Kain didn't like watching the news unfold at the same rate general
public received it. "You know the Council's hearing it faster than we
are," he'd say, but of course the Council received it first, since much
of it was their collective decision as well.
Gillian had implied that the Council wasn't hiding anything, but he
wouldn't give Kain, Sharon, David, or even Wren, a straight answer.
Certainly implementing martial law itself had become a well known fact,
and that had not been without mishap. Piata had not believed the
Council could actually be that serious, and had fought back until word
of several deaths had spread. Now the city seethed in subdued anger.
The message had been spread.
The Council was still the real power on Motavia and disobedience
would not be tolerated. Protests were muted and criticism moved
underground. If control got any more stringent it would be just like
being under Mother Brain again. And wouldn't people like that, Kain
Someone knocked on the door and Kain reluctantly set down the
newspaper and got up from the kitchen table to answer. Hugh was on the
other side. Kain opened his mouth to ask what he was doing here when
the biologist pointed to a folded note stuck to his door.
"Lore sent me to bring you out of isolation," said Hugh. "She says
that ever since the Nurvus opening ceremony..."
Kain didn't hear the rest of what Hugh said. He recognized the green
sticker of a bee used to hold the note to the door. "Donald," he
muttered, tearing down the note. His cousin hadn't contacted him since
his last effort two weeks ago on the day of the ceremony. He thought
he'd finally gotten the message.
"Donald?" echoed Hugh. He had only met Kain's cousin the one time he
had visited him after Nurvus had buried the Biolab underground and
Donald had left an unfavorable impression on him. "I thought you said
that he was after you because he wanted to control Nurvus. Now that the
ceremony is over Wren is the ultimate authority, not you."
"He doesn't believe me," said Kain, skimming over the note. "He
doesn't believe a 'metal doll' that I put together could possibly
be the real mastermind behind the system. So to make sure I pay
attention this time he's-"
Kain crushed the note in his hand and stormed back in his apartment.
Hugh mutely followed him in as Kain swiped his visaphone from its rest
on the wall.
"David," Kain barked, "is Sharon there with you in the lab?"
The voice on the other end was confused, its words barely
registering. Of course Sharon had to be there. If she wasn't at the
lab she was with him. Well, she could be at her apartment. She went
there on occasion, but she spent more time in the lab. Maybe she went
to Nurvus with Wren to perform some maintenance. Wren was considered
the head of the network, but for now, at least, he still needed a team
of Palman technicians to help him.
Hugh waited as Kain called her apartment, called Nurvus, called her
family. He hadn't known that Kain had even met her family. But when
Kain started to call yet another number, he said, "I think that's
enough. If Sharon's really missing you don't want to alert the whole
world you're looking for her and if she's not you won't want to cause a
"I can't just sit here!" he snapped. "Donald says he's holding her
hostage. If he's telling the truth..."
Hugh pulled the phone away from him and set it back on the wall. "If
he has her--if--he's not going to harm her, not right away. He
needs to give you time to respond and unless he's stupid he knows
"Donald is stupid."
"You know what I mean and if your cousin is half as cunning as you've
led me to believe he knows how valuable she is to Nurvus."
"You idiot." Kain seethed, grabbing his jacket as he headed for the
door. "That's not the reason he kidnapped her. Nurvus will move on
with or without her. He's trying to get to me." Kain stood in the
doorway and looked back at Hugh. "I'm going over to the Command
Center. David says she was there only a little while ago. I'm going to
see if there are any clues as to where Donald might have taken her. You
"Are you going to talk to the Council and the police about this?"
Kain looked at him and didn't reply. He walked away, leaving Hugh to
shut the door.
"No, of course not," muttered Hugh. Kain had never trusted anyone to
deal with Donald.
* * * * *
Lore found Hugh, Kain, and David in the lab that had given birth to
Wren. She knew she had asked Hugh to bring Kain out of the funk he had
settled himself into in his apartment, but bringing him to work was not
what she had expected. Aside from the fact the sun had long since set,
here he would only grouse about Gillian and complain about things being
out of his control. He needed to cheer up and let go of his worries,
not come running towards them.
She turned to leave when David noticed her. "Lore? Were you looking
"It's okay," she replied. "I wanted to talk to Wren, but he's not
here. I'd heard he was coming by today."
"He was, but he's already gone back to Nurvus."
"Lore," said Kain, "I have something to tell you. You'd better come
inside and shut the door."
Puzzled, she did as he requested and joined the group. "What's going
"We've searched everywhere and Sharon is missing. One of her
assistants had been the last person to see her when she went out for
dinner. She hasn't been back since. We called the take-out place
Sharon always goes to and they say she placed an order with them, but
never arrived to pick it up. She's not at home, she's not at Nurvus,
and she's not at her parents' house.
"Donald left a note saying that he has her." Kain's eyes were fierce
and his voice shook. "He still thinks I can influence Nurvus. Wren
won't listen to me if I tell him to start listening to Donald in
exchange for Sharon's life."
"But he will." Noting Kain's surprise, Lore added, "He's more Palman
than you give him credit for sometimes. If Donald's plan doesn't hurt
anybody directly, I think he would listen in exchange for Sharon. You
guys made him to care for people."
"Maybe," Kain allowed, "but we can't consider that an option."
"Lore," said David, "Kain thinks he knows where Donald is holding
Kain nodded. "Donald has a lot of friends now, but I don't think any
of them will risk being associated with kidnapping, especially of a high
profile subject, nor would he want to potentially alienate his allies by
holding her on their premises without their permission. He's slick, but
not enough to hide a hostage for what it is. If I know Sharon, she's
not going to make things any easier on him than she has to. So that
really only leaves an old warehouse back in Maula that my family owned.
He knows the territory and it's the one place where he'd have complete
"We're going to rescue Sharon. Hugh and David are coming with me.
Lore hesitated, remembering her own brief experience meeting Donald.
She supposed he was capable of kidnapping, but this was a crime of one
Palman against another. How could he demand the fulfillment of his
greed in exchange for the safety of a human being?
"Isn't this a job for the police or the hunters?" she asked. "This
isn't like the lawlessness that immediately followed the destruction of
Mother Brain. We have system for handling things like that and the
people trained to do it. We have a solid government now."
"No." Hugh was the one who contradicted her. "The system is in
place, but not everyone follows it. The Council is strong, but the
rebellion in Piata is proof that it's not solid. Not everyone believes
in it. I agree that it would be best to go through the established
channels, but there is some merit in what Kain wants to do. Remember
Kain has largely kept his side of his dispute with Donald out of the
public light. Involving the proper authorities is going to open up a
lot of buried graves."
"There is more," said Kain, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Donald has wormed his way into the hearts of a good many people. He's
very popular right now. Bringing him to justice will be difficult with
so many people believing in him. We want to rescue Sharon, not to
"It won't stop him from trying something else on you," said Lore.
"I know. But right now Sharon's safety matters more than anything
the future might bring. Once she's safe, then I'll think about
how to put Donald permanently out of the picture."
"Are we going to bring Wren? He was adapted from a poleziax base
model. Even if he doesn't have the programming, his structure is built
"No. We're going vigilante, remember? Wren is trained to respect
the law. As sorry as it is, I don't want Wren learning from our bad
examples. Besides, he's needed at Nurvus now and we're not."
Lore still could not shake the feeling that barging in after Sharon
was wrong. "But how do you know that Donald doesn't have guards
watching over her?"
"We don't. We're going to have to go in armed."
But she thought about Sharon, how she must feel.
"We're going tonight," said Kain. "Donald's expecting a response
from me tomorrow. If we wait any longer we'll lose the element of
surprise. If there's one thing that Donald constantly does it's
underestimate me. I don't think he'll anticipate me taking the battle
Raising a sword against another human being was entirely different
from raising a sword against a biomonster or against Mother Brain. Even
regarding the worst of human conflicts she wanted to believe that it
could be solved by words rather than blades. But, long ago, a girl
named Alis had slain the tyrant Lassic to save the star system, and he
had been human. She had spilled his blood and yet was regarded as a
savior. Donald was not on the scale of Lassic, but might this illicit
battle still be justified?
She didn't like trying to convince herself to go along, and yet she
wanted Sharon freed as soon as possible. Ten years ago she knew her
answer would have been to charge into battle. Combating a villain to
rescue a friend was a noble endeavor and even at age fifteen she had
been competent with a sword. Maybe she was getting old, or all the time
spent fighting with her voice had dampened her fire.
"All right. I'll come."
* * * * *
The four of them left the Motavian Command Center, intending to go
back to Kain's apartment since he said he had enough telepipes there for
everyone to go home, get equipment and meet at the Maula ryuka node, but
they met Gillian just outside the building. He leaned back against the
side of the wall, relaxed, waiting for them.
"Late night, councillor?" said Kain.
"The group of you are going to find Sharon Monolly," stated Gillian,
without a trace of doubt. The councillor smiled. "Don't look so
surprised. Seeing your staff turning the Command Center upside-down in
a search for one of your Chief Engineers is difficult to miss. It only
took a single inquiry to discover that she's missing. And, seeing the
group of you marching out together instead of one at a time or in pairs
is something that has not happened in a great while.
"You aren't like most other people and this will hardly be the first
time you've flown in the face of what some people would consider their
better judgment in order to accomplish something. The three of you went
to Noah and took the Council's spaceship to do it. Even David Campbell
there tackled the criminal that set the Paseo Archives on fire without a
single weapon to aid him. So you'll have to pardon me if I think
something's up when I see the group of you leaving together so late in
"It's not midnight yet," said Kain.
"And I'm not sleepy," Gillian replied.
"Look, I don't want to explain myself to you. You don't know what
it's like, being backed into a corner where you have to fight.
You don't know what it's like to shoulder a burden and know that the
fate of everyone in the star system is resting on you and at that very
moment they might not even know or care. Instead all you worry about is
giving speeches and being popular with the voters. If you really had
any guts in you, you would have fought Mother Brain along with the rest
"This isn't the time," said Hugh, giving Kain a nudge to keep moving,
but the wrecker remained steadfast, daring the councillor to answer.
"You're right, I don't know what it's like," said Gillian, pushing
himself away from the wall to stand with his hands in his pockets as he
regarded Kain. "But that does not mean I don't try to accomplish things
in my own way. I'm as popular as I need to be to win votes, because I
believe that I can best serve Motavia from my current position. You
fought Mother Brain to do what you could to save Algo. I'm not a
warrior, so this is my way. But, you're going to need to be more than a
warrior to handle Donald."
Kain froze, but Gillian must have seen something, because the
councillor nodded in affirmation. "I'm right, aren't I. Your cousin is
involved. Handling the politics of your cousin is my arena, and it's in
my own interests as well to see that Sharon Monolly is safe from harm.
I'm offering you my aid, Joshua Kain. It's not something I give
lightly. Though I may be no good with a sword I believe that I will not
slow you down. Should that prove the case, then you may leave me
"Think about it. You may need someone on the Council to cover for
you if anything goes wrong."
Kain snorted and glanced at his companions. "Well, what do you guys
"I feel like we're making a deal with a demon," muttered David
beneath his breath, "but I can't deny that having someone on the Council
looking out for us is a good idea. The only thing is: we'd owe him
then, wouldn't we?"
"At this rate, I think we already do," said Kain.
"He's already seen us and figured out what we're up to," said Hugh.
"I really don't think we have much choice in the matter. Even if he
doesn't say anything now about what we're about to do, he may bring it
up again later. At least if he's involved he'd put himself at risk by
speaking about it."
Lore stepped away from the group and closer to the councillor.
"Gillian, why? You're part of the Council. You're not supposed to be
doing stuff like this. If word ever got out..."
He shrugged. "I trust the group of you. And if I'm caught, then let
the fallout be my concern and not yours."
"Don't you believe in the law you're supposed to uphold?"
Her question stilled the conversation behind her and all eyes turned
"I believe," said Gillian, "in the greater good. The law cannot
cover all possible situations. It is only a record of how we think
people should behave and should be punished when they don't. There are
always exceptions that the intent of a doctrine never meant to exclude.
If I believe circumventing the law will result in the greater good then
I will not object to it."
His silver eyes locked on her. "Don't hold me up as a paragon of
virtue, Lore. You won't be doing yourself any favors. I'm human like
everyone else. Now, have the rest of you decided?"
Kain nodded. "We'll take you. Do you have a weapon?"
The councillor nodded, pulling back his coat just enough to reveal a
sonic gun holstered at his side. "I'm afraid I lack the training to
wear any sort of armor and there isn't the time for that, but you won't
have to consider me unarmed."
"Just don't accidentally shoot any of us with it."
Gillian joined the group heading for Kain's apartment. In the back
of his mind, Kain was bothered by Gillian coming inside, certain that
the councillor's own home was kept in immaculate condition and didn't
contain a mountain of newspapers piled on the kitchen table or unwashed
dishes in the sink. But he could spend precious little time being
irritated, and quickly brought out his emergency stash of telepipes. He
gave two to Lore and Hugh so they could gather their equipment from
their homes in New Zema and then teleport on to Maula. To David he gave
an old shotgun and picked up his lasershot for himself.
"The three of us will meet you there," he told Lore and Hugh. "The
Maula ryuka node is on the outskirts of town. There's a park about a
block east from the node and unless the landscape's changed that much
since I left there should be a pretty thick grove of trees there. We'll
wait for you inside." He caught Hugh stifling a yawn and added, "And
stay alert. Remember, we're trying to rescue Sharon and as soon as
Donald's aware of us there's no telling what he'll do. She's the only
bargaining chip he's got so he may try to leverage her against us."
"Try to hurry," said David. "Waiting's the hard part."
"We know where our equipment is," said Lore. "We won't be long."
She stood close to Hugh as he played the melody for New Zema and the
two of them vanished.
"Now it's our turn," said Kain. "Everyone ready?"
Gillain and David nodded. Kain thought hard about Maula, his
childhood home, the miserable place he had thought he would never see
again, and raised the telepipe to his lip and played. The music
lingered in his ears like a sordid lullaby.