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In The Name Of The Mother

Part Fourteen

City of Landen, Landen Habitat, Planet Motavia

Kara, as might be expected, was having her own problems.  She should have expected them - they sort of came with the job of temporary leader.  With Alec and the worst of the anti-tech faction gone, there really wasn't a need for someone to bring the people together and settle disputes.  But for some reason she still found her hands full.  People did bring their problems to her, whether she was the person who should be settling them or not.

She was nobody's fool, however, and had politely "postponed" some of the unnecessary business by claiming it needed Orakio's personal attention.  The Wrens flanking the throne were a great comfort.  Even though they never budged and talked only to her, they served to remind everyone that their leader was absent, but that he was not really far, and would return.  The difficulty was persuading people that Orakio wasn't to be reached for just anything.

Despite these minor annoyances Kara was discovering that she was actually pretty good at being a leader.  People respected her decisions and she hadn't had any trouble, even when she'd had to settle disputes.  She was confident that Lord Orakio would have nothing to complain about when he returned.  Or Bran.  It was a shame he had left as well, but she couldn't deny the importance of their mission.   Kara hoped they were doing well.  She might have a knack for leadership but she had decided fairly early on that she wasn't cut out to do it full time.  Too tedious.  Advisor suited her best, she thought.

She was seated at the old council table, which she had moved back into the throne room because she liked the idea of the Wrens standing nearby as she worked.  She didn't know if they'd act as bodyguards, not that she needed any, but it was kind of fun to know that they were near.  A lot of people were frightened by them, but she wasn't.  She thought it was a little ridiculous to be afraid of Wrens considering Lord Orakio was the hero of Landen.

A knock on the door interrupted her musing over someone wanting to expand their home.  Typical of the stuff they brought to her.  She was understanding why the council often took so long to get decisions made.  If they had to wade through all this - and take votes on it all, well, it all added up, to say the least.  She wasn't at all displeased by the interruption.  The knock came again.

"Come in," she said, putting a little cheerfulness into it.

Two men came in, one panting, both looking worried.

"What's going on?" she asked, frowning.

While the one caught his breath the other answered.  "Advisor, there's something going on.  He was out in the fields," and her jerked his thumb at the worn-out man to clarify, "and he caught side of...animals or something coming toward town."

"Animals?  You mean like a herd or something?  You think we can catch them?"

"Not these, Advisor," he replied grimly.  "I wouldn't eat any of these, if what he saw is true.  I think they're..." He swallowed, obviously reluctant to continue.

"Go on.  What do you think they are?"

"Bio-hazards, Advisor," he said in a rush.  "I think they're Bio-hazards.  I think they're going to attack the town.  We thought we'd better warn you.  Maybe Lord Orakio can help us?"

"Calm down!" said Kara, laughing.  "The Bio-hazards were destroyed centuries ago!  I certainly can't go and contact Lord Orakio on a crazy story like that."  She thought a minute.  "But it can't hurt to send someone else to check out the situation.  I'll take care of the matter.  And don't tell anyone else about this.  If you're wrong it'll just cause a panic.  Leave it to me."

"No problem," said the man, relieved to be put the responsibility on someone else.  He took his friend and departed.

Kara turned to the Wrens.  "What do you two think?"

The one on the right spoke this time.  "Bio-hazards could not have been created.  That would mean the breakdown of a system and we would have been alerted.  However, biologics could have been transported from Dezo to Mota."

"Transported?  In a spaceship, right?  Could these be the passengers Orakio spoke of?"

"It is possible," said the Wren, as helpful as ever.

"Will you check it out?"

"Our orders are to remain here."

"One of you can stay.  You are here to help me, right?  If these are 'biologics' you two are the only ones who'd have a chance of surviving."

The Wrens remained silent for a few seconds.  "Very well," said the one.  "I will investigate and report.  If these are biologics Orakio will need to know.  This situation overrides the previous orders."

"Good," said Kara briskly.  "Then get out there and scout."

The Wren strode away from the room just as easily as Kara might have, completely unaffected by its long immobility.  Kara decided, on impulse, that she would see it off to the edge of town.  She caught up with it just as it was leaving the council building.

She was just in time to see the monster leap on the robot, cave in its chest before it could react to the unexpected situation, and proceed to smash its to metal bits.

The two men had been completely correct in their assessment of the situation.  They had just slightly underestimated the distance and speed of the attacking army.  And now Landen was under siege, and losing fast.  Kara slammed the door before the prowling biological monstrosity could turn its attention, but she could see from the window the horde pouring into the streets of the city.  She ran back to the other Wren.

"Your friend is dead!" she yelled.  "I think we can contact Orakio for this little problem!"  She also grabbed down a sword from a mounting on the wall.  Hope it's still sharp, she thought.  "Wherever you are, Bran and Orakio, get here quick!"

Nurvus Central Systems Command, Planet Motavia

Kara's words sounded in the large chamber, but the echoes were muffled by the dense, sound-absorbent metal all around them.  Bran and Thor snapped out of their all-too-brief sleep.  The monitor above them that had recently shown them the world now showed them the interior of the council chamber in Landen.

"Awaken!" boomed Orakio, jolting the last of the sleepiness out of them.  "Landen is under attack by Layan forces!"

"Landen under attack?  We've got to do something!" Bran shouted, looking around for Orakio.

The android strode out from the shadows, his torn clothing now neatly repaired and his metal gleaming.  Obviously he had been doing his own version of healing again.  "We will come to their aid," he said.  "Here is your weapon."

Thor caught the gun reflexively as Orakio tossed it gently towards him.  "Why'd you take it?" he asked, suspiciously.

"It was needed elsewhere.  Do not worry, it still functions."

"Thanks," Thor said dryly.  "I didn't even think about you wrecking it, but now I will."

"Calm down, Thor," said Bran.  Thor and Orakio's duel had merely shifted to words, he realized.  But it could return to energy pulses and blades any time.  "We have a bigger problem, right?"

"It will not present too many difficulties," Orakio said.  "Let us proceed."

The robot led the other two through the maze of Nurvus and wound up at one of the platforms that had delivered them to the underground command center.  It could have been the same one, but Bran didn't think so.  If he was any judge, this would be the one that had first brought Orakio before his eyes.  It was close to Landen.  They paused before it, stopped short by Orakio.

"Doesn't Nurvus have a way to the surface that's easier than these transports?" Bran asked, not really expecting an answer.  Orakio, never talkative, was pretty closemouthed about this place, the heart of his operations.  "And why are we waiting?"

"Of course," said Orakio.  But it leads to an area between the habitats, not accessible to or from any of them.  It will not serve us as well as these elevators.  And we are waiting for them."  He lifted a metal hand and pointed.  At shapes emerging from the shadows farther on down the corridor.

Bran had already stopped assuming that people shapes would turn out to be real people.  Sure enough, half of the shadowed shapes were Mieus, primed and ready for combat, glowing claws and all.  But the other half were Wrens!

"Wrens?" he asked.  "Are you sure they're right for this situation?"

"They are now," was the reply.  In unison the Wrens raised up gleaming replicas of Thor's Shot.

" I see!"  Bran was excited about this new development.  "We can pick them off at a distance!  And the Mieus can get in and mix up face to face.  Right?"

"Correct.  I am indebted to Thor for providing me with a template in good working order.  We would have lost time by getting one out of storage."

"You have weapons like this yourself?"

"Indeed.  Many weapons.  I am surprised you have forgotten.  Your own sword is not the least among them."

Bran remembered his beautiful laconian blade.  He unsheathed it.  It almost glowed in the dim light from distant computers.  A silvery white, like moonlight.  Orakio brought out his great black sword, and Thor hefted his reclaimed gun.  With weapons and troops like these, Bran thought, nothing can stop us.  Nothing.  For perhaps the first time since he'd learned of the invasion from Dezo, he truly felt like they could win this war.

Bran gestured commandingly, and the android soldiers filed onto the platform.  They would go first in case anyone was waiting to ambush the commanders.  And then this little army would save Landen.  The first battle of the end of the war.  He was ready for it.  He could feel it, like a roaring fire in his head.  He felt like laughing.

City of Landen, Landen Habitat, Planet Motavia

The monsters were disorganized, but, then, so were the defenders.  Kara had managed to get hold of a few people, enough to form patrols to go out and find others.  They were using the council building as a stronghold, but it was painfully obvious that the tactic would backfire as soon as the attackers figured it out.  Then they would converge on the building and it would be very ugly.  Very briefly.  But until then the newly armed Landen citizens could fend off attacks by the creatures who stumbled onto their locations.

It was luck that had given Landen a chance to survive, Kara thought.  Luck that these creatures were brainless.  Given a brain, they could have overwhelmed the city at once.  She gripped her sword tighter.  Nobody had really even attempted to say she shouldn't bother with the defense of the town given her position.  It was everyone for him or herself.  Still the surviving Wren had told her that it had contacted Orakio.  Whether he would send help, whether he was even in a position to send help, was anybody's guess.  It could be that they were being attacked at the same time.  She'd remain hopeful.  There was really nothing else she could do.

The young and the old were busy passing out weapons to those who made it into the sanctuary.  She couldn't hear the cries of those who didn't make it, who were brought down in the streets or in their houses before they could even understand what was going on.  But she could imagine them.

A shrill whistle.  A lookout on the roof - more luck, none of the monsters seemed able to fly - must have spotted something.  She ran up the short flight of steps to the second floor and yelled up at the trapdoor in the ceiling.

"Advisor!  Looks like they figured it out.  They're grouping together."

Kara nodded grimly.  "Probably trying to find us.  Too small a harvest for this size town, I guess.  Any headed this way?"

A nod.  "Four of them coming straight down the street."

Kara ran back downstairs.  "There's a group of Bio-hazards coming this way.  Get ready."  The others in the room, already at the shuttered windows and secured door, acknowledged her instructions.  Get ready to defend, get ready to die.  Whichever way they interpreted her command, it wouldn't matter much.  Four Bio-hazards might not overwhelm them, but the pitched battle would surely draw the others, even if they didn't have some way to signal each other.  And there were far too many of them to think of holding the wooden structure against the whole army.

Unless there was another way.  If they could defeat them quickly, before the alarm was sounded.  She bit her lip.  Risky.  There were many ways to die, after all.  But one is just as good as another, she thought.  "Change of plans," she said firmly.  "We attack."

She was expecting a gasp, but although a few mouths opened, it seemed the people were ready to listen to any plan, no matter how crazy.  "They're coming straight down the street.  Just before they get here, we'll charge them.  Drive them as far back as we can.  Then we retreat back in here.  With a little luck, we'll catch them off guard, and destroy them before they figure out what we did.  Everybody who can pick up a weapon, let's go."

Kara stationed some children on the steps to relay the message between her and the lookout.  The monsters, four great hairy creatures with arms reaching all the way to the ground loped toward the council building with a peculiar gait that seemed more like pulling themselves along than walking.  The lookout screamed, the kids echoed.

And the great doors were suddenly flung wide open, at a mass of people, Kara at their head, rushed out.  The creatures were taken completely by surprise as a tide of people washed over them.  Kara herself struck several good blows, her blade sinking deep into the furred chest of her opponent.  In less time than it takes to tell it, the battle was over.  "Retreat!" Kara said, waving her sword in what she hoped was the right direction.

The doors swung back into place.  A general sigh of relief went out, followed by low murmuring.  Kara knew what they were talking about.  It had been easy!  The beasts had been killed just as easily as if they were game animals and not horrible legendary monsters.  True, it was obvious that given half a chance they could rip you in two, but they could die just as easily as they could kill.

Kara suddenly realized what had happened.  They had been so afraid of these beings, the evil Bio-hazards that had been the villains in so many stories, they hadn't fought like they could have.  They had been too afraid, knowing the battle was hopeless.  Except it wasn't.

She looked around the room.  People were smiling.  They'd figured it out, too.  Maybe they weren't going to die today.

Her euphoria lasted just long enough for her to hear the next message from the lookout.  Somehow, the alarm had been given.  The monsters were grouping, too far away from the building for the charge to be as effective.  And they were all grouping together.  Whether they knew where the defenders were or not, the Bio-hazards in a mass like this would rip them apart just as soon as they were discovered.

She went up to the second floor.  "Give me a hand," she snapped.  The surprised lookout helped haul her up onto the roof.  Her hair streamed out in the wind as she stood on top of the building, watching her enemy regroup for a final assault.  If they went away from the building first...there  might still be a chance.  They could leave the town the other way.  Run as fast as they could go.  Go to Divisia, maybe?  Kara remembered Bran saying the Princess of Divisia maintained good relations with Landen.  If only she could have gotten a messenger out.  Maybe they could have gone for help instead of waiting for Lord Orakio.  Not that she blamed him.  If he couldn't make it, he couldn't make it.  He wouldn't have abandoned Landen.  But maybe Orakio helped those who helped themselves.

No good.  They were coming this way.  They must indeed have been alerted.  Either that or there was a strategist among them, and the seemingly random attacks merely a test of Landen's mettle.  She ordered the lookout back downstairs.  She'd have to go with him, she knew.  They'd need every sword.  But like it or not, it seemed Lord Orakio would be returning to an empty town.  Bran, too.  She was going to die out here, and she'd have let him down.  Bran had put his trust in her, even though he barely knew her.  He trusted her to look after the town, and to protect it while he was away.

She pictured him in her mind's eye.  The first crisis and she blew it.  Surely there were other things she could have done.  She could have been planning for this since the beginning.  She might have expected attacks on the city by the mysterious "passengers," even if no one had told her they had brought an army.  One way or the other, Lord Orakio and Bran would have figured out some way to save the town without relying on help...

Which seemed to have arrived.  She snapped out of her depression and took a closer look.  The monsters' formation was looking decidedly ragged.  It was being cut up by shots coming from the edge of town.  She caught the flash of metal in the sunlight.  It looked like an army of Wrens!  They were holding dangerous looking guns and blasting away at the tightly packed group of Bio-hazards.  They withered under their fire, and the Wrens smoothly parted ranks to reveal the lethal women she remembered from the night when Orakio appeared.  Mieus - masters of hand to hand combat.  Kara remembered vividly their glowing claws, capable of shearing through flesh and bone like a scythe through grass.

She jumped down through the hole, ignoring an awkward landing, and ran back downstairs one last time.  "Landen!" she shouted.  "Lord Orakio has returned with an army of our own!  We are saved!"  Everyone was incredulous at first, but Kara reassured them it was true, and the cheering defenders opened the great doors again to see the stalkers now stalked by Wrens and Mieus.  The citizens waved their saviors on.  Kara, heedless of the danger of getting trampled or shot in a crossfire, ran out into the street, looking around.

Three shapes walked out of the swirling dust that had been raised by the battle.  One was decidedly taller than the others - Lord Orakio!  And the one in the middle...Bran!  He looked tired and his sword was bloody, but he didn't look hurt at all.  "Bran!" she called out.  "We're over here!"  Bran smiled, nodding, and led the others at a run to meet her.

"Kara!  You're all right."

"And you are, too.  I was afraid you'd come back only to get killed."

"Don't think they didn't try it, either.  But you're the hero.  You held the town.  Anybody can win if they've got an invincible army.  But you saved almost everybody.  That's incredible!"

The tall man with the close-cropped blond hair, a stranger, apparently, coughed.  Bran turned bright red.  "Shut up," he said, wheeling on the other and brandishing his sword.  The other man put his hand s up.

"Didn't say a word."

"Just shut up.  Kara, this is Thor.  He's going to bring in another city to help us.  And he's a hunter himself."

"The best hunter on Mota, in fact," Thor said, bowing extravagantly.  "And you're Kara, of course.  I've heard so much about you from your...friend here."

Bran was still crimson.  "Uh...come on, Kara.  Let's go ahead and get back inside.  I'm sure the clean up here doesn't need our attention.  And we'd better reassure people.  And I'm sure you've got a lot to tell me."

Thor snickered.  Kara didn't know what was going on between the two of them, but she realized Bran had been embarrassed by something so she agreed and followed him back to the council building.

"What do you think?" said Thor to his silent companion.

"About what?" Orakio said.

"The two of them."

"A dangerous situation that I hope will correct itself before I am forced to intervene."

Thor stared at the android in confusion as the robot walked away after the others from Landen.

As he entered the building, he caught the last of Bran's short speech to the survivors.

"The battle for Landen is over.  We have won.  And now we have an army the likes of which has never been seen on Mota.  An army of androids and robots, our invincible defenders.  With their help, and with Lord Orakio and Kara, we will win the war.  No force can stop us now.  Mota itself is on our side."

And maybe more, Thor thought, remembering what Orakio had said in Nurvus.  What about Mother Brain?

West of Landen-Aquatica Throughway, Landen Habitat, Planet Motavia

"We lost!"  Lune shouted, slashing at the air.  "How could we lose!"

He turned on his newfound ally.  "You swore to me that Landen would be easy to take over with Orakio and Bran out of the way.  He said we could pacify the town easily, and cut off Orakio's support.  What went wrong?"

Alec had never seen the construct quite so...emotional.  Could it be the man of ice was Palm after all?  Alair was as cool and reserved as ever, her arms folded across the front of the gray and black dress she had been given by the people of Mystoke.  It suited her, Alec had to admit.  She looked even more stunning than usual, the effect only enhanced by the alienness of her peculiar hair color.  But Lune was angry enough for the both of them.

"Nothing went wrong, Lune.  Orakio returned at the head of an army.  How was I supposed to plan for that?  Those robots are nearly indestructible.  Even I know that."

Lune jabbed a finger at Alec's tunic.  "Something went wrong.  Why did you use those weak, slow apes as scouts instead of some faster or stronger ones.  They got slaughtered.  Even I know not to do that."

What was this, irony?  He'd have to keep a closer eye on Lune.  Or rather, find someone to do it.  There were already plenty who were keeping a closer eye on Alair.  He might have himself...before.  Now, as lovely as the lady was, he wasn't interested.  What he was interested in was getting Lune off this particular train of thought.

"They were decoys, Lune.  To lure the people out into the open so they could be captured.  Like we agreed on."

Lune stared at him a moment longer, eyes blazing.  Then something seemed to go out of him, and her sighed.  "I suppose you're right, Alec.  You couldn't have known what was going to happen.  It's just that there was more death than I was expecting.  They shouldn't have to die just because they're on the wrong side."

Alec's voice softened.  "I know, Lune.  I know.  I tell you what.  Perhaps it's time we tried negotiating again.  I don't want to see my people killed either."

The green-haired man looked up.  "Of course not!  I'm sorry, I didn't realize...  You must be feeling far worse than I do.  I'm sorry, Alec.  Yes, by all means let's try negotiating again, if you think it will do any good."

"That's why you need me," Alec said.  "I know how we think.  Right now they're tired and scared.  They don't want to fight any more.  If you step forward, offering peace, I'm sure they'll agree."

"But just in case..."

Alec nodded.  "Bring your weapons.  Just in case."

"Will you come, too?"

"Of course,"  Alec smiled.  "I wouldn't miss this for the world.  Not for all Alisa."

He felt like laughing.

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