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The Bridge

Book II: Requiem for the Blue Planet

by euhal allen

Table of Contents
Chapter 3 appeared
in issue 148.

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 4: Funny Numbers

part 1 of 3

Rumors began to be spoken in the chambers of the Galactic Council; rumors that spoke of missing supplies, ships and equipment during the later part of Grand Minister Shapirov’s years in office.

At first no one paid much attention to them since they seemed to cast shadows on one of the greatest Grand Ministers to have ever held that office. Many even tried to stop any investigation of those years, believing that it would be enough to just admit that Katia Shapirov may have made some mistakes and let it go with that.

Still, the probing went on, driven by bureaucratic traditions that were the true ruling factors in the galactic governments. And, driven also by many the bureaucrats still not happy with the few changes in those revered traditions made under the supervision of Grand Minister Shapirov.

* * *

Me’Avi et Sharma was a bit startled when she received a request from Cyr and Jonkil to have a visit with Maestro Vertraumer. There was so much to do in completing the Final Report and she needed their help. How could they want to waste time with that crackpot horn tooter?

* * *

“Come in, Maestro Vertraumer, come in and sit down,” were the first words, spoken by Jonkil, that the “crackpot horn tooter” heard after he boarded Alexei’s Dream for his visit with its occupants.

“It is,” continued Jonkil, “extremely kind of you to take time out of your work to visit us.”

“Well, my work,” answered Vertraumer, “has hit a little snag anyway. It may be a while before I am able to solve that little problem and continue with the Requiem.”

There was a slight shimmer and Katia Shapirov appeared. “What kind of problem are you having, Kalvin? It is alright if I call you Kalvin, isn’t it?”

“That is most kind of you, Grand Minister Shapirov, but might it not be unseemly to do that? After all, my station is nowhere near.”

Laughing softly, Katia interrupted, saying, “And I am no longer the Grand Minister, Kalvin. In fact, if you were to try to touch me you would find that I am pretty insubstantial. Here in Alexei’s Dream everyone just calls me Katia. You may do the same.”

“I don’t think,” came Cyr’s unembodied voice, “that Kalvin really believes that we are so informal here. Believe me, Maestro, it is true. I am Cyr, this is Katia, and Jonkil, and you, because of this, must be Kalvin.”

Katia, grinning again, said. “Cyr always likes to explain things, Kalvin. You’ll have to get used to that.

“Now, just what is this little problem that you are having with the Requiem? We would all be most interested to know.”

“I don’t suppose that the et Sharma has told you of my activities as of late, and how I have been following different, more stable groups of people on Earth.”

“Have you now?” questioned Cyr. “and why would you do such a thing? I mean, is it something the creator of the Requiem would require knowledge of?”

Maestro Vertraumer, comfortable now that he was dealing with a topic dear to him, answered, “Yes, it is because of these groups, and others I’m sure, that the Requiem must be rewritten.

“If I could, I would change the name of the composition to the Rebirth because of what I have seen. These people are not dying; they are fighting to regain themselves. It is the most exciting thing I have ever witnessed. I have themes and melodies running wild in my head and I find bitter tears in my eyes when I think of the quarantine happening so soon, of the loss of these people.

“Is there no way that I can convince you that these people must be given another chance? Is there not anything that you can do to help them, Katia?”

“Kalvin, there is an old saying from Earth’s past. ‘You are preaching to the converted.’ Perhaps you would like to meet my children?

“Cyr, would you ask them to come in and meet Kalvin?”

As Katia’s children came through the door, Kalvin Vertraumer felt a shock that he would never, as long as he drew breath, forget. “These... these...”

“Are,” Cyr said, finishing Kalvin’s thought, “the ones you were watching?”

* * *

In the far reaches of the Cernon sector, certain outposts, ones that were officially listed as abandoned, began to get messages that things were cooking a little too much in the Galactic Council and that the time they thought they had was no longer there. “Abandoned” they were listed as, and abandoned they must become. Equipment listed as lost or destroyed had to become so. Doors were opened and offending things went away.

Records of activity beyond the abandonment dates had to be removed or destroyed. The inspectors of the Galactic Chronicler’s office were on their way to inspect the accuracy of the records, the ones that had been sent to their offices.

Other outposts, listed as barely marginal, had to become so. That meant that resources and equipment not listed had to disappear, and they had to disappear very quickly.

Temporary Doors were set up and the surplus items, materiel and crews, made their way through the Doors and found themselves integrated into projects now being accelerated on Starhell. Then the Doors were folded in upon themselves, and the barely marginal outposts fit their official listings.

The outposts that were listed as advanced and sustainable were not notified of any changes. Nor did they need to be. They were the showplaces of Grand Minister Shapirov’s Cernon program. They were populated by those who felt, with good reason, as safe as they did on Dreamer’s World.

* * *

Thomas Hiram Tinker, glad as he was to see the new equipment and crews to help in the accelerated projects, still worried about the food supply. There was not near enough brought in with the new crews to last very long. The work they were doing was hard and the people doing it needed good food and plenty of it.

Even more worrisome was the fact that Doors were being set up even now in certain places on Earth and there was no mention of any food supplies coming in with them. The population was going to balloon too soon, too fast for the supplies on hand.

Then, quarters on Starhell for those coming in would be another problem. There were nowhere near enough places for them all. The planet’s surface was not yet habitable. Even though air quality was now approaching a high-altitude Earth norm, the water supply was sorely deficient, and the temperature was still too wintry for most of those who would be arriving.

Still, Katia was in charge. She had always been able to bring things about. Even if this Katia was only electrons and files in Cyr’s memory banks, she still had that ability to make others believe in her. What a woman she must have been in the flesh.

* * *

Cyr’s voice startled Me’Avi et Sharma as she was writing the end of part three of the Final Report. She jumped a little and then said, “Cyr, please ask Hocat to announce you, as is required by protocol, when seeking an et Sharma’s attention. Otherwise, you are going to give me a heart attack.”

“Of course, Me’Avi et Sharma,” Cyr answered, “it was most thoughtless of me to startle you so. Please forgive me.”

“There is nothing to forgive, Cyr. You’re just a machine, and of course, you have no real understanding of human things. Now, what can I do for you?”

“I have here a request from the Galactic Council, since I am the only computer above class ten in this sector, to inspect the beginning of the placing of the Quarantine Modules.”

“Then,” said Me’Avi et Sharma, “you should be out there doing that and not here bothering me.”

“I am sorry to be such a bother, Me’Avi et Sharma, but to do the inspecting I must have the initiation codes for the modules. It does no good to inspect modules that are not working. I have been told that I can get those codes from you.”

Me’Avi et Sharma looked up and spoke, “Just why do you need to see them initiated. Surely you only need to inspect their placement and see that the grid pattern is correctly set up and working.”

“That would be true if the advanced computer that was to come with the modules had not been found defective at the factory. Its repair will set its arrival here back at least three months. The Galactic Council has instructed me to set the first seven modules up in the beginning pattern so that the sequence will be followed in correct order. To do that, I must have the basic codes. Once that is done, when the repaired module computer comes it will have the advanced codes to turn the grid on and complete the quarantine.”

Me’Avi et Sharma, not wanting to waste more time with Cyr rang for Hocat and told him to make a copy of the basic codes for Cyr to use. And, while waiting for the codes to be delivered to Cyr’s ship, reminded Cyr to make sure that the code stick be returned immediately upon Cyr’s finishing his work on the modules.

Then, having more important things to do, she promptly forgot about the whole episode.

* * *

The Galactic Chronicler looked at the reports again. The abandoned outposts, the ones that had reported the most lost and destroyed equipment had been inspected first, on his orders. The reports showed that they were indeed below marginal in usefulness and that each of them had areas where worn-out equipment had been dumped.

The amount of junk metal and other materials, indeed, matched closely the weight and composition of the missing equipment. But, that was what bothered him. The match was too close.

Usually, in such cases, there would be, because of the amount of equipment involved, the time the equipment was used, and the carelessness such crews were noted for, a deficit of several percentage points between the mass of the detritus and the mass of the equipment, if it were new.

Also, somehow, when scanning the sites, the material missing from the mining sites seemed somewhat too large for the actual production and shipment records. That should not be unless the ore being mined was a great deal poorer than any mining outpost should even consider working with.

Somewhat the same problem came up with the marginal outposts. Yet, the advanced and sustainable outpost’s records matched perfectly with the accepted standards. “Something,” he thought, “is very, very wrong. Again.”

* * *

The men, as they waited for darkness to fall, went over the plan again. The great plain below them had been randomly sown, in the dark, with a variety of grains by air speeders months before. The grain had grown well, considering no one could be seen caring for it.

In a day or so a great storm, already heading this way, would whip the stalks and cause the ripe grains to be lost. If they were going to be harvested it would have to be done now, and, in order for it not to become known to the Observation Post, it had to be done in the dark. And, because the thing had to be unnoticeable to the observation post, because large areas of flattened stalks would be obvious even from the moon, the harvesters had to clip just the heads of the grain off. The stalks had to remain until the coming storm flattened them out.

A grid was laid out on the map of the area to be harvested, all fifty thousand acres of it. That same grid, with every rise and dip, every tree and rock, was programmed into the navigating computer of each air sled.

Each section was assigned to an air sled that had been specially modified to harvest the grain. A timed pattern was set so that no two air sleds could possibly come too close to each other. Everything was just right, except, because of the storm coming and the immediate need for the grain, the harvest would have to be done on a night that the moon was in the sky.

That meant that, instead of twelve hours in which to complete the harvest, it would have to be done in seven and a half.

Yet it was crucial that it be done. This was one of only a few such “natural” farms that they had been able to set up. There had been more planned, but the new timetables made them impossible. Now those same timetables and the coming demand for foodstuffs on Starhell meant that this field had to be harvested when it could be, and that meant now!

Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2005 by euhal allen

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