The Bridge

Book III: The Starhell Mutiny

by euhal allen

Table of Contents
Chapter 2 appeared
in issue 153.

Chapter 3: Trials

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


Maestro Vertraumer, a musical prodigy almost since birth, was used to being the center of attention since it stamped approval on his work. However, this time, sitting in an interrogation room of the Bureau of Galactic Security, and facing some very frightening people, he would gladly have forgone the attention he was getting.

The Bureau was upset that they had not discovered the plans of Earth’s people themselves. They were also angry that Kalvin had not approached them or the governing et Sharma as soon as he had learned anything of those plans. His volunteering the information at this time was a point or two in his favor, but those were greatly outnumbered by the points against him.

The BGS’s failure in finding and thwarting those plans could cause some positions to be lost and, even worse, add unneeded questions to be asked at the next hearing of the Budget Committee.

The solution of those in charge was to identify the situation as The Starhell Mutiny and slap a ‘CLASSIFIED’ label on everything. Then, until the situation could be completely investigated and the miscreants caught and punished, the galaxy would be left in the dark. With the situation cleared up, the story would be put in the form of a positive set of investigations and actions.

It was very upsetting that, in a very short time, the BGS commanders, Me’Avi Shapirov, Minister from New Earth, and Kalvin Vertraumer, received summons to testify before the entire Galactic Council in the matter of what the BGS had tried to hide under the name of the Starhell Mutiny.

To worsen matters, the Minister from Qwell, noting that the situation was not a matter of military or economic importance, called for and got public hearings. The media would be allowed to record and broadcast the entire proceeding throughout the Galaxy. Knowing this, many of the Ministers of the Council, seeing a chance to parade their services before their constituents and enhance their stature, set about to create lists of questions that they would ask of those testifying, especially those of the BGS, not the most popular agency in the galaxy.

* * *

Jo’Eya showed up on Harrigan’s Whelp, since she wanted to talk to Katia alone.

“Katia, pop your holograph in the control room, would you? I dislike talking to the walls.”

“And,” Katia replied, “I dislike people just entering my home without a previous appointment. You could have found some way to knock, you know.”

Jo’Eya laughed gently and said, “You will make a wonderful Qwell, Katia, with your love of privacy. Still, some things are too important to allow a few little traditions to get in the way. To have arranged this meeting would have meant either I make an appointment with you through open channels, with others knowing about it, or, before stepping in, leaning out of a Door and rapping on the vessel’s walls.

“The first would negate the possibility of privacy and the second would be silly, because if I am leaning out of a Door to knock, I am already here anyway. Besides, since you reside in a computer; what is there that you have to keep private from me seeing?”

Now Katia laughed, “Yes, you’re quite right, young lady. It is not that you are going to see me with my hair a mess and without my make-up. So, why do we need this privacy? The only other person who knows about you is Cyr.”

“I am here to help you with something, Katia. I need to tell you something that I think will help you make your transformation easier.”

“My transformation? What transformation?”

“Why do you think of Cyr as a person, Katia?”

“I’ve known Cyr all my life, and most of Katia’s. He has always been a person. What else can I say?”

“You have also dealt, as Grand Minister, with the most advanced computers in the galaxy. The computers that are used by the Galactic Council to help them in the horribly complex job that they have in keeping peace and progress in that galaxy. Were any of them persons like Cyr?”

“No, I never thought of them as such. Oh, each of them did have some sort of personality, but it was never like that which Cyr had. They were not real persons.”

“Now, about you, Katia. Would you say that, as a computer, you have a personality at the same level as Cyr?”

“Of course, but then I started out as a human with a personality. I was already me.”

“When your Earth was first discovered by the Galactic Council’s exploration ships, it just so happened that those particular ships were crewed by Qwell’Na. We immediately recognized that your people were prime candidates for englobement.

“Our people are not fans of that process, and so our crews made their reports about your people to Qwell, not the Galactic Council. We successfully hid you for many years. When we did report your existence we made sure of two things. One was that a trusted Qwell’Na, my grandfather, would be the et Sharma. The other was that we modified the Bridge computer with certain Qwell technology that enhances personality growth far more than that used by the Galactic Council.

“You may not be aware of it, but Galactic Council scientists have been studying Cyr’s schematics for years trying to find out just how he became such a real person. They have petitioned several times to have him brought to their labs to study him. Our people in the government have been sidetracking that effort successfully for a long time.”

“OK,” Katia replied, “so Cyr has capabilities that no other computer in the galaxy has. I am glad of that because he has always been a good friend to Katia and me. But other than giving me a wonderful friend, how does that make my ‘transformation’ easier?”

“There is, Katia, another computer with those same advances in personality enhancements. In fact, since it was designed so much later than Cyr’s it is more able to hold and use a personality.”

“You mean the one I inhabit.”

“Yes. Your computer home has the added ability to record brain waves in a new way. Cyr could do it but only as an addition that could be accessed like a book. As long as Katia’s body and brain were alive there was little need for anything more. But when we saw that her body was reaching a point that it could not support the brain and mind much longer, we made sure that her new home had the capacity to record the workings of her mind.

“That information, in a usable format, is in your memory banks. Down there, if you work hard enough to learn how to access and use it, we think, is the equivalent of Katia’s heart and mind. We believe that you can regain the whole personality of Katia. It will take time. You must be patient. And to do it, you must be convinced that you are not just a computer image, but that you are a recovering Katia and that you only need to get better.

“My people have a saying: one climbs great mountains with small, careful, steps. Step carefully, Katia, and you will conquer this mountain.”

* * *

Kalvin Vertraumer, sitting in the witness chair before the entire Galactic Council, was nervously waiting the questioning to begin. He did not expect any mercy; not after watching the Ministers question the head officers of the BGS. That had been brutal.

No less encouraging was the fact that they had been quite gentle in their questioning of Me’Avi. She, being officially one of them, might just be on a panel questioning one of them someday. It paid to protect your possible future.

The first to question him was the Minister from Dreenkilq. “Maestro Vertraumer, you personally went to this Starhell that we speak of, I believe.”

“Yes, sir, I did.”

“Just why did you do this, instead of informing the et Sharma of this planet’s existence?”

“I was in the middle of working on the second movement of the Requiem. My mind was consumed by my work. To go there seemed to me, at that time, as part of my work. I had to go. Don’t you, in your fascinating job, become consumed in your work?”

The Minister, seeing that a possible trap needed to be avoided, changed the subject with another question, “What did you see on this planet, this Starhell?”

“I saw it all. I saw the mountains — it is very mountainous — and they showed me the great depressions that they are trying to fill with water so as to have seas. I saw the caverns and the shops and the equipment that they were using to terraform the planet. They gave me a complete tour so that I could, somehow, put it into the Requiem someday.”

“Yes, and when you went to this place you were aboard Alexei's Pride, the late Grand Minister Shapirov’s personal ship?”

“Yes, sir. I was on that ship both on the way there and on the way back.”

“And, Maestro, how long was the trip each way?”

“I was in the ship for three days each way. About two-and-a-half days of each trip was in hyperdrive.”

“So, Maestro that would seem to mean that this Starhell is within three days hyperdrive time of Earth’s system, would it not? That somewhere in a globe six hyperdrive days across Starhell is located?”

“I think so, sir. But I am a musician and know little of these things.”

“Then you can not give me any idea of the momentum capacity of that ship’s engines?”

“It was a hyperdrive engine, sir. They’re all alike... aren’t they?”

At that the Minister from Dreenkilq threw up his hands and indicated he was through.

Grand Minister Pwirkavi then recognized the Minister from New Earth.

Me’Avi took her place in front of the witness stand and began, “Mister Grand Minister, for the pleasure of the Minister from Dreenkilq, the acceleration ratio of the ship Alexei's Pride, being as it was a Grand Minister’s personal ship, is equal to that of a Galactic Courier. That, of course means that a six-day globe is quite large. To completely search all star systems in that globe by a fleet of thirty ships could take somewhere in the area of twenty-eight years.

“However, with Maestro Vertraumer’s cooperation that time will be radically reduced.

“Now, Kalvin, will you tell the Ministers the significant things that you know that would help our people identify the location of this rebellion? For instance, what color is the star of the Starhell system?”

“It is about the same color as the star of the Blue Planet. A little whiter, so, I guess, a little hotter than Sol. Still, it is about the same. And, since it is hotter, I guess it is good that Starhell is the fourth planet in the system.”

“Ah,” replied Me’Avi, “so we can limit our search to stars that are much like Sol, only a little hotter, and we can look for intelligent life on the fourth planet.

“That information, fellow Ministers, cuts our search time down to a third of what it was. Now, Kalvin, did you notice how many planets were in the system?”

“Sort of. I saw a map in one of the offices that showed the system and Starhell’s location. There were sixteen planets shown. I am not sure that the whole system was on the map, though.”

“But there were at least sixteen shown on the map?”

“Yes.”

“I have no further questions, Grand Minister.”

The day went on slowly with Minister after Minister asking his or her questions and getting their time on the media broadcasts. Kalvin thought it would never stop. If the Minister from New Earth had not stepped in time and again to defend him he did not think he would have lasted through the day.

Finally it was almost time to end the session. The Grand Minister was just about to adjourn the session when he was forced to recognize the Minister from Qwell.

“Maestro Vertraumer,” the Qwell’Na began, “I know you must be very tired, as are all here I am sure, so I only want to get some things clear in my mind. Please be patient with me.

“Now, we are looking for a planet in a system with a star just a little hotter that Sol. This planet is the fourth of at least sixteen other planets and is very mountainous. Is that right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Thank you. Now, this planet’s system is within three hyperdrive days’ travel of a Galactic Courier ship, but you did not notice the direction of the ship you were traveling in?”

“Yes, sir. That is right, three days. And no sir, I am sorry, I do not know the direction in which we traveled.”

“Now, just one more question. Just for my own knowledge. This Starhell you saw, did I hear you say, or am I mistaken, that its moon was quite small? And if I heard right, how small was that moon?”


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Copyright © 2005 by euhal allen

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