An Excerpt from Arcana Aeternum

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Karmic Orphan JunEx 05

A small delivery unit passed quietly through the expansive halls of the short, podunk spoke of Haellington without event. It was single-minded in its task, filtering out any information that wasn’t related to that task. With net access, it had the sense to avoid the faceless obstacles dodging in and out of its path from pickup node to delivery node. The unit also managed a small fleet of similar delivery functionaries, and the logistics of the delivery service it ran was quite enough to occupy its faculties without having to parse video on top of it all.

All this was general business procedure up until the unit rounded an unscheduled corner, negotiated a flight of stairs, and pushed its way through a small service door before coming to a full stop in a small medical office.

“What’s that?” Ancillary data indicated the voice belonged to the owner of the office, a surgeon engineer named Sylvestine. Because the unit had the information to answer the indirect question, the voice broke through the unit’s filter.

“Looks like a delivery bot, ma’am.” This second voice was a secretary unit.

“Yeah, not what I meant, Pug. What’s it doing here?” The woman approached the unit and checked the addresses on the packages it was carrying. “Doesn’t look like it’s here for a delivery.” She continued investigating the unit, running her finger over its company logo. “JunEx 05, what brought you here?”

There was no pause for consideration. The unit began reciting strings of command codes and data references followed by a short command summary: “Designant Ysandys wishes to apologize.” Now there was a long pause, so the unit pulled some visual data to find that the woman looked perplexed. Fortunately she formulated a new inquiry: “Apologize for what, dear?”

It was the courier’s turn to pause, trying to recall the information, only to run into a bad sector of memory. “Query is unanswerable. Juniper Express is sorry for the inconvenience.”

“What? That doesn’t make one bit of sense. Un-answerable? As in you don’t know?”

The unit made a point of nodding for the woman’s benefit. “Data inaccessible. Reason for apology has since been overwritten.”

Sylvestine sighed, dropping a pen she was holding onto the desk in a gesture of frustration. “Well, can you at least tell me who this Why-san-dis is?”

The courier paused again, “Query is unanswerable. Juniper Express is sorry for the inconvenience.”

“Oh, forgot that too?”

The courier paused one last time, trying to calculate a legal response, but the machine had to backtrack through several convoluted rules and regulations before it happened upon a loophole. “This unit has not forgotten. On an unrelated note, the identity of designants is legal property of the government. This unit must leave now. Juniper Express is sorry for the inconvenience.”

As it backed its way out of the room and returned to its delivery route, the machine heard the woman sputter some unintelligible objection before it reactivated its filter, blocking out what was deemed useless information.

At each end of an Eco Shell’s axis lies a massive dome used to process and store matter as fuel for the entirety of the Shell. These domes complete the Shell’s spherical shape. The entire Shell rotates end over end, the two fuel cells orbiting each other, in order to reduce strain on the Shell’s metastructure. The exact floor plan of the domes is not a matter of general knowledge, but it is known that a dome will detach from the shell and make landfall on any stable celestial body, and the matter harvesters located around the extreme perimeter of the dome will begin to strip mine the planetoid, converting it into osmium, until the dome reaches capacity.

Osmium was chosen as a fuel source for its unmatched density. Iridium was an alternative possibility, and for some time a few of the more stable radioactive elements (and one or two super dense molecules) were considered for their proximity to useful materials, but ultimately this fell in favor of the compact, already spherical configuration of osmium.

Each dome can carry a ball of osmium one twelfth the size of the moon. Between the two, this is a total mass roughly equal to that of the Earth. The fuel cells are never substantially expended. From full capacity, the station could theoretically run for ten billion years.

It is not policy to mine any planetoid above class four, where life is a mathematical possibility. It is not policy to mine a star system for longer than it takes to fill the Eco Shell to capacity, in case the Shell is forced to backtrack. It is not policy to approach a star system with evidence of a class seven, intelligent life bearing planetoid. Policy can be overridden by a quorum of the Consulate or by direct order of the Primus, either of which can be petitioned for by the populous.

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