Blood. There was so much blood. People panicked before his body had
even fallen to the ground. Lore was dimly aware of shouts for security
and medics as she scrambled on the stage. She didn't remember climbing
out of her seat. All she knew was that she had to get to Hugh and see
if he was still alive. Too much blood. He wasn't moving. Was he
breathing? She didn't know any healing techniques.
The medics arrived and someone was pulling her away. A young woman
suggested that she sit down, let her friends take care of her.
Friends? Lore looked up and saw that Kain held her arm. David and
Sharon stood behind him.
Someone arrived with a stretcher and the medics departed with Hugh on it
nearly as quickly as they had arrived. The biologist was pale when Lore
saw him as they rushed by, but he seemed asleep, in no pain. He must
still be alive, she told herself. The dead are not rushed off to the
hospital. Someone must have used a healing technique, at least a minor
one, to stop the flow of blood.
"Lore, your hands..." said Sharon.
She raised them and looked uncomprehendingly at the sticky red color on
her palms. Had she come so close to him or had there been so much of
it? She looked at the floor where Hugh had lain. The blood, there was
too much of it.
"Is she all right?" asked someone, a guardian judging by the outfit.
Kain voiced a reply, but he sounded so far and distant. Sharon helped
her to her feet and Lore found herself shaking.
"Lore," said Sharon, a little more strongly now, "you're in shock. Come
with me. We'll get you cleaned up and maybe by then we'll know what's
going on. Come on, the guardians want us to go."
Somehow she got one foot in front of the other, trembling with the
motions of every step. Sharon kept talking to her, encouraging her.
"That's it," she would say. "The hunters and guardians will get to the
bottom of this. They always do. Maybe the government will deploy a
couple agents to secure things on the intelligence side. So really, we
will know what happened. It's just a matter of when."
"But Hugh..." Lore finally said.
Sharon gently pushed her into the women's restroom. "We'll know," she
said. "We'll know when we know, and there's nothing you can do for him
now. So let me get that blood off you. Calm down. Do you think
when Hugh wakes up he'll want to see you looking like a nervous
Lore took a deep breath and forced her feelings down to a single
shudder. She counted out her heartbeats as Sharon washed off the
blood. By the time the last speck had been cleaned she was composed.
"Do you think Hugh will be all right?" she asked.
Sharon's face was drawn, so unusual for her. "I really don't know. I
didn't get a good look, but honestly, it looked pretty bad. Still,
doctors have pulled off miraculous things, so there's hope. You know
they'll do their best for him."
* * * * *
He had fallen into a coma, said the doctors, due to the loss of blood he
had suffered and the resulting lack of oxygen to his brain. They
estimated he would wake up after a few days. In the meantime his body
mainly needed to recuperate. Medical staff would monitor him at all
times of the day in case of emergency. There would be a couple more
surgeries to remove the remaining bullets, but at this point leaving
them in was not life-threatening and the surgery would go better once
his body had recovered some if its strength.
Sharon had taken Lore down to the hospital cafeteria for a bite to eat.
The historian looked so depressed that Sharon swore she should put
something in her stomach, or at least a cup of sano. That left Kain
sitting by himself in the small observation area adjacent to Hugh's
room. He could look at his friend through the glass, but do nothing
else that would disturb him. Kain would've have liked a cup of sano
himself, but right now he felt it would give him an ulcer if he drank
Hugh lay on a motorized roller bed. In emergencies they would not have
to transfer him to a gurney to move him. The bed itself would power up
and move itself. When not in use, the bed was solid and heavy enough
that it could not be accidentally shoved to one side by a careless
person or two. Around the bed were a trio of machines. Kain knew
enough to understand that one of them was an EKG. He could only imagine
the functions of the others. And all around Hugh, inserted into his
wrist, plugged into his nose, were tubes of all kinds. Someone had
placed a stand by the bed, hanging some sort of drip bag from it. Maybe
it was blood plasma, or maybe it was food and nutrients, but whatever it
was, it trickled down through the tubing to Hugh's wrist where a thick
needle pricked him in the arm.
This was the best the doctors could do. If Mother Brain was up and
running all this would be mere first aid, but she was gone and they
would have to live with the consequences. Of all things Mother Brain
had provided them with, medicine had been the most useful. They still
had the lessons, and some supplies, but one of the medics had privately
told him that hospitals across the planet were facing a shortage of
qualified personnel, and without a fully functional Biolab and many of
the imported plants that used to grow on Motavia, medicine itself was in
Cass came in the door, looking fairly haggard herself. "How is he?" she
Kain snorted and glanced through the glass. "As well as to be
expected. I think he's in what they call 'critical but stable'
condition. If you ask me, the two words contradict each together."
She sighed. "That's a relief."
He looked at her quizzically.
"Not that his condition is a good thing," she said to clarify, "but I'm
glad it's not any worse. Goodness knows we're having a rough enough
time of it as it is." She shook her head and brought her hand to her
temple. "Councillor Dawson is doing his best to reassure everyone and
even this is good news for him."
"Dawson?" Kain scowled at the mention of Gillian's name. "What's he
got to do with this?"
Cass stared at him, surprised. "You mean you didn't hear?" She
paused. "I guess not. It's not common news yet, but I thought someone
might have mentioned it to you. Basically, we found out that the gunman
is a member of the Free Motavia Party."
"You're kidding me," said Kain, although the expression on her face
plainly told him that she wasn't. "A member of the most idealistic
political party on the planet decided to grab a gun and shoot up one of
the men that's trying to save it?"
She shrugged and turned away. "That's what we know so far. The
guardians caught him before he could get away and he's confessed as
much. Councillor Dawson is telling everyone that this is just an
isolated incident. It won't happen again. And who can blame him?
We've never had a convention of this magnitude before."
Kain wasn't so sure about that. That bastard would probably sell out
his own party if it would move him ahead. He clenched his hand into a
fist and growled, "How can he be so damn political about this? My
friend was nearly killed! They've got the gunman so leave it that. Try
him, sentence him, hang him. But worrying about the reputation of his
own stupid party? Dawson doesn't know anything. He doesn't even like
"Shush, Kain!" Cass glared at him. "The councillor isn't the
biomonster you make him out to be. He's as upset about this as we
"Upset about what it'll do to his career."
"You don't work with him as much as I do. You have no right to say such
"Come on! You know he isn't like the rest of you. He's not like the
rest of your Free Motavia Party! Don't you ever wonder just why he's
affiliated with you?"
Cass didn't reply, and for a moment Kain thought he might have gone too
far. It was probably the stress. He shouldn't have started yelling,
especially so close to Hugh. He hoped their voices couldn't have
carried through the wall.
"I'm sorry," he said after a moment longer.
She nodded but didn't say anything.
"Changing the subject... Do you guys know yet why the man decided to
take out Hugh?"
Cass let out a measured breath and shook her head. "It's all very
jumbled, but we're getting the beginning of an image. He does follow
the tenets of the Free Motavia Party, but in a twisted and extreme sort
of way. He's very much down with any government bureaucracy controlling
out lives and he wants a return to the independence we've had in
centuries past, and I mean return as in everything to remind us
about Mother Brain is gone. Even if the Free Motavia Party wanted that,
we couldn't just pretend that everything that's happened under four
centuries of her rule didn't occur. We want to get rid of the remaining
attitudes and hindrances she's left us, but we're not for throwing
everything away. We want a new beginning, free from the troubles we've
had, but we still want to use computers as long as we're able to figure
She sighed again and said, "I guess somehow he saw the Biolab joining
Nurvus as a sort of sell-out, the last straw before Mother Brain is
"That exactly what Hugh feared Nurvus would be," said Kain, "but at
least he was willing to try working with the system. He wasn't about to
go shooting people to stop the merging."
Cass nodded. "We think this man has been mentally unbalanced for a long
time. If that's true, he's probably been lacking his medication since
the fall of Mother Brain. We've gotten the impression that he's been
disgruntled for years, but it wasn't until he heard a particular speech
that he decided to take action."
"It was the one that Lore gave after the earthquake in New Zema. She
talked about the fallacies in believing that machines are perfect and
that we can't always trust in what they say. According to the man, she
said something about how because of that it would be dangerous to give
Nurvus any more power."
* * * * *
She did say that. But she hadn't meant it that way. She only
meant that they needed to reevaluate Nurvus before relying on it as
heavily as they planned. She wanted people to see the weaknesses in
Nurvus so they could fix them. The problem wasn't the Biolab giving
Nurvus more power, the problem was people giving Nurvus too much
power by believing in something they didn't fully understand.
And now it had come to this.
Lore crumpled against the wall outside the observation room. Inside,
Kain and Cass kept talking. Beside her, Sharon shook her arm.
"Lore... Lore!" she said. "I don't know what you're thinking but snap
out of it. It's not your fault."
Yes, it was. She had started speaking so that she could change the way
people thought, transition them from the atmosphere and attitudes of
Mother Brain. She wanted them to remember the past, but not to return
to it. Words were weapons too, and with them someone could fight as
ferociously as any sword. She had used that weapon blindly and struck
someone without realizing how he would be affected by it.
Irresponsible. She should have thought about what she said, how someone
might have interpreted them in a way other than what she intended.
Sharon tried to stop her, but she broke away, running headlong down the
hallway before her friend could see the tears falling from her face.
Damn it. It wasn't supposed to have happened like that. She was
supposed to have helped people. Ever since she was a child all she
wanted was to be like Alis. Alis Landale, savior of Algo. Alis, who
defeated the tyrant king and drove back the darkness. Alis, who was an
inspiration to everyone she touched. All Lore could do was twist things
in the wrong direction. There had been no evil incarnate for Lore to
fight, but she tried to do her best, to be that inspiration. How she
tried! But did it have to be that everything she touched turned to
Just like with Aeon... No, now wasn't the time to think about him.
Goodness, not now... But Alis never had to make a choice like that.
Alis never had to choose.
Lore's accusations of guilt pounded her between her echoing footfalls in
the hospital's hallway. It was all this life in the capital; too
rushed, too fast-paced, where people lied to give others the truth.
Blinding. No time to think. Just like with Aeon. She needed to get
away, clear her head. Anywhere else was fine but here.
She hadn't been there in a while. Not that it felt like one. No, the
real home had been lost to one of the largest biomonster attacks before
the fall of Mother Brain, but this new one had the family, most of the
family, and that's what counted.
Her tears dried as she passed through the city, but the aching did not
leave. The blur of people and traffic around her meant nothing. They
didn't know or understand. She had a telepipe in her apartment. That
was all she could think of, the only thing certain she could grasp. The
frantic ringing of the visaphone greeted her ears when she opened the
door, but she ignored it. She took the telepipe in her hands and bought
it to her lips.
Home, she thought, as she played the melody for Kueri.