In The Name Of The Mother
Dezolis Biosystems, Planet Dezolis
The scene replayed again. The even green surface
of Motavia, marred by the dark brown circles of the habitat walls, came
rushing up to meet the camera. Then, suddenly, a pale yellow twinkle
from the ground, a flash of pale yellow that enveloped the whole screen,
then nothing but static on the monitor.
To a viewer with more emotions, the most horrifying
aspect of it all was its simplicity. There was no spectacular fiery
death, no long slow crash that might provide time for passengers to escape.
There would be no wreckage on the surface to comb through and perhaps salvage.
It was obliteration, plain and simple. The beam weapon had fired,
and the Camineet was no more.
But this watcher, like all of her kin, possessed
no emotions at all. Logic, however, Laya had in abundance.
As she turned away from yet another replay of the destruction of her one
and only transport shuttle, she considered the grave implications of what
she had witnessed.
It meant that Orakio was not unwilling to employ
his vastly superior technology against her. She was only a system
operator, trying to do the job of a planetary manager in the absence of
a real one. He was a manager in truth, able to send the resources
of an entire planet against her, to fabricate whatever weapons and troops
he deemed necessary. The only thing she could do was create organic
life with her own Biosystem, LRVA. Orakio could do that and much
Her only chance had been that Orakio would meet
her troops with his troops and she could use battle tactics to succeed.
But with weapons like this, tactics meant little. She could send
wave after wave of her genetically superior troops against Motavia, and
they would die in their ranks. No organic defense could stop the
power of focused energy.
Never mind the fate of her troops. SHe had
no way to even get them there. The Camineet was gone.
Oh, there might be more shuttles moldering in the depths of old Skure,
and Rolf's old shuttle in Aerone might be put back in service. But
what would be the point? As soon as the shuttle left the atmosphere
and entered the gulf of space between the worlds, it would be blasted into
atoms. Admittedly, weapons like that were unsuited to close range
firing, which in planetary terms meant orbit or within the atmosphere,
but that didn't matter in this situation. No shuttle could ever reach
And speaking of ranges... Laya addressed the
main computer banks. "Larva, judging from the measurements the Camineet's
sensors recorded, can the energy weapon on Motavia reach to Dezolis?"
The image from the Camineet's cameras vanished
and was replaced by a smooth black screen which filled itself with text.
Negative. Planet Dezolis currently out of range given intensity
A small relief, but at least it meant Orakio did
not intend to blow her planet apart. That would have meant the end
of everything. And yet perhaps his attack would be subtler.
She had no way of preparing such an offensive defense. Perhaps, having
made his own planet secure, he meant to mount an attack on hers.
There might be shuttles on Motavia...but then again he could make his own.
He had a vehicle plant, she had none.
So she had to find a way to tip the balance back
in her favor. Go on the offensive again before he could prepare his
overwhelming forces to attack. Could she possibly shield the ships?
Shielding systems she had. Designed by an
alien race that had never known peace but had known all too well the horrors
of war, the systems were protected from orbital bombardment by powerful
shielding systems. It had always seemed redundant and useless to
Laya, for no race in Algol had ever developed the technology to attack
from space, and had never developed energy weapons larger than pistols.
And once Mother Brain had taken over, she had seen to it that technology
was solely in her hands. Now she doubted if any of the races could
build a cart on their own, much less a warship.
However, the shields were useless to her.
They were far too bulky and too power intensive to put on a shuttle.
Could she extend the protection of the shields to give the shuttles more
exit cover? No. The gap between worlds was simply too large.
It was impossible. If she could move the planet closer, then she
might have something. The shields could protect it until it got,
say, into orbit. Then the shuttles could be launched safely, below
the minimum firing range for the weapon. Except of course, that the
conflicting gravities would most likely destroy both worlds. And
of course she was unable and most certainly unauthorized to move the planet.
That wouldn't do either.
And yet... Now there was an idea. To
call it daring was to seriously understate the situation. She punched
up some figures on the computer. It would require all the resources
she could muster. She'd have to strip the planet clean. Destroy
the noncritical sections of the network. Plunder Skure for everything
it had. The work she had been doing, protecting the failing network
from the Dezolisians, she would overturn herself.
But wasn't it worth it? Sacrifice some of
what she was programmed to protect in order to save the rest? Yes.
It was allowable, in these extreme circumstances. She input the necessary
orders. Elsewhere, worker biologics would abandon their efforts of
repair and turn into scavengers. The biosystem's genetic plants would
begin the mass production of warriors. It would be done. No
SO that left the matter of Orakio's superior troops.
But she had some ideas there, too. If Orakio would employ all the
resources of Motavia against her, she would counter them with the resources
of Dezolis. And Dezolis had one resource that Motavia was utterly
helpless against. One resource that would not merely tip the balance
in her favor, but overturn the scales entirely. If she could manage
to harness it. She made some more notes to herself.
Only one last thing stuck in her mind, something
she was helpless to do anything but wonder about. The launching of
the Camineet meant that Lune had lost his duel with the Palman.
What did it mean? Was he dead?
If only she'd made him stronger.
City of Landen, Landen Habitat, Planet Motavia
Still chuckling, Lune rose slowly to his feet.
Kara gaped. Despite the beating he'd taken from Bran's Gifoi technique
and Orakio's incredible Flare, he was still alive and far from defeated.
In fact, he seemed to be gaining strength with every passing moment.
She looked to Orakio. The android, his tunic hanging in tatters from
his shoulders, nodded.
"It is simple matter to create an a vastly accelerated
healing process. You may expect Lune and Alair to recover quickly
from nonfatal wounds."
Kara shook her head, amazed at yet another example
of how the two from Dezo were more than a match for the strongest Palm
warriors. But her sword never wavered from where it was, poised ready
to deliver what would more than likely have to be a fatal wound if Lune
tried to escape. But the construct didn't seem to be interested in
making a getaway. He probably realized that his rescue team was on
the way, Kara thought.
Bran was occupied with Cille, who seemed to have
fainted from exhaustion. She and her guard must have fled from Divisia
with no preparation. They would have traveled without rest or food,
maybe even harried by Layans to get here. And she had succeeded,
delivered her message of warning that Lune's mission of diplomacy had once
again proven to deadly to the Palm people.
Bending over her, he sighed. "The whole thing
was probably staged. Deliberate provocation, so something like this
would happen to distract us."
Kara, overhearing, shook her head. "I don't
believe it. Lune seemed pretty sincere to me."
Lune bared his teeth in a grin. "I was more
than sincere. And if you hadn't interfered..."
"Thor!" Bran said, suddenly remembering his
fallen friend. He laid Cille down, gently, on the ground and rushed
over to the Technan's side.
"How...how are you?" he asked quietly.
"Fine," Thor said, sarcastically. "Actually,
I'll be fine. I'm just sorry about the windows."
Bran had to smile. It was true that the windows
he and Lune had smashed in their duel were irreplaceable. One of
the many skills the Palm people had discovered they had never actually
known when Mother Brain was destroyed was the art of glassmaking.
But the shattered glass was nothing to Bran beside his friend's injuries.
The empty space could be filled with wooden bars like many other windows
in Landen. Not much could take the place of the hunter.
"The weapon of a guardian," Thor said, sitting
up cautiously. "You probably don't know it, but that's what he's
Bran stared at Lune's angular weapon. "A...a
"Slicer, slasher, something like that. I think
it's slasher. But it's the weapon of a guardian. I know its
"So you consider yourself a guardian, huh, Lune."
Bran said tightly. "Guardians don't pick fights with people.
Not to mention they don't spearhead invasions of other worlds."
Lune took a deep breath. He looked a lot better
than he had. And he seemed unconcerned with Kara's sword. "We
don't want to kill you. We just want to rule you."
Bran nodded. "Oh, well, sorry. That's
Orakio turned. "Alair approaches."
Lune smiled. "I believe it's time for me to
go. But I'm sure we'll see each other again. Soon. Say,
"You can count on it. And look for me in Rysel,
The construct laughed. "Oh, yes, Rysel.
I'd almost forgotten. Well, I don't know if I can make it, but you
can start without me."
Bright blue beams flashed around the Landen group.
Kara and Bran threw themselves flat on the ground as Alair and a few Aeronians
ran up to them.
"Lune, are you all right?" Alair asked, breathlessly.
Her bow swiveled from Orakio, who was still standing impassively, to cover
Bran and Kara, who were on the ground, afraid to move. Bran remembered
what he'd thought before. Hurt one of the pair, and you might just
push the other over the edge, past all restraint. And the full fury
of these specially bred warriors was something he did not want to witness.
And yet...here they were together.
And Orakio was no less aware of that fact than Bran
was. His tunic was ripped apart completely as once again the smooth
metal of his chest began to slide around and change its shape. But
this time additional panels moved around. Parts of his shoulder and
what would be his collarbone opened up to reveal dark wells and metal honeycombs.
"Move!" Lune shouted, throwing himself at
Alair and knocking her away from Orakio's new attack.
From his vantage point on the ground, Bran was unable
to see exactly what happened. All he knew was that Orakio emitted
a bright flash just as Lune crashed into his sister, and then the ground
where the two had been standing erupted in a devastating explosion of fire
and earth. The explosions raged around in the area in front of the
But Lune's reflexes had saved his sister's life
and his own. The bursts of rock and flame missed them entirely.
Bran and Kara were momentarily stunned, but they
were quick to pick themselves up. Bran lifted his shining sword,
ready to seize the opportunity and recapture their valuable prisoner.
But Kara didn't move. "What's wrong, Kara?" Bran demanded.
Kara just shook her head, mutely. Lune looked
up from where he lay on the ground, sheltering Alair. The two slowly
got to their feet. Both wore expressions of people determined to
fight to the death. Lune had pulled his slasher out and Alair held
her bow up and at the ready. But neither seemed inclined to attack.
Orakio was motionless. Kara's sword was at
her side. Looking around, Bran lowered his sword as well, not quite
sure what was going on.
Lune, too, seemed surprised. But he smiled
wryly. "I guess we have a standoff, don't we?" He thrust his
slasher in his belt. "Come on, Alair. Let's get out of here."
He nodded, almost politely, to the Orakian three, and left with Alair,
running away from the faint sounds of battle, even now dying away, to the
other side of town.
Bran sheathed his sword. "Sorry, Kara.
It's a good thing one of us keeps a clear head. I would have charged
them and probably have just gotten killed. It's hard to believe how
tough those two are."
"I can believe it," Kara said. "It's in their
"But I thought Orakio would attack them. Something
Orakio shrugged. "Regretfully, my long-range
weapons require certain expenditures of energy. And my supply was
limited after my last attack. I must rest and replenish my supply
if I am to use the weapons again. As for my sword," and he lifted
his black blade, "Advisor Kara has already justified my lack of action
in that arena."
Bran frowned while he worked that all out.
A groan caught their attention. Cille was
waking up, coming out of her faint. Bran knelt down beside her, propped
her head up. "Are you all right?" he asked softly. "We need
a healer. For Cille and Thor." He looked up at Orakio.
"Several, I'd say."
Orakio nodded. "I will get one. My Mieus
have the battle under control. It will be over soon."
Cille was looking up at Bran, smiling faintly.
"I think we've done this before, haven't we?"
Bran grinned. He could hardly forget his own
near death experience in Cille's own meeting room. "It's not as much
fun on that side of things is it?"
She shook her head, her long blond hair, now matted
and crusted with dirt and blood, swinging limply from side to side.
"No fun at all." She closed her eyes, and remained still until Orakio
returned with a Mieu and a few Landen people. They seemed tired and
concerned for their leaders, but when Bran questioned them said that the
Mieus had stopped the battle before there were too many injuries.
And there were no fatalities among the Orakians.
They put the wounded on the long tables in the council
room and the healers started their work, using their strange "technique"
to accelerate the natural healing process at an incredible rate to close
up wounds and refresh tired bodies. Orakio took careful recordings
of the entire process. Bran, meanwhile, was talking quietly with
Cille, who, in turned out, was more tired than anything else. She
was sitting near one of the windows, looking out on Landen, speaking of
the attack on her former city.
"They came suddenly, didn't even try to talk.
They just rampaged through the place. The Palm people marched straight
to the palace and took over. My guards and I just barely managed
to escape." She bowed her head. "I've...failed my people.
I should have listened to you. Should have chosen sides. You
Bran looked uncomfortable. "There's nothing
wrong with preferring peace to war. I hoped the war wouldn't touch
Cille looked up. "Did you?"
He nodded. "But I found out too late that
you were in serious trouble. Orakio and I were discussing battle
strategies. It was pretty obvious that they'd try to attack Divisia.
That would give them control of your whole habitat."
"I'll tell you later. It's kind of a long
story. And I don't think you'll believe half of it. But maybe
I'm getting ahead of myself. You..." He swallowed. "You
do plan on joining us, right? Being an Orakian?"
Cille sighed and leaned her head against the wall.
Bran looked at her with some concern. "I'm sorry again. You
probably don't want to talk about this now. We can wait until you've
recovered some more."
"I'd appreciate it. Because I don't know.
I just want my people to be safe. If I become an Orakian...they might
be hurt. I don't want to be responsible for the deaths of my people.
You understand, don't you?"
Bran nodded, although he was feeling some very conflicting
emotions. "I understand. I don't know what I'd do in your situation,
Kara touched him on the shoulder, and he turned.
Cille closed her eyes again. "Sorry to interrupt. But Lord
Orakio wants to talk to you."
Bran walked over to the big android. He had
not had time to repair his tunic and there were none at hand large enough
to fit him well. Bran was struck by his appearance. With the
time they had spent together, and the peculiar trust and comradeship that
had grown up between them, Bran was almost able to forget that he was an
android. But now, with the thin facade ripped away, it was all too
obvious what his true nature was. Now the artificial flesh of his
face looked like a mockery of life.
"What is it?" he asked, a little more coldly than
he'd wanted to.
Orakio looked down at him. "I must leave you
for a time."
"I must return to Nurvus. I have some projects
to complete that may well be necessary to the war effort. They will
undoubtedly take some time to complete."
"But...but..." Bran cast around for something
to say. "We need you."
"You will be able to handle the situation.
You will have command of the troops, although they will not obey certain
commands. Like attacking the systems. When I return I will
"But we're Orakians now! We follow
you and now you're abandoning us!"
"I am but an advisor. You are the king.
Have I not seen to that?"
Bran balled his fists. "You know what you
are. You may fool everyone else but you don't fool me."
"You cannot prevent me from leaving. Do not
attempt to do so."
"Stop it, both of you!" Kara yelled.
"Lord Orakio has a job to do that comes before us! And you are
the king, Bran. I fought for you. Don't throw it all away
now. Let him go."
Slowly Bran's anger began to subside. "Then
go," he snarled. "Go."
Orakio nodded. "Allow me to give you a small
gift before I leave." A Mieu stepped forward. Bran could never
tell one Mieu from another, except by their claws. This one had silvery
blue claws that reminded him of his sword. "This is one one of the
abler Mieus, an N-type. She will be your bodyguard."
The Mieu bowed. "I will serve you well," she
said, in a warm clear voice.
Bran was startled. It was the first time he
had ever heard a Mieu speak. "Uh...thanks." He wondered how
he was ever going to remember which one was his, especially in the heat
of battle. They all had the same long red hair, full lips, and red
and white outfit. "I don't suppose you have a name?"
"I am Mieu. We are all Mieu."
"Well what I need is a more specific name."
"I possess none. I am Mieu (N), manufacturing
number..." and she rattled off a series of numbers and letters Bran
could never hope to remember or repeat.
"Ah...um...we'll just call you Mieun. Get
it? Mieu N. It's a joke."
"I will answer to the name Mieun."
Bran abandoned his efforts at jocularity.
"Now I must go," Orakio said.
"Wait just a minute!" The shout came from
the window. Cille hopped down off the table and strode over to the
little group. "I've made my decision. And I think you'll want
to witness it."
"Will you join us, Cille?" Bran asked, hoping that
the answer would be yes.
SHe looked at him. "If I am to join you, I
want your assurances that we will free Divisia. And I want a place
with you as a leader of the Orakians."
"Of course! I have a lot of respect for you,
Cille. You'd be a valuable member of our team."
"There's one other thing."
She took a deep breath. "I have a lot of respect
for you, too. And I think we should seal our alliance in a more permanent
way. I..." She looked away, then looked directly at Bran, a
sudden fire in her eyes. "Why not marry me, Bran?"
Bran was stunned. "M-marry you?"
"Think about it." There was an eagerness in
her voice. "The King of Landen and the Princess of Divisia.
We could rule both together."
"I...I don't really think about things like that."
"I told you I had a lot of respect for you.
You're intelligent and brave...don't you like me?"
"Well, of course I do, but...I mean, marriage.
"I know it's a lot to ask, and it's pretty sudden."
Bran shook his head. That was an understatement
if he'd ever heard one. He looked at his friends. "What do
Thor laughed weakly. "Bran, don't you think
you're the one who ought to decide this kind of thing?"
Orakio shook his head. "He is right to ask.
He is the king of Landen and the leader of the Orakians. He is obligated
to think of his people before himself. He cannot think only of himself
"Then what do you think?"
Thor shook his head. "She'll join us without
the marriage. She knows the Layans can't be trusted. And I
think your heart's not in this marriage, is it?"
"Your heart means little, Bran," Orakio said.
"A marriage to the Princess would seal the alliance and help to unite the
Palm people. With this war splitting your people up, unity is a precious
commodity. Do not reject this opportunity."
"And...Kara?" Bran asked, hesitantly.
"What do you think about all this?"
Kara took a deep breath. "I don't like it.
You barely know her. And...besides...you could marry me."
"What?" Bran was shocked. "I thought...I
Kara smiled, a little wryly. "Well I didn't
think it would happen like this. But I think I'd better speak up
before I lose my chance."
He could barely believe he was in this kind of situation.
It all seemed so sudden. He'd beaten Lune and now two women wanted
to marry him. And yet it didn't seem so crazy. He remembered
meeting Cille in the meeting room, where she stopped both Lune and Orakio
from killing each other. She wanted peace and the safety of her people
more than anything else, but she wasn't afraid to step in and take action
when it was necessary. And he remembered the touch of her hand when
they had sat together and talked of how much things had changed, of how
their lives had been thrown into turmoil. They had a great deal in
And he thought of Kara, how she had stood by him
and helped him every step of the way. He thought of how she had protected
Landen in his absence, had led hopeless charges into victory. He
thought of her stopping him from futilely attacking Lune. And he
thought of the feelings he knew he had for her. He didn't have those
kind of feelings for Cille, in spite of everything.
But wasn't Orakio right? Didn't he have more
to consider than himself? The most important man on Mota.
Do you not feel somewhat obligated? Could he afford to follow
his heart when a marriage to Cille might be what was best for his people?
And he might grow to love her as he... As he loved Kara. Thor
had been right all along. He really did love Kara. But was
He had to make a decision. Both women were
look at him - Cille, expectantly, Kara, trying not to let her emotions
show on her face. The words pounded through his head, over and over
I will marry Cille.
I will marry Kara.
He made his choice.