Segrave awakened from the Deep Sleep to find that the death around her had faded to dust. Remnants to what was still filled the landscape. There were no survivors. The humans had faded away. Her own people had disappeared. She sat alone upon the sand staring at the bitter skyline. She could not restart the race without more of her own kind. Perhaps…just perhaps…they too slept. Standing, she dusted off the sand from the beach. She could hear the movement of the ocean behind her. She turned towards the city that loomed in the horizon. She would start there. Perhaps she could then rebuild what was lost to greed and lust.
As she started to walk, she considered her strengths. For the most part, she had ordinary human strengths. She could move backwards and forwards in the aging process; becoming a child or jumping to elderly as needed. She remembered everything. Her mechanical acuity was strong. That would at least compensate for her weaker physical strength. She healed quickly and could not die. That last item…inability to die. Was that a strength…or a curse? She contemplated this as her steps took her into the city.
The pavement and concrete were no longer smooth. Plant life broke through, cracking the surface. Most of the buildings stood as mere skeletons of their former glory, windowless and often without floor. Most of these structures would be unsafe she quickly determined. An old shopping cart stood in the alley. Fabric that once held a human figure lay in a pile next to it. Sighing, she spoke to the ghost of the owner. “I am going to use your cart, friend. Perhaps something can be salvaged here. “ She dug through the remaining contents, most of which sifted through as dust as she moved things around the cart. Still, she found some remnants of parts she could use. The rest, she piled up gingerly next to the fabric remains.
As she continued her course, she considered the moments before she dove into the Deep Sleep. Bombs had gone off all around her sending toxic gases that tore at the flesh of anything organic. How could anyone create such a weapon? There could be no winner in such a war. Still, false religion offered a reawakening after the cleanse. The Cleanse. That was what they called it. They were cleansing the earth of all that was unclean. They eradicated it of human life. She dove to the earth’s core, hoping to preserve…something. Entering the Deep Sleep, she pulled in as much life as she could from the surface. Plant life awakened before she did and started to take hold again. She wondered if animal life would restart. How long did she sleep? 10 years? 100 years? There was not enough degradation for it to have been 1000. It was long enough for the air to become clean once more. Looking up, she considered birds. Had she been able to pull the birds in? Did anyone else of her kind?
Loneliness. That would be her worst enemy. She had always hated the aloneness associated with her people. They scattered about the world, watching and observing. They even fell in love, made children, aged with their families, and mourned the loss of their lovers and eventually their children. Then love would taste bitter for a season before they would feel its bloom again. Immortality could not be passed on. Death would always leave it’s lonely stamp.
She continued to sift through the remains of the garbage left by human kind. The sentinels were a resourceful race but often remained quietly in the background, watching. They could seed the world if at least two remained. In their pure form, even gender did not exist; gender was decided when they took on their corporal form. It could be easily abandoned and changed if needed.
Signal. She had to create or tap into a communications array. Then she would know when and if others awakened. Staring up at the sky, she wondered if the satellites remained in orbit. How long? How does one mark time in the deep sleep? Certainly, none lived to mark it for them.
Her thoughts raced in circles as she filtered through the remains, seeking items of use. Electronics would need to be rebuilt but simple structures remained intact. A concrete structure became shelter and she began organizing and sorting through the piles. It always began with scavenging. The human experiment destroyed itself multiple times on Mars until life could no longer be sustained.
Sentinels died that time but some had escaped to Earth and restarted the experiment. She wondered if some had escaped to other worlds; if some slept still, waiting for the right conditions. On earth, she had witnessed complete destruction with the dinosaurs. The environment had not stabilized for human life but the sentinels toyed with other species. Finally, they reintroduced humanity. Still, their self-destructive ways overtook them on several occasions. Atlantis completely imploded. Entire civilizations disappeared.
Lust and greed. These were the major flaws. Was it in the programming? The sentinels had studied the code, searching out weaknesses. Small changes to move the civilization forward seemed to be counteracted by the existing humanity. The sentinels continued to watch as the world began to implode. Experience had taught them when it was time to sleep.
Time passed and the quiet, the stillness, often broke her concentration. She wondered if she awakened too early. The flowers bloomed then faded with the seasons. A hundred years passed as she worked to reach others. The signal relayed steadily. Still, no communication was received. This was the price of failure. Still, the planet was strong. Trees and other plants continued to grow. The air purified in their presence. Then one day a small furry animal scrambled across her path. They were always different after the rebirth. New names and categories would need to be made.
Time seemed to pass by quickly. Hours became minutes. Days turned to hours. Months faded into weeks. Time wore on revealing her changes as the earth reawakened. Then she saw the first bird. This brought a smile to her face. She always loved the birds, envied their movements and freedom. Hope began to restore her spirit. Rebirth was slow but it would gain ground as time wore on.
She watched the seasons change, marking time with each cycle. Her mind roared with information and she longed for other sentinels to join her and share in the chronicling. Like a human scientist, she observed and recorded changes, recorded sameness, and recorded newness. Finally, she received a response on her pieced together communications array. Someone! That brought her joy much like the first morning she spied the birds. It had been precisely 1000 years since her journey began.