It really looks as if they're doing nothing, Dieter reflected, looking at the students sitting in groups discussing or just lying down reading on the Commons lawn behind the university building. Then again, Dieter thought, that's what most people would think about me when I'm at my most busy.
Most of his work consisted of making plans - plans for speeches, for public appearances - always planning meticulously, just to make it all look spontaneous. The "inspirational speech" he had just given to the students had been a carefully memorized and rehearsed performance, from the initial musings on his own days as a student of political science, via an attempt to connect it to the work he did at the present to the apparent drift into telling amusing anecdotes on the behavior of war council members. The image was that of a careerist taking a day off to joke around with people half his age and the message conveyed was look, I'm just like you, we are all Gaians, take a look at these silly military types, so single-minded that they're almost Spartans. And nothing is more stupid than a Spartan.
In the end, Dieter managed to make the war seem like just another grunt job that had to be done; a career opportunity for those who had few other options; something you did for a while before going back to more important business, studying, growing, learning, loving, playing. Being Gaian. Hopefully, these young people would spread this message to their families and friends.
Now it was time to show that he was a man of the people, enjoying the sunshine like everyone else.
A tap on his shoulder.
"Hey, brother Dieter!"
Now for some improvisation! But the man standing in front of him wasn't an inquisitive student, but a man his own age, showing a round, kind and very familiar face.
"Alexander! I had no idea you were around!"
"Just popped in to meet the family."
"That's right; I'd forgotten you're from Resplendent Oak, originally. It's been ages! I'll leave tomorrow, but we should catch up! Are you available this evening? Say yes!"
"Sorry mate, I'm off to the front in less than two hours and there's loads to do."
"The front?!" Dieter couldn't have been more surprised if Alexander had said he would take a trip to Earth.
"Yep, I'm a brood trainer now, didn't you know?"
"Well, that only makes sense. Your mind was always in the fungus when we tried to study interfactional relations..."
"And now my mind is literally wrapped around native life. Actually, it's a bit of a dream come true. I have my hobby for a job!"
"Well, so do I, telling people how much more I know about everything. But - you know... What's it like? It's hard to imagine, being a brood trainer." Dieter was a good Gaian, of course, but having grown up in a newly built base at the frontier, going on perimeter patrol duty at thirteen, flame-gun in sweaty, still childishly soft, hands, he wasn't too happy at the thought of being around mind worms, Talent-controlled or not.
"It's just as hard to describe. Imagine having an extra brain, no, imagine having a part of your brain enhanced. A new part of your body, like an extra limb, that contains a brain. A tiny brain. Hmm, doesn't sound that nice does it? But it is."
"So, you can actually read the minds of the worms?"
"Nah, most communication goes the other way. I can get a reading of their, well, feelings, though. It's a very sensual experience."
"Sensual?!", Dieter said, not bothering to hide his horror. Alexander laughed, though.
"Well, sensual as in 'to do with senses'. Imagine being able to see a new color, no, a group of colors, that no-one has ever seen before."
"And now you're off to the front...", Dieter said cautiously, wondering how a brood trainer would feel about using his pets as a weapon.
"Yes", Alexander said, slightly embarrassed, but still smiling. "It feels like my boil will finally come into its own. I can feel the worms longing for it. It is, after all, how they breed."
Dieter managed to hide his disgust this time.
"It's a formidable weapon", he said, neutrally.
"It'll win us this vendetta. Don't worry, Dieter."
"I don't, Al. I don't have the time."
"Busy as always! Speaking of which, I must be going. I'm not kidding about the extra limb part. Don't think I've been away from my worms for this long since I started out as a trainer. See you later, Dieter! We'll catch up!"
"See you, Al!"
Dieter felt another tap on his shoulder and this time it was a student, and a cute one, too.
"Excuse me, I was wondering, do you know where I should go to do some war volunteering?" she said.
"Sparta Command", Dieter said automatically, to release the tension. He went into propaganda mode, convincing the student that she had to persuade him that war volunteering was a good idea.
Only later did he think of the fact that he couldn't be sure about ever seeing Alexander again.