How'd that change work out for ya" - Trump supporter to outgoing Obama-ist

THE CHANGE
by Chris Dean ©2017

Mars was dying again. After two centuries, the Unified Earth Coalition accepted that the science of terraforming was flawed. What man had raised from the Martian dessert would crumble back to dust. The thousands of acres of genetically enhanced palm trees and the rivers and lakes would all disappear. Then the snails and nematodes and the bacteria would vanish too. And when the atmosphere siphoned off into space, the planet"s rose and golden sunsets would vanish.

Contemplating this grim future, XR stood on the cliff overlooking the wide yellow plain and watched the two tiny figures below. Why were they bothering" The soil samples that Captain Johnson and Zeke were taking would be stored with the others and when the humans left Mars, the thousands of such specimens would remain untouched.

A few robots like XR would be left behind to record the demise of the planet, but there wouldn't be any reason to study the samples. Humans, XR mused, are creatures of habit.

There was a noise behind him and the robot turned. It was Cecilia Roberts, the physician of the small colony. He nodded. "Dr. Roberts."

"Hello XR, she answered, "What are you doing all alone up here."

He gave her the robotic equivalent of a smile, tightening the lower half of his silver face. "I am curious, I suppose." He pointed below.

The doctor peered at the two men on the plain beneath them.

"They are taking samples," XR said.

"Why are they doing it""

"Exactly."

The woman shook her head slowly and her voice dropped, "I suppose it makes no sense now."

He"d reminded her of the futility of the effort. Now that they were leaving, the humans were prone to emotionalism over their departure. Changing the subject, he asked, "Have you completed your paper on the nematodes""

A weak smile ran across the woman"s thin face. "Not yet, I'm afraid. And I probably won't . . . until after . . ." Her gaze went to the horizon.

"I read the excerpt you posted yesterday. Very impressive."

"Thank you."

"I was very surprised that you"ve determined that the new strains were not indigenous to Mars. I hope I can see more about this."

"Let me explain my reasoning. You are aware of course, of Thomson's theory on resurgent protozoa."

"More than a theory I'd say. "

"Well, I suppose, now . . ."

"The bacterial mitochondria evidence gathered over Jupiter is compelling."

She stopped a moment, staring. "You never cease to amaze me, XR."

He gave her a humanlike shrug. "I do not sleep. I have plenty of time to keep up on many things."

"I guess so." The woman smiled. "Now, I haven't been able to do a proper study on our nematodes. But there are some interesting facts. The hibernation period, for instance. Similar organisms -like those we brought from Earth - no dependency on environmental conditions during hibernation. The specimens I found here that appear to be new species are hydro-dependent. Initially, I assumed this indicated a distinct and unique evolutionary tree. However, I have since changed my opinion on this."

"Why is that""

"Before we got here, there was very little free water on Mars. No, these new strains have genomes that developed in a water rich environment, such as we've created. And I believe they were able to do that because of an ancestral home that also had plenty of water."

"Earth."

"Some of the new species are huge also, relatively. The biggest, nearly a half centimeter in length. I think this is because these specimens have only been in existence for a short period of time."

"Terraforming has produced them""

"I believe so."

"Interesting."

"There may be implications in my work . . ." Dr. Roberts voice slid away. She slowly shook her head. "But it's too late now, isn't it."

XR gently touched the woman's hand. "It is a new science. This planet fought against it. Man will try again, elsewhere."

"Will we"" The woman sighed. "I don"t know."

***

The work was nearly impossible with the limited resources left to him. But XR persisted, despite the ridicule from the other robots. He continued researching the failure of the Mars terraforming project. As the decades passed, he came to understand that mankind"s vision of terraforming was flawed.

The key was in Cecilia Roberts research. The nematode variants hadn't simply happened. The conditions on Mars favored new species development and XR came to realize that any transplanted organism would have to adapt to survive. Somehow, the scientists on Earth had forgotten this basic precept of evolution. The mutated date palms and stunted vegetables that the human colony had struggled so hard to eradicate these were Martian life. One could not remake a planet. One could only sow the seed and let it grow.

XR felt more and more detached from the other three robots. His research fomented resentment amongst them and they openly threatened to make him stop. He had achieved some small success and couldn't allow their interference, so he left them. He traveled to the other side of the planet and began again. Eventually he learned how to nourish the new floral manifestations. And the planet bloomed.

As time went by, XR realized that something was different about himself. Like the organisms brought to Mars from Earth, XR had also adapted to the conditions of a new world. Some evenings when the sun sank below the horizon he watched the swirling colors that ran across the sky and pondered the changes within himself. And in the tapestry of gold and red, he saw her face.

***

Senator Pern Brinke stared at the photographs for a long while before he spoke. "Gentlemen," he addressed the group of scientists gathered around the table, "this must be some kind of hoax."

Professor Windom Franklin, of Cambridge, gathered himself and stood. He cleared his throat. "I am sorry, sir. There is no question. The planet Mars is viable."

Senator Brinke held up a hand. "You"re saying the terraforming project in the 2200"s actually worked" And no one knew""

One of the xenobiologists, a tall woman with raven hair, answered, "No, I'm afraid the experiment was a failure, as was believed. It appears the robots that were left on the planet have somehow solved the problems of terraforming."

Senator Brinke glanced at his aide. "Robots"

Professor Franklin offered, "One robot in particular. The only survivor of four androids left there."

"He's been there all this time! Over two centuries"" The senator was incredulous.

"Yes. And he has done all this." Professor Windom's hand waved over the photograph.

"You're saying" Senator Brinke wagged a finger at the scientist. "While the Earth is dying from global warming and worldwide famine, there is a paradise only a few million miles away""

The representative from the International Space Agency offered, "Sir what they are saying has been verified by our probes."

"This is fantastic. How soon can get we get a spaceship to Mars""

"Our budget is very small presently, as you know. It will be several months."

Senator Brinke said quickly, "Your budget will grow exponentially because of this." He turned to Professor Windom again. "And this robot on Mars. We are in contact with it""

The professor nodded. "Yes. He sent us an invitation, as it were. Oh, and one other thing. He has renamed the planet and asks that we will acquiesce to his wishes on this point."

"Renamed, What name?"

"He calls it: Cecilia."

x x x

Chris Dean AKA Dean Grondo is another new contributor to Anotherealm.This gem of a short story with its simple premise and profound subtext held my attention throughout. I am proud to include it in the offerings for 2017. Do you agree that it deserves its place" Comment on out BBS.



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