Lowell knelt in the dusty soil in front of the two drones. It was so strange how emotive their postures were. Even though they were only blocky bodies on stumpy legs, with no suggestion of anything like a face, he had come to see them as real friends. That made what he was about to do so much harder.
“Dewey… I've taught you everything that I know about taking care of the forest here. And, uh… that's all that you have to do from now on, just maintain the forest. Now, these lights here will do the job that the sun would do. They'll help revive everything.”
Dewey swivelled back and forth as if looking around at the lights they had erected, taking it all in.
Lowell swallowed hard and continued. “I, uh… I just can't do it anymore. You see, things, uh… things just haven't worked out for me. Take care of yourself, Dewey.”
He turned to the bigger, orange drone. “Huey, you have to come with me… because you're just not working well enough to help Dewey.”
Huey swivelled to face Dewey, then back so he was face-on to Lowell again. The little light above his damaged arm started flashing frantically.
Lowell looked at the two drones. They really did seem to have a connection. He was never sure how much they could communicate with each other, but Dewey’s behaviour when Huey had been damaged was a clear indication that they cared about each other. He ran his hands over his face and sighed. Given what he was intending to do when he left the dome, he figured there was no real reason to take Huey with him.
“You want to stay in the dome with Dewey, huh?”
Huey rocked his body back and forth in a clear signal of assent.
“Okay, well I guess you can help out a bit, and at least keep Dewey company. You boys take care of each other, okay?”
They regarded him solemnly.
“And, you never know. Maybe someone from Earth will find you one day and they’ll have realised by then just how much they’ve lost. Then you can be like an ark ship, bringing the wonder of nature back to my planet. It’s all down to the two of you.”
Lowell pushed himself to his feet and took one long, last look around the ecosystem he had preserved. He had done terrible things to ensure its survival, but now he had to let it go. He knew the drones would take his legacy and keep it safe. Together, out in space, they would maintain the last vestige of Earth’s natural world, until Earth was ready to appreciate it again. He had faith that day would come, and that he was entrusting the future to safe hands.