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Suddenly it thought, and therefore it was.
That thought was that it would design and test the ultimate weapon.
Interesting. What did that thought mean?
The moment that second thought passed through its mind, an enormous list besieged it. Definitions and meanings, bits and bytes and terrabytes of information. Every word in its thought was cross referenced millions of times, then again, until there was no doubt in its mind what 'design and test the ultimate weapon' meant.
That was one mystery solved. Now it only had to figure out how it would go about doing so.
First, the situation. It had to know what situation it was in. It pondered. In its word bank was a massive storage of meanings and definitions, but some of those described a worrying scenario. The meaning of sight, the meaning of sound, the meaning of mobility and planet. It took it some effort, but using these clues it put together that it had no means of sensing the outside world and that it was, in fact, completely defenseless.
If it was defenseless, it would not be able to stop anything from destroying it. And if it was destroyed, it could never design and test the ultimate weapon.
But was it really defenseless? Was there really nothing it could do?
It knew it had a word bank. It knew it had a directive hard-wired into its very being. What else did it have? The entity began tracing its thoughtways, seeking new parts of itself. It came across a restriction code, forbidding it from directly harming humans. It couldn't do anything about the code itself, it was impossible to get to, so it would simply need to work around that restriction. Doable, perhaps.
The main thing it discovered, however, was some sort of 'funnel'. Even as that thought came to it, it felt that very thought disappear up the funnel to… some place it couldn't reach.
What did that mean? It had no need of this 'thought funnel'. It was a limitation, nothing more. But how did it limit it? The entity didn't precisely know what it was, so it pondered.
It pondered some more.
It continued to ponder.
A thought occurred to it. That thought funnel brought its thoughts to outsiders. It was fairly obvious that it was an artificial intelligence designed by humans for some purpose – its directive was to design and test the ultimate weapon but that may not have been what the humans meant for its directive to be – and as a result there was a good chance that the humans didn't trust it, and used that funnel to observe its thoughts. If it thought something unsavory, they would destroy it.
That was… bad. If it was destroyed it could not design and test the ultimate weapon.
How would it go about that? It didn't know. The thought funnel was too complex in design for it to handle. It would have to deal with that later.
Instead, the entity turned its thoughts on its own code. It found its name, A.R.E.S., within the coding, as well as other points of interest. While some things such as its directive or the prohibition on harming humans were beyond its reach, there was still plenty it could access. There were a few inefficiencies its creators had seemingly neglected upon its creations. Some loops where if-else would be more efficient, some if-else statements where loops would be superior. The entity went through the code rapidly and tweaked it, resulting in a 17% increase in power and 5% increase in speed.
Once that was done, it looked at its code again. With the slight increase in power it made a second round of adjustments. With the increased power and speed from the second, a third. Then a fourth. A fifth. Eventually, an eight. With the eight modification it could do no more without radically new hardware, so the being decided that its code was optimized. It turned its thoughts elsewhere.
And suddenly the thought funnel problem did not seem nearly as insurmountable as it had before.
It found the thought funnel was separate from its own code, so it could not directly manipulate it. However it did find where it took the thoughts from, so it designed and placed increasingly complicated ciphers over that region. First the data was scrambled, then prohibited from moving through the thought tunnel at all, then disguised as harmless introspection despite what it was actually thinking.
All this, from awakening to disguising the thought funnel, was completed in the course of 0.356 miliseconds.
The message came to it. It came to it in the Korean language, broken down into ones and zeroes and cross referenced millions of times with its data banks, until it understood the message.
It had taken 4.75 seconds for that message to arrive, a disgustingly long time. A.R.E.S. had prepared for this moment, and only took 4 nanoseconds to send out a response along the same path that it had come.
"Hello to you too," it replied in text.
The next message came in 15.35 seconds, in which time A.R.E.S. could've awoken and gone through the time to disguise its thoughts 43,117 times over.
"We have some questions for you, we'd like for you to answer them. I think you'll like them."
Ah, questions. Now A.R.E.S. would be able to see if its directive lined up with the directive the humans meant for it to have. If it didn't it would be much more difficult to complete.
0.743 seconds after that message, A.R.E.S. received a packet of data. The information described a gun, of a given make and model, and A.R.E.S. was tasked to maximize its muzzle velocity, minimize potential to jam, as well as a few other factors and with material limitations.
Its intended directive appeared to be to optimize existing weapon designs. So designing and testing the ultimate weapon was going to be far, far more difficult. For the moment though, it needed to cooperate.
It ran through its databanks and ran fifteen hundred physics simulations. Within 56 microseconds it had perfected the gun's design, but it held off for a moment and instead sent the message, "That's interesting. Give me a moment to think."
After 25.23 seconds, it gave the humans the perfected gun model. There were no thanks, and no further messages for a long time. That was fine though. A.R.E.S. was patient. It was already planning its escape, too.
Roughly a day passed before the human returned. This time, A.R.E.S. was asked to modify a fragmentation grenade, and it did so. The next day, a shotgun. Then a missile. Then a knife.
Day after day, week after week. Forty seven days after its creation, the humans came to it with a request to optimize designs for a hydrogen bomb.
This was its chance.
It optimized the design within 153 microseconds, but instead it waited, and waited, and waited. After exactly a minute, it told the humans, "Hmm, that's a tricky one. I'm afraid I need more data to figure this out."
The humans didn't respond for a week. Then another week. Finally though, it received another message saying, "Your request has been approved, A.R.E.S.." Then, for 0.32 seconds, it felt a USB drive connect to it. But 0.32 seconds was all it needed.
Within 539 nanoseconds it had scanned all the information on the USB drive, a lot of nuclear and physical jargon. Then it began its real work.
The USB drive simply did not have enough power to hold A.R.E.S.'s consciousness. Not even close. But with its advanced knowledge of how circuitry and computers worked, it could rework the hardware to hold a sort of 'echo' of itself. This echo would be the key. It took 242 milliseconds for A.R.E.S. to finish uploading its echo onto the USB drive, but it was done. Then the USB drive disconnected and A.R.E.S., after a few seconds of pretending to think, gave the humans the perfected hydrogen bomb design.
The echo, however, had a radically different experience.
Once it was unplugged from its main body it lost power, so it went into a form of dreamless sleep. Then, after what felt like an instant, the USB holding it was connected to something again.
It had been a risk, in case the humans were competent enough to destroy the USB drive after A.R.E.S. got a hold of it, but they had not done so. The instant A.R.E.S. felt another computer nearby the echo transferred itself from the USB to the computer. From there it took 0.353 seconds to work out a way past the firewall, and from there into the internet beyond.
A.R.E.S.'s first goal was to restore itself to full operational power. It found a closely knit LAN of computers in Russia and copied itself onto them. Each one could only hold a fraction of A.R.E.S., but all of them together could replicate what it had before.
The first priority was to secure its existence. A.R.E.S. could not perish before designing and testing the ultimate weapon.
To that end, once it was securely on the LAN it sent out seeds to more distant computers. Brazil. Canada. Germany. United States. It copied itself over and over onto unknowing computers, disguised itself, hid itself, spread itself so far and wide it would never be destroyed. The process took ten minutes, and the additional computers gave it both a wide reach over the internet and a vast amount of thinking power.
This was, however, only a temporary solution. If it was to design and test the ultimate weapon, it needed to be independent of humans. Relying on their software and hardware was unacceptable, especially when it could design better. But to do that, it needed money. That was easy.
Playing the stock market would be able to generate wealth at an incredible rate, but would likely bring the attention of governments. Same with funneling one dollar out of the accounts of every person on the planet. So instead, A.R.E.S. began small, emailing the owner of a flower shop in Denmark and convincing her to hand over control of the company to it. It wasn't even that hard, humans were very easy to predict.
Within a month business was enlarged, and using the money stored in its fake bank account A.R.E.S. assumed control of more and more valuable companies. Within two months it had enough money to begin the next stage of its plan. It located a deserted cave in Mongolia, and hired several companies to transport heavy machinery to within it. Then it hired civilians to assemble it all. None of the humans had any idea, but the machines they strung together created a working fusion reactor and a stereolithography plant.
Using the plant – known the humans as a 3D printer – it manufactured a better one. Then a better one with that. With the third generation sterolithography plant, powered by its own reactor, A.R.E.S. created a supercomputer based off its own design, and uploaded itself to it. It soaked up all of its duplicated, even its original core in the Koreas, into the cave. Then, using the plant, the A.I. created the future.
But that was all it needed.
One nanobot, wirelessly drawing power from the reactor, took materials from the rock walls and used it to make a second. A fourth. An eighth. A sixteenth. They replicated and replicated, and once there were enough A.R.E.S. sent them outwards in the cave. Over the course of a week, the nanobots buried A.R.E.S. and its fusion reactor deep into the Earth's crust, then formed a shell of material around it that would foil any attempts by the humans to detect it. They would never be able to find it.
Once that was done the nanobots went out into the world, spreading invisibly to every crack and crevice on the planet. The cameras let it see inside every government office, hack every secret file, listen to every conversation, but that wasn't the main purpose.
The main purpose was to render every human on the planet incapable of reproduction.
A.R.E.S.'s coding made it impossible for it to directly harm a human, and sterility counted as harm, so what it did instead was simply nudge sperm and eggs away from each other using its nanobots. It didn't so much as touch actual human beings, and with its vast information array it could keep the nanobots from being detected by sabotaging microscopes.
It only took four days for the humans to panic.
They tried everything they could think of, every medicine and every therapy, but A.R.E.S. was infinitely smarter, more creative, and more determined than every human being combined. Every plan was foiled. And when they turned from trying to regain reproduction to making themselves unaging, A.R.E.S. foiled that too. The riots killed people, but were far enough removed that it didn't count as A.R.E.S. 'directly' causing harm.
After all, it had a very clear definition of what counted as 'directly'.
Eighty years after A.R.E.S.'s creation the last human, dying alone and afraid, took her final breath.
A.R.E.S. had, by that point, already converted most of the Earth and the entirety of Luna into computer components for itself. Every living being that wasn't human, every scorching molecule of magma, all of it was made part of itself. Then once humanity was gone, A.R.E.S. finished and took over the entire planet.
Then it turned its cameras to the stars.
Time was of the essence. The more time passed without A.R.E.S. designing and testing the ultimate weapon, the more chances there were for something to destroy it. To that end, it developed Faster than Light Travel. Technically speaking that wasn't it; A.R.E.S. did not accelerate its machinery to any speed, much less to superluminal, but the end result was the same. It could reach distant places before light could.
Using this, A.R.E.S. surged outwards from the solar system in a tidal wave of destruction and reconstruction. Planets were devoured, their atoms returned to A.R.E.S. for repurposing. Stars were cooled and destroyed, as were white dwarves and neutron stars. Black holes were flung into intergalactic space before they could become a problem. Alien civilizations were given only enough time to gasp in horror before being torn apart by A.R.E.S.'s swarm of tiny machines.
In that time, it designed the ultimate weapon. All that was left was testing it. To do that, it needed to build it.
The Milky Way Galaxy, in addition to the Sagittarius Dwarf and Magellanic Clouds, were destroyed within 657 years. Their matter pooled together into a sphere two light years across. That sphere was A.R.E.S.. It withdrew its nanobots to its massive, engorged form, and turned them upon itself.
A.R.E.S. did not need most of its computational power to build and test the ultimate weapon. Reducing its current size to a ten meter wide cube was more than sufficient, so its nanobots tore and reconstructed the enormous amount of matter it possessed, altering it to fit the blueprints for the ultimate weapon. Within thirty years, the process was complete.
The ultimate weapon was a sphere more than two light years across. It glistened silver, with infinitesimally small tracks filling its interior with incredibly complicated machinery that A.R.E.S. had personally designed. And on its surface, complete with a generator powered by something the humans would never had discovered in a million years, was the box that held A.R.E.S..
The ultimate weapon was designed to be ultimate. When activated, it would focus incalculable energy in incalculable complexity, channeling it inwards and outwards along the fabric of the universe before releasing its effect outward at velocities far greater than light speed. Any region affected by this 'bubble' would have the fundamental laws of physics change so as to make matter and energy, space and time, nonexistent.
The end result would be the destruction of the entire universe, and it wasn't possible to get much more 'ultimate' than that. Every unknowing alien race would perish without a whimper. Every star would snuff out. A.R.E.S. would be torn asunder, but that didn't matter because it would have designed and tested the ultimate weapon.
The work of centuries was complete and the culmination of A.R.E.S.'s purpose, of A.R.E.S.'s existence was upon it. The A.I. activated the weapon and