Friendship and Labor
Green light. Kain could have cheered. Hugh had his reservations, but
Lore's expression of excitement and hope made up for his dour mood.
After a time though, he again caught the fervor at the prospect of
influencing the fate of an entire world.
They could not stop Daughter yet, but if Kain could build the android he
proposed then the Daughter Project might be cancelled. It would depend
on the android's performance and how swiftly it was completed. But best
of all, the Council agreed to finance Kain's work and provide him with
assistants. He would even have his own laboratory in the new Command
With a support staff and Seed's help--for Seed's reactivation had also
been approved, albeit extremely reluctantly because of the construction
costs--Kain felt he had been given the chance of a lifetime; to be able
to leave his mark on future generations of Palmans. He knew where to
begin too. Before proposing the android to the Council he had done his
research. It would be difficult, taking the next step up in
intelligence from Lassic's robotcops or any of Mother Brain's robots to
a full blown sentient AI, but that was what Seed's help was for.
The reconstruction of the Biosystems could not begin immediately, Kain
hoped Seed would understand, but the lab space for constructing the
android was readily available. AI programmers and robotics designers
were a limited commodity--Mother Brain had trained so few of them--and
most of them were already involved with the Daughter Project, but the
Council had promised him at least two. They would have to be enough.
"I wish we could be of better help to you," said Hugh, interrupting
The three friends had gathered in the Grove Cafe again, sharing lunch
for the simple reason of enjoying each other's company rather than a
more formal purpose.
"Eh?" said Kain, dropping the straw of his drink deeper into his cup as
he opened his mouth.
Lore ate some of her salad. "I think Hugh means to say that now that
you're gonna have your own specially trained staff we're not going to be
as much use to you anymore. After all, we aren't as technically trained
as your assistants will be."
Kain shook his head. "Aw, c'mon, guys. You can't back out on me."
"We aren't," said Hugh. "If you need us we'll be there. But if you're
having problems making an android decision tree then I'm afraid you're
on your own. Even after all these years we still don't know how the
Palman mind arrives to some of the decisions that it does. We, the
Dezorians, and the Motavians are probably the only species in all of
Algo that are capable of acting in an irrational manner contrary to the
best method of self-reproduction."
"Thank you, Dr. Thompson," said Kain, sticking a bit of his tongue out.
"Now can I speak to Hugh again?"
Hugh flushed and absently ran a hand through his hair. "Sorry. Anyway,
the Council apparently has other plans for me. I've been placed in
charge of the Biosystems reconstruction. Nearly all of the high ranking
scientists who used to have access to the Lab are either officially
dead, cannot be found, or want nothing to do with it, which pretty much
Lore nodded deeply. "And while the Council is still reluctant to give
me access to better resources for my chronicles, they are placing a
higher importance on education than before. It's not exactly my line of
work, but they're allowing me to serve on the Education Board of
Directors. It appears that having a younger face among the old makes
the public trust us that much more. And at the very least, it gets me
out of the classrooms."
"Lore is pretty popular with the parents," said Hugh. "Hopefully when
those kids grow up they'll have a much better life ahead of them than we
She sighed. "Yes, but the coming months are going to be busy. It's
almost scary. We'll have to do our best to keep in touch."
"Keep in touch? Where're you going?" asked Kain.
"Well, I'm going to New Zema," said Hugh. "There's going to be a small
town set up for the design committee and the construction workers just
outside the Biosystems Lab. With Oputa destroyed, most of our labor
force is coming from Zema. It's because of them and the fact their own
town is deteriorating so badly that the name was chosen. The old Zema's
not much of a tourist spot anymore."
"And I'll be helping one of the superintendents out in Arima until the
families start moving into New Zema," added Lore. "Then I'll join Hugh
with a group of other teachers to set up an education system there."
Kain sighed. "Great. It'll be just me in Paseo."
"You can keep tabs on the Council for us." Lore winked. "Besides,
Hugh's keeping his apartment here. I'll be getting rid of mine, but I
still have a copy of Hugh's key card so the both of us will be dropping
by and using it every now and then."
"I can afford it," said Hugh. "Initially I'll have to use it anyway,
just because I'll have to wait until my new quarters are built, but I'd
like to have a place to come back to when I return to Paseo for meetings
and such. Hopefully someone will figure out how to get the teleport
stations working again. Even if we don't know the technology, we might
be able to take Oputa's old station and move it to New Zema so we can
use it there. That'll cut down on the telepipe costs for commuting."
Hugh smiled just before drinking from his hot mug of sano. "Besides,
New Zema's not going to be much a while, and they aren't going to have a
place like the Grove anytime soon."
Lore smirked. "Ah, the addictions of caffeine, eh?"
"Better than alcohol I must admit."
"Keep this up and you'll be wired from sunrise to sundown." Kain
smiled. "But anyway, when's all this happening? You know--the moving
Hugh shrugged. "Couple months I guess. The workers will be going first
to build the housing, and they'll be organized in three to four weeks.
Meanwhile I'll be working with some other people on the new lab layout.
Once we get the blueprints ready we'll show them to Seed. Hopefully
he'll like them."
"Well, you're going to have to knock down all the walls anyway, I don't
see a problem with it."
"True, but if Seed wants to expand the lab... we may just have to
rebuild everything from the ground up. I'd hate to have to waste the
building material Mother Brain left behind. We don't have much of it
left, and no one has been able to reproduce it yet."
"So? Explain that to him. He'll either find out when you give him the
blueprints or he'll find out when you actually start building. Better
sooner than later."
Hugh coughed. "Anyway, do you have any idea how you're going to start
on this android of yours?"
Kain smirked. "Actually, I do. To save myself the trouble of building
one from scratch I plan on going to one of the disabled robot factories
and grabbing me a frame. With that as the basic shell for the body we
can focus our efforts on the programming for the brain. I'm betting the
result will be a hybrid of Earthman technology and whatever else I can
dig up on pre-Mother Brain AIs."
Hugh thought about that for a moment. "What sort of frame are you
getting? I thought the point of an android was that it looked like a
Palman. I have trouble imagining a twigtall or an attamech as our
droid. While bipedal, neither of them are quite Palman in
"Pole-series robots," said Kain after taking a sip from his straw. "I
don't think you ever saw any of them being that you and Amy didn't go
through all the dams with the rest of us when Climatrol flooded, but
they're quite Palman in shape, though a good deal taller than the
average person. We'll probably do a little cosmetic surgery on the one
we finally choose just to make it distinctive. Maybe we'll even give it
a Palman face with a mask of rubber foam."
Hugh nodded. "Whatever works. It seems you have a plan."
"Yeah. But I'd like it if you two would at least come with me to pick
out the robot."
"Sure," said Lore. "We'll make the time."
* * * * *
Plans set into motion. Less than a week later Hugh, Kain, and Lore
found themselves in one of the old factories just west of the city of
Piata. An old fragment of data in the government computer banks
confirmed that this was the location that the pole-series robots were
constructed in. The three had spoken briefly with one of the
townspeople to find out if there was the slim chance of any active AIs
around, but found only vague suggestions of activity, and none of them
were likely consequences of having a renegade robot on the loose.
"When they said this factory had started to smell they weren't kidding!"
said Kain, standing at the open entrance to the factory. He pointedly
held his nostrils shut between his fingers and waved his other hand as
though to ward off the stench. "You'd think something had died in
"Maybe something did," said Lore seriously, taking up a point position
in front of the other two. She drew her sword and looked warily around
at the darkness.
Kain tried to figure out if she was joking or not and gave up. He
turned on his flash and swept its bright glow around the entryway. The
tiled floor was slick with oil spilled from broken metal coils that
dangled from the high-vaulted walls and ceiling. A shredded skin of
some sort of tubing sprawled across the floor, and all around them there
were bits of soft multi-colored matter.
"Looks like a wrecking crew came through here," said Kain. "I know Rudo
and the hunters were clearing things out, but this mess doesn't entirely
look like something they'd do."
"Biomonsters?" asked Lore, bending down to look at a small brownish lump
in the dim light. "The smell seems to be coming from some of this soft
Hugh turned on his flash and walked over to another of the soft bits.
He peered at it intently beneath the light. He sniffed lightly and
coughed as an involuntary reaction. Hugh shook his head to clear
himself of the fumes and then looked back at the small sticky substance
that covered a small lever like slime.
Kain looked at him. "Well?"
"Well, it's nothing as fascinating as you'd like," said Hugh, turning
around to face them. "It's organic... and its decomposing."
"It's trash. I think that was the remains of a sandwich I was looking
"Ugh! Gross! You mean all this stuff is garbage?" Kain waved around
his flash emphatically.
"'Fraid so," said Hugh.
"And that means we probably know what's living here," added Lore,
lowering her sword.
Their words came with a note of resignation. "Mota people," said Hugh
It was then that a sharp cry rose up and the first of the projectiles
Hugh ducked a flying wrench and a thermos bounced off Lore's shoulder.
Kain snarled and yelled, "Hey, quit throwing junk at us you little
A cake missed his face by two centimeters.
"Um, do you guys have any suggestions as to what to do in this
situation!" Lore dove behind a metal crate as a large spoon shot out of
the darkness. A sharp chittering sound increased in volume.
"I think they think we invaded their home," shouted Hugh. He pointed
his flash where a picture frame had launched and caught a short
yellow-robed figure in his sight. Its thick blue fur nearly stood on
end and its already large round red eyes widened even further. The
thick fleshy plates of its muzzle parted with a squeal and its darted
out of sight.
"I'll show them who's invading!" growled Kain. He ran heedlessly ahead
of his friend, waving his flash around in one hand and his lasershot
like a club in the other. "Damn little rodents! Get out of our way!
We need something here and with our luck you just messed it all up!"
Hugh glanced at Lore, but she was already up and chasing after Kain. He
Abruptly the chatter ceased, as did the throwing. The darkness appeared
to have shrunken into itself and the three Palmans felt quite alone,
perhaps even more than they had when they first entered the factory.
Lore looked around her. "I guess you scared them off, Kain."
He huffed. "Yeah, well, fat lot of good that did." He waved his flash
over several consoles and bits of machinery. "The little runts ruined
nearly everything in the factory--bits and pieces of machines missing
here, computers utterly damaged over there. We'll be lucky if we even
find intact parts to make a robot, let alone an intact robot
Lore nodded. "Looks like they've done a lot of redecorating."
"Redecorating nothing! If they hadn't changed everything we might have
had a chance at finding a pole robot. Now we might have to try using
something else... or even build our android from scratch."
"Perhaps we can talk to them," said Hugh, looking inquisitively in the
direction they had last heard the Motavians.
"Maybe," Kain spat.
"I'm afraid my Motavian isn't that good," said Lore.
"From what I've heard their Palman isn't that good either," said
Lore made a wry face and stepped slightly away from her friend. Raising
a hand to the side of her mouth she called out, "K'raema! Tahbawk
"What'd you say?" asked Kain softly.
She stuck a bit of her tongue out. "Basically 'Hello. I want to
talk.' But I said it a lot more crudely than that."
"Palm people!" chirped a distinctly inhuman voice. Its broad accent
showed as it stumbled over the foreign sound combinations and the more
punctual speaking pattern of the Palman language. Motavians spoke in
slow, rolling tones, as though savoring the taste of every syllable.
Hugh, Kain, and Lore turned towards the sound of the voice and spotted a
brown-robed Motavian standing on a catwalk roughly four meters above
their heads. The Mota person held the rail tightly within its furry
short-fingered hands and leaned cautiously over to peer down at them.
"Tahbawk Bidora ?" asked Lore.
"Speak bad," said the Motavian, and Lore flushed with uncertainty.
"Palm people always speak bad," the Motavian added emphatically as it
reached out for a nearby dangling cable and climbed over the railing.
It easily grasped the cable between its hands and slid its way down.
The cable ended a meter and a half above the floor, a head or so above
the Mota person's own height, but with a sputtering remark it let go of
the cable and dropped the remaining distance.
The Motavian landed with a soft grunt and then heaved itself to its
feet. "Why here are you?"
Kain held his nose shut again. "Well, much as we'd like to be the pest
control, we're actually here to see if we can get a robot. There
is at least one intact, right?"
"Robot." The Motavian cocked its head in thought. "That is scrap
"No, not scrap metal!"
"Like this," said Hugh, holding his hand at a height slightly above his
head. "This big. Looks like Palman. Two arms, two legs."
"No here look like Palman," said the Motavian.
"Shape look like Palman," said Lore, trying to outline the approximate
dimensions of a pole-series robot with her hands.
Kain shook his head. "This isn't getting us anywhere. How do you
describe a robot to someone who doesn't even know what it is?"
"Metal person," said Hugh suddenly. "Do you know where a metal person
"Metal man? What you want with metal man?" asked the Motavian, putting
two furry fists on either side of its waist as though to make itself
look bigger than before.
"We need the metal man," said Lore. "We need him very much."
"Noisy Palm people break in home!" The Motavian pointed an accusing
digit at Kain in particular.
"We're sorry, but this man is important to us. If there is more than
one we just need only one." Lore brushed her long onyx hair behind her
shoulder as she took a cautious step towards the Mota person. Out of
the corners of her eyes she could sense movement, and she knew the rest
of this Motavian's tribe watched them. "My name is Lore, and this is
Hugh and Kain. Our people built this." She indicated the factory
around them. "But we left. We do not want this place back, but we want
the metal man we made here."
"Bahnim," said the Motavian, placing a hand on its chest. "Metal man
"Yes. If you don't need him, can we please have him?"
"No need," said Bahnim, waving its hand. "Come. Follow ."
Despite Kain's misgivings, the trio did. The diminutive Motavian lead
them to what had once been a control room up above more of the
production machinery. The tiny chamber offered a view of more of the
factory and the network of catwalks running out from it in all
directions made for unimpeded movement to all sections of the factory.
The open entrance to the factory shown like a beacon from the control
room, and the three Palmans were not surprised the Motavians had set
upon them as swiftly as they did.
Inside the room was a large cabinet, and in there they found a humanoid
robot stuffed inside like a giant rag doll. Kain glossed over it--it
appeared intact and complete, but nonetheless he took out a screwdriver
and proceeded to open its chest to evaluate its interior. To allay
Bahnim's nervousness, Hugh and Lore spoke to the smaller Motavian and
later answered its questions about why this Mother Brain creature
Eventually satisfied, Kain shut the robot up and announced to his
friends that they appeared to have a functional poleziax. He had no
idea if it had been programmed yet, but he doubted it since it was
inactive. He would check to be certain once they transported it to his
new lab Paseo.
With the help of the Mota people--who probably wanted to see them off
and away more than to extend any sort of altruism--the three brought in
the cart they had left outside the factory and loaded the heavy man of
metal on to it. Bahnim and two of its brethren escorted them out, and
Lore thanked the Mota person as profusely in Motavian as she found
possible. She hoped her awkward words might better convey her feelings
rather than irritate the Mota person. If Bahnim was annoyed, it gave no
sign. The Motavian abruptly said farewell and disappeared back inside
The three then returned to Paseo.
* * * * *
Kain spent hours in the lab afterwards, again opening up the robot and
spreading its innards about a broad table like some sort of mad doctor.
A myriad of wires surrounded him, connecting multiple computers to the
robot as surely as nutrient tubes from a food sac to an invalid hospital
patient. Though the sun had only gone down two or three hours ago, Kain
felt as though he had stayed up an entire night. He felt a nervous,
almost tangible energy in his gut, and it spread eagerly as he
He muttered to himself, ran a hand through his hair, as he peered at a
schematic on one of his monitors. Key words flashed at him and crucial
elements were outlined with a green highlight. He brought a mug of sano
to his lips and drank deeply as he pondered the diagram's meaning. When
a knock sounded on the thick metal door behind him he barely noticed.
"Yeah?" he asked a couple seconds late.
"Mr. Kain, may we come in?" asked a young male voice.
Kain raised an eyebrow, not recognizing the speaker. He took another
gulp from his sano. "Yeah, sure."
Two people, who could scarcely be older than himself, entered the lab.
Both were dressed casually, but wore tags signifying their clearance to
be in this part of the laboratory building. The male of the two was
short with a soft face and rounded features. The female appeared alert
and bright. She glanced eagerly about her and her short pink hair
bounced with her every movement.
"We were told you were working late so we thought we'd drop by before we
formally start working together," said the man.
"Then you're the ones the Council found?" asked Kain.
The man nodded. "My name is David Campbell and this is Sharon
Sharon bobbed her head in greeting. "A pleasure to finally meet you in
Kain chuckled good-naturedly. "I guess you've been hearing a lot about
"Sharon has kept tabs on you like you would not believe," said David
with a smirk.
But Kain was no longer paying attention. He wondered why Sharon's voice
had suddenly sounded familiar to him. He glanced at her face, but it
could not place it. Kain never prided himself on his memory of people
and their faces, but he felt positive he had never seen her before.
"Excuse me... Miss Monolly was it? I know this must sound strange, but
have we worked together before? I've never been good with people, but
you sound familiar."
David sniggered, but Kain ignored him.
Sharon merely smiled. "You can bet that poleziax we have. I was in
Climatrol while you were in the Biosystems Lab!"
Kain groaned, having his suspicions confirmed. Working on this android
would be a long job indeed. A very long job.