to see what might be the first sci-fi Atlantis. I actually remember nothing about that part, so I’m now curious.

Our deputies there, thinking erroneously that they could handle matters without reporting fully to or calling for help upon the next higher operating echelon, must be disciplined sharply. Failure, from whatever cause, can not be tolerated.

I’m not planning to delve into the Eddorian operating principles until the text describes them better much later on, but I will say that they demand a really unreasonable level of judgement. You get punished for not passing matters that are beyond your abilities up the chain of command, but – spoiler warning – you also get punished for bothering the chain of command with something you could have handled yourself, and if you couldn’t have known which was which until after the fact, that’s unfortunate. That said, ‘disciplined sharply’ probably doesn’t mean killed; the Eddorians are evil overlord stereotypes, but they don’t usually speak in euphemisms. It could mean almost any other unpleasant thing, though.

“Gharlane, as Master Number Two, you will assume control of Sol III immediately.

So here’s Gharlane, who I think is one of only two named Eddorians (along with Krongenes from the last chapter), and who is the active Eddorian agent in the story, when he shows up at all. I’m pretty sure that his rank of ‘Master Number Two’ makes him the All-Highest’s second-in-command.

This Circle now authorizes and instructs you to take whatever steps may prove necessary to restore order upon that planet.

It’s a little strange that Eddore is explicitly a dictatorship, but orders are issued by ‘this Circle,’ even when the All-Highest is directly participating.

Examine carefully this data concerning the other three worlds which may very shortly become troublesome.

It’s a shame that we don’t get to hear what kinds of trouble the other planets are up to, because it would be a good opportunity to explore how different their inhabitants are from humans.

Is it your thought that one or more others of this Circle should be assigned to work with you, to be sure that these untoward developments are suppressed?”

This seems to be a genuine question and not just a dominance ritual; the Eddorians are capable of treating each other with some actual regard, if no one else.

“It is not, Your Supremacy,” that worthy decided, after a time of study. “Since the peoples in question are as yet of low intelligence; since one form of flesh at a time is all that will have to be energized; and since the techniques will be essentially similar; I can handle all four more efficiently alone than with the help or cooperation of others.

For an evil overlord stereotype, Gharlane sounds shockingly reasonable here; he prefers to work alone not out of raw ego but because he judges that the combination of factors involved make it a broth for which one cook is the optimal number. The process of ‘energizing’ a ‘form of flesh’ sounds interesting, but what it means is left obscure for the moment.

If I read this data correctly, there will be need of only the most elementary precaution in the employment of mental force, since of the four races, only the Velantians have even a rudimentary knowledge of its uses. Right?”

‘Mental force’ as used here is more specific than just telepathy – for instance, the Rigellians, as we will later learn, are deaf and mute, using telepathy for communication instead of sound. I suspect it refers to compulsion – mind control – which the Velantians, again as we will later learn, have had some exposure to.

“We so read the data.” Surprisingly enough, the Innermost Circle agreed unanimously.

It’s not at all clear why it should be surprising that the Circle is unanimous, I don’t think we’ve ever seen any arguments among them. They’re all extremely close in both ability and temperament, so agreement would seem more natural than disagreement, even if they didn’t exist in a dissent-punishing environment. In fact, I don’t think we’ve ever seen them disagree about anything.

“Go, then. When finished, report in full.”

“I go, All-Highest. I shall render a complete and conclusive report.”

So this is going to be our first demonstration of an Eddorian in action against ordinary people; one alien super-being against a human nuclear power; even if you have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen and how from the setup, it should be good stature-building for our ultimate villains.

This was a short segment. Next time, we check in on the opposition and their take on things.

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