• 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 63


Today we write to you from the rover. We’re halfway through Sirius 3 and things are going well.

I say “we” because, once again, I’m not alone. This time my traveling companion is Starlight. This time there aren’t any clouds of smoke, and there isn’t any gasping for breath in the sudden unexpected heat wave produced by the RTG. The patch of insulation I reassembled is doing its job of keeping just enough heat in the rover to keep things comfy despite it being nighttime on Mars outside. If it gets too hot, I can yank it out again.

We set out just before dawn and drove past the little crater northwest of the Hab and then made large laps of the complex, staying out of the gullies for the most part. The first battery lasted just under two hours. After a quick EVA to switch the cables, we drove until the second battery was down to 10% charge. Result: 82 kilometers in 3 hours and 31 minutes.

Of course, this was the absolute best case scenario. I’ll have to climb down and up through gullies in Acidalia Planitia, and then there’ll be more rugged territory closer to my destination. I can’t even guess how much that’ll eat into my efficiency. And, of course, climbing up onto crater-ridden Arabia Terra on the trip to Ares IV will be much worse.

I was able to stretch the battery a little by turning off the oxygen pump. Starlight’s open suit provides enough oxygen for the both of us and seems to do all right at whisking away carbon dioxide. I keep the circulator fans on to keep the air mixed, because Starlight’s suit system doesn’t have much circulation pressure. It wasn’t built to be the life support for a van-sized pressure vessel. The rover fans prevent the bad air from collecting somewhere and maybe choking us in our sleep.

After the drive I set up the solar cells. Starlight was given permission to use magic again a couple of days ago, but she left the magic batteries in the Hab for this test. Besides, though I’ve seen the ponies do amazing things with hooves in space suits, I don’t want to stake my life on how they handle the solar panels. They’re pretty awkward to handle, and I’m better built to do it.

Then we sat through the long Martian day, with one quick EVA to swap the power cable again. Mostly we stayed quiet. Starlight said nothing at all while I was driving. After we stopped for the day she tried to strike up conversations, but it’s clear she doesn’t trust her English for all the questions she has. We tried talking about who we have back home (her friends, my parents and my fellow crew), but that ran out pretty quickly. We tried describing our worlds, and that ran aground on vocabulary issues pretty fast. Finally she asked me to read aloud from the Agatha Christie book I’m currently on, and I did that for half an hour until my throat got hoarse. (Or was it hoarse got my throat? Rimshot!)

Anyway, the batteries were both fully charged almost exactly at sundown. If I were relying on solar panels alone it might have been iffy, but remember that the RTG is a generator, too. I brought it for the heat, but it also produces one hundred watts all the time whether it’s plugged into anything or not. So why not plug it in?

It’s clear the RTG worries Starlight. Apparently ponies have never felt the need to explore nuclear energy at all. Considering their methods as applied to other technologies as I’ve observed them so far, their world ought to be grateful. But she does understand radioactivity to an extent, to the point that she’s twice tried to find a place for the shitbox farther away from the hotbox. The problem is, there’s very little room to spare in the rover, and I’ve already put the honey bucket as far as I can from the RTG. But it’s still too close for Starlight.

She reacted to it better than Dragonfly, though. Dragonfly took one look at it and bolted back into the Hab. Starlight tells me the bug let out quite a hiss.

With reflexes like that, I think Dragonfly might have a bright future as a NASA safety engineer. It’s a shame that her actual insanely risky thoughts override those reflexes so often.

In a minute I’ll shut this down and declare bedtime. The computer and interior lights don’t burn much electricity, but they do burn some. Even though tomorrow’s drive will be less than a kilometer, I want to start the habit of conserving power for driving.

Tomorrow, once we get back to the Hab, I need to do final prep work for the trip. I need to load food for myself and for Starlight (who I assume will make the trip with me, along with her life support saving suit), water for me, and my tools. But I won’t get to leave the next day, because it’s time to dig up the seed potatoes, replant the plants they grew from, and use the spuds to start the food crops in both the Hab and the cave.

ETD for Sirius 4, to Ares Valles, Carl Sagan Memorial Station, and back, is one hour before dawn three sols from now- Sol 66.

By my math, I’ll get back from the trip almost on the day the pony food packs run out.

God, I hope this trip is worth it.

Author's Note:

Time to finish loading the van, then up to Dallas for Texas Furry Fiesta. Much work today, which is why I did my writing this morning.

I have no idea how much time, if any, I'll have for writing this weekend. But I'm going into the weekend with a five day buffer, so there's that.

I think the chapter explains itself.

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