Harper worked quietly in the immaculate, germ-free laboratory. The assembly protocols demanded absolute sterility and the complete absence of dust but Harper wore no gloves and no mask. Such precautions hadn’t been necessary for centuries.
He completed the installation of the system he’d been working on for the past hour then signaled for the next set of parts and instructions, the request flowing over his direct neural connection to the quantum net. As the next kit of parts floated into its dock on the stand by the workbench Harper picked up exchanges between some of the project specialists beaming back and forth along the quantum channels.
“Back-up plan revised based on updated project outcome projection. If this prototype fails, then additional power conservation measures will be required. All units associated with District Seven will be disconnected. Power will be routed to District Eight, laboratory complex A.”
The fact that Harper was working in the District Seven laboratory meant nothing to him. He had his instructions to follow and there was no reason to expect failure. The research and development specialists had learned much from the first six attempts.
The next installation included a series of microscopic connections. Centuries of evolution and cybernetic development gave Harper the ability to focus his vision directly on his work with no need of an external device. The connections were made and tested quickly, with no mistakes.
Finally, the thing was finished. Harper stepped back from his work and began the activation sequence. If the project succeeded it would provide solutions for problems that had perplexed the most advanced specialists on the planet. If it didn’t work…
Six districts had been disconnected from the power grid so far, never to be re-energized. The world was running out of power and the specialists lacked the creative energy and imagination to reverse the century-long decline. There was only one thing left for them to try.
The sequence was completed.
The thing on the table twitched, sucking in air, growing warm as blood began to circulate. Its eyes popped open. It jerked violently as it sat up and looked around.
A silent moment passed as the thing sat motionless. And then…
It shrieked. It writhed in ways that human bodies were never designed to writhe. It tore itself apart.
Harper stood in his corner, watching and monitoring impassively as the lights winked out throughout the complex. District Seven’s Human Assembly and Resuscitation Project for Evolutionary Reintegration had failed.
The machines were no closer to success than they were on their first attempt, nine hundred years after the last human had vanished from the face of the earth. Seven districts, seven tenths of the world, were cold and dark, with the last three soon to follow.
Undaunted, the brilliant machines went to work on the next prototype. Their human creators built them to endure and persevere in the post-human world, designing them to weather every foreseeable storm and prepare for every possible contingency. They had taught them well.
But they forgot to teach them to pray.