Prose Header

The Bridge

Book IV: To Qwell the Tide

by euhal allen

Table of Contents
Chapter 3, part 2 appears
in this issue.

Chapter 3: Starhell Standoff

part 3 of 3

* * *

The data finally came and George began to work with it. Some of it, the simple formula for orbits of objects — F = M1*M2/R2 — was too much for the Oversight Committee, so he did his best to explain the pros and cons of the process and its possible outcomes in ordinary Galactic Common. That was too much for them, too. Finally Sean said, “Look, George, we trust you. You make the decision. You know what you are doing. Just do your best and let us know what you have decided and when, if you are about to start the process, we will need to take the safety precautions you have outlined for us.”

So George had to shoulder the responsibility himself. The data was all there, but there had been a couple of places that the translation seemed a little weird. Still, the outcome matched most of what they had already discovered and, if they were really right, they had already been about ninety-five percent of the way there before the data arrived from Qwell.

That was the scary part. They had been so close already, just branching out from their previous level of technology. Surely the Qwell’Na had made a lot of progress over the years and were much farther than the data indicated. Yet, when he sought Jo’Eya and questioned her she just said, “You’re the engineer, not me. You will have to decide if you understand the translation or not. I don’t even understand it in Qwell.”

Now the next scary part started; designing and building the apparatus that would create the field that would be used for the project. They had only a short time to do it and it had to be right the first time. Any errors could cause a catastrophe and cost many lives.

“So,” explained George to his assembled crew of engineers and technicians, “we will just not make any errors. Everyone will work in teams. Everyone will work twelve hours on and twelve hours off. When you are off you will eat, sleep, and rest.

“Let the food prep people know that coffee is to be always available, always strong and always fresh. Doughnuts and other goodies are to be in constant supply and mid-shift meals are to be healthy, balanced sandwiches that can be consumed with as little interruption as possible. Before- and after-shift meals are to be just that, before and after shift.

“You all have the data you need for your particular jobs. You also have priority for any service or part you may need, here or on Earth. You need it, yell, and you will get it.

“OK, get to work!”

* * *

Arranged by the Grand Minister, the direct, real-time connection to the Fleet was broadcast continuously on little-used channels throughout the Council’s territory. There were interviews of the various crewmembers and descriptions of the tasks they performed. There were tours of the mess halls aboard the ships and videos of the food preparation for the crews. (That was such a popular set of broadcasts that the Fleet, seeing an opportunity for padding the budget, printed and made available the Fleet Recipe Manuals at a slightly inflated price. Millions were sold.)

Officers were interviewed and they gave the galaxy an overview of the, non-classified, fighting strength of the Fleet, as well as presenting short lectures on strategies and tactics for battles in space. Those officers were careful to explain, anticipating questions from the media, that those lectures were only for information anyway since Starhell had no fleet to threaten the Council force.

Others did the same for a Fleet siege of a planet. Of course, they all made the point that such things were just academic, because Starhell had no fleet and they would surrender at the first hint of Fleet action.

News people, aware that the Fleet had orders not to start any trouble, then asked those officers why they used that term, surrender. The officers in return explained that since the population of Starhell was made up of transplanted Earth citizens, then their presence on Starhell was a violation of their sentences and an act of rebellion against the Galactic Council. Naturally, the Fleet could not deal with them as equals and must deal with them as the escaped prisoners they were.

“Those officers should be promoted,” said Me’Avi. “They have given the clear and concise boundaries of how our treatment of those people must be. I will be glad when Starhell surrenders and we take over the planet and add it to the Council territory.”

“We, won’t be adding it to Council territory, Me’Avi,” replied the Grand Minister. “Those people on Starhell won’t let us. The Fleet has sealed orders to deal with those on Starhell as they would with a newly discovered race that we wanted to join the Galactic Council. If they accept the invitation, they will be admitted into the Galactic Council as equal members.”

“What are you saying? You would let people who have escaped a legal sentence of exile into the Council. Not as long as I am in the Council you won’t. This tears it, our partnership is ended now!” she said as she stormed angrily towards the door.

The Grand Minister pushed a button on his desk. All the doors and windows to the room locked themselves and Me’Avi was a prisoner, not a quiet one but a prisoner still. Then Grand Minister Xhelsher, after taking more pain relievers, quietly awaited the angry calm that would surely set in. Finally it did.

“The orders, Minister Shapirov, were given to the Fleet Commander, not because I wanted to spare Starhell but because I wanted to spare the Fleet. I do not want the blood of all those young people on my head.

“Should Starhell’s people attack the Fleet it will, to the best of its ability, defend itself. But otherwise the Fleet will act as a respectful visitor to the Starhell system. Those officers that talked of battles and sieges will be publicly reprimanded and an apology for their words and actions will be communicated to the population on Starhell.

“I can see by your face, Me’Avi, that you do not see the danger the Fleet is in. Had I known a little detail before this that I have only recently found out, I would never have sent the Fleet out. If I could, I would order them back, but the Council would not stand for it and I would be immediately impeached. That would be a disaster for us, since the Council does not yet know the danger the Fleet has entered.”

“Danger? What danger? You let me out of here and I will lead the impeachment hearings myself.”

“You may go, Me’Avi, as soon as you have heard the information that I have discovered that convinced me that the decision to send the Fleet was the wrong one.”

“OK, Kran, give me the information, but don’t think that anything you say can save you from impeachment now.”

“Sit, Me’Avi, it will take a little while to set the stage for the information.”

As the Minister from Earth found her place the Grand Minister leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, and began to speak.

“As you know, Me’Avi, when were in our most desperate hour in our war with the Skeltz it was the Qwell’Na and their superior weapons that gave us the victory. Without the Qwell’Na and their superior weapons we would have been butchered to the last person.”

“Get to the point, Kran, I know the history.”

“Me’Avi, there were no superior weapons. Not weapons anyway as we think of them. The Qwell’Na used ordinary weapons that had been available since almost the dawn of our history. The Qwell ships — they were all later given to us you know — had no such weapons on them, nor did they have sufficient power sources to fire such weapons.”

“That too, is history, Kran. The only conclusion was that the Qwell’Na removed the weapons and the greater power sources from those ships before they turned them over to us. Quit stalling and open the door.”

“Not quite yet, my dear. What is not in the old Histories is some information that was classified at the time and then forgotten. My research — I am still an Historian you know — has found it. If you will look at the screen you will see some interesting power graphs taken from the battles with the Skeltz.

“The bars in red are the Skeltz power surges denoting weapons fire. Ours are in blue. Notice how the Skeltz power expenditures were many times ours. That was why we could not defeat them. Their weapons had the power and the range on us. We could not get close enough to harm them.”

“That’s interesting, Kran, but what has it to do with the Qwell fleet? And what is that Orange band across the bottom of the graph?”

“That, young lady, is the power graphs of the Qwell’Na fleet. Even as they were destroying the Skeltz, their power consumption barely rose above cruising levels.”

“You mean their weapons were low power with high yield?”

“You might say that. But they weren’t weapons, Me’Avi; at least they were not designed to be. Here is another set of graphs, this time radiation graphs. Each Skeltz ship that was destroyed is marked by a radiation surge. Each surge fits the pattern of an old-fashioned fusion bomb. And, Me’Avi, I have other graphs that show that each of those devices did not explode on the ships. They were all detonated within the ships.”

“What are you saying, Kran?”

“Just a minute and I will tell you the last little detail I discovered that clinches what I am saying. Here is a document from the inspection of the ships immediately upon their receipt from the Qwell’Na.

“If we assume that the weapons were on the ship, we should be able to find out where they were stationed. There would have to be power outlets, or wiring, or even bolt holes showing their stations. Even if the Qwell’Na rewired those outlets or connections and filled the bolt holes, the new wiring or metal would be detectable.

“All the wiring aboard the ships was several years old. At no place on the ships was there any evidence that weapons had been removed and evidence of their existence destroyed or covered up.

“The only possible answer to this riddle is that the Qwell’Na, even back then, had sub-quantum carrier beams. And they used those beams to insert fusion bombs into the Skeltz ships, destroying them all.

“There is absolutely no doubt that the people of Starhell have carrier beam technology. They used that technology to evacuate the mining sites in the Cernon Sector. They used that technology to colonize Starhell from Earth. And they can use that technology to put fusion bombs aboard the ships of our Fleet.”

Me’Avi, face again pale, said, “I don’t know why I get so mad at you, Kran. I always know I am going to lose any argument I have with you. Just what are we going to do now?”

“I have sent orders to the Fleet Commander reiterating that the Fleet is not to be the cause, in any way, of any difficulties with Starhell. I have made it very clear that, should he survive such a confrontation, any disobedience to those orders will mean immediate court-martial. Now we have to wait to see if he is as smart as he is supposed to be.”

* * *

The Fleet Commander was in the Officers’ Lounge conferring with his staff over drinks and trays of goodies when the Grand Minister’s orders came through. Having them brought up to the Lounge, he opened them and grimaced.

“Gentlemen, this is what you have when politicians and historians make our jobs their business. The Grand Minister orders me, a second time, to behave as if we were visitors to a respected and equal race instead of a bunch of escaped criminals.

“We are ordered under no circumstances to come nearer to Starhell, without their express invitation, than the third planet out from them. Ordered, Gentlemen to act as cowards in front of an enemy.

“That is not what I intend to be our response to their insolence. We will go in and we will take the planet and re-exile those people still alive.”

“But Sir,” asked a somewhat Jr. officer. “What if they don’t respond insolently?”

“Whatever response they make, Lieutenant, it will be insolent. Drink up, Gentlemen, there are medals to be won.”

* * *

On Starhell, after unbelievable efforts, the field generator was finally ready to be tested. It could be tested only once before its use, and, because of the power drain it could be tested only at three percent of its capacity. Work on the power generation equipment would not be finished until the Fleet was already in system. But that was good. The Fleet would be very close when the show started, and George and his engineers were sure that the show would be one that they would never forget.

Elsewhere on Starhell — everywhere else in fact — people were tying things down and getting things out of sight and protected. Soon most of them would depart for Earth, leaving only a relatively small number of people to face the Galactic Council’s Fleet. Most did not want to go but did so because they knew that if the field generator did not work as planned and Starhell was forced to destroy the fleet in front of the entire galaxy, their skills would be needed for the defense of Earth.

* * *

On Earth and in the Solar system people and ships were busy dismantling the Galactic Council’s englobement field and replacing it with an englobement shield of their own, one far more powerful than the one that had imprisoned them, yet one that would allow the population from Starhell to come home to Earth for the time needed.

When the last connection was made and the signal was sent to Earth and then to the Oversight Committee on Starhell, orders came back to activate the new shield. And it was done. The light from the stars could come through, but no one or no thing from the Galactic Council would be able to penetrate the protection around Sol.

* * *

In her quarters on Capitol, Me’Avi, suitably chastised and starting to learn a new way of thinking, a more calm one, finally opened her copy of the Qwom-Sor Manuals and began to read. At first it made no sense to her, and then it began to. Finally she found herself enjoying what she was reading. One phrase stood out for her, especially now after her long talk with the Grand Minister. It said; Even the sharpest sword gains beauty when sheathed.

That is what you did, Kran my friend, you sheathed my sword.

To be continued...

Proceed to the Table of Contents...

Copyright © 2005 by euhal allen

Home Page