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  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 1, Sur One, Tuesday, Sol 38 (1.1.38)  7:47 AM NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Wednesday, 10 February 2016  2:30 PM PST

Rear Admiral Jenna Wade, Commodore Ken Hart, and ship’s Counselor Wendy Stevens had all just been informed by the ESEP Director, Nick Castillo, that their pilot, Dane Paris  had just lost his wife and mother-in-law in a car accident after his father-in-law had been taken to a hospital following a severe heart attack. Castillo had said he couldn’t inform Dane of the tragedy until Wade had made a decision, but he didn’t say what that decision was about.

Wade, Hart, and Stevens knew what he meant. After the commissioning of the ship and crew, ESEP had to let the Mission Commander make any decisions that impacted the ship or mission. Wade turned to Hart and said, “I’m willing to hear Dane out if he wants to stay, but I think he has to go to his daughter. What’s your view?” Hart didn’t hesitate, “If he wants to stay I will try to talk him out of it. For his sake and for his daughter’s sake.” Castillo jumped in, “Wendy, do you concur?” “Absolutely. How soon can we get him down?” she asked. Castillo glanced back and said, “We have a shuttle that just left 30 minutes ago. I’m calling it back and we can have him with his daughter sometime tomorrow.”

Castillo was about to say more when his assistant came up to him and whispered to him. Castillo turned angry and exclaimed, “What the hell?” and then he looked at them and said, “Standby, I still need to talk to you.”

With that he turned and went to his assistant’s station and put the conversation on speaker. Castillo said, “What’s the problem, Jake?” Jake was one of the pilots running shuttles and equipment from the surface to the orbiting spaceport, Earth Prime, where the Queen Elizabeth II and the Carl Sagan were currently docked. Jenna and Ken recognized him from past trips and when he interviewed with them to be on their crew. Jake answered, “No problem, it’s just that Captain Williams is asking me for further information and has ordered me to continue to de-orbit.”

Wade knew Captain Richard Williams. She had also interviewed him for the position on her crew. Williams was a former naval fighter pilot who had close friends in high positions in the U.S. Navy. He was arrogant and self-confident to the point that you couldn’t trust him to be realistic or honest about his crew or ship. Wade had no problem rejecting his application.

Castillo went into a low, measured tone in his voice. It was as if he was about to kill someone or something. Castillo slowly said, “Let me speak to Richard.” Jake looked over his shoulder and said, “Captain, Director Castillo wants to speak to you.” Behind Jake a man with short blonde hair that had receded far back on his head floated up behind Jake. He told Jake, “Put me on speaker, please,” and then said, “Good morning Nick, look we’re already on our way down and we’re at our maximum weight. There’s another shuttle leaving tonight, so we’re just going to stay on schedule and de-orbit.”

Wade hadn’t seen this in a long time. During her first years in the Royal Navy she would run into some arrogant Commander that would attempt to counter her decisions. What they didn’t know is that she always made sure that her superiors were well-informed and in complete agreement with the plan she had initiated. Typically, she would watch a Commander self-destruct in front of her when they tried to slap her down and humiliate her in front of her boss. She knew that Williams had no clue of what he had just done. It was uncomfortable to watch and she had a good idea of what was coming next.

Castillo became eerily calm when he said, “Richard Williams, you are relieved of Command effective immediately. You are to leave the Command deck and you are not authorized to make any further communications. You are to report back to Earth Prime where you will take the tonight’s shuttle back to Earth. Jake, I am temporarily promoting you to Captain. Just a minute.” Castillo could see Williams still floating behind Jake with a look of confusion on his face. Castillo continued, “Dick! Get off the Command deck!” Williams blinked, then turned and floated away.

Castillo then said, “Jake, can you get the ship back to Earth Prime immediately.” Jake smiled and said, “Yes sir, I’ll have her docked within the hour.” It was pretty obvious that Jake wasn’t smiling at the promotion, but at Williams visit with karma. Jake obviously disliked being under Williams command. Castillo then said, “Do you have anyone from Security on board?” Jake replied, “Mr. Soon is on board.” Castillo said, “Have him contact my assistant immediately and once you are back at Earth Prime contact my assistant for further instructions. You can plan departing within the hour after you return. Thank you, Jake” 

Castillo touched an icon on his pad and a voice said, “Security Actual.” Castillo quickly said, “Mr. Duncan, Richard Williams is no longer employed. I am asking Mr. Soon to take charge of him on the Tortuga, at Earth Prime, and then on the shuttle tonight. Would you deactivate his authorization and have a detail meet him with his belongings when he lands tomorrow and then escort him home and collect any ESEP material.” The voice replied, “Done.”

Castillo then touched his pad again and another voice with a French accent said, “Earth Prime Actual, how may I help you Director?” Wade and Hart recognized it to be the voice of Claude Dubois, the Commodore of Earth Prime. Castillo said, “Claude, the Tortuga is returning to you under my orders. We have a crew member on the QE II that has had a family tragedy and he needs to get back on Earth ASAP.” Claude somberly replied, “Very well, we will take care of it.” Castillo continued, “Claude, I have also fired Richard Williams. Would you confine him to quarters and then send him back on tonight’s shuttle. Mr. Soon will be in charge of him.” Claude’s voice betrayed his glee, “Of course.”