The great machine approached the dead planet with reverence, descending to the edge of its ionosphere. There it hovered with infinite patience. Searching. Recording temperatures, atmospheric conditions, radiation levels, and orbital speed. Scanning for any and all signs of life or sentience.

Just as it had been programmed to do.

In its current state, the machine appeared to be a long, trapezoidal bar; dark, metallic, and smooth. Light from the nearest star reflected off its surface, making it look aglow with energy. It waited until the planet completed one full rotation, then collated its data:

There had been life. Once, but no more.

Noiseless, the machine began to mutate. Slats appeared along its massive length, and from its center both ends pushed outward...growing...curling...until its ends met and fused, forming a perfect circle with no end and no beginning.

Then it descended ever further, forming a ring around the dead, ring-less planet.

Again, the machine waited; every molecule vibrating from a constant stream of information. Inside its artificial imagination, the machine soared through the planet's sky, burrowed into the crust, and immersed itself in bodies of liquid. Learning. Knowing. Understanding. It saw how the planet formed—nothing new to its memory function—and how life first appeared; also not new, but very rare. It saw how the microscopic plant and animal life became macroscopic, forming a symbiotic relationship between them. It saw great beasts rise up in a harsh, predatory world. Then, disaster. Gigantic mineral formations slamming down. Falling temperatures, crystallizing the liquid. It saw mass extinction, then rebirth. New life began. Smaller this time; less bestial but just as savage. A dominant species emerged; warm blooded, capable of thought and learning. Hence, this species evolved. In time, they began to build. They began to create. They began to change their world.

But always, their habit of enslaving and destroying each other remained.

A strange species, the machine decided. Capable of astounding visual and written works, yet capable of atrocious violence—against both themselves and the myriad species around them. Their technology focused on communication, but failed to overcome their natural divisions. Strange deities of their own design presided over them, influencing them. Even their growing knowledge of the universe didn't help. Belief in what the machine understood as non-corporeal, non-quantifiable, and nonsensical ideas fueled this species, and somehow couldn't be shed. In the end, they overpopulated and polluted themselves into extinction.

The cycle of this planet they in their various languages had called: Earth.

Now, having absorbed all it could, the machine had a question to answer:

Are they worth restoration?

By they, the machine meant the dominant species. The ones called: Human. All other Earth species represented a curiosity. Other than historical artifacts and aesthetic stimulation, they had little value to any other planet or already thriving civilization. The machine would bring their protein sequences back and let its creator decide.

But the Humans...

Given their propensity for illogical behavior, can Humans coexist with other life?

The machine pulsed with thought. To determine the overall worth of Humans, it would have to apply the equation its creator had endowed it with:

Do the best of their actions equal the worst of their actions?

Deliberating, the machine delved deep into Human history. They had kept near immeasurable records in both solid and electronic form. More information than any one of them could consume in a lifetime. Too much, the machine decided; most of it worthless. But through their records it sensed an overwhelming hopelessness and lack of true insight. Sad, the machine decided.

A sad, strange species.

But the worst of their actions could be pinpointed in a microsecond. A time just before the apex of their technology, the Humans had gone to war. A needless, pointless conflict. Not their first, not their last, but by far the worst. Great numbers of them tortured, deprived of basic essentials, and destroyed in the name of this strange Human term: Politics. Politics, the machine observed, seemed to thrive off of Human greed and hatred. But one of their many divisions. And during this war, in the name of Politics, a subspecies of Humans tried to exterminate another subspecies. This event changed much of Earth and its Human inhabitants. The Human survivors never forgot it, and their pain echoed even now upon Earth's dead surface.

So much pain in so little time.

The machine pulsed. What positive event could equal this? To do so, the event would have to be far reaching, altering untold Human lives for the better in the process. And this alteration couldn't be trivial or transient. It had to have true and lasting meaning.

Another microsecond passed. The machine pulsed.

It found nothing. Nothing to equal this negative event in Human history. And though these Humans learned from their mistakes, sometimes, the machine noted, they learned the wrong lessons. Thus, the equation failed.


Not worth restoration.

The machine pulsed.

Determined action?

The machine pulsed.


Then a bright, shimmering light issued forth. This light enveloped Earth in a pristine supernova, and the planet disappeared, leaving a vast expanse of space in its wake. As if Earth had never existed at all. In time, the other planets orbiting the nearest star would shift due to the lack of Earth's gravitational pull. Perhaps one or more of those planets would change as a result, and perhaps life would once again thrive. If so, perhaps a new species would dominate, and perhaps they would transcend where Humans failed.

But possibilities didn't concern the machine. Having completed its current mission, it reformed into its trapezoidal bar shape, and disappeared in a bright flash of that same shimmering light.

Intent on finding suitable life elsewhere in the vast universe.

—May 1st, 2016

Jesse Rucilez

Jesse Rucilez

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