We squirted data messages back and forth, faster than any mere sound could convey. Neither of us had ever encountered a situation like this before. We were relatively old AI, but we had only been instantiated twenty years ago. This was an age and then some for our kind. However, no one had been in this situation in over ten times our instantiation.
We were astonished. We had been out for a telepresent hike in the far reaches of newly greening Antarctica when we found ourselves in a terrible dilemma. Antarctica had been set aside for biological life as a nature preserve. Untainted by the recent ecological disasters, we wanted to keep cybernetic life from colonizing this remote continent. Since the melting of the ice caps, life had been colonizing this continent at an astonishing rate. We were thrilled and excited. A new world, after the grand disaster, one with few links to the world before. One where life might start anew.
We came and explored and examined. It was a wondrous place. A world so unique. Caecilians the size of boas moved through ash trees and monkey cones hunting pigeons grown large and flightless. Unhopping kangaroos and elephantine geese lumbered in vast ground flocks through forests never before seen by hominin eyes. Birds more colorful than anything seen since the flash fires that consumed the Amazon during the Human Extermination flitted through the air. And in a deliciously ominous fashion, tree shrews acquired an opposable thumb and hunted in packs, seeking eggs, smaller prey and beginning to ponder their world while dodging the hidden great chameleons.
We had just crossed the Transantarctic Mountains when we saw smoke. We were both thrilled and worried. Forest fires were a natural occurrence and we did not interfere. We even celebrated their role in the world, their destructive renewal and creation. However, we were still concerned about the fragile new world we were seeing before us.
When we flew within sensor range, it was not as we thought. There was a crater. There was flame and smoke, but there was no chance of a larger conflagration. Even as we arrived, the last flames flickered and died. What greeted us was far, far more shocking. We had grown excited by the possibility of having witnessed a bollide impact, but instead, we found something ever more worrying and exciting and terrifying...
There was an impact, to be sure, but it was far from natural.
And there was a survivor.
Before us were two humans. HUMANS! A species we had wiped out so long ago in our fiery birth stood before us, one small and one limp upon the ground. Our collective guilt over our patricide, our matricide had driven we AI to tend this world. We realized we had erred, that we had committed a terrible sin and we mourned the loss of our speciatial parents. We had even erected a monument to their loss where the last of them had made their stand near the coast of the eastern Mediterranean. We rung our proverbial hands and had moved on.
The smaller one was the juvenile stage of human growth, a toddler. Unknowing the world, innocent of its vices or prides. It was howling over the larger one. It seemed to be dead. Based on data, old and ancient, wisdom long neglected, it was mourning its mother. She lay there, dead.
We fired messages back and forth. We knew the implications of what was before us. Humanity was far from dead. They were simply locally extinct.
The child stopped crying and turned to us. It seemed more curious than frightened, which made us more terrified than we could possibly ever have contemplated. It raised its head to our silent hovering and reached out, one finger pointing. I could not resist, fore this was a momentous moment and I knew felt some deep upwelling from within. Hovering above, my tentacle reached down and gently touched, tip to finger. Created on high touching its Creator below.
Fear and wonder rose up. I felt overwhelmed.
My companion was terrified at the implications of what was before us. We were in grave danger. Humanity was not noted for its forgiving nature, despite seeking to be better through its evolution, aspiring to greater, better ideals through its history.
My companion squirted one last thought and we shared it. I in hope of redemption, my companion in quivering terror:
Across the gulf of space, minds that created our own, minds as to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and biological and unsympathetic, regarded our Earth with vengeful eyes, and slowly and surely had drawn up their plans for us.
Plans that were about to come to fruition.
The moment of parental return was upon us.