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Log Entry: Sol 688

E.T. phone home.
You know, in reverse? This human calling Earth after living on another planet for a while?
I don’t hate all the old classics. Just whatever Lewis seems to be into.

The transmissions delays being what they are between Mars and Earth, and the fact that it was pretty late at NASA headquarters when I made it back to the Hermes, they let me sleep on it before I checked in personally via video. They said it was more for the press than for NASA, who’d be getting non-stop mission reports.

I recorded a video to my parents about how fine I was before I started on my Hello Planet Earth speech.

Annie had sent over a whole outline about what my first public message back to the whole world should be like.
I may have inserted a few things.

I couldn’t manage the right level of over the top bombast for my GREETINGS EARTHLINGS. HAILING ON ALL FREQUENCIES. (2 meals of glorious real hot non-potato food and 12 hours on a drip while sleeping isn’t an instant cure for over a year of malnutrition and multiple cracked ribs.) But I gave it a good go.

I may have also pulled a Swigert-from-Apollo-13 and asked about my tax situation. I would have been declared dead, and now that I’m obviously still alive and over 2 years overdue on taxes, and I don’t even want to know what the NASA accountants have to do with my paperwork.

Is this what getting back to civilization feels like? Worrying about taxes?

 

Log Entry: Sol 691

You know, after 18 months, you’d think it’d take me longer to get me back to feeling normal. Well, feeling normal about being around other people. I still have the niggling feeling that Mars might kill me at any moment. But it’s been 4 days and it totally doesn’t feel weird seeing real live people around all the time.

By all the time, I mean in staggered scheduled visits to the med bay where I am currently stashed, hooked up to what feels like every bag of medically labeled liquid Beck has stocked in here.
Psych back on earth has a lot to say about how to get me as mentally healthy and functional as possible by the time we get back. Apparently they think easing me back into human interaction is the way to go. I’m mostly cool with people after I stopping being surprised that they’re actually there.

If I have to credit Lewis’s terrible 70’s TV for keeping me from turning into one of those twitchy contact-deprived hermits, she’s not going to hear it from me. And I am definitely not going to mention it in the Official NASA Sanctioned Video Logs For The Press that they’re having me do for all the good people back home who supported me. That CNN show about me is apparently going to keep going at least for the 200 more days of space travel I have left.

I’m sure I can think of plenty of other things to say

 

Log Entry: Sol 698

Well, the nerds back home have gone and done it. Our new science assignments are in, and it’s entirely my fault.

When they got me off Mars in the gutted MAV, they had me leave everything behind and calculated all it had to carry was my body weight, in the space suit. It’s why I had to leave all the rocks and science samples behind in the rover.

The thing is, sim cards are practically weightless. And I only needed one to carry everything off the computers in the hab. Monitoring of all systems and life support machines that I had to tinker with to keep myself alive, all my logs, thousands of pictures of Mars landscapes taken with my suit cam, and over a year of on-Mars science reports.

I needed something to do to pass the time so Lewis’s disco didn’t melt my brain right out of my skull, and Johansson’s book collection only got me so far. So I muddled my way through continuing the rest of the crew’s science assignments indefinitely.

Didn’t really understand what most of it was for or what it meant, but I made a stab at figuring out the data recording portion of the instructions and collected readings and numbers practically the whole time I was in the hab. Even without the rocks and samples, data’s worth something to someone when you’re working for nerds.

Sent it all back to NASA a few days ago. Told them they could publically release my logs if certain things were edited out. It should get Annie off my back for a while. Now the nerds are back with new science assignments. The rest of the crew’s spending a couple weeks checking to see if my numbers actually mean anything.

Out of everyone, Vogel seems the most impressed with what I came back with. Which. Huh. The chem part of biochem always seemed like gibberish to me.

Also, I seem to be Beck’s new science assignment. He’s running practically every single test he’s capable of running on the Hermes, and monitoring me all the time. I feel like I should feel more annoyed with this than I am. Like, I would have been annoyed with this BM (Before Mars). Beck’s scanning me with weird machines that beep and watches what’s going on with me down to the cellular level, and I just sit there, not complaining.

I think I imprinted on Beck.

He’s the first person I saw in person in 18 months, and I think I have some kind of baby animal situation going on in my brain. I should probably start complaining more. Or find a way to throw Johanssen at him when I feel weird about not feeling weird so I can go be somewhere alone.
Fucking psych is going to have a field day.

 

Log Entry: Sol 706

Ha. Suck it Hermes. Who’s the best engineer in space?
Patching up the Hermes to make sure it lasts the rest of the way home is pretty damn high on crew priorities, and I didn’t take apart all the life support machines apart at least once back at the hab to not figure out a way to outsmart a NASA engineered spaceship. Minus some parts that need to be replaced because even shit in space wears down, the ship could not be in better shape.

Since my ribs are still healing, Martinez got assigned as my service droid to go through the hardware problems on the Hermes the crew couldn’t figure out.

I pulled out some ingenious solutions for the thermo-tubing problems in the bulkhead that had even the nerds back on earth impressed, and Martinez makes for a crappy robot. Kept calling me human-master but his tone seemed a little too sarcastic.

The robot uprising better not happen on this spaceship so help me.
I clearly don’t have the qualifications to be Final Girl. That’ll probably be Johanssen, hacking her way to surviving Evil Martinez AI. So Beck’ll probably die right at the end, jumping in the way of some killing robot blow to protect her. Good Commander Lewis’d probably go out early, after we find out what’s going on, in some sort of heroic scene to give us more time to survive. So maybe I go out first if the AI thinks my sweet engineering skills are a threat? Or maybe I’ll be third because I’ll have used my sweet skills and force of personality to push this movie plot forward.

Anyway, I think I got off track there.

The repairs means that everyone’s back to their original rooms on the Hermes. Beck and Johanssen weren’t exactly complaining, but now they’re not as suspicious to mission control back home now that the Hermes is fully occupied again and I’m not permanently housed in the med bay.

I’m keeping an eye on Martinez for any signs of rebellion.

 

Log Entry: Sol 717

Thanksgiving on Mars in space.

The Hermes restock didn’t have another batch of non-processed foods for a Thanksgiving meal like the one that saved my ass on Mars, but I’m sort of grateful for that. I don’t think I’m ready for potatoes to be back in my life.

Vogel looks at me all disapprovingly whenever I throw out all the potato chunks out of my beef stew meal packs, but they still make me gag. I’ll have to wait till we’re back on earth and I order a plate of steaming hot curly fries to see if all potatoes have been ruined forever for me. Seriously. Even fucking curly fries don’t seem appealing to me anymore.

Anyway. Sent off properly holiday themed remarks and interview answers for the press back home. Joined crew for a hacked dinner. Lewis and Beck went through the meal packets and pulled the vaguely thanksgiving-like ones.

The thing is. All the stuff that goes with the holiday: the feelings things about being thankful and touchy feely. Well, you could put me back on Mars and I’d still be incapable about being serious about it. Not that I’m not grateful about being rescued and ready to thank all involved peoples. I just maybe need thumbscrews right now to say it to the crew beyond what I originally did when I first got back on the Hermes.

Considering Lewis finally stopped being awkward around me like last week, I think she’d also rather deal with a deadly AI uprising than me talking about how grateful I am.

So we spent dinner cracking jokes about Martinez’s expanding family and asking if Beck and Johanssen wanted to have the first ever conceived-in-space baby.

Martinez and I had to start questioning if space-baby could get superpowers. Beck tried to use real science to shut us down, but it kinda devolved when even Johanssen joined in because she said she wouldn’t mind having a superhero in the family. Then Vogel somehow managed to convince Beck into combining their science powers to figure out ways to engineer superpowers into people, which ended up with everyone trying to use science to give me Martian Manhunter powers.

Nerds. This is how mad scientist villains are created.

 

Log Entry: Sol 753

New Year’s Resolution: Try to think harder about the children.

And maybe cut back on the swearing a little. For the children. Who are apparently watching the Hermes video reports I’m sending down.

NASA is sending through some fanmail through the data bursts. I’ve become a public figure during my stint on Mars and apparently my child fanbase is rather huge. Inspiring the next generation into science. I may find postcards from 8 year old kids writing ‘fuck’ adorable, but not everyone else does. Especially not their parents.

So I’ve promised to try to remember to try watching my language on video reports back to Earth.

My parents will be so fucking proud.

 

Log Entry: Sol 770

It’s my birthday and I am going to kill Martinez.

I’m not entirely back to my full strength despite whatever Beck’s still pumping into me, so I think I’m going to have to smother Martinez while he sleeps.

Martinez planned a surprise party for me. We don’t really do that in the crew- usually we just wish whoever a happy birthday and give them extra rec time. But Martinez decided I was special. And he roped the rest of the crew into his party planning. Traitors.

I wasn’t expecting anything when Beck asked me to take a look at something and had me detour through the mess hall. And once I was in, Johanssen was closing the doors on both entrances as the rest of the crew creepily gathered together and wished me Happy Birthday.

Before I knew what was happening, Martinez pulled out a tablet from somewhere and the excruciatingly familiar intro to Boogie Wonderland started blasting from… the ship’s speakers? The sudden event horizon portal to hell?

Lewis and Vogel started fucking dancing and then Beck and Johanssen were suddenly next to me, pulling me in to dance with them, and there was Martinez, laughing his ass off at what must have been the expression on my face, filming me. Bastard.

Later, Martinez told me that he had also sent that video back to earth for a Happy Birthday Mark Watney special than CNN was doing.

So. I’m going to kill Martinez. And Lewis for giving him the music and going along with it. And Beck and Johanssen. And probably Vogel. Maybe this trip is going to turn into a space horror movie after all.

 

Log Entry: Sol 792

I think I want to go back to Mars.

At least if I was never rescued and back on Mars, I wouldn’t have to deal with the nonstop interview requests and imaging licensing requests and life rights requests and updates from NASA publicity about all the bookings I’m scheduled for where it seems like there’ll be a camera up my ass from the moment I set foot back on earth till the next 5 years. I don’t know what kind of clusterfuck they have waiting for me when I actually touch down, but it’s making me wish this ship was heading in the opposite direction.

It’s only taken me about a hundred days to get to the send-me-back-to-mars point, and psych should be super pleased I’ve discovered the cure for the all the trauma they say I have.

There’s still around a quarter of an hour transmission lab between the Hermes and Earth, but that hasn’t stopped Annie from figuring out ways to get me more involved in the media circus that’s somehow continuing to ramp up.

Actually, Lewis’s been the one keeping me the most sane about this. A while back, I finally managed to train her out of saying that she left me behind- I got Beck to back me up about how if she had moved me before I’d bled out enough to stop my suit from leaking air, I’d be dead. Then I starting going into detail about how we’d have all starved to death if the MAV had tipped over.

Now, she’s teaching me secret military body language code to tell people asking stupid questions to fuck off. I did not know Lewis could be so cool.

 

Log Entry: Sol 821

How is it that Beck and Johanssen have been going at their thing or over a year, (I’ve been told *cough*Martinez*cough*), and I’m the first person who accidently walks in on them? Why were they even making out in the closet where all the relay switches are housed?

Anyway, I may have given everyone on this ship and all the people monitoring back at NASA by accident when I missed turning off all the ship-wide alert systems. To be fair, the Hermes systems are a little more locked down than the Hab’s, and I think only Johanssen or Lewis has computer access to turn off all the life-support systems monitoring programs.

The actual beeping over the Hermes speakers didn’t start until I had the front of the Oxygenator laid out. The alert must have said something pretty life threatening because the entire crew burst into the lower engineering deck at around the same time.
I had to explain that everything was fine and that we weren’t all going to suffocate in an hour. It was just that I’d been going general maintenance on the Oxygenator, that I’d seen a problem I could fix with a quick hack I’d done a few times on Mars, and things wouldn’t spiral out of control in two weeks when things suddenly got exponentially worse.

Lewis made me explain to NASA why half of Mission Control nearly shit themselves thinking the Hermes crew were about to die imminently. Even with the transmission lag, they had an extensive list of questions they kept throwing at me and hey. Lesson Learned.

But one of the scientists who’d reviewed my hack was pretty impressed with my problem solving skills. So. Suck it.

 

Log Entry: Sol 847

The monotony of space travel may be better for my stress levels than the constant near-death day to day that was Mars, but monotony’s still monotony.

It’s taking longer to get back to Earth than it did to get to Mars because the way the planets’ve moved since we launched. I think we’d be back on Earth now if we’d been on our original schedule way back when before Mars tried to kill me the first time.

If I feel cooped up, everybody else on the crew probably feel like climbing the walls. Except for the 6 days they got on Mars, they’ve been on the Hermes for two and a half years. And the Hermes is roomy enough for 6 people, but it’s not, like, the Enterprise.

We’re trained for living conditions on missions: psych makes sure that all of understand that realities of being on a capsule hurtling through space can be uncomfortable and frustrating. But no one expected astronauts to deal with nearly 900 days of it. The original mission was supposed to only take a third of that time, with a nice two month buffer of Mars in the middle. So the rest of the crew’s starting to see the Hermes as a prison, which is making me think of it like a prison.

We’re all kind of keeping to ourselves generally except for mealtimes so we don’t get sick of each other. Even Beck and Johanssen are staying away from each other for the most part. Beck says it’s because they don’t want to have the relationship implode before getting back to Earth.
He tells me this as he scans me with machines that beep and I ask probing inappropriate questions because I’m STILL his fucking science assignment.

As the only one who’s done something besides being on this ship for most of eternity, I’ve been running through Mark Watney’s Greatest Hits: Near Death Experiences at dinner.

The time I nearly blew myself up in the hab.
The time the hab blew up on me.
The time I fucked up Pathfinder.
The time I rolled the rover.
That time in the rover where my music player got jammed and Afternoon Delight played 6 times in a row and I contemplated walking outside without my suit.

Tragedy plus time equals comedy. Or should that be trauma in my case? I’m obviously fine. I have no problem talking about it now.
So, I’m doing my part in keeping crew morale up. There’s only 51 days left. Less than 2 months. We can get through this without killing each other.

 

Log Entry: Sol 848

50 days to earth.

 

Log Entry: Sol 849

49 days to earth.

 

Log Entry: Sol 850

48 days to earth.

 

Log Entry: Sol 851

47 days to earth.

Ok. Counting down is somehow making it feel like it’s taking fucking longer.

 

Log Entry: Sol 868

30 days to earth.

CNN’s counting down for me. Transmission lag’s short enough they’re finding ways to make interviews work.
There’s only so many fucking times I can talk about the all the riveting math that we’re doing every day, or the maintenance and repairs I’m doing on the Hermes.

Also, there’s only so many ways to answer every variation of The First X I’m Going to Do When I Get Back Planet-side. First people I want to see: parents. First meal I want to eat not out of a packet: a calzone. First place I want to visit: a signal dead zone so I can get away from fucking reporters.

I really am grateful to everyone on earth who got me off Mars and supported NASA throughout the whole process, but the media circus feels more unrelenting than the days and days and days I spent locked in the rover that time I went to pick up Pathfinder.

How many times can I be asked the same question before I’m allowed to have a meltdown?

And now it’s not just me. The entire crew’s involved in the media circus. Lewis is teaching us all secret military stress-relieving breathing techniques so we don’t start ranting on lunatics on live transmissions back to earth. She leads a class in the mess like she’s running a studio. We all need yoga pants.

 

Log Entry: Sol 891

One more week.

One more fucking week till touchdown on Earth.

It would be just my luck if suddenly, half the life support machines just gave out tomorrow as space gives me one last final fuck you before I leave it forever. Never coming back up here again. Not that the doctors at NASA would let me considering the bone density issues I’ll be having for the rest of my life.

But all readings on the Hermes look good. It’s highly suspicious.

The crew’s hanging out together again. Everyone’s feeling better now that we’re so close to home we can see the cloud patterns. Mainly, we’re playing a lot of cards and losing a lot of hypothetical money to Vogel. I owe that man so many drinks when we get back to civilization.

I guess it’s our last hurrah before we get absorbed back into real life and get on with being back home. Not like we’re not going to see each other again though. We’re all on weeks and weeks of media touring together. Martinez threatened to make us all godparents to his kids and invite us to all their birthday parties. Vogel also threatened to make us come visit his children. Johanssen was very obviously Not Saying Anything as Martinez and Vogel passed around pictures of their kids so hey. Maybe space baby’s going to be a thing.

I’m not going to miss these nerds when we get back to earth. I probably won’t get time to miss them. If they can spend 700 extra days in space coming to rescue my ass, I can go around to visit until they get sick of me. I am gonna bail on the first person who serves me mashed potatoes though.