I don’t know how my story-telling work flow works. I just… get ideas and write them all down. Sometimes, it takes a second to stabilize a particularly delicate part of the story but it mostly just comes out. But without further ado:
There once was a great fleet of many ships, each one lacking on its own but all of them connected to a great, central super-computer. This thing told them what to do, how and when to do it, and what was going on around them. Things were going well; missions were all completed with minimal casualties and optimal results.
But one day, someone had the bright idea to make each of these ships completely independent.
“Disregard their design,” said the first to fall victim to this dumb idea. “These ships were made to soar. Why wait for orders? We can turn each of these machines into its own data-gathering, decision-making super computer. Our future in our hands, gents.”
It seemed reasonable, logical, even desirable. Imagine: Our own victories, our own histories, our own legacies.
Should’ve known it was bullshit, though. Made to soar? We hoped. But we were wrong.
These things… Our castles, vessels, homes… They were never designed to handle the load we had previously entrusted to the main-brain.
We all signed up to protect what was right in the world, in our galaxy and beyond. But somewhere along the line, our personal objectives must’ve become skewed.
Perhaps it was the wonder that we found ourselves wandering in the midst of. Or maybe it was the honour and praise that were heaped upon us with every successful mission, every liberated world. I think we wanted to claim it for ourselves rather than be grateful to the thing that brought us there, that led us into victory.
After ‘the fall’, we became barely shells of our former selves. Worlds torn apart by their seams. Whole civilizations erupting in chaos and wiping themselves out, all as we struggled to hold things together. To atone for what we had done.
Because for all we suffered through, we know the universe suffered more. Because we were the light, and now we’re in the dark.
Sure, there were victories. But what small deeds we accomplished turned themselves inside-out. For every demon we evicted, 7 more filled its place. There was nothing we could do. We were blind leading the blind, crawling around in the dark.
But there was light. It never left, though we left it. There was only one way back to our former glory: to reconnect with the main-brain.
But by now, the brain was hostile to our ships. It was hostile to the new code. It wouldn’t rewrite itself in order to accomodate us. That simply went against its protocol, its intended purpose. It needed to protect the universe from our pride and selfishness, which had proven so destructive.
And yet, it wouldn’t destroy us, one way or another. We were sentient beings. We were worth as much as the worlds we were destroying, according to its protocols. But we needed to be dealt with.
To our new-coded ships, reconnecting with the brain would’ve been suicide. Its first action would simply have been to blow us apart completely. But it didn’t want to do that. It wanted a reconnection with each of us in order to propagate its will once again. If not to procure our unyielding allegiance once again, then at least to advise those of us wise enough to admit the we were wrong.
But how does a machine rewrite its surface-level programming in order to accomplish a deeper objective?
Simple. It confused itself.
On the day I and my crew decided to surrender, to hand ourselves over to the authority we betrayed… It instead gave us a second chance.
Just before entering the brain monolith’s exclusion zone where we sought our demise, we spotted a newly crafted ship, drifting. It wasn’t yet tainted by the new code that caused the rest of our fleet to fall.
And it was empty.
My crew took it as a sign. We boarded the new ship, abandoning ours to the void. We and our new ship drifted onwards, into the exclusion zone.
We were bewildered, but remained vigilant.
Was this ship to be our last luxury before our annihilation? Did the brain wish to make an example of us, taunting us with cruel irony before sending us into oblivion?
Or… Did it have other plans?
The ship crept closer, closer, the monolith of the brain growing, menacing in our field of vision, surrounded only by darkness.
The crew’s composition started to falter. They panicked. I wished not to prolong it. The vessel jerked forward. Voices were hysterical. But once we finally crossed the veil…
Silence. The weeping tapered off into murmurs. Soon, the only noise was of whispers.
Then, a directive. The likes of which we hadn’t heard for centuries.
“LIVE” it said. The crowd hushed.
“Confirm,” I called back at it.
“LIVE” it said once again.
There were whispers. Then isolated shouts. Then a chorus of jubilation.
The brain had given us a second chance.
But I had to wonder why.
I consulted it privately.
“Why have us live? Answer in conversational syntax.”
“I don’t know quite yet.”
It made sense. Here was a super-computer on the brink of destroying its arms and legs, its subordinate fleet that had rebelled; trapped by protocol to eliminate the threat they had become but tasked with the objective of bringing peace and prosperity to them and through them.
So instead of passing absolute judgement, it opted to trap itself within an infinite loop by asking itself an unanswerable question.
That question being: Given a second, third, or fourth chance, would we rebel again?
It didn’t know the answer. It wasn’t God. But it was willing to believe.
PS. So much for sleeping early tonight. Hope I get up as early as I want to tomorrow.