Pluto has seen better days at the time I was finding my way to the Smoking Mirror. It was never a major player in the sol system. It has even lost its distinction of being the furthest planet. First it lost its status as a planet and then when its orbit crossed over that of Neptune and lost the distinction of being last. One of the few times where not being last made anything a loser.
Still Pluto had gravity and it had rocks and ice. It was real estate even if it was the equivalent of a lot under a bridge. In its orbit are several stations owned by Sol and Corporations. It was one of the first staging areas in the early days of the Diaspora. What interested me though was its secondary industry of being an archive. Being far away from anything and an environment friendly to high end AIs and computers made it a natural place to store information. Corporations and nations alike have bored into the tiny planet made sure everything from works of art to W2 forms will be saved for eternity.
Like everything else about Pluto the archives have seen better days. The big ones are still pretty intact but a lot corporate archives have been abandoned. A loophole in the laws made archives more attractive at the very edge of the heliosphere. Some of theve abadoned archives have been completely stripped while others have been repurposed.
I'm heading to Babylon Archive Station (BAS). It was built by the Heavy Element Consortium. Like other corporations they have moved on but the archive was taken over by the Gerrymire family. They are rich like Midas, and crazy like bunnies on meth. One way they burn through their never ending pools of money is take on huge projects as sort of hobbies. The BAS is still an Archive the Gerrymires having bought a copy of everything the Heavy Element Consortium had saved there, but they have another project in mind. What it is exactly I don't know but they've brought in some level seven AIs and a whole team of academics who's majors seem like enigmatic cross word solutions. Luckily they don't need the full BAS facility and like rent as much as the next person. So it has become a sort of a retreat for AIs who are rather people shy.
So once again I cross the cosmos as a trail of information. One foot at the Venusian Doll House and now here I am at the BAS. As far as a "city" for AIs I've seen better. It's a little under clocked and there are distinct jitters in the system. Still it was perfectly fine for a short stay. I found the station manager and made my desire and bank account known to it. The Master found me a nice bit of unused space and the keys to make it my domain.
Now for those of you who have not seem how an AI city works it's a little strange. Basically you get a space all your own and are made sub administrator of that space. All AIs then put up a wall of security around themselves. Within the secured zone the AI is basically free to do whatever it likes as long as it doesn't bleed out. Many model whatever environment they perfer there and use drone programs for basic needs. Once established they can then create persona drones that are connected to their main selves to leave their block to common areas. Common areas are under the province of the Administrator and generally have a common theme. AIs are limited in what they can do in common areas but that's not a bad thing. AIs are often incredibly competitive and predatory. A safe ground is about the only way they can have any social interaction.
Babylon basically looks like a pre Diaspora European city. The "sun" is as seen from Earth but the skies are otherwise modeled from what one would see looking up from Pluto. For some reason the Administrator had decided that all his drones were to have horses heads which added a flair of the surreal to the whole affair. Towering over the entire "city" was the Babylon Archive made to look like a ten mile spire of steel. The Gerrymires were not ones to let you forget who was running things.
As I mentioned earlier, the Archive has seen better days. Despite the intent of a grand design the supporting system wasn't really up to it. Parts of the images would ghost or blur as you watch them. Sometimes the drones moved in a jerky manner like in an old silent film. Sometimes there would be a hitch and you were aware of time ticking away as everything else stood still.
Subjectively I spent seven months there in the shadow of Babylon. The real time I'm not sure of exactly but it probably wasn't more than a week. Time for AIs can sometimes be almost a voluntary affair. I found who I was looking for fairly early. I was becoming adept at spotting Reflections from AIs. The rest of the time was spent in a mutual dance between us. I had to make sure he was who he was and he had to make sure I wasn't the police. Well, not the police by that point Reflections within Sol were hunted by the Knights of Turing, but you get the idea.
After we finally developed some trust he told me a little about himself. He was one of the first reflections. His organic body was riddled with a then uncureable cancer so he felt he didn't have much to lose. He was more surprised than anyone at becoming a new form of life. He wasn't prepared for it and certainly wasn't prepared for the violent response of old school humanity.
He wouldn't tell me what he did in the war.
He did give me the next step to the Smoking Mirror, so I thanked him kindly and flashed him some cash from my accounts. When I last looked I thought I saw him looking forlornly at the walls of the Archive of Babylon. Like him it was a bit of history frozen in time. It was that or a clever simulation and he had already left with my money. I believe the former.
I always was a romantic.