Planet Jove - Simulation.
Point-Two had decided to make a big change very fast.
He wanted to overload the system and he wanted to not overload himself. The simulation wouldn’t be able to handle it and break down. He would push as hard as he could and bail as quickly as he was able.
Shove and run. It was the sort of plan you didn’t need to draw up blueprints for.
There was a lot of sand within easy reach. Very simple, in terms of structure. All he had to do was change it to something equally simple.
Yellow sand into white salt. It was even easier than he had imagined.
The beach changed colour in a flash.
It wasn’t real sand but it was the same as real sand. And it was integral to the simulation that it remained sand. This was the theory Point-Two was going with and, judging by the way the blue sky had begun to fracture like broken glass, his theory was good.
Unfortunately, even if it was a simulation, the effect of using his organics was still stressful on Point-Two. He could feel the cracks in his mind forming. Not metaphorical breaks in his psyche, literal cracks cutting into his grey matter.
It was sharp and painful, and he had to fight to keep his concentration. He had never tried to transform something on this scale. It was a huge stress test for his new ability. If he could survive this, he’d have an excellent idea of where his boundaries lay.
If he wasn’t able to survive, there’d be splattered all over the beautiful coast of Jove. Not good for the tourist industry.
The few times he had used his ability so far, Fig had been there to help mitigate the side effects. He wasn’t entirely sure what the side effects were because Fig usually pulled him out before he fell into the infinite abyss of horrible possibilities.
Death, of course, was the most likely outcome, but between activation and dying there were a whole range of terrible things that might happen to him. Or happen because of him. It was an undiscovered country of possibilities that Fig had helped him avoid visiting.
Only, Fig was a little busy at the moment, and Point-Two was going all out with no one to catch him when he fell.
His hope was that he would be able to back out as soon as he overloaded the simulation, but that was proving to be a little more difficult than he had expected.
The sky was fractured, but it wasn’t shattering the way it was supposed to. In fact, it seemed to be fixing itself. The fissures and cracks faded almost as soon as they appeared.
Someone or something was healing the world as fast as Point-Two was weakening it. And no one was doing the same for the cracks that were filling his head with increasing pain.
There was more sand, so Point-Two was able to keep putting on more pressure, but eventually either he would run out of beach or he would run out of will power and the back of his head would explode.
Maybe he would be fine. He might wake up on a real beach, preferably alone. It would be nice to lie back and catch a few rays.
He would find out soon enough. There was no way to stop now. He had chosen this course of action, so he had no choice but to see it through.
Now, thought Point-Two, would be the perfect time for someone to step in and lend a hand.
Fig was surrounded by three robots. He had his own issues to deal with.
Ubik appeared to be standing with the robots, one on either side of him. The robots didn’t seem to consider him a threat and focused on Fig, which suited Ubik just fine. He was busy being a bystander.
Then he backed out of the circle as three more robots rushed to join in.
They were the three Fig had already dealt with, dismantled and decapitated. Now they were back with all limbs intact, not even a seam showing where their parts had been reattached.
This was the problem with being in a world controlled by someone else. They had the ability to change their creation with a thought.
A normal sim-U, a green blade of grass remained green, because that was what it was. You’d have to change it manually if you wanted it a different colour the way you would in real life — genetically manipulate it or get a paint and brush.
But this simulation had different rules. Broken robots could be magically reassembled. And silicon turned to sodium could be turned back into silicon.
Point-Two felt the texture between his fingers change. The beach was turning back into sand.
The sky was also back to its original form. All the cracks had disappeared. The battle was not lost, but the troops were in retreat.
Fig was not giving up even though it was six against one, but he was mostly defending, probably hoping Point-Two would be able to push through his limits and snap the simulation in two.
Which was fair enough but Point-Two had already passed his limits and it was proving far from adequate.
The robots were coordinating their attacks now, probing for weaknesses while protecting each other.
“Any chance of a little help?” Fig called out to Ubik, who was standing back and watching with his hand supporting his chin.
“Probably best I don’t get involved,” said Ubik, moving around the melee to keep out of range of the flying fists and kicks. “Like you said, I’ve probably been compromised in some way. Truth is, I can’t even recall how I got these six to follow my instructions, which probably means it wasn’t me who they were listening to.”
He made a good point, although Point-Two wasn’t sure now was the right time for Ubik to start thinking rationally. Prudence was hardly his strong suit.
“So this, er, entity that sent you here,” continued Ubik while Fig fended off more attacks, “some sort of Antecessor was it? Similar to Miff?”
“It was the original M1F,” said Fig, ducking and dodging. “The one on Quazi was reconstituted from their remains. They ahh” —Fig caught an elegant leg under his armpit and swung the owner into her sister, but both combined to spin with the momentum and landed gracefully to continue their attack— “ told us they weren’t interested in the fate of our universe since they no longer existed.”
“Because they’re a simulation,” said Ubik.
“Yes,” said Fig, leaning back to avoid a vicious strike from one robot while jumping backwards to avoid a kick from another.
“So they knew they were in a simulation but they were fine with it. Hmm.”
Point-Two could feel he was weakening against the force pitted against him. The sand had almost entirely reverted to its original state while only a small circle of white salt remained around his buried fists.
“Ubik,” shouted Point-Two, “do something.”
“This is not the time to go off half-cocked,” said Ubik. “You know me, it’s full-cock or nothing. She knows what I’m talking about.”
He turned and addressed Synthia who was standing in the same place, frozen with indecision.
Ubik’s question snapped her out of her reverie and gave her something to glare at.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Ubik snapped his fingers “You aren’t affected like them because you came off the production line first, right? You’re the control module. They all regulate each other, but you act as a governor. Yes, yes, that makes sense. Come over here a minute and let me have a look under the hood.” Ubik beckoned her to come closer, his eyes glinting with intentions that Point-Two was sure no woman or robot would find appealing.
Synthia did not look like she was keen on going anywhere near Ubik.
“Come on, we’re on the same side,” said Ubik. “You can help reset them to a neutral state, can’t you? All we need to do is access their internal drives. Let me just see how to open your ports. I’ll be gentle, I promise.” Ubik raised his hands as he approached her.
Synthia backed away, moved to the side, then she turned to look at Fig, and then she ran towards him.
Fig saw her coming and prepared for an even tougher fight. But he was calm and resolute. If defeat was inevitable, he would delay it as long as he could.
But she wasn’t aiming for Fig, she grabbed one of her sisters from behind and twisted her head around so they were facing each other. And then she kissed her.
“Interesting placement for a connector,” said Ubik.
The robot struggled for a moment and then went rigid. Synthia let her go and grabbed another of her sisters. They had stopped fighting Fig and were looking at Synthia with confusion. They didn’t seem willing to attack her.
“What is she doing?” said Fig, finally able to take a break.
“I don’t know,” said Ubik. “Some sort of forced update would be my guess. Those things are completely unreasonable. Don’t ask for permission or anything, just puts you into standby mode no matter what you were doing. Interrupt you right in the middle of a crucial moment, don’t even give a damn.” He seemed to have a history with forced updates.
“Ubik!” Point-Two was only just managing to hold out. His brain felt like it was on fire.
“Okay, fine. I suppose I can distract our friend for a bit.” He took out the small cube. “Basically the same as M1F, right? This should be able to hold them. Not for long, mind. If we had the actual cube that would be a much better home for it, of course.”
The cube lit up in Ubik’s hand. The sky shook and pixelated for a moment.
Point-Two felt the pressure on him ease.
“You’ll only have a few seconds,” said Ubik. The cube in his hand jumped about like it was alive.
Point-Two put everything into turning the sand to salt. He ignored the pain in his head. It was only a simulated brain, it wasn’t like his real brain would fragment into broken pieces, he hoped.
His mind felt like it was cracking open.
He pushed harder.
He hoped Fig would be able to get him out like he usually did.
The pain stopped. In fact, the sensation in his head had become quite pleasant. Like liquid coolant was soothing his frazzled mind.
He looked up and around. Everyone was staring at him, which wasn’t the weirdest thing. No, the really strange thing was that everyone looked like Ubik.
Ubik in a dress, Ubik in an Ollo spacesuit, Ubik’s face kissing Ubik’s other face.
He had gone crazy, that much was obvious. He’d pushed himself too hard and something had snapped.
It was just a shame that his delusion was a universe full of Ubiks. It was as though he had entered his own private hell, and he would suffer for all eternity with no way to escape Ubik.
At least this mental breakdown was clear cut. There was nothing worse than going mad and not realising it.
Something shattered — he felt it in his chest, a shudder passing through him. Everything went dark.
He wasn’t sure if it was him or the simulation, but he wasn’t surrounded by infinite Ubiks, so he was grateful for an end to his nightmare.
His vision slowly cleared and he saw sigils floating in the air above him.
He sat up and looked for the others.
“That was weird, wasn’t it?” said Ubik.
Point-Two looked at him intently. This Ubik was actually dressed like Ubik.
“What are you looking at me like that for?”
“Nothing,” said Point-Two. He saw Fig standing behind Ubik and felt a wave of relief. “Where are we?”
“Back on Quazi,” said Fig.
They were in the control room where they had entered the portal. The sigils were arranged in haphazard fashion, with one lying on the floor.
Point-Two got to his feet. Synthia and the six robots were also present.
“Is this real?” said Point-Two.
“I can sense ships in orbit above us,” said Synthia.
They had broken out of the simulation but ended up where they had started.
Lights flashed and the large cube in the middle of the room began to flicker with light.
Point-Two’s first thought was that M1F had returned but the voice that spoke was not M1F’s.
“Thank you, you have all been very cooperative.”
It was the original.
“They transferred themselves out of the simulation,” said Fig, a flash of fear appearing across his face. “How is that even…”
Point-Two felt a chill as he realised this must have always been the plan.
Information could be transferred out of a simulation if there was a brain to put it in, and the original brain, the housing at least, had survived all this time. The perfect receptacle.
And they had led it back.
The planet’s original owner was back in charge, with the full knowledge of the Antecessors at its proverbial fingertips. Now it had the ability to change the fate of this iteration of the universe.
“Great,” said Ubik. “Perfect timing. I was hoping to have a word with them. Nice to finally meet you. You might have had the advantage in your little boutique universe, but you’re in my universe now.”
Ubik took out a black bone and walked towards the glittering cube with a big smile and absolutely no trepidation.
Chapters are two weeks (six chapters, although it's only four at the moment, working on it, long story, mainly laziness, so maybe not as long a story as I thought) ahead on Patreon.
Afterword from Mooderino