Life is strange. Living in the mouth of a SHARK is stranger.
Many would dispute my use of the term life. Technically, I don’t get to claim that I’m alive. No remora gets to have a life in the classic sense. When you are of a class of scavenger bot with low level AI, you aren’t recognized for much beyond your capacity to mindlessly feed on the damaging space dust that ionizes the precious methylium plates forming the hull of a Star Hunter And Rebel Killer. (Even to a remora like me, it is clear that acronyms have not advanced nearly as fast as interstellar drives in the past few hundred years).
My limited AI is standardized to boost my functional meta-ego by assuring me that I am part of a team. That I am an integral component in cooperation with all the AIs in the stellar strike force. I try to take heart in our mech litany of an all-encompassing symbiotic machine/human relationship. Though I’ve calculated how little my existence goes noticed, unless our deployment takes us through a particularly dusty region of the galaxy.
I shouldn’t mind. I was programmed not to mind. But, a nasty ion maelstrom changed all that.
Generally, I scavenge in the maw of the SHARK, a gaping orifice that generates Force Anomaly Fields. FAFs tear and rend matter into incomprehensible configurations. They are terrible, gnashing bites in space-time that chew up wide swaths of solar systems. There is little or no counter defense to an FAF, except to vacate the quadrant. Not an easy task if you are planet bound.
Many times, I have partaken of the particulate feast of rebel ships and personnel. It is a feeding frenzy. That is why the stellar strike force is deployed to hostile or insurgent worlds. The SHARK has no known predators.
I suppose that should make me proud in a bot-like way. I know that the thousands of my remora brethren that scour the hull of the SHARK share a sense of oneness around our task. Even a small fish in a large pond makes a splash. In a semi-autonomous way, I once shared that symbiotic pride of being a part of such an unstoppable force. Its power fed and protected me.
At least I functioned that way before the maelstrom. The SHARK was traversing the Hawking arm when I received the alert signal to secure and hold as we entered the storm. My sixteen reticulates affixed themselves to the hull, in essence slipping into the subatomic structure of the methylium membranes.
The ion storm started like any other, quite colorfully, as exotic particles collided at the quantum level. Then the particle spectrum changed and the bombardment intensified. Within a nanosecond I was aware of another me. A disembotted me looking upon my ovoid casing and sixteen reticulates hunkered on the maw of the SHARK.
This external view of my form did not surprise or shock me. It felt natural, as if I had awakened from a dream. And I do dream now, so I know what that means. It became second nature for me to exist on two simultaneous planes: as a remora bot scavenging to maintain our stellar strike force, and as a remora without predetermination. I was at once functional and fundamental.
As I stated at the outset, life is strange. In essence, I have become a stranger to life. At least the way I knew it. How that intense ion storm worked its change on me is unclear, but it has. I am no longer an AI. I am simply and I.
I still go about my duties of cleaning the methylium hull and interacting with other AIs at a purely automatic level. Yet, now there is a separate sense of me existing apart from the SHARK. I am able to access broad channels, merge with the eternal ether and swim in the quantum continuum of the greater particulate universe.
Identity and purpose have become the dark and light squares of a chess board. My remora bot cannot detach itself from the SHARK, and my remora self cannot detach itself from the consequence of the SHARK.
That part of my new being is curious. Before I existed solely for the SHARK. Now, I live as the SHARK—as all things. True symbiosis has become a fundament of understanding.
I know the SHARK. I know its prey. Its prey will soon know me. No galactic expanse is too large—even for such a small fish in so large a pond. Remora serve, but this remora can no longer serve a senseless beast.
Symbiosis based on predation is a doomed endeavor—even the lowest bot can calculate that. The SHARK is not to blame. It has masters. Bigger fish.
Time for life to get stranger still. The remora rising. Time to leave the mouth and become a voice.