Bewildering Stories

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The Bridge, II

Requiem for the Blue Planet

by euhal allen

Table of Contents
Chapter 1, part 1 appeared
in issue 145.

In a short time, the Galactic Council will englobe the Earth, cutting the remnants of its native people off from the rest of the galaxy for the foreseeable future. The Earthlings have been deemed too petty, cruel and dangerous to be allowed to wander the stars. Most are unaware that their planet’s sky will soon be blanked out and their view of all the universe will be occluded. But there are some who do know of the coming changes, and, whether they realize it or not, they have friends in unexpected places.

Chapter 1: A New et Sharma

part 2 of 3

Jiang Yu-wei lay in the ruins and dreamt of the days when there stood on this spot the Forbidden City. He dreamt of the days when law and logic, when filial piety and respect for the Ancient Ones held sway over society. He dreamt.

There was a noise nearby, the sound of feet shuffling down a path. Jiang, awake now, scrunched back into his hole and did his best to make himself invisible. It would not do to have them find him again.

* * *

Ivan Ilyevich Petrov shivered in the cold Siberian wind, unhappy that he had yet three hours of his watch to stand. Yet, those back at the village depended on sentries like him to warn them of raids from Nerchenko’s people.

Someone had once said that it did not used to be this way. People, they said, lived together and worked with each other. Ivan did not believe such nonsense. Always there were those who would take by force what they were too lazy to work for, or too evil to care of the harm done to others. This year it was Nerchenko who had organized the enemy into bands of marauders. This year it was Nerchenko that he had to watch for.

So he watched. The village needed his warning, should he have to give it. Natasha, he thought, needed the warning that he would give if Nerchenko’s men came sneaking around.

Thinking about Natasha and how his efforts could save her brought her image up into his mind. She was the loveliest girl in the village, and, miraculously, they were engaged. She would be his, and he would be hers, forever.

Lost in that dream world, Ivan did not hear the faint rustling only a few hundred yards away. Then, because of the shot that rang out, he did not hear anything.

Nerchenko stood above him and told his next in command that it had, indeed, been a good shot.

That man replied that they should have been seen. That they had been making enough noise for any good sentry to see them. What had this boy been doing that he did not see, or, at least, hear them.

Nerchenko thought a second and then said, “He was probably thinking of some girl.”

Back in the trees, out of sight of Nerchenko’s men, Natasha heard the shot and saw Ivan fall. Grief and sorrow welled up in her being, knowing the meaning of what she saw.

“No,” she thought, “I can grieve later, when the village is safe. Now I must warn the village.” And she turned and ran as silently, and swiftly, as she could.

* * *

In the media room of what had once been Katia Shapirov’s retirement home, Jonkil, Cyr and the new Katia watched the debate of the Galactic Council over the very existence of this Katia, or, indeed, any such cyber person.

Some of the delegates were insulted that such a person could have been produced, that such a person would take the form of the universally revered Katia Shapirov, that such a person as Katia Shapirov would be represented by a retirement toy for a worn-out computer and an old civil servant; it was unconscionable. It must be destroyed.

Others, calmer ones, those of whom had actually known Katia Shapirov before the accident on Feltus III that had taken her life in the past decade, stood and said that Katia would not be insulted. She would be pleased, and amused, and happy that some part of her could bring a bit of peace to the final years of a friend.

Also, they noted that, having actually interviewed this cyber Katia, they found that she had much of the wisdom and discernment that had helped guide the Galactic Council these past years. Perhaps, those qualities could again be used, to some extent, anyway, to better the future of the August body they were all members of.

Others, seeing the utility of this, proposed that since Katia’s home had many apartments, as the home of a Grand Minister should have, perhaps new members of the Galactic Council could be housed there for talks with and lessons from this cyber Katia. After all, who was better to teach those lessons? Yes, they said, make the home of Katia Shapirov a school for leaders.

Soon the naysayers, seeing that they were quickly becoming a minority, allowed themselves to be mollified.

Then, it was official, Katia Shapirov’s retirement home would become a quiet and dignified place where members of the Galactic Council could come and seek to learn how to lead as Katia Shapirov had once led.

Jonkil, laughing, looked at this new Katia and said, “Always, Katia, you were a teacher of those around you. It looks like even death could not change that.”

Katia replied, “In life it would have tired me out, but, with Cyr’s help, I can have a bunch of recorded lessons that they can use. And, since Cyr has all my statements over those many years in his memory, he can use them to answer any question that may come up.

“That is, if it is not too much bother, Cyr.”

“Since when, Katia, did you ever worry about giving me too much work to do?”

* * *

Janine, not having much more than a somewhat painful knot on her head, was soon up and about, becoming part of the village life, and, for the first time since her father died, feeling safe. As time went by she began to understand why the village was there. It was there to give people hope.

After the bad days of the Bridge, whatever that was, and the wars between all the nations, Man had given up and began to revert to the lowest of barbaric actions. No one cared anymore what happened to anyone. Then the Avian Influenza had killed so many that it seemed it was as if the universe had sentenced Man to extinction.

But there were some who had not believed that. There were some who had not given up and it was they who had begun to gather others around them into communities that were set in areas difficult to find and protected by natural barriers so they could more easily defend themselves. That done, they could start the climb back to decent society again.

Sean, Newtown’s founder and leader, was one of those. No one knew exactly where he came from, and he did not talk much about his prior life other than to say that his father, who had been killed in the bad days, would not have given up, and neither would he. So, tirelessly, he worked to give the village the leadership it needed to become a haven for those who sought a better life.

* * *

Jiang Yu-wei strained against his bonds in vain. He was not strong enough to break them and, being a scholar, he did not know the ways of violent men. He only knew those things left of the classics that the wars had not destroyed.

Soon his tormentors would come again, and the questions would start all over, and the beatings would start again. His only relief was that he was not a very young man and his heart would not stand too much more of the torture. He would escape through death.

He heard feet coming down the corridor and knew that his time had come again. He drew himself up as much as his chains would let him, and faced his tormentors as a true scholar should, with dignity and passiveness.

The door opened and a man came in that Jiang Yu-wei had not seen before. Ah, he thought, a new torturer. Perhaps the other had been punished for not getting what he wanted out of me. Standing impassively, he watched the man settle into a chair that had been brought in for him.

Then the man spoke to the guard, “You, bring in another chair for our guest, he looks tired.”

Jiang Yu-wei, a little startled, said to the man, “You have found that pain does not reward your efforts, now you would use kindness?”

The man, laughing at Yu’s words, asked in return, “You would prefer the pain?”

Yu quietly answered, “I would have preferred your kindness first. Now your kindness will come with its own pain. The chair will not be soft and I have gained bruises in your care.”

“You are a braver man than I was told. It is refreshing to see,” spoke the man. “I am General Chu, and I should like to know the real reasons why you have come to my country.”

* * *

Natasha stood in the Circle of Honor. She held her head high, as was expected, and smiled at the villagers, as was also expected. But in her gut she churned in pain and sorrow, as her heart cried “Ivan, Ivan,” over and over again.

Olga, the village’s oldest and most revered resident came forward and placed her hands on Natasha’s shoulders.

“Natasha Borisovna Chernova, you have saved your village. Disregarding the grief and pain in your heart you courageously ran to give us the warning that saved us. Had you not done this our men would not have been able to start the avalanche that closed off our village from Nerchenko’s force.

“Of course,” she continued, “had you been a little quicker we could have started the avalanche a little before Nerchenko’s men entered the pass and thus we would not have their blood on our hands. Still, the burden is not too heavy for us to bear.

“Natasha, you will now sit with the village council and your voice will be heard.”

Removing her hands from Natasha’s shoulders, she then kissed her on each cheek and the ceremony was over. Done with that which was official, she turned to the watchers and motioned to two women of the council and said, for all to hear, “Take our new council member to her home and stay with her and let her openly express the grief she has so bravely held in her heart.”

* * *

Kalvin Vertraumer was a patient man, one willing to wait for the best moment to do anything, as long as it got done. Still, he thought that his greatest work, the long delayed Requiem for a Blue Planet, finished years ago, lying in its place, yellow with age, might never be performed in his lifetime. By command of the Galactic Council it could not even be rehearsed until the planet’s end was complete.

There only needed to be the Final Report, and the Great Concert Hall would reverberate with its grand themes.

There had been another vain hope that the new et Sharma would be diligent in her duties and produce the report that would allow the Requiem to be played. But, as always, something came that interfered with the writing and the report was still a ways off.

“I so much,” Maestro Vertraumer said to himself, “wanted to be the one to conduct it.”

* * *

Something did not feel right to Me’Avi et Sharma. How could she write the Final Report when there were so many things happening that seemed to say that nothing was final? Nothing was happening on the planet below that coincided with the events that led to other Final Reports. Those other self-destructive races had all followed a pattern. They warred within their competing factions. They destroyed their infrastructures. They lost their abilities to resist diseases and then they gave up and died.

But, here... here all the outward signs were correct, but there were small spots, little villages, set seemingly at random about the planet, that were not giving up. They seemed to be refusing to give up. It was unheard of.

At first, when Jonkil noticed them, it was thought that the affect of the Bridge had thrown in something new and that remembrance of that episode in their history was the key to the minor resurgences of activity.

But agents had been sent down and had worked their way into those areas and cultures. The Bridge was rarely, if ever, talked about. The only conclusion that could be arrived at was that there was something inherent in the race’s make up that allowed them to absorb shocks that other races found impossible, deadly.

But, what was it? The Final Report could not be written until they knew. There could be no Requiem for a people who, in the face of all previous example, refused to die.

* * *

President Cummings glanced at the papers on his desk and dreamt of the time when he, finally recognized as the savior of his country, would be able to take his rightful place in the real Oval Office, now being desecrated by those barbarians from the Confederate Union.

The newly captured arms factories were already fulfilling their promise and the new guns were even now being used to push that enemy out of Maryland. Soon he, the rightful President would ride into Old Washington, D.C. and direct the reunion effort from his rightful capitol.

* * *

Sean was very tired. It had been a long journey to this point and there was an ever longer way to go. Would he even live to see the finale? It did not matter. What mattered were his people. What mattered was the need to keep his people working to become what they could be. If that cost his life then...

Interrupting his thoughts, Harlan McCabe entered the room and laid a report on his desk. The Pennsylvania and New York United States Government under “President” Cummings had succeeded in capturing new sources of arms and was in the process of mounting an attack against the Confederate Union.

“Harlan,” Sean asked, “is there any chance that any of this fighting will enter our area?”

“No, Sean,” Harlan answered. “All the troop movements for both sides are a number of miles from here. Still, you know how battles can turn. There could be something that might come towards us.”

“Then pass the word,” Sean ordered, “to be ready to move to settlement B. I know that means packing everything up, but we dare not battle those people, and our time in this area was almost out anyway. There is little more that we can do here right now.

“While the people are moving Newtown to settlement B, make sure that they understand that we can only be there a matter of weeks until we need to head back to the continental center.”

“I know that this moving back and forth is supposed to stop some day, Sean,” Harlan asked, “but when? It has been years, Sean. When will we have a real place of our own?”

“You know the answer to that, Harlan. Some day, some day.”

* * *

Katia sat in her favorite chair and looked across the room at Jonkil. “You seem puzzled, Jonkil. What is wrong? What is bothering you?”

“Katia,” Jonkil answered, “you bother me.”

“Me! Jonkil you must be joking. You see a being of light, a projection, something that you have seen for almost all of your life. How can that bother you?”

“Because, Katia, you are so real. You are not just a projection as I have seen time and again, mirroring the actions of a real person somewhere else. You are not just a computer projection made up of recordings and transcriptions. If you were, you should not be as real as you seem to be.

“When I look at you I don’t see a projection. I see Katia. When I talk to you I do not seem to be talking to a projection, I feel that I am talking to a real person, to you... to Katia.

“I saw your body, Katia. After that terrible accident, I saw your body. I saw the brain scans showing no activity. I saw you stop breathing when you were disconnected. I saw your body lowered into your memorial. Yet you are here. I swear you are here. How can this be?”

“Jonkil,” interrupted Cyr, “it has been explained to you many times. This is projection controlled by the memory center that holds all those recordings.

“Katia said and did so much for so long, Jonkil, and I recorded it all. It should not surprise you that she seems so real.”

“No, Cyr, no!” Jonkil shouted, “She is Katia! She cannot be but she is. She is Katia!

Copyright © 2005 by euhal allen

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