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."
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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.