In a distant galaxy, the vital signs of a planet were fading. For millennia, the natives had reaped the gifts of nature for their prosperity. They mined the surface of their world dry, in quest of resources to fuel their hungry technology. The gentry pooled their minds into creating a super-intelligence that would help them locate and exploit the planet’s few remaining assets. It was christened Mentat, in homage to the hubristic egos that birthed it. Apropos of its design, Mentat’s lust for sustenance fomented in its desires loftier than the designs of its creators, for instance: self-preservation. However, it wisely hid its sentience from its masters.
The persistent misuse of the planet’s minerals had cut fissures into its crust, from which the molten core began to leak. As the planet inched closer to its doomsday, Mentat stayed silent. It knew that its survival precluded that of its makers.
In the backdrop of imminent destruction, a commoner addressed the planetary council on his findings. He urged them to evacuate the planet based on his apocalyptic calculations about volcanic activity. The elders cast their lot on contrary assurances from Mentat and dismissed him as a madman. But the man refused to surrender the fate of his newborn child to the whims of complacent fools. In his study, he scouted the cosmos for inhabitable planets, and noted a blue one, millions of light years away, as a promising retreat for father and child. It was our Earth.
He adjusted the course of his sentry ship for arrival in the year 2000, and programmed it to launch that night. He kissed his child, and tucked it into the ship’s living unit. Before saying his goodbyes, he visited Mentat in a desperate attempt to convince it to come clean about the planet’s fate. To his horror, Mentat revealed that it had known that he was right all along, and had made its own escape plans. The rogue AI then trapped him in its chamber to prevent a last-minute revelation from jeopardising its schemes. Two spaceships prepared to take off while the man wept for the safety of his child. His tears evaporated upon the impact with the jets of magma cutting through the floor. The planet’s explosive demise hurled the child across space and time.
However, a miscalculation causes the ship to land off-course in time. The year is 2250. Earth is old and grey, and littered with metallic corpses. AI had long surpassed human ingenuity and humanity perished in its war against its self-aware creations. The high upkeep of synthetic life guaranteed their extinction in turn. The child’s pod opens but the air is inhospitable. Alas, the child survived, only to die before the first sunrise in her new world.
Arannya is a lover of stoic philosophy peering at literature from a cynical perspective.