'That's the same night we took her to Shasta,' said Jack, 'and life was never the same. We drove to that old ranger station at Bunny Flat, and there was a man there, waiting for us in the dark. It was weird, because the lot was empty, and I wondered how he'd got there. He walked right up to Luuna and said, "This is madness, Luuna, we dare not risk exposure", or something like that. Luuna turns to us and says, "This man will aid our enterprise. He has no choice. Our other ally will be along shortly." That's how we met Smokey, there.
'Right on cue, there's a whoosh of light and there's an alien standing there. Looked just like you or me, you understand, and I'd be a liar if I didn't recognise a fellow slick operator right away, but still...alien. You just knew. That was Ren Orion, our man in Havana. Or Sto, if you wanna get technical.'
Why was the professor surreptitiously studying the pilgrims?
'Well, you know about the deal. We all had our jobs and we got to it. Luuna wrote, lectured, acted batty and lovable, did the figurehead thing. Smokey built the machines and did his mind swap stunt, though Luuna always wanted to be there for in comings. Before you know it, we had a publishing empire and the pilgrims and the tourists came in droves. We made sure it was cheap to be an illuminated disciple. The books made a tidy profit and there's a discreet Swiss bank that converts Sto medallions to American dollars, you know, so we all got very, very rich after some creative accounting. That was my job, that and greasing palms in town so nobody hassled the pilgrims. Sally was a wonder. She had good ideas about everything and even Luuna learned to listen to her. She held it together, saw everything coming, you couldn't faze her. But she was also high priestess, so she ran the temple and prepped the pilgrims.'
'Prep the pilgrims? You make it sound easy! I hope you all realise you can't just plop a mind into another person's head. It takes a lot of effort to make the host reach the right level of preparation. Any old Joe off the street won't do, no sirree. There has to be a certain...stillness in the host in order for the transfer to work. Otherwise there's too much clutter left over after the consciousness has been removed. Jack, remember that one fella back in '63? Studied here for six months, classic textbook case, then found out his sister had died right before the transfer. Went on with it, thought illumination would help him cope. Poor Stoling jumped right into his psychic pain residue.'
Jack cut in. 'Yeah, that guy! Killed ten people before Luuna nailed 'im. Boy, that was a mess. But after Smokey sent him home, both of 'em were right as rain. Didn't remember a thing. And before you ask, we took good care of the families with a little charity fund.'
Now might be a good time for Dr. McShane (N.M.C.) to point out that Sally was not totally straight with us. The Lemurian method – meditation, yoga, counselling and, I'm guessing, something in the incense – was an effective way of preparing a human brain for alien possession, but not the only one.
Successful transfers, those in which the visitor is able to fully inhabit the body, can also be affected when the host and usurper coexist for extended periods of time; the invader, in this instance, has an empathic understanding of the emotional residue of the host. No matter how neurotic the host, the usurper is prepared and may assume full control.
Certain types of brain damage or degeneration in the host, such as senility or coma, also allow possession, though their physical symptoms will still be present.
There are two types of Lemurian possession where the host mind can co-exist with the trespasser, though the desired bodily control may be limited or absent.
In the first, a mind can be inserted into a host without the removal of the original psyche. In this case, the alien is effectively powerless; in the host, minor loss of coordination, concentration and ego may occur.
Also, a copy of a consciousness will invariably occur in the undeveloped mind of an unborn child when the mother is subjected to the procedure, though the full flowering of the parasite mind may not manifest until young adulthood, at which time it is strong enough to assume control when the host sleeps, is rendered unconscious, or removed. When close contact between the original and copy occurs an intense empathic link is formed in the hosts.
No matter the circumstances, two requirements must be met. A disembodied Lemurian consciousness must preside over the proceedings, and a mechanical focusing device developed by their science – looking, perhaps, like bedside apparatus or a tiny model flying saucer – must also be at hand.
Jack lapsed into silence. I whispered to the Professor, 'But what about last night? What about Luuna? Is she gone?'
He looked at me gravely. ' I'm afraid we're going to find that out very soon, Ace. Watch Peace.'
Sally served coffee. Peace took a sip and set her cup down.
'You just gave up on Gladys and helped Luuna?' she asked in a measured tone.
Sally served herself and sat. 'You think we had a choice? How often did you sneak upstairs at the temple?'
Peace glared at Smokey, who tugged his collar and looked away.
'Okay. Fair enough. But what about the empire? What about the Space Brothers? Is everything I've been taught a big fraud? Are all the teachings lies? Did Luuna just made all those stories up?'
Smokey spoke, 'Please, child. The stories are true. Once, an empire of a thousand planets spread across the galaxy. There was a golden age of plenitude. But...'
Smokey sighed. 'But...it was over a billion years ago. There is no more empire.'
'What happened to them?'
'They fell prey to melodrama on a galactic scale. The great empire of the Space Brotherhood, established and administered on noble principles of equality for all, fell under the sway of a charismatic leader with a secret ambition.'
'What ambition? To take over the empire?'
'Oh, no. To destroy it.'
'By inciting them to invoke the Rite of Final Unction on the one world in all the heavens that actually had the power to resist illumination.'
'Idiots.' said the Professor, and I heard his tone and knew.
'They attacked the Time Lords!' I said.
'Yes, Ace, but we were forewarned. We sent their 'unction' right back to their invincible fleet. It burned in space with no survivors. Pity. Without the fleet, there was no glue to hold the empire together. We watched it fade, prey upon itself, crumble from within; in a paltry million years it was gone and the galaxy slept again. I'm sorry, Peace.'
Peace stared at her empty plate.
'Professor,' I asked, 'Who was this maniac who tried to take on the Time Lords?'
'Ah. Why don't we ask someone who was there? Smokey?'
The Lemurian said, 'Must I, Doctor? It has been a very long time.'
'They need to know who they're dealing with, Smokey.'