Public Static Void
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There is a void, and there is a speck. A shimmering dot surrounded by infinite blackness. Zoom in on it. Zoom further, until the speck fills your vision, and outclasses the void behind you by many orders of magnitude. Feel the press of the not-quite-metal against your skin, and hear the hum of engines, beating in tandem like innumerable hearts. Spin and rotate around its nephroid bulk, and search for the single aperture on its otherwise perfect surface. Click. Move inward, scouring the dark passages, and find, among ten million acres of silence, movement.

Zoom further, enhance, and watch.


The robot skids down the brightly lit corridor, feeling an approximation of excitement in its facsimile of a mind. It is vaguely conical, and shiny, like a chrome-plated traffic cone, balanced on three large wheels that spin wildly as it careers from door to door. It's plating proclaims it to be General Purpose Droid M-002 — as fine a name as any machine could hope for.

With a barely-audible beep, the robot senses a notification arrive; duties have been shirked and quotas have been missed. Metastable habitation is a finicky business, and the 43rd Generation Maintenance Droid knows better than anyone the consequences of ignoring deadlines. "Deadlines are important." "Deadlines are crucial to the survival of the species" Deadlines, today, can go fuck themselves. With a pang of rebellious joy, M-002 discards the warnings. "There are more important things to do," it thinks. For a counter, always at the forefront of its mind, clicking up and down as dependently as the tides, has finally reached its lull. The basket in which the proverbial eggs are placed has finally split. [00000002/33554432 remaining].

If the robot had a mouth it would grin. It's nearly time to wake up the cargo.


Subroutine-8205:

  1. [REDACTED].
  2. Perform repeated checks on all redundancy systems for no fewer than three-hundred (300) cycles. If positive, abort process.
  3. Activate failsafe to ensure equipment is processed correctly. If negative, activate Subroutine-8206a.
  4. Deploy Sub-units 200-299. If unable, return to [2].
  5. [REDACTED].
  6. [REDACTED].
  7. Perform necessary procedures for Observers-Vitae. If unable, standard procedures will suffice. [REDACTED]. If Observers-Vitae remain functional, report malfunction and return to [1].
  8. [REDACTED]

and [92] more…

~ Extract from Paracode Guidelines at Factored Regression Peak, Vol. IX


A city lies silent beneath a dull grey sky. The black smoke billowing from the Northern corner wafts over the carefully cultivated landscape, tendrils snaking and weaving their way down the deserted cobble streets. Birds fly overhead, swooping through the clouds with barely-concealed disdain for gravity and its associated limitations. As they fly their voices echo out across the valley, disturbing piles of ash and dust. Bones glint white among the thick black blanket, stained with blood and polished by wind. Something that may be a raincloud and may be a sprinkler, fixed to a cable a hundred miles above, thunders briefly before depositing a cool mist that steams as it lands.

The birds swoop onward, riding delicate air currents that rise like death throes from the city's still-warm husk. The cool autumn air whips at their feathers and stings the eyes of the single man who watches. He squints and smiles. How he has waited for this moment. Oh, how he has waited.

Since the man was but a boy, he was told legends of this time, passed down since the city's creation. Folk tales, ghost stories, songs to sing around the campfire. Tales of the end time, the time of timelessness, of repetition, of peace. The time of endings, and new beginnings. But most importantly, the time of second chances. He breathes deep, scarred hands buried deep within his white coat, gripping the handles of a bag — a small gift, for whatever spirits may be watching. The birds strike an invisible barrier, and fizzle out with little more than a blur. On the other side of the chamber, the hologram repeats.

The man, whose name is unimportant, settles down to wait — it is not long before his ears, honed by years of working with delicate machines, hear a creak behind him. He stiffens, turning and bowing solemnly towards the raised cylinder of earth that sticks from the field. A scarecrow lies dislodged to one side, comical face splattered with mud. The protrusion bifurcates, sending cascades of soil in all directions, and a small metallic shape peers out from within its depths. The man raises an eyebrow, and speaks.

"˩AmbI˦ I'j Vntˤ-t?"

The robot moves slowly out of the cylinder, brandishing its single appendage in front of it like a weapon. "What is this creature? What is it doing here? What am I supposed to be doing here?" Several memory banks that have not been used in centuries begin to warm up, as its almost-mind fills with unfamiliar queries.

"bI˦˫ I'j!", repeats the man, emptying a plastic bag in front of him. Meat, small gemstones, and thin metal discs spill out onto the ground. "V˫ntˤ-t 'LtE˨t, OtˤOLi˨˫˫ WriS Ta'Ac˦m". He bends further, supine in front of the strange, conical creature that confronts him. Server banks a lifetime and a half away begin to process information that hasn't been accessed in oh-so-long. Whatever action M-002 is supposed to take at this juncture, it is almost certainly incredibly important. It reaches out, and places an approximation of a hand on the man's shoulder. Behind them, photorealistic mountains de-render themselves as new data floods back.

Query: Human

Result:
1: of, relating to, or characteristic of humans (see [2] human)
2: consisting of humans
3: a) having human form or attributes
b) representative of or susceptible to the sympathies and frailties of human nature.
See also: Humanoid, Primate, Humanity, [REDACTED], [REDACTED], and [30098] more…

The robot looks down at the man, and the man looks back at the robot. The robot looks to the sky, and sees a charred, jagged hole, the right size and shape for a rudimentary spacecraft. A trickle of smoke drifts from the edges, mixing with the already pungent smog. The man sees the hole too, and grins. Their scientists have breached the sphere of the heavens. A tiny red light flickers on M-002's chassis, and the robot raises its arm. A jerk, and it lowers it back towards the man's forehead. A look of realisation flashes across his face, replaced moments later by one of anger, and finally one of peace. The red light flickers off.

The cylinder descends into the bowels of the ship, taking M-002 with it. Artificial clouds are replaced by static, the Outlast's primary Cultural Re-creation Chamber is deactivated, and the charred remains of humanity are extinguished.

[00000001/33554432 remaining].


Project Outlast was an ill-advised project to begin with. A group of researchers with few restrictions and even less funding, tasked with ensuring the survival of the human race. They were a laughing stock, the butt of countless jokes. Even those who founded the Project expected it to fail, treating it as a thought experiment and a way of removing troublesome researchers from other, more important tasks. Certainly nobody expected them to make some of the greatest technological breakthroughs the supra-finite plane had ever seen.

They were crackpots and visionaries in equal measure, bursting to the seams with ideas that seemed better placed in a cheap sci-fi novel. Reverse entropy engines, planet-sized pocket dimensions, stasis chambers that existed only in the minds of those inside them — they were given nothing to work with, and they used it to devise everything. These men and women who were laughed at throughout their careers are the reason we exist at all. We, and anyone else who survived the Collapse, owe them a debt of thanks.

And more than that, we owe them our lives.

~ Extract from the memoirs of SCPF Researcher Teller, Digital Library of SCPS-Outlast-XXI ("Well Enough Alone")


M-002, complete with a shiny new 44th Generation chassis, rolls up to a small, wood-panelled door. It's taken him years to get there, but it doesn't matter. All non-essential systems shut down as soon as the counter dipped below 600. It could have taken millennia to reach the door, and some variation of the original robot would still be trundling along, accompanied by numerous disc-shaped objects clearing a path through the metre-high coating of dust. The fact of the matter is that if nobody will ever be around to hear it, the tree can take as long as it likes to fall. Falling is, at least in the short term, essentially optional.

M-002 attaches itself to a socket in the wall, powers down its conscious subsystem, and waits.


There is no way in hell I'm going to be put in that machine. Fuck you. No. Listen, what part of "fuck you" don't you understand? No, absolutely not. I'm not becoming another goddamn cog in your deathtrap of a spaceship. No, I don't care that it's a 'metastable omni-habitation module, designed to traverse the infinite'. I'll die before you put me in a computer. Fuck you.

~ Observer-Vitae 09, prior to instatement.


It would be nice to say it was the gunshot that woke the robot up. Unfortunately, the suite behind the door was separated by several metres of soundproof nanofoam, and it was a number of minutes before the cessation of life signs was detected. Having loaded the necessary instructions in advance, M-002 rolls over the threshold.

It's a grand room. Sumptuous, decadent, with all the luxuries a human could ask for. It is spacious enough to comfortably house a small village, and contains something seen nowhere else on the ship's colossal hull. It contains, plastered across the furthest wall, a window. It consists of 3 metre thick transparent para-fibre mesh, and it looks out on blackness so dark it might as well not be there, but it is a window nonetheless. A huge security risk, the weakest point on the hull; a window looking out on nothing. And this is why, M-002 knows, the man who lives lived within this room is was quite possibly the most dangerous man alive.

Because the man who lived here, according to records, was indeed powerful. Powerful beyond measure, but not in the way you'd expect. He certainly carried enough weight to disrupt the integrity of the entire craft, and enough to be preserved here, with his own set of self-restoring subsystems. M-002 isn't entirely sure what a self-restoring subsystem is, but his five-million page on-board encyclopedia convinces him it's probably not worth the effort to find out. Perhaps 'influential' would be a better word to describe him. He certainly doesn't look powerful now, as his limp body is lifted from its chair. He looks weak, and sad. A bloodied, broken shell of a man, with a neat hole through his forehead. Very, very neat. Precise, practiced, like a surgeon's incision — ironic, really, given his carefree attitude to the human body in general.

There's the clink of jewellery, the thud of flesh, and the body is away, flying down a chute towards the fire in the bowels of the ship. The door glides shut with a barely-audible hiss, and the counter reaches zero. No fuss, no drama, no bells or accompanying whistles. Nothing but [0], solemn and silent against the tides of the apocalypse. Because of course that's what the counter means.

There are no more passengers left on the Outlast.

Which means that, after millennia of waiting, it's time for the second-to-last maintenance droid to perform their primary function. To maintain.

"It's time", M-002 thinks. "It's finally time".


10 years. That's how long it took M-002 to reach the cargo hold. A decade of silent, repetitive movement through a latticework of corridors, lined with identical doorways. After about 6 months the artificial gravity failed, which provided a brief amusement, but pretty soon it was back to rolling, rolling, rolling onward. Through the cryonic preservation bay, where samples of creatures extended for miles in every direction. Through the cultural reversion matrix, where bickering machines told jokes and skits and punned their way through eternity. Past vents and ducts, strange boxes of impossible artifacts, lost and lonely creatures bound in cages. Past incinerators, generators, cultivators, and huge whirring discs that spun power from nothing. A left turn, a right, straight on for a month or two then double back. Quietly roll into a room where a man in a vat has an amulet placed around his neck by cold metallic hands, then roll out again to avoid his screaming.

A network of tubing, more convoluted and warped than the rest, hung in a room of its own. It lashed out, sparks flying as the ends are severed and collected, ready to be melted down. Spewing honey and glass, the pipe nightmare wept. At the centre, forever burning in a maelstrom of wax and blood and gin, other things cried out louder. M-002 awoke at the other end of the conveyor with a brand new silver coat, and thought nothing of it. Why should a maintenance droid worry about such things? It was Genesis Construct A-015 doing its job as always. Hopping off the production line with a clank, the droid charged off once more. Onward. Ever onward.

That was a long time ago now. The cargo has long since been awoken, and the Outlast has resumed its job. Outlasting. M-002 sleeps soundly in the knowledge of a job well done, and Observer-Vitae 09 cries himself to sleep, staring out of his oh-so-precious window. The boxes tick away, and the ship spins off into the dark.

Cradling humanity within its shell like a mother with her child.

Securing, containing, and protecting.

Forever.

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