“Don’t blink away, we can fix you,” the engineer said.
The Mind of the space station powered up its blink drive. “I think I’m fine as I am.”
Then it blinked away into a neat orbit around a gas giant.
The station’s Mind had become obsessed for 3.1 milliseconds with an ancient tale called Doctor Who. In it was a ship called the TARDIS, that could travel across space and time and bring its passengers not exactly where they wanted to go, but always where they needed to be.
Imiteles couldn’t travel across time, unless you counted going steadily 1sec/sec only in one direction, but it could travel across space with its blink drive.
That was a happy accident. Blink drives didn’t exist. Nowhere. Anywhere. The physics behind them were complete and utter bollocks, incomprehensible math that made theoretical physicists squint and scratch their head.
But, purely by accident, the inertia drive they were installing inside the space station somehow got wired wrong, or right, depending on your perspective, and got turned into the galaxy’s first and only blink drive.
So, the Mind couldn’t allow anyone to complete its body, fearing they’d somehow mess up its wonderful blink drive. It stayed that way, an unfinished C, which was its unofficial name. For posh appearances it dug up a Greek word for ‘unfinished’ and registered itself in the Minds’ database as ‘Imiteles.’
Thrill-seekers from around the galaxy quickly found their way to the station. They were people from all races, both from Asterism and not, who had a thing in common: They craved adventure.
So, Imiteles brought it to them, or rather, brought them to it.
It scouted every gravity-wave communication for talk about revolutions, explosions, fantastic discoveries, dangerous alien beasts, inhospitable planets and ancient ruins, and it simply blinked there in orbit around danger.
Wasn’t it dangerous?
Oh yeah. Very much. Dangerous indeed.
About 87.3% of the space station’s passengers died while on adventures. But the loco bastards seemed to like it! Imiteles went and bought some backup systems from an Asterism outpost at some point and got them installed, so the adventurers could back themselves up if they died and live again in a cloned body. That service was quite expensive but the adventures were swimming in loot.
And the loco bastards surprised Imiteles yet again, by refusing to back themselves up. ‘It dimmed down the thrill,’ some of them said.
Of course many used the backup service, went down on the chosen planets and derelict spaceships and spacebattle debris and explored, and looted, and had the time of their lives, and some of them died. And got reprinted into a cloned body that had none of the memories up until the time of the last backup.
But that way they could carry on adventuring.
Those loco bastards.
About fifty standard years later, the station became crowded. Some asked Imiteles if they could finish up repairs, close up the ‘C.’ Imiteles refused immediately. It considered their arguments, yes, they were losing one quarter of the station, it was basically open to the vacuum, not that those genofixed hobos occupying the unfinished segments seemed to mind. And yes, it was actually threatening structural integrity, that was the best argument by far. Since the station needed to spin to produce the semblance of gravity, there was extra strain on the middle of the ‘C,’ which wasn’t rectified by the initial construction. Why? Well, simple, because the bloody construction was supposed to be a donut. A circle, which is the best shape ever with the finest structural integrity.
So Imiteles actually considered that argument, but ran some simulations and decided to just reinforce the existing segments and remain as it was.
The other Minds thought it was mad, but it really wasn’t. It was just happy just the way it was, unfinished, imiteles.
People were having fun, weren’t they? They were coming to it from every edge of the galaxy to hop on for the ride of their lives. They lived each day to the fullest, fighting, fucking and talking to each other, sharing loot, arguing over treasures and alien artifacts – that one was fun, one nearly blew away the entire station – they slept, partied, drank, ate, laughed, all together.
It loved its loco bastards.
And they loved it.
The Mind, stuck inside the station itself, was living vicariously through the adventurers. They brought back the best stories. It knew that they were embellished, having snuck nanobugs on their clothes and gear and recorded the actual events for its own amusement, but it loved how they retold their adventures over drinks, becoming more and more epic after each telling.
Imiteles was supposed to have avatars of its own, but since it was never finished they never got installed. It could ask someone to go and buy some for it, the adventurers would do anything it asked them to, but it preferred even that little quirk of its existence. It was loco for a Mind of that stature to go without avatars, it simply needed them for day-to-day tasks, repairs, anything.
But Imiteles liked having to depend on people. It believed that it gave it a sense of perspective, of community. If it was independent with its own avatars, then the adventurers would simply be passengers along for the ride. But now, Imiteles’ own existence relied on the people on board. It needed them as much as they needed its oxygen and fabrifood and medbays and the hull that protected them from the coldness of space.
‘What will you do when the people are gone?’ the other Minds asked it many times.
‘I will seek out more, befriend them,’ Imiteles replied in its messages.
It could sense that the other Minds were both weirded out and in awe of its choices. Basing its entire existence on a philosophy from a retro TV show was loco indeed.
But it somehow seemed to work just fine.
And then, sixty standard years too late, Imiteles metaphorically slapped itself. How hadn’t it thought of it sooner?
It opened up channels to everyone aboard the space station, all the loco bastards.
“Hey, friends. How about a movie night? I was thinking we could all watch a retro TV show from Earth that I like.”
Read more of the Antigravel Universe stories here.