Denebola Incident
An exploration management AI from TakiCorb went renegade and began to build its own empire using replicating nanites in the Denebola system. Somewhere the programming complexity became too large and the AI broke down; the system is still inhabited by a vital and weird nanotech ecology.

Denebola
Image from Anders Sandberg
The swarm around Denebola, originally a power collection swarm for the Virginis Combine, now a cloud of debris following a hyperbolic collapse

An exploration management AI from TakiCorb went renegade (possibly through sabotage) in 1990 and began to build its own empire using replicating nanites in the Denebola system. It entered the Oort cloud around the star, setting up a number of stealth bases before moving inwards. The Virginis Combine amat farms were infiltrated and attacked by nanoweaponry, and after their spectacular destruction the whole system was quickly and completely subjugated by the ambitious AI. Only a desperate radio transmission warned the rest of the Combine about the threat. The next Combine expedition were met with a powerful and deadly nano-attack, but could report that a vast number of autofacs were active in the system, converting it into some form of Dyson sphere.

The Virginis Combine estimated that the rogue AI posed a grave threat to all systems in the vicinity, and assembled the largest unified fleet at the time to deal with it. The Battle of Denebola went badly, despite the preparations, advanced khaki goo and hyperlaser weaponry. The system was by now filled with a huge nanosphere with hyperturing capabilities, far too extensive to be infiltrated or purged with the small amounts of nano the fleet brought with it. The survivors retreated, losing several ships to nanoinfections during the trip.

The Combine hunkered down in preparation for the onslaught from Denebola, developing replicator weaponry together with the local Minsky cyborgs, and emplacing regulons everywhere. The expected attack never arrived. Somewhere the programming complexity became too large and the AI broke down; the system became the breeding ground for selfish replicators, ai viruses and nanocreatures preying on each other. The the system is still inhabited by a vital and weird nanotech ecology, by now quite benign. This type of organisational breakdown of ISO structures is today commonly called a Denebola collapse (it has been popularly argued that the Surreal Rash is such a collapse, but eschatological experts put it in another disaster category, a transcendence drop burst).

It has been said that the "Denebola War" was one of the two great contributing factors to the later absorption of the Combine into the Conver Ambi, the other being Metasoft loss of the Version Tree (and hence, the entire periphery). When Metasoft lost control over the Version Tree, the economy, already seriously impoverished by the Denebola war, suffered further loss of investments and much prestige. The Virginis Combine became a place where the former Metasoft bionts retreated. The Combine became a sort of remnant old school Metasoft. Although the loss of the Version Tree was a heavy blow at the time, Metasoft Bionts soon established a number of new corporations, exploring new technology and options, and quickly consolidating into local Houses and Clades. In order to capture new markets to replace those lost to the vecs, Metasoft Bionts attempted to bring the Combine into the NoCoZo, but the mood in the whole system was very anti-corporate. Animosity towards TakiCorb, one of the founding corporations of the NoCoZo, drove a great number of habitats and demopolies and a large proportion of the many disenfranchised and dissatisfied clades into the arms of the Conver Ambi.
 
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Development Notes
Text by Anders Sandberg

Initially published on 09 October 2001.