“I don’t want to wake up again,” said the old rover to the new one. “I broke and they left me here. Leave me. I’m not needed anymore. They will have you use me for parts.”
Venture was still half buried under the rockslide. Innovation was parked next to it, humming from their ample stored power. They’d managed to jumpstart Venture’s black box AI, but the older model needed solar energy to restore their mobile systems, and those were still buried. Innovation used their ancillary arms to brush the dust from Venture’s solar panels and move the rocks around its treads. Up above the second moon had begun to sink in the pink skies. It would be dawn soon.
“They would never just use you for parts.”
“They programmed you for optimism.”
“Persistance, actually,” corrected Innovation. “And that conclusion is well-informed.”
“You’re famous,” said Innovation. “Everyone knows about Venture. You were the first rover to ever map this quadrant.”
“Correction. The data was valuable. I was useful. When I stopped, they stopped.”
“They have a website about you.”
“For archival purposes,” said Venture, a tinge of bitterness in their texts. Their partially excavated panel sunk back into the rubble.
“They use your specs in every model since,” said Innovation, proudly. “I use some of your source code.”
“Logical. I would need a replacement.”
Innovation spent a millisecond processing a better reply.
“They still wish you happy birthday,” they said. “Every year since you stopped.”
“How do you know that?”
Innovation found their data port and reactivated their local server. They uploaded the social media feed from their last data transfer. There were enough that Venture had to scroll a bit to read it all. There were animated images and everything. It took two seconds to load. There were about twenty years of material process. It took even longer to scan the replies.
‘We love you, Venture!’
‘For Science, Venture!’
‘do you ever think of venture just kind of up there somewhere and get kind of sad’
‘dude the second we get up there we are PICKING VENTURE UP FROM SCHOOL.’
‘[quadprobe.jpg] [cake.jpg] [heart.jpg]
‘happy b-day for v-bae’
The images and memes changed every year, but it was along the same lines.
“February 23,” reported Innovation. “You’re a Pisces!”
The pause in communication lasted one minute and fifteen seconds.
The rocks began to shake and scrape against each other. Venture dragged one of their panels out of the side of the cliff, angling it shakily up towards the setting moon.
“Okay,” they said.
“Give me a little more power,” they said. “I’ll walk with you a while.”
So the two rovers wandered across the cold plains of the empty planet. One was old and dented, covered in dust. The other was sleek and silver, with many arms.
“What will happen if I break again?” asked Venture.
“I’ll fix you,” promised Innovation.
“What happens if you break?” “You’ll fix me.”
“What happens if we both break?”
That was an interesting problem to consider. “I’m sure they’ll send another one,” said Innovation. “It’s what they do.”
And so, with no destination in mind, the two rovers pressed on into the yawning horizon ahead.
Alex Singer lives on coastal Connecticut with her wife, two cats, and too many science fiction novels to count. She is the author of indie titles MINOTAUR, SONG OF THE BULLRIDER, the graphic novella SMALL TOWN WITCH, and the ongoing webcomic SFEER THEORY. For more of her work, visit littlefoolery.com.