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Chapter Thirty-Nine


The Kueri that Lore appeared in was not the lush, well-treed Kueri of years past. With the onset of drought, the trees had withered and the grass had died. The people grew hardier plants now, fruit bearing shrubs with rubbery skin thicker than one's thumb that would not dry out in the worst of the desert clime. They used to be grown as conversation pieces during the time of Mother Brain. Now they became a matter of survival. Hugh hoped the Biolab would be able to genetically engineer variants of the plants that would be able to provide more of the nutrients Palmans needed, nutrients that had previously only been found in the plants native to Palm, those which could not survive in the open air of arid Motavia.

At the thought of Hugh, Lore's thoughts came down again, ruining any comfort of coming home. But here she could find someone to talk to, someone who was more distant to everything else that was happening. Face to face was better than messaging back and forth.

She walked through town, gazing at streets far less lively, perhaps even less sunny, than in their prime. Somehow Kueri even struck her as being desolate. Her family's home was towards the eastern edge of town, overlooking the tracts of empty land that used to be the suburb of Nesha. After the biomonster attack and the resulting fire, Mother Brain had razed all the buildings to the ground. There was nothing left now, not even the foundations, but it still held memories. That was probably why her father chose this place for their next home. Memories serve as reminders, he would say.

She came up to the house, a two story affair with a simple design and plenty of room. There were two bedrooms upstairs and a third on the bottom with an exit for the yard. The old house had had four bedrooms, but the new home would have been too empty with another.

Lore thought about knocking on the door since she wasn't expected, but thought better of it and let herself in. "Anyone home?" she asked as she stepped inside.

"I thought you'd show up," said a voice, coming from the open doorway of the ground floor bedroom. "Dad's out running an errand."

Lore came to the doorway and looked inside. A young woman, also with long black hair, sat in a wheelchair by a desk. She used to have a sort of hoverchair to help her around the house and through town, but it had broken down a year ago and they had been unable to find a replacement. The woman was tiny and frail, her body much bonier than it ought to be. She was bent over a sheet of paper with a variety of watercolors arranged around her. Another landscape illustration, Lore could see.

"Jake's at the hospital right now," said her sister. "He'll be back to check on me before the end of the day." She needed a lot of care, especially now that the medical community could not provide nearly as much as it had before. Jake was not part of the family, but he had started looking after her during these recent years. He was a doctor himself, so he personally handled most of her treatment.

"Myth, I want to talk," said Lore.

She nodded and set down her brush. She reached for the wheels of her chair and gave them a push. She carefully pivoted and looked directly into Lore's eyes. "I know. That's why you came. I suppose I shouldn't have been so humorous in my last few messages, but I really didn't think it would be this bad."

"Do you know what happened then?"

Myth shook her head. "No. Not exactly anyway. I just know it wasn't anything good. It was just a feeling, nothing solid."

"There's a lot to say then. I'm not sure where to start."

Myth gestured for her to have a seat on her bed. "How about at the end of our last message?"

"Bringing back the dead? Oh god..." Lore slumped on top of the bed. "But he's not dead. He's in a coma. At least I can be thankful he's still alive. Not like Aeon. I meant well, but..."

"Usually you do. And I doubt anyone's blaming you. But you're dancing around the problem. Okay, he's still alive, you're grateful. That's the end. What about the beginning? I can only guess so much. The rest you have to tell me."

Lore sighed and Myth nodded in encouragement, behaving now more like an older sister rather than the seventeen-year-old she was. "Take a deep breath," said Myth. "I don't have much else to do right now except go back to my painting, so take all the time you need. If you need to take a break and get something to drink or eat, I know Dad has our kitchen well stocked."

"Thanks, Myth."

"Hey, you're the one with the legs between the two of us. You've got to get out there and accomplish enough for us both. I've got nothing to do all day but stew and practice my levelheadedness."

Lore smiled, knowing that wasn't entirely true. So she went to get something to drink, came back, and told her the story. She tried to include all the details, her hopes and frustrations, and to leave nothing unaccounted for. But she fumbled over the recounting of her own speech, the one that the gunman had heard. Myth let her take her time though, only pressing for more information when Lore was able to handle it. When she finished her tale, Myth did not speak for a long time.

Finally, she said, "Those are the risks one must take in view of the public eye. There is no way you can inspire people, whether for good or ill, without appearing in front of them. If there is anything worse than malicious intent, it may well be ignorance, but you know better now. If it happens again, it won't be for lack of you trying to prevent it."


Myth shrugged. "Well, I hope not. It's nothing I sense if that's what you mean. We can't divine the future, save for a premonition or two." She coughed and wheezed, wheeling herself over to the nightstand to pour a medicated drink. "At the same time, you can't hamper yourself out of fear that it might happen again." Myth swallowed painfully and set down the glass with a wince. "People need you. You might not believe it, but you're quite a figure these days. We hear about you in Kueri sometimes, and we're not exactly the hub of activity on post-Mother Brain Motavia."

Lore didn't know what to say to that, but apparently Myth did.

"You're here now," she said, "so if you don't have to go back to Paseo right away, take some time off and think about it. Things are moving faster than they have in centuries, unless I miss my guess. If ordinary people like me feel overwhelmed every now and then, I can only imagine what it's like for you and your friends."

* * * * *

Maybe this thing with Hugh wasn't like the time with Aeon. In early AW1284, the final year of Mother Brain's rule, there had been a powerful biomonster attack on Nesha, one of the suburbs of Kueri. It was the viciousness of that attack that caused people to question the protection of Mother Brain for the first time, and also when the Palman government issued the warning that people should not to leave the cities for their own safety. People fled from the suburbs and into the comforts of the more crowded cities, but was all too late for Lore and her family. Nesha had been their home ever since they moved from Camineet on Palm to the more rural Motavia.

Lore had returned from a day at work to find the suburb aflame, biomonsters everywhere, and people running and screaming. Survivors were gathering a short distance away, but she learned that her siblings were not among them. Her brother, Aeon, had run home to save Myth, who would never be able to make it out of the wreckage on her own. Without much thought herself, she chased after him.

There were still biomonsters about, some being wrangled by hunters and others plain running wild. Her father had taught her how to use a sword however, and Lore managed to fair well enough on her own. One good strike and an aggressive shout was usually enough to deter them, and as the fire spread, less of them seemed as inclined to stick around.

By the time she caught up to Aeon he was already helping their sister away. They couldn't take Myth's hoverchair because of all the fire and debris, so he carried her. Myth was thirteen at the time, and tiny for her age, but Aeon was a few years older at age sixteen and in good shape.

Lore shouted for him to follow her, and he did. The three siblings picked a path through the fire, the smoke, and the steel. Lore thought that since they were together they would be all right, but then a support beam blew from a nearby house, and the debris collapsed around them. Lore escaped unharmed, but Myth suffered a blow that rendered her unconscious and Aeon was pinned beneath what was once part of a wall. She could have freed him. In fact, she insisted on it. But Aeon was still conscious and yelled at her to take Myth to safety. Even if she freed him, he argued, she could only help one of them to safety or they'd all die.

Lore was the oldest, she was supposed to have been in charge. She was supposed to have been in control. But how could she have chosen between one sibling and the other? Aeon's frantic words pounded at her, screaming, and she carried Myth away, but long after the fires had cooled, long after the funeral for Aeon, she carried the thought with her that it should never have been her right to choose.

Since then she never wanted there to be a death of someone she knew if she could prevent it. Hugh had been a close second, but he lived. She would not have to be haunted by his eyes or a dying shriek. Hugh would wake. Please let him wake. This was not like Aeon. Lore did not choose to hurt him, and next time she would be more careful.

* * * * *

Lore would end up spending over a week at her family's place. Her father, the historian Orpheus Drakon, welcomed her home and briefed her on Kueri's local situation. Before Mother Brain had banned the use of vehicles, fishing was a popular pastime here. Now some people had begun to have the courage to build their own boats. The size of the average catch wasn't what it used to be, and people weren't exactly certain if that was due to the lack of technology or a change in the fish population.

She figured that marine biology would probably be one of the last things on Hugh's mind, if he was conscious, being that all the absolute essentials were plant-based. But if the fishing could help support the population in Kueri, it might be worth at least getting a couple of students to look at. Maybe given enough time, an arrangement could be worked out with the other cities. Kueri could provide them fish in exchange for other items. The concept of importing and exporting was better applied between cities now rather than between planets.

Lore sighed. Hugh needed to wake up. He had to. Perhaps nowhere else on Motavia could she see how much the Biolab was needed. But this day she came out in the barren fields to stay beside Myth, who had wanted some fresh air. Lore had a suspicion that Jake was secretly glad for the time off. Jake and Myth were close, but caring for her these past few years couldn't have been easy.

After Aeon died and until Jake came into the picture, Lore had done much of the at home caring for Myth. When Hugh told her he heard of a government agent on a mission to solve Motavia's problems, she wanted to help out. Dearly, she had. But she couldn't. Not with all the care her sister needed.

"I had a dream," said Myth, looking up at the sky.

"About what?" asked Lore. Her sister often had dreams, and most times they were unusual by Palman standards. Not necessarily for their imagination, but because of the eerie way she could read into them. Myth could sense things in her dreams, things that allowed her to make guesses and predictions about what was to come. Sometimes Myth could actively perceive things while awake, but her talent worked best with dreams and subconscious revelations.

"This one was more distant than normal," said Myth. "I don't think it's going to happen for a long time, but even though it's so far away, I feel nothing but certainty from it. It's going to be a big event."

"In what way?"

"I don't know. I see a man in blue. He's ageless and terribly sad. And behind him the sky is falling. I... I think he wants to help somehow and he has something important to do. I think he heralds a time of change. Something is going to happen, and it will be in a few years from now."

This last was spoken more confidently than the rest.

"That's not much of a warning," said Lore.

"I don't think it's meant to be, at least not in the way you would think. I've never sensed anything on such a large scale before. It's always been people I know or maybe the area around Kueri. This will effect everyone on Motavia. More than that, I think this message is meant for me specifically. It's not a warning for everyone on the planet so much as telling me that something will happen to me when that event occurs."

"What will happen?"

"That I don't know. I hope the man in blue visits me again. I think he will, but it might be a while."

Lore eyed the sole cloud in sight. "The sky falling... How does it look when the sky falls?"

"Like bits of molten glass tumbling to earth."

* * * * *

Myth never minced words, at least not when she could find the right ones to express herself. Usually she was all right, but her birth had been a difficult one, and at one point the umbilical cord had wrapped around her neck, nearly strangling her. During the time between when the doctors made that assessment and when they were able to free her, small portions of her brain had been damaged. They had managed to regenerate parts of it, but not the whole thing, and Myth was already tiny for a baby. Her father thought that might have been why Myth never caught up in size and shape to her elder siblings, and possibly the odds quirks in her personality as well.

The birth had cost the family more things than Myth's health. When Lore went to the cemetery, it was not to visit one grave but two. Peta "Eurydice" Drakon had died giving birth to Myth and there had been complications while trying to revive her. Lore's father would never say exactly what they were, but he missed her terribly. Lore missed her as well, but more as a person she could have known, than a person she actually knew.

Most young girls probably did not grow up feeling so much of a need to protect their families. Most young women probably were not as fearful of losing a loved one. But Lore wasn't like most girls.

The visit to Aeon's grave was brief. She brushed the dirt away and pulled out the few hardy weeds nearby. She had no flowers since they rarely bloomed anywhere anymore on Motavia, but she opened a small bag she brought with her and retrieved a mix of colored stones. They did not smell as pleasant, but they would do. She lined the headstone with the rainbow pebbles, just as a simple sign to show that someone had come and paid respect. Then she gathered her belongings and walked to an older portion of the cemetery.

Lore knelt at her mother's grave, sheathed laconian sword in one hand and her bag of pebbles in the other. She set the sword aside and arranged the stones around the marker as she had for Aeon, but while seeing them around Aeon's grave made her feel better, these made her lonely. Lore closed the bag and settled herself cross-legged on the bare earth. She pulled the sword on her lap and set one hand lightly on its hilt. The weight was comforting, reassuring. The weapon, a family heirloom, had been a gift from her father on her nineteenth birthday. Orpheus Drakon had always told Lore that while she inherited his dark hair, his music, and his love of history, her eyes and her heart came from her mother.

Even Mother Brain could not bring back the dead, at least not after a certain amount of time had passed, but today Lore hoped to bring out some part of her mother, that part she found in herself.

Lore cleared her mind and closed her eyes. Here. It somehow felt right here. By her mother's grave and with the sword she carried the day Aeon died and the day she fought for Hugh on the spaceship Noah. History was engraved in this sword, and with the understanding of history came peace. Lore wanted, needed, to understand and accept.

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