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


Aneme Crossmaddows remained in Contact for a great many years, contributing mightily to that organisation's programme of Good Works.

Eventually, she became a mother, bearing a daughter whose father could have been her beloved Jeremias, thanks to the intervention of the GSV Imagine A Swift Exit. She returned to Q'aantar Orbital for a period to raise her daughter, living in a rambling old building in the T'salis region of Forlarkis Plate with numerous members of Mso's extended family. Kitzean herself was an infrequent but very welcome visitor. Drone Quenlily Sikralis was a more frequent guest.

Anene also finally completed her full name, using the Culture's names for the star and planet upon which she was born, and the local name of the village where she had spent almost the entirety of her first life. She added Shilde as her Chosen name, meaning Advisor.

The events concerning the use of Island Rock as bait to entrap the entire Culture into taking part in a civilization-wide moral experiment left Kitzean Mso even more disillusioned with the machinations of at least some of the Culture's Minds, as well as confirming her long-held view that the Culture's worst enemy was, in fact, itself.

After the inevitable inquiries and investigations had been carried out, she had herself Stored aboard the GSV Imagine A Swift Exit with strict instructions that she was to be awakened only when it was suspected that Minds were once again playing games.

She was surprised just how often it was deemed necessary to awaken her.

Ingeta and Sa-Aliten continued their passionate, argumentative and creative relationship for a very long time. Their films, on as wide a range of topics as could be imagined, were well-received throughout the Culture as well as many parts of the Ulterior.

Ingeta, in particular, was amused to hear that their movies were the subject of much confusion, outrage and dismay amongst even the most avid and knowledgeable Culture watchers in numerous other Involved and Aspirant civilizations. To a being, they could not understand how a society so capable of self-criticism did not implode, fragment under the stress of that knowledge or just Sublime out of sheer embarrassment. They were forced to conclude after much heart-searching - or close examination of analogous organs - that the Culture was really weird.

The GSV Hence, Or Otherwise was, unsurprisingly, a principal focus of the interminable investigations, inquiries and reviews in the aftermath of the grand reveal engineered by the One Hand Clapping and its crew. After debates and discussions whose intensity might have approached that of the Cabal in its heyday, it was eventually accepted that the Hence, Or Otherwise was sound in its concern about the future moral direction of the Culture although it was roundly berated for involving itself in an experiment intended to mislead the entire population. The GSV declared that it wished to remain fully part of the society of the Culture and, after some enormous number of expressions of contrition and agreements to undertake voluminous programmes of good works, this too was accepted.

Somehow, though, the GSV's operational suggestions were not sought after by its peers. It seemed to find itself undertaking roles in some of the less interesting, less fashionable and less well populated regions of the galaxy. Its population dwindled, as people preferred to transfer to various Orbitals and habitats - even planets - as its course schedule allowed. This was partially compensated by an influx of people wanting to be able to say that, yes, they have indeed travelled with the very famous Hence, one of the most accomplished tricksters still part of the Culture.

The Hence, Or Otherwise was not entirely happy with the situation but decided that keeping its metaphorical head down was the best way for the past to become decently forgotten.

The LSV Some Revision Required immediately Sublimed after its role in the great test was discovered - an option always available to an intellect as self-referentially refined as a Culture Mind. It was never heard from again.

This meant that nobody ever had a chance to ask the old rogue exactly how it had constructed Island Rock or, for that matter, faked up the background to the inhabitants. Still, as many subsequently concluded, a ship which had made a long-term study of ancient and inscrutable alien artifacts was the best choice when it came to making a really convincing phony.

The GSV Imagine A Swift Exit continued its good works for the Contact section and made a special point of clearing up the mess - physically, emotionally and socially - when Contact's plans did not quite go according to plan. The GSV was occasionally assisted by a re-awakened Kitzean Mso.

The GCU One Hand Clapping was completely exonerated by the inquiries and investigations. It belatedly realised that it had been a pawn of the Hence, Or Otherwise right from the point it had been dispatched with a set of subtle clues it had been so pleased with itself to have worked out so very quickly.

Having subtly deflected Island Rock's path from the nova, the GCU remained with the Rock for several years, always seeking ways to improve the lot of the inhabitants without entirely destroying their way of life, even though that way of life was entirely artificial. It was aided in this task by Sharo Emshala, Schoma Xantic, Lezert T'wou and almost all the rest of the original crew. It was always saddened by the fact that Kitzean Mso and Quenlily Sikralis decided to jump ship.

The LSV Thinking Things Through disappeared almost immediately the One Hand Clapping transmitted the last part of Ingeta and Sa-Aliten's film. Later and very detailed forensic examination of the records from the Hand suggested that the LSV had used its enhanced engine capacity to accelerate away from Island Rock at a rate unmatched by all but a very few Culture vessels. No trace of the ship could be detected anywhere; it was subsequently heard from exactly once.

"Ah, Ingeta?"

Sa-Aliten had picked up his terminal when it had pinged discreetly from the bedside table where he had casually discarded it much earlier in the evening. Beside him, Ingeta squirmed sleepily and grunted something unintelligible which he took to be an affirmative.

"A message from the Thinking Things Through," Sa-Aliten said, watching carefully to see Ingeta's reaction. He did not have long to wait. She sat bolt upright in bed and grabbed the terminal from his hands, peering closely at the few words displayed on the screen.

"Goodbye," she read aloud, "Thanks for all your efforts. Oscar sends his regards."

She turned to Sa-Aliten, eyes wide in astonishment.

"That's it?" she exclaimed angrily, "After all this time? Ten words?"

Sa-Aliten had a lifetime more experience in the fickle, contradictory ways of ancient Culture Minds.

"I think," he said slowly, "We have been honoured by a singular acknowledgment from an old ship. That probably counts for a lot."

Despite herself, Ingeta found it hard to disagree.

Previous Top of Page