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The Bridge

Book III: The Starhell Mutiny

by euhal allen

Table of Contents
Chapter 4, part 3 appeared
in issue 155.

Chapter 5: Tricks of the Trade

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

Rondol sat at his desk in the Galactic Council Space Science building and looked at the number of documents that awaited him on the in-screen. “There are days,” he thought, “where I get so tired of the files waiting action. It would be nice if something exciting happened around here.”

“Uhm, Sir... uhm.”

Rondol looked up and saw an assistant, face flushed with worry, standing in the doorway, “Yes, Pa’Nia, what is it? Is it your aunt? Has her illness become worse?”

“Yes, Sir, she seems to have had a bad relapse and we are worried about her.

“But that is not why I am here, Sir. We just downloaded the data packs from the latest messenger drone from the LaScena, and there seems to be a problem that you need to handle in some way, Sir.”

“Well, I was just wishing for a little excitement to liven things up. Let me see the problem.”

Pa’Nia, carried the data-viewer over to Rondol’s desk and set it in front of him so he could see the scope of the problem. “Has this gone into the data feed to the Galactic Council’s data bank?”

Pa’Nia, looking around nervously, answered, “No, Sir, it seemed to me that you would want to check it for errors. The messenger drone did come from a terribly long ways away and sometimes there are errors. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for sending bad data to the Council.”

“Excellent work! Just leave it here and let me check it out. I’ll get back to you by tomorrow morning on this matter.

“By the way, Pa’Nia, now about your aunt? Can she have visitors?”

“Yes, Sir. I was going to go see her after work today. She always appreciates my visits, especially if I have time to take her a present to cheer her up.”

“Well, good work should be rewarded. Your drawing my attention to this little problem before it could go into the data feed to the Council and possibly cause confusion was just such good work.

“Family is important for us, so take the rest of the day off and go cheer your aunt up. Make sure to take her a nice present.”

“Thank you, Sir, I’ll go right away. And,” she continued as she went out the door, “I know just the kind of present that would please her.”

Rondol, looking at the data viewer, mumbled to himself, “Never, you idiot, never wish for excitement again.”

* * *

In a room, a temporary office elsewhere in the Space Science building, a watcher with a BGS patch on his uniform shook his head at the conversation he had just witnessed.

“Those Qwell people spend,” he thought, “more time worrying about their families than anyone else in the galaxy. If they weren’t so good at whatever they do, no one would put up with them.”

* * *

The Minister from Qwell took his place at the speaker’s lectern. Facing the members of the Galactic Council, he began to speak. “Fellow Ministers, I have come to ask of you a relief. As you know many of my people are working hard in the agencies toiling for this Council. This has been the way of things for many generations.

“We are a patient people and we do well in administrative and clerical positions. Always we have worked to advance the will of the Council and have asked little in return except that respect that should be accorded any who spend their lives serving the needs of others. Now we find that our work is not appreciated, is not trusted. Perhaps you feel it is time that our people leave their work and return to Qwell and their families. If that is so, we are willing.”

Immediately the Ministers of the Council began murmuring that such a thing was not any intent of theirs. The Qwell’Na were the most efficient and least corruptible civil servants that the Galactic Council had ever found. With them doing their jobs the Galaxy’s problems had been cut in half from other, pre-Qwell times.

Waiting for a few minutes, until he had judged that the effect of his words had reached the level he sought, Qwell’s Minister then added, “Everywhere our work is being interfered with and watched by others who have no idea of how or why certain things are done in certain ways.

“I speak of the agents of the Bureau of Galactic Security and their recent incursions into the offices of those whose only crime is to do their jobs. Why are not these people out seeking to stop those who would disrupt the Galaxy? Is it because the Galaxy has been at peace all these years? Is it because the Galactic Council has succeeded in looking out for all the peoples of the Galaxy in such a way that these disrupting influences have almost disappeared? Is it because they have nothing else to do?

“Now we have this possible renegade planet that no one can find. If it is so important to find then these people should be out finding it and not interfering with our peoples’ work. The situation with these agents is becoming intolerable and these, your, the Galactic Council’s employees doing the Galactic Council’s work cannot continue to do so in an atmosphere of paranoia and fear.”

* * *

The ships made their way carefully into fringes of the Cernon Sector’s region seven, one of the three regions that had not yet been searched by BGS ships and crews. That would soon change since those ships were “secretly” scheduled to come to this region next.

Almost all traceable technology on the ships were either off or at such a low intensity that it was almost impossible to detect from any real distance; certainly any distance that BGS ships were now operating at.

Soon they arrived at a planet earlier scouted and mapped by one of their people in the last month or so. Landing at the appropriate place there was a flurry of activity as buildings were set up and mines were begun. Machinery was offloaded and placed in positions of various states of completion, or dismantling, and left.

Within days there was a mostly complete mining colony going up, or coming down, situated on the open plain. There were quarters and food stocks in evidence and, hidden, but not too well, were papers indicating that the mining station was connected to the renegade planet.

When the work was done and evidence of a continued operation was allowed to be put into places that would not be too obvious, the ships and crews, after taking off and landing several times and in several places, left the planet and made their way back to the Cernon Sector’s main worlds by a most circuitous route to a certain shipyard where they fulfilled their earlier assignment of being broken into scrap.

* * *

In the Cernon Sector, on a planet named Doris — the planet was first discovered and settled by a very large family who was headed by a very tough grandmother of that name — a young man stood on a mountainside and listened to the wind. It was something he often did. Soon he was going down the mountain, a tune running through his head.

When he got to the village at the bottom of the mountain he began to run towards his house. Once inside he ran to his keyboard and began to play and record his new mountain song while his mother made bread and listened to the notes as they soared and dived and played with her soul. Too soon it was finished and her smiling eight year-old son was waiting for her comments.

“That was very nice, Michael, is it new?”

“Yes, mummy, I just heard it on the mountain. The wind sang it to me. It often does, you know, sing to me.”

* * *

Sean and Olga stepped into the control room of Harrigan’s Whelp and waited for their mother to recognize them. Soon chairs came out from the bulkheads and Katia’s holoform appeared in one of them just as they sat themselves down.

“Sean, how many ships do we have that could take groups of people safely to Earth? I know how many ships we have, but you, dealing with them all the time, would be the one to tell me how many are safe enough to transport large groups of people.”

Sean, looking at his mother, said, “Ah, maybe fourteen. Others could be upgraded if we were to prioritize that. Then, maybe twenty-seven. But why would we want to do that?”

“Just a contingency plan. That is the problem with a project like this. We have to spend time planning for just about anything. That Council ship that came through here, the LaScena, sent a message drone to the Space Science center at the capitol. It described our system: a G-type star, seventeen planets, and the fourth one habitable with some vegetation and a moon. With the exception of the moon, the report mirrors Kalvin’s testimony before the Council almost exactly.

“Fortunately, people who are friendly to us are doing their best to keep that report out of the data feed to the Council and have put the report into a recheck file. Then they sent orders to another ship, when it has time and is in the area, to have a second look at our system.

“That ship is in another sector completely and would not make it here for years. However, the LaScena will be starting her turn-around in a couple of months and could be back here in as little as six months if she were asked to be.

“Yesterday we intercepted a message to the LaScena, from the other assigned ship instructing her to do just that. Ship’s captains have that authority and often get one another to take assignments that can be better done than by them. The LaScena has accepted the request and has programmed their course to come back this way. It seems that by doing that they can cut several months off their original course and get back home sooner. Other ships — ones that have not been out so long — will cover the systems that the LaScena will be skipping to check us out.”

Olga, shocked, said, “The plantings, you’re worried about the plantings. Even if we stop now, the areas under cultivation and green with vegetation have grown by almost a thousand percent since the LaScena was here last.”

“That is right, Olga,” Katia replied, “but that is not all. Even if we were to destroy all those extra plantings — which we are not going to do — what about all the work that was done in crushing the rock into a start for soil. It reacts to scanning much differently than does plain rock. There is no way that we can hide that, and there is no way we can make it look as if were the natural outcome of some planetary phenomena.”

“What about our friends at the Space Science center? Can they do anything to keep the LaScena from making it here?” asked Sean.

“Not at this moment, Sean,” his mother said, “they are all being watched by the BGS and have to be tremendously careful in anything they do.”

“I will start the refitting of every ship I can get my hands on then,” Sean said, “and maybe we can get more than twenty-seven ready in case they are needed. That will leave many people here though. I hate abandoning them.”

“They won’t be abandoned. They will have the undersea facilities to go to. If they have to, they can stay there for up to a year. If the LaScena does come, it can’t be here for another six months. Then if her crew guesses too closely what is happening here, the report drone will take three months to make it to the capitol. A Council fleet would take time to put together. It would be at least another year after the report was received before they could make it here.

“That gives us a little less than two years to be ready, should all that happen. But, it may not. Message drones are among the fastest vessels in the Galaxy, but they have been known to disappear. If that were to happen we would have more time. And, people in other places are pushing the Council in other directions. Many of the Ministers don’t believe that we really exist, and they don’t like wasting money hunting for ghosts.

“And the Minister from Qwell is trying to get the BGS off his people’s backs. There is a big debate in the Council about it now. And your daughter, Olga, is the one pushing to have the BGS given more power to watch everything, at least, until we are found.”

“Yes, she has been a bit of a trial.” Olga replied as she was leaving the control room. “She has a stubborn streak that she gets from her grandmother.”

* * *

Kalvin was ecstatic. He had received a set of recordings from a woman on a planet in the Cernon Sector. They were magnificent and the person, the woman’s son, Michael, who had composed them, was a genius. All his life Kalvin had wanted to find another master of music that he could communicate with. And now he would have a chance to do so. Already he could see the music they could make in collaboration.

First, with Kalvin as his mentor and guide, the music would be done with his methods as he helped complete the musical education of the backwoods genius. Then, as this Michael’s musical talents matured, he could start to compose on his own. Then, when Kalvin was old enough to retire, his protégé, this Michael, would become the next Grand Master at the Great Concert Hall.

Of course, Kalvin had to go to Doris at once and bring this young man back to New Earth. All the great music should be written here at the center of human society. There would be parties and introductions. Society would be agog at the new musical genius. “Naturally,” Kalvin thought, “I will have to keep him away from the young ladies right from the start.” Thinking back to his study of Mozart’s problems with the ladies he continued thinking, “Can’t have him becoming so involved with the young ladies that he forgets his music.”

Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2005 by euhal allen

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