“Take the office job. Nothing exciting there.”

With my attention focused on the main screens, my eyes glued to the free plasma levels, I barely heard the door to the command deck slide open. Indeed, I might not have heard it, even if I hadn’t been distracted. Chief Engineer Hansen had just been through last week with a can of atomized graphite, complaining about “the infernal squeaking every time it opens.”

Instead, I kept every bit of attention focused on the screens, watching the readouts. All I had to do was make sure I didn’t miss seeing- Continue reading

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One Step on Mars, Part II

Continued from Part I, here.

Out in deep space…

The prove beeped. Its scan reported new activity.

Of course, it paused for a few nanoseconds for a second verification scan. After all, it was designed to avoid false positives. A hundred false negatives were better than a false positive, as they could always be corrected for at a later date.

But the second scan revealed the same presence. Sentients with the same subcomputational patterns were now present on a second planet within their star system.

The probe’s criteria for activation had been met. Continue reading

One Step On Mars, Part I

The probe arrived fifteen days after the first humans set foot in the colonies.

Of course, the colonies were already there and waiting. They’d been there for a while, sitting idly on the surface of Mars, occasionally powering up at regular intervals to perform preventative maintenance and keep their surfaces clean. There were, after all, always more tasks that the robots could carry out. The solar panels needed to be swept clear of dust daily, the supports that anchored the habitats to the thin Martian soil beneath needed to be bolstered and checked to ensure nothing had torn loose, the atmospheric synthesizers that would, one day, lead to Mars possessing a breathable atmosphere had to be maintained, the generators needed the occasional check-up…

So the robotic “minds” of the colonies passed time, waiting for their first inhabitants to arrive.

And somewhere else, out in deep space, the probe waited as well, watching the developments in the Sol system with endless patience… Continue reading