In The Name Of The Mother
Central Layan Temple, Landen Habitat, Planet Motavia
The temple was slightly more complicated than others.
Probably, Orakio decided, that was why Dark Force had chosen it as its
hiding place. Built to throw off inquisitive Orakians who might wonder
if there was a secret purpose to the Layan temples, its passages curved
around and around. Siren and Mieun could see the hand of Shusoran's
creator in its architecture.
The hand of its current resident was also apparent.
There was a darkness in the corridors that not even the cold, brilliant
illumination the androids generated managed to light up. The border
between their light and the shadows was sharp and absolute - beyond a certain
point light could not go. Orakio could barely see his freshly painted
With normal vision, that is. What would have
been terrifying to a Palman was of no consequence to the emotionless beings
who did not rely on a mere five senses to operate. And the one member
of the party who was vulnerable to fear drew strength from their calm confidence.
And before they knew it the passage opened out into
a larger room, with a small imitation of a Layan altar. Before that
altar loomed the deep purple form of Dark Force, its eyes closed as if
it were practicing some kind of twisted meditation. Lune could feel
the malevolence radiating from the entity. It reminded him that this
creature had been inside his head with him. As he looked at it he
felt the rage building up inside him until he shook with suppressed emotion.
But he also remembered that his rage had been the demon's weapon.
Dark Force's eyes began to open, showing slits of
fiery red. When it saw the tiny force assembled, it began to laugh.
It started as a deep cavernous laugh that shook the walls. Then it
fractured into the bizarre mixture of voices that it had used over the
battlefield. "Five of you," it rumbled. "And each one wrong.
A better ending than I could have hoped for."
"We are here to see to your end," Orakio said calmly.
"You have been the five best servants I have ever
had," Dark Force said, an evil smile crossing its massive features.
"You will not kill me. Not one of you possesses even a fraction of
the power needed to destroy me. And with a simple command I could
set you all to fighting each other." A low chuckle echoed through
the room. "Only the living creatures of the worlds of Algol can harm
me. You robots have been mine from the beginning. Tainted offspring
of a tainted mother."
"Perhaps we bear your taint," Orakio said.
"Nevertheless we oppose you."
"You oppose me?" The demon seemed
to swell, growing bigger and bigger. "You were created as Mother
Brain was created to serve the dark."
"So Rolf's story was right. It was Dark Force
that controlled the alien voyagers, the Earthmen. It made them build
the Mother so she could serve the people and by so doing make them serve
"You protect them so that they will lose their capacity
to protect themselves. So that the masters become the slaves."
"That may be your plan. But that is not what
our orders say. Our orders are to protect them. To shelter
them from the dangers of their world. And you are the greatest danger.
And so are we."
The monster scowled.
"Every mother must let her children grow up and
make their own decisions, right or wrong. This war has taught me
that my protection has done them more harm than good."
"And it has taught me things as well," Laya said.
"That we must make sacrifices if we hope to fulfill our functions."
"It has taught me that people are worth protecting.
Even without our orders," Mieun said, looking at Orakio. Then she
looked at Siren and added, "And regardless of our personalities."
Siren nodded. "I am beginning to see that
there is a reason to put aside differences. Orakians and Layans are
really the same, after all. We were charged to protect them all,
even if they disagree with us."
And Lune stepped forward. "When I first came
to Motavia I thought the Palmans were the inferior ones. But I was
created to serve them, too. That's always been my mission.
I just got distracted for a while. The truth is I don't have any
right to lead them."
"None of us do," Orakio concluded. "And that
is why no Palman came with us. Not because they are weak, but because
this is our responsibility. Their lives are too precious to risk
fighting you, and ours are worth nothing if we cannot correct our own mistakes."
Dark Force roared. "So you have all learned
your lessons," it said over the echoes, "But the truth is that your sacrifices
cannot save them. I have given the orders already..." It trailed
off. "Why have they not been obeyed?" It closed its eyes again,
as if communing with some unseen force. "Ah. I see. Very
clever. But easily corrected. As I said, you have been the
best servants I could hope for. And now you must fulfill your true
function. One third of the great seal is gone. Finish the job!
Destroy Motavia as your mother destroyed Palma!" It reached out a
clawed hand for Orakio.
"Enough talk," Laya said, and fired a bolt from
her bow. The energy sizzled through the air and splashed against
the creature's hide. It roared in a sudden pain and a massive claw
came up to cover the wound.
"Indeed. I surmised as much," Orakio said.
"It is their power you fear. The power of their very lives
that they shape and mold to change their worlds. That is why you
must work through others. And that is why your words and your appearance
seek to inspire fear on the most primitive level. Life itself
is your weakness."
"And that is why none of you can harm me!"
the creature said. "This is impossible!"
"Not impossible," Orakio said. "Not at all."
He knew what was happening. It was nothing logic could have predicted.
But what was it Bran had said? Sometimes the unlikely happens.
Bran had taught him that statistics didn't always produce the right answer.
And the Palmans and Sages and Dark Force itself had shown him another way
of looking at the world, other forces besides himself that were active
All across two worlds, the Palmans were waiting
for Orakio and Laya to save them from the demon that threatened them all.
The Espers in their mansion knew their protector
would save them. The Orakians cheered for their invincible lord.
The fanatic Layans prayed to their god. The Mystoke people had faith
in their honorary queen's brother. And Alair herself knew the five
would triumph. Cille had never felt anything for either side, but
for her people's sake she hoped they would win, too.
And Bran and Kara held each other close as their
planet's time ran down, two people who had made their own destiny in the
face of a devastating war. Kara had never wavered in her loyalty
to Orakio. Though Bran had definitely come to see the androids in
a new light, one thing he knew was that they never relented in the pursuit
of their goals. Somehow, they both knew, they would overcome the
terrible shadow that had lain over them since the beginning, and save the
A sword, a bow, a slasher, a shot, and a claw.
And the faith of the Palmans in their protectors.
"We bear with us the good wishes of every Palman
in the Algol system," Orakio said. "Orakian and Layan both are joined
in us. We represent the people. Possibly for the first time
in our existence. Their power flows through us in this battle.
We cannot harm you. But they can."
Dark Force swelled again, growing in immensity until
it seemed as though he must break out of the temple. But Orakio was
right. The five's weapons began to glow, a soft silvery-blue light
coming even from Orakio's black blade. As one, they struck at the
It thrashed, cracking the stone walls and gouging
chunks from the pillars as it flailed its powerful limbs. The mighty
claws lashed out at them, knocking some back. But each time they
were knocked back they picked themselves back up.
The androids opened up with other weapons, but none
were as effective as the ones they held, imbued with the power of the Palmans'
faith. The power the Espers called "Nei." The power of hope
and faith and love and rage and a thousand other emotions bound up with
a dedication to saving life. The power that comes when the line is
finally drawn beyond which none shall cross.
But they could not penetrate its defenses completely.
The wounds they made did not show as they should. Sometimes they
struck out and their weapons passed through it without harm. And
it had other weapons besides its brute strength. As its violence
grew the building itself seemed to respond, the solid stone floor rippling
with dark power. The five found their balance thrown off by the shaking
temple, and when they faltered the claws were there. Dark Force's
eyes flashed and brilliant lances of crimson power stabbed out, strong
enough to smash holes in the floor and walls.
Orakio held up his sword. "Our function will
be fulfilled," he said, and walked calmly across the seething stone.
Lune cried out. "No, don't!" but Laya grabbed
his tunic and held him fast.
"He knows what he is doing," she said.
And it seemed that he did. For the tables
were turning. Now Dark Force's weapons could not reach Orakio.
They passed through him as if he had somehow gone beyond mere physicality.
And as he advanced the glow from his weapon spread over him. His
form had caught fire. And Dark Force was abandoning its attack, flinching
back from the light.
"For the Layans!" Lune shouted, and threw his slasher.
Laya raised her bow and fired bolt after bolt.
"For the Orakians!" Siren said, blasting with his
shot, giving Mieun an opportunity to dart in and slash at Dark Force's
"For all the Palmans," Orakio said. "And for
the Motavians and Dezolisians as well. For all life on Algol."
He raised his sword, and thrust it entirely through the demon's body.
It reeled back and the sword blazed like a sun, throbbing with light and
heat and power.
The temple began to shake more strongly. Laya
looked around her. It didn't take much in the way of sensors to see
that the place was beginning to come apart at the seams.
Orakio stood impassively, watching Dark Force's
death throes, chunks of masonry falling around him. One came close
to him; he raised an arm protectively and shattered it. It reared
up and fell backwards onto the altar, a blow so strong the sword sank into
the stone, pinning the creature.
"We should leave!" Laya said. "Our mission
has been accomplished. And this place is becoming unsafe."
Orakio hesitated. He wanted to be sure that
Dark Force died. Nothing he knew of could survive a sword thrust
completely through its chest. But then, sometimes the unlikely happens.
However, he could not deny his instinct for self-preservation simply to
see if it happened in this instance. Not when there were other things
he could do in the time remaining to him. He turned and ran for the
They waited for him, then they all headed for the
exit as fast as they could go. And they didn't stop when they made
it out, either. The shaking had extended out from the temple.
The vibrations were collapsing the lake's shoreline. As they watched,
the temple slid beneath the waves of the expanding lake. Then the
tremors gradually faded until the lake was as calm as it had ever been,
under the carefully controlled climate produced by Orakio's systems.
City of Landen, Landen Habitat, Planet Motavia
The earthquake had been felt in Landen, too, and the
five found an anxious crowd waiting for them when they returned from the
temple. Bran, Kara, Alair, Brin, and Cille were in the front.
But when the people saw that all of them were returning, the tense assembly
turned into a hero's welcome.
"You made it!" Alair cried, hugging Lune.
"Lord Orakio," Kara murmured, dropping to her knees.
Bran folded his arms. "Congratulations, of
course," he said. "You've saved the planet. Now what about
"Bran!" Kara said, looking shocked.
He shook his head. "You killed Dark Force?"
"I believe so," Orakio said. "With my limited
understanding of the laws which govern such a creature."
"But you still have your orders."
"I am pleased you understand."
Kara looked bewildered. "But you killed Dark
"And Rolf killed Mother Brain," Bran said.
"But Orakio and Laya have been following her final orders for centuries."
The android nodded.
"So what does this mean?" Cille demanded roughly.
"We're still going to die? Even after this?"
"Without any orders to the contrary," Orakio said,
"I can use the Plate System to brace the planet for the stresses of habitat
separation. I will do all I can to make the departure of the habitat
systems an easy one. It is doubtful that any will die in the process.
Though I cannot be certain - such a thing has never been done before, though
the physics are predictable enough."
He paused. "There is another option which
Dark Force undoubtedly would have taken steps to counter. There is
nothing that says any people must be on the habitats when they depart."
Bran's mouth dropped. "Leave the lands?"
Orakio nodded. "If you wish, I can move the
people outside the barriers. There is ample land lying outside the
habitat systems. Then, once they have departed, people may roam the
planet's surface freely."
"Except for the big holes," Bran said dryly.
"The holes will be filled in, you may rely on me."
"But the lands will be gone."
"True," Orakio said quietly.
"What will that mean for Mota?" Kara asked.
Orakio paused again. "Nothing good, I am afraid.
The loss of the plants and good soil will mean a collapse in the ecosystem.
This world will begin to slide back towards its pre-Mother desert state.
The terraforming machines the Mother used to make this world green no longer
exist. I can preserve some areas, delay the slide, but it is inevitable."
Yet another pause. "Or rather, my successors will."
"Successors?" Kara asked sharply. "Where will
"An interesting question," Orakio said. "This
body will be rendered nonfunctional."
Bran closed his eyes. "I thought that you
might say that."
The systems controller nodded. "Dark Force's
death came far too late. Your people were ready to kill each other
long before we confirmed its existence. Its death will not make much
difference in the long run unless the worlds can be cleansed of its influence."
He looked at Laya. "On this, Laya and I have come to an agreement.
Dark Force has provided us, ironically, with an excellent opportunity.
The leftovers of this war will be leaving the system on the habitats.
And the two leaders will themselves be destroyed."
"Can you do that?" Bran asked. "Can you really
destroy yourselves or allow yourselves to be destroyed?"
"We have learned many lessons in this war," Orakio
said. "The most obvious one is that orders must be interpreted based
on the situation. In this case, the best way to protect you would
be for us to cease protecting you. Laya has a different situation,
"I was not intended to be the protector of a world,"
Laya said. "I was designed simply to run one system. Because
of this, one of my operating parameters is to create a replacement in case
I was in danger." She cocked her head in a gesture that made her
seem remarkably like Orakio. "However, that replacement will be departing
on the habitats as well. My world is on its own now."
Orakio nodded. "I have made arrangements for
the transfer of control over Mota's systems to.." he looked up, "another
place. One far enough away that it will not interfere with whatever
culture develops on this planet. A few Wrens will be sufficient to
keep the planet running. And maybe a few others as well. There
is nothing to prevent my termination, either."
"So you won't kill me?" a voice said behind them.
Bran and Kara turned around with a shout of surprise
and happiness. A heavily bandaged and sickly looking Thor was leaning
on a staff, panting from having pushed his way through the crowd.
"Thor!" Kara cried, throwing her arms around him.
Bran clasped his hand firmly, laughing aloud.
"Thor, I don't believe it. I'm starting to believe you really are
"I don't know if I want to push my luck much more,"
Thor said. "Nah, who am I kidding? Anytime you're ready, Lune."
Lune laughed. "Sorry, I'm retired."
"Figures," Thor said to no one in particular.
"I'll find a way to get a rematch out of you."
"I...doubt it," Lune said. "I'll be leaving
too. And I won't be seeing anybody."
"What's this?" Alair asked.
"I guess Laya didn't get a chance to tell you,"
Lune said. "We're going to be going to sleep for a while."
Laya nodded. "I regret having to do this to
you, but you too are relics of this war. You must leave the system,
"Can I stay in Mystoke?" Alair asked.
"No. You two will be staying on Dahlia.
In cryogenic chambers." She gave Lune a strange look. "As a...reward
for your service. Perhaps someday you will be released, when the
war is just a distant memory."
"Likewise," Orakio said, giving a similar look to
Siren, "Siren and Mieun will be going. As will Rulakir."
Bran grimaced. "I won't miss him much."
Kara looked at him. "Am I to take it from
that that you want to stay?"
He grinned. "Of course I do. Don't you
know what it means? It means a fresh start! A new world, without
Mother Brain's super technology running things behind the scenes.
Just enough to give us a good climate and a stable planet. We can
finally make our own lives, without any help from anybody. It's...it's
what Alec dreamed of. I wish he could be here to see it. Mota's
gods are leaving."
"Yes," Orakio said. "Though, if you need them,
you may find some demigods." He paused again. "That was meant
to be a joke."
"Well, it's your first one," Bran said. "I
won't hold it against you. But I think we should all realize that
a lot of people won't stay," Bran said. "A lot of people who won't
be able to give up the war."
"I'll be one of them," Cille said.
Bran turned to her. "I thought maybe you might."
She turned her eyes away. "We've fought so
long for our homes. We just can't be uprooted again. And I
go where my people are. That was the lesson I learned in this war.
And for the price I paid, I don't intend to forget it."
"I understand," Bran said softly. He longed
to reach for her and comfort her, but he knew the gesture wouldn't be appreciated.
"We'll miss you, back here on Mota."
"Motavia," Orakio said, suddenly.
"Motavia. This planet. Its name is Motavia.
Somewhere along the way it got changed to Mota."
Bran felt a flash of anger, but it didn't last long.
"Alec was right there, too. He always said Mota had too many bad
memories attached to it. Motavia, huh?"
"Motavia. Dezolis. Algol. And
"Motavia," Bran said, tasting the word. "I
"Once I wondered whether it would be an interference
to tell you that. Now I understand that it is the least of my interferences.
And perhaps the best as well."
"We won't forget it this time," Bran promised.
"And we won't forget Dezolis either. Because we're going to travel
space again. That's going to be one of our first priorities.
Our heritage is the stars. I said that once, and I meant it."
He looked over at Brin. "We'll come visit you."
A rather sickly expression crossed Brin's face.
"You won't find me there," he murmured.
Brin cleared his throat. "We disobeyed our
society when we joined Laya's cause. We thought it was all for the
best...perhaps not. We have been assigned a punishment. Exile
to the habitats. All the Sages."
Bran didn't consider it much of a punishment, but
then again it meant they'd never see their homes.
The Sage smiled. "But we did accomplish something.
Our elder has agreed that the Espers need to become a more active part
of life on the worlds. We have so much to give! I only wish
I could be part of that as well. So, if you do make it Dezolis, you
may not find me, but you'll find the Esper Mansion there with open doors."
A compartment opened in Orakio's body. He
took out two glowing objects and handed one of them to Cille and one to
Bran. "These are the power sources for the gravity generators.
The moons will remain frozen in their positions near this habitat system.
I cannot imagine any circumstances where the moons would need to move,
so I removed the sources in case of an accident. I had intended to
give them to the leaders of the old sides. Princess, you are the
only Palm person...or rather, Palman, who can be said to be a Layan leader."
She accepted it gravely. "Bran, I had intended to give this to you,
but since you are staying perhaps you know of another Orakians who can
Bran looked at Kara. A sudden doubt filled
"Of course I'm staying, Bran," Kara said.
She smiled. "It's a fresh start, like you said. Where all of
us can begin again." And he heard in her words all that she intended
him to hear, that all that had happened before with Cille could be forgotten
and they could start all over.
"How about you, Thor?" Bran said. "Are you
going to pass up a new Motavia?"
The hunter laughed. "Not a chance. Orakio's
pets are all right, but I've been looking for a new challenge." A
strange expression crossed his face, which Bran was startled to recognize
as embarrassment. "Although," the Technan muttered, "I've been thinking
maybe I should pass on my expertise to the next generation. Just
to make sure there are hunters in the future, too."
"Oh, this I can't believe," Bran said as he realized
what Thor meant. He dissolved into laughter.
"Don't mind him," Kara said to the furiously blushing
hunter. "You'll make a great teacher."
"Discipline won't be a problem!" Bran said, gasping
The others waited patiently for him to get control
of himself. "Well," he said. "That about does it for the Orakians.
So..." He turned and handed the power source to Cille. "I'd
like you to take it. And give it to someone you trust. An Orakian,
if possible, of course." He smiled at her, tentatively, hoping she'd
And she did, with a slow, small smile that could
barely be seen. But he knew her well. Her hand went almost
involuntarily to her stomach. "As it happens, I have someone in mind.
I don't think he's ready for the responsibility yet, but...I know he will
Bran nodded. "Whatever you think is best,
Cille. I trust you to do the right thing."
"Thank you," she said, quietly.
"Then I believe that concludes our business," Laya
said. "Lune, Alair. Come with me. There are a few things
I must explain before your long sleep." The constructs nodded, and
Brin trailed along behind them.
"And I will be leaving you as well," Orakio said.
"You have much to do yourselves, letting the people know what has happened."
He began to walk away, toward a tunnel and his private
entrance to Nurvus. Bran hesitated for a moment. "Kara, will
you take Thor back inside. And let everybody know they've got a choice
to make. A big choice. I'll catch up to you in a minute."
"Of course," Kara said. "See you in a minute,
Bran ran after the rapidly retreating Orakio.
The android slowed to a Palman walk, and allowed Bran to keep pace with
him. "What about the other habitat systems?" he asked.
"I will have to deal with the other habitat systems
and the Motavian people. They will share your choice. Though
it is not difficult to predict what the Motavians will say. They
have always been outside the habitats."
"The Motavians," Bran said musingly. "I'd
forgotten about them."
"Perhaps you can help me with one last problem,"
"The habitat systems. If they are leaving,
they must be considered spaceships."
Bran thought. "I guess you could look at it
that way. Ships the size of whole worlds."
"They will need names, then."
Bran smiled. "Names, huh?"
"That's an easy one, Orakio. Call this one
the Alisa III. For Alec."
"The Alisa III. Very well. And
Bran shrugged. "I don't know. New
Palm or Palma or something. Ask them." He looked
up at Orakio, subdued again. "I wasn't laughing just because it's
hard to see Thor teaching a bunch of kids. It's because I'd had a
similar idea myself."
"Yes. I want to start a school. A big
one. That will make sure we don't forget things like the names of
our worlds, or the other people who live on them, or anything like that.
It'll be the start of the new Palman culture."
"A commendable idea. The preservation of knowledge
has always been one of my primary goals as well."
"Yeah, well..." Bran trailed off, began again.
"There's no easy way to say this, Orakio. But I don't plan to include
you or Laya in that knowledge."
"I don't want anybody to remember any of this.
We've learned our lessons and I'll make sure we don't forget them.
But as to the mistakes we made, and the super technology of Mother Brain,
I think it would be best if we all forgot about it. Pretended it
never happened. Nurvus and the systems and robots will be just legends
again. We'll pretend like Mother Brain just died, and none of this
"It is one course of action," Orakio said.
"I cannot pretend to approve of it, but I follow your reasoning, and it
is sound. There is an old saying that those who forget the past are
doomed to repeat it, but with the my passing I do not think that will be
true. Perhaps it would be best to begin your new world with a clean
history as well."
"That's what I believe," Bran said. "So I'm
afraid you won't go down in history. Maybe you don't care about that.
But it bothers me to think that you'll be forgotten. There were times
when I hated you. Times when I feared you, when I was in awe of you.
But now that you're leaving us... I'm going to miss you, Orakio.
I really am."
The android looked at him for a long moment.
"It would be a lie to say that I return your feelings, Bran. But
I believe that I would if I could. You have fulfilled my every expectation,
and surpassed them. I can safely leave this world in your hands."
It was the highest compliment an android could possibly
pay an organic being, and Bran knew it. "Thanks," he said simply.
Then he reached his hand out.
Orakio took it. Then he nodded, and walked
away. He walked to Nurvus, and out of the world. No Palman
ever saw him again. His final instructions were to Siren, warning
him that if the moons ever moved again, that would most likely indicate
an attempt to free Lune and Alair and begin the war again. And that
if such an event occurred, he was to take command of the Wrens and Mieus
again and lead them against the Layan foe. After all was said and
done, Laya had still opposed orders from the Mother, and that meant she
was dangerously malfunctional and capable of anything. Orakio was
never to know that Laya had warned Lune and Alair that Siren might try
and move the moons to eliminate them in a bid to start the war again, and
that if the moons moved they were to wake up and hunt down Siren.
And also, to see if they might find her successor, who would also be sleeping
For Orakio and Laya themselves, the war was over.
As for Bran, left alone by the departing androids
and Palmans, he smiled to himself and said aloud, seemingly to no one,
"Have I fulfilled your expectations as well?"
"Of course you have, Bran," a light voice said.
He turned slowly and saw the young woman and man
from his nightmare vision, standing on the grass of Landen, watching him.
"Alis," he said, and the young woman nodded. "And Rolf." The
man inclined his head. "But I still don't feel like your equal."
"You are," Alis insisted. "You saved our people
from an evil I could never even understand, let alone fight."
"And you made up for what I did," Rolf added.
"You put the worlds back on track again. I couldn't have done that.
I didn't. And I never would have been able to let the androids go
fight Dark Force. I would have had to be there with them. You
had the insight to know when it wasn't your fight. And you didn't
lose Kara. So you beat me there, too."
"I didn't lose her," Bran said. "But I came
close. And I lost a lot of other good friends. But it seems
to me that if you're all such great heroes...or even if you're just in
my head...I'd think you'd be happy wherever it is you are."
And at last a smile crossed Rolf's face. It
took years off his careworn appearance. "You figure everything out
eventually, don't you?" And beside the two legends two others faded
into view, a tall older man beside Alis, and a beautiful woman with long
purple hair beside Rolf. "But your happiness starts now. A
greater reward for a greater hero."
"Yes," a calm voice spoke from all around Bran.
"A brave man or woman may fight a demon and win. But only the rarest
of people can save a race doomed to failure from themselves. You
have changed the Palmans' destiny, Bran, and brought them out from under
the shadow of their mother. They will begin to create their own society,
without any interference."
"May it last a thousand years," Bran whispered as
the images and the voice slowly faded away.
And then he began walking back toward Landen.
And Thor. And Kara.
And the future.