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The Bridge

Book IV: To Qwell the Tide

by euhal allen

Table of Contents
Book IV, chapter 3 appeared
in issue 159.

Chapter 3: Starhell Standoff

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

George sat thinking about something Charlie had said a few days before he passed on. Standing on the shore of the planet’s largest ocean, he had commented, “Sure is a lot of energy in those waves.”

“Well, Charlie,” George thought, “I think that I can do something about that for you. It will be good to get one last idea from you.” Then he began working out a power system using wave motion as the motivator. Soon he was deep into thought as his pencil, his favorite calculator — it used reverse Polish entry — and his computer were all being used to seek a solution to the problem.

He was halfway through when his assistant entered the office with an envelope addressed to him. It was dated several weeks back and it was from Charlie.

George took the envelope carefully and said to his assistant, “I will almost bet you that this is about an idea he had on the very problem I am working on. That would be just like Charlie. Even gone, he just has to drop these projects on me.”

Opening the envelope and removing the letter, George leaned back in his chair and started to read. At first he just nodded his head and said to himself, “Yeah, sure, Charlie,” and “Charlie, where do you get this stuff?” and, “I am sorry to say this, Charlie, but even dead you’re out of your cotton-picking mind!”

Then George’s face turned a bit pale and he just sat there for the longest time, stunned. Finally, recovering his senses, he began to laugh so hard that he was sure he was cracking his ribs. Cackling at the unbelievable humor of it all and gasping for breath, George finally just put his head and arms down on his desk and closed his eyes.

“You know,” he stated to his assistant, “Charlie has done it to me again. He made a copy of this letter for the Oversight Committee and I am willing to bet that they already have it. And, since the idea is from Charlie they will probably want me to do it.”

“Do what, George?”

George handed him the letter and watched his assistant’s eyes get bigger and his mouth drop almost to the floor as he read it.

“You’re right, George, since it is from Charlie they will want us to do it. Suicide may be our only option.”

“No, we have the option of disappearing. I have another project that Charlie talked about, a power generating system based on ocean waves. It’s doable and we will have to be at the ocean to supervise it.

“Get a crew together and then fill this list of supplies. The Oversight Committee doesn’t meet until the first of next week. If we are reasonably quick, we can be at the ocean with the needed material by tomorrow. If we work carefully and double and triple check everything we can stretch it out for several months. That, hopefully, will be long enough for the Committee to forget this letter.

* * *

The Grand Minister stood before the Galactic Council and, after waiting for silence, spoke these words, “Fellow Ministers, in this time of great trial and uncertainty we must be strong and do our duty. Sometimes that duty is to wait.

“Now of all the things we are called upon to do, I think that waiting for the right time to act can be the hardest of all. No one likes it but if we hurry we could find ourselves unprepared for the challenges that we will face in the near future. But there are sound reasons for our delay in acting.

“First, our research into the sub-quantum carrier beam is coming along a bit slower than we had hoped. That is not due to lack of effort by our researchers, but rather it can be laid to the fact that the carrier beam seems to be a bit harder to create than we at first thought it would be. Science takes time.

“Second, with the absence of the officers of the government in so many positions, due to the disappearance of the Qwell’Na, we have only enough people to barely get done what absolutely must be done. Those Qwell’Na that vacated their posts carried many years of experience that we no longer have the use of, and that is causing great damage to the everyday business of government.

“Third, we do not know what happened to our Qwell’Na partners in government. Did they voluntarily leave our service or were they somehow forced? One would think that if their absence was deliberate and stemming from an animosity to the people of the Galactic Council then, the Qwell’Na, who defeated our greatest enemy and then added their strength to our civilization, would have attacked us. They have not. There has been no recognizable threat from them in any sector of our realm.

“If they are gone due to the adverse action of another enemy, then we must find that enemy and deal him a blow that will return the people of Qwell to us.

“Do these things that I have spoken of mean that your government is not doing anything to seek a solution to the problems facing us?

“No, of course not. We have been able to discern that any threat facing us seems to be located in the direction of the galactic center. The Cernon Sector, for one, along with others on the fringes, do not seem to be hosting any hazard from those areas. Because of that we can pull resources from each of those sectors, leaving a sufficient force in each for their protection, and deploy them in the direction that the threat most likely is coming from.

“A reconnaissance fleet of sufficient strength and firepower has already set forth in the direction of what we have possibly identified as Starhell. They are using the new enhanced drive and will arrive at their destination within weeks, not months. The report of their findings and actions will be returned to us by messenger drones that have also been enhanced.

“The Commander of the fleet has been given orders not to start any trouble, if that is possible, but he is to, if trouble does start, take whatever necessary means to end it.

“There are, of course, other actions that have been planned and are even now being initiated. Other actions are still in the planning sessions and will be initiated as soon as possible. What those actions are we can not, and will not, disclose. It is always best to play your cards close to your chest when the stakes are this high.

“Rest assured that your government is doing all it can to insure the safety of the people of the Galactic Council. You can be of enormous help by filling in where there is a need and by cooperating to your utmost with the emergency efforts.

“Thank you.”

* * *

On Starhell the Oversight Committee watched the Grand Minister with some apprehension. Their transmitter equipment attached to small doors hidden in media networks had done its job and they were now warned. The project, suggested by Charlie Philips in his last letter to them so recently now had to go forward to what extent it could. If it worked, it would be a life saver. But whether it would work or not was something the engineers would have to tell them.

The Committee discussed the situation and, in a letter dictated by them, instructed George to return to Charlestown and begin working on this latest, and last, idea of Charlie Phillips.

* * *

The cables stretched out over five miles and connected the eighty-nine power buoys to an underwater transmission unit that routed the power to the underground power cables that led to the village just on the other side of the coastal hills. There was now enough power for the whole village and a little left over for some expansion. George was pleased.

Standing next to the village head he pointed out the small buoy control house hidden in the rocky cliff near the eastern shore. It would be the villagers’ job to man the control house until an automatic system could be set up and connected to the central power control in Charlestown. Should a big enough storm hit the area, — with the thickening of the atmosphere and the completion of the moon such storms did happen — the operator was to send the signal that would open the bottom tanks in the buoys and allow them to submerge below the violence of the storm. That had been another one of Charlie’s ideas stemming from the possibility that if the fleet from the Galactic Council should appear there should be no discernible evidence of buoys generating power for that fleet to investigate.

George was just finishing his briefing when an assistant came up and handed him the orders from the Oversight Committee. Reading them over he just grimaced and, looking out at the success of this latest endeavor, hoped he would not let Charlie down on his last, and most ambitious project.

But, facing reality, he had his assistant tell the village Doorkeeper to set the Door for Charlestown and, in just a few minutes was back in his office using the com to ask for a meeting with the Oversight Committee at the earliest possible moment. The message he left was straight and to the point. “You guys are asking more than we have to give at present. I think you need to get a hold of Katia and have her see if the Qwell’Na have another set of ‘miracle’ formulas that can help us design this thing.”

* * *

New Earth’s Minister was livid. She marched into the Grand Minister’s office yelling and was enraged even more when he just quietly sat there smiling at her. “What have you done? You know that there are Starhell spies here and that your speech about the fleet heading toward them was known to them before you finished your spiel. Now, you have released to the media those documents that describe the enhancements to the fleet in detail.

“You may be right about the Qwell’Na being forced to abandon the Galactic Council, but I worked among those people who created Starhell and I know that they are clever and dangerous. My mother and my uncle and my grandmother’s computer personage are with them. They have the carrier beam and who knows what weapons they can make from the principles in that technology.

“Why don’t you just send them a notice of surrender and give them the rest of Council space?”

“You know, Me’Avi,” Xhelsher replied, “when I actually get to retire I’m going to miss these quiet moments that we have together.

“You are perfectly right in the matter of their possibly having weapons based on carrier beam technology. And, who knows what weapons could be designed from knowledge of the whole sub-quantum field? It is a sure thing that if we surprised them with the fleet and if those weapons exist, many fine young fleet crewmembers would die in learning about those weapons.

“So we tell them we are coming and we tell them that the fleet has orders not to start anything. We are, in this manner, giving them a chance to show how civilized they are.

“If they attack a fleet that is not there to harm them, then all of our people will support the actions we have to take in return. If they, instead, are amenable to some compromise and no one has to die, then we will be hailed as great statesmen and peacemakers.

“It is an old gambit that politicians on every planet and in every race have used since there were first politicians. War, Me’Avi, like death, is final in its effects on peoples. It should not be used unnecessarily and unwisely.

“As to the thought of your mother and your uncle and your grandmother being with them... well... I find that comforting. Yes, they are very clever and, it would seem, very determined in their present course. Firmness and cleverness were always qualities that they had and used well.

“Your grandmother was not only a fine leader and a great stateswoman, but she, like me, was a student of history. During the years that I served under her we had a number of very fine conversations about the effects of the past upon us. I believe if she were in my shoes now she would do just as I have done, try to defuse the situation.

“Me’Avi, I am staking a lot on my being right, for if I am wrong, and we find ourselves in a great war, I know that I will be, at the very least, tried for treason, and be forced to spend my retirement in prison. I have a good fifty years left in my life. To face it in a prison and not on my farm would be price I could not pay. I could not continue to live that way. I am truly staking my life on being right.

“But if I am right, and this situation can be defused, a whole new and brighter civilization could be built on the results of our efforts. I will be able to not only retire to my farm, but I will have the pleasure of watching you lead that civilization to great new heights. I know you and I am sure that you can be a great as leader as your grandmother was. To see another such stateswoman as she, two in one lifetime, would be a satisfaction that no Historian could pass up.”

* * *

The Oversight Committee, meeting with George on Charlie Phillips’ last idea, quickly found themselves buried under the technical objections presented by their Chief Engineer. After carefully looking at all that George had brought in they finally agreed to just shelve the project until the advances needed could be made.

“That’s not what I’m asking,” responded George. “To me the project is an absolute impossibility. But so were several that Charlie thought up, and they worked. Of course, a number of Charlie’s projects did not work, but after a while, I got a feeling about his ideas. I don’t know why, but there were some of his whacky ideas that I felt good about, and those were the ones that usually worked. I feel, in spite of all the technical impossibilities I have given you, that way about this one. Give Katia a call and see if she can squeeze something out of the Qwell’Na.”

“We really can’t call Ka’Tia — she’s put her name in Qwell now — because we don’t know how to. You know that. We have been sitting at the microphone of the Qwell communicator for days now, trying to reach her. It is like calling a cat. She won’t respond until she is ready.”

George answered, “We need the information if it is there. Do you mind if I try to reach her?”

Seeing them nod their heads George got up and went to the communicator and picked up the microphone and started talking into it. “Katia... uh, Ka’Tia, this is George on Starhell. I know that you are there somewhere and I know that there are ones there to tell you what we are saying to you. We need your help to finish one of Charlie’s projects. I think it can be done, but we will need confirmation from the Qwell’Na on that.

“You know how hard Charlie tried to help us. The Galactic Council’s fleet is headed toward us. Charlie’s idea, if it will work, could be the answer. You know what we owe to that man, what you owe to that man. Don’t let us and Charlie, down. We need to talk to you at once.”

Olga, smirking, said, “George, you’re an evil person. Mother has always prided herself on her loyalty to others. Playing that card was just evil.”

George, looking bewildered, replied, “Do you mean that I should not have brought Charlie into the picture?”

“No,” answered Sean, “Olga’s just jealous that she didn’t think of it. If that doesn’t bring a reply from Mother, nothing will.”

Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2005 by euhal allen

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