Gabriella relayed what Michael had told her to Ursula. There was a moment of silence while it sunk in. Somehow saying it out loud made it more real.
“Well, then. I guess we have to do something.” Ursula finally said,
Gabriella smiled. “That's a bit of an understatement. What's the plan?”
“I don't know. Somehow, we need to give the Demon Machine what it wants, it's the only way to manoeuvre it. It's too smart and it has Triad on it's side, we can't take that head on. Giving it what it wants is the only way.”
“So what, we just give up?”
“No. It's wants to be a bigger hive-mind, we make it one. Things are never what they were before after a fusion. Tetherson and Triad are both living proof of that. It must have a plan to keep itself the dominant consciousness, something in addition to the bomb.”
“Triad! Triad's entire purpose is to filter the Aether! What if Tetherson's plan is to use Triad as a sort of shield against the implosion, coming in at the last minute and absorbing all that concentrated energy?”
“Uh sure, I guess. Aetheric theory was never my strong suite, that's you're thing.”
“I think I'm right, it would make sense. But that takes us back in circles. How are we going to stop Triad? And the bombs, they're still cause damage, how are we going to stop them?”
“Honestly? I don't know.” Ursula said laying back on the bed and staring at the ceiling. “I have no idea. This is big Gab, bigger than we can handle alone.”
“Can't we contact your friends at the DETF?”
“No, contacting them ever again would be suicide. If they ever see me again, they'll kill me.”
Gabriella looked concerned. “This is about what happened with Michael isn't it? Are you ever going to tell me about it?”
Ursula scrunched up her face. “Yes to the first. Maybe, someday, to the latter.”
Chair began bumping against the bed, trying to get their attention. Gabriella leaned over the side of the bed and looked at the shaggy haired piece of living furniture.
“What is it boy?”
Chair jumped up and down and then something small and wet plopped into Gabriella's hand. It smelt of blood and wet dog hair.
Ursula leaned over and looked in amazement at the slimy blue lump dropped out of Gabriella's hand and hit the hotel room carpet. It quivered there for moment before slowly unfolding itself. It was a tiny little chair, like Chair, but of the size more suitable for a doll house than a normal sized person.
“Oh my! Chair, I didn't know you could do that!”
Gabriella squealed in excitement. “Awwww! A baby chair! It's so cute!” Then she realised what had happened. “Oh my god! I dropped the poor thing, I'm terrible! Is it okay?”
The little chair jumped up and down and began rubbing the slime off of itself against Chair. Ursula grinned. “I think so. Chair, since when did you get the ability to replicate? That's not part of your base sequencing.”
Chair responded by plopping out another slimy furball.
Ursula looked puzzled for a moment and then a broad grin slid over her face. “Max did this didn't he? He transmitted some new coding before he died.”
Chair bounced up and down and bounded around the room, the two little chair's followed but could keep up.
“Why did you want to show us this? Are you saying you and your, uh, children can help stop Triad?”
Chair bounced in agreement.
“I'm sorry Chair, but your just, well, a chair. I don't think there is anything you can do.”
Chair shook it's backrest furiously and started running in a pattern around the room.
“I don't understand.” Ursula said, confused. “If only you could talk.”
Gabriella interrupted. “Wait, didn't you say Chair was a spy for you? It must have had an AT to do that, right? Maybe it can talk.”
Ursula slammed her palm against her forehead. “Of course, why didn't I think of it before?”
“Umm, because talking to furniture hasn't exactly been high on our priorities recently.” Gabriella giggled.
Ursula gave her a look. “Okay, give me a second, I'm going to try something.”
Ursula placed a hand on Chair's seat and focused on making a connection. She felt something establish itself but it was weird, strange in some way. Generally people didn't directly communicate via AT with non-humans, the difference in minds and thoughts was too great. Usually AT interfaces to things worked with simple computer systems but in the case of Chair, it was somewhere in between, semi-sentient, more so than a dog, but less that Max or a human. The signal came in stuttered and disjointed.
Chair! Many chair make mind! Big mind chair! Love Ursula! Love Gabriella! Chair! CHAIR! Make safe, big mind!
Chair, I don't understand.
CHAIR! Big chair, big mind chair! Make bad big mind bye bye!
You want to fight Triad and Tetherson?
Is that a yes?
CHAIR! Chair transmitted, bouncing intensely.
That's very nice Chair, but I still don't understand how you can help.
CHAIR! Many chair big mind! Big mind chair fight big mind. Big chair mind make big mind LOVE URSULA AND GABRIELLA! CHAIR!
Wait, are you saying you want to become a hive mind, 'many chair big mind'?
And you want to fight the other big minds? You want to fight Triad and Tetherson?
Chair love Ursula and Gabriella!
You want to fuse with the big mind, oh god now I'm going it, you want to fuse with Tetherson and Triad?
But, what about you?
Many many many many many chair make big chair.
Ursula disengaged and looked around. The room was carpeted with little chairs, Chair had been busy while they had been talking. There must have been at least a hundred or so. Gabriella looked at Ursula and shrugged.
“Don't look at me, she just kept on pumping them out, one after another. What happened?”
“I kind of feel stupid saying this.” Ursula said, looking at the scene in disbelief.
“I think Chair might have a plan.”
* * * * *
“And you really think it can work?” Ursula said.
“It has merit, I mean think of it this way, both the Demon Machine and Triad are hive-minds of three parts, three individual parts. Collectively they are more powerful than any single part but as far as will power goes, they'll be weaker. People never agree one hundred percent with each other, even if their minds are all one, their has to be something there holding them back. Normally, in Triad's case that would be a good thing. A committee of one, all benefits but none of the flaws and the power to make intelligent decisions. It's done it's job well for a hundred years but we're now experiencing the evidence of cracks in it's psyche because of the differences between it's components. With Chair, they'll all be Chair. Each mind, each soul is a copy, right? One will, one goal magnified exponentially. I think it will have to power to override any other goals with it's own. I think that was what Triad was trying to do with Michael, create a powerful force with a single, encompassing will to take it's place, one without it's weaknesses. If only we knew what had happened to him.”
Ursula nodded as she processed the information. “Okay, that makes sense. One problem though. How do we make Chair a hive-mind? Only Triad and Tetherson have that technology and I'm guessing they don't want to share.”
“We already know how to do that.”
“No, you don't mean...?”
Gabriella nodded, her jaw set. “Yes, we set off an Aetheric bomb.”
“We do that and we'll probably kickstart the war the Demon Machine has been cultivating for all this time.”
“Then we'll need to find a way to do it quietly.”
* * * * *
Chair's children were getting bigger, so big in fact that they needed a specialist plane all to themselves. Luckily, Ursula's preparations had left them with plenty of liquid assets and so acquiring one wasn't a problem. There were over two hundred now, all perfect clones of Chair, albeit still slightly smaller. Ursula was both humbled and amazed that they were all going to sacrifice themselves to become some kind of Aetheric super Chair. She sat alongside Gabriella in the modified deck of the aircraft, the rest of it lined with Chairs, the normal seating removed.
The plan was to fly to Mendelian territory. Undoubtedly, the demons under Tetherson's guidance were already acquiring a bomb and placing it in Triad's tower. Triad would of course be grateful for it's utter destruction, not knowing that it in fact would condemn itself to live on as part of a greater whole, the god-like being Tetherson hoped to become. They would storm the tower and Chair would attack Triad, killing it in the physical world and thus removing it as a shield for Tetherson to use. Ursula would trigger the bomb remotely, Gabriella helping her find the relevant AT to connect to with her gifted Sight. There was still the matter of the other nations bombing each other, but the choice of Triad's tower should prevent that. The Aetheric would never bomb Triad and the Mendelians wouldn't bomb themselves. The Technomancers were already out of action on that front due to Ursula's efforts and so they hoped the shock of Triad's destruction would be enough to prevent them turning against each other.
Ursula turned in her seat as the plane began to take off. “I can't believe you only just told me a few hours ago.”
“I'm sorry, I didn't want you to worry.”
“Well, you did worry me! Being able to see again, having you AT permanently locked on. It's weird, it's almost like what would happen when a demon possesses you via AT. You'd be possessed by now though if it was going to happen at all and your connection seems jammed. I can't connect to you at all. It's worrying stuff, but I'm glad all the same. Without your gift this would be a lot harder.”
Gabriella leant back in her seat. “Well, it all worked out for the best. I don't know about you, but I'm going to go to sleep for the duration. I've been feeling a bit ill.”
“No surprise, we've been through hell. I'm surprised even this Mendelian body of mine hasn't succumbed to something. Sweet dreams.”
“They will be, they'll be of you.” Gabriella said, squeezing Ursula's hand.
Ursula pulled a mock grimace.
“That was seriously gross. Waaaay too cute, sickly even.” She laughed.
Gabriella grinned and closed her eyes. “I love you, you know. No matter what happened, no matter what happens now. I love you Ursula.”
Ursula squeezed Gabriella's hand back fiercely. “I love you too. You make me human.”
“See you in a few hours.”
They went to sleep.