In The Name Of The Mother
City of Divisia, Elysium Habitat, Planet Motavia
The slasher shot across the room. Even Orakio's
superhuman reflexes couldn't move his arm fast enough to intercept the
deadly weapon, but his processors had already come up with alternatives,
and he threw himself backwards. The spinning metal flashed by the
space where his neck had been and swept around to Lune, who grabbed it
out of the air with a master's precision.
"Stop!" Cille shouted.
Orakio had returned to a guard position, and looked
ready to continue the fight regardless of Cille's outburst, but Lune checked
his next throw and stood in readiness himself, watching Orakio angrily.
Bran stumbled forward. "I think that's a very good idea."
"What is going on here?" Cille demanded.
"That's my line," said Bran, wiping fresh blood
from a split lip. "We were attacked when we came into town.
A mob of your people demanded that Orakio be destroyed. We were five
strong when we came here. Two of my friends are dead back there.
We came here expecting help, but there are people even in the palace who
have it in for Orakio. I can't explain what happened here, but I
can make a few guesses. This man is from another world, isn't he?"
"That's right," Cille said slowly. "Lune,
from Dezo. He's on a mission for Laya, the ruler of Dezo."
"I suspected as much," said Orakio.
"And this is Orakio. He's the ruler of Mota."
Cille frowned. "What?"
"I'm not sure I believe all of it myself.
But he controls the systems of Mota. I guess he took over after Mother
"I am the Mother's faithful servant," said the android.
Lune shook his head. "I think not. The
people of the habitats are unhappy with your actions. You are hurting
the people. That is not serving the Mother."
"Habitats?" Cille asked.
Bran shrugged. "He means us. If you're
going to deal with these people, I suggest you get used to them talking
over your head. I have."
"The Mother knows what is best for the people.
It is not the place of a construct to question the Mother," Orakio continued.
"The Mother is no longer..."
Orakio cut Lune off with a gesture. "Laya
is malfunctioning. You are spreading dissent among the people.
The vector must be eliminated."
Lune raised his slasher again, but though his enhanced
abilities made him superior to Palmans like Bran, his reflexes were no
match for machine speed. Orakio was already in motion. Lune
brought the slasher in front of him for close combat. Gripping both
ends of the weapon, he blocked Orakio's overhead swing and slashed at the
android's midsection when the sword rebounded. It opened up a gash
in the metal body. Orakio chopped downward again, aiming for the
construct's arm, but Lune jumped back a step out of harm's way.
Unfortunately this brought him up against the edge
of the table. Orakio closed and slashed diagonally at Laya's servant.
Lune ducked under the table as the robot advanced and saw the black sword
shear through the table's edge as if it wasn't even there. Lune had
been hoping the blade would hang up in the table, and seeing the failure
of that plan, he scrambled over to the left side of the table, and stood
up, throwing his slasher.
There were no fancy tricks this time, and Orakio
parried the slasher hard, sending back towards its owner. But Lune's
expertise was in his very cells, and he didn't panic at the sight, but
simply put out his hand and snatched it out of the air again. He
threw it again, this time low, straight across the table so it would be
impossible to parry. Orakio twisted to the side to avoid it, but
not quite fast enough and took another gash to his left side.
Lune raised his hand to prepare to catch the slasher, but Orakio had shifted
his aim and the sword leaped out to bat the slasher down in midair.
The slasher clattered to the floor beside Orakio.
The android kicked it off to his right. His sword tip was aimed right
at Lune, who stood his ground across the table, looking grim. Orakio
didn't take his eyes off the construct. This wasn't some Palman who'd
be helpless without his weaponry. "Surrender, Lune," he said.
"And be killed?"
Orakio didn't say a word.
"This has gone far enough, I think." said Cille
suddenly. She stabbed the air with her hand.
Orakio locked his legs. It was like the air
around him had suddenly become a heavy blanket, draping over him and dragging
him down. It wasn't too much for him, of course, he simply adjusted
for the additional weight, but it was extremely unusual. Across the
table, Lune staggered, a look of surprise on his face, but he, too, coped.
Bran, on the other hand, let out a short hoarse scream, and joined his
companion, who had beat him in the race to the floor.
Cille darted off to the side of the room and picked
up the fallen slasher. Orakio tried to cut her off but found that
the additional strain was taking a toll on his limbs. He could move
only slowly, and the pressure on the wounds he had taken was impairing
his functioning. Cille stooped to pick up Lune's weapon, and ran
over to hand it to him. At once the pressure lifted. Orakio
staggered as the compensators suddenly found themselves overcompensating.
"Rune, Lune!" Cille said, shaking the confused construct.
"Get out of here!"
Lune blinked and dashed for the back door.
Orakio headed for the door, too, and Cille blocked
it. "You're not going anywhere," she said determinedly. "Not
until I figure out what's going on."
"You are in my way," said the android calmly.
"I have no cause to injure you, but if you do not move I will move you
"Not a chance."
Orakio raised his left hand and pushed her off to
the side, not roughly, but with clearly superior force. Cille slammed
into the wall. Orakio continued through the door, warily, in case
of an ambush.
Cille rubbed her arm. It was beginning to
turn all kinds of colors. Suddenly she remembered Bran. Running
over to his side, she saw semi-closed wounds had broken open again, and
he was moaning in pain. She bit her lip.
Bran cracked his eyes open a little. "Did
you have to do that?" he said weakly.
"I had to stop the fight. Gra seemed the best
way to keep your invincible friend in his place. But I apologize
to you. I should have realized you couldn't stand the strain of increased
gravity in your condition. You need a healer..."
Bran grabbed her hand. His grip was surprisingly
strong, she noted. "No...priests," he said.
Cille nodded, blinking. What few priests were
around generally doubled as healers. They had the time to devote
to tricks like healing, and they did, after all, need some sort of job.
They were probably best known for their skill at cleaning blood, one of
the most difficult of the healing arts. But if Bran didn't want a
priest there were more than enough secular healers around.
"Fine. Let me just...I think I remember how
"Don't try it," Bran said, forcing a smile, "if
you're not sure what it's going to do. Foi, at this point, would
not be good."
Cille smiled, too. No, a blazing wall of fire
would probably impede the healing process. "Don't worry so
much," she said. She held her hand out. Had Orakio been present
he would have been able to see what human sight could not, the buildup
of energy around Cille, the actual directing of it, forcing it to heal
Bran's sounds, rather than the simple attraction of such energy to speed
up the natural healing process that he had seen before. But whether
he could see it or not, Bran could definitely feel the power working.
This was a much more welcome technique than Cille's previous one.
He shook his head, but carefully, and sat up.
"What happened?" he said slowly. "Where did everybody go?"
"Lune ran out the back. Your Orakio followed
"He isn't my Orakio. If there's one
thing you can say about him, it's that he's his own man. And he's
running around in your palace?" He clutched his head, groaning.
"Don't get too excited. You're in no condition
to go rushing off after him."
"Mmmm," Bran agreed. "Princess Cille."
"You don't seem to be a howling fanatic."
"I've never seriously considered being one, I suppose."
"Then you're losing your town."
Cille frowned. "Things are that bad already?"
"So you know what's going on here?"
Her eyes flickered and she smiled briefly.
"How about we trade information?"
"I think we'd better," said Bran, struggling to
his feet. "I think I've been getting a biased view of things."
"Me too. But we'll trade from your bedside.
You and your friend need more treatment than I can give you."
Bran's slightly recovered good humor faded as he
thought of the band that had started out from Landen. "Yeah."
Cille found a healer in a closet. Orakio was
nowhere to be seen, and the staff members who had run away and hid when
the Landen trio, covered in blood, had broken into the palace with drawn
swords, were slowly emerging into the corridors again to see the aftermath
of the battle. There was surprisingly little aftermath to be seen,
with the exception of the damaged conference room and a handful of dead
guards. Bran looked better than when he'd come in, and his friend,
while actually worse than when he came in, was unconscious and looked at
Bran obediently climbed into the bed that was the
healer's only recommendation to him, and waited for Cille to come back
from hearing the young woman's diagnosis of the other diplomat. She
entered after a short interval and closed the door behind her. "My
advisors, such as they are, are probably in hiding, too. I don't
think we need to bother with them."
"No." Bran was thinking fast. That
supposes that Divisia has not fallen under the influence of the passengers.
Orakio could be amazingly callous at times, but at other times he put Bran
to shame with his selfless dedication to the greater good of the people
of Mota. Cille, on the other hand, he remembered as nothing more
than a pompous busybody. And she had helped this Lune, apparently
one of the passengers, to escape. The way she'd said it showed that
she had absolutely no qualms about it whatsoever and didn't expect him
to, either. Under the influence. In, what, three days
since his arrival, Lune had apparently managed to turn two, or at least
one-and-a-half towns into a bunch of slavering fanatics dedicated to destroying
Orakio, whom Bran hadn't even known existed until about, what, three days
ago? Had Cille fallen under his spell? Or was there more to
the story than what he'd heard from the android?
"Do you know Orakio? Did you know him before
we broke your door?"
Cille shook her head. "I didn't know him,
no. But I knew of him."
"Well, Lune told me about him."
Bran sagged and tried not to show it. So much
for that. That left only two conclusions. Either she was in
league with the passengers, or she was a dupe. Either way it meant
she wasn't going to be too much help. Bran suddenly found himself
wishing Orakio was here. He had no idea what to do. He didn't
want to tell her too much, in case she turned out to be a fanatic in disguise,
but he wanted to get some information on what the passengers were doing
here. Why had they come to Mota? What did they want?
"Was Lune the only...traveler...here?"
This was no good. How was he supposed to tell
if she was lying or not? The other passenger could be right next
door, for all he knew, listening in on every word. It could be the
healer, tending to his friend. Tending to him. A chill went
through him. "I need to see the one who came with me."
"He'll be fine. He's getting the best care.
You can see him anytime. Now is our chance to talk. So who
exactly is Orakio?"
"Who do you think he is?" said Bran desperately,
and wished he hadn't.
Cille frowned, then smiled suddenly. "You
don't trust me, do you?"
Bran shrank back. "Should I?"
"I don't see any reason why not."
Bran mumbled something.
"You know, you are in my power here.
You're already tucked away in a nice safe room. The healer and I
are the only ones who know you're here, right?"
She was smiling, but it didn't relieve Bran any.
The joke could get real nasty at any time.
"But seriously, if I was your enemy, I could have
interrogated you when you were dying on my floor, or hauled you off to
some jail. In fact," she continued, "you could say I've saved your
life. Don't you think you owe me something?"
Bran threw off the covers of the bed and sat up.
"No, I don't. I'm through with that game." He reached for his
boots. "Next time you can just go ahead and kill me."
He felt her hand on his arm. "Wait," Cille
said softly. "I didn't mean it like that. I'm sorry."
She sat down next to him.
"I've had my fill of obligations," he said grimly.
"It's not something I can joke about anymore."
Cille nodded. "I'm sorry," she said again.
"It's just that I had such high hopes for this 'first meeting between races,'
but there are things going on here that I don't have any idea about.
I wanted to get involved in something exciting, but not this exciting."
"I know what you mean."
"So, the king of Landen, huh? It's nice to
"My name's Bran, and I was one of Landen's councilors."
"What happened to the council?"
"Maybe you know that there have been problems in
the other cities. Problems about technology. Well, things might
have gone pretty badly in our town if Orakio hadn't come. I guess
they did get pretty bad, the anti-tech faction tried to murder me...but
that's nothing, really. I'm not as important as people seem to think
I am. Anyway, Orakio showed up, helped save me from the other side,
and suggested we ought to have a king. Pretty fast work, huh?"
Cille laughed. Bran did, too, but only a little.
"Obviously, they picked me."
"Obviously. And you and Orakio were touring
other towns, and got attacked by my people?"
Bran hesitated. He had been struggling with
what to tell Cille, and here she was providing an alibi for him.
It couldn't hurt to let her thing the mission had been a simple diplomatic
one. It wasn't that far from the truth, and there was always time
to fill her in later. "Right. We were attacked in Aerone, too."
"Makes sense. That was Lune's first stop."
"Will you tell me about Lune?"
Cille shrugged. "I wish I could, but I don't
really know too much. He's here at the behest of a woman called Laya.
Lune says she runs the old systems on Dezo."
"That's what Orakio does here on Mota. He's
an android...I guess you could tell."
"I figured it out."
"Laya's a Palm person like us, though?"
"Lune called her artificial life."
"That's a term Orakio's used. I think it means
she's a robot, too."
"Well, she looks more like us than Orakio does.
But there's a third perspective. Some of my people, probably the
ones who attacked you, consider Laya to be the God of Palm come back to
us at last."
Again, Bran was shaken. The God of Palm come
back. It was a powerful thought. "She's no god," he protested.
"Not if she's a robot."
"You and I know that. Something tells me it's
not going to persuade too many others, though. Besides, who says
a robot can't be a god?" She tapped her feet on the floor.
"Anyway, I'm not going to be the one to tell that lynch mob their god is
a robot. You see, Laya seems opposed to Orakio, and she said he
was a robot, and some of these converts now seem to feel like all robots
"Great," Bran said morosely. "We've got round
up Lune and the other passenger before this spreads."
"Wait a minute," said Cille, frowning. "I'll
admit a lot of these people seem to have gone overboard, but Lune has a
serious message to deliver. He says that Orakio is...sick...and needs
to be stopped."
"That's crazy," said Bran, shaking his head.
It was almost enough to cheer him up. "You don't know Orakio.
He's the healthiest, sanest...being, I guess...that I've ever seen.
No, no, I don't buy that story. Besides, if that were true, Laya
wouldn't just send one man with an alien weapon, she'd send in troops and
stop him herself. Orakio's got an army of his own." He thought
for a minute. "I think she wants him stopped, but for her own reasons.
I'd rather put my money with the man who's been running Mota than the one
who claims she's running Dezo. What would she know about us anyway?"
"I suppose you have a point."
"You disagree?" said Bran with some surprise.
"I don't know Orakio as well as you do. I
guess I really can't make an accurate judgment."
The door cracked open. Cille looked up with
a guilty start. The healer poked her head in. "Excuse me, Princess.
There's someone asking for the king."
"Orakio?" said Bran excitedly, jumping up to his
feet and regretting it when a spell of dizziness hit him. He sat
down again heavily.
The healer started to nod but was gently moved by
a metal hand as Orakio pushed his way in. He looked none the worse
for the chase, but the long tears in his clothes exposed the deep gashes
Lune's weapon had inflicted.
"Did you catch Lune?" Bran said, rubbing his temples.
"He eluded me." said Orakio. "Your health
outweighed further pursuit, given the unlikelihood of catching him.
However, you seem in better condition than you were." Bran thought
the big robot sounded almost accusing.
"I don't think we can consider Divisia completely
enemy territory. The Princess was kind enough to heal me with her
technique until she could get me to some decent care. I'm much better.
Much better, in fact, than you seem to be with those cuts."
"No need to worry. I shall engage my own recover
system." Orakio paused. Bran forgot his headache as he watched
in amazement. Fine wires stretched themselves across the cuts, sparking
briefly here and there, and thin metal plates slid over the wires, sealing
the cuts. It was a spectacle of microscale technology, even for a
people who believed robots capable of almost anything. "The damage
is minimal. Repairs are barely needed, but it is best to run at peak
"Recover, huh? Sounds like a technique to
me, whatever you say."
"As you will."
"A shame you can't do that to your clothes," Cille
Orakio looked at her, said nothing. Bran remembered
that the robot hadn't been privy to any of their conversations and filled
him in. Orakio nodded slowly. "This much I already knew.
And you are correct in your observations. If I thought Laya was malfunctioning,
I would indeed transport my soldiers to Dezo and neutralize her until I
could assess the situation. Her decision to infiltrate agents among
the populace means she has some other motive."
"Maybe she doesn't think the same way you do," Cille
The android stared at her until she looked away.
Easy enough, Bran supposed, for Orakio. All the same it was pretty
obvious he wasn't warming to her. "Laya was created as I was by the
Mother to serve her purposes in exactly the same way. It is illogical
to assume that she would think in a different way than I do."
"What's our next move?" Bran asked quietly.
"Regroup back in Landen?"
"The only place it is logical for Lune to have fled
to would be Aerone. We have tested its defenses already. However,
we don't know where the other passenger is."
"You don't think he's in Aerone already?"
"It's possible. However, if the other is at
large as Lune is, we may have a chance to capture him or her."
"And if Lune warns them ahead of time, we could
be in trouble."
A nod. "Lune is fully aware of my abilities.
He will indeed be able to cause considerable trouble."
"So what do we do?" Bran asked again.
"We must locate the other passenger. Hopefully
we can capture him or her or failing that, make them retreat to Aerone."
"But Aerone is filled with blood-crazed fanatics.
Or so we thought."
"It doesn't matter to me," Orakio said calmly.
"If we can get Lune and the other passenger in Aerone without them spreading
their infection, I will simply send in Mieus to raze the town."
Cille looked at him as if he were mad. "You
can't be serious..." Bran cut her off. She hadn't seen Mieus
"I understand. But until then we can't touch
"Exactly. You have perceived the plan, I see."
"They'll think it's their safe haven. But
you said Lune knows your strengths. Won't he know you have a personal
"That is why we must take on the other passenger
before Lune passes on any warnings. We must strike quickly before
they can formulate a new strategy."
"You, too, Bran?" Cille burst out. "Don't
you realize you're talking about leveling an entire town? Aerone
may be just a backwater, but those are people there!"
"The people of Aerone represent a danger to the
rest of Mota," Orakio said. "Their beliefs about robots, and the
strength of those beliefs, means that it is improbable I can convince them
of the error of their ways. They must be destroyed before they spread
"I won't be a party to this," Cille said defiantly.
"You are not necessary to any of my strategies,"
Orakio informed her. "Do as you will. But you must quell the
rebellion in your own city. Because of your standing in the town,
it may be that you can change these people yourself. If not, I will
have to act here, too."
"Wait just a minute, there, Orakio." Bran
protested. "There's no need for that. The Princess knows what
needs to be done."
"You all seem very expert at deciding what I should
do. But I'm the Princess of Divisia, not either of you. I'll
decide what has to be done here."
Bran winced. Orakio cocked his head, but he
didn't say anything. Bran was infinitely relieved. Thins could
have gotten really ugly. "He said you're not a part of the
plans," Bran said. "So there's no need for you to do anything."
"But I know about the other passenger. I know
where he is."
"Really?" said Bran. "Lune told you about
"It doesn't matter," said Orakio. "The other
passenger can be located without your assistance."
"Not for a long time. Long enough for Lune
to warn her, anyway. And you don't even have any idea who he is."
"We do not need your information." said Orakio firmly.
"That is all that can be said on the subject. Further conversation
is pointless." He turned to Bran. "Let us continue the mission."
"Yes," said Cille, her mouth tight. "Why don't
you two just leave?"
"Cille," Bran said. "Don't you think..."
"It's Princess, King of Landen. And whatever
your title is."
"Some call me Lord," said Orakio in a quieter voice.
"Not me," Cille said. "Not me."
Bran finished his interrupted dressing, and he and
Orakio left the room silently. Cille remained on the bed, staring
fixedly at the door as it closed behind them, and thinking of two things.
Her joy, when she heard of the arrival of Lune's ship, and an image of
Divisia being reduced to ashes by a legion of robots with black swords.
Town of Aerone, Elysium Habitat, Planet Motavia
"Lord Lune! How was your mission to Divisia?"
"Not exactly a success," said Lune, sinking gratefully
into a chair provided by the servant man. He hadn't run all the way
from Divisia to Aerone, of course, but after losing Orakio in the palace,
he had also gone out of his way to leave a false trail outside of the town
in case the android continued his pursuit. That, combined with his
attempt to get back to the relative safety of Aerone as quickly as possible,
had worn him down. Also, the fact that Orakio was now involved directly
was causing him no small amount of worry.
"Two of our bridge guards were murdered, Lord.
We found their bodies at shift change. We awaited your return to
find the culprits."
"You won't find them here," Lune said flatly.
"The guards were doing their jobs, just failed to do them well enough.
Orakio killed them."
The servant gasped. "Orakio himself?
He was here?"
"And smart enough not to go any farther. I'm
afraid he knows I'm here now. Have you heard at all from my sister?"
"Yes, she's doing fine. She says that Mystoke
supports Laya. Is it not wonderful how many recognize the truth of
"Yeah," said Lune. "But there are plenty who
don't. And Orakio will more than likely be wondering where Alair
is right now."
"If your sister is in danger, we can send troops..."
"Don't even think about it. Sending people
from Aerone to Mystoke would give Alair away. No, this situation
calls for something different."
"I believe it's time I told Laya what's been happening
down here. Perhaps she can give us some assistance."