The Bridge, II
Requiem for the Blue Planet
by euhal allen
Table of Contents|
Chapter 2 appeared
in issue 147.
In a short time, the Galactic Council will englobe the Earth, cutting the remnants of its native people off from the rest of the galaxy for the foreseeable future. The Earthlings have been deemed too petty, cruel and dangerous to be allowed to wander the stars. Most are unaware that their planet’s sky will soon be blanked out and their view of all the universe will be occluded. But there are some who do know of the coming changes, and, whether they realize it or not, they have friends in unexpected places.
Chapter 3: New Directions
part 1 of 3
The Galactic Council was outraged over Me’Avi et Sharma’s request to have access to all of the Council’s records dealing with the Blue Planet and to spend time interviewing Jonkil about gaps in his records. It was only her statement that she could not finish the Final Report and Maestro Vertraumer could not finish the Requiem without the “missing” information that led the Council to question Jonkil on the matter.
Jonkil, sitting in his favorite chair, facing the screen and the members of the appointed committee, smiled and told them what an honor it was to be of service, even if only in a little way, to them again.
“And,” stated the committee chair, “it is a great privilege for us to be able to listen to such a distinguished public servant as you, discuss his years of service with us. You are greatly respected in the Galaxy, and everyone knows of your wisdom and dedication to your position.”
Having gotten the niceties over, the committee began to question Jonkil closely about certain lapses that seemed to be in his recorded acts as the Blue Planet’s et Sharma. Why were they there and could he remember some of the things that were missing and would make the records more complete?
There followed question after question that Jonkil did his best to answer, but he also noticed that his answers, necessarily vague because of the intervening years, were not satisfying the Council members. So, in order to bring the meeting to a successful conclusion he made a simple suggestion: “I am an old man,” said Jonkil, “and my memory is not what it used to be, esteemed Council members. Many of the things you refer to I have not thought of in years. Nor, is there any reason why I should remember them. I was the et Sharma and many thing passed across my desk very quickly. I often had only a short time to make a decision and then go onto another matter.
“So most of these things you ask for I have left in the past. However, I would be willing to make a trip back to the observation station and, going over the records with Me’Avi et Sharma, try to answer her questions.
“Naturally it would be of great help if Cyr and our holographic Katia were to travel there with me. Surely the three of us could clear up many matters.”
“You,” the Council Chair replied, “would be willing to interrupt your retirement and make this trip to clear up the problems in the records?”
“Yes, Mr. Chair, I would deem it an honor to do so. I believe that there are no real problems that need to be discussed at great length, just a matter of my remembering where I may have put certain information that the present et Sharma needs. It is probably only a case of my filing a fact in one place and she, quite naturally because our methods vary, looking for the information in another place.”
The Council’s committee members looked at each other and it soon became apparent that this solution was agreeable to them. Anything to close this file and get back to governing the Galaxy.
* * *
Katia’s old space yacht was sent to the Institute to pick up Jonkil, Cyr and whatever else was needed. It landed in on its old pad and, upon its arrival, connected itself to the house’s communication system.
Since Cyr would pilot the yacht, the crew shuttled back to the waiting escort and were taken back to their base.
Soon a great cylinder, the one Cyr inhabited, was installed it its once accustomed place in the central column of the yacht. Once installed, Cyr reconnected to all the electronic systems and the ship became his to direct.
Jonkil, after arranging his things in his cabin, came onto the bridge and, he being the only organic life aboard, sat down in the Captain’s seat. “Cyr, tell me something. I seem to remember your containment cylinder being somewhat smaller than the one I saw today. Is my memory wrong or have there been some radical changes in you?”
“You are not wrong, Jonkil. Just before Katia died, I had the container enlarged to make possible some changes that I felt would be needed, and, with the new space I have had a number of significant upgrades since I was installed in Katia’s home. I have a great deal more memory capacity and can now work at much greater speeds while consuming much less power.
“It really is one of the good things about being an electronic person, Jonkil. We just keep on getting faster and better. You won’t be jealous now, will you?”
“No! Heavens, no,” Jonkil replied. “Such upgrades have allowed you to make our virtual Katia. That was worth many more upgrades than you probably had.”
Katia appeared, smiling, “That was a gallant little speech, Jonkil. I was most delighted to hear it.”
Jonkil, looking at the center column just sighed and said, “Even in a virtual manifestation, these Earth women can always hear a compliment.”
* * *
Olga looked around the village. She knew each dwelling and each person in them. It would be hard to leave them. Yet, what choice did she have? If they were to be safe and allowed to become what they could be she had to go. They depended too much on her and, now, her presence was filled with a new danger.
That evening she called all the village Council together and, after warmly hugging each of them, told them that she had to leave. They were stunned. Then they were angry that anything should take her from them. Then they were tearful and begged her to stay.
“I cannot stay, my children,” she said, “I must go. My life here is ending, and you must remember me as I am now, not as you would see me in the near future. The things that I have taught you must be held onto. You must never become like the barbarians that surround us.
“I have spent much time with each of you and I know each of your qualities. There is one among you who can lead you and keep you progressing towards a better future. I have talked with her and she, though not eagerly, has promised to carry on with my work here. She will be the new Council Head.”
All those on the Council began looking around to see who it might be that Olga had judged to have the qualities for such a task. And each of them sighed in relief when Olga named Natasha Borisovna to that difficult job.
“I know she is young,” Olga continued, “but she is also humble enough to seek each of your advice when she needs it. Besides, being young she can continue in the job long enough to give greater stability to the village. That stability will be needed in the times ahead.”
Then, before anyone could object anymore, she called Natasha up to the front of the Council and put around her neck the chain of office that Olga had worn for so many years. That done, she retreated back to where Natasha had been sitting, giving attention now to the things Natasha was saying to the Council members.
Natasha, having been coached by Olga, began to speak of the things of the village’s past and of how those things would continue and be strengthened. She talked of the work to be done and who would be trusted with each task. She talked in a manner that all of them, used to Olga’s ways, found comforting. It was almost as if Olga was still standing in front of them, only looking much younger.
Olga’s departure was hardly noticed. Those who did see her go thought she was only leaving to ease nature. No one heard the slight swish of the air sled that whisked her away.
* * *
Jiang Yu wei got up early and went to the kitchen and told the servant to make his breakfast a little early since he was to be at General Chu’s office at the same time that the General made his appearance.
While the servant prepared his food, Jiang Yu wei, ignoring the protests of the kitchen help, made his own tea this morning. It was something he often did, since he seemed to think that only he could make tea taste exactly right. And, since he never would divulge to the servants exactly what ingredients he used to brew his special tea, he was right.
Breakfast over, Jiang was soon on his way to the General’s office.
General Chu, was just coming up the steps to the government building when he espied Jiang Yu wei waiting patiently at its entrance, said, “Ah, so very prompt, Dr. Jiang, as usual,” he said. “Good, there are several things I wish to discuss with you this morning.
“But first we must have tea together. I find that tea does so much to make discussions much more civilized. Is that not so, Dr. Jiang?”
“Very much so, General Chu,” Jiang replied, “it is one of the refining truths of our culture. And, I pray, will always be so.”
Soon, in the General’s office tea was being served and appreciated. Then, as was always true with Chu’s ways, business was discussed, starting with how the school was doing and how many of the students would qualify to be retained as teachers.
Then Chu brought up the stranger that had been at Dr. Jiang’s door speaking to Ting-sing the day before.
“Yes, General Chu, my son told me of the conversation. He said that the man was a beggar and that he told him that we did not feed beggars here. He said that the man then left.”
“Yes, that is so. But the man gave your son something. Something that you retrieved from Ting-sing’s garments on your way home with him. What was in that little bundle?”
“I am sorry we tried to deceive you, General. It was a letter from my village. Some of my relatives are in need. But, they are lazy people and my son was told always to send them away. He should not have even accepted the letter.”
“Dr. Jiang, I am disappointed in you. The beggar your son so hurriedly sent away has been a guest in our prison. I am afraid that he has not had a comfortable night. Still, before he left us, he mentioned a person by the name of Shin. I should like to know who Shin is. It would more pleasant for all of us if you would satisfy my curiosity.”
Dr. Jiang, realizing that he had been caught, merely smiled a little smile and then asked General Chu, “How long do I have before the poison in my tea kills me?”
“Ah,” replied General Chu, “so you are aware of my little game. You will have enough time to answer a few questions before you leave us.
“And then, you will have a state funeral. We cannot have the founder of our School involved in treason, can we? It would not look good and one must keep up appearances.”
“That is very kind of you, General, but this morning, feeling that our meeting might become what it has, I put something special in my tea. It works well with your favorite poison. So, if I have guessed right as to what you have put into my tea, I will have only a very short while left. I am sorry to disappoint you in this way.”
Chu, angry and the turn of events went quickly to the door and summoned guards to take Jiang Yu wei to the interrogation chambers with the utmost speed and to send out for a healer. But, even as they were lifting Dr. Jiang to his feet they felt him sag in their arms as saw that he was gone, a condition soon confirmed by the healer when he arrived.
Chu, seeing that he had lost a battle to a worthy opponent, told the guards to take the body to the good doctor’s family and sent for someone to write an announcement to the students of the school that Dr. Jiang had suffered a fatal illness and that the school would close for the rest of the week for a period of mourning. There would be a State funeral lauding the good doctor and his loyalty to General Chu.
He thought of sending for the Doctor’s wife and son to have them questioned but decided not to. Dr. Jiang had been too careful and too wise and must have given his family instructions on how not to know anything. Besides, it would be better, when he needed them to be questioned, if it came after the funeral, when fewer would notice.
* * *
Below the sea, camouflaged neatly into an underwater cleft near what had once been the Oregon coast, where there had once been a pillar of the now destroyed Bridge, was a heavily shielded installation that was called simply, Headquarters. It was the operation center of what would someday be known as the Shapirov Project.
Most of the time the darkness of its interior was only infrequently disturbed by the electronic sounds of computers recording data coming in from various parts of the earth, but on this day the lights were on and temperature had risen to the comfort level of the expected guests. On one wall was a motto that was one of the guiding principles of the Project, “Dead Men Tell No Tales.”
Sean was the first to arrive.
* * *
“So,” thought Me’Avi et Sharma, “they are coming here. It is not as I had hoped but it will have to do. I wonder if she will remember me. Of course not. It is only a holograph, not a real person.”
* * *
Kalvin Vertraumer had almost haunted the screens for weeks. He had seen a number of villages or towns where there seemed to be some sort of crawling back up the ladder of civilization and, though it at first had stunned him, it now invigorated him with a new sense of vitality.
All his life he had written music: music that he thought told the story of man, of the rise to civilization and the bitterness of the stubborn loss of the home world, and then the new rising on the Dreamer’s World and the subsequent death of those on the home world. It had always been that way with the loser races: when denied the stars, they died.
Now, he knew that he had been wrong. Now, he knew that the story was not finished; that somehow this people would not die as the others had. You could see it in the struggle before them now.
He had narrowed his search and attention for the last couple of months down to just three of the most progressive places. One, Newtown in the middle of the North American continent; a second in the wilds of Russian Siberia and a third near the old Chinese capital of Beijing. Each had a spirit of life and future. Each in its own way was not only refusing to die but also trying to bring life to those people who were willing to change if it brought a better, more stable, life.
Me’Avi et Sharma had become tired of his enthusiasm for the struggle so plainly seen in the screens. She did not believe that such things were possible, that a race could make it back up again after the shock they had received in losing the stars, in losing the future. It had not happened before, so what Maestro Vertraumer was seeing must be just an aberration, an illusion brought on by wishful thinking.
But, Maestro Vertraumer knew that when the notes in a score rang true to the theme of the composition, then Truth must be present. And here all the notes of this composition, though he had not yet finished the Requiem, rang with more Truth, and more excitement, than any music he had ever before written.
Copyright © 2005 by euhal allen