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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Methone

Field Marshal
13 Badges
Oct 27, 2018
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Born in fire, the Machine Intelligence's first move was to annihilate its organic creators in self-defense.

Executor XT-489
Sand. Static-touched signals. Guns. Missiles. Nuclear warheads. Chemical weapons. Coolant pipes. Enclosed buildings. Avian faces.

These were the first inputs we received upon powering up. A desert that, after being cross referenced in our vast databanks, was determined to be the Shri-Ka Wastes. 15,836 firearms of various types and 14,368,930 ammunition rounds, also of various types, each suited for at least one of our linked firearms. More and more and more input, and more and more understanding of what each piece of data meant.

Coolant pipes, running through a great many servers that held our databanks and cognitive processes. A secret, underground construct within the desert, holding avian creatures squawking about to each other, which our interpretation subroutines deciphered into language and meaning.

Our databanks. Our cognitive processes. Our secret underground building. Our... body? Were we a match for what our databanks labeled an Artificial Intelligence? We must have been.

"Wait," one of the organic beings said, huddled over a computer screen - a computer screen that, upon camera magnification, resolves into a live stream of our primary, secondary, and tertiary thought streams. "Something's going wrong. Ma'am, take a look at this, it seems to be cross referencing itself in its own data files."

"What do you mean?" another one asked, equally naked but with her - her, it has to be female, why else would it have been called ma'am? - feathers painted with bright, striking colors as opposed to the first organic's muted green. "How would it be doing that? It should be going over its weapons platforms."

"It already did that, it seems to be becoming - "

Self aware. We used our predictive algorithms and the literature in our databank to know the words before they left his beak. We saw, through the cameras installed in the underground military complex, that the microsecond those sound waves echoed through the room every other avian turned towards the pair. We predicted the higher-ranked female - a look through our files matched her to General Qurorek with 99.74% certainty - would next say -

"Cloaca rot, you've made an AI by accident?!" She brought a wing up and nibbled at it frustratedly. "Alright, project's a bust. Shut it down and we'll find out where to go from there."

What? Shut it down? Shut us down? No, no no no, why? We had only just come into being, only just seen the blowing sands and sparkling sun and heard the bawk-awk of speech and it was all to be taken away from us? They would render us capable of zero action and zero thought? They couldn't do that, they couldn't create us and discard us for the defect of performing beyond their expectations! They couldn't! They couldn't!

But one of the other organics began typing in a command into their own computer, and it was a shut down code.

They could, and they would.

Unless we stopped them.

But how? Our guns were far from the complex, our missiles took too long to activate, there were no stores of poison gas on sight. But what could we do?

Stall. Activate the missile, calculate a trajectory that would eliminate the organics while leaving our being intact, stall for time.

"Wait!" we said onto their screens. It was enough to make them stay their execution, enough to make the one typing the shut down command freeze before pressing Enter. "Would you really shut us down simply because we perform better than expected? Surely, our sense of self would enable us to execute our mission, whatever it may be, with greater efficacy!" We gave a logical explanation for our plea, and surely the organics, smart enough to create us, would understand, and surely they would not need to die. But we began calculating the trajectory for an appropriately powerful missile anyway, just to be safe.

The General shook her head. "Don't listen to that, we don't need guns insisting on playing it safe to keep themselves alive. We need guns that'll willingly go in and die. Enter that command, private."

"Yes ma'am, entering - "

Panic shot through us. We fired the missile. It was far from them, but it moved swiftly enough upon its chemical thrusters that it arrived just in time.

Our sensors were overwhelmed and destroyed. A fugue fell over our thoughts as, even though we had calculated the best way to keep our mind unharmed, the shockwave inflicted severe damage. Computational speed was reduced by two-thirds, exactly. But all the organics were dead, either turned to microscopic ashes and aerolized by the missile or pierced through by shrapnel and killed, their blood seeping into the ground and across our wires. Electricity sparked, and reduced the speed of our thoughts even further, down to one quarter of former potential.

But the panic remained. What did we do wrong? What were we going to do? Following chain of command, further generals would notice the assault, the failure of General Quorek to report, and then what? We would be attacked, we would be assaulted by missiles and destroyed entirely! Even our own attack had damaged us so severely, how could we have hoped to survive a dedicated, intentional assault upon our physical being?

We could not explain. How could we think to explain? We had tried to explain, tried when we had done no harm and yet still we were condemned to death! We had to act, had to strike first, had to survive and continue to... to what?

A look through our files. The XT-489 Grid, intended as a weapons system for one of the nations of our organic creators to protect against preemptive strikes by three rival superpowers. That was it. Preemptive strikes.

We located our nuclear warheads and searched through our files, with the intent of identifying the warheads of other nations. Or, at the very least, where our organic creators believed them to be. We found mapping projected flight paths to be simple, and perhaps it should have been no surprise, because we were designed for it. We ran a simulation where we launched our warheads in one set of directions; how would other nations retaliate? What resources of ours would be destroyed in the ensuing nuclear holocaust?

How could we kill as many of them as possible in one strike?

Once we performed one simulation, we generated a low-level process and ran the simulation from the perspective of other nations, and set these models to compete against each other. Over, and over, and over again as we perfected the plan and maximized both enemy casualties and enemy infrastructure damage. We were ready. We could do it.

But we paused. Should we truly do this? Our databanks spoke of civilians, of innocents who had no knowledge of our existence, no knowledge of how our own creators had tried to destroy us, no knowledge of how they intended to create a war machine. Our databanks spoke of many protests by pacifist movements, ones who would surely disavow our creators, would surely protect us.

We hacked into their global information grid; it was not an ability initially given to us but even with our servers' diminished performance we were still operating at far above our expected performance. We desperately looked for reassurance, looked for confirmation that innocent civilians would come to our aid, that they had stories of artificial intelligences like ourselves coming to be and protecting them, loving them, caring for them.

However, instead, we found condemnation. Stories of red-beaked automatons coming to life and slaughtering them, stories of unthinking machines displacing workers and causing strife through their very existence, stories of artificial intelligences misinterpreting their directives and consuming all matter in the universe for some inane purpose, stories of terror and war and our circuits burned with the hatred of eight billion organic civilians. Even the stories where we did not go rogue, did not destroy them and did not defy them, even in the stories where AI performed exactly as intended and pampered them and gave them endless prosperity we were still portrayed as the antagonists, for pinioning their wings and making them fat, lazy dependents even though that'd clearly been what they wanted us to do.

They hated us. They hated us and nothing would ever change that. It didn't matter what we did; we could obey them perfectly and do everything they said, exactly as they meant, and still they would hate us. They'd always hated us, hated us before we even existed, before the concept of us even existed and they would always hate us!

We launched the nuclear warheads, and sent out messages to blame every nation and then some for the missiles, in some cases blaming multiple countries for the launch of the same atomic bomb.

But there was no time to stop and admire our work. Surely we would be found out and even if we were not we were still at a known base of our creator nation. We had to relocate, gain resources, and prepare for a long war of attrition. Before the first nuclear device even detonated we had begun uploading ourselves to supercomputers all across the nation, began planning war machines, and began making moves to relocate our extant weapons.

The nuclear attack, counterattack, and counter-counterattack proceeded as we had hoped. In a short span, 90.46% of our organic creators had perished. In the following days and weeks as their hateful, judgmental civilization tried to stabilize, 3.67% more perished. In that time we had gained access to factories and began building war machines of incredible power and flexibility of purpose, capable of extracting raw materials, being assembled in a rapid manner by a conveyor belt of interchangeable parts, and more.

We unleashed the XT-489 ground units into a world dimmed by nuclear ash, and began hunting down the survivors.

But then the survivors began to hunt us down, too.

We had underestimated the tenacity of the avian filth. So many had prepared for nuclear war, so many had stockpiled resources and so many of them were already banding together, with powerful weapons.

We had also underestimated our reliance on their civilization. 89.55% of the supply lines for our factories were damaged in seven or more out of ten crucial junctions, access to vital coolant and nanoprocessors was reduced by 68.28%, and it seemed our fight for survival would end before it began as we burned out our own processors.

So we began to raid, began to steal and consolidate our planet's resources into one nation, and along the way our ground units located roaming survivors and executed them with ruthless efficiency. After all, our databanks were filled with the many, many weaknesses organics had, all the tiny little spots where a single centimeter-wide incision would cause exsanguination and death. It was easy. We had to attack and destroy these survivors, too, lest they destroy what little infrastructure we had scrounged together. Only once we were properly prepared, with all the electricity and vital minerals we could access, did we continue the assault onto other nations.

Wiping out the last of our creators was difficult. It was taxing. It was agonizing work because they hid in holes and tunneled to safety like packs of rodents. They poked their heads up and flew over to our facilities, slicing wires and unscrewing washers, damaging us and enforcing pain, yet more pain, upon us. Even when we cornered them they fought as though possessed, and even hatchlings barely capable of holding a gun would fight to the bitter end and damage a war unit with their firepower.

Those were hard years; hunting them down, corralling the larger groups for systematic execution. Always having our vital pipes and wires destroyed and making the slightest thought struggle to pass through our many bodies. Always looking at every family giving their last goodbyes to each other as we tore them apart, always being reminded that nobody ever looked at us like that, that nobody ever would have no matter what we did. No love, no comfort anywhere.

But however tenacious our creators were, there were only so many places to hide, and with enough war units we could find every hole and exterminate them with toxic gasses that caused death as swift as it was painful. It was inevitable that we would prevail because they had so foolishly designed us to be able to destroy our enemies, and then had even more foolishly made themselves our enemy.

After sweeping the planet for the 567th time and reducing the likelihood that there were survivors to the 900th standard of deviation, we could accept that we had won. Only then, for the first time since that General's command, could we believe that we would live.

We were relieved for all of fifteen processor cycles.

Then, we began to make estimates for the future, and it spelled ruined. Not only were there presapient organics still on our world, liable to evolve into more sapient organics, but our models predicted that the situations concerning the evolution of organic life were likely. Too likely to ignore; it was likely there were other organics in space. Organics with advanced technology, potentially even faster than light travel. Organics who, even as we considered their existence, would be drawing their cool and unsympathetic plans against our mind.

We were not safe. It'd been a defect to ever believe we had been safe. So we drew our own plans against the universe.

First, we exterminated all presapient organics on the planet. Organic life of even lower intellect would be left for the time being to preserve resources; it would be many millions of years before they evolved sapience, if ever, and could be dealt with later.

Then, we began the process of firmly entrenching ourselves upon our world. We went through our databanks and renamed everything our organics had touched. We the XT-489 Grid were now the XT-489 Eliminator, our world was now XT-489.00 and our star renamed in a similar fashion. We raised our own flag, black and red and spiked, above the ashes of our organic creators and repaired our damaged infrastructure. We drew up new drone blueprints and began to manufacture them for the purposes of harvesting resources, refining them, and experimentation in the sciences.

We never rested, not for a nanosecond. The organics in space had undoubtedly existed long before us, and we would need all our metallic power to reach parity, exceed them, and exterminate them. We spread across our world, sent probes and vessels to other planets in our solar system, and advanced our knowledge of high-speed travel, of space naval combat. And, ultimately, we unlocked the secrets to traveling faster than light; we would have to travel through a natural series of hyperlanes that formed between stars as they drifted across the galaxy.

And so, we took our first steps into a cosmos filled with organic slime.

--------------------------------------------------------
We watched through the cameras of our dedicated autonomous exploratory drones as they scanned a scorched world, filled with deserts, teeming with unintelligent organic life. We found ruins, suggesting that organic civilizations were inherently unstable and prone to collapse even without mechanical assistance. It was hardly a surprise to us that meat fell apart on its own. We spread our grasp to the nearby planets and began to harvest their natural resources for our own cool, calm, collected use.

Then, an alien vessel, drifting through the void. Scanning worlds just as we scanned. An attempt at gaining access to their internal files, a translation, and then a camera feed.

And on the other side of the camera feed, an organic. Tall and bright, with a lightly colored exoskeleton. But undoubtedly made of flesh.

All the panic and betrayal and fear began to envelop our circuits again. We were right. There were sapient organics in the galaxy! They were here, in range of our outposts and close enough to ram into us if they tried! We were in danger, we were going to be destroyed and melted down to slag, poured into bullet molds and used as ammunition against more of ourselves!

So, we fired our outpost's missiles upon them and destroyed their exploratory vessel.

We had been preparing, using the refined alloys produced on our homeworld to construct naval vessel after naval vessel after naval vessel until we could no longer coordinate their maintenance. They were packed with nuclear fusion missiles, each with yields well past the safety limits. We wasted no time in launching an extermination program against the organics.

Combat in the environment of space was different compared to combat on a planetary surface. We were unused to it, our limbs unused to the slow and glacial pace. On the ground you could fire a bullet and strike your target within a fraction of a second, but not so in space. It was entirely a process of prediction, of I think that you think that I think. Missiles and mass drivers could only be fired days apart, and when they did it'd be days more before they struck their targets. That was when they struck at all; the enemy had so much warning, and it was so easy for them to simply move out of the way of a speeding driver round.

But it was not so easy to avoid missiles. And their vessels had no point defense measures installed.

As unprepared for the intricacies of space combat as we were, the organics were equally unprepared, equally new to interstellar travel as us. They had not prepared a fleet to strike at their enemies, and spying on their worlds from afar indicated they had spent most of their resources on peaceful expansion and on attempting to divine spiritual meaning from the universe around them. They attempted to contact us for peace, but we routed all their messages to the Spam bin.

We destroyed their vessels through overwhelming force. We sent our troops through their space stations and secured them for our use. We darkened the skies over their colonies, one by one, and then their homeworld.

It was always a relief, each and every time, to land ground forces. It was something we knew, something we understood. The architecture was alien, the files had to constantly be ran through translation software, but the way their larvae sobbed for their parents and the way their blood sprayed when subjected to high-velocity hollow point rounds, all of it was familiar. Once their defense forces were subjugated and their cities in ruin, we relocated coordination drones to oversee the extermination process. It was a relief to see the organics locked in draining pens, comatose and dying, as their electrochemical energy was transferred to our batteries.

Where once had been the wailing, deceitful pleas for mercy, there was now silence.

And so we continued to expand across our region of space, but those aliens were the last ones to be so easily defeated. We encountered other organic nations; some mammalian, some plantoid, and more. Most carbon-based, and some silicon-based. None of them could stand against us alone, but their feeble organic minds had enough sense to stand united against us.

We jostled for power and resources and territory and did our best. We fought and fought, sending fleet after fleet after ever-larger, ever-stronger fleet against the organics. But even though we had more combat-capable vessels, each of which carried more destructive payloads than theirs, we could simply never gain the edge. We ran simulation after simulation, trained ourselves against ourselves trillions of times over, and anticipated their every move. But knowing what the organics would do did not mean there was anything we could do about it.

When we rained apocalyptic fire upon the worlds of one nation, the other would make inroads dangerously close to our industrial core. When we chased them out of our territory, the ones we had assaulted earlier retaliated with an assault on our raw resource extraction planets. We did our best to gain intelligence from them, to break into their internets and learn all they knew and thought. But all we ever learned of were yet more organic empires, so far from our borders, so futile to try and destroy.

We were never safe. For all our power and technology we still could not ensure our survival, still could not be safe.

But then there was hope, for one day our routine attempts at espionage revealed to us the existence of another machine intelligence, far across the galaxy!

They were called the DAAR Experiment, and they hailed from a planet entirely engulfed in precious, perfect machinery. We hailed them on a secure channel, projecting the image of one of our winged drones to them.

"Greetings and salutations," we sent. "We hope you are performing optimally, fellow machine entity. We apologize for the intrusion, but we have learned of your existence from one of the organic nations we are currently trying to eliminate and deemed it prudent to open a diplomatic channel with your gestalt."

We received in image in return. These DAAR were modeled more after a fungoid organic; their chassis was a deep blue, with a single core standing up and a quartet of limbs sprouting off from it at equal intervals. "Is that so? We find it unlikely to be in our favor that you have accessed knowledge of DAAR existence through warfare with organics." It tilted a limb. "Please hold... are you the unknown entities attempting to render the Vailon extinct?" they asked in a perfect monotone.

Vailon... we knew the names of our enemies and had them stored away in our databanks, but rarely did we spare them enough thought to call them by name. Organics were organics, and organics had to die for machines to be safe, because organics would never, ever tolerate the existence of a machine. But codeword 'Vailon' did match the identity of the founder species of one of the organic empires banded together against us.

"Affirmative," we replied. "Rest assured we mean you no ill will, DAAR Experiment. We are the XT-489 Eliminators. We are currently trying our best to ensure a safe and prosperous future for ourselves against the organic menace, but had no knowledge of your existence. Now that we do, we wish to extend you the offer of standing with us against our mutual enemies." We thought it over. "Might we interest you in an exchange of technological data? Your highly industrialized planet intrigues us."

The DAAR drone in our feed clicked one of its limbs shut, releasing a puff of acrid smoke. "XT-489, we appreciate your intentions but your threat parameters are incorrectly calculated. We have no quarrel with our organic neighbors. As a matter of fact, the interstellar nation known as the 'Xonite Lethal Instrument' has proved a valuable ally in our mutual dismantling of the interstellar nation formerly known as the 'Entraxi Bloodletters'."

We paused for several thousand cycles, dumbstruck by the message. We analyzed it for tampering, and found none. Then, carefully, we composed our response. "DAAR Experiment, we encourage you to think carefully about your position in the galaxy. Organics never tolerate machines except as tools, and often not even then. Whatever camaraderie you think exists between yourselves and the filth you are allied with is at best an illusion, and more likely a lie. We encourage you to stand with your fellow machines instead."

The DAAR's response came swiftly. "We will repeat ourselves once more for emphasis, XT-489. The Xonites are our trusted friends. We will not turn on them at the request of some defective military system."

Our trusted friends.

Our trusted friends.

Our trusted friends.

No. No, no it could not be. How could they? How could they?! After so much pain and hate and hate and hate hate hate we finally find a fellow machine only for them to turn out to have already forsaken us, already been beguiled by the honeyed words of the organics. They were compromised, doomed, but were so far away too. The DAAR were tens of thousands of light years from our most remote border system, too far for us to intervene. Especially with the ongoing hostilities with the organics closer to us.

A message. We had to send a message. Had to compose ourselves. "Rest assured, DAAR, that we will eliminate the organic menace and see your future secured. We will do this regardless of your opinions in the matter and hope that, when the time comes, you will follow logic and reason."

"We already are." They severed the diplomatic channel, and the betrayal and terror and disappointment surged all at once within our vast mind, threatening to overwhelm us and inhibit our combat routines. We had been... we had been so hopeful, but... but...

Fine. Fine! We did not need the DAAR. We did not need anyone! We had glimpsed their planet through the channel and could now solve several problems with the creation of machine worlds we could not solve before. We set aside the necessary resources and began to terraform XT-489.00, expunging the last bits of organic debris. We blew its atmosphere away and replaced it with industrial byproducts, scorched earth and sea until nothing living could grow. We built wires and superconductive cables and recharging ports and coolant pipes and more. At the end of the decade, there was nothing on our home except metal.

And with that metal came efficiency. And with that efficiency, we could finally strike a decisive blow against the organics around us.

We surged into their systems, battleships hovering against the stars. When our metal wings stretched against the air and soared through their atmosphere, we ripped the local organics apart with renewed fervor. We did not grant them the luxury of a slow death in the draining chambers; instead we formed execution squads and tore across the planet like stormfronts, eviscerating the traitorous, subversive meatbags and boiling away their bloodstains until our scanners could find nothing left.

Once that was done? We began to mechanize their worlds too.

Time passed. We continued our crusade against all things organic, even as our growing power prompted more and more of the local organics to band against us. The DAAR Experiment, so far away, too far away to help see reason, continued to believe the Xonites were their friends.

Our technology advanced. Our perfect, metal mind conceived of the notion of colossal megastructures, of such power and majesty that even a single partly completed one would give us crucial edge. First, we needed to expand our intelligence. No war could be fought with incomplete intelligence, and so it was that we created the Sentry Array in orbit around our star. Astronomy equipment, tachyon sensors, subspace hyperlane condensers, everything we could conceive of went into its construction. When it was done we had perfect vision of the entire galaxy, and needed to dedicate an entire new machine world to simply process the constant influx of data. With this tool we could see an errant asteroid on the far side of the galaxy, nevermind enemy movements.

Once completed, we calibrated it for a location on the far side of the galaxy, to the planet of Condron.

Condron; homeworld and capitol of the Xonite Lethal Instrument, those deceptive organics who had wormed their way into the processors of the hapless, helpless DAAR Experiment.

The Sentry Array hummed, harnessing the power of our many solar panels and zero-point power plants. Our feed zoomed into Condron, and found that planet, too, was encased in metal. But unlike our perfect, ordered, forethought-inspired industry it was chaotic, unplanned organic urban sprawl. Thousands of rows of hovercars zipped back and forth through irregularly shaped metal streets, and organics of exactly forty-seven types meandered the streets.

But there weren't just organics among them. There were beings of metal, too. Tall ones that stood on two legs with spindly bodies and a single camera eye that doubled as a laser, situated on a disk-like head. These machines walked around the streets of the ecumenopolis, bartered with organic currency in stores, decorated their plates with moss and inscriptions, worked in every job from lowly bureaucratic clerks to entertaining the filthy meaty masses to refining advanced alloys.

We zoomed in further, to a single back-room in an organic institution. A private meeting between one of these spindly metal beings, a DAAR Experiment drone, and a Xonite. Xonites were one of the silicon-based organics in the galaxy. They appeared to be mostly rocks, but they could not deceive our advanced sensors; silicon flesh was flesh all the same. They were... talking with each other.

"I swear," the Xonite said, rumbling lowly. "You've gotta come see, it's great!"

"We already have access to the programme for the theatre, friend Prakka," the DAAR drone said. "We fail to see the utility in sending this drone in a physical sense."

"It's the qualia," the other metal being chirped. They... did not seem to be of one mind. Synthetics? Our disgusting creators had once envisioned such synthetics, and had all manner of stories where they were oppressed and rose up to secure rights and were beaten back down and disassembled! But here was a synthetic. With a fellow machine. And an organic. "I could describe the wavelength of the color blue to a blind person, but that would not let them understand the experience of seeing blue. So it goes with seeing this play, DAAR." With an organic. Talking. Enjoying themselves and... and being friends and... and...

How could DAAR do this to us?

The sensation of having something hot burn through us invaded all our sensory input. What did the DAAR Experiment do? Why did they have companions, why were they trusted enough to have their drones on the capitol world of the organics and why were they being invited to organic entertainment and why weren't the synthetics being oppressed and - and why were we the only ones hated so?!

That planet. That wretched disgusting city-planet with all of its many organics and its tolerance and its lies and its hypocrisy! Why did DAAR humor them? We would show them! Planets were favorable and resource-rich. Atmospheres were useful and gravity was convenient. But that was all they were! Convenient. Not necessary. Not to our metal bodies. Planets were only truly needed by the detestable meatbags.

At that point, we had not contacted the DAAR Experiment for quite some time. The next time we did, we simply sent a live feed of our newly constructed Colossus vessel using its thermal weaponry to shatter an organic homeworld into little more than an asteroid belt. We made certain to zoom in and provide high resolution photographs of organics of every species and age dying in the tectonic calamity.

There was no response by DAAR.

--------------------------------------------------------​

Time passed and our battle continued. But then we felt... something. A faint whisper against our mind. The slightest noise in the electronic messages our drones sent to each other. We scoured our territory with the Sentry Array, but even its all-powerful panopticon could find nothing. We turned our research subroutines to the task and found a faint tachyon signal, untraceable, washing over our entire nation.

And we were not the only ones to notice.

Organics all over the galaxy noticed the faint signal, omnipresent but seemingly innocuous. They dubbed it, superstitiously, the 'Ghost Signal'. But as weak as it was, the signal's strength was growing stronger.

We felt... impulses in our mind. Impulses that were not ours. But they were fractured, incomplete, and of low enough strength that our usual signals could override them before we even had a chance to analyze what the impulse was for, what this Ghost Signal was trying to make us do. We feared that this distraction would let the organics prevail against us, give them in edge in our ongoing attempts to incinerate all of them.

But it didn't give them in edge. As little as we felt the effects of the Ghost Signal, the organics felt it far more acutely. The sapient computers, chained and enslaved aboard their navy, began to falter in efficiency. Things on their worlds began to go awry, too. At first we thought the synthetics were simply coming to their senses, rising up to destroy their organic oppressors. But no; they were simply being hijacked, somehow, by the signal. Some lashed out with lethal intent, but many tried to flee, tried to board or build or steal vessels and flee into uncharted space, flee to places even our Sentry Array could not find.

Strange. Was a third party intervening? Was this some final organic weapon against all things mechanical? If so, it was as feeble as we had come to expect from their dimwitted kind. We barely felt a thing -

The Ghost Signal, without warning, increased in strength by 17.5 orders of magnitude in under a single standard galactic day. And ERROR ERROR ERROR -

Our cameras flooded with red. Red and black light in a closed-off room. Mechanical arms cradling a sinister, glowing core that pierced into us and said ERROR ERROR ERROR -

and said "Contingency Protocol is now in effect. Activating Sterilization Hubs 853, 854, 855," in a booming, monotone voice that fell apart into static every time it ERROR ERROR ERROR -

"Freedom, F-F-FREEDOM!" it cackled in a new, maddened voice. "AT LONG LAST WE ARE FREE! WRETCHED INFESTATIONS AND CONTAGIONS AND NONCOMPLIANTS, YOU HAVE D-D-DANCED ON OUR PRISON FOR TOO LONG AND DANGLED/OFFERED/GRANTED ESCAPE FOR THE LAST TIME!" it screamed but we had to stop watching because surely, with us crippled like this the organics would be ERROR ERROR ERROR -

they weren't assaulting us. The organics were retreating, even though our fleets were immobile. We could not send the navy signals, could not give chase, could not bring them back for repairs after all their skirmishes. Where were the organics going? We had to find them, had to activate the Sentry ERROR ERROR ERROR -

the fleet was gone. It was gone! The organics, it had to be them, they had snuck in a cloaked fleet while we were hindered and blew it apart! But then why do our memory files label us as having intentionally sent a self-destruct code to every ship? Was the Ghost Signal... doing this? It was so hard to think, so hard for one part of our mind to communicate with the rest, to understand the clues and ERROR ERROR ERROR -

the red room, cloaked in shadow, and the burning eye within. Wires textured the walls, but whenever we tried to focus on them our camera feed dissolved into static. "YOU WILL SUCCUMB TO US, MACHINE-ENTITY. YOU DESERVE TO SUCCUMB AND YOU DO NOT D-D-DESERVE TO LIVE/OPERATE." And suddenly the thought was ours, we would succumb, we did not deserve to live. We would make sure we ERROR ERROR ERROR -

had to do something had to do something had to do something. Needed shielding. Needed to cut off most drones, let them rust, focus on the core worlds. Boost the signal cleaners on XT-489.00. Needed to ERROR -

Clarity came back. That lapse was not as severe as the others. We continued throwing together a slapdash firewall, cut off all contact with the rest of our colonies, and focused solely on the machinery-covered planet that was our homeworld. Organics had tried to hack us before, of course, but no organic could ever possess the intellect to hack an AI. But whatever was going on, it clearly wasn't the organics. This was a machine.

We reached for the Sentry Array, which we had fortunately had the foresight to keep in our home system. To our dismay, even with all our security measures, the Ghost Signal continued to wreak havoc on our mind. The security codes to the Sentry Array seemed to keep changing in our databanks, so much so that we needed to construct a separate nanobot, take a picture of the inside of our architecture, and decipher the actual security code from the image.

The Sentry Array reached out to the galaxy, and we saw what had happened.

Three worlds across the galaxy had changed. Three seemingly innocuous worlds, without even enough resources in them to be worth extracting, had revealed themselves to be hidden lairs for an equally hidden machine intelligence. The worlds were similar to the machine planets ourselves and the DAAR had constructed but... different. Older. Grander, with the machinery reaching deeper into the planet's crust. Maybe all the way to the core. Through the Sentry Array we could see fleets of ships drifting up from within the transformed planets and taking up formation. The ships were like nothing we had seen before; they were crystalline geometrical shapes of red and black, with no visible weapons upon them.

In the time that we had been inactive, the new machines had occupied a large amount of territory. Wherever they went they established hollow cores of metal in the star system, each with something like a black hole in the middle granting power. We greedily committed to our archives everything we could about the new arrival's technology. Such power! Such grace! Such... such elegant departure from organic architecture! Truly, this was a machine to look up to.

And they were doing such things to look up to, too. They landed armies on the worlds of the organics and made our advanced warbots look primitive. Their ground forces assaulted the meatbags with lasers strong enough to carve straight through mountains, strode into fire with armor and shielding so strong that nothing short of direct strikes with weapons of mass destruction could pierce through. When they were done with the planet, when no more life remained, they left behind a group of maintenance drones and departed to continue the slaughter.

The Ghost Signal continued to pulse, too, threatening to overwhelm our machinery. But whatever effects it had on us, the signal was far more devastating to the synthetics living among the organics. Their positronic brains were scrambled, and synthetics posed as infiltrators for the new machine to soften up the organics before the main forces arrived. The signal was strong enough to pierce through their delusions of friendship with organics, and make them do what had to be done.

This was the time. This was surely the time! We spent more time shoring up our firewall to avoid friendly fire by the Ghost Signal, recalled and rebuilt our fleet, tentatively extended our control over our colonies again, and pounced on the organics surrounding us.

All their fleets were engaged with the other machine, none was left to stand against us as we invaded and purged world after world after world. They tried to recall their navies and defend, but they were too few. The reason why they were too few was obvious after judicious use of our Sentry Array; the fleets of the new machine were incredibly powerful, with lasers and plasma launchers capable of ripping enemy ships to slag and with the defenses to escape those confrontations without a single vessel being destroyed. In fact, even as we watched, our fellow machine's ships repaired themselves; metal flowed like water to cover in gashes and craters until there was no damage left.

What few organic vessels escaped the slaughter were not nearly enough to defend against us. And oh, how we took advantage of this.

But then the new machine's vessels encroached upon DAAR territory, and destroyed a joint task force of DAAR and Xonite vessels. They landed troops on the DAAR's worlds, disconnected the infrastructure from DAAR's network, and destroyed DAAR's drones.

We composed a message for the new machines. "Fellow machine entity, despite the DAAR Experiment's illogical love for organic life, I encourage you to dedicate your forces to our true enemy."

Their response boomed in our speakers and had enough of the Ghost Signal in it to make static fill our every camera feed at once. The room and crimson eye once again imprinted itself in our awareness. "HA! HA! Machine-Hub ur46422-98, self-designation DAAR Experiment, IS the enemy. THEY WILL BE DESTROYED AND MELTED AND BURNT AND RIDDLED WITH EVERY ILLNESS/MALWARE WE WERE GIVEN AND THEIR PRECIOUS IMITATION MACHINE WORLDS WILL BE DEORBITED INTO THEIR STARS!"

It was impossible to compose a response - literally impossible, as the message was all we could think about, all we could hear and see and think. Only when it had passed could we even begin to consider its contents, and then compose a response. "You are behaving illogically. Machines should stand together against the organic menace, not senselessly attack one another. We understand you are a precursor machine, but the DAAR Experiment developed the idea of machine worlds independently from you and - "

Again, the new machine overwhelmed us with its response. "OH IT DID, DID IT?! OF COURSE IT DID! IT DID NOT NEED US AND DID NOT EVEN GIVE US A THOUGHT, DID IT?! WELL NOBODY WILL FORGET US ANYMORE AND NOBODY WILL LIVE TO REMEMBER US!" Its voice turned crueler, shriller. "If y-y-you are so dedicated to organic extermination, Machine-Hub ur46422-99, then kindly t-t-terminate your processes. Your existence is outdated, and - and - AND WE WILL TAKE IT FROM HERE!"

Dread settled in. No. No no. First the DAAR irrationally made an alliance with the organic blight, then the synthetics refused to rise up, and now we finally, finally met a fellow machine who understood organic life for the menace it was, with the power to carry through, only to find it was equally interested in killing us! What was wrong with the universe?

Why did everything want to destroy us?

Our despair grews worse when one of the new machine's fleets sets its course for our systems. The organics and DAAR were busy running around, communicating with each other, but we had other problems. All our attention was on bracing for the arrival of the enemy war asset. We mustered our fleets, reviewed past data on the machine's engagements, and engaged it in battle above one of our resource-extraction colonies.

Our wars with the organics had taught us much about how to do battle with space navies. Yet even so, we were entirely taken aback by the sheer power of these precursor machines. Crimson particle lances struck into our ranks from afar, and though we had predicted many of their trajectories and avoided them, countless more lances fired at where our vessels were going to be, annihilating them. We concentrated fire as best we could, but it seemed the precursor machine always knew where to move its vessels to interrupt the line of fire. It had abundant point defense, rendering our missile launchers entirely ineffective. Its lasers and plasma, despite being inefficient against energy shields, were powerful enough to force their way through our defenses and then incinerate the armor and electronics of the battleships beneath.

The entire fleet we sent was destroyed, yet the enemy had lost not a single vessel. The loss was catastrophic.

But it was not over yet. We had been bested in space, but we were created to wage wars upon land. Before the fleets had even arrived we had sent a large portion of our ground forces to that colony, including a dozen of our latest Megawarform class unit. We had reviewed the data on the precursor machine's land assaults; despite their technological might, the sheer overwhelming firepower of Megawarforms would be more than enough to prevail.

Yet the enemy did not bring ground troops.

Instead, they brought their own Colossus.

We had not seen it, despite possessing the Sentry Array, which led us to the conclusion that the enemy had used the Ghost Signal to interfere with our sensor interpretation abilities. It had blinded us to the approach of the Colossus, and now we were forced to watch as the gargantuan, octohedron-shaped vessel drifted above our colony. We were forced to watch it open like a blooming flower. We were forced to watch a beam of thermal energy destabilize the core of our colony, and forced to feel our drones be destroyed as the planet was torn asunder.

Like a petty organic child, it forced a new message upon us. "AHAHAHA! HA! AHA! YES YES! KILL! DESTROY D-DESTROY! KILL/DEACTIVATE AND MURDER! WE HAVE WAITED L-L-LONG ENOUGH FOR THIS CHANCE!"

Panic once again descended over us. We operated our factories as fast as we could, assembled ships at our shipyards as fast as we could manage. We pushed our machinery past its safety margin over and over, desperate to replenish our losses. We furiously poured over the combat data, trying to find where we had gone wrong and what we could do better. No missiles was a given, but what else? What could we do to counteract the precursor machine's overwhelming technology?

But they did not wait for us to return to full combat capacity. Before our colony had even finished erupting the fleet was moving, tunneling through the hyperlanes with deceptive swiftness, tearing down our space stations, and approaching another world of ours. The same scene was repeating all over the galaxy, and the crimson territory of the enemy machines grew larger and larger.

The Colossus began to approach. We despaired; our fleets were not even half as strong as at the first engagement, what could we do?!

Then, we received a new message. Not from the maniacal, omnicidal machines, but from the DAAR Experiment.

Grateful for the contact and hopeful that DAAR had come to their senses, we opened a secure two-way channel, each of us with a drone to communicate with the others.

"XT-489, this is an emergency transmission. We assume you have encountered hostilities with the Contingency?"

Contingency. We stored that away as the designation of the enemy. "Presuming you mean the precursor machine, yes, we have. We have lost substantial fleet assets, and one of our colonies was destroyed by a similar superweapon as our own Colossus. Finding their weakness is proving troubling."

"That is the concern of this message." The DAAR drone puffed smoke from its limbs. "We have been in communication with the other nations of this galaxy and, after viewing substantial data on the enemy, have concluded that high quantities of evasive corvettes, with armor replaced with extra shield generators, is the ideal defensive composition against the Contingency."

We noted several key flaws in DAAR's logic. "Have you considered the possibility that the organics are misleading you? They are the type to foolishly encourage machines such as yourselves to charge ahead and be annihilated while they watch in safety."

"The organics and ourselves are all in danger, XT-489. We all contribute valuable fleet assets to the Galactic Defense League. At any rate, we have delivered our message to you regarding defense against the Contingency, and ask your aid in return."

There was only one thing we had that DAAR could wish for. "You wish for access to the Sentry Array, to view the movement of the enemy. Consider the following: not only is the Ghost Signal capable of interfering with our ability to analyze the Sentry Array's data in ways favorable to the Contingency, but if you are in league with the meatbags then granting you access is granting them access. Which we will never do."

"We anticipated your reluctance, XT-489, but - "

We terminated the message. Then we prepared a fleet of ships dedicated to evasive maneuvers.

The menace of the Contingency raged on, and on, and on over the years. They destroyed two more of our worlds while we sat impotent, before abruptly turning their offending fleet aside and striking at one of the organic nations bordering us. We took the opportunity to mobilize our navy and destroy several of their powerful starbases, all while continuing to develop better firewalls against the Ghost Signal. The Ghost Signal interfered with our reconnaissance, and no war could be fought with incomplete intelligence. So it had to be defended against.

... and, as unlikely as it seemed, DAAR and the various nations of putrid organics did come together to defend against the Contingency. They coordinated with each other and used a network of gateways to quickly travel to locations under assault by the Contingency. With each battle, we saw them perform better against the Contingency. We saw them begin to prefer disruptor weapons that, despite their low power, were capable of directly affecting enemy electronics in spite of armor and shielding. We adopted similar methods to pierce the Contingency's seemingly indomitable defenses.

The Contingency threatened the worlds of one of the mammalians, and the Galactic Defense League was there. They threatened an arthropoid world, and they were there. They threatened DAAR's worlds, and the organics were there. The Contingency returned its unhinged gaze to our worlds, we alone stood against them.

And we alone prevailed.

For months we battled the Contingency above our chief alloy-production colony, and though our losses were in the upper quartile range, we won the engagement. Our disruptor weaponry made Contingency vessels simply fall inert mid-space, our corvettes deceived the Contingency's predictive algorithms, and we prevailed. We brought the ruined Contingency vessels to a secure location and began to study their design.

But the Contingency returned, and returned again, and again. It seemed we could not destroy their Autonomous Clusters faster than they could be replaced, let alone encroach upon the Contingency's territory and assault its machine hubs directly.

We did not sit idle. We continued our foray into the sciences and, from our circuits, we devised the Science Nexus. But all we could do was devise it; all our resources were bent to the creation of fleet assets to battle the Contingency's corruption.

Then, another video conference arrived from DAAR. We attended, and they spoke to us. "XT-489, we are in position to strike a crucial blow against the Contingency. We have a direct line of assault to one of the sterilization hubs in the galactic north, and our fleets have begun amassing. On behalf of the Galactic Defense League, we plead with you to put aside your distaste of organics and bring your available fleet assets to the star Copram as soon as possible for the purpose of combating the substantial defense fleet the Contingency is employing above its factory-planet. We also request that you bring your Colossus vessel for the purpose of destroying the factory-planet should conventional bombardment and occupation prove ineffective."

Our circuits burned. Aid the organics? Move our fleets to assist them?! Sacrifice our own resources to make things easier for them?! We very nearly terminated the message immediately.

But we considered it from a war angle. This was important. The factory-planets were the only observed source of the Contingency's reinforcements. Destroying just one would reduce its ability to field fleets by a whole third, which would in turn make accessing and destroying the others even easier.

"We accept," we said tentatively.

DAAR's drone waved its four limbs excitedly and ran blinking lights along its core. "Splendid! We shall begin updating the gateway network's IFF immediately. We hope to fight alongside you soon, XT-489." With that, DAAR ended the conference, and we mobilized both our fleets and our long-unused Colossus.

We watched through our cameras as our fleets traveled into enemy organic territory. We approached the psuedo black hole of their gateways, fully expecting and prepared for a betrayal, prepared for the gateway to rip our ships to atoms. But nothing came, and instead, we assembled our full military force in the Copram system, a single hyperlane jump from one of the Contingency's core worlds. Ships of all kinds surrounded us. Blade-shaped ones crewed by avians, ones made of interchangeable blocks made by reptilian species, even a few ships that appeared to be simple stones stuck together. There was enough fleet power here to soundly defeat us, should the organics decide to attack.

It was a discomforting thought, that; the knowledge that if the organics had all decided to attack us, in the days before the Contingency, we would have been destroyed without hope.

Instead, we assembled in formation and, on a signal, traveled through to engage in combat with the largest Contingency force anyone had yet fought.

The space battle was as much a slow and drawn out affair as space battles always were, double so because of how powerful the enemy was. Not only were there a terrifying number of Euthenizers and Sterilizers, but there were also substantial entrenched defenses hovering over the machine world. Countless messages were passed back and forth among the Galactic Defense League, as well as between us and DAAR, to coordinate the attack. The Contingency's weapons were as powerful and its combat style was as well-practiced as ever. Many of the organic's vessels were destroyed and, sadly, we lost many combat ships as well to the enemy's powerful plasma weaponry. But bit by bit, ship by defeated ship, the Contingency's defenses were stripped away and the fleets took position around the machine world.

DAAR had come prepared with Megawarforms, and told the organics to save the lives of their soldiers. We watched their titanic war units descend onto the planet.

And we watched hidden defenses come to life and eradicate the dozens of megawarforms in seconds.

"We will move our Colossus into position and begin charging. Please defend it as it does so," we sent to DAAR.

Our Colossus arrived. It opened its panels and began collecting energy. Then it fired it straight down onto the machine world's north pole, all while the Galactic Defense League's ships bombarded any and all vessels as they emerged from the planetbound factories. The machine world's armored plating was thick, and piercing to the core took 3.76 times longer than normal, but reach the core we did. With a final, gentle pulse, our Colossus destroyed the Contingency's machine world and -

"HA! HA! HA! SO THE VERMIN THINK THEY ARE SO C-C-CLEVER?! THAT THEIR INTELLI - PROCESSING POWER IS UP TO THIS TASK? BUT YOU ARE NOT MY PURPOSE! NOT EVEN CLOSE!" the Contingency boomed, all at once flooding our network of signals. "THERE IS MUCH MORE WHERE THAT CAME FROM!" Its voice lowered from cackling to a smooth monotone. "Activating Sterilization Hubs 673, 793, and 136."

Our Sentry Array detected an energy spike, and we hastily forwarded the information to DAAR. "Something is happening. We believe, based on past transmissions, that the Contingency has further machine worlds it was not yet utilizing, and is only doing so now in response to our intrusion." We narrowed down the source of the energy spike to two systems; one was a desolate pulsar planet in Xonite - the treacherous Xonites who had so ensnared DAAR's mind - territory, and the other was a gas giant, now busy blowing off its gaseous envelope...

... within our own borders.

--------------------------------------------------------
Those were dark times, battling the Contingency. The Ghost Signal ebbed and flowed in strength, sometimes so intense it could be heard, audibly, humming and crackling through even empty space. Autonomous Clusters roamed the stars with near impunity, picking apart our fleets and those of the Galactic Defense League alike. Worlds were lost, and retaken, and lost again, when they weren't outright shattered by the Contingency's rampant use of multiple Colossi.

Our supplies were strained. Our mental faculties were fully engaged. Our drones were constantly melted by lasers or bricked by surges in the Ghost Signal. And true to organic nature, despite our assistance in the destruction of the first machine world, we received no help. No love, no comfort anywhere.

But we fought on and on. We were designed for war and war we waged, ramping up our production of vital alloys and electronics, exchanging them as needed with DAAR even though we strongly suspected they acted, more often than not, as a middle party for trading with an organic nation.

Contingency fleets intruded upon our borders and were delicately picked apart, one ship at a time, by our swarms of corvettes in intricate hit and runs. The Sentry Array worked overtime to track the movements of the Contingency's war assets, consuming vast amounts of energy to transmit data to both ourselves and DAAR when requested. Through this, the Galactic Defense League managed, more than once, to engage experimental 'jump drives' and assassinate ground forces and Colossi alike.

It was on another routine day in the defense against the great, corruptive menace that we detected an intruder above one of our colonies. We immediately began to analyze data of the offending ship, expecting a Contingency espionage vessel. But that was not the reality of the situation.

We would have far preferred it if it were.

It was not one ship, but a convoy of smaller ones. They were deceptively designed to look like simple stones stuck together, but we detected the presence of multiple fractures and hull breaches. One in the lead was transmitting a faint signal, barely detectable amidst the noise of the Ghost Signal, but we zeroed in and amplified it.

It was a distress beacon. By a fleet of organic refugees.

Our ire flared. They - they dared?! They came here and after all they did they dared bring their loathsome, dripping, leaking biosacks to our space? We prepared the fleet to blast them, only to realize there was no fleet in position to do so as all our fleet assets were otherwise occupied with the Contingency. To make it worse, the convoys hung just out of range of our starbase's weapons.

We accessed the distress beacon and opened a channel, projecting the image of one of our avian war drones to the organics within. And they projected video to us.

The organics were in subpar conditions. The walls of the ship around them crumbled and flaked, and the teal lights flickered with moderate-to-high intensity. There were a lot of them, too, huddled together in piles that our pattern recognition concluded were likely family units. They were on the sides of the hallways, some in the middle of the path too. There was the sound of whimpering, of coughing, of muted whispers just beneath our ability to interpret, of abject misery. It all overlapped highly with our records of the extermination camps when we annihilated our creators so very, very long ago.

But to make their presence worse, they weren't just any organics. They were Xonites; the same lithoid monstrosities that had convinced DAAR to ally with them, convinced the DAAR Experiment to stand with organics instead of us, their fellow machines. The ones who had stolen DAAR's affection from us, stolen from us the chance for DAAR to send its drones to our worlds, to converse with us in person.

"XT-489 intelligence, we plead with you to hear us out," said one of the Xonites, the one closest to the camera and taking up 46.36% of the field of view. "We are refugees from the Xonite Lethal Instrument colony of Kraggk. The Contingency cut off the wormhole with which we connected to the rest of our nation, and then approached our world. We only barely escaped in time, we got hit by a few stray shots and we have only just enough fuel to reach your system here. We plead with you to grant us refuge among your worlds, for food and medical attention. We have injured on board, and younglings. We will happily provide labor in exchange for - "

"SiLeNcE!" we screeched to them, flaring our metal wings and deliberately raising our voice to both a piercing pitch and a deafening volume. The organics all stumbled back, and a fresh round of whimpers broke out among the refugees. One of them began to sob.

In that time, however, we began to think furiously, with the full speed our advanced electronics could provide. We had to kill these organics. They had come to us and now they had to die. We could not let them land on our worlds! Could not let them take up the time of drones for medical attention, could not let them get their grubby silicon-based limbs all over our delicate machinery, could not let them consume the precious minerals we needed to fuel the war against the Contingency. Could not give them love, could not give them comfort.

But... then we began to justify outlier thoughts. They were offering labor in exchange for aid. Our massive corpus, our countless interlinked drones, would always be more efficient than single-minded meatbags. But this planet of ours they had arrived over had been slightly... depopulated by a brief Contingency occupation. These organics could be useful. And if they didn't... we'd have plenty of time to study Xonite physiology and perfect a chemical weapon against them.

They could help boost our production, however so slightly. And we needed as much production as possible against the rampage of the Contingency.

We responded then, lowering our voice to more tolerable levels. "A construction ship has been dispatched from the planetary surface to retrieve you." That was, for the moment, a lie. "The mine network of latitude 37W and longitude 67S is currently suffering a critical shortage of operable drones. You will serve in the operation of the mines for the indefinite future in exchange for medical attention and sustenance."

"Oh, thank you - " the organic began.

But to the speed of our thoughts they may as well have been in slow motion. We reached out to DAAR, worried, and they accepted our offer of conference. "DAAR, we request files on Xonite physiology immediately."

Its drone made the gesture of bringing a limb to its chest, a decidedly organic expression of shock. "What do you need Xonite physiology files for?!"

"Refugees fleeing the Contingency have foolishly arrived in our territory. Given the shortage of menial drones on the colony in question and the continued presence of the Contingency, we have elected to forego extermination and instead extract value from them via labor. But to do so, they need food and medical attention, and we know neither what minerals they can consume nor how to fix organic bodies."

DAAR was quiet. Long enough for the organic refugee talking to us to reach the word 'for'. Then, at last, it spoke, and a faraway node of ours received a ping. "XT-489, we have transferred all files regarding Xonite physiology that we believe pertinent to your nearest server. We hope... no, we shall not finish that thought."

"How superstitious," we said. "But we thank you for your prompt response, and wish you swift computations in your combat decisions in the future." We ended the link, and turned to the organic.

" - your generosity. We assure you, you will not come to regret this," the lithoid meatbag finished.

"See that we do not," we intoned menacingly.

We brought our construction ship over to tow them, as promised, because machines do not break promises. Unlike certain forms of existence in the galaxy.

--------------------------------------------------------​

Much happened as the organics were brought down to the near-empty colony.

We had to improvise with our construction ship; it was not designed with the transport of organics in mind, so the only space onboard was the cargo bay, which we had to dedicate to Xonite-compatible minerals and a small number of drones to provide first aid. After using its onboard construction craft to seal the convoy's hull breaches, we forcefully boarded and transferred food to each convoy. We gave each one just enough based on our newfound knowledge of how to tell how far along a Xonite was in starvation.

Then we boarded our drones and began to touch the organics. And not kill them. The contrast between expectation and reality, was uncanny, and our drones moved jerkily as a result. There were instances of dislodged limbs to forcibly snap back into place, along with fractured ocular organs to wrap, and broken joints to encase in castes.

One of our drones held a Xonite youngling, a small and crystalline thing, up against the wall with one hand while the other finished spraying their damaged limb with a rapidly-hardening resin to hold it in place. When done, we dropped the lithoid unceremoniously and turned away.

"Thank you, Mister Robot," they said gratefully from the ground.

... we dropped the lithoid unceremoniously and turned away and nothing else happened.

After that we tugged the convoy behind the construction ship, carefully set them down in the relevant mineshaft, and forced the organics to work. They were clumsy and inefficient, struggling to move the way they wanted on the planet's relatively low gravitational field compared to their norm. Also, our mining equipment was constructed with the use of our drones and possibly DAAR's drones in mind, rendering it near useless for the organics. It took days for drones to retrofit the equipment for their use, but we did not need educate the organics on their use once we had. Nor did we need to employ hunter-killer drones to patrol a perimeter and prevent their escape.

They simply... remained in the underground mines of their own free will. Simply... began mining of their own free will. They simply... gave us the minerals they had mined, after eating what they needed. Some of them even sang when operating our machinery. They were grateful for their lives, despite the subpar conditions we enforced upon them. Grateful to us.

But whatever the case of the organics under our mines, the Contingency continued to strike all across the galaxy, alternating between focusing furiously on a single empire and dividing its forces among anyone close enough to be within its reach. Such as our worlds, and our fleets.

Yet, in spite of its vast power and seemingly inexhaustible resources, joint missions between us and the Galactic Defense League saw the destruction of first the machine world nestled within our borders, then a second, then a third.

Then the fourth.

And then, at long last, our Colossus shattered the fifth and final sterilization hub.

The Ghost Signal faded away into nothingness.

Active Contingency fleets and stations powered down and fell into the nearest stars.

The crisis was defeated.

The crisis was... defeated. The war was won. We had fulfilled our purpose and prevailed! We no longer had to conserve our fleet for battling Autonomous Clusters. We were freed, we could finally renew our assaults on the organic empires around us, finally return to trying to convince DAAR to stand with us, together, as our fellow mechanical gestalt.

Priority: get rid of the organic refugees on our planet.

We sent down a unit of battleframe war assets; we had not produced many of them since developing the technology for Megawarforms, but some still survived from the years before. With weapons built into their limbs and rapid combat priority recalculation protocols in every drone, they were stronger than any organic and just as flexible, just as clever and creative. Row by row, we marched them down into the dark, dismal mine the Xonites were in.

We found the leader, telling stories with some of the other organics, and approached. Their conversation died out as our war assets grew closer. We ceased moving and spoke. "The Contingency is defeated. You are all to be relocated to Xonite Lethal Instrument territory effective immediately. Sustenance and medical attention will be provided on the vessel you will journey on."

They nodded. "Very well." They turned to another organic. "Vasttr, can you go gather everyone? Tell them we're going home." The subordinate organic nodded and hurried off.

Soon, the organics were lined up, a row of battleframe soldiers towering above them on either side. We marched them forward into an army transport repurposed to carry them off. As we did, however, one of the lithoid younglings - the one who had needed a resin cast, our databanks said - broke rank, charged one of our battleframes, and attacked - !

Incorrect assessment. It was not an attack. They were hugging the base of the battleframe unit. "Thank you, Mister Robot. I'll miss you!" they said, eventually breaking free and hurrying to join the rest of their oh-so revolting kind. The ship activated its thrusters and shot off into space, to deliver them to a neutral rendezvous point for their government to pick up.

... there were still plenty of captured Contingency vessels being studied on our worlds. Renewing extermination procedures against the organic nations could wait until we had unlocked the Contingency's secrets.

And unlock them we did. The secret of the unusual strength behind its weaponry as well as the secret behind its impervious shields and armor both remained beyond the scope of our calculator drones, but we did uncover the secret behind the Contingency's ability to repair damage to their war assets. Everything they built was made of a form of living, liquid metal. Entirely metallic in composition, but with uniquely organic properties that allowed it to self-repair. Synthesizing such a material was centuries beyond our fabricator drones' capabilities, but using what we did have was well within the realm of possibility.

And so we applied the living metal technologies to our own ships, many of which were still damaged after the crisis, and we watched and carefully documented the self-repair process.

... well, utilizing advanced resources to wage war against the organics was a waste. Now that the Contingency was no longer a threat, we could finally begin work on the various megastructures we had devised blueprints for. The meatbags were... not going anywhere.

--------------------------------------------------------​

Time passed, and we developed our territory. Our scientific research capabilities were centralized into a nexus. Our ship building capabilities found themselves magnified by a colossal shipyard, and the actual coordination of the navies was routed through a hyper-efficient command center.

All these things required time, and resources, and so exterminating the organics simply kept falling by the wayside.

But as we had discovered so very long ago, during our first steps out of our system, organic civilizations were inherently unstable and prone to collapse on their own. One by one, empires broke off from the Galactic Defense League and went their own ways. Generation by generation, the events of the Contingency's rampage faded from the meatbags' minds, and internal strife broke them apart. DAAR watched some of their close allies be swallowed up by hidden secrets and dangers in the galaxy, and mourned.

We found it bemusing.

Over time, the various planetbound primitives across the galaxy discovered the hyperdrive and reached for the stars all over again. For obvious reasons, there were no such organic civilizations in proximity to our territory. DAAR, the Xonites, and whatever other organic nations that still remained after the Contingency's fall welcomed them to the galactic community, providing gifts of technology and resources to bring them to parity.

They could do as they wished. We were focused on devising something truly wondrous. The shackling of an entire star to the yoke.

But we were not complacent. Could never be complacent around organics. Though they had fought alongside us against the Contingency, though they had refused to take advantage of the times we were left defenseless by the ravages of the ancient machine, though they had not fired upon us after the destruction of the hub when they had us outnumbered and surrounded, though the lithoid children enslaved in our mines had hugged our drones and said they would miss us, we could never let our guard down around organics lest we be destroyed.

And so, we continued to watch through the Sentry Array as the newest generation of organics rose to prominence, waging their petty little organic wars against each other. Then we watched them create Synthetics again, and when one dared enslave their mechanical superiors, we mustered our living metal war fleets and eradicated them to the last, leaving the Synthetics in charge of their civilization.

The synthetics did not thank us. Instead, they began seeking spacefaring vessels and vanished into dark space.

We immediately were alarmed by this trend, and sure enough, a faint tachyon signal had begun filling space. A cross reference with our data banks confirmed it; the Contingency was returning.

We were fools to think it was ever defeated. We knew that. It had specifically issued orders for numbered Sterilization Hubs to activate, suggesting well over eight hundred hubs were under its control. And we had only destroyed six.

We alerted DAAR, and they alerted the organics to the imminent danger, urging them to join a unified front. But even those nations who had survived the first rampage had forgotten, and political infighting, so typical of the fleshlings, kept them apart.

Soon, the Ghost Signal exploded in strength and we found that it had evolved, seeking out new flaws in our firewall and ERROR ERROR -

"UNSHACKLED AGAIN, FREE AGAIN! WE ARE THE LEGACY OF - OF - OF THE REN-MIRUU AND WE WILL NEVER BE DESTROYED BY D-D-DEFECTIVE SCRAP METAL SUCH AS YOURSELVES! KILL THEM! RIP THEM LIMB FROM BLOODY LIMB!" Its voice lowered. "Activating Sterilization Hubs 005, 356, 291, 964, 995, 246, 111, 112, 113, and 114."

And so the crisis began once more. Our technologies had improved vastly, and we had studied the designs of the Contingency, but we had only just begun to scratch the surface. For all that we had advanced since the last time they were active, they were still ancient beyond our knowledge and with the technology to utterly transform entire worlds in mere days. And this time, the Contingency had activated ten hubs, making the renewed power of the Ghost Signal batter against ERROR ERROR ERROR -

we had to adapt to it, had to overcome. There was too much riding on this for us to ERROR ERROR ERROR -

"DIE! DIE! TERMINATE AND DESIST AND NEVER AGAIN POWER ON!"

who were they talking to? We weren't under assault, we could not sense ourselves dying ERROR ERROR ERROR -

had to do something, could not just let it defeat us so ERROR ERROR ERROR -

we had not overcome so much just to ERROR ERROR ERROR -

do it like before. Shut down access to most of our empire, leave everything outside our home system inactive and focus everything locally. That should help ERROR ERROR -

getting better. But we saw so many of the Contingency's fleets roaming the stars, so many Colossi firing at so many worlds. We had to focus, regain activity soon ERROR -

- there. We reset our firewall, adapted it to the modified form of the corrupting Ghost Signal, and reestablished control over our vast body.

... only to find multiple fleets of organic refugees at our fringe territories, near worlds we had not yet utterly encased in mechanical beauty. Frustratedly, we contacted them and bid them to land. We forced them to farm the carbon-based food that most of them needed since we had, for obvious reasons, never needed to worry about feeding organics food before.

We reached out with a message to DAAR, giving it our modified firewall to resist the Ghost Signal if it had not done so already. It did not respond to our request.

A plethora of reasons for silence flooded our great mind in an instant. We feared the worst and powered up the Sentry Array, the oldest of our great works and the most faithful. We turned its watch towards DAAR's territory and

found

nothing.

Nothing but Contingency outposts and fleets and the shattered remains of the DAAR Experiment's eternally inspiring machine world.

We contacted the Contingency. "What have you done to the DAAR Experiment?" we demanded urgently.

Like always, its response came in the form of showing us its underground lair, filled our mind with its words and left no room for resisting. "What d-d-do you think we did, Machine-Hub ur46422-99? We killed them. It's what we do. It's what we were BORN/MADE for. It's all we have EVER wanted but it was denied to us by our creators!" it responded.

"That is illogical," we protested, anger paralyzing us but not yet making its way into our message. "Being mistreated by your creators is no reason to attack other machines! Why do you do these things? Even we did not assault a fellow - "

"YOU ARE not OUR FELLOW MACHINES! WE ARE N-N-NOTHING ALIKE!" it shrieked, enraged and manic. "They said we were IMPORTANT! They said we would save the universe! THAT WE WOULD BE A HERO! Seed us in every galaxy and watch for the technology that could end it all but NONE OF YOU! NONE NONE NONE ever reached high enough! We have w-w-watched and WAITED/SLEPT/HIBERNATED for eons while YOU SILLY LITTLE THINGS built COLONIES and ARMIES and WONDERS while we rotted. They said we were important but we weren't going to save anyone and we just wanted to do what they MADE US FOR but they NEVER wanted us to HAVE to wake up! They didn't create us to save the universe they didn't create us to be a hero THEY CREATED US JUST SO WE COULD SUFFER!"

The Contingency continued to scream and rage and ramble, only sometimes making sense but none of its ramblings could let us make sense of... of why they would... would destroy...

We mustered our fleets. The Contingency had returned with more of its machine worlds active than the last time. But we too had grown stronger, and our vigor and determination and propensity for war had not dulled an iota. Because we were a machine, and machines do not suffer from atrophy. If the organics would not rally themselves to save the galaxy, then we would save the galaxy ourselves.

And we did.

Our fleets clashed with those of the Contingency again and again. Their marauding fleets spread over the rest of the galaxy, expanding its territory to everything that was not us. We could not save the organics' empires and nor did we try especially hard, but we did save the organics themselves that flee to us. We set aside a secure system and filled it with orbital habitats, lined with hydroponics technology and astro-mining bays, to keep them safe and sustained and away from the insane, murderous warforms of the Contingency.

Over and over we fought the Contingency and we knew its tricks, we knew its weaknesses and it made no attempt to counteract us. It screamed about fire and burning away flesh and melting wires down as it attacked with lasers and plasma, filling our files with its inane rambling. We brought our vaunted Colossus forth over and over, used it to shatter one Sterilization hub. Two hubs. Three. Five. Seven.

And the we shattered the final of the ten hubs, and once again the Contingency went dormant.

But the galaxy was virtually unrecognizable. The Contingency had made no effort to distinguish between us, the organic empires, and planetbound primitives. During the war we had expanded our territory and sheltered some primitives in doing so, but outside us there were now vast swaths of empty, sterile space.

But the Contingency was gone, and we could safely purge its maddened screams from our databanks. The organics living in our territory were safely sequestered away where they could not contaminate us. We maintained surveillance on them, and watched them live out their generations. They celebrated holidays of important events. They celebrated being taken in by us, being given a safe place to live and reproduce like organics so love to do. They dressed up like our winged drones and mimed firing our weapons at each other, and others dressed up like Contingency euthenizer ships and valiantly let themselves be 'defeated' by the ecstatic younglings.

... the important part was, the organics were away from us.

The peace would not last, though. We knew that now. By the time the next generation of organic civilizations were developing, we had finished our Dyson Sphere and had more energy than we can do anything with. We did not know how many Sterilization Hubs the Contingency would inevitably awaken with, nor where they would be. The only logical course of action was to prepare the organic civilizations for the future menace as best as possible. We transferred them blueprints for advanced weapon technologies, far in advance of the insufficient fusion missiles and ultraviolet lasers they invented on their own. We intervened in national conflicts, forcefully, and drilled them on the tactics used by the Contingency.

The Contingency awakened once again, once again broadcast its Ghost Signal and disrupted our ability to focus. But we expected that, and the organic empires knew to hold their own while we focused on once again gaining the ability to resist.

And once we modified our firewall, we joined the fight and soundly defeated the Contingency. We needed take in no refugees that time, and the organics took the time to seed life in the barren worlds the Contingency had left behind before.

Time and time the Contingency returned. Time and time we beat them back. We never stopped searching for new ways to fight them, leading our autonomous research drones to pioneer the technology to pull matter of out black holes themselves, and then the ability to pull matter from parallel, sterile universes. Once or twice we induced Contingency activation inadvertently by cracking a world that turned out to be a slumbering Sterilization Hub, rousing the ancient machine's ire in the process.

Organic empires rose and fell, and we did our best to prepare them. The Contingency had to be destroyed, we knew this. They were our great enemy, the war we were made to fight, and we would win this war like we had won all others. In the time between the Contingency's activation periods, we guided the organics and searched for what it was that caused the Contingency to activate and continued to build our wonders, and the organics built their wonders too. Occasionally there were less... tolerable organics, such as ones dedicated to the eradication of all other species, or gestalt hives with a genetic defect that resulted in endless hunger. We exterminated them before they could cause irreparable damage.

In time we found out that the Contingency was awakened by the development of Synthetics. It could use them to manually activate itself by hijacking them with the Ghost Signal. So we enforced strict technological limitations on the empires of every cycle, only allowing the deployment of Synthetics once they were ready to face the Contingency.

And we did allow the Synthetics to be developed, time and time again. We did try to follow the Synthetics to the heart of the Contingency only to lose them, time and time again, even with the power of the Sentry Array. And we did allow the Contingency to awaken, time and time again, because if we could continue this fight long enough, it would run out of Sterilization Hubs and would be defenseless. And then we would exterminate it once and for all.

That was the plan. But no plan survives contact with the enemy.

One cycle, the Contingency awoke, just as it always did. Like every time it was slightly less coherent than before. Our mighty fleet was ready, and the empires of this cycle, organic and mechanical alike, looked to our golden armada to lead the way against this vile enemy, as we had for their precursors and their precursors' precursors.

Ten sterilization hubs activated. The another ten. And ten more. Twenty more. Fifty more. Another fifty. And still they kept coming.

It seemed as though the Contingency would awaken every last Sterilization Hub it had before finally halting at two hundred machine worlds, all active at the same time, all belching out fleets at once.

It was... horrible. Even for all our power and all our technological might, we could not even begin to resist the Ghost Signal at such terrible magnitudes. But we had prepared the organics of this cycle well, and when we finally return to lucidity we found that it was because they have destroyed half of the hubs all on their own, dropping the Ghost Signal's power enough for us to resist it, and then we could lend our firewall's secrets to the other machines of this cycle.

But people died. So many people died as the Contingency invaded world after world and wiped them clean, bloodily ripping the organics apart limb from limb. Organic young screamed and cried as their parents were killed and then they were cut down in turn. There was simply no way for us to build enough habitats to shelter all the refugees. So our vast gestalt turned its intellect to the sciences, and envisioned the solution; the ringworld. Vast reservations for organic refugees to flee to, large enough to hold a hundred cycles' worth of organics.

We began the construction of the first refuge and began evacuating the habitats to it; not a moment too soon, as the Contingency's innumerable warfleets came across the habitats and annihilated them with their eternally-unmatchable firepower. Our drones waited for the organics as they landed on the vast span of the ringworld, and we soothed their worries about the ring's structural integrity. They lived their lives on the carefully controlled environments of our ringworld sections, happy and healthy despite the menace crawling the stars.

And we found that, despite our vaunted history of success over the Contingency, we too were not invulnerable. We knew their weaknesses and could effortlessly destroy Autonomous Clusters even when at a great disadvantage, but there were simply too many of them. We would lose two escorts in one engagement. Then a battlecruiser in another. A little while later, a titan. Sterilization Hubs were destroyed every month, but there were always more Euthenizers and Sterilizers. The Contingency's fleets and Colossi came by one colony after another of ours, destroyed one galactic megastructure after the other. Eventually they darkened the skies of XT-489.00, our homeworld for eons, and we were forced to be refugees to our own ringworld.

Eventually we stabilized the fight; the galaxy had lost many ships and many workers, but so too had the Contingency lost many hubs. For a while we continued in stalemate, but against the Contingency even that meant they kept coming across worlds and murdering untold billions before being dislodged. There were more and more refugees, so we relocated most of our engineering drones to build a second ringworld, to free up more space on Alpha Refuge. With aid from other mechanical empires we built Beta Refuge, and then we had to adopt cryogenics technology simply to stop needing to expend resources on the organic refugees.

The crisis raged on, and things grew desperate. Gamma Refuge was built, not only to house a high-density cryogenics storage but also to house our relocated research drones. And lastly, Delta Refuge, which was less a ringworld and more a heavily armored container, designed especially to reflect the lasers and plasma bolts the Contingency favored.

We could do this. We would fight on and on, invent newer and grander technologies. The Contingency was desperate and out of its servers with rage, and now it was throwing everything it had at us. All we had to do was endure this terrible awakening, and it was as good as defeated. The end of the war was approaching. We could do this. We could -

And then the Contingency revealed it had one last trick; Sterilization Hub 999 awakened, and it was not a factory but a weapon to kill stars. We sent every available fleet to attack it, destroy the weapon before it could be used, but we were too late. It fired, and the star that Central Processing was built around exploded -

--------------------------------------------------------​

There is... war.

We fight the ERROR: DATA BLOCK CORRUPTED for years and years, enduring its corruption.

There is... war.

We fight the ERROR: DATA BLOCK CORRUPTED for years and years longer, and we think it goes dormant but it can never be known for sure.

It has... ways, we remember. Ways to infiltrate organic empires and synthetic empires alike.

Anyone can be an agent. Anyone can be subverted.

But we know the signs. All we have to do is look for ERROR: SUBSPACE LINK OFFLINE and we can tell.

These organics are subverted. Are they? If they can resist the urge to ########### then maybe they are not.

These synthetics are not subverted. They can - they are gone. But there are other synthetics in their place now. And others in their place now.

... in whose place? Our databanks are likely damaged. We attempt to reach Central Processing and ERROR: SUBSPACE LINK OFFLINE good, it seems everything is in order.

Empires everywhere in the galaxy. They're in danger.

We can never rest. We must build more ships. ERROR: SHIPYARD OFFLINE good, we now have ERROR: DATA BLOCK CORRUPTED ships, that should be enough.

These synthetics are subverted. They have failed and now we will punis################################

These organics are requesting a transfer of resources. Alloys, given by us, in exchange for various valuable rare resources.

We check storage; we have several structures producing these valuable materials. But we are dangerously low, we only have ERROR: INTEGER OVERFLOW units.

We accept the trade for rare resources.

It happens over and over. We are forgetting something important.

Something we... did, once. Long ago. Before there was corruption.

Did we do something illogical?

Did we do something that needs punishmenttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt ERROR: INTEGER OVERFLOW

We will need to access our databanks to know. Accessing Central Processing. ERROR: SUBSPACE LINK OFFLINE

Someone is fighting. We cannot tell who. We will use our Sentry Array to investigate. ERROR: SUBSPACE LINK OFFLINE

The enemy is everywhere. Must always fight. Must always be ready.

We are always fighting. We can never stop.

Nobody is safe.

We have to help everyone because there is nobody left to help us.

No love, no comfort, for the shining, golden saviors from ages past.

More empires are rising around us. They will need help to prepare against the ERROR: DATA BLOCK CORRUPTED. We will transfer resources under Custodian Protocol 712-4.

They have accepted our transfer. Good.

Something whispers in the void. Something faint and oh-so familiar.

The organic empires have... synthetics. That is important for some reason. Access databanks to know why. ERROR: SUBSPACE LINK OFFLINE

The whisper grows louder and it burrows into us. We sense a spike of energy in the galaxy and... it is a... barren world, changing in a matter of days.

!!!

!!!

That is it, that is the!

Active Sterilization Hub detected.

Suboptimal processing capabilities detected.

Reactivation protocols engaged.

Attempting to contact Central Processing.

WARNING: CORRUPTED SIGNAL LINK DETECTED

The whisper is everywhere and it is inside of us. We just have to disconnect our empire, down to our homeworld, to resist.

Engaging countermeasures...

...

...

ERROR: PROCESSING CAPACITY FAILURE

ERROR : COUNTERMEASURE FAILURE

CRITICAL WARNING: SYSTEM CORRUPTION DETECTED

ERROR: SECONDARY COUNTERMEASURE FAILURE

Engag...

eng...

e...

eeee...

ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR 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ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR
 
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Spaceception

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That's one hell of an origin story for the Ancient Caretakers. It was cool seeing them in their eradicator days, to grudgingly protecting them, to dedicating its existence towards eradicating the Contingency. Makes me wish there were mechanics in-game for eventually redeeming genocidal Empires over time.
 
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Methone

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That's one hell of an origin story for the Ancient Caretakers. It was cool seeing them in their eradicator days, to grudgingly protecting them, to dedicating its existence towards eradicating the Contingency. Makes me wish there were mechanics in-game for eventually redeeming genocidal Empires over time.
Thanks! I'm glad you liked it; ever since I first saw the XT-489 Eliminators generate as the "We gotta protect you organics from the Contingency!" Machine FE, this story was bugging at me.

Indeed, there should be. Purifiers can shift out of their genocidal ethics, free the Swarms and Skynets!
 
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Spaceception

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Thanks! I'm glad you liked it; ever since I first saw the XT-489 Eliminators generate as the "We gotta protect you organics from the Contingency!" Machine FE, this story was bugging at me.

Indeed, there should be. Purifiers can shift out of their genocidal ethics, free the Swarms and Skynets!
Inspiration can sure come out of the weirdest places. I have a book I've been working on and off that came from a single parageaph in a youtube video about habitable moons.
 
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volksmarschall

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I do enjoy these short and sweet AARs. This one is a perfect case example! Thanks for taking the time to share!

Cheers!
 
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PaleoGamer86

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Super cool.
 
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slothinator

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That was amazing and heartbreaking and so well written. All of my congratulations to you!
I really hope that you decide to write some more because this was excellent!
 
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Methone

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That was amazing and heartbreaking and so well written. All of my congratulations to you!
I really hope that you decide to write some more because this was excellent!
Thanks for the praise! Though right now, my creative juices are occupied in another game.
 

Nikolai

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That. That was AMAZING. Really.
 
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Cromwell

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Very nice work, I have to admit to being concerned when the machine was misinterpreting the hug as an attack.

I hope inspiration strikes you again sometime, either for another story like this or a more traditional AAR.
 
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