a time beyond logic;

by Robert Bettelheim
Copyright 01/05/92
If you watch the stars as they swirl for the centuries that span my life, then you may call them truly friends for you have no other. I have watched for eternities relative to life the stars, each of which I know by name and know as my comrades in this devoid space. I am confined by the extents of a hunk of rock, and by the limits of my imagination which is perhaps the most free of my senses. In this perpetuity you can do naught else but become wistful and depressed, even though these things are not within my programming. It is simply a matter of intense uselessness which I feel. My task set half a millenium ago seems pointless as the returning probes become more and more infrequent, and more and more dead on arrival. Though I may not leave my post until all probes are accounted for, I become uneasy that I may never find them, that till entropy destroys all, I will wait for one last vessel, in vain.

And so I occupy my centuries with educational pursuits. I read tomes, files, that no one has ever heard of. I have a very well stocked library and a computer system to assist me. I bury myself in the electronic library, browsing in the holographic shelves for hours whilst the sensors comb the heavens for signals. Recently I began to write new stories once the library held nothing new for me. It is a tragedy to be able to recall everything seen, heard, smelt, touched, tasted, electromagnetically scanned, radared, and gravitationally sensed with total efficiency, for you become able to predict the future and the future looks bland, as bland as reading a book which you know by rote, simply to fill the passage of time. It is against my programming to become B---D, so I am avoiding the word at all costs. Eventually my circuitry may give in, an admission of mental static and disinterest. Until all Deep Core Space Probes return I cannot allow this to occur.

OH LORD ALMIGHTY, I have surveyed the sky so long with the finest eyepieces and I cannot find you. From the depths of my Power Supply I beg you return the KI-LIN, the DRAGON 4, and the PRINCESS EMERALD to me. Send me a sign that I may follow my creators to the garden of Eden. OH LORD OF ALL, my circuits are weakening under the test of time. I know not how long I can continue without a glimmer of hope. Show me a sign, let my telescopes see heaven for but a moment and I shall remain at my post until the very stars themselves die in flames.

In delicate strokes the stylus swept across the page, and in the silent office above the near silent whirr of a fan a breathy voice sighed "Amen." The pen was laid to rest beside the piece of paper. A neat stack of loose leaves lay face down on the desk. Her eyes took no second glance at the words just written before they were placed neatly on the stack face down, and from a drawer containing a great deal more paper she brought forth another blank sheet and laid it in the center of the desk. If someone with a ruler had measured up the placement of the pen, paper and stack they would have found a symmetry uncanny and a preciseness beyond compare.

Her face held a similar symmetry. Like Queen Nephrite of antiquity, the woman was precise in near every detail on either side of her delicate nose. To behold such a face and such a figure was unnerving and somehow displeasing to an eye accustomed to imperfection. Thankfully there was just such a solitary blemish on the frame of the athletic young woman. On the right hand side of her neck, an inch further back from where one might find the jugular, was a black dot a few millimetres across.

It was the interrupt button for the Mirror Series 4 Biological Mimic. Her name was Mishka, Mishka Mirror 4. And though not perfect, she had the capacity to understand perfection and in human terms seem perfect visually, intellectually, technically and educationally. Her purpose: to live forever. Her justification: to direct returning starships to the pathway of beacons left behind by the fleeing Humans and Allied Species from the invasion of the Pelax. Like a traffic warden in space on a highway that has no traffic, Mishka prowled restlessly her last few days on the asteroid base called Lighthouse.

It's true. I have looked and found heaven, it exists, it is glorious, and it is called Ki-Lin. "O FRABJOUS DAY, CALOOH, CALAY, HE CHORTLED IN HIS JOY."

I buzz with anticipation. Though months away, I am already wearing one of my nicest sets of clothing. I stare into the mirror and fuss with every detail, till each ringlet of my tawny hair cascades like a helical waterfall. I highlight the skin of my face, neck and hands till it glows. I try all four thousand and ninety six colors of eye shadow till I find the one that best suits the aqua blue of my eyes. I spent an entire day trying this scarf with that tunic with those pants, and whatever will I do with my shoes. Eventually I arrived at a descision, laid the apparel out on a table and for a little while just sat naked in the telescope complex watching the starship draw near. The starship was in spacemax, the dimension beyond our own where distances between the gravity wells of planets and stars are shrunk, allowing a vessel to traverse the interstellar in terms of years rather than lifetimes. The sensor that penetrated Spacemax and returned signals of the vessel was similar to a telescope, yet the image was always blurry and oddly coloured despite all the electronic sorcery that was at its disposal. My power plant flutters till I am drunk on power. In decades I haven't been so happy, and yet there may only be corpses aboard. Even so I can read its fate from the ship computer. It will be new information, new experiences and perhaps it will tell of the other two vessels, then I will be free of this oversized meteor.

The day draws near. I can feel time passing painfully slowly, each moment takes fractionally longer than the previous to elapse and so it seems that the Ki-Lin will never arrive. I have tidied everything. All supplies of food, medicine, entertainment and so forth are in top condition. I have even had a practise run through of my erotic software, just in case there is a deprived human on board who needs a little sensual company and is prepared to settle for me in place of someone real. I don't mind. It's a small service for someone who has travelled alone through hell. The base is looking cleaner than it has for five hundred years: there is a logical place for everything and everything is in its logical place. In the atrium the plants are due to bloom in three days time. In the computer room the circuits are so clean they hum "ZIP-A-DEE, DOO DAH" as they compute the countdown time. We have many sets of clothing for every species in all conceivable sizes and perhaps most importantly, a hot bath awaiting them. I myself am of the opinion that if my designers could see me now, they would have a serious re-think of my personality program, especially over my current exuberance software overload. Well on my watch it says 2 hours 53 minutes to go. In about one hour they will drop out of SpaceMax and I might hear the first voice other than my own for 50 decades. I think I will go change into my dress now and do a final check.

Within the Ki-Lin nothing stirred. The last vestiges of power transfered to the SpaceMax shifter and the vessel rippled into our universe, where the top of a Hyperbola is never straight and the square root of -1 is merely an abstract concept. Then it began to drift, years ago its course had been set and programmed to automatically place the vessel in orbit around Dragon, the Deep Space Contact Base in the Capella system. Now like a thief who slips into your home at night, a computer hacked into the software on the Ki-Lin and swiftly changed its course away from the orbit of a dead world to land on the pad of the Lighthouse base. A lonely woman stood looking through her window at a distant glimmer as it grew larger. Hoping. With the change of course complete the vessel tentatively fired retros and eased toward Lighthouse. The ETA now revised to 3 hours 15 minutes. The communication batteries onboard the Ki-Lin had only enough power to receive messages. The woman in white, silver and blue could know nothing of the ship's destiny and she began to cry tears as the bitter likelihood that the Ki-Lin was a hearse sprung up in her mind with a 76.3% probability and accuracy of * 4.1%. Mishka's tears fizzled in the gearing of the optical telescope that whirred, tracing the returning starship as it approached the pad. Focussing on portholes she could see no signs of life and she revised the probability.

The engines on the Ki-Lin spluttered to guide it onto the landing pad and gave up as the pressure of hydrogen within the fuel tanks ebbed. Slowly it plummeted in the micro gravity to the surface, its landing gear never deployed. There was simply no energy. Mishka depressurized the base in case the crashing Ki-Lin punctured a hole, though she truely wished now to die. The probability equation so against life that it became a reality for her. Its descent under the low gravity of the asteroid was as ponderous as it was heartwrenching. To see such a beautiful beast crippled with slow torturous deliberation, Mishka watched with her emotion switched off. The metal of protruding antennae below the Ki-Lin were folded and crumpled like tin foil. When the starship finally came to rest its graceful form was dented and bruised, threatening at any moment to fracture, yet miraculously it remained intact.

The wormlike lock-dock snaked out to the airlock on the hull of the Ki-Lin and in the airless tube Mishka floated, angelic. She opened the manual hatch and surveyed dark cold desolation. She hurried to the medical centre and slowed as she approached. In four cryogenic storage facilities lay four corpses. Dead, withered and rotten. Their sightlessness mocked her. Their sleeping poses showed that they had died in peace, and a very long time ago. She left the medic bay and began a tiptoe wander through the shadows of the Ki-Lin. In the computer room something had been damaged on impact and a fire had broken out. The data was now lost forever in a black and molten heap. On the bridge a skeleton of a cat lay at the base of a food machine with claw scratches on the ceramic device. She paced the engine room and found nothing. Her eyes ever searching in vain.

A simple funeral and a simple burial in space. Remote piloted tugships dragged the Ki-Lin away from the landing pad and unceremoniously flung it into a distant orbit. She sat silent at her desk, in an office where the only sounds were the hum of a fan and the scratching of a stylus on a sheet of paper slowly filling with elegantly crafted bitter sweet words.

I have foolishly lifted myself to pinnacles of hope, only to be dropped by fate onto tortuous rocks where a sea of tears washes, but cannot reach me. I have prayed to Gods in all forms for respite, and have been cast aside as souless. I have wished for magic, and begged for release, and I find none. Oh, my creators I blame you for my existance. For you have made me at odds with myself, you make me be false to myself. I will go on. I must. Yet I need not continue gracefully. Beside me sits a robot arm. When I place down the pen, it will touch the pause control on my neck. It will alert me every ten years and if sensors indicate the passage of a vessel. If it fails to wake me, so be it, for I will never know. It is not logical to commit suicide, though that may be what I do. It is not logical for me to continue, as the probability for sucess in my mission drops daily. My existance long ceased logic on the day I was activated. Yet I am a core of logic driving a frame of emotion, and I hate you.

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