A Bridge to Earth
by Richard Merlin Smith
The history begins millions of years ago and light-years away. The story commences a few thousand Earth years ago: a brown dwarf a rogue star with its attendant planets travels on a collision course toward the system of a yellow sun. Soon their disparate plasma sheaths begin to interact, and the Guardians and Stewards must make fateful decisions.
At the beginning of all things, the creator of the universe made the larger world and the smaller world. Then the creator placed the bridge of life between the two worlds saying: “As long as the bridge shall last the two worlds will share the breath of life.” — from the Guardian’s creation myth
The apparition had been stable since the creation of the peculiar star system but now it was, well, teetering. That was the only appropriately descriptive word.
Gernat, the astronomer, stood before an assemblage of a few of the small world’s scientists — those who could be summoned on short notice. These few would return to their respective districts of the world to prepare their people for the inevitable disaster that would soon come. In reality, it had already started.
“We have always believed that our system was stationary and alone in space but it appears that we were wrong. It is now obvious that we have been traveling through space with our star and that there are other systems in existence — and it seems that we have encountered one of them. The specific cause of this disaster is not obvious, but it’s clear that our system has become unstable.”
Through many eons the rogue system had moved toward Sol from the direction of the great nebula in Orion. The glow of the rogue’s plasma sheath masked all starlight so that the inhabitants knew only the great, bright red, semi-distinct body in their northern sky and enjoyed a seemingly eternal spring-like existence bathed in the plasmasphere of the great primary. But now the once-opaque red glow of the rogue had become semi-transparent, and Sol began to appear as a small yellow blob in the clearing atmosphere.
Gernat continued, “The plasmaspheres of our sun and the new system have begun to interact visibly. The electrical potential difference between our suns is creating massive discharges in the intervening space. Because of the small size of our planet it is apparent that this disruption of our system will result in the loss of our atmosphere.
“There is not sufficient time to organize an evacuation, assuming such an undertaking is possible at all.” As she spoke, she strode slowly back and forth in front of the group. “Soon we will have to retreat to the underground vaults for whatever protection they may offer.” She paused briefly to glance at the angry red globe of the rogue star. How peaceful and majestic it had once been, she thought.
“Gernat, you referred to an evacuation.” A gentle prod from Zenser, the only member present from the equatorial region.
“Yes, thank you Zenser,” she continued. “Some of you have been involved with the matter-transport experiments. Those who have not will be briefed during the next few hours before you return to your territories. In any event you will be faced with the problem of forming transport parties comprised of three people. This is the limit imposed by the abilities of the Guardians who must initiate and control the process. There are only fifty transport devices — all that could be constructed in the short time since we learned of the need.”
The members stirred uneasily and a sudden buzz of astonished conversation passed through the group. The population of the planet was little more than a million souls but this limit of three people to a transporter would mean that no more than one hundred fifty people could be transported — if the process could be made to work. There were fifty members of this delegation including Gernat.
“I’m sorry that we don’t know more about the process...”
She stopped in mid-sentence as the ground beneath them began to shudder, lightly at first, but in a few seconds the movement was a jarring staccato that made their vision blur. Along with the bone-jarring vibration there was a deep-throated howling sound, coming from everywhere it seemed. The members stood frozen in terror, not daring to move, clutching at anything — even each other — for support. With difficulty, Gernat turned toward the north-facing window framing the great red globe.
Faint reddish-yellow fingers of luminous material were reaching out from the polar region of the red star, gaseous ejections that meant that the star was finally visibly responding to enormous imbalances in its internal structure.
Suddenly the violent shuddering stopped and everyone stood motionless for a few more seconds, waiting in anxious anticipation. But there was no further motion. The ground was stable again.
“So, you’re saying that the transport process is statistical?”
“Correct,” Gernat replied. “Without a Guardian to oversee the process, where and when we arrive is a function of the thing that we can’t control — the unconscious part of our mind.”
“But that means that, with a Guardian, we could go backward in time. We could gain time to prepare for this catastrophe.”
“No,” she waved a hand in front of her eyes, “the testing that we have been able to do indicates that it can’t happen, at least not to one of us. It seems to be a characteristic of our minds that we always transport forward in time. The problem is in not knowing how far.”
“Then the only choice that we have is to transport to another place.”
“That is correct.” She looked at him intently, as though trying to impress a thought on his mind.
Zenser looked at Gernat for a long moment, gradually realizing what she meant. “You aren’t proposing that we attempt to transport to the other world are you?”
She gave no answer, but rose and turned to stare out the window at the great red disk of the northern giant.
“But that can’t be done,” he said. “It’s impossible.”
“Oh, it can be done,” she said, as she gazed out at the no longer familiar northern apparition. “It can be done...” Her voice trailed off absently.
“Not true. Our laws — our religion — have specific injunctions against it because of the impossibility and the inherent, mortal dangers of trying.”
“The reason why we have those laws,” she said, “is that our ancestors believed that, if we were to travel to the other world, we would somehow corrupt it. The concept gradually became law, moral and legal.”
“But how could we possibly corrupt that world? We have been good stewards here. Surely we could do as well in such a new pristine world.”
Again she met his comment with silence. She shook her head slowly and then said softly, “We would not be the stewards there.”
“Of course we would,” he said, “you don’t think the Guardians would want to be the stewards, do you?”
“No,” she said almost inaudibly, “the Guardians would not want to be the stewards, nor could they be.”
“Well, then, I don’t see what... “ He stopped in mid-sentence. “Who would be the stewards?”
She looked at him for a long moment. “The inhabitants.”
“Inhabitants,” he said incredulously, “but we are alone in the universe.”
“Not so,” she corrected. “The old texts say, ‘We alone are the chosen of the creator’. This is translated directly from the old language.” She paused, glancing at him to see his reaction. “The old texts have been interpreted by many people for many purposes. You are aware of this.” She made it a question with her eyes.
He nodded. “We are alone and the chosen of the creator. We are the stewards of this world and all others.” He quoted the most familiar of the old sayings, one that was the basis for the Stewards’ role as protector of the world.
She raised her long-fingered hand to emphasize her point. “You can see the subtle difference between that statement and the actual text which I recited.”
“We are not alone,” he mused. “We were mistaken.”
“We were misled,” she corrected him again. “The ancients were trying to protect the inhabitants of the other world. They believed that if we and they ever came together, the differences between us would cause great strife and bring destruction to both.”
“How would they know of inhabitants on the other world if no one had ever been there?”
She raised her hands in a silent gesture of question. “Who knows? Perhaps the legends of a bridge to heaven have some meaning in that respect.” She paused, gazing again at the great red orb in the north. The atmospheric bands seemed to have intensified even since morning. “It is also possible that the Guardians have something to do with it.”
“The Guardians,” he said, “claim to have no knowledge of history.”
She turned back to face him. “The Guardians have the peculiarity of focusing on the future to the point of disdaining the past,” she explained, although Zenser knew it well, “but they will recite the many names of their race, as you know, and the oldest of those names has the meaning bridge.”
“Yes,” he said, “bridge...”
She sighed and waved a finger in the air as if for silence. “Nevertheless we need them to transport successfully so each transport team must include a guardian.”
“We will assist you in transporting to the other world but we cannot accompany you. We are... changing... “
“Changing? How? In what way?”
“It is impossible to describe. It is something that we sense rather than know. But I and my kind must remain here. There is a purpose, and we must fulfill it.” The Guardian paused, as it often did, and pondered for a moment. The Steward waited respectfully, knowing that the Guardian was weighing his words carefully, wishing to be precise. “I believe,” he began, “no, I know,” he emphasized the word, “I know that the Stewards will return. It is something that I see; a future thing.”
Gernat nodded, “I understand your words and I understand your gift of prescience. But you know as well as I that the world is doomed. If it isn’t completely destroyed it will certainly be stripped of its atmosphere. Everything, everyone, will die.”
“So it would seem,” the Guardian replied.
“Then you and some of your fellows must come with us. It is the only chance to assure that the races survive.”
“We cannot leave. There is a purpose...”
“Those who stay are doomed,” Gernat reiterated.
“The Guardians will be... different.”
“The Guardians will be destroyed,” she said, emphasizing the last word.
“The Guardians will be... different.”
To be continued...
Copyright © 2011 by Richard Merlin Smith