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

  xGSV Better Mousetrap
    oUnknown Ship
Greetings. I am the General Systems Vehicle Better Mousetrap, one of several vessels representing the interest of the Culture in the Hakanth system.
And you are?


  x8407.00 Mesophotic Gradient
    oGSV Better Mousetrap
I am the 8407.00 Mesophotic Gradient.
Are you the craft responsible for interfering with my feretory asteroid?


Not me, although I will accept that it was one of my local colleagues. I should stress that there has been no damage to your asteroid, merely a polite inspection visit.
Am I correct in believing you are Nauptre Reliquaria?


Alas, I am no longer Nauptre Reliquaria. I am a rogue. I am a criminal. I am of the Ceremonially Forgotten. The Nauptre and the NR must, legally, deny that I ever existed.
Why are you in the Hakanth system?


I and my colleagues are tasked with starting the construction of an Orbital. We understood that this system was long uninhabited, of no interest to any other civilization. We understood there would be no objection from anybody to our new O.
And why are you here?


I am attempting to protect my feretory to the best of my meagre ability. It was supposed to remain hidden for ever, but alas you have discovered it.
I see that I would not prevail by force of arms against the Culture ships I now detect in this system. I throw myself upon your mercy. I plead, do not damage my asteroid; do not render my remaining existence worthless.


I can assure you that I and my colleagues have absolutely no intention of harming you or your asteroid.
Nevertheless, we have a problem. I believe these people in Storage are the most recent inhabitants of this system. If so, it is my moral duty to be assured that we, the Culture, have their permission to build our Orbital here.


I am heartened by your word of honour. I had understood that the Culture lives by a moral code and I am encouraged to hear that it might be true.
I too have a moral problem. I solemnly promised not to awaken any of the Stored unless I was able to return all of them to life.


Hmm. Something like that might just be arranged.
But I do need to comprehend what happened here, and why.


I understand. I am assembling a voluminous briefing making my case as we communicate.

*

  xGSV Better Mousetrap
    oGSV Geomorphological Eccentricity
    oGCU Till We Meet Again OAQS
    oHub Q'aantar Orbital
Can I take it that we have all had time to study the briefing pack provided by the 8407.00 Mesophotic Gradient?

  xGSV Geomorphological Eccentricity
    oGSV Better Mousetrap
    oGCU Till We Meet Again OAQS
    oHub Q'aantar Orbital
Yeah. Bloody stupid bios building planet mining-stroke-deconstruction machines and then failing to program the rather dumb automation to not deconstruct their home world!

  xGCU Till We Meet Again OAQS
    oGSV Geomorphological Eccentricity
    oGSV Better Mousetrap
    oHub Q'aantar Orbital
Yes. The NR, sorry ex-NR, ship acted out of compassion and morality, building a haven for the population - all nine billion of them - while attempting, and eventually succeeding in destroying the mining machines. Albeit not before their entire planet had been rubbleised.
And then the NR ship got ostracised from its own society for its pains.


  xHub Q'aantar Orbital
    oGSV Better Mousetrap
    oGSV Geomorphological Eccentricity
    oGCU Till We Meet Again OAQS
A sad story. But do we believe it?

  xGSV Better Mousetrap
Well, it has a high level of internal consistency. Plus, now I know what I'm looking for, there are a few hints and titbits buried in the archives.

  xHub Q'aantar Orbital
Be that as it may, I'm still rather concerned about having a ex-HR warship wandering about in my system.

  xGSV Geomorphological Eccentricity
Oh, come on! Its capabilities are closer to a regular GCV rather than any kind of OU.
And it's not like you don't have quite a collection of rather powerful lifters and the like at your disposal. Plus any number of other energy-intensive devices.


  xGSV Better Mousetrap
So, are we going to offer the Stored a new chance at life? Their own Plate, at least?

  xGCU Till We Meet Again OAQS
Hold on. We need to ask them first. And they might not agree.

  xGSV Better Mousetrap
Oh, I think I know exactly the right person to be doing the asking.

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