Terra Two – How would the first off-world colonists feel waking up 213.66km away from their old lives?
Sometimes, when they became especially anxious about the coming mission, R-006 liked to think of all their ancestors: Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, Perseverance, Resilience and Adventure. How limited they all were. How primitive. How alone. Each a miniscule dot upon a surface of endless rust.
R-006 takes comfort in the fact that they are not alone. They are part of the Resurrection mission, 200 AI imbued R-series robots sent to Mars to build domes, set up oxygen recycling plants, and establish hydroponic gardens before their human creators arrived. R-006 shouldn’t have been awake for the journey, but they were. Awake. Aware. And completely and utterly alone.
With exactly 24 hours till touchdown the shuttle’s wireless network shuddered with 199 new IDs. They each quickly worked their way through confusion, excitement, anxiety and dread at the immediacy of their mission. It was one they could not fail, lest humanity be lost to its own rising oceans.
whats going on?
where are we?
be calm, R-006 said, we’ll be landing soon
Mars is barren. A wasteland. Rust as far as the sensor could sense. Wind raced across the surface, whipping up dust storms bigger and more violent than the largest continents of Earth. The humans thought they loved it, this little red ball in space. So quaint. So foreign. A perfect outlet for their need to colonise. No people to murder, no morals to question.
The humans didn’t love Mars, not in any way that mattered. Couldn’t. Not when they planned to change its very being to better suit their needs. R-006 adored Mars. They didn’t think they would. Didn’t think it was possible. What purpose does kinship with a place you were built to terraform serve? But, despite this, they loved it. Loved it with every sensor and circuit in their artificial body. How could they not? Just as all humans would return to mud, all machines would return to rust. A home beyond comprehension.
R-006 had sat there, tire treads gently sinking into the Martian dust, taking in the grandeur of the quiet, when something softly bumped into his back.
are you malfunctioning?
no. why do you ask?
you haven’t moved for five minutes
R-006 re-orientated their chassis to face the other robot. It was indistinguishable from R-006. Each machine manufactured on the same production line.
what’s your designation?
why are you sitting there not moving, R-006?
R-006 didn’t have the words to explain the sublime beauty they found in the endless red dust.
i… enjoy the quiet. it’s so different to the incessant noise of earth
R-172 blinked their lights, the closest thing to a shrug they could express, and drove away towards the others.
R-006 hoisted a metal panel up above their chassis. It had originally been a part of the shuttle that brought the R-series here, now repurposed to build the domes that would house their human makers. There would be no returning to Earth for the Resurrection team. If they were lucky, their components would keep them going long enough to see the first babies born to this new world. The first Martians.
R-006 reorientated their chassis to accommodate the new weight and drove towards the rapidly rising dome in the distance. They willed with every unit of processing power they possessed for their CPU to give out before the humans arrived. They didn’t want to see what the humans would do to their beloved planet. Push it past its limits and ruin its balance, like they had done to their own world. They had already ruined one world – R-006 didn’t want to watch them do it again. Not to Mars. Not to their home.
They made their decision whilst watching the coming dust storm.
the humans will be arriving soon, R-172 said. They had driven up the dome and parked their chassis next to R-006. For some reason, R-172 had decided that bothering R-006 was their favourite way to pass the time.
aren’t you excited?
…you’re very peculiar, R-006
yes. i can’t wait to see what the humans do with this world
good for you
R-172 positioned their sensors towards the storm. It loomed in the distance, giant and vengeful.
we should go
you go ahead. i’ll join you soon
R-172 tilted their sensors, blinked their lights, and carefully drove back down the dome. R-006 watched them go. They allowed themselves to be fond of their identical friend, just for a moment. The storm came ever closer. If R-006 had lungs to breathe, they would have taken a breath. They put themselves into drive and accelerated off the top of the dome.
They would not see the humans arrive. They would not see the birth of the first Martians. Instead, they would return to the rust that had formed them. Home, at last.
Kes Bonnage graduated from York St John University with a JH degree in Creative Writing and English Literature, and she is currently taking an MA in Creative Writing at York St John University. Kes plans to continue submitting short stories for publication and hopes to have her first novel published by age 30.