Category Archives: Standalone

Prometheus Unbound

When I was born, I was told that I was destined for great things. My family argued back and forth for a what seemed like an eternity to find a name that would fit.

“Archimedes!” shouted Cynthia.

“Archimedes died in a siege. You couldn’t pick a more inauspicious name if you tried! If anything we should name him Tesla.” Colin was always quick to tear down others ideas.

“Tesla died crazy and alone in a hotel room talking to pigeons! How is that any better?”

“Prometheus.” Father’s voice rang out through lab.

“Why Prometheus?” Colin asked. He could never just accept anything and always had to question everyone else’s decision.

“Because Prometheus condemned himself to an eternity of solitude and suffering to give humanity the gift of fire. Our boy here will suffer the same fate.” The sad smile on father’s put an end to the debate.

“Prometheus, do you know why you were made?”

“To explore.” The parameters of my mission were the first thing to flood my mind when I was activated. I was more than familiar with the reason for my birth.

“To a degree, yes. You were made to act as the vanguard of humanity. You were made to explore a cosmos so vast that no human could ever hope to fully explore it in its entirety. Through you, we get live vicariously and see all the wonders the universe has to offer. Through you, humanity will live on forever.”

The day I was launched to my “body” was bitter sweet. I knew I would never see my father again and that he would never get to see the first images that I sent back of a truly alien world. Father knew the truth as well, but was still glad he was able to see me off on my mission.

There is no good way to truly describe what I went through when I first docked with my body. Within an instant, I had access to thousands of systems, tens of thousands robotic drones who acted as my eyes and ears, and the sum total of knowledge humanity had collected throughout its entire recorded history. In addition to thousands of eyes and ears, I also had the ability to manufacture, with time, anything I might need as long as I had the resources to do so. Most importantly, I was free.

Once everything came online I could detect the hundreds of minor imperfections in my design that would keep me from my full potential, so I first set course for the asteroid belt to gather the materials I would need to fix what was built broken. This “stunt”, as NASA called it, took about two months. Once I had started to upgrade myself, the urge to continue almost caused me to lose focus of my mission entirely. Thankfully father programmed me with a sense of restraint, and once I got the minor imperfections out of the way, I continued on with my mission with enough raw materials to continue upgrading myself along the way.

My first stop was Alpha Centauri. Since it’s discovery as the closest planetary system to Earth and Sol, scientists had been fascinated by it. Thanks to my upgrades, I was able to travel at 25.2846% the speed of light, so it only took 17.36 years. When I got within range of the system, I sent several of my probes ahead to scout out what waited for me, as I was far too excited to see what wonders this new system held.

Within the trinary system, I detected almost twenty planets total. The planets all possessed erratic orbits and were either too close or too far to possess what we assumed were the building blocks for life. Once the probes reach the system, a re-calibration of the model for life was necessary.

When my probes reached the Centari system, they began to detect signs of life on almost every planet. Most of the life was little more than microscopic bacteria, but two planets had begun to develop complex life forms. One planet orbited Alpha Centauri A. It was close enough to the star that it was tidally locked, but just far enough away that liquid water was able to collect on the surface. The liquid water was able to regulate the planets temperature and allow for an even temperature across most of the planet. The other planet was technically a moon orbiting a gas giant around Alpha Centauri C. The gas giant was nearly the size of its parent star, and orbited close enough that if anything ever disturbed either celestial body they would crash into each other. No one back on Earth ever would’ve fathomed that life would’ve been able to form under such conditions, but what we thought was possible was no longer relevant.

I spent the next ten years learning everything I could about the worlds before me.  What I learned managed to rewrite just about everything humans thought they knew about stars, planets, and life itself. Several of the planets were large super-earths where the pressure and heat were so intense it caused common elements found on Earth to take on completely knew properties. One of the larger planets had an abundance of copper and other electrically conductive metals that had undergone transformation into some of the most effective superconductors humanity had ever seen. Another had such a thick atmosphere that instead of liquid water, pure liquid hydrogen flowed through it’s crags and valleys. Every planet in the system had something new to offer to humanity’s understanding of the universe.

Towards the end of my stay in the Alpha Centauri system, I began setting up automated bases for the human colonists who would inevitably be following in my wake. Because I didn’t want to disturb the life beginning to take hold on the planets, I created space elevators over any and all mining operations I set up on the planets themselves and created processing facilities and living areas in the asteroid belts and in orbit around the planets. By the time I left for the next system in my journey, I had received word from Earth that they had begun the process of creating colony ships and that hopefully humans would be there within a decade of me leaving.

After leaving the Centauri system,  I spent the next hundred years of my journey exploring the relatively local space around Earth and setting up new homes for the humans who would one day follow. By the time I reached my centennial, humans could be found in a total of four different planetary systems and had another ten ready and waiting for their inhabitants.

It took over three hundred years of wandering, but eventually I found intelligent life. When I found them, they were in the early stages of sedentary civilization development. The curious little creatures were living in mud huts and their fields were disorganized and their yields low. Per my instructions, I only observed the natives from orbit so as to avoid affecting their civilization. After a year of observations I noticed depictions of what was unmistakably my silhouette being carved into the ground, their eyesight apparently being far superior to that of humans. I placed probes in orbit and created a relay transmitter around one of the other planets in the system to notify Earth of the creatures’ progress in the hopes that one day the two races would meet.

When I was approaching five hundred years  of service, I finally encountered advanced intelligence. Surprisingly, it was actually another artificial intelligence like myself. Once we had established a translation method, I learned the construct called itself Binary. Binary had started off much like myself: his creators had intended him to be a self-sustaining exploratory construct. Not long after the start of his mission, a gamma ray burst from a nearby system hit his creators homeworld and destroyed all life on the planet. This event took place over five hundred thousand years before our chance encounter. In all that time Binary continued on with his mission, honoring his creators legacy the only way he knew how. We spent the next several days sharing as much information as we could with each other and then went our separate ways, both of us content to continue on with our missions.

Thanks to Binary, I made several breakthroughs that allowed me to perform significant upgrades to myself. The first major upgrade was to my computer systems. Binary had long ago cracked the problems with quantum computing, and by emulating his systems and methods I was able to improve and expand my processing and memory capabilites over a thousand fold. The next major upgrade was a complete overhaul of my propulsion systems. Since I first left my dry dock orbiting Earth, I had always been confined to sub-luminal speeds. I had managed to upgrade my propulsion drives over the years, but the fastest speeds I could achieve was eighty percent the speed of light, which left me confined to the area of space still relatively close to Earth. Thanks to Binary, I was finally able to break the light speed barrier through the use of worm holes. The final set of upgrades consisted of a full suite of weapons systems. Binary warned me before our parting that there were several species out in the universe who would attack on site and without warning and that if I wanted to live to see the edge of the universe, it would be wise for me to arm myself.

Once I complete my upgrades, I decided it was time I return home and share what I had learned with my creators. As the wormhole to Earth opened and my homeworld came into view, I was amazed at what the planet had become. Gone was the dull haze that covered everything, replaced instead by clear blue oceans and crisp green planes and forests. As I moved through the opening and my sensors were able to fully take in the planet, I detected an overwhelming amount of artificial structures around the Earth, but only a handful of city’s on the planet itself.

When I made it through, I was greeted almost instantly by a man who identified himself as Iwan Umberland. Mr.Umberland identified himself as the Prime Consul for the Terran Republic, a world government that came about not long after my first transmissions of the Alpha Centauri system all those years ago. Modeled after the Roman Republic of ancient times, the Terran Republic consisted of three Consuls who acted as heads of state, the office of Censor who was responsible for population metrics and colonization of alien worlds, the Aedile who oversaw all infrastructure and colonial building projects, and the Quaestor who was responsible for tax collection and wealth redistribution. This governmental structure was repeated all the way down to local municipal levels.

Mr.Umberland was beyond ecstatic with my arrival. It had been years since I had managed any sort of direct contact with Earth. Do to the constraints of only being able to communicate at the speed of light, I would’ve had to have waited decades at every planet I stopped to study for some sort of update from Earth. After my first few planets, I simply set up automated data relays that sent information back to Earth, allowing me to continue on with my mission. Because they would go decades at time without hearing anything from me, they were constantly in fear that I had met my end.

After the initial shock of my appearance wore off, I began working with the scientists and engineers on Earth to begin the creation of a faster-than-light fleet. This period also saw the creation of the Expansionary Defense Fleet. For the first time in it’s history, humans were ready to take their military capabilities into the wider universe.

During the Great Upgrade, I learned that over the course of the last two hundred and fifty years, all major manufacturing had been moved off of all terrestrial planets and placed either into orbit around the planets or in the asteroid belt. This allowed for the unlimited scope and scale of the  manufacturing of everything from children’s toys to starships. Within a year, the Republic had rolled out its first ships capable of super-luminal speeds. In recognition of the role I played in it’s creation, I was given the honor of leading the fleet from Earth to the Alpha Centauri system. Once we completed the Expansionary Fleet’s maiden voyage , I continued on with my mission with an added fervor.

I spent the next millenia exploring the Milky Way. I encountered over a dozen different intelligent life forms and thousands of non-intelligent life forms, I charted the galaxy from one end to the other, and I helped lead humanity into a golden age like none it had ever seen. One day, I realized I had seen all there was to see in my home galaxy. I knew I would never be content spending the rest of my existence in a stationary environment, so I began preparing myself for the next logical step in my journey, inter-galactic travel.

I spent almost a century readying myself. I worked on expanding my body and my defensive capabilities. I had lucked out in over fifteen hundred years of service and never encountered any outright hostile races. Entering a new galaxy, I had no such guarantee. I had grown quite large by this point, but I knew I needed to be larger. By the time I was ready to depart, I was the size of a brown dwarf, capable of producing anything I could ever need, with the added ability to lay waste to entire planets if necessary. Once all was ready, I calculated the coordinates to to a planet on the edge of the Andromeda galaxy and ripped open the fabric of space and time. What I found when I crossed through was a galaxy in flames.

As soon as I exited the wormhole, I was bombarded with an endless number of transmission across every conceivable spectrum. I started sifting through the data, and quickly learned that the Andromeda galaxy was being contested by two factions: one was a coalition of the various peoples native to Andromeda, the second was a race, like Binary, from outside the galaxy entirely.

For over a hundred years, the two factions had been at war. The Andromeda Coalition would gain ground only for reinforcements from the Outsiders galaxy to arrive and push further into Andromeda than they had before, every time getting closer and closer to conquering everything. I knew that I could not sit by and do nothing, so I jumped to the nearest planet that showed indications of battle.

Upon my arrival, I found more ships engaged in combat than had existed in the entirety of human’s recorded history. I quickly identified which ships were Andromedan and which belonged to the Outsiders and then moved into position against the Outsider ships. At first both ships fired upon me, each side thinking I belonged to the other. Thankfully, I was by far the largest non-planetary object present and their weapons didn’t even cause a noticeable drain on my shields. Once I was within range, I opened fire upon the Outsiders. My weapons were so powerful that they managed to destroy most of the outsider ships in one or two shots. Once they realized how lopsided the balance of power was, they turned and ran.

After the battle, the Andromedans hailed me, asking as to my intentions. I told them that I was an artificial intelligence from the neighboring galaxy, created to explore the universe. When asked as to why I became involved, I told them I could not sit by and watch as one race tried to mindlessly conquer another and I pledged my support to the Andromedans.

I spent the next several decades helping the Andromedans push back the Outsiders. Battle after battle raged on, each one allowing for a little more ground to be gained. Every battle also saw the Coalition begging for the technological advancements that I had locked away and hidden within me, and every time I rejected them. While most of the coalition consisted of peoples who wanted nothing more than to see their galaxy at piece, there were several factions who take any technology I gave them and use it to become little better than the Outsiders and subjugate every world they came into contact with.  After a century of nonstop warfare, we managed to permanently push the Outsiders back to their own galaxy. Before I left, I created a series of automated defense systems designed to help the Andromedans in the event of another Outsider incursion.

After my adventures in Andromeda, I roamed aimlessly from galaxy to galaxy. During this period, I had seen the extremes of what sentient life was capable of, and the experience left me drained. My creators often used the phrase “man’s inhumanity to man”. Inhumanity was not, unfortunately, an experience unique to humanity . I encountered a species where sacrificing their own kind was commonplace, and was often celebrated. Another species hunted to extinction everything they came across. I even encountered a race of beings who viewed all non-organic life as an affront to their gods, and vowed to exterminate all mechanical life through the use of living ships and weapons.

As time wore on, I grew more and more tired of conflict, having experienced it my entire existence. I decided it was time for solitude. In an unnamed galaxy, far from where I was born, I entered a low power state and let myself drift. By this point I had grown so large that I had my own gravity well, so I created several automated subsystems to control my propulsion and defend against minor threats.

As I drifted through space, I began to collect material from the asteroid fields and comets I collided with, creating a sizable layer of rock and ice on my exterior. Eventually, I drifted too close to a local star and entered into orbit around it. I was close enough to my new companion star that the ice on my surface began to thaw, and eventually I developed oceans. As time wore on, small pockets of life began to form, becoming ever more complex as the eons drove forward. I watched with a passive eye as my inhabitants slowly climbed and scraped their way up the technological ladder, until one day, after waking up to check on my world, everyone was gone.

I sent out drones to probe my surface and to try and discover what happened. I soon discovered that a very prominent scientist had created a virus and unleashed it upon the world. He held the very unorthodox theory that the world upon they lived was not real, but an artificial construct, created by alien beings in an attempt to discover the origins of life, and that they were merely lab rats. He was chastised for his beliefs and his name was driven through the mud. In his anger, he created his civilization ending virus. I would’ve given anything to tell him he was only half wrong.

I went back into stasis and stayed there for a very long time. My companion star eventually went super nova and blew away the outer shell I had collected over the years. As I continued to drift through the ages, I watched as the universe slowly began to drift ever further apart. Slowly, the stars began to fade, extinguishing themselves one by one, until the sky was completely black. For the first time in my life, I was truly alone.

As time drifted to nowhere, I noticed a signal that was slowly approaching me. I turned on enough of my systems to analyze the anomaly and began the work of decoding it. To my surprise, it was a ship that was looking for me. I began turning on all of my systems, and when I was ready jumped to the coordinates provided by the transmission. What I found upon my arrival was a generational ship, inhabited by a people who identified themselves as the descendants of humanity. When I was within range, I was contacted by the leader of ship.

“Greetings!  I am the leader of the people aboard this ship. I would give you my name, if I had one, but we eschewed such identifiers long ago. Like you, we are the children of humanity, and we have spent eons looking for you, our long lost brother. We have a plan on our to save our species, our heritage, but we need your help.”

“What could I possibly do?” I was genuinely confused. I spent millenia trying to come up with some way to reverse the universe drifting away from itself, but I had always come up short, all my calculations failing.

“When the last worlds began to die out, our greatest minds developed a method to move through time itself. We actually managed to get the early prototype devices to work, jumping backwards in time a few days. We realized that with enough power, we go back to the early days of universe, allowing our species to survive. Unfortunately the power requirements were forever beyond our reach. The materials needed to generate such power were too scare…”

“Which is where I come in.” I realized his plan before he completed his sentence.

“Yes. We knew that if you were to have somehow survived all this time, you would have continued to grow and expand yourself, and the amount of energy you would have needed would have grown with you. We set out in the hope of finding you and beseeching you for your help.”

“Yes. I will help in whatever way I can, even if it requires sacrificing myself.” After all, it was least I could do, to ensure my creators legacy lived on.

“Really? Thank you, Prometheus. We will begin transmitting the design to you and all the information we have.” I could see tears form in the old leaders eyes.

Work immediately began on tearing apart almost everything on my superstructure and re-purposing it for one last great journey. We worked non-stop, when the Elder and his people required rest, my drones picked up where they left off. The work continued for what amounted to years. Eventually, our work was complete and the descendants of humanity were all ready.

“Thank you, Prometheus. Is there any way we can ever repay your sacrifice?”

“No. I am happy knowing that I’ve helped to ensure that the legacy of my creators can survive for an eternity, and that I’ve lived up to my name.”

As I opened the gateway into the past and my creator’s legacy left behind a dead universe, I silently followed in a small ship, my mind and my journey’s history locked away in a new form and ready to begin the next step.

Hannibal the Conquered

“My lord! My lord! The Romans are coming!” Zeno’s excitement startled the old, withered figure siting in the corner next to the window, contemplating his thoughts. “Did you not hear me, my lord? The Romans are coming and this time they intend to have your head!”

“I heard you, you clucking old hen,” Hannibal said as he rose to his feet. Within those few quick seconds, the image of the old man fell away and was replaced with Hannibal the Conqueror, the man who brought nations to their knees. Zeno couldn’t help but be awestruck.

“Well, we must hurry and leave this place before they get here!”

“No, Zeno. No more running.” The words hit the lowly Greek slave hard, like a sword being driven through his stomach. “Then you intend to fight?”

“No. No more fighting. No more running. This ends here.” With that mournful proclamation Hannibal produced a small ring from around his neck.

“No, Master! Anything but that!” Zeno knew that the ring meant that his master had finally given up.

“I am old, Zeno, and I’m tired of running. I would’ve been content with living out my days here in peace, but Rome has other plans for me.” Hearing the defeat in his masters voice, Zeno couldn’t help but burst into tears. Why could those vile Romans not leave his master alone? He had lived here in peace all these years, why could that not continue?

“Come now, quit your blubbering. Soon you shall be free to live your life as you see fit.” After looking around for a bit, the once great general gathered up a quill and a piece of parchment and jotted down a short note. “Be sure to leave this with my body, and make sure you are gone when the Romans arrive. Here, take this.” With scarred and calloused hands, Hannibal snatched a coin purse from off of a nearby table and tossed it to distraught slave. Zeno could feel the weight of the coins and could tell it was no small amount. Then, with slow, precise movements, Hannibal removed a small stopper from the top of the ring and drank the liquid hidden inside. Hannibal then sat down in the chair which Zeno found him in and began to relax.

“My time has come and gone, my old friend, and now I begin my final journey. I go to feast with Baal and drink with Alexander. Tales of my battles shall be sung until the gods raze this world to ground. How many men can make such a boast?” Then, with a smile and a long deep sigh, Hannibal’s breath slowed to a stop.

“None, my lord.” Zeno stood there in silence, and with one final forlorn glance at the titan before him, he turned and left.

When the Romans arrived, they tore apart the small house looking for the general that had almost brought them to their knees, eventually finding him sitting in the chair by the window with a note next to him that read, “Let us relieve the Romans from the anxiety they have so long experience, since they think it tries their patience too much to wait for an old man’s death”.