The Maretian

by Kris Overstreet

Chapter 81: Sol 125

Previous Chapter Next Chapter


[07:28] JPL: Good morning, Mark. Bruce Ng here. We’ve got an interesting project for you and your friends, particularly Commander Berry.

[07:41] WATNEY: For Cherry? All right, what’s up?

[07:55] JPL: Check your email for a detailed procedure which should connect the Hab power to the MDV. Long story short, we’re going to get you home one of two ways: either we bring a modified MAV with the Ares III-B mission (if we can build it in time), or we have you and your friends travel to Schiaparelli to use the Ares IV MAV. Either way, the MAV would be piloted remotely from Hermes, but we’d like an experienced pilot in the MAV as a backup. Commander Berry is apparently the most experienced spaceship pilot the alien world has, so we want to bring the MDV computers back online and use the MDV as a flight simulator. The system switches aren’t in the same places, but the pilot controls are exactly the same.

[08:13] WATNEY: Hey, yeah! Cherry will LOVE that! So will most of the others. Dragonfly and Fireball have pilot experience, and Spitfire has training.

[08:27] JPL: That’s what we’re thinking. We also want their input on what alterations would be required to adapt the controls to hooves.

[08:41] WATNEY: Can do. One point, though; we currently have the Hab, the rovers, the MAV fuel plant, and Friendship running on Hab power. How close are we to exceeding the limits of the power system?

[08:55] JPL: Pretty close, but Rover 2, the alien ship, and the MDV all have batteries that should moderate the load. Also, you’re not running the fuel plant all the time, and you won’t be running the MDV systems all the time. Keep an eye on the hydrogen cells and let us know if they show undercharge after 17:00 your time on any day.

[09:09] WATNEY: Wilco.


AMICITAS: Amicitas calling Baltimare, use suit SG for responses, over.

ESA: Baltimare calling Amicitas, over.

AMICITAS: SG – cast removed today. Leg is still a little sore when I put weight on it, but I’m resuming normal duties, over.

ESA: Good to hear, over.

AMICITAS: SG – Current priorities: more mana batteries, improving seal on cave farm, making new Sparkle Drive. Need advice on spell to seal pores in cave walls, make completely airtight. Over.

ESA: What spell did you use to install airlock? Over.

AMICITAS: Adapted Occlusion’s Door What Door. But very hard to apply to surfaces caster can’t see. Almost entire cave wall covered by crystals of varying size. Over.

ESA: Why did you choose Occlusion’s spell? Over.

AMICITAS: No upkeep cost. Other spells use power from magic field which we don’t have, over.

ESA: Understood, will research. Is there a leak? Looks like a good seal from here, over.

AMICITAS: Earth worried that seal will fail, cause blowout. They want us to reduce air pressure inside cave by 25% to relieve strain on cave walls and roof, over.

ESA: Repeat reduce cave air pressure 25%? That doesn’t sound right, over.

AMICITAS: Confirmed, over.

ESA: Stand by, calling in expert, over.

AMICITAS: Standing by. Another question: any progress on helping humans use magic?

ESA: Several methods tested, all require magic components, over.

AMICITAS: Suggest experiments with bits of magic creatures (unicorn hair, phoenix feather) in wooden wands. Got idea from human fairy tale, over.

ESA: Does Earth have unicorns, phoenixes? Over.

AMICITAS: No magic creatures of any kind known. But maybe non-magic substitutes would work once the concept is proved, over.

ESA: Hello, Starlight Glimmer. This is Maud Pie. It is good to hear from you. Over.

AMICITAS: Hello, Maud. What’s up? Over.

ESA: The sun, the moon, a number of asteroids, the space station, Cloudsdale, and many other things. But that’s not important right now. Over.

AMICITAS: Was that a joke, over?

ESA: Yes. Ha. Ha. Over.

AMICITAS: Ha! You haven’t changed. Over.

ESA: Regarding your question about your cave: the increased air pressure in the sealed cave has already caused the rock strata to flex around it. Reducing pressure would make the rock flex back, causing additional faulting and a possible breach. If you didn’t know, that’s bad. Over.

AMICITAS: I figured it out, Maud, over.

ESA: TS – So no, we aren’t reducing air pressure. Anything else, over?

AMICITAS: Negative, over.

ESA: OK, will work on sealing cave, wands for humans. Will contact 12:00 your time via ship life support with detailed modifications for Sparkle Drive based on experiments here. Be ready to take notes. Out.

To: Spitfire ([email protected])
From: Irene Shields ([email protected])
Subject: Grown Adults

Please don’t show this to Mark. I want to explain why he might not be giving you the respect you wish, so that you'll be a bit more understanding of his point of view.

On our world humans are among a very small number of creatures that have a protective instinct for animals not of our own species. It isn’t a universal instinct. The more similar to a human child- the cuter it is, in essence- the more we want to protect it. You ponies are actually cuter than any human child in existence, and so you automatically trigger the protective response.

Mark has this problem worse than most, because he sees you as dependent upon him. He has accepted you as guests into his home, in a sense, and he wants to be a good, responsible host.

According to his reports, he sees you as being reckless in space flight and careless of the dangers of a space environment. By human standards this is accurate. We took what we consider appalling risks to go from the first manned space launch to a moon landing in just over eight years. The astronauts involved trained for a year or more before each launch specifically for that one launch. You went from no space flight at all to a moon landing in about two years with training times measured in weeks. You see us as slow; we see you as advancing at breakneck speed.

Finally, Mark is teaching you English, or trying to. He’s not trained as an English teacher. His main experience with being taught English comes from when he was a child, so he will naturally repeat that behavior when teaching the language to others.

These are the reasons Mark has been treating you like children, at least a little. The question is, how can you change that?

I can tell you right away that angry confrontation is your worst option. Mark responds poorly to anger and confrontation. Learning to curse like a sailor (as we say on Earth) won’t make him think of you as an adult- it'll make him act childish to match. Pranks or acts of rebellion such as your photographs will likewise backfire. In fact, if they’re particularly cruel, you risk losing the respect Mark definitely has for you.

And no, I’m not going to step in and order Mark to treat you better. First, I’m on another planet. Second, I’m under doctor-patient confidentiality rules. I’m not going to tell anyone what you told me in secret, not even him.

You need to tell him yourself, seriously and calmly. Don’t order him, but instead explain that you’re upset that he treats you like a child. This will work with Mark. Mark tries to get along with practically everybody he meets, within certain limits. He was picked for Ares III precisely because he helps bring people together. Once you explain your problem, he will try to correct his behavior.

I will warn you that there is one side effect you may not like. Mark tends to tease and joke with people as part of his making friends with them. Yet none of you have mentioned even once Mark doing or saying anything that might in any way hurt your feelings, even in jest. I’m guessing Mark is deliberately restraining himself, partly due to the language barrier, partly to save your feelings. If Mark decides to treat you as grown people, he may revert to his normal personality. He wouldn’t mean to hurt you, but he might out of ignorance of your culture or background.

If you really want a dictionary of bad language, ask Annie to send you one. She can get it past Teddy and Venkat, and after her backhanded photo shoot request, she owes you one. And she’s the expert on bad language around here.

Good luck, and if you need more advice, feel free to email me anytime.

Irene Shields, Ph. D.
Project Ares Chief Psychologist

Author's Notes:

Buffer now at 4. Which is good, because there will be no writing at all on Thursday. If you want to understand why, go to Google Maps, get instructions for driving from Houston to Columbia, SC, and then consider doing it all in one day. Because that's what I am, in fact, about to do.

Well, obviously Dr. Shields has dropped a big hint on someone at NASA, because things are beginning to change. And she's dropped an even bigger clue on Spitfire. (Obviously the ponies haven't gone the "Family Time" route yet.) And, in the meantime, the ponies come to a diametrically different conclusion than NASA on the cave. (It's worth remembering that NASA scientists do get things wrong on occasion. Whether or not this is one such time? We'll see.)

And, finally, Starlight is out of the cast. She can't carry things yet, but she's on all four legs again.

Power in the Hab was never, never an issue in the book. It was the one thing Mark had more than enough of, at least so long as he was at the Hab. But there are a lot more demands on the system now than there were before...

Finally... tomorrow night, the last thing I do before I head to South Carolina, is KWLP on Dementia Radio... and the theme for the show is PONIES. So go to dementiaradio.org to learn how to tune in, and in the meantime, feel free to request your favorite -funny- pony or pony-related songs!

Next Chapter: Sol 129 Estimated time remaining: 21 Hours, 30 Minutes
Return to Story Description


Login with