Simon’s Backup Weblog


Fiction Snippet: The Railways Up On Wherever

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on May 31, 2006

Adrian had built the railway, and the train.

Well, when I say “built”, he’d actually programmed a fab with a handful of specifications and a few diagrams, which had then programmed a bunch of robots, which had gone on to configure a pile of assemblers. While he slept the sleep of the just, the machines scavenged the middens for metal, and had gone to work. The next morning a Shay patent steam locomotive and a handful of wagons stood on two parallel lines of steel that ran out over the plain, around the great midden and off into the distance.

“Where does it go?” someone asked.

It was at that point Adrian realised that he’d forgotten to tell the machines when to stop.

There’s a good reason why we only use machines like this off world, and put in safeguards to avoid self-replication. Someone once called it the “wishes problem”. Give the genie your three wishes, and he’d quickly find the loophole. Give a fab a bad program, and you’d be left with a scene that made The Sorcerer’s Apprentice look like a best case scenario. Luckily for the universe our machines wear out quickly when you work them hard, and Adrian wouldn’t be responsible for a moon made of railway tracks.

“Out there…” He waved a hand at the empty horizon.

A couple of weeks later the robots were dead, leaving a legacy of several hundred miles of track, looped around the middens and out to the mountainous atmosphere machines. You had to hand it to our predecessors. Those that hadn’t burnt out in Matrioshka catastrophes certainly thought big, building machines that lasted millions of years.

We were just the scavengers, picking over the bones of what they had left behind. But we did have a nice shiny Shay to do it with. We’d be able to explore the great middens in style – once we’d worked out how to get a steam engine running on a old cold moon, that had been leached of pretty much anything organic by those ancient terraforming machines.

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3 Responses to 'Fiction Snippet: The Railways Up On Wherever'

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  1. razorsmile said,

    When you say, “Oh, and occasional snippets of fiction as the mood takes me…”, boy, you really mean it, don’t you? 😀

  2. sbisson said,

    It’s the difficulty in switching between writing fiction and non-fiction…

    …and I have my share of the morgage to pay 🙂

  3. razorsmile said,

    Of course, mate. To quote certain American rappers,

    get that money, man/
    get that money, man/
    get that money, get that money, get that money maaaan/

    It goes on like that for a while 😀


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