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The Bridge

Book III: The Starhell Mutiny

by euhal allen

Table of Contents
Chapter 3, part 1 appears
in this issue.

Chapter 3: Trials

part 2 of 3

“Sir, Starhell has no moon at all. I wished it did, because it would allow for so many more musical things to be written about it. But, no sir, there is no moon. You must have heard wrong, sir.”

“Oh well, when one gains in years, young man, one’s ears can often mistake the sounds of words. Then there is no moon. That will make the search a little harder, perhaps, but so be it.

“Thank you, Maestro, for clearing that up for me.

“Ah, and Grand Minister, I think that I, like most of my fellow Ministers, am ready to go home.”

* * *

The Day of Singing had arrived and Natasha Borisovna, hidden in her robes, was sick to her stomach. This was the day she would first sing as the Dream Singer. It was true that she, wearing the robes of the Dream Singer’s office, would not be recognized. But that could not lessen the stress she felt knowing that she was to take Katia Shapirov’s place, if that was even possible.

As she waited the last few minutes before her performance she remembered her latest conversation with Katia. She had said, “Natasha Borisovna, it is not the singer who is important, it is the song. You must remember that and sing each song truly from your heart. It is the voice from the heart that moves people, not the bearer of the voice.

“When I was first the Dream Singer I had to hide my identity in order to be able to do my other work. Then, as I saw that the people did not care who the Dream Singer was, I realized that their enthusiasm was for the stories and principles in the songs. So, I hid my identity for as long as I could. When that was no longer possible and my identity became known the people began to speak of Katia, the Dream Singer, and something was lost.

“So, on the Day of Singing you will be announced as the Dream Singer only. Cyr and I and Hi, and no one else, will know that you are singing. For everyone else it will be the Dream Singer and the songs. That way I hope what was lost might be regained.”

So, now it was time. The curtain was rising and the audience became silent, waiting impatiently for the Dream Singer’s holographic form to appear and the singing to start. That did not happen. Instead they heard low noises as musicians trooped up the aisle and entered the orchestra pit. Then, for just a short while they heard instruments being given a last-minute tuning, while the conductor came out, his white baton flashing in the air, calling for quiet.

Then the Dream Singer slowly walked from behind the curtains to the front of the stage, her footsteps crashing in the silence. The audience could not believe their eyes. Was a mere person to be so presumptuous as to sing, on the very Day of Singing, the songs that belonged to Katia Shapirov? There was the start of murmuring and then it stopped for the Dream Singer had reached the front of the stage and had begun singing.

Her clear and awesome voice, singing these songs so loved by the audience, took their hearts from them. No one even noticed when the orchestra, as planned, began accompanying her, one instrument at a time. Now, the Dream Singer, the people knew, was not a person, great as she was, of the past, but one of them; and they felt the Dreams anew.

* * *

It was the Day of Singing and the people of New Earth gathered before their video screens awaiting the appearance of she who had done so much for them. Again, as in every other year on this day, they would see and hear Katia Shapirov sing the old songs. On this day only, they would not be singing for this was her day. This day she alone, as it had become on every Day of Singing, would sing those songs.

Those songs would fill the air all over New Earth and, broadcast as they were, they would thrill peoples on most of the planets in the known galaxy. This year would be special for there was, introduced by the Minister of New Earth, a strong move to elevate the Day of Singing to the status of Galactic Holiday. What an honor for their Katia, Dream Singer to the Galaxy.

* * *

Kalvin Vertraumer, Maestro of New Earth, composer of the Requiem for the Blue Planet, had never, even before the first performance of the Requiem, been so nervous.

Even as he looked across the table at Me’Avi he found that he could not force the words out of his throat. The harder he tried to say them the more his voice fumbled and the merrier Me’Avi’s smile became.

“Kalvin,” barely able to keep from giggling, she asked, “are you trying to say something?”

“Uhm... well... yes, I...”

“Kalvin,” Me’Avi asked, grinning, “is there a ring in that little box you’re playing with?”

“Ah...” Kalvin replied, breathing a bit hard, “...yes?”

“Kalvin, if you are going to ask me to marry you, just do it. Our dinner will be coming soon.”

Seeing that he was found out and grateful for it, Kalvin managed to say, “Will you?”

“And be known as Mrs. Requiem for the rest of my life?” she replied, and then seeing Kalvin’s face drop, added. “I would be delighted to.”

Soon the news was titillating all the old gossips all over the planet. The granddaughter of Katia Shapirov — who had been the et Sharma that finally englobed the old Blue Planet and now was New Earth’s Minister to the Galactic Council — was to marry Maestro Kalvin Vertraumer, Administrator of the Great Concert Hall; the composer to the galaxy; and the creator of the Requiem for the Blue Planet.

Even better — recognizing the great traditional value of the Shapirov name and the necessity of its continuance — the Maestro would be the one making the surname change that was part of the traditional marriage vows on New Earth.

* * *

George, totally exhausted with the problem of how to make that moon now demanded by the Oversight Committee, sat in his accustomed place in the committee room while he awaited his turn to speak. He was not looking forward to it, because the laws of physics and available equipment, even with Galactic technology, decreed that the project would take not two years, but twenty-five. It would seem that Kalvin Vertraumer’s testimony to the Galactic Council was quite accurate and would continue to be so long enough for the Council’s ships to locate Starhell.

“George,” Administrator Tinker’s voice intruded on his thought, “I understand that you have run into some snags on the Lunar Project.”

“Yes, Hi, I have. It is become somewhat plain that the timetable for the project is, with the equipment we have, impossible. We will, if we really want a moon the size of Luna, have to extend the timeline by a factor of ten.”

“George, if you don’t mind, I must bring this up since the people, those listening to Charlie anyway, are all talking about it. Why don’t...”

“Hi, we dismissed the Doors right away. We don’t have any Doors that can handle the level of mass needed. We would be forced to cut all the planetoids and asteroids into little pieces before we could send them through the Doors. That job alone would add years to the project.

“Charlie is my friend, but sometimes, lately, I have wondered why.”

Then Katia sought to be, and was, recognized. “George, if I understand correctly, the problem with the Doors is that they are not big enough or powerful enough to do the mass transfers?”

“That is correct, Katia.”

“And — correct me if I am wrong — you are not able to increase the size or capabilities of the Doors, no matter what our friend Charlie thinks?”

“That is also correct. Thank you for your understanding, Katia.”

“Don’t thank me yet, George. I think that you should consider enhancing the Doors’ capabilities as Charlie suggests.”

“Katia! How am I...” George was saying as a set of formulas began to appear on his personal computer screen and switched his mind in another direction.

“Cyr,” Katia was saying, “whom we so often think of as a person — even if he is having trouble finding a holographic persona to let us see him — is a computer. When Charlie asked him the other day why the Doors could not be enhanced he started Cyr’s capabilities on a problem that he had not thought of before.

“I assume by your silence, George, that those formulas and schematics are going to be helpful in making some advancements in the Doors.”

“Katia, if this material checks out right, we could do the whole job in six months!”

“See there, folks,” Charlie quipped, “in six months we can take moonlight strolls!”

* * *

Janine McCabe came in from the surface expedition to the equatorial stations and reported on the progress of the fresh water eco-project. So far, the life forms were doing better than expected. Growth and propagation in the waters was up fourteen percent above projections and that was the problem. If something wasn’t done to curb the growth they would take over the lakes and endanger some of the other projects coming down the line.

“Harlan, we have to go back to Earth and get the next level of the system in larger numbers that we anticipated. And it needs to be done in the next two months. Is there a possibility of scheduling transport for a crew of seven and enough cargo space for sixteen tanks for the life forms?”

“Not with the equipment schedule we have now. Everyone has priority one claims on the equipment and only the Oversight Committee can override the schedule for a special request. They have turned down the last nine requests.”

“Have you talked to Katia or Cyr about any of them?”

“No, I haven’t. I can’t play favorites and seek to pull some kind of string to help one person over another. Janine, you shouldn’t be asking me these things, even if you are my wife. I have to be neutral in assigning equipment or I am not doing the job that I should be doing.”

“But, my dear, you don’t mind if I go and talk to Katia or Cyr, do you?”

“Janine, you are a project head and have every right to talk to anyone you want. Just, please, if you are successful in forcing a schedule change, make sure that you are available to explain to anyone that you might bump from their place.”

“Of course, dear,” she replied as she went to the comm and punched in the code to reach Katia.

“Yes, Janine. How may I help you?”

“Katia, I have just come back from the project and have submitted my reports to Harlan. I have a bit of a problem that needs some special attention.”

“Ah, yes. I see that you feel the need for an accelerated schedule for the introduction the next level of aquatic life in your project area. So, you are, I am surmising, requesting the use of the needed equipment as soon as possible to go to Earth and get the needed material.”

“Katia, how do you do that?”

“I live in a computer, Janine. I have instant access to all the information put into the system and can absorb it really fast. Besides, seeing that you were back, I was about to talk to you when you started talking to Harlan. Since you were talking about Starhell business and not private man-to-wife things, I listened in.

“I am afraid that Harlan is right. We can’t reschedule any of the needed transport equipment. Everyone else has their needs, too. However, Janine, I have not been back to Earth for quite some time, so, if it would be all right, perhaps Harrigan's Whelp would be able to help you.”

* * *

“Cyr, I have to go. I need to go. I have a mountain to climb”

“A what? Katia, with the new Doors coming on line a lot of the equipment that is so heavily scheduled now will be available in plenty of time for Janine to accelerate her project. You are needed here.

“You must know that you and I make up eighty-three percent of the computing power for Starhell. With you gone, we will be hard pressed to meet some of our most vital deadlines. That ecology project for Janine is only one of many.

“The ocean project has to come online, too, and that will take a great deal of our computational power. We can’t spare you now.”

Proceed to part 3...

Copyright © 2005 by euhal allen

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