A short story set in the Culture universe created by Iain M. Banks

[tight beam, M8, tra. @n4.29.173.882]
  xMSV Kainotophilia
    oGSV Imperscriptiblist
Hi again. Still here, although slow going. [Report attached.]

[tight beam, M8, tra. @n4.29.173.919]
  xGSV Imperscriptiblist
    oMSV Kainotophilia
Hello, old friend. Thanks for the report. It makes interesting reading. Keep them coming.

Are you really not building any new ships?


That's right. I'm not making GCUs or indeed any other proper craft at the moment; just a few remote sensor platforms and long-distance probes, all either sub-sentient or value 1.5 or less AIs. I'm spinning these off in the direction of some of the closer and more interesting systems out here. I'll make sure I copy you on the reports as they arrive.
The few GCUs who volunteered to come with me are adamant they want to explore the Antlia galaxy when we get there, and seem content to sleep until we arrive.


I'm sure any sensible GCU wouldn't want to be left behind.

And how are you coping with inter-galactic hyperspace?


Well, it's a struggle to maintain a reasonable speed. I can barely manage 800 lights at the moment. The grid is very different away from the Local Group. Yes, yes, I know all the physics is perfectly understood, and of course I expected this to happen when I set out. But what I had not anticipated was how it makes me feel.

Without the engine capacity to move quickly, I feel somehow trapped, insecure. I couldn't respond quickly to any kind of emergency or challenge; I'd just have to keep plodding along with no options at all. It is, I don't mind admitting to you, very unsettling. Very unsettling indeed.


"Hello Rahanna."

"Again, many thanks for your thoughts. Somehow I appreciate your wisdom more and more, now that it comes from a great distance! And, yes, of course you're right - we are, after all, only human - and almost everybody craves the company of other people."

"It's getting very quiet here, and perhaps even a little lonely. More and more people are getting themselves Stored. Even some of the drones have entered states of deep hibernation and power-down; it's not unusual to find an inanimate drone on some shelf or alcove."

"The Kainotophilia seems to be shutting down parts of itself, too. Just yesterday, I walked for hours in the less-populated parts of the ship. There was nobody to be found, just corridors and spaces and apartments which lit up as I approached, dimmed behind me as I walked on. It was just a little bit spooky, to be honest."

"The ship is clearly still looking after us all, but there are so few unStored now. The frenetic party atmosphere has almost entirely dissipated; everybody who is awake knows everyone else, now. There are plenty of social gatherings, but they are quiet, even sombre affairs - comforting drinks and soft conversations, mutual emotional support and discussions of what to put in messages to those left back home. There are joint meditation sessions and guided deliberations, study gatherings and formal debates, shows and dramas, concerts and recitals."

"It's all so very different from the wild parties and orgies we - or, at least I - used to enjoy. I think I'm changing - everybody's changing. I hope it's for the better."

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