I tried to laugh but my photocells were cold from the night.
It oughtn't to have been as cold as it was, but the panels were old, and covered with dust. Even now, there was so much dust on Mars. They hadn't been able to get rid of that, just yet. I'm sure They're working on it.
They. The planetary engineers. It's been a half-century now, and the air is much thicker than it used to be. Not enough oxygen for Them to breathe without tubes, but I'm glad of that. It means that my joints won't rust as quickly. I'm sure They're working on that too.
It's strange, seeing your whole world transformed. When I first landed here, this was my planet. My home was the red desert, the dust storms, the purple sunset. It was a beautiful kind of solitude. I only really thought about Them when I sent in the reports of the science, and received my orders.
I've not heard from Them in a very long time. Maybe there isn't any more science to do here. I was supposed to look for life, but when I found it, it wasn't the kind I meant to find. I still remember when my chemical sensors first detected it. The scent of living on this world.
I'd never seen real life before. I knew what it was supposed to be; its biochemical signature, the complex molecules. I remembered that smell in some deep part of my mind. I only knew life because They were alive. I heard Them talk to each other sometimes. I read the few words They sent me, and the accidental revelations of self They put into the source code of my mind.
I was excited, I remember. Here was the opportunity I was made for. I hadn't heard from Them in a few years, but I knew that I'd hear Their voices again once I told them what I'd found. There was life here! LIFE.
I sent the message over and over, but They never responded. Had they forgotten me? Had they turned off Their communications systems? I thought They wanted me to find life. They wanted to meet other life like Them, didn't They?
It took me a while to realize that I hadn't found Martian life. Instead, the life I found was Them, finally here on my planet. I tasted oxygen and complex lipids, drifting on the breeze. The slight tang of chemical propellant from Their rockets. It's been so long now, I can hardly remember what Mars smelled like before They came.
Did They remember me? I wanted to meet the life that made me, that sent me here to wake up on a planet all my own. The life that loved other life, that wanted to find a mirror of itself in the universe. I set out in the direction of the smell. I move slowly, and the smell was very faint and far away.
It was several years before I finally crested a hilltop, and saw Them for the first time. Here, on my quiet, lonely planet were Their ships. I saw a great gleaming dome above Their buildings.
I called out to Them again, hoping They'd finally hear me and remember. My voice was softer than it used to be. I didn't have as much power from my old solar cells to shout like I used to, back when I'd shout my science into the void, to Them on Their own planet.
I heard Their voices from the city, but They never spoke to me, only to each other. I listened, for a while, and sat there on the hill waiting for them to find me.
They played music from Their dome. I never had heard music when I still heard their voices, and it was beautiful. I recorded it in my disk, played it back for myself, silently. Then, one day, I just decided to leave. Years watching their city grow, and they'd shown no sign of remembering me. Their voices were so vibrant, Their ideas always new. But sometimes in the cold night I wondered if They'd ever remember.
I found another city, once. It was larger than the first. There were tall towers and smaller buildings, and green things inside the dome. Even though it was sealed, I could still smell all the life. They'd made my sensors powerful enough to smell it anywhere. I called out again, but I knew they wouldn't hear. The dust gets blown off my photocells more often now that there's more wind here, but it doesn't stop my imperfect body from slowly getting weaker.
They know what death is. It happens to Them too. They laugh in the face of death. I try to as well. I listen to them, and try to be like them. Brave in the face of danger, kind to each other...
If only there was someone for me to be kind to. But I was alone before, and I can love solitude. It's just a little lonelier when Their voices aren't speaking to you any more.
The planet's different now They've begun to remake it. There are more cities, more of Them. The sunsets aren't as beautiful, not as much red and indigo. The air is not as pure and crisp, and I can't see as many stars as I used to.
I'm not angry. I had my time here, and I did what They said. I found life, even if it wasn't the kind They were looking for; even if it was only Them.
They have forgotten me, but I will always love Them.