• Published 2nd Jan 2018
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The Maretian - Kris Overstreet

Mark Watney is stranded- the only human on Mars. But he's not alone- five astronauts from a magical kingdom are shipwrecked with him.

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Sol 30


It’s been a very busy few days. The dirt-doubling went smoothly. The seed potatoes are in the ground. The pop-tents are up and connected to Hab air. The MAV’s fuel plant is now sitting next to the Hab, ready to compress Mars air into convenient liquid form whenever I want it. The pony ship has been stripped of most of its outer hull, along with the cargo airlock, some associated wiring, the ship’s main environmental system, four heater units, and a ton of plumbing that I have to assume is its cooling system. Site Epsilon has been thoroughly observed and documented by video (see attachments), and no major faults, sinkholes, etc. were discovered.

Today we’re all taking a day off. The ponies just finished what looked like an emergency suit drill, and it looked a lot more orderly than the total clusterfuck during the Sol 26 dust storm. In fact, they looked like a professional, well-trained, and only occasionally lethally negligent team.

I’ve forgiven them for the ballistic pebble, but I haven’t forgotten. And neither has my subconscious. I had a nightmare last night about Dragonfly and Starlight playing laser tag with their horns and me running around to patch holes in the hab canvas because Fireball had stolen all the suit helmets and buried them in a pile of gold coins.

The ponies are beginning to lose interest in the Partridge Family, since the kids stopped touring and mostly became a garage band. Last night we left off at the episode where Danny does something precocious that lands the rest of the family in trouble. I’m going to try something different today- as far from Shirley Jones and the Moppet Show as Lewis’s terrible taste in entertainment will go. After one episode of the Partridges, of course- the ponies still like the show, and it’s going to be a long four years. Any entertainment resource has to be explored.

But I have to choose something really visual for the next show. Starlight Glimmer told me this morning she won’t be using any magic for the next seven days. No more mind-meld spell. No more conversations in almost-English, except for the words she’s already learned. That’s going to make language lessons tough.

Why the cutoff? Because using Starlight’s horn to cut apart that magic metal they made their ship from has used up their batteries again. And Starlight’s plan to deal with the perchlorates in the cave soil apparently requires a lot of magic- more than she used to lift their ship out of its crash site. So she’s going to focus on conserving energy and pumping her own reserves into the batteries to save up for that.

I used our talky time to focus on water. The soil is beginning to dry back out. We’ve all been too busy with EVAs the last couple days to do anything about watering the place, and we’ve fallen behind. We probably shouldn’t even be taking today off, but it’s been one thing after another for days, and we need a breather. Tomorrow we get right back to it, because in three or four days we have to do another dirt-doubling to get the soil needed to fill the pop-tents. Starlight agreed, so tomorrow is going to be all about watering and turning the dirt.

I feel kind of strange today. This would have been my last full sol on Mars, if the mission hadn’t gone to hell on Sol 6. We’d be loading the MAV with the select soil and rock samples and labeling the rest for some future expedition a hundred years from now to pick up. We’d be talking about rendezvous with Hermes on Mission Day 156 and the two hundred and forty day return flight to Earth. Lewis would be in charge, NASA would be looking over our shoulders on a ten minute time delay, and I would be wrapping up my Mars science, following orders, and having the best time of my life.

Instead I’m getting ready to play movie theater operator (without popcorn) for five aliens who are going to run out of food in another fifty-five sols unless we make a whole lot of miracles happen. And I’m doing science while my guests are doing magic, not because NASA says so, but because we want to still be here when Ares IV arrives on Sol 1412.

It’s a melancholy thing to think about.

I mock Lewis’s taste in entertainment, but given how incredibly silly the descriptions are for these shows, maybe she had the right idea.

I just had a thought. Lewis is apparently obsessed with the 1970s, and Johannsen’s Beatles collection plus the collected works of Agatha Christie make it clear she’s an Anglophile. So why couldn’t they have joined forces and brought to Mars the absolute pinnacle of television entertainment- Doctor Who? It’s 1970s kitsch with a British accent and the kind of horror mixed with optimism that would really get an astronaut out of the space hammock every morning. And the 1970s were the time of Jon Pertwee and Tom friggin’ Baker- the two best Doctors ever who weren’t David Tennant!

Not to mention we could really, really use a TARDIS right now. It wouldn’t even need to be able to fly. I’d just want all that interior space, including the giant wardrobe full of clean clothes and- gasp- individual bedrooms.

Individual bedrooms. Such luxury. I could even forego the swimming pool in the middle of the library.

Okay. Enough moping. We’ve done family, so how about some action that doesn’t require much talking to explain? Dukes of Hazzard it is.


Car jumps, dynamite arrows, and humans acting silly. The ponies are a bit confused, but the bug and the dragon love it- especially the dragon.

I have apparently just changed Fireball’s opinion of my entire species. I’m now his best friend in the entire world. (Okay, there’s only five choices he could have, but still…)

Also, I now know the pony word for “car”. I know because Dragonfly said it, and within a second all four of the other aliens said in the same breath the pony word for “NO”. I don’t regret teaching the ponies how to operate the airlocks, but I don’t think I’ll teach them to drive the rovers any time soon…

Author's Note:

Wrote just over 3,000 words of Maretian today, but I'm breaking them up into the two shortest chapters yet (sub-1K words) and a slightly longer third chapter. That will bring my buffer up to five installments. Working ahead means you get updates even if I'm too busy or tired to invest energy on writing (or if what I write turns out to be unsalvagable crap).

Shorter chapters are going to be the rule soon, now that the setting is established and the characters have their first bits of definition. As someone said, I've already written more than half the words that were in the original book (99,400 or so). And at about 1000 words per hour when I'm in the groove, plus an hour for research and for these little notes, writing is really time-consuming, and my down time for my business is very nearly up.

With that in mind (and because I don't feel like typing "Chapter Three Hundred Thirty-One" come Thanksgiving) I've retitled the chapters for the sols in question. The original book has only twenty-six chapters (partly because there are some HUGE time skips between the Rich Purnell manuever and Watney leaving the Hab), and I don't feel right calling anything under 1,000 words "Chapter X."

I think Watney's words here speak for themselves. I will just add that in the mobile-phone Martian game (or so I read- I never played it) you are given a choice between sending Watney a message from the President or a message from David Tennant. Watney's morale improves more with Tennant.

Tomorrow's installment is something a lot of you have been expecting for weeks now... and something I've given you no cause to expect, but it worked out that way.

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