In The Name Of The Mother
Nurvus Central Systems Command, Planet Motavia
The room was dark, but that didn't matter to its occupant.
He was lost in thought, his eyes closed. Of course, even if they were open,
the sophisticated sensors that served in place of human eyes would simply
have adjusted to the lightless room and sight would have been restored
with a minimum of valuable, productive time lost.
His name was Orakio, and he was contemplating one
of his "favorite" puzzles, a problem whose solution eluded him time and
time again and to which he turned in times of inactivity. The Palmans who
were partially his responsibility continued to refer to their land as "Mota,"
when the proper name for the planet was "Motavia." Was this a result of
normal linguistic shifts over the centuries, or was it because all Motavian
information was stored under Mother Brain's four-letter file key, MOTA?
In short, was this a problem he should be correcting, or would that be
interference with normal Palman development? Without additional information,
the question was unresolvable, but it occupied him when no more obvious
duties required his presence.
Orakio expanded his awareness to encompass more
of Nurvus. He sensed the Wren units bustling from monitor to monitor, and
the Mieu units standing silently in their niches, awaiting the day an attack
was launched against the underground command center. He was rather proud
of them, especially the name, but was a little worried that, as the odds
of them ever serving a practical purpose grew lower each day, he would
be forced to dismantle them in the name of efficiency.
A gentle chime brought him to full awareness. With
a silent command, the lights brightened. An interplanetary message might
be from one of the three native races of Algol, and he was required to
see to their comforts even during long-distance communication. He remained
seated in the chairlike apparatus that linked him with every system on
the planet, the command chair that was the heart of Nurvus, the device
that made him one with Motavia. A Wren unit silently left its duties to
activate the largest monitor and stand silently to one side in case it
would be needed for a fast response.
Simultaneously, two other Wrens were issued orders
to compensate for the loss of manpower. No productivity would be lost with
Orakio in charge. The length of the delay in establishing the picture made
it obvious to Orakio that the transmission's origin was the third planet,
Dezolis, even though another clue was the fact that the Palma, the first
planet, had been destroyed centuries ago when the prison satellite Galia
collided with it.
The fuzzy image resolved into a tall blond woman
with a serious expression. Orakio knew a Palman would consider her attractive,
although it would have done them no good, since she was just as much of
an android as he was, even though she had chosen to cover herself with
an artificial skin similar to that used by Palmans. Orakio didn't
enjoy the fact that it was time away from duties that had built that skin,
and for no purpose. Still, he would be courteous.
"Greetings in the name of the Mother, Laya." he
said, his voice still deep and mellow, though it had been decades since
he had used it. There was time allotted for personal maintenance. If he
didn't function well, neither would the system, in time.
"Greetings in the name of the Mother, Orakio." said
"How fares Dezolis Biosystems Control?"
Laya frowned. "Larva is nominal, of course. Have
you received alerts to the contrary?"
"No. But non-priority difficulties would not cause
an interplanetary alert, yet you might wish my advice in such a situation."
"I called because I want to know what has happened
Orakio split his mind, wondering what Laya could
possibly mean. All checklists proved unexpected events on Motavia had not
exceeded acceptable tolerance levels. "I'm sorry. I do not understand to
what you are referring."
"The partitions of the planet's surface." said Laya.
She pushed her hair back in a curiously Palman gesture. Orakio took it
as a bad sign. Wrens never bothered with their hair. Neither did Mieus.
Their superiors shouldn't, either. It was only non-functional cosmetics.
"You were not advised about the creation of the
habitats? I assumed similar orders would have been issued to Dezolis. Of
course you are not a general manager, but since the network has not yet
completely encompassed Dezolis..."
"It encompasses less every day as the Dezolisians
scavenge the Palman towns for metal to build their temples. Control towers
are being attacked. I cannot repair them, since I lack your technological
"You can defend them with your biological units.
That's a secondary purpose of Biosystems."
"I am fully aware of that, Orakio. However, Dezolisians
are adept at killing biologicals, and I am hesitant to throw more of my
resources into developing more combat-oriented units. A pity I cannot create
anything as durable as your combat Myaus."
"Mieus." said Orakio.
Laya cocked her head to one side, stiffly. It was
the most normal expression Orakio had seen her make. "It was my understanding
that the combat units were named after the historical figure, the musk
cat Myau who paved the way for Mother Brain. Since their weapon of choice
is the claw."
"I decided to shift the name, since my Palmans seem
to be changing their language."
"Very well. The discussion was on the circular partitions
you referred to as habitats."
Orakio decided to extend another courtesy to Laya,
since she seemed so out of touch with system affairs. He shrugged his shoulders,
a difficult task, since it involved the shifting of a great deal of machinery.
"Mother Brain commanded it. Order MOTA 1935252-67. The planet is to be
divided into several different habitats, and Palmans are to be divided
up and sent to different ones as well. There are aboveground passages linking
the habitats, access controlled by Nurvus. The exception is the habitat
reserved for Motavians. There is no access to that habitat. They will be
able to develop on their own, although I anticipate growth will be slow,
given the Motavian resistance to change. They are, after all this time,
still a farming and scavenging culture. They lack even their religious
impulses of your Dezolisians."
Laya shook her head. "You must be mistaken."
"Perhaps. One can never tell what the future will
hold, and limited land is sure to cause some changes. I'm relieved to note
that Palmans will be able to travel to all their habitats, which is good
considering their deep-seated need for expansion..."
"You misunderstand me. Mother Brain cannot possibly
be the source of that order."
Were Orakio a living being, he would have been taken
aback, confused by Laya's calm assertion. Since he was a sophisticated
android, he considered the possibility that someone else transmitted the
order, a possibility with such low odds he had never even bothered to take
them into account. Palmans had not developed the technology to build a
device that might be able to contact him. Palmans had no idea what the
proper codes were, although admittedly the possibility existed that a Palman
could issue them. Mother Brain, its remotes, managers, and their creations
all communicated with each other in Palmans, since that language was spoken
by two of the three races of Algol, Palmans and Motavians. The idea that
a Motavian had issued the orders was inconceivable. The whole idea was
"Surely you are aware," said Laya, a worried look
coming over her face, "that Mother Brain was destroyed centuries ago."
"You refer, of course, to the government agent,
Rolf. That was before I came on-line."
"And I as well, but that only proves the point.
It was decided that individual system managers were unnecessary since Mother
Brain could control all. We were shut down after we completed construction
of the systems and were told we would return to functional status only
if Mother Brain were unable to complete her duties."
"An order Rolf later credited to the supernatural
'Dark Force.' The idea being that this Dark Force was able to create more
havoc more efficiently by taking over a single controlling entity than
by taking over system managers."
"That is correct. Rolf and his friends destroyed
Mother Brain. We came on-line. We maintain Algol now. You cannot have received
instructions from Mother Brain because she is nonfunctional."
Orakio paused. "Yet I have received instructions
with the proper access codes, in the proper format."
"It seems we have stumbled upon a high-level difficulty
which does not trigger an alert." said Laya, frowning. "It is good that
The Motavian controller thought it over. "It is
possible that Rolf rendered Mother Brain temporarily nonfunctional, and
now she is restored to her full operating capacity."
"Why then, does she not deactivate us and assume
"Possibly because of the deterioration of the Dezolisian
network. It is no concern of ours. It is our job simply to obey her directives,
and to maintain the status quo as best we can. There is no need to question
the Mother." That resolved things nicely, Orakio thought. And, he realized
as his thoughts raced through his electronic brain, it resolved his other
problem, of language shifts. Now that Mother Brain was back, a ruling was
sure to be made. It was a bit of a relief, although he realized he would
have to find a new problem to occupy him. Perhaps he could improve his
remotes' designs. Something heavier than a Mieu, maybe?
Laya spoke her next words carefully. "I think it
is possible, Orakio, that the relatively easy job you have on Motavia may
be coloring your thought processes somewhat. You do not concern yourself
with events too far above you. You let your intelligent remotes do your
work for you."
"You have created sentient biologicals."
"Lune and Alair? But they work with me, not for
"What is the difference?"
"You have dismissed the possibility that your communication
may have come from an agency whose origins lie elsewhere than the Algol
Orakio paused again. It was, of course, a possibility,
but such an absurd one! "Why should I consider it?"
"Dark Force did not originate within the Algol system,
yet it was able to command Mother Brain."
"So said a handful of Palmans, some of them wanted
for Palman crimes. I have never believed the story Rolf told. There are
too many parts to it that cannot be explained."
"As you know, Rolf was in fact assisted by the few
Palmans I watch over. The Espers. The descendants of the telementals."
"Continue." said Orakio.
"They say that Dark Force comes from beyond the
stars, a place they refer to only as "The Edge," and possesses powers beyond
even our comprehension. Powers that can warp machine and biologic."
"Laya, I am concerned. I cannot accept that without
evidence. Yet it is clear you have."
"Dezolis is a different planet than Motavia in many
ways. I think I have learned new data that you have not."
There was a long pause. Laya and Orakio stared at
each other, unblinking, as the seconds stretched into minutes. Finally
Orakio broke the silence. "I will think on what you have told me. But I
will also continue to obey the order I have been given. Since it will do
little harm to the world, it does not contravene my secondary orders to
maintain the planet. I will contact you soon."
"It would be advisable," said Laya coldly, "if you
contact me before I contact you. I, too, will consider this puzzle. I will
find a way to persuade you that what you are doing is wrong."
"You may try," said Orakio. "But I can think of
little besides hard evidence that will sway me."
And for the first time, Laya smiled, a brilliant
smile Orakio found deeply troubling. It seemed so out of place. What she
said next was even more out of place. "As I said before, Orakio, I have
learned new data you have not. If it comes to it, I will share some of
it with you. May you do well in the service of the Mother." She stressed
the last word slightly.
"May you..." started Orakio, but Laya cut off the
transmission. He sat, staring at the blank screen for a few seconds. Then
he ordered the Wren which had been standing by the whole time back to work
on reinforcing the habitat walls. He had a new puzzle to solve now, and
a quick statistical comparison suggested to him that this one would need
an answer. The sooner the better.