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In The Name Of The Mother

Part Nineteen


Esper Mansion, Planet Dezolis

The Esper Mansion was a fascinating building.  Originally built thousands of years ago, it had remained in its isolated location, but had adapted with the times.  Once a simple structure, it had benefited from the materials and engineering knowledge of the miners who had survived the accident at Skure and had expanded to accommodate its new population.  Now lack of metals and ordinary age was causing it to revert back to its more humble beginnings.  Stone walls were growing up to replace what time had destroyed.

The Espers themselves were quite proud of it.  Laya didn't understand why they bothered.  It was efficient, but there was no need to revel in the fact.  She approached the door wardens calmly, and they opened the great doors for her, smiling and nodding politely.

Laya accosted a young girl in the robes of an Esper who happened to be passing by.  "I am Laya.  I need to see Lutz."

The girl was startled.  "I-I don't think he's awake.  I will take you to the elder."

Laya knew the way, but allowed the girl to lead her down the hallways, under elegant arches and through interior courtyards to the center of the mansion, and to the elder.  He was reading a book, but he set it down at the girl's hesitant entrance.  He was a true Esper - although Laya's presence was certainly out of the ordinary, he greeted her with calm courtesy.  The controller of Dezolis's systems meant little to those who lived outside Mother Brain's shrinking embrace, and the Espers had powers equaling the mighty alien technology.

"Laya!  Welcome to the Mansion."  he said cheerfully.  He nodded to Laya's escort.  "Thank you for bringing her here.  You may return to your studies."

The girl bobbed her head and retreated back into the mansion.

"I am afraid," said the elder, "that great Lutz is currently asleep.  I assume you wished to see him?"

"That is correct."

"Well, perhaps I can help you instead.  I do not possess the knowledge and skills of Lutz, but I will do my best."

The person, or perhaps institution, of Lutz, was a peculiar one.  Laya found it difficult to grasp and the Espers found it difficult to explain it.  The Esper society had been founded by Noah, a young man possessed of peculiar powers who accompanied Alis on her epic journey to free Algol from the demonic king Lassic.  Gathering others like him, who were able to create astounding effects both mental and physical by force of will, he established a center on icy Dezolis, far away from the meddling influences of others, to train young people in the uncertain art of what came to be known as magic and to study their peculiar gifts.

When Noah died, it was necessary for there to be a leader likewise possessed of superior powers and intellectual gifts, another visionary to guide the Espers.  Such a man was eventually found, the first Lutz, who was by this time the last of the true 'telementals,' those whose mental control over the physical world was instinctive and matchless.  This had occurred at about the same time as the coming of Mother Brain, an event which made the Espers move their society to a hidden location, fearing the wrath of the master computer against those who chose to live their lives without her dictates.  Lutz decided to spend most of his time in cryogenic sleep, awakening every ten years to lend his influence to the development of the Espers.  He also exerted their considerable powers to solve crises throughout the Algol system.

Lutz had saved a young man named Rolf from dying in a spaceship accident, and had helped that man ten years later to find the weapons necessary to destroy the Dark Force that had possessed Mother Brain.  Or so the Espers said.  Laya had yet to formulate her own opinions on the theory.  Only one thing she was sure of, and that was that Mother Brain had indeed been destroyed, Rolf or no Rolf.  Dark Force or no Dark Force.

Orakio or no Orakio.

Later, Lutz, too, had died, but the mantle of leadership was passed to another who also took the name of Lutz.  The connection between the men who bore the name was unclear, but Laya understood that each one possessed the knowledge of those who came before, and that they slept in stasis as they did as a way of traveling to the future.  The last telemental endured.

At any rate, the difficulty with a leader like Lutz was that he was absent for one reason or another a great deal of the time.  Also, custom said that Lutz would revive every ten years or so, but nothing had ever been said how much time he had to spend awake.  For all anyone knew, Lutz would stick his head out of his cryogenic coffin, look around, and go back to sleep.  And somebody had to take charge in the intervening ten years anyway.

So another custom had arisen.  The Espers were led by Lutz, it was true.  But the elders could speak in his stead.  Just in case, for one reason or another, Lutz should happen to be unavailable.  It didn't matter much.  The Espers governed themselves quite nicely.  An isolated sect devoted to research and experimentation with their unique gifts, there were very rarely any disputes among them.  Not that there hadn't been troublemakers, even exiles.  But they were another story entirely.

This particular elder was not really all that eld, which led to even more confusion.  Laya had learned to take things at more or less face value among the Espers and forge through as best she could.

Laya was courteous as well.  "I have come to ask for the aid of the Esper people in my current endeavor."

The elder smiled a little wryly.  "I am sorry, Laya.  If this is about the Dezolisians again I must tell you that our answer has not changed.  We will not lend our powers to a project involving the taking of life.  We may use our magic to harm others only in self-defense, and that at extreme need."

"Unless commanded to by Lutz," Laya noted.

"Noah was wise.  He was a battle-mage himself, and it was his fight against evil that allowed our society to come into being.  He knew that our power must be restrained, but that to stifle it with vows and oaths would be folly.  We are prepared to fight against evil again ourselves, should it become necessary.  If Lutz foresees a darkness, we will be there to oppose it."

"There is a darkness, as you term it.  It is already here.  This is not about the Dezolisians.  On Motavia a war has started.  Between Orakio, who controls Motavia's systems, and myself."

The elder looked grave.  "This is ill news.  Our worlds have been at peace for millennia.  Evil has come always from outside, never from within.  The worst that has ever happened between the three races was the Palman colonization efforts, and they perished along with Mother Brain and Palma itself."

"Nevertheless, the war rages as we speak.  Orakio has malfunctioned.  He is using his control over the systems to wreak havoc among those who were placed in his charge.  And he has misled them so that many fight on his side.  For the good of the Motavians, I must oppose him.  For the moment, the war goes in my favor.  But Orakio has done much harm to me, and his troops are superior to mine.  I must have a power to match his.  That power, I think, is magic."

A small smile.  "Curious for an android, a creation of highest technology, to resort to dependence on that which seems to defy your laws and concepts of reality."

Laya cocked her head.  "Your arts are not as mysterious as that.  They proceed according to definite principles.  You know this as well as I."

"Forgive me, Laya," the elder said, laughing.  "It is a bad habit to make magic seem so...well, magical.  But I remember when I first learned of what I could accomplish with my mind alone.  It seemed so miraculous.  Now that I know the secrets, the wonder has faded a little.  I must bolster it as I can."

"Others are learning the secrets as well."

The elder snorted.  "You refer, of course, to the Palmans' 'techniques.'  Paltry stuff!  I could do such tricks as that when I was a child.  Anyone in the Mansion could.  Their Foi, for instance.  Such a pale shadow of even our most basic fire spells.  Like Flaeli.  Elemental manipulations are parlor tricks and they know it as well as anyone.  You will not find many on Motavia who are proud of their finite skill."

Laya, of course, having dealt with the follies of organic life so much more than Orakio had, and knowing what role emotions could play in their minds, knew exactly what she was doing when she brought up the issue of the Motavian techniques.  Most Espers were rather contemptuous of the limited psychic abilities of their kindred on the green planet.  Now she had cracked the shell of the elder's Esper calm.  Progress could now, hopefully, be made.

"You are correct, Elder.  However, their techniques are sufficient to make them dangerous opponents for my simple creatures."

"Hmmm.  Yes, I would suppose so.  Healing, long-range fighting, that sort of thing your creations cannot accomplish."

"And in addition, he has robotic troops that can absorb much damage without losing any of their fighting strength.  These forces I cannot withstand for long.  I need your help.  It is vital."

The elder considered for a long moment.  Then he breathed a sigh.  "This is beyond me.  It will need a convocation of the wisest of the Espers.  Bide a moment.  I will ask that it be done."  He rose, and left the room, bowing.  Laya caught a glimpse of young Esper waiting patiently by the door.

Laya waited with the infinite patience only an android is fully capable of.  There was much to look at, anyway, here in what was possibly the most unique place on the three worlds.  Bookshelves lined the walls.  Those in themselves were rarities.  The Palmans had lost the skill of creating them, and as always, neither the Motavians nor the Dezolisians had any interest in writing down the facts or fancies their stable civilizations produced.  Only the dynamic Palmans felt the need to preserve their knowledge in such a fashion.  The books in this chamber represented more knowledge than those races could probably imagine.

Braziers burned to provide light in this chamber.  Many rooms were still lit with the almost eternal white light that was a reminder of the high-tech building this once had been.  But as the technology began to decay, the Espers fell back on simpler means of providing illumination.

The door opened quietly, and the elder slipped back inside.  He beckoned to her.  "If you will come this way, Laya.  The convocation is ready for you."

They met in a large room, below the main floor of the mansion.  It was lit by four large torches, one in each corner of the room, each one in a different colored holder.  One was yellow, one blue, one white, and one purple.  In the center of the room, behind which were arrayed some of the most senior Espers, was a large piece of machinery Laya recognized immediately as a cryogenic cold-sleep chamber.  Within, then, she guessed, must be the body of the Espers' true leader.  Lutz.  Again she was reminded of the curious twist of fate that had left the Espers, guardians of a power beyond science, the guardians of the highest technology in the three worlds.  They alone had preserved the skills the others had lost.  Having never been dependent on Mother Brain, they had learned to master her super technology as well as bits of even older super technology from the time of Lassic.  The chamber before her was nothing much to the Espers, but would have astounded an ordinary Palman.

She addressed the small group, retelling the story she had given to the elder and expanding upon it, giving more detail in her attempt to win the Espers to her side.  They stood and listened silently, shadowy shapes in their pale gray, white, and black robes, the torchlight flickering across their impassive faces.  Laya noted the heavy gold neckpieces that indicated the healers, the other jewelry and miscellaneous signs that the Espers used to denote their skills and status in their hierarchy.

The robot concluded with the state of affairs as she currently knew it, telling the story of how the Palmans had united to cheat Lune of his rightful victory during his duel with Thor.  They nodded respectfully to her as she fell silent, then drew together to discuss the matter.  Laya knew she could amplify her hearing and listen to their conversation.  She refrained, not from any sense of morals or ethics, of course, but because she knew she would hear only a small fraction of the actual conversation.  Much of the debate would be conducted on a level impossible for the vast majority of Algol to even comprehend.

They turned back to her, and the elder stepped forward.  "I am sorry, Laya.  We still cannot help you.  It is not our place to interfere with their culture.  We have severed our ties with our Motavian kin.  If they destroy themselves, we will mourn the loss, but our society will endure.  I believe Lutz would give you no other answer."

Laya shook her head.  "Elder, I cannot believe that.  Time and again Lutz has intervened on the behalf of Palmans to protect them from evil.  Now you will ignore their plight?"

A sad look came over the Esper's face.  "We can only guess what Lutz would want us to do.  If he emerges and speaks differently I will of course obey his command.  But we hear your story and we hear of a private war between two people.  We do not hear of unearthly evils, of men or machines possessed.  We would not use our power to end famines or stop floods.  These are natural events that must take their course.  Likewise your situation.  What will be will be.  If it means the end of the Palmans, I assure you I will regret it as much as any."

"Then I must do as I can without your help," Laya said.  "I will leave you."

The elder nodded.  Some of the other Espers had regretful looks on their faces, but, nevertheless, the small group stood motionless as she climbed to the top of the stairs.  It looked like the vote had been a close one, but close did not make any difference among the Espers.  They would stand by the consensus decision, unless they were told otherwise by Lutz.  And that didn't seem like something to count on.  For all Laya knew, he might have emerged a few days earlier, and ten years would have to pass in full before a counterorder might be made.  She knew it was doubtful that the war would last that long.  Highly doubtful.

Laya looked around for another Esper to lead her back out.  Although she had the map of the parts of Esper Mansion she knew firmly engraved in her memory, it was the polite custom to have a guide show her the way.  And Laya was programmed to at least attempt not to give offense. She decided to make her own way out, walking rather slowly so as not to appear as though she were ignoring the custom.  But it seemed that she was the one being ignored.  Although some Espers passed her, they walked quickly, and did not look at her.  She realized the Espers must have used their abilities to broadcast their ruling, and alert the others that a final decision had been made.  Laya was not to be helped.

  She was a few rooms away from the massive double doors of the Mansion when she noticed that a young male Esper was standing by the next door, looking at her in a friendly way as if patiently awaiting her arrival.  It was the same one she had seen outside the elder's door.  Was waiting by entrances like this some habit of his?  Laya noticed that he had the long golden hair which seemed curiously enough to be a fairly common trait among the Espers.  It was their custom to have long hair like their hero Noah, but considering that their society was based on an unpredictable gift it always seemed unusual for them to have so many with the same golden hair.  Blue was another frequent color, but that seemed more natural considering Noah and the Lutzes who had come after all had pale blue hair.

"Laya?" the Esper inquired.  When she nodded, he did likewise.  "I am Brin.  Allow me to escort you."

Laya noticed immediately that Brin was leading her away from the exit rather than towards it, but, realizing that her safety was virtually assured given the well-known peaceful temperament of the Espers, decided to see what exactly was going on. It was not a decision that many others would make lightly, given the fact that the combined might of the Mansion could probably blast planets in their orbits.  But Laya was confident in her analysis of the situation.

Brin led her to an inner room, which was filled with other youthful Espers in the robes of their unusual calling.  He then turned, an apologetic look on his face.  "I regret that I had to deceive you momentarily."  Brin shook his head.  "Can we dispense with the formalities?  I'd like to speak plainly for a moment."

Laya gestured affirmatively, interested now.  She rarely heard the Espers speak normally.  Only in snatches when they thought she wasn't listening.  She knew they meant well by their politeness, but she was programmed for it as well, and conversations could get a little tedious between the two parties.

Brin smiled.  "Thanks.  I don't mean any disrespect but," and he turned and grinned at his fellow Espers, "all that stuffiness gets on my nerves after a while."

"Speak plainly, then.  But do not expect me to do likewise."

Brin's grin faded a little.  "I understand.  I...overheard your discussion with our elder."

Laya frowned.  "Is this customary among Espers?  To eavesdrop?"

"No!  No, it's just that our leader was..." he searched for words, "Perhaps Lutz could have chosen better, if he had been awake.  Not all of us are as dedicated to pure research as he is, but I don't think he realizes that."

Laya was silent.  It didn't matter to her who led the Espers.

Brin shifted his weight a little.  "The decision of our elders was relayed to us all.  Our leaders are wise men and women.  I am sure that their decision is what is best for the Espers.  But, personally, I think they're overlooking something.  We're not just Espers, we're Palmans, too.  Our people are being used and killed, and I don't think it's right for us to just stand by."

Mutterings rose from the others in the room, in seeming agreement with the young Esper's opinions.

"You would make your own decision on the issue, then?" Laya asked.

"I know I would," Brin said resolutely.  "Me, too,"  was the general thrust of the scattered commentary from the others.   "And I think we've made it."  He looked slowly around the room, and the voices died down as they looked back at him gravely.  He addressed Laya again.  "We would like to offer our assistance to your side in the war.  Others will join us, I am sure.  Many of us are skilled in battle magic.  Others are healers, enhancers, and the like.  But we will not receive the blessings of our elder.  And so we cannot fight with you as Espers."  He slowly removed his robe.  Underneath he wore an outfit much like the Palman warrior's costume, only with a short half cape instead of the full one favored by his distant relatives.  It was a pale blue, like the color of Noah's hair.  "We will take another name, and fight as Layans."

His comrades removed their garments as well, exposing similar attire, though their badges of rank and specialty were quickly affixed to their tunics.

"Renegade Espers?" Laya mused.  She weighed their usefulness against the likelihood of the wrath of the older Espers.  "Your help is valued.  And I will attempt to use your abilities in subtle ways, that the attention of your superiors is not drawn to you."

"We thank you, Laya," the former Esper said solemnly.  He bowed.  "You have found the power you sought.  The power that the technology of Motavia cannot overcome.  May it prove to be Orakio's doom.  Our magic is yours to command."

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