Bewildering Stories

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The Bridge, II

Requiem for the Blue Planet

by euhal allen

Table of Contents
Chapter 3, part 1 appears
in this issue.

Chapter 3: New Directions

part 2 of 3

Janine McCabe could hardly wait to tell Harlan the news, if she could only get his attention. He was too busy now to talk for more than the briefest time, and even then their time was always being interrupted by some new problem that had to be solved immediately. Still, he had to be told some way. She just had to keep looking for the best way and time to do it.

The communicator on the wall interrupted her thoughts. “Janine, I need to see you now,” came the voice of her husband, “it is very important.”

Janine, wondering what would demand her presence at this time of day, put her shoes on and hurried to Harlan’s office to find out.

“Oh, there you are, dear. Thank you for coming so soon,” said Harlan as soon as he saw her. “We have a situation that demands some information quickly and you, our best scout, need to get it. It seems that fool “President” of the U.S., after killing his father to get the post, has found himself in a new war with the Confederate Union, and he is losing.

“The leaders of the Confederate troops closest to our bases there have been snooping around and may have gained some indication of our location. We need to find out what they know and if they...”

Janine cleared her throat and said the one word her husband would never have expected to hear from her, “No!”

“I’m sorry, dear, did you say something just now?”

“I said no. I am not going to scout for you this time. I have more important things to do right now.”

Harlan, shocked with disbelief, took a deep breath, counted to ten, and then replied, “Dear, this is serious. This could threaten everything we have worked to build here. I would not send you out, my own wife, on this duty if it were not of the greatest consequence to all of us. What could you possible have to do that would keep you from taking this assignment?”

“I could be growing our baby.”

* * *

Ting-sing, his shoulder supporting his mother, watched as his father’s coffin was brought into the house by the honor guard selected by General Chu. Just before leaving, the head guard took the lid off so that the family could pay last respects.

In his father’s hand was a note to the doctor’s family expressing condolences and stating that Dr. Jiang Yu-wei would be taken to the University’s Meeting Hall tomorrow, to lie in state. But, until then, Dr. Jiang’s body would be in his home for the family to mourn over.

After the honor was guard gone and the servants dismissed, Jiang Yi and her son carried the Dr. Jiang’s body to his office and laid it on the bench. Ting-sing then quickly went to the special cabinet behind the Taoist scroll and got a syringe, and, uncapping it he pushed slightly on the plunger to clear any air out of it. Then he injected its contents into his father’s body, hoping that it had not been too long.

Soon, Dr. Jiang was back with them and, using a special emergency communicator, informed Shin as to the day’s happenings.

Later, no one saw the black air sled settle down through the cool night air into the family’s private courtyard. No one saw Dr. Jiang Yu-wei and his family, with some very select others, get into the sled. No one saw their escape.

The next morning, General Chu was enraged to find that his plans to honor the good Doctor. and his grieving family were of little use. Even more enraging to him was the fact that several others, ones he had counted on to continue Dr. Yu-wei’s work, were also missing.

* * *

The lights were burning brightly in Headquarters as the Committee of Seven met and discussed the recent events. Somehow everything that had been planned had been thrown off center, and leaders of a number of the groups had been in danger of compromise. How had this happened? How had the observation station gotten wind of the new growths that were being nurtured?

Olga answered, “It seems to have something to do with that blasted Requiem. That composer, that Vertraumer person, has been focusing in on things that were programmed to be skipped. It seems that he had Sean’s, mine and Takeshi’s projects pinpointed and was on the verge of finding others. We could not risk any more exposure for fear of recognition, and that is why we were all called in.”

Takeshi added, “Those we have trained are not ready to assume full responsibility. The training was not complete. Yet, what choice did we have. If the Galactic Council were to find out...”

There was a slight shimmering and then the figure of a very famous holograph appeared. “They are not going to find out. I don’t think they would believe it if they did.”

Sean looking up at the holograph, smiled, and said, “Hello Mother.”

Katia smiled and answered, “Sean, Olga, you have done well, so far. I have been very proud of you. Takeshi, your grandfather, Denzo, would be proud too, were he alive. Yet, we can not live on yesterday’s work. There is still much to do before the Project can be completed. You must stay under cover and wait until this is taken care of and then, if there is enough time, you will be able to go out again and start new groups.”

Sean, looking startled, “Surely there is time to complete our work here. The growth we have already made has is startlingly successful. There are still too many that we can help. What could possibly keep us from finishing it?”

A door opened at the side of the room and Jonkil came in. “The Galactic Council is pushing hard for the Final Report to be finished. Their patience is running very thin. One of the reasons I had to retire was that some would no longer accept excuses from me as to the delaying of that document.

“I was able to ’rearrange’ some of the information so that the new et Sharma would have difficulty in producing that report. It was hoped that the confusion could be continued long enough to give you the time you need.

“This Maestro Vertraumer has brains for other than just his music. He has seen things he should not have. He is asking questions we dare not answer. And, he is of such stature that we cannot just dismiss him. “And, of course, we can not expect to have another pandemic to help us cover more major activity.”

“Then,” said Takeshi, “perhaps Maestro Vertraumer should have an accident?”

The whole room became silent while, for an awful moment, they contemplated the possibility such a thing. Then Katia spoke, “You have had too much association with General Chu, Takeshi. Those methods are the very thing we are seeking to eradicate. No, we must co-opt him. He must join us.”

* * *

Harlan McCabe looked for the thousandth time at the little brass key that fit the smallest drawer in his desk. And, for the thousandth time wondered when he would be instructed to use it.

It had been in an envelope with his name on it, in Sean’s handwriting, that Harlan had found in the desk. There was a note with it that read, “You will be told when to use this key. It fits into the lock on the small drawer in my desk. Until then, do not use it! I know I can trust you to follow this exactly. Sean”

Harlan, again for the thousandth time, asked himself, “How will I be told? What will happen that will make me know that I should use the key?”

Giving up again without the answer, Harlan put the key back on the little shelf, where he kept it, under the vase pad.

* * *

Natasha sighed as she slipped into the warm waters of the hot springs cave. It was her only relief. She understood, now, why Olga had come here so often. A person could think here in the warm silence. A person could ponder over the problems of the day and seek some type of workable answers.

As her eyes wandered over the walls of the cave, they came to rest on the little blue stone that Olga had pointed out to her in their last visit here, before Olga had put the barely bearable load of village leadership on her shoulders.

What was it that Olga had said? “When things are at the worst they could possibly be; when you can no longer find answers within yourself; when the existence of the village is at stake; come here and take the blue rock in your hands and find your answers. But, do not seek the blue rock’s answers until there is no other way.”

Oh, how often she had wanted to grab the blue rock into her weary hands and be relieved of finding the answers in herself. Oh, how often she had almost done so, stopping only when she realized that if she did without trying harder to find another way, she would not honor her promise to Olga. And, then, each time, she had found another way.

Still, it was comforting to know that the blue rock was there if ever the day came that she needed an answer that would come in no other way.

* * *

The planet, far from any area controlled by the Galactic Council, had for eons been cold and ugly, great, harshly rising mountain ranges cutting across the continents they backboned, interrupting the frozen winds that whistled through the valleys and over the plains. It was Starhell’s coldest Hell itself, and that was why it was named, as it was, Starhell.

Those who had come and who now lived there had known that the slightest mistake meant death. And deaths there were. But, also there was the challenge of what the planet could become. So they had stayed and worked to tame this place named Starhell.

First it was mining of the great Oört cloud surrounding the system. An Oört cloud rich in asteroids of water ice and others of carbon dioxide, the raw materials that would bring Starhell to life: asteroids that were the reason this system had been picked.

Using Galactic tools and technology to transfer and melt the asteroids, the planet’s atmosphere slowly, with the infusion of massive amounts carbon dioxide, had begun to become warmer as the local star’s warming light was trapped in its new gaseous net.

Then asteroids of water ice were given the same treatment, and liquid water began to appear in the great basins of the planet. As the amount of water grew, it too began to catch the energy of the star and hold heat that otherwise would have escaped.

Other water ice asteroids were processed to pump oxygen into the planet’s atmosphere and produce hydrogen to be used for fuel cells that would power the next step in the planet’s journey into the future. A future that was still generations away. A future that would come only after a long and dangerous journey, but a future that would be worth any price for those who gave of themselves to create a new home.

At first there had only been a few, but, as the years went by more came, many who “died” in a pandemic in another part of the galaxy, and others, who, through the natural processes of life, were born into the dream. And all saw the vision of what the planet could be, not what it was. All had the dream of the time when that name, Starhell, would be changed because it no longer fit.

* * *

At the sounds of his student’s departure, Li Guo-fan looked up from his work on the new wardrobe for General Chu’s bedroom.

“Ah, General Chu, I am so sorry that the wardrobe is not ready today. My students need time to learn perfection in the art of inlaying the ivory dragons.”

“Think nothing of it, Master Li, the work is being beautifully done. I shall treasure it as a piece of fine art when it is in my home.

“I have come to see you for another reason. Which of your journeymen do you think could replace you as Master in your classes?”

“Dso Hung-jiang is quite capable to teach the students. I was going to recommend him as a new Master at the next meeting of the faculty.”

“But, excuse me, General Chu, have I displeased you in some way so that I must be replaced?”

“You, displease me? No, Master Li, you have not displeased me. I have had a decision to make with the death of Dr. Jiang. I have needed to find a new person to head the university. Your name has come up more than any other. Therefore I am asking you if you believe you could please me in this.”

“You honor me,” Li replied, “but I am of the technical faculty, not of the academic one. I would soon cause division, because I believe that the studious ones need more discipline. They think too much of their tea ceremonies and their philosophical quests and too little of making their students learn.”

“Yes,” said the General, “I have heard that you thought this way. That is why I would choose you to be the new head of the school. I, too, think that Dr. Jiang was, at times, too lenient to the academic scholars.”

“If it pleases you, General Chu, I should be most happy to do as you wish.”

“Good, you will start next week. This week you can acquaint Dso Hung-jiang with his new position and finish my new wardrobe.”

Proceed to part 3...

Copyright © 2005 by euhal allen

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