It’s an awkward thing, living aboard the Iris.
The race that owns the Iris, the Us, are polite enough to me, considering that I basically retain the position of a permanent houseguest. A useful houseguest, mind you, but a houseguest nonetheless. I don’t think the Us necessarily want me to leave, but I am not convinced they necessarily want me here, either – another awkward thing. I miss being part of something. I suppose that is what it boils down to. It doesn’t seem like I am a part of anything any more. I’m desperately, intensely lonely.
Thankfully, Finder helps with that. He puts the sound of the sea into my ears, which is infinitely better than the damnable silence that has been with me for so long. His presence is soothing, and when I am with him, I find I am calm, or at least calmer.
But even with Finder’s help, lately I have been struggling with the simplest of things. I am depressed beyond words, and, worse, find myself caught in the grip of severe mood swings. I must be impossible to live with – poor Finder! To be truthful, I expect him at any moment to decide that I am too much trouble, throw up his hands, and leave. I remain grateful that he has not yet done so.
Ironically, the trigger to all of this seems to have been the completion of the minor repairs to the Pandora.
The Us have never fully understood the scope of work that the repairs to the Pandora actually involved. Because they have only occasionally visited the extradimensional space in which the Pandora is housed, they have seen only a few rooms, and don’t have any conception of the true size of the ship. I have been working twenty hours a day, every day, for more than a year now, just to get the basic systems back online. I wonder what Bulo would have said if he had to fix the entire Iris all by himself, using only hand tools, without the benefit of crew or drydock to help him?
For all of their politeness, the Us have consistantly refused me the equipment requests which I have repeatedly placed with them. There is no technical problem with the refusals; it’s not like I’m not perfectly capable of constructing quantum accelerators and so on. But every refusal costs me weeks of work. I have had to go to ridiculous lengths, including forging logs, machining my own parts, and secretly building my own unit by hand, to obtain so much as a replicator.
Now I find, to my own surprise, that I deeply resent their reluctance to share their shiny new technologies. Even though I realize that there is no reason they should care about anything I am doing, and even though I frankly wouldn’t release anything to myself in my current frame of mind, I still find myself resentful. In my better moments I accept that there is no reason that they should wish to help me; in my worse ones, I am angry that they don’t think any better of me than that.
However, I digress. After months of effort, most of the repairs are now completed. For the most part, I didn’t mind the work, but it has been only recently that I have come to understand why. As long as I was repairing the Pandora, I was doing something. I never noticed how hard I was working, because there was always something to do.
Now much of that preliminary work is sorted, and what else is there to do? Nothing.
I am the last of my race. I have outlived my own history. I find myself thinking, ‘Now what?’ And I don’t have an answer. This is nearly as disconcerting to me as the endless silence which Finder kindly banished.
At a time in my life when I feel the need for months (or perhaps years) of quiet contemplation in some forgotten monestary somewhere around Outer Mongolia, I find myself on a large stage playing a game for the highest stakes imaginable. Ultimately, the Ring is here because I moved it here. It was the Nurgys that put the ball into motion with the Ring; but I was the one who got to the controls to steer the entire contraption; I was the one who made sure we didn’t leave populated planets stranded in deep space; I was the one who placed everything in their various orbits when we arrived; and, ultimately, I was the one who simply couldn’t handle the extra layer of calculations needed to pull the shadow-casting floating plates out of harm’s way. Not without the Panopticon.
The result? Ask the Icalru, blasted into oblivion, with a minimum casualty rate of 95%.
I do understand what would have happened if I hadn’t taken the actions that I did. I recognize that we would have lost the system and everything in it. Yet I find myself deeply burdened by the knowledge of those that I could not save, who died not as a result of the Nurgy’s actions, but of my own.
And now? We’ve bombarded three-eighths of a planet, solely upon my recommendation. The extradimensional daemons that had invaded there had to go; there was no doubt they would have taken down the Iris, and the probability that they would have eventually discovered and invaded the neighboring worlds was extremely high. The natives begged us to do it – and yet, I expect that this is cold comfort for those portions of the population that are being bombarded with high-level radiation even as I write this. The fact that the recommendation was necessary does not make me less heartsick. The Rahnian Sphere sent the Robert Frost instead of the Iris for the clean up work, and I haven’t yet seen their preliminary reports. I am on pins and needles waiting for it, and when it arrives, I don’t even know if I will be allowed to view it. Like everything else aboard the Iris, I generally get my information second-hand.
The contrast makes the loss of the Panopticon even more stunning. It was a library of sorts, an enormous repository of knowledge, stored and maintained by those who took part in it – which is to say, the rest of my people. Each of us had voluntarily set aside a portion of their psyche to dedicate to its maintenance. Now the only remnant which remains is that fragment which is stored in my own head.
At the time of its loss, I was deeply cocooned in a world of virtual reality. I only discovered what had happened when Solace successfully managed to remove me from my virtual prison.
The backlash I took at that time was not a thing to be forgotten, and the resulting psychic damage remains ongoing. I believe that the inexplicable mood swings may be linked to the related burnout creepage. If that is the case, the creepage is progressing faster than I originally anticipated, and this has me concerned. I haven’t been to see Yado about it. What could he do? The necessary treatment involves not only psychic but temporal correction – even Queen Sherilyn, the extraordinarily psychic leader of the Star Sister city, privately commented on the damage, but wasn’t able to repair it.
Ironically, I have the fix. This type of problem is the precise sort of thing that the Zero room was intended to correct. Of course, as the Pandora still has no power, it’s not operational at the moment. However, unlike most of the Pandora’s systems, the power requirements for the Zero room are extremely low. If I could bring the Pandora up to perhaps 3% power, I could get it back online, and spending time there would do me worlds of good.
The power requirements are so low, in fact, that I believe that I can provide the necessary energy from alternate sources. As my requests for a pre-made quantum accelerator have repeatedly been denied, I’ve been cobbling one together out of some of the old spare parts I’ve had lying around in storage. It should be ready to test soon.
In the meantime, we have a Yma distress beacon to deal with. To say the planetary bombardment didn’t go over well politically would be putting it mildly. Kat is back onboard after her abrupt arrest and release. However, I suspect that there are those who are not pleased with the idea that the person who recommended the bombardment (me) and the ones who executed it (the Iris and crew) have gotten away with it scott-free. The whole thing sounds like a trap to me.
Then again, extreme paranoia is one of the possible symptoms of untreated burnout creepage. Am I being paranoid? Logically, I would be the last to know something like that.
So, I suppose we will have to wait and see…