The Maretian

by Kris Overstreet

Chapter 270: Sol 519

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DRAGONFLY: Hermes, MAV, standing by for media event.

BETH JOHANSSEN: Good morning, Dragonfly… Mark. Fireball. What’s going on? Why are all three of you on camera?

DRAGONFLY: Well, er. Mark and Fireball said they appreciated my help with their interviews so much that they, well, they insist on helping with mine.



MARK: Don’t mind us, we’ll just be here, ready to chime in whenever we, well, you just go ahead.

FIREBALL: Yeah. Go ahead.

DRAGONFLY: So, um, yeah, I guess we’re doing this. Over.

JOHANSSEN: All right. First question: “A lot of people on Earth have been worried about you ever since you went into the cocoon. How are you doing now? Will you be healthy for the Sol 551 launch?”


FIREBALL: Huh. Yeah, we shut up now.

WATNEY: Yeah, um, we’re just gonna go over here. Way over here. Yeah.

DRAGONFLY: Guys, guys, it’s all right. Sit down. It'll be fun later, trust me. Okay? Okay, when we got here, I thought I had to hide this sort of thing, because I was afraid that people would hate me if they knew the truth. I didn’t trust my crew… my friends… enough. I’m getting over that. The truth is, I’m not doing well. I’m not going to be all better until I get home, or at least someplace with a strong magic field. We get little doses of magic each day, and that helps, but it’s not enough.

But what happened before- what I did to Mark- that will never happen again. Never! I’m sorry it happened the first time, and I’m sorry I kept my problems a secret for so long. Now, everyone here knows my problems, and they’re all helping. Fireball helps me with the interior MAV mods, and it speeds things up a lot. And of course I get three good meals a day, plus occasional snacks. So it might be tough, but I’m going to make it. Because I have help.


WATNEY: That’s right. We’re here for you.

JOHANSSEN: “Do you feel up to taking an active role in the upcoming launch?”

DRAGONFLY: To be honest, no. I really wanted to help fly the MAV, but… well, we’re predicted to pull a peak sustained load of 8 G’s during ascent. That takes a lot of effort and training to resist blackout, and I can’t guarantee that I’ll be up to it. So I scratched myself off the flight list. Unless something really goes wrong, I’m just gonna be a passenger. It’s safest that way.

JOHANSSEN: The next one’s a long one. “A lot of people have heard about how you have maintained your suits for all this time, and many of those people are a bit put off by it. But for those of us who can keep our stomachs from overriding our brain cells (and those of us who know where Honey comes from and don't even blink), what can you say about the nature of the 'resin' you have been producing patches from? Are you restricted to organic compounds, or can you safely utilize more volatile chemicals in limited quantities?”

DRAGONFLY: Well, guys? Got anything to say?

FIREBALL: Yeah. Better you than us.

WATNEY: Seriously, the bug’s made it clear that producing goo in the quantities we need is not fun for her at all. We don’t joke about it.

DRAGONFLY: Yeah. I’m not fond of solid food anyway. Now imagine having to wolf down a bunch of some food you really hate, let your guts work on it for half an hour, and then bring it all back up. Back home it’s no big deal, except we don’t make so much at once. But it also takes magic to do, which makes it even more… unpleasant.

Now, about the goo itself. We changelings produce a number of substances for different uses. We can change the stuff up a lot, but we can’t recreate everything. It’s not exact. The stuff we use for space suit patches is also used for a layer inside the space suit fabric. It’s like rubber, only a bit more durable and a bit less springy. It’s very similar to the rope we make. We can also make various kinds of fluids with different effects. We can make acids or caustic solutions, but only organic ones, and not much at a time.

As for making more volatile stuff, no, we can’t. Anything likely to burn or blow up would do it in the, um, digestion process. So no making rocket fuel one puke at a time. I don't feel like exploding today.

WATNEY: Exploding changeling?

FIREBALL: I can see it. Wish I couldn’t.

WATNEY: Dragonfly, you sound like Errol from the Discworld books! Or some other swamp dragon!

DRAGONFLY: No, I’m not! I’m not gonna go bang if someone kicks me or if I get too angry! That’s what I was just saying! Guys, it’s okay, I am not going to go boom on you! Unless you’re into that…

FIREBALL: Grr. For a minute I felt sorry for her…

JOHANSSEN: Let’s move on. “What was the strangest use you've ever had for changeling goop? What was the weirdest thing you've had to eat to make it?”

DRAGONFLY: Huh. Hey, Mark? You know how there was that story in Dukes of Hazard where they mentioned a weird phrase? How you said it meant that after so many years you couldn’t go to jail for a crime anymore?

WATNEY: Yeeeess… it’s called the statute of limitations.

DRAGONFLY: Yeah, that. I don’t think that’s passed yet for, er, certain things back home. Bad old days stuff. So I don’t think I can answer the first part of that question… or the second part of that question, come to think of it.

WATNEY: I don’t want to know, do I?

FIREBALL: If you gotta ask that question, the answer’s no.

JOHANSSEN: “Can you taste regular food? How would you describe the tastes of different emotions in ways we would understand?”

DRAGONFLY: Sure, I can taste regular food. There’s a few things I don’t mind a nibble from now and then. But I don’t need much of it at all, most of the time, and I sure don’t feel like big heavy meals like ponies and humans.

As for how emotions taste? There are so many emotions, so I’ll just stick to a few simple ones. Anger is like oil and smoke and stink. We can’t eat that. Fear is… well, you flush fear down the toilet. Can’t eat that either. Sadness is kind of like ice-cold sick. Happiness is hot and crunchy and fluffy like fresh popcorn. Family love can be like fresh rolls or hot apple pie. Romantic love tastes like spicy chocolate. Thankfulness and gratitude is kind of dry and minty and not very filling, like that green stuff they put on plates at restaurants that you’re not supposed to eat.

JOHANSSEN: “There have been rumors about how you feed on emotions from other living things. Some say you scavenge emotions left behind, while others say you extract “love” like a mosquito drinks blood. Which is it?

DRAGONFLY: Both? Either? We changelings can subsist on environmental love if there’s enough of it and not too many changelings. But we do better if the love is directed at us. And if we’re hungry enough we can yank the love out of our victims, but that hurts them pretty badly. We only do that if we’re desperate, because it means we can’t get more from that victim later. But back home we get all sorts of freely given love, so we don’t need to worry about doing that ever again. But you’re right to be concerned. A sick or desperate changeling can suck a person dry of love. Like I did with Mark. Again, I’m very sorry, Mark.

WATNEY: It’s all right, bug. Dragonfly. Water under the bridge.

DRAGONFLY: So if more of my people come to Earth, we’ll have to be on our very best behavior. Actually, if there are more tasty people like Mark, we’ll have to watch our weight or else we’ll get fat. That happened to a changeling I know who tried to eat Cherry Berry’s love of flying and of cherries. Everybody calls her… er, um, big round-ish dark fruit, don’t know the name. Ponies fry it or put it in, um… you know what, never mind. Next?

WATNEY: Now that’s going to keep me up nights, trying to figure out what fruit you’re talking about…

JOHANSSEN: “You've got quite a lot of fans here on Earth. Can you feel their love all the way on Mars? If not, will it cause any problems once you get close to us?”

DRAGONFLY: Um, I appreciate the thought, and it sure can’t hurt for you to try to send me love from Earth, but no, I don’t feel it. As for causing problems if- when I get closer to Earth? I’d LOVE to have those problems! Gimme a big juicy chocolate slice of those problems! They can cut me out of the landing capsule! Roll me to the hospital! Believe me, it’s better than the problems I have now!

WATNEY: Astronomers, you might end up adding a new planet. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Dragonfly.

FIREBALL: She already thinks she as important as planet…

DRAGONFLY: Only because it’s true!

FIREBALL: How is it, when we razz her, she still gets the laugh?

WATNEY: All part of the sweet mystery of comedy, o dragon mine.

FIREBALL: Mystery? So who killed comedy, then?

DRAGONFLY: Well, you guys sure are beating the corpse a lot...

JOHANSSEN: “Would you accept endless hugs from human children?”

DRAGONFLY: Um, no. That's irresponsible. Kids, not every bug you meet wants to be friends. Listen to your parents. If they say it’s okay, then you can hug. And if the changeling says she’s full, then maybe just settle for scritchies.

WATNEY: Did I hear that right? You, an emotional vampire, are teaching children about stranger danger?

DRAGONFLY: I know, right? I am gonna be in SO much trouble with the queen when she finds out...

JOHANSSEN: “Do you think adding pets to your hive can offset some of its need for emotional imports?”

DRAGONFLY: Um… we changelings are kind of selfish and greedy. Also a bit forgetful. That’s not a good thing for pets. Don’t ask how I know that.

WATNEY: So, what did you have, a dog? A cat? A-

DRAGONFLY: Don’t ask, really don’t.

FIREBALL: I think what she had was a snack.

DRAGONFLY: Can we please move on?


WATNEY: Sure, we can move on. Can’t we, Fireball?


WATNEY: You scored a point, boss. Be happy with that.

JOHANSSEN: Next question: “Who do you get the most love from?”


DRAGONFLY: Yeah, it’s Mark. By a mile. The boss mare- um, Cherry Berry- she comes in second, I guess because we’ve worked together so long.

WATNEY: Awww… I think.

JOHANSSEN: “Who do you enjoy mimicking the most?”

DRAGONFLY: Now that’s kind of an unfair question, when I can’t spare the magic to show off. I don’t get to use my power very much here at all. The shape I’ve used most is yours, Miss Johanssen, but it makes Mark uncomfortable in a bad way. If I had the juice, I’d like to try Janet from Three’s Company in a nightie, because it would make Mark uncomfortable in a good way! See, it’s working already!

WATNEY: Bug, could you quit doing that shit, please?

DRAGONFLY: Sorry, Mark, I can’t hear you over all that sweet, spicy lust you’re feeding me…

FIREBALL: Ugh. Take it to the rover.

WATNEY: I think that’s enough questions. In fact, one too many. If you’ll excuse me, I have a date with the cold water tap.

DRAGONFLY: Later, Hermes, thanks and see you soon! MAV out!

Author's Notes:

And that runs out the interviews. Thanks to everyone who contributed questions.

Realmscon is going okay (or at least as okay as generic DayQuil can make it). After this I have a weekend off the circuit, which I will use to push hard for the conclusion of this story.

Next Chapter: Sol 521 Estimated time remaining: 2 Hours, 57 Minutes
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