Mina found the little robot while walking through the woods outside of town. Its lights were flashing but its wheels had broken off. She found the wheels nearby but it was clear that she would not be able to re-attach them.
She knew that whoever built this little rover would be disappointed that it didn’t get to see anything but that old tree that it landed next to. So, she decided that she should take the little rover with her and show it around.
“You are quite messy, aren’t you? Let’s see if we can get you cleaned up.”
Mina took a damp cloth and wiped off the mud and dirt. While cleaning the rover, she noticed symbols on its body. She had never seen these symbols before but, if she squinted the right way, one of the sets of shapes sort of looked like the word DAY. Mina also noticed a set of slots on one side of the rover and decided that those must be its eyes and that she should carry it with those facing forward so it can see what she sees.
“Okay, Day, what shall we do? What do you want to see? I was going to go to the store, maybe you should ride with me. We can stop and see daddy along the way.”
Mina attached the little rover to her bike and rode off to the store. Along the way, she pointed out the tranquil pond with frogs croaking and cattails swaying in the summer breeze. As she entered the town, she stopped so that Day could see the town’s sign and the flowers that surrounded it. The town was a small village a ways outside of the big city. It seemed like everyone wanted to live in the big city, especially younger people. But Mina enjoyed the quiet countryside that everyone worked so hard to rebuild. She thought it was the most beautiful place.
As she rode down Main Street, she showed Day the shops, the statues , the coffee house, the advertisements on the walls, and everything else she came across. After reaching the farm stand, she took the rover in her arm and carried it around the tables. She described each fruit and veggie that they had for sale as though she were teaching a child about the food. She wished she could let the rover taste the sweetness of the corn or the refreshing flavor of cucumbers. But, she thought, this little robot would just have to listen to her descriptions and maybe tell its masters all about it later.
She bought an apple and some hummus and rode over to the tiny park in the center of the village to eat her lunch. The grassy park was dominated by two sugar maple trees that provided a shock of red color in the autumn. Mina sat on the bench and placed Day next to her.
“These maple trees are a lot of fun. When the leaves fall, I like to pile them up and jump into them. Oh! And those are birds over there! Those little ones flitting about are called finches. Those bigger ones on the ground are robins. And that’s a squirrel! I mean, squirrels aren’t birds. They’re rodents but they are also fun to watch.”
After sitting quietly for bit while eating some apple slices and hummus, she contemplated what she should tell the little rover. She looked around her but couldn’t think of anything profound so she thought she should describe her environment more. “I don’t know if you can tell what the temperature is right now but it’s kind of hot. It gets that way in the summer. Dad tells me that it seems like it gets hotter every year. It hasn’t rained in a while but when it does rain in the summer, it smells so good. It makes the heat worth it.”
“I wonder, what would you be doing if you still had your wheels and I didn’t find you? I suppose you would be digging in the dirt or something. That seems like a thing that rovers do.”
Mina placed the rover onto the grass and left it alone for a bit. She watched Day intently but it didn’t really do anything. But after a few minutes, a few of its lights started flashing and Mina could hear a noise coming from inside the rover but nothing much happened. She figured the rover was trying to move its (non-existent) wheels so she moved it forward closer to the sidewalk. After a few minutes, the rover made a few noises then a door on its side slid open and a small metal rod, about the size of Mina’s index finger, moved through the opening from inside the rover. The rod just stuck out in the air without moving. She could hear faint beeps or thumps coming from inside the rover.
“Good, finally taking some measurements. But, you need to hurry because I need to stop by daddy’s office while he is taking a break for lunch.”
After a few minutes, the rod remained sticking in the air but she picked up the rover anyway. She attached Day to her bike then rode two blocks to her father’s office. Her father was the village’s maintenance supervisor. He was responsible for making sure that all of the town’s equipment was working right. She liked visiting his office because he always had tools and motors around. She thought her Dad had all of the tools and parts to build any machine he wanted. She liked to look at all of the motors and parts and try to imagine what machines she could build with them.
Mina carefully took Day off of the bike so as to not touch the metal rod. She carried the probe into her father’s office at the front of the building.
“Hey, sweetie, what’s up?”
“I was showing my new friend around town. See? His name is Day.”
“Day? How do you know his name?”
“Well, if you tilt your head, these symbols sort of look like the word ‘Day’.”
Right then, the small rod moved back into the rover and the door that it came through closed up.
“That happens a lot with rovers. Once they are out of the sun, they try to conserve their energy. Where did you find Day?”
“Out by the pond next to a tree. His wheels had broken off so I thought I would take him to see the sites.”
“Can I take a look at it?“
Mina placed the rover on the desk then rotated it so that the slots were facing her father.
“Hmm, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen one like this. Jackie said that she found another probe this morning over by the marketplace. Probably came down just a few days ago. Why don’t you go back to the lost and found room to see if it looks the same?”
Mina went down the hallway from her father’s office and into the shop where Jackie kept her tools. In the back of the shop was the Lost-and-Found closet where they put personal items they found while working around town.
The room was filled with umbrellas, jackets, some flip-flops, lots of glasses, and even a rusty bicycle. The shelves on the side of the closet were filled with small machines of various shapes. Some of these devices had wheels and some didn’t. Some had arms or grabbers attached and others just had doors and openings on the sides of the boxes. Most had symbols on the side but a few did not.
Mina pointed Day’s eyes at the shelves and said, “See? You are not alone. There are lots of people looking at us. Daddy says that they find 3 or 4 a month just in this area. We always tell the Foreign Objects Office but they only care if they haven’t seen one like it before.”
Mina looked carefully at the dozen or so probes on the shelves and didn’t see any that looked quite like Day.
“Do you recognize any of your friends?”
Her father came into the room with a camera. “I need to take some pictures for the Foreign Objects folks. Did you find his brother in here?”
“No, none of the others look like Day…Do I have to leave Day here? He’s injured but still has plenty of power. I’d like to show him around some more”
“No, you can keep it at home but if Foreign Objects wants to take a look, you have to let them take it.”
Mina and Day finished their tour of the town then headed to the two-story house at the edge of town where she lived. She carried the rover up to her room on the second floor and placed it on the window seal. She opened the window so that Day could see the mountains in the distance. She thought that maybe Day would be able to see the part of the sky from where it came.
Mina laid on her bed watching the little rover. She tried to imagine the journey it had taken. She thought of the people far away that built Day and sent him into space with the hopes of landing on a faraway planet and finding life. A planet that they had not cared about until bright flashes of light and radiation were detected on its surface hundreds of years ago. She hoped that they would get to see and hear everything that Day experienced on their tour. She imagined how excited and amazed they would be to know that their little broken rover was able to see the planet. Well, a small part of it anyway. Maybe she would be able to take Day to the mountains before he had to be taken away or was turned off.
As Mina let her mind explore all of the possibilities, the warmth of the day enveloped her room and she drifted off to sleep for a midday nap. With everything quiet, the little rover extended its antenna and began transmitting data.