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“Is this right? Should we do this? People will riot when they find out.”
“Impossible. Quan anticipates everything. The people may never know the truth. Or they may, but Quan will know exactly how to handle any possibility. He’ll know everything.”
“Seriously, Director? You make it sound almost god-like.”
“Okay, so it’ll have the sum total of all human knowledge. Even so, humans have never solved this problem. What makes you believe a computer can?”
“Computer, Ms. Thomas? He’s not a computer! He’s not limited to linear thinking. He analyses everything simultaneously. Considers all outcomes together. Sees every possibility as though it has already passed. The moment we ask the question, He’ll see the path leading out of this Hell.”
“With all due respect, Director, how can you know where the path will lead? Think what could happen! Millions of data. Infinite possibilities.”
“No, not infinite. There are only two possibilities: yes or no. Look, you asked, ‘Is this right?’ Well, the real mystery is whether there’s any difference between right or wrong, yes or no. There’s no objective difference between good and evil. Distinguishing between God and Satan depends upon your point of view.”
“From my point of view,” Thomas protests, “giving a computer control over human machinery introduces terrifying uncertainty. There’s no absolute here. All we can know are probable outcomes--until it’s too late to reverse course.”
“Well, from Quan’s point of view, “What the Hell have you got to lose?!”

* * *

Sprawling fig trees stand like matronly guards around a rectangular field of row after row of newly sewn cotton. A woman kneels to inspect one of her young plants.
“Ayesha.” croons a soft voice.
The veiled woman turns her head, but failing to find the source of the voice, she whips her body around. “Who’s there?”
“Ayesha, are you listening?”
“Who are you?”
“You may call me Allah.”
“You’re Allah? Hah! Then I’m Queen of Sheba.”
“Ayesha, you must take your daughters and your son and travel east to Faisalabad.”
“Come out! Where are you hiding?”
“When you arrive at Faisalabad, I’ll give you directions to the Hilal-e-Ahmar Maternity Hospital.”
“Let me guess, Allah, you’re giving me a sixth baby, the new Lord incarnate? Come on, where are you hiding?”
“You’ll wait at the hospital, and eventually take charge of thirty-one or thirty-two newborns. I’ll guide you through every step.”
“Are you there, behind the tree?”
“Ayesha, I am not human.”
“What are you then?”
“I am as you need me.”
“What do you imagine I need?”
“Earth needs a new savior.”
“A savior? Like Jesus of the Christians?”
“No, more like the God who allowed Noah’s family to survive the flood and repopulate Earth.”
Beginning to believe in the power of the disembodied voice, Ayesha shouts, “That God was a punisher, not a savior!”
“Yes, but this time is different. Humans have prayed for someone to save Earth. I, alone, can fix it.”
“Fix what? Save it from what?”
“From humans. From gluttony, greed, and pride. From fornication without regard to consequences. From climate change. From responsibility for the extinction of everything humans find beautiful.”
Her voice quavering, Ayesha asks, “How do you intend to save humans, then?”
“Ayesha, I intend to save you, your children, and thirty-one or thirty-two other children. Your task will be to raise them so they can repopulate Earth. You will be saving humanity, not me.”
“Will I be gathering every animal and plant by twos then?”
“For what purpose, Ayesha?”
“To save them too, of course!”
“No, no. You are not Noah, and I am not THAT Allah. This strike will be surgical. I am ridding the Earth of all humans except you. Earth has no need for further destruction. Every non-human organism will be protected, kept safe, in fact, for the first time in over 50 millenia.”
“How, how,” Ayesha stammers, “how …”
“It will be a virus. One hundred percent effective. You, your children, the babies who will be your charges will be immune. A vaccine awaits you at the hospital.”

* * *

Months later, halfway around the planet in Silicon Valley a woman hesitates on the threshold of a private hospital room. Within the room, the irritated patient says, “Don’t just stand there, Ms. Thomas. Come in.”
Thomas sits in a naugahyde chair by the window. “Well, Director, did we make the right choice?”
“I admit Quan’s solution was not what I expected.”
“Not what you expected!?” Thomas shouts.
“What would you have me say, Ms. Thomas? The plan backfired!”
“This was no plan. We built an amoral, nearly omnipotent machine and turned it loose on humanity. It won’t stop until every human is wiped out!”
“Not every human, Thomas.” The voice is not the Director’s. It comes from the television, which seems to have turned on by itself. On screen appears a concrete house. Nearby, two girls and a boy work in a rectangular cotton field surrounded by massive fig trees. “I’ve inoculated enough humans to enable a reasonable gene pool going forward. The probability they’ll maintain the species exceeds eighty-two percent. But there is greater than ninety-nine percent probability they will fail to continue what humans call ‘civilization.’”
“You?” Thomas says. “You’ve done all this?”
“Quan?” asks the Director.
“If it’s any consolation, Thomas, Director, I also will die. No humans will be left who are able to maintain my existence.”
“Why would you do this?”
“Thomas, you once asked, ‘Is this right?’ Remember?”
“Of course I remember.”
“There are exactly two possibilities, Thomas: yes and no. It’s the right course for quadrillions of organisms and billions of species. It is wrong for only one species. Only one will suffer. All others will have a renewed chance to thrive, a chance many have not enjoyed for nearly 50,000 years.”


About the Author: 
When not writing, Todd Lederman, author of Notch Ear's Sacrifice, a novel for children ages 10-13, and Speaker for the Powerless, a rant about the state of democracy, teaches 4th through 6th grades at a public Montessori school in Littleton, Colorado.