The doors slid open. Anax backed out of the room, her head slightly bowed in the customary sign of respect.
"Explain to us why you wish to enter The Academy." The obvious question. So obvious that neither she nor Pericles had thought to dwell upon it. Anax felt a rising bubble of panic. She forced herself to calm down, to focus. It was obvious, wasn't it? Why would anyone wish to join The Academy? Because everybody wished to join The Academy. Because not to wish for it would surely mark you out as deficient, as suspect.
But that was a poor answer, unworthy of a genuine candidate. Anax paced the room, imagining that Pericles were there beside her. She tried to ask herself the questions he would ask. "Start at the basics," he would say. "What does The Academy do?" Anax attempted to answer. The Academy runs the society. The Academy makes our society what it is. "And what is our society?" came the imaginary voice of Pericles. Anax understood. Her desire to join The Academy could not be explained without first explaining her love for her own era, the finest of all history's ages.
The weakness of The Republic was well understood, but so too were the weaknesses of the society it had sought to replace. The pre-Republican world had fallen prey to fear. Change had come too quickly for the people. Beliefs became more fundamental, boundaries more solidly drawn. In time, no person was left to be an individual: all were marked by nationality, by color, by creed, by generation, by class. Fear drifted in on the rising tide.
Art was right. In the end, living is defined by dying. Book-ended by oblivion, we are caught in the vice of terror, squeezed to bursting by the approaching end. Fear is ever-present, waiting to be called to the surface.
Change brought fear, and fear brought destruction.
The Republic, in the end, was a rational response to an irrational problem. To arrest change is to arrest decay. To bury the individual beneath the weight of the state, is to bury too the individual's fears. It was possible to see what they were trying to do, but easy too to see, from this distance, that no state can ever weigh that heavily. Always, the individual's fears will wriggle free. Adam had wriggled free.
It was only now, in the time of The Academy, that the problems had been solved. Following the Great War, the citizens had known a great and lasting peace.
Anax thought of her own upbringing. She thought of the life outside. Her friends treated her with respect, and that respect was returned. Her teachers were kindly, and work was a duty gladly received in a land where leisure time was plentiful. The streets were safe now, day and night. The individual was trusted, no bounds were placed upon one's curiosity. Anax only had to look at herself to see that. Hadn't she been given unlimited access to the files of Adam Forde even when it became clear that her findings would challenge the orthodoxy? The fear had not gone, the fear could never go, but it had been the great contribution of The Academy to balance fear with opportunity.
Why did she want to join The Academy? Because The Academy had achieved that thing that no other group had achieved. Anax had studied history keenly, and understood that this claim could be made with confidence. The Academy had turned back evolution. The Academy had tamed the Idea.
It would be a great honor to be selected, of course, but Anax was clear that it was not honor that motivated her. To join The Academy was to serve the society. The society she loved. The finest society the planet had ever seen. To join The Academy was to take responsibility for the peace that settled over the shelters, and the laughter that echoed in the streets. The Academy designed the education program. The Academy moderated technology's march. The Academy managed the balance between the individual and the cause, between the opportunity and the fear. The Academy pored over the details of the past, and learned from each advancement and every mistake. The Academy had met the Idea head on, and negotiated with it a lasting peace.
Anax spoke the answer, and felt the familiar swelling of patriotic pride. She looked to the doors, willing them to slide open again. "Ask me your questions," she wanted to shout. "My answers are ready."