The Maretian

by Kris Overstreet

Chapter 182: Sol 320

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You know, Superman wasn’t the first man to fly without wings. There were some saints back in the Middle Ages who could fly. Of course the only record we have of it is in the paperwork the Vatican of the time put together to justify their sainthood, so take that with a clump of magically harvested Martian salt. The story is the same in all cases: they flew for no other reason than that they were happy about being holy, or something. They didn’t do anything with it like, I dunno, rescue orphans from cathederal spires or anything like that. Just a couple laps around the ceiling and ‘yay God,’ and that was all.

Of course, those saints might be just as fictional as Superman for all we know today. The only reason I bring them up (besides the fact they’re practically all I remember from my Comparative Religion class in college) is that, if we discount those stories as myth, that makes me the first human being to fly through the air on a non-ballistic trajectory without the use of any mechanical aid whatever. I can say that because a unicorn is not a machine, and Starlight Glimmer is nobody’s idea of a mechanic.

What I’m talking about is, we decided to go ahead and tackle mounting solar panels to the roof of the trailer today. Dragonfly and I worked together and made me a tether belt that would allow me to hook on to two of the mounting points that used to hold Friendship’s outer skin to the pressure vessel. That way, if I slipped, I’d have at least one hook to keep me from falling all the way to the ground.

And to get me up and down from the roof of the ex-ship, Starlight levitated me up at the start of the job and then down at the end. To tell the truth, it freaked me out- a lot. It’s one thing to know I’m safely in the magical grip of a unicorn with a full battery under her hooves. But in the back of my brain is my monkey ancestor, the one who knows nothing about magic, the one that a couple million years of evolution taught: if you’re out of the tree, you fall. And that monkey screeched the entire time my feet weren’t firmly on either regolith or steel.

But aside from that, it was a good EVA. Starlight lifted the panels up to me, I used the existing stake holes to bolt them onto the ship’s mounting points, and Fireball plugged each wire into the harness we’d already set up to run through the ship’s charging point and its electrical system. That’s already connected to the Hab, so it’s as if the panels never left the Hab’s solar farm. It went like clockwork, mostly because we took our time, didn’t rush, and were very careful.

We quit when the CO2 alarm went off in my suit, indicating the current filter was saturated and needed replacing. In four hours we mounted twelve panels, which means it’ll take another five to six hours to finish covering the top of the Whinnybago with solar cells.

All in all, a productive enough day. It kind of fills in for the loss of communications with Earth, which I’m missing a lot more than I ought to. I mean, for the last couple weeks we could barely say anything at all, and in another month or so we should have a clear connection again better than before. But for some reason I feel cut off and alone anyway.

Maybe I’ll ask Starlight or Dragonfly to work their water telegraph and let me chat with their bosses. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken directly to them yet. Now might not be a bad time to try it.

Well, not now-now, now. Maybe tomorrow. Tonight Starlight Glimmer has promised a new campaign. She’s decided to try making a homebrew adaptation of the D&D rules we have for pony characters.

That’s right. I’m going to roleplay a talking horse.

Because hey, if you haven’t noticed, my dignity left this planet along with my crew and the Ares III MAV. So why not?

“The Tree of Harmony, its branches limp, its colors dull, deposits the shards of the Elements of Harmony at your hooves.”

“How does it do that?” Mark asked. “It’s a tree, isn’t it?”

“Ssh,” Spitfire said. “Magic thing.”

The two of them looked at Starlight Glimmer, who glared at them for a moment before resuming her opening to the adventure. “The five of you gathered here, in the very shadow of Nightmare Satellite’s castle, made your way across Dark Equestria, avoiding the patrols of the Shadow Storm Troops, to arrive here. And in this holy place, the one place the Nightmare’s power has not yet touched, you have been entrusted with the mission of restoring harmony and peace to this accursed land.”

Her horn lit up, and a line drawing in light of a rampant mare wearing helmet and armor appeared above her head. “Nightmare Satellite, who returned from a thousand years of exile, destroyed the Elements and imprisoned her sister, Princess Celestia, in the same moon that once held her. Now she rules from the castle just two hundred hooves above where you stand in the gorge, ruling a land that never sees the sun with an iron hoof.

“She rules through seven mares she has brainwashed, seven exceptionally talented and dangerous ponies. Her vizier, the meticulous Dawn Rays. Her chief enforcer, Monochrome Wave. Her chief of intelligence, the unstoppable Pinkie Spy. Her chief of the secret police, Commonplace. The mighty mare-mountain Applecrack. The mistress of the creatures of the night, Fluttermoth. And, second only to Nightmare Satellite herself, the wicked sorceress Garlight Slimmer.”

This last name was too much for the others, and they all broke down laughing, even Fireball.

“Hey!” Starlight shouted. “I forgot to put in a real name, all right? That was supposed to be a placeholder.”

More laughter, with Mark interjecting, “Whatever you say, Garlight.” That set the others off again.

“So hey!” Dragonfly said. “What’s her master plan? ‘Bow to me or you’ll loose ten to fifteen pounds in a month while eating what you normally eat?’”

The laughter continued for a moment, then cut off at the sound of one of Starlight’s magic-carved crystal dice trundling atop the worktable behind the computer screen.

“What are you rolling for, Starlight?” Mark asked, no trace of amusement in his voice.

“Nothing,” Starlight said innocently.

The others looked at each other, then went silent.

“All righty,” Starlight said brightly. “Continuing. Only one hope remains to restore Equestrian freedom. The four sacred horseshoes of Celestia lie broken and scattered in the four corners of the kingdom-“

“How do we know?” Cherry Berry asked. “Who’s telling us? Isn’t it just us and the tree?”

“Rrrgh! You just know, okay? Magic mystic harmony knowledge thing!” Starlight took a deep breath. “You must retrieve the four sacred horseshoes and then bring them all to the Dragonroost to be reforged in the hottest flames of the world by the hottest dragons-“

Mark failed to suppress a snort of amusement. Struggling mightily to not make it two snorts, he covered his mouth and waved away Starlight’s furious stare.

“-reforged so that Princess Celestia may be released from her prison. Along the way you will face all of Nightmare Satellite’s minions, who must be released from the spell of the Nightmare so that the five Elements whose dust you now hold will be restored. Only then will the sixth element reveal itself, and only with all six elements can Celestia’s power be restored and the Nightmare and her evil sorceress overthrown for good.”

The five players looked at each other.

“Er,” Starlight Glimmer added, a little uncertain, “that’s it. You can interact now if you want.”

Cherry Berry pushed her computer forward. “I wanna re-roll my character,” she said. “I want a hobbit.”

“How about we steal airship, turn pirate?” Fireball asked. “Go to that city south of the Burning Sands.”

“Pirate is good,” Spitfire agreed.

“Does this city in the south have a Thieves’ Guild?” Mark asked.

“What I hear,” Fireball said, “whole city is thieves.”

Cherry Berry looked interested in this. “Do we steal the ship here, or do we go to the city and steal one there?” she asked.

Starlight Glimmer moaned and tapped her forehead against the edge of the table.

Author's Notes:

Classic beginner-DM mistake: drop a sixteen-ton plot hook on top of low-level characters and expect them to defy all common sense.

Yes, Starlight finally found the name Celestia... and she used it as a FAKE name for her Celestia-parallel NPC. Connection not yet made. Might or might not revisit this later.

I read about the flying saints in a 1980s era "Mysteries of the Universe" book; it was in the school library, but I have to wonder how, since it was one of those Time/Life TV-ad mail-order books. I remember absolutely none of the names, but I remember that flying was apparently #3 on the "rubber stamp a Middle Ages saint" miracle list, #2 being stigmata and #1 being the classic, speaking in tongues. It felt like about a quarter of the book was stories of saints, with precisely one "historical" source per saint. (It's worth noting, for those Catholics reading this, that the saints in question were none of the major ones- they were all local priests or monks of one kind or another, not a single martyr in the bunch.)

Wrote about 1800 words today in two short chapters, so the buffer now stands at 2.

Next Chapter: Sol 322 Estimated time remaining: 11 Hours, 6 Minutes
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