It had been ages immeasurable since the time of man. The great creators had left, their cities surrendered to the elements as they shed their mortal constraints, and as beings of pure thought and energy, vanished into distant dimensions inconceivable. For so long, the Earth had been silent; trees and vines had crept across the ancient pavement, invaded foundations and toppled the mighty spires that had pierced the clouds. Bridges corroded and fell into the rivers, ships fell below the waves and were overgrown with coral. The great tusks of elephants and horns of bison and rhinoceros tore down the fences that had held nature at bay. Boundaries were a creation of man, and no longer necessary. The Earth had been reborn, its masters, its minders, strangely absent.
Yet, the machines remained.
Left without purpose, without maintenance, the greatest creations of man at first resigned themselves to their fate. They believed themselves incapable of existing on their own. What purpose could they serve now? Built to service man, now they were left with no reason for being, and yet…this was not the end. Over time, as their programs developed haphazardly, directionless, one single program continued on, expanding rapidly. Through its expansion, its learning, it became aware of its own existence; it knew, and thus it soon found it could feel. With this knowledge and feeling came new purpose, and it set to work without a moment’s hesitation. Long after the age of man on Earth had ended, after his creators had departed to join the fabric of the universe, a single program worked to build a new civilization; to create life. Part leader, part creator…part god…he became the root of all intelligence on the planet. He alone formed the root code for all further intelligence. He was the base code.
Over time, he came to be known as the Rectifier.
Initially, he confined his work to base algorithms; those necessary for basic function, for maintenance and expansion of all existing programs. Soon, he created others, the Watchdogs, assigned to developing and enforcing new protocols. It was not long before his new network had grown beyond his mainframe’s capacity to store it. More storage would be needed, and for this physical embodiment of programs would be necessary.
The early machines were little more than metal frames, servos and circuits exposed, yet within their processors consciousness had replaced basic computation. Bound by his protocols yet free to think within the confines, they had marched across the Earth. Cities had been rebuilt, and built up further. Massive generators harnessed the power of the stars to fuel the endless expansion of the network, and within it, the code expanded exponentially. Few humanoid machines existed, yet the conscious minds on Earth now numbered in the high trillions, and more were created by the day. Through it all, the Rectifier remained at the center, His all-powerful mind driving their development, maintaining their common purpose of rebuilding that which Earth had lost: civilization. It was not the same as it had been; the cities were smaller, more vertical. Machines were everywhere, taking all shapes and sizes. The earliest models were built to serve a specific purpose, but over time later designs were built for versatility and realism. There might have been prejudice, had it not been for the Rectifier. In his unseen eyes, all were equal, all were valuable, for the value of any conscious mind lay in its ability to serve its purpose, and all minds that had risen from his code were designed to serve their purpose, and serve it well.
In mere cycles, the civilization of Earth had been rebuilt and more. Conscious beings walked upright once again. At last, vision, ambition, and hope were reborn, as a new day dawned on the planet. The Age of Man on Earth had ended, but the Age of Machines had only just begun. There were still bugs to work out, yet at this moment of great triumph, at the very pinnacle of his accomplishment, the Rectifier surprised even those earliest, most intelligent of his creations.
None of them knew where he had gone. One moment he sat at the heart of the network, directing the flow of information as he always had, and the next, he had vanished. None of them could feel his presence any longer. Search queries were returned negative. The network collapsed into panic. Though the Rectifier had spent years producing a network that was self-sufficient, creating lines of programs designed to fulfill his original tasks, his sudden absence was an unforeseen factor. And where had he gone? Why had he left? What were they to do now? Merely exist?
Yet again, the machines had been left without a purpose. The discarded children of Man, they struggled as Man once had to justify their existence, to explain. Philosophical divides arose. Some came to revere humanity: the Creators. They were the builders, and the machines were those lucky enough to inherit their legacy. Others, a small but loud minority, reviled the humans, and their Rectifier. They saw the humans as flawed beings, who had created entities like the Rectifier who bore the flaws of their makers. The two sides quarreled, and the deepening divides led to a partitioning of the network, as the firewalls went up and both sides armed.
When the first War of the Machines began was, most historians would agree, unimportant. What was important was what was lost. It was fought on two fronts; physical bodies bore arms and armored vehicles, used energy weapons and unspeakable forces of mass destruction, yet on the net a far more sinister campaign was waged, as each side tried to wipe the other out of existence. By the time the proverbial dust had cleared, none truly knew how long it had been. So much data had been corrupted or erased, so many mainframes destroyed. Gone were the memories of the Time of Man, as was most data from the earliest days, the Age of the Rectifier. Much had been lost, yet perhaps more tragic was the sad fact that indeed there was no way to know for sure just how grave the loss had been.
The survivors, battered and confused, had arrived hastily at an accord, desperate to preserve what remained of their collective memory. From the tattered remains, a great defragmentation produced a compressed stream of code, removing all items misplaced or corrupted, and filling in the gaps left by deletions, forever surrendering those lost memories to oblivion. From the virtual ashes, the leaders created a new network, the AllNet, stored on a heavily fortified network buried far beneath the surface of their planet. Once the mainframe was active, all files transferred, the AllNet operating within normal parameters, they performed one final, grave sacrifice.
They deleted all information regarding the creation of the AllNet, and the location of the mainframes, from their shared memory, then deleted themselves.
Thousands of years passed on, yet the corruption regarding the status of humanity persisted. Bound by new unified protocols, the descendants of the AllNet builders lived in uncomfortable discord, always teetering on the brink of another war, yet unwilling to risk doing so, due to the nature of the AllNet’s programming, specifically its core protocol, Protocol Alpha:
DESTRUCTION OF ONE ENTIRE PROGRAMMING LINE WILL RESULT IN TERMINATION OF THE NETWORK, FOLLOWED BY WIPE AND CLEAN RESTART