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In The Name Of The Mother

Part Two


North of Landen City, Landen Habitat, Planet Motavia

It was a work of beauty, Bran thought, even if it served no real obvious purpose. The walls were natural formations, in a way. They were the handiwork of Mota's most awesome system, the Plate System. Bran shuddered to think of the power of a system that shifted the tectonic plates of the planet itself. Few people remembered such systems existed. For centuries the people of Mota had relied on super technology for everything. Then, without warning, it all came crashing to a halt. If it hadn't been for the Motans, he seriously doubted his people would have survived.

He patted the smooth wall. Really impressive. It was slick, and superhard. Nobody would be climbing these until technology progressed a lot farther. The only question was, why had this been done? Hadn't the Palm people suffered enough? Bran pulled his white cloak around him, and turned away. Back to Landen City.

City. That was a good one. He'd grown up on tales of cities like Paseo. They could call Landen a city if they wanted to, but it was just a matter of degree. Landen wasn't a patch on the former cities. Not that anybody cared. Look what good big, fancy cities did us, they said. People like Alec. He couldn't stand talking to Alec and his bunch, but of course he'd have to today, because a delegation had come through the tunnel from Rysel, and Alec would say something reactionary to them, and it would infuriate Bran into speaking out. It was amazing Alec even talked to people who used the tunnels, as anti- technology as he was. The thought of being surrounded by metal and alien machinery probably gave him the willies.

Being on Landen's council had seemed like such a good idea, until he found out it didn't mean a thing. The city ran itself, and the council didn't even care enough to make it look otherwise. The few ideas Bran had proposed hadn't even been laughed at, they'd simply been ignored. His bills had never come before the council. Nothing ever did. The only real function they had was to serve as a body for delegations from other cities beyond the walls to talk to.

Bran wondered what this group wanted. Rysel was fairly enlightened, he thought. A port town, wasn't it? He'd find out, soon enough. Home was just over the next hill, nestled against a small range of mountains. He wasn't looking forward to this at all. But it was better than just being another dumb citizen of the wrong planet.

Biosystems Control, Planet Dezolis

"I cannot fathom the reason for that order," said Laya again. "Have either of you?"

Two people knelt before Laya, who stood up against a bank of consoles. They looked very similar to Palmans, with one small exception. Rather attractive luminous, almost glowing green hair, shoulder-length on both, despite the fact that was male and one was female. It wasn't dye. In fact the hair was impervious to dye. It was the hallmark of Dezolis Biosystems. A Palmanlike genetic construct could not be designed without the vivid green hair, to distinguish it from a real Palman. The reason? A construct could not command a systems operator, but a real representative of one of the three races could, if it had the proper codes. Motavian Biosystems, Laya knew, was programmed to give its constructs pointed ears. She liked the hair restriction better.

The subject of debate between Laya and her two construct assistants, was, of course, the order for Orakio to construct the habitats. It seemed so pointless. The habitats were all connected, except for the one reserved for native Motavians. The barriers were basically just an inconvenience. They seemed to serve no logical purpose.

Lune, the male, spoke without raising his head. "I am sorry, Mistress Laya. It is incomprehensible to both of us. Yet Orakio's point was well made. If it is an order from Mother Brain, he cannot help but follow it, whether it makes sense to him or not."

"Mother Brain is dead," said Alair, Lune's "sister." "Orakio assumes it was from her even though it defies the evidence. The deterioration of the systems, the lack of central management, everything. If Mother Brain were back, she would make her presence more obvious."

"I agree." said Laya, decisively. "So how are we to persuade Orakio?"

"If logic won't sway him, perhaps we can reach him through his people?" Lune suggested.

"How so?"

"If the people are reacting badly to the habitats, it's proof, isn't it? Mother Brain works for the good of the people, doesn't it?"

"She's...supposed to."

"Orakio thinks she does."

"True."

Alair spoke up again. "We could go to Motavia. We could see what the feelings of the people are, maybe form a delegation to talk to Orakio."

Laya remained silent for a few moments. "It seems a sound plan. I will have some worker biologicals constructed. We will bring up the spaceport machinery from the old town of Skure."

Alair looked worried. "That was the spaceport, from centuries ago when the Palmans tried to colonize Dezolis?"

"That's correct. I think I understand what your problem is."

  Palmans had tried to colonize Dezolis. Dezolis was a miserable planet to anyone but a Dezolisian, but it possessed one thing that made the attempt at colonization worthwhile. Laconia. Dezolis had rich deposits of Laconia all over it. It was the most precious of all metals in the Algol system, and was prized all the more highly because it had, according to the superstitious Palmans, sacred power. The self- proclaimed Emperor of Algol, the tyrant Lassic who had been deposed millennia ago by a courageous woman named Alis Landale and her companions, forbade contact with Dezolis because he feared the sacred power of Laconia. But with him gone, Palmans headed for the icy world to make their fortune.

The spaceport of Skure was the nexus of a network of Laconia mines that spread out beneath the planet. In time, people made their homes right in the mines, a much nicer alternative to building on the frozen surface. Even the Dezolisians themselves preferred underground. The mines were a wonderful place, a warm sanctuary that provided truckloads of money for its residents. When a colony of musk cats were discovered living in the caves, the settlers adopted them. Everything seemed perfect until one day an accident caused a gas leak. Poisonous gas spread to all the tunnels of the mine, and every Palman in Skure dropped in his or her tracks. Not right away. A valiant effort was made to stop the spread of the gas, but in the end it did no good. Skure became a frightening ghost town, filled with relics of a former glory, a multitude of corpses, and a colony of musk cats, who mourned their fallen friends.

The gas thinned over time, but prolonged exposure to it could cause serious damage to a Palman. It was little wonder that Lune and Alair were a little wary of spending much time over there. But Laya had thought of that years ago.

"You two are immune to the poison gas, unlike true Palmans. You could launch from Skure, but it would be better to build a new spaceport in a safer location. More efficient that way."

Lune and Alair nodded.

"We will rebuild the spaceport, and then you two will proceed to Motavia. See what the people think of the new order, and see what Orakio has to say about that. I would send you some biologicals as bodyguards, but the people might react badly to them. However you are both well trained in the arts of war. There shouldn't be any trouble."

Town of Divisia, Elysium Habitat, Planet Motavia

If anyone led a more cursed life than she did, Cille would probably still offer to swap. Princess of a city-state, indeed. What exactly was she supposed to do for Divisia? They had everything they needed. There was trade through the tunnel. There wasn't any crime, things were tough enough as they were. Short of knocking down the stone walls that surrounded her people, this was about as good as their life was going to get.

If she had been a brilliant inventor, she could have come up with something to ease their lives. If she had been a farmer, maybe she could have come up with some way to increase their crop yields and they could trade more food for more luxuries. If she was a diplomat, she could have formed an alliance with another city, pooled resources and learning. But she wasn't any of those things, she was just a young woman, all right, girl, ruling her people for all the good it did them.

She felt so helpless. People were so nice to her. And she never did anything. Of course, she thought that might have something to do with it. The planet had probably had enough of rulers who did things. Still, it just seemed so stupid. She should be earning her keep somehow.

Looking out the windows and watching the people always seemed to spark these kind of thoughts in her. Cille got up, drew the heavy fiber curtain across the window, and turned back to her room. Picking up a sheaf of papers from the desk, she leafed through "reports" from her advisors, which were little more than notes on how things were going, which was fine.

She shouldn't be unhappy. After all, if everything was fine, that was good, wasn't it? What did she want, a war?

Nurvus Central Systems Command, Planet Motavia

"The Palmans are adapting just fine to the habitats." said Orakio. There was almost a note of pride in his voice. The Wrens stood by impassively. They had begun to expect their lord and master to speak out loud now. Ever since the Dezolisian communication Orakio had been much more of an active participant in the running of Motavia.

"Almost every one is a perfect tropical ecosystem. Much like Palma itself was. Although the mountains and the habitat walls are clearly Motavian rock. Still, they won't notice. Aridia's desert and Frigidia is ice, it's true, but harsher climates should create some interesting changes in the Palmans. Mostly Frigidia. Palmans are used to deserts now, but perpetual ice should be a novelty."

He paused. "Mother Brain's order was a good one." The Wrens didn't blink. Orakio could command them to agree with them, but that proved little. The Wrens were independent units, but they had been made in a time when their creator wasn't looking for inspired conversation.

"Trade through the tunnels. That's good as well. I was unsure whether or not the Palmans would venture through the tunnels. They are perfectly safe, but Palmans can be quite superstitious. Almost as bad as Dezolisians." No reaction from the Wrens.

Fine. "Have you been monitoring Dezolis's communication network?" he snapped at a Wren.

"Of course, sir." said the robot. "Although it is extremely difficult given the poor condition of the network there. Also Nurvus is not set up to monitor other planets. Still I did the best I could."

"And the result?"

"There have been instructions issued that appear to be irrelevant to the functioning of Biosystems, as you anticipated. Activities involving the transportation of machinery and biologics to and from Skure. The details were unavailable. The information may even be inaccurate, given the garbled transmissions."

"Nothing lives in Skure with the exception of a handful of musk cats." Orakio said.

"Correct." dared a Wren.

"Laya has no construction equipment or engineers. What can this signify? The only reason to move spaceport equipment without modifying it is to build a spaceport. Yet Mother Brain has expressly forbidden space travel. She would not dare to go against a direct command of Mother Brain."

Another Wren spoke up. "Does the command apply to artificial life forms?"

Orakio looked up the appropriate file: Order ALGO 3427-98, a system-wide order. The Wren had been right to question. The order was directed at Palmans. Mother Brain had never seen fit to exclude anything else. Most likely, of course, because Motavians had no interest in space travel, Dezolisians probably considered it sacrilegious, and artificial creations lived their lives around Mother Brain.

Still, it didn't matter. Laya could travel between the worlds if she wanted to. And Orakio didn't think she was interested in the asteroid belt that was all that was left of Planet Palma.

"Keep me updated," he said to a Wren. Then he looked back towards the exit from the command room. Looked back at the rows and rows of Mieus, waiting silently for an enemy to fight. "I believe it's time to meet my people personally."

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