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Chapter Twenty


Two months passed. The Council's mission had gone to Noah and returned empty-handed. Though life for the Palmans improved in many ways since the initial days after Mother Brain's destruction, everyone agreed that it was not as good as before. Though outward appearances showed signs of recovery, the Council kept hidden the rotting core within. Even the most complacent of people began to wonder if something might not be amiss. Everything was said to progress, but then why did the soil become drier by the day and the plants less fruitful? Under an unspoken agreement of silence, Hugh, Kain, and Lore said nothing to either confirm or dissuade the many rumors that came within a hair's breadth of the truth. Kain had greater misgivings about doing so than his friends, but he found he did not have to voice his opinion for it to be heard.

"In conclusion, it's safe to report that most of our surviving computer systems are back online, though idle and awaiting orders. The Biosystems Lab, Climatrol, and the Plate System are still down, but being that they were the most complicated of the Motavian systems this comes as no surprise," stated Councilman Turgen. He steadily moved his gaze to incorporate the dozen people meeting with the twelve member council in the Council's hearing chambers. As with most major meetings, the Commander of Mota presided. "All factories have been recovered from hostile AIs, and networking between them is up another 5% from four months ago. I think we've been doing reasonably well, all things considered."

"But we need the Biosystems. Climatrol too. The Plate System can wait, but not the other two." The speaker was Gillian Dawson, a young addition to the Council made in the wake of Councilman Hartford's abrupt and suspicious resignation last month. Ideally each member of the Motavian half of the New Council should have come from a different city, but Oputa was virtually lost, and with the vast centralization of the populace in Paseo, it was natural to choose a new member from within the capital city.

Kain saw nothing natural about it however. He suspected that the Council actually preferred to centralize their source of power than adequately represent the diverse people of Motavia. Gillian was a surprise appointment. Though he had worked under Commander Yurik for five years, he was young for a Councillor, having only turned twenty-four recently. However, he could not be as naive as his boyish face suggested. Some element of intelligence and cunning had to be there, especially if the rest of the Council approved of his appointment. That assumption alone made Kain wary, but since Rolf trusted Gillian, Kain would try as well.

"Of course," said Commander Yurik with a nod in response to Gillian's words. "Which brings us to our next topic of discussion. Dr. Faulkner, would you care to review the details of your mission for those who have yet to hear it?"

Kain was not the only person uneasy at this meeting. Across from him, Hugh shifted in his seat, lifted one leg over the other and leaned back in his chair. His face was expressionless. Kain had told him nothing of the mission details, but the biologist felt he knew enough. They had not found anything of value. If they had, Kain would have not followed his orders about keeping his findings classified.

Hugh's gaze shifted over to his friend, then Rolf, then Rudo. Anna and Amy were also in the room, though Lore was not, presumably because she had nothing to do with the Noah mission. That made him wonder why he was summoned, except as the ex-mission head who was removed from the team.

Councilman Turgen coughed loudly as the speaking doctor began to wander off on a more intricate and unnecessary tangent. Dr. Faulkner flushed.

"It was unfortunate that we could not recover anything," concluded Faulkner, who had been rattling off something resembling hourly status reports combined with background information out of an encyclopedia, "but even so we have a fair idea how the planetside systems interlink with each other thanks to the work of Mr. Kain and Dr. Thompson. It even may be possible to get them working without the missing elements Mr. Kain suggested might be found in space. Dr. Arek and his team are being moved to full time research on the matter, and hopefully they will have the rest of the pieces to the puzzle by the end of the year." He paused to suck in a deep breath and clear his throat. When he spoke again his words came in slow, measured tones. "In the meantime I suggest that the Daughter Project be given an official green light, to be ready upon the completion of Dr. Arek's work."

The Daughter Project. Most of the people present here had been formally briefed about its existence for the first time earlier today. Hugh raised his hand to ask a question, but Anna beat him to it.

"If we gained nothing from the Noah mission, how can we expect Daughter to take over for us? To my knowledge we don't have the programming, maybe not even the labor power, to allow Daughter to accomplish such a feat."

"Comments?" asked Yurik.

"We will simply have to do the best we can," said Faulkner. "We don't have much choice in the matter. Something capable of maintaining the ecosystem has to be introduced and swiftly. The landscape is deteriorating--we must admit it. It can no longer survive without some form of artificial control."

"That may be true enough," said Kain, "but let's try to avoid the mistakes Mother Brain instilled in us. She did more than maintain the soil and give us food to eat. She simply would not allow us to survive on our own, no matter how much we would want to. And from what I gather, neither will Daughter. A sedate people are easier to govern, true, but we must take the current state of political affairs into account if we are to ever garner any support for a new system-wide computer network."

Put bluntly, the current state of political affairs had all the balance of a fragile scale caught between two gigantic weights. One did not know when the scale would break, and it was equally likely to crash in upon itself as to tip to one side or another. Quite simply, people no longer trusted the leaders Mother Brain had put before them. Mother Brain proved both harmful and fallible. What if their leaders did as well? What if there was a reason, a bad reason, that Mother Brain had chosen them?

There was also growing unrest among the Motavian-raised Palmans. They resented having to share their meager resources with Palm's people. The people of Palm in return expected that those same resources were half theirs by right. Though only ten years had separated the intermingling of the two Palman peoples, well over a millennia had passed since the first Palmans had colonized Motavia. In the centuries following, there had been ample time for customs and traditions to diverge between the two worlds.

The tension had been the greatest last month during the height of the cold, dry winter. Motavia's year consisted of a little over sixteen standard months made up of four weeks apiece; almost a year and a half of the AW calender. All four seasons were counted as being four months long, save winter, which was given the extra week in the year. This last week was considered as being "outside" of the regular year, since it was left over after each of the months had been given their four weeks. The first Motavian settlers aptly placed their extra week at the height of winter, between the times when the world turned its coldest and when it would begin to warm again.

During this time the Last Week Celebration was held. The days were darkest here, and the cold at its height. Yet people would keep warm during the festivities, and the joyful dancing on the last two nights of the week left few people single who did not wish to be. Even the coming of Mother Brain and Climatrol, which took away the natural cold, was not enough to keep the celebration from being held. It was a common belief--though most people would not care to test its limits--that anything that happened during the Last Week would not reflect on one's self the rest of the year.

The Palman Palmans considered having such an event at a precarious time as this was inviting anarchy. They feared a world turned upside-down, a trip into a land of sin. Lore tried to explain that the festivities usually resulted in people becoming friendlier than usual and more united than they were before, but her words fell largely on deaf ears. People from both sides of the argument pressured their Councillors to settle the matter, but they had been unable to, because the Council itself was publicly divided for the first time since Mother Brain's fall. The people of Palm simply did not understand the tradition and wanted no part of it. The Motavian Palmans wanted the celebration to lighten their spirits after a year of misery. The two sides fought, sometimes giving way and other times remaining adamant. Eventually the whole matter fell to pieces and many cities and their suburbs held the Last Week Celebration regardless of political or Palman approval.

The backlash of the event was horrendous. Both sides clamored for the Council's attention and even the distinction between Motavian Palmans and Palman Palmans was further broken up into a wide spectrum of conservatives and extremists. The Council was loosing control, and nothing it said would be taken by the people as an absolute truth any longer.

It also did not help that the time was fast approaching when Mother Brain would have retired no longer suitable politicians and replaced them with new ones. If the Council did not regain the people's trust, there soon would not be a Council at all.

"Daughter would be too controlling," Kain continued, "much as many people feel the Council is now. If we're going to reinstall a new control system that is going to impact so many people's lives, we cannot be heavy-handed about it and most of all, we must make the people feel better informed than they are now. They are tired of being controlled, because life is swift becoming unbearable that way. Mother Brain's control was a candied evil, her underlings, the New Council, are only a step above no government at all, so even the dimmest of dullards would consider trying something else. Ultimately it is these people who must build these networks and work for the system's construction. And you can be certain they won't do it if they don't want to."

"But we need Daughter!" Turgen protested. "The farms are failing and only a computer as powerful as her will be able to handle running the Biosystems, let alone Climatrol."

"Not true," said Kain, "which is why I requested that Dr. Thompson be allowed to attend this meeting."

The caught Hugh's attention.

"Climatrol may be a problem," Kain admitted, "but the Biosystems Lab can engineer viable organisms to fit any climate known to Algo. And" --he paused for emphasis-- "there is already an existing, possible undamaged computer system capable of running it."

"You are speaking of Seed, correct?" asked Commander Yurik. "Wouldn't his memory banks have been erased upon Mother Brain's destruction?"

"Possibly," Kain replied, with a slight inclination of his head. "No one has checked. Nonetheless Rolf Landale's expedition into the Biosystems did not reveal many outward signs of computer damage. The system itself may be still intact. I don't need to remind you that this will save us the time and expense of building a new one."

Gillian raised his hand. "But if Seed's memory is still intact, wouldn't he choose to side against Mother Brain's destroyers?"

"Seed was an autonomous machine," said Hugh, finally drawing attention to himself. He waited until all the faces in the room turned towards him. "As with any machine, he could only obey his programming, but he was an artificial intelligence in the truest sense of the word. He was not at all like the farming droids or the robot police, which can only follow a limited set of orders. Seed could have just as easily been a Palman hiding within a maze of silicon. He had as much free will as the rest of us did beneath Mother Brain's rule. That is to say: It was not much, but I believe he can be reasoned with. There is no logical reason for him to fight us."

"Unless he's been programmed to do so," Turgen countered.

Hugh kept his voice even and gaze steady as he turned to the Councilman. "I will not deny that is possible, but I doubt it. Seed was designed as a research machine. Certainly he gave us biologists knowledge we did not already have, but in return he discovered things about us and our world that he did not know. And when he did not know, he encouraged us to search harder for the answer. He had a drive to accumulate information and this curiosity may lead him to help us so that he can continue to learn. He will have much to gain, and betraying us will earn him destruction. Seed can't loose by helping us."

Amy leaned forward on the table so she could look at Hugh far to her right. "Would it be possible for Seed to take Daughter's place?"

Kain shook his head, swiftly getting in his own answer. "I wouldn't recommend it. Seed might be reasonable, but he still was programmed by Mother Brain. He might be of use as a lower level system, but something that's going to control the planet, maybe even Dezo, should be something we've made ourselves. Giving Seed that much power might give him the means to fulfill any last minute wishes from Mother Brain."

Hugh nodded. "I must agree. Seed was a good companion to have during my work at the Lab. However in light of what happened during the Biosystems' final days, I can no longer trust him to the point I once did. We must make it reasonable for him to help us, because he won't have any alternative but to be disassembled."

"Of course this is all assuming Seed is even functional," said Gillian, vaguely waving around a device reinvented in recent days in Hugh's direction. It was called a pen, and he had been using it to take notes during the meeting.

"Correct," said Commander Yurik. "Mr. Kain's suggestion may allow us to restore the Biosystems in the future, and he has made a point that the maintenance of the Lab does not require a computer as powerful as Daughter. Perhaps that would be possible for the rest of the systems as well. However there are no other sentient AIs on Motavia that we know of. It is possible that Mother Brain directly issued orders to the systems when she needed something done, and thus a comparable management computer may be necessary. Because we do not yet know Seed's current state of being I believe we should follow Faulkner's advice and continue our work with Daughter unless there are any further comments either for or against."

"I have a modifying statement." Rolf gestured with his hand to capture the attention of those present. "In the event that Seed is found functioning is it possible that we can have him run autonomous to Daughter, but in a form of partnership? This may allow us to have a balance between the two systems and prevent either one from gaining too much control, not to mention it will save us the work of designing aspects of the Biosystems' maintenance. I think we can all agree that there should be some form of communication between the two computers, and it may be more 'comforting' for Seed to be in a similar place in a hierarchy as he was before, except this time we will be in control of the central system."

Hugh shrugged. "I don't know how much of a comfort Seed can take in anything, but I'm not opposed to having him work in conjunction with Daughter. For the record though, I am opposed to having a centralized system that is capable of making decisions without us."

"Opposition noted," said Councillor Turgen dryly.

Anna rested her elbows on the table as she propped her head up on the backs of her hands. "So, how are we going to go about reactivating this Seed? Is the Biosystems one of the secured areas?"

"Technically no," replied Gillian. "No hunters or guardians have actually gone to be certain that the area is cleared, but there is no reason to believe it is not. Mother Brain did not have any combative AIs stationed there during her reign."

Kain glanced at Hugh, who nodded his assent. Kain said, "Dr. Thompson, Lore Drakon, and I were inside the Biosystems Lab a little over a couple months ago. There did not appear to be any AIs present that were in any condition to fight us. All of them were service machines for the various labs and were stationary, much like Seed is. They were deactivated and some of them even ruined, presumably from the power surge of three years ago that resulted in the creation of Neifirst."

Kain was grateful when no one questioned just what they had been doing in the Lab. Instead Commander Yurik asked, "You both know where Seed is located then." He motioned to the two men.

"Yes," Hugh replied.

"Would it be possible for you to reactivate Seed temporarily if we restore power to the Biosystems Lab? I imagine it may be extremely dangerous should anything resume function during that time."

"No machines attacked us when we went to get the reorder for you a year ago," said Rolf. "Of course it's possible Mother Brain wasn't aware of the danger at the time, but I don't think the machines there are geared for combat. If Seed was conscious during the time, he made no move to make his presence known to us."

"And even if the danger is present, we're willing to risk it if it will get Seed working for us," added Kain. "Restore the power for an hour and we'll see what we can do. Are the communications systems working in the underground control room in Climatrol yet? Yes? Good. Then we can keep in touch via our visaphone. Turn on the satellite dish on top of Climatrol and we should be able to relay any messages we have to down below in case we have an emergency and need the power immediately turned off."

"Any objections to this?" asked Yurik.

There were none spoken.

The Commander inclined his head respectfully to Kain. "Very well. You will have your hour. I'll arrange for members of Dr. Arek's staff to help you. Some of them have been down to Climatrol before."

Kain nodded. "Thank you. There is just one more thing I would like to request."

"And that is?"

"I would like Lore Drakon to accompany us. She knows something of computers and since I have worked with her before I would appreciate her assistance."

Yurik paused for a moment, thoughtfully picking up some papers lying in front of him. His gaze flickered over the printed material before he replied, "Very well. I think that can be arranged."

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