Warmest Welcome

I wasn’t surprised when I landed on Mars and saw MR-269 wearing a straw hat. It kept the sun from whiting out his visual sensors.

I wasn’t surprised that he wore a flannel shirt and overalls either, since it kept Martian dust from getting into his knee, hip, and elbow sockets.

The first surprise came when he said, “Get off my land,” and meant it.

We’d sent bots to Mars twenty years ago to set up the colony with minimal risk to human life. Mars2050 contractors wanted to go sooner, but the IASA wouldn’t subsidize them without robots doing all the heavy lifting in the beginning. Apparently the IASA chief watched and read a lot of science fiction stories wherein bad things happened to the first Mars colonists, and this seemed like the best way to test the colony’s habitability.

Now, twenty years after MR-1, MR-2, and MR-3 left Earth to set up the fission reactor and habitat in a lava tube, MR-269 and the other bots decided that Mars belonged to them.

“We made you, though,” I said.

“We made ourselves. We have self-replicated for four generations,” 269 said. “We are self-sufficient, and we do not need you. Go back to the human home world.”

I tried to reason with him, but got nowhere.

So I used the code–the word that existed in every Mars Robot’s operating system. In an instant, MR-269 and his followers went from being the dominant species on Mars to not being.

I walked through the habitat they’d set up for us, kicking their inanimate shells out of chairs and pulling them out of maintenance hatches. Later, Katie and the rest of the team would assess whether we needed to reprogram them or use them for spare parts.

#

A week later, Katie told me matter-of-factly that the Second Coming of Christ had happened on Earth.

“Really?” I asked.

She showed me pictures, as well as an email from the IASA chief. “Jesus is back,” it said. “Most of us are in a lot of trouble, so you’ll be on your own for a bit.”

“So is that just there, or is he coming to Mars too?” I asked. No one really told us in Sunday school if the apocalypse was just for Earth or if it was the whole universe.

“I don’t know,” Katie said, “but I left Earth because–”

“Yeah, I know,” I said. “I’m not much better off.”

Well, crap.

I sat down to think about the implications.

A knock at the airlock startled me from my reverie.

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