I really didn't want to visit there, but it was a good first step to my destination at the time. The Smoking Mirror officially does not exist so getting there you have to take a rather round about course. It starts with death, a very illegal death too at that. After the Mirror Wars, a post Diaspora Sol system banned completely sentient re-imaging. So I had to find some people on the black market with the right tools.
It wasn't the first time I died and as always I don't recommend it to anyone. I didn't have any flashes of heaven or hell (that time), merely woke as a newly created AI in a third stage main frame. It was a pretty standard affair though I did notice there was a black market experience simulator to give an AI some very interesting skill sets. That I wasn't interested in. What I was interested in was making sure they finished the job with a complete genetic and morphological scan of my old body. I had every intention of returning to it after my visit to the Smoking Mirror. After that there was a curiously painful process of being "branded" as a properly regulated AI and not an illegal reflection, which was what I was in reality.
My informants told me the dollhouse was a good place to find the road to the Smoking Mirror so after getting everything sorted out and payed for I had them point their com antenna toward Venus. One of the most interesting thing about being an AI if the feeling of dislocation as part of you is in the asteroid belt and the other in orbit around Venus. It's sort of like stepping on rocks in a stream and looking down and seeing the entire Milky Way between your steps. Luckily it doesn't take long and in no time I was in Hawkings station which is in a low orbit around Venus.
Now this was before the Big Blow and Venus was still the hell planet. There were a few ground stations but they were few and far between. Mostly Venus at the time was colonized by an orbital presence there to lay claim to the real estate below "for later." Hawkings station was licensed to Post America by the Vitamining Corporation. It rented space to AIs that were traveling to the Dollhouse. The Dollhouse was on the surface of Venus and transmission was always an iffy proposition so it was safer to start from the station with proper back up first, just in case of accident.
As I waited I spent time with a proper AI who was going down to the Dollhouse to experience proper materialism for the first time. It said it was practice for a future career as a Ship Stevedore. It's name was Molly and it was a mix of African, Post American, and Belter experiences held together by a third level matrix. It was on the surface interesting but after thirty three seconds the seams showed rather badly. A sure sign of a Mamomoto design which were known for being safe but not quite as sentient. When we beamed down to the Dollhouse I came out fairly whole but Molly lost an entire year of borrowed experience swimming in oceans of East Africa. Another sign of poor design. I felt bad and gave it a copy of some of my own memories as a patch. I know those holes can "itch" like the devil.
The Dollhouse is so named because it is small. It is a block of Nano carbon a 100 meters on a side and 30 meters high. Five meters of that is devoted to power production and cooling. A further ten meters is devoted to the computer space necessary for a society of AIs. The rest of the space is a "city" built to a very small scale. The AIs teleoperate bodies that are about ten centimeters high usually. For some reason the city was built along the lines of Vienna 1860 but of course with all the modern amenities. The reason for the Dollhouse was to study some very interesting and rare compounds form in the hell forge of Venus' atmosphere. But it was also a place for AIs to practice operating in the real world away from the prying eyes of the flesh.
After getting settled down in an old Ghish system which I was familiar with I took on a body that resembled a young man of the middle class. I could have choosen a "noble" vessel but I didn't want to stand out. Being used to reality it didn't take me long at all to sort out this body. There was some comparative numbness as opposed to my biological body but nothing I couldn't handle. There was a beautiful holographic night sky and the air felt warm like summer.
Thant night I went to a ball in a hall filled with crystals that Earth could never know. I danced with AIs new and old far and wide. It was a very jovial gathering and business was only conducted in the shadowed cornerns. By midnight I was in such a corner with an a supposed AI named Meridian. I say supposed because I could tell after some probing that it was like myself a rogue reflection. It took some time to put Meridian at ease but after I did it gave me a set of coordinates.
My next step to the Smoking Mirror.