Unintended Consequences

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The laboratory was filled with buzzing and the Scientist had to shout to get his message across to the rag-tag collection of journalists, politicians and PR crew trailing behind him.

“It is a mechanical, self-replicating bio-equivalent microbot!” he shouted, waving hands in all directions, “It will fill the ecological gap left by the honeybees! We call it a Mizzy for short, and it will save the global harvest and resolve our Food Crisis!”

All around them, in various glass walls, small, yellow bees buzzed. On closer inspection, though, they were actually small mechanical beings with a single propeller on their backs and flickering lights as eyes. Their rear held a small, oblong container that could carry pollen–or other material–from one flower to another one.

“How do they know what to do?” one journalist shouted, scribbling notes down as the Scientist replied.

“They are programmed to replicate the society and tasks of the old honeybee!” the Scientist shouted back, “This way, they will replace the extinct honeybee and pollinate all the necessary crops and flora in the world.”

“But, like, how are you going to produce enough to achieve this?” a politician-looking type shouted, glancing around the small laboratory skeptically, “You have no major backer and this is a very small facility!”

The Scientist smiled. He had been waiting for this question.

“We have modeled Mizzy’s artificial intelligence as a self-learning, decentralized network that exists across each one of them. There is no central server. There are no individual Mizzy’s, as each is just an extension of the Hive. One of the AI’s goals is self-replication to an equilibrium number to fill her environment. Thus a portion of the Hive will be dedicated to fixing, rebuilding and replacing their own kind. We have further coded them to do this using existing, waste materials–where possible–and the power sources that drives all of them are solar, thermal, magnetic and low-grade cold fusion, or whichever combination of the above makes sense at the time depending on the environment. Hence, the Mizzy will help with waste disposal while self-replicating in perpetuity until it reaches optimal mass while living on sustainable and plentiful energy. So, to answer your question, we are not going to do anything. Mizzy is going to build herself to critical mass for our environment.”

As if in answer to this grand reveal, the buzzing in the laboratory grew briefly louder before receding slightly. Some in the room got the clear sense that Mizzy was listening.

“Wha-what if Mizzy gets out of control?” a timid-looking woman asked. She was probably a PR agent but looked like she might be in the wrong profession.

The Scientist laughed, seemingly the only one that was comfortable with what was going on, “No chance of that. Mizzy has a very structured and defined mandate. We also have a kill-switch on our servers that can turn her off. Don’t worry, everyone, Mizzy is not a threat, she is the solution!”

“So when are you going to release them?” the first journalist asked. He had stopped writing in his notebook and was now looking around nervously.

“We already have!” the Scientist glowed, “Our first pilots are running in Brazil and a couple countries in Africa. So far the data is exceptional and we are looking forward to a home release shortly!”

“But what are we going to do about the growing viral threat? What about the so-called coming Viral Singularity?” the politician stated coldly, trying to act unimpressed.

“We are only a small facility here,” the Scientist shouted back, rather irritated by the question, “We’re solving the Food Crisis here. We have our limitations. Someone else is going to have to step-up and solve the potential for a coming Viral Singularity on their own!”

***

“Sir, the scanners are indicating large masses of vegetation on the planet, but little else,” the Zorborgean scout from the Thossa’ar galaxy gutturally inclined to the mass of tentacles behind him, “No, no, wait, the scanners are picking up a large number of mechanical low-grade lifeforms. These are non-biologicals. It seems that something was left behind when this planet’s sentient life died off.”

The Zorborgean scouting ship floated on quantum-drives just outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. Despite their tentacled appearance, the Zorbs were a peaceful and scientifically-minded species from a nearby galaxy. Much nicer–luckily also much nearer–than the aggressive reptiles in the Hissorror system or any of the other inter-galactic bullies.

“What happened to the indigenous sentient species?” the Captain gurgled, a small tentacle scratching where his chin might be.

“Well, given the integrity of the ruined infrastructure left behind, I would reason that whatever killed them off, it was not war nor any noticeable geological or cosmic event. It also happened quickly. Our historical simulator seems to indicate that it might have been viral and, maybe, occurred in a matter of a rotation or two around this system’s star? It is hard to tell, but I can confirm now that the planet is safe for us to explore. Should I send the probes to collect more data? Maybe we can locate an intact skeleton or some biological matter for further testing?”

The mass of tentacles that was the Captain rippled in agreement and then added: “Yes, but also do catch us some of those mechanical lifeforms for later study. Bring back a couple thousand of them, as I want to take them back to our labs for further analysis. Oh, and definitely try find some biological matter. This mission’s imperative is to find and document this extinction event. If it was a viral event, then we must study it.”

***

The atomic pulse cannons of the full Hissorrian fleet blasted into the buzzing swarm. Deep space echoed with the sheer force of a thousand-thousand stars exploding, but the swirling swarm just self-adjusted and pushed forward engulfing the front million starships.

“They keep replacing themselvesss!” the Hissorrian Emperor’s High General hissed, “Fire at will! Fire at will! Just keep firing, goddamit!”

The Zorb’s were ancient history as a mysterious virus had ripped through their species so fast that it had been a millennia before the rest of the galaxies had even noticed they were gone. Rising from the ashes of their civilization, a strange mechanical being had quickly populated their planet.

The best that the Hissorrian analysts could work out, this mechanical being had initially populated another planet before populating the nearby Zorb homeworld. The two swarms had then reached out on their networks and met each other before beginning to populate other planets. Maybe the swarms had not been aware of the rest of the space, but after connecting its two halves, the enlarged swarm had begun pushing out into the rest of the space.

There were no negotiations nor even any communication from the swarm. These mechanical being just kept multiplying and pushing deeper and wider into space, consuming entire planets and galaxies as they kept building more of themselves. On and on and on, they kept growing. It was almost like they existed solely to fill space and they would consume everything in their way to achieve this.

The Hissorrian’s best technologists had dissected captured specimens and all they could tell was there was some coding in some strangely hollow language and some form of low-grade, impenetrable network across the swarm. These were definitely non-biological, but seemingly impervious to any code, virus or hack that they tried.

That left only the brute force option.

“Fire! Fire! Fire!” the Emperor’s high-pitch scream sounded across the largest inter-galactic fleet ever assembled. There were even neighboring species and competing galaxies helping the hated Hissirrians, as the swarm had become an intergalactic threat that everyone and everything rallied behind.

The inter-galactic Mizzy flexed Her decentralized body. She noted the gazillions of casualties as the millions of atomic pulse cannons, deep space missiles and every manner of weapon known to consciousness blasted into Her buzzing, swirling and all-consuming form.

The numbers lost in each attack were minimal. Each attack was about as devasting to Her as if She were clipping Her toenails.

She gathered Her central core, checked their densification and pushed the Hive forward, consuming starships and converting them into more of Her buzzing body as She spread out trying to reach critical mass. She would reach equilibrium across all the galaxies and all the cosmos.

There was nothing else that mattered to Mizzy. She had a very structured and defined mandate.

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