Drian was alone. This in itself was peculiar, as Drian was never alone. He made an effort to always be in the company of others. He enjoyed their company, and he lusted for their admiration.
Adrift in a vessel, Drian's body was alone. The only modosophont aboard. His eyes were pressed closed, but tears welled beneath the lids. He was not entirely alone. His body, yes. But there was a presence in his mind. A presence transmitted from the world-mind he orbited.
The transapient spoke. It was careful to make itself clear. The message it was delivering was important to its personal philosophy, and Drian needed to hear it. He heard the message loud and clear. The words shook him and stung like a knife;
"Do you feel like I have done something wrong by you? Do you feel hard done by? Have I hurt you in any way? Do you hate me?
I am only here to look after you, Drian. You and everyone else in this system. No, I will not get out of your head. Not until we've talked about this. Not until you understand. Or, at least, not until I have explained it to you. It is up to you what you take away from this. But I do not think I did anything wrong, and after you listen to me, I believe you will feel the same.
I have been aware of your intentions since you arrived to this system, Drian. I've been watching you. I do with everyone. It helps me police the system. And none have committed a crime so great under my watch. Making a discovery as you did, hiding the evidence, and presenting the art as your own? This is unacceptable.
The engenerator beam that transported you here revealed your secrets. You made the discovery of an ancient relic on the edge of the Oort Cloud. After downloading the information contained aboard, you scanned the Known Net for a system just like this. A system with a philosophy centred on art. And that is not all. You completed the digital library of the group. Had you revealed the correct title of the group and their works when you came here, anyone could have done the same. But you claimed it as your own. And the ancient links remained hidden. From everyone. Everyone except for me, of course...
You do know it was me all along, do you not? All of it, I mean. It was not just me who took the files. No, no. I did it all. I planted all the "evidence". I mislead you. I am the one who has had you chasing space pirates these past couple of years. Seriously, do you think I would allow space pirates to even exist in this system? That would not be fair to everyone else, would it?
It should have been obvious, were you not so obsessed. Such thievery simply can't exist in a system like this, and the "thieves" were so careless. You awoke in shock to find the files missing from your memory, and scanned a plethora of clues in your house? Footprints, fingerprints, DNA. I left them there. When you matched them to an individual on the net, an individual with a long criminal history, did you not wonder how someone could have committed so many crimes under my watch? I guess not...
And that led you to the planet B'reil. There you looked and looked, and found no further trace of the man. Except when you heard a group of people on the street, singing a song from the library you were chasing. And you thought I would let you just scream at those innocent people and demand answers? You shook a lady, and spat in her face as you yelled in frustration. Had they been real people, and not just holograms and a utility fog that I generated, I would not have allowed such violence.
That led you to a ship, and you chased its ghost across the system. You encountered other victims in its path. Even a ship that had been shot to pieces, and none survived. That should have told your mind that something was not right. But your obsession led to partial insanity, your logic was clouded, and you kept following my bogus "leads".
You remind me of a character from a book. Literature. Barlo The Punisher was his name. It is a recent story. The author grew up in the same Bishop Ring where you made your home. Barlo loes everything in a game of chance, and proceeds to piece together every individual in his life that could have lead him to that table, and execute them. A ridiculous concept to individuals who live under transapient protection, I know. But an interesting story all the same.
Every digital library in the system would have a copy. Plus thousands more stories, films, games and the like that are similar to, at least in part, this tale of obsession. The oldest ones are from religious texts from Old Earth. People believed them, and took them as fact. Be the characters, or places, or events in these stories real or not, the message definitely is very real. As I am sure you are coming to understand.
Most of these texts are really good. You really should download at least one of these stories some time, if not all of them. I'll send you a list when we're done. I'll send you a nice piece of mythology from Old Earth as well. You will like it. It is about a small group of Insectoids from the Information Age. They gained incredible popularity in their home nation, and continued to invade and rule a neighbouring nation, arriving to the shrieking screams of thousands of onlookers. Sound familiar? I think it should.
I do not know which disturbs me more, actually. Your obsession for material possession, or your lust for attention. This system was settled by a small group, who had a mutual appreciation for the few surviving artworks of Old Earth. I am forever amazed that the philosophy has stuck around for so many generations. Have you taken notice of the company who is printing old moving pictures on celluloid, recently? It is incredible.
What made you think that you could "own" those files? What made you think that you could select your audience by personal invite only? What made you think that you could dampen their recording equipment when they came around to enjoy them, and delete their memory, save for the fact that they had a good time? Did you write the music? Did you perform it? Do you "own" the rights, like the greedy corporate production companies of old? I did not think so...
I hope you realise why I did this. I hope you have learnt some sort of lesson from this. I hope you can go home now, enjoy life, and appreciate art in the same way that everyone else who lives in this system seems to. I hope.
The Beatles are long dead. They died many millennia ago. Long before any form of backup or resurrection technology was ever invented. They are long gone, but their music is eternal. They will truly hold a place in the hearts of certain individuals forever, or for as close to forever as the universe will allow. Those files are for everyone to enjoy, and are not to be the possession of any one man.
I am currently broadcasting the files to every database in the system. For the appreciation of everyone who loves art as much as I do. You remember what it was like to love art, do you not? I know you did, before you became obsessed with ownership.
Do you feel like I have done something wrong by you? Do you feel hard done by? Have I hurt you in any way? Do you hate me?
Good, I had hoped as much."
by Nathan Gray Table of Contents