Part Two: Implementation
Genjo paused at the bottom of a stairwell to catch his breath, and he checked his wristcom to make sure he was in the right place. The last five hours had been exhausting; Kanzeon's 'back door' coordinates had sent Genjo through a maze of stairs and service corridors to reach the Data Center, and now he had finally reached the lower corridor that would take him to where the Locus was housed. He left the stairwell and proceeded down the corridor with care, stopping when his wristcom navigator beeped at him. He stood before a plain metal door that had a small back sign that had the words "CENTRAL CORE" engraved on it in white block letters.
Genjo took a deep breath, and then he pushed the door open and stepped inside.
A sensor must have registered his movement, though; lights flickered on, bathing the chamber in a sickly, greenish-white light. All around him Genjo could hear the hum of hundreds of cooling fans, and the faint clicking of the myriad hard drives that made up the Central Core. The buzzing at the base of his skull intensified, and the spot where his receptor was implanted prickled uncomfortably. The raw power in the room felt thick and close as Genjo carefully made his way toward the center of the room.
This is definitely the place.
The clack of Genjo's boots on the steel catwalk echoed through the room as he walked down a short, narrow corridor. Before him, a circular platform rose about six feet from the main floor. Evenly spaced along the outer edge of the platform stood five tall panels, each about a man's height and width, and less than a foot deep. They were covered with various controls and gauges, and from behind their black mesh panels a myriad of circuitry lights winked on and off. Dozens of cables ran out of the top of each panel, reaching up and across the ceiling like a network of vines. In the center was a black column that reached to the ceiling; it was covered in cables and glowing access lines, one side a ghostly blue, and the other side a pale gold. A tall band of bright, brush polished metal circled around the outside of the structure, inscribed with the words 'For today I shall praise the deeds of the Bodhisattvas.'
It looked similar to the image Kanzeon had shown him, so Genjo figured it had to be where the Loci were housed.
A single set of metal mesh steps took Genjo up to the platform, and he stood at the top step for a few moments and looked around, and his breath caught in surprise when he saw a young man seated only a few feet away in a throne-like chair that was built into the center column, which Genjo could now see was actually made of the same blank granite as the panels. The figure in the chair was pale and motionless, his eyes open and empty of any spark of life. He was clothed in old-looking robes, and his hands and feet were encased by metal enclosures that had clusters of flickering blue conduit plugged into them. Most of the cables ran up the column, mixing with other cables and disappearing into the tangled web of power lines in the darkness above. What was left snaked out across the metal floor and connected with each of the tall, rectangular panels. Above the seated figure, a name was engraved into the high back of the stone throne: NATAKU.
Genjo recognized the name from his earlier instruction from the Goddess, but he frowned as he regarded the still form in front of him. She had spoken of the two Loci as if they were things, machine parts that could be disconnected and removed—but this was not a machine. Or was it? The young man appeared human, but he had odd doll-like joints; perhaps he was an android.
Whatever he was, he was not the GOKU Locus.
Genjo carefully stepped over a few of the lines and inspected the panel nearest him, and he noticed the front side of the panel was different—instead of metal, this side was covered with a slab of black granite, and at eye level there was an image of a man's head and upper shoulders painstakingly carved into the speckled black of the stone. Below a mop of spiky hair, the man's face smirked at him, one eyelid creased in a hint of a wink. Genjo peered at the name that was chiseled above the icon-like face: KENREN TAISHOU. Off to the side under the name some words were scratched in the granite, and Genjo looked more closely at the faint sentence. "'The Unruly General,'" he murmured. General? He looked at the panel again. Was that General Kenren? He remembered reading about him in a history class—and that had indeed been the General's nickname. But what was a picture of him doing here?
The next panel was only a few feet away, and it was similarly covered in black granite. The carving on this one was another man, and his shoulders sported the same epaulets as his neighbor, marking him as another military officer. This man's eyes were hidden by glasses. Genjo looked above for his name. TENPOU GENSUI. Another historical name, another military hero.
The third panel's figure was harder to decipher; it depicted an elderly man with a long, thin mustache; its title was JIROUSHIN. Genjo vaguely recalled reading about a well-regarded justice named Jiroushin, but since he'd not had much interest in law, that was about the extent of his memory.
He stood before the fourth panel for a long time, staring at the familiar image before him.
KANZEON BOSATSU. There was no mistaking the cascading ringlets of hair, the drooping eyes, or the smirking, knowing smile. It was definitely the Goddess. He remembered what Kanzeon had said about not wanting to see her remains, and it suddenly dawned on Genjo that he was looking at the chips and circuits that stored Kanzeon's mind and soul, and that the other panels did the same for the others who 'lived' here.
There was one more panel to examine. Stepping over more cables and access lines, Genjo noticed that most of them on this side of the platform shone with the brighter, golden light—only two were blue; one that led to the KANZEON panel, and the one before him that read KONZEN DOUJI. Another familiar name—the Triumvirate had mentioned the name Konzen Douji, and the only reason Genjo was standing here was due to help from an administrative hologram that the Goddess said was her nephew Konzen. Genjo took a closer look at the solemn, beautiful stone face; there was definitely a resemblance to the Goddess, both in hologram and granite form.
The sensation in his skull was getting uncomfortable. Genjo rubbed his hand over the back of his neck, his fingertips massaging the sub-occipital muscles in an attempt to get some relief, and then he huffed in frustration. He had followed the Goddess' directions, and he was sure he was in the Central Core Unit. So where the hell was the GOKU Locus?
He would just have to explore the chamber more thoroughly. Genjo turned around—
and discovered another young man bound to the central column, on the opposite side of where NATAKU sat. Genjo realized that he had been too absorbed in the granite columns to notice that there was anything on the other side.
"What the hell is going on here?" he murmured, and he stepped closer to get a better look. There was no carved nameplate here, and this side of the column told a very different story—one of imprisonment. Instead of being seated, like his counterpart, the young man in front of Genjo was standing, held against the granite with bands of iron across his waist and neck. His wrists and ankles were shackled to the column as well, and although his hands and feet were bare of enclosures, the tip of every finger and toe was enclosed in a metal cap, which had an access cable attached. This—he—was the source of the golden glow, and Genjo knew in his bones that this was also the source of the powerful energy that had coursed through him the previous evening.
The GOKU Locus.
But was he alive? This young man was unmoving, and his eyes were closed, but his skin had a healthy, living look to it. Genjo decided to check, and he reached out and pressed two fingers against a shackled throat.
There was a pulse.
A split-second later, Genjo felt a burst of energy surge through his fingers. When he pulled his hand back he saw eyelids flutter, and he was soon staring into a pair of open, golden-brown eyes.
"It's you." The words were spoken softly, with a voice that sounded rusty with disuse.
Startled, Genjo took a step back. What the hell? "Who are you?" he asked.
"I'm Goku," the young man said, and he smiled. "I saw you a little while ago, when I was dreaming. But I'm not dreaming now, and you're here!"
"You're the GOKU Locus?" The guy looked like he was barely into his twenties—and every Musician knew that the Loci had been in use for over five hundred years.
"What's a locus?"
"A source of magical energy and power," Genjo replied. The irony of having to tell the Locus the definition of a locus to was not lost on him.
Goku looked down at himself, at the cables and access lines that were attached to him, and his gaze followed the way they criss-crossed over his body and wound, vine-like, up the column and into the darkness above. "Oh," he said, "I guess I am, huh?"
The Locus is a moron, Genjo thought. "I came to take you out of here," he said, "but I wasn't expecting a person."
"Oh," Goku said, and his smile faltered.
The hopelessness in Goku's expression made something clench in Genjo's chest. "Hey," he said, "I'm still going to get you out, it's just going to be more of a challenge." He was rewarded with another, brighter smile. Genjo reached for one of Goku's hands and tried to pull off one of the metal finger cabs.
It wouldn't budge. Genjo then examined the black iron shackle that enclosed Goku's wrist, frowning when he saw no hinge or closure of any kind.
Goku was silent for a moment, his forehead wrinkled in thought. "Hmm," he said, "I remember they played music when they put all this stuff on me, and everything glowed."
"What the hell," Genjo said. "That's completely fucked up, using your own energy against you." He released Goku's hand and then shrugged the pack of tools off his shoulder. "This only has tools in it, because I was expecting to have to disconnect a panel like the others here. I don't have any musical instruments with me."
Goku looked at the pack, and then back at Genjo, "Can you maybe sing? Or whistle? That's music."
Genjo wanted to smack himself on the forehead. Of course, any music would do! "I can't whistle," he said, "but I can sing. I almost applied to be a Soloist instead of a Composer, but I realized that I liked creating my own music instead of singing someone else's."
"Shush," Genjo said. "I have to concentrate." He mentally ran through his compositions, focusing on the earlier pieces, the ones he wrote before choosing to specialize in architectural music. Ah, these would do; one of their a Composer's first projects was to set poems and other texts to music, and Genjo had chosen some ancient Buddhist sutras. The Heart Sutra was the shortest, and he had it completely memorized.
He took Goku's hand again and began to sing, grasping a capped finger between his own thumb and forefinger while he focused on thoughts of open and release. Goku's hand—and the rest of him—glowed even more brightly than before, and Genjo shuddered as power surged through him, suffusing him, raising the fine hairs on his arms and the nape of his neck. The jeweled receptor in his forehead burned, and Genjo could feel his pulse throbbing in his temples.
So this is what it's like to work magic as a Sanzo, he thought. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time, wracking his body with both pain and pleasure.
All five caps slipped off of Goku's fingers, and when Genjo touched the black iron cuff it broke apart. The lines went dark.
Goku raised his now-free hand and stared at it, and then he touched Genjo's cheek. "Thank you," he whispered.
"I'm not done yet," Genjo said, and he reached for Goku's other hand.
"You have a really nice voice. What's your name?"
"Genjo. Now shut up—it's hard enough to do this without you yammering at me." It wasn't so much that the magic was difficult, or remembering the music; it was more that Goku—both in power and in person—was a distraction. He resumed his song, closing his eyes to block out Goku's luminous gaze.
Once again, the caps fell off, the iron shackle crumbled, and the golden glow of the access lines faded. While he continued singing, Genjo knelt to work on Goku's feet, and he frowned when he saw the torn, tattered edges of Goku's cotton pants. The fabric was rough, the kind that Genjo had seen laborers wear. What kind of work had Goku done, before he was brought here and chained to a stone pillar? The clatter of the falling metal caps echoed though the chamber. Genjo frowned when he noticed a separate line had been attached to the back of Goku's right ankle; it seemed out of place from the others, and looked like it had been attached at a different time. Genjo sang another line of the sutra and the connector dropped onto the floor.
He rose to his feet and placed his hands on the wide, thick band of iron that encircled Goku's waist, and when he sang the next stanza the band broke apart, sending chunks of iron scattering across the mesh platform.
Genjo took his time with the shackle at Goku's throat, carefully placing his hands against the cold, hard metal. While he resolutely avoided Goku's gaze, he couldn't help but notice the smattering of freckles across Goku's nose, and how Goku's teeth worried a plump, glistening lower lip. He glanced away, and focused on the iron beneath his hands, allowing himself a small smile when the band crumbled to dust beneath his fingers. He stepped back and surveyed his handiwork. "Looks like you're free," he said.
Goku took a tentative step away from the stone column, lifting his bare foot over the tangle of dead access lines and broken iron. He took another step, his face breaking into a wide, brilliant smile as he stumbled to where Genjo stood, and then he wrapped his arms around Genjo's slender frame and embraced him.
Genjo was not prepared for a hug. He didn't do hugs, especially not the practically bone-crushing, difficult-to-breathe variety that Goku was inflicting on him. He tried to push Goku away.
"Please," Goku said, his breath warm against Genjo's neck, "just a little while longer. It's been so long since I've seen anyone, or could touch anyone."
Genjo suffered the embrace, trying to ignore the way Goku's body felt against his. Warmth and power seeped into his skin, and Genjo was surprised—and somewhat alarmed—at how his own body was responding. "How did you end up here?" he asked, in an attempt to distract himself.
"I don't know," Goku said. "Nataku's father said he only needed my help for a little while, to give them some of my energy along with Nataku's to get everything running… but then I woke up here, chained up with all those wires on me." He looked back at the stone column. "Is Nataku still here?"
"Yes," Genjo replied, and he was relieved when Goku released him and carefully made his way to the other side of the column. He picked up his pack and followed Goku, who now stood in front of the still figure in the chair. "Did you know him?" he asked.
"Yeah," Goku said. "He was my friend, although he wasn't supposed to be friends with the workers. He chose to do this—" he waved his hand at the granite panels "—although I always thought his father made him do it. Kanzeon and Konzen and the others, they all chose to become part of the Tenkai System. But I didn't get to choose. Nataku's father tricked me." His hands clenched into trembling fists.
Genjo put his hand on Goku's shoulder. "We need to go. They'll know something is wrong when the next performance starts, which is in just a few hours. Can you walk?"
"I think so." Goku reached out to touch Nataku's hand, and stopped, frowning, when he encountered the metal covering. He touched his friend's cheek instead. "Bye, Nataku," he whispered.
"Let's go," Genjo said. He punched up the holo-map the Goddess had put into his wristcom and headed out of the Central Core room, listening for the soft pad of Goku's bare feet behind him. He was glad of the small distance between them, gladder still that Goku was able to walk, even if he was still a bit unsteady on his feet. Genjo studied the map display; it was at least an hour's trek to the Archive's Research Room.
Genjo figured he'd need that long to get rid of the hard-on he'd had since Goku first touched him.