The Barnacled Hermit (or “Barny”, as the media persisting in calling him). glanced nervously at the sky as he followed his blessedly familiar path around his tiny asteroid.
Technically, there was no need to do this. The signaling station maintained itself flawlessly. It was also entirely redundant as the signals it was designed to monitor weren’t merely obsolete, their entire spectrum had been replaced by a new technology called Modlar that made the station seem as absurd and ancient and primitive as communicating by tribal drum.
The station was, therefore, of merely historical signifigance, and to be honest, Barny had, technically, stolen it.
he was at least honest enough to admit that to himself and to not pretend that he had some noble purpose for it or that it was somehow better than all that newfangled quantum entanglement nonsense.
He needed it because it helped him feel sane.
He’d done a lot of crazy things for that reason.
Like search the galaxy tables for an asteroid identical to the one on which he had been stranded seven hundred years previous.
The original, of course, was now a religious site to which tourists flocked to visit the Shrine of Shimmering Purity (home to the Barnacled Adventists) and/or the Beacon of Life Temple (the separate but still technically in the same building headquarters of the Staff of Life/Circle of Birth cult).
Barny wouldn’t dream of going within a thousand light years of that place. It was embarrassing enough when he had only one religion founded in his name and purporting to espouse his beliefs and carry out his agenda.
But to have there be two? Two that constantly squabble over brutally tiny details like which part of the building was higher and therefore closer to God and whether their religious symbols were first on the “all religions welcome” sign?
That was more than any being should ever have to take.
Besides, large parts of their doctrines were mutually exclusive, so if Barny showed up and said practically anything, it would be interpreted as endorsing one side or the other and he’d end up being accused of heresy.
Even worse, the other side would then be hanging on every word their new spiritual said so they could add it to their holy scriptures.
And there was no way his programming could handle that level of responsibility.
That’s why he was now walking an unnecessary route around a hilariously obsolete signaling station on a very, very expensive asteroid with an even more expensive cloaking system that made it invisible to absolutely all known methods of detection in the known galaxy.
He just couldn’t take it any more. He had to escape. It had cost him most of the vast fortune he had unwillingly accumulated over the centuries to do it, but now he was as safe from the huddled masses as he could could, so it had all been worth it.
Nevertheless, he watched the skies with paranoid intensity, convinced that despite all the measures he had taken, some kind of spaceship was going to land in front of him one day and say “At last! Joyous Day! The Second Finding has come! We’re going to take you to be our leader!. ”
The fact that he’d been forced to improvise some babble about “going on a spiritual journey to find the true source of all meaning” before he disappeared did not help the situation at all.
He’d had no idea the effect that vague nonsense would have on the human mind. Instead of writing him off as a useless cipher like he had thought they would. it had driven the humans into a frenzy of speculation and projection of their own agendas onto his words, and made them all the more determined to find him again in what was now universally called the Second Age.
And all from a string of spiritual sounding words he’d made up on the spot in order to dodge a determined looking interviewer.
There was so much he would never understand about humans.
Not that his fellow robots were any better. Sure, they vehemently denied that their “Research Societies” and “Study Institutes” and “Foundling Universities” were not, in way shape or form, religious institutions, Barny wasn’t fooled.
He knew fanaticism and worship when he saw it.
After all. he’d been the victim of it enough times.
So now he spent his days in the only place where he felt sane, or at least, where he felt the least crazy.
If you are honest with yourself. there is only many times you can check the sky for something you know, logically, cannot be there and still consider yourself sane.
That’s why when a vehicle actually did appear. he hadn’t noticed right away. There had been, shall we say, false positives many times before, and he had gotten into the habit of discounting anything he thought he saw up there unless it gave him a clear, unambiguous sign that it was here to stay.
This it did by landing, rather sloppily, directly in front of him and disgorging what had to be the ugliest human Barny had ever seen. The man (?) seemed to be made of warts, scars, and clump of unwholesome looking hair.
This should be a good one, thought Barny, who had become somewhat of a connisuer of hallucinations as of late.
The “human” glared at Barny with insect-black eyes for a few minutes. then waddled aggressively up to Barny and glared at him some more.
Dqarny was impressed with himself. He wouldn’t have thought he had the imagination to creature such a thoroughly repulsive creature. but obviously, he had.
The “man” walked around an utterly fascinated Barny like he was appraising Barny’s value as livestock and wasn’t too impressed. At least, that’s what Barny thought those grunts and half-enunciated words meant.
And then “he” said the words that would once more shatter the Barnacled Hermit’s world and make him have to rethink everything all over again.
“So who the hell are you?”.