The Bridge: a New Beginning
by euhal allen
Chapter 3: Sowing Confusion
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.
Dr. Melichson came out of the building at his normal time and took his seat in his skimmer as usual, saying only, “Home. Route 42. Standard speed.”
The skimmer then backed out of the parking bay and began its usual trip to Melichson’s quarters. As it approached the Macro Tunnel, Melichson reached over and, after just a small hesitation, flipped a toggle switch and began staring at the interior wall of the skimmer, hoping that his calculations were right and someone else had not made any timing errors.
Two hundred feet away, on the other side of a small rise paralleling Route 42, a light in another vehicle blinked on and the driver there immediately flipped a toggle in that vehicle.
Melichson watched as an opening appeared in the skimmer wall and grew until it was three-quarters of a meter wide. At that point he jumped at and through the opening and appeared in the other vehicle shouting, “I’m here, Sean, close the switch!”
Sean hit the toggle to off and accelerated he skimmer to cruising speed and headed for the space port.
Behind and over the rise from them Dr. Melichson’s skimmer went out of control and headed for the safety strip at the outer edge of Route 42. Then it flashed iridescently and became a fiery presence that soon transformed itself into a half-vaporized and melted wreck.
* * *
Bruno Cagliari and two other men entered the outer room of the University President’s office, acknowledged the secretary and headed for the door to the inner office.
“Dr. Martini is in conference, you can’t go in there now!” yelled the secretary.
Bruno didn’t stop, but opened the door and led the other two men into the office and interrupted the meeting by showing his Bureau of Galactic Security ID and stating, “Dr. Martini, you are under arrest for the murder of Dr. Renaldo Melichson.”
Pale-faced, Dr. Martini replied, “Melichson... murder... What are you talking about?”
Cagliari just told the two men with him to put the cuffs on Martini and take him out the waiting BGS skimmer. Then, looking at the others in the office he said, “I believe the meeting is over, gentlemen,” and turning quickly, followed his men out of the building and into the vehicle.
* * *
Kran Xhelsher looked at the work in his In-Box and shivered just a little. Assistant Galactic Chronicler’s work load was always more than he had really wanted. It was up to him to pass along those things that would be of interest to his supervisor and send to the archives those things not of such interest, which meant most things.
As he went through the material he came across a number of things that he put aside to look at more closely, because they interested him. He knew that he was collecting more things than he would ever actually have time for, but since one never knew just what would be interesting at a later date, Kran always played on the safe side. Besides he never used the office replicator to make his illicit copies, not since he had rescued that old model that did not put anything into memory.
As he looked through the material a report caught his eyes. Its cover read: An Investigation into the Composition and Use of a Sub-Quantum Carrier Beam, by Dr. Renaldo Melichson, Dreamers’ World University.
“How interesting,” thought Xhelsher as he took the paper into his little closet and fed it to his secret replicator. When it came out and after Kran had made sure that the old machine had done its usual good job, he deposited it in the transfer slot and instructed the auto-filer to put it under the present date by Dr. Melichson’s name and title. Then he took the original back out to his desk and put it with the other material to go to the archives but not to his boss.
* * *
In the office of the Minister of Humanity Katia Shapirov was deep into a debriefing with Bruno Cagliari. She nodded her approval at the manner in which Dr. Melichson was “murdered” and laughed a little to herself at the shock of Dr. Martini’s arrest and subsequent night in a cell.
“We really can’t hold him much longer, Minister Shapirov,” said Cagliari, “the evidence of his guilt is too shallow to get a conviction.”
Katia replied, “That’s too bad. Dr. Melichson was a great asset to the University. However, the mere fact that Dr. Martini was arrested in the matter has already led the University Board to demand his immediate resignation and it is already in the process of appointing another President for the school.”
Katia now reached over and turned off the recording equipment and gave Cagliari a sly wink. “Do you have any plans now for Dr. Martini?”
“No, Katia, we’re not exactly sure just how to handle his release. I can’t testify as to our conversation about Melichson being a problem to Martini without alerting nasty people that I have been an underground BGS agent all these years. I really feel that I have earned a better retirement than a quick trip through a crematorium.”
“That,” answered Katia, “has already been taken care of. I believe you have always entertained thought of a few years on Shelnick IV, have you not?”
And at his assent to the proposition, she continued: “It seems that the BGS needs an experienced agent there to oversee the Agent R&R facility, and the Director of the BGS agrees with me that you could well handle the job, that is, if you want it.”
“I am ready to leave right now, Minister Shapirov!”
“You are booked for a flight out tomorrow.
“Now, for our other two problems. It would seem to me that Dr. Martini would be an excellent assistant for his former student, Steven Brislow. Such a position would afford him some status and a chance to come to know how useful the quality of humility is.”
Cagliari laughed loudly and asked, “Do I see a delightful streak of sadism in you, Katia? I am sure that Dr. Martini will be delighted to accept such a position, especially after I show him the recording of our conversations in the last few months. “But you said two problems, didn’t you? What is the other one?”
“The paper on Sub-Quantum waves. Dr. Melichson’s paper. Do we have all the copies accounted for and destroyed?”
“All but one, and that one has been sent to the Galactic Chronicler’s office for the archives. I have a man scheduled to go over there tomorrow and retrieve it.”
“What? Not tomorrow, Bruno, NOW! That paper must be retrieved and destroyed before Kran Xhelsher ever has a chance to even see it. If he ever gets hold of it and reads it we will have blown everything.
“I don’t think that you people know how really smart that man is. Worse yet, he can take almost any kind of problem and see solutions from the known evidences that no one else can.
“If you want the retirement job on Shelnick IV you will get that paper NOW!”
* * *
Kran Xhelsher barely got the paper back into the archival material when two men, obviously BGS agents, entered the office and inquired about it.
“It is on my desk, I believe, among the other material headed for the archives. Why is it important to the BGS?”
“It seems that it may be an important piece of evidence,” replied one of the agents, “in the investigation of the murder of Dr. Renaldo Melichson.”
“Renaldo Melichson murdered?” asked a shocked Kran Xhelsher. “When did that happen?”
“Last evening, Sir. Someone planted an incendiary explosive in his skimmer and he was vaporized. At least, Assistant Chronicler, it was quick. Don’t worry, sir, we will treat the paper well and we will get it back to the your archives as soon as the investigators and the von Schweinfurts are finished examining it.”
Kran, a bit startled, looked up and asked, “The von Schweinfurts? Why would they receive the paper? I am sure that they didn’t murder Dr. Melichson.”
“Well, sir, we understand that the paper is a bit obtuse and we don’t have anyone in our offices that can measure its worth. The von Schweinfurts have been asked to help us by looking at the paper and giving us their thoughts as to its contents being part of a motive or not. That’s all we know, sir. We are just doing our job.”
“Very well, gentlemen, but be careful with it and get it back to the archives as soon as possible,” and promptly forgot about the paper even as the agents removed it from the material on his desk.
* * *
Renaldo Melichson was enjoying a cup of coffee aboard the supply ship that was to take him to his new labs when he saw Katia Shapirov come through the door, smiling at him.
“Well, Renaldo, you are now officially dead and no one can bother you. Do you have any special requests as to the memorial ceremonies that will be held for you?”
“No, Minister Shapirov,” he answered, “I never cared much for them when I was alive, and being dead I could hardly care for them now. If you have to have one keep it cheap and simple since my estate wouldn’t pay for anything fancy.”
“Call me Katia; it is my name and I am one to rid things of formality whenever I can. And I shall call you whatever new name you pick.”
“New name, Min... Katia? I don’t understand.”
“It is very simple. I’m afraid you are going to have to die again.”
“You’re joking, right?”
“No. We have convinced a number of your students — the brightest ones — that you are still alive and are going somewhere to bigger and new laboratories to continue your research into Sub-Quantum technology there. All of them have volunteered to go there and be Dr. Melichson’s assistants. That is something we can’t have.”
“It would seem, Katia, that if you did not want them to be my assistants you would not have told them what you did.”
“You are a scientist, I am a people person. People do not react the same way that materials and atoms do. Sometimes you not only have to create the future they want to be in, you have to motivate them to be there.
“They were willing to go to an out of the way place — and believe me, Starhell, where your labs are, is out of the way — only after they were told that you were alive and would be directing the research. In a way they almost worship you, hang on your words, so to speak.
“We need them to think and be willing to put forth their own ideas. We need them to be creative in their own right. We will only have you and them, a very small number, and we need all of you to be working at the highest level.”
“So, if I have gotten this right, I am to die and then I am to direct this research as a dead person?”
“This ship not only has equipment for your labs on Starhell, it is also equipped with a complete Rejuv clinic. You will spend a part of the almost two years of the trip in Rejuv stasis. That will give you at least another possible eighty years of life.
“During the Rejuv you will also have certain modifications made to your physiology. When you are released from Rejuv you will no longer look, walk or sound like Dr. Renaldo Melichson. You will be the research assistant that is traveling on this trip with Dr. Melichson.
“When you get to Starhell it will be your sad duty to tell those former students that Dr. Melichson did not survive the Rejuv treatment.”
“But, Katia, how can this be? The assistant is listed as an engineer, not a person with my specialties and skills. How can I direct research into Sub-Quantum if those students will not allow it? They won’t, you know. Research scientist are not prone to taking orders from engineers.”
“You will have spent a year and a half with Dr. Melichson, working one on one. You will have your notes on the work you will have done with him. They will be in the code that Melichson has always written them and you will be the only one who can read them. They will listen to you.
“As to your directing research, we hope that will not happen too soon. We want, rather, a group of equals working together, each supplying the knowledge of his own specialty. While you are in Rejuv, you will receive an extensive education in several of the relevant fields of engineering. It will be up to you to convince them that such knowledge, along with what you have learned from Dr. Melichson make you their equal.”
“And if I really don’t survive the Rejuv treatments?”
“Then we will have to rely on the teaching job you did with those students.
“Oh,” Katia continued as she was going out the door and back to her vehicle, “and... do you have a name that you would like your assistant to have? It should not be anything like the one death is taking from you.”
“Well, since this seems to be all settled, I have always liked the name George.”
Katia gone, Dr. Melichson, apprehensive at the plans just revealed, headed back to his quarters to pack his things and get out of the ship as quickly as possible.
Once in his room with his bag on his bed he became aware of a slight odor and then, wondering just what it was, he slumped down over the bed and was unconscious.
The ventilators hummed and the smell was soon gone allowing Katia to look in. “I am sorry, George, but you made an agreement and there is too much at stake and too many lives on the line to let you back out now.”
* * *
To be continued...
Copyright © 2011 by euhal allen