Chapter 16 - It's Gone!
e could only stare as One shouted, “Gone?! How can it be gone? The thing’s too big to go through the doors!”
Despite One’s valid point, the fact remained that while the centrifugal rings were still slowly circling around the core, they weren’t circling around anything. What little movement was there was likely due to residual energy feeding into the core from the hub’s auxiliary power generator.
“Huh.” It was all I could think to say. I didn’t even know how to start formulating a hypothesis. It wouldn’t have surprised me if the core had been destroyed or damaged beyond repair given the state of the rest of the facility, but for it to simply be gone was beyond my comprehension.
Ell and Flip didn’t seem to understand what we were confused about, probably because this was their first Glyche facility. Smokes was standing as close as he could to the rings, letting them fan him.
“This is most irregular.” Mick said, “The Core cannot be taken apart, and is certainly too large to be moved out of this chamber. I didn’t believe they could be moved at all, but … well, there you have it.”
“Someone nicked it.” Smokes said before taking another puff from whatever it was he was smoking.
“Right, Smokes.” Flip said, sarcasm dripping from her voice. “Someone just stuck it in his pocket when no one is looking and walked out the front door.”
“Well, there you go! Great minds think alike.”
“Magic could have done it, I suppose,” One said doubtfully as Flip stuck her tiny tongue at Smokes, “but why take it? I mean, look at this place! It was stolen ages ago. Hell, some people are still terrified of the Glyche now, let alone three-thousand years ago. They would have destroyed it, not stolen it!”
Mick started tapping one of his skriever’s metal pincers against the floor. “Uh, guys?”
“Maybe they wanted it for raw materials or something,” said Flip, looking to Ell for support.
“Why? There are easier ways to get metal than raiding a Glyche installation.” argued One, “Besides, if they were after materials, why take the core and not the rings, or the bits of broken bots in the corridors?”
Mick’s tapping went louder. “Guys, please, I think-”
“Maybe it’s just been misplaced.” Smokes let out a burst of smoke that made my eyes water.
“What?” I said incredulously.
“They took it out to clean it or something, and just forgot where they put it.”
Even Ell looked doubtful at that theory. I opened my mouth to respond when a loud screech shot through the air that made everyone wince.
Mick picked his front pincers off the ground, two long scratch marks right in the metal in front of him. “Perhaps we should finish repairing the core unit in the Hub. She may have answers for us.”
“Don’t we still need to re-energize the power core?” I asked.
“Indeed … but without access to the Central Core, there’s only one way that’ll work, I’m afraid. Set the core on the console.”
I complied, curious as to what he was going to do. Mick climbed over the dead heartstone, and grabbed it with his middle pincers. Without warning, he slammed his other four legs into the console.
The console may have been inactive, but it was still receiving power. The energy encompassed the skriever and the power core, coursing through machine and crystal until the heartstone was glowing brightly.
The Skriever took a few steps away from the damaged console and promptly collapsed. I caught the power core before it fell and started to grab the skriever, only to see that half of the machine’s joints had melted.
“That skriever’s toast.” One said.
“One,” I asked, turning to the doll, “Could you go to the Saybaro and check on Mick? Make sure he didn’t just blow out his circuits?”
“You got it. Oh, want me to stop by Brigsonstrat and grab Terry?”
I thought about it; Terry was probably still putting out fires in Brigsonstrat. Telling him what was going on would only prompt him to come running, and given my past few days, there was no guarantee I’d even be anywhere near Naidyr by the time he got here. “No, he’s got his hands full enough as it is. If you stop by, go ahead and update him on what’s going on, though.”
“Can do.” A moment later, the doll went limp in my hands.
I slipped the doll and the power core into my deep hakama pockets. “All right, let’s get that core unit online. I just hope she can give us a few answers.”
When we made it back to the Hub, I approached the inactive core unit with the recharged heartstone in hand.
“Okay,” I said, getting ready to insert the core into the core unit, I’m guessing this is going to be a little jarring for her. Be ready, just in case.”
“In case of what?” Flip asked.
“In case of anything ... and try not to insult her, okay, Smokes?” I glanced around only to find the idestan mage was no longer with us.
A quick glance at Flip and Ell affirmed that neither of them noticed him leave either. Shaking my head, I sighed and said, “Just as well. Okay, here it goes!”
I pressed the power core into the core casing until the clamps closed over it and pulled it the rest of the way inside. As the protective panels slid over the opening beneath her metal bosom, I drew Glint and took a step back. I wasn’t sure it was working until I saw her arms and legs twitch slightly as they received energy for the first time in millennia. Her eyes flashed as power coursed through them, revealing themselves to be amber.
For the first few moments, she reeled back against the console and clutched at her chest. She tried to speak, but only static and grey noise came out.
“Jimmy?” Flip said, edging behind Ell.
“Give her a second.” I told her.
After a few more moments of confusion, she finally stopped convulsing. She drew in a shuddering breath before regarding each of us in turn; I could tell from her expression she was still a little shocked, not that I blamed her.
“Yulias.” She whispered, staring at Flip for a moment before moving on to Ell. “Galden-Vuestan hybrid.”
As she turned her gaze on me, her bright eyes widened slightly. “Sakamota?”
“You’re likely thinking of my ancestor. I’m Jimmy.” I held out my hand.
The core unit took it, looking intrigued. “Forgive me, Jimmy. You’re the spitting image of Fei-jan.”
“Fei-jan?” I asked curiously. “I thought you meant Mick.”
“He’s the same person.” She told me. “He tried to explain it to me once; something about ‘Americanization’. His better friends called him Fei-jan, or just Fei for short.”
Her cheeks went gold. “I haven’t introduced myself; my name is Jenna White. Are you responsible for repairing and reactivating me?”
“Partially.” I told her. “I had help from a friend. Can you stand?”
“I think so.” She tried to rise but immediately started to fall. Ell caught her easily, but from the gold on her cheeks, I could tell she was embarrassed.
“This place seen better days.” She said as she took a few shaky steps forward. “How long was I out?”
“We’re not sure.” I told her truthfully. “We were going to ask you.”
She looked around the room again, her horrified eyes sweeping over the destruction.
“My ... my home.” She said, “My sweet sanctuary ... what has become of you?”
I didn’t know what to say, other than, “I’m sorry.”
Jenna rested a hand on the console.“Are there any other survivors of my kind?”
“The other core units we’ve encountered in this facility have had their cores taken.” I said. Seeing sadness fill her face, I said, “But there are other core units. One of them helped repair you, actually.”
I nodded. “Mick Sakamota, the incorruptible core produced by Bethany at the Saybaro. There’s also Core Desygan.”
“Core!” Jenna perked up instantly, “Core is still operational? Where is he?”
“With the Elsewhere Incorporate, I think.” I said, “I can ask One when he comes back.”
“He still travels with the Dreamer.” Jenna said, her voice a mixture of awe and pride. “And CIC Bethany did complete her task. That is comforting. Where is Mick now?”
“Back at the Saybaro. He was controlling of one of this facility’s skrievers until he melted repowering your core.”
“I see. And you are the Inheritor of the Saybaro?”
“I am.” I held out my PIM, adding, “You might be able to contact Bethany or Cristlyn if you link up to the Yaevin station.”
“A good idea. I think enough of me is operational enough to link up. One moment.” She nodded, and closed her eyes.
From the expressions on her face, I could tell she was learning what had come to pass; the fall of the Glyche, the growth of Vinta over the last three-thousand years, and what had come to pass most recently with the activation of the Glyche facilities. I could only imagine how she felt at seeing her entire civilization fall to dust and ruin.
When she opened her eyes, I was surprised to see her smiling. “Jimmy Sakamota. I know who you are now.” She frowned, and looked at each of us in turn. “I do not, however, see Terra. Bethany and Mick mentioned she would likely be with you.”
“That’s part of the reason we activated you. We’re still looking for her. I think she’s somewhere in the facility, but it’s just too big to search on foot.”
“Of course. A bio-form scan from the central computer core should be able to single in on her location.”
Seeing our expressions, she asked, “What is it?”
“The other part of what we wanted to ask you. I think you’d better come with us, Miss Jenna.” I told her, taking her hand.
“That’s impossible!” Jenna stared up at the empty space in the center of the rings.
“That’s what One said.” Flip replied. She hopped onto Jenna’s shoulder, who didn’t seem to mind.
“But the core can’t be dismantled!” Jenna protested. “It can’t be moved!”
Putting my hand on her shoulder, I asked, “Jenna, what was happening here when you went offline?”
She bowed her head. “We were under attack. Some of the bio-forms from the local settlement found out about us and managed to break into the facility. I was with Core Desygan at the time.”
“Really?” I asked, intrigued as to the actions of the original core unit.
She nodded. “My core casing was already damaged when we reached the hub. He tried to fix me, but we were under attack.”
“It looked like someone tore out your core.” Flip said. “I mean, it was like seriously bad.”
“It was me.” Jenna said, her cheeks gold. “I tore out my core so ... so Core wouldn’t risk himself to save me.”
“Whoa.” Flip said, her eyes wide. “Did it hurt?”
“Not until I was reactivated. Then yes; a lot.” She put a hand on her chest, looking sad. “I didn’t think they’d get as far as the Central Core. Iniagus said …”
“Iniagus?” I said much louder than I intended.
“Yes, he was one of the mages working with us on the construction of the Center of Knowledge. He was always so cheerful when I saw him. He never seemed to be bothered by us being Glyche.” She smiled faintly. “Of course, many people claimed he was insane.”
“Really.” I said. One little word, so much sarcasm.
“He was a good man!” Jenna said sharply. “He risked everything to help us!”
“I’m sorry, Jenna.” I rubbed the back of my head. “I’ve had some bad experiences with his descendant, the current King of Wenapaj.”
“Well, if anyone deserved to be made royalty, it was him.” She snapped her fingers. “Now that I think about it, he claimed he had a way to protect the Core from any danger. Our CIC turned him down at the time, but if things were desperate, he might have changed his mind.”
“You think your Iniagus could’ve pulled it off?” I asked.
“He was quite a powerful mage, much stronger than any of the others we worked with.” Jenna paused as though something just occurred to her. “Hang on, I once saw Iniagus shrink a pile of building materials until it was as large as a small parcel. What if he shrank the core? It would still weigh the same, but if he shrank it-”
“-He could have simply rolled the core out, katamari style!” Said the plush doll hanging out of my pocket. One was back ... maybe.
“Is that you, One?” I asked, narrowing my eyes at the doll.
“What would you do if I said no?” Shaking his head, One said, “Anyway, I did a little digging, and it turns out Teach was assisting old Iniagus the first.
“But how did he get it out?” Flip asked, “She just said that it would weigh the same, and I doubt anyone could roll it very far without help.”
“Ah, but they didn’t have to roll it very far. They rolled it through the CPD.”
“CPD?” Flip asked.
“Conveniently-Placed Door.” One said. “It’s a door with one side in the Elsewhere and the other wherever we need it to be. All Teach had to do was call it, roll the core into the Elsewhere, then reposition the other side of the door wherever they were putting the core to keep it safe.” One wiped his hands. “Simple, when you get down to it. Personally, I’dlike to know how Tantulus Iniagus got a favor from Teach; shame he isn’t around to ask.”
“Where did they put it?” I asked, kneeling down so One could climb into my hands.
“You’re gonna love this; Iniagus’s Palace!”
I smacked myself in the head. It was so obvious; the palace floated off the ground, which would take an incredible amount of power and control to pull off without tipping the whole thing over. I never questioned it before because it was Iniagus’s palace. Why wouldn’t it be as crazy as him?
“Jenna,” I said turning, “The core is probably integrated into the palace now, but it still exists. Your facility’s CIC survived!”
“That is impossible.”
I started to explain when I realized she was talking about the One doll.
“Oh, sorry. Jenna, this is Narrator Number One. One, this is Jenna White.”
“Nice to meet you. Cyber-cripes, another working core unit. Core’s gonna be thrilled.”
“Core?You mean Core Desygan?” Jenna asked, her eyes shining with eagerness. “Where is he?”
One shrugged. “Somewhere on Algos. He’s with Fate and Max, trying to stop some kind of mad scientist or something. Don’t worry though, I’m gonna tell him about you and Mick the moment he gets back. He’s always looking for more of his kind. I could send him a message through the Elsewhere Access right now if you want.”
“Could you tell him …” Blushing gold, Jenna shook her head and said, “Never mind. I’ll tell him when I see him.”
“In the meantime,” I said, “Terra and Zig are still missing, and I haven’t the slightest idea where to start looking.”
“Ooh!” Smokes said, raising his hand and jumping up and down.
I stared at him. “When did you get back? Wait, nevermind; it’s probably not worth the time it’d take to explain. Did you see them?
“I saw Zig in the hub, running down one of the corridors with this mark on it.” Smokes licked his finger and traced a glowing symbol in the air.
“Entrance to the Center of Knowledge.” Jenna told us. “It was beneath where we were making the central tower.”
“What about Terra?” I asked.
“Didn’t see her, but Zig was limping when he came into the hub room. I was trying to figure out where the sleeping lady went, but …” He suddenly seemed to realize Jenna was there and flashed her a wide smile. “Oh! Hello sleeping lady!”
Jenna waved back, an amused look on her face.
“Could you show us which way he came from?” I asked, trying not to sound too worried.
“Sure thing. Follow me, everyone!”