Private Ollo Vessel Ubik
Ubik squirmed out from under the main console and pulled himself up into the slightly uncomfortable pilot seat of the POV Ubik. He let out a puff of air and then began humming to himself as he gave the console another peruse, flicking switches and pressing buttons. Still dead, but he approved of Ramon Ollo’s fixation with simple, responsive controls.
The ship had taken some damage but nothing he couldn’t fix. There wasn’t much room to move around — Ramon Ollo liked to build things with as little space wasted as possible — but the inner workings of the ship were a joy to work with.
The design of this ship was particularly satisfying.
He leaned back in the chair and felt something poke him in the back. If only the ship had been designed with a little more comfort in mind, it would be perfect. But once he had the ship back up and running, he would take care of the lacklustre decor. Some more cupboard space would be nice, too. Maybe a small cot in the back.
There was a light flashing on the dashboard that hadn’t been before. He had no idea what that indicated. He looked up at the screen and scanned the immediate area. Empty space, an orange planet and what was left of the wormhole.
The wormhole had inhaled everything within a few thousand kilometres and then, rather conveniently, shut its mouth forever.
A sharp pain in his arm made Ubik flinch and then scratch at the alien parasite still attached to his arm. He would have to find a way to get rid of it when he had a moment. Perhaps he could sell it to some xeno collector. It would probably go for a lot.
The light was still flashing. Why was everything else dead except for this one light? A warning? He looked back up at the screen.
Everything had crumbled and disintegrated as it was hoovered up and swept away by the wormhole. Fragments ranging from tiny particles to huge chunks of asteroid, whipped around at shocking speed until not even a crumb was left.
Only the orange globe that was Enaya remained, seemingly unaffected. Ubik had checked broadcast frequencies and, other than the endless screaming for help and assistance, things were going okay down on the planet. Riots, panic, desperate attempts to negotiate with deities. The usual post-near-catastrophe palaver. They would be fine. Back to normal in a decade or two.
Fortunately for Ubik, he had thought ahead. The key was to start leaving before the end credits started rolling, and he had. Everything had been tumbling and turning, no one knew which way was up, but Ubik and his trusty Delgados made it out and to the ship with ease. Comparatively.
“Such a good ship,” said Ubik, patting the dashboard. “You ain’t no prototype, you’re a damn beauty. We are going to be so happy together, I promise you.” He kissed the dash and pressed his cheek against it. That damn light was still winking at him.
He’d known this craft was special but even he had been surprised how well it handled in the middle of an extinction level event of galactic proportions. They’d flown out of there, riding in between the gravity wells and energy surges, taking hardly any damage.
The sigil, the VendX ship, the asteroid, they had collided and broke up into millions of pieces of debris which were swallowed up by the wormhole, leaving behind no trace they ever existed.
After some time, the energy fields had stabilised; the wormhole returned to its inactive state. With the asteroid gone, there was no easy way to operate it, unless you used illegal methods that all the major corporations denied being in possession of, or ever having researched. Of course, that was a lie, as the VendX flagship had shown. Nearly everyone had a way of forcing a wormhole open, but this one has suffered quite badly and now had the celestial equivalent of indigestion. Opening it again would be risky at best.
The wormhole was just a big pretty cloud now. Which would make Enaya a little less important. Harder to get to and not as useful once you got here.
Now that everything was over, the space around Enaya was so calm that no one would ever guess that just a short while ago a desperate battle had been fought here.
Ubik could go anywhere he wanted now, his own ship to take him.
“How’s it looking on your end, Grandma?”
“Looks good to me, dear,” said Grandma. “This little boat you found is quite the sturdy little number.”
“Yes,” said Unik. “I think it will do very nicely, once I make a few modifications. Warranty will probably get voided, but we get to explore the whole galaxy now. Although first, we need to pop down to the surface and pick up your soul cube. Can’t have you going around naked.”
“You hush your mouth now. I’m too old to be blushing. I have to say, I do quite like being out of my box. It’s been fun. Getting out and about, meeting new people. What about your friends? Will they be joining us?”
“It’s just you and me again, Grandma.”
“That’s nice dear.”
“Hmm. Where should we go?”
“You sure you won’t be going after your friends? It’s not like you have many.”
“I think they’ll be fine on their own. It’ll do them good, to be honest with you. I can’t do everything for them.”
He was sure PT and Figaro would survive whatever ordeal they were now facing. They had Ramon Ollo with them, so that would probably help. And if they were all dead, well, being dead alongside them wouldn’t make much of a difference.
No, this was much better. Time to stretch his own wings and see what was out there. This was what he wanted, after all. The freedom to go where he wanted and do as he pleased. He saw this outcome as very definitely a win.
He did have to get moving though. The Central Authority would be sending more ships. And VendX would probably want to know what happened to their fleet. And of course, the Corps would be mobilising their entire military might.
It was about to get very congested in this particular section of the quadrant.
He needed to find whatever wire had come loose and plug it back in again.
The small white light went from flashing to being on all the time.
“Do you know what this light means, Grandma?”
He had uploaded Grandma into the ship's computer for the time being. It was a bit cramped in there with the ship’s onboard AI, but it would do for now, and it gave her access to most of the ship’s systems.
“Ooh, no, can’t say that I do. Let me have a closer look.” There was a pause as Ubik tapped the light with a finger. Oil needed changing? “Oh, yes, I see. It’s some kind of safety device. In the event of an emergency, it locks onto the target and retrieves it.”
“Target? What target?”
“Uh… it doesn’t say. Just refers to it as an ‘essential being’ in the logs.”
“Essential being. Now what would Ramon Ollo consider… Oh, it must mean Fig.”
“Oh,” said Grandma, “now the internal computer is saying the target has been found. That’s nice, isn’t it?”
The engines ignited and the whole dashboard lit up.
“Ooh, target locked now.”
Target locked? It had locked onto Fig, somehow? He knew Ramon had designed pretty much everything he ever made to protect his sole heir — presumably he only wanted his own hands to be the ones to put his son in danger — but not harming was a lot easier than trying to rescue Fig from somewhere in subspace.
The ship began moving.
“Can you override the steering?” said Ubik.
“I don’t think so, dear. It seems whatever it’s doing, it takes priority.”
“Won’t let me.”
Made sense. The ship wanted to save Fig from his fate. It would take a while to convince it otherwise, but it wasn’t like there was a rush. Fig was already millions of kilometres away by now, and there was no way to get to him.
The ships suddenly shot forward, heading for the no longer operational wormhole.
It was an impressive ship, an amazing number of features for its size, and full of innovation, but there was no way for it to—
The colourful clouds, frozen in a swirl of unstable gases, began to vibrate. The wormhole opened again, not as large as before, no more than a few metres across, but just as black and inescapable.
Ubik felt the ship being pulled in, its speed increasing.
“Reverse engines. Fire thrusters. Turn left! Turn left!”
Ubik’s orders were not obeyed. The ship went charging forward into the abyss at an ever-increasing speed, disappearing into it. Then the hole shrank back down to nothing and this time there really was nothing left.
End of Book 2
Hurray, I finally finished Book 2. Straight onto Book 3.Can’t say I’m exactly happy with the way this book went, lost the thread a little and I’ve probably left a lot of loose ends, and quite a few contradictory bits and pieces.I feel like I’m getting back into the swing of things now but it got messy for various reasons and it’s been very hard untangling that mess.But now that I’ve managed to get it to some sort of turning point, I can start a new arc with a much clearer idea of where things are going.