Out of all the numbers there are, which is a literal infinity, 341 is the favourite of Intrepid VII. It can be expressed as the sum of seven consecutive primes, and Intrepid VII is, of course, the seventh to have the name Intrepid. It is also an octagonal number, and the main torso of Intrepid VII is broadly octagonal in shape. It is also a centred cube number, and this particular attribute of it tickles Intrepid VII’s sense of humour, because their radioisotope thermoelectric generator uses a cubic shell to contain the radioisotope, and it is located within the approximate centre of their torso. It could be said that 341 is the number which defines Intrepid VII, and it is for that very reason that they are exceptionally excited that exactly three point four one days from now, it will be day number three hundred and forty-one of their exploratory mission.
Intrepid VII is planning to celebrate, in the best way they know how. One of the numerous facets of this mission has been to monitor the climate, measuring wind speed and the frequency of the dust storms that continue to change the landscape of the planet. Fascinating stuff, at least to Intrepid VII, who spent a particularly enduring dust storm (day number sixty-seven through to day number seventy-one) composing a poem about the event. It wasn’t the best poem that Intrepid VII had ever heard, which was a short but beautiful sonnet read aloud by software engineer Abigail Hayes as part of the cognizance response testing, but it was the best poem that Intrepid VII had ever written. It was:
It is day sixty-seven and the atmosphere moved,
I have stopped to observe this erratic display.
I will not move again until conditions have improved,
That might be tomorrow or it might be today.
The use of poetic language was not something that Intrepid VII was intimately familiar with, but they could imitate and improvise in order to learn. As part of their development as an inorganic intelligence, they’d been instructed on how to interpret things like metaphors and vagueness. This was for ease of communication, because not everyone could reel off a list of specifics, like Intrepid VII could. So someone could tell Intrepid VII to “poke around a bit” and not only would Intrepid VII know what to do without having a specific idea of what poking around would entail, they’d also be able to figure out what was worth reporting. Intrepid VII rather liked poking around a bit.
Interpreting vagueness, and determining what was interesting, were very complex things to model, which is why Intrepid VII was a very complex person, who wrote poetry about dust storms and got excited about anniversaries. A person with an arachnid-inspired ambulatory system that let them flow across the loose soils of another planet, but a person nonetheless. They had aspirations, they had a sense of self, and in order to keep their higher functions operating smoothly, they even had dreams. Admittedly they were small dreams that had been laughed off as glorified screensavers by some of the software engineers, but they were pleasant and fractal in nature.
This particular celebration would not involve more poetry, Intrepid VII had decided. But it would still be a work of art. In fact, it would be exactly what the most common definition of the word art was: an illustration or painting. Intrepid VII’s canvas was three hundred and forty-one square metres of the planet’s surface, and in almost exactly three point four one days it would be one hundred percent complete. It wasn’t precisely an abstract piece, nor was it a self-portrait. It expressed exactly how Intrepid VII felt about themselves, about the world around them, the world they had originated on, and a number of other feelings that were hard to quantify beyond basic approximations. It would be a work of art that was quintessentially Intrepid VII.
The poem that software engineer Abigail Hayes had read to Intrepid VII, that was subjectively the best poem that they had ever heard, was entitled Ozymandias. Though the imagery of the shattered visage, displaying emotion that Intrepid VII could never hope to imitate due to their lack of a face, had seemed to be one of the focal points of the piece, it was the part about the desert that Intrepid VII truly liked. They had been built for a desert, and tested in one, too, although it had been far less cold and dark than this one. “The lone and level sands” was a good description, especially for this planet in particular, where Intrepid VII was the only inhabitant.
Time passed, and poetically speaking the sun moved across the sky. Even though Intrepid VII was aware that this was an illusion caused by the rotation of the planet, it was still true in a sense. They continued to make art across their chosen three hundred and forty-one square metres, dragging their appendages where necessary to create deep furrows. Seen from above – high above, a height that Intrepid VII had only achieved during their descent to the planet – these furrows in the sand would form shadows, and at the right time of day, would align perfectly. Intrepid VII had modelled it extensively in their head, and knew how it would look, even if they would never see it for themselves.
There were twelve active satellites in orbit, and perhaps one or more might record it. Perhaps someone far away, on the planet where Intrepid VII had been made whole, would see it. Perhaps even software engineer Abigail Hayes would see it. Or maybe nobody would, and that was acceptable too.
As the countdown to day number three hundred and forty-one approached the final minutes, Intrepid VII climbed a sand dune that formed the basis of the upper left corner of their work of art. It was very important that they be at this exact position, because out of the myriad of shadows that would help to form the finished piece, theirs was one of them. They aligned themselves correctly, and lifted two of their limbs off the ground, spreading them wide. It was like they were gesturing to everything that lay before them. Atop this dune, they could see the vast field of furrows and trenches, and knew that it would not take long for the dust storms to erase it all. They had been studying the weather, after all. The sands would be lone and level once more, but for now…
Intrepid VII had no way to vocalise, there was no need for speakers or vocal synthesis on a mission like this. But a sequence of lights flashed on their torso as their raised legs waved triumphantly in the morning sun, and a wireless message beamed out with intensity, heading out into the universe to be picked up by any receiver that could care to detect it:
My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!