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The Bridge

Book III: The Starhell Mutiny

by euhal allen

Table of Contents
Chapter 5, part 3 appeared
in issue 156.

Chapter 6: Twisting the Obvious

The Galactic Council has finally englobed the Solar System and cut Earth off from the rest of the galaxy. The last notes of the Requiem symphony are fading, but even before the echoes can die away completely, new and dissonant strains are struck within the Galactic Council itself. Something is amiss, and harmony dissolves.

Meanwhile, those who had fled the Earth before the englobement struggle both to survive and stay hidden on their new home, a cold, desert planet called Starhell. Aiding them are Cyr, who was the original Bridge sent to Earth by the Galactics, and Katia Shapirov, Earth’s Dream Singer and formerly a Galactic minister. They find themselves confronted by secrets and puzzles from the apparently friendly but enigmatic Qwell’Na...

part 1 of 3

The La Scena was just getting set for the jump back to the multi-planet system they had discovered some months ago when a message drone came with orders labeled URGENT. The ship was to make all possible speed for the Capital world. The Naviputer had to be reprogrammed with that destination. The change, announced to the crew, caused an immediate boost in morale. Instead of having more than four years to wait before going home, they would, because of the urgent order, make a direct jump for the home planet and could, if the Captain ordered flank speed, get there in a little over seven months. Already the crew were planning their reunions with old friends.

The course programmed, the reply drone sent to the Capital world, the Captain gave the order and the ship made its initial jump into hyperspace.

* * *

Rondol, finishing his work for the day — his last day before retirement — closed the office log and rang for Pa’Nia.

“Yes, Sir.”

“I was just wondering how your cousin was doing, Pa’Nia. Did he get the message that he was wanted at home by your aunt, or will you have to send another message?”

“I believe the message was received, Sir. I understand that my cousin started back home today.”

“Good, very good. You know, Pa’Nia, I am going to miss this place, but, still, it is time to retire. I have been here long enough.”

“Yes, sir, I know what you mean. I wish I could retire also, but I still have several years to go before I can have full retirement. To retire now would mean living on too little to make it worthwhile.”

“Pa’Nia, you have been a very good assistant. I will miss you as well.

“You know, Pa’Nia, I have been so involved with my job that I have never wifed. Retired, I will need one. We have always gotten along well, and you could take early retirement and we could continue together.”

“Sir, Rondol, the file-work, I don’t know if there is time before they...”

“Pa’Nia, the file-work is done. I sent it in with mine. I thought that we might want to leave together, go home to Qwell together. Wouldn’t you rather be there with me than sit in my desk, taking my place?”

“If we do this, Rondol, you must stay out of my kitchen and you must never, never brew the morning coffee. If we can agree on that, I will accept your offer. Tomorrow, my assistant can sit in your desk and innocently face the future.”

Shortly after, each, in their own quarters, activated a Door and finished removing the remainder of their belongings to a home on Qwell, where Pa’Nia, after checking on the children, brewed a pot of that greatest blessing from Earth, other than music: coffee.

Behind them, the Doors folded in on themselves and it was as if they had never been there.

* * *

In a secret room in the Science Building the BGS officer turned to his companion and said, “Now, that was the driest proposal of marriage I have ever heard. She must have really liked that guy.”

* * *

Grand Minister Pwirkavi opened the session of the Galactic Council with an announcement that the Galactic Chronicler’s report would be the first order of business for the day, and, with the appearance of the Chronicler at the lectern, gave way to him, standing behind him as a gesture of support.

The Ministers, shaken by the unusual happening — the Galactic Chronicler had never before addressed the whole Council, only given testimony before select committees — sat at their places and waited for the Chronicler in absolute silence.

The Chronicler, nervous at the prospect of the possible challenges of the situation, looked around at the gathered Ministers and slowly mustered up the courage to begin speaking.

“Honored Ministers, I and my people, all gatherers and interpreters of facts, have discovered some startling and disturbing phenomena that we have conveyed to Grand Minister Pwirkavi. It is at his insistence that I stand before you today. It is at his insistence that I report to you the findings of my Department.

“There are those who will dispute our findings. Let them. We, being chroniclers, are always most careful in supporting our findings with irrefutable proofs that will stand up under even the most vicious of attacks. This is our calling, our life in our service to this Council.

“To start with, the BGS reports of the Starhell Confederation are not true. There is no such entity. The so-called mining sites are not of Starhell origin, but are the work of the following four planets involved in the repair of Galactic Fleet vessels; Chirnan, Rotevnelk, Plosas and Ven’yal.

“The records now appearing on your desk monitors show that the equipment left at those mining claims were in the inventory of those planets immediately prior to their being ‘discovered’ at the Starhell Confederation mining claims.

“Also, you will see on your monitors links to the shipyards that decommissioned and scrapped ships that used large amounts of fuel, enough to fly easily to the Cernon Sector fringes and back while there is no record of any use of them at all.

“What you see is the evidence of a conspiracy by those four planets to keep the Galactic Fleet in that Sector and cause a continuance of the large repair and re-supply contracts that they have come to enjoy.”

Me’Avi Shapirov, shouted for attention. “This is an outrageous slander on upstanding members of the Galactic Council. I demand that the Galactic Chronicler apologize at once to the Ministers of those planets and to the hardworking people of the Bureau of Galactic Security immediately. I...”

Grand Minister Pwirkavi flipped a switch on his console and the Minister from New Earth, still shouting, was no longer heard. “The Minister from New Earth is out of order and will end her actions or be restrained.”

The Minister from New Earth ended her actions.

Then the Minister from Plosas sought recognition from the Grand Minister.

Grand Minister Pwirkavi answered, “The Minister from Plosas will have ample time to defend his government and his people when the Galactic Chronicler has completed his report.”

The Minister from Plosas replied, “It is not our intention to defend ourselves but to admit to this Council that the information being brought forth, with so many proofs, by the Galactic Chronicler, is correct.”

The face of the Minister from New Earth, like the faces of members of the committee overseeing the BGS and the heads of the BGS present, turned ashen at the confession.

“It was,” continued the Minister from Plosa, “and I speak for the governments of all four of the associated planets of the Cernon Sector, the decision of our governments to indulge in the charade described by the Chronicler. We thought we had hidden it better.

“The action was taken by our governments because of the neglect by this Council in helping our people advance and become the part of this civilization that we should have become.”

“We,” said Pwirkavi, “will listen to reasons later, after the Galactic Chronicler has finished his report. It would be my advice that you listen carefully.”

Stepping back from the lectern, Pwirkavi made room again for the Galactic Chronicler.

“Because of the admissions from the four planets involved my report can be much shorter. I am sure you will all appreciate the courage it took for those people to make such an admission. That courage, as well as their actions, should make this Council take a closer look, when times allow for it, at their plight and make amends for past inattention to their needs; but now is not a time to look at such things, for there is a danger that must be faced.

“There is a planet named Starhell. It does have a population of several million — at least that figure can be inferred from the information we have managed to glean — but they as a people are not a threat to the Galactic Council or the Galactic Fleet. After all, how could a few million people be a threat to a galactic civilization of billions of people?

“Their threat is not their numbers but their technology. There is evidence — now being transmitted to your desk monitors — that they have designed and are using a viable sub-quantum carrier beam device that allows them to, without vessels, transfer people and equipment across areas as large as half the galaxy. “Starhell has not been found in the areas we have looked for because it is not in those areas. It is much farther away than we, not knowing about the sub-quantum equipment, had previously thought. It may take us, with our hyperspace drive technology, a great deal of time to find them.

“It is more important that we use the information you now have before you to develop our own version of the sub-quantum carrier beam. Then our advantage in numbers will assure us survival in any test we could possible encounter with the people on Starhell.

“Besides, the greatest danger to our civilization does not rest with Starhell and its people. Forget them, for they are but a small problem compared with the danger that lies within our midst, within our very governmental structure.

“There is a people among us who have slowly, carefully, been able to redirect our every action to support their own agenda.

“I speak of the Qwell’Na. Would the Minister from Qwell like to offer an alternate explanation for the data on his monitor and counter the words that I have spoken?”

There was silence in the Great Hall and then a voice came from the area adjacent to the that of the Qwell'Na delegation. “There are no Qwell’Na here, Chronicler. They are all gone!”

* * *

There were no Qwell’Na anywhere it seemed, and that explained the scope of this new disaster.

For too many years to count, the Qwell’Na had been recruited to fill administrative positions that no one else seemed to want, positions that dealt with the routine, mundane, actions that every civilization needed to do in order to function smoothly and efficiently. Now many of those positions were vacant and, since a great numbers of the trainees for those positions were also Qwell’Na, there were not enough trainees to fill them even partially.

Enforcement officers were sent out to find the missing Qwell’Na so as to bring them back to work or at least, train new ones for the positions, but somehow, of the millions of Qwell’Na that had been working around the Galaxy in those jobs, almost none were found. Of those that were, many were incarcerated in protective custody to await questioning. Within days they too were gone, leaving no clues as to how.

Grand Minister Pwirkavi ordered the Galactic Fleet to head immediately to Qwell. He intended to force the Qwell’Na to come back, under guard, to train subordinates for the positions most needed and to explain what their purpose in infiltrating the Galactic government had been. When that was done, the Qwell were to be englobed and that englobement was to be permanent.

Then, sick and tired from the pressure and exertion of the great crisis, the Grand Minister called the Galactic Council into session and tendered his resignation, saying, “My brothers and sisters of the Galactic Council, I have for many years, since the death of Grand Minister Shapirov, been privileged to hold the office of Grand Minister. I can, in my weakened state, no longer do so.

“But before I leave I should like to recommend my replacement. Always it has been the tradition to replace a retiring, or deceased, Grand Minister with another Minister from the Council. This has worked for us for many generations. It is, in normal times, a good tradition. But who, in these times before us, has the wisdom and courage to lead these peoples in a manner that will assure the greatest chance of our remaining a stable and functioning society for the foreseeable future?

“I think that this very crisis has shown us that we can all be fooled and we can all, no matter how intelligent and wise we seem to be, head into directions not really the best for our people. I feel then that I should state that my recommendation must go to Kran Xhelsher, better know to us as the Galactic Chronicler, to use his obvious knowledge and ability in the office of Grand Minister of the Galactic Council.”

Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2005 by euhal allen

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