"What is your name?"
"You are an Andalite?"
"What are Andalites like?"
Again Alloran finds himself struggling, a little bit, for words. <...we are a peaceful people. We had not warred in a very long time when the Yeerks started enslaving everyone in the galaxy. We live with our herds on grasslands. We built cities, but we mostly do not like them.> Long pause. <There are - mistakes, that many advanced civilizations make, conquering others or - building dangerous weapons, or drugs that are more fun than continuing to live, and we are careful and reflective, and made none of those mistakes. We - made a different one, I suppose. We unleashed Yeerks on the galaxy.>
"Do you have families?"
<Is it - do we need to talk about that ->
I have a wife. Her name is Nika. We grew up as neighbors. I decided that I wanted to marry her when I was sixteen but she did not want to marry me until I became a priest. We have five children. The oldest one is nearly grown and the youngest one is six. And also named Nika. I proposed we name every girl that because I think it is the most beautiful name in the world but my wife already had three girls' names picked out."
<I have two children.>
<Andalites always had not more than two, before the war, so our population would eventually stabilize.>
<My wife is named Jahar.>
<We met in college, in a graph theory class I had no business being in but the class that was more at my level met too early in the morning.>
<She offered to tutor me but I was very embarrassed to be so bad at the class so I arranged another tutor to meet with me right before so that by the time she tutored me I'd already have some idea what was going on.>
<When she found out, she was jealous, because she'd offered so we could spend time together.>
<It's been fifteen years. The children are - nearly adults, now.>
"I will pray for you, and for them."
<What does that - do.>
"Sometimes, Sarenrae can do something. More often, she cannot, but in - remembering why we do things - we find the strength to do it ourselves."
<We cannot do anything. We will never be able to do anything again. They will use us to enslave everyone they can.>
"Lots of important things are done in the heart, not in the world."
<That doesn't make any sense.>
"I think it does. A person is - a very big thing. A person contains so many wants and dreams and stories and goals and loves and mistakes - there is a saying, that if you have saved one person it is like you have saved the whole world, and I think that it is an important saying because it is easy to forget how much a person is."
<The Yeerks will enslave one individual person and then they will do that again and again and again and again across the whole galaxy a trillion times, which is a thousand billion which is a thousand million which is a thousand thousand, you cannot count high enough.>
"And certainly if you have a chance to save a trillion people you should take that! But what I see is that you have the chance to save one, and you say it is like nothing, and it isn't like nothing."
<I may never die, and if I do I won't get your afterlives. I can't - Carissa thought I counted as Evil, probably, which is right and just, but it doesn't even matter because we don't go anywhere when we die.>
"What do you mean, when you say that it is right and just, that you be counted as Evil."
< - the Yeerk mentioned it. The Hork-Bajir planet. It's his favorite thing to talk about lately. Because he's pretending we're as bad as they are.>
"You killed many innocent people."
"That is a terrible thing. We have a story - your Visser asked about it, but I do not know if he is the person who needed to hear it. It happened long ago in a place called Gormuz, where Rovagug was sealed beneath the ground by the combined effort of all the gods. He managed, somehow, to exert some influence from within his prison, and he began to corrupt the people above the ground, and turn them towards evil, though they believed they were at a holy site of Sarenrae and believed they served her. And when she discovered this she was very frightened, and tried to learn what was wrong, and eventually she sent her herald Kohal, to the city, to warn them, but they had been turned against her, and murdered the herald. And she was filled with grief and terror and confusion, because much had been sacrificed to pin Rovagug away and she feared it all lost, and she turned on the city and destroyed it.
It was the wrong thing to do, I think. It was a difficult situation, but situations are always difficult. She was doing her best, but people usually are. She couldn't think of a better option, but people usually can't. People are more forgiving, in some ways, of the gods. They trust the gods to have been doing their best, in situations where they would not trust a mortal. But that is a mistake; surely, if anything, the standards for the gods should be higher. I think that she was wrong. She thinks that she was wrong. She regrets it. She tries to fix it, where this can be done. And she is still a Good god, because if Good were only for people who haven't made any mistakes then there would not be a single person or god in it, not in this world."
<I don't think I made a mistake.>
"I do not know enough to even guess at whether you made a mistake. But - Sarenrae sent a vision, when these people took us prisoner. She said that Nirvana - the neutral good afterlife - that it is for everybody. And that to truly understand that is to be halfway, already, to building it. That was the thing she thought it was most important for us to understand, that Nirvana is for us. What do you think it would mean, for her to consider it important to tell you that Nirvana was for you."
<I don't know anything about Nirvana.>
"It is the neutral good afterlife. It is a place where people heal from the harms of this world, and then make things better."
<We don't know that Sarenrae was talking to me. It seems unlikely.>
"I think that Sarenrae is talking to everybody, all the time, and it does not seem unlikely at all that that would include a warrior for good who did a terrible thing and has spent a long time paying for it."
<Then I guess maybe she means someday I'll get to die.>
"Maybe. And when people die here, they get a trial, where any afterlives can argue that they deserve a particular afterlife. The neutral good afterlife - the churches of Sarenrae and Shelyn, mostly - send a representative to every trial. To your friend who is a devoted Asmodean, if she died. They argue that every person deserves Nirvana."
<- I am not sure what it means to deserve things, in that case.>
"I am curious what your first guess would be."
<...that it does not mean anything.>
"Some people believe that. The teachings of the gods are not always very obvious."
<What do you think.>
"I think it means that if people had enough time, all of them would regret the evil that they had done, and do good instead. And in Nirvana they have time. And it is very terrible, that they only get that in Nirvana. But if you have time, you have a rare and precious gift."
<I can't - think - with him in my head. Everything might be - something he uses to feel more justified in enslaving and torturing and slaughtering people.>
"Being afraid and in pain makes people worse. It's one of the things that's not fair."
Alloran is in fact having a hard time forming words, through the writhing enormous unfairness of it.
"Do you think, if you had gone home, after the thing that you did in the war, you would have regretted it, eventually."
Well, obviously. He doesn't successfully translate that into words either, and by the time he has recovered words is less sure it's true. <Why - if your god understands - why doesn't she stop them ->
"I don't know. But when you can smite cities - have smited cities - maybe it is very important to you, to try other things first."