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Chapter Two


"Lore," murmured Kain, as if tasting the word for the first time. "What an unusual name."

"It's quite fitting for a historian though," she swiftly pointed out, setting a duffel bag of her stuff on to the floor.

"True." He stood up and pushed his swivel chair beneath the desk of his computer. "Well, now that you're here, shall we begin discussing our plans?"

Hugh furtively glanced back through the plastic window again. "We might as well."

"Yes. I think there's a good deal I need to know before I can be of much help to you," agreed Lore.

Kain placed his hands down on the oblong metal table in the center of the room and stared down at huge flow chart spread out before him. Lore and Hugh stood together on the side opposite of Kain.

"Lore, look at this diagram I've been putting together. It's a flow chart showing just how everything on Mota was connected to each other, and in turn, connected to Mother Brain. As you can see, it's quite complicated. I've filled in what passed between each of the boxes, be it energy, raw materials, or merely commands from Mother Brain."

The onyx-haired girl gazed thoughtfully at the chart as her eyes ran over the lines running between the various squares and rectangles.

"This chart is probably the only thing productive that's been accomplished these past couple of months," he continued. "It was the simplest thing to do."

"Not to mentioned the best starting point," Hugh added, inconspicuously slipping his fermented juice bottle off the table and into his briefcase, which was situated against the table leg.

Lore traced a line connecting the Green Dam to the Paseo control towers. "What's our first priority?"

"Well, we need to get the electronics working again. Then Climatrol might start functioning again and this heat will go away," said Kain. "Once the heat's gone, the crops might grow again without much help from on our parts. Of course, we'll have to learn how to harvest properly, but getting food is as much a motivation as anybody needs these days."

"Not being able to produce enough food is a sorry thing for a population to have," Lore muttered.

"And if the electronics start working, we'll be able to enter those domed farming complexes. We won't have to search for the few edible wild plants that have been cropping up since Mother Brain's destruction. Nor will we have to raid the stores for what few non-perishable foods are left."

"But isn't that expecting a little too much?" Lore asked, looking up to meet Kain's gaze. "It's almost like getting the entire system working again minus the malevolence of the Earthmen. And Mother Brain was the one giving most of the commands."

"Not to simple things like sliding doors," he replied.

"Yeah, but to Climatrol? Someone has to be able to regulate the power and where it's allocated. So even if we manage to shunt the energy towards Climatrol, it won't know what to do with it. It might follow its former settings, it might do nothing, or it might go out of control."

"Let's try to simply take one thing at a time," said Hugh. He pointed to a large box connected to all four dams as well as each of the control tower clusters in the various cities. "Look, this is the energy reservoir for all of Mota. For all we know, it could be full, or it could be empty. It could be in perfect condition, or it could be damaged. All energy generated from the solar panels and the dams go directly to here before being distributed. Unless we're going to live off of Kain's lithium batteries for the rest of eternity" --Kain scowled-- "we're probably going to have to look into the reservoir's condition sooner or later. And it may as well be sooner."

He glanced around to make sure that both Kain and Lore understood. "The reservoir is located beneath the lake in the middle of the continent. Mother Brain had it buried deep in the earth, presumably because if it was out of sight, it was out of mind as well. Of course, occasionally something would break and someone or something would have to go down there and fix it. Routine maintenance for such a large and important vessel is a natural concern. And so Kain and I found an old blueprint of Climatrol."

"And we discovered a shaft in Climatrol's first floor that leads to the reservoir," Kain continued. "If you were to follow the shaft down, you would find yourself in a narrow metal tunnel that eventually opens into a small control room. This control room modulates how much energy from each of the given power sources is being absorbed as well as which sources have energy to give. As Hugh pointed out, it's an important first step. We would have gone there earlier, except-"

"Except that the passage is partially collapsed and flooded from the time Climatrol released all the pent up rain water," Hugh interjected. "Kain was ready and willing to go down there with our maruera gum, but the problem with that is that he's the only guy we've found who knows anything about how this system might work. Granted there must be others, but they have refused all summons we've made. So Kain is invaluable, and we can't risk him getting himself hurt down there. If we both went down together, well, there's no guarantee that'll help, being that only one person is really needed. All one could do is help is the other got injured. And the tunnel is so long that it would be easy to loose contact with the surface.

"So I proposed a relay system. Kain would stay up in Climatrol, where it's still safe. And I would go down to the control room and he could relay the information to me. However the tunnel isn't very conductive to radio waves, and so our battery-powered communicators won't work for the required distance."

"But if we had someone sitting in the middle of the passage, to relay our messages back and forth..." said Kain.

"So you guys just called me here to be a middle person?" Lore shook her head incredulously. "I can't believe that! You guys could have called just anyone! I'm pretty sure at least one of those deadbeats on the street could do this for you."

Hugh held up his hands as if to fend her off. "No, it's not that simple! I mean," --his voice grew calmer-- "I'm hoping for you to stay here with us for quite some time. It would help if you got involved in the project at the beginning. Besides, you'll be there to serve as back up for me if I get in trouble. You'll be closer to me than Kain. And you know not everybody is the best at emergency rescues."

Lore smirked, her anger dissipating. "And I am?"

"I'd trust you more than someone I don't know."

She chuckled. "You don't know what you're getting into."

"I don't think any of us really do," Hugh replied seriously.

"Fair enough." She turned her head to include Kain in her gaze. "So when will we be getting started?"

"Tomorrow morning," Kain answered. Then he allowed himself a devious grin. "One thing good about having Mother Brain going down is that we no longer have to worry about bureaucracy slowing us down. We can go without anyone else's permission."

Hugh chortled as he pulled a sheaf of papers out of his briefcase. "Yeah, well, don't forget that bureaucracy is going to have to be reinstated if we ever get the life support systems working again. Like them or not, they do provide some order around this place." He slapped the documents down on to the table, partially obscuring the flow chart. "Well, here's the information we need to get started. We'd better get through as much of it as we can before the sun sets."

* * * * *

Hugh guided Lore through the dimming Paseo streets as the sun hung low in the sky. He estimated that there was about hour of sunlight left, and he wanted to make it back to his apartment in time to have dinner without sitting in utter darkness. Perhaps if the three of them hadn't spent so much time discussing their plans for tomorrow... But the thought of actually setting their project into motion invigorated him. It would be their project. After the reservoir, perhaps the dams, then the biosystems. They would learn all that they could from the old before forging a new; a new life with the technology they have received. And this time they would control and understand it. The possibilities seemed endless, and indeed may have been the only thing brightening the future of Paseo beyond the sweltering sun.

"Watch out, my apartment's on the eighth floor," Hugh warned the onyx-haired girl.

Catching her distasteful look, he told her that its location in the building helped keep the desperate riffraff out, and his home was actually quite safe. No one bothered to come to the eighth floor anymore, not unless they lived there, and even then, sometimes they didn't.

Since Hugh had invited Lore to Paseo, he felt obligated to provide her with housing. Lore didn't plan on staying in town any longer than necessary to complete her work with him, and so she agreed with the arrangement. Given the present confusion and volatile state of the Palman people, Hugh figured looking for her own housing wasn't a good idea. The landlords probably either wouldn't care, or would become so territorial about being bothered that she'd get chased out at the end of a ceramic sword.

"Welcome to home, sweet home," Hugh announced, unlocking his door.

He pushed back the door to reveal a sparely decorated combination living room and kitchen. A hall lead off to the left about ten feet from the doorway, presumably to the bedroom and bathroom. The kitchen dominated the area to the right of the door, and a stylish glass table with four chairs sat at the far end of the room on a slightly elevated part of the floor. Beyond the table, the entire far wall was covered by a giant curtain. A couch lined the right wall between the kitchen and the raised floor. And a bookcase with a dormant clock sat in front of the opposite wall, just past the opening to the hallway.

"It's the dream of every single young professional. Or at least it was before Mother Brain's collapse," Hugh remarked morosely. "I don't think you've seen this place before. It sure was expensive getting this place back when Mother Brain was still working. Now no one cares for living up high."

He ushered Lore inside and shut the door behind them, locking it both at the knob and with a deadbolt.

"But at least I get a lot of peace and quiet," he said proudly, setting his briefcase down against the wall between the door and hallway.

Lore nodded thoughtfully, slowly stepping from the plastic-floored entryway on to the plush beige carpet of the rest of his apartment. She thoughtfully removed her boots and set them beside Hugh's briefcase before continuing into the living room.

Hugh likewise took his boots off and stepped into the kitchen. "Just wait a few minutes and I'll cook up something for us." He chuckled as he poked through one of his cabinets. "Yes, I know, the electricity isn't working so neither will the stove, nor the refrigerator, nor the oven." Hugh set a few packets of dried fruit down on the counter. "But that's where the wonders of the foi technique come in. Just flame the electric coils and they'll heat up enough to last for a few minutes before you need to do it again. It's a pain, but better than nothing.

"Say," he asked suddenly, "have you ever tried roasted rabbit? I swear those things are hard to find these days if they're not the mutated ones on Dezo... But it so happens I have some preserved. That'll be the last of it though, being that the farms all went down when Mother Brain did. Right, Lore?"

After dropping more items on to the counter, he took his head out of the cabinet long enough to see if she heard him. He slowly shut the cabinet door as he saw her peaking through the great curtain at the end of his living room.

"It's beautiful, Hugh," she murmured as he hopped up the single step that separated the floor with the table from that of the rest of the living room.

"Yeah," he breathed, drawing back the curtain for her.

The whole of the man-made lake surrounding Paseo spread out before them, turning a rich golden sheen with the setting sun. In the distance Lore thought she could make out the pointed shape that must have been Climatrol. The water's surface had few ripples, so the peak could be little else. But she loved how what little wind there was gently kneaded tiny mounds and trenches into the golden face of the lake.

The shine in Lore's dark brown eyes reflected the molten peaks of the uneven water. "Looking at this, you could never tell what the rest of the world is going through," she said with a sigh.

"It's my inspiration," Hugh told her softly, placing a hand against the window as he gazed out at the lake. "When the rest of Mota can feel this beauty and rest as easy as the water despite its troubling winds, I know my work will be done."

"Let's pray that day comes soon then," she said. She turned to face him. "Because our journey isn't going to be an easy one."

Hugh nodded solemnly, turning away from the golden light.

* * * * *

Dinner didn't begin until only the last few rays of the sun peaked over the horizon, giving the evening sky a soft lavender hue. Since the over head lights were not working for obvious reasons, Hugh lit a pair of scented candles and set them on the table between them. Lore had in the meantime opened Hugh's curtains completely, allowing the night time brilliance to shine through the trio of giant windows that dominated nearly all of the far wall.

"For additional light," she told him as she took her seat at the table across from him. "Besides," she added wistfully, "it's a clear night. Not a cloud in sight. And since the lights aren't working, we can actually see all the stars. It kind of makes me glad I'll be staying here a while. This sky and the view of the lake..." She sighed. "It's too bad the rest of the planet can't see it."

"They could, if they were motivated enough," said Hugh after swallowing a bit of the steamed fruit he had on his plate.

He turned to look out at the darkening sky and the myriad of stars. Which one had the Earthmen come from? And how different was it from Algo?

Hugh pushed his fork through a fresh red berry and shoved it in his mouth. The pulp was warm and sweet, with a hint of tang in it. At least he did a decent job of cooking it with the sun going down. It wouldn't do to treat a guest's first meal in his home with a cold dinner.

The pair ate quietly, each lost in their own thoughts, minds as distant from their bodies and each other as the stars above them. Lore thought back to her family, wondering if they worried over her. And Hugh could not help but wonder about the strange civilization he had met up in space.

"Did you like it?" Hugh asked when only the fruit sauce and bits of cabbage too small to snatched with a fork remained on Lore's plate.

Lore smiled as she wiped her mouth with a white cloth napkin. "Yes, it was delicious. I've always liked the fruit of the Paseo region. And I'm surprised how well you cooked that rabbit considering you didn't even have a proper stove!"

Hugh relaxed, taking a long drink from a fluted glass of water. He suspected the rabbit would turn out all right. But since the closing of the Motavian farms, edible fruit and vegetables had become scarce. The fruit he served her, both the dried and fresh varieties, all came from a small garden he had started on his balcony. Although the garden didn't yield enough food to support a man, it certainly helped supplement the diet. While Hugh was no doctor, he knew enough nutritional biology to have an idea about what vitamins and minerals he would need.

Hugh murmured his thanks and then stood. Lore helped him pile the dishes into the sink, where Hugh could wash them in the morning. She also picked up her duffel bag from where it lay on the couch. Then, each taking a candle, they entered the hallway.

On the left side of the short hallway stood the entrances to Hugh's study and the bathroom. And on the right lay his bedroom.

"I set up a cot for you in my study," he said. "It's not much, and if you stay here long enough we can switch off using my bed so you always be so uncomfortable."

"Don't worry about," she said offhandedly, stepping into the small room.

The study had a desk, complete with a lamp and shelves at the far end of the room. Next to it was a small bookcase. And a small table with equipment for distilling water lay by the adjoining well. A cot with sheets carefully tucked around it sat on the side of the room nearest to Lore.

"Then I'll leave you for the night," said Hugh. "Don't forget to blow out the candle before you go to sleep."

She grinned. "I won't. Thanks for everything, and good night."

Lore's smile didn't fade until he shut the study door behind him. Then she sighed, puffing the air loudly through her lips. She walked forward slowly, and set her candle down on Hugh's desk. Lore unzipped her duffel bag and used the flame's meager light to help her see as she sifted through her belongings.

She frowned as she yanked out a plain white cotton nightshirt. Why in Alis's name did she bring that along? Mota was becoming warm enough without her compounding her own aversion to extreme weather. Lore sighed, realizing that there was no help for it. She should have thought better when packing. After all, she knew she would be staying with Hugh in Paseo for at least a few weeks if not a few months.

Lore hurriedly changed out of her day clothes before collapsing against the roughness of the cot. She pulled back the sheets and fluffed the pillow in place. Lore glanced at the candle and leaned forward just far enough to take a deep breath and snuff it out. Then she laid back and allowed the darkness to envelop her.

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