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Chapter Six

Power On

"Easy does it now," said Kain as he, Rudo, and Hugh set the water pump down on a flatbed wagon Lore had put in the maintenance tunnel. The blocky contraption landed with a thump on the thick wood.

Kain sighed with relief. Moving the battery back down to the bottom of the shaft had been hard enough. But moving the water pump without a set of wheels beneath it would have been a trial not even Rudo could help them with.

Since the tunnel was so narrow Lore first pulled the cart in the opposite direction from the control room to allow Hugh and Kain to get in front of it. After they had crawled forward a bit, Lore grunted and shoved the wagon just far enough forward so that Rudo could drop down from above beside her. Rudo and Lore could hear Hugh and Kain scrabbling ahead of them, and took care not to push the cart too fast, lest they bump the cart into their friends' heels.

Finally Kain called them to a halt. The shaft bent down five meters ahead of them.

"Time to start unraveling the hoses," said Kain.

Lore grumbled. "This is gonna be slow going." But nonetheless, Lore freed the hose at her end of the pump and began backtracking her way towards the first floor of Climatrol. She trailed the hose after her, steadily unraveling the lengths of green tubing as she went.

Kain began to unravel the hose at the front of the pump, uncoiling it meter by meter as Hugh carried the nozzle down the shaft. Rudo inched the pump forward to give Hugh another two meters of distance to work with.

Altogether, the pump was an unwieldy contraption, little more than a metal box of gears and treads with thick arms spilling off to either side as coiling tentacles. But Kain and Rudo held it firmly in place as Hugh and Lore stretched its limbs to their limits.

Hugh dove into the frigid water once he reached the waterline. He held his breath since this journey would be short enough not to warrant the use of their maruera gum. Hugh dropped the nozzle at the bottom of the shaft, right beside the lithium battery. He righted himself with a quick rotation and then swam back to the surface. Hugh burst through the waterline with a gasp, and then unhooked the flashlight from his belt. He waved the beam up the shaft to let Kain know he was done as he clambered up the rungs to get himself out of the water.

Meanwhile Lore pulled herself up out of the tunnel. She kept a tight arm around what remained of the hose and continued unwinding it for about another two or three meter's worth. Then she dumped the nozzle at her end into a collapsible tank the four had set up only minutes before. She grimaced, knowing how monotonous the next few hours were going to be. Then she dropped herself back into the tunnel and shone her flashlight to let Rudo know she was ready.

"She's done," Rudo told Kain.

"Good," came the reply. "Then start the pump. I'll be going down to help Hugh fix the breach in the tunnel."

Kain slid out a hefty sheet of steel, cut to the dimensions Lore had specified about the breach's size, that had been lying on top of the pump. He hoped that the pressure estimate he made was correct and that the steel would hold. Four drill holes already pierced its corners where Kain intended on fastening it to the wall. Wishing himself luck, he climbed down the ladder, a battery-powered hand drill stuck through his utility belt and a waterproof rucksack on his back.

A loud whirring rose, announcing the operation of the pump. The noise reverberated down through the metal shaft to where Hugh hung above the waterline. Hugh grimaced as Kain jumped past him into the water. The blasted thing echoed loud enough down here. He hated to think how Rudo must be taking it.

Hugh took a deep breath and dropped himself headfirst back into the water, taking care not to bump into Kain. The low hum of the pump penetrated even into these depths, but it proved possible to ignore the sound with some effort. Hugh swam down to about a meter above the breach and shone his flashlight on the breach for Kain's benefit.

Kain fitted the steel plate against the orifice, finding that it indeed fit over the entirety of the crack. Hugh braced himself against the opposite wall and pushed his free hand against the steel plate, helping Kain hold it in place as the latter of the two raised his drill.

The drill had a screw attached to its end rather than the customary drill bit. Kain swiftly fitted it through the existing upper left hole of the steel sheet and plowed it through the metal wall of the shaft. He clicked the button to release the screw and pulled the drill back out, already pulling a second screw out of his utility belt. Kain quickly finished the other three holes. Hugh had already begun to swim up after the second hole, knowing that once either of them feels the effects of oxygen deprivation, the other had better not get in the way.

Kain surfaced, dizzy and panting for breath seconds after Hugh had climbed up the ladder. Hugh helped his friend to the rungs of the ladder and Kain hung on tightly, leaning his head against them. At least the plate was held in place. Only the need to weld the steel to the wall remained. And Hugh would take care of that.

Hugh patted his friend on the back. Then feeling that enough of his strength had returned, he slipped on a pair of thick asbestos gloves and dove back into the frigid waters.

When he reached the level of the breach, he pressed his hand against the steel sheet and called the heat of the gifoi technique to him. The metal edges melted, fusing against the rest of the tunnel as he slid his hand along the top, sides and bottom. Once the metal cooled, it should hold the pressure of the water on the other side.

Satisfied, Hugh swam back up to the surface to wait by Kain.

* * * * *

The wait for the waterline to lower was tedious. Lore signaled for Rudo to stop the pump each time the tank filled. Then to save herself the trouble of finding a place to dump it, she shot the electrical power of a thu through the water. She held her breath as the water burst into its component parts of hydrogen and oxygen and shielded her face from the blast. But then it was back to pumping again.

The hours dragged by, and Hugh and Kain had taken an awkward lunch break siting on the rungs of the ladder. Sitting back up in the horizontal shaft near the pump would have been more comfortable for one's rear, but certainly not for the ears. When the water level in the control room finally reduced to roughly six centimeters deep, virtually all of Lore's energy had spent itself, and everyone was weary. Even the pump refused to work anymore.

Kain and Hugh carefully climbed down the ladder and each took hold of a corner of the battery case, pushing before them it into the control room. The water sloshed around them in sorrowful defeat.

Kain yanked a towel out of his rucksack and began wiping off the top half of the battery case. After another thought, he pulled out a second towel and tossed it to Hugh so he could help out. The men themselves were fairly dry though, having spent the intervening hours well above the sinking waterline.

Once the top half of the case was dry, Hugh took care to make sure the power to the computer system was off. Meanwhile Kain pried open the battery compartment with a crowbar to get at the battery proper. Then he set the crowbar back in his rucksack and pulled out a pair of jumper cables.

Hugh opened the base of the control desks as Kain connected the cables to the battery. Kain then ducked his head into the hollow Hugh had opened and peered through the myriad of wires therein. He shuffled around a bit, pushing things out of his way until he found the thic k cable he would have to disconnect. Kain fidgeted with it, wishing he had an extra hand to hold up a flashlight with.

"Hugh!" he called. "Shine your flashlight in here! I need to see."

A soft yellow glow flickered in over his shoulder, lighting the two screws that would allow him to remove the head of the cable. Kain smirked, pulling his screwdriver from his belt.

"This ought to be easy," he muttered.

The cable fell away, revealing two long coils beneath its head. Kain shoved his screwdriver back into his belt and picked up the jumper cables once more. He leaned far into the control box and strained to snap them correctly into place.

They locked tightly to the coil and Kain let out a sigh of relief. He backed out of the control panel and turned to Hugh. "It's set! Now let's see if it works!"

Kain stood in front of the command interface and flipped the power switch back on. The whole room hummed and bright glows flickered to life beneath the gauges. The monitor came online, as did the ceiling lights.

Kain let out a whoop. "Yes, there is a god!"

He swiftly high-fived Hugh and the two men turned to face the computer console.

"Okay, we've got power," said Hugh. "Now is the system autonomous enough from Mother Brain that it will work without her?"

"We'll find out soon enough," Kain replied, tapping out a set of commands into the interface. "But my guess is that even Mother Brain needed repairs. And if this system was capable of functioning without her direct commands, it would have helped make it appear as though Mother Brain was always running. Otherwise every time Mother Brain shut down, this place would likely go out of whack as well."

Hugh nodded as lights on the monitor flashed, asking for the allotment of energy to be distributed to each biosystem.

"Hmph. It looks like we have just enough reserve power to open the main aqueduct," said Kain. "Now assuming there are no other obstructions to the energy flow, we should be able to get this working."

"How do you want to handle the energy distribution?" asked Hugh, eyes on the monitor. "We probably shouldn't just open it. It might still be set to Mother Brain's distribution scheme; or it may have reset itself to some other set of figures while the power was down."

"Lemme check," Kain replied, calling up another screen. He frowned slightly and opened up second file, then a third. "Ah, here's something we can work off of. Here's the default settings from prior to three years ago. I think that's far enough back in time that Mother Brain was still in her 'beneficiary' mood."

Hugh nodded. "That should do. Okay, here are some of the things we probably should cut power to. First off, Climatrol, for obvious reasons. The weather system's probably too complicated for us to figure out in one sitting." He chuckled as Kain deleted the allotment. "In fact that would probably take us decades starting from scratch without any documentation.

"Anyway, now remove the Biosystems Lab. We already know that Mother Brain had direct or close to direct access to that."

"True," said Kain. "But what about Seed? Do you think that he can run autonomous to Mother Brain? We might be able to operate the lab through him."

When Kain glanced to his friend for approval, Hugh's face had darkened. "Seed received his orders directly from Mother Brain," said Hugh. "He answered to her before any of the scientists in the lab. I don't think that he would help us."

Kain threw up his hands. "Well, you worked with him. I'll leave that up to you then. But," --Kain gazed forcefully at Hugh-- "don't forget whatever Seed did was not your responsibility. I don't want you locking yourself into a little cell on me now."

Hugh shook his head. "It's not what Seed did that bothers me. Really, there isn't anything of the sort to worry about. Just forget about the labs for now. We'll probably have to evaluate his programming first anyway, just to be certain.

"Right now we should also cut power to all the control towers; that would save us a lot of energy right there. Since they served mainly as Mother Brain's connections to the other systems, I really see no need to operate them. Any commands we give most certainly would not come from there . And any commands that do originate from them, we likely wouldn't want."

"True enough. Is that it?"

"No. Let's cut the power to Roron. We shouldn't use a disposal system we don't fully understand, especially when we know Mother Brain didn't have our best interests in mind. For all we know, things from Roron could have been exported to the Biosystems Lab as mutagens for the development of biomonsters. And finally, I'm thinking we should cut the power to Green Dam."

"Green Dam? Why that?"

"With the major systems down, the reservoir should fill fairly quickly with the energy from all the solar panels and the dams. It would be a waste to leave something running and generating energy we down need, not to mention we shouldn't wear out what equipment we have left. I don't think there's a person left on Mota who know the full extent of how the dam was constructed, so I'd like to lessen as much wear and tear as necessary."

"Perhaps. But remember what Lore wants to do. She wants to invigorate the Palman people. Isn't that what she said? They might not believe the power is truly on if they can't see it for themselves. For the people in Paseo especially, seeing the lights from the dam working will assure them that the power is truly on for good, and no just some vision of the past."

"Lore also says she wants to remind people that there was a life before Mother Brain, which I think we both agree is a good idea."

"Well, there can be a reminder while the power's working. Mother Brain is definitely gone. There's no doubt about it. Look, here's what I'll do. We'll leave the power to each of the dams on from the master controls here. And if I remember correctly, there are manual kill switches within the dams themselves, right where we left the control cards. We can turn off the unnecessary things from there, although, of course, we'll leave the floodgates open."

Hugh sighed. "All right. We've already spent enough time here anyway. Rudo and Lore must be wonderi ng what's taking us so long."

Kain grinned in return. "Don't worry, we'll be out of here soon enough. Just let me approve this setup."

The computer whirred, announcing the opening of the main aqueduct. Numbers raced across the screen; a bunch o f gibberish as far as Hugh could tell.

"It's done!" said Kain. He stretched his arms above his head. "Phew!" It feels like it's been a long day already. What say you we leave this battery here, disconnected of course now that the power's on again, and help Rudo and Lore get my pump home? Then we can see if the farming domes are open."

Hugh clapped a hand on Kain's shoulder. "That we shall. It feels good to know that we've finally accomplished something."

"Yeah. It's definitely a start."

* * * * *

A group of five assembled at the nearest dome just across the bridge from Paseo. The late afternoon light shown warmly upon them, casting their long shadows around the dying grass. Rudo looked grimly on as Kain stepped up to the control panel beside the massive metal doors.

"Are you sure this is going to work?" asked the blue-haired agent who accompanied the group from Climatrol. "I have to see if for myself if I'm to report it to the Commander."

"Rolf, you can already see the lights from Green Dam now that the sun is going down," said Hugh, pointing towards the looming structure to the west. "Kain was right to leave them on so that they would provide proof that we once again have power."

"However the farming domes are the most important things to know are working," Lore stated from her place beside Hugh. "Functioning light bulbs aren't going to feed the populace. Although there isn't much chance of finding surviving crops after all this time, we know the domes themselves were temperature regulated. In the absence of Climatrol's interference, the crops we're used to growing will likely not survive outside of them."

"Once we get the Biosystems Lab up again, I should be able to remedy that. But that will probably be a long way off from now," Hugh added.

Rolf nodded and turned back to Kain. "And now for the moment of truth."

Kain glanced to make sure everyone was watching, and then tentatively pushed the open button.

The double doors slid to either side, revealing a circular field divided into six wedge-shaped plots. Each wedge contained the dried husks of a different sort of crop; legumes in one, tubers in another, and so on.

Rolf stepped in, looking from side to side. "At least we know they work. Although what's left doesn't look too encouraging."

"We can start planting tomorrow," said Lore, as she and the others joined him inside. "The soil looks still good, if a little dry. But now that the power's back on, the air conditioning should be on."

"Yeah, it does feel cooler in here," Rolf agreed.

"Something seems missing though," murmured Kain. "I've never been one to visit these places often, but still, I know something should be here besides dried plants."

Hugh glanced around the thick rim of the dome until his eyes alighted on the small box shaped office that served as a control room for the Palman maintainers. "The farming droids," he muttered. "The farming robots aren't in the fields with their crops."

"You're right," said Rolf slowly, as he turned his head from left to right. "Then where are they?"

Rudo cocked his head to one side, catching a glimpse of something shining out of the corner of his eye.

"I don't know," said Hugh. "Now that I think about it, they weren't plugged in or anything. They don't get their power directly from the reservoir. They run on batteries, which are rechargeable via a station in the control building."

Something moved.

"So they could have been running while the power was out?"

Rudo's hand reflexively went for his Neishot. He hefted the large firearm with ease.

"I guess so."

Something flashed!

"Get down!" bellowed Rudo, shoving Rolf and Lore over. Hugh and Kain dropped to the ground immediately after them as a flurry of laser blasts scorched the air above their heads.

The ground exploded around them, throwing up dust and dried plant matter.

"What are they?" Rolf demanded, coughing. He reached for his sword as three twiggy metallic shapes and four stouter ones emerged into plain sight, surrounding the five from all sides.

"Three twigtalls and four kilgammas," shouted Kain as he and the others crept back on their feet. He yanked out his lasershot and pointed it in the direction of the nearest kilgamma. "They look freshly charged."

"Everyone, back to back! Form a circle!" Rolf ordered.

Hugh unslung his mace with a curse. "We should have brought our armor with us, not just our weapons."

"Be grateful for what we have!" snapped Kain.

Lore drew her sword with a sigh. "Yep, the power's on all right."

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