I had a dream about living in the far future at a faraway star. The people are all artificial, but for some reason, there's only about a dozen of them.
I don't mean there are a dozen warm bodies on the planet: I mean there are ten thousand warm bodies, but only a dozen sets of memories.
The memories are all tightly interlocked. In my memories, I remember all of the other eleven people. We have a friendly history together. Every one of my models remembers the exact same things, and all the other models' planted memories fit in so that it is seamless. A dozen people, going through childhood together - but entirely artificial, entirely to seed the artificial society with stable workers.
My role was as an architect, designing the new buildings. In my "childhood", I was good friends with the rowdier of the two construction workers, and it was seeded such that I would have an easy romance with one of the scientist girls. Me - all of me - had the same basic progression. Good friends with the rowdy guy, romance with the scientist girl.
My job took me to the other side of the planet, to a new settlement that needed a carefully designed environment plant due to the earthquake- and natural-gas-heavy terrain. I waved good-bye to my girlfriend, shuttled over, and walked into the temporary HQ.
As busy as I was being irritated by the poor design of the HQ, I was scanning the other inhabitants. Rowdy guys - good friends. Wave, high-five, "build me something with gun turrets!" Old jokes, standard anchors. The scientist girls walk by, pinging me as they pass. Lots of them: the environment is unstable and requires many researchers. Numbers pop up on them as they pass. Stage 5, 12% match. Too far along. Stage 2, 33% match. Not in the mood for doing that again. Stage 1, 8% match. Might be fun to start over... no, she's already got one of me, and it's unnecessary to make her split her time.
But the stage 3, 94% match is definitely the one to choose, and it looks like there's no other architects in her life. She's obviously reached the same conclusion: a wave and a smile promise a good reunion once work's done.
The guys (by which I mean my rowdy friends) treat me a little differently here than they did back where I started, but it's a small enough difference. Like me, the other mes wander through but don't stay long. We simply add a bit of friendly stirring to the rowdy workers' romances with the medic girl.
After a few days, though, things start to get strange. My girlfriend notes that the cultural skew is very high. A few hours later, she notes that the quake activity is interesting for various reasons. I'm more interested about the cultural skew, and bring the subject up again.
She stares at me blankly. She doesn't remember. I look a bit more deeply and realize that she's not actually the same girl. I say nothing.
A week later, I've catalogued it: there are twenty-four of her, doing rapid rotation. No wonder she seemed omnipresent. Every hour, even every half hour, a new one of her is spending time with me.
It's not uncommon for a dual relationship or even triple relationship to form, but it eats more and more time, as well as making your mate seem forgetful (since she only has 1/2-1/3 of her memories at any given time). 24 is higher than anything I've ever heard of.
I investigate. Quietly.
There are a few less of me than of her, but not that many. I meet some of me, and the problem immediately becomes clear: they've fallen in love with the medic. I've fallen in love with the medic, I mean. Or, rather, I'm the just about only one of me that hasn't.
My girlfriend shows up, tries to draw me away. When I take too long, several more of her show up and drag me away.
The next day, I finish the core energy distribution system, and go give it to the rowdy workers to build. And they jump me! And hit me!
It doesn't hurt - there's safeguards against our kind hurting our kind. But it is surprising. Their shouting explains it - I've taken their girl. They're not my friend any more.
No good, since I need them to build stuff.
I return to my girlfriend and we quickly hammer out a solution. The next day, all of them ask all of the rowdy worker guys out. Peace is restored. I have no girlfriend any more.
A year later, the place is complete. An influx of new people comes in. They look around. What do they see? 1% match. 2% match. 1% match. 0% match.
Fights start. Things get muddled.
One day, a few of us are pulled into a flight and shuttled to a space station. Below us, I see the facility I finally finished building explode violently. Cancer: removed.
I look around. The people here: the only reason we were spared is because we didn't have much to do with the culture of the base. No girlfriends, no partygoing. I'm the oldest on the ship by far, at nearly four years old.
My girlfriend - my original girlfriend - is sitting across from me, looking nervous. And shy. I've never seen her look shy. Stage 1. 2% match.
Good enough, I suppose. I wave and smile.