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The Bridge

Book III: Mutiny on Starhell

by euhal allen

Table of Contents
Chapter 1 appeared
in issue 152.

Chapter 2: Planning

The Galactic Council has finally englobed the Solar System and cut Earth off from the rest of the galaxy. The last notes of the Requiem symphony are fading, but even before the echoes can die away completely, new and dissonant strains are struck within the Galactic Council itself. Something is amiss, and harmony dissolves.

Meanwhile, those who had fled the Earth before the englobement struggle both to survive and stay hidden on their new home, a cold, desert planet called Starhell. Aiding them are Cyr, who was the original Bridge sent to Earth by the Galactics, and Katia Shapirov, Earth’s Dream Singer and formerly a Galactic minister. They find themselves confronted by secrets and puzzles from the apparently friendly but enigmatic Qwell’Na...

part 1 of 3

The Oversight Committee, looking at the goals for the coming year, saw that some changes were needed. The original plan for terraforming Starhell had been drawn up with the expectation that the force englobement of Earth would not be completed for some time in the future, perhaps in as many as five more years.

Because the englobement had already occurred, there was a population greater than expected, or needed, on Starhell, with not enough room to comfortably house them and not enough work to keep them all busy. It had been hoped that before the majority of them transferred from Earth the temperature would have been brought to a planetary average corresponding to that in southern Canada and that the oxygen concentration could have reached the equivalent of Earth’s Nepal area. To do that, the carbon dioxide level had to be raised more rapidly. CO2 asteroids in the Oort cloud were the answer, but the people out there could only do so much and it was not enough.

Water was another problem. There were more than enough ice asteroids in the Oort cloud surrounding the system, but getting them to the planet was the problem. It had to be done in a manner that would not show up on anyone’s scanners. Galactic technology, easily discovered by such scanners from great distances, was being used, but with the recent events it was apparent that it needed to be used sparingly.

Another, less traceable, method had to be found to get the water to the planet. It would be nice, also, if a way could be discovered to get it to the planet with a temperature significantly greater than deep-frozen.

Assignments to solve these problems needed to be made and arrangements made to follow up on, and use, those things developed even as the progress was being made.

People had to have things to do. Because of the early evacuation of those on Earth, the number of people on Starhell was higher than what was even remotely planned for. There was not enough work to go around. Something had to be done to keep the people occupied.

Here, Charlie Philips came through with one program that would be helpful, for a time. Since he had all those qualified people working under him, he thought that they could teach classes in plant sciences. When the planet was ready for a real start with surface habitation it would be advantageous if most of those going out to get things started had a solid understanding of just what they could do to ensure the safety and increase of their plants. The suggestion was approved with eagerness and Charlie was asked to set it up as soon as possible.

However, when Charlie suggested that his friend Li Guo-fan, master of cabinetry, do the same for basic carpentry, there was a burst of Oriental verbiage that came too fast to understand and too loud and negative in tone for anyone to seek a translation. The school in basic carpentry would have to wait.

Next the Oversight Committee found itself listening to Charlie again. This time it was about a moon. Starhell did not have one.

“Seems to me,” Charlie started out, “that with everyone here from Earth, except maybe Hocat and his group, and all of us growing up with a moon above us it would make Starhell a little easier to take if we got us a moon. Most everybody I have talked to agree with that.”

“And where, Mr. Philips,” asked Administrator Tinker, knowing that to keep Charlie happy, one had to at least pretend to take his ideas seriously, “do you think we could get a moon?”

“Well, seems to me that we could just make one. You know we have all those asteroids out there. Now if you would put them all together, in one place in a moon’s orbit, then wouldn’t gravity just suck them into a moon? Shucks, how hard could that be?”

“Tell you what, Charlie, you find an engineer that thinks it could be done and this committee will consider it.”

“George here is an engineer, I bet he could figure it out right now.”

“George, you don’t have to do this, you know. But if you could help Charlie see how impossible this is, it would be of great help to the committee.”

“Well,” said George, “most asteroids are pretty crumby... er, crumbly. But planet theory right now says that the minimum diameter is somewhere around four hundred miles, since nothing bigger than that has ever been observed as other than round. It depends on what it's made of, and how hard the impact is. The method is usually called accretion. This was discovered way back before The Bridge first appeared on Earth. There was a laboratory, the JPL, that used what was called the ‘Spitzer’ telescope. They said that it was even possible for the Earth’s moon to have been built that way. That is, I think they did, if my memory is correct.

“If the objects impact with substantial speed, some melting will occur, and the result will move along faster. A suggestion would be to tow something in from the Oort cloud, something big, something already round. Vaporize the icy surface to produce a decelerating force, and guide it into an orbit around the planet. You just have to make sure that there is something there to accrete. Give it time and you could have a pretty good sized moon. The problem is not in the actual mechanics of the building but how in the world we would get things massive enough in the right place to start the accretion process without using Galactic traceable technology.

“Of course, it is all just theory. Works on paper. No one that we know has ever done it.

“Still, if we had a moon and enough water on the planet, we could sure use the tidal forces to generate power in a way that would not be easily detected from space.”

“See there,” yelled Charlie, all excited, “we could have us our moon and you could have a power source. I’d say that’s a pretty good deal.”

The Oversight Committee, defeated, assigned George to come up with a program that could possibly complete a moon in a manner that would not use Galactic technology, figuring that such a stipulation would end the problem.

* * *

The Assistant Galactic Chronicler stood in his supervisor’s doorway and waited to be recognized. The recognition came after a few minutes when he was invited in and told to sit down in the chair next to the desk.

“Well, Kolneer, is there a problem that I must look at?”

“Sir, it is about the manifest records from the Cernon Sector. There are some more problems with the numbers. They don’t match the numbers of other manifests at the refining stations. Things happened that we are finding hard to understand.”

The Galactic Chronicler, face reddening a bit, said, “Let me guess, during the administration of Grand Minister Shapirov.”

“Yes, sir.”

“How did I know that? In many of our subject civilizations the Chronicler writes histories and lets numbers be explained by economists. Economists know how to use numbers to do whatever they want. Historians, Chroniclers, must stick with the facts.

“How I would like to go back in time and shoot the person that pointed out that since everything is a part of history, the Galactic Chronicler’s office should be responsible for explaining the numbers also.

“I didn’t mind it, Kolneer, before we began to chronicle the Shapirov administration. Now it is the bane of my existence. Do you really want to put me in the position of having to go and report to the Galactic Council another aberration in Grand Minister Shapirov’s strange activities?”

“No, sir. I understand, sir. It is just that certain members of the Council sent a request to have explained how Grand Minister Shapirov’s explorations in the Cernon Sector made a profit. It seems that they would like to use those methods, if possible, in future explorations.”

“And, my young friend, have you an explanation that can tell them what they want to know?”

“Yes, sir, we do. The problem is that it doesn’t make any sense.”

“Really, how surprising! I am not ready for this, but you had better tell me the problem.”

“First, the same circumstances show up in eighty-seven of the one-hundred-and-three mining sites. Each of those sites were carefully examined before the sites were opened. The mineral variety and concentration was determined within a plus or minus two percent.

“Each site was supplied with a pre-refining facility so that the ore to be shipped would have only about an eleven to fifteen percent waste ratio. That makes the use of robot freighters economical. Each freighter carried a manifest certifying the ore loaded and the waste predicted.

“Those figures were wrong. The shipping manifests out of the refining plants show that the waste never goes above two-point-six percent. And that the ore that makes up the majority of the waste is always something different than what the originating manifest showed.”

“Huh? Give me an example.”

“Yes, sir. Mining Post 0739 processed iron ore down to an eleven percent waste ratio and shipped that ore to the refining plant on Gornial. Each robot freighter carried approximately one-hundred-fourteen tons of that ore. That means that exactly twelve-point-five-four tons should have been waste sent to the landfill projects in the planet’s badlands. Only about two-point-five tons were actually shipped to the landfills. The rest was gold.”

“Gold? That was the waste product? The freighter must have stopped at another world and loaded the gold.”

“No, sir, these freighters were robots that always went directly to the refinery. None of them made any stopovers anywhere.

“Gold was the waste product on almost every freighter out of Mining Post 0739. Yet there is no record of there ever being any gold on that world.

“Recent surveys show that there is none now, and the occurrences of this happening stopped immediately after Grand Minister Shapirov’s death.

“Other mining posts had somewhat the same strange conflicts in the original shipping records and in the refining manifests. There are cases of bauxite ore being shipped with the correct waste ratio in loading, but a concentration of titanium that made up eighty percent of the waste.”

The Galactic Chronicler, looking at the papers in his assistant’s hands, felt a deep sickness coming over him. This had to be reported to the Galactic Council. There would be an uproar. Then, somehow, it always happened with a Shapirov project, an explanation not available before would come forth and his people would again be lampooned all across the galaxy.

“Well, Kolneer, my friend, I shall give you the assignment of reporting this to the Galactic Council. They should recognize you for your hard work.”

Astounded and frightened, Kolneer replied, “I don’t feel that I am qualified to report something of this importance to the Galactic Council. It would be better coming from you, Sir.”

“Someday you will be Galactic Chronicler. You must begin reporting to the Galactic Council sometime. Now is as good a time as any. I shall look forward to hearing your report.

“Naturally, of course, you could be unsure about this situation and want to spend some more time on it, when you can find it in your very busy schedule while you are working on other, more important, galactic events.”

Proceed to part 2...

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Copyright © 2005 by euhal allen

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