She sat on the bank of the creek bed. Without new samples her work would, like Mars, wither and die. Perhaps some many millennium later, after their minuscule attempt at habitation was crushed into the soil and assuming humanity didn’t wipe itself from Earth, another would return to this spot and renew her work. She would be nameless, forgotten, at best, if any documentation survived, known in abstract as one who lived by the river.
How long the moisture monitors had been communicating to her through their incessant blips of blue lighting she hadn’t noticed. Standing, she let her mouth line drop and focused her eyesight from a vague scan of landscape to the narrow line of sticks in the middle of the bed. More rote routine than any desire, she bent down to check the readouts, even though she knew it would only be a mild trace soon to disappear. She tapped the screen. The readout was wrong. The equipment, like everything else she had put her faith—science, progress, humanity—had failed.
But, the ground moved at her feet. A slow, almost wormlike, bulge of topsoil smudged her boot. It built there for a moment, collecting tiny particles before breaking to the side and attaching itself along the tiny ridges. She knelt, letting the worm move free once more, the glass of her helmet nearly scraping the surface of the creature. “Water,” she muttered. The others should be alerted, but she couldn’t bring herself to repeat herself. If Cindy had heard, she’d demand confirmation, then, like clones, they would come bearing equipment, mar the landscape with rods, boxes, alien metals. Her childhood memories of Patagonia replaced with her former life in the West, seeking to codify, to take, to make human.
Perhaps though, this was what was always destined for her—to play god for a death planet. Mars would be her Lazarus, and she its prophet. She thought hard as to what in her meager collection of microbes and meager organisms could survive in the muddy trickle. She would create life in these waters.
She grabbed for the nearest rock and set it against the flow.