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 Saybaro mansion’s kitchen preparing lunch. Others were outside in the recently established stables, tending to a Vintan zoo’s worth of creatures. Still others worked in the gardens and groves, tending to the trees, bushes, and vines that provided much of the Saybaro’s food.
Fully staffed with a team of mages and scientists led by the good witch Meryli Minuet and the mage known as Smokes, the Medical and the Tech Labs of the Glyche Facility beneath the Saybaro Mansion were a flurry of activity as the researchers ran experiments and constructed prototype devices that, if not useful, were at least interesting.
Duke and Duchess Sakamota, arguably the greatest heroes of Wenapaj, were currently in the training facilities within the Glyche facility beneath the Saybaro Mansion. Jimmy occasionally fussed over his pregnant wife as she instructed their children, Fei and Tifa, in hand-to-hand combat. He stopped after the fourth time Terra easily pinned him to the ground, much to the amusement of the children.
The busiest of all were the fairies; the little winged visitors from Minuet Tower had taken to the Saybaro as a second home. When not playing pranks on the ‘big folk’ of the Saybaro, the fairies served as messengers, assistants, and occasionally babysitters. Fairies loved children, and were fiercely protective of them.
Deep in the heart of the Saybaro Facility, Bethany watched all those who lived in her age-old home through the numerous cameras and consoles. After nearly three-thousand years, her hallways were once again filled with life and activity. She should’ve been happy ... so why was she so restless?
As the Saybaro’s CIC, Bethany’s consciousness was bound to the massive orb-like Central Core. She didn’t need a physical shell to interact with the residents of the Saybaro, but she nevertheless preferred to project herself as a high-definition hologram, itself containing basic sensor constructs that allowed her to experience her facility from the perspective of her projection. 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, his projection looking very much like Jimmy Sakamota with black hair and paler skin. Formerly the CIC of the Cylell Facility hidden beneath the Center of Knowledge in the city of Naidyr, Fei-jan’s intelligence was now housed in the Saybaro Central Core as well. Bethany didn’t mind; she had plenty of storage space, and having another Glyche consciousness around was comforting. In fact, she’d grown used to having Fei-jan around.
He smiled at her and said, “Penny for your thoughts?”
“Nothing.” She said, her projection’s cheeks brightening in a simulated blush. “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.
He sat down beside her and looked at her kindly. “Wanna talk?”
After a few moments of silence, she hugged her knees to her chest. “I thought ... I’d feel complete. My facility’s active, the mansion’s even better than it was during the time of our creators, and there are so many people living here now. I thought I’d feel fulfilled. After almost three-thousand years, I’m finally able to do what I was designed to do ... so why do I feel so useless?”
He put a holographic arm around her waist. Feeling a little bashful, Bethany leaned against his side. There was no true contact, them both being nothing more than projections of light, but it still gave Bethany some comfort.
“Have you spoken to Jimmy or Terra about this?” Fei-jan asked, rubbing her arm.
“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 Medical and Tech labs to Smokes and Minnie.”
“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, blushing again. “I’m sure they’ve got their own projects to worry about.”
Fei-jan chuckled as he ruffled her hair. “Oh, Beth. People here haven’t cut you out; you’ve cut yourself out.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve been trying so hard not to be a bother that you’ve delegated yourself out of a job.”
“I don’t want to impose on their work.”
“Did it occur to you that maybe the reason they don’t ask for your help is that they don’t want to impose on you? Everyone likes you, Beth.” He smiled at her. “After all, you’re very likable.”
She blushed again, unable to keep a smile from her face. “So what should I do?”
“Find a project.” He told her. “Use that as an excuse to bring in some of your old friends, and let them know how you feel.”
“A new project? Like what?”
“Whatever sparks your interests. Hell, ask your sisters. Maybe one of them can give you an idea. In the very least, it’ll give you a reason to talk to them for a while.” He gave her a kiss on the cheek, prompting another blush. “I have to go check on the sprinklers in the geen grove. The fairies rigged them so that they go off when anyone gets too close. I’m going to fix the problem, then turn my attention on the moron who thought it was a good idea to teach the fairies how to program.”
He vanished after giving her a deep bow. Once he was gone, Bethany considered his words for a few moments before deactivating her projection.
“Goodbye!” Alaina said as the travelers departed from her facility. Her hologram was beside the door, at the very 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 green ‘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 in months, 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 knowing smirk. Alaina needed Cristlyn to access the world, and Cristlyn knew it. It drove Alaina up the metaphorical 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 created by the Glyche for those who spent their days in the facility with no contact with the outside, 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, her expression melancholy. 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 for all her sophistication, she couldn’t truly feel the water. She yearned to feel the kiss of cool water against her skin, to bask in the warmth of the suns, and to see the world for herself.
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, or even Cristlyn. Anyone would do if 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! I clearly laid out the tolerances of this device, which you apparently ignored!”
“Yes, but we want to give the ending a little more oomph! A little something spectacular! I mean, if we’d known how underwhelming the original model would be, we would’ve altered the specs we gave you.”
“Or maybe for once you could make do with what I gave 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 even though 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, of course; like most CICs, Cristlyn had 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 was undoubtedly the only reason there even was a city there in the first place, 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! The least they could do is impose a few limits on how many morons could bother her daily.
As the music swelled, she closed her eyes and pulled up a satellite image of a beach just off 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 sound continued. It wasn’t a horn, however; it was 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 at any real location within 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.”
He started to walk away, but she appeared directly in his path, hands on her holographic hips.
“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. After all, 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 technically 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.