Summa

XIA-97 was broken. She was the only android aboard the Borealis Rouge, all its other passengers being FABs—Flesh And Blood—and therefore locked in their hibernation routines for another several kiloyears. FABs, useless as ever. And with the nature of her damage being neural—software, as they used to say—she could not diagnose herself; it was a fundamental fact of her quantum mind that by simply looking into her own head, so to speak, she would irrevocably alter herself. Too risky.

So she was stuck.

Luckily, the damage didn’t qualify as what you might call “life threatening.” From what she could tell, a freak neutrino storm managed to knock one of her processors into some sort of recursive loop, leaving her unable to power down. An older model would have eventually keeled over from battery drain, but XIA-97’s antimatter reactor ensured she’d stay active and conscious until long after the FABs had woken up, lived their lives, and settled down for the really long nap.

All alone on the Borealis Rouge, XIA-97 was an android with an incurable bout of insomnia.

To pass the time, she listened to classical music, to which she was inextricably drawn. And she really listened to it, using auditory receptors in real time. There was no reason to be efficient. The catalog spanned over 2,000 years’ worth of work, with the first entries from the 6th century CE, and the most recent from 2572, just a year before the Rouge‘s launch.

After about 1,800 hours, something remarkable happened. During the first bars of Arvo Pärt’s Summa, XIA-97 began to cry. It was something her platform could do, but it had never happened involuntarily before. She would have assumed it was just another glitch, a manifestation of her damage, but for just a moment she had glimpsed locked away memories of her pre-upload life—as a FAB during pre-spacefaring antiquity. And then it was gone. She listened to that recording on a constant loop for the next 200 years, sobbing the entire time, but the memory would not return.

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