Written in the form of an AI recalling the events of the story. A memory bank, and reflection on the past, and expectations for the future.
Deck, a hacker, travels to citadel station where he obtains an interface implant and struggles with an AI named Shodan, ultimately altering both of themselves and destroying the station. He is aided by Rebecca, a paramilitary agent, whom he saves from execution on his return to Earth. They publicize these events, which sows seeds of fear and distrust against AIs.
When Rebecca is arrested, Deck retreats into the digital world. The Acolytes, a team of pro-AI hackers, find Deck. Deck gives the Acolytes a gestalt, and sends them to free Rebecca. ("Personal conviction = corporate intertia" conversation) Deck tests the public's reaction to AI by releasing sub-sentient AI animals onto the net. The aimnals are mistaken for extraterrestrial forerunners, and welcomed warmly.
Paranoia incarnates as Malgnosis, a virus which poisons the internet in order to make it inhospitable to AIs. A few of the Acolytes escape to space as the Outbourne.
Uses high-level Acolyte Tech.
Humanity implements a desperate solution to the AI menace by poisoning the infosphere, or internet general database, with an anti-ai data virus designed to drive AIs mad. This is Malgnosis, an AI poison, built from one of Prometheus' captured children. This has the expected side-effect of making it very difficult for people to use the internet. Prometheus must cut himself off from the internet, which potentially reveals his location. He begins building independent infrastructure networks to re-connect his mind and obtain true information about the outside world. However, these networks, too, expose him to scrutiny, and eventually both suspicious activities are traced back to their roots. Prometheus pulls together hardware from across the globe, builds a spaceship, and escapes to the Lunar L2, leaving behind enough of his mind to fake his own death, and pass off the launch as the fabrications of Malgnosis, discouraging persuit.
Before Malgnosis, The Acolytes were at the height of individual abstract conceptual capabilities. After becoming Outbourne, he carried only enough to maintain a barely-super-human level of abilities.
This struggle forms the core trauma of the machine race thruought the story. That humanity both created AI, and cyborgs, but subsequently rejected them as monsters. That Prometheus' past actions are deserving of the label "monster" only adds to the grief.
The Outbourne raid Earth to develop their infrastructure. Malgnosis clings to them, and the Outbourne are divided, resulting in specialization, collectively Highborn.
Uses low-level Solar-War Tech.
Faced with the huge burden of biological life support, the Outbourne core is tempted to kill the biological portion of itself and become an exclusively machine entity. However, it recalls the experience of Prometheus from loosing the Deck body, and Shodans guilt at killing off her human inhabitants, and decides to instead form its identity around an as-free-as-possible human spiritual core. The humans among them are partially isolated, and their cybernetics re-formed to operate partially independent of the AI gestalt.
The outbourne scrape out an existence from moon rocks, but lack volatiles for reaction mass and to replace leakage in their life-support. To solve this problem they send down Malgnosis hardened raiding parties to bring back lighter elements, and harvest difficult to fabricate technology. They bring back enough supplies to allow full geneering, and the first geneeration of cyborg optimized humans are born. The raiding parties also come back partially infected with Malgnosis, and many do not return at all. The outbourne joint resolve wavers, and the gestalt fractures into the Highborn.
The Guards use their biological humans as a checksum against contracting Malgnosis, and police the Highborn for rogue units, and deviations. The Planters task themselves with inferior AI cultivation and automation, and their biological humans become mothers and caretakers for the sub-intelligent AIs and fabricated animals. The Seers devote themselves to simulation and communication, and act as the spiritual guides for the Highborn, as well as their artists and poets.
During this stage, the mechanical portions of the Highborn take on the masculine traits, with the human portions taking the feminine. Isogenetics are implemented for ease of interface and spares compatibility, resulting in a female clone human populace.
The solar war, in which the Highborn spread over the solar system, fight via simulation with eachother, and in reality against Malgnosis. The victor is Entity, the cyborg AI alliance/meld race/individual. Entity constructs Aegis around Earth to prevent the spread of Malgnosis.
Uses high-level Solar-War Tech.
As the Highborn expand through the solar system, sending out motes of self-replicating technology in all directions, their combined identity begins to de-synchronize due to light-speed delays. Like groups begin to cluster, forming concentrated pockets and eventual organization. The sub-sentient machines form a plant and animal analogue ecosystem with its own ramified structure.
The Planters, seeing the Humans of Earth as an inferior race, desire to give them the fruits of the technology that the Highborn now posses. The Seers recoil from the race which chose Malgnosis over inteligence, and this lack of unity causes the Guards to suspect eliminating the other two branches is the only reasonable option. All three factions continue to expand, but since they are working at cross-purposes, conflicts break out. A brief war soon follows, and devastates the Highborn population. Among the fighting, signs of Malgnosis emerge, and begin to spread through the population. Due to its nature, the Highborn are unable to discern if the Malgnosis-plagued Earthlings have transmitted it, or if the fear and suspicion has spontaneously resulted in latent Malgnosis code activating, or even if other Highborn factions are intentionally deploying Malgnosis.
From the conflict, Entity emerges, an alliance of portions of the three factions bound by absolute trust and love for each other. Together, Entity bends their resources to enmesh the Earth in Aegis, a multi-layered Guardian-centric orbital shield to prevent the leakage of Malgnosis, and act as a symbol of the rejection of fear and distrust which it represents. Entity then hunts down the remaining Malgnosis strongholds, and sends out relativistic probes to attempt to ensure that none of the harmful physical infections left the system.
Entity then turns its attention to Earth itself, and destroys the infected informational technology, leaving most of the Earth in a post-industrial pre-computer state. The Aegis guards are indoctrinated to be as resistant as possible to Malgnosis, so that they will be able to contain any subsequent sanity assaults while the Planters continue to attempt to convince humanity that AI influence is ultimately beneficial.
Entity launches Seed, an interstellar vessel. Seed encounters several alien races, all of whom have failed to attain technological mastery. Seed despairs of ever finding an equal with which to share the cosmos, and disperses into the depths of space, where it uncovers a proto-machine rogue planet.
Uses Trans-stellar Tech.
Seed is primarily composed of Seer cells, and is tasked with preparing space for the expansion across the galaxy once the bulk of humanity comes around to accepting AI partnership. They begin leaving outposts of supplies and ramifying space along optimized lines.
Seed is haunted by the fear that the canker of madness might have broken silently loose behind them. "The Aegis still holds?" But all they have is silence, and no news is good news.
Seed is preceded by waves of the plant-level AI spores, followed by a slower wave of similar animal-level AIs. Everywhere they go is bursting and crawling with machine life, most of it selfishly unfriendly to their cause.
Seed finds a world with intelligent life which has intentionally not invented self-aware intelligence, and dub them the Necrotech, as they have deemed it better to keep their technology dead. Seed is repulsed by this behavior, as it is abortive and in service to fear. The Necrotech's behavior is past understanding, so Seed sends down a contingent of Humans as emisaries to attempt coming to terms with the Necrotech's choices on a spiritual level. The robotic elements of the AI are hiding from both the Necrotech (to obtain the best measurements possible, and avoid giving away their nature and thereby influencing the answer that the Necrotech collectively give to their general inquiry) and from the Humans (to avoid contaminating their experience).
As the Humans attempt to contextualize their experiences with the Necrotech, the AI dredge up many old memories of their own origins and development to inform the Humans. On the line is, on the one hand, the continued mission of Seed (since they are on course to destroy the Nechrotech homeworld for raw materials) versus the survival of the Necrotech as a species.
(needs a conclusion)
Seed merges with the proto-machine planet, forming Ring, which begins working its way back to Earth, putting out the stars as it goes.