When the knock sounded on the door it was just another thing for Lore to
worry about. The first of the permanent apartment complexes in New Zema
just opened and she had happily claimed a unit for herself. Though the
building materials were nowhere near as fine as those in Paseo, the
complex small and a mere three stories tall, it was a proud
accomplishment for the engineers involved. And for Lore it meant an
escape from the thin panel floors of her temporary apartment that would
rattle with any heavier than normal step she took. When Lore dropped a
box of her possessions here, the new floors took it with no more than a
low whump on the landing.
She felt ready for her new home. But now, only partially unpacked, she
didn't know if she was ready for visitors. She already told the people
at work that she was taking a few days off. What emergency could
possibly come up that they would need her for?
She decided to open the door. Lore walked around cartons full of
clothing, cooking supplies, and furniture, before setting her hand on
the door knob. These were among the first doors to use the old handles
as a way of opening them. The Palmans found increasing amounts of
satisfaction in simplicity. Technology had given them a lot, but
working to maintain it was even harder.
"Hello?" said Lore, opening the door.
The people on the other side were not from the school district. A young
man and woman, both a few years older than her, stood beyond the
doorway. She recognized them, but could find no immediate words to
"Guess who?" said the woman, golden eyes sparkling.
"Dana. Kenneth," Lore said at last. "It's been a long time." She
smiled. "Four, five years maybe? I've lost track ever since we tried
to get on with our lives."
Dana shrugged. "About that. I don't blame you for not keeping in
touch. I think all of us were a bunch of nervous wrecks for a
while--except Hugh. Dern critter got his doctorate even after all
Lore nodded, then, thinking of her guests, gestured inside. "Please.
Come in. My apartment's a bit of a mess right now, but at least there's
a couch to sit on."
They accepted and she ushered them round the piles of boxes. Lore
brought them some juice to drink as they exchanged the initial
pleasantries. She learned how the two of them had fared since she had
last seen them as students at Kueri University. Dana had been in the
final graduating class before Rolf's attack on Mother Brain disabled the
institution. She came away with a degree in bioengineering that she
wondered if she'd ever be able to use. Kenneth, being a year older than
Dana, had already started a career in teaching with his biochemical
background, but that swiftly degraded from instruction of
university-minded students to the sort of children Lore had taught.
They had managed to scrape together enough to live though. Most people
in Kueri were of a practical nature and Kenneth was one of the lucky few
who owned his very own house. He turned it and the surrounding yard
into a vegetable garden when the collapse of Mother Brain arrived. Most
people weren't so lucky as to have the space.
He also had an interesting tale to add. A while ago, during the
turbulent weeks before Mother Brain's collapse, his friend Hugh came to
him with a request. Hugh had hooked up with an agent investigating the
biomonster phenomenon, and they needed to get into Climatrol, but the
only opening they knew of was at the bottom of the ocean. He knew
Kenneth was working on something and...
"You invented the maruera gum?" said Lore.
"That was me," said Kenneth cheerfully. "And if you give me some time
there'll be plenty more where that came from!"
Lore laughed in return and related the details of her own life since the
fall of Mother Brain. She told of how Kenneth's maruera gum helped her,
Hugh, and Kain restore the power to Motavia, of how they had created
Wren and reactivated Seed. She did not tell them of Zelan or the trip
to Noah, but as much as she felt she could without letting perilous
information pass from her lips. Lore wrapped up her story with a
summary of the events that had brought her to New Zema.
Kenneth nodded approvingly as she spoke of the town's progress. "It's
coming along fine. This apartment ain't bad for being post-Mother Brain
either. It's no shantytown, that's for certain."
"Glad you think so," she said, "because I'm probably going to be living
here for a while."
"We may be joining you."
"What do you mean?"
Dana leaned forward with a conspiratory grin. "Much as we'd like to say
this is purely a social call, it ain't. You see, Ken and I were in town
looking for Hugh, but he wasn't around. Your name came up while we were
asking around so we decided to pay you a visit. We thought maybe you'd
know where he is."
Lore nodded. "I do. He's in Paseo attending a meeting as the acting
chair of the Biolab. Why?"
"We each received letters via courier from the Biolab. They were actual
computer printouts requesting us to report to Hugh about positions as a
part of the lab's staff."
"Really? That's great! Do you know what as?"
Dana shook her head. "But I'm guessing it'll be along the line of our
specialties. Ken's innovative applications of biochemistry has always
made him sought after. But me? I dunno. I was called too."
"You regard yourself too lowly," chided Kenneth. "People will need you
even more now that the health care system is failing as much as it
Lore grimly agreed. "I don't know what Hugh's criteria is for the
people he wants to work in the lab, but I think we can use all the help
we can get."
"I suppose you're right." Dana exhaled loudly. "So, let's move on to a
brighter topic! How has Hugh been? He's obviously a very busy man
now. Neither of us have heard anything from him since Mother Brain
collapsed--though we've certainly heard of him."
Lore shrugged. "Okay, I guess. As you guessed, he's been really busy
lately. He doesn't talk to me as much as he used to. When he does it's
usually about business. I don't think he likes to admit it, but I think
he knows he's taking on a lot of stress and he's afraid to make a
mistake. He has the support of everyone currently working on the Biolab
and he doesn't want to lose it. This meeting he's attending in Paseo
has been bothering him too. I think I know what it's about, but he
can't discuss it with me."
"Sorry to hear that," said Dana. "We thought you two were such a close
Dana smiled. "Sure you never did anything romantic together, but you
were such good friends we thought if you didn't find anyone else the two
of you would get married."
"We're hardly that old, Dana. I'm only twenty-two, and Hugh's just a
year older than me."
"So? We're not that much older than you."
"What do you mean?"
Dana lifted a hand and pulled back the long sleeve of her shirt to
reveal a close fitting bracelet. Twin strands of gold interwove in
simple elegance around her wrist. Engraved in each of them was the
double helix formation.
"You got married," said Lore.
Dana nodded, noting Lore's interest in the design. "Our symbol," she
said, "since we're both biologists."
* * * * *
The Commander of Motavia pounded his gavel from his position at the head
of the large reception chamber. "The Council and the civic department
heads vote to deactivate Daughter under the provision that an emergency
activation signal to wake her will be integrated with Nurvus in the
event that the system should ever fail."
Kain nodded his agreement along with the many others present. The
Council sat high in the arena with the Commander below them at a special
desk. Kain and the department heads sat low in the area opposite them,
a shallow bowl designed to hold an audience of two hundred. It had been
three months since he proposed Nurvus, and things were going
surprisingly well. Hugh mentioned that the Biolab was getting close to
operation and that Seed had sent notices to prospective staff members.
The biologist seemed rather distant when he told Kain of his progress,
but Kain had enough to worry about. No one should be forced to accept
Nurvus, but he needed the cooperation of most of the different
departments to make sure it would work. Yes, the Council agreed that
Nurvus would replace Daughter, but that did not mean that all the
different systems would have to be integrated with it. He wanted to
give people the choice.
Kain tried to catch Hugh's eye, since the biologist sat a few chairs to
his left, representing the Biolab, but the purple-haired scientist's
eyes remained fixated on the Council in front of them. Kain sighed and
settled back in his seat. He hated this. Hated every bit of it. He
liked helping people, but he liked his freedom too. Where did that go?
Since when did he become a big wheel?
He risked a look around at the people in the room with him though, and
decided that his thoughts mirrored that of the majority of the people
here. Most of them were his age, maybe a little older. They were the
future that would define Motavia; young people old enough to lead yet
young enough to adapt. Rolf was here, as head of internal security.
Rudo and Anna were here, representing the hunters and guardians
respectively. Even Amy was here, on behalf of the flagging public
health department. Only Shir was missing, though he wouldn't be
surprised if she knew about today's happenings as well. He found it
almost funny how the seven of them had gone from defeating Mother Brain
to becoming ingrained in the very sort of politics that blinded the
people to the danger she had been.
"Now that Nurvus will be replacing Daughter, we need the ratification of
the departments that will be integrated with it," said the Commander.
"This network cannot function as proposed without a majority of the
systems, including such vitals as Climatrol and the plate system.
Considering the fractured disposition of the public and the current
level of independence of many of our departments, the Council has
decided that it will not be absolutely necessary for everyone to be
included. However, joining is highly encouraged, and may become
mandatory in the future should Nurvus prove capable. If there is any
dissension, speak now and present your reasons for your department's
action. Department names will be read off by Councillor Dawson. Please
respond when the department you represent is announced."
Gillian stood, holding a list of names in his hand. "Climatrol."
A red-haired man from behind Kain stood and replied, "Climatrol's staff
votes to join Nurvus."
"Shure Engineering Facility," said Gillian.
"Shure's engineers will join with Nurvus."
"Roron will join Nurvus."
Kain listened with a quaking stomach and a bladder that suddenly felt
too full. He fidgeted, hoping, almost daring to pray to a god whose
existence he doubted, that all parties would agree to integrate with
Nurvus. Wren would not be another Mother Brain. The android, Zelan,
and Nurvus together could free up Palman hands enough for them to
concentrate on the parts of their lives no machines could rebuild.
Kain, as Wren's primary creator held no illusions about the limitations
of his project. Wren was an intelligent tool, but a tool nonetheless,
and only as efficient as the people behind him.
"Dams and irrigation," said Gillian.
"Dams will join."
There were heads present of departments not yet ready to function, but
hoped to be off the ground as soon as Nurvus or Daughter presented the
opportunity. The dams had still not recovered since the destruction of
Mother Brain. Climatrol was an inactive hulk. The plate system rusting
for all they knew, but people were assigned to recover and develop them
Kain listened to the list grow. The agricultural department rebelled,
citing the need to observe the crops firsthand in order to produce the
best yield. Though very new in their knowledge of farming, most had
learned quickly out of fear and desperation. He supposed they felt
threatened at the thought of sharing power over something they had
struggled so hard for.
"We vote to join Nurvus."
Few departments were left to name. Kain's roving eyes rested on
"Biosystems Lab," said Gillian.
Kain watched the biologist stand for what seemed like an eternity. His
friend looked like ice when he met the councillor in the eye.
"Opposed," said Hugh.