The Weather Up There
"Hey, Wren? How are you doing?" said Sharon, perhaps more loudly than
she needed to. The fragile audio link between Zelan and the fledgling
Nurvus headquarters crackled with static. "Oh," she groaned, "don't
tell me we lost the signal!"
She reached for the knob to adjust the satellite dish, but Kain shook
his head. "Wait," he said. His thoughts were confirmed when the
android's reply came through a moment later.
"I am doing fine," said Wren through the audio link. Silence.
Sharon drummed her fingers on the control panel with a look of mild
irritation on her face. "Well? Is that all you have to say? This
isn't entirely a social call."
"I am sorry. Was I supposed to say more?"
"Yes! Elaborate on things!"
Kain smirked and leaned over Sharon's shoulder close to the microphone.
"What she means to say is, 'How's the weather up there?'"
She shot Kain a glance that told him that wasn't what she had in mind,
but it would do anyway. She turned her head back to speakers, waiting
for the reply.
"The weather?" said Wren. Though covered with static, his voice held a
fair degree of uncertainty, especially for an android. "Zelan's
atmosphere is entirely electronically controlled. It is currently
sixteen degrees Celsius, air filters are functioning properly-"
"Wren, Wren," chided Kain, "that's a figure of speech. We want to know
what's happening up there where you are. How about outside. I think
you told me during our last talk that Zelan's exterior sensors are now
functional. Can you see anything with them?"
"Yes. Sensors are online. I can see lots of rocks--asteroids--in orbit
around Algo. There are thousands moving freely between the planets."
Kain nodded. "That's to be expected. Star systems are pretty cluttered
sorts of things if I remember my school texts right."
"Hey guys!" The voice on the other end was David.
Kain smiled. "I assume you're doing okay?"
"Yes sir, boss. I'm still feeling good despite all these weeks on
artificial gravity. I'm afraid I haven't been able to keep up with
Wren--he goes through everything so fast!--but I'm doing my best to keep
both of us in shape. If anything, it gets a bit too quiet up here
sometimes. There's only me and Wren, and we all know that Wren is not
too much of a conversationalist, though I'm trying to get him to
Kain chuckled. "You were the one who asked to go up there for this
long, remember? But don't worry. You only have a couple more weeks
left before we retrieve you and Wren. You both will be due a thorough
examination, and Wren might be able to help us down here with a few of
the problems we've been having with the control center."
"No problem." He could hear the grin in David's voice. "I'm still
holding up pretty well. You won't see me stark raving mad anytime soon,
though I think for my next trip I'd better bring a better form of
entertainment than a couple computer games. I think I'll need something
with a bit more human flavor to it next time."
"Program Wren to dance!" said Sharon.
"Ha, ha. Very funny. It's a miracle he balances as well as he does.
I'd hate for him to fall and break something."
Kain pondered. "That's something to think about though--the breaking,
not the dancing. Maybe we should look into a way for Wren to repair
himself in the event he's disabled without us around."
"You'll have to ask Sharon for that one, boss. She's the robotics
Sharon gave a toss of her wavy pink hair. "Well, I guess I'll start on
it the first free moment I get." A frown followed almost as quickly.
"Which I suppose won't be for a while given all the bellyaching around
headquarters. I think the circuits are about as ready to heave as the
"Heh. I suppose I should be glad I'm missing it," said David. "All
right. We'd better sign off for now. I think Zelan's about to move out
of range--darn antennae."
"You know we'd have stronger receivers if we were given the chance,"
"Yeah, I know. Over and out."
Sharon put the receivers on low power, ready to be wakened should David
have an emergency, and shut down the broadcasting grid. She sighed. "I
suppose he's doing well enough. Time for us to get back to work
Kain nodded. "I'll be in my office if you need me."
He left, knowing that she would take care of the room's lockup. No one
knew who might try to break in and use the radio, but it was better safe
than sorry. Life was still hard for a good many people, and by now some
of them might have become desperate. He entered his office and shut the
door behind him. Kain took a disgusted look at the pile of papers on
his desk and threw himself into his chair. He had enough design specs
to last him from here to the end of the millennium.
He leaned forward, planting both elbows on the edge of his desk.
Someone had placed a pile of letters on top of his pile of design
specs. He briefly wondered if there was a pile of anything else placed
in his office that he might or might not be aware of. Kain plucked the
top envelope off of the pile. It was a a bit on the small side, but
otherwise nondescript. Whoever had addressed the envelope to him had
also penned the word "Important!" on it in a handwriting he did not
Kain tore open the envelope, not really caring about neatness at this
point. It would all be recycled anyway. It was not as though Motavia
was known for how many trees it had, or at least it wouldn't be
anymore. He tugged out the smartly folded piece of paper inside and
unfolded it. Probably from some government agency. The text inside was
typed and printed via computer on agricultural department stationary.
He scanned the contents. This afternoon and in front of the Motavian
Agricultural Building? That was short notice, but he could do it. He
disliked using telepipes for quick trips, but he supposed the situation
warranted it. Anything to get more support systems connected to
* * * * *
Kain waited, and waited, and waited. He surveyed everyone around him,
even took a brief walk around the building to make sure everything was
all right. Still, something fluttered in his gut, and he hated that.
He looked at the small bundle in his hand and scratched his head.
Nothing seemed to be going right these days. There were just too many
people around. He supposed he should go inside.
The doors to the agricultural building opened easily, someone had kept
the hinges well oiled, but the interior was warm, uncomfortably so. He
finally concluded that the air condition had failed, or perhaps it
hadn't been working to begin with. Not many people knew how to fix it.
He walking up to the receptionist and queried about where the mailboxes
were. She pointed him down a long hallway and he thanked her.
Kain figured he may as well get going. He had enough to do and taking
the time for this delivery was the best he could do. Everyone at the
cafe across the street must have thought he was crazy from the amount of
time he spent puttering around the building.
He shoved the package into the numbered mail cubby and walked back out
the front door. He figured he was a good distance away when he heard
* * * * *
Lore threw down a copy of the morning newspaper on to Hugh's desk, or
rather Hugh's head since the biologist had chosen a stack of papers as
his pillow before falling asleep the night before. He peered out
through sleep blurred eyes and pulled the paper off his head.
"What?" he asked.
"Look at the front page," she said.
"Motavian Agricultural Building has been bombed?"
She nodded, placing a hand on her hip. "The police say they have a few
leads, but no one's been named yet. Some people think it may have been
a scare tactic to get the department to join with Nurvus. It and the
Biolab have been its main opponents."
"I don't see how the bombing would affect the department's status."
"Two words, Hugh: No money. Where are they going to get the money to
replace the building, let alone all the info and equipment that was
stored in it? They made data backups--thank goodness that archive
incident was good for something--but the computers? How many have been
manufactured since Mother Brain's demise? A hundred? Two hundred? Or
am I shooting too high?" Lore brushed away her aggravation with a shake
and continued in a calmer tone. "Replacement computers aren't going to
be cheap, and pretty much the only way to streamline costs now is to
join Nurvus. The government isn't giving funding to anything else--they
barely have any money anyway--and I doubt a private individual is going
to foot the bill. It's just too much with things becoming as scarce as
Hugh leaned back in his chair and stretched his arms above his head. "I
suppose you're right." He rolled his head, trying to stretch out the
cricks in his neck. "So why are you telling me about this? Granted we
haven't had a violent outbreak in a while, you hardly came over and
dropped the newspaper on my head when the Piata riots were going on."
She looked crossly at him. "Because this time someone we know has been
involved. Kain's been detained for questioning. And though no suspects
have been named, you'd have to be an idiot to not be able to read
through the lines and tell that at least somebody thinks he might be
"So? Either he's guilty or he's not. An opinion this early in the
investigation doesn't count. I can hardly imagine he's the only one
"No. No, he's not. But he's the only high profile person connected
with the explosion. No one's going to come out and say he did it, but
the mere fact he was there on site within minutes of it happening has
attracted a lot of attention, and most of it isn't good. It would've
been the same if it was someone like Councillor Dawson instead, but it
happened to be Kain."
"What are you getting at?"
Lore shook her head irritably. "I talked to Sharon before coming here.
Kain managed to get a hold of her and tell her what happened.
Apparently Kain was asked to meet the department head of agriculture in
front of the building with the Nurvus design specs. She wanted to see
them. In the event she could not meet him he was to leave the packet of
specs in her mailbox inside the building. Turns out she never asked to
see the specs at all. Kain waited around for a long time, decided she
wasn't going to show, and dropped the package off in the building. A
little after that the explosion went off."
"Any people hurt?"
"Hugh, the whole building came down. Lots of people were. The search
for bodies is still going on. Some of the people at the cafe across the
street were injured too. That was quite a blast. And... Kain does
know how to handle dynamite."
"But of course you don't think he did it." Hugh's voice was almost a
"Of course not! But the longer I think about it, the more I see how he
could be pinned down as a suspect rather than simply being a
"Then stop thinking about it."
"I can't. And you shouldn't either. He's our friend."
Hugh looked away, unable or unwilling to agree. "I suppose."
"Oh, get over that argument you had with him," she snapped. "The longer
you guys keep avoiding each other the crabbier I get. All of this
affects a whole lot more than the both of you and as one of the closest
people to either of you I'm bound to feel some of those shockwaves."
She let out a rough breath. "Anyway, I let you know what I wanted to
say. Now I have my own work to get back to. And get some sleep! You
don't do anyone any favors by falling asleep at your desk like that."
Hugh watched her go and ran a hand through his mussed hair. One of the
documents under him had a speck of drool on it. Yeah, he should stop
sleeping here. Hugh pushed the stack off of the side and picked up the
newspaper Lore had left behind. He touched a hand to the article on the
front paper, a color print of the wreckage left behind by the blast.
Layers upon layers of concrete and steel had collapsed over the
building's address. Emergency workers stood around the site, clearing
What a waste of life--all that we fought for undone by an enemy that
is ourself rather than of Mother Brain.
He read the article and the rest of the newspaper from cover to