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Restoration

Chapter Twenty-Four


Landmark AW1286

It was difficult to believe how ridiculously far they had come in the two years since Mother Brain's destruction. Of course for the Council it was not nearly fast enough, but for those involved it was an incredible amount of work. They knew the great lengths covered that would see this year as the first step towards the beginning of Motavia's recovery. All this was due in no small part to Seed's wealth of technical knowledge, without whose help the android they built would remain a lifeless doll.

The android was not yet ready to be activated in July of this year, but Kain hoped to have it cognizant by the end of the year, maybe even by the approaching Last Week Celebration in October. Though the android's consciousness had not been activated yet, the motor control appeared to respond to controlled stimuli and the information accumulation, retrieval, and storage systems appeared to be working. Sharon proved to be a natural artist as well as proficient in robotics design. She constructed the android's face during the later part of the frame modification process, using a soft, bendable, type of plastic that was remarkably durable as well. Tendon-like rods were inserted into the robot's face with the dual purpose to hold the mask in place and to perform facial expressions running most of the gamut possible for a normal Palman. They hadn't actively chosen a gender for the android, but the natural frame of the body defied any attempts to feminize it, so the lead team members as well as the numerous other people involved with the project began to refer to it as "he".

When Sharon gave him a shock of thick black carbonfiber hair and the plastics of his silvery blue eyes were ready, the android appeared almost Palman. The question of what to name him came up, as it inevitably would. Up until now they had simply referred to him as "the android", but as he rapidly neared completion the need for a proper name became greatly evident.

It was after the hair and face were completed that Kain asked for friends to drop by and see the android and suggest a name for him. Now that they would know what he looked like, perhaps they could offer something fitting. Nothing that Kain, Sharon, or David came up with seemed to work well enough, so they listened to nearly every idea with an open mind.

Nearly two weeks after Kain had called for people to visit, Lore came by. The hour was late, long after normal working shifts had ended, and the building was nearly empty. She slipped into the lab like a ghost; silent and unseen. Kain didn't know how she knew he would be there, because he wasn't often at this hour, and there was no one else around who could have told her. But she had entered nonetheless, startling Kain when he suddenly realized that someone stood behind him.

She did not notice his reaction at first, so absorbed she was at the sight of the metal man laying upon the table. The android appeared little like he had when they had carted him from the factory near Piata. Though the lab still looked like an operation room, it seemed less hostile and austere in the face of the android's placid countenance and serene gray eyes. He did not seem a victim so much as a patient. His eyes were open, staring blankly at the ceiling. He did not move; he could not of his own volition until his primary operating system--that which would be his soul--was activated, but his tranquil expression gave the appearance of being very much alive.

"Well, what do you think?" Kain asked, hunching over because of the soreness in his back.

"Sharon did a wonderful job," said Lore. She raised the fingers of one hand to her lips. "It's just he looks almost like..."

"Like what?"

She shook her head. "I don't know how to say it. It's just... Can we call him Wren?"

Kain rocked himself back and forth on his heels. "Don't see why not. Hafta check with Sharon and David or course, but they'll probably agree. It sounds more like a decent name than the other stuff we've been getting."

"Like what?" she asked, echoing his earlier question.

He snorted, laughing beneath his breath. "Well, there was the Son Brain one of the Councillors came up with. David's somewhat partial to Mainten 3. Alis only knows the reason for his obsession with that number, but otherwise I could live with that name. And of course Hugh wanted something deep and significant--^—cept he couldn't think of just what that was himself. The man's never been good with names."

Lore smiled, taking on a decidedly more natural appearance.

"I want something more like a Palman name," said Kain, gazing down at the construction table. "This android needs to be able to pass for one, not a mockery of one. Wren sounds earthy enough for me."

"It should," said Lore, angling her head to look thoughtfully back at the android. "I had a cousin named Wren. He was on Palm when it blew." She turned to go, but stopped after taking only a step. "I think he's alive, somewhere, on one of the ships that left Algo, but I'll probably never know." Her words came as something of an afterthought. Then she walked to the door. "He had nice eyes too."

* * * * *

"Wren is it? I like that name," said Cass.

"Yeah, that's what Sharon, David, and Kain decided." Lore played with a pen, once again at work chronicling Motavia's history. "But remember, just because I'm telling you this doesn't mean it's public knowledge. Don't tell anyone about this, especially not the Free Motavia Party."

Cass smiled and shrugged innocuously.

But Lore saw her point taken.

"You know, you really should join the party," said Cass.

"Why would I want to do that?" asked Lore, waving an arm slowly to indicate the mess of papers she had spread out on the dining room table in Cass's apartment. "I'm busy enough as it is. You know how much time I have to spend writing, and my scheduling around New Zema doesn't allow for much leeway. We're just getting started over there."

Cass rested her chin on the interlocked fingers of her hands. "Well, I think you could be a great speaker."

Lore paused for a moment, genuinely surprised. She did not have a high opinion of politics, mostly due to the New Council's antics. Cass on the other hand, had become increasingly involved. The Council had eventually caved in to the growing unrest of the populace six months ago. In a desperate attempt to grasp on to their power a little longer, they offered a new procedure for the selection of their members. Most people found it agreeable, though it rankled the political hearts of the majority of the Council. From now on, new Councillors would be chosen by elections in which any Palman could participate.

The news spread across Motavia as fast as the people's visaphones would allow. That decision this past January resulted in the formation and destruction of something new, something that Motavia had never seen before--a political party. People chose to back certain Councillors and to completely drop support of others. Newcomers previously unknown to the planet as a whole rose to prominence as speakers and leaders. The Council itself split as each member sought to ensure his or her own seat for the following two years, the term length that the people and Council had decided on.

Many groups banded together based on ideals and ideas. Most failed to survive their first few months or were absorbed into larger parties based on the common need for strength. At this point in time there were four large parties of note, but each week saw the formation of a new, if smaller, one. The turmoil was such that in many cases the candidates were so disorganized and unclear that it postponed the elections that otherwise would have taken place much sooner. At last it was mandated by the Council with what little power it had left that each candidate must sign up by the end of July or wait until the next election period. From then until November would be the campaign period, and the voting would take place in early December.

One of the smaller of the four main parties stilled struggled for recognition, though it was almost there. That was the Free Motavia Party, which Cass had joined. They promoted freedom from the past in all its forms and to revolutionize the government's system of operation, though Cass had been quick to point out to Lore that freedom from the past did not mean ignorance of it. The Free Motavia Party placed stock in history, which Lore appreciated to some degree. She privately believed the party heads wanted the information as fuel against their competitors, but she kept her thoughts to herself. Despite the fervor of some people, the majority of Palmans on Motavia did not belong to any party at all. If she held herself back she was no different than most.

"You know more about recent history than anyone else," Cass went on. "And you know more than most about how we used to be able to survive without Mother Brain."

"We used to have a monarchy," Lore said, mildly amused. "That's quite a bit different from where we're headed now."

Cass shook her head. "I'm serious. You're the perfect person to convince other people of what we believe in and how we can accomplish it. Maybe we used to have kings and queens, but not every aspect of life was controlled by them, not even by this Lassic guy you told me about. You know how people were able to live far away from anything and virtually autonomous from a domineering sort of government. And they survived! They didn't have people far above them stomping them down. If we get as many members of Free Motavia into the New Council as possible then we'll have a much better chance at shaping the coming years the way they should be than if we miss this chance. Goodness knows what Turgen and his bunch'll do if they take over most of the seats. If people are going to settle into a routine at all it needs to be a good one."

Lore sighed. "Well, I guess I can think about it, but I'm not promising anything. I don't really want to get involved."

"You'll at least vote when the time comes, won't you?"

The historian smiled. "Yes, I will. But only for the candidate that appeals to me. And it won't matter to me if that person is a member of the Free Motavia Party or not. It's the candidate's words that matter to me, not the party."

Cass giggled. "Oh I think you'll like our candidates though. They're extremely dedicated--none of those wishy-washy people that the Council practically had to scream at to get them to commit. One of them's already on the Council."

"Really?"

"Yeah, but he's an okay sort. He hasn't been on very long. He's the only one that came on board after Mother Brain left."

"Hmph. I don't think I know him. But then I haven't had anything directly to do with the Council as a whole since Noah. I've mainly been talking with Councillor Riley and getting her to relay all my requests to them."

"Yeah, Riley's okay too," said Cass after a moment. She tapped her chin with a fingertip. "It's too bad she's not in our party."

"Everyone has a different idea of how Motavia should be better." Lore picked a bound stack of papers out of her duffel on the floor by the table. "By the way, these are for you. You can see I haven't been slacking while at Arima. This is all for the archives."

Cass beamed and took the papers from Lore's hand. "I'll get them typed up as soon as possible. The Paseo Archive is brimming with your work. Keep this up and you'll have a whole shelf to yourself. The paper stacks had been gathering dust for years, and now I go in them so often I can't believe it."

"I'm getting tired though," said Lore, resting her head against an open hand. "It's been a lot of work, recording things with nearly every free moment I have and teaching the past over and over again to those who need it. Arima's in such bad shape I'm still a teacher half the time. I need a break, but if I take one I'll miss something, and then people will have a chance to forget."

"Don't worry. The Last Week Celebration will be here before you know it!"

Lore snorted. "That's three months away!"

Cass smiled. "Trust me. The way you're running right now, you won't even notice the time fly."

* * * * *

"You wanted to see us?" asked Kain. He, Sharon, and David stood in a spartan office with a long, wide desk, a file cabinet, and a lamp. Though nearly bare, the room did not detract from the presence of the man who sat on the other side of the desk. He had been on the Council for only a year, but he had grown swiftly into his new role and responsibilities.

Less than a week had passed since Wren's name had been decided on.

"Yes," said the young Councillor, seeming much older since loosing his boyish features. The face he presented now was harder and less forgiving. "I wanted to check how your progress with the android is going."

"To be honest we're a little behind," said Kain. "But you realize that this is very cutting edge work. It's never been done before."

The Councillor nodded, his voice neither accusative nor defensive; merely stating a fact. "Neither has the Daughter Project."

"Daughter doesn't have a deadline placed in front of her," Kain said sourly.

"Too true, but Daughter isn't trying to 'show up' your project. The Council needs something to believe in. Results, Mr. Kain."

"With all due respect Councillor Dawson," --Kain ground out the words between his teeth-- "you know something this important can't be rushed. Otherwise something will be missed and then you will really have something to give us flak about. There will be delays no matter how hard we plan."

Gillian Dawson rested his chin on the back of a hand as he leaned to one side. "Oh I do know, but that concern is secondary. Results are concrete, showing us that we aren't wasting our time on this project. With something as costly as both your android and Daughter running at the same time I'm sure you understand. Don't you?"

"Unfortunately so."

The Councillor lowered his gaze to look at the desk he propped his elbow on. "I'm hardly the only Councillor and if you want to stay in business I suggest that you finish before the end of the year. The post-elections Council may be vastly different from the old. You can't count on them to support you."

"Aren't you running?" asked Sharon.

Gillian played with a pen in his other hand. "Of course."

After a moment Kain grunted and turned away. "We should make it by the end of the year--making a liberal estimate here. The current schedule is holding, which means we should get him fully operational by October, which I assume is the result you want. If we're lucky the schedule'll keep. Seed knows a lot, but he doesn't know everything. We're only beginning to catch up."

"Only the beginning," mused Gillian. "Yes, only beginning. We've got a lot of years left ahead of us if I have anything to say about it, and I plan on being around for a long time."

David shifted uncomfortably. "You are the youngest Councillor, sir."

Gillian nodded. "Anyway, when do you think the android will be ready to perform in all ways save independent thought. We can always tell him directly what to do if he's not sentient--or at least until the time that his is."

Sharon shook her head. "The language comprehension modules are a part of his learning program. We can't talk to him and expect him to understand until he's capable of experience learning. Currently he can only respond when connected to a translating computer console in the lab. That's what we use to test that the different aspects of his system are working."

"He already has language instructions programmed into him though, doesn't he?"

"Yes, but all he really has is a dictionary and a set of linguistic rules. He'll need practice, just like any child, before he'll be able to talk like a real person. Everything like slang, sarcasm, intonation, and so on will have to be learned once his sentience is activated. There's no way to directly tell him which word is better used in what situation or the politeness level his speech should be when speaking to someone he's never met before--all of that children learn from observing others and from their own mistakes. Wren will need that too."

"Wren?" queried the Councillor, raising an eyebrow.

Sharon bobbed her head fiercely. "Yeah. That's what we decided to name him."

"And if you think that's a silly idea," began Kain, "remember that there isn't going to be another of him. He's going to be as much of an individual as you or me."

Gillian didn't flinch at the hint of accusation in Kain's voice. "In all seriousness I think that's a good idea. It brings you one step closer to your goal, right--an android that will be Palman in all but the physical body."

"That's close," said David quietly. "We don't want him to be completely Palman in mentality, but as long as Palmans can understand him and he can understand us--that is what we hope for."

"Hmph. If you finish Wren by December and if the elections don't kill us all this is going to be a landmark year."

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