The Bridge: a New Beginning
by euhal allen
Chapter 2: Collusion
The people of Earth have rejected the Galactic Council’s offer of aid in qualifying for membership in the Galactic Union, but some Union sympathizers have taken refuge on Dreamer’s World. Katia Harrigan, the Dreamsinger, is elected to be humanity’s representative to the Galactic Council, where she hopes to save Earth from being completely ostracized. Meanwhile, Katia’s children Sean and Olga pursue academic careers, while her granddaughter Me’Avi turns to politics.
Kran Xhelsher absently watched the interview with Minister Shapirov, while also reading the denial of his resignation for the third time. “Good for you, Katia. Teach that oaf a lesson, if you can.”
Of course, Katia’s book was just hype in reality. Yes, there were over forty famous Chroniclers, but that was out of hundreds. Still, Minister Shapirov did manage to make that job sound good. But then, in working with her lately, he learned she could almost make being eaten by a Zlognyorg sound good.
She was, in his eyes, a strange lady. She seemed to like being a Minister of the Galactic Council. Of course, she had an agenda and was doing whatever she could to push it. Some of the things on her agenda he would have to fight, because they did not coincide with what his government would approve of. He would have to fight them hard, too, because Katia was a very capable Minister. That was too bad, since he had great respect for the Minister from Humanity. And that made the Chronicler’s office sound even better.
Mostly, those guys just went to their offices every day and did research so that the line of official Galactic Council publications would never stop. The history of this or that planet was always coming on the schedule, sandwiched in between records of Council actions and legal wrangles. It was the type of thing he would have been doing had his planet’s appointed Minister not “died.”
Now Kran’s assistant did those things and he had to go to the Council meetings and listen to all the boring speeches, go to the insipid parties, and, in general, be a bit of a bore himself. And as he eyed the denial of his resignation one more time, he saw he was stuck with it.
Just at that moment Kran’s assistant peeked through the door and said, “Minister Shapirov is on the com for you, sir. She says it’s urgent.”
“OK,” answered Kran, “put her through.”
“Hello Katia, what can I do for you?”
“Minister Xhelsher, I think I can do something for you. I heard through the grapevine that you just got another ‘no’ from your government.”
“Yes,” Kran replied, “that is true. You have some very efficient spies working for you.”
“Actually it was your assistant who told me today at lunch. We wound up at the same table by, shall we say, his design. I think he would like your job, you know.”
“Yes, he would. He has told me that several times and I have said to him that he would be welcome to it. However my people back home are not very cooperative on that point right now.”
“Kran, a Minister should be someone who finds fulfillment in serving his people in that office. The office is too important to be filled by someone whose heart is not in it.
“You may not be pleased with me, but I have forwarded your name to the nominating committee to fill the position of assistant to the Galactic Chronicler. I would have sought your appointment to the Chronicler’s office itself had it not been that the Second Assistant has already been appointed. Still, he is somewhat older and should be retiring in just a few years. Then you would be Galactic Chronicler, wouldn’t you?”
“Katia, if I were to accept your help on this I would then miss out on some really great battles with you. The proposals you have in expanding the realms of your people are not looked on favorably by my government, you know.
“You wouldn’t be trying to help me out of this wretched job just because you know my assistant and presumable replacement is an oaf and no match for you on the floor of the Council Hall, would you?”
“Kran, that you could think such a thing! Why do you think I wrote that book about the Chronicler’s office? Your assistant is an oaf, as you say and I would much rather deal with him officially than with you on certain things I need to do.
“Right now the Chronicler’s office has recognized public status and you could probably get away with such a move and make the case for it being an advancement in position and thus forcing your government to recognize it as fulfilling their legal requirements for you to resign your office here. Wait, and you will never get out of there. And we will have some terrific battles on the floor of the Council Hall.”
“Minister Shapirov, if your nomination for me is flowery enough and you inflate the Chronicler’s Assistant’s position enough, I will be out of this office before your speech ends. Besides, my assistant is not only an oaf; he is a disagreeable, insufferable idiot. I look forward to seeing you take him down.”
* * *
Janine Carlisle watched from her hiding place as her mother, Dr. Susan Carlisle, ran screaming down the hall.
“That’s so strange,” she thought as she peeped through the tiny crack at the doorjamb. “Mama always told me to be as quiet as a mouse, like her, whenever bad men came near to us. Why is she screaming now?”
She watched as her mother disappeared around the corner of the hallway and as some of the bad men now chasing her disappeared after her. Then she made sure the door was completely closed and locked, as her mother had told her to.
“You must stay here and be very quiet, Janine, until either your father comes for you or you run out of food and water. Can you do that?”
“Yes, Mama,” she had answered, “but aren’t you coming back?”
“If I can, Janine. But, don’t be sad for me for if they catch me and I can’t come back. It will be easier for me if I know you are safe. I won’t tell them about you, and I won’t be in any pain. Not for very long, at least.”
Janine sat in the back of the closet and wondered what her mama had meant by her words about pain when she heard a sound she knew by heart, the sound of gunfire, and then she knew, as she cried softly to herself, that her mother would not be coming back.
* * *
Dr. Angelo Martini was in his spacious office, and he was angry. He was the President of Dreamer’s World University and he was important on Dreamer’s World. How could Minister Shapirov dare to dictate to him how the University should be run? It was not her position to be leaning on him and forcing him to endanger the reputation of the whole school just to elevate some pseudo-scientist to an advanced position of status.
The intercom on his desk buzzed and his secretary’s voice said, “There is a Bruno Cagliari here to see you, Dr. Martini.”
“Ah, send him in,” replied Martini as he took a bottle off the side table and poured two stiff drinks.
“Bruno, it has been a long time since I have seen you. Scotch is your favorite if I remember right.” He handed Cagliari one of the glasses. “Are you still in the problem-solving business?”
“What else?” answered his visitor as he downed the Scotch. “A man does what he does. You got a problem that needs solving?”
“Yes. His name is Dr. Renaldo Melichson. His connections have elevated him to a position that has become embarrassing for the University. It would be nice if he were somewhere else.”
“I’ll look into it. Nice seeing you. Ciao.”
* * *
“Cyr, how are we doing on our plan for transfer to the new site? Is the equipment going to work satisfactorily?”
“Katia, you always ask the questions before we have the answers, don’t you? Dr. Melichson is sure that we can do some testing in a year or two. That is about how long it will take our vessel to get there. That’s all I can say, except I hope you can make him scarce in time for the ship to depart.
“And, before you ask, the identity of his assistant is going to be the least of our problems. I am just a little confused as to this plan you have, and computers are very uncomfortable when they are confused.”
* * *
Me’Avi von Schweinfurt’s vacation was over and she bid her Aunt and Uncle good-bye and boarded the skimmer for her trip to the boarding school she would be attending.
It always irked her just a bit that her parents were so busy being scientists that she often got pushed aside during some new project they found exciting. And, now that her Aunt and Uncle had received appointment to his new command, they would be in training most of the time for the projected voyages, and she would see them only during vacations. Then, when she was still in her young womanhood they would be on those voyages for the next two decades.
It seemed to her that everything was more important to those dedicated people than she was. It also seemed that the way out of such a life was to become anything but a scientist or an officer. She had decided that she would go into government and become one who spent her life dealing with people. If that was the only way to become important to those around her, so be it.
On arriving at her new school, Me’Avi promptly registered for the courses that would best allow her to rise to the greatest possible heights in Galactic Service, hoping, someday, to accomplish something that would gain her family’s attention if not their admiration. And why not? Wasn’t her grandmother, Katia Shapirov, such a person?
“Young lady, your name, please. If you’re going to register for all these courses we must have your name.”
“Me’Avi Schwei..., Me’Avi Shapirov.”
“I am sorry, we don’t have that name on our lists. Are you sure that your last name is not Schweinfurt?”
“It was. It is my father’s name. I have decided to change it. I have decided, like my mother has, to use my grandmother’s last name. My grandmother is Katia Shapirov. I am sure she would be happy to confirm my choice should you wish to contact her.”
Knowing that Minister Shapirov had the reputation of not suffering interruptions on such things, the clerk, after checking that Me’Avi was indeed Minister Shapirov’s granddaughter, made the change in the enrollment records without further fuss.
Seeing that her ploy had worked, Me’Avi also saw that her new name, combined with boldness, would cause things to be quickly done without objection. The lesson of a name’s influence, when it was not Schweinfurt, was one she not only would not forget, it was one she would become proficient at using to her advantage. Her climb had started.
* * *
The new Assistant Galactic Chronicler read the letter directing him to refuse the appointment to his new office and remain the Minister from his planet, and he chuckled to himself. It was too late. Minister Shapirov had planned everything so well that the usual time it took for such an appointment had been cut by two-thirds and the appointment had gone through several days ago. Now it would be an affront to honor to disavow his new position.
Still, there was a small regret in that if he had stayed in his former position he would have had formidable and enjoyable challenges in the person of Katia Shapirov.
“No,” he thought, “it would be much better and much more peaceful to have Minister Shapirov a friend rather than an opponent.”
Now, that was possible. And, that idiot who was now the Minister from his planet would be recalled before he did too much damage, and the people that had arranged his ‘promotion’ would have to find another to saddle with the Minister’s position.
* * *
The shadow moved quickly to the back of the building and knocked as quietly as he could on the door to the University President’s back entrance. As soon as the door opened he stepped inside and told the attendant that the President was expecting him.
The attendant actuated the com-system and received the official’s permission to send the visitor up to his office and was told to forget that anyone had ever come in and not to note the visit in the journal kept for that purpose.
“Well,” asked the President, “what do you have to tell me? I hope it is more useful than the last bit of information.”
“Oh, it is, sir,” replied the person, “it is the very thing that you have been looking for to get Dr. Melichson out. After this is made public no one will question any action you take against him. You know, sir, how Dr. Melichson has his little clique of students that he favors, all those who are as crazy as he is?”
“Get to the point, man!”
“Yes, sir, I am. Yesterday he had a meeting in his office and only allowed those special students in. He gave each of them a paper that he had been working on and swore them to secrecy.”
“How do you know this?”
“The other day, when his secretary was, somehow, called out of her office, I managed to put a bug in his desk and I was listening to the whole meeting. I heard what he told them. He plans to continue with his Sub-Quantum research and he wanted them to join him in it.”
“The man is insane,” replied Dr. Martini, “and he is going to ruin the name of the University. Did you find an extra copy of that paper so that we can at least disavow what it says?”
“No, sir, I didn’t. What I did is sneak into one of those student’s rooms and ‘borrow’ a copy long enough to put it in a replicator. And it was not set up to be published. Melichson must know that to do so would ruin his reputation, not the University’s; not after he was fired for incompetence. I brought the copy here to you.”
Putting the replicard into the reader, the President only had to read the title to see that his student spy was right, it was the end of Melichson.
“’An Investigation into the Composition and Use of a Sub-Quantum Carrier Beam’ by Dr. Renaldo Melichson, Dreamers’ World University,” he read. “Yes,” he continued, “when we make this available to the academic world, Melichson will be through and I shall appoint a qualified man to chair that part of our institution.
“Very good, young man! I shall see to it that you are suitably rewarded for this good work. Now, you had better leave before anyone finds out that you were here.”
As the student left, the President touched a button on the com system.
“Miss Stewart, please send Mr. Cagliari a note to offer Steven Brislow a job in one of his very out-system ventures. Mr. Brislow has earned a long tenure in Mr. Cagliari’s employ.”
* * *
Katia was not pleased that her com-unit made its disreputable noise so early in the morning. It was bad enough that she got too little rest as it was without having what little she did get interrupted. But, since everything was screened by Cyr, she knew it had to be important if it got all the way through to her.
“OK, Cyr, OK! I’m up and you stop that noise now. What is it this time, someone poisoning an ocean or something?”
“Of course not, Katia, I would not awaken you for something like that. That is not something you could do much about. Bruno Cagliari is on the line and it doesn’t sound good.”
“Bruno? No, it can’t be good if he is calling at this hour. Put him on.”
“Hi, Katia, how’s it goin’?”
“Bruno, it is too early in the morning to be sociable, what has gone wrong?”
“Our mutual friend — I always liked that phrase cause there is a book by that name out there somewhere and that makes me sound literate — Dr. Angelo Martini has requested an extended vacation for one of the students at the university, a Steven Brislow.”
“Well, that is strange. What else do you know, Bruno?”
“Since Martini is sometimes a client of mine, I keep tabs on his office, for professional reasons, you know, and this Brislow got a paper by a Dr. Melichson and gave it Dr. Martini.”
“What! What paper and how did he get it?”
“He lifted it and put it in a replicator before he put it back. Then he brought it over to Martini and gave it to him. It is on something called a Sub-Quantum Carrier Beam. Know anything about that?
“Martini is going to get it published and use it to ice Melichson.”
“How much time do we have before Dr. Martini can have that paper published?”
“Katia, you are always trying to beat me to the punch, aren’t you? He ordered it to be out of the University Press within the next three days. He doesn’t want to waste any more time than he has to.
“Anything you want me to do?”
“Better give Brislow his vacation, but put him in some job with status. People who are kept happy can be controlled better if they have something to lose. Then get find a way to get all the copies of that paper destroyed before they get out. There must not be any of them left, absolutely none, got it?”
“As for Dr. Melichson, I will have to accelerate our plan a day or two. Can you have that device you are supplying me ready a little sooner?”
“It is ready now,” came the reply. “I will have it installed in Melichson’s vehicle today, while he is in class.”
“Good. This has got to work, Cagliari. A lot of lives rest on this being done right.”
* * *
To be continued...
Copyright © 2011 by euhal allen