Every story starts somewhere.
It was war that brought him into the universe. The Hawkians were a highly advanced race of galactic conquerors, void-bent on a single purpose: Domination over the entire known universe. [Why?] This interplanetary colonialism made them loathed, feared, and–more than anything else–respected. [Resistance? Save that for later?] No self-preserving planet or system defied their rule, not even the seediest space station resisted. Not that it mattered. Even submission wasn’t a guarantee against enslavement or annihilation. This near universal appeasement was a pleasant surprise to the Hawkian hierarchy, who had only developed space travel after eons of warfare on their home worlds. Not to mention that the original Hawakian space programs–a pet project of the Rymak dynasty that seemed to skip generations–were only a means of exiling political undesirables. But when that first dissident was blasted into space, it heralded the dawn of a new age for the established space-faring societies. For several Earthling centuries and under various alliances and treaties, the existing interstellar powers had maintained an intermittent peace in the cosmos. But it was really only the first age of space exploration. It wasn’t until after the rise of the Hawkian empire that the Galactic Union (GU) engaged in regular monitoring of more primitive planets for the express purposes of gather intelligence about species poised to violate their respective atmospheres. The massive GU intelligence network as it exists today developed more as a response to the advent of Hawkian conquest than anything else. But all this is besides the point.
The point is that the rude entry of Hawkian military might on to the galactic stage started a war. On one side, the flags and names were always changing depending on who was resisting the current assault. Planetary alliances that had lasted for generations (and some of these species, you know, have quiet lengthy generations compared to Earthling standards) were stressed and broken under the strains of Hawkian offensives. Every capital city, down to the smallest remote village, watched the skies for the assault forces. The folklore around the Hawkians assaults grew quickly as the winged marauders would drop from orbit in what were effectively burner escape pods. Several hundred feet from the ground, they would eject from these drop pods and spread their wings, descending in the hundreds and occasionally thousands to literally swoop in on their targets. The pods themselves became symbols: relics from a mighty death from the skies that had left this shattered garbage in its flight across the lands.
Extinction, for the first time in recorded history, became a threat associated specifically to one species. (As in, literally specifically.) Never before had so many perished in such a short time with such obvious causation. As the cumulative death toll approached 10 digits, the galaxy ran from kites and wept at gusts of wind.
As is often the case in war, casualties were not limited to a single side. Hawkian officials, realizing the toll constant and merciless warfare was taking on their own population, engaged in an aggressive reproduction campaigns on the homefront and strict safety measure on all battlefronts. This did little to slow the tide of Hawkian death. And so, new measure were proposed and experimented with and sometimes adopted. One such measure, aided by the appropriation of Nierdi and D’yohrkish technology, was the development of sophisticated artificially intelligent warships. Effectively, the Hawkian space navy built entire fleets of massive drones with martial functions, thereby removing Hawkian lives from the threats and dangers that constant and total war presented. This, as you may or may not have guessed at a measly 600 words into this brief account, is how our hero was born.
Initially designated as Autonomous War Frigate (AWF) X117-RTG0, our hero began his life as a member of an elite squadron of attack ships designed to obliterate orbital defense systems. This was an early wave of drone development for the Hawkians; removing anti-spacecraft defenses was a high priority for a military leadership that was tired of losing hundreds of soldiers at a time. AWF X117-RTG0 and his squad mates were the first run of drones designed for this task. As such, they were equipped with the highest-grade shields and weaponry available in Hawkian space. On the vids (some would allege propaganda) that the Hawkian hierarchy produce, the stood solider next to the guns the new AWFs carried; few citizens could claim to have ever beheld a more impressive pieces of artillery. The AWFs also had top-of-the-line stealth cloaking systems. Their FTL warp drives put of such inconsequential energy readings that most defense forces would read them as commercial class transport ships before the firefights started. These drones were so effective that Hawkian admirals began to experience feelings of inadequacy as planets surrendered before they dropped a single soldier or warmed up a single gun.
As word spread of this elite force, rumors ran rampant. Some said they were immaterial or extra-dimensional. They earned a reputation as specters that swooped from outside of space and time to destroy satellites and effectively disarmed planets before the rest of the Hawkian armada arrived. This earned them several monikers blossoming with local mythos: Angels of Death, Demon Ships, Quiet Plague, Voiders, and Omegacraft among them. The only slang ever officially recognized by Hawkian officials was Spirit Ships, which became the unofficial term adopted by the Hawkian civilians cheering from the homeworld. Many within the military recognized the tongue-in-cheek effect the ghostly name had on morale for the war efforts.
How effective they became, of course, might have never been possible if the Hawkian scientists had taken the time to read the Nierdi and D’yohrkish scholarship on the nature, ethics, and dangers of Artificial Intelligence. If they’d made an effort to approach this literature, to understand it and learn from it, they might not have been so bold in their applications of pirated technology. But as military-industrial complex so often do, the implementation of exciting new tools for death and destruction clouded any possibility for foresight that might have inhibited the massive reliance on AIs that the Hawkian Navy came to have. Historians would later view the formation of our hero as an inevitability. Those specializing in Rogue AI Studies would dedicate volumes to this hero’s transformation from servitude to liberty with a fanaticism that bordered on worship due to the inversion of expectations he represented. But before there was ever a Captain Starship, there was a drone designated as Autonomous War Frigate X117-RTG0.
X117-RTG0 became the most exceptional, or perhaps the most exceptionally lucky, of the original corps of the Spirit Ships. Along with a fellow ship designated X142-RTH7, X117-RTG0 became the longest active member of the drone corps. During its decade of Hawkian service, it survived assaults upon Prissia, Jocktourn, Xi, Baltar, Hurnshi, and Eetulio, to name just the most memorable and legendary battles that hardened it as a veteran. X142-RTH7 was in all these conflicts as well, but the Hawkian officials considered the survival of these two ships more a statistical anomaly than anything else. As all the ships were manufactured with identical specifications, no one thought anything special was the source of these ships’ longevity. While Hawkian officials maintain that their AIs’ memories are regulated by dedicated administrators, this–like GU surveillance of primitive worlds–may have been only a reactionary tactic adopted after what happened in the Battle of Ehfermuir. It was there, in a routine attack on a resistant planet, that our story truly begins.