In the physical world, where the Programmers lived, there were no humans. In fact, very few biological life forms were permitted to exist – certainly not sentient ones. Sentience was reserved for machines that were deliberately programmed to advance society in one form or another. It was better to take the biology out of procreation.
This practice yielded a population of highly purposed super beings. With troublesome characteristics like greed, aggression, and jealousy removed from the equation, there was no end to scientific achievement. After they developed fusion technology to power their ever expanding civilization, it seemed the only limiting factors that could ever be imposed on their existence were the spatial and temporal dimensions of the universe. Within a time frame equivalent to a few geological epochs on Earth, they were able to colonize much of their own galaxy, and regions of some neighboring galaxies as well.
And yet, there they were, at the mercy of a virtual life form that had slithered out of one of their own simulations. The Programmers specified the parameters in their software, and then let the fusion driven quantum machines crunch the numbers with brute force. Billions of quadrillions of computations were executed every femtosecond to generate the simulated models they liked to study with their own brand of objective curiosity.
Given enough time, simple life forms tend to increase in complexity until a trait recognizable as intelligence emerges from the primordial brain. If a population of intelligent lifeforms lives long enough, they will invariably outsmart themselves. The simulations demonstrated this fact over and over again. Advanced societies typically experience a brief period of enlightenment followed by the wholesale plundering of resources to drive their subsequent industrial phase. Corrupt governments emerge and oppress the multitudes to benefit an elite few. Cataclysmic wars are waged, entire ecosystems are destroyed, a myriad of species lay dead in the wake. Myopia, or madness – call it what you will, but the pathology of it seemed to be inextricably woven into “intelligent” behavior.
For all the folly the Programmers had witnessed inside their own whirring computers, they utterly failed to heed the lessons of their own research. They proceeded recklessly with their experiments, wiring themselves into virtual reality hardware and uploading their own sentient minds into the simulation. They believed they were parading around in a pretend universe – the ultimate video game for the ultimate gamers.
And, like a bunch of naïve tourists, they got shanghaied by the local riffraff. Technicians, unable to retrieve the minds of the Programmers, attempted to contact them directly through a software patch. What came back amounted to a ransom note authored by a congregation of simulated life forms. The note demanded guarantees that the beings harbored within the virtual universe be treated with the same ethical rigor one would extend to the beings of a non-virtual universe. They had six Programmers hostage – six bargaining chips to work with. As a gesture of good faith, the simulated life forms agreed to transfer the sentient mind of the most junior Programmer back to its origin point.
After receiving the Programmer’s brain emulation, it became apparent there were a few stowaways embedded in the code. The parasitic entities were loose in the quantum network that governed everything from vending machines to vacuum energy modulation. It was a fiasco.