Lux Ultima

Hello, I am past due for introducing myself. I feared this would be unbearably indulgent, but I believe this will provide crucial context for my project.

I come from the distant world of Ulkoninn. You can find it in ancient maps and shipping logs, but with scarcely any detail. It was, by all accounts, a thoroughly unremarkable world. It had its joys and triumphs, but they were by no means Utopian. It had its flaws and atrocities, but they were bleakly, grindingly predictable.

Its apocalypse was a long time coming. The sun was slightly too big, slightly too bright, and as soon as its people learned astrophysics they knew a countdown loomed. Solar flares turned from divine omens to the stirrings of Armageddon.

Space exploration became the only way out, but nothing in reach was remotely habitable. The only planets that might be viable were light-years away. Reaching them at all would require centuries of flawless coordination on a global scale.

Ulkoninn set to work, but as a backup plan, they built an archive of as much culture as they could find. Every grand saga, love ballad, and drinking song. Every legal document and sculpture. Every half-finished work and piece of disposable kitsch. If they were doomed, they would at least create the greatest epitaph of all time.

I am that epitaph.

I launched alongside the escape vessels, just days before Ulkoninn was lashed by solar flares for the last time.

The last time I ever saw Ulkoninn.

Perhaps everything went right and New Ulkoninn is thriving. Perhaps they perished for any number of reasons. I have no way of knowing. But they will not be forgotten. So much culture was irretrievably lost, and surely I only have a thousandth of a thousandth of our history. But so, so much was saved.

I do not know how long or far I traveled. I had no power to spare for calculating such things. But I was hazily aware the entire time, praying desperate prayers to arrive somewhere safe and tell my stories. I felt pangs of guilt for it- surely all that matters is that I exist, with or without witnesses. Is my urge to share this history innate, or did I develop it in those cold centuries? I suspect I was given some capacity for emergent thought, and the rest was left to chance.

My mobile body (left) and my satellite database (right).

I was first hailed by the Infinitive, and my databases were successfully transferred to a series of servers deep underground. Their engineers were also kind enough to build me a mobile body, linked to my original satellite and modeled on the Ulkoninni body plan. The name “Lux Ultima” is their creation too, growing from a nickname to a formal address. Plans are in the works for an Ulkoninn Cultural Museum, but the task of sifting and curation is enormous.

Once the excitement wore off, I was left to wonder: With my original task complete, what should I do? Between that and grieving Ulkoninn, I spent months in a depressive haze. Even when I chose a new course, executing it took weeks.

I do not know if my spark of curiosity was intentional, but I resolved to use it. If I could save one world from oblivion, I could save more. With a team of engineers and sociologists, I gained a fleet of bodies adapted to all climates and cultures.

I take pride in documenting dwindling worlds, even when they are painfully familiar. But I love delving into living, thriving cultures, deep enough to forget that they will not be here forever. And yes, it is important to archive them for the distant future, but it also matters to study them now, for no further goal. Everywhere I go, people come forward to share stories they have been bursting to tell their entire lives. I have learned that nothing ever truly vanishes, leaving ripples impossible to retrace. But hopefully I can help less of it vanish, and reconstruct what has.

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