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The Bridge

Book IV: To Qwell the Tide

by euhal allen

Table of Contents
Book IV, chapter 1 appeared
in issue 158.

Chapter 2: Going Home

The Galactic Council has englobed the Solar System and cut Earth off from the rest of the galaxy. However, a large human population has taken refuge on a frozen planet, Starhell. They busily terraform their new world while struggling to keep it hidden from Galactic patrols.

Katia, who was Earth’s original Dream Singer, and Cyr, who was the Bridge originally sent to Earth by the Galactics, are now cybernetic personalities. They relinquish their roles as leaders of the refugee colony and become ambassadors to humanity’s mysterious benefactors, the Qwell’Na.

Ever since Earth’s englobement, the Galactic Council has been thrown into turmoil by repeated setbacks and confusion about its objectives. Me’Avi — Katia’s granddaughter, the last Galactic representative to Earth and a prospective Grand Minister — learns that the Galactics are small fry compared to two far more powerful races: the pacifistic Qwell’Na and the murderously xenophobic Skeltz.

part 1 of 3

Katia’s holoform sat down in the proffered chair. The office surrounding and almost intimidating her was the office of the Secretary of the Tunnel Worlds’’ Diet and, not coincidentally, the First Head of the Family Heads of the Qwell’Na. Cyr, not having a history of organic habits, stood behind her.

A door opened and the First Head came into the room. At first he stood quietly and then with a sweeping gesture of his arm invited them into the inner chamber, following after and shutting the door firmly. “Ambassador Shapirov. Ambassador Cyr. You, da Sho’Na to the Qwell’Na, are most welcome in my inner chambers. You look puzzled. Do you not know the meaning of your visit here?”

“I am afraid not, First Head of the Family Heads of the Qwell’Na,” said Katia.

At that the First Head, not a pompous person at all, had a long laugh. “Ah, I see that we must clear some things up just so we don’t waste time being drowned in words.

“First Head of the Family Heads of the Qwell’Na is my title on Qwell Major, and, sometimes, when it is to my advantage to be pompous, here. But, never with a da Sho’Na, a little friend, as are the both of you. You, in circumstances of official events, should call me First Head.

“But, here, in my chambers, and on Qwell Major, unless it is in official circumstances, you should call me Rondol.”

Katia, puzzled, said, “Qwell Major? Little friend? Jo’Eya told us that da Sho’Na meant that we were inside friends, and now you say it means ‘little friends’. I don’t understand. Nor do I understand the reference to Qwell Major.”

“Yes,” replied Rondol, “there are things that will need to be explained. In our language ‘Na’ denotes something that is either little or close, according to the context. With some terms, such as da Sho, it means both. Those who gain the status of da Sho’Na have come into our House and become part of our Family, so they are close. They are also little in that we now speak to them in new ways, as you would have a special name for them, one that shows such closeness.”

Katia smiled. “Yes, you mean the diminutive such as the nickname, or familiar name, I use for my son Sean. I called him Stink.”

Rondol, shock on his face at first, began to laugh so hard that he almost could not stop. Finally, gasping for breath, he was able to say, “Thank you, Katia, my friend. Soon it will be Jal’Na, little name time, for my youngest son. You have given me the perfect name for him. Stink! He will hate it. It will be good for him.

“As for the term Qwell Major; it is the name of our real planet. The Qwell that the Galactic Council knows has the obvious name of Qwell Minor. Of course, this was not told to the Council for obvious reasons.

“Now, speaking of Qwell Major, it is time that you went there to come to know your new people, your new Family. To the Qwell’Na, Family is everything. Your Family wishes you to visit and come to know their needs and their strengths.”

“Our Family?” said Cyr. “We don’t understand.”

“Jo’Eya did not tell you that Jonkil da Laich chose your Jo Dan Bazj to him to be also his to his Family? that because of that you are now da Sho’Na ?”

“Yes, she said those things,” replied Katia, “but we don’t know what they mean.”

“Then you must go to your Family and find out. It is most important that you know your place in your Family to be of service here in the Tunnel Worlds. You are of the Qwell’Na as you are of your own kind. You must carry some burden from each of your peoples if both of your peoples are to be safe.”

“Safe? What do you mean safe? We need more information about...” said Katia as she watched Rondol leave through yet another door.

Seconds later a Transfer Door opened and Jo’Eya walked in. “So you are going to the Family. Good! If you will just recall your holoforms to your ships and lift off, and follow the scarlet lights to the Qwell Major Portal, we will have you home in minutes. I will see you there.”

Then Jo’Eya disappeared back through her Door and they were alone in the greeting chambers of the First Head of the Family Head of the Qwell’Na.

“It seems,” said Cyr, “that it would be to our advantage to follow our new directions.”

“Yes,” replied Katia, “I suppose it would. But, I wish they would just stop appearing and disappearing.”

“Turn about, Katia, for our own actions, is fair play,” answered Cyr as his holoform also disappeared.

“Cyr,” yelled Katia, as she followed, “did you just make a joke?”

* * *

The scarlet lights seemed to go on forever as the two ships flew slowly across the main spaceport of the Tunnel Worlds. Ships from every member of the league filled the port below; a variety of designs and colors far different from the more standard versions one would find in any Galactic Council spaceport. Katia even found a few with designs that she thought much nicer than the one she flew.

Yet eventually those ships were passed and the scarlet lights led them to the great maw of the Portal for Qwell Major. Passing through they were immediately in the sky above the planet the Qwell’Na called home. Looking at the scenery before them, Katia realized that she had been there before, when she had been Grand Minister of the Galactic Council. “How,” she wondered, “could the Qwell’Na have pulled that off without anyone knowing it?”

The question did not stay for long in her mind as she was receiving landing instructions from a small spaceport halfway around the planet. “Harrigan’s Whelp and Alexei’s Pride, this is Spaceport da Laich. Please lock onto our locator beam and proceed at your leisure to Family da Laich territory. Upon your arrival follow the scarlet lights and land in the areas indicated by scarlet circles. The Family Heads are awaiting your arrival. Welcome home.”

“‘Welcome home,’” said Cyr. “Well, Katia, when these folks adopt you they don’t play around, do they?”

“No, Cyr, I don’t think they do. It’s just like Jonkil was; once he decided a thing, that was it. There wasn’t anything that would change his mind except, sometimes, a fait accompli.”

“Sometimes, Katia, I think he got stubborn on purpose just to force you to do something he couldn’t do. I only say that because there were a few times that he seemed to have a look of satisfaction on his face just before he put on his somber face to read you the riot act.

“He did the same thing to me when I protected that busload of Dreamers that went over the cliff and then again when I brought in all those other Dreamers who were stuck outside my shield. He looked satisfied and then put on his angry face and lit into me really hard.”

“You mean that old goat was acting all those times? You should have told me.”

“No, Katia, you would have teased him unmercifully if I had, and you, if you had known that he was acting, sometimes, would have tried a lot of other things that might not have worked out well.”

“This is Spaceport da Laich flight control. Your speed is excessive. Please cut to ten knots and proceed to the scarlet landing circles as soon as you register them. They will show in about thirty seconds.”

“This is Harrigans’ Whelp. We hear you and are now homing on scarlet landing circles. ETA eighty-five seconds.” Then, to Cyr, “Don’t think that this is the end of this discussion, Cyr, because we’ll be talking about this later.”

Shortly, the two ships were resting on their assigned landing circles. The Family Heads came out to them and divided into two groups, one boarding each ship.

On their view screens, Rondol’s image appeared and he greeted them, saying, “You are welcome home. We will meet with you in the Main Chambers in one hour. You will be given direction to your quarters by those attending you now.”

Right then, two of the Family Heads, one in each vessel, approached the data input port and began to connect a data transmitter to the port. The last thing either of them remembered was watching them turn the transmitters on.

* * *

She could feel the coolness of the sheets in the bed, and the weight of the blankets over them. Slowly she opened her eyes and looked around and then, knowing that this was a dream, put her arm out of the covers to feel the air in the room. “What a strange dream,” she thought, “to be able to feel the bedding and the air. It’s been so long that I thought I had forgotten about it. Perhaps I can just continue this dream for awhile and luxuriate in the memories of it all.”

Just then a door opened and Jo’Eya walked in. “Feeling things, are you? Must be quite a surprise after so long.”

“You,” replied Katia, “are ruining my dream. Go away!”

“It is not a dream, Katia; it’s an upgrade.”

“I don’t understand. It has to be a dream. I can feel things again. You can’t do that with an upgrade. Can you?”

“When your vessels landed and admitted our Family Heads a data transmitter was attached to your data port.”

“Yes, I remember that.”

“There was so much data to input, that it was best to make the connections directly to your memory circuits. You lost consciousness because the old memory circuits could not support the data download as well as your personality. It happened to Cyr, also.

“We were a bit nervous when that happened. You are Family, and to harm a Family member is beyond a disaster for us. Once the data feed was complete we isolated the personality circuits and, because we were not certain that you could come back unharmed after that data transfer, we kept you out, so to speak.

“It would seem that certain circuits that were listed as having been installed earlier were not actually present. We immediately remedied that oversight, and, because of that earlier failure we installed new boards that increase your memory capacity by a factor of ten to the third power.

“We also installed a new board that allows your holoforms to create an aspect of solidity. Naturally, we could not have you becoming somewhat solid without making sure that you could feel the effects of your holo-solidity. It would be terrible if you went around bumping into things and didn’t know it.

“You should have little trouble adjusting to when you use your holoform since you were, at one time, organic. Cyr, however, is heading for a time-out in the fetal position. You need to help him as he has become a little suspicious of us at the moment.

“He is in his control room right now.”

“How do I get there from here?” asked Katia.

“Nothing has changed in the manner you create and dissolve your holoform. Do just as you would have done before all this happened. Going to his vessel is also the same. Just do it.”

Katia, almost unbelievingly, actuated the process of dissolving the holoform and retreating into her memory banks. Almost immediately she recoiled from those circuits and reformed herself in the control room of her ship. “No,” she mumbled to herself. “I can feel again and I won’t give that up.”

Seconds later she appeared in the control room of Alexei’s Pride and, seeing Cyr standing in the corner, shaking, went over to him, and put her new, feeling, arms around him.

At first he struggled to get away from this new sensory overload, but, upon hearing Katia’s voice, he allowed himself to succumb to her quiet words of assurance and the soft, gentle touch of her hands. And, for the first time since he had awakened in this strange new existence he started to understand the magic of touch.

* * *

In the great chamber the Family Heads of the da Laich pondered over the new problem that faced them: If the two cyber persons were truly Qwell’Na — the acceptance of Katia’s Jo Dan Bazj gift by Jonkil, and later by the Family, said they were — then they must be allowed to learn all the history of their new people.

However, how could their new brother and sister come to know the truth without disowning them and adding to their shame? Was it fair to help these new ones come to a completeness as Qwell’Na only to make them partake of the guilt and blame that past laid upon all who were of their people?

Rondol, First Head of the Family Heads of the da Laich; First Head of the Family Heads of the Qwell’Na stood and spoke:

“Jonkil found them worthy and we are bound by his word. I say this not because he was First Head of our Family and our people, though that should weigh heavily in accepting his judgment. I say this not because he was my father and was father and brother and uncle to many of you, though through knowing him, as we did, we should know and respect his wisdom.

“I say this, instead, because his reasoning was just. I say this because of all those in the galaxy, these two, because of their life experience, mirror most our life experience. Jonkil saw, as all of us must see, that it is not we who have made them Qwell’Na; it is life that has done so.

“If this is so, then as Qwell’Na they must know the whole of our family and our people, our shame as much as our honor. I call for decision.”

Then Pa’Nia stood. “I agree with the First Head. I do so not because he is my husband. I do so not because my First Family, the da Zheen, trusted Jonkil, though they did. I speak this way because the reasoning is correct. Only, I would counsel caution. I would reveal the shame and the honor slowly. I would let them discover it all through their own questions and investigations. I call for a decision”

The Keeper of the Records stood and spoke. “A decision has been twice called for, we must decide. Those who would completely share the truth, but slowly, give indication.” There was a pause as the assembled gave their silent votes.

“The Family has spoken. The truth of the honor and the shame will not be hidden from our new Family members. They will be Full Family. Call Jo’Eya to appear.”

Seconds later Jo’Eya walked into the chamber and stood before the Family Heads.

“Jo’Eya,” said the Keeper of the Records, “it has been determined that Jonkil’s reasonings are correct. You will add that to the memories he left you. His Honor is complete.”

Jo’Eya, tears in her eyes, replied, “It has been added. My Grandfather thanks you. His honor is complete and he rests easier.”

“Jo’Eya, you carry the memories of your grandfather. You carry his reasoning. You will be the Truth Bearer to your new brother and sister. You are counseled to use caution and give only what is asked. But, give all that is asked. They are Family.”

Again Jo’Eya answered, “I am the Truth Bearer to my new brother and sister.” Then she turned and left the chamber.

Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2005 by euhal allen

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