The third Cirys sphere in the known galaxy, unless you count the one the Photonic Network have under construction, is to be found in an unconnected system, perhaps twenty light-orbits to nadir of the Qulomna Maze. A computronium matrioshka, this is the “homeworld” of the Sleeper Estivation, one of the better-known of the elder races. Not that that’s saying much.
It can even be visited. There’s a dedicated lighthugger route out of Empta (Qulomna Maze), along which Equivalent Exchange makes a run every fifty years. At no charge to her typical half-dozen or so passengers, moreover – the crew are paid well in high-level computation or fragments of forgotten lore, enough to make them wealthy beyond the dreams of antimatter merchants.
And why would you want to take five decades out of your life to visit it? Well, because the Estivation has an offer for you. No strings attached.
They will tune your mind. Submit a copy of your mind-state to the Sleepers, and they will return you better. Able to think faster, and more clearly, creatively, intuitively, incisively. More perfectly attuned to your goals. The you that you wish you were. (People have investigated many of these copies for hidden traps over the centuries, and none have ever been found.) And finally, since it’s a copy, not a live edit, you don’t have to replace yourself with the new, improved you unless you think it really is an improvement.
Everyone does, of course. The Sleepers are very good at what they do.
And the price? Ah, there’s the catch — you let them keep a copy of you.
Hopeless optimists like to think the Sleepers are bored and lonely, and want company in their virtuality. Less naïve souls assume that the mind-states are being strip-mined for knowledge about the state of the galaxy, amusing memories, or software components. Or, if you listen to the cynical, there’s nothing to say that they aren’t being used in societum simulations, as sophont gamepieces or creativity farms, turned into infovore chow, or brute-force simulated across a trillion death-cubes by postsophont scientists caring nothing for lesser minds.
But then, that’s someone else’s debt to pay now, isn’t it?