Point-Two ran down the slope with the wind at his back, lifting him over outcrops and allowing him to glide through the air several metres at a time. It made the run to the base quick and easy.
If he had lost his balance, he would have probably smashed into the rocky ground with quite some force and severely injured himself, but his balance didn’t let him down and he made it to the entrance to the base in long elegant strides.
Gravity on the asteroid was all over the place, rising and falling at random but Point-Two could feel the changes coming and used the shifts to his advantage. It was like this place had been made for him. Of course, it hadn’t. It had been made for Figaro Ollo, to provide him with a launching pad into the universe, into the hands of the Antecessors (assuming they had hands). And it had inadvertently been designed for Ubik to do with as he pleased, a toy perfectly created to suit his inscrutable talents.
But it was Point-Two who was making full use of this place. And it was he who would decide what would happen to it. As soon as he made it to the control room, he would set about correcting the mistakes of those who thought they could just do as they pleased and let others suffer the consequences.
His time connected to the inner-workings of the Intercessor sensor array had given him enough insight to know how to stop this madness. The asteroid, the sigil, the explosives wandering around them, they would all be sucked into the wormhole like effluence down a drain and that would be that. Simple waste disposal. All he had to do was get to the control room and convince Fig to open the wormhole and Ubik to deal with any problems that might arise
It wasn’t a foolproof plan — he needed the others to help him get it done — but he had leverage. If they didn’t do as he said, they would all die.
He stopped once he ducked under the semi-raised shutter and got inside the long passage that led into the main base. He was sheltered from the wind here and could finally hear again. He turned to look back at who was still with him having not bothered on the run here, not wanting to find out he was on his own.
Fig came skidding under the raised shutter first. “I don’t know how you move like that,” he said, his eyes shining. “If I hadn’t been following your lead, I would have fallen flat on my face.”
Ubik came rolling under the shutter and then sprang to his feet. He looked unfazed as usual. “They should film the next Delgados ad here,” he said. “Place was built for them. You two should get a pair. You won’t regret it.”
They waited for a moment but there was no sign of Nifell.
“Is he coming?” asked Point-Two.
Ubik bent down and looked through the gap out into the storm. “Can’t see him. Be along in a minute, I expect.” He stood up straight again. “We should probably keep moving.”
Point-Two nodded and started jogging towards the control room.
“I need you to open the wormhole,” said Point-Two as they ran three abreast.
“There’s an emergency override,” said Fig. “It’s to slam the wormhole closed, usually, but it can be used to force it open. But it won’t do anything once it’s active. It’s too far away.”
“That’s fine,” said Point-Two. “The controls you use to open and close it are only the basic operations. The wormhole is actually capable of a lot more.”
“You saw this when you were in Ubik’s cradle?” asked Fig.
“Yeah. I had access to their systems for a bit.”
“And you know how to operate the wormhole?” said Fig.
“No,” said Point-Two. “But the Intercessors will take care of that part.”
“They will?” said Fig. “How do you know?”
“Yeah, how?” piped up Ubik. “What did they promise you?”
“They didn’t promise me anything,” said Point-Two. “I’ve never spoken to them about it. I just know they won’t have a choice. All we have to do is open—” He stopped just as they rounded the corner and entered the control room where Ramon Ollo was waiting for them.
In addition to Ramon were Chukka and a very apprehensive-looking Bashir. There was no sign of the Guardians or the Seneca mercenaries.
“I didn’t expect to see you so soon,” said Ramon Ollo. “You came to your senses?”
Seeing the man they’d left deep inside the asteroid suddenly, in the very place they needed to be, came as a bit of a shock. He didn’t look very pleased to see them.
“We didn’t want to come back,” said Fig, his whole demeanour changing at the sight of his father. He was trying to indicate it was a matter of urgency but he sounded like he was making some kind of desperate excuse, like a child stood next to a broken vase.
“No fool would return back to the cage they had just fled from if it wasn’t the only option available to them,” said Ramon Ollo. His words were precise and sharp enough to cut. “You must have decided to take control of the asteroid from here. It won’t work. I won’t allow it.”
“Mr Ollo,” said Ubik, “you can rest assured we have no intention of trying to change the asteroid’s course. We’re going to open the wormhole!” He looked around the room but no one responded to his announcement.
Ramon’s eyebrows sank down his forehead in consternation. “What good will that do?”
“I haven’t the foggiest,” said Ubik. “It wasn't my idea, it was his.” He pointed at Point-Two.
Ramon ignored Point-Two and rested his gaze on his son. “Just stay there. I don’t have time to deal with you, if any of you two try to make a move, I’ll have to kill you.” He spoke with casual indifference and then turned around.
There was a large control panel with a multitude of knobs and buttons that he now approached like a piano player at a concert, flexing his fingers and cracking his knuckles. “I need everyone to be quiet.” He began to work the console and the screen on the wall above it filled with lines and numbers.
“We can save everyone,” said Point-Two.
“Father…” said Fig.
“Do not interrupt me!” The normally serene Ramon snapped out the words. Fig flinched. Not so much as this father’s aggressive tone but more at his need to minimise distractions. Things had to be bad for a problem to require Ramon Ollo’s complete attention.
“Please,” said Point-Two, “There’s no time to waste. The sigil can’t be stopped. They won’t take Fig in their current condition, their only choice is to destroy everyone and everything in this quadrant. They know he’ll survive and they can send another ship for him. They just need him to stay here and wait.”
Hearing him say this, Ramon Ollo’s expression became calm once more. “And you know this?”
“Check the energy fields around the sigil,” said Point-Two. “They’ve undergone a change since the sigil got hit by that beam of light. Right?”
Ramon shook his head. “That beam of light… You know its source?”
“It’s a mystery,” said Ubik. “Maybe a misfire.”
Ramon Ollo pressed some buttons and then checked the readings on the screen.
“The energy fields are going to erupt, but…” Ramon’s voice drifted away.
“But they aren’t trying to stop it, they’re accelerating it,” Point-Two finished for him.
“They’ve already given up,” said Ramon. “Foolish cowards.”
Point-Two nodded and slowly approached Ramon. Ubik followed, keeping a watchful eye on the surroundings, with Fig bringing up the rear, rubbing the back of his neck and doing his best not to catch his father’s attention. The three of them crowded around him.
Ramon’s hands were moving at a blur across the console as he tried to assess the situation. Point-Two was sure he would be able to rectify it, eventually, but that would take far too long. The Antecessors were going to deliberately lay waste to the sector so no one would be able to take Fig away from them. With the very material of space in flux, no one would be able to enter the quadrant until the next Antecessor ship.
“We can move everything into the wormhole, Mr Ollo. You can still carry on dealing with the Intercessors, just not here.” Point-Two wanted it to sound like a viable alternative, but he didn’t know how to best present it to someone like Ramon Ollo; someone who liked to do things their own way.
A star chart appeared on the screen showing the stars and planets in the region, and then it shrank down, zooming in on the wormhole and the objects near it, natural and artificial. Ramon hadn’t responded in words but he seemed to be listening. The image of the planet and the wormhole turned in three dimensions, showing clearly the distances involved.
“Open the wormhole,” said Point-Two.
There was a click from the console and the image on the screen changed. The wormhole spun open like an iris and began to expand. The lines of energy radiating from it spread out like ripples on a pond.
It was just a simulation, a model of what would happen — nothing. It lacked the alien input that would make it have any kind of effect.
Ramon was immersed in the map. He played and replayed various scenarios, each lasting a fraction of a second before the next one, trying them on to see which fit best. He scoured the possibilities for the safest and fastest escape route for them all.
“If you just open the wormhole, the Intercessors will do the rest.” Point-Two was trying to diplomatically steer Ramon towards following simple instructions. Smart people were a nightmare to guide. He looked over at Ubik for help.
“We don’t need the Intercessors,” said Ramon.
On the star chart, lines were drawn beginning from the wormhole and spreading out at different angles until the endpoint for each became the asteroid, the sigil, the other ships or what was left of them.
“If we rely on them when we don’t need to, they will have too much of an advantage.”
Point-Two could see the sense in what he was saying. If things went to plan, everything would be dragged into the wormhole and sail off into the endless abyss. At least, that was what the model suggested.
But Ramon’s model didn’t take the Intercessors into account.
“Mr Ollo, I’ve seen what the Intercessors can do with the wormhole. When I was connected to their sensor array, I—”
“So have I,” cut in Ramon. “I was also deeply embedded with them.” He carried on twiddling knobs.
Point-Two turned to look at Fig and Ubik. Fig was wincing slightly and Ubik was encouraging him to try again. Their unwilling expressions made it clear they were leaving this one to him.
“But—” he began.
Ramon stopped and gave Point-Two his undivided attention for about three seconds. “Do you really think I’m going to give up my planet?” He turned back to the console.
Point-Two was quiet for a moment. No one else spoke. Who would question the great Ramon Ollo? Once you looked into his eyes, you didn’t dare object, you merely did as you were told. His approach, even if it lacked full information, was bound to be better than the best, fully-informed plan from some kid.
Point-Two looked at the screen and took a moment to absorb what it told him. The wormhole was no longer the focus. “You’re going to ram the sigil?”
“I’m going to dock with the sigil,” said Ramon Ollo. “Then, with the help of the Intercessors, I’m going to take control of it.”
It was certainly a bold idea. Ramon Ollo wasn’t satisfied with merely opening a big plughole and hoping all the quadrant’s problems would be drained away, he was going to use this crisis as an opportunity. As would be expected of someone like Ramon Ollo.
Point-Two had spent his life around spaceships. The design of the sigil, as far as he could, didn’t allow for other crafts or vehicles to come alongside and throw over a gangplank. “Does the sigil have a docking port?”
“No,” said Ramon. “I’ll be improvising one.”
“That’s insane,” said Ubik. “The sigil’s on fire, it will probably explode before you get there and will definitely explode once you slam into it. I love it.”
After completing his preparations, Ramon Ollo let out a long breath and nodded at the screen. “I’m ready.” He seemed to be talking to the screen, or through it. Was he seeking help from the Intercessors now or just their consent?
Loud wrenching sounds vibrated through the floor and the asteroid trembled like a traitor whose heart was full of remorse. The sigil was on the screen, still ablaze with purple flames forming a halo. It was also filling up more and more of the screen as they closed in on it. It didn’t feel like a docking approach, it was more like ramming speed.
The sigil spun on all axles like a gyroscope and moved away, veering starboard. Its trajectory changed so it was no longer directly headed for the planet, but it was still going in the same general direction.
Ramon made adjustments and the asteroid changed course, but the sigil did likewise.
“You won’t be able to catch it in time,” said Ubik. “You need to stop the sigil’s evasive manoeuvres.”
“You have a suggestion?” said Ramon.
Ubik pointed. “There’s a ship in Enaya’s orbit, directly ahead.”
The screen changed to show the VendX flagship.
Ramon Ollo seemed to think for a moment and then opened a channel. “VGV Summer Sail, this is Ramon Ollo. Respond.”
There was no response. Ramon turned to look at Chukka. “You. Hail them.”
Chukka stepped forward. She had been watching silently so far, not even looking like she wanted to contribute anything. Now she stepped forward.
She frowned a little, looked at Ramon with intimidated eyes and then faced the screen and took a breath. “This is PFC Chukka, Major of the PR Department, acting-head of the VendX Priority Fleet, respond.”
“This is the VendX Galactic Vessel Summer Sail, um, how can we be of assistance?” came the immediate response.
Chukka turned to Ramon. He passed her a note.
“I require you to…” A flash of surprise passed over her. Ramon gave her a stern glare. “You need to set an intercepting course with the sigil — the Antecessor construct headed in your direction.”
There was a pause.
“We are currently unable to comply. Unfortunately, we have temporarily lost control of navigation and steering. Normal service will be resumed shortly.”
“What is going on?” demanded a different voice, one altogether more imposing. “Major Chukka, report.”
“Chairman?” Chukka’s face fell. Her eyes darted from the screen to Ramon and back again. “Er, nothing’s wrong. Everything’s under control. We’re all fine here. Er… how are you?”
“Report!” boomed the voice, suddenly becoming irresistibly compelling.
Chukka stiffened, her body going from shaking leaf to solid tree trunk. Her head jerked up and her eyes turned blank white. “Flee,” she said in a lifeless monotone. “Death. Destruction. Imminent collision.” She gritted her teeth as though fighting against some overwhelming force inside her head. “The energy fields are going to erupt, hurry up and steer the flagship away from here.”
Ramon’s eyes flashed bright red and there was a muted shriek on the other end of the line. At the same time, his arm shot out, striking Chukka’s mouth with his forearm. She went flying into Ubik’s arms.
“I’ll spare your life for now,” Ramon coldly snorted, “but once this crisis is averted, I’ll settle accounts with you.”
The VendX ship appeared on the screen. It seemed to lose control and began rotating wildly.
Ubik pushed Chukka back to her feet. “You might want to look into a new career. Grandma? Could you turn the ship around and come this way, please?”
“Certainly, dear,” said an elderly female voice.
“Thank you, Grandma.”
“Grandma?” said Chukka.
“Just a woman who knows how to get the job done,” said Ubik.
A burning hatred flashed across Chukka’s eyes. She hadn’t expected that this seemingly insignificant young man would actually cause her so much trouble. If she had known this was going to happen, she would have simply killed him back when she had the chance. She hated Ubik deeply and couldn’t wait to peel off his skin and torture him brutally.
Ubik didn’t seem to mind.
The VendX ship spun around and blasted its engine, making a beeline for the sigil. Everyone watched the two get closer and closer. The asteroid moved in from one side while the VendX ship closed in from the other. The sigil would have to crash into the Summer Sail if it wanted to avoid being non-consensually docked by Ramon Ollo, and that seemed to be what it intended to do. But then the VendX ship sailed past the sigil, missing it completely and not stopping. The engines lit up even fiercer and the ship weaved through the detritus left behind the sigil, aiming for the wormhole.
“Where’s it going?” said Point-Two.
“You wanted to open the wormhole, didn’t you?” said Ubik. “VendX has tech that can force open wormholes. It’s a bit clumsy, but it should do.”
“No!” shouted Ramon Ollo.
“Grandma, please do the honours,” said Ubik.
The VendX ship shuddered and the wormhole opened.
The entire asteroid seemed to lose stability and began tumbling through space, knocking everyone off their feet and sending them smashing into the walls.
“Look outside!” Bashir suddenly screamed.
Everyone turned their eyes to the screens.
Outside, the sigil was sending out visible ripples of light that were rapidly spreading. The smaller objects around it were all bursting, creating a chaotic chain reaction of explosions.
The wormhole had spiralled open but the central portal was much bigger than it should be, a massive black hole that seemed to be capable of swallowing everything around it, like some giant beast. In front of this horrifying display of force, Point-Two could only consider his complete insignificance.
Ubik, on the other hand, was grinning like an idiot.
A deafening humming sound rang out, and the asteroid’s speed plummeted. Not only that, but some kind of massive, invisible force latched onto it, making it impossible to move forward.
Everything began to move backwards, dragged towards the wormhole, which was spinning around like a whirlpool.
“It’s a domain eruption,” said Ramon. “The space surrounding the wormhole is going to collapse and the energy released will wipe out everything.”
“We need to get out of here,” screamed Bashir.
“Where to?” said Chukka. “You want us to outrun a collapsing wormhole.”
Everyone in the room went deathly pale; apart from Ubik who seemed delighted with how things were going.
Under the influence of the invisible force, everything began to fly backwards at an increasing rate.
“It’s too late! It’s too late!” Bashir’s face went ashen as her body shook like a leaf in a storm, muttering unconsciously, “It’s all over.”
Point-Two’s eyes shrank and a sense of terror he was unable to suppress spread from the depths of his heart. Outside, the unimaginable energy lingering around the massive wormhole was erupting, sending out visible ripples of light that were rapidly spreading across the entire sector.
Ramon shouted out commands and tried to stabilise the asteroid, but it was all to no avail.
The asteroid and the sigil on the verge of exploding and all the other objects within the wormhole’s grasp were being drawn inexorably into the dark hole, faster and faster.
And then the wormhole snapped shut, back to a harmless nebula. Space was silent and empty, other for the orange planet of Enaya. Everything else had been swallowed.
The last thing Point-Two thought before he lost consciousness was wondering why right at the end when things were at their craziest, Ubik had been nowhere to be seen.