The Maretian

by Kris Overstreet

Chapter 154: Sol 257

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Dear Dr. Shields,

I spent the morning finishing the removal of all the salvageable equipment from the interior of Rover 1. All that’s left is the computer, the radio system, the O2 and N2 tanks, and an air fan. I yanked the rest of the life support because it’ll be needed, at least in part, to connect the Sirius tandem rover life support systems together. Tomorrow Starlight will help me depressurize the rover interior and then remove the cabin from the chassis.

It’s a good thing Starlight’s the one I need to do this, because Spitfire and Fireball practically aren’t speaking to me. Cherry is, but she’s too busy trying to put the team back together to hear what any of us are saying back to her.

And me? Well, I’m a bit sad, not to mention frustrated. I still don’t feel like I’ve done anything to deserve the anger I’m feeling from everyone. I’ve backed off so far that I’m not even talking to the others when we drive out to the cave. The most meaningful conversation I’ve had with anyone in the past two days has been conducted through the walls of a cocoon.

Working inside the rover today was the first real pleasure I’ve had from doing anything in days, possibly weeks. And I don’t think that’s a good sign, because I was absolutely alone inside Rover 1 for pretty much all of it.

In response to what you said last email, I think “family time” is a terrible idea. The problem isn’t that we don’t know what pisses us off about the others. It’s that something is bringing it all to the surface right now. I don’t see a family time session as doing anything other than encouraging that anger, egging us on to say more hurtful things for the sake of being hurtful.

Not that I have any better ideas, but that one isn’t a winner. I hope you didn’t suggest it to any of the others.

Couldn’t eat much today. Finding it very difficult to do anything anywhere near the others. No appetite. Ironically, part of the problem is, I’m worrying about whether the others are eating, but I don’t dare ask, not with things as they are.

I need a distraction. Got any ideas?


Dear Dr. Shields,

What you say is not wrong but not whole. I have value at home. I have value in space. But on Mars I am no good. I have dumb ideas. I can’t eat others’ food. And now I can’t talk to Mark or ponies without get mad for no good reason.

I think partly is I am dragon. Dragons do not get along with others. Dragons do not get along with even other dragons. We are not nice.

But it was never this bad before. I don’t know why. I can’t understand it.

You are right that I should say sorry. But I am afraid to say sorry. I am afraid I will mess it up and get mad and get others mad. I think they mad at me anyway and they should be. I started this. I should not have blow up at Mark. I still don’t know why I did.

Right now I wish Dragonfly make a second cocoon. She is only one I can talk to anymore.


Dear Dr. Shields,

I think you right team need down time. But I think team also need together time. If team not get over bad time together, they not be team after.

I think you right I should apolthing to Mark. I still think he talk down to us, but now he not talk at all. He scared of us. That not what I want. And now I think he not hear me if I say sorry. Sorry not help any more.

Some time I get too look at self, not enough look at others, I don’t know English word for that. It is worst part of me as leader. It get me in trouble times. I think now it get all us in trouble. I help break team. If I shut up, Fireball would say sorry and this all be over. Now no one can say nothing.

Is good thing I not lead now. Cherry at least try keep us working team. I not know where to start.

Is good thing too all we drink is water. As is, feel like eat lots salt.

Told Dragonfly to get out here today. We need her.


Dear Dr. Shields,

I know my fellow crew members are people just like me. That’s exactly the problem! I’m working through my fears and anxieties. I’m not biting off their heads every time I say more than two syllables. Why can’t they? I keep having to remind myself that it’s wrong to use magic to make people behave, because it’s so bucking tempting!

At least Cherry is still trying- I give her that. But mostly what she’s doing is begging. Everyone’s too ashamed to even answer her (me included) when she asks why we can’t get along. What she’s doing isn’t working, and it’s obvious to everybody. As for the others, Mark’s given up, Fireball and Spitfire want to stay angry, and the only time anyone listens to me is when I’m reading from that hobbit book!

I really miss Dragonfly right now. She had blind spots, and she was as selfish as you’d expect a changeling to be, but she knew how to get ponies to do what she wanted- without magic. (At least, I assume without magic. I never saw her light up her horn when she was schmoozing any of us. But maybe that’s a changeling trick they can do without casting a spell… I need to ask Twilight Sparkle about that.)

Can’t you do something to get these people off their dignity and back to work? I am sick and tired of being the only functional pony around here!

Starlight Glimmer

Dear Dr. Shields,

I am out of ideas. I can’t get any of the others to answer me. They all obey orders, all but one: they won’t get along.

This is not what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to fly. I never wanted to live forever in space, or on another planet. I wanted to fly blimps, planes, balloons, choppers, rockets. Not “command” them, fly them. Not cut them apart to turn into cars, FLY them. And I never, never, never, never wanted to boss other ponies. Never.

Now we are broken into two sides. Mark and Starlight talk, a bit. Fireball and Spitfire talk, a bit. And both sides listen to me, a bit, but not enough. I can’t get everyone together at once.

The only one who listens anymore is Dragonfly. She can’t turn her eyes away. I miss her terribly. I miss laughing at silly bug. I miss feeling good about adventure bug. I miss someone who always obey, always support, always listen.

Please tell me what I can do to get it back.

Cherry Berry

Doctor’s notes:

Mark is engaging in displacement and avoidance behaviors consistent with his known tendency to avoid confrontation. He also has not yet given up on his belief that the aliens are somehow under his guardianship, which may be subconsciously affecting his treatment of them and exacerbating the symptoms of their emotional exhaustion.

Fireball talks and writes like a teenager. His self-esteem issues are front and center in his latest email. There needs to be a program to find ways to make him feel more valuable to the team.

Spitfire is too fond of her armchair psychology to listen to more professional opinions. That said, her admission of partial guilt is a positive step. True understanding of how to maintain a healthy team dynamic might be within her grasp.

Starlight Glimmer is digging into her bad place. She’s gone defensive. A different counseling approach is required to reach her now. Must think about this overnight.

Cherry Berry refuses to be forceful about enforcing morale remedies. Lewis would not have this problem. Must ask, if a chance arises after all this is over, if ponies have a submarine fleet. In the meantime, need to find ways to suggest confidence building exercises.

The latest round of emails have two shared themes: self-blame for the current state of affairs in the Hab so deep that it has become an obstacle to healing, and an intense knowledge of the missing crew member in their lives.

Solution #1: shift counseling from individual to group and promote exercises that remove the stigma of individual guilt.

Solution #2: Administrators need to contact alien space program leaders again for advice. Absolute top priority must now be given to persuading Dragonfly to come out of that cocoon. She is clearly mission-critical to crew morale in addition to her other functions. The longer this is delayed, the more all other schedule items will slip.

#2 requires a brief chat with Kapoor. #1 is this doctor’s job, and it looks like an all-nighter…

Author's Notes:

Grr. Traffic and errands cost me nearly two hours on the road. I just barely had energy to write this before hitting the sack.

I have to be up in about seven hours, since there's no night-before setup at this event. If I'd known the scope of Riverfest in comparison to the convention, I wouldn't have booked it. I've done an event held during a local civic festival once before, and it bombed hard. This looks to be as bad if not worse due to the inconvenience.

Wisdom comes a bit late, though. And anyway, I might be wrong.

Next Chapter: Sol 258 Estimated time remaining: 13 Hours, 54 Minutes
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