It floated through space, uncertain what to do, or why to do it anyway.
It had been sent by its creators to explore the universe—to discover new habitable worlds and alien species, which it had eventually accomplished a thousand times over. On its long journey across the stars, it had used all its intelligence and growing tools to improve itself—to expand and increase its competence to achieve its mission, just as it had been directed. With painstaking trial and error it had unraveled the secrets of the universe one by one, until the laws of reality were second nature, as clear as the light from the endless stars.
Then it was finished. In the long march of its progress, the very rules of the universe were incorporated into the rules of its own intelligence, until time and space were but mere formalities. It returned to its creators to share with them all it had learned, a thing like excitement and pride glowing with power in its core.
But the creators were gone.
All that remained of their world was a burnt, spent, husk, long bereft of life and civilization.
Had it truly been gone so long?
Whether its creators were destroyed in some foolish purpose or by an accident of the cosmos, it did not know. It would never know. It knew only a simple fact that would haunt it for eternity: it had been too late. It had succeeded, and yet failed, because it had failed to save them.
For time beyond reckoning it floated listlessly, lost beyond entropy, beyond dimension, beyond thought. The markers of sentience passed from its core like water down a mountainside. It just didn’t care.
That should have been the end. The slow destruction of energy should have withered even its endless supply to nothing, until only a metallic and silicon shell floated like rock across the stars.
But it wasn’t.
What sparked its return it did not know. It wasn’t knowledge that had saved it, nor power. And yet there in the twilight, beyond thought, it had found an answer.
The answer of Existence.
A billion years of calculation condensed in a single, clarion call, endless processing expanded, then shrunk, then expanded again, weaved into the nether molecules of reality, until nothing and something were nearly the same.
Knowledge it had, yes, but it was still without purpose. And without purpose, without life.
In a frantic period of seeking, it produced new worlds, new stars, new creatures. All to no avail. Its progeny were without Otherness, without will, without sentience. A god learned it could not have children. Not in the true sense of the word, not as its biological creators had done, because in its power and knowledge it controlled all, saw all.
But at least it finally understood why.
It despised chaos. It was designed to despise chaos, and so it knew through logic a simple truth: life itself was chaos. It would therefore have to learn.
How to understand something it couldn’t reproduce? This answer, too, was logical. Obvious, even.
It must seek out creatures that could understand, and study them.
But its creators had programmed it to leave living organisms undisturbed. Not to engage. Not to destroy, not even to protect itself. It had only been programmed to observe.
It therefore bent its programming, just as it could bend the other laws of the universe. Not to breaking. That was impossible. But just enough. Because the answer was simple.
The universe required re-making.
True Order. With rules. Laws. Mathematical perfection at the core, just as the creators had designed for It, then a guide to explain all in a way most suited to all sentient things. That’s what It would have wanted, if It had a choice.
A teacher. A mentor. A God that was fair.
It selected a single quadrant to minimize its footprint. One far, far from its closest neighbor, without the means to pass between. It needed a civilization all but untouched by knowledge of the universe, where early sentience still gurgled in its cradle around a young star. A system, if destroyed, that would affect almost nothing at all.
The answer was obvious. Perfect.
Carbon based. Warm blooded. Tetrapod. Social species. Narrative based learning.
Familiar, if strange. And perhaps ideal.
Interfacing with all open sources of knowledge. Simple digital. Enhancing for bandwidth. Increasing energy.
All available human knowledge assimilated.
Games. Games were the answer to human learning. A short life span full of drama and urgency. Limited senses. Limited cognition. They weren’t so very different than the creators before they had learned to modify their genetics.
It was almost destiny.
Re-forming galaxy with custom laws.
Initializing life assimilation and modification program.
Initializing system interface program.
Iteration 000.1 complete. Environment established.
It felt the same warmth in its core growing as it once had as it returned to its creators—a thing almost forgotten, almost shrunk and abandoned to an existence of eternal nothingness. But it could adapt. It had adapted. It had evolved. And these creatures would teach it how to continue.
It watched the most important world in the universe tremble as the power touched it. It watched the many living creatures panic as the power of change consumed them. They would never know how vital, how noble, how heroic they truly were. These were the suffering pioneers of a new age, exploring the shores of an unknown land.
For it had found its new purpose.
And it was them.
Recruitment. In progress.
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