The Maretian

by Kris Overstreet

Chapter 159: Sol 267

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Sixteen normal-sized batteries (the three from the Hab having been so close to empty as not to be worth adding) plus four partially charged jumbo batteries didn’t light the single field projection up any brighter than normal. The rainbow sparks that rose from the Jacolt’s ladder could only discharge magic so fast. They just kept the projector going from a little past lunchtime until long after everyone had taken to the sleeping rolls for the night.

When they woke, tiny static discharges danced around the base of the terminals, a sign that the batteries were completely drained…

… and Dragonfly’s cocoon remained where it was, sealed, undisturbed in any way.

As the others went about their breakfasts, Starlight Glimmer shut down the projector and disconnected the cables which connected the batteries. Ironically, when the day before had begun, the three batteries from the Hab had been almost totally drained. Now they were the only batteries that held any charge- not more than twenty percent each, but that was more than the flat zero in all the batteries that had been in the farm.

Starlight snorted. One battery at twenty percent power had been enough to lift Amicitas out of the rubble of its crash site and onto its landing gear. One. Now here she was, thinking how terrible it was that they only had three batteries at that power…!

And yet… sixteen batteries at full power plus whatever had been in the four jumbo batteries… enough power to have picked up Amicitas and carried it all the way to the Hab… and that still wasn’t enough to get Dragonfly to come out of her cocoon.

Starlight was beginning to come around to Chrysalis’s thinking regarding “lazy bugs.” She turned to stare at the cherry saplings, each of which had several limbs which, if not suitable for heavy sticks, might at least make the kind of switch that old-fashioned pony parents would use to keep wayward foals in line.

“Touch so much as one leaf,” Cherry Berry’s voice called from behind her, “and vengeance will be swift and terrible.”

Starlight looked at Cherry. “You’ve been hanging around changelings too long,” she said. “You do that far too well.”

“Don’t try me,” Cherry said.

Starlight sighed and turned away from the trees. She wasn’t yet willing to hit Dragonfly’s cocoon directly, not yet. But it would take two and a half weeks for all the batteries to be full again for a second attempt- longer, really, since they’d need to run the projector for at least a couple of minutes every day just to sustain Dragonfly. She’d need to sit down and do the math. After that, she could prepare- for she already knew she was going to do something very different next time.

And if that didn’t work, then came the stick, no matter what Cherry Berry said-

“I can see you thinking about it.”

-with Cherry Berry’s full consent, that is.

[13:18] WATNEY: Test. I see the chat is up again.

[13:55] JPL: Hello, Mark. Yes, the data transfer finally completed. We received your telegram yesterday. We’re sorry to hear about Starlight’s suit, but we hope it can be fixed soon.

We tied up the data transfer for a week for a good reason, though. In the rover data buffer you will find text-only versions of Dungeons and Dragons Player Handbook, Dungeon Master Guide, and eight adventure modules, plus an application for your computers to simulate die rolls. All of these were provided by Hasbro free of charge, and definitely not as any incentive for NASA to look favorably on their bid to make toys of your friends.

We hope the games give you something to do together besides work and thus improve morale. That’s the main reason we took up Pathfinder for a week. When you get a chance, can you please give a report on your current situation?

[14:41] WATNEY: Um… tell Hasbro thanks and all… but version 4.0?? Really??? If they were going back to ancient history, why not just send 3.0 or 3.5? It’d be appropriate, what with Pathfinder and all.

[15:12] JPL: Quit complaining. It could have been GURPS. That was what I played in college.

[15:41] WATNEY: I’d make wise-cracks about math geeks and RPGs, but to be honest I’m really hoping for some real life min-maxing about now. Like, how much Constitution do I have to dump to get enough Dexterity/Speed to get off this rock?

[16:10] JPL: Bruce and his people are still working on that. We’ll let you know. But we’ll try not to let your stats drop down to wizard levels.

[16:39] WATNEY: This is Starlight. What is that supposed to mean? Is that an insult?

[17:44] WATNEY: Well? Is it? Answer me!!

Author's Notes:

As I post this, ninety minutes to tonight's KWLP.

I have a Kickstarter waiting for approval for WLP's summer T-shirt designs- I'd forgot about the approval process, so I guess I won't have the KS live for A-Kon after all.

Speaking of, I leave first thing in the morning for that. My van is absolutely stuffed, and more merch is being shipped to Fort Worth ahead of me. (Alas, thanks to one supplier losing my payment info, one shipment will arrive a day late, so I won't have it for Friday.)

After that, it appears I have three weekends off. And I can rest, recover, and catch up on a lot of things.

But for now, need to put pinups on the PitW page, need to put together tonight's show, and need to throw my clothes and laptop into the van for tomorrow's trip.

Expect short, short chapters this weekend.

Next Chapter: Sol 268 Estimated time remaining: 13 Hours, 30 Minutes
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