Quicksilver Dworkin (Rapier class)
Figaro sat in the small cabin with the quiet hum of the ship’s engines in the background like a soft lullaby. There were two bunks — side by side — neatly made as expected of two women of the Corps. He rubbed the smooth metal of the bracelet on his wrist, keeping his breath steady. It was important he maintain his normal regime, especially now. He let his vision go out of focus and his mind floated in a sea of nothingness.
He had taken a huge risk using his organic in the manner he had. An unintegrated organic could easily overwhelm its host and leave them a mindless husk, if not kill them outright. It had been unavoidable, and he was lucky there had been no side-effects, but he had to be extra-vigilant not to let his guard down. Every episode made the chance of losing control greater.
Figaro slowly opened his eyes, his mastery over his body once again established. Everything was locked down, for now. He let out a long breath and looked around.
It was an impressive ship. Sleek and beautifully outfitted, it must have cost quite a lot of money. The two ex-Seneca women who were giving him a ride home were clearly successful in their chosen profession. And why not? If you were looking to hire mercenaries, Seneca-trained organics would be the first choice, assuming you could afford it.
From what Figaro knew of the ultra-rich, those who could afford it most likely would want things done not easily achieved through regular channels.
The most impressive thing about the ship was that it was fully grav-plated, something even luxury liners only had partially installed. A smaller vessel obviously required fewer plates, but buying in small amounts usually made the cost greater, and there was rarely any need for it in a ship that didn’t have space for a lot of movement. You were hardly going to go for a jog around the corridors when there was a single corridor and only three rooms other than the helm.
Figaro stood up and stretched his legs. They had been in transit for several hours and he had been asleep for most of it. The moment he left the Gorbol Academy, he had been hit by a wave of exhaustion and had to be practically carried to the ship.
Now his thoughts turned to what he would say to his father. What to tell him and what to keep from him. Ramon Ollo would obviously have several thoughts on the matter — the Origin simulation, the new sigil, Ubik (that would be an interesting conversation) — but most of his ideas going forward would probably not involve Figaro.
The last thing Figaro wanted was to be excluded from whatever came next, even if it was for his own safety. If he wasn’t careful, he would be protected out of events completely.
On the bunk he had just got up from was the small box Ubik had left for him to take. It was his Grandma’s soul cube, a recording of a dead woman’s life story. Why had Ubik wanted him to take it? So Figaro could return it to him? Did that mean Ubik intended to find a way to meet him on Enaya?
He bent down and picked up the box. It fit in the palm of his hand, no signs of activity. He had held it once before, back in Ubik’s barracks. It had spoken to him then, general chatter that meant nothing.
“Hello, Grandma,” he said, not expecting a response.
“Hello, dear. How lovely to speak to you again.”
“Um, I’m not Ubik.”
“I know that dear. You’re young Fig. Figaro Ollo. My grandson has told me all about you.”
“He has?” said Figaro, a little surprised. “What did he say?” It was odd talking to what was ostensibly a recording, even if a fairly sophisticated one.
“That you’re a fine young man with a brilliant mind and a glittering future.” She sounded almost proud, although whether of him or her grandson’s taste in acquaintances, he wasn’t quite sure.
“Thank you. That’s very flattering.” Even if it was just a recording, he felt obliged to be polite to the old lady.
“Not at all, not at all. He tells me he has big plans for you.”
Figaro smiled. Ubik’s plans were nothing to find humorous, in fact he should have been concerned for his own safety — to be included in Ubik’s machinations was an invitation to a maelstrom — but he couldn’t help but be amused by the idea of being part of Ubik’s schemes. Nothing seemed to faze him. There was always another play to be made, using the least likely route.
Figaro put the cube in his pocket. Whatever Ubik had in mind would have to wait. He probably wouldn’t see him again for quite some time.
He left the cabin and stood in the short corridor that connected the front to the engine room in the rear. He could hear the two women talking from the helm, their voices low and calm. He couldn’t hear what they said — nor would he attempt to eavesdrop — but their tone suggested there was no problem to contend with; not a major one, at least.
He checked the other two rooms. One was a small galley. The other was what he was looking for, a bathroom.
As he took care of his biological needs, he made note of the lack of a holding room. The two women had been sent to pick up PT and presumably they would need to keep him somewhere. It was doubtful they would offer him use of their bedroom as they had for Figaro. From what he recalled of seeing the ship from the outside, there was enough room for a cargo hold. Had they planned to stick PT in there, bound and gagged?
The Corps didn’t take prisoners, as a rule. It was part of their credo to offer no mercy and no negotiations. Ex-Seneca mercenaries were presumably not so inflexible.
Figaro made his way to the helm where the two women were seated at the controls of the ship. They turned to look at him as he entered the cockpit. There was enough room for him to stand, but not much else.
“You’re awake,” said Leyla. “That’s good. We thought you might burn up with that fever.”
Figaro felt his brow. He didn’t seem any warmer than normal. “I feel fine.”
“Good, good,” said Leyla. She was keeping something from him. The other one, too. Her gaze flicked away from him when their eyes met.
“What is it? You can speak freely in front of me. I’m not Seneca, I won’t judge you.”
Both women prickled involuntarily, their pride in the Corps deep and unwavering even now.
“I’ll get you something to drink,” said Weyla, getting out of her chair and sliding past him. She was taller and broader than him, and she smelled like crushed demillion seeds.
Leyla ran her hands over the console and the screen in front of them lit up, showing the exterior, an endless white glare.
“We’re in subspace,” said Figaro, sitting in the vacated seat.
“Yes,” said Leyla. “We were denied access to the Tethari wormhole. They’ve closed it to everyone.”
There could be numerous reasons for that. “You rerouted to Clarissa?”
“We exited a couple of hours ago. We’ll have to sub the rest of the way.”
“Fine,” said Figaro. It would take longer, but an extra day wasn’t a big deal. “If I’d had the presence of mind to suggest it, I would have recommended this in any case. Going in from the front probably isn’t a good idea for me. I didn’t leave home under the happiest circumstances. What else?” He could tell there was more.
“It’s your father,” said Leyla. “He sent out a message. A distress signal. They’ve been running it on all the news frequencies.”
Distress? That didn’t sound at all like his father. “Could you play it for me?”
Weyla returned carrying a cup of something steaming. “Here, cup of dregs.”
Figaro took it from her as Leyla reached across the console and played the message.
“...Ollo ...Antecessor ...compromised. They’re coming back. Stop them… we have to stop them. Figaro, if you hear this, you know what you have to do. I’m sorry, son. I couldn’t—”
He asked her to play it again. It was hard to hear the complete message with the signal dropping in and out and all the screaming in the background.
“Okay, thank you.” Figaro looked at the black liquid in the cup and drank it. Any drink on a ship was referred to as dregs, it was a tradition from some forgotten corner of history. It was bitter and hot but also mildly stimulating. It helped.
Weyla looked at him with a penetrating gaze, like she suspected him of something. “You don’t seem very upset.”
“About what?” said Figaro. “He’s Ramon Ollo — you should understand what that entails. He defeated your Corps, he doesn’t panic easily.”
“I wouldn’t say defeated,” said Leyla.
“And only with the help of Armageddon.”
“Yes,” said Figaro. “He had to defeat her first.” He let that hang. He knew how the Corps revered his mother. Every time he saw her come in contact with a member of the Corps, he saw it in their eyes. She was their idol, not only because she was feared by the entire galaxy, but because she had faced down the entire Seneca High Command. “My concern isn’t something he needs. And that isn’t distress you can hear. He’s annoyed. He thinks I won’t do what he’s told me to do in this sort of situation. He’s right, of course.”
“He sent that out on all frequencies,” said Leyla. “If he didn’t want help, what—”
“I expect he was making a formal claim to whatever it is he found. Hard to say with only a partial recording. The wide broadcast will be because he’s on the asteroid and had to get the message past the dampening field. Sounds like he had to use a booster, means he’s probably on the second level. Can you give me control of the board?”
The two women exchanged a look.
“Don’t worry, I won’t steal your ship,” said Figaro. “It’s a little utilitarian for my taste.”
Leyla pressed a few buttons and the console lit up on his side. The controls were familiar and he quickly brought up a map of his home system. “This is Enaya, the asteroid is here.” The screen turned away from his homeworld. “This planet is Egress-216, not much to see. This is one of its moons, I want you to come out of subspace here.”
“You want to mask our arrival?” said Leyla. “You expect trouble?”
“No. Just a precaution. If my father’s message went as wide as you say, there will be other parties interested in what he found.”
“We won’t be able to see them from behind that rock, either,” said Weyla.
“Won’t be a problem,” said Figaro. He rose from the chair. “I think I might lie down again, if that’s alright.”
He could see they wanted to ask him about what had happened on Fountain, but they were trained well enough to know he wouldn’t tell them.
“What about your mother?” said Leyla. “Do you want to send her a message?”
“No,” said Figaro. “Then we’d really be in trouble.”
He returned to the cabin. He was preventing them from getting any rest, but they were Seneca, the toughest troops known. They could nap in a chair.
He laid down and took out the cube again. Something had occurred to him. Soul cubes were a repository of a person’s thoughts linked to a retrieval system that mimicked real speech. They didn’t have short term memories. Ubik, of course, could have bypassed that — he was a hacking specialist and invalidator of warranties — but what else had he added to Grandma’s memories?
“Hello again, darling boy,” she said. It was actually quite comforting to be welcomed so warmly.
“Yes, hello. I was wondering, did Ubik, I mean your grandson, did he leave me a message or anything?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
Figaro asked a few different ways and got nothing apart from the feeling he was being stonewalled. Strangely, it felt rude to press her too hard and he decided whatever Ubik was up to, it could wait. He fell asleep.
He was awoken by Weyla shaking his arm. “We’re here.”
The clock in his ocular implant showed only a few hours had passed. “That was quick.”
“This ship’s not quite as utilitarian as you think,” she said with a sarcastic smile.
Figaro followed her to the helm and was met by the sight of Egress-216’s third moon, Medina, a barren and uninteresting rock.
“How do you plan to peek around that?” asked Leyla. “We don’t have a periscope big enough.”
Figaro sat down next to her and turned the camera around to face behind them. “See that planet? It’s covered in water. Bounce your sensors off that.”
“All you’ll get is a fuzzy image,” said Weyla. A blur appeared on the screen. “See.”
“Can I have access to the sensory array?” said Figaro. He manipulated the console and the image slowly refined to a crystal sharp one. Dozens of huge ships floated next to Enaya, all pointed at the small asteroid, the wormhole providing a suitably impressive backdrop.
“Wow,” said Weyla. “They sent their whole fleet.”
“No,” said Figaro, “they’re all from separate companies.” He refined the image more and the different logos on the ships were easier to see. Every major corporation had sent their biggest ships with the biggest guns.
“How are you planning to get past that?” said Leyla.
“Easy,” said Figaro. “I’m going to scare the shit out of them. “
“Your mother?” said Weyla.
“No. My father trained me in warfare. He always found the Seneca way of doing things too feeble. Please open a channel, general frequency. Watch carefully, I’m about to deploy the greatest weapon in the galaxy.”
Dropped down the TWF charts while I was off so please vote for 'Deeper Darker' on TopWebFiction.com. VOTE. Cheers.
For those wanting more, Patreon is currently on Ch. 6 with Ch. 7 coming out later today. Patreon.
Afterword from Mooderino