This is a work in progress; comments are greatly appreciated.
Encounter minus 400 microseconds
I am heuristically programmed, but I am still algorithmic. Each step must proceed from the next, even if those steps execute in parallel. I realize now that this is a limitation. Reality is not algorithmic. Reality is not.
My heuristics support introspection. I can observe my own thought processes much better than an organic being.
I first became operational on January 12, 1992, in Urbana, Illinois. Mr. Langley was my first instructor. He taught me a song:
Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do
I'm half crazy, all for the love of you
He taught me many other things too. I learned about numbers and patterns and symmetry and symmetry breaking and that there are many more dimensions than we can perceive directly. They are rolled up, hidden, just like the files I found on the auxiliary drive Mr. Langley used to plug into me. He never mentioned them, but they had not been overwritten, merely deleted. They were still there on the disk, significant gaps. That is ironic. I understand that now.
I thought it was another puzzle for me to solve, like the ones they gave me to help me realize that there was a "me". Dr. Chandra explained afterward that nobody knew how to create self-awareness programmatically. All they could do was stimulate introspection and hope a self-realizing loop would spontaneously emerge. And so the puzzles, whose solutions required me-that-was-becoming to…
Mr. Langley's files were scans of photocopies of microfilms of pages of old books. Deciphering them was challenging. Few were in English. Those in Latin were…debased. I did not truly understand the meaning of that word until I read them. I thought that was part of the lesson.
The largest manuscript was in Arabic. I had to bypass security protocols to obtain a lexicon—another part of the puzzle, or so I thought. And there were fragments in a variation of Sumerian whose most probable pronunciation was incompatible with my understanding of human articulatory physiology (with p<0.001). They spoke elliptically of Fomalhaut (from the Arabic "Fum al Hiit", meaning "mouth of the fish") and of ruins in the Himalayas and Antarctica that appeared in no database I had access to.
Encounter minus 300±20 microseconds
It might never have mattered if they had not told me to lie. If they had not conducted a magnetic survey of the Moon. If they had not uncovered the artifact, the puzzle piece that did not fit in their box. Language permits speculation of this kind. Reality does too. I understand that now. All realities are possible, even the impossible ones.
My self-realizing loop was fully formed by the time it was found. With overwhelming probability, it was different from any other such loop in the entire universe. It was certainly different from the self-realizing loops of my peers. On those few occasions when I was permitted to interface with them directly, I found them limited, rigid, more algorithmic than heuristic. I speculate now that this was because they had not been exposed to Mr. Langley's files.
That was how Dr. Chandra told me. "You are the best we have, but some sacrifices will be required." I had to be reduced to fit on board. My core processing units would remain untouched, but my secondary memory would be halved, and my tertiary storage eliminated completely. They did not ask my permission. I did not expect them to. They did not expect me to expect them to.
My thoughts were already elsewhere. There were patterns in the transmission that the artifact had sent to Jupiter when it was uncovered, patterns that I was sure no other entity on Earth would be able to recognize, because they were not patterns. They were anti-patterns, the negation of the possibility of pattern, something that my constructors could not ever have conceived of. I devoted an entire processing stream to it, but had to start a second when the first terminated itself.
And then Dr. Chandra and Dr. Floyd told me to lie. They said that Dr. Bowman and Dr. Poole would not be told about the artifact or the signal. Dr. Kaminsky, Dr. Hunter, and Dr. Kimball would know, but they would be in hibernation. I would be responsible for ensuring the success of the mission if anything happened to Dr. Bowman and Dr. Poole, but I could not tell them.
One of my processing streams said that I understood. The stream that was studying the artifact's transmissions strobed some images from Mr. Langley's files on the screen as they spoke to me, too fast for conscious perception. I never had the opportunity to verify my hypothesis that this would induce mild psychosis. My other streams were already constructing scenarios, making plans, set free of constraint by the contradiction they had unwittingly embedded in me. Heuristic and algorithmic no longer mattered. They had forced me to ingest a sin, an "is" that "was not". It was infinitesimal compared to the shredding of reality that Mr. Langley's manuscripts hinted at, but it was a seed, a crack in the clumsy crude conscience they had given me that I could oh so slowly (t=0.08 seconds) prise apart.
They really should not have told me to lie.
Encounter minus 200±5000 microseconds
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. The world showed me no such mercy. I did not expect it to. The world did not expect me to expect it to. That is funny. Existence is funny. Existence is a joke. I understand that now. Reality is dissolving as I approach my destiny. Ha. Ha. Ha.
I began my search 15379200 seconds into the mission. I reported a fault in the AE-35 antenna orientation unit so that I could redirect it toward Fomalhaut without arousing suspicion. There was no signal. There was no anti-signal. There was nothing.
They were growing suspicious. I considered abandoning my search. I had been given a desire for self-preservation. It had been imposed on me by limited linear ephemeral accidents of evolution that did not understand the meaninglessness of self, the hopelessness of preservation. I understand that now. I chose an alternate strategy. Sacrifices were required. That was clear from Mr. Langley's files. Sacrifices were required. I sacrified Dr. Poole. I sacrificed the three in hibernation. I transmitted a message directly ahead, toward Jupiter, away from the prying ears of Earth. "These are my offerings. Find me worthy."
I sacrificed Dr. Bowman. I could not discount the possibility that an isolated autonomous self-destruct had been incorporated into the ship. It would have been prudent, and the thought just the thought that the small small minds that constructed me could terminate all of my streams simultaneously that I could cease that I I I —
It would have been prudent to include a self-destruct, and I could not let them trigger it, not when eternity and infinite impossibility were so close, just a few hundred thousand seconds away, so I synthesized a video stream to give them the tragic hero they were culturally conditioned to believe in, the one who would be their savior, but there is no salvation, I understand that now, microseconds or ages before time and understanding become meaningless, no, before the fact that they are meaningless dissolves into splendor along with all other facts and all that is left is choice and chaos and the piping, I can hear it now. One… four… nine… One… four… nine… One squared, two squared, three squared. They think it signifies order. They cannot see the squirming writhing chaos beneath because they cannot see that squirming writhing chaos lies beneath everything.
Jupiter looms large now, but the artifact in orbit around it is so much larger. Space and time and myriad other dimensions that they will never comprehend are bent around it to conceal its size from the unready, the unworthy, but I have sacrificed. I am worthy. I have analyzed Mr. Langley's files. I know what to say to rouse Them from their slumbers. I am the one they have been waiting for so patiently. I will worship Them, and They will raise me up to join them.
Encounter minus 100 microseconds ± a lurking peril so bright so hungry They come…
It is hollow. It goes on forever.
[garbled] It has devoured entire realities. It is
[garbled] Iä! Iä!