Bewildering Stories

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The Bridge

Book II: Requiem for the Blue Planet

by euhal allen

Table of Contents
Chapter 6, part 1 appears
in this issue.

Chapter 6: Troubled Times

part 2 of 3

* * *

Natasha Borisovna sat in deep thought. This strange new world had both frightened and called her. Its cold harshness made even Siberian winters seem almost spring-like. Yet, in her mind, she could see the mountains and valleys some day filled with people. She knew that given time this world would become another home almost as beautiful as Earth.

The thoughts, implanted by Katia Shapirov’s, Olga’s mother’s, singing had become a wellspring of determination in her innermost self.

Natasha had other thoughts, also. They were angry thoughts. That the Galactic Council she was learning about would condemn a planet to die so that they might continue on in their safe lives was an act, to her, of cowardice. That anger drove her to see the promise of Starhell. It made her focus on the final goal of changing this hell they now inhabited to something alive and wonderful.

Those around her, also consumed with this future they were trying to build, had become her heroes.

Interrupting her thoughts, and bringing her back from that vision of the future, was the insistent beeping of her quarter’s communication system. Flipping the on switch, Natasha was pleased to see Administrator Tinker’s smile.

“Natasha Borisovna, I hope I am not interrupting anything important. I just wanted to remind you of our dinner appointment. Your advice to me on cold weather survival has been most useful. I pass it on to those in planning after our every session.”

“Administrator Tinker, if my thoughts are to go to the planners, then why do I not just go and talk directly to them and not fill your busy schedule with endless dinners?”

Thomas Hiram Tinker, face reddening, replied, “Well... it is just... uhm... as Administrator I need to know...”

“As Administrator,” a laughing Natasha Borisovna said in her typical, somewhat blunt, manner, “your need to know can be filled by reports from those same planners.

“Dinners should be concerned with other important things — such as how many children we should have.”

* * *

The university, because of the caliber of leaders that had gravitated to it under General Chu, finally won out over it rivals and took control of the shaky reigns of the country. Then, looking back to the long traditions of the earlier dynasties, it combed its members for a person to be its front man, its liaison, to the people. He came in the person of Wang Dau-ju, a Master of Metal Working in the University’s Industrial School.

Dr. Wang, a big man with a keen intellect and a common way of speaking, seemed the perfect person to deal with the army and the people. The army, because Dr. Wang, a metal worker at heart, would advance the skills in weapon making. Skills that were very dear to those who made their living in the use of those very weapons.

The people, because Dr. Wang had grown up in a village much like many of theirs and, though he had reached his position because of obvious skills in his trade, he had never lost his common language, nor his understanding of what village life really consisted of.

Soon, because of this propitious choice on the part of the university faculty, much of the country found itself, once again, working towards a greater unity of purpose. The generals on the borders found it expedient to return to an attitude of cooperation and obedience.

Going to the people, and the army, Dr. Wang gained an even greater stature by officially naming the university after the late General Chu, not a thing well favored by the academic faculty. Still, with the people, the army and the industrial faculty in favor, the university took on the Chu name with alacrity and Dr. Wang Dau-ju became its first official president. Other offices would follow.

* * *

“Katia, you have not communicated for too long. There is so much work to do before the force globe is activated. You must put aside whatever this Jo Dan thing is and come back to work.”

“Yes,” Katia replied as her image appeared in the control room of Alexei’s Pride, “it is just that I had no idea that I would have to face this so soon.”

“Katia I would be of help to you as I always have tried to be. What is this Jo Dan, and why is it causing you so much grief? I have run through every database I can find and it is not mentioned anywhere.”

“It is not supposed to be mentioned anywhere, Cyr. It is shielded very carefully by the privacy laws of the Qwell’Na. I only know about it because I was there, by accident of course, when Jonkil found out about his mother’s Jo Dan.

“Jonkil’s mother, whom Olga named Me’Avi after, was in a very freakish accident and barely survived long enough to perform her Jo Dan. Jonkil, thinking he had many more years to wait before losing her, was floored by her loss. In his grief he told me a little about it.”

“If Jonkil is so ill,” Cyr asked, “then would it not be time to send him to a revitalizing clinic? We cannot afford to lose Jonkil at this moment. Surely he could understand that?”

“Jonkil’s people are not able to use the clinics. They do not respond to their methods. Usually, because they have such long lives, and age only just before their deaths, people just assume that they have used the clinics.

“They do not make public the details about this part of their lives. What I am telling you, out of respect for Jonkil’s people, must not go any further. Death for the Qwell’Na is always a very private thing. If Jonkil has entered his Jo Dan, his death will be very soon. He will never leave Earth.”

“Then,” said Cyr, “we must be here to comfort him, to be with him to the end. We are his friends, we owe him that.”

“No,” replied Katia, “we will leave him here and we will go elsewhere as we are needed. To be here at his death would be an insult so grave as to cause his name to be shamed on Qwell. He must face it alone. If we are his friends, we must let him do so.”

Even as she said the words her image began to shimmer and pale for a few seconds. When it came back, there were the likeness of tears rolling down her cheeks.

“What happened, Katia?”

“Nothing, Cyr,” she replied, “I just felt a little pain, that’s all. Losing Jonkil is quite painful to contemplate.”

* * *

On Qwell, no suitable males having been found, a young female named Na’Eya was escorted into an office located in a great scarlet building.

“Na’Eya, your grandfather has started his Jo Dan. You, because there are no grandsons of the right age, must represent your family. It is sad that you have not been prepared as you should have been, but Jonkil’s Jo Dan has come early, and we have not had the time to prepare you as we should.

“You will need to bolster you mind for Quick Training can be somewhat painful.”

Na’Eya, knowing the importance of what was expected of her, said, “I will bolster my mind for the Training. For the honor of my grandfather’s name and pride of my family I will accept the pain.”

“Cross the room and enter the shielded area. Then lie down on the cot there and close your eyes. The Quick Training will start.”

Ne’Eya did as she was requested and after she lay down and had closed her eyes she did not see shield become opaque. Nor did anyone outside the shield hear her cries of pain.

* * *

Jonkil sat in his office and continued to work much as he had for so many years, only somewhat slower.

“I have,” he thought, “a few days left before the final phase of my Jo Dan comes. I can do what I can to help my friends.”

Just then, Katia appeared and, crossing the room, sat down next to Jonkil and gave him her usual smile of greeting.

“You have found out, have you not?” asked Jonkil.

“How do you know?” replied Katia.

“I have known you many years, Katia. Even after your death at Feltus II you never left my heart. When I retired to your home on Dreamers’ World, to be near where you were buried, you were in my heart.

“I don’t understand how Cyr managed to do it, but I am so glad that you came back.”

“Back, how can you say I am back? Touch me Jonkil. What do you feel? Nothing. I can see and talk and hear, but I cannot touch. You cannot know how it painful it is that I cannot touch. Someday, maybe, it won’t matter. But, now it matters so much.”

“You, Katia, are the one who is mistaken. Everywhere you go, you touch. It is in you, even the way you are now, to touch us all. My fingers may not feel your touch, but my heart does.

“To me, somehow, in some way I cannot explain, you are not just an image projected by some overpowered computer containing a great databank of your words and actions, you are Katia.

“You are the person I saw, along with Cyr, grow up and save your people. You are the person who overwhelmed the Galactic Council with your great personal strength. You are the person who saw your people stagnating and convinced us all, before your accident, to take the chance with the Shapirov Project.

“It was your plans and your hold on us that guided us with the Project while you were gone. And when you were, somehow, here again, it was you who still could touch our hearts.

“And you are the person who inspires us all to continue on. You are Katia Shapirov; there is no other answer to all of this, there is no other person that could have guided us all, so well, for so long. And, if all this succeeds it will have been your strength, and your vision, that made it possible.”

* * *

Janine McCabe limped slowly up to the entrance of the mountain cave that sheltered her people. She took her glove off and waved her hand before the sensor that opened the door and, again limping, continued on in.

Soon she was in Administrator Tinker’s office to report on her trip.

“Where is Harlan, Janine? Why isn’t he here with you?”

“There was,” she answered, “an accident. Harlan slipped and fell and was injured pretty severely. The others are trying to get him in before he freezes. I ran ahead to get the medical people ready to help him. Then I came here to report about our findings.”

“You sent out a skitter, didn’t you?”

“I requested one, Hi, but I was turned down. It seems that something is happening somewhere that prevents any machinery from leaving the mountain.”

Hi pressed a button on his desk and told Hocat to get him the vehicle compound. After a short wait the answer, “Vehicles, how can I be of assistance?” came out of the speaker.

“This is Administrator Tinker. You can help by sending a rescue skitter, with medical personnel, to my office to pick up Janine McCabe. She will direct the operator as to where to go.

“And, keep this in mind, if your stupidity in refusing her earlier request causes her husband any greater injury you will find yourself processing ice cubes at the North Pole.”

It seemed that almost as soon as he switched off there was a knock at his door and a smiling Hocat indicating that the rescue skitter had arrived.

Proceed to part 3...

Copyright © 2005 by euhal allen

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