Wormhole Island - Interior.
Figaro sat deep inside himself deciding what he was going to do.
He was currently in a meditative trance — a mind-state he had been trained to inhabit since he’d been a child — which enabled him to protect his consciousness in extreme situations where his body was at risk.
Such a state would allow him to remain alive even if he were to be thrown out of an airlock in space or trapped underwater.
But rather than cut himself off from his body to preserve himself, he was focused on consolidating a base from which he could oversee his inner-self.
His inner-self was not under his control at the moment. He couldn’t move his body, not even to look around or speak. But he was able to use his training to turtle the part of himself he did still control under layers of mental shielding.
This was all to prepare himself for what would probably be a very jarring experience.
The Fourth God of the Antecessors — a title that indicated the beings place in the Antecessor mythos as defined by humanity rather than its actual role — had convinced Figaro to allow himself to activate his organic.
The organic he had spent his whole life trying to suppress so that it wouldn't kill him along with everyone around him.
Not only was he going to activate it, but he would be upgrading it also. A power he could not control made even more powerful. A fusion of two organics to create something more in line with what the Antencessors had used organics for.
The Fourth seemed to be optimistic about the chances of success but there was no guarantee. Figaro didn’t think there was a better, less risky, option right now, but it wasn’t like there were many options to choose from.
He had been well and truly caught by the Fourth with no way to escape. The difference between their power-levels was more than apparent. The Fourth could have easily killed Figaro and made use of his body without him.
But it hadn’t.
It seemed to need him for something. Something related to the fusion of organics.
Figaro saw this as his best hope for regaining control of his body. Not a very big hope, but he was willing to take a chance. It was that or give up.
Figaro was also aware that this was probably all within the Fourth’s expectations. He didn’t dare think for even a moment that he would be able to outsmart it.
It wasn’t clear how he was meant to fuse organics — he had yet to integrate the organic he already had — but free will might be a component.
If the Fourth needed him to willingly accept the process, then it also gave Figaro a possible way to remain in control. The granter of permission usually retained authority in some regard. It all depended on what it was the Fourth intended to have him do.
He knew it was far more likely that once he had served his purpose, he would be shunted into some dark recess of his brain and forgotten about, or simply killed. He had already accepted this as his fate. Which made it much easier to entertain the idea of attempting the unfeasible and the ridiculous. It was quite a liberating way to think.
He wondered if this was Ubik’s perpetual mindset.
Figaro condensed his consciousness into a compact ball. Even if his body was destroyed, as long as his brain remained intact, he could be resuscitated. But in this case, he wasn’t attempting emergency stasis, he was trying to stabilise his mind to begin initiating his organic.
How he would do that, he didn’t know. Not yet. The Fourth had left him to get ready.
Normally, when in a deep meditative state, Figaro would be aware of the organic inside of him and do his best to avoid disturbing it.
It was like a slumbering beast, restrained and sedated by Dr Yune’s devices, but restless and unsettled.
This time, it was practically comatose. The Fourth’s methods were far more effective than the doctor’s. Figaro felt confident enough to approach it, mentally, and probe its structure.
Of course, the organic itself was a disparate and nebulous thing spread throughout his body, present within the DNA of each cell. But it manifested inside his psyche as a point of pressure; tightly-bound energy waiting to be released.
It was still there, still projecting the image of a volatile animal caged but waiting for an opportunity to attack. But it had been subdued fully, for now.
Figaro was able to sense its outline, its shape and dimensions, which he had never dared to do before. These weren’t things he could put into words, but it was a revelation to him to feel how much of him it took up.
Now that he examined it, there seemed to be something missing. An incompleteness, just as the Fourth had said. Would it really magnify in power if a second organic was somehow added? Would his body be able to withstand it?
As frightening as the idea of releasing this beast, Figaro had to admit he was curious to see what would happen.
There was a fluctuation in energy, as though somewhere there had been a power source that had been turned off and then back on again. A minuscule dip and then back to how it was. But even in that short period of time, Figaro had felt the organic stir.
It was suppressed for now, but if the power the Fourth was using to maintain that suppression was negated, there would be an eruption far worse than anything Figaro had encountered before. His thoughts turned to PT and Ubik. Mainly Ubik.
They were both still out there, causing problems. He had no definitive proof of that, just a very well-educated guess. Whether their efforts would help or hinder him was impossible to predict. All he could really do was prepare himself as well as possible and deal with the issues as they arose.
Figaro calmed his mind and fortified his base. The Fourth was able to take control of Figaro’s body at will. Figaro hadn’t even tried to challenge it. But he knew there would come a time when they would clash over ownership. Maybe the result of that fight was already a foregone conclusion, but he wanted to give himself the best chance of creating an upset.
There was no sign of the Fourth’s presence at the moment. Probably dealing with Ubik’s antics. There wasn’t much Figaro could do until it returned and began the process.
Figaro slowly let a strand of his mind float up to the surface of his consciousness to take a peek. No one blocked him or pushed him back.
His eyes flickered open and he saw his father, crouching by the wall, examining the designs carved into it.
“Father,” he said in a weak voice. It felt like he hadn’t used his own mouth in forever. His throat was dry and his tongue felt awkward in his mouth.
Ramon turned just enough to look up at his son and smiled. “Figaro, you have returned.” He said it like Figaro had just been out for a walk. “Are you prepared?”
Figaro was hovering above his father, suspended by some unknown force. He couldn’t move anything below his neck.
“I don’t know, Father. Do you know what the Fourth will require of me?”
“I can’t tell you exactly. Its methods are strange and… indiscriminate.” Ramon looked at the wall. “This creation engine, it is beautiful and impenetrable. It will help you transform but I can’t tell you how or into what. But I know you will become something astonishing. Someone to strike fear into the heart of the galaxy.”
Figaro’s eyebrows knitted together. There was real reverence in his father’s voice. He truly believed the Fourth would raise Figaro into some kind of ascendant being.
Figaro thought so too. It was what would happen after that that concerned Figaro.
“Where is the Fourth now?” Figaro asked.
“Dealing with your friends. It seems they are causing a nuisance.”
Figaro couldn’t help but feel a little relieved. Any delay to his fate was welcome.
“Will I really be able to fuse my organic with another?”
“It does seem so,” said his father. He looked tired and haggard. There was a dampening field on this place that affected the Fourth and also his father. Both had the ability to suppress organics — the Fourth’s vastly more powerful than Ramon’s — but the Fourth seemed less troubled by it, while Ramon seemed to get progressively weaker and worn down.
Whether there was some reason for this, Figaro didn’t know.
“I mean, will I be able to survive? Have you ever heard of someone who achieved mastery over two types of organics?”
“No,” said Ramon. “No one has ever tried, to the best of my knowledge. But neither have I ever come across someone with your unique gifts. If it is possible to survive, I have no doubt you will be the one to manage it.”
Figaro wasn’t convinced. Mastering any single attribute was a complicated and strenuous task for even those with the highest CQs. And that was with fairly weak organics expressed at a low level.
How would he be able to fully comprehend the mysteries of organic fusion with no guidance and no experience? He didn’t even have a vid to watch past attempts. It didn’t seem very realistic to expect success.
However, if he could fully master two organics, perhaps it would enable him to stand against the Fourth.
That didn’t seem very realistic either.
At best, he might be kept alive to act as a slave for the Fourth, using whatever powers he might attain in his master’s service.
Ramon Ollo moved slowly, like an old man. He seemed thinner than before.
“You don’t look well, Father.”
“I too am preparing my body.”
“The same as you. Survival.” He moved towards Figaro until he was standing in front of him, head tilted up. “Remember, even if all they want is your meat, there is far more to you than any of them know. Let them give you everything they hold dear, don’t fight them.”
“You want me to cooperate?”
“Yes,” said Ramon. “Up until the point you have received the power the Fourth wishes to grant you. And then…”
“Won’t it be too late to do anything by then?” said Figaro.
“Perhaps, but I don’t believe so. I have prepared you for all eventualities, even the most extreme ones. This exact scenario might not have been predicted by me, but the skills you have will help you still. I was always prescient when it came to you. Your mother didn’t want me to allow you to leave home to wander the galaxy, but I knew it was what you needed to do. And now look at you. On the cusp of greatness.”
He sounded confident but Figaro wasn’t sure where this confidence came from. Yes, he had been trained to cope with all sorts of extreme life-threatening conditions, but they were mostly to enable survival in the short-term.
The Fourth wasn’t someone who could be resisted for an instance and then escaped from.
“You will see,” said Ramon, as though he was able to read Figaro’s thoughts. He reached out his hand and opened it.
Figaro looked down and his gaze instantly fixed on the single black speck barely visible on his father’s palm. It was a nanodrone. “This is where you can hide. They will think you have gone, but you will be able to reclaim everything.”
He raised his hand until he could just about reach Figaro’s boot. The speck was no longer in his hand.
“Stay hidden until you enhance your power and have the capability to control it.”
Before Figaro could say anything, he sensed the Fourth’s return. He sank down into himself immediately and was soon pushed down harder as his body was claimed by a superior power. He withdrew into his hard shell and dropped deeper and deeper, making himself a mere speck.
Figaro’s eyes opened again, but this time Ramon knew the intelligence behind them was not his son’s. It wasn’t human.
“You gave him the insect?”
“It is done, Master,” said Ramon with respect.
“Good,” said the Fourth. “Your acumen is truly impressive. Your progeny will bring you great pride when he fights for us in the coming war.”
“Yes, Master. Are the others in position?”
“Of course. The sigil will soon be activated and the bone is being plundered as we speak. The only thing left is for you to give up your organic.”
“I am ready, Master.” Ramon looked pale and sweaty. He knew what was to come would not be pleasant, but he was resigned to his fate, for the sake of his son. “You may begin the extraction when you wish.”
“Good. Very good. Your sacrifice will not go unrewarded.”
“Please take care of him in the future, if he survives the process.”
“You need not worry. Two organics is well within his potential,” said the Fourth.
A glint shone in Ramon’s eyes. “Could he perhaps take more than two?”
“Hmmph. Do not be foolish. His potential may be great for one of your kind, but more than two would burst him open at the seams.”
Ramon could tell the Fourth spoke the truth. He was simply being greedy on behalf of his son. Two organics would already make him more powerful than any organic-user that had ever existed. If he survived the process.
The creation machine began to flicker with light. Ramon braced himself for the pain, but even he was not prepared for the intensity of it when it struck. But endless, unbearable pain was a small price to pay to help his son reach the peak of human potential.
Chapters one week ahead on Patreon.Afterword from Mooderino