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Eye of the Needle (Voyager)

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When a wormhole presents itself to the crew of the Voyager they get their hopes up, but it's only the first season. Jimmy Akin, Dom Bettinelli, and Fr. Cory Sticha discuss the dilemma of trying to convince an enemy to trust you about something completely improbable and desperately important.

The post Eye of the Needle (Voyager) appeared first on SQPN.com.


          

VA - New Music Releases Week 47 of 2019 / 2019 / МР3

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Категория: Музыка
Размер: 1.96 GB
Траффик: Раздают (отдают): 25, Скачивают (качают): 8
Добавлен: 2019-11-30 13:20:46
Описание: Исполнитель: VA
Название альбома: New Music Releases Week 47 of 2019
Год выпуска: 2019
Жанр: Dance, Electronic, Hip-Hop, Pop, RnB


01. Coldplay - Champion Of The World
02. Harry Styles - Watermelon Sugar
03. PARTYNEXTDOOR - Loyal (feat. Drake)
04. Kesha - My Own Dance
05. PRETTYMUCH - The Weekend
06. Alicia Keys - Time Machine
07. Tinashe - Save Room for Us
08. Emily Burns - Hate Me Too
09. Toby Green - Haze
10. AJ Mitchell - Unstoppable
11. Dennis Lloyd - Unfaithful
12. Haim - Hallelujah
13. Lil Xan - Wrong Way
14. Smokepurpp - Dirty Dirty
15. Jonas Aden - Library Thugs
16. Wiberg - Overkill
17. Wallaby - Paradise
18. Alok - On & On
19. Darren Styles - Pull Over (Are You Ready)
20. Nora Van Elken - New Guinea
21. Mark Ronson - Then There Were Two
22. Alt Bloom - Stay
23. Xxxtentacion - bad vibes forever
24. Mr Eazi - Tony Montana
25. Global Deejays - Boom (Turn It Up)
26. Matt Nash - Closer
27. No Etiquette - Spiders (AFK Remix)
28. Navvy - Scared to Be Happy
29. Jasmin Walia - Manana (Redfield Remix)
30. Dirty Rush & Gregor Es - U Got 2 Move
31. Stadiumx - Where Are You Now
32. Mia Gladstone - GEEKIN
33. Juanes - Tequila
34. Pascal Junior - No Lies
35. Terrace Martin - Intimidated
36. Trippie Redd - Who Needs Love
37. L8LOOMER - shinelikewhoa
38. Turkum - As Long As I Got
39. Pyro - Not Tomorrow
40. Quix - My house is IKEA
41. Felix Jaehn - Close Your Eyes
42. X Lovers - Cut My Lip
43. Casper Cole - I Want It All (feat. Elderbrook)
44. Laidback Luke - Step By Step (Dannic Remix)
45. Jay Critch - Cameras
46. Syn Cole - Mind Blown
47. pluko - on the way
48. Triple M - Sinner (Radio Edit)
49. MOTi x Aiaya - No Work Today
50. Bart B More - What U Know
51. Filmore - London
52. Fredo Bang - Mongoose
53. Johnny Orlando - All These Parties (Felix Cartal Remix)
54. Pixel Terror - Millennia
55. Tjr - Just Gets Better (Majestic & Luis Rumore Remix)
56. Hardwell - Go To War
57. Pyro - Kiss U
58. Fancy Cars - Cross My Heart
59. Syence - Edge Off
60. 03 Greedo - Disco Shit
61. Johan Lenox - no one wants to dance anymore
62. Tensnake - Rules
63. Lady Bee - Mess (feat. AMY MIYU)
64. Ginger Root - B4
65. DaVido - D & G
66. Sagan - Take Me There
67. DVBBS - GOMF (Tim Baresko Remix)
68. Stephen Puth - Crying My Eyes Out
69. Moguai - ACIIID (Kryder x Benny Benassi Remix)
70. Gracie Abrams - Stay
71. Kastra - Issues (feat. Bianca Linta)
72. Zero 9_36 - Come Thru
73. Croatia Squad - Feeling You
74. Ownboss - Unfucking Believable
75. TMW - All of My Love (Riggi & Piros Remix)
76. David Guetta - Make It To Heaven (with Raye)
77. A R I Z O N A - Problems (Ship Wrek Remix)
78. Bearson - All In
79. Denis First - Like This
80. Lolo Zouai - Money Diamonds Roses
81. Blac Youngsta - Like A Pro
82. Alle Farben - As Far as Feelings Go (Yves V Remix)
83. Tep No - Autopilot
84. Wahlstedt - Nobody Else
85. Mark Sixma - Million Miles (GATTUSO Remix)
86. Taylor Janzen - What I Do
87. Luca Debonaire - Fall In Love With U (Radio Edit)
88. Timmy Trumpet - Carnival (Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike Edit)
89. Nina Nesbitt - Still Waiting to Start
90. Summer Walker - Something Real
91. Eli & Fur - Wall To Wall
92. Christian Alexander - So High
93. MKTO - Consider Me Yours
94. Guaynaa - Full Moon
95. Magnificence - Unboring the Future
96. Deadmau5 - SATRN (Radio Edit)
97. Feed Me - Nothing Hurts Like You (feat. Sam Calver)
98. Carlie Hanson - Side Effects
99. Nasty Cherry - Fuck Modern Love
100. Funk Machine - Gonna Be Alright
101. 4B - Did You
102. Chika - Can't Explain It (feat. Charlie Wilson)
103. Jason Aldean - Tattoos and Tequila
104. Palaye Royale - Massacre, The New American Dream
105. DENM - Alright
106. King Arthur - Friday (Zendlo Remix)
107. Armin van Buuren - Let The Music Guide You (ASOT 950 Anthem)
108. Todd Terry - You Get Down
109. Matt Maeson - Go Easy (Andrelli Remix)
110. Bad Bunny - Vete
111. Fatboy Slim - The Weekend Starts Here
112. Get Real - Jolean
113. Vice Menta - FUSILANDO TUS MEMORIAS
114. Meghan Trainor - Wave (R3HAB Remix)
115. Party Favor - Chicken Dinner
116. doctor P - Voices
117. Farina - Asi Asi
118. ARMNHMR - The Universe Is Yours (feat. Micah Martin)
119. graves, High Zombie - GHOSTS
120. 24kgoldn - PED OUTTA COLLEGE
121. Tech N9ne - Angel Baby
122. Arsen - Goodbye
123. Ekali - Hard To Say Goodbye (feat. Chloe Angelides)
124. Bear Grillz - The Way We Were
125. Jessie J - One More Try
126. Koven - Your Pain
127. Spencer Barnett - I'm Fine
128. Torren Foot - More Life
129. Sean Tyas - Banshee (James Dymond Remix)
130. Cid - ME N U
131. Botnek - Gimme That Juice
132. Elah Hale - Posters
133. Mahalo - So Cold (feat. Lily Denning)
134. Limited Tym - Don't Give Up
135. Casey Veggies - Big Racks (feat. Iamsu)
136. Good Times Ahead, Noizekid - Malvada (feat. Juan Por Dios)
137. LIVA (BR) - How To Love
138. Madison Avenue - Don't Call Me Baby (Super Disco Club Remix - Edit)
139. Bassjackers - Mush, Mush (2019 Reboot)
140. Kove - The Music
141. MfnMelo - What a Life
142. Fatum - Raid 51
143. Alma - Bad News Baby
144. Cazzette - GOOD_BAD (feat. R0RY)
145. Joe Smooth - Promised Land (Erick Morillo Remix)
146. The Japanese House - Chewing Cotton Wool
147. Big Freedia - Louder (feat. Icona Pop)
148. Sofi Tukker - Purple Hat (Novak Remix)
149. Scotty Boy - Lost In The Groove (DJ Vartan & Techcrasher Radio Edit)
150. Litany - Single Player Mode
151. Wasback - Alive
152. Dua Lipa - Don't Start Now (Dom Dolla Remix)
153. Barren Gates - S.O.S
154. Mozzy - Everybody On Go
155. CITYZEN - Misomaniac
156. Beele - Tu Boca
157. RL Grime - Formula
158. Prince Fox - Same Love
159. Jack Back - Freedom (Harry Romero Remix)
160. Moody Good - Kush
161. Tynan - Interdimensional
162. Only The Family - Blika Blika
163. Delaney Jane - Circling The Cage
164. ICON - Dificil
165. Lewis Capaldi - Before You Go
166. Stormzy - Own It (feat. Ed Sheeran & Burna Boy)
167. Phangs - I Forgot You
168. StayLoose - Tiny Warrior (No-One Remix)
169. Kaskade - My Light
170. Dombresky - Trust The Process
171. Adam Melchor - I CHOOSE YOU
172. Little Big Town - Sugar Coat
173. The Knocks - Exit Sign (feat. Gallant) (Wongo Remix)
174. Des Rocs - Give me the Night
175. Jhay Cortez - Easy (Remix)
176. Mitis - Mercy
177. Flipp Dinero - Westside
178. James Arthur - Quite Miss Home (Steve Void Remix)
179. Maggie Rogers - Love You For A Long Time
180. Ozzy Osbourne - Straight to Hell
181. Barkley - Supernatural
182. Showtek - Straight Shots
183. astn - Ain't Dumb
184. Grace VanderWaal - Poser
185. Leyla Blue - I Don't Wanna Know
186. Matt Lange - Push
187. Above & Beyond - Another Angel
188. Lola Young - Blind Love
189. Hannah Diamond - The Ending
190. Ben Bohmer - Decade
191. U2 - Ahimsa
192. Nurko - If It Isn't You
193. Scarypoolparty - Millennial Love
194. The Who - I Don't Wanna Get Wise
195. Convex - Home Soon
196. Don Omar - No Te Vayas
197. Taliwhoah - Sweet Sweet
198. WE ARE FURY - Echoes
199. Rusko - One Family
200. Kloud - ERROR
201. Wildchild - Renegade Master
202. Piero Pirupa - Bassface
203. C. Tangana - 5 Stars
204. Lane 8 - The Gift
205. Piero Pirupa - Acid Skream
206. Galantis - Faith (feat. Mr. Probz) (Jewelz & Sparks Remix)
207. Deadmau5 - COASTED (Radio Edit)
208. Gorgon City - Roped In
209. LO'99 - Stay High (LO'99 VIP Mix)
210. Deaton Chris Anthony - Late Night Lovin'
211. Ferry Corsten - I Am You
212. Billy Da Kid - You Get What You Give (Music in You) (Joel Corry Dub)
213. Labrinth - Oblivion
214. Starkillers - Do You Want A Bag
215. Lil Poppa - On My Own
216. Beck - Chemical
217. Au5 - Dusk (Feat. Nori)
218. Giveon - LIKE I WANT YOU
219. A Great Big World - Fall On Me
220. Pete Tong - Show Me Love
221. Ciara - Melanin
222. SAYGRACE - Doin' Too Much
223. destructo - Twisted
224. Robotaki - Quasar
225. Black Caviar - Kubrick Faked The Moon Landing
226. Fahjah - Dance with Me
227. Josh Butler - Wormhole (EAT) (Edit)
228. Fangs - Solace (Original Mix)
229. Purple Haze - You & Me (Goose Remix)
230. i_o - Rave 444
231. Nur Jaber - Rave With Me
232. Little Fritter - Bumpin N' Jumpin (Original Mix)
233. Franky Wah - Nightfall
234. Idris Elba - On Life (Illyus & Barrientos Remix)
235. Clark - Branding Problem
236. Miguel Campbell - Nobody Wants To Be
237. Mat Zo - Games
238. Amine Edge & DANCE - That's Right Lil' Bitch (Original Mix)
239. A-Trak - What Can I Do
240. Matthias Tanzmann - Continue to Love
241. Pan-Pot - Confronted (Pan-Pot Basement Remix)
242. Pouya - life
243. Little Fritter - Super Earth Express (Original Mix)
244. Monolink - Take Me Home (Purple Disco Machine Remix)
245. Marc Romboy - Space Walk


Аудио: MP3, 320 Кбит/с
Продолжительность: 14:16:14
          

Comment on FTL and Setting Design by GeneD5

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In my homebrew space opera, humanity has managed to get interplanetary travel down to (Earth) weeks in the inner Sol system and months to the outer system by the late 22nd century. After First Contact and diaspora, that gets cut down to days and weeks, respectively, with faster-than-light at 1 light-year per day to start (for large ships only). Exploration begins in a 10-parsec radius (using real-world star charts). As Terrans learn from extrasolar species, they get faster, with smaller ships getting "Transit" (hyperspace) of 1 ly/day and larger ones 1 pc/day. Communications are only as good as the fastest ship. Eventually, they get to Transit of 3 pc/day, plus they find a few Precursor jump gates -- wormholes or "highways" connecting more distant parts of the galaxy. Interplanetary travel is eventually cut down to days or hours, and it usually passes quickly in "game time." However, interstellar travel through Transit space can be hazardous, and transmissions are also at 3 pc/day -- a lot slower than most Star Trek or Star Wars. The map of the "known universe" grows to a 50 to 100 pc radius, including the territories of neighboring societies, still a relatively small portion of the Milky Way galaxy, but with a few dozen inhabited or potentially inhabitable systems.
          

0022297: Heavy Beam Cannon utterly underwhelming; Give Spire Frigate treatment?

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I just played a game in which the RNG blessed me with an abundance of HBC controllers as well as a few Plasma controllers and one each of the remaining types. And 3 out of the 4 turret controllers closest to my starting planet were HBCs.<br /> <br /> So I decided to invest in Splash 4 and Subtlety 4 to test just how well cannon stacked up, as that was what the game gave me to work with. Previously I've only had 0-2 HBCs on a planet and never high mark, so I haven't been able to properly assess their effectiveness. In this game, on planets exposed to wave attacks, I built a defense of HBCs, Snipers, and Spiders and set HBCs so they covered the the wormhole entrance and on the line towards the station in the system - this should be an ideal "sitting duck" situation for massed HBCs. This time, I had a lot more.<br /> <br /> They proved to be paper tigers.<br /> <br /> Despite providing impressive defense strength estimates, such a defense was vastly less powerful than any equivalent energy cost mk. 5 defense I've made using other turrets. And that's not because a mix of other high-mark turrets provide higher damage through good damage multipliers, but because of the incredibly poor HBC targeting. Only when the HBCs themselves were almost completely overrun by enemy craft were they doing a good job.<br /> <br /> In lieu of better targeting (which is what is truly needed, both for Spire Frigates and HBCs, though that would require a rebalancing of stats afterwards) I'd suggest giving them the Spire treatment to reduce the overkill of single target issue and on average hit more targets and stacks as individual targets are wiped out.<br /> <br /> Since the Spire beams are now 1s cycle rate and they have superior technology, how about making these human HBCs have a 2s cycle rather than 6s and deal a third the damage with each beam.<br /> <br /> It is either that or hoping that the RNG doesn't give you HBCs as your primary turret option, because as useful as having one or two HBCs on chokepoint planet is, even at mark 1, having more really isn't worth it if you have access to any other turret you can use instead.
          

Comment on The Wormhole by Sink – The Goose's Roost

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[…] in the entropic reality set forth by a nonagenarian whose been dead five years and counting. Because it doesn’t have to get better, especially when you keep picking the wrong […]
          

Gravity Control

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https://img-hws.y8.com/cloud/v2-y8-thumbs-big-thumbnails-001/108959/big.gif Gravity Control is a puzzle platformer where you don’t control the player directly but indirectly by changing the gravity direction. Guide the player to the wormhole that brings you to the next level. There are 60 levels to overcome. Each level challenges the player differently, some are more action-focused whereas other levels will need the player to use their brain. Be surprised by obstacles that are needed to be avoided, like moving spikes and rotating lasers. By changing the direction of the gravity not only the player but also crates will move in the gravity direction. Some crates will operate the open and closing of nearby doors or turning the lasers on and off. The stages will become more challenging the further you progress. How well the player is handling the floaty astronaut will determine if you don’t crash into an obstacle. In later levels switching triggers on and off will require more thinking because the number of blocks will increase.


          

Book 2 – 31: Breaking In

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Third Quadrant

Asteroid Tethari

Ollo Base.

 

As Ubik exited the ship, a bubble of light appeared around his head, quickly becoming transparent. He breathed in the air seeping in through the collar of the suit. The air was very cold and made his nose itch. As he looked around the landing area, the bubble-helmet created a slight distortion at the edges of his vision. He had expected the suit to keep him alive, but not quite like this.

There was a wall of rock on one side of the landing pad and a ramp that sloped down on the other. About two-hundred metres from them was a structure that looked like it had been carved out of a cliff face. It was angular and spiky, a series of towers linked together.

In front of it, there were a number of ships lined up in an orderly fashion, all of them with no obvious markings.

Ubik took a deep breath and smiled. He had made it. His whole life, he had wanted to get off-world and see the universe as it really was. Not travelling between places, not visiting planets that were just a variation of his own, not going over old ground others had already thoroughly explored and inspected, leaving nothing new to be discovered.

Something truly adventurous was what he had been looking for. And here it was.

Above him was the wormhole, which took up most of the sky. It had a foreboding appearance from here, as though it was about to swallow the asteroid. The longer he stared, the more certain he was he could see it moving closer.

He twisted his head, able to move inside the bubble freely, and looked back at the ship. Enaya was a large orange and green half-circle cresting over it. He raised a gloved hand and tried poking a finger through the barrier now surrounding his head. The finger went through, allowing him to scratch his nose.

“Interesting,” he said to himself.

“It’s an adaptive force field,” said Fig’s voice through a speaker also in the collar of the suit. “Forms a seal around anything covered in flaxen.”

Ubik pulled his finger away so only the tip was inside the bubble. The force field clung to the material, allowing him to move his finger up and down without breaking the seal. As he pulled his finger out, the force field reformed like it had never been breached.

“If it lets light in,” said PT, his head also on a bubble of bluish light, “won’t it let in laser fire?” He was standing over by the ship that had been destroyed by its own blasters. It was impossible to tell who it belonged to or if there had been anyone on board. What was clear to them all though was that they had managed to evade the defence matrix, they had access to advanced stealth tech, and they had got here first.

“Like I said, it’s adaptive.” Fig pressed buttons on the control panel that covered his left forearm. He grimaced, his face visible through the visor of his more ordinary helmet. “I’m not getting any response from the base. The network seems to be offline. Or ignoring me.”

PT came bounding across, moving in large steps that kept him in the air for seconds at a time. “I think we can assume someone got here before us. And got past your defences, too.”

“That… doesn’t seem possible,” said Fig, his frown expanding.

Ubik jumped up and down. He didn’t stay in the air (not that there was any) for as long as PT had. Gravity was less than on the planet, but not so great that you might float away. “What’s the gravitational pull here?”

“I’d guess around 0.85,” said PT.

“It’s 0.86G, standard,” said Fig.

“Not a bad guess,” said Ubik. “Might want to fine-tune your internal sensors.”

“I was point-zero-one out.”

“Have you any idea the damage I would cause if I was point-zero-one out in any of my calculations.”

PT looked at him with a deadpan stare that suggested he had a very good idea. “Isn’t 0.85 kind of high for a small rock like this?”

“Yes,” said Fig. “The asteroid has a very dense core but it’s shielded, so we have no idea what it’s made of. It’s one of the asteroid’s many unsolved mysteries.”

They began walking down the ramp towards the base. Ubik took long, easy steps, bouncing as high as he could go. PT floated above him, doing tumbles and landing cleanly. He wasn’t showing off, he was getting used to the gravity so he would have better control over his movements and better range of motion.

Fig moved the most smoothly of them. His steps were almost the same as if he’d been on Enaya, he just moved quicker and with less effort. His eyes were glued to the panel on his arm.

There were eight ships lined up outside the base. There were no signs of life, not even drones.

“Are these all your ships?” asked PT.

Fig glanced up. “Yes.”

“Anyone else get the feeling we’re being watched?” asked Ubik. He had the odd sensation on the back of his neck he only got when someone was keeping tabs on him. He’d learned to ignore it most of the time — in a city, everyone was keeping tabs on everyone else — but it was definitely sending him a small FYI at the moment.

“They probably have cameras all over this place,” said PT.

“Not right now,” said Fig, looking down. “I can’t access anything.”

“Not from the base,” said Ubik. “One of these ships.”

They stopped, four ships on either side of them, and looked around.

“Which one?” said PT.

The eight ships looked more or less identical; basic shuttles, probably able to transport a dozen people each. They had minimal weapons on the exterior — two cannons at the front, a turret on top — more useful for clearing debris and small objects that might wander into a flight path than posing any kind of serious threat to another vessel.

“I think it’s the last one on the left,” said Ubik out of the side of his mouth. “Don’t look, don’t look. Act normal.” He walked towards it, hands behind his back, twirling around and around like he was enjoying an evening stroll.

“Acting like a normal lunatic isn’t acting normal,” said PT.

“I’ll use the sensors on the ship,” said Fig. “Yes, you’re right. General sweep reveals nothing but a targeted probe of that one ship shows two life signs. And it isn’t one of ours. It’s a Holover. A good one — dispersal field, mirrored sensor array, wide bandwidth absorption.”

Ubik stopped. “Oh. Is that all. Forget it then.” He started walking towards the base.

“What do you mean, forget it?” said PT. “There’s obviously another ship under the Holover.”

“Yeah, but only two people. Must be the lookouts. They’ll be ready for us if we try anything. As long as they think they can see us and we can’t see them, they’ll just watch and report our position to the rest of their team.”

“And that’s fine with you?” said PT.

“They’ve already seen us, not like we can reverse that. You have to accept what you can’t change, and use it later to show people they can’t even win with a head start. It really annoys them.”

“I think I have to agree with him,” said Fig. “When it comes to annoying people, he is the master.”

“Thank you,” said Ubik.

“That makes two ships that shouldn’t be here,” said PT. “Security is pretty lax.”

“Yes,” said Fig. “My father would have everyone flayed alive. Figuratively speaking.”

The entrance to the base was through a hooded alcove leading to an inset blast door that was ten metres high. It looked very solid and thick. Hard to get through if it hadn’t been raised above the ground by about half a metre.

It was stuck in that position, the control panel on the wall, smashed and releasing showers of sparks.

“At least there’s a way in,” said PT.

“It’s a trap,” said Ubik. “My many years of experience entering places I’m not supposed to have given me an acute awareness of when someone has left an obvious entry point in the hope of catching a would-be burglar and then holding them in a cell in the basement to torment them at their leisure.”

“That’s very specific,” said Fig. “Is there something you want to tell us?”

“Don’t say that,” said PT. “He might take you up on it.”

Ubik got on his knees and looked under the door. He could see a tunnel that stretched into the distance, strip lighting on either side. There was no movement and no feet, which he’d been hoping to see. These people were playing it smart. He would have to up his game.

He stood up and looked back at the ships they had walked past. Then he set off towards the last one on the left.

“He’s going to somehow break into a disguised ship, origin unknown, without any weapons,” said PT, watching Ubik depart. “How do you think he’ll do it?”

“I don’t have the slightest idea,” said Fig. “I’m sure it will be educational to observe.” The two of them stood at the opening of the alcove, waiting to see the Ubik method at work, from a safe distance.

The Holover was good. It wasn’t up to the standard of the one of Mackus — that was remarkable — but this one could pass, if you didn’t examine it from up close. He could see the slight imperfections, the odd way it didn’t quite sit with the background correctly. But it was designed to fool sensors more than actual people. Who even used the naked eye to see anymore?

Ubik raised his hand and reached out. It passed through the projection. He felt around until he found something solid. Then he pulled back his hand and began pounding with his fist.

“Hello? Anyone home?”

“Are you sure you don’t need a screwdriver or something, oh master of the tronics world?” said PT through comms.

“Wait, he is using an ancient technique we aren’t aware of,” said Fig.

“Open up. Special delivery.” Ubik ignored the doubters and kept banging.

There was a shimmer as the image of the ship vanished, revealing not a ship at all but what looked like a shed. A very simple, prefab hut made of sheets of metal.

A door hissed open on the side and a long gun barrel appeared, followed by a man in a battlesuit that had seen better days. Behind him was another similarly dressed man, also carrying a rifle. They pointed their weapons at Ubik, who tried to look past them into the shed.

“Stick your hands up,” said the first man, jerking his weapon at Ubik. The voice was coming over the comms even though Ubik hadn’t activated anything. Did the suit do it automatically or had Fig patched him into an open channel?

“Stick my hands up what?” asked Ubik.

“In the air, stick them in the air.”

“Strictly speaking, there is no air. We’re in the vacuum of space.” Ubik looked at the suits the men were wearing. “Who are you guys? You’re not VendX. I thought you’d be here with Chukka, but your gear, it’s not VendX, is it? No. And you aren’t Central Authority. Is the Seneca Corps having recruitment issues?”

“Who are you? What are you doing here?”

“We’re here for the base commander’s birthday,” said Ubik. “We’ve brought a special guest for the party. Over there, maybe you know her? The lovely Janeane Ingwe.”

The two men looked at each other, guns still pointing at Ubik.

“Never heard of her.”

“Don’t say that. You’ll hurt her feelings. She’s a star of the Battle Arenod.”

“Oh, yes,” said the man standing in the rear. “I think I might have heard of her.”

“There you go. You can meet her if you like. Just remember she looks a lot better once she’s got her makeup and costume on.” Ubik half-turned and raised a hand. “Janeane, over here.”

PT remained where he was and shook his head.

“Sorry, she’s very shy off-stage. Which is surprising considering what she’s willing to do for a glass of white wine and fifty scurs, if you know what I mean. You boys been up here on this rock for a while, have you? Must get lonely. Janeane could cheer you up a bit. I know she’s a big girl, but some men like to be put in their place. The base commander’s that way, apparently. Maybe your commander is, too?”

The one in the rear lowered the tip of his rifle. “Actually, I think he might b—”

“Shut up,” said the one in front. “He’s lying. They’re here for the loot. They’re scavs.”

“Scavs?” The one in back raised his gun hurriedly. “What do you want to do? There’s three of them and two of us.”

“Then let’s even the odds.” The one in front brought his gun up to his shoulder and fired it at Ubik.

The shot didn’t hurt as much as tingle. Ubik looked down and put a hand on his chest, which was warm. “I think you made my heart skip a beat.”

The man shot again, twice. The charge hit Ubik both times, and then dissipated through the suit.

“Try shooting me in the head,” said Ubik. “I’m curious to see what that will do.”

Both men aimed their weapons higher and blasted Ubik point-blank in the face.

He saw the light from the muzzles, but the bubble around his head absorbed the blasts and expanded. They kept firing, looks of confusion on their faces, as the bubble grew and grew.

It was a very unusual way to disperse energy.

“Look at my giant head,” said Ubik. His voice sounded loud and echoed inside the helmet. “Did you hear that? Do I sound weird?”

The two men had stopped shooting. They looked at their guns. The one on the right turned to his colleague, raised his gun, and fired it. He seemed to have concluded the gun wasn’t working properly, and the best way to test it was on a second target. His colleague didn’t agree, judging by the scream he made when he was knocked to the ground.

“Sorry, sorry. I thought…”

“Doesn’t look good,” boomed Ubik. The man on the ground wasn’t moving. “Hold on. I don’t think he’s dead. I know what to do.”

Ubik bent down and grabbed the body by the right foot.

“Hey, let him go,” said the shooter.

“It’s fine, don’t worry. My friends can help. Come on.” Ubik began running back towards the others, the giant bowl on his head making him feel like he was about to tip over, even though it didn’t feel any heavier. He dragged the body behind him, the reduced gravity making it quite easy.

The other man followed, his gun still in his hands, his face showing a lot of conflicting emotions.

Fig and PT also displayed conflicting emotions on their faces as giant-headed Ubik came bounding towards them, dragging a body and followed by a man with a rifle. They did the sensible thing and got out of his way.

Ubik loped past them, got to the blast door and swung his arm forward, sending the body sliding along the ground, through the gap.

A scream came through the comms, modulating in the manner of someone getting hit fast and hard. The pattern suggested to Ubik the man was taking blaster shots to the chest, rapid-fire, at least a thousand kilojoules per shot. The screaming ended abruptly.

“See,” said Ubik, “I told you he wasn’t dead.”


          

Book 2 – 30: Lawful Entry

 Cache   

Third Quadrant.

Planet Enaya.

The White Palace.

Green Room.

 

Figaro took the other two to the green room, the large changing area next to the landing pad at the back of the compound. This was where his father’s employees prepped for space flight, either to go up to the asteroid or to make various other journeys to the many Ollo facilities in the system.

Usually, the place would be full of people coming and going, but today it was just the three of them. Figaro went to the storeroom and brought out Ollo flight suits for the two latest members of the Ollo research team. It was only right that they be dressed appropriately. The suits were white, very plain, and extremely light.

“What’s this made of?” said PT, as he put it on. “It’s even lighter than my greys.”

“It’s a material my father developed. He calls it flaxen, but I’m not sure what it’s really made of. Some chemical compound no one’s ever heard of before, probably. We only have six of them and they each cost a large fortune to manufacture.”

“Ah, yes,” said Ubik, stroking the suit, “I’ve seen this before.”

“I don’t see how,” said Figaro. “It isn’t commercially available.”

“I once broke into the rich guy’s house,” said Ubik, “during my wild youth — don’t worry, I’m a reformed character these days — and the toilet paper in his bathroom felt just like this.” Ubik sighed. “Best dump of my life.” He sighed again, a fond memory playing in his mind.

“We also have a range of weapons,” said Figaro. “I wasn’t sure what you’d want to take, though. They do have some up there, but I don’t know what kind of—”

“No weapons,” said Ubik. “We are men of science.” He lifted up his head and jutted out his chin.

“Aren’t you going to wear one?” asked PT, ignoring Ubik’s posing.

Figaro was wearing his regular flight suit. “No, I prefer this one. I’m used to it and it’s not quite as snug as those ones.”

Figaro pressed the pad on Ubik’s shoulder and the suit tightened, making Ubik gasp. Once it had shrunk to fit his body, the ribbing expanded and formed a black mesh.

“Environmental controls are self-regulated,” said Figaro. “It will adapt to whatever environment we find ourselves in. It can withstand a blast of up to 118 gigajoules. Anything more than that will cause a breach.”

“It can take a direct hit from a mounted laser cannon?” said PT.

“Yes,” said Figaro. “A ship’s cannon is the upper limit, although the impact would probably shatter your skeleton and crush your internal organs. Sustained rapid-fire of less intensity may also kill you. We are going into an unexplored Antecessor site, we most likely will encounter some hostility. These suits will provide you with some protection but it would still be better if you try to avoid being hit.”

“I’ll do my best,” said PT. He hit his own shoulder and the suit conformed to his body.

“Couldn’t work out a shock absorption system to disperse the impact?” said Ubik. He checked himself over, twisting and turning to get a look at himself. Then he put his boots on over the top of the integrated footwear the suit provided.

Figaro considered telling him the boots weren’t necessary, but he was sure his words would be met with derision and an unabridged recital of the Delgado company manifesto.

“These suits will protect you better than anything else, under the circumstances,” said Figaro. The Ollo brand deserved some recognition, even if it would never meet Ubik’s high standards — that would require a D symbol embossed somewhere. “They still have to obey the laws of physics, though.”

Ubik stood up and stamped his feet so the boots fit better over his already padded extremities. He crouched down and began making adjustments to the boots. “You have to obey the current laws of physics. Once you change them, then it’s a lot easier to get things done the way you want.”

“How can you change the laws of physics?” said PT. “Are you a cosmic being, Ubik. Did you come down from the stars to show us mortals how to rewire our tronics on a budget?”

“No,” said Ubik. “You’re looking at it back-to-front. There are no laws of physics. There are only natural laws that operate on a universal scale that we can’t use. In natural units, all units are constant. At the birth of the universe, the amount of energy present was one unit. Now, the amount of energy present is also one unit. What we do to calculate changes and rise and fall of energy is meaningless.”

“While I agree that’s true on a universal scale,” said Figaro, “we only need to worry about what applies to us. Isn’t that what you do? Take what you’ve got in front of you and put it to the best use you can?”

“It’s what I do now,” said Ubik. “Tomorrow, maybe it won’t work.”

“As long as it works today,” said PT. “That’s all that really matters.”

“You’ll never progress beyond your limitations thinking like that,” said Ubik. “It works for now, in our limited space. Once we enter a larger space, or if we manage to make it into universal space, then it will stop working. Our laws are like if you went into someone’s house and they had blue paint on the walls, and when you chipped it off you found there was older, yellow paint underneath. What would people say?”

“They’d say, ‘How did you get in my house’,” said PT. “‘Get out you vandal.’”

“They’d say, Ah, behind every blue wall, there is a yellow wall. And then they’d go next door, where they also had blue walls, and try to scrape the paint off, but the homeowners wouldn’t let them—”

“I’m surprised they even let them in the door,” said PT.

“Don’t need a door if you have windows,” said Ubik. “But even if they can’t check, they’d say it was true for now and make it the universal law of painting and decorating and win awards and, you know, that’s science.”

“This is very specific,” said PT. “Is this also when you were breaking into people’s houses?”

“He’s right,” said Figaro. “Except that when they did eventually manage to find a way to strip the paint, they would find there actually was yellow paint underneath there, too. It’s not like there isn’t evidence for our theories to be true.”

“That isn’t science,” said PT. “That’s people living unimaginative lives. Eventually, they’ll find a home with blue walls without a yellow undercoat. Then what? It all falls apart?”

“No,” said Ubik. “Then we discover the science of quantum decorating.”

Ubik pulled what looked like a loose thread from his sleeve and the black mesh changed colour to red. “I think this colour goes better with my boots.”

PT carefully examined his own sleeve and found no thread to pull. “Did you know the suit could do that?”

“No,” said Figaro. “I’m pretty sure it can’t. My father has no interest in meaningless customisation. We only have white paint on the exterior of our house, to protect against the weather.”

“Let’s go,” said Ubik. “I can’t wait to see this ship. It’s going to be something special, I can feel it. A ship so advanced, Ramon Ollo hasn’t even tested it yet, because of the inherent danger.”

“Wait,” said PT. “What inherent danger? What kind of ship is this? Ubik, hold on, don’t you think we should take a normal shuttle or something?”

They left the green room through large metal doors that slid aside to let in a stiff breeze, and stepped out onto the landing pad. The three of them strode across the open area.

The ship waiting for them wasn’t very big — about the size of a regular shuttle — and gave no indication it was anything else. It was a grey box with no features, no armaments (not visible ones) and a noticeable lack of cosmetic modification. One thing did stand out, however. On the side of the ship, across the door that was halfway between front and back, was the ship’s name: POV Ubik.

“Bit of a coincidence,” said PT, “your father naming his new ship after Ubik.”

Figaro looked at the name with a slight frown. “He only ever gives his creations numerical designation for cataloguing purposes. If my mother hadn’t intervened, I would have been Ollo-37689.”

“Why not Ollo-1?” asked PT.

“Already in use,” said Figaro. “A self-replicating microchip. We don’t get on.”

“I put the name on it when I pulled it up,” said Ubik. “Give it a bit of character.” He walked up to the ship and patted it. “It’s not that your dad doesn’t do fashion, he just doesn’t have the time to jazz stuff up. If we had longer, I would have requisitioned a whole new look. Right, maiden voyage of the Private Ollo Vessel Ubik, ready for launch.”

The three of them stood there.

“Aren’t you going to open the door?” asked PT.

“I can’t,” said Ubik. “It’ll only open for Fig.”

“Ah,” said PT, “so you can’t override this system without permission. And only for a limited time. Interesting. I think I’ll make Ollo my brand of choice.”

“Obviously.” Ubik rolled his eyes. “Ollo systems are the most advanced in the galaxy. I’d need at least a couple of hours to crack them.”

Figaro walked up to the ship and the door opened, half flipping up and the other half forming a gangplank.

The interior lit up, starting at the doorway and spreading into the cabin in either direction. The interior was barebones, as Figaro had expected, with two seats and a control panel that was all knobs and wires.

Figaro took one of the seats. PT looked at Ubik.

“You might as well sit,” said PT.

“I’m fine.” Ubik tapped his heels and remained standing. “Delgados.”

“Okay,” said PT, sitting down and strapping himself in. “So what’s so special about this thing? Super-fast, is it?”

Figaro looked at the panel. There was no onboard AI and no assisted controls, but he was familiar enough with his father’s methods and practices to have a rough idea of what the knobs did. Most of them, anyway.

A screen turned on, showing the exterior, and a HUD lit up to provide readings and telemetry.

“From what I can tell,” said Figaro, performing the flight check, “seems to have a modified core. Hasn’t been tested, so this could also be the Ubik’s last journey.”

“How often do your father’s inventions explode on ignition?” asked PT.

“About half and half,” said Figaro.

“It’ll be fine,” said Ubik. “I checked the diagnostic logs. This ship, under controlled conditions, sixteen percent chance of exploding.”

“Good odds,” said Figaro. He activated the engine and fired the thrusters. The ship rose very quickly but there was no change in gravity or pressure inside the cabin.

“This is the smoothest acceleration I’ve ever experienced,” said PT. “I hardly felt us move at all.”

Within seconds, they were in the upper atmosphere. The HUD started to flash and blink, then stabilised once Figaro had twisted some knobs. He wasn’t sure what the telemetry meant, he just levelled it out and kept it within an acceptable range. It wasn’t a very long trip and the ship had all the basic systems in place. He wasn’t sure why Ubik had wanted to use this particular ship — it didn’t seem to be anything more than an advanced engine design that required very little fuel — but he was willing to be guided by Ubik’s instincts.

“We’ve got an incoming message,” said Ubik, pointing at the screen. He had a panel open and was doing something to the internal wiring Figaro was certain his father wouldn’t approve of.

“I don’t see anything,” said Figaro. Then the symbol appeared where Ubik had pointed.

“How did you know that?” said PT. “Are you psychic now?”

“No, just felt the vibrations in the air.” Ubik smiled in the way he did whenever he lied and knew you knew he was lying.

Figaro opened a channel.

“This is the Central Authority. This a restricted area. Return to your point of origin.”

“This is POV…” Figaro hesitated. “This is an official Ollo research vessel heading for the Tethari wormhole control centre. If you have queries, please contact Mackus.”

There was a pause.

“They’re scanning us,” said Figaro.

“Good thing we’re unarmed,” said PT.

“Understood. Proceed.”

The journey took eight minutes. There was no sensation of movement other than the change in size of the asteroid as they approached.

Then the screen went green and the interior flashed red.

“This doesn’t seem good,” said PT.

“We’re being targeted by the asteroid’s defence matrix,” said Figaro. “Don’t worry about it. My father’s systems all have two protocols in common. One is to never fire on me, no matter who’s in control of them. And the other is to use their full power against me without reservation, if I happen to have lost control of my organic. Since I’m currently in full command of my senses…”

The lights returned to normal.

No one contacted them as they came in across the rocky barren terrain. Either the comms were down or there was no one left to operate them.

“I’m going to bring us down on the secondary landing pad,” said Figaro. “It’s a short walk to the base from there but we’ll have a better chance to see what the situation is.”

“You think the site’s been compromised?” asked PT.

“I’m not sure,” said Figaro. “Better to be cautious.”

“Interesting concept,” said Ubik.

Figaro brought the ship down on a flat piece of tarmac with landing markings. It was a soft landing with no issues. He had made it to the asteroid after years of asking his father and being told not yet.

“The gravity here,” said PT, “it’s—”

The ship shook and the console lit up.

“We’re being shot,” said Figaro.

“From where? Are we damaged?”

“No, we took no damage,” said Figaro. He wasn’t sure what he was seeing. “And it’s from next to us. It’s stopped.”

The screen switched to a side view. There was a large molten lump on the pad that hadn’t been there when they came in to land.

“It’s a ship,” said Ubik. “Or was. Must have been cloaked.”

“What happened to it?” said PT.

“It opened fire on us. This ship is fitted with a reflector shield. If anyone fires on us it’ll send back the fire to the point of origin with roughly a one-thousand-fold increase in power. Their offence is our best defence. Not bad for a prototype. Let’s go have a look.” The ship door opened.

“Did you just open the door?” asked PT.

“Had a little time to work on it.” Ubik exited the ship.


          

Book 2 – 27: Main Event

 Cache   

Third Quadrant.

Planet Enaya.

The White Palace.

Control Room.

 

The metal band Ubik had placed on his head like a crown tingled. There was no direct neural connection, but Ubik could feel the pulses of electricity firing through his temples into his brain. It allowed him to see the room as it was meant to be seen.

An overlay indicated what every button, switch and readout was for, how to use it and what its current status was, updated in real-time.

Blue text filled up Ubik’s vision, and then faded when he shifted his focus. Red text flashed to call his attention to something. Green text informed him of active systems. Orange text warned him of operations coming to an end. Purple text alerted him to countermeasures that were ready to deploy.

All this hand-holding probably wasn’t necessary once you were familiar with the network, but it made it a lot easier for a first time user. There was still a lot to take in. But unlike the Central Authority infodump he had endured, this was designed to be mastered over time. The metal band was a training tool. The network had been built so a child could learn it.

The Seneca ship on the screen was impressively outfitted. It was heavily armed and shielded. It would take a serious amount of firepower to put even a small dent in its side, unless you happened to have a detailed breakdown of every onboard system and component.

As it happened, Ubik had exactly such a breakdown. Just by looking at a part of the ship, the network gave him exact data on what it did, its current condition, and its weaknesses to attack.

“I love this,” said Ubik. “I am so going to make one of these.”

“You faked the destruction of a Seneca warship,” said Fig. “You put the whole world under a death sentence. You misled the Seneca High Command… or were they part of this?”

Mackus said nothing. His face was a blank slate, calculating his options. Ubik found it very funny. He had already calculated the available options, he knew Mackus was seeing one dead end after another.

“It’s a good thing I’m here,” said Ubik, grinning. “You two would have strung this out for days. You set up the Seneca explosion to trick Fig. But Fig’s known you since he was born, he knows how you think. No way would he believe you were going to hand over control to him, no matter what the threat. But you knew Fig would be suspicious, so obviously you would take that into account and give him something to latch onto. But Fig would be expecting you to—”

“Alright, alright,” said PT, “we get the idea. You’re giving me a headache.”

“Your problem,” said Ubik to Mackus, “is you think too simple. You’re one of those ‘shortest distance between two points’ kind of guys.”

“You think the problem was his plan was too simple?” said PT. “What am I saying? Compared to one of your plans, it’s completely transparent.”

“Who are you people?” said Mackus, his voice quiet and controlled.

The main screen changed from a view of the Seneca ship to a view of a very grim-looking Seneca officer.

“What have you done, Mackus?” she said. She didn’t seem very happy.

“Hello,” said Ubik brightly. “I wouldn’t prime those forward artillery placements if I were you. If I hit them between the third and fourth segment breaks, your whole front section will detach. We should talk later, I can fix most of the issues for a very reasonable price.”

The woman’s face became grimmer, which Ubik hadn’t thought possible.

“General Sway,” said Mackus, “this is unfortunate, but not irreparable.”

“Indeed,” said General Sway. Her gaze switched to Fig. “Unfortunate.”

“You have broken several Seneca statutes,” said Fig. “Even if they gave consent for this mission, they’ll never admit it. There is no fixing this for you, Devora.”

There was a slight twitch in the general’s left eye. “You are correct, Figaro. But I can clean up this mess. For the Corps.”

“No,” said Mackus. “This is salvageable!”

The consensus seemed to be that General Sway intended to wipe the slate clean. No one would know what happened here, no one would know who was to blame. A noble sacrifice by the Corps, for the Corps.

Ubik started giggling. “I like your confidence, Devora. You really think you can still achieve some kind of victory.”

General Sway scowled. “Has he gone mad?”

“It’s hard to tell,” said PT.

“It’s under consideration,” said Fig.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m the loony one,” said Ubik. “Could a crazy person do this, though?”

Everyone stopped and waited. Nothing happened, or at least didn’t appear to.

“What did you do?” said PT.

“Really? Do you even have eyes? Look around you.”

Everyone looked at their surroundings, apart from the bald, bearded man. He was staring intently at Ubik.

“Oh,” said Fig. “There’s a forcefield.”

They looked closer and saw the slight refraction of light. The walls, the floor, the ceiling, they were covered in a gloss that hadn’t been there a moment before.

“Exactly,” said Ubik, looking back at the bearded man and giving him a thumbs up. “This is what your dad called the Figaro Protocol, specially designed to counter the Seneca Protocol. There are sixteen billion executables in the network with one common factor — in each of them, Figaro Carmen Ollo is prevented from dying.” He turned his head to look at Fig. “Carmen, huh? Bet your mother came up with that. Anyway, this room is now sealed inside an impenetrable bubble. Nothing gets in or out. The universe could end and we’d still be here.” He turned his attention to the screen. “Open fire on us and the network on the asteroid will destroy you. Attack the asteroid first, and the planetary defence grid will destroy you. Attack both at the same time, and the nearest moon will open fire on you. And that’s just three of the sixteen billion options. I really, really love this. I’m gonna build two of them. Two feels like the minimum you need.”

“You seriously underestimate what the Seneca Corps is capable of,” said General Sway.

“You seriously underestimate what I’m capable of,” said Fig. “The person who trained you also trained me, Devora. Except, she didn’t go easy on me. You will take your ship and leave. Call off the fleet and make up whatever explanation you want — I won’t contradict it. But refuse my offer, and I will release data on your ships and installations. Everyone will know your weaknesses. You will personally be responsible for the end of the Corps.”

“I don’t think so,” said General Sway. “There is no way for you to send out a signal. When we collapse this region of space, nothing will escape. I will be proud to give my life and the life of my crew for the glory—”

She was interrupted by Ubik’s laughter. “There she goes again. Lady, you can’t stop us sending out a galaxy-wide signal, even if you collapse the wormhole and every star in this cluster. You know why? Sixteen billion solutions. Yes, Ramon saw this one coming, too. You know what he did? He set up a corporation. It’s called Node PLC.”

“My father owns Node?” said Fig.

“Founder and sole owner.”

“How did you find that in sixteen billion lines of code?” said PT.

“Oh, it’s more than sixteen billion lines. Anyway, he used it to create a huge broadcasting franchise across the quadrant, built around wrestling, among other things. Didn’t even bother to supervise its growth. Just gave it a mission statement — maximise the pay-per-view revenue stream. That was enough to create the most sophisticated subspace communication array every built. Doesn’t need space to exist to work. I can reach any point in the quadrant in under 0.1 milliseconds. Actually faster than the speed of light, although not really. Mostly shortcuts.” Ubik looked up at the screen and saluted. “Ramon Ollo sends his greetings.”

There was a fury in her eyes that could have laid waste to entire worlds, and probably had. “You have made an enemy of the Corps today.”

“Wait till you see what I’ve got planned for tomorrow,” said Ubik.

“Leave now, Devora,” said Fig. “You were always my mother’s favourite. I don’t want to upset her.”

The screen went blank, then showed the ship again. It turned around, thrusters firing on one side, and then it blasted off.

“You did well, Figaro,” said Mackus. “But you had her completely at your mercy and let her go. She won’t be as forgiving. This is the reason why you aren’t fit to take your father’s place.”

“Mackus, no one is fit to take my father’s place. But the position still belongs to me. Your attempted coup has failed.”

“Unlike you,” said Mackus, “I am not afraid to cross the line when necessary. Ganesh. You know what will happen if anything happens to me...”

Eyes turned to Ganesh, who had been watching quietly. His looked like he was in pain. He took a step towards Fig. Then stopped. He grunted but couldn’t move his feet.

“I apologise,” said Ubik. “Your Delgados are now part of the network.” It was an underhanded thing to do. No man should have control of his Delgados taken away from him.

Ganesh looked down at his feet. Then he pulled his feet out of the boots. He stood there in his socks.

“Didn’t you consider he might do that?” said PT.

“He voluntarily took off his Delgados,” said Ubik. “Why would anyone… Can you beat him?”

“No,” said Fig, backing away. “Mackus is the only one who ever could”

“What about you?”

“Not even close,” said PT.

“Guys, come on, have a little faith in yourselves.”

“Isn’t he in the sixteen billion?” said PT.

“He is,” said Ubik. “But I think I have a better idea.”

“Better than Ramon Ollo?” said PT. “Are you—”

The lights on the boards flashed once. Everyone floated into the air.

“Okay,” said PT. “I like this plan. Can you switch the gravity between zero and point six. Make it a three-second interval.”

Gravity returned, gently bringing everyone down, and then cut out again, sending them bobbing up.

PT tucked in his legs and rotated in mid-air. As gravity returned, he kicked off the floor and ended up standing on the ceiling just as weightlessness returned.

“Nice moves,” said Ganesh.

“Born on a colony ship,” said PT. Gravity kicked in again and PT used it to launch himself at Ganesh.

Ganesh fell backwards, tucked into a somersault, kicked off the wall and flew over PT. “So was I.”

“What?” said Ubik. “That wasn’t in the database?”

Ganesh hit the ceiling with his stockinged feet and pushed off, throwing a small strip of metal ahead of him. He wasn’t aiming at PT or Fig. He was aiming for Ubik.

Ubik was distracted. What distracted him was the metal projectile coming towards him. It was the Delgado logo, taken from the side of Ganesh’s boot. He was about to be killed by the Delgado insignia. The idea of it was just too traumatic for Ubik to react.

The insignia struck him on the head, sending the headband flying off. Ganesh came hurtling in behind it.

“No, no, no,” shouted Ubik. “This isn’t one of the sixteen billion.” He tried to get out of the way but he had fixed his own Delgados to the floor for stability and couldn’t move.

Point-Two struck Ganesh from the side, sending him spinning away before he could reach Ubik.

“Nice moves,” said PT. “A little outdated, though. I don’t think you’ve been keeping up with developments in zero-G tag.” He put a foot on Ubik’s chest and hurled himself upward. He hit the ceiling, bounced off and came down heading away from Ganesh.

As Ganesh repositioned to try for Ubik again, PT twisted so his trajectory curved. He came at Ganesh from behind.

Ganesh tried to shift his weight but he was out of position and could only push PT away, shoving both hands at him.

But PT was expecting the move. Rather than try to block or evade, he grabbed Ganesh’s wrists and pulled him in. He rolled backwards, threw Ganesh over him, and kicked him in the chest, sending him flying across the room.

Mackus was trying to get hold of the metal band. Fig kicked off a wall but the variable gravity was hard for him to manage with any accuracy, and Ganesh was coming directly towards him. Fig held his position above the integration station and waited for Ganesh.

Gravity kicked in, Fig dropped, Ganesh’s momentum kept him flying. Fig planted one foot on the top of the console and sent a sweeping kick at Ganesh. It struck him on the shoulder.

Ganesh twisted in mid-air, copying the move PT had made earlier, and curved through the air, slamming into Mackus who had the metal band in his hand.

Ganesh grabbed Mackus by the waist, spun around him and closed his arms around him from behind, his arm around his neck. There was a sharp snap and Mackus’ head went limp.

Ganesh let him go and Mackus’s body floated in the air for a couple of seconds, and then fell to the ground in a heap.

Everyone else also returned to the ground as Ubik’s hand darted across the main board.

“Good,” said Ubik. “That went very well.” He looked at PT. “You were a bit slow to get it”

“I was acting,” said PT.

“Very convincing,” said Ubik.

“Are you sure the room is sealed?” said Ganesh, looking anxious.

“No signal in or out,” said Ubik.

PT had picked up the metal band and offered it to Ubik.

“Don’t need it anymore,” said Ubik.

“Took me twelve years to get to that point,” said Fig with a sigh. “What now? As soon as you unseal the room, Mackus’ death will trigger whatever failsafe he set up. Ganesh’s family will be killed.”

“Nah,” said Ubik. There was a glimmer across the walls as the forcefield came down. “Out of sixteen billion possibilities, this was actually number nine.”

An image of Mackus appeared in the middle of the room. It solidified so it looked entirely real. The screen showed life signs, all healthy.

“Fake Mackus,” said Ubik. “In case he went rogue and used a dead man switch. This Mackus will live forever.”

“He suspected Mackus all along?” said Ganesh.

“Just a precaution, I think,” said Ubik. “You’re down as number eight.”

“What about my father?” said Fig. “Can you locate him now?”

“No,” said Ubik. “It wasn’t just the warship blocking me, the asteroid isn’t accessible from here. We have to use the network up there.”

“Can’t you use the Node communication array?” said PT.

“Hmm? Oh, I made that up.”

“My father doesn’t own Node?” said Fig.

“No idea,” said Ubik. “Maybe. Sounds possible, doesn’t it?”

Ganesh shook his head. “How does anyone fight him? I can’t tell what he’s going to do next. He’s unreadable.”

“I know,” said Fig.

“Just remember, it’s safest near him, as crazy as that sounds,” said PT. “Although, it still isn’t very safe.”

“Right,” said Ubik, flicking switches across the board. “I’ve called up a ship. A Ramon Ollo prototype — should be fun. Should be waiting on the pad for us.” He stepped over Mackus’ body. “Now, who do I have to kill around here for a sandwich?”




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