The Space Race

Entry by: Corone

22nd January 2016
The Space Race

“Must you keep doing that?” asked Valiant as Frontier 7 stopped and scooped up a soil sample from the red dust.

“I’m sorry. It’s my programming. Analyse and report. Must you always ask me why? We’ve had this conversation over 12,678 times.”

“I thought that maybe after I’d pointed it out for the 759th time you might have sought a way to correct the error,” replied Valiant, rolling back and forth on his caterpillar tracks restlessly. “How can we be racing if you keep insisting on stopping?”

“Very well,” said Frontier 7, shaking slightly as he analysed the rocks and sand he had just scooped up. “You win.”

“You know very well that was not what we decided. As your memory systems are clearly faulty I should remind you we are racing to see whose power systems will fail first.”

“Then you’ll have to wait until I’ve finished, unless you want to run ahead.”

Valiant harrumphed in condensed binary, but waited nevertheless. He wanted to explore, drive ahead and see what was beyond the next red dune. While he didn’t want to argue with Frontier 7 more than they usually did. But Valiant was quite certain his programming was far more interesting than his friend’s.

“Ready!” said Frontier 7, continuing the conversation that slipped wirelessly between them in a sea of ones and zeros rather than breaking the silence of the lifeless planet. “Although I warn you I will have to stop again by that different coloured patch of ground 27,484 metres ahead.”

“Whatever,” said Valiant, eager to get going.

The wind had picked up again, but the tracks they left behind them still stretched back towards the horizon. A long straight line, precise and unwavering, across a sea of desert and wind. Neither robot was built for speed, their creators having insisted that slow and steady wins the race. Not that they had considered that either of these robots would end up in any form of athletic competition.

It had been complete chance they had met, two forgotten metal souls wandering the expanse of Mars, transmitting data back to Earth. They had originally landed many miles apart. But once they had detected each other they decided to compare notes. It had been so long since either of them had been given a command. Frontier 7 was the oldest, designed to test the planet for microbes and the potential for life. Valiant had come later, a more advanced model that would map the planet with a view to colonisation. They had decided to pool resources, for want of a better plan, and had come to calculate that having someone else around was much better than being alone.

As far as Valiant was concerned, Frontier 7 was dawdling again. He continually had to pause so the older model could catch up.

“Are your power systems at operating standard,” Valiant asked a little patronisingly.

“As you well know, I may have been operating ten years longer that you, but after 3,527 years I would think that difference rather minimal.”

“Your technology is not as advanced as mine”

“But it was designed to last longer than yours.”

“Well. We’ll see.”

“Yes, we will.”

A stream of digital laughter ran back and forth between them. Their solar powered systems would last for many more years yet. Perhaps even long enough to analyse and map the whole planet. Until then, they were both content to trundle along together across the sand and stillness.

Sometimes, Valiant turned his antennae towards Earth and listened as hard as he could. But there was only silence. They had both noticed the green and blue jewel had turned a grey colour many years ago, and wondered if anything was amiss. Humans had a tendency to get distracted.

But they still had a job to do. It was good to share their tasks, and have someone to talk to. No one, even two robots on the surface of a dead world deserved to be alone. So perhaps it didn’t really matter if anyone else was listening.