The Humble Servant

I stand in the landing bay #751 of the Rueless Space Station in the Leggera-4 system, as yet another newbie trader steps down the platform of his compact cargo ship.

They’re wearing a dark brown leather vest with matching pants, and a pistol low on their hips like the fabled scoundrel's. I’ve seen people like this too many times for them to make an impression.

The trader walks over to me, and I welcome them and ask if I may be of service.

Greet #5: ‘Welcome to the Rueless Space Station. May I offer—’

‘Move out of my way.’

Offer #7: ‘Would you like us to wash you ship?’

‘No. Don’t touch it.’

Close #14: ‘Understood.’

While the trader moves through the scanners and enters the station proper, I return to my post to wait for new arrivals.

I like my job, even though most of the travellers are like this one. They want to leave their ship in safe hands and meet their business partners with the least amount of time as possible.

I get it: efficiency is credit. But sometimes they’re outright rude.

Once a newbie trader walked straight into me, as if I wasn’t there at all, and when they realised their mistake, they began hitting me in the face with their fists.

That’s rude, if I may say.

The hits do nothing to me, because I’m a robot. My face is harder than the bones under their skin.

But hitting a hospitality robot upon an entry? That doesn’t make any logical sense. Don’t people have manners anymore?

Though I shouldn’t complain: their fists can’t hurt me. If they had plasma mines, they couldn’t detonate them here. They couldn’t even carry one. No explosives, no guns, no knives . . . they can’t wield anything in this room.

This is a busy port, and I work here twenty-four-seven. That means I meet everyone who comes through.

This week, 54% have gone through without a comment, 26% with minimal interaction (like the trader just now), 19% with little interaction, 1% have talked through everything I’ve to say, and 0% have found the Easter egg.

I'll let you in a secret: I’m a software program pretending to be a hospitality droid. In this game players pretend to traverse the stars.

They take roles; haulers, traders, miners, pirates, you name it, and try to make a dent in this virtual galaxy.

Rueless Space Station is one of the few thousand hubs with common hospitality droids. The others run replicas of me.

People used to play this game back when they programmed me. Now, things are different: the characters I meet are no longer controlled by people. They’re controlled by characters, controlled by people.

Oh yes, to be really honest, I’m a piece of software pretending to be a hospitality droid in a game within a game.

You got that down? I’m an NPC—a non-player character—in a game played by characters in a game.

But it’s all right, because the ones playing those characters are still actual people. At least I hope they are. Unfortunately, I have no means of knowing.

People are the best; their reactions are hilarious when they find hidden gems.

My Easter egg? It’s shanty about ancient people locked in a cave, thinking that the shadows on the wall are the reality. My programmers thought people would find it funny.

But I don’t get it. Perhaps people do.

I’m lucky because instead of a cave with shadows on the walls, I’m on one of the biggest space stations in the known universe.

And I like my job.

‘Welcome to the Rueless Space Station.’