"All things considered, this shouldn't be a tough fight," said Rolf.
"I should hope!" muttered Kain. "Getting drained by your megid technique is not a pleasant feeling by far."
"After archdragons, these guys shouldn't be much to worry about. Just stay alert!" Rudo warned.
With a collective nodding of the heads and murmured acknowledgements, the five each began their own plan of attack. Rolf slashed off the left three limbs of the nearest kilgamma and ducked beneath the searing laser beam of the twigtall nearest to it. Rudo neatly decapitated a second of the giant stickmen as Lore darted about its legs, distracting it.
Hugh raised his hand into the air as he felt his power welling within him. He called out as the gravity waves of the gigra technique caused the machines' shells to buckle. The kilgamma Rolf injured before now lay motionless.
"My turn!" shouted Kain. A strong sensation burst in his chest and surged down his right arm. His lifted his hand and nasaj exploded skyward from his palm in a thick beam of raw energy. It split into four separate streams and rained down on each of the surviving robots.
They twitched, small electrical pulses visibly lining their bodies. One of the kilgammas still possessed the capacity to fire, and its sizzling beam skimmed the side of Rudo's arm.
The hunter clenched his teeth and swiftly brought his Neishot to bear, unleashing a blast of energy through the kilgamma's bulbous head.
Lore uttered a growl and tumbled forward beneath the arcing beam of one of the remaining twigtalls. She neatly righted herself on her feet and swung her sword around at its waist. The laconian blade easily passed through the metal, allowing the twigtall's torso to collapse with a thud against the dry earth.
Rolf whirled around to face the kilgamma creeping behind him, and hurled the fiery blast of nafoi directly at its optics. The squat insectile machine fall to the ground with a crunch.
Hugh bashed the final twigtall in with the head of his mace.
The biologist let out a breath, brushing back his purple bangs with his free hand. "Is that all of them?"
Lore glanced around warily. "I think so. I counted... wait..."
Kain's lasershot fired, and a final kilgamma twitched in the middle of an old plot of tubers.
"That's all seven of them." Kain smirked.
"Yeah, that's all of them," Lore agreed, recounting the piles of metal.
"Do I see more battery salvaging?" asked Hugh, putting his mace away.
"Might as well," said Kain. "Until we get the factories running..." Kain frowned. "We didn't cut the power to the factories."
Lore groaned. "Does that mean more of these robots could be being made as we speak?"
Kain nodded and looked towards the exit of the dome. "We'd better hurry back to the control room. Only a few hours back gone by so far, and even this technology isn't gonna build an army that fast. I'd wager at most no more than several dozen could have been made so far, assuming there were incomplete robots that were already close to being completed."
Kain looked to Rolf. "Well, you can say we've got the power back on now. Hugh, Lore, and I will take care of the factories. Even a few hundred more robots should not be that noticeable when the whole planet is kept in mind. And for reasons of morale, it might be a good idea to leave that part out."
Rudo shouldered his Neishot grimly. "That may be so, but you've just created some more work for me. I'll round up my friends and get right on it. Assuming any new robots have been built at all, we should leave immediately if we're to catch them before they spread."
"Thanks," said Hugh. "Hopefully this oversight won't prove to be costly."
Lore forcefully sheathed her sword. "At any rate, none of us have time to waste. We'd better get going."
* * * * *
The trio managed to cut power to the factories without incident, and returned to Paseo well into the evening. Much to their surprise and pleasure, they beheld a myriad of lights as they entered.
"Rolf must have got the word out pretty quickly," said Kain, gazing up at the streetlamps as they walked.
Hugh shoved his hands in his pockets as he turned to look at the lighted homes in the various apartment buildings. "It needn't have been directly through Rolf though," he said with a smile. "A single light in the darkness would lead anyone to try their own."
Lore laughed gently. "Yeah, no more of this living with candles. It is ever a sight for sore eyes."
"It'll still probably take a while for things to get back to normal, but this is definitely a big step in the right direction." Kain stretched his arms above his head as he spoke. "And to think that it's all due to us!"
Lore smiled, dark brown eyes glinting in the soft light of the vacant street. "Just don't let it get to your head. I'm pretty sure we'll find our place when we appear before the New Council tomorrow morning."
Kain frowned. "Oh yeah. That's the new group Rolf said got organized, right?" He sighed. "I hope they're better than the usual lot of bureaucrats."
Hugh shook his head. "I don't think so. They're better than some of the would be kings that have tried taking over Piata and such. But those people were obviously corrupt. These are more or less the same stiff-necked people who supported Mother Brain even when Mota was overrun by biomonsters and Palm exploded. I'm certain Rolf has tried to change the group for the better, but you know the loss of Mother Brain pretty much brought out the worst in people."
"I guess if they're the only people who are willing to take charge, we shouldn't complain," Kain grumbled. He kicked a scrap of plastic which skittered across the street.
"I don't know about taking charge," said Lore, "but they may be the only ones who are willing to govern. They've done a lousy job of taking charge so far."
Kain looked at Lore darkly. "They'd better not denounce us again. The old Commander is nice enough, but I worry about the others. The last thing I want is to give them a second chance to chew us out."
Hugh sighed as they reached the entrance to his apartment building. Soft lights surrounded the doorway in a mute glow. "Well, there's not really much use in worrying about it now. Whatever will happen will happen in the morning." He paused as he pushed the button for the door to slide open. It opened with a welcome rush of cool air. "Do you want to come up with us, Kain?"
Kain shook his head and grinned. "Nah, I'm gonna go back to my own apartment and make sure everything's working that's supposed to be working."
Hugh nodded, telling him that they'll see him again in the morning. The three then waved their goodbyes. After Kain's figure faded from the streetlight, Lore grinned coyly to Hugh, who quickly guessed what she thought. She darted through the open door to be the first of the two to try using the elevators for the first time in months. Hugh followed her in, just slipping trough the elevator doors quickly enough so that she wouldn't go up alone.
* * * * *
"So you were the ones who turned the power back on?"
The voice was neither reprimanding nor grateful, which made Hugh uneasy.
Hugh, Kain, and Lore stood side by side before the New Council in the meeting chamber of Mota's political command center. Their weapons and armor had been left behind and each had dressed smartly in an attempt to appear as confident and capable as possible. Kain wore a slick two piece suit and Lore a bright red dress with a black sash tied around her waist. Hugh appeared in a collared shirt and tie with plain slacks and a lab coat thrown over it all. He felt since they knew he was a biologist, he may as well look the part. Lore just said he looked silly, although that had been in a playful tone.
"Yes, sir," said Hugh, keeping his gaze level.
The lead councilman looked sternly at him and Hugh couldn't h
elp but expect another accusation of wrongdoing.
Rolf nodded encouragingly to him from his seat to the left of the council.
Hugh took a deep breath and continued speaking. "Mother Brain's demise left us with so little we felt we had to take responsibility" --his voice almost caught in his throat-- "for making the decision to destroy her by doing our best to alleviate the suffering the Palman people had begun to endure. My companions, Lore Drakon and Josh Kain, and I took it upon ourselves to restore the power to Mota. We journeyed to the energy reservoir's control room deep below Climatrol and opened the main aqueduct so that electricity could be restored to the planet proper."
The lead councilman propped his head on his hand and tapped a few keys on the elevated desk in front of him. "The Council remembers your exploits, Dr. Thompson, as well as those of Mr. Kain. But we would like to know what motivates Ms. Drakon to help out. She was not one of the seven who fought on the ship you called Noah."
Hugh felt glad just to know the councilman acknowledged the existence of Noah. When Rolf and the others stood together over two months before, even the Commander of Mota was hard pressed to believe their stories of an alien race.
"If she shares in your guilt, then why have we not heard of her before?" asked the councilman.
"I can vouch for her," said Hugh. "She was a student of mine at the Kueri University."
Lore waved her hand to silence Hugh. "I can speak for myself." She bowed curtly to the council. "I share in Dr. Thompson's concern for the welfare of the Palman people. However I was unable to participate in the battle against Mother Brain due to family obligations. Even in times of trouble, sometimes there's nothing to do but protect those one cares about. My place was at home during that time."
Lore held the councilman's gaze tightly with her eyes.
"Very well. In the light of the current matter we must commend you." The lead councilman's voice sounded forced. "We trust the three of you will take responsibility for any negative side effects of this action."
"Your honor," said Hugh. "I'm afraid that's too much to expect of us." He tried to keep himself steady, but settled for looking to each of the council members in turn. "The ramifications of restoring the power are likely greater than any of us can anticipate. We turned on the power because to do otherwise would have doomed our people to extinction. It was the immediate solution to the problem, but eventually other complications are bound to arise, such as learning exactly how Mother Brain's technology worked so we can make it our own."
The councilman paused and glanced at the small view screen in front of him that contained the opinions of his peers. He tapped a couple of his fingers on the table in front of him.
Lore frowned slightly, feeling the tension growing.
"If I might be so bold," said Lore, "may I suggest that the New Council may take the credit for our work."
"What!" exclaimed Kain.
Hugh started, but said nothing. The surprise in his gaze quickly shifted into acknowledgement.
"Yes," said Lore, continuing to face the Council. "The people would not believe in us even when we asked them to. However they will believe in a government who has restored some order to their lives. It would boost their hopes far more to know that the New Council was behind it."
The lead councilman stroked his chin thoughtfully and Lore pressed her attack.
"It would certainly enhance your reputation, and people will be more willing to follow you in the future."
Hugh nodded solemnly. "You can tell the people we were acting under your orders. Our concern is for the welfare of Mota, not for personal gain."
He added the latter sentence to further dispel the doubts of the Council.
The councilman again looked down at his view screen. He tapped out a response to their suggestions and then grimly looked back at the trio. "The New Council wishes to break for an hour to discuss the matter. We shall give you our answer then."
* * * * *
Hugh sighed later that week on the night of the Revival Celebration. Once the New Council agreed to their offer, they wasted no time in claiming the credit and bolstering the people's spirit. At Lore's suggestion they even agreed to throw this party out beneath the night sky in the park in the northwestern corner of Paseo. Tents were rapidly erected to serve refreshments and provide seating areas for those present. Streamers were procured from the some of stores where they had been all but forgotten. The Council actually did a successful job in rousing help, offering extra rations from the reopened farms to those who agreed to help. Hugh, Lore, and Kain pitched in as well, although their contribution had been more out of a sincere desire to help than for the food.
Hugh's eyes roved over to the tea lamps dangling from the streamers lining the main celebration area. He sighed again. He wished Amy had showed up. Hugh missed the red-haired doctor's cheerful spirit. But Anna, who did manage to make it to the party, had told him that Amy had chosen to remain behind in Oputa with her patients. The city was still under quarantine, and she was no closer to curing them then before.
Despite the heavy atmosphere he felt around him, the people milling around him appeared joyful for the first time since Mother Brain's demise. People spoke of moving on and dreams began to build. He couldn't understand why he felt felt so depressed. Hugh wondered for a moment if it was partially due to the fact he had dressed up in a suit, which he found highly out of character for himself.
Hugh took a sip from his glass of wine cooler as Lore glided up to him. He hid a slight grimace behind his glass. He hated to admit it, but having Lore living with him made it harder for him to drink. She wouldn't complain now, since it was a party, but she'd give him a stern talking to if she discovered the cache of melik juice he kept in his bedroom.
"Thinking?" she asked.
Lore wore a velvety black off-the-shoulder style dress, and her onyx hair was pulled up in a topknot. She smiled brightly at Hugh, head cocked slightly to one side.
Hugh smiled in return, unable to help himself. "Yeah." He sighed. "I just can't help feel like I'm just going through the motions here. I feel so worn out." He glanced skyward. "It's not that I'm physically tired. But I feel like I've been used over and over again and then finally dropped to the side of the road."
Lore clasped his arm in sympathy. "I think I know how you feel, but still... You should try to enjoy yourself at least a little bit." She looked him in the eyes. "You can dance, right?"
He nodded slowly.
She smiled and taking his hand, lead him to the dance floor. Kain smirked and waved to the two as they passed by.
Hugh tried to keep his blood pressure down as they joined the other couples in the heart of the celebration. Lore turned back around to face him and lifted the hand that clasped his slightly. She laid her other hand on his shoulder. Hugh quietly swallowed and placed his free hand on her waist.
Lore nodded to him in encouragement, and Hugh couldn't help but feel lucky that she had offered to help him. Though the Council claimed most of the credit for the beginning of Mota's revival, Hugh, Kain, and Lore remained at the heart of the reconstruction. With the Council backing them, the three would plan just how Mota would be restored to life. Her proposals had put them on encouraging terms with the politicians, which was more than he would have hoped for.
"So what have you been thinking about?" she asked after a bit. "You've been so distant ever since the meeting of the Council. I had been meaning to ask you earlier, but..." She shrugged.
Hugh looked away. "I suppose more or less what we've still got to do. We have a lot more in store for us than I originally thought about. Every time I think about what we've done and what we have yet to do, the latter keeps getting greater."
"Hugh..." He turned back to face her. "We are only three people. We do not attempt to move worlds but search to do what we can in the meantime. Even Alis's band of four could not defeat Lassic without the help of many others." She smiled sadly. "Though it's romantic to think they, or even you and Rolf and the others, achieved their victory through their efforts alone you are mistaken. Nero laid the path down for Alis, the governor pointed Alis to Noah, Nekise gave Alis the pot that would later save Myau, who would in turn restore Odin. Everyone did their part, and as such the world as they knew it did indeed move."
Lore swayed slightly to the rhythm of the live musicians. "And with the Council to help us, we gather more people around us. With time we will have enough people to move a world once more. That time is still a long way off, but it will come. And once it does the Palman people will be stronger for it." Her face brightened slightly. "But for now, we'll just go step by step. The one who stares only at the top of the mountain will slip during his climb to the top."
Hugh sighed and held her closer to him. He made an attempt to smile. "I suppose I worry too much."
Lore laughed lightly, mischievously meeting his eyes. "At least one of us does. It balances the group of us. I'm not as up to date on affairs as you are, and Kain seems more likely to curse at the problem than anything."
"Well, tonight is a turning point for us at least. Kain's gonna get the factories' plans for us, and the Council's coercing people into coming along with us to figure out how those things are run. Some of the people who were actually somewhat trained in those sort of things are starting to crop up."
"Then maybe we can get the Biosystems up."
Hugh looked sternly at her. "C'mon, you know that's still a ways off."
"But it's what you want. And you've got the talent to engineer crops that will survive outside of the farming domes." She let out a breath. "You know those domes aren't going to last forever. As it is they've still a good walk from town, and we don't have the fuel to run most of the vehicles. Harvesting is going to be a bother. If people could learn to farm for themselves, it would take a load off the time wasted on travel, leaving more available for reclaiming what technology we can."
"Too many things to worry about..."
Lore nodded somberly. "So we'll just worry about the factories for now. The rest will come in time, and likely faster than we would wish."