• 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 10


It’s a shame the History Channel changed its name to RealTV. I have the perfect concept for a show: the Psychic Aliens Show. (Because as we all know, psychic aliens are responsible for everything, from the Egyptian pyramids to the Indian pyramids to the Mayan pyramids to Stonehenge to the Nazca Lines to why the Bulls have sucked rocks ever since Michael Jordan’s final retirement.)

And the best part is: we could film it all right here in the Hab!

Sorry, but I’m still just overwhelmed by the stuff I told you about in yesterday’s entry. At least one of the aliens has telekinesis and some form of telepathy that translates their language. But I’ve gotta say, the translator is a long way from Star Trek. For one thing, here’s a transcript of my chat this morning with Magica, which lasted about ninety seconds before she fell over again:

MAGICA: Healthy sunrise. Where we?

WATNEY: This is the Hab, mission Ares Three, in Acidalia Planitia, on Mars.

MAGICA: (shakes head adorably, probably got a long string of absolute gibberish) Identity yours?

WATNEY: My name is Mark Watney. Call me Mark. What’s your name?

MAGICA: (gives me a funny look) You identified on behalf of planet? (Note: I’d forgotten, but I looked it up as a kid, and sure enough, “Mark” comes from the Latin Marcus, ‘dedicated to Mars’. Nobody knows what Watney means.)

WATNEY: (shakes head) What are your names?

MAGICA: (points to self) Starwhite Mirage. (points to Cherry) Very Cherry. (points to Fireball) Slobberflame. (points to Puff Brannigan) Ball of Fire. (points to Buggy) Flying Dragon.

WATNEY: (sighs, because nothing can ever be easy, can it?) I’m going back out to try one more time to find the comms dish and see what I can do with the antenna farm.

MAGICA: Okay. Help we. (falls over, translation ends)

And in exchange for that incredible insight into alien language, psychology, and mental prowess, Fireball (the fuzzy one) gave me the ugliest looks for the whole damn day. This time she went out with me and Puff (or Fireball, or whatever- Macho Lizard) for the final search for the missing dish, I think to make sure I stayed the fuck away from Magica.

But seriously, let’s talk about names for a minute. Starwhite Mirage? Very Cherry? Those make as much sense as Mark Watney, I get that. The psychic translator probably just had an advanced-aliens brain fart. (If sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, what does that make a sufficiently advanced brain fart?) But Slobberflame? Who would name their daughter anything like that? And Ball of Fire- or Fireball? Yes, it’s a good name for a dragon, I admit that, but it’s inconvenient that his name just happens to be what I’m calling the flame-pony. And Flying Dragon? Why is that a name for a bug, when there’s an actual dragon right here?

Yes, I know, I’m ranting about silly things. The sad thing is, it’s the most productive thing I’ve done today.

It’s time to face facts: the dish is gone, and the communications array, all of it, is trashed beyond repair. I could wire the remaining pieces together, but there’s no point. There’s not enough bits of the array to pick up a signal from Earth all put together. The thing had a lot of pieces and took up a lot of ground for good reason.

And I could make a replacement dish from scrap around the Hab, but that’s not the big problem. When the dish sheared off it took the motor with it- the motor that points the thing at Earth and keeps it pointed there while Earth and Mars move and rotate. Even if I could replace that, and I can’t, the aiming software for the antenna wouldn’t know what to do with it.

I’ll have to ask my new friends if they have help on the way, but otherwise I’m on my own, which means it’s time to think long-term survival.

Thankfully the Hab itself is perfectly intact after the storm, as is everything inside it. I have air, water, food and shelter for a good long time. I can even share all the veggie meals with my new herbivorous friends and still have over two hundred sols of food without rationing.

The problem: it’s four years until Ares IV shows up. The math is a little complicated, but it works out like this: four years is a fuckton more than two hundred sols. Metric or imperial fuckton, it doesn’t matter, because I’ll be over a thousand sols dead either way.

Of course, if NASA doesn’t know I’m still alive, Ares IV won’t be prepared to rescue me. And Ares IV sure as hell won’t be ready to rescue five aliens, assuming Big Momma Alien hasn’t already come to take them home.

So I have two major priorities: restore communications with Earth, and find some way to keep eating until Ares IV arrives. Once I solve those, I can solve the third problem: getting to Schiaparelli Crater, where the Ares IV MAV is. It’s about 3200 kilometers away, and the current maximum range of my rovers is 35 kilometers.

Your homework for tonight, class, is to do the math and tell me how well that works. Be sure to show your proofs step by step.

In the meantime I’m going to start rationing food- actually I already began yesterday. Our meal packs are calibrated to provide plenty of energy for highly active astronauts in a hostile environment. That means they have a lot more calories than a bare survival level, and a lot more protein than you’d normally need on Earth. That’s good, because although I have all the vitamins I’ll ever need thanks to the medical stores, I am really going to need protein and calories for the long haul to keep from starving or wasting away in Mars’s subtly lethal 0.4 g.

If I restrict my physical activity to only the absolutely essential effort- only the stuff that keeps me alive- I can cut my rations to three-quarters without suffering any serious ill effects. In particular I need to put some protein aside for rainy days. If I were alone that would extend my food supplies to about Sol 400.

I need to figure out a simple way to explain this to my guests in less than a minute. I don’t think it’ll take too much explaining. They have a lot less food than I do, even if Buggy still refuses to eat more than a bread scrap or two off my plate. (And I think she was only humoring me doing that. She’s obviously trying to act adorable for my benefit. The scary thing is, it’s working.)

But rationing the food packs isn’t going to be enough. I’m working on a plan for that, and those alfalfa sprouts I put in the experimental soil are just the start of it. Half a cubic meter of loose Earth topsoil is not going to feed six people for four years no matter what you plant in it. I’m going to need more.

And I have an idea for how to get more… though I think my guests really aren’t going to like it.


Ponies, changeling and dragon looked at the large plastic sample tub, at the recycled and already rather grody sponge wipe sitting on a smaller closed tub next to it, and at the picture the alien- Martian Redbarrel? What a bizarre name- had drawn on the whiteboard.

The picture was very graphic, very disgusting, and very obvious in its meaning.

Still, despite that, and despite the language barrier, Cherry Berry spoke for her entire crew when she asked the question.

“You want us to whaaaaat?”

Author's Note:

Yeah, the second time I read The Martian I caught the bit about assuming that astronaut meals are the same 2000 calories as the recommended daily allowance for an average, mostly sedentary human being. They're not. They're REALLY not.

Interesting note: one of the reasons the Japanese Army during World War II had a hard time against smaller numbers of American soldiers was supply. In World War II American soldiers had a diet of 4,150 calories per man per day. German and British soldiers averaged 4,000 per day, and Italian and Russian solders between 3000 and 3500 per day.

Japan provided their soldiers an average of only 1,000 calories per day and made them forage for the rest. There are multiple cases of Japanese garrisons either growing their own food or enslaving natives to grow it for them. The entire army was either looting or on the brink of starvation, depending on where they were stationed- and that was BEFORE America ditched its defective torpedo warheads and our anti-shipping campaign actually became effective in 1943. After that it got much, much worse- to the point that some banzai charges weren't so much about honor or glory as getting rid of soldiers the generals simply couldn't feed any more.

I learned this just a couple years ago, and ever since then I've had a greater respect for just how important diet is to anyone with a really active lifestyle...

... and believe it or not, astronauts burn a lot more calories in space than on Earth. Zero gravity is hard. Spacewalking is really, really hard. So NASA's diets run between 3200 and 3500 calories per day- not the 2000 Andy Weir used in the book.

If the Mars rations had really been 2000, and Mark Watney cut them down to 1500, and then spent almost the entire last 120 days of his time on Mars eating nothing but potatoes and vitamins, he would have looked like a concentration camp prisoner on VJ Day when he got rescued- assuming he survived the 12G launch at all in his weakened condition. A lot of other fanfics have made that point, some in gruesome detail.

So, I make a minor correction here, which incidentally allows Watney the same level of health the book gave him. And, most likely, I'll never mention it again.

This is the shortest chapter yet. There will probably be shorter chapters in the future, especially as I have other things I need to do. The one I wrote today is one such. But I'll try to make 'em all worth reading.

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