Wormhole Island - Interior.
Figaro Ollo - Interior.
Figaro was inside his own body, but he wasn’t inside his own mind. That space had been hijacked for the moment. A moment that could last a lifetime.
Whereas previously Figaro had existed in a locked-off part of his brain while all voluntary and involuntary functions of his body were remanded into the custody of the Antecessor’s Fourth God, now he had been evicted completely.
He wasn’t sure what had happened but a change was occurring. Something to do with the fusing of his organic with another, he assumed. Figaro had thought he would be required to play some part in the process, but apparently not. He wasn’t even allowed to observe — at least, not from the upper deck.
He was still here, though. Able to exist as a thought, even though he was outside of his brain, because of the way the Fourth had separated him from his body. It wasn’t as simple as compartmentalisation. It was more like a clean break. No longer in any way connected to the brain stem. It was like he had been squeezed out.
And now he was a free-floating existence inside his body.
It wasn’t an existence he could explain. How did thought exist without a brain to produce it? How did thought move around as an independent phenomenon?
Figaro had read and studied enough philosophy to be aware of the arguments relating to the connection between mind and body. The physical and the ephemeral. It had long been argued that they were two entirely separate substances, not even sharing the same plane of being, and yet their effect on each other was undeniable.
Some claimed the consciousness was an eternal soul, able to exist beyond the body. But there was no evidence to support this. Other than what Figaro was currently experiencing.
But was he really a soul cut loose, or merely a pioneer of mindless thinking? His whole sense of self felt under siege. Who was he now? Who had he ever been? A son, a prodigy, a tool...
Whatever was happening to him, the result would produce major changes. Maybe even death, the most major of all changes. Figaro needed to be prepared.
He did have one port to aim for in this storm. His father had inserted one of the nanodrones into his body.
It wouldn’t necessarily change anything, but it would give Figaro a place to shelter his disembodied soul. If he could find it, of course.
Deaf and blind, he was able to move around his internal organs and blood vessels while somehow sensing where he was. It required him to focus and open himself to the environment and rely on familiarity.
He moved around his body, able to visualise his surroundings through a mixture of refining his senses into probable objects, and evidence-based imagineering.
His current goal, if that wasn’t too lofty a term for wandering around blindly while randomly poking at things, was to find the nanodrone. What he would do once he found it, he wasn’t entirely sure, but again, no point getting ahead of himself.
His father had introduced the nanodrone into his shoe. From there it could go anywhere, its burrowing nature allowing free entry into his suit and from there into his body. His father, though, was not one to leave things to chance. He would have programmed it to head to an area with access to all the important regions of his body, and also somewhere it would not be easily spotted.
In order to find it, all he had to do was think like his fathers. Also something he had been trained to do his whole life.
Figaro remained floating near, in his estimation, his liver. He pictured the nanodrone entering his foot and making its way up to his groin — not too far from where he was now.
Plenty of exit points, back and front. Lots of substances to hide in.
As Figaro considered how best to locate the nanodrone, there was a change in the area around him. He felt it as a tremor, at first. He didn’t shake but the sensory input he was absorbing began to lose cohesion. It stuttered and became more jarring. Something was happening to his body.
If the organic in his body underwent a transformation, it would obviously have a physical effect. Genetic manipulation could kill you, but not immediately. The cascade of changes would take a little time to become lethal. Was this the start of that?
His connection to his body (apart from his brain) seemed to have been strengthened. He couldn’t control it or make it move the way he wanted, but he could sense it in a very intimate way. Like a house he’d lived in a long time. And which was now falling apart.
There was no pain and no anxiety. He wasn’t scared and he didn’t feel an urge to get out. Where would he go?
No fight or flight response meant he wasn’t connected to the adrenalin escalation his body was no doubt undergoing.
Intellectually, he did think it would be wise to find some kind of shelter while the remodelling went on. He was well aware that if the fusing of organics failed, he would no longer have a place to stay. How long could he survive without a body?
Figaro used his unification with his body to scan for foreign objects. If he could recognise the familiar, he would be able to spot the unfamiliar. It only took a moment for his reverse-search to yield results.
The nanodrone was sitting on top of one of his kidneys. It had sunk into a layer of fat with only the top part of its carapace showing. If it sank any further, it would be almost impossible to detect.
Figaro headed towards it, struggling to keep himself from veering off course as his world crumbled around him.
As he reached the nanodrone, he slipped into it. The portal in was obvious and clearly designed for him. How had his father modified the device so quickly? Or had there always been this aspect to the little digging machine? He wouldn’t put it past his father to anticipate a need for it.
Once inside, Figaro felt a little safer. He was enclosed and protected on all sides. There was nothing he could but wait. He hunkered down and did his best to sense what was going on.
The training he had been given throughout his life had been very deep. Every part of his body was considered a tool that might come in useful someday. Not only was he taught how to fight, think, adapt, he was also taught how to reduce his needs to the absolute minimum.
He closed everything down and waited for a sign he could recognise.
His training had focused on global changes and also the tiniest movements. He could untie a rope with his feet, manipulating knots with his toes. He could also unknot a string with his tongue. The exact purpose of these skills was never specified, but it was assumed he would realise their worth when the time came. At the very least, it had made him very popular with the women in his life.
There had always been women in his life. His mother’s entourage had always been female, with many around the same age as him. He didn’t know if this was intentional or entirely unrelated to his presence. Most things in his mother’s orbit had nothing at all do to do with him, he was just one of many satellites, and far from the most important. Now that he had a sister, even less so.
Young, fit, athletic women of the Corps had been his closest companions growing up. He had found himself drawn to them, for obvious reasons. Many of them had returned his interest. For all their misandrist rhetoric, the majority of the Seneca Corps were heterosexual, with active sex drives.
Not many indulged in long-term relationships with men, but short, overnight ones were common.
Children were discouraged, but they were still needed. Many chose to have daughters, but not all were born with high CQs. They were reduced to menial jobs, if they chose to stay with the Corps.
Some, like his mother, left it to chance and had male offspring. It was rumoured there was a planet somewhere, populated by the unwanted sons of the Corps. But it was only a rumour.
He knew he was seen as a celebrity of sorts because of his parentage. The child of Armageddon. The son of the great Ramon Ollo. He was considered both an ideal male specimen and, at the same time, something taboo.
It made him a temptation to many. Sometimes they succumbed, sometimes the one doing the succumbing was him. Nothing ever came of his trysts. His mother was aware of them, of course. Perhaps she had even arranged some of them.
There was supposedly a whole clandestine branch of the Corps that trained women to control various important figures using sex. Another rumour. Perhaps.
Would his mother try to control him in that manner? If the organic in his body was truly as powerful as claimed, it might be worth having an extra control rod in the heart of the reactor. But his parents had always encouraged him to keep a degree of detachment from those around him, so his heart had never felt lost.
Both his parents attempted to influence his future. Both believed that adversity built strength. Figaro didn’t disagree. Nature more than proved the point — every chick that had to smash through a shell, every insect fighting its way out of a cocoon. His struggle was the same. He accepted it as just another complication of his life and tried not to dwell on it. He had always avoided trying to think too far ahead.
Marriage, children, his own destiny — those things seemed far out of reach.
But now, here he was, with only thought to sustain him. If he allowed himself to go blank, would he be able to recover?
It was hard to tell how much time passed until eventually things settled down. He couldn’t say for sure it was safe to emerge, but there was a feeling of stillness that made him think it was worth taking a risk to poke his head out, as it were.
Leaving the nanodrone, which had offered nothing apart from a sheltering spot, was a little harder than entering had been. Part of him seemed to be stuck to it even as the rest floated out.
With a little mental effort, he broke free and found himself back in his body.
A quick scan revealed nothing had changed, and yet everything felt a little different. Like coming home and finding someone had redecorated. It was unsettling. But his sense of self was the same. He had held onto what made him him. He didn’t need his body or his brain for that. He knew who he was, his issues and insecurities and the expectations he lived under remained the same. The pressures that had moulded him still pressed down on him, even when there was no one to apply them.
There was also an absence of the pressure he felt when the Fourth was operating his mind, so there was a good chance there was no one on the bridge.
Figaro pushed his consciousness upwards, aiming to re-enter his mind and examining the wreckage.
But as he floated up, like a diver heading for the surface, he found himself slowing until he came to a stop. Something was blocking his way back in. The locks had been changed.
“Impressive,” said a dark and sombre voice. “Your father was correct in his estimation of your resilience. You did not go insane and you did not dissipate.”
Figaro couldn’t see the Fourth, but he felt its presence like a damp fog seeping into him.
“What do you want?” Figaro asked. It seemed best to be direct.
“Nothing. It is only a matter of seeing if you survive now.”
“And if I do?”
“Then you will be a powerful entity that can play a role in what is to come.”
Figaro took a moment to consider what that meant. He was alive, or more accurately, he had been allowed to continue living. There had to be a reason.
“It worked? The fusion?”
“Yes,” said the Fourth. “As well as could be expected.”
“I thought a human body wouldn’t be able to cope with a double organic.”
“Not a fully fused pair.”
“Then this wasn’t a proper fusion?”
“No. It was a recombination.”
He was getting a lot of information so he pressed on. “Mine and… what was the other organic?”
His organic, with the power to release energy at a phenomenal level, and his father’s, with the ability to suppress the power of other organics. Rather than increase his power, it would reduce and stabilise it, while suppressing the organics of others.
If that were true, then he could see how the two organics could work in unison while helping to diminish the stress on his fragile human structure. If it were true.
“And my father? Is he still alive?” Removing someone’s organic was also a first.
“Yes,” said the Fourth.
Figaro was surprised. “Can I see him?”
“How? I don’t seem to be able to wake up.”
“You have to find your own way.”
Figaro strongly felt he was being manipulated and was merely a tool in the Fourth’s hands, but he still had some autonomy — perhaps that was necessary — so he planned to make the best of it. If the Fourth wanted him to struggle out of his cocoon, then so be it.
If there was a way to reintegrate his mind and body, then he would find it. Figaro set about reducing himself to pure thought and searched for his home.
It didn’t take long. Once there were only two points of light in the world — the world as he saw it — then it became a simple matter of drawing a line between the two. He didn’t have to move towards it, he just had to stop resisting the pull it naturally had on him. The time he had spent in the nanodrone seemed to have tempered his thoughts into a sharper, more condensed point. It penetrated more deeply.
He plopped back inside his mind and opened his eyes. It took a second to readjust to real visuals rather than imagined ones. He saw his father merged into the wall of the creation engine, eyes open but his skin pale and lifeless.
“Figaro.” There was a glint in Ramon Ollo’s eyes, but no other sign of life. His voice came from the wall surrounding him, lights rising and falling with the words. “I knew you would succeed.”
“I will find a way to get you out of there.”
“No. There is no way for me to survive outside of this place. It is enough for me to see you awaken. Now you must proceed with the rest of the plan.”
“There is no time to explain. They have arrived. The Antecessors, they are landing now.”