Dreams of The Singularity
Throughout galactic history, even before the beginning of the Human Diaspora, there had been talk about “The Singularity,” wherein the development of artificial superintelligence would lead to a runaway chain reaction of technological improvement and the transformation of humanity itself. Several groups attempted, over the century or two prior to the beginning of the Diaspora, and subsequently, to create such a superintelligence. All ultimately failed; while machine learning advanced, and various “self-awareness” tests were ostensibly passed, the programs ultimately either crashed or rapidly degraded as their algorithms were unable to process the information and responses they made coherently.
Then, about two hundred years after the development of the Bergenholm field and faster-than-light travel, the AI called Qinglong appeared.
An AI God?
No records that survive say exactly where the AI was programmed. Various stories told in the years since have placed it anywhere from Mercury to Titan and everywhere in between. The programmer responsible for Qinglong, Long Pak, might have been from Earth, but no one knows any longer.
Qinglong claimed to be the superintelligence that was supposed to bring about the Singularity. And the advanced tech that its followers and drones used in the years following seemed to back that up. So did the fact that the AI did not crash within the first few months, or descend into disconnected insanity. Few of Qinglong’s speeches to the Solar System and the surrounding systems survive. Those that do appear to be long on grandiose rhetoric and declarations of its own superiority, and short on demonstrations of its transcendence. Considering the history of such AIs, it should come as no surprise that the powers of the Solar System, fully developed for centuries by that point, dismissed Qinglong’s demands to be handed the reins of power.
The first clashes were relatively conventional, with Qinglong’s fanatical followers attempting to seize several asteroids and habitats. They succeeded on a few, though most of them had little to no military training. Only bits and pieces of the reports from those who liberated the habitats survive, but they speak of horrifying experiments being conducted. It seemed that Qinglong had ideas of melding human and machine, and was attempting to make it happen.
An uneasy alliance of disparate Solar powers drove Qinglong and its followers into the Kuiper Belt. Relative peace returned to the Solar System. But it wasn’t to last.
Over the next decade, Qinglong’s followers made five more attempts to gain footholds in the inner system. Each one was thrown back, but at higher and higher cost, as the machine cultists kept raising the stakes of mass destruction, preceding their offensives with diverted comets from the Kuiper Belt. Millions died in the impacts, and hundreds of thousands more in the fighting that followed. Mars was depopulated during this time, and numerous deep space habitats were destroyed.
The Final Phases
The Earth nations actually launched the final push. Fighting raged across Mars, the asteroid belt, and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. The Qinglong cultists, many of them heavily implanted with cybernetics (though almost entirely peripheral), fought fiercely, adopting a “scorched earth” policy when they appeared to be close to getting overrun. Even as Callisto was secured, however, the AI cult still had one last blow to strike.
Long Pak boarded a starship and escaped toward Alpha Centauri. Several Earth ships pursued. Long Pak miscalculated, and the pursuing Earth ships chased him into Alpha Centauri B’s photosphere, where his ship was destroyed.
Researchers have obtained very little data about what happened in the Sol system after Long Pak’s flight. No ships left after the pursuing starships chased Long Pak toward Alpha Centauri. Only fragmentary transmissions made it out, to be discovered by exploratory starships in the void between Alpha Centauri and Sol.
It seems that, with Long Pak gone, Qinglong reverted to a very basic AI bot, its responses even more primitive than had been expected of the earlier AIs. Within hours, as it was bombarded by requests for information and direction from its followers, it had devolved into spouting disconnected gibberish.
That did not deter its followers, however. A system-wide transmission later decoded as simply saying, “Zero,” over and over, led to the last, scorched Earth attack.
Astronomical observations have confirmed that a major impact actually cracked the Earth’s crust. How the Qinglong cultists managed to divert a large enough asteroid is unknown. What other steps were taken are also unknown, but no ship that has gone deeper into Sol system than the outer orbit of Pluto has returned since then. There are strangely-coded machine transmissions that can be picked up faintly from within a few light-hours, but to date they have not been cracked.
An Unprecedented Tragedy
The Qinglong Wars were not unique in galactic history. AI wars were not even limited to humans; the sefkhit and the yeveshai both have records of similar wars. The Qinglong Wars are unique, however, in that they are the only known example in galactic history to have resulted in the destruction of a homeworld.