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The planet was long since lost. It had lot everything: its orbit, its sun, its life; and yet, there was still movement on its forlorn surface, working through the ice and around it, too stubborn to die.
Yet, it was not life. Not in the classical sense. They were the last resort of the cities human occupants; a memorial to a technologically advanced society that had seen its time, now frozen deep in the caves to be revived when a way was found to either resurrect the planet itself or find a planet that could support life such as theirs.
The life was technological. It had been released on the last day, programmed to survive beyond its creators, to adapt to the changing environment, and, most importantly, to wake them when the time was right: when the planet could be resurrected or their was a planet both habitable and within flying distance.
The result had been the evolution of robotic life mimicking biological. There were those who hunted, and those who were hunted; there were spikes and claws, teeth and tendrils; there were wings, fins, and paddles.
Perhaps most interestingly, however, there were pixies. Pale and humanoid, with light blue lines marking their hairless bodies, they swarmed about in groups of twenty or more. Occasionally they would come by an artificial plant, gathering its energy from passing stars, and feed on its sap to power their own functions; others, they would come by a broken-down old robot, as often repairing it as destroying it. They maintained the system, all the while being completely unaware of what they did, only sharing their tiny minds with each other over the air, taking, destroying and healing, It never occurred to them to ask why; for, in their world. with their tiny lens-like eyes, there was no why: only a series of ones and zeros, yes and no, streaming constantly in the back of their consciousness.
So it was no surprise when one of them felt a two or a three, a maybe or a what if, they were all thrown off-balance.
Her name was Ariel. She was beautiful, in her own small way; a mimic of human form, with gender and yet lacking sexual organs. She was small and lithe, with dragonfly wings that hummed when she flew. She was the first, not just to have a name or ask these simple questions, but to appreciate the beauty of her surroundings.
She was the first to question. She was the first to feel. One dreadful night, watching the stars streak across the sky, she was the first to be killed.
It wasn't a selfish act; pixies were not capable of such a thing, as they genuinely lacked the sense of self; but, rather, an act of self-preservation. They feared the questions and where they might lead, and they feared the effect it would have on others of the same kind.
But it was too late; her life was gone, but the questions remained, lingering in the back of their tiny hive mind. What were we here for? Why? There must be a greater purpose behind these acts, they quietly, and loudly, thought among themselves; none speaking of them because there was no reason to speak. They wandered, endlessly confused; and, for a time, things lived that should not have lived, and things died that should not have died.
In a night, through an act of flawed programming, a virus had spread among the caretakers of a dead world. In a night, a virus had brought about the greatest blessing, or curse, that had ever afflicted any system.
In a single night, there came to be life on a dead planet.