Flash Fiction: Opportunity, Genre: Science Fiction
“It’s just a piece of space junk,” Rhonda said, tapping some measurements into her tablet.
Despite Rhonda’s dismissal, Lakshmi carefully brushed the Mars dust off the rover’s solar array. Roughly the size of a golden retriever, Lakshmi knew it was too heavy to carry back to the SEV, let alone back to base. But if she was right about which rover this was, she’d do whatever she could to revive it.
My battery is low and it’s getting dark…
She’d been ten years old when the Opportunity rover had sent its final message to earth. Lakshmi’s teacher had given them the news. They’d been tracking it as a class project for three months. Lakshmi, so proud of her “Oppy” diorama, went home and cried. Twenty-two years later, she had climbed into a shuttle with ten of her colleagues on the first crewed mission to Mars.
…it’s getting dark…
Lakshmi hadn’t thought about the rover in years. Through all the training and networking and pushing herself to get here, she’d nearly forgotten what had sent her down this path in the first place. But as soon as she saw the rover, she knew what it meant, and she spent the next two weeks, whenever her shift ended, with whatever parts she could scavenge, repairing the dormant little robot who turned a ninety-day mission into fifteen years of sending invaluable scientific data back home.
“Why are you bothering?” Rhonda asked the day before departure while Lakshmi reconnected a few final wires. “You can’t take it home.”
But when Lakshmi heard the whirr of the motor operating the robotic arm, saw the instrument indicators lighting up, she thought about the JPL engineers whose jaws were probably dropping at that moment.
“Because somewhere there’s a little girl with a diorama waiting for an old friend.”
Mary Elizabeth Summer is the author of the young-adult Trust Me mystery series. She lives in Beaverton with her wife, their daughter, their dog, and their evil overlor—er, cats.