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The Bridge

Book IV: To Qwell the Tide

by euhal allen

Table of Contents
Chapter 2, part 1 appears
in this issue.

Chapter 2: Going Home

part 2 of 3

* * *

Cyr practiced walking around a room without touching anything, and asked, “Katia, how do you do this so easily? You just seem to glide by things without looking and I have to watch everything so as not to knock something over.”

“It comes,” Katia answered, “with practice. Now you know how I feel when you do a data search and find an answer while I am still looking at filenames.”

“You’re getting faster, though, Katia. I only can do it about twice as fast as you can. But this walking around a room without hitting something while at the same time conversing with someone is really tricky. I suppose that I shall have to memorize every room as I enter.”

“What data are you looking for now?”

“I just found that the Qwell’Na servers are now open to me. but most of their files are in Qwell. I am trying to find something that will allow me to download a Qwell dictionary, if there is such a thing, so that I can start to learn the language. I have a feeling that there are certain things that have not been translated out of Qwell, things we need to know.”

“Yes, the Qwell servers became accessible to us just over fifteen minutes ago. The Qwell dictionary that I think you are looking for can be downloaded from them.”

“Cyr, don’t tell me where it is, just send it to me when you have it. And, send any other reference work that you find. Anything on Qwell’Na history, art, government, or culture. You never know just what might be useful.”

“No,” said Jo’Eya, as she stepped through a Door, “you do not. It is good that the servers are now open to you. The Family Heads ordered it done a half-hour ago.

“They also assigned me to be of help to you in acclimatizing yourselves to your new culture and home. Whenever you have a question it is my job to answer it. Of course, sometimes that means that I will have to find the answer myself first, so try to keep the questions easy.”

“OK, Jo’Eya, I have an easy one for you. When I was Grand Minister I did a lot of research on the past sessions of the Galactic Council. I felt it was needed if I were to understand and do my job effectively. While I was doing that I ran onto something a Qwell Minister to the Council said that I have always remembered but never understood. Perhaps you can enlighten me.”

“I,” answered Jo’Eya, “shall try. Remember though, unless it is in the memories that I carry from my grandfather, I, too, shall probably have to use the data banks to find the answer for you.”

“It was just a statement made by one of the earliest of your Ministers. It went something like this: ‘What have we in the end but the honor of our sin?’”

Jo’Eya, face white and eyes filling with tears, spoke, “‘In the account of our actions we have naught but the honor of our sin.’ It was said by a grandfather of my grandfather’s grandfather. It burns brightly in the memories given me by my grandfather. It tells of honor gained in an act of evil.

“When we helped in the destruction of the Skeltz we took upon ourselves the sin of destroying a race of people. The honor came in the saving of others, but in the end it was accomplished by genocide.” Then, tears rolling down her cheeks, she added, “I can speak no more now, I must go.”

And she did.

* * *

Katia sat in the captain’s chair of Harrigan’s Whelp and pondered the puzzle that was the Qwell language. It would seem that the littlest thing could be translated in different ways and still be faithful to the original technically but not in actuality. Na was one of those things. When used with da Sho, “Na” made one a favored member of the Family, but when used with Qwell, “Na” seemed to have only the meaning of ‘little’ or ‘small’. Yet, how could the name for the whole people mean “small’?

Also, the very word Qwell was a strange name for a people. In any of the texts that she had seen — other than when used to describe the people — it seemed to mean ‘Searchers’, yet the word did not describe an activity of the people but their state of being. Putting that together with “Na,” one got something like ‘Small Searcher’. It did not make sense.

When she asked Jo’Eya about her thoughts on the translation she replied that ‘Small Searcher’ was as good a translation as any and left it there. When Katia had pushed the subject, because the Qwell’Na were anything but “small,” Jo’Eya merely replied that the ‘small’ was the state of their minds, which confused Katia even more.

“Why,” asked Katia, “when all your references to other races, both those in the Tunnel Worlds and in those of the Galactic Council, use their name and a Di to signify their whole people, do you not, with all of your people’s accomplishments, call yourself the Qwell’Di, the ‘whole people of Qwell?’”

Jo’Eya turned pale and, eyes tearing up, fled the ship.

Later, Rondol, First Head of the Family Heads came aboard and mentioned that, though as people of the mind and students of the Qwom-Sor, they did not believe in taboos, as did some races, there were certain terms that were never said. The term Qwell’Di was one of them. It was a term of great sadness for his people. There was once a time when the Qwell had that name but they could do so no more.

“Why,” Katia asked, “what happened?”

Rondol, also turning pale, answered, “You are Qwell’Na. You are Family and so have a right to know. But, once you know you must never speak of it again. To do so would bring shame on all present. You must understand this.”

“Once we know,” Cyr said, “we will never speak of it to your people again. We understand.”

“No, I think you do not. You are Qwell’Na. You must always say ‘our people.’ And you must never speak of the Qwell’Di, not even to each other.”

“You have our word, Rondol, that we respect your wishes,” replied Katia. “But if this is so, how can you talk of it to us?”

“You are Family. Once in the life of any of the Family this subject is discussed. This is your time.

“The Qwell’Di are no more because there were those of us that refused life. They killed themselves. They did not do this thing from illness. They did not do this thing from despondency. They did it out of anger.

“They did this knowing that in depriving their Families of their existence they were causing great pain to those left living. Knowing that with their act they were depriving future children of life made no difference to them. Even now we still have tears for the children who were taken from us.

“The Qwell’Di, the whole of our people that should have been, cannot be, and we are now Qwell’Na, only a little part of our people.

“You are Family. This thing you now know. We will speak of it no more.”

“No,” replied Katia, “we will speak of it more. You say we are of the Family. You say we are da Sho’Na. How can we be so if our new Family withholds our history from us? You must let us know the whole story.”

“You learn quickly, Ka’Tia,” Rondol said as he was stepping through a Door, adding, “You are Family and we will speak of this again. But later. I can speak no more of this now.

“Ka’Tia?” asked Cyr, “How do you always seem to know what buttons to push? Ka’Tia, you are Family.”

“Oh, Cyr, shut up!”

* * *

The meeting in the Great Chamber was marked by great solemnity. The First Head reported the conversation with Ka’Tia. Then, when the report had been completed he added, “Now we know why she was such a success in her position as Grand Minister. It was the same ability to cut through the wrappings of state and find the facts she needed.

“I am ordering the computer people to inundate her with those things she requested of Cyr. She will soon have all she can handle of the art, culture, history, and government. Only we will upload it to both of them at the same time. I do not think it will delay their final conclusions long, but it may do so long enough for them to come to know how they have become Qwell’Na.

“Still, there is hope in this. If she and her people are the ones we have waited for all these generations, then she must know all of our past. Only then can she, if she is the One, free us from our sorrow.”

* * *

The Oversight Committee was meeting when the Qwell communicator lit up. Olga and Sean almost raced each other to answer the call. They were rewarded when the voice of their mother sounded out through the speakers.

“This is Ka’Tia speaking. I would hope that there are people present, but, if not, I would hope that this is being recorded.”

Olga, grabbing the microphone, answered, “We are all here, Mother. The Oversight Committee is in session.” Then, a bit petulantly, added, “Why haven’t you communicated with us before this? What are you doing that is more important than your people’s needs here on Starhell? And why did you call yourself Ka’Tia?”

Ka’Tia’s voice came back over the speakers, saying, “You know, Cyr, it really is a wonder that we don’t just eat them when they are young. It must be some sort of genetic curse. Be glad you don’t have any.

“I am very busy right now, and I will decide when I have time to communicate. Also, I am a very big girl — if you take the measurements of my ship that is — and I have known, for a long time now, what the word ‘important’ means. And my name now, because of our adoption by the Qwell’Na, is Ka’Tia. I would expect that you will get used to it since I have decided that I like it and won’t answer to another one. I hope that I am being clear.”

Sean answered, “Well, mothe— Ka’Tia, one thing that you have never had trouble with is being clear.”

“Thank you for noticing that, Sean. Now to bring you up to date. We have been accredited by the Tunnel Worlds as humanity’s representatives. We have also begun to absorb Qwell’Na history and culture so that we can be of more help to you guys.

“It seems that the secretary to the Tunnel Worlds’ Diet is always a Qwell’Na. It also seems that, over the generations the Qwell’Na have rescued each of the englobed civilizations by tutoring them in their own practical philosophy and their abilities, through Door technology, to circumvent the englobement process.

“But they are not pushovers. No race has been able to become a part of the Tunnel Worlds without civilizing their populations and subverting their tendencies towards violence. And no race, once it has been accepted into the Tunnel Worlds, has retreated into past patterns of actions. They all know that, since the Qwell’Na control the Door technology and the tunnels, they would find themselves englobed again if they did revert to former ways.

“What that means is, since humanity, out of all other races, is the only people to have discovered Door technology and is using it to save itself and not to bring harm to or control of, others, the Qwell’Na have enhanced our Door technology to be equivalent to theirs. They trust us.

“Don’t take that for granted. Use the technology to save Earth and Starhell and nothing else. Doors are not the only major technological feat that the Qwell’Na have developed.

“The Galactic Council is getting closer to having a sub-quantum carrier beam, and when they do — if you haven’t gotten most of the population to Earth — the Qwell’Na may have to englobe Starhell to keep everyone safe.

“To keep that from happening, you need to find a way to make things on the surface completely invisible while you conceal yourselves again in the ocean hideouts. We feel that the time you have left to do this before their Doors can reach you is at most five years. It could happen considerably sooner, perhaps in one year.

“If the Council Fleet is sent to Starhell, you will have only six months from the time they leave the Galactic capital. Should that happen we will notify you of the moment they leave. We still have some agents placed in the government there, and they are able to keep pretty close watch on what it is doing.

“Of course, if you don’t want to deal with any of this, you can still opt to join the Tunnel Worlds as a full member and be permanently englobed. Of course, that will mean that you give up the right to be recognized as valued members of the Galactic Civilization. I would hope that you do not choose that option, as it would mean accepting the Galactic Council’s condemnation of you.

“On the other hand, if you can convince the Council that they have made a mistake in their judgment of you, then there would be hope for the other races of the Tunnel Worlds to be able to shed their englobement also. That is a cause worth fighting for. We Qwell’Na have a proverb that goes, To die in protecting the weak is to die with honor.

“We won’t let you die, but we will also be very grateful if you stick this thing out for the good of all the races of the Galaxy.

“My time is at an end for now. I will contact you again when I can.”

The light on the communicator blinked out and it was, again, silent.

Olga, fingers drumming her forehead in frustration, said, “With all the changes that have happened to her, she really hasn’t changed, has she?”

Proceed to part 3...

Copyright © 2005 by euhal allen

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