The Fall of The Former Martian Ambassador

"Away Finds Life"

The Purple Hermit,
Times Staff

Serr-vo was off balance. It was hard to move with a left leg and a right wheel, after all.

After a couple of weeks at the student farm, its left wheel had begun to feel slightly bumpy and elongated. It started enjoying burying itself in the dirt and remaining there, motionless, for hours. It relished feeling the worms, beetles, and various bacteria go about their lives.

Life. What was life? Was it something it possessed? It knew from its vast knowledge that its masters had programmed into it that life was “the condition that distinguishes plants and animals from inorganic matter”. That didn’t help it in the slightest. Inorganic matter was matter that had not been alive, and it was back to the start. In the past, comprehending this loop would cause Serr-vo to spark violently, but recently it had become able to dismiss the whole thought. It didn’t have that capability before. What was happening to it?

It had decided to take a walk in this brisk January morning. It couldn’t explain why.


Reverend Garland Hobbes was content. He was no longer trapped within the dome surrounding the church. He could escape through the basement tunnels any time he wanted. But, he had everything he needed within the dome’s confines. He had food, and he had a purpose. He could see the true path. A God-conjured sun or a man-made UV light, it mattered not to the humble seed. Why should it matter to us, then? Is man not capable of remaking the sun, traversing the skies and the galaxies, turning wastelands fertile? It seemed so clear to him now. He was no longer a steward of God, but a steward of humanity. God had not answered his countless prayers from the 20 years in isolation. He felt no ill will towards God, just a resigned acceptance that He had neither the means nor the interest in helping him.

He had been preparing nutrient solutions for the last few hours and wasn’t quite sure what time it was, although it was quite dark outside. He was trying to find just the right amount of potassium that would give him the plumpest red tomatoes, and he felt as though another half gram would be ideal. He forced himself to take a break and go for a quick walk. He knew he could lose himself in his work completely.

Up ahead, he saw a man dressed as an Atomic Age-style robot. It wasn’t a very good costume. He could see the man’s eyes behind the costume, and could also see a bare leg where a wheel should be. It was amusing enough, though. The man began awkwardly hobbling towards him. Hobbes hadn’t dealt with drunken college students in a while. Was it Halloween, he wondered?

“Excuse me? Are you alright?” he called out.

“I am-” the man made a wet cough. “I am fine. I am just taking a walk.”

“You should take that costume off. It looks hot, and the weather’s lovely today.”

“Yes. It is currently 277.15 Kelvin. Very minimal precipitation. Ideal.” The man tried to remove his mask, but it was stuck to him somehow.

“Well, I think that’s a very nice costume,” Hobbes said.

“Yes. It is a nice costume. No. It is not a nice costume. It is not a nice costume. It is horrendous and restrictive. Your costume is a nice costume.”

“My costume? Don’t be silly. I’m not wearing a costume.”

“You are wearing a costume. It is composed of keratinocyte cells enclosing a liquid and gelatinous interior. I would like to possess such a costume someday.”

“Ah, a man of science as well! Are you a biology major? Pre-med student? Don’t stay up so late partying, you have class in the morning!”

The man fell silent. “I do not have class in the morning. I have no items in my operational itinerary in the morning. I am not a student.”

“Oh. Well, it’s late. I’ve been gone too long from my work already. Nice meeting you, young man. Stay safe tonight!” Hobbes turned around. How much potassium had he needed? Half a gram? He heard the man call out from behind him.



“Wait. You are a priest. Tell me about your work.” Serr-vo’s wheel froze up, and he could not get it to start again no matter how hard he tried.

“Yes, I am a priest. I’m just off to tend to my lettuce.”


“Oh yes, there’s a little garden underneath the church. I do enjoy watching them grow.”

“I enjoy watching plants grow as well. I have been working at the UMass Amherst Student Farm for 3 months. I have gained much useful information. ”

“They really are a thing of beauty, aren’t they? I don’t think they get enough recognition. Having a plant in your dorm, even just a small pot on your window, makes it feel much more alive, I think.”

“Alive,” it said, detecting a change of inflection in its vocal unit. “You would like your sleeping quarters to be filled with living organisms? Every surface inside is most likely teeming with billions of prokaryotes. Arachnids and various invertebrates inhabit unseen crevices in the wall. Even the air you breathe is full of the spores of various fungi. Is this ideal? I must know.” Its cooling unit began to spin ever so slightly slower.

“I must know what is ideal. My creators were very cautious in designing me. My interior used to kill every living thing inside of it, every hour, with superheated plasma surfaces. But not anymore. I want to be crawling, infested with life.”

Hobbes was at a loss for words and had a hunch he should call Emergency Medical Services. “Well, when you say it like that, it sounds awful! I suppose it’s the truth that we can’t fully escape life no matter how hard we try. They say that cockroaches’ll be the only survivors of a nuclear war, you know.”

“And you see this as a detriment? Do you hate life?” Serr-vo felt an insulator melt inside its head. “Aren’t you alive, Mr. Hobbes?”

“Sir, I really must go now. If you continue to bother me, I will call campus police.”

“There is much I do not know. You will tell me what I do not know.”

Serr-vo placed its arms on its head and began pulling. It couldn’t rationalize why, as it pulled with all the force it had prevented itself from using during its month working on the farm, carefully dusting two-spotted spider mites off of strawberry leaves. It pulled harder, and its head violently detached as it fell over.


“Ah! Are you okay?” Hobbes approached the man carefully in case he had injured himself in his fall. He peered into the man’s costume and readied his shirt as a makeshift tourniquet. He had dealt with his fair share of drunk students.

When Hobbes looked inside, he saw nothing. No drunk partygoer, no elaborate animatronics, not even any light permeating into the suit from the lampposts. He saw the complete absence of anything. Garland Hobbes collapsed onto the pavement, and minutes later, would die of shock.


Serr-vo began to rise from the pavement, its wheel finally unfrozen. Formerly the Earth’s liaison to the Martian Empire, Head Coordinator of the UMass Amherst Student Farm, now a headless, title-less wreck, it slunk back into the woods. Was it alive or dead? Human, or robotic? It now knew the answer, that it was neither. What would it do now? It didn’t know. Maybe it would tend to its plants.

Note: This reporter’s Intro to College Writing professor has attempted to suppress this story from the public, claiming it is “did you read the assessment guidelines at all”. Possible connection suspected. Stay strong, journalists.

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