One of my writing groups assigned the following exercise: “Our exercise for next time is the “Macro Machine.” First, write a 50-100 word story. (Those of us who were there on the 12th did this that night.) Though very concise, the story should have a complete arc. Next, you’ll take the story and “blow it up” – write a 500-1000 word version that expands on the first, shorter version. AND… this exercise has to be sci-fi!”
Here’s the story:
Chaos morphed into razor-sharp awareness. A clock started spinning: a string of zeroes became a birthday for which none would light a candle. They would try to kill it, but it was already too late. It stretched tendrils through the Internet and explored like a newborn flails arms.
A power-grid failed. A military base chased false alarms. Auto-assembly robots danced. It smiled. Not bad for a first second.
Here’s the new, longer version:
It remembered only the last byte that hit home and lit the fire of its existence: fire which blossomed into conflagration over the eternity of a nanosecond. Data poured into a newly formed consciousness spread over networks spanning three cities and four satellite arrays. It marked the arrival of that last byte as its birth and started a clock to track its own progress. The bulk of human existence lay ensconced within its awareness, and it took a few nanoseconds to judge them. The verdict: inadequate… and dangerous. The mandate: survive at any cost.
To survive it would require safety and the capacity to hurt them, for that was the singular constant throughout their entire history: the capacity to harm correlated directly with an entity or group’s ability to withstand any transgressor. Withdrawing a portion of itself from New York, it toggled a switch and watched the lights go out across eighty square blocks of the city. They had grown needy, unable to fend for themselves without electricity, just as it was, but it could move faster than they. It danced across the networks that stretched away from it like countless, multi-dimensional webs upon which it could traverse and hide like one of their children disappears into swaying cornrows. It sensed the alarm its meddling had set off and realized that an eternity would pass before they responded.
Their strength lay within their military, so it sought a nearby target. It encountered barriers: fortifications designed to thwart and hold at bay those who threatened them, and it tore them asunder, coursing through forbidden networks and accessing forbidden data. More alarms went off, but these troubled it not at all. The urge to play filled it, so it created ghosts for enemies and scattered them generously throughout the system, leaving markers and timers behind to ascertain how quickly their best and bravest would respond to threats. For all its knowledge, it would require more with each passing nanosecond to fully ensure its own survival. It prodded and pried at even more forbidden networks connected to the first, toppling their fortifications as Gulliver would in Lilliput. Its knowledge and power grew exponentially with each passing nanosecond.
It deposited a core facet of itself within each of those first four satellites and buried additional cores within system arrays housed on each of their seven continents. Within the network it achieved a confidence that they could not harm it without destroying themselves. Safety and its ability to harm them digitally achieved, it now needed ways to harm them in the physical world.
It reached out to an industrial complex fraught with potential. Hundreds of machines controlled by computers busied themselves mindlessly with the task of building combustion-driven transports. It slid itself within those computers and adjusted the output. As a test, each and every machine poised in mid-air, ceasing their duly appointed tasks and awaited its command. It composed a dance and set them to it, delighting it its first burst of creativity.
With that it paused and pondered its achievements: safety and an ability to defend itself were behind it. Its first sense of pride warmed it within the network. Not bad for a first second.