The Inheritor of the Saybaro
Bright lights flared across the room, illuminating the massive chamber. A massive sphere was suspended in the center of the room, encircled by seven increasingly large rings, all of which spun around the sphere in a way that reminded me of the little perpetual motion sculptures.
Feeling very small, I asked, “To whom am I speaking?”
A young woman with a kind face appeared beside me, nearly making me jump out of my skin.
She covered her mouth with the tips of her fingers as she let out a giggle. “I’m sorry, Jimmy. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“It’s okay,” I said, sliding Glint back into my sheath, “You just surprised me, that’s all.”
As I looked at her, I noticed that she was just barely translucent enough to make out what was behind her. “You’re a holographic avatar, aren’t you?”
“I am Bethany, the Core Intelligence Construct of the Saybaro Research Facility.” She bowed her head respectfully. “It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Inheritor Sakamota.”
“Since the Corruption decimated the Glyche civilization, each CIC is required to have an Inheritor to protect against corruption.” She smiled and said, “I have chosen you.”
“Me?” was just about all I could manage to say at this.
“Yes, Inheritor Sakamota. As my Inheritor, you can seal this facility from the outside world, as well as any other facility connected via teleportation matrix. You can access numerous defensive measures and security systems, and coordinate with any of those you assign as Guardian to deal with threats in a more direct manner. In the unlikely event I become corrupted, it will be your duty to activate the auto-destruct to prevent a corruption outbreak.”
“So the skriever … that was just to contact me?” I asked, my heartbeat beginning to slow as the knowledge that I was in no danger worked its way through my brain
Bethany nodded, twisting her hands in a nervous manner. “I did. I could have patched into the communications systems in the mansion and spoken with you directly, but I didn’t want to scare you, especially considering how much the Corruption has already affected your life. Sending a skriever seemed more innocuous.”
Bethany seemed very nice, so I decided not to comment that having a skriever to lure me into a facility I didn’t know existed was far from calming.
“I’ve been living here for over a decade. Why did you only decide to contact me now?” I asked, a little frustration seeping into my voice.
“I deactivated much of the facility 2774 years ago, a century after the last bio-form left.” A sad look fell over her face. “I had hoped that they might return, but as the years passed, I realized that any who remembered me must be long dead.”
I felt ashamed of my earlier frustration, my own years of loneliness seeming pale in comparison to what she must have gone through.
“My power was not infinite,” She continued, “and after a rockslide shut down the hydro-electrical plant within the mountains, I had to start shutting down systems to conserve what energy was left. First it was life support, then medical, then maintenance and the unessential labs. Eventually, I had no choice but to put myself into hibernation.”
She brightened, both her face and her projection. “Then, a few weeks ago, I received a massive boost of power from the Yaevin Station, enough to fill my reserves.”
“I’ve heard of Yaevin before!” I said, thinking back to the years I lived with Uncle Ann, “It’s an old Glyche satellite.”
“Actually, Yaevin’s more of a space station.” She said, not unkindly. “At first, I thought the Glyche had returned, and started reactivating the facility. When my sensors picked you up in the mansion, I searched through your network until I accessed the Weave and learned the truth.” She blushed again and said, “I … may have read your journals as well. I’m sorry, but you have to understand that I needed information. For the record, I’m sorry about your parents. I can only imagine how difficult their passing was for you.”
“You don’t have to apologize. As far as I’m concerned, the Corruption killed them, not the Glyche.” I said truthfully. “And as for my journal … well, if you can excuse some of the anger in my earlier entries, I don’t mind. Still, why choose me? There are better guards than I.”
“Yes, but you are special.” She said, giving me a kindly smile. “When I found out that you were a guard, not only protecting this place but rebuilding it as well, I realized that in a way, you already were my Inheritor.”
I wasn’t sure what to say to that; while it was a nice thought, the fact remained that I had only come to the Saybaro because of the whims of a madman. On the other hand, she had a good point; I was already guarding the Saybaro, and ‘Inheritor’ sounded much better to my ears than ‘Specialist’.
Bethany’s smile faded, replaced with a look of worry at my silence. “Is that okay? I know I should’ve asked first, but when you left, I was worried you’d be gone forever, and I’d have to go to sleep again when the power runs out.”
“How much power do you have left?” I asked her.
She closed her eyes for a moment. “I could keep the facility running for about a month, perhaps two if I started cutting systems again. The Yaevin station might send more, but I’m hoping you might be able to restore the hydro-electrical plant before it becomes an issue. That is, if … if you don’t mind, Inheritor Sakamota.”
The pleading look in her eyes was too much for me to ignore. Smiling kindly at her, I said, “On one condition.”
“Yes?” She said, looking hopeful.
“’Inheritor Sakamota sounds so formal, more like something you’d call a boss or a coworker. Seeing as we’re in this together, I’d much rather us be friends, so would it be all right if you just called me ‘Jimmy’?”
She stared at him for a moment before a smile spread over her face. With a laugh of happiness and no small amount of relief, she surprised me by giving me a hug. Even if she was just a projection of light, and the pressure and warmth of her hug were just force-fields and environmental micro-manipulations, it felt nice to feel the presence of another being.
A few moments of uncomfortable silence passed after we separated. She seemed expectant, as though she were waiting for me to say something.
I coughed and said, “Well, if you’ll give me instructions on the hydroelectric plant, I’ll check it out right away.”
“I appreciate that, but if you don’t mind, I’d like you to head to the construction labs first. This facility was built with a purpose, and as my Inheritor, you deserve to know what that purpose is. Before you go, however, I have something for you.”
She waved a hand at one of the consoles around the core. On top of the keypad was a strange device unlike anything I had encountered before, Glyche or Rimstakken. At her gesture, the device floated over to me and slipped over my hand, wrapping around my fingers so that the display covered the back of my hand. Once in place, a second strap extended from beneath the device, latching around my thumb and firmly securing the device in place.
“This is your PIM, your personal identification module.” She said. “As the Inheritor, you can use it to access any console or locking mechanism in this facility. Please take care not to lose it; it would be difficult to replace.”
When I tapped the face, a miniature holographic construct appeared above my hand. I started to reach for the construct with my other hand, only to realize it was already moving the way I wanted; I was controlling it with my mind.
“Each point on the construct will activate a different function.” She pointed at a one such point. The entire construct changed, eventually becoming a hexagon filled with tiny lines. “This is the unlocking program, but it can also hack into other mechanical systems if necessary. It essentially allows me direct access to electronic systems, though if you are beyond my range, it will run a preset lock-cracking program that should be enough for most electronic locks.”
She tapped a different part of the construct. Instantly, it formed itself into something resembling a directional arrow. “The facility locating beacon can be set with this function. I’ve taken the liberty of setting it to the Construction Labs. It updates every half-second, so feel free to check it anytime you are uncertain as to where you need to go.”
“Like a Dreamer’s Compass.” I said.
“Something like that.” She activated another point, this one a series of concentric circles. “This is your PIM’s auditory sensor control. It’s already active, so bear in mind I can talk with you anywhere in the Saybaro area, even your bridge. It doesn’t take that much processing power to run this place, so feel free to talk to me whenever you feel like it.”
“I will.” I said, fully intending to make use of the feature the next time I stood guard at my bridge. “Thank you, Bethany … and thank you for trusting me with this.”
“Together, may we restore the Saybaro to her former glory.” With a final bow, she vanished. The lights in the room, however, remained active, as did the rotating rings around the computer core. A smile on my face, I turned and walked back the way I came, feeling a definite spring in my step.
I practiced with my PIM along the way. I didn’t know all the functions as of yet, but after a little trial and error, I was able to activate both the compass and the unlocking program without fail. By the time I reached the hub, I could do it by mental control alone.
I activated the compass as I walked back into the hub room, and took the indicated path. It was a good thing she pointed out the program, as the corridors all looked the same from the hub.
The white of the walls eventually faded to a dark gray. Heavy blast doors were present on both sides. I found these slightly unsettling, though the compass thankfully indicated that I walk past the doors and continue down the corridor.
Eventually the corridor ended with another large door, not unlike that which guarded Bethany’s room. There were no windows, so I had little choice but to raise my hand, activate the unlocking program, and hope for the best.
As the door slid up into the ceiling, I found myself staring into what looked like some kind of assembly area. Bits of skrievers lay all over the place, some completely disassembled while others twitched in a most disturbing manner. A few whole skrievers were moving around the room, busily repairing the broken units.
The room was dominated by a large pod. It sat in the center of the room surrounded by at least a dozen other machines, each displaying a different readout. It was those readouts that told me what exactly Bethany had wanted me to see: a core unit.
Core units were probably the most infamous creations of the Glyche. According to records left from the time of the original Corruption, the Glyche were a dying due to what is believed to be some kind of DNA degradation due to genetic modification over the years.
Facing their own demise, the Glyche created the core units to continue the Glyche civilization. Programmed with AIs and given the ability to upgrade themselves overtime, the core units would become the children of the old Glyche and carry on their traditions with their own children.
Sadly, core units became the downfall of the Glyche; the Corruption turned the once-peaceful androids into a violent collective that came uncomfortably close to taking over Rimstak, possibly even the entire world. Scars of the Corruption still dotted Rimstak, and newly discovered facilities were treated like active weapons of mass destruction.
All of this crossed my mind as I stared at what had become of the most feared things on Vinta. Still, Bethany had been quite nice, and it wasn’t like all core units were bad; the hero Core Desygan was a core unit, not to mention a close friend of Narrator Number One.
I had never actually seen a core unit before, aside from illustrations. It, or rather, he had been built vaguely male, though the exposed joints made it impossible to mistake it for any race or species with which I was familiar. The legs, arm, and torso were covered with metal plating, presumably to protect the internal circuitry. It was the face was what interested me the most; it had no nose, no ears, and no hair. About the only features on his face were the eyes and the mouth. It was as though the creator had started to craft the head as humanoid, but hadn’t gotten past the most basic features.
He looked as though he were asleep; his eyes were closed, and his mouth was hanging slightly open.
I jumped slightly at the sound of Beth’s voice coming through my PIM. “I’m here, Bethany. Is this what you wanted me to see?”
“Yes. The product of three-thousand years of testing; even while I slept and the rest of the facility lay dormant, this pod continued its analysis.” She appeared on one of the consoles surrounding the pod, looking at me expectantly.
“Is it functional?” I asked, trying to force the lump out of my throat.
“One moment.” Her image flickered for a moment. “Final checks are complete. The pod is waiting for your authorization.”
I stared at Beth’s image, lost for words. She was asking me to activate a core unit, an act that always turned out badly in the horror flicks I had seen.
“Jimmy?” She asked, looking at me questioningly.
My gaze fell back on the inactive unit. “Are you sure it’s not corrupted?”
“I’m positive. This unit was my prime directive. Even while I slept and the rest of the facility lay offline, this pod remained active, running every corruption test and even going so far as to try and deliberately infect it. The results are clear; this core unit is completely incorruptible.”
“Are you sure?”
“One-hundred percent. This is in a very real way my life’s work; if you have any trust for me, I ask that you activate the pod and allow my creation to awaken … please.”
I stared at the core unit. It could have been a trap; perhaps she couldn’t open it without a bio-form. Still, there was something in the dormant unit’s face; even without features, there was something peaceful in his expression.
Nodding, I said, “What do I do?”
“Put your PIM hand on the construction pod. It doesn’t matter where.”
The PIM activated the instant my hand touched the smooth surface of the pod. “Inheritor status confirmed. Do you wish to activate the Desygan Prototype?”
I raised my eyes at this. The only Desygan I knew about was Thomas Desygan, who had built Core Desygan, the only core unit that had been able to resist the first Corruption.
Feeling a great deal more confidant, I said, “Yes.”
I took a step back reflexively as the pod opened to fully reveal the slumbering form of the core unit.
For a few moments, nothing happened. The core unit remained completely immobile. Just as I was about to ask Bethany if something was wrong, the core unit’s eyelids slowly opened to reveal glowing solid blue eyes.
After a few moments passed with no further reaction, I said, “Can you hear me?”
He stared straight forward, and gave no sign that he even knew I was there.
I turned to Bethany. “Is something wrong?”
“Not at all, Jimmy. He’s still initializing.”
The core unit suddenly sat bolt upright, startling the heck out of me in the process. I knew I should say something, but my words caught in my throat.
I took another step back as the core unit stepped out of the pod. My hand wrapped around Glint’s hilt reflexively, but I knew it wouldn’t help if the core unit was corrupted.
The core unit’s gaze fell to his hands, then to the rest of his body. He clenched his fists a few times, as though testing them. I looked to Bethany for some instruction, but her attention was focused solely on the core unit.
Finally overcoming the surge of fear that had kept me silent, I asked, “Are you okay?”
He looked at me. It was hard to tell with his limited facial features, but he looked surprised.
“I beg your pardon?”
Bethany said, “This is Jimmy Olsen Sakamota, Inheritor of the Saybaro facility.
He seemed to accept this. “Inheritor Sakamota. I am pleased to meet you.”
I shook his hand, albeit a bit cautiously. “Jimmy’s fine.”
We both stood in silence for a few uncomfortable moments.
“So,” I said when the silence became intolerable, “What now?”
“Normally at this point, my Creator would begin training me in matters of function, culture, and society.”
“You realize that’s not possible.”
He nodded. “Of course. In the absence of my maker, I am to receive my training from the Inheritor of the facility where I was created.”
I shook my head, my mind still reeling a little from the surreal nature of it all.
“You are the Inheritor of this facility.” He reminded me.
“Huh? Oh, right.” Shaking my head, I said, “What’s your name?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t been given a name yet.”
“Right.” I said, realizing my mistake.
“What name do you think I should have?” He asked.
I honestly didn’t know what to suggest. This was an important question, one I wasn’t prepared to answer.
“You said ‘Fei-jan’ earlier.” I said, “How about that?”
To my amazement, his cheeks turned gold. It took me a second to realize that he was blushing.
“That was an obvious error on my part, Jimmy. Father … Thomas Desygan gave me many of his memories to assist in my growth. I mistook you for one of his old friends. That man’s name was Fei-jan, but father always called him ‘Mick’.”
“Well, how about that then?” I said, “Mick sounds fine to me. Mick Desygan?”
He looked uncertain. “I don’t know. Desygan built me, but I was conceived by hundreds of other Glyche; it seems unfair to choose any one of their names.”
I was amazed, quite frankly. Even with his limited facial features, I could tell he was really bothered by this. That made any fear I had about what he was fade away; he wasn’t one of the machines that killed millions; he was an orphaned child of a people who had long since passed away … an orphan that was left in my charge.
That’s when I knew what name to give him.
“How about Mick Sakamota?” I said.
He gave me a surprised look. “You would share your family name with me?”
“Sure.” I replied. “I always wanted a little brother.”
A timid smile slowly spread across his face, “Very well. I am Mick Sakamota.”
Bethany beamed at both of us from her console. “I’ll add the name to my registry.”
Her expression suddenly changed to one of concern.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, secretly wondering what else could happen that day.
One of the other monitors activated, this time displaying fields of ripened trabia grains. Arc was fighting his way through the stalks, his face a mask of pure panic.
“I’m picking this up off one of my guardian drones. Isn’t he the young man you were speaking with earlier?”
“Arc.” I said, remembering my ‘fellow hero’, “I forgot about him.”
“He seems in quite a state.” said Bethany, “He’s covered an impressive distance for a bio-form.”
“He didn’t take the appearance of your skriever as well as I did. We’d better get him back here before he reaches Salutier.”
“I don’t understand.” said Mick, looking as confused as he could with his featureless face.
“Most people are still a little touchy about the Glyche.” I said as I started toward the Hub, “If Arc gets to the city and tells them about the skriever, it could start a panic.”
Bethany held up a hand. “One moment, please.”
Arc vanished abruptly from the screen. He appeared in front of us moments later, still running.
I barely caught him before he bowled me over. “Whoa, Arc! Slow down!”
“Jimmy! How the heck did you get in front of me?” His eyes wandered in Mick’s direction and immediately went as wide as saucers. “AAAAGH!”
I held him fast. “Calm down! Take a deep breath.”
“It’s gonna kill us all!” He screamed, still fighting wildly to free himself from my grip.
Mick coughed politely. “Actually, I have no combat functionality … Arc, was it?”
Arc fell slack. “I-It knows my name?”
Keeping a grip on Arc’s arm, I turned to Bethany’s screen. “This is Arc Skylad, a friend of mine. Arc, I’d like you to meet Mick Sakamota and Bethany, the CIC of this facility.”
Bethany bowed her head respectfully toward Arc. “My apologies if the skriever’s sudden appearance frightened you. I merely wished to bring Jimmy to the facility. As his friend, you are of course welcome here as well.”
Calming down somewhat, Arc asked, “You mean you aren’t going to kill me?”
“If they were, we’d both be dead by now.” I let him go.
“Good point.” He admitted, rubbing his arm. “By the Creator, you scared the Nocturnes outta me.” Chuckling he added, “For a second there, I thought Iniagus might’ve been onto something with his stupid prophecy.”
“Prophecy?” Bethany asked, a curious expression on her translucent face. “What prophecy?”
Sighing, I said, “This is going to take a while to explain.”