Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

“We’re leaving Earth.”
I smile at the pale pink amoeboid that’s maintaining a human shape out of respect, and wearing clothes out of courtesy.
“Why are you doing that, Dorn?”
“The Council of Futures has decided we should seek a new species to mentor.”
“Not some of the pre-sentients here?”
“The Council of Futures has also decided we should absent ourselves from this planet.”
“Why is that?”
“When we first came to these lands, we were drawn by the optimism of those upon this world. So many dreams of hope and justice. A global will to do better than before.”
“What changed?”
I put my coffee down and regard Dorn where I consider ‘his’ eyes to be.
“You’re going to have to explain a little more, my friend.”
“After we made contact, we agreed with various ruling factions that our presence would remain anonymous. Our true purpose was never disclosed. We presented ourselves as refugees, and traded technology for a place to stay. Once that was secured, we started the real mission. For all our care, some – like you – became aware of our abilities.”
They’re dream technicians: working to change societies for the better. I’d thought myself unique in knowing that.
“I’m guessing some who found out did something unwelcome?”
“More unexpected than unwelcome. So much so, we have spent decades trying to understand and adjust. Yesterday, the Council of Futures admitted defeat.”
“What was it?”
“Soon after our abilities became known, three males from differing ruling factions approached us secretly. All three had the same idea: they agreed that societies such as yours, with the power to destroy or otherwise ruin themselves, needed help to make it past primitive urges. Each of them suggested that if we adjusted the dreams of the populace to match their particular beliefs, we would achieve our goal, because their way was the best way for everybody.”
That I can almost see: fervent men in expensive suits trying to harness an unchallengeable advantage.
“What did you do?”
“We asked for time to consider, then set our finest Dreamweavers to refining the dreams of those three men, so they would come to understand the underlying tyranny of their chosen ways.”
“How did that turn out?”
“Each faction then sent a female. She broached the same topic, but with more fervour. One of them clearly did so out of an underlying fear. The other two were as committed as their male counterparts.”
“So you modified their dreams too?”
“And those of their acquaintances. We worked our way through entire political groups.”
“To no effect?”
“To limited effect. However, what we noticed more was the clear division between what a person believed, and what they did to further their position within the group they clove to. A few changed allegiance, but not one tried to change the groups. Self-interest increasingly overrode all considerations of justice, mercy, compassion or responsibility. No matter how often we tried, the lust for power and advantage, coupled with an abject fear of the unknown, represented mainly by change, and often portrayed as some sort of evil alternative, prevented any real progress.”
I smile.
“I believe we term it ‘better the devil you know’.”
Dorn approximates a nod.
“That is the term we consider to be a distillation of the traumatic bonds that enslave you in so many ways.”
“What now, my friend?”
“We will leave you to those ‘devils’. We cannot help if you will not help yourselves.”
I nod.
“A bitter truth. Farewell.”
Clothes fall to the floor as my alien friend fades from view.