Bewildering Stories

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The Bridge

part V, installment 1

by euhal allen

“The Bridge” began in issue 99.
Part IV concluded in issue 108.

Tommy Tinker moved into the main house when the von Seltzen family left for their extended vacation. They were going to be gone about a year and they thought it better to have Tommy use and watch the main house in their absence. Besides, all the ranch records that Dr. von Seltzen kept were in his office in the main house and that is where the doctor wanted them to stay. And since Tommy would be doing those records until the von Seltzens got back, it was better for him to live there. Still Tommy felt it a bit too fancy for him.

In the office, on the doctor’s desk, Tommy found a list of things Gloria von Seltzen wanted done while she was gone. Things to care for in her rose garden appeared several times and were underlined. He would give those things to the Hammets and then he could just forget them. The gardens were their responsibility and they handled them well.

There was also an envelope on Dr. von Seltzen’s desk addressed to Tommy. Picking it up and opening it, Tommy found two tickets to a resort in the Ozarks and a certificate good for a week at the Calabash Inn. Also in the envelope was several hundred dollars to be used as spending money at the resort.

There was also a note congratulating him on his upcoming marriage to Cousin Amelia, and some good information about marriage within a family. Dr. von Seltzen had been very glad to hear that Amelia was a cousin by marriage, and that it was her first husband who was Tommy’s actual fourth cousin. The note ended saying that it was too bad that he could not stay long enough to attend the wedding, but Mrs. von Seltzen was insisting on leaving immediately and, to keep peace in the family, he had agreed. The good doctor then wrote that Tommy would learn soon enough about wives.

* * *

Vice President Lockly was on a special goodwill tour in Europe and Africa. He had conversed with many of the leaders in those areas and was sending regular reports back to the President. It had been a hurried and exhausting tour of duty and he was very glad that the speech that he was about to give to members of the African League was to be his last before going home and taking a well earned week’s rest at his hideaway in Virginia.

He was halfway through his speech when the Secretary General of the African League handed him a note and indicated that he needed to read it right away.

The Vice President asked the audience to excuse the short interruption as he opened the envelope and read the contents.

His face turned ashen and he, holding the lectern for support, announced that President Hobart had suffered a massive heart attack and was in the hospital in critical condition. He then asked the audience to excuse him since he must head to his plane at once and hurry back to Washington, D.C. and the President’s side.

The President was not doing well. His heart acted like it was suffering some sort of partial paralysis. They had him on life support and were looking desperately at the possibility of a heart transplant when, as they had feared, it no longer mattered. The doctor in charge was particularly upset. He had examined the President only in the last week and there had been no indication of any possibility of the heart attack that had come so suddenly.

Coming out of the operating room he gave the news to those waiting and suggested that the Vice President needed to be given the Presidential Oath of Office.

The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court was waiting at the airport when the Vice President’s plane landed. He was ushered in immediately and when John Lockly walked down the ramp of the plane he did so as President of the United States.

* * *

Denzo Kurihara, home now, thought over the journey he had just completed. He had gone to find Seiji, to bring some part of his son home. He thought of the little bag of grass clippings from Seiji’s grave mixed in with nail clippings that the Bridge had saved for him all these years. They had been the reason, and the success, at least outwardly, of the trip. His family could rest easier now that part of Seiji was home.

Yet, the journey had become much more. In his heart Denzo cherished the pictures of his son’s adventures; of the joy of life and they had shown. Then the Dream Singer had sung Seiji’s song for him and there he found the true part of Seiji that he had brought home to his family. They sang it together now. In the evenings, when the whole family was present, they sang that song and Seiji seemed to be with them.

He wished that he could teach it to the village, but that was too dangerous. The Bridge, part of the harmony of Seiji’s life, could not be mentioned in public. The government forbade it. The Bridge, even after these many years, was anathema to the government. Were it known how many Command Pillars he had awakened on his trip home, he and his whole family would be killed. To the government, the Bridge was dead; and that was the way they liked it.

It was time to go. The boat was ready and Denzo knew that the fish were waiting. A living had to be made. The family must be cared for.

As Denzo got up he picked up the little leather bag from the table. It was full of crystal keys. There were a number of Command Pillars in the waters that Denzo fished, each one a magnet for a different type of fish. Each one needed awakening. Denzo, who had many years in the fishing business, had started taking special orders for hard-to-find varieties of fish. It was thought of as a risky business by most fishermen so most stayed with the species they knew. Let adventurers like Denzo seek the rarer fish and starve.

Somehow, though, Denzo was not starving. He was, in fact, doing very well. His many years in the business; his great knowledge of the habits of the fish, his friends thought, was paying off.

Denzo chuckled at that thought. He was doing well. He had only to awaken a Command Pillar and soon certain fish were attracted to it and a good catch was assured. Of course, every second or third trip he had to come back empty, to the laughter and jibes of his friends.

“Denzo,” they would say, “where are your fish?”

“This time,” he would reply, laughingly, “they were smarter than me, and my wife will tell me so.” And their laughter would start all over again.

Still, it had to be so because it was not good to be “too lucky.”

* * *

The von Seltzens, having learned to sail in the bay near their ranch, took advantage at nearly every ocean side stop to rent a small boat and enjoy the wind and the water. Gloria reveled in it, always wearing garments that could not be unnoticed, and loving the looks that the men gave her, but even more collecting with relish the jealous frowns of the women.

When they were not near the sea they hiked. Everywhere had its places of beauty that drew the tourists. And each of those places afforded Gloria a chance to show off her wardrobe and cause consternation among their fellow travelers.

They took pictures galore and made sure to send many of them, ones with Gloria figuring prominently in them, back to be circulated in the social circle around home. Once in awhile, Gloria would send one of the garments, one that she had gotten tired of, to brighten up the dreary lives of one of the women of the village. It was, after all, her duty to raise the cultural level of those at home.

* * *

President Lockly lost no time in nominating Senator Gravely for the vacated Vice President’s job. So, soon, with Congress’s enthusiastic approval, Bob Gravely was ensconced in the Vice President’s office and working hard to be a valuable part of the Lockly administration.

Bob Gravely knocked on the President’s office door and asked if he could speak to the President for just a moment. And, having gained the desired permission entered the Oval Office and sat down in a chair facing the President.

“Mr. President,” he said, “I want to thank you for the trust you have shown in me in nominating me for Vice President. I am sure you know that I will work hard to repay that trust.”

President Lockly nodded his head and indicated that the VP should continue.

“Mr. President, you must know that President Hobart and I had a great disagreement over this supposed conspiracy to bring back the Bridge. I have never, and do not now, believed that there was such a conspiracy. I think that it was a case of paranoia on President Hobart’s part and feel that this government has enough real problems to solve without seeking to find and solve ones that lack evidence of their presence. I am afraid that I will not be able to support this belief even now.”

The President smiled and said, “You are exactly right, Bob. There is no conspiracy to reconstruct the Bridge. There never has been. I, too, had many conversations with President Hobart on the same subject. However, since I was working for the President I could not publicly make my views known.

“Now, out of respect for President Hobart’s name and reputation, I cannot immediately divorce my administration from this odd theory that he had. Instead, I intend to let it die of its own accord.

“Still, it did have its uses. It was a cause that could hold the people together for a while. And, there is still the question of why the men who assassinated Vice President Sanders seemed to have had logos of a bridge on their garments. Or, at least, the witnesses said they did. That has yet to be answered in a way that satisfies the public.”

“Then,” replied the Vice President, “I can close my files on this Bridge thing and do some useful work, Mr. President?”

“Yes, Bob, you can. And you can do one other thing; at least while we are not in public,” replied the President, “you can call me John.”

* * *

Jonkil et Sharma sat at his desk and looked across the room at the screen containing Katia Shapirov’s likeness. “Katia,” he said, “so much of what you are doing has never been done by a Bridge before. The Grand Council has been asking many questions. I have tried to answer them with what the Bri... what Cyr reports, but, I must admit that is hard to explain to them what I, myself, do not understand.

“You are sending all sorts of people — volunteers, I realize — into danger by having them insert crystal keys to awaken the various command units. Cyr could do that from the Main Command Pillar without endangering anyone. Why are you doing this?

“You bring many together in the Great Meeting Room and put them into cubicles in such a way that they don’t meet. Even stranger, you put them in robes so that they will not be recognized, yet, no one sees them anyway? How do I explain that to the Grand Council?

“Then you sing them songs about the past and about what the future could be with a fully operational Bridge, yet, you do not tell them when this can come about. You do not give them a plan to work with. Why?

“You have taken a standard computer personality, Cyr you call him, and made him think he is an actual person. You even make him trust you and your plans even though what you do does not always seem clear to him. You have done something no other person we have ever seen has done: you have made a logical computer personality act on faith.

“You must help me to understand this, Katia. I go before the Grand Council tomorrow, and I do not know, at this moment, what I will say to them. Tell me what I can say to them!”

The room was very quiet as Katia thought over Jonkil’s questions and how to answer them. Then she smiled and started talking:

“Jonkil, when the Bridge tried first to unite my people it just appeared one day, whole and complete. Then, after it started to converse with people, it became an all-knowing friend that answered questions, did favors, and made life better for those who were receptive. It did it all, as if my people were children.

“They were children, of course, in comparison to your people; but they weren’t in their own eyes. Even though the Bridge showed them that it was needed, it never showed them, until it was too late, that it needed them. That is why I have encouraged so many to use the crystal keys to reactivate Bridge Command Units. It gives them a chance to buy into their future as someone who has contributed to it. Cyr understands that now.

“My people understand danger when it is made real to them. They are in a dangerous position, becoming advocates of the Bridge. By using the Great Meeting Room as I have, with the cubicles, the robes and the secrecy, I make them more aware of the danger they could be in if they are not careful.

“And, wearing those robes often, if even for only a short time, helps them identify with each other, even as special clothing has been used by my people for many centuries to help people identify with others of like place and cause. It is, in a way, their uniform, and it helps them to feel that they truly belong.

“As for the songs, they are, perhaps, the most important of the things we do.

“Cyr tells me that no people in any history that he is familiar with respond so much to music as my people. He also says that our music has captivated great audiences on your worlds, and that our people are recognized everywhere as the masters of musical communication. Is that not so, Jonkil?”

Jonkil, nodding his head, answered, “Yes, your people have an astounding talent with regulated sounds. It has forced us into completely new concepts of beauty. That is one reason why we have allowed the Bridge a second chance. No Bridge has ever failed before, and never have we been faced with the need to allow a second chance. But, to lose such a talent as this gift your people have would be a great blow to our whole civilization.”

“In all our history we have marched to war and death to music. We have romanced to music. We have found our very souls wrapped up in song and melody. That is why the Dream Singer sings, Jonkil: because our souls hunger for music, and our minds open up under its influence and we respond to its message.

“But one must be very careful, for it is very powerful. There are many pages in our history where music has been covered in blood, has been used to kill instead of heal. We must never do that, Jonkil, with our music, or with our songs.

“Ah, and, Jonkil, it was you, not us, that made Cyr a person instead of a computer. It was your people who gave him the abilities that he used to start to understand my people. It was you. You, having been around these computer personalities so long, just did not see it. We did. Tell that to the Grand Council.

“Jonkil, tell them that it will take some time to help my people see the vision we are giving them, but that they will see it and that, this time, we will be the winners.”

With that Katia reached out to something near the screen at her end, and, with yet another brilliant smile, disappeared.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2004 by euhal allen

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