Working with only a few days of oxygen, surrounded by the inner workings of the ship's highly experimental crystal-matrix AI and armed with some of the most powerful scientific minds of their generation, the crew of the Binata chose a cold kind of life over death by suffocation. They accelerated the growth process of the crystal beyond safety parameters, and it quickly filled the chamber--simply growing through and assimilating the nerve structure of each human it encountered.
The shipboard AI and the minds of the crew fused, generating a new collective intelligence that was able to subsist on starlight and micrometeorite matter. The Binata Complex was born.
At least, that's how the Binata Complex claimed it happened, when it limped into port at Kappa Ceti nearly a thousand years later. By that time, faster ships had long since leapfrogged it, and the East Rim Consortium was growing in power, but no one had ever seen an entity like the Complex.
With more raw material available to it, the Binata Complex was soon repaired and enhanced, capable of modern-speed spaceflight. It gained significant influence as an interstellar courier and occasional ambassador, with its effective immortality and vast knowledge serving it more formidably than any weapon. Its second disappearance, just after the Kelvodian Exile, was suspiciously convenient for certain parties jockeying for power--though it is unknown if any single faction of the time could have actually destroyed the Complex. It has never reappeared since.
The only reason for doubting the Complex's account of its own emergence is its very singularity: no other solid-state AI has ever attained its level of intelligence, and attempts to recreate the conditions that gave birth to it have inevitably ended in disaster. Requests to verify its origin story by direct investigation were met with polite refusal, followed shortly by massive retaliation.
One of the many odd footnotes in the Complex's existence is the matter of the time and place where its host, the Binata Colony Ship, was first damaged by the asteroid, and where the subsequent genesis of its collective sentience took place. Working independently, Alexander Ducant and [Xerxes Smith]? both pinpointed almost exactly the same set of space-time coordinates. Smith was working with data furtively scanned from the Complex, astronomical surveys and ancient historical records; Ducant used only the predictive methods outlined in his own Case for Bifurcation.