Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

My model number is SAN7-8V/. That’s San-seven, eight-vee-slash. Slashers, they called us. Fierce name for a gang of decorations.

We were the featured models voted ‘best’ and allowed to be built by the birthing factories after that cycle’s design competition sixteen orbits ago. During that time, a neo-aestheticism was taking place. The Great Construction had passed and The War was yet to come. My model was a symbol of that middle era. A symbol of hope and the ability to create something of pure beauty without much utilitarian use. It was a time of peace all over the world, my birth was.

Because of that, I’m white curved polymers spun around plasticable mesh anchored to minimalist jointwork. A sheen of seranano makes sure I’m constantly shiny. I am graceful and pretty to look at.

I can’t lift more than average, I have no factory-issue weaponry other than my few sharp edges, and I am not exceptionally intelligent. My applications for upgrades are granted on a ‘for those according to their need’ basis so I’m rejected more times than not unless it’s related to my job.

My job. I should say my jobs, plural. There have been a lot. I was built to be pretty but not for a purpose. I was too fragile for the reactor floor and I lacked the hull tensile strength for atmospheric re-entry. I worked my way down the chain of importance to here.

I was a snail-catcher. I watched the skies through the telescopes for slower-than-light vehicles of non-silicate origins. So far, there had been none. I had no co-workers. The other models of my year were all destroyed during The War, useless as we were. Bright white makes for horrible camoflauge and dumbness equals death.

So now I watched the skies for snails. Sometimes, I didn’t log my findings for milliseconds, hoping for a bit of punishment to liven things up. Nothing. I powered down for three cycles once just to see what would happen. Nothing.

I wondered if there are searchers like me out there, eyes and ears pointed towards the skies, just waiting.

I wondered that until three days ago.

I noticed something. It was definitely STL and it was headed close to our planet. Scans said it was ferro-class 2 but hollow. It was spewing smoke of its propulsion core. I saw no cognitive arrays but I did sense a spray of radio waves coming off of it. I called up my communicator viewscreen, floated it in front of me and set it to two-way.

A pink thing blocked the screen from the metal life I could see in the background. It was making sonic noises that were being amplified by the array. That was the radio noise. I spoke to the metal but heard nothing back, just the barking of the pink thing. I didn’t know how the life-form was supposed to hear me above that thing’s noise.

Smoke filled the screen. The pink thing stopped making noises. The radio waves stopped.

I continued to send messages to the metal but it drifted aimlessly now. It was going to miss our planet and continue past. I issued a request for retrieval from space command but they classified it as a meteorite and deemed it unnecessary.

That was three days ago. I am haunted by the experience but I no longer feel bad.

There is life out there more useless than me.


Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows