The Bridge, II
Table of Contents|
Chapter 1 appeared
in issue 146.
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 2: Requiem Revisited
part 1 of 3
Kalvin Vertraumer and Me’Avi et Sharma stood on the hill overlooking where the village by the bay had been. It was the very same village that had been the home of Katia Shapirov and her parents.
“Yes,” said Kalvin, “yes, this indeed was her home. Many pictures I have seen of this place. Those pictures I have put into the music of the Requiem. They must be rewritten. They are not big enough to show this.
“I cannot thank you enough, Me’Avi et Sharma, for what you have shown me over these past few days. Always I saw the pictures in my mind. Pictures of this whole world. I did not know that none of them was big enough.
“The whole Requiem must be rewritten. Yes, I will start right away to make it bigger; to make the soft, softer and gentler; to tell the real story of this world.
“I must start immediately.”
“Very well, Maestro. I will be glad to arrange the quickest passage back to the capitol and your studios in the Great Concert Hall.”
“No, no! Me’Avi et Sharma, no! I must write it here. I must have quarters at the outpost to write it. I do not trust myself to remember this world as it should be remembered. It is too great a task. I see that I must be here to write it.”
Somehow Me’Avi et Sharma kept her smile and gave a little, polite bow of acquiescence. “I shall see that you have more permanent and spacious quarters at once.”
“Hocat, you are the one who made the fine suggestions that we help the Maestro really see the Blue Planet. I think that your very spacious quarters will be best for him. I am sure that you would be most comfortable in the vacant Head of Maintenance quarters. Can you see to that today?”
“As you wish, Me’Avi et Sharma,” Hocat replied in a somewhat less than cheerful manner. “I shall be... honored for the Maestro to use my quarters.”
* * *
In Natasha’s yurt, Olga lay on her cot sweating in fever. She had been ill for several days now and it did not look good for her. Natasha had done all she could, but she knew it was hopeless. Olga could not possibly survive much longer.
Natasha went out her door to fetch the healer, to fetch Katrina Slobodan. She knew it would do no good, but everything had to be tried. To lose Olga would be to lose the wisdom of the village.
Outside the healer’s hut Natasha yelled, “Katrina... Katrina, you must come now. Olga needs you now!”
The healer came out while holding her medicine case and still, clumsily putting on her outer wrap. Natasha grabbed the case from her and they quickly ran to Natasha’s home to tend to Olga.
She wasn’t there. Her cot was tipped over and the back entrance was open. Olga’s tracks went back into the woods and stopped on the ice covered little river that ran there. There was no clue as to which way Olga had turned.
Katrina sent Natasha back to the village to get help and soon there were many of the villagers searching both ways, looking desperately for the sick woman. She was not found. And the villagers mournfully went back to their yurts in sadness. At the fullness of the moon, eleven days hence, they would have to choose a new person to head the village council.
* * *
Jonathan Cummings rode the wagon proudly into the old capitol. His army had pushed the Confederate Union thugs out and now he could reclaim the White House and the Oval Office as its rightful occupant. It was a sweet victory and a grand day for him.
Soon he was on Pennsylvania Avenue and headed for the White House. His army, filled with booze and rich with loot, lined that avenue and “Hurrahed” his passing with great enthusiasm. Noticing the loot, the President nodded in approval. An army should be paid for its work.
Later, standing in the Oval Office, President Cummings told the Vice President that he really thought it would be much more dignified if the Office had glass in the windows. A ceiling would be nice, too.
* * *
Jiang Yu-wei entered General Chu’s office and, after the proper show of deference, asked if the General had required his presence?
“Yes, Scholar, I do require something of you. You may sit.”
Jiang Yu-wei sat.
General Chu continued, “I do not think that we can do things exactly as you have explained that they were done in the times so long past. But, I do think that we can start to select honorable young men; men of academic bent, to begin studying the chosen texts.
“And I do think that we can create examinations for the civil positions as was done in the old days. The need for clerks and magistrates can be filled by such examinations. And, you have been most wise in your advice that the people will follow leaders who are just and impartial.
“But these examinations will not be of any use in rebuilding industry and in the training of those who must be our protection. There must be a way to train them also.”
Jiang Yu-wei nodded his head and agreed, saying, “You are so right, General Chu. But we have many who understand the ways of making things. Test them and find the best of them and then give them to me. I will show them how to teach others.
“It should not be any more difficult to create a system of industrial examinations than it is to create a system of classical and ethical examinations. It could be done in the same place. Each student could be taught that which he needs to meet the goals set out for him.”
General Chu nodded and replied, “These are things I was hoping that you would say. You will start at once on this. Resources are very slim, so you will have to start small, but I will do all I can to send as much as I can to your school.”
“I am honored, General Chu. Even though the seed is very tiny next to the tree, it also has much honor if it sprouts well.”
* * *
Harlan McCabe was tired. There was reason, of course, especially in these last few weeks. The retreat from the Baltimore area had almost ended in disaster. Somehow those street gangs, looking for Janine Carlisle, found a bit of a trail that led them to Newtown’s temporary village right after the last of the village people had left it.
Seeing the possibility of loot and more women, they had done their best to track the villagers and ambush them. They had almost succeeded. It was only by Janine’s warning that they escaped that ambush and got away with as few casualties as they had.
Of course, they had given as good as they had gotten. And the gangs had given up when their leader had run into a stray flying rock and had fallen into the river. He was last seen floating face down, his gang members already falling out over who was to be the new leader.
Later, Janine was asked how she knew that the street gang was waiting for them, and she had only said that something seemed strange about the area they were about to enter, that her father had trained her to listen to her feelings. After he had died, she had spent a number of years in the ruins of several cities, and whenever she had that feeling she listened to it and just missed being captured.
The villagers told her to keep track of her feelings and keep warning them, that even if she was wrong it was better to be wrong than dead. They also decided, at Sean’s suggestion, that Janine would be relieved of other duties and would join Harlan’s group of scouts.
Because of the ambush and the wounded that needed care, the stay at Settlement B was only long enough to give them a short rest and to recover the supplies stashed there and pack them for the rest of the journey to the continental center. Once there, in the safety of the caves and behind the defenses, they could rest.
Still, the trip had been successful. They had gathered a number of mechanical devices that could be studied and, perhaps, made useful. Also, a good amount of food had been gathered, preserved, and sent back on earlier trips.
Best of all, they had found seventy-four new ones who would be inducted into the citizenship of Newtown Village at the continental center.
If the other scouting units were as successful, the Village should have gained as much as a thousand new citizens who wanted to rebuild society in a sane manner.
* * *
The village Council sat around the fire and considered the recent events. Olga was gone and her wisdom was lost to them. Now a new leader of council was needed. Also needed was a decision as to the punishment of Natasha for leaving Olga alone long enough for her to, in what must have been delirium, leave Natasha’s yurt and become lost in the snow.
Katrina, the healer, spoke for Natasha, telling them that what Natasha had done was right. If Olga was in such a fever, then Natasha needed extra help to bring it down. Had she not come to Katrina’s tent, had she stayed with Olga, then Olga would probably have died there. “Life,” she said, “is an uncertain thing. And, healing is even more uncertain. We can read only what is on the outside, what we can see and touch. We can never truly know what is happening in the bodies of our patients. Only Olga knew more about healing than did I.
“Yet, with all my years as a healer, I could not heal Olga. How can you expect one as young as Natasha to know what I do not know? She did well in coming to me.”
Sophia Ivanovna Naryshkina stood and spoke. “Natasha may well have been a fool in leaving Olga. Still, which of us, with Olga dying in our care would not have gone for the healer?
“Besides, do you not remember that it was Natasha Borisovna who gave us the warning of Nerchenko? Our lives were her gift to us then. She is young, and the young are not known for great wisdom. She did her best. Olga’s loss should not rest on her shoulders.”
“I,” said a voice from the darkest part of the tent, “would not wish my loss to rest on anyone’s shoulders. It would cause my sleep to depart and that would not be good. An old woman needs what sleep she can catch.”
The Council members, fearful of a voice from the dead, froze each in their place, until, finally, one, the healer Katrina, spoke out fearfully. “Olga? You are not dead?”
Olga stepped into the light and, examining herself slowly, answered, “I don’t think so. I am hungry, though. How much would I eat if I were dead?”
“We tried to find you when you disappeared. We couldn’t,” Natasha said. “How did you do that? Where did you go?”
Olga looked at the young girl and answered, “I went to the hot spring cave to lie in the waters. My throat was very tight and I could not talk to tell you what I needed. I knew it was my only chance.
“As to how I eluded you — I do not think I shall tell you. I may need to get away again someday.”
* * *
That the et Sharma of the Blue Planet Outpost was hiding in her closet was undignified enough without having her assistant informing Maestro Vertraumer that, “Certainly, Me’Avi et Sharma is in her office. I would not bother her at this time though; she seems to be communing with office supplies in her closet. It is just something she does.”
“Let her commune later, I must see her now. I must! I must!” shouted the good Maestro as he pushed her door open and headed for the entrance to her closet.
“I protest, Me’Avi et Sharma, at the barriers that are put into my way. How am I to rewrite the Requiem if I am not allowed to see all that is happening on the planet? I go to the screening room and I am denied the ability to see any but a few selected sights. I want to see it all. I must see it all. The Requiem must be complete; must be accurate.
“How can it be a true Requiem if it does not have the whole picture in voice and tone? No, I must see it all, and you must tell those fools in the screening room that I am to see whatever I want, whenever I want it.”
Copyright © 2005 by euhal allen