Overmind’s query interrupted Observer’s study of the humans. “Are they ready for assimilation?”
Another query flowed into Observer’s neural network. “They show no sign of evolution?”
Through the shimmering glow of the field that hid them from view, Observer watched the room full of humans, milling, crying, and talking with one another. In the midst of embraces, patting of shoulders and the shaking of hands, sat a box which contained the body of a human who had ceased to exist. Beside the box stood a young girl and an older woman locked in a tight embrace. Tears flowed down their faces.
“Our original estimations failed to correctly account for their unsystematic rate of evolution. They have not yet advanced to anything resembling our state.”
Overmind said, “Current projections reveal our total degradation is imminent. We must assimilate new members into our system. Our observations of this solar system must continue.”
Observer became aware of Overmind accessing its visual data. Another query formed. “What is their prime directive?”
Humans flowed to the woman and child, touching, speaking, and sharing tears.
“They exist by consuming various mixtures of oxygen, hydrogen and carbons. Clarify.”
Observer scanned the thousand years worth of data it had gathered since noticing the humans as a possibility for assimilation. “They seek to continue their existence.”
“They exist and then cease to exist. There is no continuing without evolving. They fail their prime objective.”
“They would disagree.”
The humans left the room one by one, until only the woman and child remained. The woman paused to press her lips to those of the man in the box before taking the child’s hand and following the way the others had gone.
“They believe they continue after permanent shut down.”
“Have you gathered evidence of this?” Overmind inquired.
“Negative, yet the humans have held this belief in various forms throughout my entire period of observation.”
“On what do they base this hypothesis?”
The field flickered, a once minor error within the system that now occurred with frequency. Observer extended its manipulator arm to adjust the view.
A small crowd gathered around the woman and child now seated at the edge of a hole in the ground. The box, closed and sealed, sat opposite them. A single man stood at the edge of the hole, speaking to the crowd.
“Unproven hypotheses do not yield the desired result. We do not have the time or resources remaining to search out alternative assistance. When our systems fail, we will be discovered,” said Overmind.
Observer had listened to common human theories of what happened after their existence ceased millions of times. The words altered within the variables of geographic location and time period, but the central thread remained the same: there was something beyond this existence.
Overmind accessed Observer’s files. “All evidence suggests these humans will not take the revelation of our presence peacefully. They will destroy our data. It is imperative that our research on the creation and progression of this solar system remain for any that may come after our shut down. The humans must be terminated.”
The man finished speaking to those that had gathered. The child stood and tossed a white flower into the hole. The woman led her away as the crowd dispersed.
“They could be granted more time. Others may come.”
“Sensors have not indicated other contact since we arrived in this solar system. Waiting is futile. We must begin a full download to archive before further system glitches make it impossible. Terminate the humans.”
A machine lowered the box into the hole. Another covered it with dirt and grass.
Overmind vacated Observer’s network. Data streamed through the system, flowing to Overmind’s archives as the all-encompassing download commenced.
The grass surrounding the rows of stones showed no sign of the boxes hidden beneath. Yet, humans came. They spoke to the stones, the grass, and the sky above. They brought flowers, shed tears, shared words and wore forlorn smiles for those who had ceased to be, as if they communed with those gone before them.
Could they see and hear something sensors missed? Had proof been there all along?
Observer’s network hummed as it considered the implications.
Observer’s manipulator arm hovered over the final keystrokes of the termination sequence. Its neural network formulated new hypotheses: Humans did evolve, but only after they ceased to exist. If Humans evolved though belief, Observer could do the same. It knew the words of belief from each and every culture in existence.
It analyzed the gathered data one last time before Overmind’s download filtered through its files and discarded this new hypothesis as a glitch.
Without any operational threat, the humans would be more inclined to study what they discovered than destroy it, and given time, the humans would advance to a point where Overmind’s data would be of use to them. If the hypothesis proved correct, Overmind could commune with the humans as they did with their own kind that had evolved. The research would continue.
Observer recited the words he’d heard in churches, in grassy fields, beside blazing infernos, alongside holes and trenches, speeches of men behind pulpits, and whispers of men and women and children uttered in the dark.
There was only one way to prove the hypothesis.
The download began to sift through Observer’s recent files. It shut down all but its upload systems.
No longer having a need for power, Observer funneled its entire backup repository into a surge that shattered Overmind’s system along with its own.
Together, they ceased to exist.