Chapter 1 - An Urgent Message
The trouble started when my hand began to ring.
I’m Jimmy Olsen Sakamota, Specialist of the Wenapaj Royal Guard, Sleeper of the Elsewhere Incorporate, and Inheritor of the Saybaro. Ever since I came to Wenapaj and was posted to guard a bridge in the middle of nowhere, my life was boring … that is, until King Gheraldio Iniagus the twenty-seventh saw an evil portent in his breakfast that led him to proclaim me one of two possible heroes to save Wenapaj from a coming Evil, emphasis on the capital ‘E’.
Since then, I discovered hidden Glyche facilities, fought prop dragons and corrupted core units, bumped elbows with mechanical pirates and living skeletons, and even found love along the way. I went from being a lonely samurai guarding a bridge to having a circle of kind and caring friends.
After the mess with Sera and the Dragon, however, most of said friends had temporarily gone their own way, leaving me alone in the mansion. Even Mick, the incorruptible core unit built in the Saybaro facility, was temporarily out of commission. As such, I was working by myself on the second floor of the Saybaro mansion when the PIM device given to me by Bethany, the CIC of the Saybaro facility, began to ring.
Dropping a roll of burgundy carpet, I tapped the face of the PIM and said, “Mornin’ Bethany. What do you need?”
“Good Morning, Jimmy. I wanted to let you know you’ve just received an incoming communications request.”
“Terry?” I asked curiously.
“No; it’s a Rimstakken woman by the name of Annabelle Kaboum.”
My eyes went wide. “I’m heading to the study now.”
I rushed down the stairwell and raced to the East Wing. The study on the first floor was one of the few rooms that had been usable when I first came to the Saybaro; it was a little ramshackle, but it did have a computer with a somewhat basic connection to the Weave.
That was then; some dark-wood furniture, a few Glyche consoles installed with the help of Bethany, and a soft brown carpet had changed what had been a glorified closet into a comfortable study.
I hopped into the chair in front of the view screen and said, “Patch her through please, Bethany.”
The screen activated moments later, showing a Rimstakken woman I hadn’t seen in over a decade: curly red hair, freckly face, and wide, green eyes. She looked a little older, but was still just as pretty as I remembered.
“Jimmy!” She said, beaming. “I am finally getting through!”
“Sorry about that, Uncle Ann.” I told her, a surreal feeling stealing over me. “We’re still working on tying the Glyche communication systems into the mansion’s grid.
“I am understanding. By the Creator, I am having much difficulty believing how much you have grown. You’re having much of your father’s handsomeness.”
One of the good things about my dark complexion is that I can blush without it being too noticeable. “You look well too. How’s it going in Rimstak these days?”
She blew a raspberry. “It always changes, it never changes. You are understanding, I’m sure. Enough about Rimstak; I am wanting to know more about you and your friends, especially this Terra.”
I blushed at the mention of my girlfriend. “I haven’t seen her for a few weeks. She told me she had to take care of some things.”
“Ah, well, she is being fional. You should not be worrying; if she’s already having formed a partial bond, she’ll be back. I’d be imagining that being in membership to the Queen’s Shadows as well as the Royal Guard is temporally demanding.”
“You don’t have to tell me.” I said, grinning. “I did spend thirteen years guarding a bridge in the middle of nowhere.”
An uncomfortable silence fell between us; running away from my home in Rimstak had led me to my unusual post. Uncle Ann was probably thinking about the argument we had before I left; I know I was.
“I’m sorry.” I told her. “What I said before I left was way out of line.”
She shook her head. “It is not being an issue.”
“It is to me. I was wrong; you were an excellent guardian. If you hadn’t taught me so much about tech, I never would’ve made it through that mess with the dragon.”
“Ah, yes, and the Princess Sera. I am having seen her and her husband on their honeymoon. Such a cute couple; I am being a little jealous.”
“And how many potential suitors did you turn away today?”
She laughed. “Only three. One is being most stubborn; speaking of stubbornness and One, are you having heard more from Narrator Number One?”
“Not yet. Then again, he’s probably more interested in spending time with his wife now that they have a kid on the way. I can’t really blame him,; with the ‘dragon’ defeated and the princess saved, his work was done.”
“What of the other friends in your message? Are they being around?”
“Not at the moment.” I said “Arc’s off to get some stuff from the Center, Terry’s still working through bureaucracy, and Casey’s off making movies in Wukice.”
“What of Mick?” She asked, not even bothering to hide the eagerness in her tone. “I would be very much liking to speak with a real uncorrupted core unit.”
“Small surprise.” I murmured under my breath. Coughing slightly, I said in a louder tone, “Unfortunately, Core’s in his upgrade pod at the moment; by his estimate, he’ll be in there for at least a few more days.”
“Then he is having reached his second evolution already?”
“Third, actually. The upgrades he received from the other Glyche facilities were enough for him to skip ahead.”
“Oh! Then he is having decided on gender. What was his decision being?”
Chuckling, I replied, “He didn’t tell me; I didn’t know he was in the pod until he missed breakfast a few days ago. I’m thinking he’s sticking with male, but don’t hold me to it; he’s been rather pensive these past few weeks.”
“I would very much like to be speaking with him or her whenever he or she is having left the pod. In the meantime, if we may be returning to the subject of your bond-mate Terra-”
She glanced back as a trill beeping noise sounded from her side of the communication; I recognized it as the proximity alarm on Uncle Ann’s front door, a precaution against the more inventive of her suitors.
“Donavon, no doubt.” She muttered, exasperation clear in her voice. “I was having hoped that he would have learned a meaningful lesson after last time. Still, maybe the expedited retro-launching mechanism worked according to the projected specifications. Another concussion would be most infortuitus to his mental state.”
Shaking her head, she turned back to Jimmy. “I’m going to need to be making sure he isn’t caught inside the tertiary enclosure. Still, I would very much like to continue our conversation at a later time. Tomorrow, perhaps?”
“I’d like that.” I told her. “Until tomorrow then.”
She started to shut off her screen, but stopped abruptly. “Jimmy.” She said, her tone soft. “I am wanting you to know that I am having pride in you. Your parents would no doubt be having the same pride.”
“Thank you, Uncle Ann.” I said, bowing my head both in respect to her and to the memory of my parents.
As the screen died, I sat back in my chair and let out a deep breath. I had apologized via letter, but it seemed so much more of a relief to tell her face to face, even if we were hundreds of miles apart.
My eyes fell on the One doll. It sat slumped against the side of the console, its arms resting on either side of its legs and its smiling head tilted slightly to the left.
Looking at the doll made me remember the whole Sera and the dragon debacle. Truth be told, thinking about it left me feeling kind of wistful. After all that excitement, life had once again slowed down to a crawl.
I shook it off; according to my insane but benevolent king, there was still the matter of Evil (again, with a capital ‘E’) sweeping across the land. I still thought he was making it up, but to completely dismiss it would be an act of foolishness.
The screen beeped again, distracting me from my reminiscing.
“Bethany?” I asked.
“I believe the message is coming from the heart of Iniagusville.” Bethany replied, her face appearing on the view screen. A moment later, she frowned. “It’s King Iniagus.”
King Iniagus was the ruler of Wenapaj; he was also a batty old fellow who seemed to only have a loose grip on reality, and not in the Dreamer sense. Still, he was my king, and he had seen fit to give me the deed for the Saybaro, insuring that it was truly the one place I would always call home. The least I could do was give him a few moments of my time.
“Patch him through.” I ran a hand through my butter-blonde hair, wishing I had a comb handy. When you live alone for awhile, your appearance isn’t exactly a high priority.
The screen flared to life, revealing a bright red mustache. It wasn’t just red, though; Iniagus had somehow made his most prominent feature plaid.
The tips of his mustache quivered as he broke into a wide smile. “Why, if it isn’t Sir Jimmy! Of all the surprisingly surprising surprises! What can I do for you?”
“You called me, your majesty.” I reminded him.
“I did? Egads! You’re right, my boy! I did call you!”
A few moments of awkward silence fell between us. Iniagus didn’t say a word; he just stared at me, tweaking the tip of one mustache. It was quite disconcerting.
“Did you need som-” I said.
“Oh, yes! I wanted to …” After a few moments of silence his face fell. “Blast it all, I can’t remember. Oh well; it’ll come back to me sooner or later.”
The screen blinked off, leaving me with the tell-tale confusion I normally felt after an encounter with the King of Wenapaj. Shaking my head, I stood from the chair and started walking back toward the lobby. I had every intention of returning to my work on the second floor, but a loud rumble from my stomach made me think otherwise.
I hadn’t eaten all day. Despite my insistence that it wasn’t necessary, Bethany and Mick usually took it upon themselves to make my meals. As Mick was still in his upgrade pod, and Bethany was busy working on some upgrades to the Ascendant, I was on my own.
After a quick walk to the kitchen, I prepared a nice egg-salad sandwich for myself. I do enjoy cooking, a habit from the days when I lived alone in the Saybaro.
I had just raised the first half of the sandwich to my mouth when I heard someone shout, “JIMMY!”
Plush One came running around the corner, still shouting my name at the top of his little lungs (it didn’t have lungs, but that didn’t seem to bother him much). Seeing me, he stopped and rested his hands on his knees. “There you are!”
“What’s up?” I asked, kneeling down and picking up the little doll.
“It’s trouble. Big, big, big trouble in Brigsonstrat!”
Brigsonstrat was a city to the north of the Saybaro. All I really knew of the place was that most of Wenapaj’s power was generated there. If something bad happened there, the effects would no doubt be felt throughout the country.
“I’ll round up the team immediately.” Excitement seeping through my veins, I started toward the computer room.
“NO!” The doll shrieked, leaping in front of me and holding up its hands. “There’s no time!”
“It’s that serious?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. In truth, I was getting a little worried. I had never seen One so worked up before.
He nodded. “Very serious, deadly serious! Apocalypse-Devastation-Armageddon-Ragnorak kind of serious!”
“Okay,” I said, “I’ll grab Glint and some quick supplies and be back in a few minutes.”
After a quick run to my room, I grabbed Glint and quickly strapped it to my side. I tossed a few sets of clothes and a handful of shards into my backpack, as well as the nice portable cabin I had bought just for this sort of thing.
As I was organizing everything into my backpack, Terra’s image passed into my mind. She could arrive at the Saybaro any day. What if she arrived while I was gone? The last thing I needed was for the only girl in the last decade that had shown interest in me to think I didn’t care enough to stick around for her.
I grabbed a piece of paper and quickly scribbled:
In case you get here before I get back, I’m out helping One with something in Brigsonstrat. I hate to leave like this, but he says it’s really important. I’ve prepared room #114 for you (right across the hall from my room), but feel free to take any vacant room on the first floor (still working on the second and third floor).
Hope to see you soon, my love.
I thought a moment about where to place the note before finally just setting it on my pillow. She’d already snuck into the Saybaro, after all, and likely knew the location of my room.
The view screen next to my door activated, displaying a hurt-looking Bethany. “You could have asked me to leave a message for her, Jimmy.”
“I mean no offense, but you’re assuming you’d see her before she snuck into the mansion. Any chance I can take the Ascendant?”
“Not for another two or three days, I’m afraid. I’m still having trouble with some of the upgrades.”
“No problem. I’ll go on foot for now; just make sure to send the Ascendant for me when you’re done.”
As I started for the door, Bethany asked, “Are you sure it’s such a good idea? Leaving for Brigsonstrat so suddenly?”
Something in her tone made me stop in my tracks. “Bethany?”
“There’s no telling what you might be walking into Jimmy. You’re my Inheritor ...” Blush spread over her simulated cheeks. “And your my friend. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”
“Someone’s in trouble.” I told her matter-of-factly. “If One’s worked up about it, it must be something big. I’m a Royal Guard; it’s my duty to protect.”
“I know.” Bethany said, but she didn’t look happy about it.
I smiled at her. “Thank you.”
“For what?” She asked, looking surprised.
“For considering me a friend as well as an Inheritor ... and for questioning me rather than just locking me in the mansion outright.”
Her blush deepened as a smile slid over her face. “I’d still feel better if you’d take an energy pistol with you.”
“No need.” I told her, holding up Glint. “I’m fine with Glint here.”
She let out a chuckle. “I suppose you are. Very well; go on and save the world while I stay here with only my squabbling sisters to keep me company.”
“You’ll manage.” I said with a chuckle as I headed for the door. I made a quick stop to the small pantry near my kitchen and grabbed some provisions; the trip would be a few days on foot, and I didn’t want to run out of food half-way there.
When I came back into the kitchen, I told Plush One, “All right, I’m ready.”
Plush One clapped his little felt hands together excitedly. “Excellent. Time to head to destinations unknown!”
“Well, to Brigsonstrat anyway.” I said. I’d never been there, but it was a major city; following the highway or the foot road north would lead me there ... or at least to a road sign that would correct my path.
“There’s a man you need to find.” said Plush One. “He goes by the name ’Ronisgald McDonald.”
“Ronisgald McDonald.” I repeated, hefting my pack.
“Right. He identifies himself with a symbol known as the Golden Arch.” Plush One informed me, “He’s a master of disguise too. You’ll need your perception at its peak to see through whatever alias he is using.”
“Golden Arch, master of disguise. Got it,” I said, nodding. “What do I do after I find him?”
“I’ll let you know when we cross that bridge.” the doll said. “No reason to bog you down with unnecessary details.”
“Right.” My eyes strayed to the kitchen counter where I had left my lunch. The sandwich was gone, save for a few crumbs.
“Did you eat my sandwich?” I asked Plush One, but he didn’t respond. He was engaged with trying to press his spiky hair against his head.
“One?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Huh? Oh right!” The little doll hit itself in the head, before looking up at me, smiling once again. “Could you repeat the question?”
“Did you …”
Plush One stared at me with his impossibly cute little button eyes.
Sighing, I said, “Eh, never mind. I’m heading out now.”
“Roger that!” With a final salute, the doll slumped back down on the table, once again just a plush toy.
I didn’t really care about the sandwich; excitement over the new mission sated my hunger. I slipped the now limp doll in my pack and headed for the door, eager for what awaited me.
What awaited me beyond the door turned out to be a soldier in heavy armor that obscured all but the area around his eyes. Unfortunately, he was standing just a little too close to the door when I opened it. As he stumbled backward and fell to the ground with a thud and a loud ‘Oof!’ I realized it was Terry, my friend and fellow adventurer during the whole mess with the dragon.
“Terry!” I took his gauntlet-covered hand and hauled him to his feet. “I wasn’t expecting you for another week!”
“Her Majesty finally intervened on my behalf.” Terry brushed the dirt off his armor as best he could while wearing gauntlets. “Thank the Creator, too; Iniagus had me filling out crossword puzzles for him the last few days.”
I let out a chuckle. “Yeah, that sounds about right. You just come from Salutier?”
“Yes sir. Hitched a ride with Miss Meryli.” Terry pointed back at the tree. Meryli had parked the floater beside my favorite resting place, and was currently pulling out a large duct-taped suitcase out of the back seat.
She waved as she walked over, struggling slightly to maintain her hold on the briefcase. “Sorry I’ve been so quiet lately, Jimbo, but fixing up the old floater rental’s eaten up all my free time lately.”
“Oh, you’re reopening?” I asked curiously.
“Psh. Like I want to loan out a bunch of cars when I can be working with Glyche tech. Nah, Iniagus’s already got some new sucker marked out as the new floater rental specialist. Still, I thought I outta at least get the carpenters working on the new place before I bailed.”
She set the suitcase down by the door and rubbed her hands together eagerly. “So, where’s my room? Close to the facility entrance, I hope.”
Bethany’s face appeared on the view screen beside the door. “I have prepared quarters for you in the facility, if you don’t mind. If you’re going with Jimmy, I can go ahead and have your luggage moved to your room.”
“Going? You going somewhere, Jimbo?” Meryli asked, surprised.
I nodded. “One stopped in earlier; from what he says, there’s something big going down up in Brigsonstrat.”
I was worried that they would both be disappointed; after all, they just returned to the Saybaro. To my surprise, however, they both seemed excited by this news.
“Awesome!” Meryli said, rubbing her hands together. “Yeah, go ahead and send my stuff to my room. Er, please, Miss Bethany.”
“Not a problem.” Bethany nodded at the suitcase, which promptly vanished. “And please; just call me Beth. Would you like me to move your luggage as well, Specialist Terry?”
“Only if it’s not an imposition.” Terry held out his knapsack, which vanished a moment later.
Meryli hopped back in the car. “So, where did you say we were heading, Jimbo?”
“Brigsonstrat.” I replied, taking the front seat as Terry clambered into the back.
“Ah, nice place.” Meryli said. “Folks are a bit weird, though.”
“Weird?” Terry said. “What does that mean?”
“Welcome to Wenapaj.” I said, grinning as the floater started forward.