It’s been more than a year since the last Millennium Body chapter. It’s mostly setup for much more interesting (in my opinion) chapters, but… well, it sure feels nice to not have to get past this chapter. Every arc starts to pick up after this. Even Millennium Body, if you can believe that.
Chapter 15: Millennium Body 4: She’s Leaving Home
It was a dry, windless day when I visited the site. The entire property was cordoned off by tall chain-link fences covered by plastic tarp. What remained of Crossroads Academy was an abandoned gym, a few storage sheds, the athletic field, and a heaping pile of dust and debris. The athletic field was half torn apart so construction workers could get more equipment on site. The pool was drained and reserved as a temporary debris depository.
Yashiba: What are you doing all the way out here? As you can see, it’s just how I told you it was on the phone.
Akiyama: Still nothing, huh?
I told the Shidow Group about the lab beneath the school. Of course, I recovered all the important data long before the school’s destruction, but there was important equipment I couldn’t move. My mother’s body was preserved in stasis there, but that didn’t matter to me. She died a long time ago. At this point she was nothing more than an incomplete science experiment. I had more interest in my spare bodies. Even if I had no way to transfer my “self” into one of those bodies, I needed to know first-hand how they were built.
The person I’m yelling at is Director Yashiba, basically a lackey Shidow sent out to investigate in the public eye. There’s about a dozen people like him that don’t do much other than look important and official. He knows enough about the organization to do his job, but he’s still lower on the totem pole than I was. I couldn’t help but give him crap. Yashiba constantly darted his eyes this way and that, choosing to focus his attention on anything other than eye contact.
Yashiba: Nothing but scrap. According to the blueprints you provided us, it looks like the entire campus pretty much collapsed inside the lab.
Akiyama: What about the cargo elevator shaft?
Yashiba: The construction company we hired doesn’t have the kind of equipment we need to investigate it. My superiors have told me this isn’t a high-enough priority to order in anything specialized. At this rate it’ll take us about three years to make any headway, and a full eight years to cover the whole thing up.
Akiyama: Ugh… Would it kill you to just get some really long rope and, I dunno, a mountain climber?
Jacob: Ha ha ha, so crude… You haven’t changed at all.
Akiyama: At least I’m coming up with ideas.
Jacob Wyant. I remembered his voice, but this was my first time seeing him since my father was alive. He was a lab assistant and never really amounted to much, but it seems he’s become something of a big-shot in Shidow.
Jacob had medium-length blonde hair he kept pulled back and groomed meticulously (I noticed he carries a strapped hand brush in his pocket, and he brushes his hair in his spare time when he thinks no one is looking). He hadn’t changed much after all these years. He used to carry a pair of square-rimmed spectacles around and only put them on when reading. The fact that he’s wearing them now probably means his eyesight has gotten worse. Below his eyes, I detected residue from what I assume is wrinkle cream. I stifled a chuckle when I thought of him possibly using the same brand as Sasai.
Akiyama: You look old, Jake.
Jacob: As do you. But that’s just a disguise, isn’t it?
He was probably making reference to my own glasses, worn for show, and my wig and makeup designed to make me appear older.
Akiyama: Do you have anything worth saying?
Jacob: I do, actually. My team just got the cargo elevator working. Unfortunately, trying to move any of the debris blocking access to the lab is a death trap. However, it seems there’s a large crate in the platform that is relatively intact. I came here for a forklift so we can have it transferred to my lab at headquarters.
Akiyama: Your lab?
Jacob: Naturally. Understand this, Marie: you work for me now. But, as this is your legacy, so to speak, I will allow you to supervise my examination of this equipment, as well as anything we manage to recover from this site.
I walked to the cargo elevator. The building it was hidden in remained intact since it was pretty far from the main building. Just as Jacob said, the platform brought up the large container I couldn’t move – the container marked “Marie Antoinette, Age 25.” I’ve long passed that age, so there’s no reason for me to risk myself by transferring bodies. The outer shell was a bit singed, but the contents were most likely undamaged.
Akiyama: I never actually managed to open it. I can only hope what’s inside is in the same condition it was when it was made.
Jacob: Will you be needing any specialized equipment?
Akiyama: Not a clue. I already gave you a list.
Jacob: Simple things to procure. I was honestly disappointed when I read it.
Akiyama: In that case, I have some schematics you might be interested in. But you won’t lay eyes on them until I’ve decided they’re necessary.
Jacob: So you say. I trust you won’t hold out on me should the time come.
Akiyama: I wouldn’t dream of it. I have nothing to gain by not moving forward.
The container was loaded onto a semi and secured. There was a freighter waiting for us at the docks; soon, we would be bound for Jacob’s lab at Kyushu.
I sat in the mess hall, nursing a can of black tea while waiting for the crew to load the package. For some reason, Jacob also salvaged some random junk from the site. I don’t imagine there was anything special. He could very well have just picked up some of the old computer parts we kept in storage next to the teachers’ lounge.
Jacob: Some things never change, I see.
Jacob: Your tea habit.
Akiyama: Ah. What of it?
Jacob: Just an observation.
Akiyama: Since you’re here, I assume the package is inside.
Jacob: Just about. But first, I need to know what it is you hope to gain from us. You see, while you’ve been playing around at school, I’ve been continuing your father’s research… using subjects Shidow has graciously provided me. I’ve advanced further than you could ever hope to reach.
Akiyama: I have no interest in following you or my father’s footsteps. I just want live.
Jacob: I see.
Akiyama: Actually, I don’t think you do.
Jacob: You are interested in the “jewel,” am I right?
Akiyama: . . .
Jacob: I thought so. According to Shidow’s records, your father was given a byproduct of the jewel. What he did with it, we don’t know. He was very good at keeping secrets. That’s what I’m hoping to find out from this wreckage. Unless you care to tell us?
Akiyama: . . .
Jacob: Finding the jewel is Shidow’s top priority. It seems Shidow expected him to build a device to locate the jewel, but that never came to be.
Akiyama: It was never his intention to locate the jewel… at least, not for Shidow. But he never started work on that device, I assume because what he was given was good enough for his purposes. Either that, or his work never progressed far enough for him to realize it wasn’t enough. Otherwise, he would have put all his effort into finding the source. That’s why I’m here.
Jacob: You want the jewel for yourself?
Akiyama: No. I just want to know how it works.
Jacob laughed through a grim smile. It always pissed me off whenever he smiled.
Jacob: You have no idea what you’re in for. I’ve worked for Shidow for years, and I can’t even analyze “them.” What hope do you have in a realm far removed from science?
Jacob: Shidow calls them the Mystics. You’ll get to know them better once we arrive at my lab. Then you’ll know just how far out of your depth you are.
Akiyama: And there’s your habit. Always starting from the conclusion. Someone with your grasp of the scientific method would never pass one of my classes.
Jacob: Mere shackles I have learned to break free from. True progress cannot be made while bound by them.
Akiyama: I could use those words to describe anything and they would carry the same weight. Running red lights, overeating, mixing colored clothes in with my white laundry…
Jacob: Hmph. Well, don’t say I didn’t give you fair warning.
Jacob ran a lab owned by Shidow in Kyushu. From the outside, it looked like an ordinary office building. It had two floors above ground used primarily for administration, and three levels below ground for research and development. The building was part of a front company called Moebius Pharmaceuticals, which kept itself low-profile.
From the freighter, the package was loaded onto another semi and driven to Moebius Pharm. There was a ramp at ground level that led to the first underground level. That’s where the package was unloaded. A forklift moved it to a cargo elevator that lowered it to the third basement level – its final destination.
Jacob: We brought your equipment to my lab. Do we need to make any preparations?
Akiyama: No. I’ve already surveyed your facilities. Just open it up.
Jacob: Very well.
Jacob motioned to his crew, and they immediately started opening the container. There were so many bolts and levers that I didn’t know where to start, but it seems they had experience with this sort of thing.
Jacob: I’ve had similar containers designed for my own projects. Of course, in an organization like Shidow, it’s only natural. Ah, looks like they’re about done.
Beyond the containment shell was another layer, but that layer was quickly disassembled and removed. Finally, it was laid bare after who knows how many years.
It was me. Or rather, it was a vision of what I would look like at age 25. I was standing there, lifeless, unblemished, preserved, inside what I could only describe as a sci-fi cryonic pod. It was a body-length tank with a thick window on the front so you could look at the encapsulated subject. Naturally, I was completely naked – though I admit, I was expecting to see her frozen in a block of ice or floating in some mysterious liquid. That was how my mother and the infant me were stored. This was different. There appeared to be nothing else inside except a fine mist.
Jacob: Is that… a gas?
Akiyama: Suspended animation achieved through cryonic gases. A different method was used to preserve my mother. This is just a spare body using mostly artificial organs and muscles, though some parts are still biological.
Jacob: I’m surprised you can be so composed.
Akiyama: I’ve had years to cope with it. If possible, I would like this body to remain frozen. Unfortunately, that will make it difficult to perform the scans I require.
Akiyama: Yes. I wanted to start with a CT. She’ll have to thaw if it proves impossible to perform the scans while still in the pod. If worst comes to worst, we can resort to dissection, but not until all other options have been exhausted.
Jacob: Didn’t I tell you I am still in charge?
Akiyama: I am merely stating what I want done. But this is a one-of-a-kind specimen. Do you really want to jeopardize it?
Jacob: To be quite honest, I don’t believe I will learn much from it either way. If there is anything to gain, it is most likely to come from a thorough dissection. But I’m willing to do it your way. After all, you already forced me to procure the necessary equipment. It would just go to waste otherwise. But before that, the first thing I want done is determining what material this pod is made out of. It doesn’t appear to be connected to any computer equipment. If it’s made of plastics, we should have little problem so long as we modify the scanners to accommodate the pod’s size. In the meantime, you can start working on your end.
Akiyama: What do you mean?
Jacob: Officially, you are my assistant. Instead of waiting around, you can make yourself useful and pore through the documents I have prepared for you.
I was guided to an incredibly underwhelming office. I was hoping for something larger; it was barely the size of my apartment living room and there were papers everywhere (though, to be fair, it was still neater than my apartment living room while I’m correcting finals).
The scans weren’t a top priority for him. It took weeks for any progress to be made, and all I could do was wait. Reading up on what Jacob was up to helped kill some of the time.
The “Mystics” he referred to were a group of people with special abilities: they could manipulate the elements. They didn’t know it, but I already met one. Sekihara Katsumi. He offered to show me proof of his power, but I wasn’t interested. Now I wish he had.
It seems Jake really did try to follow in my father’s footsteps. My father specialized in creating artificial organs that could fully function as part of the human body, even running on energy converted from food. Jake seemed to want to achieve something even more extreme than that. He wanted to graft foreign elements into a body and alter the host’s genetic code to accept and integrate those elements. At first glance they seem the same, but the two methods are opposites. My father’s method has the host body accept foreign elements as part of the host – a perfect “transplant.” Jacob’s method has the host body and foreign elements combine and create a new paradigm – a new “transformation.”
Once he learned of the Mystics’ abilities, he wanted to analyze their genetic code to replicate their powers in other individuals. He never managed to pull it off. Even though Mystic powers are passed down via the same family lines, he was unable to find a genetic mutation to explain this phenomena. But that didn’t mean he wouldn’t try to apply his methods. He started experimenting using more crude methods in hopes that some new avenue would open itself up. Several branch line Mystics died in the name of his science. He had them completely drained of blood and hoped to infuse regular people with Mystic DNA. Like I said, it didn’t work. He then moved on to trying to infuse Mystic DNA into Mystics belonging to different houses, with mixed results. He was under the impression that he was on the verge of a major breakthrough… before I made my call. It’s no wonder he’s putting my needs on the back burner.
The Mystic research intrigued me. Most notable, I thought, was that there were certain Mystics labeled off-limits for experimentation. These people were said to have had the most concentrated power within their houses. They were still available for observation and study, though Jake didn’t think he could learn much just by witnessing their displays of power.
My first encounter with the Mystics was when a group of four visited the facility. Three of them would later die in the field, but they were impressive, at least to me. They had the ability to control earth, water, and fire. The only one that really caught my attention was their leader, a 23-year-old with bleached white hair. I was told his name was Shidow Hyo. Believe it or not, the Shidow Group has at its head the Shidow family, and Hyo was a half-Korean branch member of this family. But it wasn’t that he was Korean that made him the black sheep of the family; Hyo was an anomaly. A Mystic with no peers. He was a Lightning Mystic. According to tradition, there were Mystics of Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire. The Shidow family claimed to be Mystics of Void, existing in the center of those five and lord over them all. Lightning Mystics were strictly theoretical, and there was no evidence they ever actually existed. Furthermore, unlike other Mystics, who merely manipulate existing material to their will, Hyo seemed able to produce electricity from his body. This undoubtedly meant he was considered the most powerful Mystic in existence.
Akiyama: I take it you haven’t had the chance to study that Lightning Mystic?
Jacob: Not a chance. I’m not even allowed to draw blood from him. But if he’s a mystery even to the other Mystics, I’m not yet at the level where I can make use of his blood if I were allowed to take some. But I must say, you’re taking this in stride.
Akiyama: I was always fascinated by the spiritual world, even if it’s hardly scientific. I even used to buy these good fortune trinkets at the local shrine.
Jacob: It continues to baffle me that you are related to the late doctor. Well, maybe soon you’ll be of some use to me. Have a look at this.
Jacob handed a manila folder to me.
Jacob: I had the subject scanned. As expected of the doctor, it is a perfect specimen. Almost unidentical from a real human. Well, except for the lack of a brain. The skull cavity seems to be filled with some kind of liquid, probably to keep it preserved. However, I think what you are looking for is detailed here…
Jacob pointed at one of the scans and circled around a specific region with his index finger. It was a scan of the chest cavity. Just behind the heart was something completely unnatural. It was small and completely black – unscannable.
Akiyama: It’s like a black box.
Jacob: Exactly. What do you say? Shall we cut it open and find out what’s in it?
Akiyama: I’m sure it’s empty.
Jacob: Don’t be daft. Why create conceal an empty space?
Akiyama: It was meant to house something, but it was never placed inside. Jacob, I want the same scans done on me. I want you to check to see if that black box exists inside me and if you can pinpoint its exact location.
Jacob: So that’s what this is about. Then, that black box is meant to house…
Akiyama: The “core” that was given to my father. It’s been keeping me alive.
Jacob: And if we find it? Then what?
Akiyama: I’m not handing it over, obviously. Like I said, I want to study it.
Jacob: With it still inside you?
Akiyama: If at all possible.
Three days later, the scans were done. What we found and what we didn’t find were equally baffling.
Akiyama: There’s no black box…
Jacob: But there is evidence that there was definitely something in the exact same location as the black box we found in the subject. This enclave does not exist naturally in the human body. It was found only in you and in the subject. That’s where the black box should be.
Akiyama: I don’t understand. I was sure that was the core… Without the core, I shouldn’t be alive.
Jacob: Well? Shall I order a dissection of the other body?
Akiyama: Perform the exact same scans on me that you did on the body.
Jacob: I doubt it will turn up anything new.
Akiyama: Predictions aren’t evidence.
Jacob: True enough.
The scans were done, and I looked at the results, then compared them to the spare.
Jacob: It appears to be the same. Your scans show a brain, of course, and no black box.
Akiyama: You used the exact same equipment on me that you did with the subject, right?
Akiyama: Hm… Do these same scans on two other people, then on me again?
Jacob: Excuse me?
Akiyama: I need to make sure what I’m seeing isn’t an accident. Can you do it? Any two “normal” people will do. They’re just control subjects.
Jacob: I’ll call some people from admin down here.
Jacob did as I requested, and I had two new sets of scans. I then had another set of scans performed on me.
Jacob: Your new scans appear identical to your old ones.
Akiyama: Yes, exactly the same. That’s what bothers me. Look at my scans compared to the control subjects and the… let’s call her Subject 25. Subject 25 has no brain and a mysterious black box, but other than that, there is structurally nothing different between her and the controls.
Jacob: We agree on that end.
Akiyama: And between me and the controls, the only difference is the housing enclave.
Jacob: Again, we agree.
Akiyama: Structurally no difference. You performed the same scans with the same equipment. So why are my scans darker?
Akiyama: Trust my eyes, Jake. They’re better designed than yours. My scans are a shade darker than the scans of both controls and of Subject 25.
Jacob: But if what you’re saying is true… It’s something in your blood, I think.
Akiyama: The core that was housed next to my heart was completely absorbed into my bloodstream. My blood IS the core.
Jacob: Then what about Subject 25? It’s clearly a singular block. Is it an effect of the core merging with the housing unit, or… is it another core?
Akiyama: None of the records said exactly how large the core given to my father was. It’s possible he broke it into multiple pieces. No, he most likely did so as soon as he received it to study it. I have some idea about why it didn’t dissolve into the artificial body fluids in Subject 25, but there’s no way to know for sure.
Jacob: So, where do we go from here?
Akiyama: Put Subject 25 in storage. Somewhere secure. I might have need for that core, and as long as it’s being preserved, it needs to stay exactly where it is. I’m going to study the core in my body.
Jacob: The core in your blood?
Akiyama: Yes. Maybe 30 years ago, analysis wouldn’t have shown it as anything more than a harmless rock… but after 20 years of dissolution, perhaps it’s taken on a new form.
It would take me longer than I expected to find what I was looking for. But it was what we eventually did with my findings that produced something neither me, my father, Jacob, or even any of the Mystics ever dreamed of…