A beeping sound echoed around the unfurnished metal walls of the room, followed by a man’s voice on the intercom. “Major Arturias, reporting as ordered, sir.”
The door opened with a quiet hiss. “Come in and take a seat.”
A middle-aged man, dressed in a dark blue military suit, stepped into the room and gave a salute before sitting on the other side of a plain desk. Opposite him is a younger adult in his thirties, dressed similarly. The computer to his side showed a debriefing document authored by the officer sitting in front of him.
“I saw your debriefing, Major. The idea of a rogue artificial intelligence is not new - it’s happened on Taurus IV when AI-controlled enforcement units trained their guns on police and civilians, and other countless such cases. I’m not sure if this is any different, but your urgency says otherwise. You mentioned a disk as your source.”
The Major produced a disk from his coat pocket and handed it to the man, who inserted the disk in the computer. The display switched to a console showing a large list of files, with the first highlighted.
Arturias spoke. “The first two files are enough to get the gist.”
Personal log, Cmdr. [redacted], Hadaran Navy, [3521.8.18]. Audio playback. Transcript on screen.
Begin personal log.
Have you ever heard of the phrase “ad astra per aspera”? In Earth, thousands of years ago, this language called Latin was spoken throughout the world. Back then, humans like us stayed on the ground unable to fly, much less travel faster than light. Yet, just like us, they would look at the night sky and at the numerous stars it held. Back then, they must have thought it would be incredibly difficult to get to one of those stars, so they made this phrase - “to the stars, through adversity”.
They were wrong. Getting to those stars was the easy part. Settling in was even easier. Space was much emptier than what we thought. You know how, in all of the very old science fiction books, we would meet all sorts of creatures in space and maybe even get destroyed by a couple of them for fun? None of that happened - none at all. No creatures, no humanoids, no hostile lifeforms. It was what we did here, in the far reaches of space, that got us in the end.
We don’t even know when this started happening, or where. It just came unannounced, while we were busy with our petty disputes and bloody wars. It just came, and saw us, and stomped us flat. It’s not like we rolled over and gave up. We gave them all we got, and fought for every damn planet, every damn system.
That’s all over now. Yes, I’m still alive, together with what’s left of my men and the ships we control. As far as we know, we’re the only ones left between them and the capital. Last I heard, the capital’s only started to evacuate a day ago. They scrounged up whatever spacefaring vessel they had and shoved whoever can fit in it, sending them to no one knows where. Maybe they’d be safe in the unmapped pockets of the galaxy, maybe they’d be chewed up and spat out by whatever or whoever’s out there. But they’re gonna try it anyway, and I’m gonna give them as much time as I can give.
We’re outnumbered fifty to one. How much time am I supposed to give them? How much time can I give them? They’ll be here in a couple hours. Hell, they could’ve ran us over an hour ago. I can see them in the sensors display - this huge blob of signals moving ever so slowly across the screen. In a couple of hours, that blob will be here - they will be here - and they will be as numerous as the stars.
I just wish we acted on it much faster than we did. In a few moments, I will jettison as many physical disks containing this log and whatever data I can cram into the disk in just however many probes I can find on this command ship. If you’re listening or watching, please, prepare for them. They are numerous, they are strong, they don’t feel or bleed. They don’t have cities, or families - they are AI, and they’ll be coming.
End of personal log.
[210 files attached. Read list y/n?]
[View file 2 y/n?]
Attached file 2 of 210: “The ‘AI’: A review of origins, intent, and progress”. 3519. Proceedings of the Hadaran Defense Institute vol.16, issue 3, pp.412-480.
Two years ago, a sharp increase of subspace activity was detected at Sector 15VC, an area colonized by humanity in 3227. Upon analysis, most of the activity was not human in nature and showed similarities to procedurally written code found in artificial intelligence systems. The spread of AI activity has been analyzed and tracked through similar subspace activity and context found in fragments of human transmissions. Evidence points to the development of a rogue artificial intelligence intended to be a technological tool in a major conflict at Sector 15VC as the origin of the AI. The same evidence suggests the artificial intelligence was made to command military fleets. Some time after the sudden subspace activity increase in a sector - between two days and ten months - all subspace activity drops to levels just above background. No human subspace activity has been detected in any sector affected by the brief increase in subspace activity. Mapping all known subspace bursts shows a swift, multi-directional expansion of the AI, and it is estimated that the AI will come within detailed sensor contact of the Hadar system in twenty-one months. Transmissions from the AI suggest that the AI has a hostile stance on humanity. It is also likely that the AI has control of a large amount of military spacefaring vessels. The Defense Institute recommends intensified research on AI motives, AI resources and assets, and preparatory military measures for the cluster.
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The man took his eyes off the screen, showing a flash of discomposure before adjusting in his seat. “Hadar...Hadar is two and a half lightyears from here. That gives us ten months. Did our scientists not see these transmissions at all?”
“Not at all, as far as I’ve looked in their archives. The probe that had the disk, which we retrieved three days ago, was the first to mention anything about the AI.”
“Why did you not rush this to the Senate?”
“It would have much more pull with your rank, Admiral. They will receive these documents with more gravity if they came from you.”
The man sighed. It was all too true - the Uwal Senate had fallen to a bureaucratic mess, and most items in the agenda usually required massive endorsement to gain any traction. In this case, he would have to ask for a state of emergency and immediate dissemination of the AI documents to the other border worlds - and to the inner Core worlds - as quickly as possible. It would be a tall order for the Senate to believe that the AI was a threat, much less respond to it.
“Alright. I want your men to read through the documents, prepare detailed analyses of said documents, and make a concise report summarizing your work by the time we arrive and report to the Senate. We can’t sit on our laurels if any of this is correct. You are dismissed.”
“Sir.” The Major stood and saluted before turning to leave the room. Now alone, the man sighed and turned to his computer, rapidly typing a message. It would take half an hour for his fleet to stop exercises and return, and seven hours of FTL travel to reach the Uwal system. It might take longer with the science ship in tow. Getting to Uwal is the easiest part; he would have to get the Senate into session and present the analyses made by Arturias and his staff. It’s not even guaranteed the Senate would make a vote right there and then.
It’s going to be a long, long day.