The images in Point-Two’s mind were overwhelming. He was seeing too much at once and closing his eyes did nothing to alleviate the problem. He was everywhere at once, not able to control what he saw and no way to turn down the intensity.
He was aware of all the different beings on the asteroid and one group in particular. They were humanoid but not human — not even close. They were faceless and pale, sickly in their movements, struggling to emerge from a long sleep. And they were angry.
They were furious, in fact, and searching for their enemy.
Point-Two wasn’t sure what they were or how he knew how they felt, but he didn’t like it. They were emerging from somewhere even deeper within the asteroid, and they were all heading for the same location. A chamber somewhere between where he was currently and the surface.
He wasn’t just seeing them the way you might via a camera, he was with them and around them and part of them. It made his skin crawl. He would have turned away if possible, but he couldn’t move. Even though he wasn’t touching the sides of the compartment he had slid into at Ubik’s insistence — something he was deeply regretting — he was held in place by forces all around him applying invisible pressure, forcing him to keep watching.
“They’re coming,” he managed to shout. He didn’t know what they were or what they wanted, but a warning to others seemed the correct response.
“Who?” he heard Ubik ask.
“I don’t know. Things.”
“No, they’re alive. There are lots of them and they don’t have faces.”
“So no mouths,” said Ubik, which seemed an odd thing to focus on.
“Get me out of here.” Point-Two’s face was stretching, his mouth pulling back into a grimace as the images began piling up on top of each other. It was like being under several Gs but from the inside out.
“What else do you see?” said Ubik, ignoring the request.
“Ubik, you arghhhhh….” The noise coming out of his throat didn’t seem to belong to him. He wasn’t in pain but the discomfort was maddening, like being unable to scratch an itch deep in his brain.
He needed to get out. If Ubik wasn’t going to help, he would have to find his own way. Chances were there was something to be learned here, a way to access information, maybe. He already felt like he was part of the inner-workings of what was clearly far more than just a big lump of rock. But he didn’t care. It was too much for his brain to handle.
“Can you go any deeper?” said Ubik. “Look down. What’s at the heart of the asteroid?”
Ubik wasn’t appreciating Point-Two’s position. It was all very well wanting to use this opportunity to their advantage, but it was completely different when you were the one having your brain stuffed to the point of bursting.
“Shut up and get me arghhhh…” It was coming in waves now. Blasts of images from all across the asteroid, everything of equal importance, from the desolate craters on the surface to the empty chambers inside the Antecessor facility. There were droids moving somewhere. There were people in suits — he thought he recognised them. There were strange glowing pods in the walls. There were ships in the sky and there were white, faceless creatures crawling through the rock.
Nothing took precedence, nothing was marked as important. It was all the same and he was drowning in it.
“Don’t pass out,” shouted Ubik from somewhere near Point-Two’s feet. “You’re doing really well. Also, try not to scream so much.”
Point-Two was used to being in confined spaces. On the Liberator Garu, maintenance work often required you to crawl into a tight passage between vast machines to get to a section that needed repairing or replacing. It wasn’t safe and it was never comfortable, but you got used to it. Anyone with claustrophobia had it stripped out of them, either through repeated exposure or by surgical procedure. You couldn’t afford to worry about irrational fear of small spaces when any problem with the ship’s engines was likely to kill everyone aboard.
It had never been a problem for Point-Two. He could slide into the narrowest of crawlspaces and do whatever needed to be done.
But this was different. This was a conduit into a much bigger space. One that was too full of too much. It was like being in a compactor that was slowly closing in on him, crushing him with the weight of complete information.
“It’s too much, it’s too much.”
“Try focusing on one thing,” said Ubik. “Whatever feels the most important.”
The only matter Point-Two considered important was getting out of his tube prison, but there was no way to get purchase on any surface to be able to push himself out. The pressure being exerted on him to keep him in place had no form or substance to it. While it could apply a force on him, he wasn’t able to do the reverse.
“Ubik…” he yelled.
“Keep it down, you don’t want to attract any attention.”
“I’m going to die, you bastard.”
“Don’t exaggerate. You’ll suffer brain damage at worst. We can keep you alive for years in that condition.” There was going to be no sympathy coming his way from Ubik. The little shit had known this would happen. Had planned for it.
Another wave of images hit him. He saw the Seneca women shooting their guns. Was he hallucinating now? Was any of what he was seeing real?
He was being too easily distracted. If he was going to extract himself from this place he would have to figure out a way to either turn off the pressure holding him in place or change it to push him out.
He slowed his breath and tried to achieve some form of zenity in his mind. Panic would only make things worse, if that was possible.
His mind was connected to this thing, this brain built by Ubik. If it could send images in, perhaps he could send them out. He wasn’t sure what good that would do, but there didn’t seem to be much else available to him.
Point-Two stopped trying to shield himself from the influx of images and looked directly into the source. He realised it was dangerous but he was ready to retreat if it became too painful.
It wasn’t painful at all. In fact, he should have done this earlier. Instead of overwhelming his mind, he was able to surf over the images, skimming over the top without having to absorb them fully.
With a little distance, he was able to see that there was a network that spread throughout the rock. He was able to see it all at once, which was disorienting, or he could move from one place to another.
Point-Two found he could follow different routes, flowing through them like he was in a waterslide. He had no idea where he was going but it was a lot less stressful than having everything poured into his brain at once. Now he just had to find the exit.
Maybe the plan wasn’t so bad. He could search the entire asteroid without moving and find the quickest way back to the surface, while avoiding anything that looked dangerous.
“What about these creatures?” said Ubik. “Are they coming this way? Are they still angry? What are they wearing? PT, concentrate. Our lives are in your hands.”
Point-Two’s body began to tremble. It was because Ubik had grabbed his foot and was shaking it to get his attention. He found himself unable to stay apart from the data streams he had managed to skim over and dropped into them.
Once more he became overwhelmed. The images were even faster now, flying in and out of his field of vision. He couldn’t make sense of any of it. The only thing that stood out were the creatures. There were so many of them, they were impossible to miss.
They were digging their way through solid rock, squeezing through cracks a worm would find it difficult to navigate. Their bodies seemed to have no bones even though they were built to look like humans, the same number of limbs, the same number of digits.
Point-Two found it unpleasant to observe them. He felt as though they were going to infect him the way they had the asteroid. They were humanoid but they reminded him of maggots, infesting a corpse.
He passed beyond them.
Lights glowed around him. They were different colours, emitting a power reminiscent of organics. But they were much bigger, and they contained something else.
Point-Two reached his mind towards the lights. They were spread out but he was able to approach them all at the same time. His mind touched them and the white creatures became aware of him.
He could sense them looking at him, even though they had no eyes. Their hostility rose sharply, pushing his mind back. There was something they were protecting. It was inside the lights. He pushed his mind forward to investigate and hundreds of minds attacked him.
Everything went black. There were no lights, no deluge of images. Darkness. Not even Ubik’s voice could reach him here, so at least there was that.
Like the wind, you must rush where you will. Like the sea, I must remain in place.
It wasn’t a voice, not words. The idea appeared in his head but he recognised that it hadn’t come from him.
You will fail and fall again. I will renew and restart what was lost.
This time from a different source. He was in the middle of a conversation. Between who?
Death is the beginning of life. I will rise from the ashes.
It was hard to follow what was being said, because it wasn’t being said. The ideas were filtering into Point-Two’s mind by some mysterious process. He wasn’t even sure if he was following correctly.
My son is the only one who can control what will live on in spite of your wanton destruction.
Ramon Ollo, it had to be. Arguing with the Intercessors? Somehow, Point-Two had found his way into the place where they existed. It wasn’t somewhere he particularly wanted to be.
Who are you?
Point-Two didn’t respond. Maybe the thought wasn’t directed at him.
How did you get here?
He was still surrounded by pitch blackness. He wondered if he could quietly leave the same way he had come in. He would need to work out how he came in to do that, though.
You can’t leave. He wasn’t sure which of them was speaking now. You are part of us now.
The idea of being stuck here forever sent a surge of panic through Point-Two.
No, don’t do that, no…
Something reached for him. He felt its presence and twisted away from it instinctively, his mind responding the way his body would. There were obstructions in his mind, placed there to stop him. He bent and spun to avoid them. Mental gymnastics.
Point-Two could suddenly see. He could see Fig standing in front of him, small and helpless. The Guardian was by his side.
“You aren’t my father.” Fig looked slightly confused.
“I know,” said Point-Two. “Where’s Ubik? I’m going to kill him.”
“PT?” said Fig, a look of wonder on his face. “Is that you?”
“Yeah. Why, can’t you tell?”
“Hey!” called a voice from behind him.
Point-Two turned slowly. The chamber seemed to rotate around him. He saw Ubik, a small figure inside a giant lattice.
“What do you want?”
“You’ve taken control,” said Ubik. “I knew you could do it.”
“Taken control of what?”
“The asteroid,” said Ubik gleefully. “You are the asteroid.”
Point-Two couldn’t understand what Ubik was saying. He was still in the tube next to Ubik, he was just seeing the world from out here from the perspective of the giant head. That didn’t mean he was the giant head.
“Ubik, get me out of there.”
“Out of where? You’re already out.”
“Ubik…” He reached out to grab Ubik out of instinct but he didn’t have any arms. Ubik came flying towards him.
Wait. He could feel the extension of his body. Gravity was his limbs. He was the asteroid.