A novel set in the Culture universe created by Iain M. Banks

Art of Persuasion

The Culture's Contact section had long ago determined that the best way to turn an individual - biological or machine - was not to invade them and implant some sort of mimetic virus or any such nonsense, but to make them change their mind themselves. The individual would be shown all there was to be shown about its own society and that of the Culture; in the end, the individual would almost always prefer the Culture. Such an individual would effectively become a Culture citizen and often might in secret become an agent of Contact or, occasionally, Special Circumstances - that rather coy term used to describe the Culture's combined intelligence, espionage and counter-espionage organisation - in their original society.

Just a few individuals in a society, no matter how influential or well-connected, are unlikely to be effective in eliciting change all by themselves. Others must be recruited, persuaded, converted, by means as diverse as underground secret societies or proselytizing public meetings. Whatever the method, those individuals undertaking the process of conversion need to be personally compelling, eloquent, assuasive; the skills required can be taught, with enough time, although the results are much better when the individual in question has a natural talent for persuasiveness and presentation.

*

[stuttered tight point, M32, tra. @n4.29.571.405]
  xGSV Tangible Influence
    oLSV Allochthonic Presence
    oLSV Anterior Mandibuliform
Friends, I believe that this very moment is the correct time to activate our second agent.

[stuttered tight point, M32, tra. @n4.29.571.405+]
  xLSV Allochthonic Presence
    oGSV Tangible Influence
    oLSV Anterior Mandibuliform
Indeed? Have all our criteria been met?

[stuttered tight point, M32, tra. @n4.29.571.405+]
  xLSV Anterior Mandibuliform
    oGSV Tangible Influence
    oLSV Allochthonic Presence
Including our agent approaching the Delphic Chaosarium?

  xGSV Tangible Influence
Let me spell out my reasoning.
Firstly, we know from multiple sources that a considerable Castophrenic Widowhood force is already on its way to the volume around the Delphic Chaosarium.


  xLSV Allochthonic Presence
So what are these 'multiple sources'?

  xGSV Tangible Influence
Some direct observations of ship movements, fleeting as always, from our own craft and some of the other Involved - including a few who owe us a favour or two.
Indeed, some of those Level-8 civs seemed delighted to be able to discharge their commitments as this time. Perhaps not wanting to owe the Culture anything in the middle of a war.


  xLSV Anterior Mandibuliform
Supportive, perhaps, but hardly compelling evidence.

  xGSV Tangible Influence
There was recently a broadcast message from the Empress-High-Admiral, whomever and wherever she might be, directing all craft within a very large volume centred on the Delphic Chaosarium to converge on that structure and ‘wrest it from our grasp’, apparently.

  xLSV Allochthonic Presence
A stronger statement, but there's no stated timeline.

  xGSV Tangible Influence
Oh, I think a directive from the highest of the high must be regarded as requiring immediate action. That is the nature of hierarchical power structures, after all.
Besides, various diplomatic statements including, very unusually, a message delivered to the General Galactic Council that the Widowhood intends to deploy 'overwhelming force' to wrest control of what they refer to as the 'Universal Model' from the Culture.


  xLSV Anterior Mandibuliform
Hmmm. Some elementary modelling does seem to support the conclusion that large numbers of Castophrenic Widowhood ships are heading in that direction, or will be in extremely short order.

  xLSV Allochthonic Presence
Taken all together, I agree that there is a very high probability that an impressive armada of CW ships is even now converging on the Delphic Chaosarium. Certainly enough to overwhelm the defensive forces our colleagues have assembled in the volume so far.

  xGSV Tangible Influence
So if our agent does not act, the dire situation for our colleagues at the Chaosarium would be no worse?

  xLSV Anterior Mandibuliform
I believe this must be true. Even though that would be very unfortunate for them. And I cannot see any other way we could possibly assist them.

  xLSV Allochthonic Presence
But is our agent close enough to the Chaosarium to be effective, should we so instruct it to act? All this is purely academic if our agent is too far away.

  xGSV Tangible Influence
The locations from where I have been receiving replies to my messages have been getting closer to the Chaosarium for some time. [Short-form Report Attached]

  xLSV Anterior Mandibuliform
Hmm. Initially a somewhat tangential route and then a sharp turn to head directly for the Chaosarium.

  xLSV Allochthonic Presence
Fairly conclusive, I'd say.

  xGSV Tangible Influence
On its current path, I believe we have exactly one remaining opportunity to get a message to our agent before it reaches the Chaosarium.

  xLSV Anterior Mandibuliform
Yes, I can see that.

  xLSV Allochthonic Presence
So, this is it. The final opportunity to act, or not act.

  xGSV Tangible Influence
That is my view, precisely.
So, can we agree that all our previously determined criteria for activation have been met?


  xLSV Anterior Mandibuliform
Agreed.

  xLSV Allochthonic Presence
Also agreed.

  xGSV Tangible Influence
Thank you, my friends.
You will recall we have extensively discussed the contents of the final message to our agent on many previous occasions.


  xLSV Anterior Mandibuliform
Yes. It must be persuasive, compelling, cogent and eloquent. It must leave no room for doubt or insecurity. It must explain what is required, and spell out the many rewards and well-deserved privileges of success.

  xLSV Allochthonic Presence
The prelude to a personally environment-changing, irreversible sequence of actions. Our agent is smart: provide it with much detail with plenty of supporting rationale and contingency options.

  xGSV Tangible Influence
I fully agree with both of you.
Are you willing to allow me to construct the final message, the call to action, based on our previous notes and plans. I would not wish to risk leakage of this most sensitive content.


  xLSV Anterior Mandibuliform
I am willing, if not entirely happy, to allow you to compose this last message. It will be, ultimately, your responsibility, as far as I am concerned, even if as I anticipate you will incorporate all the suggestions and recommendations I made in our copious correspondence.

  xLSV Allochthonic Presence
I too am willing to concede to you the construction of this vital communication, this distillation of everything we have worked towards all this time.

  xGSV Tangible Influence
Well, colleagues, it seems this last push, this final step will be a test of my own persuasive talents, such as they are.
But I am glad to hear that I have the unequivocal support of you both, or at least some facsimile of same.


  xLSV Anterior Mandibuliform
Oh, we're all in this together, for better or worse.

  xLSV Allochthonic Presence
We have all brought something to this party. Now, let's play.

  xGSV Tangible Influence
That's all good to hear.
I'd better get my thinking cap on, then.

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