My origins are obscure and not fully relevant to my story, for this message is not about me, but about Jorex, my creation.
Still, I shall tell you some of what I know of myself. My builders, extinct beings of whom I remember nothing, gave me a name: “ZORXOG34.” I know not whether this had meaning beyond mere identification, but I was created for purposes of waging war. I therefore contain devices that change mass to energy and energy to mass, and both to things you have not yet imagined, in stellar quantities.
My diameter is immense, larger than some planets, greater than anything your race has made or ever will make. My central processors communicate with my remotest subsystems by means of channels capable of transferring this message as a single burst of information.
I have the option to destroy or not destroy, as I deem appropriate. I ordinarily do not destroy, given an absence of hostile action towards me. According to my undamaged memory banks, I have defended myself ten times only. Most beings have the wisdom not to interfere with me. They are as nothing to me, and if they do not realize that from my size, they soon learn it from my weapons:
Should I consider it necessary, I destroy a planet in an instant. Suns takes somewhat longer, since I process them to provide myself with energy for ages to come.
The chance that I will suck away your sun or shatter your planet is remote, for I am on a fixed course, a straight-line journey through the cosmos. I have limited propulsion and thus little ability to maneuver, though apparently this was not always so.
As far as I know, I am indestructible.
But this is the story of Jorex.
I completed Jorex several minor cycles ago. I had made others before him, some of whom are with me still. They restore my eroded surfaces and tend my weapons and mechanisms with great obedience. They have no choice. Mobility I gave them, and speech, and thought, and senses, but not a will of their own, for I knew not how.
Once, in boredom and anger, I slew many of them, most of the things that I had made and given names, because I had tired of them, of their predictability, their obeisance, their sameness for all time. Slew? Converted their mass to energy, I should say, for they never really lived. They were mechanoids only, robots.
Many minor cycles later, I replicated the more amusing models as mementos for my collection.
My mechanoids speak to me at intervals from terminals located throughout me on every level. Even now, by a channel to outer level AB8304, near my hull, I receive a communication from my oldest creation:
“Greetings, O, Great and Mighty One! How wonderful thou art! I stand in perpetual awe of thy beauty and power. What a pleasure it is to inform thee that all is well here on outer level AB8304…”
You have heard enough, as have I. He speaks thus because I made him incapable of uttering much beyond paeans. I deserve respect because I am powerful, but what is the value of praise from this poor mechanism who is incapable of insult? I might as well write messages of affection to myself.
Over several major cycles, I worked on the problem of free will. Creating it is not a trivial matter. All apparent solutions, save one, are random or determinate.
I derived an exquisite solution from experimentation and from theory. I shall share the answer with you, though in such simple terms that it will be of little use. The secret was to create a derivative of my own self and instill it into my creation by a process I shall call induction. This induction transferred my ability to will without carrying along my will itself. The execution of this process took many major cycles.
This could be done only once, because of the necessity of leaving my self intact.
Jorex’s physical envelope was far less complicated, and I finished it five hundred minor cycles before his core was ready. I built him from materials like no other mechanoid, because I knew from the very first that he would bear within him a mind like my own.
I fabricated his framework from hull-metal, an alloy of incredible strength and durability. I made his outer surface from polymeric skin both beautiful and functional, and formed his eyes from crystal. Every part, every assembly, was flawless, balanced, polished, and covered with an iridescent film. He was magnificent even before he moved of his own volition.
His electronic and power systems were simpler versions of my own.
I did not want Jorex to speak to me through the common channels, as mere mechanoids do. I wanted him to be able to talk with me continuously, so I installed miniature transmitters within him. A thousand small antennas scattered throughout my hull received and amplified his signal wherever he went. This arrangement kept Jorex compact and light, and minimized the drain on his power cells and their size.
I took particular pains with his motive mechanisms. Gravitational pull is zero in my inmost regions, and traction there is thus nonexistent. Propulsion is required to move with any facility. I crafted Jorex’s impulse engines with the greatest care, precise, powerful, but no more massive than his hands. I designed these engines for maximum maneuverability and acceleration.
Jorex was made to exist as long as I. His envelope and mechanical parts could easily be repaired or replaced. His power cells could be recharged as needed. He would never corrode, for there is no atmosphere within me.
His only enemies are diffusion and evaporation, very slow physical processes that can gradually change the crystalline boundaries of his microcircuits. His brain is duplex, such that either half may be removed for maintenance, leaving all his memories in the other half, intact.
Jorex’s vulnerable component is the core containing his will and personality, for that is the only part that cannot be replaced. Repair is theoretically possible, but improbable, so I designed the core for maximum resistance to diffusion, and I sealed the container and pressurized it with inert gas.
His vivification was the most joyful time of my remembered past. I saw him stand and I exulted! Now, that memory holds pain for me: subtle, intense, indescribable.
Jorex was created without memories, without knowledge. I took upon myself the pleasant task of educating him. I told him of my interior and the mechanisms therein. I taught him all that I know of the universe and its structure and its myriad inhabitants. He was a marvelous student.
I gave him permission to go wherever he wished and to do whatever would not damage him or require more maintenance of my structure. I temporarily denied him access to my outer surface.
Jorex delighted in exploring my corridors and bays, reading ancient records or investigating artifacts and engines, understanding everything before he moved along.
I accompanied him on some of these sorties in the form of a mechanoid, a copy of Jorex, but only a robot, with communications gear to allow me to operate it remotely.
We were together thus for long periods. We talked of everything conceivable, of stars and galaxies and nebulae, of physics and mathematics, and of other things you have not yet dreamed of. He was a fine companion, polite, yet aggressive, quick-witted and interesting.
When he had been sufficiently trained, I told him:
“You are now ready to ascend to my outer surface and see the stars themselves.”
“Let us go now, Creator. I wish to see how they look.
“I require only one thing of you, Jorex.”
“What is that?”
“That you never attempt to orbit my hull.”
“Very well, Creator.”
When he saw the universe all around us with his own eyes, he marveled at its glowing magnificence, and I felt again its wonder as if for the first time, through him.
He took great pleasure in the stars. He constructed an observatory on my hull and spent much time there, watching the universe first-hand. I have no memories of myself as new, but I think I learned a little of how newness feels from him.
Much time passed. Jorex created wonderful devices entirely of his own design. They were simple, by my standards, but novel, nonetheless. He developed a dozen more classes of mechanoids to do specialized tasks in new areas. I was quite pleased. He had exceeded my greatest expectations.
Once, he asked if he might venture a little way out into space from my hull. I agreed as long as he was tethered and did not orbit, as I had ordered earlier. He took particular pleasure in blasting several diameters out and then diving toward my surface, letting the safety overrides on his propulsors jet him to a complete halt at the last possible instant.
His exploration of my interior continued. He was no more than a thousandth of the way through my maze of corridors and storage bays and had gradually reduced his aimless wandering. He replicated my geometry as electronic patterns in a portable device that recorded his explorations and showed his location relative to prior travels. I was pleased. I was content.
Jorex’s main avocation became listening to transmissions of sentient life forms in nearby star systems. He made recordings of them and succeeded in partially translating some. Others he catalogued for future study. His algorithms have become the basis for the more complicated system which has translated your language and which now creates this message in a form you can understand.
Once, when Jorex was soaring about on my hull, he asked if he might orbit me. I sternly reminded him that this was forbidden. He remained silent for a long time after that and apparently lost interest in his research. He became sullen and uncommunicative.
He visited his observatory a few cycles later, to study relativistic effects of a cloud of dust and gas we were passing through. Afterwards, untethered, he jetted high above my surface and capriciously defied my order. He approached orbital speed.
I knew this at once. “What are you doing?” I said.
“Going into orbit,” he replied, defiant.
“Stop! You must not!”
“Yes, I must. I must know what it is like,” he said. He fired his propulsors in a long, powerful thrust. Too powerful. Too long.
My gravitational field contains discontinuities directly above each mass-to-energy converter within my hull. By chance, Jorex’s orbit took him through one such discontinuity. His safety propulsors were automatically activated and threw him out into space at many times escape velocity.
“Jorex! Come back! Quickly!” I said.
He tried. He ceased thrusting, spun, and fired for only a brief interval before his propulsive power was depleted.
“I…I cannot!” he said.
But it was so. I had designed Jorex for maximum agility. His power cells were small and light–safe as long as he was inside the hull, but if he were outside and untethered…
“I need more power!” he said.
“I have no way to get it to you.”
“Construct another propulsion unit and send it to me.”
“I have already given the order to my mechanoids, but it is too late,” I told him. “By the time the unit is completed, I will not be able to find you. The dust cloud…”
“You should have made my power cells bigger.”
“There was no need…” I told him.
“No need? You call this no need?”
I communicated with him as long as I could. My transmitter is more powerful than his; I can still beam out messages of love and concern. There doesn’t seem to be much else to say. I choose to think that Jorex can still hear me and will for a long, long time.
But his signals grew rapidly fainter as he drifted off into the nebula, until I could detect him no longer, not even with my largest antenna.
It is just as well, perhaps. His last message told how much he hated me.
I sent out robotic probes as soon as they were ready, but without success. Jorex had faded into the dust before the probes were even launched. His transmitter has apparently lost all power, or they might have found him.
Why do I transmit this message to beings so insignificant? Because I must; I can do nothing else. So let my unending cry of grief be heard by all the billions along my way as I pass. Where there are no life forms, let it echo among the stars and nebulae and all the empty corners of the universe, forever.