Bewildering Stories

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The Bridge

Part VI, installment 1

by euhal allen

“The Bridge” began in issue 99.
Part V concluded in issue 110.

The Vice President was chuckling a bit over some incident in the reports about things happening in the world when President Lockly came into his office.

“What’s so humorous, Bob?” he asked.

“Oh, it’s a report from my counterpart’s office in Japan. It’s so very strange that I find it amusing.

“Essentially, what happened is that a little girl was overheard singing some song that extolled the Bridge and was turned in to the local police. When the police got there, the whole family had fled to their fishing boat, along with the boat’s crew and their families, something like eleven people altogether.

“The police notified the Japanese coastal patrol to find and apprehend them. When the patrol boat found them and started to chase them down they had engine trouble and were forced to stop the chase long enough to get water out of the fuel lines.

“Then they started the chase again. The fishing boat went around the back side of a local pillar and emerged on a heading towards international water, hoping to reach somewhere out of the patrol boat’s area of jurisdiction.

“The captain of the patrol boat saw that the fishing boat was going to make it to international waters, which could have caused some unwanted repercussions, like having the Japanese navy having to enter the chase, so he opened fire at the fleeing boat. On the third shot he hit the fishing boat and blew it up.

“Then when they got to the spot where the boat had sunk, they found a large group of sharks there and no survivors. So all they got to pick up were some bits of clothing and some packs of things floating there.”

President Lockly said, “Okay, so some Bridge lovers got destroyed. That’s good, but I don’t see the humor in it.”

“It is just the irony that of all the coastal patrol boats to have handled this, the nearest one, the one that got the call, was the one with the lowest efficiency in the whole coastal patrol service. Just look at the engine trouble. There was water in the fuel line. In the last year they have had the same problem four times, which tells you how they got the boat going again so soon; they knew just what was happening.

“Then they hit the fishing boat on the third shot. Their marksmanship rating is so low it’s a wonder that they knew what direction to shoot, yet they got the boat when it was on the extreme edge of their gun’s range. Now I call that funny, in a peculiar sort of way.”

The President looked shocked. Ever since the Vice President had renewed his attention to the Bridge, his mind had gone over and over all the things that he had run onto in that investigation. President Hobart had seemed paranoid about “coincidences,” and now President Lockly was beginning to understand why. It had happened again. Just when there was a chance of catching someone who might know something, they die and their bodies can’t be found.

“Bob,” he said, “I want you to look into something. You know the coastal village that President Hobart was especially suspicious about?”

“Yes, Mr. President, why?” replied the Vice President.

“I want you to look into the death of a Katia Harrigan and her children. Find out if either her or her children’s bodies were ever found. And, look into any other odd things like that concerning anyone who has lived in that village since the death of the Harrigan woman. There may be something strange here that we need to know about.”

“I’ll start on it right away, Mr. President.”

* * *

Katia sat at her desk in the Central Control Tower and worried. Something was going wrong and she could feel it. Cyr had informed her about the number of highly secured phone calls that were going between many national leaders and President Lockly. There were more and more agents at her village and, now, anywhere that there was a concentration of Dreamers.

“Cyr,” she asked, “how long will it take to get our people into strategic proximity?”

“If the move is hurried it can be done in about four months,” was the answer.

“That’s too long, Cyr. I don’t know exactly what is happening but I don’t think we can wait that long to go to the next step. The Singers of Dreams must start using the Coming Home Song now.

“Bring up the map, Cyr, please. We need to look for some shortcuts. We also need to contain some farmland, somewhere. It must be done soon.”

The wall opposite Katia became a large map of the earth. Each activated control unit was shown in green. Possible connectors were in yellow. Populations of Dreamers, ranging from very small groups to controlled villages of up to a few thousand, were shown in blue.

“Cyr, bring all the control units up to level one readiness right now; we need to bring all of the outlying people into the closest village as rapidly as possible. Those on the close in farmland need to be placing power receptors in the prescribed areas. And, we need the desalinization units to be activated at once.”

“All control units are now activated, Katia. The desalinization units are online and can produce fresh water within seven and one half hours. The Singers of Dreams will start using the Coming Home Song at their next scheduled contact.”

“That is not fast enough, Cyr. The Coming Home Song must be started this instant, if possible. Send the melody now to our agents’ implanted receivers. We must get this started now. Cyr, now!”

* * *

Blanca was on her third room for the day when she began to hear music from somewhere. It was familiar music that seemed to grab her attention and make her look for the source of the sound. Then, she realized that she was the source, or, at least, the implant behind her right ear was.

Stopping her work, she straightened up and listened intently. It was the Coming Home Song! She went over to the window overlooking the street below. A number of people, fifty or so, had come out of shops and businesses and were heading out to pre-assigned stations. There were power receptors in their hands.

Blanca touched a spot at her wrist, pushed it in three times, and stepped through the portal that opened. Soon she was in her robe and singing, in her most haunting way, the Coming Home Song, and its message of danger and flight to all those in her area.

There is a sky, a bluer sky, over Home
There is a way, a better way, here at Home
Now’s the time, the time to come, to come on Home.

Home is calling, our souls are yearning
Home is calling, its lights are burning
Home is calling, our path is turning
Home is calling, our path is turning Home.

The river’s near, the water’s clear, here at Home
The air is clean, the fields are green, here at Home
Troubles cease, we’re at peace, here at Home.

Home is calling, our souls are yearning
Home is calling, its lights are burning
Home is calling, our path is turning
Home is calling, our path is turning Home.

The time’s begun, the time to run, come on Home
There are those who oppose, come on Home
Do be wary, do not tarry, come on Home.

Home is calling, our souls are yearning
Home is calling, its lights are burning
Home is calling, our path is turning
Home is calling, our path is turning Home.

* * *

President Lockly scanned the reports. The bodies of the Harrigan family, drowned near a pillar, had never been found. Strangely enough, the von Seltzen woman and her children’s bodies, supposedly lying under an avalanche of snow near a Bridge tower, were not there when the snow melted. Then, Dr. von Seltzen commits suicide near where the Harrigan family drowned, and his body never shows up.

Now, an entire boatload of fugitive fishermen is blown up, near a pillar, and not so much as a scrap of flesh is found at the scene.

Then the report goes on that in several hundred cases around the globe people die in some strange way and their bodies are never found. In nearly every case, Bridge pillars or towers are near.

The President picked up the phone and told his secretary to put through a call to the Secretary of the Navy. He ordered the Navy to start using Bridge pillars for target practice, telling them that an official order was in the works and that they would receive it later.

“If,” the President thought, “this material is a set of co-incidents, those pillars will go down. If not, the Bridge will have to protect them. Either way we get information we need.”

Then he had his secretary type up the order and, after he signed it, sent it, by messenger, to the Navy Department. As the messenger was leaving the office, the secretary put the order into the fax machine, dialed a number, and pushed the send button.

* * *

Tommy Tinker drove around the boundary of the ranch, stopping every once in awhile to set a small steel post in the ground. On each post was a bright orange box with a switch in the on position. He hurried from place to place since he had a goodly number of the posts to set before sundown. He did not see the man watching him until that person was standing next to him.

“Looks like quite a project,” the man said. “What in the world, if you don’t mind my asking, is it for?”

Tommy, startled, jumped back a little. “Oh, you just about gave me heart failure. Got to catch my breath. These are radio section posts. Each one is set to give out a position signal to tell our workers where they are.

“You see, we have divided the ranch into sections and each crop is assigned a section. So our workers need to know which section they are in so as to know what to plant; what sprays to use and so on.”

“I guess that makes sense,” the man said, “but why can’t you just tell them?”

“It used to be that we could.” Tommy replied. “But now we have so many people of so many languages in this area, and not enough good translators, that we are just labeling everything with section numbers and hoping that the workers can catch on.

“We’ve tried about everything else, and this may work. Something has to work or we’ll never get our crops out to market.”

“Well, I have to put it to you guys,” the man said, “I guess you do have to be a little creative at times. Thanks for explaining it to me; I hate to go around wondering about things.”

* * *

Elvira Hammet had the day off. It was a lovely day and she and the grandkids were using it to hike, and have a picnic, in the woods above the village. They had decided to walk the trail that went around the whole perimeter of the village and collect one each of the different flowers that grew in the area along the trail.

So, the woods around them were filled with their laughter and their comments of appreciation for each of the beauties of creation that they gathered. And their picnic basket grew lighter as the ravenous youngsters dived in repeatedly for some special snack that appealed to them at the moment. It also grew lighter as the little crystal implants were slipped out of the basket and set into the ground.

* * *

Katia Harrigan watched the information scrolling on her screen. There were fourteen hundred forty-two areas of comparative safety. Fifty-nine percent of her people had made it to those safety zones. Twenty-seven percent were nearing those areas. Another eight percent more were over half way to safety. Of the six percent left most were group leaders checking on stragglers. It was better than she had feared, but it was not good enough for her.

The screen blanked out and then there appeared a document that made Katia draw her breath in anguish. It was a copy of a Presidential order to the Navy, dated a week ago, to begin firing, at the soonest opportune moment, on Cyr’s pillars. They were to become practice targets. But, Katia knew better. It was the opening salvo of that struggle all had known was coming. Only, it was coming too soon.

“Cyr, this document was dated early last week. The President’s secretary is one of us. Why didn’t I see this sooner? I needed to see this sooner!”

“Our field person, the secretary’s contact, was ill. He sent it as soon as he recovered and saw it. And the President’s secretary is not one of ours. Our person met with an ‘accident’ two days after she sent the document. We have managed to get her family to safety, though.”

“Cyr,” she begged, “can’t you do something to hurry things along? We can’t leave those people hanging out there.”

“I am sorry, Katia. The Grand Council forbids that I transport them in. Their choice must be backed up by their actions. There must be no hint of overt interference outside the areas approved by the Grand Council as safety zones.

“The Grand Council was not very pleased with the idea of widened safety zones in the first place. They only accepted them on the condition that your people set out the receiver implants themselves. Only if your people are willing to invest their lives in this chosen path, as did our President’s late secretary, will the Grand Council consent to walk it with them.”

* * *

The Missile Cruiser Hobart sailed only five miles from the pillar noted on their maps as 97-3. They were to observe and score the accuracy of the fire from the rest of the fleet that was stationed some one hundred seventy miles to the east. It was to be a test of real value. If a missile from that distance could accurately hit a target as relatively small as one of the old pillars they could hit anything in their range.

“Admiral, the first missile has been launched. It should reach the target in seven point three minutes, sir.”

“Very well,” was the Admiral’s answer, as he stepped to the observation glasses to watch the first missile strike the target. Slowly he swept them over the pillar taking in every detail, choosing in his mind the best place for the missile to hit to cause the most damage.

“Admiral, the missile is on track and should hit in approximately twenty-three seconds.”

Having changed the focus, the Admiral, now seeing the greater part of the pillar, was awaiting with anticipation the destruction of the pillar. Suddenly there was a pale shimmer around the pillar. The missile hit and exploded. Then, when the smoke cleared, the Admiral was shocked to see that there was no observable damage.

“Admiral, second missile has fired and will strike the target in six minutes, Sir.”

Again the Admiral trained the observation glasses on the pillar. Again he watched the shimmering affect. Again he recorded no damage.

“Tell the fleet to cease fire and send this message to the President, “Bridge pillar alive and well. What are your orders?”

* * *

Ernest and Sheila Bellingham were sitting outside their motor home and enjoying the quiet evening and the soft breeze. It was good to get a well deserved rest from the pizza parlor that had controlled a good part of their lives in the last few months. Now, here in the woods miles from the village, they could at least get a weekend’s rest.

They heard a noise and, looking around, saw someone who looked slightly familiar heading towards them.

“Mr. and Mrs. Bellingham, I believe,” said the man. “Long way from the pizza business, aren’t you?”

“You know us?” asked Ernest in a most conversational manner.

“Yes, I have had a pizza or two at your place. It was pretty good pizza, too, although I could do with a lot fewer people.”

“Amen to that,” said Sheila, “that is why we’re here and not there right now. We left our kids with our crew and came out here to have some time to ourselves. We really love the village people but they can be a bit much at times.”

“My name is Peter Harris. I am,” the man volunteered, showing a badge, “a Federal Agent. We have been investigating what looks like an influx of illegal aliens. There seems to be a bunch of them headed towards your village. I would appreciate any help that you might give as to their whereabouts.”

Ernest turned to Sheila and said, “I told you those people we saw looked a little strange, like they were carrying everything they owned on their backs.

“Well, Mr. Harris, if this helps, we saw a number of strange people, maybe fifteen or twenty of them, about sixteen miles back, on that road that goes to the Blue Mermaid Ranch. We thought it strange that they would be headed there since the owner of the ranch is a crotchety old miser who hates everyone. They surely won’t be welcome there.”

Peter Harris wrote the information down in his notebook and then asked if there was anything more that they could add.

“Well,” added Sheila, “they were singing some song in Spanish, that we aren’t familiar with. We caught a few words though — we get enough Spanish speakers in the pizza parlor to know some words. It seemed to be about their going home, but we are not sure.”

Agent Harris, sure now that he was on the right track, thanked the Bellingham’s and headed back down the trail to his car. He felt that he needed to go see this Blue Mermaid Ranch.

To be concluded...

Copyright © 2004 by euhal allen

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