Previously: Chapter 4 <Part 1> <Part 2> <Part 3>
Six men gathered in a "time-cloister", a sort of "space-between-spaces" that existed beyond the normal dimensions, where they could observe the events of the real world undetected and uninterrupted.
They watched now, as the mother-mind once again reshaped herself.
One of them spoke, "The people no longer accept our rules for them."
His immediate companion nodded, "Somehow we have lost the direct influence over the masses themselves—but how? How is it possible to make the mother-mind re-form as she has been? Have the Overseers discovered who has been tampering with it?"
One of the others shook his head. "They have been concentrating on Inoculations; as far as they can see, no one has been near the mother-mind."
"Ah yes," said a fourth, "how has that been going?"
"Rather well," the third man smiled. "We've got all the novices like puppets on strings. In fact, it's only because the wyrts still inspire fear and respect toward the military and a desire to become a Novice that we have been able to maintain our footing here."
"Ah yes, the soldiers; how are they at maintaining order?"
The fifth Brother spoke, "The ones that have difficulty remaining connected to their wyrts because of the alterations in perceptivity in the creatures are regardless fiercely loyal, and would willingly report to a more receptive officer the things that the wyrt apparently cannot see."
"And how does the mother-mind fare through all this? Is she accumulating the proxy information well?"
"The problem, Brother," explained the second, "is that she is in such distress that the Caretakers tell me she has not produced any polyps in the last few days."
"How is this a problem?"
"The new wyrts are usually the way we solve the perception issue. Every time the mother changes, we see a rise in people discarding their wyrts because it takes a while for the memories of old existence to be completely overlaid with the new, causing the sensations to flicker in and out as the wyrt tries to adjust. By simply giving out brand-new ones, which have already adjusted, we could maintain numbers, even saw some rise occasionally.
"Since we have no new polyps, however, we cannot replace the ones the people already have."
"Tell me something," the first Brother interjected, "have you had this problem at all in the Inoculated Novices?"
"No, Brother; the Serum works much faster than a wyrt at adjusting the perceptions."
"Then why not Inoculate everybody?"
"We cannot make enough Serum for every citizen, and besides, we must have the citizens without appearing to force them into anything, or we will simply reinforce the antitheses that have been showing up lately."
"Well," the irate Brother persisted, "Inoculate the soldiers, then! We must have some way to keep control!"
"Very good, Brother." And the Brother who had spoken contacted the military Overseer and gave him the command. The Brethren watched as all the soldiers were led into the barracks and given the Inoculation. A glowing, profuse matrix appeared before them as the mother-mind received a host of new memories.
"See here, Brothers?" one of them pointed to an area of the matrix. "Here are the memories of just today. And here is just one hour of the—"
"Stop!" The quick eyes of one of the Brethren caught something important. He pointed at a short memory. "There! This one was watching the courthouse. Wasn't that where today's uproar started?"
"Why, yes," his comrades answered.
The Brother selected the memory and enlarged it. They all clearly saw the two figures in black slipping away from the courthouse while the shift in thought was going on. The soldier no doubt had followed them for quite a ways, but the memory ended abruptly before the edge of the block.
"Where is the rest of it?" the Brother demanded. "Why was it cut off?"
"The mother-mind sometimes does that when a section of the matrix is too small to hold everything. She divides it up among the whole matrix, wherever there is room. It could be anywhere in here," he replaced the matrix and showed the entire memory mass, where each was no bigger than a tiny pinpoint of light.
"Think on this, Brother," another rushed to console him. "Now we know that there are two renegades responsible for the problems we have been having. We use the Inoculated Army to hunt them down, and once they are disposed of, we are free to do as we like with the populace."
"They could be anywhere in this city!"
"So? We have enough soldiers. Post them everywhere, and promise rich rewards for their capture."
"I will notify the Overseer immediately."
The Sixth Brother watched the other five without speaking the entire time. Now he grinned.