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Restoration

Chapter Twenty-Six


Recovery

"How's she doing?" asked Kain as he stepped into Hugh's apartment.

The biologist shook his head. "Resting." He shut the door behind his friend and motioned for Kain to have a seat on the couch. Hugh remained standing.

"She's in my room right now--sleeping. It's about time." Hugh looked towards the drawn curtains at the far end of the room. The faint light of dawn already shown through them.

Kain grunted as he flopped on the couch. "You look like you could use some sleep yourself, my friend. Have you been up all night?"

"Yeah." Hugh nodded wearily.

"You sound as tired as you look. After I tell you what I found out I want you to get some sleep as well."

Hugh stuck his hands in his pockets. He was still dressed in his tuxedo, though he had discarded his jacket and cummerbund and rolled up his sleeves.

"So what did you find out?" he asked.

Kain let out a breath. "Well, first of all I've really gotta hand it to David. He's not a big man, you know, but he's got some guts. Apparently he and Cass took a walk outside and they spotted someone entering the library--which was closed for the celebration if you recall. Something just didn't sit right with him, and when the guy came out again he and Cass followed him for a bit. Then: Bam! The library erupts into flames. Cass started to call for help and meanwhile the guy's running away, but David just tackles him! We both know he's no hunter, but he put his sixty kilos to good use!

"So the culprit's been apprehended. He's with the police now. I guess we'll find out why he did that soon enough."

Hugh looked back at the short hallway leading to his bedroom. "I don't think any 'why' he could give us will ever be reason enough. Lore worked on those records of hers nearly every free moment she had for the past two years."

Kain nodded. "The archive is pretty much gone. There was no way to control the fire. The Council just let it burn until there was nothing left for it to grow on. Tomorrow they'll see if there's anything that survived. If we're lucky, some of the computerized copies of Lore's work will be intact, or we can hunt them down from anyone she sent them too, but it's just a pity no one thought to store them somewhere else."

"No one thought this would happen," said Hugh, turning back to face his friend. "Nothing like it has for longer than we can remember."

Abruptly he asked, "Have you slept yet either?"

Kain shrugged. "I had a nap while waiting for the decision about the fire. Right now I'm running off of three mugs of pure sano. But I should get going. I could use the rest. And don't you forget about yourself, my friend."

"Of course not."

Hugh showed Kain to the door and bid him farewell. Then he walked slowly to his bedroom. Inside, Lore still slept. Her tears had dried and the puffiness around her eyes began to fade. The chair from his desk sat near the head of his bed, so that he could continue to watch her.

He stood in front of the chair, looking down at her, and wondered how she had felt when this situation was reversed, when he had been drunk and she watched over him. Though the circumstances were different, the results were not far from the same. He thought about the extra sheets he found on the floor next morning and locked himself deep in memory. Though there was still the spare bed in his study, he wanted to be near her when she woke, just in case she needed him.

He sat down in the chair, propped his elbows on his knees and head on folded hands. He marveled at the feelings the tragedy awakened in him. The sensation was even stronger than the time on Noah, and perhaps different since the danger was no longer present. He reached over and tucked back a stray coil of hair from her face, then settled back in his chair.

* * * * *

Lore woke, but did not immediately open her eyes. She heard a soft even breathing besides her own, and for a moment she felt a fleeting sensation of disorientation. She wondered if she still dreamed. Then she turned her head and opened her eyes.

Hugh leaned back in his chair, head tilted awkwardly to one side without support as he slept. Lore smiled. He looked so uncomfortable.

She turned away and looked at the window. The light behind the curtains shone golden with sunset. More time passed than she had thought. Lore slowly sat up and slid out of bed. She stood and brushed the wild strands of onyx hair from around her face. The light was warm and welcome, and she lifted aside the hem of the curtain to peer outside. A myriad lights reflected off the lake of Paseo, but not quite so many as she had seen her first day here. The lake continued to dry ever so slightly with every passing month.

Behind her, Hugh stirred, blinking open his eyes before sitting up. He stifled a yawn before standing up and stretched his arms about his head. "Afternoon, Lore," he said, coming beside her. "Are you feeling better?"

She briefly met his eyes. "I... I think so. Thanks for asking. Last night seems so unreal." She held a hand to her cheek. "I feel like it might have never happened. I feel like I should be able to close my eyes and it will all go away." Lore shook her head. "But I can't. I know that."

She sighed. "Thanks for stopping me last night. I was just crazy."

He nodded.

"Look," she said, shifting her gaze. "I think I'm gonna change and freshen up." She chuckled dryly. "I must look awful."

Hugh smiled good-naturedly, but said nothing.

Lore exited the room, then reappeared a moment later. "You know, I just realized something. I left my duffel at Cass's."

"Probably."

Hugh gestured at his closet. "You can borrow some of my stuff if you'd like. We're just about the same height so most of it should fit."

Lore pondered that, recalling what she knew of Hugh's wardrobe. He had to have something she might be able to wear.

"Don't make that face, Lore. You won't know for certain if you don't look."

She smiled wanly. "Thanks, I think."

Lore walked with exaggerated steps to the closet and opened the doors. She suspiciously inspected the nearly arranged rack of shirts and pants. In all honesty she didn't find the wardrobe as bad as she thought it might be. So why didn't he dress nicer more often instead of wearing all those lab coats and pullovers?

She plucked out a white buttoned shirt and tan pants, sized them up, and against exited the room.

Hugh chuckled to himself. Though she hadn't said so, he knew he surprised her. He stood up and stretched. Lore left the closet doors still open so he helped himself to a dark blue sweater and black slacks.

* * * * *

Lore was still in the bathroom when the doorbell rang. Already dressed, Hugh answered it and found Cass outside. The librarian looked sullen and only barely lifted her bowed head when Hugh greeted her.

"Is Lore here?" she asked softly.

"Yes," he said.

"I brought her duffel bag." Cass held it up as Hugh moved aside and gestured for her to enter. "I hope she's all right. I know there wasn't anything I could do, David keeps telling me that, but I can't help wondering if there wasn't something more we could have done."

"Don't worry about it. The fire is over now, for good or bad. And as for Lore, I think she'll be all right."

"I will," said Lore strongly, stepping into the living room. Hugh's pants were a little baggy from her knees down, and the shirt sleeves a little long, but otherwise the outfit matched her well.

Cass brightened considerably. "That's good to hear. I heard you took the library even worse than I did."

"I did," she said. Lore looked at Hugh. "Do you think you could leave us for a moment?"

He hesitated, but nodded and left.

Lore turned back to Cass. "The library fire was no accident, right?"

"Right. But how did you know?"

"Someone willfully destroyed all that." Lore swung her arms and brought her hands together in front of her, one hand clenched into a fist and the other open to cover it. "I've been thinking about it, and that was the only reason I could see. Why the library of all places? There are greater fire hazards than that building when I look back on Mother Brain's lessons. The fire had to have been intentional. She built things too well to spark randomly. For the building to burn it would have to have been through human action."

Cass nodded slowly. "Yes. The man we caught said something about trying to erase the past. That's why he went for the library. He thought it was some kind of abomination. And well, this is the Last Week when all things are overlooked."

Silence.

"I've made up my mind," said Lore.

"About what?" asked the librarian.

"The Free Motavia Party. I thought about it when I woke, and a little more just now. Cass, I'm going to do it." The historian met her friend's gaze with an intense ferocity. "I don't want anything like this to happen again. I want the people to understand their history. To break away from the past does not mean to destroy it. We must master it."

"Lore..."

"I'll do it. It may be late for this electron, but I'll support the party from now until the next one, and during the interim there will always be notifying the people of the laws they pass. They will have to know what the Council is doing if they are to vote correctly the next time around." She lowered her arms, but left one hand in a fist. "I want to bring enlightenment to those who live in the dark."

* * * * *

Kain charged through the halls of the Motavian Command Center. He clenched his teeth together and balled his hands so tightly his knuckles turned white. People stumbled out of his way, but he hardly noticed them. When he reached the plain metal door of his destination he hit the door open button with an angry punch. The metal slid aside with a hiss to reveal a familiar spartan office and an even more familiar councillor inside it.

"Dawson!" growled Kain.

The door shut behind him, immediately cutting them off from the bustling hall outside.

Gillian looked casually up at Kain from behind his desk with his unique silver eyes. "Can I help you?" he asked evenly.

Kain planted both his hands on Gillian's desk so that he could lean over him. "I've tried to trust you, dammit, but it's just not working. I don't see what people like Rolf and Yurik see in you."

The councillor returned Kain's gaze without flinching. "I think you should explain yourself, Mr. Kain."

Kain shoved himself defiantly away from the desk. "Oh I'll explain all right. I just want you to do so too!"

Gillian gestured with open palms to Kain. "All right. Then do so."

Kain crossed his arms over his chest, fuming as he began to pace. "I used to think that it was just a rumor, but then as time went on it became more and more real. There is a danger to my project, but I was hoping it wouldn't be you!"

He paused, looking back at Gillian, but the councillor's expression did not change.

"What happened to all this talk you had about learning from history?" Kain growled. "Using Daughter would only repeat it. I don't like listening to gossip, but far too many people are saying that you plan on pulling the plug on Wren! The Daughter Project's loosing strength, you know that, so why are you trying to revive her when Wren is so close to being done?"

When the councillor did not immediately reply Kain resumed pacing. "Look, I only need a little more time. We're almost ready. We're so close I can almost smell the oil from his joints when he walks."

Gillian leaned back in his plush chair. "You don't know for certain that Daughter will repeat the events in the past. Interest in her is flagging, and admittedly Wren is gaining some popularity now, but who is working on them or how they work is not my concern. I will do whatever is necessary for Motavia's continued survival, regardless of which AI is the one running the star system. I will keep my options open. Thus my increased interest in Daughter is not something you should be concerned about. If you truly have the better AI then I will work with him."

Kain shook his head. "I don't understand you. You already know that most of the Council views you as some kind of traitor, but you keep pushing the limit. They're starting to regret your appointment."

"I'm not afraid of taking risks, Mr. Kain. This sort of democracy we're trying may be useful for getting things done." Gillian played with one of his pens. "The current Council is outdated. We have to be stronger for the new era. You understand yourself the problems involved with the current bureaucracy. When you returned from Noah you were quick to point that out to everyone. Quite frankly most of the Council was chosen by Mother Brain because they were easy to control. We don't need people like them in command now. We need people who will work, who have a vision."

Kain rolled his eyes, coming to halt. "And I suppose that means you?"

"I suppose so." Gillian smiled thinly.

"Why is a person like you a candidate for the Free Motavia Party anyway? You're not like any of the other members I've met!"

Gillian lowered his eyes, but spoke confidently. "That's true. The majority of them are exceedingly idealistic. But that's why I'm there. I'm willing to listen to them and rein them in when their ideas become too ridiculous. They have the energy. It's my job to channel it."

"Don't you think that sounds a little like you're using them?"

The councillor shrugged. "They want to see life improve for everyone on Motavia. So do I."

"So does everyone," said Kain. He placed his hands on his hips. "It's just the meaning of 'improvement' that bothers me. What does it mean for you?"

"I have already told you about the Council. Isn't that an improvement?"

He shook his head again. "Regardless, it's not right to maneuver everything, everyone, this way. It's all ending up with you in particular gaining more than you had before."

"And how is that wrong?" Gillian lifted his head, meeting Kain's reproacful gaze. "Someone will be in power regardless of whether or not it's me. The leader should be the one beast able to lead, and the elections will prove whether or not I have the capacity to do so. If I fail I will not be reseated next election. It's as simple as that. If I don't fulfill the people's wishes they won't support me. If I'm some sort of criminal like you make me out to be I'll be replaced. That's how the system works, isn't it?"

Kain grudgingly had to admit Gillian was right, but it did not help that the councillor's face expressed only secure confidence. He snorted.

"All right, Councillor. I'll let you go. But you should watch yourself. I have a feeling that if you said such things to people like Cass you'd be short one political party."

Gillian shrugged.

When the elections came that December, Gillian was one of the eight seated on the New Council.

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