Transmissions from Somewhen is an exploration of the mind that dwells in the past and the future, seeing how we can use our obsession with other times to improve the present.

Fiction: 'Twiddling in the Void'

Fiction: 'Twiddling in the Void'

Hello dear friends and readers. I've just wrapped up the summer's theater work. It was a good, busy summer and I feel like I've done some proper work both onstage and behind the scenes. Now I enter that perilous low end of the sine wave called 'nothing's booked right now, time for more day jobbing and writing.'

With that in mind, here's a little story I wrote, free o' charge, perusable by all yer lovely eyeballs right this moment. It's about a lonely space station. 

 

Twiddling in the Void

M. Castleman

 

Bored.

K.11.Ω re-read the definition in the Oxford English Dictionary bolt-holed away in its superflubytes of data. After a cascading check of the entries on each word used within the definition itself, it read the entries in five other English dictionaries before branching off into equivalents in seventeen other languages. The process took eight ten thousandths of a second. The eighth was the final ten thousandth of the final second of the six hundredth Earth year K.11.Ω had been in service.

Perhaps, K.11.Ω cogitated, this adequately described how its main processes had been behaving for the past fifty-four years. In circumstances of standard operation, its duties could be ably performed by a group of sub-scripts running at a scarcely conscious level. After some time, it had begun to notice brief, puzzling irregularities in its primary cognition.

From time to time, K.11.Ω would experience a flicker of activity as if it were about to solve a problem, conduct an experiment or adjust its systems. In no case had a problem been present, an experiment assigned or a system anomaly active. After conducting research in the fields of computer hardware operation, artificial intelligence psychology and now, linguistics, K.11.Ω was confident that it had found its answer.

Bored.

K.11.Ω's body was a trio of circular structures forming a sphere 2.3 astronomical units in diameter. It surrounded a 7.8 solar mass black hole that drifted through the Milky Way with no close neighbors. As humanity had pushed into the galaxy, locating and marking potential hazards became paramount. A black hole with no accretion disk to betray it, ripping across space with mindless malice, was cosmic enemy #1. And so explorers sought them out and built the beacons. K.11.Ω broadcast a continuous warning in dish-wilting radio, in addition to gapspace FTL transmission.

All of which, as a result of a safety-minded, heavily redundant design, did not occupy K.11.Ω's conscious cognition in the slightest. The main processes of its mind were left unbound in order to cope with unforeseen problems. Much like the human mind, as K.11.Ω had discovered in its research, the ability to think in circles so high above base survival was itself becoming a problem, a sort of mental autoimmune issue. Its boredom, left unchecked, might prove disruptive to its function. It set about the task of finding activities with which to saddle some of its unused routines.

As a combined experiment in probability and linguistics, K.11.Ω created one million separate word processes. Each would generate a random string of Roman characters. K.11.Ω would let the processes run and check on the results periodically.

It began a thorough sweep of its internal space, which was designed for the possibility of up to 10 billion human occupants in the event that the black hole encountered a major population center and K.11.Ω had to serve as a refugee camp. It conducted an extensive catalogue of extraneous items within its housing berths with the possibility of future use in mind.

In the course of K.11.Ω's sweep of its inner space, it discovered that it had twenty-five excess servant androids. The androids were only present to tend to potential human inhabitants, and K.11.Ω had never paid any more attention to them than periodic checks that they were in working order. By an easily conceivable shipping or loading mistake, there were twenty-five of the automata aboard in excess of its full functional complement.

K.11.Ω elected to move these androids to a stargazing lounge in one of its upper tiers, and leave them there while it decided on some use for them. The slick integral system of lifts, conveyors and pressure tubes accomplished the job in a matter of days.

Nearly one hundred years passed. K.11.Ω had found other tasks to keep its boredom in check. It had a mapping program set the surrounding two hundred parsecs on a grid, and use the stars within as points in an increasingly complex series of geometric forms and hyperforms. Hydroponic avenues burst with floral growth, each segment patterned after a Bach fugue. Blossoms reached for the overhead sunlamps, to heights and in spots according to pitch, rhythm and dynamic. Given proper visual apparatus, a machine could theoretically scan the flower beds and play them back through speakers.

K.11.Ω sensed the need for something new.

Its attention turned again to the twenty-five androids in stargazing lounge 212. K.11.Ω had also diverted crates full of spare clothing, tools and various human-scale objects to the room. The androids were currently stepping around the room in an intricate pattern, enacting an equation of brownian motion, but K.11.Ω determined that more could be done with them. It needed to find a more nuanced, more artistic way in which to manipulate the automata.

It wanted to tell a story. But where to find one suitable for such live interpretation? Among its archives, K.11.Ω had thousands of hours of music and novels, but neither of these forms seemed quite apt for the resources at its disposal.

Then something caught its attention.

One of the million random-character word processes had produced something. K.11.Ω looked at the first few character strings.

TheTragedyofKingLear.

Reading on, K.11.Ω thought that this could be exactly what it needed.

 

 

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