Lydee's head ached. Stretching out on her bed, she lifted a hand to her brow and then remembered. She no longer had to wear a circlet. Briefly, she touched her forehead near the spot where her implant had been inserted.
Through the tiny, implanted link, she would now be able to communicate with Homesmind whenever she wished, and with others as well. The link could be closed if she did not wish to speak, but she could not remove it. She was now bound to her world.
Lydee sat up. The hanging vines around her bed twisted, then curled up onto the grassy, green canopy above her. Tiny lights danced on the rough, barklike walls of the cave. Her mentor was not in their room; she wondered where he had gone.
Reiho is visiting his former mentor, Homesmind's voice said inside her. The voice was soft and gentle, yet insistent; Homesmind sounded as It had when It had spoken to her through a circlet.
Of course I sound the same, Homesmind went on. The circlet has trained you, and your link will work in the same way. You are now fully a part of this world, Lydee.
She swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood up. Was Homesmind mocking her? She had lived on Home all her life--Home, the Wanderer, the Forest, the Refuge. People called this world all of those names and it was all of those things, but it was not really her world.
Don't be nonsensical, Homesmind replied to her unspoken thoughts. Of course this is your world.
"I don't feel as though it is," Lydee replied. She could not explain her feelings to the world's Mindcore, though she did not have to in any case. Homesmind was undoubtedly sorting through her surface thoughts at that moment. She shut down that particular channel of her link, wanting to keep her feelings, at least, to herself.
Clearing her mind, she phrased her questions: Who am I? Who were my donors? Where am I from? Homesmind showed her only a mist; even now, linked as she was, she received no answers. Her friends had asked the same questions and had seen images of their donors, along with charts of their genetic backgrounds. Each of them carried the genes of several donors; each was the product of centuries of genetic manipulation and modification. They knew who they were. Lydee seemed to have been born from nothing, with no connection to anyone else.
"Where did I come from?" she said aloud. "You've never told me."
Does it matter? You have grown up like all the others.
"It matters to me. Reiho knows, and I'm sure a few of his friends know, and they've never told me, either. Somehow that doesn't seem fair."
You will learn soon enough.
"Tell me now," she insisted.
It is Reiho's task to speak to you, and he is already preparing to do so. It is my hope that you will come to take some joy in the knowledge. Homesmind paused. Occasionally it is time to bring something new into the world. You may someday have a special task to perform, Lydee.
She sighed, closing her link. Homesmind could still speak to her when It wished, but would not receive her thoughts.
Her headache had vanished. She crossed the room, took a piece of fruit from a recess in the cave wall, and sat down on one of the giant mushrooms growing from the mossy floor. Homesmind's tone had disturbed her. Her mentor, she felt, should not have to answer questions Homesmind could have answered.
Where had she come from? She had supposed that her original home was much like this world, that it too was yet another comet transformed ages ago into a garden world, a world in which human beings dwelled inside the giant roots of enormous trees that sprouted from the comet as if the comet were a seed. But she had never seen another comet world, and had not heard of one entering this part of the galaxy in the recent past. Humankind's other comet worlds had voyaged far, and even Homesmind rarely spoke to them. She had learned enough about interstellar distances to understand that her chance of seeing another world like the Forest very soon was remote.
Homesmind had spoken of a special task, but Lydee could not imagine what It would ask of someone like her. Even the oldest adults, those who had lived for centuries and could recall the times when their world had wandered far from this planetary system, had no special tasks and were free to do as they liked. Homesmind cared for them all; It was the brain other world. Long ago, when human beings had fled to the Halo of comets at the edge of the solar system, Homesmind had been only a small Mindcore, a cybernetic and organic intelligence of colloids and crystals, but during the thousands of years since, It had grown in complexity until no human mind could fully encompass It. Homesmind had been humanity's child. Now It was their parent, their guardian, their protector, their teacher, their willing servant, and their gentle master. Homesmind was the comet.
She opened her link again. "What is it?"
Nara and Pilo are approaching. Do you wish to visit with them? They are on the path outside.
"I'll meet them there."