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Chapter Thirty-Six


Kain lazily tipped back his chair as he waited at the Grove. His fresh mug of sano was too hot to drink just yet. He had no idea how the server managed to get it from his tray to the table with his bare hand. The weather was warm too, summer was just around the corner, so he was in no hurry to drink it either. He just wanted the energy, not the warmth that it provided. If he wanted warmth all he needed to do was push out from under the shade and bask in the Motavian sun.

This summer would be the hottest one yet. He was no meteorologist by any stretch of the word, but everyone could just tell that the planet was becoming warmer without Climatrol to stir up the atmosphere. That was the eerie thing. Without Climatrol there was usually little or no wind and it was so unreal for him to feel the air being so still for so long. This, he supposed, is what a desert is like. But Climatrol would be up again eventually. He had no idea when, but it would be. It would have to be. The weather was too complicated to mess with right now, but Wren had decades, even centuries to learn. Kain hoped the research would not take as long as that, but Mother Brain had left little in the way of operating information for Climatrol.

Kain dropped his feet to the ground and the chair landed on all fours with a clunk. He straightened himself with a grunt and planted both forearms on the table. Hugh had come from around the corner and walked towards the patio section of the Grove. The biologist had sounded as though he spoke of his own funeral when he called Kain the night before, and the wrecker had yet to learn exactly what it was he wanted. Hugh hadn't been clear on anything except that he wanted to meet at the Grove today. In a way it was just like old times, coming here and having lunch. Hugh offered to treat, but Kain would be damned if he let him pick up the tab.

"Hey," said Kain in greeting. He motioned to the chair across from him.

Hugh nodded and sank into his seat. The biologist looked extremely tired, even more so than Kain would have expected. He regretted having sunk the Biolab by accident, but chalked it up as a mistake to learn from. Now he wasn't so certain he could accept the matter-of-fact manner in which he had regarded it. He had heard that people had died in the tremor. If that was true then Nurvus had a lot more to account for.

"It's your call," he said. "You called me here."

He knew his voice was guarded, but Hugh seemed too tired to care. The biologist sighed and rested his arms on the table. "You can stop being an ass, Kain. I will too."

Kain raised an eyebrow.

"I want to apologize," said Hugh, "and it won't do any good if you don't at least listen to me."

"I am."

"Good." The biologist took a deep breath. "Then I'm sorry for being a jerk about Nurvus, about not talking to you, about not helping out during that whole bomb incident, and for not seeing that I could be wrong about what I was doing." He shook his head. "My ego came first, and I was too stubborn to realize it."

Kain studied the man, noting the lines beneath the eyes, the sallow look of the skin. Hugh hadn't had a good night's rest in several days. Maybe even several weeks. But something about him seemed more alive. Though the shape of his face showed the lack of sleep, his eyes were bright and earnest.

"What brought this on?" asked Kain, trying to wrap his fingers around his steaming mug. "I thought you'd be mad at me for collapsing the Biolab. It was my fault after all."

"I was," said Hugh. "But then I realized what happened to the Biolab was my fault too."

Kain grunted. "How do you figure that one?"

Hugh rubbed his head then met Kain's eyes. "I wasn't paying attention. If I had known what Nurvus was up to, I might have noticed something before the problem could have occurred. That site must have been chosen at least a few days before the quake actually happened, and even if Wren and Zelan were unaware I could have said something. Instead I was ignoring everything about you. I was focused on my own little world, my lab, and I didn't think that anything you did could break it as long as I did the best with what I had." His gaze turned thoughtful. "But I didn't use all that I had. I forgot that there is a world between the lab and Nurvus, and that people are depending on people like us all the way around.

"There are people who don't like Nurvus, and I was one of them. But what I've come to realize is that even if they don't like it, Nurvus may be the best option. Sometimes there are choices, and none of them are good, but we choose the one we find best suited for us. We need to cooperate to survive. The weight is swinging towards Nurvus. Rather than waste both our energies fighting it, I should try to make the most of what I can with it, help Nurvus accommodate me rather than be forced to do the opposite further in time."

Kain took a sip of his sano, wincing as the hot liquid scalded his tongue. "I thought you felt Wren and Nurvus would be too much like Mother Brain."

"They might be," said Hugh. "I haven't changed my mind. But if I'm involved in the project, then I have a chance to make it otherwise."

"And Seed?"

"I have a feeling that Seed will go along with what I say. He's been doing that so far. As long as it seems reasonable I don't think it'll be a problem. I'll have to ask that Seed's core be kept away from Nurvus though. Perhaps the system could have access to some functions of the Biolab, but I want Seed to be able to function independently of Nurvus. He's intelligent in a way unlike any other AI we currently have, with the possible exception of Wren. That intelligence should be given a measure of freedom. He might surprise us that way."

Kain must have had a startled expression on his face, because Hugh smiled, a friendly look the wrecker had not seen in a long time.

"I don't mean as in he's going to attack us," said Hugh. "If Seed is independent as he likes, then he has the ability to do research and development completely on his own. The intelligent mind can innovate, whereas a computer just explores the possibilities from what it already knows. Seed can take that one extra step and come up with something we may have never seen before. Without Climatrol working, we'll need that innovation and scientific creativity to repopulate the planet with life capable of sustaining itself in this environment."

"You've really spent a lot of time thinking about this," said Kain.

Hugh nodded. "I'm afraid I didn't sleep much last night."

Kain relaxed and let out a chuckle. "Well, I guess I can't say no. And for what it's worth, I'm sorry too. Man, I thought you'd be pissed off for sure. And I wasn't about to invite an explosion, if you know what I mean." He smirked. "But don't think this is over. I think your ideas are well and good and all, but we'll have to see how they'll fit in the big picture. I'm hardly the only one involved."

"Yes, but it will be we who do it."


The biologist looked as though a great weight had been lifted from him and he could barely hold himself up from the release of the pressure. He rested both elbows on the table, head lowered, and breathed deeply. "Thank you." He peered at Kain through the purple bangs of his hair. "I have something else I want to talk to you about too."

Kain frowned, but nodded for him to go on.

"Someone visited me a while ago, the day before yesterday actually. I think you may know him. He gave his name as Donald Kain. He said he was from Maula. He didn't say anything about being related to you but-"

The wrecker scowled.

"I take it he is related to you."


Hugh pulled out a strip of paper and offered it to Kain. "He gave me this before he left. He came to me offering resources from Roron and Maula to help support the Biolab and said that there are others opposed to Nurvus besides me."

He would do that, wouldn't he, thought Kain, eyeing the paper suspiciously. He snatched it from Hugh's hand and glanced over the crudely written address.

"He said he would be staying there for the next five days," offered Hugh. "There are still two days left."

Kain wadded the paper and a flame sparked from his hand, charring it instantly. He dusted his hands off and shook his head. "I don't want to see him." He knew Hugh would ask why, ask for details, but he couldn't provide those. Not yet. He needed time to prepare himself. No one was supposed to find him. "I'm sorry," he said, "but there are some things I can't tell you about right now. I will--someday. You'll just have to be patient with me."

Hugh's expression shifted between surprise and betrayal. Now was not the time to put secrets between them, especially after the biologist had offered a hand in reconciliation. Kain knew that, but he couldn't bring himself to tell him, to show him what a sorry mess he had left behind.

"I know we really shouldn't be at arm's length again," said Kain, "but please, as a friend, trust me on this one. It has nothing to do with the security of the Biolab, and it won't have anything to do with getting you admitted to the Nurvus system. It's just something I have to take care of. Please."

"All right," said Hugh.

Kain bowed his head in gratitude. "Thanks." He looked around. "Now if we just find that stupid server maybe we can get some service around here and actually have some lunch!"

* * * * *

Lore walked to the Paseo Message Center, the only place in the city where electronic messages could readily be sent from city to city outside of the government network. She had made many visits there the past few days, and would make more in the days to come.

Sister to Sister,

I am doing well I think. But I can't escape the feeling that something bad is going to happen. I know I don't have the Gift you do, but couldn't there once be an exception? I've never been more sure in my life.

Sister to Sister,

I wish I could tell you, but only you can know for certain. There have been stories of precognizance in non-Espers before, albeit unreliable. And yet, even without being near you, I can feel your certainty. The sensation is that precise. I don't think whatever is bothering you will be catastrophic, but much more individual in nature. Are you sure you just aren't forgetting something? Maybe you need something for your next speech or it will fail.

Sister to Sister,

I hope you're joking. It's more serious than that. I feel like it's something I've done or will do, but it's driving me crazy that I can't figure out what. I don't want anyone to get hurt.

Sister to Sister,

People always get hurt. It's the healing that matters.

I know, but I've been on that road for too long. It never ends.

It will end one day when you learn to accept it.

Accept what?

That you can't bring back the dead.

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