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.
“Well, Katia,” said Cyr, “this is what you have been working for, isn’t it? This was one of the goals you wanted to reach to help your people, so why are you looking so glum?”
“It’s too soon, Cyr. I need several years yet to get more things set up in the background, to make the contacts I need to make. You can’t do as many things when you are Grand Minister, the media is on you too much.”
“You can’t refuse the office, Katia. You have been nominated and acclaimed by the Galactic Council as Grand Minister. Once that has happened they don’t let you turn it down. Unless you are going to pull one of those dying acts you used to be so good at.”
“Don’t be crude, Cyr. You know I can’t have myself die right now. Our people are not really thought of as full citizens yet. We have to accomplish that. Then we have to find some way to keep the Earth from being englobed. If Jonkil can’t delay the final report long enough, that will happen and those people and our home will be lost.
“And then there is Starhell. That has to be protected until it is has reached a strength that makes it difficult to dismiss as an aberration. And it won’t be able to do that unless Dr. Mel... George manages to make the Carrier Beam a viable reality. What we did in getting him out of his car before it was destroyed has to be expanded to the point that we can gather goodly numbers of Earth’s people and transport them quickly to Starhell.
“And we have to set up enclaves of civilization on Earth, also. We have to make it obvious to the Galactic Council that those people deserve still another chance, they have not degenerated — at least not all of them — to the point of being a total loss.
“How am I going to work on all that and be Grand Minister, too? Still, you are right, Cyr. I can’t turn it down, can I? I have to take the job and find a way to maneuver things so the Grand Minister’s office somehow supports what we are trying to do for our people. I am going to have to travel in two directions at once without anyone but us knowing it.”
* * *
Johannes, sitting at the control station, looked up at Olga and asked, “Now, ve vant to start, yes?”
“Not for a few moments, Johannes, I have to calibrate the timing scanners. If they are just the smallest bit out of sync we will either not make it out in time, or the system scanners will record our entrance into hyperspace. Neither of those outcomes will be of help to us. This has to be perfect.”
“Ja, I know. Still, I can start slowly and bring the field up just enough to see if our equations are correct. Always they vork on paper, but you know dat on paper vorking is no guarantee dat in vat iss real they vork.”
“Very well, Johannes, bring the field up to three point two-five percent and I will work the calibration parameters from that. When I get the initial figures we will start the field increases by steps of point five percent and I will monitor the results here at each step. Things will get pretty tight when we hit twenty-two point five, so you had better be ready to go into hyperspace anytime after that.”
“Ja, this ve haf many times talked about. I tink you are nervous, ja?”
“Nervous? I am scared spitless. I wish there were some other way, but there isn’t. We just have to do it this way or forget the whole project.”
Johannes turned back to his control panel and began communicating with the stealth engineered magnetic field enhancing satellites circling the star in their vision screens. Slowly the field began to strengthen and scanning satellites in the outer system began to report — both to the ship and to the monitoring equipment back at the university — that the sun’s magnetic field had begun to intensify to a point not expected by the science community for another several years.
Then the first pulse started and the initial wave of electromagnetic pulses expanded across the system, making the observing satellites activate their shields until the pulse passed and causing the watchers at the university to sweat with anxiety until the shields were down again and communication was restored, just in time to see that a second pulse would be soon coming.
Slowly, bit by bit, the tense hours passed aboard the ship as Olga and Johannes made the adjustments at the field satellite control boards and the energy from a local loop sunspot was encouraged to power the waves of camouflaging electromagnetic pulses outward through the system.
Only a local counter field, created by equipment designed by Sean, allowed continued observation in the ship, and protected them from the continual pulses now coming from the star.
Automatic alarm circuits tripped signals that should have forced the ship’s computers to begin a retreat from its position, had those circuits not been disconnected. This caused new reports to be generated and sent to the university computers and signals began to be sent to persons who had override authority.
At the same time, another program initiated that cut out reception from the hyperspace wavelengths used by the university computers, and the persons responsible for pulling the ship out of danger found that their efforts had no effect on the ship’s position.
Olga, carefully adjusting settings on the timing scanners, gave a little sigh of relief and then flipped the toggle that would insert their input into both the engineering and navigation systems. Turning to her husband, she gave him the thumbs-up signal telling him to continue the incremental increases that would magnify the star’s magnetic field to the point where it became strong enough to attract the multitudes of iron core asteroids inhabiting the belt’s mid-system orbit.
Little by little the star’s field increased in strength, and Olga, assuming satellite directed configurations that would eventually force the iron-bearing asteroids to crash into the star, began to relax a little.
Suddenly the field reversed and the magnitude of the change forced the iron core asteroids to stop their orbits. They were now inside a toroid form that, had the ship not been in a polar orbit, would have, with its collapse, dragged the ship into the star with the iron-core asteroids. At the same time, the collapse of the toroid created an energy release that started to compress the star’s core even as it threw the asteroids into the star’s center.
Olga and Johannes, monitoring and trying to control the process, vainly guided by the formulas and projections used to create the process in front of them, realized that they had run out of time and began to frantically activate the hyperdrive and navigation controls. Olga stopped long enough only to communicate with the engine room to tell Sean to grab something and hang on.
The people back at the university data center became more and more frantic as observations were on and off again and again. They saw their efforts to gain control of the ship and move it to safety continue to fail, knowing that failure was insuring the deaths of their colleagues on the ship.
At last, and just before the observation satellites died, they saw what they knew they would see, a star going nova and the flash of light and matter as it consumed the distance and overwhelmed the ship and their friends. Seconds later, even the outer satellites ceased their terrible reports.
* * *
Grand Minister Shapirov got up from her chair and stepped around her desk to greet and shake hands with the newly appointed Galactic Chronicler, Kran Xhelsher when her foot seemed to catch on something and she found herself grabbing hold of Chronicler Xhelsher’s arms to keep from falling.
She, a bit embarrassed, immediately apologized to the Chronicler and looking around at the floor, tried to find the object that she had tripped over, and, not finding it, realized that she must have knocked it under some furniture and she would be able to look for it later.
Soon she and the Chronicler were deep into important matters and she forgot all about her embarrassing moment, and the missing object.
* * *
In the main control station on Starhell a communications unit began beeping. A video was coming in to be decoded and shown to those working on the project that evening. It was, the message stated, a video of some importance.
That evening the whole community made its way into the main lecture hall and waited for the video to start. Soon the media screen lit up and showed a room that was obviously in a space ship with a long, black cylinder on a table in the center of the room. Then a computer voice began to speak.
“It is with sadness that we must report that Dr. Renaldo Melichson did not survive his rejuvenation process. This was not his first such process and it is known that, occasionally, a repeat treatment fails and the recipient does not wake up.
“In accordance with his written wishes we are now sending Dr. Melichson’s body, encased in the black cylinder you see before you, on a final journey into the universe he spent so much time studying.”
At that moment the cylinder lifted up and, with a dirge by Mozart playing, floated to a nearby airlock and was ejected from the vessel.
Seconds later the computer voice spoke again, this time without the heaviness that had impinged on it as before. “Better news, though, the engineer, George is his name, did spend a good deal of time with Dr. Melichson and the problem of the Carrier Beam. He is bringing to Dr. Melichson’s students all of the doctor’s notes on that project and also some new things that he and the doctor were working on just before Dr. Melichson began his rejuvenation treatment.”
With that the screen went blank and the students, shocked and grieving, began to wander back to their quarters to absorb the events of the evening.
* * *
Me’Avi Shapirov was being bored by a lecture on Earth history when a messenger came into the room and spoke softly to the instructor, whose face became very serious.
“Miss Shapirov, you have received a visitor, it seems. Ordinarily I would demand that the visitor wait until I have finished my lecture, but it seems that the visitor is the Grand Minister and I have no choice but to excuse you this time.”
Me’Avi got up from her seat and followed the messenger down the hall to a room near the main offices. Inside was her grandmother, the Grand Minister.
“Grand Minister Shapirov.”
“Today, Me’Avi, I am your grandmother. I am not one who is good at being gentle with such things as I must tell you, so I shall get right to what has happened.
“Your mother, father and Uncle Sean’s ship was on an expedition to study a star that was a few years away from a nova. You knew that?”
“Yes, they do that quite often... go on expeditions, I mean. Has something happened?”
“Yes, the star went nova while they were there. The scanning satellites show the ship disappearing in the flash of the nova.” Katia explained, tears in her eyes, “I am afraid you have lost them, just has I have lost a son and a daughter.”
Me’Avi sat down and, looking at her grandmother, asked, “So, now am I going to be living with you?”
“Me’Avi, a Grand Minister has no life of her own. I cannot give you a life that would be stable and good.
“I have arranged that you will be living — when you are not in school, or not doing your intern duties — at Elif and Sora’s home. They will be there a great deal of the time until the La Scena leaves and you will also have Anita, Sora’s sister, there when they are gone. So you must not worry; you will be well taken care of.
“In addition, since your work here and as an intern has been very good, I have made arrangements for your appointment to the Galactic Institute of Diplomacy. I have no doubt that you could be an et Sharma some day if you work hard.”
Me’Avi, shocked at the suddenness of what had happened and not understanding her grandmother’s seeming lack of genuine grief, answered, “How can you be so calm, Grandmother, how can this mean so little to you?”
Katia, shock on her face, sat down. “Young lady, what I have done in my life speaks for itself, and it has not come without pain. I lost a dearly beloved husband, Alexei, and have felt the loss of many, many friends. Now, I have lost my two children and I will not, because of my responsibilities to others, be allowed to grieve.
“When you are an et Sharma, and I believe you can be, and you carry the lives of others on your shoulders, you will know of what I speak. Until then, remember that although you see only a few tears in my eyes it is because the rest of them are hidden in my heart.”
Getting up, Katia took one long last look at her granddaughter, as if she were memorizing her, and then left the room.
Me’Avi, not understanding all that her grandmother had said, and hurting deeply inside at the unjustness of it all, gave way to tears.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2011 by euhal allen