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In The Name Of The Mother

Part Thirty

City of Landen, Landen Habitat, Planet Motavia

  All thoughts of his fight with Orakio fled his mind. Everywhere he looked, Bran saw monster fighting robot, fanatic battling soldier and hunter. Lune and Alair's army had to be the bulk of the Layan forces. If it isn't, we're doomed. As always, only the skill of the Orakians kept them from being overwhelmed. The Layans fought blindly. But somewhere out there, Bran knew, there were two who would not. Two supreme warriors who would soon rein their vicious troops in and take charge. This was just to shake the Orakians up and weaken them.

How had it come to this? Someone had started it. Someone who knew Mother Brain's codes and had deliberately sent nonsensical orders to provoke a war that would destroy a world. And if it was going to end, Lune and Alair were going to have to die. He was very tired of killing. And now that he knew everyone had been manipulated, he could no longer hate Lune as he had. It felt ridiculous, like Siren and Rulakir's preprogrammed hate. Without a reason, it was more devastating to the hater than the hated. And he had never wanted to hurt Alair. She had never done anything to him except to attack him in the middle of another battle. He remembered their faces, almost twins with their long emerald hair, but Lune's wide face contrasted with Alair's small one. They were just two people following their orders as he had followed his, believing firmly that they were on the right side. But as Alec had said, the time for talk was long gone.

It was too late to sit down and try to convince the Layans that they had been set up. He would never be believed now. He hadn't even been able to convince Orakio, anyway. He wondered what the big robot was doing. Bran hoped he'd been able to find another weapon to replace his shattered black sword. They needed every fighter they could get. Somewhere out there, too, Thor and Kara were fighting for their lives. He'd never told her that he loved her. She could be dead now. And Cille would be there. Are you feeling the agony I feel? Do you care that you have to fight your old friends? How far will you go for your people? He couldn't blame her. Look how far he had gone for his people. Look how far Orakio and Laya had gone for their people.

This was not his planet.

He bowed his head, tears filling his eyes. Did any Palm person ever run his own life? Was everybody just a slave of others' decisions? At the very least they were slaves to the super technology that had ruled their lives since the beginning of Algo history. This is not your planet. Better that they had all died with Palm.

His head snapped up as he heard a hoarse scream.  From the seething mass of fighting before him a robed man staggered towards him.  An elderly man, bleeding from several cuts.  He collapsed on the dirt in front of Bran.  I know this face, he thought.  Corm.  The Layan archpriest who had come to the parley that had become a blood duel.  The only ones who ever die are Palm people.  Well, it was time to change that.  His sword was already out.  No time like the present to find Lune.

He stalked through the two sides as if no world-shattering war could touch him.  He strode through the ranks, striking out when anyone came near him, scanning the crowds for a flash of deepest green.  But it was blue that attracted his attention.  The searing blue bolts from Alair's unique weapon.  It suddenly reminded him of the last fight he'd had with Alair.  Or, more accurately, the last fight Mieun had had with Alair.  He looked around, but his red shadow was nowhere to be seen.  Had Orakio stripped him of his protector as payback for his humiliation?  Or had his last command to stay put remained in effect?

Well, that didn't matter either.  Better that he should fight these two on his own.  Dimly, he was aware that his "plan" was ludicrous.  He had no hope of beating even one of these perfect warriors.  But he could think of no better plan.  His only thought was to finish what Alec had started.  Death.

The sea surged around him.  He saw her now, wearing the same black dress she had before and again using her gun like a short club when attackers came near.  He screamed something and lunged at her.  Coolly, she blocked his wild swing and kicked him in the stomach.  He staggered back, coughing, and stumbled against a smooth metal surface.  He looked up and back to see Siren.

"She's mine!" Bran screamed at him.  "Go away!"

"The risk is unnecessary.  I will deal with Alair."

Blue sizzled overhead and smashed into an brilliant white circle that suddenly manifested before Siren.  Some sort of shield, Bran guessed, then realized with a sick feeling that Siren was probably draining his energy to protect himself.  Again the robots fed off the Palm people.  "Stop it!" he yelled again.

Siren grabbed him and effortlessly tossed him aside, closed in with Alair.  He could not use his long rifle at all in such a battle, but his metal skin made him difficult to damage in addition to lending a frightening strength to his fists.  Bran, momentarily out of breath, found himself amazed at the reversal of the usual.  Siren fought with implacable strength, but Alair's skill kept him at bay.

She was like a tornado, whirling from position to position so Siren could not bring his strength fully to bear.  And though many of her blows connected, the android was unfaltering.  But Alair dropped to the ground and scythed her legs out to trip the Orakian champion.  Bran shook his head.  He'd seen that before.  Siren didn't have Mieun's speed.  He was a long-range fighter, like any other Wren.  And he knew Siren wouldn't be able to avoid the follow-up - no, wait a minute.  Alair stamped her booted foot downward at his face but instead of rolling out of the way Siren simply raised his arm and caught her leg.  He heaved her backwards and rose to his feet.  Well, Bran had seen something similar to that, too.  But Alair was surprised this time and didn't react with her customary grace.  She landed flat on her back.

It was the opening Siren needed.  In one fluid movement he reached over his shoulder, retrieved his Shot and lowered it until it pointed directly at Alair.  She was struggling to rise.  Bran knew she'd never make it.  She was off balance and SIren's blast would rip through her body and one half of the threat would be gone.

And Bran acted.  He couldn't say just what it was.  Was it the thought he 'd had before, that Alair was possibly the most innocent one in the whole mess?  Was it even earlier thoughts, that if one of the siblings died the other would be unstoppable in their rage?  Or was it something else?  Whatever it was, he moved.  He struck at Siren's Shot, not wanting either to injure his comrade.  The SHot was made of laconia, too, and resisted the blow, but it was jolted off line.  The burst of fire hit the ground near Alair.

Siren's reaction was instinctive.  His fist lashed out and knocked Bran, the interference down.  But it was time enough for Alair to spring at him.  His hands full of Shot, he was unable to fend off her sudden wild attack, and he went down. Alair straddled him and grabbed the rifle out of his hands...and threw it into the crowd.

Then she went over to Bran and knelt down by him.

"Are you all right?"

He swallowed.  His side was pounding pain all through the rest of his body.


And Alair's eyes widened and she pitched forward, full length on the ground.  Siren rose above her, his fist poised for another blow, just in case.

"Your strategy was peculiar," Siren said, "But successful."

"No," Bran whispered.  "You shouldn't have done that."

He heard another scream.  Alair's name.  Screamed out by her brother.  Were the two so close they could feel each other's pain?  Apparently.

He backed off, ran through the crowds.  Everything he did was wrong.  Even trying to save lives he just made things worse.  He knew Lune would be looking for him.  He could almost hear the hum of the slasher.   But there was something in the air.  When he heard it all hope left him entirely.  It was the alarm cry.  The Sages had arrived.

He slowed to a walk.  Essentially, it was all over.  With the Sages here, the spell would be cast.  The slim hope of the Orakians had been that they would defeat Lune and Alair's army before the Sages could get there with the reinforcements.  But the army had been too big and teleporting had shortened the Sages' journey.  What did it matter where he died?  One place was as good as another.

He couldn't see the fighting anymore.  It all ran together.

When Thor heard the scream he too knew what it meant.  "Finally!" he muttered, and finished off the two monsters who had him pinned down.  Then he looked for the source of the sound.

He didn't have to look far.  In the middle of the melee there was a widening circle of people united in their attempt to escape.  Lune had seemingly gone berserk.  He was swinging his slasher, not throwing it, but with such crazed force it sang its deadly song anyway.   Thor pushed his way past the escapees to confront the man who had beaten him once before.

"Looking for somebody to fight?"

"You!" Lune hissed.  "I should have known!"

Thor fired a burst from his own Shot, and drew his knife.  Not for the first time he regretted never learning to handle a sword and never learning how to do techniques.  But he'd never lost a fight yet, even if it had been close last time.

Lune didn't dodge but caught the pulses on his slasher, held horizontally in front of him.  The weapon glowed and Thor shuddered.  He hadn't known it could block shots like that, but even if it could it must surely be too hot now to handle.  But Lune advanced on.  Thor hefted his shot and held it like a club, knife in his other hand held low.

Kara was looking for Gart.  Unaware that Alec had beaten her to him, she, like Thor, was looking for revenge.  Like Bran, she fled from Lune's undiscriminating slaughter, but she didn't know what had made him so crazy.  But when she heard the call for the Sages she knew where she'd find Gart.

Bran found himself on the edge of the battle.  Blue was beginning to cover his perception of the fight as the Sages advanced into the fray.  And then he was shaken violently and spun around.  He blinked rapidly, and looked into Alec's face.  Alec pushed him back and thrust his sword out at him.

Alec!  The sight of him went through him like thunder.  He swung his sword down and trapped the blade on the ground.

"Alec!" he said.  "Stop it!"

"You wouldn't listen!" Alec yelled.  "You never listened to a word I said!  You never understood!"

"No.  I told you I figured out what you were doing.  And I know why.  You were trying to help."

"Yes!  No thanks to you!"

"You were trying to turn them against each other, so they could destroy each other.  And you were trying to keep Palm people out of it."

Alec sagged.  "That's right."

"How did it happen?"

"I knew they'd returned to rule us.  I tried to tell you that when Orakio sent his flunky.  But you wouldn't listen.  So I left with my people and founded a new city.  We were going to oppose him.  But then I heard about Laya.  And they actually came to me asking for help.  They didn't know anything about us - they needed advice.  So I agreed.  I made their strategy for them.  I set it up so people would see them for who they are.  So you would see it.  If words wouldn't convince you, maybe acts would."

"Why me?"

Alec smiled sadly.  "I'm sure you know that.  You're the chosen one, Bran.  Everything and everybody in this whole situation has centered around you.  I know my history as well as you do.  But you didn't learn from it.  You refused to take a stand.  You just blindly followed every order he gave you.  You had the power to change all that.  You could have led the people against Orakio and Laya.  You could have freed our world."

"It's not our world."

Alec shook his head.  "That's what everybody says.  But it's the first time I've heard it from you.  You see what they've done to you?  Like I said, it's too late.  You can't stop it now.  I tried to.  But I don't have the power.  And you wouldn't hear me out."

"I never heard anything anybody said.  I knew something was strange about the Mother from the very beginning, but I believed him."

"It's not entirely your fault.  Palm people have always trusted androids, even while they were serving them."

"No, it is my fault.  There were clues everywhere.  I always thought you were an archconservative.  But you weren't.  Your daughter's name has five letters in it.  You didn't want to return to simpler times, you wanted to rid Mota of the last of the old super technology so we could create our own.  And your daughter's death didn't have anything to do with it."

"It did.  It got me to thinking about how few of us understand even the technology that we can use.  It leads to all kinds of problems.  If you understood more about robots you would have understood that they can be completely logical and completely wrong."

"But I always thought you were just angry with the world because of the accident."

"I was angry for a while.  Especially since my wife had died, too.  But I found peace in helping to create a new world."


"Well, it's just a name," Alec said, clearing his throat.  "I'm open to other suggestions."

"And Cille was your spy."

Alec laughed.  "Testing me?  I'm also sure you know that's not true.  There were many spies, none of them Cille.  You assumed all my people had left with me but it was easy enough to tell a few to remain behind and keep me updated on what you were doing.  You never made a secret of your plans."  He paused.  "But it was my idea to have Cille try to kill you.  Again I thought it would buy some time, convince the Layans I was on their side, and maybe help you to understand things.  To understand what Laya is capable of.  What these robots do to people.  I knew she wouldn't succeed.  She loves you too much.  She won't admit it.  She never will.  She hates herself for what she did, so she pretends you don't matter to her.  But you do.  You should know that she's safe.  She and all her people.  They have a new town now, and they're not involved in this battle."

"That is good to know.  I never thought she was really a traitor.  And I'm happy that she's safe.  But I'll never see her again."

"I killed Gart.  I was trying to buy some more time.  I still had hopes.  But he wasn't the leader of the Sages, just a deputy.  Their real leader came down from the moons.  Which, by the way, I see you managed to get rid of.  But anyway, with Brin here, the spell will be cast soon.  There's nothing any of us can do.  But I won't kill you, Bran.  Let them do it."

A faint hope dawned.  "What if we got to this Brin first?"

" might delay things."

"Then let's do it!  Together!"

"An alliance between Orakian and Layan?"

"No.  Between two Palm people."

"When you put it like that..." Alec said, "Agreed."

They dropped their swords and clasped hands, both smiling.  In the hearts perhaps they knew it was futile.  But the understanding had at last come, even if far too late.

"So you were a traitor after all," a strident voice said.

Alec and Bran looked around.  They both knew that voice.  Lune.

He had carved a bloody path through the crowd to get to them.  Orakian and Layan dead littered the ground.  His chest was heaving and his breath came in short gasps from his exertions.  His slasher and his outfit were spattered with the gruesome results of his work.

"Your god won't help you now!" Lune shrieked and swung his slasher.

Alec had no weapon.  And no chance.

The slasher passed cleanly through his body.  A look of utter surprise crossed his face.  He staggered back as Lune ripped his weapon free. "Too late," he said, and sank to his knees.  "Sorry.  Have to..."

"Alec!" Bran said, horrified.  "No!"  He grabbed the falling man.  Alec struggled to say something.  "One thing," Bran aid urgently.  "The codes.  The codes you used to send your orders.  Tell them to me.  We can still stop things."


"Find your codes together!"  Lune yelled again and slashed at Bran.

He jumped back.  Alec fell, stiffly.

He was safe for the moment, but Lune was taking him farther away from his sword.  Bran wondered if he had the guts to block a swing with his arm.  No, it was sharper than anything he'd ever seen before.  It would probably take his arm off.

"Need a hand?"


The advisor slid in front of him.  "I was looking for Gart," she explained.  "But I never liked Lune much anyway."

"Out of the way!"  Lune said.

Bran noticed he wasn't quite so wild as he had been a few moments ago.

"Not a chance, Lune," Kara said, and raised her sword.

"No!" Lune yelled.  "Not her!"

It happened so fast, and yet it happened so slowly.  Lune lunged forward as Kara slashed across.  Her blade never reached its target.  She was, in the end, as Palm as any other, unable to compete with the warriors from another world.  Mieun would have dodged it.  Siren wouldn't have felt it.  Perhaps Thor would have anticipated it.  But Kara was not a soldier, just a woman who had spoken up for what she believed in.  And as such, it was the bravest sacrifice at all.

Bran saw Lune's face, saw the horror and cruelty on it.  But Kara's back was to him.  He couldn't see what expression crossed her face as the slasher bit into her flesh.  He could only see a sudden arc of blood as it tore free, and her fall.

The wound was high and probably not fatal.  But it was enough, with the strains of the past few days, to send her into shock and unconsciousness, and there was little chance of a healer magically appearing.  She was fading, she was falling.  Time stretched into infinity as he watched her, helplessly, chestnut hair flowing out behind her as if to cushion her in her final resting place.

And then she hit the ground, and her cloak settled around her, and time returned to normal.  Two men stared at each other across her fallen body, each incredulous at what had just happened.

And something in Bran snapped.

He threw back his head and let loose his own scream of anger and fear and despair and frustration and a host of other emotions.  And he reached for the power to stop it all.

And that power responded.

Light burst forth all over his body and surged outward in waves, raced across the battlefield.  Where it touched the fighters they reeled, stunned, their minds blasted by the power that Bran had summoned, the power his emotions had granted him.

Two in particular.


And a righteous anger.

The Espers called it Megid.  The ultimate magic.  The power that comes when there is no other alternative, when love and rage fills someone to the breaking point, but they refuse to break.  In the instant that Kara fell unconscious to the ground, Bran made a decision.

As of this moment, it is our planet.

There will be no more killing.

Megid smashed its way through the ranks, bringing the battle to a sudden and spectacular end.  It did not affect Bran.  It did not affect Lune, who stood in another world of his own.  And it had not yet reached the Sages.

And before it could, they finished.  With a last gesture, Brin and the Sages concluded the overspell they had promised Laya.  The one that would rid Laya of her foes for all time.  Not even Megid could stop that now.

Dark clouds gathered above Landen.  Stupefied as they were by power, all the people, robots and monsters raised their heads, knowing that another power was at work.  Bran's Megid faltered, its greater purpose accomplished, its lesser now a moot one.  He too lifted his head.

On Motavia, Orakio controls the weather with his CLimatrol.  He regulates the rain and the storms and sees to it that each habitat gets the proper amount of rain for the proper duration at the proper time.  The Palmans could have set their clocks by his weather if they'd had clocks.  An unscheduled storm was far more ominous than it would be to others.

The Sage spell engaged, the force of death itself spreading its wings across the sky and seeking its targets.

And violet flame burned around Lune, and he screamed, dropping his slasher, clutching his head and falling to his knees.

The gray sky darkened to black, and stars twinkled as if the sun had been blasted to cinders by Sage power.  But Bran knew this was not the night sky.  He had seen this once before.

He saw it again.  The violet fire blazed higher and then vanished, and a great shape took form in the sky.  A monstrous form out of nightmares and dark legends.  Huge jaws full of curving, flashing white fangs.  Scarlet eyes that burned like fire and made the blood run cold.  Purple skin so deep it was like an afterimage, like a great light had shone and had then suddenly been extinguished forever.  Great clawed hands that could rip a habitat to pieces.  It roared and the ground shook, and when it spoke it was in an insane chorus of thousands of voices.

"Your spells are useless cantrips.  Your wars are the playing of children in the streets.  Your loves are mere amusements."  It roared laughter across the heavens.  "Kill yourselves for my pleasure.  Your master commands it."

No one could answer the beast.  It laughed again and again with its mixture of voices.

Bran looked down at Kara.  He knelt down beside her and lifted her head, brushing loose strands of hair away from her face.  And he looked up at the monstrous figure.  "You are no longer our master.  I know you.  You are the Dark Force.  The cause of all our problems."

"I?"  The voice rang out.  "I only wanted to build a wall.  The rest you did yourselves!"

"It's true," Bran said.  "But we're not going to hide from the truth any more.  We're through with masters.  No matter how well-meaning.  We're going to make our own world now.  Mota is our world."

"Very well.  But you see, I do not need you to serve me.  I have servants far more powerful than you.  And they will never desert me.  They cannot.  And in a very short time, they will destroy your planet.  Enjoy your ownership of it while you may.  Orakio!"

Bran looked across the field and saw the slow-moving shape of the systems controller.

"I am Orakio," he said calmly.

The figure reached out with a purple claw.  It seemed to pass right through Orakio.  The robot stiffened.  "Codes accepted," he said calmly.  "What are your orders, Mother?"

"Engage the separation systems," Dark Force said.

"As you command."  Orakio bowed.

"I leave you now.  Know that my servant will now rip this planet to pieces for my pleasure.  I want you to realize how little life you have left.  How futile your struggles have been.  Your terror will be brief but enjoyable."

The hideous image melted and ran like purple wax and streaked across the sky to the southwest.

ORakio walked through the paralyzed people to reach Bran.

"What have you done?" the king of Landen whispered.

"Each habitat is utterly self-contained," the android explained.  "I have been ordered to engage the Engine Systems in each system that will free them from the crust of Mota and send them as separate units into space."

In his mind's eye Bran saw the terrible sight of the lands breaking away form the planet, of Mota tearing itself apart.  Of a yellow orb smashing into a thousand pieces.

"You'll destroy everything."

"So it would seem."

Before he succumbed entirely to his weariness and his despair he had the presence of mind to call for healers.