Roger’s Blog

SEARCHING
It’s now been ninety minutes without contact. Luis is never the sort who just passively accepts a powerless situation, so he’s frantically scanning for a signal. About ten minutes ago he caught a few garbled words that seemed to come from Samantha, but they faded into static.
This at least tells us that they’ve survived so far, and that they’re apparently not under duress. Luis is using that brief connection to figure out far underground they are, but there are too many variables (Rock density, etc.) to get an accurate result.
We couldn’t clearly hear what Samantha was saying but it sounded like “Vain and jealous and bitter.” What’s *that* all about?

Roger’s Blog

WAITING

It’s been one hour since Samantha, Jenny and the dodo Mary vanished into the Martian underground. The passageway that opened with steps leading downward hasn’t closed, so that’s good.
We lost their signals after about ten minutes. Jenny is carrying additional oxygen canisters, but those are only good if the three have the power to leave.
We’re all doing about our duties; anything to take our minds off the suspense.

Roger’s Blog

ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK
Using a rudimentary method of communication (canine barking), we’ve been able to establish a dialog with whatever lurks beneath the Martian surface. A passageway opened outside our base, and Samatha has decided to risk taking the invitation. Considering the Martian hostility toward Earth, she feels it’s the only way to save humanity.
Jenny volunteered to bring her negotiation skills, and the dodo Mary will be the translator. The three of them hold the fate of our world in their hands.
First they have to reach the chambers of the Martian civilization. This is a three-step process with each of them contributing in their own fashion. Soon, they were in, and we lost radio contact.
Ming has outfitted each with cameras on their suits to record the adventure, but that data will only be accessible once they return to the surface. We’re hoping that won’t be long.

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HIGH STAKES
Okay, now we know what we’re dealing with.
While we have no clue as to what exactly lurks beneath the Martian surface, we know it’s angry, resentful and doesn’t want us around. It also has the means, motive and opportunity to launch a five-mile-wide object at Earth that would wipe out civilization.
Our mission began as simply searching for life on Mars; now it’s trying to keep life on Earth intact. The person best suited to that task is, ironically, Jenny. (Ironic, because she really had no particular skill set to offer when the mission was planned. She’s basically on the trip because Luis is.)
Yet, now the fate of humanity rests on her negotiation abilities. As longtime readers of the strip know, she and I once dated. It may seems strange coming from me, but I’m actually pretty confident.

Roger’s Blog

DODOS TO DOGS
As previously mentioned, just because Samantha has occasionally transformed herself into a canine in the past, it doesn’t mean she’s fluent in dog language. While she’s able to speak Dog when she becomes one, that ability vanishes when she changes back.
What they needed was on-site translators who could understand what Mars was saying and communicate the messages into English. To that end, the dodos became poodles.
Can they do the job? Sure. Can they be trusted to accurately report what Mars is saying without adding a self-serving spin?
Um…

Roger’s Blog

SPEAK
Samantha, being a researcher, took the hypothesis of the Martians talking to us via the dog language from old “Lassie” TV shows and began testing it on Humpty the robot. Yep, it began responding to canine commands.
Now, this still means that Mars is using a language that was unknown to it seventy years ago, and is the product of a culture that it seems hostile toward. The upshot is that it’s taking great pains to communicate with us. …When it’s not trying to blow us out of the sky.
It seems rather conflicted.

Roger’s Blog

DOG TALK
While most of the world’s brainpower was trying to translate the Martian speech through sheer brute force trial and error, it took Palmtop to recognize it as the language of canines. This was mainly due to Palmtop’s status as cat who was cloned from a dog, and who has spent a good portion of her life interacting with a canine (i.e., her mom Laptop).
Samantha and Dave retained their childhood ability to understand animals, but that form of communication is different from comprehending a spoken language. Instead, it comes from a deep emotional connection. (Later, Palmtop did teach both Samantha and Patina Welding how to talk feline.) Samantha, even though she’d occasionally transformed into a dog, didn’t recognize the Martian connection to canine speech because she wasn’t looking for it.

Roger’s Blog

LEARNING SPEECH
So far Mars hasn’t thrown any more attacks our way, but the robots we control are standing guard around the trench just in case. In the meantime, we have to find some way of opening up a dialog with whatever is out there. That’s not just for our safety, but Earth’s.
While Samantha is able to control the robots with various sequences of drumming, that’s quite different from actual language. It would be like attempting to understand English by being given a few binary code commands.
Normally, such an endeavor would take years. We don’t have years.

Roger Blog

SAMANTHA’S ARMY
Once Samantha found she could control about 300 of the Martian robots, she put them to work digging a defensive ditch around the base. It’s about 10 feet deep, with the soil piled around the inside of the ring to create an even larger barrier. It’s not a perfect defense, and does nothing about threats coming from above or below, but it definitely makes the base less exposed to hostile intentions.
Samantha made sure to leave a 20-foot gap so that they’re not boxing themselves in. If need be, the robots can defend the opening.
300…that sounds so familiar.

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ATTACK!
It seems that Mars waited until we were totally distracted by the revelation of Maria’s origins to launch a mass assault on the base. Fortunately Luis had been keeping an eye on the exterior monitors and saw them coming.
These were the robots whose only function we’ve observed is carrying rocks. Apparently the goal was to send them careening into the base, which would’ve effectively destroyed it with no survivors. The only thing that saved everyone was that the robots’ radio frequency for receiving commands wasn’t changed.
Because of that Samantha was able to stop them. It makes one wonder, though, why the entity controlling them didn’t reset the frequency the way we did with Humpty. It seems pretty basic.
After all these months on Mars we still don’t know what we’re dealing with.