Elect City Battle Arenod™.
Point-Two followed the drone out of the room and into the elevator. As usual, when Ubik was involved things got messy. Why were the Seneca Corps here? It couldn’t be a coincidence.
Ubik looked relaxed and unfazed. Point-Two kept one eye on him and one on the drone. The drone couldn’t be trusted and there was a good chance it would use those needles it had fired at its own subordinates on them at some point.
Bam and the others had trusted Vox, followed him in the hope of freeing their people from decades of tyrannical rule, and he had turned out to be just another corporate lackey trying to gain market share.
If that was the way Node PLC operated, then they wouldn’t hesitate to eliminate a couple of nobodies once their usefulness came to an end.
Having said that, Point-Two knew only too well that if anyone was going to get him killed, it would be Ubik. A malicious agent working in corporate espionage was no match for the crown prince of chaos, who was currently looking around the elevator while humming. Point-Two had come to recognise that as a sign of impending disaster. Although, when he wasn’t humming, that was also a sign of impending disaster.
“I have arranged for a vehicle to meet us in the underground garage,” said Vox. “It will take us directly to the Ollo residence. It is a large compound, protected by the most advanced security matrix on the planet. Are you sure you’ll be able to bypass it?”
“Shouldn’t be a problem,” said Ubik, shuffling across the elevator so that he was behind the drone. “We can get in via the Ollo Exhibition Hall. Do you know if they have a gift shop?”
“Yes,” said Vox. “They have a very big one.”
“Great,” said Ubik, his eyes glittering. “I hope it’s not closed. I bet they sell some really cool stuff.”
Ubik could have been rambling as a way to cause a distraction. Keep Vox busy while he removed the drone’s inner-workings and then put them back upside down so the drone wouldn’t be able to fire its darts correctly. That was what a normal person might try.
But Vox was already aware of Ubik’s penchant for fiddling with tronics, and had already dodged an attempt by Ubik to get into the drone’s internal system, which was an impressive achievement and indicative of Vox’s prowess — you didn’t hold down a long-term cover as a resistance leader without knowing how to read people and preempt their attempts to ruin your plans.
What was more likely was that Ubik really was excited to visit The Ramon Ollo gift shop, where he planned to make several purchases. Which he would probably get Vox to pay for them.
“Aren’t we surrounded by the city’s security forces?” asked Point-Two.
“Yes,” said Vox. “The entire building is being watched from all angles, with snipers positioned on rooftops. You’ve caused quite a reaction. But we have lines of access in an out of the Arenod that they aren’t aware of. Once we exit the building, we will travel through a series of heavily-shielded tunnels until we are outside the city limits, and beyond the city’s jurisdiction. We use it to ferry around our bigger stars out of the media glare. It helps to cultivate mystique.”
Vox, it seemed to Point-Two, had been immersed in the entertainment industry a little too long.
The elevator doors opened. They were under the arena in a large parking area that was empty, apart from the sleek vehicle hovering in front of them. It was old and ornate. If it was used to discreetly move celebrities around, it did a remarkable job considering how eye-catching it was.
It was gold, it had fins and wings that seemed to have no aerodynamic purpose, and it had the FLEM logo emblazoned all over it. On the plus side, It looked like it could comfortably seat six people, so plenty of legroom.
“This is our premier limousine vehicle for luxury travel, powered by a proprietary engine designed by Powernode Interactive, a subsidiary of…”
“He’s put it on playback,” said Ubik. The drone continued informing them about the vehicles impressive specs.
“Why?” said Point-Two. “What’s he up to?”
Ubik leaned towards the drone, hands in pockets. “Nothing much, I think he’s transferring himself into the limo and playing the recorded message instead of some music. Smart. He’s probably holed up in some secret base, might not even be on the planet. But with how old this equipment is, any great distance is going to create lag. It’s fine once the connection’s secured, but the uplink transfer’s a bit slow. I could probably make a few—”
The door to the limousine opened with a click and then rose straight up, making Ubik jump back so as not to get hit under the chin.
“Please take a seat,” said Vox’s voice, now coming from inside the vehicle. “I’ve assumed control so we won’t have to rely on the automated network. No one will know we’ve left the building.”
Ubik and Point-Two climbed in. The drone followed, now silent, and took up a position in the back. Considering what it had done earlier, Point-Two made sure to choose a seat where he could keep an eye on it. Even if Vox wasn’t controlling it directly, he could still order it to attack them.
The interior was all red and the seats were big and soft. The door closed itself with a couple of jerks, and then an unnecessarily loud slam.
“Is this thing safe?” asked Point-Two.
“Of course,” said Vox. “I love these old machines. They don’t make them like this anymore.”
And for good reason, thought Point-Two.
The limo shuddered and then began moving, working its way around the parking garage to a large entrance with a barrier across it, which rose as they approached.
“We are now on our way and no one has any idea we’ve even left,” said Vox, sounding very pleased with himself.
Once they built up some speed, the ride became smoother. Through the tinted windows, the tunnel was lit by strips of light on the walls. They flashed by for the first couple of minutes, and then disappeared. They were flying under the city through a blind tunnel.
Considering they had been surrounded, their exit had been remarkably easy. Ubik, no doubt, would claim this was exactly what he had in mind when he entered the Battle Arenod, but Point-Two had stopped trying to work out exactly what Ubik was aiming for at any given moment. The best thing was to let him go and stay behind him. It was the best way not to get run over.
“Now that we’re no longer under surveillance,” said Vox, “maybe we can formalise our arrangement. You mentioned wanting guarantees. I’m authorised to offer you whatever you want in return for full access to the Ollo network.”
Ubik and Vox began discussing terms. Point-Two stared out of the window at nothing. He found it relaxing. Negotiations continued, neither party with any intention of fulfilling their side, Point-Two was certain.
Ten minutes later, the tunnel ended and the limo began ascending into a blue sky. There were open fields in every direction and the city was a series of distant peaks. Vox had been as good as his word — they were outside the city’s reach.
“The time to destination is two hours and six minutes, standard,” said Vox. “A little slow, but I think the comfort more than makes up for it.”
The interior of the vehicle was suddenly flooded with beams of light. Outside, several aircraft were holding position ahead of them. They were some way away, but directly in their path.
“This is Colonel Toaku, Eastern Director of the Regional Judicature,” said a voice coming out of the limo’s speakers, “you are under arrest and your vehicle is in violation of city statutes for crossing a security perimeter without a permit. Power down your vehicle and do not resist. We are prepared to use force if necessary.”
“This isn’t possible,” said Vox, flustered. “How did they…”
“Can we outrun them in this?” said Point-Two.
“No,” said Ubik. “If I had time to make a few modifications…”
“Wait,” said Vox. “Let me handle this.” Vox’s voice changed to a more authoritative tone. “Colonel Toaku, this is a private vehicle belonging to Fight Legends Elect Management. We are the premium entertainment provider in six cities across the globe, including…”
“Is he in playback mode again?” said Point-Two.
“Sounds like it,” said Ubik, as Vox continued to list FLEM’s resume. He looked behind Point-Two. “I think he’s transferring back into the drone.”
“Dunno. Maybe the weapons. Maybe some other onboard systems we don’t know about.”
“Then who’s flying?”
“Autopilot.” Ubik peered out of the front window. “They’ll intercept us in a few seconds, and then try to grab us, I expect. Might get a bit rough.”
Point-Two turned around and grabbed the drone. It was a ball and fit neatly into his hands. He swung it around to his other side and smashed it against the side of the cabin, against a metal strip without any of the plush red padding that covered nearly everything. He banged it repeatedly.
Bits flew off the drone, a dart flew out and hit the roof, and then the lights around its middle went out. There was a large dent on one side and a crack from which a yellow gas was leaking.
“Was there a reason you did that?” asked Ubik.
“How long will it take him to transfer across, realise the drone doesn’t work, and transfer back?”
“About three minutes,” said Ubik.
“Great. You’ve got three minutes to take control of this vehicle and get us out of here.”
Ubik tilted his head a little and squinted one eye. “I’m not saying I don’t like this new assertive you, PT, because I do — I’m starting to see how you got that girl all wet and naked so quickly — but how am I supposed to do that in three minutes?”
“I have no idea, Ubik. But if you don’t, we’re finished. You might want to get started, clock’s ticking.”
Ubik smiled, then turned and ripped off a panel from the door.
Point-Two was taking a risk, but he had come to the conclusion that risks were going to be taken no matter what, and it would be far better if he was the one deciding when and where. If he left it to Ubik, there was no telling what benefits if any would be gained. Ubik had a problem with prioritising the correct things — like the lives of people who weren’t him — at least that was how Point-Two saw it.
He had come to the conclusion that, one, you should be as close in proximity to Ubik at all times. That might sound counterintuitive considering how much craziness happened around him, but the one place Ubik instinctively protected was wherever he was.
And two, he had realised that Ubik worked much better to a tight deadline. It wasn’t time to get things done that was his problem, it was having more time than he needed and using the extra to cause havoc to keep himself amused.
“Okay,” said Ubik, after about thirty seconds.
“You took control?” said Point-Two.
“No, no point. We can’t lose them in this pile of junk. FLEM are broadcasters, not engineers. So I thought I’d use their broadcasting expertise to send a message.”
“This is the Unified Emergency Network,” said a loud voice. “A Seneca warship has been destroyed in orbit. This planet is now under Emergency Order One. The Seneca First Battalion is on route. Evacuation is strongly recommended.”
A few seconds later, the ships in front of them peeled off and flew away.
“That was pretty good,” said Point-Two, amazed at how effective the ruse had been.
“Uh, no,” said Ubik. “That wasn’t me.”
“What do you mean? You just said—”
“That was the Unified whatever, not FLEM. I was going to drive them crazy with non-stop fight commentary. That had nothing to do with me.”
Point-Two had to stop and think for a moment. “Ubik, did you just destroy a Seneca warship?”
“I swear, I had nothing to do with it.”
“So someone blew up a Seneca ship,” said Point-Two. “That’s not good. What do we do now?”
Ubik leaned back in his chair. “Well, the autopilot’s still working. I say we keep going and maybe we’ll get there before the gift shop closes. Could be our last chance to pick something up. If we’re lucky, they might be having a going out of business sale.”
Outside the sky was suddenly full of ships, all heading straight up. There seemed to be an endless number of them, with more taking off, all leaving as quickly as possible. Point-Two watched them go.
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