Lore sighed, crossing one leg over the other as she poured over a thick
volume she placed on Hugh's dinner table. Paintbrush in one hand and a
blank piece of paper just to the right of the book, she concentrated on
making out the characters on the page.
"This sucks," she sighed. "I wish we could just keep these books
"They'd just take up space," said Hugh, who was sprawled on his couch with
another book open next to his notebook, looking for all the world like he
was back at the university in Kueri. "We just need parts of the
information, not all of it. Besides, we have to return these books to the
archive when we're done."
"Like they care," Lore grumbled.
"They'll want them back when life gets back to normal."
If it does... Lore dourly thought.
Two days had passed since the threesome's return from Climatrol. They had
spent a majority of it digging through Paseo's one and only archive of
printed material. With the advent of Mother Brain and her technology,
there was increasingly less reason for the Palman people to write and
otherwise use papered text. Everything had become computerized. Term
papers were only papers in the figurative sense, being given to their
professors on magnetized disks rather than sheafs of wood pulp. Textbooks
were archives of bitmapped graphics and text to be displayed on one's
monitor. Perish the thought of actually picking up a pen and writing!
Everything required a keyboard at the very least.
Most printed material had gradually phased out within a century or so of
Mother Brain's arrival. But the Paseo Archive kept many pieces of it
preserved for historical reasons. The trio had been only too grateful for
that. With the library in the command center down from lack of power, the
archive was all they had left.
However, since the skill of writing had phased out along with the printed
text, it only remained as a form of art. Usually people learned to draw
their names out of a sense of pride as children. But few took it upon
themselves to become any greater than that. There was no time for that as
adults, not unless one was among the few talented enough to become an
artist. And neither Hugh, nor Kain, nor Lore fell into that category.
"This sucks," Lore said again as she painstakingly painted the characters
on to her paper with the plant dye Hugh came up with.
"The writing? Or the reading?" Hugh asked mildly, brushing down his own
Hugh chuckled lightly as he double-checked his own handiwork. "Well, the
writing part bothers us both. And I did give you the easier books to
"My reading ain't that good yet," she replied grumpily.
"Be thankful there aren't too many technical terms in there."
"I'd die if there were."
"And we wouldn't want that, would we?" Hugh smirked.
Lore was tempted to throw her paintbrush at him, but knew she'd probably
miss anyway. She'd just stain Hugh's carpet.
"Don't worry," Hugh assured her. "I think I've found more than enough
information about making a water pump for the both of us. Kain should be
well enough off once I give it to him."
"All the same, I wish I could help more," she said, stretching her arms
above her head. "Here I am a historian and I can't help with ancient
machinery. A pump seems like such a simple thing." She paused, slouching
in her seat. "But I suppose that's not really my area of speciality.
Just a little basic biology, basic technology, and a bunch of tales from
the days of Alis."
"You're a historian. And your knowledge of the world before Mother Brain
is among the best on Mota."
"Mota," she murmured, rolling the word in her mouth like a sour candy.
"Mota used to be called Motavia you know."
Hugh grunted a response, starting to absorb himself in his reading
"Do you think we should call it Motavia again? I think it has a more
lyrical sound to it."
"And what? Call Dezo Dezorlis again too?"
Lore smiled, catching Hugh's mispronunciation of the planet's name. "Why
not?" It was a pity that lingual shifts inevitably came over a thousand
years. And Mother Brain may have mangled the Palman language even more.
She certainly had in names! Hugh, Kain, Rolf, Amy... They were all names
subtly brought into Palman society by the Earthmen behind the integration
of Mother Brain. Lore shook her head. No "real" Algolian, Palman or no,
had names like that. And she was glad that her own name was not one of
them. "Lore" meant a body of knowledge, to quote the dictionary. And a
body of knowledge was a body of knowledge no matter what language one
translated her name into. Among the Motavians she would call herself
Kmyzz , and her name was Baraka in Dezorian; both of which
translated into "lore" in Palman.
"People might not accept it," Hugh replied.
"They aren't in any condition to accept much of anything right now," she
griped, swabbing her brush across the page. "So assuming their opinion
doesn't count, what do you personally think?"
Hugh paused, looking up and through the large window spanning the southern
wall of his apartment. His eyes focused on the sparkling lake beyond
them. "I think that would be very nice. It would remind people that
there was a world before Mother Brain." He turned to look at Lore. "I
guess it really was a good idea to call you in. You've already given out
a worthwhile idea."
"And you doubted me?" she asked in mock surprise.
He smiled and turned back to his book. "Not your ideas, Lore, just your
ability to read."
"Hey! I dare you to look me in the eye and say that! I'm not that
Lore half got up from the table, but then sank back into her chair. A
little humor certainly beat none. But something would have to turn up
soon or even their humor wouldn't last. Mota. Motavia. Well, a reminder
of the past when good triumphed over evil and despair was as inspiring a
story as anyone could hope for. The system prospered when Alis defended
Dark Falz. Now she just needed to figure out a way to remind the Palmans
that like Dark Falz, Mother Brain was an evil to Algo itself. She cheated
and deceived the people, robbing them of their will like Dark Falz had
possessed the governor of Motavia so many years ago. And then perhaps
they will appreciate the heroic efforts of Rolf and his friends. Perhaps
she, Hugh, and Kain could even get some help with the restoration of the
Ancient storytellers kept the history alive in the past through words and
oral tales to delight the people's ears. Without much of an ability to
write, and virtually nothing for the Palmans to read, Lore realized that
she may just have to be like those old song singers. What were they
called? Bards. Very well then. If it would get these people motivated,
she would become the new Motavia's first bard.
* * * * *
Deep within the Paseo command center, Kain thumbed through several books
of his own, making notes not unlike those of Hugh and Lore. However his
topic of search lay more along the lines of the construction of Mother
Brain's neural pathways, for lack of a better term, on Mota. He ran
across varying topics of how glorious the Palman people believed Mother
Brain's inception to be and stared incredulously at the amount of
propaganda involved centuries ago.
Kain tapped his paintbrush against the table. All this sounded like
something in Lore's department. For all the books he borrowed from the
Paseo Archive on Mother Brain, not a one of them contained anything
technical about her. He started to wonder if Mother Brain simply told the
Palman people how to repair her Motavian and Palman systems whenever they
needed it and not a moment before. But then, he grimaced, Mother Brain
was not known for making mistakes. Perhaps there have never been a reason
for her to ask for repairs. Perhaps the Earthmen took care of it all.
He sighed, looking around the small enclosed room that he and Hugh had
used as their office for the past two months. The small computer terminal
sat turned off to one side. He hadn't worked with it since the day Lore
showed up. But he wasn't entirely certain what else he could do to it.
"I'm starting to wonder if there really is anything we can do to save this
world," he muttered.
Kain stood, collecting what little he had written into a neat pile before
closing the fragile old scripts from centuries ago. Nothing else to do
now. Hopefully Hugh and Lore had done better. But then there was no
reason for anyone to hide how to build a water pump. A decent sized one
used to be a common commodity in every household. He supposed he could
always dig around his apartment to try and find one and then copy its
designs into one large enough to clear that control room. But he figured
his landlord wouldn't be too happy about that if he broke something.
Granted the water wasn't running anyway, but assuming they got it running
He gathered his materials into his backpack and briskly walked into the
hall. Kain locked the office door behind him and started on his way down,
only pausing to nod to a familiar blue-haired hero who was trying to knock
some sense into one of the old administrators.
* * * * *
Hugh answered the door when Kain knocked. Lore had left almost an hour
ago to return the documents to the Paseo archive. But both he and Kain
like had welcome news to present to each other. Kain couldn't help
grinning when Hugh handed him the thick sheaf of paper containing the
information on construction an appropriate water pump.
"I'll start building this as soon as I get back to my apartment," said
Kain as he glossed over the crudely written notes. "Not bad work. Not
bad at all!"
"Thanks," Hugh said flatly, dismissing the matter. "Now what have you
found out at your end?"
"Well, I couldn't find any blueprint of Mother Brain's Mota neural system,
let alone any blueprints at all. Our flow chart is the best we're going
"We looked for those two months ago, why should they show up now all of a
sudden? If any ever existed, they were probably lost with Palm... Or they
were on Noah."
"You really want to go back to that place?" Kain asked sharply, staring
Hugh straight in the face. His mood shifted as intensely as the fervor
with which he received the water pump documents. Although Kain wanted as
much as any of them to get a hold of Mother Brain's designs, he knew Hugh
would first have to stay on task. Eventually, he believed, Hugh would
need to face his memories. But now was not the time; Hugh wasn't ready
The biologist met Kain's eyes, forcing himself to shut out the part of his
mind that still screamed over the deaths he created. "No. Not yet at any
rate." Hugh broke off his gaze, lowering his head and looking off to one
side. "Anyway," said Hugh, his face drawn and tired, "you said you had
"Yeah," agreed Kain, lightening his voice. "And you'll like this. Guess
who I met in town today?" When Hugh didn't respond he said strongly,
"Rudo's back?" A note of brightness rang in Hugh's tone.
"Um hm. He and his buddies just finished clearing out Green Dam. Since
carrying all this stuff--you know, once I build this water pump--is going
to be a lot of work, I asked him for his help. And he agreed! I hate to
ask him just for his muscle power, but he really thinks it's a good idea.
It'll give him a break from hunting while still allowing him to help the
Hugh smiled briefly. "That's good. We can always use more people to help
out. And truthfully, I was wondering how the three of us were going to
move your pump. It'll definitely be easier with Rudo along."
Kain nodded grimly, knowing that moving the pump may have very well been
one of the last things on Hugh's list of thoughts. "Anyway, I probably can
get this stuff rigged in a couple more days. What say we meet again
"Won't you need help constructing it?"
"Nah, I can take care of it on my own," Kain said with a confident grin.
"Just take it easy and enjoy your time with Lore. After all, you haven't
seen each other in so long and all you've gotten the chance to do is help
"Kain, it's not like she's my-"
Kain dismissed it with a wave of the hand. "Even if she isn't, take some
time off. Whether you spend it with her or not is your decision. But I
really think you need time to lighten that load you're carrying."
Hugh seemed about to protest, but instead met Kain's eyes with a firm
gaze. "All right. I'll try to think things through. It's not like I
haven't already. But I'll give it another go."
"Talk to Lore about it if you think it'll help," Kain suggested. "Just
don't loose control. If we eventually have to return to Noah, I don't
want you falling to pieces on me."
"As I said, I'll try."
"Don't try," said Kain, giving Hugh a parting pat on the shoulder.
* * * * *
"You want to do what!" Kain exclaimed, nearly flooring the acceleration of
the jet scooter. The small craft lifted out of the water for a moment.
It was now a week since Lore's arrival in Paseo, and she, Rudo, Hugh, and
Kain found themselves returning to Climatrol for a second attempt at
looking into the inner workings of Mota's energy supply system. The
scavenged spectre battery as well as Kain's water pump were strapped
tightly to the outside of the jet scooter.
"I want to start calling Mota Motavia again," Lore said simply. "It'll
help remove the scars that Mother Brain has dug into us. And it'll remind
everyone that we had a life before her." She peered over Kain's shoulder
from her seat behind him like a small child.
"But everyone's already used to calling it Mota."
"I know. That's what
Hugh said too. But he agrees with me."
"I don't think it'll do much."
"Maybe not, but it's a start," she said brightly.
Kain huffed, muttering something about feminine fancies, which earned him
a thwack on the head with a thick roll of paper.
"Maybe I should be more quiet next time," he grumbled.
Hugh smiled slightly from his seat next to Kain. "You should learn not to
insult the 'fairer' sex. After all, in many species they're the more
dangerous of the two."
"Dangerous, eh?" Kain rubbed the back of his head. "You may be
Lore smirked from behind Kain. "Looking for another whack on the
"Are you looking to knock the jet scooter out of control or do you
just like hitting me?"
"I just couldn't resist the first time," she admitted, her voice serious.
"Don't worry, I won't hit you again," --she smiled-- "at least not
without good reason."
"I hope not. Climatrol is just ahead of us. We've got to get to
Rudo chuckled in his seat behind Hugh and tapped him on the shoulder.
"Are they always like this?"
Hugh sighed. "I really can't say. They've only known each other for a
week." He lowered his voice to a whisper. "I think Lore just has a
tendency to act a bit childlike at times. She has these little bouts
where she suddenly does something out of character and then suddenly
returns to her normal self."
Rudo lowered his voice in return. "Sure it isn't the monthly thing?" he
said with a smile.
Hugh shrugged, preferring not to reply.
Kain simply kept his eyes focused ahead of him, not that there was much to
look at besides the expanse of the ocean. He couldn't quite make out Rudo
and Hugh's exchange, although he felt certain it was nothing he or Lore
would want to hear. Kain rolled his head a bit to stretch his neck. The
jet scooter's seats didn't offer the best of comfort for Palman-sized
At last the scooter flashed a reading to him. Climatrol would be directly
below them within two hundred meters. Kain took his foot off the
accelerator and banked the craft slightly to the right. The gray
structure leading into Climatrol loomed below them as the jet scooter
Kain sighed to himself. Well, this would be their second try. But tries
don't count for much in the long run. This time they would have to