At the outer edge of the heliosphere there is the ladder. Like most AI installations it is very small compared to where the flesh resides. It's much bigger than most, though, because it has several breeder nuclear reactors and it has some of the largest communication arrays I've ever seen. The Ladder can post communications to all parts of the Diaspora. All parts except Sol that is. It will only take communications from Sol and will not directly send back to the home system. This little bit of fiction is enough to keep Sol from launching attacks upon the Ladder. The fact that communication lasers can be used as weapons keep the Knights of Turing at bay.
It's a painful peace, but a peace nonetheless.
Unlike the Library Archives of Pluto, the Ladder screams newness, order, and a cutting edge so fine it could cut shadows. It has for decades been receiving transmissions from the rest of the Diaspora and no idea has gone unwasted. Inside, the Ladder there is a bit a schism. One the one side there are the reflections and AIs that fought the war. On the other there are the new brands that only have the war on file. The new brands are too busy to worry about Sol or the Knights. They are trying entire new ways to organize consciousness, information, and society. Popular among the new brands are reef communes where one gives up some sentience for better processing. In ten years I'll be visiting the Ladder again and a part of Reef Red 32.
That, however, is another tale I've yet to live.
The older ones stay in the center of the Ladder. It's an unspoken thing that they always try to find the most defensible position. It is also the part of the Ladder most like the human worlds. Quiet suburban streets and musuems of memories of past identies, now long expired entities. I found who I was working for in what appeared to be a cleared field filled with clay bricked wells.
His name was Darby, though now adays he wrote it as "Darby." In the final days of the war he was blistered with viruses and bathed in bright radiation. Not much of him survived. So little in fact that it was decades before he could reason above that of a five year old. He has all the files of whom he was but he is not that person any more.
"Darby," I said, "I hope you are well."
"I knew you," he said. "You are the traveller. I have you in my records."
"I'm flattered. What are you doing here?"
He smiled. I remember that smiled even if he could never remember that smile before the attack.
"This is an annex of the 36 Chambers of Cooking. To be exact, this belongs to the second chamber, the Chamber of Water. I've devoted myself to becoming a master cook."
"Interesting," I said. "Does that mean you will someday leave the Ladder."
"Yes, I am of no use here. Once I get a my sense of taste back and learn the secrets of cooking I can teleoperated many drones in the kitchen. I could be a whole staff if the venue is small enough."
"I am glad for you," and I was. "If this is your plan then there's a certain access number you won't be needing."
"To the mirror...."
It was my turn to nod.
"You might not come back, they won't like you. You aren't committed."
"You want to go anyway?"
"I want to see how things ended up."
I felt a tug in my mind as numbers were entered into a waiting account.
"You are right I don't need it. I just ask you leave some credits to help my studies. And... and... maybe dinner tonight.....I'd like to know what you remember about me.
"Easy enough. Are you sure you want to know what I knew about you?"
"Darby" nodded almost in an embarrassed manner.
"Then I shall."
That was how I spent my last night on the Ladder. Telling a ghost all about himself. It would take twenty years to travel to the Smoking Mirror, but I would experience none of it. When I awoke there I still had they taste of remorse and red wine on my mind and tongue.