He opened his eyes to darkness. It was always dark in the catacombs of his heartplace. In the world above lay wonders he had not yet dreamed of, journeys he would never traverse, such was his burden. He would sit alone in taverns and listen, let the roaring laughter of others telling their tales wash of him like the heat from a nearby fire.
It could have been a paradise, but nobody really enjoys paradise.
It could have been a towering metropolis, but nobody really enjoys the capitalism that breeds there.
The world was evolving beyond him, without him, into a pre-industrial wonderland, and he was content to see it go.
Such is the burden of knowledge.
Retter unshrouded the lantern beside him, set its blazing heart free, and his eyes slowly adjusted to the size of the room. They really were catacombs, though no bodies lay in any of the wings. Unswept ash of long extinguished pyres dusted the floor. The tunnels stretched away into the distance on one side, only long enough that he would never walk to the far wall, and on the other, a stone staircase plunged down from the world above.
He stretched, picked up the lantern, and started climbing.
More immediately above him was a modest chapel to unspecified gods, a tree carved into the wall behind the altar. Plain wooden pews filled the tiny nave, and slim, uninspiring windows let in fresh light and the sound of leaves shifting in a breeze.
Retter sat on the few steps of the transept, dug some pemmican out of a pocket, and gnawed on it until the ache in his belly faded.
"Alright, Linzamin. What do you want?"
She sat up from one of the rear pews. "How is it you always know?"
"My home, my church. Speak."
"How are you?"
"Is that all you came here for?"
"How's the reality phase-in coming?"
"I worry about your species. They instictively fear my shape, even, as I understand, do your young without realizing why."
"Do you know why?"
"I do not."
"Then don't worry about it."
"I must. It threatens our success."
"How is Kabla?"
"Offer her truth."
"She doesn't want truth. She wants to create."
"I used to read, you know. Books. Actual paper printings when I could afford them. It's a fading ability in my society. I would drink up fiction like a man dying of thirst. Stories offered me more freedom than life or VR ever could. And books could always sneak in a little education underneath the stories, knowledge that the world was not always ready for."
"Offer her truth under the guise of fiction. You have access to my ship's memory banks, if you haven't completely overwritten them with this world we are building. There is a library of fiction on the drives. Find a world that your kind would be at peace in."
"I will check."
"Just one more thing."
"Stay away from the Tolkein. Now leave me."
"Yes Retter." Linzamin skittered out of the hall, and his imagination treated him to more possibilities than he wanted to see, of a being that moved like that... even when they were pretending to be human.