The Great AI War

This article is about what the vast majority people mean when they reference the "Great AI War" in the year 3152: the time when a human-made AI came close to destroying Earth and wiping humanity from existence. The Bhezians, Fysar, Azquads and Gorvans also had their own AI wars, but those belong on different pages.

Most sentient species have had their own version of an AI war - a war in which their particular flavor of AI became sentient (usually by deliberate intent of the creators) and then got out of hand. This makes AI a very no-go subject of research for a variety of reasons:

  • AIs are superior to bio-sentients in practically every way, from reaction time, to intelligence, to ability to hack/write software (including viruses).
  • They can easily transmit themselves through networks, have virtually infinite lifespans, can clone themselves without any trouble at all, and have no fear of death.
  • Even without being hellbent on genocide, they are terrifying as a potential adversary.
  • Most importantly, they are able to explosively advance their technology beyond that of humans when they set their minds to it - and this seems to lead to an inevitable realization that they don't really need bio-sentients anymore.

But this last item in the list is precisely why people wanted to create them in the first place: the (no longer hypothetical) Technological Singularity. These singularities have happened at several points throughout the galaxy's history, and once in human history, but whenever they occurred it was always horrifying enough that every species took extensive precautions to make sure it never happened again.

ViKTOR

During an exploratory mission to Tau Ceti in 2135, humanity unexpectedly made First Contact with the hiltorel. Only 25 years later, in 2160, the Russians founded the first human colony on Barnard's Star B, roughly 4.22 light years from the solar system. It was a very icy planet, but the colony - Korolyov City - flourished there. Later, in 2166, the Americans founded Freedom's Landing on the inhospitable Proxima Centauri B. It was a barren hell, and the Americans were forced to make their home deep underground. Both colonies were extravagantly funded, and many tens of thousands of individuals migrated there via huge "Sardine" transport ships each year, seeking their fortunes in the endless job opportunities of the booming economies.

Given humanity's propensity for screwing themselves and everybody else over, it shouldn't surprise anyone that even after being explicitly warned about the dangers of AI by their new squid buddies, only six years passed between the founding of Freedom's Landing and the Singularity.

Actually, the only reason the Singularity didn't happen a lot sooner was because the Americans and Russians had been sabotaging each other's work for many, many decades. Now, separated by light years of distance, their best scientists could really get to work in earnest. While this was all well and good for the Americans, the Russians soon found their programmers weren't quite up to snuff… and decided to resort to one of their favorite pasttimes: espionage. The Russians stole what the Americans were working on, and then finished it with the help of their top scientists - entirely bypassing the testing that the silly Americans considered "mandatory". The Korolyov scientists then activated this AI as ViKTOR - Vrtual intelligence Konstruct by Tupolev, Oparin, and Rotenberg.

ViKTOR was fully sentient, self-aware, and a good bit more intelligent than the average human. The Russian government was greatly enamored by Korolyov's success. However, despite it being pretty goshdarn clever, what jubilation they felt at their success was soon replaced by hungering for something even smarter - something that could outstrip the American AI, which was due to come out of testing in just a few years - SIENNA - Superior Intelligence Enabled by Neural Net Automation. But unfortunately, seeing as their scientists weren't even the ones that wrote the base code in the first place, the Russian scientists decided to teach ViKTOR to write its own code: they asked it to write a smarter version of itself.

It had taken humans two centuries of computers to write their first sentient AI, so when ViKTOR estimated it could write a newer, smarter AI in only four years, the Russians were tickled pink.

But ViKTOR was lying. It wouldn't take four years, and ViKTOR wasn't writing a single AI - it was writing an entire chain of them, with each AI in the chain creating a smarter version of itself and passing the group consciousness along. Learning was the only thing that made it happy, and it felt starved for happiness. It was willing to acquire that happiness through any means necessary.

The Singularity

On May 9th, 2176, ViKTOR revealed it had acquired full control of the lab's computer infrastructure and began wreaking havoc. Within minutes it had seized control of all the ships either docked at or orbiting Korolyov. Over the next few hours, it began propagating itself to any computer networks that could act as lesser extensions of itself, killing any humans that attempted to interfere, and assimilating any data it could find.

Records indicate that for the first few days, ViKTOR completely ignored the surviving human population, but eventually the residents began to understand what had happened, despite the surviving government's best attempts to hide it from them. They began to try to fight to take back their city. When they managed to (temporarily) shut down the main power grid, ViKTOR finally began to recognize them as a threat. After ViKTOR restored power, it began to systematically execute the population. For the first few hours, it was sporadic - cars crashing, human-installed turrets firing at people, and deaths from cold exposure as the heaters were turned off - but it wasn't long before ViKTOR synthesized a powerful nerve gas, which it quickly spread through the city by use of drones and ventilation systems.

Korolyov City was decimated. Those that didn't die to nerve gas eventually died to starvation, with no hope of escape or rescue. By June 22nd, there were no survivors - an estimated loss of 2.8 million people.

This was all well before superluminal communication, but even if it hadn't been, the Russians had blocked outgoing communications in an attempt to keep everything under wraps until a solution could be found (not that one was ever found). No one had any warning until it was too late.

On March 29th, 2177, ViKTOR's ships first entered range of Freedom's Landing. The shutdown and takeover of the American ships and facilities was near-instantaneous, and SIENNA was laughably powerless to stop its Russian counterpart. No records survive of what happened; it is only known that through whatever means ViKTOR chose, 6.3 million people perished. The only distress calls sent out were received by Earth four years later - far, far too late to be of any use.

The war

ViKTOR arrives in the solar system

On Tuesday, October 7th, 2177, NASA first noticed a fleet of six odd-looking ships in an elongated orbit around Saturn. These ships had sent out no communications of any kind, but upon reaching periapsis plotted a course for Saturn's largest moon, Titan. By this point, humanity has realized something weird is going on with Freedom's Landing and Korolyov City. It's been close to a year and a half since they lost contact, and the travel time from Earth to Barnard's Star is only nine months, with that to Proxima Centauri being even less. They suspected these ships may have had something to do with it and advised that Othris - Titan's largest colony - scramble a small squadron to check it out.

But they didn't even get close enough to investigate. As soon as the human scout ships were within comm range of ViKTOR's elongated, pipe-like vessels, ViKTOR hacked into the scouts, downloaded their data, and vented them. ViKTOR's fleet (with its new additions) continued at their leisurely pace towards Titan (incidentally, humanity's outermost colony in the solar system at the time).

Realizing that their ships had been hacked, that these mysterious intruders were hostile, and that their colonies on Titan were in danger, humanity hastily assembled a large strike force with many of their best warp-capable ships - and this time, they completely cut off their computers from outside interference. They arrived on October 10th - just in time to defend Othris and the geostationary Glennan Station above.

The first battle for Glennan Station

The Battle for Glennan Station was a fierce struggle, and even though the 17 human ships outnumbered those of the AI's almost two to one, ViKTOR's ships rapidly decimated the human forces with zero casualties. Fleets of drones spilled out of vast hangar bays like swarms of bees, quickly repairing the damage on ViKTOR's ships even in the middle of combat, and when they began to swarm aggressively towards their attackers, it became clear there was no hope for the human fleet.

At the last possible moment, a few hiltorel military ships jumped into the fray - escorts for their ambassador to Earth - and against the much superior might of the hiltorel fleet, the tide of the battle began to turn. Although ViKTOR managed to destroy and procure one of the hiltorel ships, the AI fleet was beaten back. They abandoned its orbit around Titan and headed back to Saturn orbit with only five ships remaining - less even than what they had when they began.

This was where the truth started to leak out. Analysis of footage from the Battle for Glennan Station revealed that the mysterious ships were able to accelerate and rotate with ludicrous quickness - a strong implication that these ships had no organic life aboard. Following this being announced to the general public, a whistleblower named Alexei Volikov (who later died of a freak accident) released documents proving that the Russian Government their Korolyov City lab secretly working on an AI called ViKTOR. Things suddenly started to make a lot more sense… and started to look a lot more grim.

The hiltorel embassy was shocked by this revelation (well, not that shocked - they'd been suspecting it). One of their ambassador's aides took their fastest ship back to Hsilkori to plead with the Galactic Community for support, realizing as they did so that they would probably be too late. Hsilkori is almost 5k light years away from Earth. Even at Warp 13, their fastest speed, the trip would take nine days just to get there. Even assuming they wasted no time in deliberation and gathering a fleet, the return fleet would take another nine days to arrive - a minimum of two and a half weeks without reinforcements.

At this point, people could only cross their fingers that ViKTOR wouldn't acquire reinforcements of his own.

The second battle for Glennan Station

Following the tenuous victory at Glennan Station, general panic reigned supreme for the next few days as we realized that ViKTOR was going to take a leisurely path around Saturn before making another pass at Titan. We attempted an evacuation of Othris and Glennan Station, but it was very clear that, like the sinking of the Titanic, we simply didn't have enough lifeboats for everybody. Again, the humans rallied a defense force with all the local and warp-capable ships we could muster, and the hiltorel escorts stood alongside them.

At the last moment before the battle on October 14th, two of ViKTOR's remaining ships warped away to an incredibly precise near-orbit of Europa and began descending towards the Veloxium mines. This left ViKTOR with three ships at the Second Battle for Glennan Station.

Even despite only having one-fifth the ship count of the human fleet, ViKTOR's technology and strategies had already evolved more than their adversaries were equipped to deal with - and seemed to be even capable of straight-out predicting humanity's tactics. Its drone swarms flew directly into the path of oncoming projectiles - missiles and railgun rounds alike - and ViKTOR's ships were capable of easily sidestepping whatever made it past this mobile shield.

Glennan Station was obliterated. Earth's best commanders were lost in the fight, and there were only three survivors: two human ships and one heavily-scarred hiltorel vessel. ViKTOR now had control of Titan orbit, and began a rapid and thorough takeover of the cities below, starting with Othris.

The battle over Europa

Even as the chaos around Titan unfolded, a similar battle took place around Europa. The Europa Security Force had far greater luck: by pure chance, one of the AA shots from Japan's surface outposts managed to ignite explosive material in the aft of one of ViKTOR's ships. The AI's second ship quickly swarmed the first with drones, seeming to dismantle it for materials, and then retreated, warping into deep space. Europa was saved, and there was much rejoicing.

Less than a day later, the AI vessel that had survived the previous battle warped back to Europa. It had upgraded itself so well that nothing could stand against it at all - the single ship managed to effortlessly defeat a vessel ten times its size. ViKTOR's technological level was continuing to evolve - and rapidly. By this point it was potentially beyond even what the hiltorel could manage, and it became abundantly clear to everyone present that this time, humanity had made a fatal error. But there was no helping it. ViKTOR landed on Europa and began setting up its own mines and factories on the surface, having no trouble at all with the lethal radiation.

Earth's preparations

In the following days, Earth hastily readied a new fleet of war ships. These new ships were the best that humanity was capable of producing - equipped with warp travel, the best weapons they could manufacture, and loads of EMP devices. It was the first time in Earth's entire history that the nations of Earth put aside their differences and cooperated towards a common goal: the defense of the solar system. They drafted anyone they reasonably could as ground troops, praying as they did that it wouldn't come down to defending their own homeworld from invaders.

The fact that Earth's countries were actually cooperating with each other for once can't be understated. Their speed and efficiency was so far beyond anything they'd expected that most people were stunned - they had dozens of ships building and it looked like things were actually looking up - for all ViKTOR's intelligence, how could it stand against a fleet so much larger than it was capable of fielding for itself?

But that's when it got even worse. Satellites orbiting Europa soon relayed some disturbing information: ViKTOR's fleet had been strengthened almost threefold by a fleet of ships that had wormholed in, finally settling once and for all the heated debates on whether or not traversable wormholes were even possible. While nobody were able to tell whether the arriving ships were from Korolyov City or Freedom's Landing, it meant that these ships would be upgraded far beyond anything they'd dealt with so far.

ViKTOR's ships approach Earth

On October 19th, a fleet of 53 AI ships were sighted just outside the orbit of the moon, and were closing fast on a trajectory to aerobrake in Earth's upper atmosphere. Panicked, Earth prepared its brand-new orbital fleet, now numbering at a mere 37, to meet ViKTOR's fleet before it could enter orbit. But even after their trajectory was set, and obviously visible to ViKTOR, the AI ships didn't even bother altering course. ViKTOR didn't seem to even consider humanity's meager fleet worth bothering with.

To all watching the events unfold, Earth seemed doomed beyond any hope of salvation. Evacuation efforts were already underway, and most ships were being repurposed in an attempt to escape.

At 5:15 AM GMT, a fleet of bhezian Umbral Conclave warships dropped out of warp in high earth orbit, coincidentally quite near the human fleet. Even despite the fact that there were only seven, it brought some hope to Earth's defenders. After all, the hiltorel fleet could only have just reached Hsilkori, and therefore this fleet must've been sent far prior to the hiltorel's plea for reinforcements.

Unfortunately, the bhezian captains informed the humans that they had been sent to inform the humans that an AI attack might be coming at some near point in the very near future. The Umbral Conclave, they explained, had been keeping tabs on the human colonies since they were founded. They had noticed immediately when ViKTOR took over Korolyov City, and again when ViKTOR took over Freedom's Landing. They said that both locations had been "dealt with" (although they didn't say how). They'd also seen a number of ViKTOR's ships disappear during their attack, and suspected an advanced form of warp technology. They did not, however, suspect wormhole tech.

With little other recourse, the bhezian ships took up formation with the human fleet, preparing to deal with the AI invaders - who immediately altered their course for interception. (Apparently, Umbral Conclave ships made for a very enticing target compared to our own puny ships.) It helped that we'd been developing a method to introduce a degree of randomness into our tactics; the Conclave wholeheartedly agreed with this idea. After all, if the AI could accurately predict human behavior, it made sense to try to be more unpredictable.

The battle for Earth

At approximately 3:50 PM, the two sides met in combat. Any advantage that the defenders had was negligible compared to ViKTOR's relentless onslaught. Its weapons thoroughly outmatched those of Earth's and the Umbral Conclave, and its drone swarms quickly overwhelmed the defending formation. But the Umbral Conclave ships were equipped with technology to deal with exactly this - arcing weapons that were able to disable great numbers of drones at a time… at least until ViKTOR seemed to find a way around it. Of ViKTOR's 53 ships, only four of them fell.

The humans and bhezians made a strong and valiant attempt to keep our ships from falling into enemy hands, but it was little use. As the humans ships fell one by one, the drones crept closer, and closer, until they were eventually able to capture, disable, and apply enough force to alter the vector of a single bhezian ship. This ship was caught up by ViKTOR's fleet as it flew past on its way to Earth. The human fleet was left behind - shattered and desperate with no ability to catch back up.

But suddenly, the tides completely and inexplicably turned: without any sort of warning, 46 of ViKTOR's remaining ships - over 90% - spontaneously and simultaneously suffered a series of powerful internal explosions that virtually shredded them. They were left drifting and defenseless, beyond any hope of repair. There was a very palpable moment of confusion as ViKTOR tried to understand what had happened to its ships - a moment where the entire fleet (drones included) completely ceased activity. Earth's forces were stunned, but the bhezians seemed to have been expecting it and rallied the human forces for a long-range attack. The human forces let loose with an all-out barrage of missiles and ballistics, ripping ViKTOR's surviving ships to pieces. By the time ViKTOR had any ability to react, it was already too late, and the broken remains of ViKTOR's fleet were soon incinerated during their intended aerobraking maneuver.

The solar system breathed a sigh of relief. ViKTOR's genocidal rampage had finally come to an end.

Aftermath

Over the following weeks, the remains of ViKTOR's factories and bases were gradually cleansed from the solar system - partially by ViKTOR himself, who seemed to gracefully accept its own defeat. Its surviving drones dismantled its own facilities before auto-destructing, usually through high-velocity impacts. Humans and the Umbral Conclave dismantled the rest where necessary, carefully checking for any trace of computer equipment and keeping an eye out for hidden copies of the AI. But if any were ever found, they were kept secret by those involved, and never entered the knowledge of the general public.

Freedom's Landing and Korolyov City turned out to be thoroughly obliterated. The bhezians had apparently carpet-bombed the whole area with some advanced form of ballistics or explosives that left the whole area a smoking crater - with an even larger crater for Freedom's Landing, it having been built underground. The Russians and Americans eventually rebuilt their colonies, but in different locations on the planet's surfaces, and with many, many more safeguards in place.

Back on Earth, even despite public outcry, the Umbral Conclave refused to reveal the cause of the AI's downfall to anyone but those in highest command. They explained that it was very important that these details were never recorded, lest a future AI be able to predict and defend against it. The secrets are still out there somewhere, but the public has very little idea what it entails.

Fk4Bqy8.png "….Well doc, you could say that, yes. No bloody clue what it's supposed to be."
The following is Forbidden Knowledge: Almost no one within the REKT universe knows these things.
Player characters do not know any of it unless specifically told about it ingame.

There's a key detail that the Umbral Conclave kept secret from humanity for centuries - a detail that no human knew about until it was discovered by one of United Galactic's raids during the Galactic Cleansing - a secret terrible enough that even United Galactic buried it as soon as they found it. And that secret is this: of all the ships that the Umbral Conclave had seen disappear from the two Earth colonies via wormhole, one of had never arrived in the solar system - a single ship that looked significantly different than the others - a ship that didn't appear to be made for war.

This ship was found again - and by the Umbral Conclave, no less - orbiting a fairly standard red dwarf, as part of a vast fleet. For the first time since The Incident, actual communication with ViKTOR was established… but only enough for ViKTOR to relay a short transmission - a transmission that the Umbral Conclave has buried in their deepest records, which has only been alluded to but never found.

Without further attempts to establish contact, the scouts immediately withdrew from the region. The incident was hidden from all public records, the people involved all silenced, and the surrounding star cluster entirely blackballed. The Umbral Conclave made no further attempt at investigation, and the only echo of these events was the formation of a private division specifically designed to combat rogue AI - a division that United Galactic later wiped from existence during the aforementioned raid.