The Bridge: a New Beginning
by euhal allen
Chapter 4: Pushing Outward
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.
On Starhell the former students of Dr. Melichson began to recover from their grief and think about what they were there for. They knew that the doctor would expect them to carry on with his work and would dare them to do better than he had done. And, meeting together, that is what they decided to do.
Soon the labs again were busy and the whiteboards sported new equations and outlines for new experiments to be done. Also, the students petitioned the communications center to ask the engineer to transmit the notes that he and Dr. Melichson had made so far on their trip, but, because the ship was too small and its position not accurately known, they were told that it could not be contacted by tight beam and that anything else could alert the Galactic Council of the presence of their base on Starhell. They would have to wait.
So they went back to work and did their best to see how what they were doing could be made real and practical. In doing that they began to understand why Dr. Melichson chose an engineer as his traveling companion and not one of them. This revelation in their thinking did much to soften the distaste they had developed for working with an engineer in the near future. Instead they began to look forward to the experience of having an engineer under their direction.
* * *
Some on the Council of Human Arts were not happy. Humanity had been spared partly because of that race’s gift of its musical talents to the galaxy. Indeed, spared hardly covered the welcome they had received from the races of the galaxy, since that gift had continued to be given in the work of the composers and artists who had come to Dreamer’s World in that great exodus. And that was the problem.
Most of the greatest artists of that time were no longer alive, and the new music that was being produced by the new generations of composers and performers was not as lively and exciting as their parents had produced. The most popular music that was heard in the galaxy were the recordings of the great masters in Earth’s history and those who had come directly to their new world from that disgraced planet.
Even the best of the new students, Kalvin Vertraumer — although he was good, indeed — lacked the fire and enthusiasm of the earlier masters. And now, early parts of Vertraumer’s Requiem for the Earth was showing some of that lack of vitality that was cursing the new music coming out of Dreamer’s World music academies.
Even worse, only the older members of the Council of Human Arts were able to see the deficiencies, while the newer, younger members seemed to be thrilled with the calmer spirit and lower levels of excitement in their new music. They accused the older members of being old-fashioned, opinionated and prejudiced. So the Council of Human Arts began to be divided and the inspirations that they wanted so much to give to new artists became tepid and dull.
Still, they were not the only ones who noticed the new wave of lukewarm music and those others, some in positions of power, decided to do something about it.
* * *
“Cyr, have you noticed that I seem to be a little clumsy lately? Perhaps you should go ahead and cancel some of my less important appointments so that I can get a little more rest. Being Grand Minister is a lot more tiring and busy than I thought.”
“Katia, I will do that. But, I need to talk to you about your health anyway.”
“Cyr, I thought we had made a deal. You don’t get me involved with medical people and I won’t let all those AI specialist take you apart to see why you are so much more a person that any other AI unit. I will keep my end up if you do yours.”
“We don’t have to get the medical people involved. I have spent a huge amount of time — whole minutes, actually — digging around the medical college data banks and researching every facet of medical knowledge. I believe you could say that I have the equivalent of several doctorates in medicine. I have also been in the connections of university medical computers when operations were going on and have gained a great deal of information that way.”
“Cyr, what are you trying to tell me?”
“That the clumsiness you have noticed in yourself is a symptom of something much more serious than lack of rest, and it will get worse.”
“Cyr, don’t be obtuse, just tell me what I need to know and what I need to do about it.”
“I don’t know, Katia. The general symptoms that you have been exhibiting point in different directions, to three different medical challenges. I will have to do some tests, with your cooperation, of course, before I can be sure of anything.”
As Katia started to protest the direction of the conversation, Cyr continued, “I can do the tests when you are here in your quarters, and they will not invade the Grand Minister’s time or work. A couple of them are pretty complex and the results won’t be in for a few weeks. But, we have to do them, Katia, trust me.”
“I do trust you, Cyr. I have been trusting you since I was a little girl, and I am not going to stop now. If you really think that these tests are needed, I will even give you some of my Grand Minister time. And, I will expect to know how they come out in your few weeks. I will expect the truth, Cyr no matter what you have to tell me.”
“I have, Katia, always told you the truth. I am a computer; I don’t know how to do anything else. Oh, and Katia, I have found something for you, that is, if you want it.”
A small drawer opened up and Katia, looking in to see what was there, found herself looking at the small gold decorated box lying in there. Picking the box up and opening it, she gave a low shriek of joy and grinning widely, asked, “How on Earth did you find this. I have always loved this book.”
“Yes, I know. How on Earth is exactly right. One of Jonkil’s people found it for me a while back. I wanted it here so that you would be able to reread it while I am doing those tests.”
* * *
Slowly the smoke was cleared out by what was left of the ventilation system but the air still contained the burnt smell that wrecks often did. Olga, sprawling in her control chair, opened her eyes and looked around. It didn’t take long to realize that the ship was finished and their whole plan of using it, after escaping the nova, to go on to Earth was also finished.
Hearing a noise from the corner of the room, Olga turned and saw Johannes and Sean talking and gesturing. The looks on their faces was not one that forecast any type of good news.
“Well, I’m awake now so you don’t have to whisper. What are our chances of getting somewhere safe?”
Sean, grimacing, replied, “Oh, I would say anywhere from zero to zero. The ship is a total wreck. The nova had actually touched the outer hull when we went hyper. The hyper drive was on for only about two and a half minutes, just long enough to get us a semi-respectable distance from the area. The air we have could last us a week; the water a little longer, but a reactor event has started in the main engines and our calculations say that the ship will blow itself apart in about seventeen hours, give or take an hour or two.
“We don’t have to hide our fate anymore because we aren’t going anywhere. Johannes has used the comm-unit to send out a distress signal explaining our situation and giving our co-ordinates. That way, there will be no question as to what has happened to us and how long we have left.”
* * *
In various places around the known galaxy, and on a planet in an unknown part, the final signal from the science vessel told the story. The ship had not been destroyed in the nova, but the damage had been so great that there would soon be no ship, no survivors.
And on a ship that was headed for Starhell an engineer also heard the report and wondered if his recent findings might now be put to work. He had used earlier such findings in escaping his exploding vehicle and there was just a chance that he could do the same here, if the distance was not overwhelming.
Considering that experience and that possibility he almost ran to the equipment in his lab and began making the connections he had planned for the next day, hoping that the co-ordinates he had received would be in the range of his remodeled device.
Hours of frantic labor passed and George began to feel that he was going to lose the race. The message had said that they had around seventeen hours and that had already passed, and now he was working in the “give or take an hour or two” period. He only hoped that the “hour or two” was in force on the longer side.
Finally, co-ordinates set and with full power engaged to the equipment, George hit the switch that would create the carrier beam.
Sean, Olga and Johannes were opening a bottle of wine and getting ready to drink the last of it before the ship blew when a strange voice sounded out, “Drinking to the end is well and good if it is a must, but wouldn’t it be better to drink to a beginning?”
The trio turned and saw a strange person on his hands and knees in a small opening in the ship’s hull. Realizing what had to have happened, they grabbed their glasses and the wine and, dropping to their hands and knees also, crawled through the now empty hole.
They had barely gotten aboard when the hum of equipment in the room they found themselves in died and the opening to their ship collapsed into a solid wall. Then the rescuer spoke again, “My name is George. Welcome aboard. Did you bring me a glass, or do I need to get one of mine?”
Olga and her companions, still a little shocked from the suddenness of their rescue, held out the bottle to George and showed him that they only had the three glasses that they had been using.
Finally, Sean asked, “This must be Dr. Melichson’s ship. Is he available so that we can thank him for our rescue?”
George, grimacing a bit, replied, “Dr. Melichson did not make it through rejuvenation treatments. You will have to give any thanks to me.”
* * *
Grand Minister Shapirov stood at the lectern in the great assembly hall of the Galactic Council and, looking at her fellow ministers, began to speak.
“Fellow Ministers, we of humankind are young as a race and we are honored that you have chosen one of us, myself in this case, to hold the office of Grand Minister. Our immediate predecessor, in choosing a human, knew that even though great strides have been made in the governance of the galaxy, there were things that still needed to be done.
“I have here a list of some of those things and that list is now being downloaded to each of your monitors. You should take time to look at those suggestions and then introduce legislation that will make your priorities come about.
“Meanwhile, I as Grand Minister, will make it my priority to seek a peaceful expansion of the knowledge of our galaxy through exploration and, where possible, colonization of uninhabited but promising worlds. It is something that I must attempt because that attempt will help the galaxy continue to grow stronger and will give meaning to the recent loss of my children in just such an exploration.
“For those who would be alarmed at my words, be assured that we do not ask that you or your children become involved in this somewhat dangerous undertaking, for you, having rescued humankind from a terrible fate, have us in debt to you. And, because of that, an adequate number my people have volunteered to start the early explorations and will make their reports directly to the Ministers of the Council.
“You will know of every new find made and will be able to lay claims on those places that your peoples find attractive.”
* * *
“Katia, I know that you have reasons for what you said to the Council but by telling them of every find your people will do the work and Council members will use your words to take every good world you find. That doesn’t make sense when you are trying to get your people to become the forward looking people you want.”
“Cyr, I meant every word. The council will receive all the reports that we generate. I have given orders to our ship commanders to report, on formal Council documents, their progress every day. That way the Council will have absolute ability to see just what is happening.”
“Every day, Katia! But, there are seventeen ships that are initially going out on these trips. That means seventeen reports to every Minister every day. Most of those reports will be mundane things about ship problems and crew menus and things like that that are of no use to the Ministers. They will not have the patience or the staff to read and keep up with them all.”
* * *
The ship came in without its ID transmitting and Jonkil et Sharma’s assistant, Hocat, hit a comm-switch and sought communication with occupants of the ship.
“Unidentified ship, this Lunar Base, your ID unit is not working and you must identify yourself or you will be in violation of Galactic Council ordinance 735-C. Unidentified ship, this is...”
The speaker on the comm-board interrupted Hocat with a voice saying, “Hey, Hocat, how are you? Been a long time since we saw you.
“We will need to see the et Sharma right away and we need to do it quietly.”
Recognizing the voice, Hocat flipped a switch to Jonkil et Sharma’s quarters and spoke: “Sir, I think you need to come to the comm center immediately. We have a minor situation that needs your attention. Sir, I think you need to come to the comm...”
“Hocat, I know that I seem to be ancient to you, but I really don’t need to have things repeated. What is this ‘minor situation’ that would drag me out of my sleep time?”
“I’m afraid that it cannot be described over the intercom, sir. You will need to be here to examine it. I would suggest that you come quickly.”
Within minutes Jonkil et Sharma was dressed and heading for the comm center. Then, in even fewer minutes, he was inside and querying Hocat as to the cause of the disturbance.
Hocat went to the door, closed and locked it, and then, turning to Jonkil et Sharma, said, “There is an unidentified ship coming in system. It will arrive here in approximately two hours. The occupants wish to talk to you. Sean Shapirov wishes to talk to you.”
“Sean Shapirov is dead, as is his sister and her husband. Everyone knows that their ship blew up after they barely escaped that nova. So how can Sean want to talk to me?”
“From,” began the voice from the speakers, “the Other World, of course, Jonkil. Sometimes those of us who are dead communicate pretty well, don’t you think?”
“That is,” said the et Sharma, “Sean’s voice; and his humor. If you, sir, are not dead, then why the secrecy? A great many people should like to know that you somehow escaped the destruction of your ship.”
“We can talk about that when we get there, Jonkil et Sharma. Right now we need to land unobserved and with no record of our arrival. You need to have Hocat erase the record of our entry and flight so far; stop the recognition of the ship now, and destroy any record of this conversation.
“We will be landing in cave ninety-seven and would like to have you meet us there. We will explain everything when you get here. Out.”
Jonkil et Sharma looked at Hocat and ordered him to do as Sean had asked: destroy all the records of their presence and of their landing.
“Sir, that is illegal, you know. Are you sure we should do it?”
“Katia has a hand in this, I can feel it. She is the Grand Minister and our boss, is she not? However, after you have destroyed the records, get a skimmer and suits out for us, and log an inspection tour of the immediate area around the base. It has been some time since I did a personal inspection tour. And, since I have had my sleep interrupted, now would be as good a time as any to do so.”
* * *
Copyright © 2011 by euhal allen