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Chapter 11 Main Chapters Chapter 13

No Need For Preparing

"My name is Funaho, Queen of Jurai, and Dragonwiles requested that I be your DJ for this episode. I have found a song from Earth's recent history that I believe may apply to this chapter, set in the past. The song, which Dragonwiles does not claim ownership of, is 'Nearest Island,' from the 'Myst IV Soundtrack.'" The contemplative but industrious songs begins to play after she presses a button.

Circa 1270 A. D.

Funaho set down her tea. "I'm afraid that's just how it is, my son. There's no information at all about Kagato." She looked around her, at the huge green fields. It was still hard for her to believe that this was really the interior of her son's spaceship, and not a wondrous land of song.

Yosho looked at his mother, then followed her gaze around the spaceship that, coincidentally, bore her name. "I suppose that proves it, then," he reasoned aloud. "A Juraian lord would surely cause some rumor wherever he went. He must be entirely beyond the reach of all society, decent and otherwise."

Funaho swung her gaze back onto him, piercingly, and he tried not to flinch. "I've been watching you for some time," she said abstractly, almost as though they were talking about someone else. Yosho knew her better, knew that for her to mention it at all meant she was seriously concerned for him. His mother went on, "Is Kagato the thought that has troubled you of late?"

"It should be," Yosho told her. "I should not have let him get away."

She raised the mug to her lips again and drank a precise sip, then commented, "Misaki or your father would know more than I about battles. From what I've learned, however, I've seen that battles do not always proceed according to the skill of the opponents."

"Mother, I am uncertain as to your meaning. Perhaps you refer to tricks, or to terrain? Perhaps chance?" Yosho watched her carefully.

Funaho set her glass down again. "You are the greatest swordsman on Jurai, Yosho, not by imperial decree but by true talent. I am saying something beyond the technical aspects of a fight, of which you know far more than I could." She looked at him carefully and said, "I am speaking of that which I have always tried to teach you. There may be reasons we cannot see for Kagato remaining at large."

He bowed his head, deep in thought. "I will ponder what you have said, Mother," he agreed solemnly.

"Good. When you have finished that," she said, raising her eyebrows, "you may answer my original question. What is troubling you?"

This time he did flinch. "You always see right through me, don't you, Mother?" he laughed nervously, rubbing the back of his head.

She watched him wordlessly.

"I've been gauging the strength, of those who hate us," he finally said. "They are another threat I cannot ignore."

"Hate is a strong word, Yosho," she spoke as she folded her hands carefully in her lap. "Always you worry about the common people hating us, but I doubt whether they give too much thought to who rules the land, and what percentage of his blood is of which nearly identical race. You worry about nobles, but there are many nobles who love us."

"Our friends are a minority, as you well know, Mother," he contradicted her gently.

Her disagreement emanated through her eyes, "As are those who hate us. The remaining, the undecided, will eventually choose your father's law for the stability of succession it guarantees."

"I had to learn this for myself, Mother," he said noncommittally.

She looked at him and told him, "Whatever anyone else may say of you, Yosho, you are a true and good man. I can place my pride in you. When you are ready, you can place the fullness of your uneasiness in me." His mouth quirked, but he was relieved that she wasn't going to pry any further. She stood and departed gracefully, calling out, "Thank you, Yosho, and you, Funaho, for your hospitality."

Funaho the ship replied, "The pleasure is mine, your ladyship."

"Until later then, mother," Yosho bowed after her. She exited Funaho and stood on the capitol's royal dock, looking at the vessel thoughtfully.

Yosho felt his key grow warm as Funaho communicated privately to him, "You're wondering how many more laters you will have together, aren't you?"

"I must plan for the worst despite my own feelings," he replied heavily. "I can only hope that I will be given enough time to protect everyone from Kagato."

Washu's sigh turned into a yawn. She swiveled in her chair in one of Souja's main laboratories. "Okay, I admit it," she spoke up after another yawn, "my mistake. That wasn't the problem either. Any suggestions?"

"Is the Mass' antilayer interfering with the mitosis again?" Kagato asked tightly.

Yakage rumbled in his throat and rasped, "No, we've compensated for that already. I think it has to be a malfunction in the mitochondria. Perhaps we still haven't used the correct proteins."

"I've checked them a dozen times this night alone," Kagato said coldly.

"Perhaps I inserted the mineral life form incorrectly," Washi interjected, slumping forwards toward the holding tank where the Masses under experimentation resided.

"I doubt that," Yakage tried to clear his dry throat. He stared dully at the clump of Mass on the screen. They were still alive, and had accepted the transplanted mineral life form Washu had given them. The team had been stuck for two weeks trying to get a new lifeform to grow out of this combination, in a manner they could control by modifying the existing internal structures of both lifeforms. Today there had been a breakthrough, and they had been working all day and long into this night to perfect it. Now the momentum of Washu, Yakage, and Kagato was stalled by the utter lack of response of the cells.

Kagato began to check the proteins for the thirteenth time that night. He saw something different; he had found the problem. Kagato opened his mouth, took another look, and shut his mouth angrily. That protein was correct after all, he had simply looked at it incorrectly. He hadn't found the problem. He rubbed at the scar on his arm.

Washu raised herself erect and stood up. "All right, that's it. We're all stopping for the night."

"The problem is nearly isolated," Kagato droned. Yakage objected, "Just a few more hours-" and punctuated it with an abrupt cough.

Washu shook her head and yawned again, barely covering her mouth in time. "Listen to us. We're not getting anywhere tonight. Just relax, forget all this, get some rest. In the morning we'll be ready to get at it again." As they were clearly reluctant to leave the lab, she set an example by walking out the door. They followed slowly and grudgingly out the door, then broke up, heading for their respective quarters. Kagato stalked away with a sullen glare at the floor. Yakage found himself pacing the hall towards the docking bay alone.

Yakage waved his hand angrily. "I'm not getting to the perfect sword fast enough. They are slowing me down!" He angrily passed through the airlock into Shorai. Shorai, daunted, said nothing.

Kagato slipped into his own quarters on the Souja. Washu was right, his physical frame was too tired for thought tonight. He'd have to postpone analysis of his latest surreptitious scans of the gems until a more fortuitous time. Before he went to sleep, he wondered once more just where Washu had gotten the gems from, and what powers they contained.

"Genius Washu!" A called to Washu. B added, "It is time to get up, Great Washu! Another day of wondrous discoveries awaits you!"

Washu rolled over, yawning, "Oh, you mean like yesterday?" She berated herself for her sarcasm and despondency, but she was just too tired to face that lab again.

"Genius Washu!" A called, ready to begin its alarm clock program again, so Washu gave the countercommand, "Sleep." The two robots began to droop, their eyes closing. They sat down and nodded a moment, then lay down.

After a few moments, Washu found she couldn't get back to sleep, so she got up and prepared herself to face the day.

Yakage met her just outside the lab, his face glowing with a broad grin. "Little Washu, we've fixed the problem!"

Washu cackled, "Excellent!" Then a question occurred to her, and she asked it: "You didn't stay in there all night?" Washu waggled her finger in a motherly fashion. It was a rare treat seeing Yakage happy like this, but she hoped he hadn't ignored her words the prior evening.

Yakage shook his head and laughed merrily, "No, we took your advice, and you were absolutely right. The rest helped clear our heads."

They entered the lab together. Kagato had a dead whisper of happiness on his lips. He commented, "It was ridiculously simple. Clearly we were all too tired to see it."

Washu smacked her head. The holding cell with the Masses under experimentation was pulsing with energy from the stimulated gem. "Don't tell me," Washu began, "we forgot to give them the energy they needed to grow!"

Yakage laughed aloud for a long moment. "Yes, Little Washu, we entirely forgot to provide them with the gem's energy! The poor things had no energy to grow, just as we did not have energy to think last night!"

Kagato was using his will to summon the other Masses, the ones not under experimentation, and used a tank, pump, and nozzle to spray these with a nutrient fluid. "We had a collective realization," he explained relaxedly, "when I gave the experiment its breakfast, and it began to grow."

"So I switched on the pulse configuration array," Yakage continued the narrative, "around the gem, as we should have yesterday, and the gem's stimulated emissions powered the growth into the final form!"

Washu examined the lifeform in the tank. It looked like a crystal, albeit an ambulatory, quadrupedal, crystal. Its surface was splotches of salt white and night back. It had no face, just a vague head area. The creature slowly shambled about.

"Excellent work, you two," Washu commended them. Yakage looked pleased beyond belief, while Kagato had his usual slight upturn of the lips. Turning back to the creature, Washu noted, "Exactly as we predicted, we've managed to replicate the mineral life form's structure exactly, except we've given it four legs instead of six."

After some more tests to be certain, and recording all the pertinent data, an hour had passed. They trio agreed this experiment was completed, and concentrating their will, they dissolved the experiment. Unharmed, the Masses detached themselves from the mineral life form's cells and floated off to rejoin their brethren. The living cells of the original mineral being were collected and stored again.

"Pretty good work for one morning," Washu said, pleased with herself.

"That's not all," Kagato stepped closer. "We also came up with three ways to permanently bond the Mass to another lifeform."

"Before breakfast?" Washu asked lightly. She locked her hands behind her head and sighed, "I don't know what I'd do without you two. Tell me your ideas over some food." Washu, Yakage, and Kagato walked out together to the Souja's mess hall.

Six months later, Washu leaned forward and stared at the holding cell. Everything was finally ready. All the tests so far had shown that the Masses could correctly extrude the complicated molecular structure of her gems, when stimulated by energy from an existing gem. The three of them had decided upon a final method for irrevocably merging Masses with another lifeform. Washu sighed, glad that none of the Masses had been harmed- sometimes it was nearer than she had expected, even with all the controls and safeguards she had insisted upon. Now two of those Mass who had responded to their desire for volunteers were waiting in the holding cell to become the first permanently merged lifeform.

Washu stood up straight and gave a peace sign to Yakage and Kagto. "Let's do it!" she said perkily.

Yakage activated several controls and reported, "The merging process is beginning. All conditions are within tolerance." He waited a moment while Kagato confirmed, "No biological or chemical impurities detected." Yakage activated a few more controls, then reported, "Merging process is complete, all energy readings within predicted levels." Kagato confirmed, "The Mass have fused with the mineral life form at a ratio of 1.000 to 1.000. No imperfect bonds, no leftovers."

Washu chuckled with a wild gleam in her eye as she reported, "I'm moving the first cell into the anterior pocket now." Kagato confirmed that the anterior pocket was clean, and that the cell had survived the transfer intact, while Yakage reported energy readings were as expected. Washu rubbed her hands together and stated, "Now, just start up the pulse configuration array- yep! Gem's energized!"

The stimulated gem emitted energy at the cell, and slowly, the cell began to divide into two different cells. Time seemed to slow down for the three observers as the two cells slowly divided into four cells. Washu pressed her fingers together- the next critical step was ahead. Yakage kept his eyes glued to his readings. Kagato's eyes were on the readings, but his mind was already pondering the steps he should take in the coming months.

The flicker on the scanner didn't catch Kagato's attention immediately. Inwardly he cursed himself for this, but also had a secret pleasure when he realized no one had noted his error. He reported innocently, "Secretion confirmed, Little Washu. The cells are forming a gem in their midst. Lattice parameters confirmed; the gem is forming perfectly. Mitosis continuing unabated." Yakage added, "Power output of gem as expected. We've correctly compensated for the resonance with the main gem."

Washu excitedly scanned her own readings. "It's pluripotent, growth sequence normal! We did it!" Washu leapt in the air. "We did it! We did it!" She turned to them excitedly asking, "So, did you think about my offer?"

Kagato nodded, and Yakage answered for him, "We're both very grateful, Little Washu. This first one, the female, I name Ryo-Ohki."

"And the next one we shall make, the male, we shall designate Ken-Ohki," Kagato said with an oily voice.

Washu rubbed her hands again, enthusing, "Ooh, I like those names. All right, Ryo-Ohki," she manipulated some controls, "into the growth chamber with you. Let's start making Ken-Ohki."

Ryo-Ohki and Ken-Ohki rested peacefully in slumber. Over the weeks since their genesis, they had grown, little by little, from artificially generated cells to their present shape and size. The best way, Yakage thought to himself, to describe them was as newborn mammals. They made occasional noises, and sometimes twitched or stretched, but otherwise spent most of their time sleeping.

Washu asked, "Kagato, may we please borrow one of your stasis units?"

Kagato peered at her. "You don't want to observe their growth any further? I'm surprised. I thought you'd want to see more of their, as you put it, cuteness." Yakage watched Kagato carefully. Lately he had been wondering about the way Kagato talked and behaved. Sometimes his sarcasm seemed to turn into viciousness or lies. Washu didn't always seem to notice.

Washu smiled down at Ryo-Ohki and Ken-Ohki. "If I were allowed, I'd love to watch them all their lives. But I've seen enough of their growth so far to know they'll be fine. We should put them in stasis until the next stage of the experiment is ready for them."

Yakage said concernedly, "You are serious about the next stage? There could be profound consequences."

Washu joked, "More profound than creating an entirely new form of life by synthesizing existing species?"

Yakage laughed a bit and allowed, "I suppose your next phase feels more serious to me because I more intuitively understand its implications."

Washu allowed, "I guess matters of succession and descendants are important for Juraians."

Kagato noted dryly, "Most people do find the thought of bearing children important."

Yakage observed, "I agree. The next step of your plan involves a child, your child. That child will be a part of your family, a part of you, that you can never truly separate yourself from. You'll need to raise that child and teach it everything. Your child will be joined to all of your family, past and present, in an unbreakable chain."

Washu waved her hand, "I was just joking. I understand the implications. What is this, anyway? Don't any of you remember that I am a mother? None of you even have children."

"You're right, of course, Washu," Kagato said ingratiatingly. "We were simply concerned for you."

"The next step is irrevocable," Yakage intoned. "I know you, and I know how important this is for you, as it would be for anyone. I wanted to make sure that your heart had not gotten before your head."

"Thank you, both of you," Washu reassured them. "I'm prepared. This child will always be mine. I'll do my best to raise my next child, and I'm counting on both of you to help me."

Next Chapter

Nobuyuki looks around the stage. "Well, the next chapter returns to us in the present, but it involves the past too!"

Right on cue, Ryoko agrees, "My past, specifically. An old acquaintance of mine shows up, causing general mayhem and death and destruction and all that good stuff."

"This friend is not going to be doing that near my house, right?" Nobuyuki asks in alarm.

Ryoko looks at the preview again, "Wait, no mayhem or death or destruction, just that one thing? Seems kinda tame, knowing my acquaintances. Why doesn't this say who's been kidnapped, though?"

Kiyone rushes to the author, smacking the next chapter's script for emphasis. "I cannot believe you are letting this happen," she says indignantly. "Do you want to ruin my career as a Galactic Police officer?"

Nobyuki looks away from them to conclude, "Anyhow, the next chapter is No Need For Hunters." He wanders away, sadly taking out an old blueprint and muttering, "I knew I should've gone for more cross-structural support."

Chapter 11 Main Chapters Chapter 13