Bewildering Stories

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The Bridge


by euhal allen

“The Bridge” began in issue 99.
Part VI, installment 2 appears in this issue.

Suddenly there was a power surge that shook the leaders of every nation. Suddenly, all those who were struggling to make it to the safety zones found themselves there. Suddenly those who had been captured found themselves freed and in the villages they had been headed for.

It was over in moments. The great spans that had disintegrated so many years ago now proudly reflected the sunlight anew. The tunnels and roads were no longer in ruins. And at certain spots along the network the protective shield spread out over land that belonged to its people and there would soon be food growing in those fields. And the nations faced, once again, the awesome power of the Bridge.

* * *

Jonkil et Sharma was one frightened being. The Bridge, without the proper orders or even the consent of the Galactic Council, had reformed itself and was protecting its people in ways not yet sanctioned by the Council. It had decided, on its own, to take the step that Katia Shapirov had been urging upon it. Without asking the Council, without waiting for him to get back so that he could be consulted (as he, the Coordinator of the plan, should have been), Cyr had jumped ahead by a great many steps and now he, Jonkil et Sharma, was left, as soon as he got back to that star system, to pick up the pieces.

* * *

There was a party in the Control Center. All those who had been working so hard to bring in those Dreamers from the outlying areas were now, unexpectedly, freed from that chore and they could do no more work until they had celebrated a little.

Katia, the Dream Singer, sang as she had never sung before. She sang of the new beginning; she sang of the hard journey ahead, the spreading of their new world over the whole Earth. She sang of the memory of those who would not be there because they had fallen victim to the hatred and cruelty of that world they were leaving behind.

Then, as she was about to sing the songs again, so the others could learn them, her eyes saw the opening of a door and she saw the vision that stilled her beautiful tongue for the moment: Earnest and Sheila Bellingham, along with their Hispanic charges, came into the room.

“Cyr,” she asked, “how did that happen? I thought you were ordered by the Galactic Council not to protect those out of the safety zones.”

Cyr caused a screen to start glowing with a picture. It was a memory picture, a picture of a young girl, years ago, standing on the Bridge, talking:

“Bridge,” said Katia, “I think that I will call you Cyrano. Do you like it?”

“It hardly seems fitting, Katia. No matter where you look, you will not find I have a big nose.”

“Cyrano did not just have a big nose, he also cared. He could love, unselfishly. I think you are like that.”

“Then, for you, I will be called Cyrano.”

“There is your answer, Katia,” explained Cyr. “My creators gave me the ability to remember, to understand, and to reason. I was like any other Bridge in the history of my kind, of the many Bridges that have helped civilize our galaxy.

“You, Katia, and your people, helped me know that those qualities were not enough. Not for your people. From you I have received a heart; and now I can know and understand pain and sorrow; and now I can understand laughter and joy. Now I can understand, better than any being like me could hope to, the music of your world.”

* * *

President Lockly was, quite justifiably he felt, enraged. He had tried and tried to warn the leaders of the world’s nations about the reemergence of the Bridge and none had listened to him.

Now, everywhere those same nations were using their military forces, vainly, to try to destroy the Bridge. It hadn’t worked the first time and it was not working this time either. Worse yet, now there was a shield a full mile out from each side of the Bridge’s core thoroughfares; even wider at places where good farmland had come under its protection. Those who supported the Bridge’s agenda could now support themselves in ways not possible in those earlier times.

The only chance, now it seemed, was for the governments to call on man’s cultural and historical record to help the populace see what they would be losing by supporting the Bridge and its new attempt to conquer man. If the populace could be made to hate the Bridge once more, to count all those under the Bridge’s protection as traitors, it might be possible to force its destruction once again.

* * *

If one needed a word to describe the reaction of the Galactic Council to the Bridge’s latest actions, livid would do nicely. Jonkil et Sharma, called back before he had even reached Sol’s system, was facing a Council such as one that had not been seen in thousands of its long generations. Sadly, Jonkil et Sharma, had no good explanation for the Bridge’s conduct and actions. All he could do was try to make the Councilors understand something of the strangely volatile and unpredictable race that the Bridge had adopted in a way no other Bridge had ever done before.

Then had come the showing of the Bridge’s own explanation of its actions:

“There is your answer, Katia,” explained Cyr, “My creators gave me the ability to remember, to understand, and to reason. I was like any other Bridge in the history of my kind, of the many Bridges that have helped civilize our galaxy.

“You Katia, and your people, helped me know that those qualities were not enough. Not for your people. From you I have received a heart; and now I can know and understand pain and sorrow; and now I can understand laughter and joy. Now I can understand, better than any being like me could hope to, the music of your world.”

Now, the Council was, thought Jonkil et Sharma, really divided; some wanting to study this phenomenon of a Bridge gaining a “heart,” while others, being insulted that the Bridge was intimating that the Grand Council was devoid of heart, wanted to stop the project at once and let those fool humans kill themselves as they seemed to wish.

In the end, the investment of time and effort caused the Grand Council to accept the situation as it was with the stipulation that a quarter of Earth’s population must willingly enter the Bridge’s areas of control and show loyalty to the Dreamer government within fifty years of the first appearance of the Bridge, or the Bridge would be removed and the planet’s people left forever on their own.

Jonkil et Sharma was to go back and give that message to the people of the Earth; all the people of the Earth. The Bridge was to broadcast to every nation, in every possible language, the terms of its existence, and give the people of the Earth, using this knowledge, the chance to come to their own decision as to which future they preferred.

* * *

The message, broadcast by the Bridge, caused debates in every capital. The fifty years from the first appearance of the Bridge was already almost half over. The national governments only had to keep their subjects’ loyalty for a bit over twenty-five more years and they would win.

Goals were set, committees were formed, soldiers were trained and equipped, and each nation cranked its propaganda machine into full speed. People everywhere were told that this was man’s greatest fight for freedom; that the Bridge was a conqueror in disguise; that if they were proud of their history and culture they would never give in to subjection to the Bridge and its puppets.

* * *

Katia, the Dream Singer, for the first time in her life, found it hard to speak. The challenge was so great. The time was so short. How could it be done? Was it even possible?

“Cyr,” she said, “it’s not long enough. We have barely a quarter of a century to convince more than a billion and a half people that we have the way to the future that promises the most for all. The national governments have set up guards on our perimeters to stop people from coming in. They threaten families of those who wish to live with us. They do what they have always done, rule by fear and pressure. We cannot do it, not in the time allowed. We cannot do it.”

“You forget, Katia, what I have learned since my inception here. While it is true that I cannot use any type of violence and I am constrained by my programming, and now, by my newly gained sense of ethics, to tell the truth about us and what we are doing, I still may follow the rules of the contest.”

“Rules of the contest? What rules, Cyr? They can lie, we can’t. They can guard our perimeter and stop people from coming to us. We have to let, and rightly so, those who want to leave us go to them. Those are the rules, Cyr. The deck is stacked against us. They win.”

“Katia, before Alexis was killed trying to see his mother, he told you never to give up. For him, you must keep on. There is always hope.

“And, besides, since the rules allow them to cheat, should we not also be allowed a few simple mistakes in judgment?

“Because the grid is all up now, there is nowhere that I cannot set up a portal. Portals open two ways, Katia.

“We can send agents into almost any place we want to. In fact, there are several hundred of them out there now sowing seed of discontent with the future promised them by the national governments. Those that come over to us will find a portal to use at a convenient moment. They and their families can come and be safe.

“Once they are here they can have their stories broadcast back to their homes. Others will see, and react to those stories.

“Also, there will be whole villages where the majority will want to live in our future. Once they decide this, can I not then shield them? The Grand Council only said that they had to choose, it did not say they could not be protected where they were.

“And, Katia, we still have you, the Dream Singer, to sing to their hearts. The people know what this all has cost you. Following the dreams you sing about you saw your parents die; and you have lost many good friends who also shared those dreams, knowing what they could cost them. Finally, you have lost Alexis.

“When you sing, your heart speaks to them. When you cry, they cry with you. There is a chance that we will succeed. You, Katia, are that chance.”

Copyright © 2004 by euhal allen

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