Chapter 14 - Rest Stop
Uncle Ann certainly knew her way around Rimstak; in a matter of moments, they were out of the backstreets and on roads that were practically crammed with people. Bethany’s grip on Ann’s hand tightened, prompting a curious glance from the Rimstakken woman.
“Oh, that is being correct.” SHe said, “You are not having much dealing with the over-populace.”
“No.” Bethany confessed. “Even when I first came online, the Saybaro was a fairly isolated location; a few hundred people at most, many of whom were simply travellers from other facilities in transit.”
“Well, you’ll not be letting go of my hand; I will ensure you are not getting to overwhelmed.”
“Thank you.” Bethany paused a moment. “I guess Jimmy asked you to meet with us?”
“I am requesting it myself! Had I been knowing of your departure earlier, I would’ve met you before your departure! Rimstak is being a confusing place to some, after all, and you are being family.”
Bethany’s hand ran across the Sakamota Clan markings on her obi. Yes, she supposed if Jimmy considered her as a sister, that would make Uncle Ann family. The idea of blood ties never meant much to the Glyche, after all.
There were so many people in the streets that Bethany almost couldn’t fathom it; how could they all live and work in such a confined location? She was used to the wide chambers and corridors of the Glyche; in comparison, Rimstak’s narrow roads seemed especially small, especially with the crowds.
Still, Uncle Ann was a person of some reknown, and few were willing to stand in her way. Those that did found themselves prodded aside by the heavy side of a wrench. Many smiled and waved at her, earning at most a quick smile before Uncle Ann trudged onward.
It wasn’t until passing a large mirror being moved into a nearby building that Bethany realized how strange they looked; timid Bethany with her tall and slender frame, her silk kimono, and her long, bushy, white hair coupled with the short, curvy Uncle Ann with her dirty work clothes, her determined expression, and her mass of red curls bound behind her head that threatened to break their bonds with every step she took.
It was in the mirror that she caught sight of something sailing towards her at a dangerous speed. Once again, she moved almost instantly, her hand catching the object in mid-air and stopping it’s momentum. It was a brick.
Uncle Ann’s face darkened when she realized what had happened. “All right.” She said, her voice cutting over the din of the street. “Who threw that?”
The throng of Rimstakkens thinned out considerably, with no one daring to look Uncle Ann in the face. Sighing, she took the brick from Bethany. “My apologies; always there are some idiots who cannot help but act as children.”
“After the Corruption ...” Bethany said.
“The Corruption was being thousands of years ago; those that followed were merely accidents. After the incident at Yaevin station, I am expecting the peoples of Vinta to be more understanding. You and yours are having saved these peoples. As far as I am having concerned, your efforts have more than atoned for any previous losses.”
She patted Bethany’s arm. “Not that I feel it appropriate to be blaming you for any of that. The Glyche were corrupted by a bioform, after all, and you were not even being programmed at the time.”
Chuckling, she said, “Corrupted by a bioform, saved by a Dreamer and a prototype, and vindicated by my own Jimmy and his friends and kin, myself included. I am being most proud; it is not being everyday one is a part of history.”
Bethany wasn’t sure how to respond to this. Fortuantely, Uncle Ann didn’t wait for a response.
Shaking her head, Uncle Ann said, “My apologies again; I am allowing distraction. You are no doubt needing to sleep. I am guessing the Wenapaj teleportation grid is being dropping you off at the border?”
“Just a bit beyond it, actually.” Bethany said. “There’s a small waystation just outside the Tullus district.”
“Ah, right; you are arriving from Shadeside then. All the more reason to allow yourself rest.” She patted Bethany’s arm. “Not to be worrying; we are not far now.”
Uncle Ann’s Workshop was a sizeable fair; built in an old warehouse previously used to import goods from Rising Star, it was a great deal larger than the average workshop, owing in no small part to her family’s business.
As they entered the workshop, Bethany was amazed at the amount of space devoted to half-built inventions, the purpose of some she could only guess at. “I’d imagine land prices around here are at a premium.”
“Very much so.” Uncle Ann said as she led Bethany down the stairs. “Fortunately, shards are not being much of a concern. My brother is being more than generous with the profits of our father’s company.”
“How is Oteng?” Bethany asked; she’d only met the man at Jimmy’s wedding; a nice, if somewhat aloof fellow who seemed to resonate a strange energy.
“He is being fine. Busy, though.” Uncle Ann said. “I am not having envy; running the Zuen Mega-corp is not being pleasant, I am imagning. That is why I am being happy to leave it to him, freeing myself for my own work. See here!”
She pointed at a sleek-looking ship held in place by anti-gravity generators. It looked like a one-person floater, thought the wings bespoke of more power than the average flying car.
“I am calling it a Zoomer.” Uncle Ann said proudly. “One-person transportation capable of reaching the moon colonies. It is being a work in progress, but I am making great strides! Soon, our brethern on the moon will be able to come to and fro with having no trouble!”
“Amazing.” Bethany said, and she meant it; space travel involved bulky engines, massive energy reserves, and enough failsafes to make even a CIC dizzy. As such, using one of Vinta’s few functioning space ships just to go to Everblue or Traysia was considered a waste. There was always the option of having a sentient create a portal there, but the rates were outrageous.
Shaking her head, Uncle Ann said, “But we can be discussing inventions later, once I have retrieved your sisters. For now, you are needing rest.”
“I was really hoping to reach the Guildmaster’s Workshop before resting.” Bethany said.
“There is being no reason to push yourself.” Uncle Ann chided her. “Your situation is being an unusual one; we are still not knowing if your integration is being complete. As such, I am wanting to run a few scans on your core to ensure everything is at full operational capacity ... while you rest, of course. Angela’s disappearance is a priority, and I am certain you are wanting to be moving as soon as you can.”
“Yes.” Bethany said, “Thank you, Uncle Ann.”
“It is not a trouble, Bethany.”
They neared a small pod ... far too small for Bethany. As they drew near, however, it was clear that wasn’t Uncle Ann’s intent; inside the pod was a baby boy, no older than a year yet already with the same red hair as his mother. He was playing with a small toy of Rimstakken make; a sphere of colors that could be turned this way and that, producing strange sounds when a certain configuration was reached. The baby abandoned the toy as soon as he spotted his mother and her guest, giving them a wide grin. Bethany smiled back, noting the child’s gray eyes.
“Still,” Uncle Ann said as she slid the pod’s safety door open, “I am doubtlessly thinking you will be wanting to meet your cousin, Bigga.”
“Bigga?” Bethany asked as Annabelle lifted the baby from the pod.
“After my second uncle ... mother’s side, of course.”
“Bigga Kaboume.” Bethany repeated, a hint of a smile crossing her face. “I like it.”
Beaming at her, Uncle Ann asked, “Would you like to be holding him on the way to your resting pod?”
“Of course!” Bethany cooed at the Rimstakken infant as Uncle Ann passed him to her. He looked uncertainly at Bethany for a moment before looking back to his mother.
“Be saying hello to your cousin.” Uncle Ann said, smiling at her son.
Bigga looked at Bethany again for a moment before reaching a plump hand forward and grabbing her nose. Bethany giggled, prompting Bigga to giggle as well. Cradling him carefully, she continued playing with him as Uncle Ann led the way through the mess that was her workshop. Bethany couldn’t help but wonder as to the mess; surely it was hazardous to such a small child. Still, that was doubtlessly why she had him in a safety pod; perfectly air-conditioned and equipped with audio and video links, it was the perfect place to keep a young Rimstakken child out of trouble while his parents attended to other matters.
“Is Thyme around?” Bethany asked curiously.
“Occasionally.” Uncle Ann said, a frown momentarily crossing her face. “Not as much as I am liking, but I am understanding his position.”
“Have you considered moving to Erris?”
“And abandon my work?” Uncle Ann said, looking appalled. “My dear, I am missing him, but we both simply have our own lives. We may never truly be in the same household in such a manner as Jimmy and Terra. I am to understand Terra’s parents have a similar arrangement.
“They do.” Bethany admitted. “Devon still stops by every month, like clockwork. I heard Terra telling Jimmy that they’re expecting again.”
“By the Creator.” Uncle Ann said, shaking her head. “I am finding one child to be a handful; I am not being able to imagine having eighteen!”
She paused to give her son a kiss on the forehead. “Not that I am trading you for all the world, little one.”
Bigga giggled again, tugging briefly on one of Uncle Ann’s stray red curls.
Smiling, Uncle Ann continued until they reached another pod, this one clearly incorporating some Glyche designs.
“Oh.” Bethany said, somewhat put out. “I know you said scans, but I was thinking I’d be resting in a bed.”
“And so you shall be doing.” Uncle Ann twirled the pod around to reveal the inside was considerably wider than that of a standard pod, and appeared to be well cushioned; there was even a red blanket inside.
“If you wish to disrobe, it can give your shell a good cleaning as well.” Uncle Ann said. “I am testing it out myself; an unusual but definitely not unpleasant experience.”
“I have been walking for awhile.” Bethany said. Handing Bigga to his mother, Bethany started to undo her obi but felt a surge of embarrassment.
“Um ...” Bethany said, her cheeks gold, “Could you ... I mean ...”
“What is being ...” Uncle Ann’s already ruddy cheeks went even darker as she realized Bethany’s predicament. “Oh, right. My apologies.”
Uncle Ann turned around. Modesty reasonably sated, Bethany took off her kimono, folded it carefully, and set it on a nearby table. Taking a moment to push back her mass of hair, she picked up the blanket and wrapped it around her.
Once she was in the pod, she said, “Okay.”
“Excellent. I will see that your clothes are cleaned properly; Jimmy is giving me the lecture on how to properly clean such styles.”
Once Bethany was in the pod, Bethany tapped a button on the attached panel. To Bethany’s surprise, the pod tilted until she was lying on her back. The cushioning of the pod was quite comfortable; not as much as a proper bed, she felt, but more than enough for her to close her eyes and slowly drift into sleep. Just before her auditory systems shut down, she heard Uncle Ann say, “Pleasant dreams, Bethany.”
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