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The Bridge

Book III: The Starhell Mutiny

by euhal allen

Table of Contents
Chapter 3, part 2 appears
in this issue.

Chapter 3: Trials

part 3 of 3

“Cyr, you keep saying that I am not just a computer but that I am Katia. Well, now I am going to be Katia. I need to go to Earth for my sake, and I am going. You’ll just have to do your best here until I am back.”

With that, Katia cut the connection and contacted Janine down in the hold. “How much longer do you need, Janine, before lift off.”

“Just finishing securing everything now, Katia. We’re heading for our cabins in a couple of minutes.”

“Good. I am lifting in five minutes. If I were you I would hurry to those cabins.

“Starhell Port, this is Katia Shapirov, I am lifting in five minutes. If I were you I would have the port cover open if you don’t want me to put a hole in it.”

Harrigan's Whelp this is Starhell Port. Cover opening at quick-pace now. Good voyage.”

With a little more speed and noise than usual or necessary, Harrigan's Whelp rapidly rose out of the port cavern and jumped into the sky over Starhell.

Seconds later Katia heard Janine yelling at her, “Hey, girl, are we mad at someone?”

* * *

Kalvin and Me’Avi Shapirov came back from their honeymoon and moved into the residence of the Administrator of the Great Concert Hall and began their married life. At first everyone tended to leave them alone but that lasted only a little while. She was, after all the Minister of New Earth to the Galactic Council and he was the Administrator of the Great Concert Hall and the galaxy’s foremost composer. Their offices made them in demand. And their combined offices made them a social necessity for any event to be deemed a success. Some events weren’t even scheduled until it was ascertained that they both were available for the intended date.

Me’Avi’s administrative assistant, Jolene, in charge of both calendars, found herself gaining in importance also. When no one can get access to those of significance without getting through the gate, the gate gains in stature.

“I have to hand it to you, Minister Shapirov, marrying Mr. Shapirov certainly improved your social stature.”

Me’Avi, looking a bit sour, answered, “I married Kalvin because he is the only person I have ever met that can make me laugh, even when I don’t want to.

“And, think, Jolene, Kalvin could have kept the Starhell plans from me and the Galactic Council. In telling of them because I asked him to, he took a terrible chance of loosing his position and career. He put himself on the line for me. You don’t find loyalty like that everyday.

“Still, it will not hurt my career to be the wife of the greatest composer in the Galaxy. And it won’t hurt his career to be married to the future Grand Minister of the Galactic Council.

“We are on our way to becoming the first couple in both the social and artistic worlds.”

“All I know,” said Jolene, “was that I was sure that you were going to make it with one of the other Ministers who were trying so hard to impress you.”

“That, Jolene,” Me’Avi replied, “was a mistake that I would never make. Two politicians in the same family fosters competition. Competition is not what I want, since one of those politicians will eventually have more stature than the other, and that is always a disaster.

“But a politician and an artist can become a unit that can be first in two worlds. Kalvin really doesn’t understand what I do any more than I understand the depths of what he does. That means we don’t interfere with one another’s work.

“And, our status in each field makes each of us more powerful in both fields. The fact that we love each other only makes our union more pleasurable for both of us.”

* * *

Jo’Eya stepped through her door and saw the familiar sight of Alexei's Pride’s control room. Cyr, trying to find the persona he was comfortable with — and after much research and character study, came up with one that he thought he could be relaxed with — appeared as an alien from an old television show.

Jo’Eya, giggling a bit, said, “Love those ears, Cyr. This one may really be you.”

“Thank you, Jo’Eya. I feel that I should be embarrassed. I really should not have taken credit for those formulas and schematics we passed on to George. I know that you don’t want to be out in the open, but couldn’t we have just said that they were from Qwell science?”

“No, Cyr, we Qwell do not want either side to become aware of our involvement in certain things. Such knowledge could inhibit our activities in the future. Besides, I did not give you the formulas and schematics, I just passed on some information that allowed you to deduce and construct them. So, it is perfectly all right for you to take the credit.

“Now, there is something I need to talk about with Katia. She doesn’t seem to be here.”

“No, she left here a couple of days ago, in a huff, yet. I told her she shouldn’t go but she wouldn’t listen. Now we are overloaded with work. Right now I am doing seventeen things besides trying to control this image and talk with you.”

“Left in a huff. That does not sound like Katia. Why did she leave in a huff and where did she go?”

“She said she had to go to Earth, and when I tried to show her that doing so was irresponsible because she was needed here she seemed really upset.”

Jo’Eya, going to her Door, said, “You told Katia that she was being irresponsible because she felt she needed to go to Earth. No wonder she was upset.” Then, adding just before she left, “Cyr, you’re an idiot.”

Cyr, even doing seventeen other things, found the character he was portraying raising his eyebrows and saying, “Fascinating!”

* * *

The sky was blue as it often was in this particular spot. Down below the ocean waves came in gently and lapped at the shore before hurrying back out again. Katia’s holographic figure stood on the ridge and thought of all the things that had happened in this place.

Almost beneath her, back away from the sea was where the village had been, where she had grown up and married and seen her first traitorous husband, Niels, die.

It was here where she and Alexis had played their parts as the von Seltzen family and then, she as the Dream Singer, had begun to gather their people together.

Out there was where the controlling pillar of the Bridge had been located. So much had been done there. So many lives had been involved in all those events.

Katia, walking, approached that place that held so much more than memories. Soon she was at the little cemetery that held the graves of her parents and Seiji the Martyr, and her own, withered, sad body, a body that had spent all those years in that life support canister, seeing and hearing through the connections with Cyr. Then, a body that, the canister being transferred to her new ship, found a new freedom being in command, once again, of her own self.

Then, that horrible race to chase her granddaughter out of the system and make her englobe it. That horrible race that ended in that excruciatingly high-g turn that not even the inertial compensators could completely disperse. Her poor old body gave up then, and yet she did not die with it. She just so suddenly felt alone and empty.

Looking down on the grave at her feet; the grave containing that frail old body that had left her, she saw the ashes, Jonkil’s ashes, covering it and wished that she could touch them. How she missed that old friend.

“I could put a small amount of the ashes in a container for you. I am sure grandfather would not mind.”

“I thought I detected a Door materializing. Yes, Jo’Eya, I should like a small jar of his ashes to carry with me. I think it would be comforting.”

“You are in touch with those memories and heart aren’t you, Katia?”

“Yes, Jo’Eya, I am. I am becoming whole again.”

* * *

The ship, prospecting out in the fringes of the Cernon Sector, found itself in trouble. Its oxygen generators were down, unbelievable as it was supposed to be: all of them. To make it back to the nearest Galactic Council world was not possible, so they would have to attempt to find a world where there was a reasonable oxygen atmosphere and some amount of certain metals so that parts could be made.

“Captain, there is a mining camp in this system. At least the computer seems to think there is. It is on the second planet and there seem to be people there.”

“What? That must be a mistake. There is nothing out in this part of the Sector. If there was, there would be a record of it on one of the Sector maps.”

“No, sir, it’s there all right and it is expending enough energy to be a pretty good sized camp. They could have parts there.”

“I don’t like this,” answered the Captain, “If it isn’t on the charts it’s probably illegal and that could be dangerous for us. Maybe we should try another system.”

“Can’t, Captain. We don’t have oxygen for more than fourteen hours more and that is not half enough to get to another system. That planet down there is the only oxygen bearing planet in this system. We have to go there.

“We had better be in plain sight, too. If they have any kind of detection gear, there is no way we can sneak in and trying to will just make them suspicious. If they are illegal then making them suspicious could be a fatal mistake.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Hail them on the comm and tell them our whole plight. Maybe that will make them merciful. If they are illegal and decide to kill us, well, we were going to suffocate anyway.”

The crewman flipped the switch and sent the distress message. The return message was not long in coming back.

“Prospecting ship Bluegill, this is the mining camp. You are OK for landing. Land on the lighted pad just below our camp.

“We have four older oxygen generators of the type that should fit your ship. We are not using them, so if they do the job, they’re yours. We have technicians here who will help you install them so that your stay will not have to be of a long duration. Other supplies we, ourselves, are short of.”

Shortly the Bluegill was down and the miners’ technicians came aboard with the generators and installed them. They also filled all the standby oxygen tanks so that the ship would be safe even if the replacement generators should fail.

In just hours the Bluegill was off the planet and back on its search for needed metals that would pay their bills.

In the mining camp, an emergency Door was used to contact Starhell and let them know that they had been found. At the news an evacuation plan was set in motion. One of the new, larger, Doors were set up and everything was removed from the planet within a week. It was thought that nothing was left behind.

Three months later, when the Bluegill made port on a Galactic Council world, their story brought incredulous stares and shaking heads. They, said the port authorities, must have been using some sort of happy juice to think that there were any mining camps in the fringes of the Cernon Sector.

Still, the four replacement generators were of a type that were not used in that part of the galaxy, and no one knew how to explain them away. So, to be safe, a report was sent to the capitol.

Then a Galactic Courier appeared at the spaceport and several men from it approached the Captain and crew of the Bluegill. They showed them identity cards with the letters BGS and said that they had some questions they needed answered.

Telling the Bluegill’s crew not to talk about their ‘adventure’ any more to anyone, they had the Bluegill supplied and fueled up and then programmed her computer to land at a BGS base further into the Galactic Council’s territory. The crew was all aboard when the ship took off.

Almost immediately the Galactic Courier ship, using the charts from the Bluegill, headed to the system in the Cernon Sector that contained the mining camp. When they arrived they found a planet that seemed, at first sight, to have never seen anyone before.

The BGS are nothing if not diligent, and soon they had evidence of the mining camp and some papers that someone had lost mentioning Starhell.

* * *

Grand Minister Pwirkavi sat in the darkened room and watched the video presentation. The BGS had all the facts, or seemed to. Somehow this Starhell mutiny was becoming more than just a few stray Earth people trying to colonize an, as yet, unlocated planet. They were a group that had a fleet of ships that could be dangerous. All that was clear from the Bluegill file.

What seemed to be a harmless mining camp, with buildings, mines, equipment and people may have been an outpost of the Starhell mutiny spying on the Galactic Council worlds.

Pictures taken by the Bluegill in their landing approach, and later, take off, showed a well designed and complex facility that could quarter several hundred people. The fact that they had the extra oxygen generators and the technicians to service the damaged ship showed that they could have been stationed there for that reason. The only reason to station a ship repair post in such an area as the fringes of the Cernon Sector would seem to be for, the BGS said, military or espionage activities.

Then, when the BGS galactic courier class ship reached the location of the mining camp — a location that was charted by the Bluegill’s Captain — the place was empty of any outward sign that it had ever held a facility of any sort. Empty just fourteen weeks after the Bluegill had lifted. Nothing bigger than a few nuts and bolts and an occasional scrap of paper was there. The entire facility had disappeared.

Careful analysis of the pictures from the Bluegill’s log and the terrain actually present provided an accurate report of the size of each building. The camp was not small: to take it down and get it away and then do the work of cleanup and disguise it in the time that it had been done, was a job that would occupy at least seven hundred workers and thirty-three transports equal to a Galactic GR7 freighter.

To support that type of operation, the BGS estimated, would mean a population on Starhell equal to that of a Class II planet. The only conclusion that could be surmised from this was that a possibly dangerous civilization was on the boarder area of the territory of the Galactic Council, in the vicinity of the Cernon Sector.

The BGS then recommended that the fleet searching the present search globe be reduced by two-thirds and the majority of those ships sent to the Cernon Sector fringes to find and, if necessary, englobe this dangerous new adversary.

The Grand Minister, overwhelmed by the information, asked, “But what about the testimony of Maestro Shapirov? There was nothing like this in his testimony and he even allowed himself to be questioned under lie-scan. Testimony under lie-scan cannot be falsified.”

“We feel, Grand Minister, that Mr. Shapirov may have been shown a decoy planet so as to direct us in a direction that would give us no results.”

“But,” asked the Grand Minister, “if you are certain of this then why are you not moving all the search vessels to the Cernon Sector? Surely that would hasten the discovery of this threat that you feel is there.”

“If we were to stop all search in the area indicated by the Maestro, then these people might realize that we had discovered the real area of their operations. We can’t allow that to happen. So we will announce that, since the rebels are only a few in number and will not be a threat for years yet, a smaller number of ships will be enough to find them. The remainder of the ships will be scheduled for routine patrol. A routine patrol that will spend a great amount of time, secretly, in the fringes of the Cernon Sector.”

* * *

The Oversight Committee was in a dither again. With the discovery of the mining camp in the Cernon fringes and the subsequent clearing away of the facilities there, the committee had come to recognize that all nineteen camps had to be closed and their buildings and equipment brought to Starhell.

That, in itself was not so bad, since the buildings were being set up in areas scheduled for later development and they could, as they did in their various locations, store the presently unneeded equipment for later use.

The real problem was the sudden influx of almost a thousand people from each camp into more permanent quarters on Starhell. What were they going to do?

To be continued...

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Copyright © 2005 by euhal allen

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