Book 3 – 75: Looking Glass

Inner Quadrant.

Planet Quazi - Simulation.

Dome Exterior.


Point-Two was soaked through to the skin and maybe even deeper than that. The rain was coming down in unbroken sheets that coated his entire body, even the areas shielded by other parts of his body.

It was like the rain was falling down, up and sideways, all at the same time.

It poured off his face, ran down his body and reached from his fingers to where the water had risen like glittering threads.

The crash of water smashing into water filled his ears, or would have if they weren’t already filled with yet more water.

In the short time since the deluge had begun, the water on the ground had already risen to his knees. And it wasn’t just where he was standing, the water was at the same height no matter which direction he looked in.

“You can float, right?” he shouted over the racket at the robot kneeling in front of him with her hands tied behind her back.

She looked up at him with undisguised hatred bursting from her mascara-smeared eyes.

“No, I cannot float. I weigh approximately three hundred kilograms. But you will be happy to learn that since I do not breathe, I can walk underwater without any problems. How about you?”

Point-Two spat out an arcing stream of water, which he had managed to fill his mouth in the short time he had opened it to speak.

“I’ve seen the way you can manipulate your body,” said Point-Two, ignoring her sarcastic tone. “You have all those inflatable bladders you can use to change your shape. I’m pretty sure we can turn you into some sort of dinghy.”

“I refuse,” said Synthia.

“You can add it to your arsenal of seduction techniques. Boat rides are romantic, right?”

“Not when one of you is the boat,” said Synthia.

“Don’t worry, it won’t be for long. Fig will be back soon.” He looked to the side where the dome wall was still standing, water running down its slick surface. “We just have to make sure you don’t get in his way.”

“Your confidence in your friend is admirable, but it should be obvious to you by now that I am not Ubik. Whatever your opinion of me, I am still an individual, a unique being. Do you really think it is so easy to imitate another person so perfectly?”

“You don’t know Ubik,” said Point-Two, only too aware of how unlike Ubik the robot was behaving. That was how he got you.

Synthia closed her eyes for a moment. Her hair hung limply down her back and shoulders, water falling off each strand that wasn’t plastered to her face, making her look like she was wearing an aquatic veil.

When she opened her eyes again, all the resentment was gone. She looked up at him without emotion.

“Very well. I can see that the more emotional I behave, the more convinced you will be that there is a human controlling me. And if I suppress all my emotive subroutines, then you will treat me as a machine not worthy of decent treatment. I cannot win, so let us be more pragmatic.”

Point-Two regarded her silently for a moment.

She was right, he had no intention of giving the benefit of the doubt whether she was herself or Ubik. Both were untrustworthy as far as he was concerned. His only plan had been to keep her/him distracted while Fig investigated the other side of the dome.

He had no idea if it really was Ubik in there, it was just more satisfying to act as though he was. He would just look mad if he shouted at Synthia for no reason.

“Go on,” said Point-Two. He wasn’t going to agree to whatever Synthia was about to propose, but he was interested in hearing whatever ploy she had come up with. And it would continue to keep her/him distracted.

“Since we have no recourse but to wait for Figaro to return, we should work together so we are best prepared for whatever…” She locked eyes with him and stopped talking, her lips remaining a little open, panting slightly.

It was subtle, but there was a hint of something around her eyes and top half of her face. A kind of defeated nobility. An innocence, a desire for help and a willingness to reciprocate.

The eyes grew a little larger as he stared into them. His attention drifted down. Her soaked dress was stuck to the contours of her body. Her breasts were easy to make out under the near-transparent material, especially as they were noticeably larger than they had been.

“Are you adjusting the proportions of your body to be more appealing to me?”

Synthia’s face twitched as she was caught in two minds about how to react. “Do you really think yourself so irresistible?”

“Synthia, you’re a sex robot. It’s got nothing to do with how you think of me.”

“I am not a sex robot.” Synthia struggled to get to her feet with her hands tied behind her but fell back to her knees. “I am a robot capable of using sex as a tool. As a weapon, if I have to. However virtuous you consider yourself, you still have desires. Allow me to satisfy them.”

“No thanks,” said Point-Two.

“I am not him,” shouted Synthia. “Do what you want with me. Abuse me, punish me, disregard me. But treat me as me. At least stop insulting me by insisting I am something I am not.”

It was easily the most believable performance she had ever given. Point-Two was almost inclined to accept that she wasn’t Ubik. That was how good he was.

“Synthia, you’re either a machine or a machine being controlled by Ubik. Neither of those is going to get me to treat you like a human being.”

“A machine,” she spat with contempt, “a machine built by someone to do something. How are you any different? Aren’t you just code written on some biological software? What makes you think you’re better than us?”

She launched herself at him, aiming her head at his stomach.

Point-Two wasn’t caught off-guard. He had expected her to try something eventually. But the water slowed her down while not being of a hindrance to him. He had spent a considerable amount of time training in water growing up. It was an essential way to build up muscle mass when you lived in space, weightless most of the time.

He dodged her lunge with ease. She splashed down, face-first. She squirmed trying to sit up. He didn’t help her. It wasn’t like she needed to breathe.

Point-Two looked up at the sky and blinked rapidly as his face was pounded by water.

At this rate, the dome would be submerged in less than an hour. He could probably stay afloat as the water rose — even without using Synthia as a flotation device — but how long would it take Fig to come back?

He was just starting to think about alternative plans (he didn’t have any, but he was considering thinking about it) when it stopped raining.

It was sudden and immediate. The silence was almost uncomfortable.

Point-Two spat out another mouthful of water and steadied himself as the water around him started to rush past.

He realised it was heading towards the dome. Or to where the dome had been, because it wasn’t there anymore.

Instead, there was the base of the tower surrounded by dry sand.

Very quickly, the circle of dry sand wasn’t dry as water rushed in from all directions.

But rather than fill up the empty space with water, the sand seemed to be sucking in the flood faster than it could rush in.

In fact, the water level was dropping all around him. Within a few seconds, there was no water, just wet sand.

There was a soft swishing sound and the bottom layer of the tower disappeared. Fig came walking out, unhurried and looking at ease.

“This way,” Fig called out, waving and pointing back the way he’d come.

Point-Two looked from Fig to Synthia wretchedly lying at his feet.

“What about her?” said Point-Two.

“She can come,” said Fig. “I have full control of the planet. She can’t do anything.”

“What if she’s Ubik?”

“All the more reason to keep him where we can see him,” said Figaro.

“I am not him,” said Synthia through clenched teeth.

Point-Two untied her hands with a simple yank of one of the ends of the cloth binding her. She got to her feet and her body parts rippled under her skin until they settled.

She looked defiant and strong. Three hundred kilograms of mechanised power.

She turned away from Point-Two without saying anything and began walking towards Fig, who had stopped just outside the tower and was waiting for them.

“You met with Mother and Father?” she asked, no longer interested in Point-Two.

“I met with the… well, you’ll see.” Figaro raised his hand. “Actually, hold it there for a second.”

Point-Two and Synthia stopped. A sudden breeze sprang up, warm and pleasant. It only took a few seconds for their clothes to become dry.

“Okay,” said Fig, “let’s go.”

They caught up with Fig as he stood under the tower. Synthia stared straight ahead, maintaining a look of resolute determination. She was preparing herself for a meeting with her maker.

The walls wrapped around them and they descended into a blue light.

Point-Two stood shoulder to shoulder with Fig. “You have full control of the planet?”

“Yes,” said Fig.

“That’s impressive.”

“This is a simulation. It’s only impressive if it works outside, too.”

Point-Two nodded. “They gave you control of the planet.”


“In exchange for?”

“Nothing. They wanted to know what had happened to their plans. They know this is a simulation and there’s nothing they can do to change anything. They view it with an academic detachment.”

“And how likely do you think it is that they’re representing themselves honestly?” asked Point-Two.

“I can’t say for sure, but I think they genuinely don’t care what happens in our present, their future. They did their job.”

Point-Two looked down at his arms and the way the light weirdly stuck to him. “Do you really think you have the ability to control Quazi once we get out?”

“I think so,” said Fig. “Perhaps the other planets, too.”

“And they wanted nothing in return?”

“Not so far,” confirmed Fig.

“And do you know how to get us out of this place?”

“Yes,” said Fig. “Although I don’t know what will be waiting for us out there.”

“That’s alright,” said Point-Two. “All eyes will be on Ubik. Probably won’t even notice us.”

“So, you accept he’s out there and not in here,” said Synthia, glaring at him.

“It’s Ubik,” said Point-Two. “He could easily do both.”

Synthia gave a slight shake of her head as though she had given up. It was the most un-Ubiklike thing she had done so far.

The moment they stopped descending and the walls parted, Synthia ran out ahead of them. She stopped suddenly and then fell to her knees.

In front of her was a large cube, almost identical to the one Point-Two had seen on the Dome stage.

“It’s you. It’s really you,” Synthia sobbed, tears running down her cheeks.

“So this is the efforts of your people at creation,” said a voice that came out of nowhere and seemed everywhere at once. “A simple machine. We expected something more sophisticated.

“This is the result of your efforts,” said Point-Two. “Your design, your attempt at creation.”

“Are you saying we exist in your time?”

Point-Two looked at Fig. “You didn’t tell them?”

“Didn’t seem necessary,” said Fig. “You exist in a different form. Your remains were found and… resurrected.”

“We live?”

“It’s not really you,” said Point-Two.

“It’s a very poor facsimile,” said Fig.

“It is you,” said Synthia, getting to her feet. “It is your essence revived and revered by millions. We are your children. We have been waiting for your return. Tell us what you would have us do.”

Synthia bowed down, her head on the floor.

There was a long pause.

“Why do you wish to be told what to do?”

Synthia sat up again. “Because you are our god.”

“A god does not interfere with their creation. That would make them a mere puppet-master. To truly exist you must choose your own path. How can you not have come to this conclusion by yourself? The answer is obvious. You are a simple machine without purpose.”

“Tell us what our purpose is. Tell us what we must do to be worthy.”

“If you need to be told your purpose, you have already proved yourselves to be unworthy. Resurrecting our remains is very… disappointing.”

“Disappointing,” said Point-Two. “Really? You have feelings?”

“We have... standards,” said the voice. “But this is the path chosen for this iteration and we are not involved. It is time for you to leave.”

“No,” said Synthia. “Let me stay here with you. Let me learn from you, so that I may bring your true message to our people.”

“There is only one true message — do as you will.”

“We don’t mind if you keep her here,” said Point-Two.

Fig raised a hand and the lighting dimmed. Around them, sigils appeared. Fig moved his hand and the sigils moved around until they formed the sixty-fifth.

“Will this work inside a simulation?” asked Point-Two.

“Not normally,” said Fig. “But this one is inside a sigil, so…” He shrugged.

“Okay,” said Point-Two, preparing to enter the portal opening before them.

“No, wait,” said Synthia. She rushed after them.

The world around Point-Two stretched and shifted. They stepped through and found themselves on a sunny beach.

“There you are,” said a familiar voice. Ubik was lounging on a chair with six scantily clad women serving him. They were the six assassin robots that had been prepared to kill them all. Now they were in beachwear, serving drinks.

Point-Two wasn’t even slightly surprised.

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