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Stepping Out Into Space

Children's Story
Damien and Ora grinned at each other in excitement. The time had come - at last! They'd been with the Leader for months and months, waiting for this moment. Not that it had felt much like training. They'd simply lived with the Leader, listening to his stories, hearing about the Kingdom, learning to get along really well with all the other people at Mission Headquarters. Now all seventy of them were ready, the spaceship had docked, and the Mission was about to begin. Ora was glad she'd been paired up with Damien again. They'd worked together before, and there was a calm strength about him which gave her courage. And she was pretty sure he relied on her cheerful good humour too, so it was a good pairing.

She picked up her phaser and checked that Damien had the stun gun. Then she flicked the tiny communicator attached to her collar. "Testing, testing," she murmured into it. She caught the Leader's eye across the crowded landing bay, and wondered at the tiny frown which appeared on his forehead. Then the Leader began to speak, and at once the whole place fell silent. There was always something compelling about the Leader's words.

"This is it!" said the Leader. "I'm sending you out in your pairs to alien beings you've never met. They don't know you're coming, they don't even know whether or not you're friendly beings. So you must leave all weapons behind. You must not carry phasers or stun guns, and you must leave behind your communicators."

A murmur of surprise ran round the landing bay. "But how shall we manage?" asked Ora. "Suppose the aliens are hostile? How shall we defend ourselves without even phasers?"

Damien added, " And how shall we reach you, Leader? Without any weapons, and without any means of communication, we'll be like - like - "

"Sheep waiting to be slaughtered?" finished the Leader. "That's the whole point, Damien. This is your toughest mission yet. You've learned to face dangers and difficulties using all your back-up equipment, now you have to learn to rely on yourselves. So I'm sending you out just like sheep. The risk is that you might find wolves out there! This isn't just about missions to aliens, you know. It's also about you. When you return, you should find you've discovered strength in yourself you never knew existed. And although you won't be able to reach me directly, you'll find you can communicate with the Great Being."

Ora felt very anxious. She hadn't realised it would be like this. She wasn't even sure of the Message. Suddenly she wished the training had been more formal. If only she could have taken notes. Or if only the Leader had given them a blueprint for their wrist computers.

Almost as if he could read her mind, the Leader smiled gently at Ora. "No computers, either," he said. "Just yourselves. You have all the resources you need inside yourselves. When you need to, you'll find them. Now remember, the Message is this: The Kingdom of the Great Being is close at hand.

"When you reach a dwelling place, hold your hands out in front of you palms up, and say to the inhabitants: 'Peace be upon this dwelling place'. If a peaceful being lives there, he'll receive the peace of the Great Being and you can stay there. But if not, the peace of the Great Being will be poured into you, and you simply move on to the next dwelling place. When you find somewhere to stay, live as members of that alien family, eating and drinking whatever they eat and drink. You're to live alongside them, exactly as they live, however strange that may feel."

"But Leader," objected Ora, "it won't take us five minutes to say: 'The Kingdom of the Great Being is close at hand.' What do we do then?"

The Leader laughed, a deep laugh full of fun and humour. Everyone found themselves smiling when the Leader laughed, although they were never sure why. "Well, Ora," he said, "I'm sure you of all people will find something to say! Be yourself. Live the Kingdom. Tell them about me, and about the Great Being. Tell them stories, teach them how to worship the Great Being. Heal them."

"Heal them?" Ora could hardly believe her ears. "But it's you who is the Healer, not us."

The Leader laughed again. "No, I'm no healer in my own right! It's the Great Being who heals through me. And he'll heal through you too. You only have to ask him. Go on now, all of you. We meet again here in one month. Come back then and tell your stories. Go - and enjoy!"

Damien and Ora were silent as they set off, each occupied by their own thoughts. All their missions had been scary, but this was the scariest of the lot. If they weren't killed, they'd probably starve to death. Ora wondered whether it was possible to live for a whole month without food.

When they reached the first dwelling place, both Damien and Ora found themselves shaking. They each sent a quick, silent thought to the Great Being, "Help!" Then they passed their hands over the usual photoelectric cell, and the door silently slid back, admitting them into a large atrium.

They waited, their hearts thumping. It felt like many eyes were watching them, although they couldn't see anything or anybody. After a while, a huge spider-like creature emerged from the walls and silently glided towards them. Ora stifled a scream. This was like her worst nightmare. She couldn't bear spiders.

Instinctively, her hand flew towards her phaser, but of course, it wasn't there. Ora began to panic. She couldn't think what to do. Then out of the corner of her eye she noticed Damien, his hands held forward, palms up, and she did the same. And the words came: "Peace be upon this dwelling place." The creature didn't move. With a sinking feeling, Ora wondered whether they would be able to communicate at all. Perhaps the creature couldn't understand. But suddenly a wall slid open, and they found themselves propelled into another, smaller atrium, where there were dozens of the creatures.

Despite her fear, Ora heard herself giving the message: "The Kingdom of the Great Being is close at hand." And at once, the creatures began to approach them. Ora kept her thoughts firmly on the Great Being, and to her surprise, found words tumbling out of her mouth. As she began to tell the Leader's stories, she felt an unexpected warmth towards the creatures. When the creatures offered strange looking food and drink, both she and Damien accepted.

It all happened just as the Leader had said it would happen. As they gradually relaxed, both Damien and Ora felt the Great Being speaking and acting through them. They stayed for the whole month, and through many adventures, grew to love the strange, spider-like creatures.

When Damien and Ora returned to the Leader, they couldn't wait to relate to him all their adventures. That night, the whole spaceship was filled with unexpected joy and radiance, for all the evangelists had tales to tell of how the Great Being had supported and helped them just when they needed it.

"I see now," said Ora, "why you made us leave behind all our equipment. I'd never have got to know the Great Being in quite the same way if I'd been relying on my phaser and computer and communicator. And if we'd had all that equipment, the spider-creatures might have thought we were hostile, whatever we said. But we just had to rely on the Great Being. There was no-one else to approach for help. The Great Being was brilliant and supported us all the way."

"And what's more," added Damien, "the spider-creatures are now worshipping him as well. I don't think it was so much the stories we told them, more us living amongst them and getting along with them despite the huge difference in our species. Anyway, news of the Great Being is spreading all across the galaxy, and because of that, lots of different species are learning to love each other. Inter-planetary wars will soon be just a bad memory."

The Leader nodded. "Well done, team," he said. "You've experienced something of the Kingdom on your travels. And you've played your part in bringing the Kingdom to the whole galaxy. Now you're strong, and ready to go forward, for you've passed the hardest test of all.
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