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The Bridge

Book II: Requiem for the Blue Planet

by euhal allen

Table of Contents
Chapter 4, part 2 appears
in this issue.

Chapter 4: Funny Numbers

part 3 of 3

* * *

Thomas Hiram Tinker watched on his screen as the new ones streamed in from all the sites on the Earth. So many and so soon, with no time to make ready for them.

There should have been at least ten more months before they even began to come. At least the farms had produced very well and the food supply was not as desperate as it had been only a few weeks ago.

Also, soon, Sean, Olga and Takeshi, now here temporarily, would be on Starhell full time like the other ex-village leaders, and in full force, using their influence to guide and calm these people, making them understand that the future belonged to this new world.

For now they would be given language instruction so that all would understand one common tongue: Galactic Basic. Also, they would be taught the history and the promise of Starhell and how they could be a part of making the world earn a new name, one they would have a part in choosing.

A few of the great warehouse caverns were even now being divided and the new comers would be housed in them until more permanent quarters could be built. The craftsmen from Takeshi’s Chinese group would be especially handy for that even if they had to be directed through a translator.

The Siberians that Olga had worked with, once they had become proficient in Galactic Basic, would be able to give priceless information and training in dealing with cold-environment living.

And, since Olga had taught Natasha Borisovna Galactic Basic because she wanted someone to be able to speak her “native” tongue with her, some of that knowledge would be available very soon.

Holding on to that thought, Administrator Tinker, yelling to his assistant, requested that an appointment with Natasha Borisovna be made as soon as possible so that villages suitable for cold-environment living could be built as soon as the temperature moderated a few more degrees.

* * *

Me’Avi et Sharma, coming out of the small wooded area she had used to relieve herself, found her guards being held by very large Chinese soldiers and weapons trained on herself by ones obviously competent in their use.

Thankful for her recent session with the sleep-trainer, she said, in her newly acquired Chinese, “Unhand those men, you fools. Do you not know those of higher station? Unhand them now or I shall have to report you to your commander.”

“Ah,” said a voice behind her, “then you shall have every opportunity to report them to their commander since I am he. Let me introduce myself, I am General Chu. Perhaps you should, before you vent your outrage upon my men and myself, tell us just who you are and what you are doing here.”

“I am Me’Avi et Sharma and I am here seeking renegades from my people who are wanted by my government for illegal activities. Perhaps you, General Chu, can be of assistance to me.”

General Chu, taken aback by the commanding tone of her words and the self-assurance of her assumed equality with him, suggested, “Perhaps we could discuss your quest over some tea. I always find that discussing situations over tea is so much more civilized, don’t you?”

“General Chu, I should be most happy to discuss this ‘situation’ over tea. It would be quite refreshing to find someone on this world who acted in a ‘civilized’ manner. But first I must insist that my body guards be free to attend me. As their commander, it is my duty to see to their well-being as it is theirs to see to mine.”

General Chu, with a simple hand signal, ordered the release of Me’Avi et Sharma’s men, and they immediately came to her side and assumed positions of protection around her.

“Madam,” said the general, “your attendants are well trained and obviously quite loyal. I am impressed.

“I am late for an appointment and must leave you for a time. My people will show you to quarters for the evening and we will have our discussion, over tea, in the morning. I hope it will be profitable for both of us.”

Me’Avi et Sharma, seeing that resistance was the greater of two evils in this situation, indicated to her guards against their “better” judgment, that they would stay the night and that she would indeed discuss the “situation” tomorrow, over tea.

* * *

Harlan McCabe and the Newtown people were a bit lost. Used to the open plains and caves that opened on them, they did not quite know how to react to the closed-in feeling in the great caverns of Starhell.

Sean assured them it was only temporary, but they were already beginning to be affected adversely by being shut in. So, it was a great relief when Sean told them that a change was coming and that Harlan would soon be talking to Administrator Tinker and getting an assignment that would solve some of the needs of the Newtown folks.

When Harlan got the notice of his appointment with the Administrator he rushed to his quarters, kissed Janine and the baby, then spruced himself up as much as he could and set off for the government offices in Cavern One.

Administrator Tinker was working on plans for water sources in the sector adjoining the Cavern quadrant when his assistant informed him that the man with him was the leader of the Newtown contingent, Harlan McCabe, who had just arrived for his appointment.

“Come in, come in, Mr. McCabe. Don’t have time for formality right now. Sit down and make yourself at home.”

Turning to his assistant he said, “Hocat, bring Mr. McCabe some coffee, will you? Some of the good stuff that just arrived from the Columbian section of Earth, please.

“Good man, Hocat. Arrived just a little while before you. He was recommended by Katia Shapirov herself. First assistant that I have ever had, and now I couldn’t do without him.

“So, while we wait for the coffee I am sure that you want to know what we would like your people to do.”

Harlan, taken aback a bit by the quickness of the Administrator’s pace, said, “Ah, yes, sir. It, ah, it would be nice to be busy doing something.”

“Good. Sean tells me that your people are well trained as scouts and can read maps and draw them. Most of our maps are early satellite maps. In order to keep our location hidden until we are strong enough to become known, we have withdrawn our satellites from service and are going to have to depend on old-fashioned survey maps of the surface.

“We want your people to do those surveys. We will provide you with the proper attire, equipment, and supplies for short missions out onto the surface. You will be looking for protected areas that can be used to start villages. Don’t worry too much about temperatures: they will be rising over time; just find us places that can be protected from wind chill and storms to some extent.

“You will coordinate your work with a Natasha Borisovna, leader of the Siberian group. They can fill you in on the particulars that they would look for in a cold-area village site. After they learn Galactic Basic you will be able to take some of them with you on your later survey trips.

“Does this sound like something your people might like to do?”

Harlan, drinking the last of his coffee and confused about a lot of the things said, was confident that the proposed mission would be very acceptable to his people and assured the Administrator so.

A little later, in his quarters explaining everything to Janine, he said that the Administrator had mentioned a Katia Shapirov as if he should know her.

Janine replied, “Harlan, I once, just out of curiosity, asked Sean if he had a surname. He said he did and that it was Shapirov. He seemed sad at the time, and he mentioned his mother. He said her name was Katia and that she had died and that he still missed her.”

* * *

Standing atop Mt. Shapirov, the highest peak on Starhell, Kalvin Vertraumer had so many layers of clothes on he almost could not move; but he did not care, for the view he saw was worth any discomfort.

Spread out before him was a vista that was both beautiful and terrible. It was beautiful in that way that only nature can be and terrible because, before the planet was tamed, many, many lives would surely be lost. Yet, there was music in all that he saw. In his head, that very moment, ran grand themes and melodies describing the struggle to make the planet livable, and soft dirges from the cost that would surely be levied.

Now he could understand better why Katia and her followers had sacrificed so much, as they had done over the years, to give their people another chance at greatness. If only he could put all that in the Requiem.

Sadly, though, that was not to be. The Requiem was to reflect the sadness of the loss of the Earth to its people; the loss of places that held racial memories too dangerous to be carried into the future. The Galactic Council would never allow a symphony that glorified those memories; that violent and confusing past that ultimately led to this new attempt in gaining a real future. No, this place must not become known to the Galactic Council until these people chose to make themselves known.

Still, after the Requiem was finished and it had been performed in the Great Concert Hall, then he could beg to retire and find his way back here. Then he would write a new symphony, a grand symphony that put to music all that was being done here.

* * *

Li Guo-fan looked out over the vast shop and, watching the craftsmen he was supervising, felt satisfied that he had been able to bring so many to this new world. And, since his people were the only ones with who had attained such a high level in the skills they possessed, theirs was the added satisfaction that the items they crafted would forever be the examples of the standard of workmanship on Starhell.

“Master Li,” spoke a familiar but impossible voice, “it is good to see that you have organized things so well. The products your people are creating speak well of your supervision.”

Li Guo-fan turned around and, seeing Dr. Jiang Yu-wei standing there, said, “But you cannot be here. You are dead. I saw your body myself.”

“Well,” Dr. Jiang replied, “let us just say that I knew what General Chu served with his tea and was able to use that information to my advantage.

“It is always good, is it not, to know well those around you. General Chu acted just as I thought he would once he had some doubts as to my loyalty. His problem was that he always used the same methods to encourage others to see things his way. He lacks flexibility in his actions. I find myself most appreciative for that lack of imagination.”

* * *

A fast and lovely ship came shooting into Sol’s system and headed for the satellite orbiting the third planet. It carried the repaired class-12 quarantine computer that was to finish the setting up and switching on of the quarantine modules that would cut the system off from the rest of the galaxy.

After landing on the moon, the ship was entered by maintenance personnel and inspected to see if any damage had occurred in transit. A small board was found to be defective and had to be replaced by a technician. Then the ship was programmed to deliver the computer to module number One to await the final orders from the et Sharma that would set the great force globe into being.

The ship, having completed its mission, instead of heading back to the galactic center, was triggered by an overriding program to meet with another ship somewhere near the fifth planet.

* * *

Morning, it seemed, came earlier for General Chu than it did for Me’Avi et Sharma. She was still seeking the peace of sleep when her rest was interrupted by the General’s summons. Hurriedly, she washed as time allowed, donned her clothes and did what she could with her hair.

Entering General Chu’s office she, needing to establish some sort of presence of authority, said, “Really, General, you give a lady so little time to make herself presentable. In my country, especially to one of office such as I, that is considered much less than polite.”

“Ah, Me’Avi et Sharma, any authority you may have ended at the borders of my country. Here your status is what I declare it to be. That status, I guarantee, will depend on how helpful you are for my purposes.”

“You make yourself very plain, General. But, my authority is such that your thoughts on the matter, even if I am at this particular moment your prisoner, hardly count for much. Accord me less than my position demands and you may find yourself very surprised at the outcome.”

General Chu, astounded at the manner and words of his prisoner, suddenly had a suspicion that things might not proceed with her as he had planned them. “You speak,” he countered, “very boldly for a prisoner. Perhaps our conversation will be more interesting than I had envisioned.

“Still, we should be civilized for the present. Our tea is waiting at the table. It is always better to begin a discussion over tea than not. I hope you agree.”

Walking slowly and then sitting in what was obviously General Chu’s chair, the et Sharma replied, “By all means, General, let us have our tea. Then we can discus the reality of each of our authorities.”

The General, angered now at the presumptuous of this woman, called for the guards. The door opened and he heard the guards come into the room. Not even looking behind him, he ordered the guards to rectify the seating arrangement.

Me’Avi et Sharma smiled at the shocked look on his face as her guards picked the General up and sat him rather ungently in the chair facing her. Then, without raising her voice, she explained to the General that her guards now controlled the immediate area and their discussion could now continue without unfortunate interruptions.

“First,” said Me’Avi et Sharma, “I should like to know who is responsible for the rather remarkable progress that I have so recently noticed among your people? And, don’t tell me that you are that person, for you have shown yourself a user of people, not a builder of societies.”

General Chu, realizing for the first time in his life that he was out of his league, decided that it would be best to cooperate, if only a little. He answered that most of the progress had come from the leadership over scholars and craft masters by Dr. Jiang Yu-wei. “There,” he added, “is a likeness of him on the wall by the window there.”

Now it was her turn to show shock for when she looked at the picture she said, “No, it can’t be. That man is dead!”

“Yes,” replied General Chu. “He died in this very room only a short time ago.”

“You don’t understand, General,” Me’Avi replied, “that man was the grand-nephew of Seiji the Martyr. We grew up in the same village and went to the same primary schools. He died years ago. He was killed when a star went nova. My parents died with him.

“You are sure that this man is your Dr. Jiang?”

General Chu, confused now, answered, “Yes, Madam, that is indeed Dr. Jiang Yu-wei, the founder of our university.”

Me’Avi et Sharma stood and said, “Thank you, General. You have been most helpful.” Looking at her guards, she gave a command sign as she left the General’s office.

A little later the General’s secretary rushed into the office and screamed as she realized that General Chu would no longer need her services.

To be continued...

Proceed to the Table of Contents...

Copyright © 2005 by euhal allen

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