Chapter 19 - Seed of Chaos
The Seed gave me a strange look. “I beg your pardon? Oh … OH! Of course. I’m told I look quite like our liege. I assure you, however, that I am certainly not the king, handsome though he may be.”
The absurdity of the moment was almost too much for me; the Seed, the man whose absence had torn the balance of the Center asunder, was without a doubt King Iniagus. The voice was the same, the cheery grin he was giving me was the same, and the mustache was unmistakable.
It took Terra elbowing me in the side for me to finally mumble something vaguely apologetic. The look in her eyes said, “Just go with it for the moment.”
He patted me on the back, saying amicably, “Don’t give it another thought, my young friend. My name is Melchoir Thamasa, and I am the Seed of this particular Center of Knowledge. I know you, of course, Sir Sakamota.”
“How?” I blurted out, not even trying to hide my suspicion and earning another elbow in my side from Terra.
The Seed chuckled. “How could I not know about the great dragon-slayer of the Saybaro? You made every news station in the country. Perhaps you could introduce your friends for me?”
He seemed so earnest that I had to wonder; perhaps it was just a really crazy coincidence. After all, pretty much anyone could grow a mustache or wear a fake one. That still left the question of why the Seed’s mustache was red when his hair was white, but he still looked considerably less strange than the king during my last visit to Iniagusville.
The man patted my shoulder. “Ah, you’re a million miles away, aren’t you? I suppose you have had a busy day.”
I shook my head; I’d deal with it later. Coughing, I gestured to the members of my group, “This is Terra of the Queen’s Shadows, the doll’s controlled by Narrator Number One, the core unit is Jenna, the big guy’s Ell, and the girl he’s carrying is Fliperja- … Fliperji- …” I shook my head. “Flip. Smokes …”
I glanced around, but once again the Idestan mage was gone. “… is probably getting something to eat.” I finished dourly.
Thamasa laughed, a deep booming laugh that was vastly different that the king’s mad chuckling. “Quite a group you have here. Galden, fional, Glyche, Dreamer, and if I’m not mistaken, a part-Vuestan?”
Ell’s eyes went wide.
Melchoir chuckled again. “Yes, I can hear you. Let me take a look at your young friend.”
Ell nodded gratefully and knelt down as Thamasa approached.
“Hmm. Give me a few moments.” Thamasa pulled a silver wand out from his pocket and twirled it in the air, stirring up a wispy flow of lifestream which swirld around Flip’s new body. The stream pulsed blue, then green, then purple, then blue once again.
After staring at Flip and the stream that surrounded her for a few minutes, the Seed nodded and lowered his wand. “You will be pleased to know that her life is in no danger.”
We all let out a sigh of relief, none louder than Ell. He rubbed her shoulder, smiling.
Thamasa motioned for us to follow him as he headed toward the door. He led us down to the portal room, where a squad of techs had already fixed the broken panel.
“Set us up for a short-range teleport.” The Seed commanded a young Rimstakken boy tinkering with part of the wall.
“Almost got the waypoints reinitialized, sir.” After a few moments, segments of the wall spun in place, revealing eight waypoint pods.
Terra and I took the same pod along with Plush One; the doll had gone inert again, so I put him back in my pouch. Ell carried Flip to a separate pod, while Thamasa himself was kind enough to assist Jenna to a pod.
“Everyone in?” Thamasa called out. Hearing our affirmative answers, he said, “Okay; three … two … one!”
After a brief flash of light, we were in the medical bay I had woken up in after Arc had blasted me. There were quite a few people there, mostly people from the lobby. Ell laid Flip carefully on one of the empty beds and put a blanket over her before retrieving my keikogi.
“She’ll be fine,” Thamasa patted the big guy on the arm before motioning for us to follow.
With a look, Ell told me that he had no intention of going anywhere. I nodded as I tied my obi over my keikogi. “It’s okay, We’ll stop by later.”
Terra and I helped Jenna as Thamasa led us back to the robotics bay where we had met Zig. We passed a few people on the way. None of them would meet our gazes, though I wasn’t sure whether it was because of guilt or because they still blamed us for the mess in the lobby.
Once in the bay, we helped Jenna to one of the constructer chairs. “Thank you.” She said to us both, her cheeks gold.
“Hey, you’re a friend now. It’s nothing, really.” Terra smiled at me. I smiled back; I had been about to say the exact same thing.
As I set the broken leg on the bay, Thamasa said, “I’ll initiate a repair subroutine. Seeing as this is a modified Glyche constructor, you should be back to prime condition in no time.”
“I appreciate it, Seed Thamasa.” She said, bowing her head.
“Nothing doing; I’m glad to assist a survivor of the Glyche. Now get some rest; we’re going to need your help restoring the facility beneath the Center.”
Smiling, Jenna sat back on the bay as the mechanical arms reattached the broken limb. I patted the side of her bed, saying, “Told you we’d get you up and running.”
“You did.” She stifled a yawn. “Pardon me; it’s been an exhausting day.”
“Feel free to patch into our power grid.” Seed Thamasa told her.
“Thank you, Seed Thamasa.” She whispered as she slid her eyes shut. In a matter of moments, she had fallen asleep.
Terra and I followed the Seed and back to the teleporter, where he brought us back to the tower’s teleport room. A short walk up the stairs brought us back to his office. The damage from the blast was mostly gone and the furniture back in place.
“Now,” Thamasa said, arranging his robe before sitting down behind his desk, “I get the impression there’s been a lot of excitement around here since my last experiment left me stranded in Ircandesta. I’ve heard about our little civil war from Kanook, but would you care to give me your own report on recent events?”
Terra and I exchanged glances for a moment before I said, “Very well. I’m not sure about everything, but I’ll tell you what I know.”
I proceeded to tell him everything that we had heard, everything that had happened since we arrived in Naidyr; the frightened citizens of the town, the incident with Arc, the rescue of Ell, and our adventure in the Cylell facility.
He listened carefully, laughing at a few points that were admittedly pretty funny. “Very interesting adventure you’ve had, Jimmy. May I see the Dreamer’s doll?”
I handed him One. He scrutinized it closely for a few moment, muttering beneath his breath. Eventually, he nodded and handed the doll back to me. “Impressive bit of work. Can you call him?”
“Not really.” I replied. “He just sort of shows up.”
“Interesting. So the doll is more of a delegation tool.” He nodded approvingly. “Not a bad idea. Might have to look into something like this. Keeping an eye on this Center is a handful.”
“Has all the fighting stopped?” Terra asked him.
“It should have by now. Kanook’s already stood down, and if Golbez causes further trouble, I’ll have him expelled. Whole damn mess is his fault anyway. I’m truly sorry you and the city were caught in the squabbling; rest assured, I will be making a public apology for all of this.”
“I appreciate that.” I said, bowing my head politely. “As for our friend, Flip-”
“Ah, yes, of course. Well, best as I can tell, she was hit with a Force Edge, a spellshaper spell, two stun blasts from your girlfriend’s pistols, a reyl-blast from your little friend, some reality-altering force probably from One, and some kind of special distortion spell from Smokes. When so many different types of energy mix together, there’s literally no telling what can happen. Flip’s lucky to be alive, if you ask me.”
“I hope she feels the same way.” whispered Terra, a sad look on her face.
“She’ll be fine.” Thamasa assured her, “Well, eventually, anyway. Well, now that the school seems to be settling back down after my miraculous resurrection,” He allowed himself a brief smile before continuing, “Which brings us to Zig.”
The Seed sighed and shook his head, “An excellent tekker, one of this center’s best. Unfortunately, I’m afraid I must agree with your assessment; he does seem to be infected by transversion cells.”
“But how?” Terra asked him, “You don’t keep little vials of them lying around, do you?”
“I believe I may be in possession of the answer!”
We turned as Kanook hurried toward us. He gave the Seed a brief nod. “Seed Thamasa.”
“Ah, Kanook. Has everyone stood down?”
“Affirmative. Golbez was reluctant, but everyone knows you’ve returned from beyond.”
“From the Crossroads, actually. Not a trip I’d recommend to anyone, by the way.”
He winked at me. Before I could guess why, Kanook started talking again. “Recently, some of our techs began experimenting with creating cybernetic replacements out of Glyche parts made from the functioning constructers we have on the premises. It took awhile, but we’ve established several working procedures that have not only replaced lost limbs, but given their recipients improved abilities. You saw Zig’s replacement arm, correct?”
Seeing us nod, Kanook shook his head sadly, “A horrible accident. Still, Zig volunteered for the procedure, and it was a rousing success; the first implantation to allow the user full control over a core unit’s arm, including the Headache modifications.”
“We were being excited, and more than a little pride-filled of our actions. Unfortunately, we were not seeing what has now come to pass.” After shaking his head for a moment, Kanook continued, “A few days ago, the Glyche constructer began to be malfunctioning. It seemed to be receiving instructions, from where we couldn’t ascertain a source. It went back to normal moments later, so we didn’t think it anything of import. It wasn’t until after Zig’s last maintenance that the operators noticed the odd bits of coding in the constructors programming mechanisms. Then, just this morning, I discovered the constructer assembling what we believe was intended to be a core unit.” Seeing our alarm, the Seed assured us, “He stopped it before it could be completed, of course.”
“Question is, did Zig corrupt the constructor, or did the constructor corrupt Zig?” Thamasa mused.
“It is definitely being the latter.” Kanook assured the Seed. “We were able to determine a small amount of transversion cells were dormant in the constructor. They were implanted during his upgrade, no doubt assisted by the antibiotics and immunosuppressors. Fortunately, it looks like Zig was the only victim.”
“Seed Thamasa.” I said,“Wukice is probably his next target. We can stop him, but we’ll need to head out immediately.”
“Of course.” Seed Thamasa told us. “I’ll have transportation waiting for you outside the center. C’mon, I’ll walk you to the doors.”
“Can you take us somewhere we can make a call first?” I asked. “I need to contact an old friend.”
I tapped my foot patiently as I waited in front of the vid-screen. I tried my PIM again, but something was still jamming it. I considered asking Kanook to take a look at it, but I couldn’t bring myself to hand over the key to every facility currently under my watch.
Terra stood clear away from the screen, twirling one of her spurs around her finger. “We’re wasting time.”
“We need to warn them. Giving them the heads up on Zig might give them the edge they need.”
The screen cut back to the assistant with who I had been dealing unsuccessfully for the past few minutes. Adjusting her black-rimmed glasses, the Galden woman said, “I’m sorry, but she’s in the middle of auditions. She can get back with you in an hour.”
“Ma’am, we’re going to be gone in an hour. Look, tell her it’s Jimmy Sakamota.”
“Sir, it doesn’t matter if you’re King Iniagus. She can’t-”
“Jimmy?” said a startled-sounding voice off screen. Moments later the assistant was shoved aside by a blonde Idestan I recognized all too well.
“Jimmy Sakamota!” Casey beamed at me. “Good to see your face again!”
“Same here.” I told her. “How’s the movie biz?”
“We’re shooting the final scenes from ‘Memory’s Sanctum’. Budget’s almost gone, but it’s gonna be one hell of a movie. Think you can make it to the premiere next week?”
“I’d like too.” I said sincerely, “But we’ve got a bit of a problem.”
“Not quite. One of the students at the Center in Naidyr was exposed to transversion cells.”
“Glyche technology. We found the source machine, but he managed to escape and is heading your way, probably looking to get into the Genovis facility. Could you send someone into the facility to let Alaina know she needs to activate her security measures?”
“I’ll have to go myself; most people are still terrified of the place.”
“Would you mind?”
“No problem. If the student gets here, what should we do?”
“Try to catch him, and keep him away from machinery. He shouldn’t be able to infect other people, but we don’t want to take any chances. Don’t underestimate the guy either; he’s got the arm of a core unit with the Headache modifications.”
“Great. I was worried it might be too easy.” Casey chuckled and shook her head. “Any chance of you stopping by? I’ve got other movies to make, but I wouldn’t say no to another adventure.”
Terra frowned. She edged a little closer, just enough for me to notice.
“What’s wrong, Terra?” I asked her, my hand moving to Glint. The Center seemed to be at peace for the moment, but I didn’t want to get taken by surprise again.
“Terra?” Casey asked, eyes wide. “Ah, Terry mentioned she was real. You two are on this adventure together, eh? Aww! That’s so sweet.”
Terra’s face went red. Reluctantly, she walked over beside me and slipped her hand over mine.
“Well, I’m glad she’s with you.” Casey said, still smiling. “Maybe she’ll keep you out of trouble.”
“Hasn’t worked so far.” Terra muttered beneath her breath.
“Well, he is a hero.”
I flinched, but before I could say anything, Casey held up her hands, “I know, I know. You’re just doing your job. I’m just saying you do it pretty damn well. Listen, I gotta get back to the set for now, but I’ll check on Alaina and make sure Maxis deploys the golems as soon as possible.”
As the screen went dark, I commented, “I think Maxis proposed to her.”
I gestured toward the now-blank screen. “There was a small lump beneath her blouse, partially obscured by her collar. You could catch a glimpse of the chain every now and then. Given that she kept hiding it, I’m guessing they aren’t telling anyone yet.”
“I’m happy for them.” Terra smiled, but I could feel a slight saddness through our bond. It changed to surprise when I pulled her into a hug. As the surpise faded, she nestled against my shoulder and said, “Thanks, Jimmy.”
“No problem. After seeing the Seed, I could use a good hug myself.”
She broke away, her hands still in mine as she laughed. “Yeah, the mustache threw me off too. Talk about strange coincidences.”
“I hope it’s just a coincidence.” I said, “I really don’t want to think that there are TWO of him.”
Terra laughed for a moment before falling silent. Squeezing my hands gently, she said, “Do I get a kiss too?”
I smiled and nodded. She wrapped her arms around my neck as our lips met. When we released, we both realized we were being watched. Jenna blushed as we turned to her.
“I’m sorry.” She said bowing her head. “I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“It’s okay.” Terra told her, her arms still around me. “How are you feeling?”
“Better.” Jenna said, showing us her shiny new leg. “I feel top-spec, which is why I want to come with you.”
Terra and I both looked at each other, surprised by the sudden offer of support.
“You’re more than welcome,” Terra said, speaking for both of us, “but I thought you’d want to stay on hand for the reconstruction of the Cylell facility.”
Jenna shrugged. “There’s not much I can do before a new core is built. Besides, it has been nearly three-thousand years since I’ve been outside of the facility; I’m curious to see how things have changed.”
“I’m okay with it if Terra is.” Seeing Terra’s nod, i said, “Well, in that case, welcome to the team.”
We left immediately; Zig’s threat was big enough that we didn’t want to spend too much time dawdling about. Laden with the supplies provided by Thamasa, we left the Center of Knowledge.
Word had already reached the town that the war in the center had finally ended. It seemed as though the whole of Naidyr was bustling around, getting ready for a party of massive proportions.
“Kinda wish we could stay.” Terra said wistfully, watching as the little furry girl helped hang a banner over a small coffee shop.
“Don’t worry, Terra.” I squeezed her hand, saying, “We’ll have other parties.”
Jenna smiled at us. “So, when are you two getting married?”
We looked at each other and immediately blushed dark red.
Her smile faltered. “I-I’m sorry. You two seem so close, so I thought-”
“No, you’re right.” I told her, “I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.”
“Really?” Terra asked. It was hard not to get lost in her deep purple eyes.
Smiling, I confessed, “Yeah. When we weren’t being bombarded by spells or chasing witches.”
She smiled at me. “It’s okay, Jimmy. There’s no hurry. We’ve got a lot to do right now.”
“You’re not a distraction.” I told her, my cheeks growing warm. “If anything, I wish I could drop this mess with Zig and Arc and whatever’s going on with that damn witch so I could spend more time with you.”
After staring at me for a moment in silence, she hugged my arm close and gave me a kiss on the cheek.
We walked out of the city and headed south through the grassy plains. Floaters were unfortunately out of the question; the rental store had taken a direct hit of the foul green ooze. The man at the rental stand offered us a couple of dinged-up chasers, but we decided it was better to head out on foot.
We kept a fairly brisk pace; now fully repaired, Jenna could easily keep a steady stride alongside the naturally fast-walking Terra and me.
It wasn’t until evening drew near that I realized that I had once again forgotten to pick up a new portable cabin. Fortunately, it was a nice evening, if a bit on the cool side. After finding a nice lake beside a large forest, we settled down for the evening.
We spent the evening telling Jenna about the mess with Sera and the Dragon. She seemed suitably impressed, more so with our encounters with the rogue Glyche units than the dragon. I was a little disappointed, but I didn’t let it show. After she had powered down for the night, Terra and I sat down at the edge of the lake.
We sat there for the longest time. She hummed softly to herself as her legs drifted in the cool water beside my own. I was surprised to find I recognized the song.
“Halo of Thorns?” I said, my hand on hers. “You’re a Cerebrex fan?”
She smiled at me. “Yeah, actually. I remember seeing them in concert when I was a little girl. You?”
“Cerebrex was pretty much the soundtrack to my neighborhood in Rimstak. I remember listening to the ‘Alter Inferno’ album when I ran away.” Chuckling, I shook my head and said, “I thought I was a little bad-ass ... on my own, sword at my side and dreams of being part of the royal guard running through my head.”
Terra giggled. “I bet you were cute.”
I shook my head. “I was probably more like Arc than I care to admit. Way too damn eager to find trouble and make a name for myself.”
“Well, I for one and glad things turned out the way they did.” Terra said, leaning against his side.
We sat listening to the sounds of the night for what felt like ages. There was no tension there; we didn’t need to talk. We could feel each other through the bond.
“I love you, Terra.” The words came out of my mouth almost unbidden. I blushed immediately, but met her gaze when she looked at me in surprise.
“Wow.” Terra said, her cheeks turning red. “Not that I don’t appreciate it, but where did that come from?”
“I just … I wanted to tell you. I needed to tell you.” I broke away from her gaze, my cheeks burning. “And now I feel awkward.” I admitted, “Too many years guarding a bridge.”
She pulled my arm over her shoulder and leaned against me, saying, “You don’t have to apologize. Iniagus’s palace wasn’t exactly the best place for social growth either. I’m not sure what’s worse; being alone, or being alone and surrounded by people who don’t care.”
“Weren’t there other children there?” I asked curiously.
“Galden children, Rimstakken children, and then there were the princesses and princes. None were interested in the little fional girl.” She bowed her head, her long ears drooping slightly. “It’s hard being the different one.”
I put my arm around Terra and hugged her close. “I can relate.”
“Can you?” She asked, pushing away slightly. “Did the Rimstakken children pull at your ears and tail? Were they always waving carrots at you, no matter how much you wanted them to stop? Even when I joined the Royal Guard, I had to deal with being ‘the rabbit’.”
I didn’t know what to say to that; the only time I’d felt her more genuinely bothered was when she thought she’d been forcing me into a relationship.
Teria blushed crimson and hugged against me again, whispering, “I’m sorry Jimmy. I guess I’m still a bit bitter.” She shook her head and snuggled closer to me. “That’s no reason to take it out on you.”
“You want my help beating up the people who teased you? I could let you borrow Glint if you want to bludgeon a few heads.”
Terra let out a snort of laughter before bringing a hand to her mouth, her cheeks again red. I just laughed and kissed her.
“Children attack anything that’s different, and those that hold on to that hatred are simply fools.” I said, rubbing her cheek. “You’re beautiful, you’re kind, you’re caring, and I love you.”
“Jimmy.” She whispered, putting her hand over mine.
Our lips met. I didn’t care about Zig or the witch or anything anymore. I just wanted to fall into Terra’s soft embrace and let the world around us fade to nothing.