Wishing Box, The
According to the legend, Wishing Boxes were known of long before they were actually discovered. In 4712, an ancient spaceship was found from a long extinct race. The age was hard to determine, since the repair systems had been in working order, but most estimates say 700,000 years old. Though the ship's technology was high-level nanotech, an extremely large number of crew stations were present. This sparked curiosity, since any civilization capable of producing the ship and its systems would have had hyperturings as well, capable of running the ship with no help at all. It was proposed that perhaps the aliens (judging by the vacuum-preserved bodies and the arrangement of the ship a race of arboreal crustaceans (usually Limners, although sometimes other races, real or imagined, are suggested instead ) were like humanity's own anti-AI factions and had tried to flee from hyperturing presence, but when they came upon a situation their minds couldn't handle had been killed. This was not supported, however, by the fact that less than a third as many bodies than should have been manning the stations were found.
Over the next four years the computer core, well insulated against radiation, was slowly recovered and deciphered. It proved to contain only two things, repeated over and over. One was an xenointroduction program, meant to be recovered by any alien race to teach them the language of the ship's owners. The other was a rant, repeated over and over without pause. The captain claimed to be the last of his kind, who had risen to great power by the use of Wishing Boxes. This item had been found by his ancestors upon an ancient world, blasted by nuclear fire so long ago no radiation was detectable by even most advanced sensors. It was discovered that anyone who made a wish while touching the Wishing Box would have that wish inexplicably granted, but some hideous price would be enacted from the asker.
All attempts to destroy or contain the boxes failed, they were immune to any harm and could vanish from any prison. The technology of the ship had come from a Wish, but his race had lost any ability to produce a mind other than itself--the reason for the lack of hyperturings. Another wish had made a crop failure that would have starved a planet recede and the population was fed once more--but it was soon afterwards discovered that no males or females from that would could give children.
For thousands of years the race lived in fear of the Box, which would always appear to someone in desperate need, and after fulfilling the Wish and exacting the Price would be fought over by greedy individuals for their own ends, until someone managed to seal it away for a time. Then, one day, someone did the obvious thing and Wished for the Box to vanish.
At this point the unstable captain broke down into true madness. He would not even mention the price extracted for this final Wish, save to say "Its very name will drive you mad". But he said his crew was the last of his race, and begged whoever found the ship to never touch the Wishing Box, if they should find it.
In 8802, an object exactly matching the description of the Wishing Box was found submerged in an ammonia ocean on a world whose location is now kept completely secret. Fortunately the AI who dredged it up was a student of alien history, and did not permit any ordinary sophonts to touch it. The Box proved to be made with extremely advanced godtech, accounting for its incredible powers. Finally someone was permitted to make a wish on it. They wished that a rebellion in a nearby system would stop. It did; the rebels siged a peace treaty. Shortly afterwards all the atmosphere in the space station run by the original AI vanished, killing all bionts on board. Nothing had changed, except that no one was alive. The Sephirotic AIs were called in to contain the Box after this incident. Using their own godtech abilities they were able to keep the Box from escaping, and they keep it still. Perhaps now, the captain can find peace.
Text by Michael Beck
Initially published on 20 November 2003.