Chapter 1 - A Welcome Interruption
The Saybaro was filled with activity as the first days of spring arrived. Now one hundred residents strong, many of men and women were in the kitchen preparing lunch. Still others were outside in the recently established stables, tending to a Vintan zoo’s worth of creatures. The Sakamota Clan was in the training facilities as Jimmy and Terra taught the twins how to defend themselves. Jimmy occasionally fussed over his pregnant wife as she instructed young Fei and Tifa in hand-to-hand combat, but stopped after the fourth time she pinned him to the ground.
Medical and the Tech Labs were quite busy as well, as a team of researchers led by the mage known as Smokes ran experiments and constructed prototype devices that, if not useful, were at least interesting. Fairies brought small bits of chaos in their wake, but the researchers had long since been used to the eccentricities of the visitors who came through the Minuet Tower portal, and were careful to keep an ear perked for the sounds of flapping butterfly wings and high-pitched giggling.
The Saybaro was seeing almost as much activity as it had back when the Glyche lived there … so why was Bethany so bored?
Her consciousness bound to the massive orb-like Central Core, she nevertheless preferred to project herself as a high-definition hologram. It was this projection that paced around the core so many times that she told herself that she had lost count. It didn’t work.
“Five-hundred and sixty-sever thousand, four-hundred and twenty three.” She said, annoyed that she couldn’t even lie to herself. With a sigh, she sat down against the railing that surrounded her core.
CIC Fei-jan appeared beside her, looking like an older version of Jimmy in his hakama and keikogi. He smiled at her and said, “Penny for your thoughts?”
“Nothing.” She said, her projection blushing in response to emotion algorithms. “I’m just - checking the floor for imperfections.”
“I see.” He said. “And have you found any the last five-hundred thousand times?”
“No.” She admitted, “But maybe …”
“You’re bored.” He sat down beside her and looked at her kindly. “It’s okay.”
She let out a sigh. “I thought it’d be exciting, you know? All these people here, working just like the old days. And it was … at least at first. Now …”
“You feel like a wheel on a floater.”
Her head slumped against his chest as he put a holographic arm around her shoulders. “I’m so bored, Fei-jan! How did you manage to stay active for the last three-thousand years?”
She made a face at him. “Very funny.”
Letting out another sigh, she stood up and slowly walked to one of the outlying consoles. “I tried to get involved, really. It’s just that every time, I feel like the odd one out, y’know?”
“Have you spoken to Jimmy or Terra about it?” Fei-jan asked curiously.
“They’re busy raising Fei and Tifa.” She said, cheeks going red again.
“I don’t want to bother their research; that’s why I turned over control of the Labs.”
“What about the people in the house? Surely you’ve got some friends there. I heard you talking with some of the people working on the ballroom just the other day.
“Yeah, but … well, they’re so busy.”
“What about your sisters? Surely if you could talk to anyone, you could talk to one of them.”
“I don’t know.” She said, “I’m sure they’re busy.”
Fei-jan chuckled and shook his head. “People here haven’t cut you out; you’ve cut yourself out. You’ve tried to make things super convenient for them, and they in turn don’t want to bother you, as they think you’ve got more important things to do.”
He put his hands on her shoulders, bright light shining from where the two holograms touched. “Beth, call your sisters. Maybe one of them can give you the idea for a new project. In the very least, they’ll give you someone to talk to.”
She gave him a weak smile. As he vanished, she considered his words; it had been quite a while since she had an actual conversation with one of her sisters. Maybe he was right.
“Goodbye!” Alaina said as yet another group of travelers departed from her facility. Her hologram was beside the door, right at the edge of her projection area. It was the closest she could get to the outside, and she never missed a chance to see the sky as the facility entrance opened. Sure, she had surface cameras, but watching the sky from her hologram’s eyes seemed more real somehow.
The lupere couple smiled at her and waved as they walked away. They had been nice guests, and were as surprised as many at the discovery of her facility. She’d had her skrievers set out signs, and had made a valiant effort to smarten up her doorstep, but most dismissed it as either a joke or a trap. Those that didn’t enjoyed the finest food and quarters Alaina could provide, all in exchange for their stories. She didn’t even use the mind-scan anymore; that spoiled the fun. She wanted to hear their words.
Unfortunately, those two lupere were the only visitors she had, and they were on their way to Wukice to try and break into show business. They’d likely either end up living in Wukice, or shacking up with her sister, CIC Cristlyn of the Genovis Facility. The thought made her holographic hands curl into fists. Cristlyn, once again, had all the luck. She had the direct connection to the Yaevin station and its wonderful satellites, she had all the people she could ever want, and was linked into Wukice and its fantastic movie studios. Sure, Alaina could patch in to her sister’s facility, but dealing with Cristlyn always brought with it that annoying sensation; like a digital version of a smirk. Alaina needed Cristlyn to access the world, and Cristlyn knew it. It drove Alaina up the wall to no end.
As the outer doors lid shut, Alaina sighed and transferred her hologram to the Sun Room in the residential area. An artificial biome, the Sun Room was as close as she’d ever get to feeling the suns on her face. She sat down by the lake, her legs sliding into the water with no resistance. She dipped her hand into the water; while she could identify the makeup of the individual atoms, the temperature of the water, even some fur from the Lupere that had yet to be vacuumed up by the pool cleaners, but her holographic hand couldn’t feel the water. She yearned to feel the kiss of cool water against her skin, to bask in the warmth of the suns herself. To see the world for herself, and not just her little corner she occupied.
The comm alert made her leap out of the lake and transfer herself to the Central Core again. She didn’t care who it was; King Iniagus, Jimmy, even Cristlyn; anyone as long as she could talk to someone.
“Oh, for Creator’s Sake!”
The frightened sourian nervously adjusted his glasses and said, “I’m afraid at the end of the day, it is what it is.”
“Whatever!’ Cristlyn said. “I’ll get my skrievers to patch it up, but next time you need to read the damn instructions!”
“Yes, but we want to give the ending a little more oomph! A little something spectacular! I mean, if we’d known, we could’ve altered the specs to begin with.”
“Or you could’ve just made do with what I asked you like you were a professional or something. I’ve rebuilt this damn bug twelve times already thanks to your scriptwriter.
His furry cheeks flushed, the sourian said, “Yes, well, we do have a contract.”
Cristlyn teleported him into one of the outer hallways and set the corridors to make him loop for an hour before leading him to the exit. The doors to the Central Core of the Genovis Facility came slamming down with series of loud clangs, despite the fact that she’d ensured that he couldn’t return. Punishing the idiots was one of the rare pleasures she had in her life, and as she shook her head, she turned to her other major pleasure; music.
The central core was perfectly designed to amplify the sounds of the speakers her skrievers had installed at her request. The gentle sounds of a full orchestra soon filled the entire chamber. She transferred her image to the top of the core, adjusting the concentric rings circling the orb so that they passed at the same speed of the orchestra’s tempo.
As she let out a long sigh, she wondered once again how she ended up where she was; not as in location; she’d been programmed straight into the core. No, she was talking about her unofficial position as the go-to gal in Wukice for whatever was needed. Need a screenplay proofed, ask Chrissy. Need help finding a good actor, she’s got the lowdown on everyone in the city. Need a prop that is spectacular, eye-catching, and (debatably most important of all) cheap? She’s got a bunch of cool Glyche tech, and she’d be more than happy to assist. After all, she lives in Wukice and doesn’t even pay rent!
That last bit burned her most of all. Her facility was built before there even was a Wukice, and yet that idiot Uwen Harris and his mayoral council of morons had the nerve to act like she owed them? She helped save their damn livelihood, for the Creator’s sake!
As the music swelled, she closed her eyes and pulled up a satellite image of a beach just off of Ircandesta. She watched as the waves crashed on the distant beach as the wind section carried her away. It wasn’t finished yet, of course; she’d yet to finish a full composition. Too many distractions … is what she tried to tell herself, but the truth was, she could never come up with a good ending. What she needed was to get out of her facility, to get away from the noise of Wukice and go out into the world to find the inspiration she needed.
Her thoughts came to a screeching halt at the misplaced sound of a horn. Cristlyn was very careful with her notation, yet there it was, a horn blowing completely off-tempo. It sounded a little bit like …
She silenced the music with a swift motion of one hand, yet the horn continued. It wasn’t a horn, however; it was the honking of an incoming comm alert.
Jocelyn closed the book with a happy sigh. She loved it when stories ended with weddings, the hero or heroine saying vows to one or more potential love interests. She wasn’t really anywhere in the facility; the library around her was just simulated. Thousands of years spent as the CIC of the Glyche facility beneath the Guildmaster’s Workshop in Rimstak had given her the opportunity to develop that rarest of gifts among the CICs; an imagination.
She strolled through her simulated library, twirling a few times as her feet brushed against the floor. It was her special place, separated from all the hustle and bustle around the Guildmaster’s Workshop.
She was just poking through the shelves for her next novel when she felt the familiar tug of the computer core. With much reluctance, she left her library and settled once again in her massive core. A Rimstakken with whom she was quite familiar was waiting near her core.
Appearing in front of the Rimstakken who’d called her, she said, “Oh, hello again Dathaniellius. How are you today?”
“I am being quite acceptable, CIC Jocelyn.” He said, bobbing his head politely. “Can you be telling me the amount of energy reserve available? I am wanting to proceed with the construction of the Gallendrun, but am not wanting to cause problem.”
“I’ll check.” She said. It took less than a second to get the information and say, “Seventy-three percent at capacity. Should be fine.”
“Ah, much thanks.”
As he started to walk away, she appeared in front of him.
“Well?” She asked, smiling at him. “What did she say?”
His cheeks went dark. Slowly, he lifted the pendant he was wearing, a silver squirrel holding an amber acorn.
Jocelyn clasped her hands together and let out a squee before hugging the startled Rimstakken. “Oh my gosh, congratulations! I’m so happy for you both!”
“I am having much thanks.” He said, rubbing the back of his head, a goofy smile on his face. “For the congratulations and … for your encouragement.”
“Aww.” She waved a hand at him. “You would’ve asked anyway. I just gave you a little push.”
“A push of much importance. If not you’re your having intervention, we would not soon being wed at the Cathedral.”
“Oh.” She bit her lip. “Well, you know, if you wanted, you could have the ceremony here. I mean the Central Core’s big, but the Sun Room’s nice too.”
“I am appreciating the offer,” Dathan said in his ‘polite’ voice. “I am not having much to do with the setup. I will, however, be letting Sashralle know of your kindly offer.”
As he left, she couldn’t help but feel a wisp of despondence. It wasn’t the fact they’d likely not hold the wedding in her facility; she could watch just as easily via skriever or by patching into a camera feed in the Cathedral. What she wanted was something much more, something she didn’t dare tell her sisters in Rimstak. She didn’t even tell her skrievers.
She wanted to find an Inheritor; that itself wasn’t unusual; most CICs spent years searching for the perfect Inheritor. Jocelyn dreamed of having more than a simple partnership however; she wanted someone she could share her library with, someone she could tell all her secret fears and hopes without fear of retribution. She wanted someone to love, like in all those stories she enjoyed so much. She dreamed of the day some dark stranger would come her way and sweep her off her feet … even though she didn’t have feet. Mister or Missus Right was out there, she was certain. If only he’d hurry along and give her the companionship she so desperately desired.
The comm alert sounded, startling her from her thoughts. Her hologram slowly approached the comm panel, a curious look on her projected face.