Red Rover, Red Rover

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Send Freedom Over

October 17, 2034

The astronaut was finishing her triple check of all systems and settings before taking a final look at the picture that was taped on the inside of her helmet. Her father and the entire team standing outside the JPL over 30 years go.

“It's about to happen dad. I love you.”

Her body was on fire and she couldn't help but shake a little as the sound of the door opening up before her filled the pod. The encroaching light blinded her momentarily as she stepped out onto the first step leading down to the red earth below. She was to be the first human being to ever set foot on the red planet. It was all that she could think about through the years of training, and even as a child listening to her father talk about work. And yet...

“Guys, really? You didn't have to do that, getting the rovers here to greet me like this. What? Well, they're here. Curiosity, Opportunity...wait.”

She stood frozen. Of all the things she was hoping and anticipating seeing when she finally reached Mars, this was not it. The sands began to swirl around the rovers, kicking up dust as their forms rose into the air. The cams, the arm, all their anatomy shifted into places that they were then held in place by the formed sands. The rovers, were standing in front of her...almost humanoid.

The two rovers decidedly took steps to the side allowing a third form to step toward the astronaut. This one's movements were much smoother, its features more fine. As it reached out a sandy arm the dust near the hands began to form a flower.

Manning couldn't help herself, she reached out for the flower and as she wrung her fingers around the sandy stalk, finally the face of the alien shifted and she thought she recognized it for a second, despite how much change there'd been.

“Spirit?”

NO,” it said, the sudden and strange robotic voice caused her to take one step back toward the pod. “WE,” the voice seemingly echoed as the other two sand composed rovers began to take steps forward. “ARE,” their voice seemed louder and threatening, bypassing her ears to enter directly into her mind. “FREEDOM.”

The flower exploded in a cloud of red dust that encircled Manning. As the cocoon of sand finally shut out the final scream of the first human on Mars, Opportunity felt a small bit of lubricant begin to seep from her Pancam, and she damned herself.


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