Wormhole Island - Interior.
Figaro had grown up watching his parents fight. It had been brutal, but it had also been incredibly genteel.
Never a hand raised, never a voice raised.
They fought with words and logic. Sometimes the words were barbed and the logic was pointed, but neither of them considered the wounds of battle to be worth getting upset over. They were a warrior couple.
Both had complete confidence that they were right (whatever the argument might be) and so felt no need to demand agreement of the other. Or of anyone.
Growing up in that kind of domineering atmosphere was a tempering experience. Character building, some might call it.
Figaro had been raised in both camps with no prejudice. He had been taught to fight in both their styles, to become expert with both their weapons. He knew exactly how deadly they both could be.
This had given him a very unique perspective. Two giants of the modern age, both highly successful and used to coming out on top, neither willing to give way.
It taught him that getting what you want had nothing to do with winning. If the other person got the recognition, the awards, the plaudits and you walked away with your pockets full of everything you came here for, then full pockets was the real prize.
Right now, he was suspended in front of his father, who was embedded into the wall of a creation engine. Figaro wasn’t sure what the creation engine did, but that was okay. His father would figure it out. Figaro had no doubt his father had allowed himself to become embedded for that very reason.
“You must leave here immediately,” said Ramon Ollo. His voice was weak and his pallor was an unsightly grey.
“I can’t,” said Figaro.
“You can. This is what your training was for. Use what I taught you.” The words were fast but bunched up like he was trying to spit them out while he still had the strength.
Figaro took a moment to assess his own condition. He had been focused on his father’s wretched circumstances the moment his consciousness returned to his body, but now he allowed himself to tense and flex his body to see what his own circumstances were.
He could feel his extremities and slightly move them — fingers and toes. The rest of his body was just floating in the air. A flash of PT moving around so freely in various reduced levels of gravity entered his mind. He had seen him do some amazing manoeuvres, but even though he understood the techniques PT used, he wasn’t trained in them himself so he could only try to come up with something of his own.
He could no longer sense the Fourth’s presence and he could also not sense any change to his organic. He was as impotent in that area as always.
The Fourth had gone to a lot of trouble to infuse a second organic into his DNA. He was supposed to be twice as powerful and fully operational. The organic he’d carried since just after his birth, was going to be active and, at the same time, manageable. Because he had his father’s organic grafted onto his own.
His father’s organic excelled in shutting down organic power, and that would work for his own organic. If he could suppress the ridiculous power-level of the organic he carried, then he’d be able to stop it from destroying him and everything else in the quadrant.
He didn’t doubt the Fourth had done what it claimed, he just didn’t know when it would kick in. Or what the Fourth intentions were after that. Time was certainly limited.
He started moving around and trying to wriggle free, but there were no cuffs on his wrists or bars on his cell. There was no prison, to be completely accurate. He was just grabbed by the back of the collar and lifted up so his kicking feet served no purpose. Or that was how it felt.
“Father, the Antecessors, where are they now?” The Fourth had said they were here, but there was no sign of them as yet.
He looked back at his father to see if there was any sign of an answer coming soon, but his father’s eyes had glazed over and it didn’t seem he wasn’t going to be responding any time soon
If the Antecessors, the ones who had blown up the Tethari asteroid, were already here, then that meant the Fourth would now be putting its plan into action. Maybe there was a confrontation happening right now. What was his role going to be?
There had to be a reason he had been kept alive and even improved in power. Even though he desperately wanted to stay here and help his father, he knew he would only be making both their situations worse. Until he figured out what his new power was and how to use it, he was no match for the Fourth.
He was also no match for his father, even without his organic. He might be stuck inside an alien machine but that also meant the alien machine was stuck inside him. Getting himself out of the way was probably the best thing Figaro could do to help.
He twisted and turned as much as he was able to get himself down. With no physical restraints, it was hard to know where to start. He was held in some kind of energy field, so there had to be a point of origin. If he could find where the field was being transmitted from, perhaps he could come up with a way to knock it out.
He swivelled his head. The room looked empty. The creation machine took up one wall and the other walls didn’t have anything attached or protruding from them. The floor was flat and smooth, and the roof was covered in shadows. Most likely what he was looking for was up there, but there was no way for him to aim for something he couldn’t see.
A long breath escaped his lips as he pushed out his frustration. He had control of his breathing, so the rest of his body was completely out of his reach. He cleared his mind and centred himself. First, reconnect with the physical.
As he expanded his mental awareness, he tensed and relaxed in time with his heart, flowed with the blood pumping through his veins and arteries, poured himself into the muscles and other organs.
A small point of light entered his mind and began to grow. A weight pressed down on his head. A second force stopped it from crushing him. Something was sprouting inside him. It was beginning.
A sudden brightness passed through his eyelids and pulled him out of himself. He opened his eyes. The creation machine was fully alight, bars of colours filling the entire wall.
“They’ve turned the power back on,” said Ramon.
His father was looking at him. He was still trapped inside the wall but some of his strength had returned. He curled the exposed fingers on his right hand — the rest of his hand and forearm were inside the creation machine — and the lights on the wall flickered. He had managed to form a connection.
Figaro fell and landed on the floor, staggering forward to stop himself collapsing. His skeleton felt like it was made of rubber.
“They will be here soon,” said his father, his voice a whisper. “Use your training. Use this place to become stronger. This is your opportunity.”
Even under these conditions, Ramon Ollo only saw the benefits. He had always tried to temper his son in the most extreme crucible possible. What better preparation for a life at the pinnacle than overwhelming opposition and constant threat of death?
“Organic,” said Ramon. “You have the training.”
Figaro had always kept his organic suppressed, but he had run exercises in his father’s sim-U. Theoretical, isolated, reduced power-level training exercises. His organic, other organics, they had been simulated for him so he could get a feel for what to expect.
It was hardly the same as being activated for the first time in the middle of an alien invasion.
Excellent motivation, though.
“Go,” said his father, barely holding on.
Figaro turned towards the doorway and took his first step towards freedom and the start of a new phase of his life. Most likely a very short phase.
The step didn’t land. He was hoisted back into the air.
“Excellent,” said a vast and satisfied voice. “You have integrated both. You are ready.”
“No…” cried out Ramon. “He needs time.”
Figaro’s body shivered as a force entered him the way cold seeps in.
An endlessly stretching demon claw spread throughout his insides as a terrifying aura completely locked down his mind, making it so Figaro had no way to resist.
“You have done well,” the Fourth praised him. “Now, step aside and let me seize your body!”
The Fourth wanted his body. Perhaps that had been the point of all this. Fully realise Figaro’s power, power that he could not control himself, and then simply hijack his body. Its control over organics was probably far more proficient than his.
Whatever happened after that, Figaro would have no say.
The invading force was overwhelming. Figaro felt like he would be crushed at any moment, leaving behind an empty shell for the new owner to move into.
“The perfect vessel. I will treat it well.”
It was like having his fingers forcibly removed from the ledge they were clinging to. Figaro’s vitality, his soul, trembled as if it was about to be pulled out from him at any moment.
The Fourth wanted to swallow up Figaro and take his place.
At this life or death moment, Figaro’s mind was still calm. The Fourth was taking its time, not wanting to damage its new home.
Figaro recognised that this was a critical moment His pupils contracted and his eyes began to glow red. He took possession of his father’s organic.
Ramon Ollo’s organic was keeping his own organic suppressed. It was doing this independently of Figaro. It had been inserted specifically to do this, but it had a host of other abilities. Figaro knew this because his father’s organic was one of those he had been trained to use in the sim-U.
It was the most powerful organic second to his own, so it made sense to use it as a substitute. And unlike most other organics, the data on how it would function and react was as close to perfect as possible since the actual owner was the one who provided that data.
Figaro might not have mastery over his organic, but he was pretty familiar with his dad’s.
Figaro cut off the suppression.
His organic bloomed, cascading to unmanageable levels.
He had no way to control the enormity of the power welling up inside him. It started to absorb everything around him.
This was the absolute strength of his organic. It took away all power from its surroundings and then made that power available to you — if you had the ability to direct it.
Figaro, as of yet, didn’t. But that was understandable.
Sucking up the power of a star was an incredible feat, but what kind of strength would you need to make that power your servant?
Unchecked, the organic would absorb everything in the quadrant, and then release it with utter disdain for the consequences. It didn’t think, it acted.
A massive suction pulled on the Fourth. This traction was an unmatched force that could not be resisted.
“No!” The voice that had been so imperious a moment ago, now sounded terrified. “Stop!” the Fourth roared out in panic as it desperately tried to break free of the force dragging it to hell. It twisted and turned, trying to get free.
One half suddenly accelerated towards the suction force while the other half tried to desperately flee. The sudden filling of the organic’s demands produced a momentary lull. At this moment, it could only endure discarding part of itself to preserve the rest.
There was a sharp break.
Figaro fell to the floor, this time landing in a heap. The flow of energy into him began again, making the lights on the creation machine dim. He focused his mind and forced his father’s organic to activate again. It resisted him, but he had gone through this mental exercise too many times to be denied. The second organic attacked the first. There was a collision of opposing intent, but only one could win. His father’s will had always been the more domineering.
He felt the organic being brought to heel. He started breathing again.
The bars of colour returned to their full intensity. Whatever happened to the Fourth, it was still here, in some form. Figaro struggled to his feet.
“Go now,” said his father. “Find the others. I will hold it here as long as I can.”
“Father, I can—”
“Go!” Ramon Ollo coughed blood and his head dropped.
Figaro’s training kicked in. Rule number one, always do what your father tells you. He turned and ran.