The Bridge

Book III: The Starhell Mutiny

by euhal allen

Table of Contents
Chapter 3 appeared
in issue 154.

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...

Chapter 4: Terraforming


The people were clamoring to go out onto the surface. The crowding of all the workers from the mining camps was causing spots of temper and violence to appear. Food preparation and service was swamped in trying to handle the number of people stuffing their dining areas. The recreation areas were almost unusable because of overcrowding.

It was pointed out that the equatorial areas were becoming warm enough, and stations could be set up on a more permanent basis to monitor and work with the eco-projects. The people from the mining camps were used to less than pristine accommodations, and those same accommodations, in the buildings and equipment brought back from the camps, could be used if they were transported to the areas where the projects were.

When this suggested solution was explored more carefully, the Oversight Committee discovered that there were forty-three ongoing project sites and most of them could be made permanent. With the equipment from the camps, and with the newly enhanced Doors coming on line, each site could be set up and supplied without use of searchable galactic technology. And if the warning buoys in the outer system did their job in alerting them, then the sites could be carefully camouflaged, and any casual searcher might just pass by without detecting activity.

So the Oversight Committee began the process of training the people for each new settlement and its particular geographical and environment qualities. The buildings all had to be fitted with Doors linked to the control caverns and sealed against the environment. Recreation equipment had to be upgraded or installed, as the situation dictated.

Oxygen generators had to be repaired or installed, with the accompanying training in the use of oxygen masks for all outdoor activity. Infirmaries had to be upgraded to meet the requirements for each new community, and medical staff had to be trained to handle the increased amounts of oxygen deprivation or hypothermia cases expected as more and more people were exited to the surface facilities.

Plans had to be made for each village to begin creating soil that could become capable of supporting bacterial life in preparation for the more advanced stages to come later.

And, someone, somehow, had to keep Charlie Philips so busy that he would stop thinking up and spouting his crazy ideas.

* * *

The paper George was reading was entitled Proposals In Terraforming Mars Using Octafluoropropane and described how if one added three hundred parts per million into the atmosphere, a rapid greenhouse effect might be created. Still, the effect would take several hundred years to complete, and what was needed was a way to speed it up now.

George looked up from the paper and saw Charlie coming and that it was too late to get away. “Well,” he thought, “it must be my turn. At least Katia is still on Earth. She always seems to see something in Charlie’s crackpot ideas and then makes me work on them. Just what I’d need now, more work!”

“Hi, George. Say, I have been thinking. You know how we need to get the planet warmer?”

“Yes, Charlie, that particular problem has crossed my mind on occasion. In fact I was just very busy with that right now. Really busy, Charlie.”

“Oh, so you are working on that problem right now. Have you figured it out?”

“Well, Charlie, we have some leads and we’re checking things out, but we are not quite there.”

“Boy, you should be glad that I showed up right now. I have it all figured out how you can solve a couple of those problems right at the same time!”

“A couple of the problems, Charlie?” George asked, even as he knew it was a mistake. “Ah, which couple of the problems have you solved for us?”

“Well,” said Charlie, “I figured how to have the temperature go up and have oceans at the same time. You know how you are always telling us that oceans absorb heat from the sun and then release it over time and how that makes the air warmer?”

“Yes. The oceans become what is known as a heat sink. They accept energy in the day and release it slowly at night, and that causes the temperature to stay in a narrower range.”

“Okay, that is what I thought you said. Now, it seems to me that all you have to do to solve those problems of getting an ocean and raising the temperature at the same time is to start the oceans with warm water.”

George, considering what he could say, decided to be charitable and said instead, “Charlie, just where are we going to get the warm water to create oceans with?”

“Well, you got all those ice asteroids out in that Oort cloud. Just bring them in like you are doing with them rocks you are using to make our moon with. Your assistant said that a hundred or so of the really big ones would be more than enough to make all the oceans we could want.”

“Those asteroids, Charlie, do contain enough water to make our oceans. But they are almost at the temperature of absolute zero. Putting them in the great basins would make Starhell colder, not warmer.”

“Not,” replied Charlie, “if you melted them first.”

* * *

The sign above the grand entrance to the building said Bureau of Galactic Security and on the wall next to the doors was the motto: Diligence for Today Brings Security for Tomorrow. If nothing else, those who worked behind those doors were diligent in all things and prided themselves in that fact. The failure to anticipate the Starhell Mutiny rubbed deep. The orders going out to all ships headed for the Cernon Sector were specific. Check every star. Check every possible planet. Find the Starhell bases.

Imbued with a firm resolve straight from the BGS, the orders were thoroughly carried out. Star system after star system was searched to the most careful degree. Planets were scanned with a care that would hardly let a cockroach move without being seen. Negative results began coming in. System after system showed no evidence of the mutineers’ bases. A month went by, then another and another. Tempers were beginning to flare, and more ships received orders to the Cernon Sector.

Then, when they were almost about to give up, the site of another abandoned and completely dismantled base was found. Carefully analyzing the area and combining the information with that of the first mining camp helped the analysts to discover new factors to look for. Then, using those factors, the analysts subjected all the places already examined and found evidence for seven more possible bases on planets already scanned.

Ships were sent back to those planets, and soon confirmation came back that they were, indeed, sites of former bases, and these sites added even more new information to the database of facts used to search for more sites.

It wasn’t long before a total of seventeen such former bases were discovered. Then no more were found. The analysts were sent personally to investigate all the sites and, while more information was added, the bases had been dismantled and the evidence so completely removed or destroyed that, finally, there was no more to be learned in the Cernon Sector. So, a number of ships were reassigned the search in the area of the englobement of the Blue Planet and others to more normal patrols, but at a higher state of alert.

But it was enough to use in a report to the Galactic Council to cause consternation and fear at the thought of the size of the fleet of ships that would be needed to dismantle and remove those seventeen bases. Even more fear-inspiring was the computed population and resource base that would be needed to support such a fleet.

* * *

On Qwell, in the great house of da Laich, a meeting of the Family Heads was convened. Jo’Eya was called before House and questioned about the situation of the human attempts to execute their form of Qwom-Sor.

“Heads of da Laich,” Jo’Eya said, “as much as it may seem that the activities of the humans constitute a discovery of Qwom-Sor, I think that, though the parallels are there, they are only trying to save their race from becoming indolent as they feel their brothers on New Earth have become. They seek to awaken the spirit of discovery and advancement that their forefathers had shown in time past. The Qwom-Sor is not on their minds. They have no knowledge of it.”

“Nor, young one,” spoke the First Head, “did those who first traveled the road of the Qwom-Sor. Those early ones, too, were seeking to save their people. It was only after great time had passed that they understood that they had chanced on the principles of the Qwom-Sor.

“It would seem that these humans are looking for that road of and in themselves. It may be, Jo’Eya, that they will fail to find it. If that is so, so be it. Yet, they will bear watching. Do not the memories of Jonkil da Laich, the father of your father, tell you that these people are more than they appear?”

“The memories of my grandfather are filled with admiration and respect for these people, but they do not speak of them traveling the path you would put them on.”

“Then, young one” spoke again the First Head, “you will watch and wait, as did the father of your father. In time the answers of their travels will become plain. Remember ‘Success is the product of perseverance; perseverance is the product of a trained mind.’”

* * *

The great spaceport entrance opened and Harrigan’s Whelp settled — gently, to the gratification of the port personnel — down to its accustomed spot. Katia was back. The Whelp’s hold doors opened, and tanks of aquatic life were lifted out and taken to the separate shipping locations noted on their papers. Soon they would be going out, under the watchful eye of Janine McCabe, to the various eco-projects they had been collected for.

In the control room of Harrigan’s Whelp a buzzer sounded and Katia actuated a relay to answer the summons. It was Cyr. “Katia, I need to talk to you. May I come aboard?”

Shocked, Katia could not think of a thing to say for a few seconds. Then she said, “Cyr, we have been friends for longer than I can remember. Since when have you needed an invitation to talk with me?”

Cyr’s holo-form appeared — a smallish, timid looking little man — and shuffled over to one of the crews chairs and sat down. “Ever since you started me on this using an image thing. If I am to use images, I must study how those images looked in real life and then I have to act like them. In acting like them I have come, in some way, to know them; to think like them.

“I have not found one that is really me yet. People are so messed up and complicated and I have been so many people now, and those thought patterns are still in my memory banks. I think that I have begun to understand that strange word ‘confused’.”

“Cyr, you have a personality already. Why are you trying to use others? Just use the image and the personality you already have. That shouldn’t be as hard.”

“I can’t, Katia. People are not just what they are on the outside. The outside and the inside are a whole, one person. Would it be ethical to use only half the person? I have thought a lot about this, and I don’t feel that any of those that I am personating would approve of their selves being used in such away. It would be wrong to use their persona to do things they would not do.”

“Then, Cyr, you must make your own image. You must create one that represents who you are.”


Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2005 by euhal allen

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