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  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 1, Sur One, Tuesday, Sol 38 (1.1.38)  8:17 AM NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Wednesday, 10 February 2016  3:00 PM PST

The three of them in orbit watched helplessly on Wade’s monitor as the ESEP Director, Nick Castillo, had been sidetracked by an uncooperative, and now former, Captain. Castillo handled the problem efficiently, but onboard the ESS Queen Elizabeth II a personal crisis was unfolding as their pilot, Dane Paris, was about to learn of a tragedy in his immediate family.

Rear Admiral Jenna Wade was startled by a call to her pad from Dane. She hesitated, but then responded, “This is Jenna.” Dane’s voice was unsure, “Admiral, I was called to my quarters for a call from the Director of ESEP and I’ve been on standby for over thirty minutes. Do you know what is going on?” She knew she couldn’t seem evasive, but she also couldn’t tell him two close family members had been killed and another one was in the hospital over the COMM link. She said, “I’m talking to the Director now, and he’s been dealing with a personnel issue while we’ve been on standby. Why don’t you come to my quarters and you can talk with him as soon as he’s available.” Dane replied, “Okay, thanks.” 

When she looked up she saw Nick Castillo on her video screen listening to her conversation. Castillo said, “Jenna, I know you can handle this, but I’ll be happy to tell him, or I can let you do it and I’ll standby if he needs to talk to me.” Wade replied, “I think it’s good for him to understand your investment in the situation. When he gets here I’ll tell him, but I think it would be best if Wendy, Ken and you were visible to him.” All nodded in agreement.

Stevens quickly jumped in, “Director, do we know the condition of his father-in-law?” Castillo, glanced back at his assistant who was on a video call to someone at her workstation, but she seemed to sense Castillo was looking at her and she looked back while still talking to the other person. Castillo said, “I’ll have Megan get an update, but our last report said he was critical, on life support, and possibly brain-dead.” His assistant waved her acknowledgment without breaking her focus on the video call.

Stevens jumped in again, “Director, if you don’t mind I’d like to send Earth Prime’s Counselor down with Dane. This is going to hit Dane in stages and he will need someone with him at all times.” Castillo responded, “Of course. We can get Nirav back up in a few days, or they can reassign someone to replace him.” Stevens then said, “I’m recommending a Type I Recovery authorization because of the circumstances.” Castillo responded, “Send me the request and I’ll sign off on it and put it in place today.”

A Type I Recovery was the highest level of ESEP family support. It was a support plan for a person or family dealing with the loss of a high-profile employee under public circumstances. It involved Security for the family as well as constant in-home assistance by ESEP Counselors who could authorize almost any expenditure for the comfort and support of the survivors. It normally wasn’t meant for the death of family members, but in this case the media attention would likely be overwhelming once word got out.

Stevens then said to Wade, “We should bring Paige in.” Wade looked confused and Stevens continued, “Paige and Dane have been spending a lot of time together.” Wade said, “I didn’t know that,” and then she touched the icon for her COMM Officer and said, “Paige, please report to my quarters.”

There was silence for a few moments and Wade was feeling for Dane’s loss. She said, “Dane’s daughter is twelve.” Stevens corrected her, “No, she’s thirteen. She had a birthday last week.” At that moment a crisp chime sounded. It was the door chime.

Wade opened the door and saw Dane and Paige standing there. Wade waved them in and asked Dane to come over to her workstation. Stevens moved in next to Paige and put her arm around her. Dane looked quizzically at Hart and Paige looked quizzically at Stevens. Dane saw Castillo standing in his office on Wade’s monitor.

Wade didn’t wait for Dane to ask any questions, she just started by saying, “Dane, the Director has just informed us about some tragic news in your family. Your father-in-law had a severe heart attack this morning and was taken to the hospital. Trice went over to take her mother to the hospital and they were in a car accident. Trice and her mother were killed.”

Wade knew to let this set in for a moment, but she also knew that Dane’s mind would be racing as soon as the reality of the news hit him and so she tried to talk before his emotions exploded and he stopped listening.

Wade continued, “We’re trying to get an update on your father-in-law’s condition, but at last report it was extremely serious.”

Wade paused, then continued. “We’re sending our staff to pick up Abigail from school and they will take care of her until you can get to her.”

Wade paused, then continued again, “The Director has ordered a shuttle to take you back to the surface. It will be ready to leave Earth Prime in a little over an hour.”

Dane asked the most important question on his mind. “Does Abby know?” Now Castillo spoke up, “No. Not yet. We wanted you to tell us what to do. She is getting out of school about now and we can arrange for you to video her there, or we can take her home. We can also tell her if you would like.”

By this time Paige had moved over and put her arm around Dane. She now understood why she was there. Dane said, “I’d like to tell her…as soon as possible…she’ll be scared if she doesn’t understand what is going on….I need to pack…”

Wade had seen this before. It was all starting to hit him. Dane would have a blur of thoughts looming in his mind and then fading away as the next thought consumed the first. He would effectively be non-functional for several hours. 

Wade began mapping out the next steps for everyone, especially Dane. “Paige, you and Wendy take Dane back to his quarters to call Abby and pack. Ken and I will join you there in a few minutes. Paige, only pack what he needs for the next few days. I’m going to ask you to pack up the rest of his stuff after he is on the shuttle.” Wade knew that Paige would likely need to have a schedule of tasks in order to deal with Dane’s tragedy. She also suspected that it hadn’t set in with her that her friend would not be going to Mars with her. Counselor Stevens was going to have an intense few days as Paige and the crew absorb the ramifications.

Dealing with people in crisis was familiar territory for Wade. She started repeating information to Dane multiple times to keep Dane from shutting down. Wade grabbed Dane by the shoulders and said, “Dane, you need to get over to the shuttle after you talk to Abby and pack. Nirav, the Counselor on Earth Prime, is going to join you. Dane, we will arrange  to have someone with you all the way back home and you will have ESEP staff at your home to assist in any way needed.”

Wade avoided the issue of Dane being removed from the first Mars mission. It was too complicated to discuss now and it was just one more tragedy to pile on everything else he had to deal with today.

Stevens stepped in and shepherded Dane and Paige to the door. Paige suddenly realized she had left her post temporarily and needed to let someone know she was not returning immediately.  She turned to the Admiral and said, “My post…” Wade replied, “I’ll inform Naomi of the situation. For the rest of the day you are temporarily assigned to Wendy.”

The three of them left. Wade looked at Hart. For a moment they both felt the magnitude of what had happened, but both of them knew that they would have to stay on task until all the pieces had been put back together.

Wade asked, “Ready?” Hart nodded that he was, and both of them turned their attention to Castillo who had watched the drama unfold as he stood in his office 2,500 kilometers below. Castillo broke the silence, “Do you want to do this top, down?” Wade answered, “Crew announcement first, then top, down.”