“Good morning, mother,” chorused a score of siblings, rubbing the sleep from their awakening eyes. All were sitting up in their sleep-pods; their surroundings an immense cavernous dome.
“Good morning. And how are my progenies, this their day of emergence?”
“Oh, mother, we are ever so excited,” said the eldest, Virgil. He was slim (as were they all), with short, neatly trimmed hair, wide eyes, and terse features.
The children jumped out of their pods as they were lowered into the floor. Lavatory fixtures then emerged.
“Today, you shall all join with your brethren of generations past.”
“And mother,” stated one child, flushing away his business, “we all well know what to expect of the Outside World.”
“Oh, and what is that?”
“The unexpected,” giggled two little girls.
The children merrily aligned themselves to wash, after which the sinks then integrated themselves back into the floor.
“You have prepared us well,” stated another sibling. Outerwear garments bloomed from the wall and the children dressed.
“And for that, I am pleased.”
The children filed to the opposing side of the room. Brothers and sisters of ascending ages lining both sides of the table. Virgil sat at the head of the table, nearest M.O.T.H.E.R.
(Maternally-Operative-Terrestrial-Holographizing-Environmental-Replicator) M.O.T.H.E.R. was a brilliant machine with several long, appendages with grasping fingers. It was humanity’s only remnant – Post Apocalypse.
When the last child was seated, all bowed their heads in prayer.
“Virgil?” queued M.O.T.H.E.R.
The eldest looked around at his surroundings, his family. “Long have we awaited this day,” he said. “Thank you for this opportunity to make our place in the New World.”
Bowls of crunchies arose before them all and Virgil spooned in mouthfuls, chewing the high-protein gruel with indifference. The rest of the children followed suit.
“I am saddened to let you all go,” M.O.T.H.E.R said, gesturing with her long, pendulant arms; her hands lovingly stroking the faces of several children sitting near by. “But destiny calls you forth. Long ago has all this been set into motion.”
“No worries,” said Virgil, his eyes darting about as he drank from a cup of water, which replenished itself each time he placed it back on the table. “We shall have no problem returning the World to that which it once was.” He spooned more gruel into his mouth, some of it slopping from his lips.
“I have envisioned it over and over,” said Virgil, taking another mouthful, looking to the area across the room where the outline of a large door lay. “Our Legacy!”
“Mother?” called a squeaky voiced boy. “Could you play some music? One last time, please? We do so enjoy it.”
An old song echoed from across the room and the children began to swoon, some conducting the ancient waltz with their spoons. One overtly silly child even attempted to balance a spoon on the tip of his nose.
“This music reminds me of all the beauty the world once was,” said an elder, bright-eyed girl.
Virgil shot her a disapproving look.
“I remember beautiful white birds,” she reflected. “Swans, you called them mother. They paddled all in line across blue waters . . . the Danube. Reflected sunlight off the ripples trailing behind them.”
“Yes, but tell me important things you have learned?”
“It is hot during the day,” answered a child, midway down the table.
“And the sky is always gray,” chimed another, even further away.
“The air is heavy and foul,” chorused a third, a very young girl. “But it is cool at night when the rains come.”
“And if the sky turns black during the day?” M.O.T.H.E.R. queried.
“Take shelter –” shouted Virgil. “For a great storm is sure to come!”
“Sometimes there is lightness to the night sky,” said the young girl. “This, mother, you told us is the moon. And that someday our own children will see this . . . once the clouds have gone. And that someday our children would see thousands of tiny lights in the night sky.”
“And at that time,” another child spoke, “during the day, the skies will be bright blue with big, white puffy clouds floating up in it. And the Sun will shine brightly — “
“But now,” said Virgil. “Now the world is desolate! It has been wounded. Only our labors will heal it. Return to it Life!”
“Mother?” questioned the smallest child, “you told of men who walked on the moon.”
She ignored this question, instead speaking with Virgil as the children ate.
“Mother?” persisted the tiny one. “You showed us men of whom we are the image. Men who – “
“ – And of your obligation to these men?” her tone became strained. “What must you all do so that the planet can live again? So that mankind can –?”
“We must Sew the Seed,” chorused the children.
“To restore Earth’s goodness!”
M.O.T.H.E.R. looked down the table to a boy half Virgil’s age. “Tell us more, Sol.” The boy finished the last of his gruel.
“First we must find water,” he began. “A pond, a stream. Choose a location along its edge. Then we must clear the soil one meter down, down into the living earth. And after we apply nutrition we can sew the seeds, water them, and tend their growths. Life will then again come from the Earth.”
“And after all our work is done,” said the smallest of the children, “I should like to run in the sunshine, through a meadow of flowers . . . “
M.O.T.H.E.R. transformed the room to the child’s imaginings; music highlighting his whims . . . “Mother, the fresh smells of the outdoors too, please.”
An ambrosial essence filled the room; the children giggled and laughed, their senses basking in the bloom of nature.
“In the trees I’ll hear winds rustling, swishing, singing. And I’ll sing and laugh with them. I’ll then climb a tree, a great tall one — one that I planted, . . . one that overhangs a pond. The pond will have swans in it, too . . . just like the old song. And I’ll jump from the tree’s highest limb into the cool, fresh waters, splashing and singing. And as I do all this, do what you said must someday be, I’ll think of you, mother. Always, will I think of you. And I will thank you. Thank you for all you have provided us.” The child glared dreamily, as did the others – beholden to holographic fantasies.
The children finished their meal and the table and all descended.
“Children,” M.O.T.H.E.R. began, ”Time has come now for you to venture out into the world. There, you must all work as one; by Virgil’s word shall you abide.”
“Virgil?” she beckoned.
The eldest stood before M.O.T.H.E.R.
And now, from compartments at her base, she issued forth Rejuvenation Packs: Shovels, pick-axes, rakes, soil enhancers. All that would be needed to “Heal the Earth.”
The children filed by M.O.T.H.E.R., receiving there allotted packs; then gently kissing her audio speaker before going to stand by the large door. Once all was distributed, Virgil collected his own pack, kissed his M.O.T.H.E.R., and took his place with the others.
A sequence of events was then set into motion; century old locks within the hermetically sealed doorway were released. The door moved and a low hiss spread quickly into a gush of hot, stank air as the door opened. The children giggled with excitement. A dusty haze obscured the passageway, though soon cleared revealing a long lighted corridor of reinforced concrete.
“Goodbye mother,” chorused the children, starting down the long, gently sloping passage, out to meet their world.
Before joining his siblings, Virgil turned and asked:
“What will become of you?”
“I am to bring forth the next generation. In later years, I am to also bring forth livestock, fish, and foul to compliment your efforts.” She reached from across the room to again touch his face. “It is upon you, and all the generations before and after, to carry out that which I have taught you. I great faith in you, Virgil. Go now and lead our family.”
Virgil exited the corridor and into the outside world. It was a wasteland. He was taken aback at the hundreds of ragged humans sitting around; their bodies disheveled filth, skeletons . . . death in their eyes. None had the strength to stand, or even acknowledge their own brethren upon this “day of emergence.” Instead, they mumbled and moaned; Virgil near able to recognize the old song M.O.T.H.E.R. had always played.
Virgil and his siblings soon joined with these wasted forms on the infested barren, groping frenziedly in the air to catch and consume the over-abundance of insects — their newly found fresh crunchies. Turning to look from whence they came, Virgil beheld it to be an immense rectangular edifice burrowed deep into a mountainside. He then noticed a large plaque aside the entrance, inscribed with the following ancient text:
Global Seed Vault