Book 3 – 36: Deboned

Wormhole Island - Interior.

Bone Room.

 

Point-Two closed his mouth and the screaming stopped. It was more shock than pain that had caused him to start wailing the moment he regained consciousness. He was suddenly not familiar with anything he was feeling.

He lay on the ground breathing heavily, trying to work out why his body felt so different, not daring to move in case something fell off.

His skin was vibrating all over his body, but it wasn’t attached to him. He was inside a suit of his own skin and it was one size too big. It was a very odd sensation.

The skin on his face was especially unnatural in the way it sat on the front of his head. He felt like if he moved to look to the side, his face would slide right off his skull.

“Are you okay?” asked a female voice. A moment later, Leyla’s face floated into view over his own.

Point-Two used the least amounts of facial muscles possible to say, “Yes,” without really knowing if that was true. “I think so. Do I look okay?” He looked up at her by rolling his eyes as far as they would go, and waited for a response.

“Sure,” she said, in a very non-committal manner. “I guess.”

It was all too much for him. Whatever everyone was trying so hard to keep from him, it wasn’t going to make a difference in the long run. What was done was done. It was better to know the truth and deal with whatever came after that.

With a tensing of every part of him that was capable of being tensed, he sat up and then pushed himself up to his feet.

His skin did not fall off but his whole body was tingling. It was like he was in the middle of a static storm.

The room swam around him for a moment, and then clicked into place.

Point-Two was used to the vertiginous feeling that sometimes accompanied changes in pressure or altitude. He had been in enough extreme gravity transitions to be able to hold it together long enough for his body to adjust. At least, that was true for his old body.

He looked down at himself. Everything looked the same as before, as far as he could tell. Maybe his arms were a bit longer? No, he was just imagining it. He stomped his feet up and down a couple of times. It was odd at first, like picking up a case you thought was full but was empty. That lasted for a couple of seconds and he was back to normal.

“Now isn’t the time for dancing,” said Ubik. “How do you feel?”

Point-Two stopped examining himself and looked up. “I feel different. How do I test my organics?”

He had six organics freshly installed. He wanted to try them out. He wanted to know what he was capable of.

“Well,” said Ubik, clearly preparing to make something up on the spot, “what you could… can you stop that? It’s distracting.” He had turned to talk to Weyla, who was standing next to him, staring into his ear.

“What happened in there?” she said, as though she was referring to the inside of his skull. “Why are all the lights on?” She looked cross and suspicious, like she knew Ubik had done something terrible and she wasn’t willing to wait for the evidence to turn up before she started making accusations. It was a pretty solid approach to dealing with Ubik.

Point-Two was still acclimatising to not being a disembodied series of thoughts, so he hadn’t really taken in his surroundings. He did so now.

It had been a darkened room with a single giant bone — black and glossy — floating in the middle. Now, it was a well-illuminated room, with walls flickering with streaks of light. With a giant black bone in the middle.

“I did nothing,” said Ubik, “apart from save you all. Now, what amazing thing should I do next?” He put his fingers together to form a pyramid under his chin. “Oh, yes. Let’s take this.”

Ubik turned to face the bone and put both arms around it. He didn’t have the reach to get all the way around, but he still tried to move it, repositioning to get a better grip. He was unable to move it in any way whatsoever.

“Damn, this thing is heavy. Come one, give me a hand.”

“We need to get out of here,” said Leyla. She was looking at Fig. “Right now.”

“Nobody’s nghhh stopping arghhh you,” said Ubik through his grunts. He had his back to the bone as he tried to push it off its spot. “Leave whenever you want.”

“Your mother would want you to come with us,” said Leyla.

Fig, who had been quietly stretching and inspecting parts of his body, turned to Leyla with a frown. “How would you know what my mother wants?”

It was noticeable how humble and hesitant Fig was when it came to making choices and decisions, but how completely resolute and confident he became when dealing with women. In particular, the women of the Seneca Corps. He gave their suggestions very little consideration and no respect whatsoever.

“I just meant—”

“We’re here for a reason,” said Fig. “We’ll leave when it’s time. No need to concern yourself.”

Leyla, herself a very confident and resolute person, also changed her manner when dealing with Fig. He was a male and deserving of very little regard, but he was also the son of Nigella Matton-Ollo, and so a unique existence.

Point-Two had no interest in the politics — gender or otherwise — of the great institutions of the outer regions. He had other things to worry about.

“Fig, how do I activate my organic?”

Fig turned and walked towards Point-Two, leaving Leyla standing there about to say something but with no one to say it to.

“It shouldn’t be too hard. Can’t you feel it? Somewhere in your chest?”

Point-Two looked down at his chest. “No. I don’t feel anything.”

“Hmm. It could be yours is different because of the fusion process. It might be more integrated throughout your body because of the way…” His voice drifted off.

It wasn’t surprising his six organics would be different to the normal way of things. He had undergone a process no human had before. The only person who might have some inkling was Fig, who had fused two organics together. But it seemed Fig’s outcome was not so dissimilar to what a single organic felt like. Six was apparently something else entirely.

If he really had by some miracle managed to combine six organics into one, Point-Two was determined to at least find out the result of such a momentous experiment. Even if it was going to be a short-lived one.

He stood there, slightly apart from everyone, and looked for something to target with his new ability.

The only thing that stood out was the bone. Ubik had now managed to climb on top of it and was straddling like he was about to ride it off into the sunset.

“Don’t just stand there, give me a push.”

“Ubik, why do you want that thing?” said Fig.

“It’s going to be worth a lot of money. And it still has a lot of secrets in it.”

“I thought you emptied all the organics into PT,” said Weyla.

“That was just the first bunch of stuff I stumbled across. There’s plenty more in this baby.” Ubik patted the side of his static ride.

“Didn’t you tell the parasite the bone belonged to it?” asked Fig.

“I said it could stay inside. I didn’t say the bone would stay here.” Ubik bounced up and down trying to get the bone moving.

Point-Two squinted slightly and focused on the long black object.

Point-Two didn’t know what effect his organic would have. He might have a destructive ability and he didn’t want to blow anything up, so he was tentative. At the first sign of danger, he would back-off. He just wanted an inkling of the kind of ability it was. But he was expecting whatever it was to be big and powerful. Six organics wouldn’t produce a small fart in the wind, surely. So he needed to be very gentle.

He controlled his breathing and concentrated all thoughts towards the bone.

It started as a warm feeling in his stomach. It was a tiny point of heat slowly getting bigger, like he was firing up a furnace in his belly. Then there was something behind his eyes. The whole thing was gradual and didn’t feel out of his control.

The bone didn’t seem affected at all.

“What are you doing?” asked Ubik, suddenly noticing Point-Two.

“Nothing,” said Point-Two through gritted teeth, keeping his focus on the bone. Something was definitely happening, but it wasn’t clear what exactly.

Ubik looked concerned. “You aren’t using your ability on my bone, are you?”

Point-Two snorted, which was all he could do right then.

It overwhelmed him in an instant. One moment it was slowly building, the next it was flowing out of him. A wave of energy shot towards the bone. Ubik just about managed to dive off the bone and tumble onto the floor.

“Stop me, I can’t control it,” was what Point-Two tried to say, but it came out as an unintelligible yell.

He felt the life pour out of him, a terrible weakness enveloping him as all hope left. Darkness closed in like shutters.

And then it stopped. Like an off switch had been hit. He looked up and Fig had his hand on Point-Two’s shoulder, his eyes glowing.

Point-Two sank to the floor, exhausted.

“What did you do to my bone?” said Ubik.

Point-Two looked at Ubik holding a black bone about the size of his forearm.

“This is brilliant,” continued Ubik, elated. “You can shrink things.”

It didn’t feel like a particularly brilliant thing. Six organics and a close brush with death, all so he could manifest the ability to make things smaller and more convenient for packing? Hardly the birth of a new era.

“Thanks,” he said to Fig. His suppression ability had saved Point-Two from suiciding on his first attempt.

“Were you trying to make the bone smaller?” asked Fig.

“No. I wasn’t trying anything.” He couldn’t help but feel disappointed. “It’s not really a great ability, is it?”

“I don’t think that’s the only thing it can do,” said Fig. “You should try making things bigger or changing their shape. Not now, though.”

Changing the size and shape of things. Point-Two wasn’t sure if that was a powerful thing or not. If he could transform one thing into an entirely different thing, would that be useful? Could he do it to living things? Could he do it to himself?

And could he change things back?

“This is great,” said Ubik, holding the bone in his hand and turning it around to inspect it. “We can take it with us. Time to go.”

“Go where?” said Leyla.

“To the sigil,” said Ubik. “Quickest way off this rotten corpse.”

“Corpse?” said Fig. “You mean this ship?”

“It’s not a ship, it’s a body,” said Ubik. “The Fourth’s body.”

“You said it was a prison,” said Point-Two.

“What is a body if not a prison for our souls,” said Ubik grandly.

“And the bone?” asked Point-Two. “What is it really doing here?”

“This? This is what’s been keeping everything shut down and inactive. But now that you’ve emptied all of its juice, everything’s back online. Let’s go.” Ubik set off, bone held aloft in his hand.

They followed him as he rushed out of the room with the air of someone who knew exactly where he was going. Even before they’d managed to exit the room, he came running back.

“Slight change of plans,” he called out as he rushed past them in the opposite direction.

Through the open doorway, the passage was brightly lit, and a group of droids were rushing towards them, led, it seemed, by VendX’s Major Chukka.

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