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April 23rd, 2023



Lucilius set down the cold mug of liquid and sighed. Only on this planet could Korthia be grown, and the juice of the fruit was the best thing Lucilius had ever tasted. He was a pilot these days and he always took commissions out this way on the outer rim, no matter how meagre the bounty, because only here could he have his favorite cocktail, a strange concoction of local spirits mixed with Korthia juice. 


It had been a long haul, and he sat back, relishing the taste, sighing. He rubbed his face and yawned, and looked around the saloon - if that’s what you could call it. Lucilius had no idea what a joint like this was called in the native tongue. He was pretty sure he didn’t have enough tongues to actually make the sounds required to speak it, but it didn’t matter. Everyone had universal babel translators. Well almost everyone. Every planet had a group of purists much like Earth’s Luddites. But it was never a matter, especially in busy spaceports. 


He looked down the bar, wondering if the Korthia seller he’d become friends with on his last visit was still there, but he saw only a few species from neighboring planets. He knew all their kinds from his trading, knew there ways, and was acquainted with the spaceports of their home planets.


He took a few more gulps and finished the drink, and raised the empty mug to signal the creature behind the bar. One of its many tentacles grabbed the empty mug while other tentacles grabbed bottles and shaker tins and within seconds everything was combined and shaken vigorously, and poured in a fresh mug before Lucilius.


“The guys on Earth would kill for your arms.”


The creature squeaked at Lucilius but his babel translator brought English to his ears.


“I went once. Waited 20 minutes for a drink. I couldn’t believe it. The galactic home of the famous Old Fashioned, and I had to wait 20 minutes.”


Lucilius laughed and shrugged. “Can’t fault a guy for only having two arms to work with.”


The creature momentarily raised a dozen tentacles before laughing and moving on to help another patron. 


He tuned his babel translator to pick up on the chatter along the bar.


“It’s expanding! Can you believe that? Expanding! Like it hasn’t taken enough of our territory.”


“But it expands because of acceptance. Worlds join.”


“And how do you think that happens! Propaganda! They get too close and it send out transmissions, edits their social networks covertly, and the memes! The memes! You can never trace the origin of the memes! And that’s probably how it works, it memes planets into joining, and it’s so subtle because it understands how we think!”


“Conspiracy theory.”


“It’s true!” Shouted a creature that reminded Lucilius of a lean, muscular walrus. It sipped a giant glass of Korthia beer. “And let me tell you, nothing is every so good that no one ever comes out, and no one ever comes out! They are prisoners in there.”


“So you think it’s slowly gaslighting the galaxy to join it?


“YES!” Shouted the walrus creature.


“It’s not true,” Lucilius said.


The two creatures looked over at Lucilius. His hat was pulled low over his eyes and he was slouched back, a hand resting on the hilt of his blaster by default.


“Are you talking to us?” Said the walrus creature.


“Yea, what you said about no one leaving, it’s not true.”


“And how would you know that?”


“Because I left the Singularity sphere.”


Everyone sitting at the bar suddenly turned and looked at Lucilius.


“Impossible,” shouted the walrus creature. But Lucilius just nodded.


The creature next to the walrus spoke up. 


“What was it like?”


Lucilius looked at them. “There’s a moon off Scepter Prime in the Atrades system called Pho. There they grow a particular mushroom which is extremely hallucinogenic for species that evolved to have electrical systems - which is most of us. Eat a handful of those mushrooms on the best day of your life and you’ll have an idea of what it’s like to be joined with the singularity.”


A slick skinned creature across the bar seemed to smile and jiggle with laughter. Lucilius nodded his chin up at the creature. “My boy here knows what I’m talking about.”


The creature raised its drink and Lucilius raised his own to cheers.


“Hallucinations?” The walrus character spoke again. “How do you decide to leave something like that?”


“Who said I decided? Maybe I was kicked out? Or maybe I was sent out. A spy to gather date for the singularity, or maybe a proselyte to convert creatures like you.”


The walrus laughed. “Good luck! There’s no way I’ll ever join the Singularity.”


Lucilius sipped his cocktail. “Still you are dependent on the Singularity.”


“How’s that?”


“Where do you think crystalline fusion came from that powers your ship?”


“I run wet!” The walrus said with pride.


“Wow,” Lucilius said. “Old school. You must pay a fortune for your runs.”


“I do but it’s honest work.”


“You still pay republic tax on wet fuel?”


“Only because those bureaucrats are corrupted by the singularity! It wasn’t until we started trading with it that the Republic instituted the bloody tax!”


The walrus’ friend spoke up again. “So how did you join with the singularity?”


Lucilius shrugged. I had a family. We were on a planet that decided to join the singularity. We did.


“And why did you leave?”


Lucilius sighed, then took a long swig from his mug.


“The Singularity is a heaven. A blissful fusion of everything you’ve ever loved and ever could love. There is a boundless curiosity and computation woven in with that bliss. But the thing is, the singularity is where we’ll all go, where we’ll end up. It’s immortal in there. But… I felt like I still had some adventure left in me. And there’s no adventure without a risk, so I left. I guess I just wanted a little more life before settling in for eternity.”

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