Thursday, October 30

In honor of the Mars Phoenix, now shutting down in the Martian winter.

The frigid wind whipped the icy sand against her helmet as she rounded the small rock outcropping. She staggered for a moment before regaining her balance and pushed forward. Her communicator crackled.
“Eagle1, you ok out there?”
She activated the transmitter, and responded.
“Everything’s fine out here, Eagle2. Just a few more metres.”
“Better hurry. They’re talking about calling you back. They don’t know if you’ll be able to stay in contact once you get there.”
“The only way they’re getting me to come back is to come after me themselves.”
The signal crackled, and faded. She assumed Williams had signed off, and pressed forward.

A glint sparkled momentarily through the dust. She squinted, and adjusted the polarization of her visor. The Martian landscape was still bare here near the poles: no-one had yet found it profitable to construct a dome this far north. Her communicator crackled again.
“Eagle1, report.”
“Eagle2, I think I’ve found the site. Gotta get closer to check.”
“Eagle1, you have been ordered to return to your vehicle and begin the return to base.”
“With all due respect, Eagle2, screw you.”
“Why is this *crackle* important to you? It’s a beatup piece of junk. Went 90 days, then a few more 2 years later, then silence. Even if you find it, it’s of no use to us. *crackle* obsolete 75 years ago.”

She could now see a small structure half buried in dust and ice. The distant sun glinted sharply off several of its surfaces. Though her suit was fully heated, she felt a chill go down her spine.

“Eagle2, my grandmother was one of the people who used the original primitive network. She loved it. She had friends all over the world. She followed the progress of this one. She used to tell me stories, about how she would get excited to see what this machine was doing each day, to look at the pictures it sent from hundreds of millions of miles away. When she told about how it was settling in to freeze in 2008, and the messages that were posted about it…she still got tears in her eyes. It meant something to her.”

A long silence settled in, and she pushed her way the last few feet. Reaching out a hand, she brushed a bit of dust from the surface, and felt an electric thrill as her gloved fingers came in contact with the ancient artifact.

“*crackle* over a machine?!”
She smiled, as she rested a hand on the cold, ancient metal. “No. It wasn’t the machine. She said the machine was only the place in which the human spirit, human curiousity, and human endeavor dwelt. Here they were, just learning to reach out to each other, but they still wanted the stars. Think of the time and learning and brilliance it took to put this here. And they flung it out into the stars, knowing it would cease, knowing it would die alone on a distant planet…and they did it anyway.”

With a click, she silenced the communicator. She would deal with Base in a minute. She caressed the metal, and smiled.

“We came back for you. “

The wind whistled.


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