The Maretian

by Kris Overstreet


Sol 57

AMICITAS FLIGHT THREE – MISSION DAY 54
ARES III SOL 57

Dragonfly, what are you- no don’t do that- don’t- no no no- oh fuck SPITFIRE!!

Spitfire sighed. She had her suit on except for her helmet, ready to join Cherry Berry for the hike to the gem cave. Since the rover wasn’t going to be available for a while, the ponies were going to have to get used to the walk- not quite an hour each way at a leisurely pace, fifteen minutes at a bouncing gallop in Mars’s light gravity. But time was pressing, and the last thing she needed was for some changeling shenanigans to cost them time checking the soil and watering the hopefully-soon-to-sprout crops.

Spitfire, come here! Dragonfly’s eaten something!

The last few days, with the regular language lessons and the lack of Starlight Glimmer’s magic to translate, had seen rapid improvements in the ponies’ ability to understand the alien biped. She was pretty sure she knew what he’d just said, if for no other reason than that it made perfect sense for a changeling to eat dangerous things. If a thing was annoying, it made sense for a changeling to do it.

Yes, Mark?” she asked in his language, walking over to the work table where Mark had been gluing together large strips of canvas to make the rover saddlebags.

How do you make Dragonfly throw up?” Mark asked, making a hand gesture to convey the idea of tossing one’s cupcakes.

Dragonfly not throw up,” Spitfire replied, trying to make it clear by tone that Mark was asking for a thing that didn’t happen.

“Shows what you know,” Dragonfly muttered in Equestrian. “I can throw up just fine if I eat too much pony food. Anyway, he’s overreacting.”

“What did you eat?” Spitfire asked, also in Equestrian.

“I tasted a bit of his glue,” Dragonfly said. “A little ball of it. It cures really quick, you know.”

What?” Spitfire galloped to the box that contained the ship’s library from Amicitas. “What were you thinking? That could have been poison!”

“It isn’t,” Dragonfly said complacently. “I just wanted to know if I could make more of the stuff. I don’t think I can. It doesn’t taste familiar at all. Not like any of the glues we changelings use.”

“Open your mouth.” Spitfire practically wedged her hoof under Dragonfly’s fangs, paying no attention to the come-on-seriously look the changeling gave her. “Say ahh!” Only a moment later did she realize that, even if she had the mouth-light to see by, she couldn’t see down Dragonfly’s throat around her own hoof.

Dragonfly carefully disengaged the pegasus’s hoof from her fangs. “Spitfire, honestly, listen,” she said. “I’m not being silly and I’m not being foalish. There aren’t many things that can poison a changeling, and most of those things are magical. There’s no magic here. Mark’s glue is just a couple of really complex and disgusting-tasting carbon compounds that make a really powerful resin when mixed. It would probably kill a pony, but only because it would permanently glue your mouth or throat shut. I don’t have that problem.”

“Obviously,” Spitfire said.

“Now, just tell Mark I’m fine, okay?” Dragonfly asked. “I know you’ve got a hard job, but you don’t have to worry about me for now.”

Spitfire reached over Dragonfly’s back and hooked a hoof under one of the changeling’s wings. “Those holes are still too big,” she said. “You ought to be recovering better.”

“I was worse off than this a lot of times before the space program,” Dragonfly insisted. “But if you keep caring about me like you do now, I’ll be hole-free in no time!”

Spitfire rubbed her temple with one hoof. This is not the job I wanted, she thought. This is not the job I chose. I should be running Equestria’s top flight team and training the next generation of Celestia’s defenders of the air. I’m a flyer, not a doctor! “Mark?” she said hesitantly.

Yes, Spitfire?”

Dragonfly not hurt. Dipsticks not get sick.”

“Aw, now that’s harsh,” Dragonfly complained in Equestrian.

Dragonfly, don’t do that again,” Mark said. “You scared the sh- you make me afraid. Very much.

I won’t do it again,” Dragonfly replied. “I needed to know something.”

Mark’s eyebrows made a run for his shaggy hairline, but the alien refrained from asking. Instead he said, “Please go with Cherry today,” and returned to his work.

“You heard him,” Spitfire said. “You’re going to be farming with us today.”

Dragonfly shrugged. “I could use a walk,” she said.

Spitfire bit her tongue on what she really wanted to say. Ever since crashing on this planet, she’d gradually come to understand why Queen Chrysalis was so grumpy and evil most of the time. Imagine having to deal with thousands of Dragonflies, every single day…

If Cherry Berry can put up with all those changelings for four years, she’s Wonderbolts material. Or maybe we can talk Twilight Sparkle into making her an alicorn. Can she do that? Wouldn’t hurt to-

Spitfire’s thoughts got interrupted by Mark’s voice. “Oh, Spitfire, need to ask: what does Dragonfly eat?

Spitfire saw the changeling stiffen. Aha, she thought.

The problem was, she didn’t have enough English to explain changeling appetites for emotions. She could only think of one thing to show Mark. She focused on the silly things Dragonfly did every day, the harmless antics, the often useful information, her absolute fearlessness in the air (a trait Spitfire would admire more if she didn’t think it came from pure stupidity)…

… and then, armed with all the positive feelings for a crewmate and wingpony she could muster, she leaned forward and cuddled the changeling tightly. “Dragonfly eat this,” she said over her shoulder.

When she let go and looked at Mark, she couldn’t tell what the expression was on her face. Definitely not belief or understanding, though.

Whatever,” he said. “I’ll ask Starlight sometime.” Apparently done with ponies for a while, he returned his attention to his pieces of canvas.

Dragonfly let out a slow breath. “He didn’t believe you,” she said.

“I’ll tell him again once I have more words,” Spitfire said.

The changeling’s ear-fins drooped. “Please don’t,” she said quietly. “I need his love too. And you get more love if your… subject… doesn’t know you’re eating it.”

Spitfire’s eyes narrowed. “You’re not getting enough at all, are you?” she asked.

Dragonfly shrugged. “Everyone else is on rations,” she said. “Why not me?”

Voices warred with one another in Spitfire’s head. This is a trick, one voice screamed, a trick for sympathy. Don’t trust changelings! Another voice countered, We aren’t loving her enough! She’s going to starve! And a third voice chimed in, What kind of ponies are we, that we can’t provide enough love for a friend?

“I… have to think about this,” she managed to say.

“Please don’t tell anyling else,” Dragonfly murmured. “Your pity is edible, but your self-anger spoils it. If you tell the others, they'll feel the same way.”

“I’m not much for secrets, changeling,” Spitfire muttered back, no real heat in the words.

“Please?” Dragonfly asked. “Also, try to lighten up a bit on Starlight? Every day you two argue about-“

“Get your suit on,” Spitfire barked, louder this time. “And seal the compost bin. You get to carry it to the cave.”

The changeling trotted over to the spacesuit storage area. Spitfire watched Dragonfly go… and noticed Starlight Glimmer, sitting on a stool on the far side of the Hab working with one of Mark’s spare computers, also following the changeling with her eyes.

Pegasus stare met unicorn stare, and after a long moment, Starlight turned her attention back to the computer.

Yeah, maybe I will lighten up, Spitfire thought. In three days. Starlight’s horn wasn’t sensitive to touch anymore, but a bit more time to heal couldn’t hurt.

In three days, then.