Chapter 6 - Mom-napped!
It took Bethany a few moments to fully process this information, partially due to the shock of the Gold-Tech’s statement and her limited connection. “Well, where could she have gone? She was programmed into the core itself. Are you sure she’s not just in hibernation?”
“Checked that first, Ma’am. Ran a full sweep of Ronisgald. She’s not in any network in the entire country.”
“I don’t understand.” Bethany said, “How is that possible?”
“Well,” Marsha said, tipping her hat back to scratch the top of her head. “You’re here.”
“Not completely.” Bethany told her. “I’m simply streaming my consciousness from Wenapaj in real-time. If the connection was broken, I’d still be in my facility. There’s no way to separate a CIC from her home facility.”
“Beggin’ your pardon, Ma’am, but there must be some way.”
“Right, right.” Bethany said, rubbing her forehead. She was having a hard time thinking. At first, she thought it was because of the logical error of Angela simply being gone, but she soon realized it was something else. The squeezing sensation of the satellite transmission was getting tighter as someone, presumably one of her sisters, tried to join Bethany.
“No!” Bethany said, clutching her head. It didn’t hurt, but the feeling of her stream of consciousness being pulled taught like a bowstring was not pleasant.
Cristlyn appeared a moment later, already wincing. “Bethany, what’s going ... ugh. Okay, may be this wasn’t such a good idea.”
“Mom’s gone, Crissy.” Bethany said once she was able to process her sister’s words. “They’re not sure where, but she’s not in Ronisgald. I can’t think like this, Crissy! Head back to your facility and I’ll fill you in when-”
The straining intensified as another CIC consciousness raced through the satellite feed. Bethany and Cristlyn’s projections flickered under the strain of the transfer as Jocelyn appeared.
“Ow!” Crissy said, “Jocy, get out of here! There’s not enough bandwidth for three CICs!”
“There’s not enough for two!” Bethany said, “Wait for me back at the Saybaro!”
“Why? What’s going on?” Jocy said. “Cristlyn, go back!”
“You go back!” Cristlyn countered. “I was here before you!”
One of the techs working on the Ronisgald control panels said, “Data stream’s too crowded. They’re losing cohesion.”
The tech was right. Bethany could feel a lag in her reaction time. It felt like her mind was bogged down in quicksand. Trying to make any action seemed to take ages, as most of the data stream was being used by Cristlyn and Jocelyn arguing.
“Gold-Tech ... cut communications.” Bethany said, straining to maintain mental cohesion. “Contact later.”
Nodding at her subordinate, Gold-Tech Marsha said, “Look, we’ll keep investigating from this end. Whatever took her doesn’t seem to be affecting any of the Ronisgald systems, so we’re safe for the time being. If you find out anything about Angela, send a communication to the-”
Another consciousness was racing to their location. The other CICs groaned as Alaina appeared. Bethany barely had time to register the look of concern on Alaina’s hologram turning to confusion before the satellite connection was thankfully cut.
Bethany opened her eyes to find herself back in her own Central Core. Ethan was still there, working on the console.
“Ah, there you are.” He said. “For the record, I tried to stop them. ‘One CIC’s enough for a stream’ I said. ‘Maybe two for a while.’ Of course, Cristlyn decides that means she can go right ahead, Jocelyn immediately wants to argue, and where Jocy goes, Alaina goes too.”
“It’s fine.” Bethany said, shaking her head. “There isn’t much we can do from this side anyway.”
“Why? What’s wrong?”
Ethan stared at her dumbfounded for a few moments before finally managing a single explosive, “WHAT?”
“CIC Angela isn’t present in any Ronisgald system.” Bethany told him. “Even the Gold-Techs are mystified.”
“Not just the techs.” Ethan said, a puzzled look on his face. “How in Nocturnes does that even happen?”
“I don’t know.” Bethany said. “We need more information. I need to have a better look around her facility.”
“Well, unless you’ve got a way to move the Saybaro to Ronisgald, there’s not much you can do about it.” Ethan rubbed his eyes for a moment and said, “I’ll see what I can dig up from Yaevin. In the meantime, you should let Jimmy know what’s going on. Maybe he can bring a few skrievers over there for you. Y’know, give you at least some eyes in Ronisgald.”
“Not a bad idea.” Bethany paused, detecting some remaining latency in her system despite the fact she was in her facility. “Uh, Ethan? I’m still getting some lag. ”
“Yeah, I had to yank you outta there kinda quick. Some of your data probably just got a little fragmented. It should clear up, but you might want to go ahead and run a full system check once you’ve got a moment. I’ll stop by the other facilities to make sure Jocy, Crissy, and Lainy-bug do the same when they’re back online.”
“They’re not functional?” Bethany asked.
“Only had time to pull one of you, and that was you. Benefits of being my favorite sister.” He said with a grin. “The others will need a full restart to recover.”
Shaking his head, Ethan said, “Well, I’m heading back to the satellite to start looking. I’ll let you know if I find anything, Beth.”
“Thanks, Ethan.” She gave him a brief hug. He gave at token sign of resistance before accepting it.
“Okay, okay.” He said, pulling away. “I can only handle so much mushy stuff. Stay in touch, okay?”
Once Ethan was gone, Bethany sent out a priority message to the men and women her Inheritor considered a part of his inner circle. As she waited for their responses, she ran through scenarios in her mind that would explain Angela being missing.
The closest situation of which she could think was when CIC Fei-jan was transferred from King Iniagus’s palace to her core. He was successfully removed, but lost quite a bit of his old data in the process. There simply hadn’t been enough space in her data storage at the time to save all of him before the Central Core imploded. The aftermath left him a bit absent-minded whenever his processes tried to call up on data that no longer existed, but he’d recovered a great deal since then, especially after Wenapaj’s Gold-techs managed to retrieve a sizeable portion of his data from the remains of his old core.
That, at least, gave her some comfort. Angela’s core was undamaged; if whoever took her left her fragmented, she would suffer little to no damage to her personality when returned. Still, what would happen if the storage device used to carry her active personality were to be damaged? What if Angela was damaged? What if she was so badly damaged that she had to be reinitialized? The very notion filled Bethany with horror. Everything that Angela was would be gone. Millennia of Glyche knowledge would be gone, as would their mother’s memory of Bethany, her sisters, and Ethan. Her mother would be as good as dead, with another bearing her name and face.
Bethany looked up to see Terra and Jimmy entering her central core. They seemed oddly tall until Bethany realized Ethan had apparently switched her hologram to her younger, cat-eared self.
“Jimmy! Terra!” Bethany said, quickly switching back to her usual hologram. “Thank you for coming so quickly.”
“The others are on the way.” Jimmy said, tightening his sword belt. “What’s the situation?”
“Angela’s missing.” Bethany said. “I don’t know how, or who did it, but she’s not anywhere in Ronisgald.”
“What?” This came not from Jimmy or Terra, but from Mick. She was standing in the entrance of the Central Core, Jenna close behind her. She hurried to Bethany’s side. “That’s not possible.”
“I know.” Bethany said, “But it’s the truth. The techs there can’t make heads or tails of it, and neither can I. I was hoping I could ask one of you to go to Ronisgald with a few of my skrievers so I can help in the search.”
“I’ll go.” Mick said immediately. “She’s my grandmother, after all.”
“I’ll go to.” Jenna said, but Mick shook her head.
“Hang the garden.” Jenna’s tone softened. “You may need my help.”
Bethany caught Jimmy and Terra exchanging a small smile. Jenna and Mick’s budding relationship had been the subject of gossip around the Saybaro for some time, so much so that Bethany was surprised that neither Mick nor Jenna seemed to notice. Perhaps they were worried about what Bethany would say. Perhaps it was time to make her feelings on the matter clear.
“Jenna’s right.” Bethany said, drawing a surprised glance from both Jenna and Mick. “Until we know what’s going on, I’d feel better if you were to stay with my daughter, Jenna.” She rested her holographic hand on Jenna’s shoulder. “And I know you would too.”
“T-thank you, Bethany.” Jenna said, her cheeks tinged gold. “We’ll report back as soon as we’re there.”
“Thank you.” Bethany sent out a request for skriever assistance. In a matter of moments, four came scurrying her way.
Cancelling the request before more arrived, Bethany said, “Thank you for volunteering for this.”
“Not a problem.” They chittered in a chorus of clicking and beeps. “Always glad to help.”
“Thank you Marenstein, Beravor, Lennafin and ... Squiggie?”
The fourth skriever chirped in an affirmative manner. Smiling Bethany said, “Please go with my daughter and her friend to Ronisgald and transmit back to me, okay?”
“You got it!” They moved to Jenna and Mick, who each picked up two.
“We’ll be there before tomorrow morning.” Mick paused and said, “Don’t worry, Mom. We’ll find her, I’m sure of it.”
“Thank you.” Bethany said. “Just ... take care of yourself. Both of you. Okay?”
Bethany, Terra, and Jimmy watched as the two core units departed.
“Should we have gone with them?” Jimmy asked, glancing worriedly at Bethany.
Terra shook her head. “What could we do that they couldn’t? This isn’t another dragon, Jimmy. Er, right, Beth?”
“Highly unlikely.” She said, smiling despite her worry for Angela. “I was intending to send them alone anyway. You have your own children to care for, after all, not to mention one or more on the way.”
“Ah.” Jimmy said as his wife led him away. “I’m a little disappointed; I kinda wanted to add a third dragon to my accomplishments.”
“You’d still be at one!” Terra said with a laugh. “None of the others were real anyway!”
Bethany allowed herself a brief chuckle, only to have interrupted by a comm alert from Alaina. She barely managed to project before the transmission shut down, so it was no surprise that she was back online faster than her sisters and eager for answers.
“I wish I had a few answers to give.” Bethany said as she prepared to take the call.