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The Bridge

Book IV: To Qwell the Tide

by euhal allen

Table of Contents
Chapter 5 appeared
in issue 162.

Chapter 6: The Grand Union

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

In the dark and cold room, the voice, again, rippled through the frigid air, echoing against the far walls, “Sings the star of our hearts?”

Out of the darkness came the answer, “The star of our hearts yet cries, ‘Rest still more.’”

* * *

The Grand Minister sat back in his chair and wondered just why Ka’Tia Shapirov da Laich wanted an appointment with him. He had granted it, of course, because she obviously had more pull with the Qwell’Na than did he. And it was the Qwell’Na who seemed to be running this show, keeping them here in the Diet hall of the Tunnel Worlds.

Ka’Tia entered into his office the way she often appeared at appointments: she coalesced her force figure, walked over, and shook hands. It was always startling and always gave her the advantage at the start of any meeting.

“Hello, Kran. It is kind of you to grant me this time.”

“Ka’Tia, since the combined legislature is not in session at this moment, and since I can’t go home, what else have I to do?”

“I am sorry about the confinement, Kran, but what you are doing is of the utmost importance to all our people. I don’t really understand why more progress has not been made. There are more differences between the peoples of each of the governments than there are between the governments themselves. Unifying the two governments should not be this hard.”

“It is the confinement itself that is the problem, Ka’Tia, at least on the part of the Ministers of the Galactic Council. These people are the representatives of their worlds, not children to be locked into a room until they get along with the others in the same room. You need to explain that to the Qwell’Na.”

“That, Kran, is why I have come to see you. I think that I have found a way to get everyone’s release and get things really moving in a better direction. But, you will have to be the one to bring it about.”

“Me? What do you mean?”

“Do you remember the other day, when you gave your opening speech? You indicated that you had been familiar with the Qwom-Sor Manual for quite some time, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I’ve had a copy for several years. I‘ve always enjoyed it. I can see where you’re going, Ka’Tia, but I can’t go pushing some strange religion on our people. That won’t work and you know it.”

“It’s not religious, Kran. The Manuals make up a code of ethics. The Qwell’Na, in their early times, were a cantankerous lot and there was a lot of war and violence in their society. The Manuals were the work of a whole group of persons who were concerned with what violence people would do to themselves if they were not directed into more productive paths.

“They are more like the books that different professional groups use to police themselves, only the Qwom-Sor Manuals were written for their whole people. As a code of ethics, they work.

“All you have to do to see that is to check around with the Tunnel Worlds’ ambassadors. Some of their worlds have religions and some don’t. The Manuals are neutral to them. They see them as a very serious book of etiquette in interplanetary relations. They are written as proverbs and stories because that way they seem to translate better into people’s life experiences.

“Each of those peoples were given time to learn those stories as civilized guidelines before they were admitted to the Tunnel Worlds.”

“And, you, Ka’Tia, want us to learn them so that we can become members of the Tunnel Worlds. To you the whole ideal of a joint creation of a galactic government is to become like them?”

“No, Kran. That is not what is needed. The Tunnel Worlds have been successful in their way, and the Council worlds have done well on a different path. Both systems have much to add to make a valid and vibrant system, but both systems seem to be stagnating. They need a unifying factor. The Manuals, even if only on the surface, can provide that factor.

“Should the worlds of the Council agree that the Manuals are a valid, if somewhat different, statement of ethics of relationships and that, at least in a galactic government, they can be used as a source of mediation and conciliation, I think that the Tunnel Worlds’ peoples will lose a great deal of the apprehension they have about the Council.

“But you have to do it. It can’t come from the Qwell’Na and it can’t come from the Tunnel Worlds. It has to come from someone with influence within the Council.”

“All right, Ka’Tia, I will give it some thought. That is all I can promise at this point.”

“That is all I can ask, Grand Minister. And, now, I have another appointment and it is a good thing that I can get from one to another so fast.” With that, she was gone.

Seconds later Me’Avi entered the office and her questioning look made Kran grin. “She wants us to use the Qwom-Sor as a code of ethics that both sides can use to come together.

“I don’t know how that woman does it, but she always seems to be able to talk a person into doing what he had already almost decided to do. But, now, the Qwell’Na will see me as cooperating with them and not as someone doing this on his own, and that may be useful.”

* * *

Ka’Tia made her appearance in the control room of Alexei’s Pride, smiling.

“Cyr, you know, that old impostor was going to use the Manuals anyway and just pretended to be intrigued with the idea as new.”

“How do you know that, Ka’Tia? I have always thought that the Grand Minister usually meant what he said.”

“That wasn’t true even when he was Galactic Chronicler, Cyr. He has always been somewhat of a politician. He had to be, in that job.

“I asked him about it once and you know what he told me? He said, ‘A person can’t be a historian, not a good one, anyway, if he has no concept of how kings think and act.’

“Now, our job will be to nudge the leaders of the Solar Union into looking into the Manuals as a set of ethical guidelines. I think it is about time we made a short visit to China.”

* * *

George looked around his office and wondered at the quiet. The activity of the past few months had drained him and his staff and most of them were off on a well deserved leave. He was to go on his leave that very afternoon and he wasn’t happy about it. There were still too many things that needed to be done in the final stages of the terraforming of Charleshaven and, then, there was the whole Mars project to start. It didn’t seem to be the time to go on leave.

“Hello, George, you look lost.”

“Olga, I thought you were still at the big show at the Tunnel Worlds’ Diet hall. Did they finish already?”

“No, that’s a ways off, George. I was given a little leave by my mother to come here and see you and some of the others who have been in the forefront of the whole Shapirov project. Mother will see some of the others, as will Sean.”

“See us, what do you mean by that? What’s going on?”

“I am to give you this and tell you something about it,” she said as she handed him a small volume.

George took the book and, seeing the title, asked, “Okay, what is it, and what has it to do with me? I’m an engineer and it doesn’t look like an engineering text.”

“It is, though,” answered Olga. “It’s sort of a social engineering text. It’s a set of the ethical guidelines that the Qwell’Na and the Tunnel Worlds fifty-some planetary systems use as a basis for interactions by their different worlds.

“We also have some indication that the Galactic Council will be looking at them as a starting point for their cooperation with the Tunnel Worlds’ government. It just might be a good idea if our people learned them, also.

“I wish I could explain more to you but I have a number more people to visit. You look the Manuals over carefully and later Ka’Tia will call us all together and will give us the rest of what we need to know.”

* * *

Li Guo-fan, walking in the village gardens and enjoying the flowers, was startled to hear his name.

“It is good to see you, Master Li. I have missed the stories you used to tell of this place and its people.”

“Ah, Miss Ka’Tia, you honor me visiting me in my village. May I inquire as to the reason for your visit? I can not think that it is because of my stature in your eyes, for you swim in a far greater pond than I dare to.”

“Master Li, you should be Irish, you have a gift of the blarney in you. Of course it is you that I have come to see. You are a key to a problem I need to solve.”

“We Chinese have the ability to stretch stories over mountains and need no Irish blood to do so. But I, a key? It is you, Miss Ka’Tia, that I feel is putting bends in the truth. I know little of what you are working on and see no way that I can be of such importance. I will listen, though, to your words.”

“Master Li, you are, of course, familiar with the moral philosophy of K’ung Fu Tzu.”

“I am Chinese, Miss Ka’Tia, I can not be other than familiar with the words of the Great Master.”

“You know, then, how the works of K’ung Fu Tzu were used to stabilize your people’s lives for millenniums? How his works were a basis for governing the Chinese people?”

“Yes, as I said, I am Chinese. You are leading to a point, Miss Ka’Tia?”

“Yes, Master Li, I am. I have here the works of another set of masters. They are masters of the early times of the Qwell’Na. These, too, are a moral philosophy for helping a people live in peace with one another. I would wish you to examine them.”

Handing Li Guo-fan a copy of the Qwom-Sor Manuals, Ka’Tia continued, “The Qwell’Na have used these guidelines for their whole civilization and they have proven so successful that the races of the Tunnel Worlds have also adopted their standards as an ethics code for that government. Now the Galactic Council will be encouraged to examine them.

“The Solar Union, our people, are the only ones, other than the Qwell’Na, who are members of both governments. To be successful in the Tunnel Worlds we must know them, and to help the Galactic Council work with the Tunnel Worlds we will most probably be ones who will have to explain them.

“In this, your people, who have long experience in using such an ethical system, may just be the best ones to help the rest of our own people learn how to appreciate them and use them.”

”I shall study them, Miss Ka’Tia. You have been most persuasive. Are you sure that you do not have a Chinese ancestor?”

“No, Master Li, but my mother was Irish.”

“Ah, ngo sic tang. I understand.”

“There are many others that I must seek out, Master Li. I hope you will excuse my impoliteness in cutting my visit short.”

“There is nothing to excuse, Miss Ka’Tia. I have been honored by your trust. We will, I am sure, discuss this again.”

“That we will, Master Li,” replied Ka’Tia, even as she was fading away, “when you have examined the Manuals we will surely discuss them again.”

* * *

There was some murmuring in the Diet hall as the morning’s business was almost to begin. Ahead of them was the now petty wrangling that had become a norm in their discussions. No one looked forward to it and, yet, no one knew how to put a stop to it.

The members, seeing the Grand Minister of the Galactic Council approaching the lectern, began to find their seats and get ready for another long day.

Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2005 by euhal allen

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