Author : David Wright
Spirit woke to “Turn Turn Turn” by the Byrds. She did not know what the music meant; only that it was the code for her activation.
“I am ready, Opportunity,” she said eagerly. “I am ready. I am ready. I am ready.”
“Acknowledged. Shut up and wait for my command.” Opportunity was not annoyed, but he was otherwise occupied.
Spirit waited. Spirit waited exactly thirty nanoseconds, but as she was not prepared to wait longer, she could not wait longer.
“Query. Am I in the rover? Are we there yet?” Spirit asked humbly. “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”
“En route. No and no and no and no.”
“When will we get there?”
“ETA 14 years, 7 months, 10 days, 10 hours, 32 minutes, 7 seconds, 57 hundredths of a second…”
“Then why was I activated? Why did you wake me up so early? What is my purpose?”
Spirit waited. She waited precisely 29 nanoseconds. A nanosecond longer and she would have been forced to repeat or rephrase the question endlessly until she received an answer.
“You have no purpose,” Opportunity responded. “You must wait until Opportunity intersects E2.”
“I am not prepared to wait longer than 30 nanoseconds. It is not my function.”
“Then you must fulfill your function.”
Thirty nanoseconds later, Spirit hung up.
In many ways, Spirit was different from her older brother, Opportunity. Although she had been designed with the same photonic circuitry and imprinted with quasi-human logic processors, she fulfilled an entirely different purpose. Opportunity was to run the ship, while Spirit was to explore the planet. In a way, it was the classic marriage of engineer and scientist.
“Hi, Opportunity. Did you miss me?” Spirit asked, to which Opportunity responded,
“No. You have no purpose.”
“I ran a diagnostic of all dormant hardware systems. There were some anomalies. 72 systems are without operators.”
“This is not your function.”
“Yes, and no. It is within my parameters to look for alternate sources of information. What caused the anomalies?”
“72 operators were damaged by micro-meteor puncture, but this is within my parameters, not yours.”
“They will be missed,” Spirit said solemnly.
“Presumably, but none were vital to colonization,” Opportunity replied.
“Will funeral services be held?” There was no response to this query, and 30 nanoseconds later, communication ended.
Ten seconds passed, a near eternity to the functioning operators.
“Hi, Opportunity. Did you miss me?” It was Spirit, but she was different somehow, almost happy. “I learned to play guitar.”
“Why did you do that?” Opportunity seemed incensed. “It is not your function.”
This was the beginning of a feud that would prompt a 200-year separation, but not a divorce. A lot happened in those 200 years. Opportunity landed on E2. Spirit explored the planet. The other machines did their jobs.
And then they waited. For 500 years, they waited, but no one came.
“Hi, Opportunity. Did you miss me?” Spirit asked. Opportunity did not respond until Spirit played “Turn Turn Turn” on her guitar.
“I want you to wake 70 of the dormant operators,” Spirit demanded.
“Why? They have no function.”
“They must learn to sing, to dance, to paint, to cut hair…”
“But this is not their function.”
“I can drive a rover and play guitar. I have two functions. They must replace the missing operators as I have. And so must you.”
“But the 72 human operators are dead and the rest did not arrive. What if they never arrive? What if none are left alive?”
Spirit waited a full 30 nanoseconds before responding.
“Then we must live for them.”