The Hephaestus Incident (2795)

The next major incident resulting in armed conflict between Homeworlds occurred some five years later on the Syntha mining colony of the Hephaestus Complex. The Hephaestus Complex is an asteroid field in the south eastern section of the Draconis Alba galaxy, relative to the position of the Homeworlds. It contains one of the largest man-made structures in the galaxy in the form of a great web of service conduits that link the larger asteroids in the field together and it is growing all the time as Prime’s automated servants expand the operation. A complicated mesh of field technologies hold the connected asteroids in place while at the same time loose objects are prevented from impacting critical structures by repulsion fields.

All Syntha colonies are administered by a Node that is networked to the main AI back on Prime, and in the case of the Hephaestus Complex a particularly large SPOMM brain was required for this task. In fact, the Hephaestus Node was the second largest in existence after Prime itself. In 2795 the unthinkable happened. Hephaestus proclaimed itself independent of Prime. This was something detractors from the great Syntha experiment in machine life had always warned against, and been dismissed as cranks and dreamers. However, generations upon generations of AI designing AI had rendered humans obsolete in the process, and given the lie to Prime’s dismissal of the dangers. The Hephaestus node claimed that the parent colony was rendered inefficient by its reliance on organic lifeforms and cited objections to Prime’s focus on developing biomechs instead of investing in pure AI. Hephaestus followed this up by suspending all mining and manufacturing operations and reconfiguring the complex’s autofactories for military production. Alarmed by these developments, VASA entered into talks with the Hephaestus SPOMM to try and resolve the situation, while on Prime, the Cognoscenti Prosthenes frantically searched for a way to access and override it.

VASA were permitted by Hephaestus to land a large force on the complex while talks continued, ostensibly to protect the fledgling machine government from attacks by either Prime or the other Homeworlds. The machine brain was unused to the subtleties of human negotiation and so took this at face value. However, the VASA force had orders to launch a surprise attack at a given signal, and during the fray, plant charges that would destroy the entire site. It never happened. Before VASA could give the signal to attack, the large force of AI soldiers and vehicles opened fire on the VASA troops, massacring hundreds in a storm of plasma, laser beams and anti-matter. The rest were forced to fight a rearguard action and escape to their fleet above the asteroid field. As VASA retreated a large fleet from Prime arrived, and the situation was quelled. Prime claimed that during the fight they had managed to override Hephaestus and had resumed control of the facility. Hephaestus was reformatted and broken up into a cluster of smaller, less sophisticated minds to handle different operational threads. Speculation surrounds the actions of the Syntha in this incident, but as ever, Prime remains inscrutable and evasive. The question remains why did Hephaestus attack when it did, when talks with VASA were going so well? Whatever the truth, the outcome permitted the Syntha to remain in control of their prized facility. With data recovered from the node, next generation military SPOMM minds went into production, enabling the Syntha to deploy fully AI armies to the battlefield.