Back to three chapters a week, Mon-Wed-Fri, with Patreon being three chapter ahead. Other stories that have been on hiatus will also return soon.
Beeh awhile since I posted so you might have forgotten where we are so good luck remembering (I know for sure there's stuff I've totally blanked on and forgotten about). Book 2 will end this week and I'll be going straight into Book 3.Preface from Mooderino
Ubik felt confident he could pull this off. Judging from the looks he was getting, he was the only one. The planet was the key. All he had to do was to get the Antecessors to focus their ambitions on the planet instead of the tiny, meaningless asteroid.
“How do you want to do it?” asked Fig quietly. He seemed willing to discuss the matter at least, even though he was the target the Antecessors had come for, and also the sacrificial bomb the Intercessors planned to use against their ancient adversary. He was very cooperative — something neither Ollo or Seneca were known for, and he was the two combined.
“Yes,” said PT’s voice with a hint of concern. “I would also like to hear how you’re going to give the Antecessors a way to destroy us all.” To be fair, it was only a hint of concern. Not really room for much more than that with all that sarcasm he’d stuffed into his request.
“Simple,” said Ubik, looking around the room at the VendX bodies that had been executed by the three Guardians. “We just substitute these dead people with the Enayans and let the Antecessors do the rest. They obviously have a way to utilise people as catalysts for their goals. We just need to point them to the left a bit.” He pointed to the left to clarify.
Everyone looked to the left where there was only a wall. But beyond the wall was open space and if you kept going there was an entire planet. A planet full of living beings Ubik was suggesting as a mass sacrifice.
“If they could have used the Enayans,” said PT, “why did they bother allowing the VendX ships here in the first place?”
“Lots of reasons,” said Ubik, dismissively throwing up his hands and shaking his head as though he didn’t have time to spell out the obvious. “You’ve got Ramon there with you, haven’t you? It’s his planet. Ask him.”
“He isn’t talking to me,” said PT.
“Why?” said Ubik in an accusing tone. “What did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything,” snapped PT. “You’re the one ruining everyone’s plans. And when do you think you’ll get round to releasing me from this contraption you put me in?”
“One thing at a time,” said Ubik. “There’s a whole planet at stake, you know?”
“I know,” said PT. “You’re the one threatening it with annihilation.”
Ubik shook his head slowly. Everyone was always so critical of his ideas. Progress came at a price — sometimes millions had to die so billions could live. How could anyone find issue with simple maths?
Guardian Tezla stepped forward in her imposing suit, the visor on her helmet sliding up. She looked like she had been selected as spokesperson for the Central Authority. Probably selected herself, thought Ubik.
“Wouldn’t it be better to stop the Antecessors instead of giving them what they want?” She spoke calmly and in a measured manner. Like you would if you were trying not to spook a wild animal that might turn violent if you made any sudden moves. Ubik was certain she knew the answer to her question already, she just wanted to see if he knew.
“No, they won’t listen. I wouldn’t. They have everything they want right here.” Ubik looked at Fig. “They’ll take him whatever we do. But that’s our advantage.”
Fig was listening attentively, his face screwed up with concentration. He appeared to be trying to work out what Ubik was really up to. It was cute.
“Giving them a whole world of innocent people is our advantage?” asked PT. He really seemed to care a lot about people who didn’t care about him at all. He was the only one who seemed concerned about the cost in lives, as though each individual was worth something. Everyone else was willing to make the necessary sacrifice on a cost-benefit analysis but not him. Truly baffling.
“By giving them a world of people they don’t have access to at the moment,” Ubik said.
“Because they can’t get past the Ollo defences?” asked PT. He was also slowly working it out.
“Sure,” said Ubik. “Ramon Ollo likes to play hard to get.”
“But you know how to get past his defences?” said PT.
“Oh, not easily. But it’s manageable.”
“This is ridiculous,” said Chukka. She had been listening intently, looking for a way to take advantage of the situation, no doubt. But her conclusion was that Ubik was bluffing. It was understandable why she would think that. The others probably suspected the same thing. Except for PT and Fig. They were more interested in working out what it was Ubik was up to.
Fig seemed to be willing to go along with things — even though he was the one most in peril — but PT was very keen to know the details. Ubik wondered what he planned to do with the information.
“But if you can do it,” continued PT, “then surely Ramon Ollo can stop you. And he’s working for them.”
“The full Ramon Ollo could,” said Ubik. “But the full Ramon Ollo was too dangerous to keep together in one place.”
“I see,” said PT. “They could have left him whole and risk having him turn on them rather than give up his planet, or they could split him up and use whatever parts of him they still had available. No way to do both.”
“It’s the eternal dilemma,” said Ubik. “Do you do what works best overall even though it doesn’t benefit you personally, or do you let everything fall apart and make sure you get the biggest share of whatever’s left over?” He turned to Tezla with a wolfish grin plastered across his face. “Amazing, isn’t it? One guy in a tin can figures out the situation quicker than three Central Authority Guardians with the most advanced tech in the galaxy at their disposal.”
“Who says we didn’t figure it out?” said Tezla. “What’s key is how you plan to do it.”
Ubik wasn’t sure if she was more interested in saving the quadrant from Antecessor extermination or learning the secret to taking control of Ollo defences.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Fig, unperturbed as always. “As long as he can do it, the how of it is irrelevant. And I’d rather he not make it public.”
“What about you?” said Tezla. “Don’t you have a way to take control of the planet?”
“No,” said Fig. “The systems are automated. Even my father would need time to dismantle them.”
Fig, as usual, knew more than he was willing to say. Possibly he did have some way to take over his father’s systems but wasn’t going to admit it. What was clear was that he accepted the plan even if he didn’t know the details. That was what being the son of a genius got you.
Ubik moved further into the room, stepping over the bodies of VendX personnel. Everyone was watching him closely.
Chukka took off her helmet and followed him. Her damp hair was plastered to her forehead and cheeks, the sight of her dead colleagues all over the floor not bothering her very much.
Ubik looked around the room. There were control panels and various communication outlets on the walls.
“What is this place used for?” asked Ubik. “Some kind of break room?”
“It’s a reserve station where personnel wait to be summoned for mission briefings,” said Fig.
“Gotcha,” said Ubik. “So a break room.”
“What are we even doing here?” muttered Chukka. She was constantly looking from the Guardians to the Seneca mercenaries trying to get them to make some kind of move she could profit from. It was the VendX way — wait for someone else to make a move and then take advantage. But everyone was too happily waiting for Ubik to lead the way. And he wasn’t leading them anywhere.
“Why don’t you calm down?” said Weyla. “Or I can knock you unconscious, if that will help.”
Chukka crossed her arms and sneered but didn’t say anything. Apparently that wasn’t the move she was looking for.
“It would help if we could see what was going on outside,” said Ubik as he pulled a panel off the wall. There were circuits on the other side. “Wonder what these are for?” He poked at them with a finger and then leaned back like he was afraid something might attack him.
“He has no idea what he’s doing,” Chukka mumbled to herself.
“PT, ask Ramon to let us see outside.” Ubik waited for a response.
There was a pause. “I asked him. Don’t know if he’ll—”
Several screens appeared on the wall showing the exterior of the asteroid. The biggest one was an image of the sigil made from the pieces of the Antecessor ships hung above the asteroid, a red triangle spinning slowly.
This told Ubik two things. One, showing him what was going on meant the Intercessors were desperate enough to play along with his scheme (so he should probably come up with one ASAP). Two, the Antecessors were coming for Fig as soon as the sigil was completed, even if they had no way of transporting him away.
This was good news. They needed a way to open the sigil. Ubik was right to think of a way to help them, they would definitely be interested. He smiled to himself and mentally patted himself on the back.
“Why’s he grinning like that?” said Chukka with a revolted look on her face. “It’s creepy.”
“You get used to it,” said Fig.
“What’s going on over here?” said Ubik, ignoring the hurtful lack of support.
He looked at one of the other screens. The Seneca ships had been decimated leaving only large chunks of debris floating around aimlessly, or so they might appear to the untrained eye, or even the trained eye. Ubik’s eye had the advantage of being able to see what wasn’t there but could be. It all came down to imagination.
For some reason, certain pieces of wreckage seemed to be moving closer together. It looked random, unintentional, but it wasn’t. Disguised escape capsules? But why bunch up like that making yourself a nice easy target? Unless they were explosive devices quietly coming together to create maximum carnage in the sneakiest manner possible. That would be a very Seneca way of doing things.
Ubik peered at the screens — the pictures could have been sharper. What kind of terrible resolution were these aliens using for their observational array?
“Okay, okay, got it. What else?” said Ubik looking around.
Another screen showed an empty region of space containing a cloud. It seemed to be the area that had previously contained the Central Authority ships that had been destroyed but there was no wreckage, only a few disabled VendX ships and a white mist.
The VendX ships had been left behind to interfere with the CA ships, but had failed to cause any problems before the CA ships were all destroyed by the Antecessors.
The Seneca ships had been turned into chunks of metal and the CA ships had been vaporised to dust? Didn’t seem consistent. If the Seneca remains were hiding something then maybe the CA mist was doing likewise? That seemed much more consistent. Everyone trying to act all innocent while getting ready for their last-ditch attempt to pull out a victory. Who would show their hand first?
“Interesting,” said Ubik. There was definitely stuff here he could work with. “And then there’s the planet.”
Enaya, big and orange, home to millions of lives. Not much going on here. Planets rarely made any sudden moves but there was a ship breaking out of orbit. A VendX ship. Good. That would be Grandma.
“Right, that’s that sorted then.”
The others stared at him, waiting for an explanation. He looked back at them with the same expression, waiting for their explanation. They now looked confused. Worked every time.
Ubik took another look at the screens. The pieces of debris from the Seneca ships were definitely on the move. The Central Authority mist was also drifting closer. Both were aimed towards the sigil but that wasn’t going to do anything. The Antecessors would probably just ignore them.
The VendX flagship stopped and opened fire… at the planet.
The CA mist released VendX ships, shooting out like they’d been fired from a cannon. They swerved away from the sigil and also targeted the planet.
The clumps of Seneca wreckage veered away from the sigil and flew towards Enaya.
Then the sigil began to move. It was slow at first, a slight rotation, but the shift in position was clear. It wasn’t aimed at the asteroid now, it was looking towards the planet.
“What did you do?” asked PT.
“Nothing much,” said Ubik.
“You’re targeting the planet,” said Fig. “Are you going to destroy it? I thought you wanted to make it easier for the Antecessors.”
“Was this your plan all along?” said Tezla. “You want to prevent the Antecessors getting hold of the Enayans? By killing them all?”
There was a moment’s silence as the people in the room tried to understand what was going on.
There was a rumble as the walls around them shook. It wasn’t very strong but it was enough to make everyone stop and look around.
“Are we under attack?” asked PT.
“That wasn’t an attack, that was a failsafe,” said Ubik. “Probably. Hey, PT, what’s Ramon doing?”
There was a pause. “He isn’t here.”
“Looks like your dad isn’t happy with my plan,” said Ubik.
Fig frowned. “What do you mean?”
A figure appeared at the entrance to the shaft. It was the simpleton Ramon Ollo they had left behind, or thought they had.
“What are you doing to my planet,” he said, only he didn’t sound so simple anymore.
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