In The Name Of The Mother
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.
"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
"Orakio thinks she does."
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
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
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
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."