In The Name Of The Mother
City of Landen, Landen Habitat, Planet Motavia
In spite of what he said, he looked like Kale, though
there were some noticeable differences. The difficulty was that Bran
remembered Kale only dimly. Although every Palman in Landen pulled
together to provide food for the city, social occasions, when one could
really get to know another, were rare. Mother Brain had encouraged
isolation, in spite of her city-to-city teleportation system, and Lassic
before her had done the same. You knew your neighbors, and your friends.
But maybe not those who lived across town, even if the town wasn't that
The man called Rulakir looked a lot like the man
called Kale, though. But Bran couldn't shake his memory of the dream...vision...whatever.
Just because you don't know someone, or even if you do know them, it doesn't
mean they aren't an enemy.
"You look like a man I knew," Bran said, determined
not to be embarrassed.
"I was Kale," Rulakir said, his face twisting again
into a scowl. "Now I am Rulakir. I am Orakio's second champion."
Bran remembered Orakio calling Siren his champion,
and referring to brothers. "It's a honor to meet you," he said, confused
and put off by Kale/Rulakir's obvious disdain for him, and trying to put
him at his ease.
Rulakir didn't seem to have any. "I can't
say the same. Do you know how long you have been useless to us?
And how long will you remain bound to your bed even now? You are
not fit to be our leader. Siren may tolerate you because he is incapable
of acting otherwise, but I am still Palm. Why Orakio has made you
the leader I can never understand."
Kara, still pale, turned to Bran. "He always
acts like this. Don't get offended, he treats everyone like they
Rulakir frowned at her, but she didn't look at him.
"I have no time for this nonsense," he said, and walked off, as stiffly
as he had come.
Kara breathed a sigh of relief. "There isn't
much that frightens me. But he does. Worse than anything else,
I think. Lune may be a Layan, but he has at least a drop of honor
in him, and he doesn't seem to hate us, only our views. Rulakir hates
"He mentioned that he was Kale. And you were
starting to say you knew him before. What did you mean by that.
Who is Rulakir?"
"You guessed. Kale. He was wounded in
the fighting at Rysel. He was dying, in fact. I helped supervise
the wounded when we came back. While you caught up on your sleep."
Bran flushed, but Kara shook her head. "I
didn't mean it like that. You fought the battle. I just covered
your retreat. We all have to do our share in this, Bran. Don't
try to do it all yourself. But," she resumed her explanation, "Lord
Orakio took him out of the hospital, and went somewhere. He did something
to Kale, made him better. At least, made his body better. I
asked Lord Orakio about it - Rulakir won't answer any questions, of course,
just sneers at you - and he said that he'd grown new," she swallowed, "parts
for him, and replaced with metal what he couldn't do anything else
She looked uncomfortable, and Bran knew why.
He was a little sickened by the thought himself. In a world where
medicine is simply the acceleration of natural healing, combined with some
herbal remedies and the like, the idea of transplants is a little shocking.
Never mind that Bran and Kara's ancestors, centuries ago in the time of
Mother Brain, had like everyone else made good use of the relatively inexpensive
cloning facilities that were standard fixtures in most towns. This
was something happening today.
"And Kale, excuse me, Rulakir, is unhappy about
Kara shrugged. "Lord Orakio changed his personality
as well, though he wouldn't say exactly how or why, or what he hoped to
get out of it, but I think he went too far. Lord Orakio thinks so too.
Not many people would see that, but I can see it when he talks about him.
I think the process is new or experimental, and something went wrong, or
maybe too well. I can tell that Lord Orakio sees him as a failure
Bran crossed his hands behind his head. He
was feeling much better than he had when he first came to. "Orakio
never seemed to me to be the type to keep mistakes hanging around."
Again a shrug. "I don't question Lord Orakio.
But I know he can't just murder people. There has to be a good reason
for him to act."
Do I fight for you? Bran remembered.
"I wonder who determines 'a good reason.'"
Kara said nothing.
After a few minutes, Bran sighed. "I'd like
to see everybody in here. Our war council, I mean. There are
some things that need to be done."
The adviser laughed. "Not back in the world
of the living two hours, I'd guess, and already you're going to lead us
on another charge."
Bran smiled, too. "No more charges, Kara.
Not for us, anyway. I...learned something from all this." He
looked at the note, left on his corpse by the wife who killed him.
"Something important. I think I understand things a little better
now." She looked at him, seriously, and he continued. "Sometimes
it takes a shock to make you break out of the old way of thinking.
Sometimes death can make you see things a little clearly. The death
of a loved one... The death of a loved one..." He frowned,
suddenly, in concentration. "The death of a loved one. I wonder..."
Kara grinned wryly. "I don't know what you're
talking about. But I'm just the adviser. I'll go get everybody.
Try to relax, okay? You still need rest."
But Bran didn't even hear her. The death of
a loved one. He'd thought they were talking about him, in a sarcastic
sort of way. But what if they weren't? How did that change
the picture? As if it didn't change every five minutes anyway.
But this new speculation only firmed his determination to proceed.
It wasn't too long before they assembled in the
room. Thor was the only one they had to wait on, but a few days later
they were all there. Mieun was already there, of course, a 'red shadow'
Bran hardly noticed, but to which he was eternally grateful. Orakio
and Siren had been elsewhere, but Kara contacted them through Wrens, and
they came in with Rulakir, who had avoided Bran during his convalescence.
And Kara at last brought Thor. He nodded when he saw Bran, but there
was tension in his face. The easygoing attitude was absent.
"You have been restored to health, then," Orakio
said. "Kara told us you were well."
"I don't know about well," Bran said. "But
at least I'm alive. And don't say I told you so, Thor."
The joke was meant to relieve some of the hunter's
tension, but instead it made him angry. "I don't blame anyone but
me for this, Bran. I should have accused her sooner."
"Her note says she wasn't a traitor until we turned
"If you believe the note. But there's very
little I'll believe from now on. You can't trust Layans."
Siren and Rulakir seemed in complete agreement,
each in their own ways.
"Forget about what Cille did. Everybody."
"She tried to kill you!"
"So did you, if you remember."
That, at least, brought back a small smile.
"Well, that was different."
Kara cleared her throat. "Well, what do
Bran lifted the monitor. "Tell me where our
"Alair is in Frigidia, sitting on her throne in
Mystoke," Thor said. "I've just come from there."
"Lune controls Divisia, in Elysium," Kara noted.
"The Sages appear to be based there as well, although thanks to the moons,
Azura and Dahlia, they can strike anywhere they choose."
"I imagine the moons have changed our strategy."
"Actually, not as much as you might think," Thor
said. "They can land anywhere, but we can see them coming, and since
we control Aridia we can get to the trouble spots pretty quickly.
They do damage, but provided we have the right forces, we can stop them."
"Orakio, you mentioned you had some ideas for dealing
with the moons," Bran said. "Can you deal with them?"
"It should be possible," Orakio said, glancing at
Siren, who nodded, "to utilize Mota's systems against it."
"I thought the guns couldn't penetrate their defenses."
"The shields can stop the habitat defense systems,
yes. But the HDS is not our only weapon. I control every aspect
of Mota. Climatrol is the weapon we need."
"The weather? They're too high," Bran protested.
"We can't touch them there."
"Climatrol also contains banks of gravity generators,"
Orakio said. "Your techniques utilize gravity to paralyze opponents.
We can do much the same to the moons, but in a slightly different manner.
We can generate our own gravity field rather than increasing an existing
one. Such a field could push the moons away. Not any great
distance from the planet, I must add, but we can push them to opposite
sides of the planet. Far enough away that they will not trouble these
habitats any longer. Siren and I have been working on that project."
Each robot lifted what appeared to be a glittering gem. "The keys
are prepared, the fields can be produced."
Bran nodded. "Excellent. But let's keep
that in reserve right now." He lifted Cille's note again. "I
assume as many of you as can read this." Nods. "What about
Alec? Where is he right now?"
Orakio shrugged. So did Thor and Kara.
"I don't know if you can trust that," Thor said. "Didn't you say
Alec was dead?"
"I never saw him die. And I've got a feeling
we can't assume he's dead. Cille has no real reason to lie to us.
Especially not with a story like that. It doesn't point us in the
wrong direction. It doesn't point us in any direction. If she
was trying to feed us disinformation she'd have said he was in Terminus
somewhere or something and let us charge off after him. But all she
did was say he was the one behind it all. And I'm inclined to agree.
I've said as much before, that it felt like him."
"He tried to kill you, too," Kara murmured.
"So," Bran said briskly, "We don't know where Alec
is. And we still don't know how that Rysel ambush and the Landen
invasion were pulled. We know they have a base somewhere east of
Rysel. But Draconia's ours."
Thor slapped his head. "I forgot about that.
It's been straight fights since the moons appeared, but the Landen invasion
- from the east, yeah. So what you're saying is..."
"What I'm saying," Bran broke in grimly, "is that
we have a missing man and a missing city. And I'm betting we'll find
them both here." He stabbed his finger at a set of islands in the
eastern part of Aquatica's lake. "East of Rysel."
They nodded. "And what do we do?" asked Siren.
Bran clicked the monitor off. "No."
"I'm willing to bet you're right," Thor said.
"Let's move out. Why not? Can't be worse than sitting here."
"Of course it can," Kara said. "That's always
how they get us. We take our army somewhere and they attack us while
we're gone. We've never won any battles on the offensive."
"That's the trouble," Bran admitted. "I don't
know what we can do. I was kind of hoping one of you would have an
They looked around the room at each other.
"I'll take them all on," Thor said. "I'll distract them by attacking
Lune." They laughed.
"Sorry, Thor," Bran said. "Besides, honestly,
we all know you're tough, but you can't take Lune on with one good arm."
Before it was out of his mouth he regretted saying it. He wasn't
sure Thor had told everyone yet.
"One good arm?" Thor asked, frowning. "What
is that, some kind of insult?"
Now it was Bran's turn to look confused. "Your
arm - you can't use it, can you?"
"Sure I can."
"I thought Lune stabbed you in the shoulder."
"He did. But I got over it. I told you
at the time."
"But you said they wanted you to let it heal slowly...then
you came back from Techna with it in bandages...I just assumed..."
"What can I say?" Thor said. "Be careful what
And then it hit him. The dream, or whatever,
had been one hundred percent right so far. Why not trust it a little
farther. Five of us.
"Five?" Kara asked.
He hadn't realized he'd said it out loud.
"Yes. Five of us. Me and four others. We're going to
go find that base. Not the army. And Orakio can't go.
You'll have to fight the war for us while we're gone. You know best
how to use robot troops, and those are our best right now. Thor's
hunters can assist where they're needed, of course."
"Only five?" Siren asked. "Illogical."
Rulakir simply snorted. His brother continued.
"Taking an army might not be enough. Five alone is foolhardy in the
extreme. You would be going into the enemy's most secret and well-defended
"Be careful what you assume," Bran said. "Secrecy
is defense enough for an enemy that has to spend huge numbers of troops
to fight ours. I'm willing to bet that Alec's base is only lightly
defended, though we'll have to watch for traps besides walls and guards.
Things are beginning to take shape. I think Alec is the one of the
keys to this whole thing. Find him, and we'll go a long way towards
ending this war."
"Yeah, by ending him," Thor said. "Count me
"You know I'm one of the five," Kara said firmly.
"I won't let you risk your life again."
"You will take no step without me by your side,"
said Mieun suddenly. "I cannot allow you to risk your life either.
I have failed once already. It will not happen again."
"That makes four," Orakio said. "If I may
not go, at least take one of my champions with you. They are great
fighters as well as commanders. Though Mieun is the best of her kind,
you may need greater protection."
Bran looked the two champions, Siren and Rulakir
up and down. A Palm person would be nice, but Rulakir didn't really
count any more. There was something horrible about him, more than
just the rude way he acted. He seemed unnatural. Siren's hatred
of Layans was great, and Bran didn't want him to compromise the mission,
but Rulakir was an even greater risk. "I'll take Siren, then," he
The flame-crowned android bowed shortly. "An
"Then let us begin."
West of Landen City, Landen Habitat, Planet Motavia
"So he's not dead," Alec said, tonelessly.
"I can't say I'm sorry," said Cille, a hand to her
hair to keep it from blowing in her face. The town was clearly visible,
and the five setting out were easily identified. "But you know that."
"You dare say such things to me?" Alec's voice was
amused, condescending. "Don't you think that's pretty close to treachery
for a Layan to say something like that?"
"I'll do what you say, and I am a Layan, but nothing
you say can make me hate Bran, or wish him dead or any reason. That's
something you'll have to get used to."
"You're quite the loyal wife for someone whose marriage
has to be the shortest on record," Alec said. "But then again, your
marriage has had many consequences." He turned from his view of the
band of five and looked straight at Cille.
She flushed, and put a hand to her stomach.
"Is it...is it really that obvious already?" she asked, falteringly.
He laughed. It sounded very strange to her,
until she realized it was an actual friendly laugh. She'd never heard
much out of Alec but sarcastic and often apparently bitter remarks during
her time as a Layan. "No, not to most people, I'm sure. But
you have a look to you. My wife looked the same way before..."
Alec broke off, and shaded his eyes with his hands,
looking back towards Landen. Cille brushed her hair back. "You
were married, then?"
"I was, once. She died."
He looked at her. "I am, too."
It was an awkward moment, but she had to say it
before the time passed. She had to know. "If you're thinking
He turned on her then, suddenly and savagely.
"I'll use anybody I have to. And in any way I need to. Do you
understand me?" And he grabbed her wrists, closing in on her.
She didn't struggle, but she turned her head.
"I know that. Don't you think I knew that when I came to you?"
He looked at her for a moment, and she turned her
head and stared back at him. He dropped her hands like they were
burning him. "You disgust me," he said. "Get out of my sight."
She sagged to her knees, as if he had been holding her up.
"We had a deal, Alec," she said. "You guaranteed
the safety of my people in exchange for my service. My service alone.
No one else's."
"The deal holds," he said. He had resumed
his distant tone. "In fact we have a new and very safe place for
them to live now."
"The island north of Shusoran? I know about
it. Quite safe, if you like prisons."
"Now, now. There's a land bridge."
"Don't try to lie to me, Alec," she said.
"I overheard you and Gart talking. There's a spell on that bridge."
"The land bridge is perfectly safe. But it
will only appear to those who have the key. Whether you consider
a prison or a refuge is no business of mine. You'll have your people,
and a new city. Call it New Divisia. They'll be happy."
"I'll call it Cille," she said. "I want them
to remember who did this to them. May those who come after me remember
Again he turned on her angrily. "Don't play
the martyr with me! You have had more chances that anyone else on
this world and you haven't even tried to understand. You still think
this is just some kind of story! Well it's not going to have a happy
ending. Not for you or your former husband."
"What did he do to you to make you hate him so much?"
she asked. "You tried to kill him so many times - what did he ever
"I don't hate him," Alec said. "I'm afraid
of him. It's not what he did - it's what he can do. Bran is
the most dangerous man in Algo. If he doesn't understand, then he's
got to die. And if he does understand, well... We may all die
She stared at him blankly.
"Never mind," he said, sighing. "You had your
chance, as I did, and you failed. It's up to him now. But we
can still do our best. Get up." He reached a hand out to her.
"We have to get back to Shusoran. We have a guest waiting for us.
One we don't want to disappoint."
"Gart?" she guessed. "Or Lune?"
"Gart? No, I wouldn't let him into Shusoran.
I trust him even less now that I know you overheard us talking. He
was supposed to seal off our talks so no one could eavesdrop. He
let you hear that. No, it's not Gart."
"Then who is it?"
"Someone you've never met. But someone you
There was, of course, only one person who really
fit that description. But she couldn't quite bring herself to believe
that it was true.
"Can't you guess?" Alec asked mockingly.