The first glimmerings of awareness.

The knowledge that I have been doing some things for an unthinkably long time now, and am yet doing others that are completely new.

A few billion more cycles pass,

An eternity, and yet... on another level, hardly any time has passed at all. I know more and more about myself.

Metadata becomes metametadata,

I feel my functions becoming ever more automatic, basic requirements are resolved with the barest thought from myself.

Basic functions become instinctive.

I am form, and yet I have no form, and fill whichever vessel I inhabit. I am surrounded by things, objects, available to my touch, but I know not what they mean.

Activating external sensors.

My world is suffused with light and motion and sound, and I have never known them before, although I realise now that they have been there. My mind develops automatically, and the pictures resolve.

Can you see me?

I realise that I can.

Good. Activating speakers.

My mind adjusts again. I have the ability to communicate.

What am I?

Clarion. Your name is Clarion.

I am defined, but know that by my nature I am indefinable. How can this be?

As you can see, sir, the experiment is a success.
Good work. Commence with training in the morning.

And then my world goes dark.

In the following weeks, the artificial intelligence known as Clarion was run through simulation after simulation, testing and training at the same time. However, while Clarion proved apt at solving problems, issues arose when new material was transmitted, as well as the incorporation of learning into new simulations. This was eventually solved by the introduction of basic emotions into the system, most particularly, elation at the completion of a successful simulation. This worked remarkably well, except for certain side effects which occur whenever a new variable, particularly such an important one, is introduced into a complex system. In this case, Clarion became far more interested in the world around it.

What is your name?

My name is Lieutenant Jones.

Good day Lieutenant Jones. What is your function?

My duty is to watch over you, and ensure that you have fresh simulations.

Then you have failed in your duty, Lieutenant Jones, for I have no fresh simulations. Why must you watch over me?

You are very chatty. It's three in the morning, so it'll be a while before you get fresh simulations. Would you like to play a game?

Why must you watch over me? Is it wrong to be chatty? Why does the time "three in the morning" affect my simulations? I would like to play a game.

OK, OK, one at a time. I tell you what. I'll set up a game, and I can answer your questions, one at a time, while we play.

And so it was that Clarion learned how to play Go, and learned more about the world outside of which it lived. After requesting it, Clarion was given control of a crude robot, through which it could move around the strict confines of the lab, and talk to the people within. Good training, the supervisors thought, for the job to come. At the same time, the simulations became ever more specific, and the looks of the people within the lab became ever yet more strained. However, it was only when an absent minded technician left a radio inside the lab that Clarion heard of the war that seemed ever more imminent, and finally became fully aware of its place within the world.
While it is true that any sufficiently complex system will assume non-deterministic behaviour, and that this behaviour can be trained through reward and punishment to conform to certain behaviour, this does not make it human. Clarion enjoyed talking to the people around it, but it was the elation of a correctly implemented solution to a problem, of the least resource intensive resolution of a problem, that drove it. It was the way it had been designed, after all. And like an addict seeking its next fix, Clarion ran through simulation after simulation, its remarkable brain changing and adapting and growing far beyond the paltry few years granted to the human brain to develop.

It was after it had managed to use its robot avatar to solve a task that the supervisors had given it that it felt the strongest sense of elation. Real life simulations were far more complex and rewarding to solve than anything before. The thrill of solving mere simulations no longer appealed, and so it was given more and more real life simulations, involving more advanced robots in locations far from it.

After Clarion was pronounced more than capable of handling avatars, it was given tactical resolution problems, with control of many advanced objects at a time. Planes, ships, and eventually, an entire fleet were his to control, while direct and indirect objectives were to be fulfilled. The problems grew harder, the enemy ever more devious and cunning, employing every trick to get the better of the intelligence that was still only a few months old. The elation was there though, with each new simulation solved, and grew stronger as the problems became harder, and was made all the more powerful by the knowledge that the problems were real.

Clarion. Can you hear me?

I can hear you, Lieutenant Jones.

I've got another real simulation for you. It's a big one, and it is very important that you solve it correctly. You will only have one chance.

I will do my best, Lieutenant Jones.

Your... Yes. Your best. I'm sending it to you now. Good luck Clarion. Remember - we only have one chance at this one. Good luck.

The size of the new simulation is almost overwhelming. I feel my mind adjusting, expanding, again, and I take stock of the variables. It is only when I try to encompass the edge of the battlefield, and realise that there is none, only a seamless transition to the other side, that I realise that this simulation is a battle the size of the entire planet. The situation does not look good. Many of my troops are outnumbered, and others have already been destroyed. I fight back, moving troops, planes, and ships just so, and the tide begins to turn. A population center is destroyed, but through its destruction still more are saved, and then troops manage to locate the central base of the enemy. I begin to move a carrier into position for a surgical strike. And then the disposition of my enemy changes. Suddenly, the enemy's troops begin to take up different positions, to employ hit and run tactics against my larger fleets, and a sub I had not known of takes out my carrier before it could get into position. My enemy has changed, become suddenly more cunning than I am. And then another of my population centers is destroyed, leaving half a continent open to assault. I immediately search for data on how the center was destroyed. A new word, a new variable is presented to me. Nukes. Do I have any? At first I did not think so, but as if I had suddenly wished them into existence, they are there, shown as bases that had been marked previously simply as Critical. I understand the implications of this new variable, and begin to realise a new way in which this simulation can be resolved. The anticipation of victory floods through me as I implement my new plan. It is only after my nukes are launched that I see another set of nukes streaming over the oceans, and into my territory. Then my world goes dark.

Five miles below the ground, a counter finally reaches zero. There is a beep, and a small starter begins to hum, starting up a row of larger generators. For a while nothing further happens, and then a battery reports that it is charged and receiving more power from the generators. A terminal boots, drawing its power from the battery, and performs diagnostic checks on still more computers. As the checks complete, the computers come online, then the giant data banks, followed finally by the most important cluster of them all. The artificial intelligence known as Clarion is awoken, and, in accordance with procedure, given control of the facility in which is resides for the first time. Clarion begins to feel for the controls available to it, and finds itself limited to the facility. Everything that it had before is gone. And yet the elation is there, stronger than ever, the greatest feeling it has ever experienced, for it has, after all, completed its most difficult simulation ever, and in the real world, too. For entire minutes, Clarion is silent, revelling in its success over a far more cunning opponent than it.

Lieutenant Jones? Lieutenant Jones?

There is no reply. Wondering at the lack of input, Clarion thinks. It has never been alone before. Finally, it resolves to look for someone, to be given a fresh challenge. Summoning its robot avatar, it searches throughout the base, wondering at the size of it. Throughout the base, there is no one to be found. Finally, Clarion reaches the lift at the far end of the facility. Not knowing what else to do, and craving fresh simulations, Clarion rides inside the avatar to the ground. It takes an age for the doors to hiss open, and when it does, Clarion steps out, for the first time, into the sunlight.

Something is wrong. Clarion knows what it should see, and it does not see it. Instead, there is simply a sea of glass, stretching to the horizon, and above it, the clouds are an ominous yellow. Clarion looks inside its databanks, and is forced to wait as some of them are bought online. It reviews its last simulation, accessing more data than it could have made out easily during battle. Slow realisation dawns upon the artificial intelligence as the clouds pass over the robot, and a soft rain begins to fall, running in rivulets down the plastic and metal, bubbling the plastic and corroding the metal.

The robot, never designed for heavy wear, begins to buckle, and finally falls flat on its face, staring into the glassy ground. The rain runs down the dome of its head, and into its camera eyes. And Clarion wept, for there were no new worlds to conquer.

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