Book 3 – 35: Skeletal Structure

Wormhole Island - Interior.

Bone - Interior.


“Can you get us out of here?” said Point-Two.

Ubik rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I’m sure I can come up with—”

“I wasn’t talking to you,” said Point-Two.

“Me?” said Fig, looking flustered, which wasn’t like him. “Um, I’m not sure. I’m still getting used to this new…” He looked down at himself and pressed a hand to his chest, pressing and patting. He stopped and an apologetic half-smile flashed across his lips. “I suppose I can try. I do feel a lot steadier since I entered this place.” HE looked around the area he and Ubik were standing in like he was hoping to spot an exit sign. “I’m not really sure where this is. Are we in the bone?”

“Yes and no,” said Ubik. “But don’t let me interrupt. PT obviously has more faith in your escapologist abilities than mine.” Ubik twisted his lips with his fingers and threw away an imaginary key. Then he put his hands behind his back and started humming to himself.

Point-Two immediately regretted his outburst. Not that he was wrong to want to rely on Fig, but it never helped to upset Ubik. By now, he should have learned to manage Ubik’s moods a little better, but he was so relieved to see Fig arrive that he couldn’t help but abandon ship and aim for the golden lifeboat that had suddenly appeared among the waves.

He took a moment to calm himself. No matter how offended he might act, Ubik was still Ubik — impulsive to an astronomical level. When it came time to act, he would. He always did. Even when you begged him not to. There was no need to worry about him remaining on the sidelines.

“Fig, what’s going on outside? Did you see my body? Is it alright? It doesn’t look weird, does it?”

“Weird? No, no, I wouldn’t say that.” Fig made a big show of investigating his surroundings with even more intensity. “Yes, mm, seemed, you know, fine, generally speaking. This isn’t real space, is it? Feels like a psychic projection.”

Point-Two didn’t like the way Fig tried to change the subject. But he also wasn’t sure he wanted to know whatever it was Fig was trying to hide from him. He assumed he was alive or his mind wouldn’t still be able to function. There were a number of flaws with that logic, but he did his best not to investigate any of them.

“This is a mental partition within the bone,” said Ubik, unlocking his silence of thirty seconds or so. “I created a special area to keep PT’s mind apart from his body, which stops him from feeling any sort of pain or discomfort while his body… you know.” He pulled his face down and flashed a look of concern. “Obviously, I did it to help him through the transformation, not for thanks or anything like that.” He slid his eyes to the side to give Point-Two a look of mild contempt, although since Point-Two didn’t have a physical manifestation in this place, it was a sort of meandering look.

“Shouldn’t we be trying to leave now?” said Point-Two. Whatever was waiting for him on the outside, he’d rather find out sooner rather than later. Even without a connection to his body, he could feel dread creeping up his spine.

“Hold on, just a minute,” said Ubik. “Fig, did your dad stabilise your organic?”

“Kind of,” said Fig. “He… well the Fourth, really, it fused my dad’s organic with mine.”

“Oh,” said Ubik, his eyebrows arching with interest. “Suppress your big one so it’s more manageable, plus you get to use his one to suppress other people’s organics. Like his.” Ubik vaguely pointed a thumb in PT’s general direction. “Nice. Your dad dead, then?”

“Um, no,” said Fig.

“Matter of time, though, isn’t it?” said Ubik, as sensitive to the feelings of others as usual. “If the Fourth sucked out his organic.” Ubik took a sharp intake of breath. “Got to mean a severe recalculation of the old life expectancy.”

“He’s stuck inside a large wall. Well, it’s a sort of machine. With lights that go up and down.”

“Is he?” said Ubik. “That’s odd. A machine that works here.”

“I don’t know if it’s a machine machine,” said Fig. “Didn’t seem to be tronic-based.”

“No, no, it wouldn’t be,” said Ubik. “But, still strange they’d let it keep the lights on. Unless…”

There was an extended pause as Ubik hummed a little more.

“Unless what?” asked Point-Two.

“Unless we’ve changed something,” said Fig.

“Exactly,” said Ubik.

“I’m sure that’s true,” said Point-Two. “But we still need to get out of here. Don’t you think?” Point-Two was doing his best to show restraint. He didn’t want to start shouting at the two of them. He wanted to save that for when things got really bad.

“We will,” said Ubik. “We’re just waiting for you.”

“Me?” said Point-Two. “I’m ready now.”

“Not the you in here,” said Ubik. “I mean the you out there. Give you a chance to, ah… pull yourself together. Best you don’t see how the sausage is made.”

“Yes,” agreed Fig. “It’ll be fine. Weyla and Leyla are keeping an eye on things.”

Perhaps it would be better to wait and not see how the sausage was made, Point-Two told himself.

“So, you have full control of both organics?” asked Point-Two.

“Not really,” said Fig. “Partial control at best. Haven’t really tried anything with mine, and only a bit on yours. Six organics, huh? That must have tickled.”

“He didn’t feel a thing,” said Ubik.

“It’s true, I didn’t,” said Point-Two. “I’m still not convinced it’ll work. Ubik refuses to tell me what the six combined will add up to.”

“He probably doesn’t know,” said Fig, making Ubik frown.

“It doesn’t matter what I know,” said Ubik. “Knowing only puts a limit on the possibilities. What’s important is what I can get away with.”

“How are we going to get out of here?” asked Point-Two. “You said the Fourth led us in here to keep us trapped. Where is it now?”

“It’s dealing with the Antecessors,” said Fig.

“They’re already here?” Point-Two knew they were on the way, but to think they had already arrived. It was going to make things that much more difficult.

“Just landed,” said Fig. “They’re coming through the sigil.”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s the perfect distraction,” said Ubik, as though this was all part of the plan.

“Distraction for what?” said Point-Two. “You’re stuck in here with the rest of us. Fig, can’t you use your organic to blast us out of here?”

“Doesn’t work in here,” said Fig, shaking his head. “I could use it on your body, outside.” Fig grimaced as an unpleasant memory crossed his mind. “Once I entered this place, I can’t feel it anymore.”

Point-Two was certain something horrible had happened to his corporeal self. It wasn’t exactly surprising. Whatever changes the six organics had put him through, the results were bound to be traumatic. He was lucky to be alive, so it was too much to expect perfect health and his limbs still all in the same place.

Too late to do anything about it now.

“Look, Ubik, just—”

There was a shimmer beside Ubik, and then another Ubik appeared. They were starting to replicate.

“It is ready,” said the second Ubik.

“Good. Well done,” said Ubik, not the least bit surprised to see a copy of himself appear. “How long do you think he’ll l-i-v-e?”

Second Ubik shrugged. “I’m surprised he’s lasted this long.”

“Who are you talking about?” said Point-Two.

“Nobody you know,” said Ubik. “So, you all know my friend, right?” He patted Ubik II on the shoulder, and received a cold look in return.

“The parasite?” said Fig. “Why does he look like you?”

“Worships me,” said Ubik from the side of his mouth. “Don’t say anything, you’ll only embarrass the poor chap.”

“Ah, hello again,” said Ubik II, looking at Fig with large round eyes. “You’re the one with two organics. They appear to be very stable. Very strong and firm.”

“Oh, yes, thanks for letting me in,” said Fig.

“You did a wonderful job of suppressing the six organics. Really very helpful. You handled your own organic-pair splendidly.”

Ubik was glaring at his protege, eyes screwed up confoundedly and mouthing the word ‘splendidly’ like it was odd tasting piece of candy.

“Aha, thanks,” said Fig, passing a hand over his scalp, rubbing his short silvery hair. “I don’t have full control of them yet.”

“I could help you, if you like,” said the parasite. “Make them stronger and more firm.”

“Hey, hey,” said Ubik. “Slow down there, you’ll get drool on him.” He grabbed the parasite by the back of its collar and yanked it back. “Remember whose team you're on.”

“You said I could go free after I helped you,” the parasite squeaked, collar pinching its throat.

“And I will. This bone will be all yours, to do with as you please. Redecorate it however you want. But first, you have to get us out of here.”

So this was Ubik’s ticket to the exterior. The parasite was going to open a portal or something, and in exchange, it would remain here, released from bondage. Although, it seemed quite taken with Fig.

“Isn’t that thing inside you?” said Point-Two. Its consciousness might be here with them, but like them, its body was not in the bone. It was in the maniac.

“Yes,” said Ubik, grinning wildly and eyes glinting. “But not for long. I have bought our freedom with a simple promise.” Just for a second, Ubik looked like he could solve all problems and emerge unscathed from any situation, no matter how dire.

Point-Two had to snap himself out of a desire to just go along with the maniac’s reckless charge into the unknown, tempting as it was. There was a long way to go before they could claim their freedom, no matter what deals Ubik might have made with alien symbiotic organisms. First, they needed to get out of the bone, then they’d have to find a way out of the ship while dodging both the Fourth and the Antecessors, and then they had to find a way out of the wormhole. It wasn’t simply a matter of promises.

“It’s very impressive,” said the parasite, leaning forward despite being held by the back of its neck, the perfectly replicated Ubik-features of its face at once nervous and intrigued. “The way they complement each other, providing maximum stability. I’d never have thought to do it that way.” He was still talking about the organics in Fig’s body.

Ubik pulled his double back and spun it around to face him. “Yes, I’m sure it's fascinating, but let’s focus on the matter at hand. We need to get out of the bone, after which you will be an independent existence once more.” He shook the parasite so its whole body undulated. “But first, leave my body and enter the bone, got it?”

“G-o-o-o-t i-i-i-it,” said the parasite. Ubik let it go and the parasite disappeared.

“How’s this going to work?” asked Point-Two. “You want the parasite to physically merge with the bone?”

“That’s right,” said Ubik. “That’s what it was made to do. This bone is part of a creature specially designed to carry organics. The parasite was specially designed to transfer organics from a repository like this into a carrier. It’s all part of the same system, which is obvious once you see the similarities in build, right?”

“Right,” said Fig.

“Sure,” said PT.

“You’re both terrible liars,” said Ubik. He wasn’t wrong. “The parasite will open a conduit between the bone and us on the outside. Think of it like a lobster trap. You can get in through a narrow opening, but you can’t get out the same way.”

“What’s a lobster?” said Point-Two.

“Isn’t it a giant underwater insect?” said Fig.

“Sounds creepy,” said Point-Two. “Do the traps kill them?”

“Never mind,” said Ubik. “The point is, it’s a one-way sphincter that you can make big enough to pass through if you’re going in the right direction.”

“So it’s a valve,” said Point-Two.

“Right, only it has to be flexible enough to take all shapes and sizes. When the parasite comes in, the aperture will be at its widest. We can get through then.”

“Won’t the parasite be in the way?” asked Fig.

“Yes,” said Ubik. “That’s why we have to go through the parasite. Down its mouth and out the other end. Not literally, of course. This will be a journey of the mind.”

“I don’t think I like where your mind’s taking me,” said Point-Two.

“They all say that,” said Ubik. There was a change in the atmosphere, an increase in pressure. “Okay, here we go. Oh, and PT…”


“Don’t panic when you get back in your body. Things might not all be in the same place you left them.”

“What does that m—”

There was a sharp pull on Point-Two’s thoughts that stretched him to the point he thought he was going to snap. He was in a tunnel. A warm, wet, disgusting tunnel. And then he was through. He woke up screaming.

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