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  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 1, Sur One, Saturday, Sol 42 (1.1.42)  5:10 AM NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Sunday, 14 February 2016  2:27 PM PST

The four primary ESEP project teams are divided up into five-year stages. The Stage Four project team was devoted to planning and putting into motion the necessary resources for programs and projects that will be needed fifteen to twenty years from now. The Stage Three project team took the work of the previous team and continued developing and revising the overall plan for ESEP programs that would occur in ten to fifteen years. Stage Two handled the five to ten-year time frame, and Stage One made the planning that started twenty years ago become reality.

In general, Stage Four consisted of architects, engineers, researchers, and scientists designing the next generation of ships, habitats, and Earth/space/Mars production facilities. Stage Three consisted of logisticians, managers, engineers, and scientists that developed factories and tested new concepts and equipment. Stage Two consisted of actual pre-production and production work, and Stage One put everything into place, and then followed through with the support and maintenance of those programs.

Most ESEP personnel in the first three Stages tend to stay with their team; however, people who are critical to the success of the development of a particular project often float into the next Stage to keep consistency to the project or program. 

ESEP began work in 2003. Stage Four and Stage Three have been working concurrently for over a decade and Stage One only became distinct from Stage Two in 2011. This process of growing the project teams into four umbrella groups has helped manage some of the chaos, but it also causes friction between project teams, especially when one team has fallen behind.

Jenna joined ESEP in 2010, and was assigned to the Stage Two Science division because they kept falling behind on their programs. In a six month period, she had made significant progress. Her success led to her transfer to team developing the first Mars mission. It was several years behind schedule and she was given the unusual position of overseeing both Stage Two and Stage One teams.

Within days Jenna had identified that problem with the first Mars mission was an incompetent program Director on the Stage Two team and a Stage One Director that was attempting to sabotage the Stage Two Director in order to cover up some of his failures. Jenna’s first move was to remove both Directors and then she found people within the teams to move up. Within a year the first Mars mission was back on schedule.

Jenna was not the type of person to apply threats and intimidation to turn things around, but rather had an uncanny ability to determine where a problem existed, who was being stifled in making progress, and then clear out the issues that were holding people back.

As word got around, ESEP administrators had multiple requests from divisions and programs to have Jenna temporarily help them move forward. When it came time to choose someone to lead the first, and most complicated, mission to Mars, ESEP’s only issue was whether or not they could afford to have Jenna off-world for over two years.

At this moment Jenna was sitting in her quarters on the ESS Queen Elizabeth II talking to her boss, Nick Castillo, who was standing in his office in San Jose, California. Nick and Jenna did not have a boss/employee relationship. Jenna’s talent was getting people to get things done and Nick’s talent was to understand Jenna’s talent and to make sure she was in an environment to use her talent to the maximum extent. Jenna trusted Nick and knew he would never intentionally deceive her or abuse that trust in any way.

When Nick said he had cargo that ESEP wanted to put on her ship and he couldn’t tell her what it was, she knew that whatever it was, Nick had good reasons for the secrecy and she knew that he would not endanger the crew or ship.

Nick resumed the conversation, “The cargo is a small A-1 size box. It has special environmental handling requirements. Alexander Rivera will be the only crew member to be briefed.” Jenna thought for a moment and then said, “Will my Biology Officer be told what he is handling?” “Yes,” Nick replied, “He will be made the program chief once he agrees to the experiment, and if he doesn’t agree to it the experiment doesn’t go on the mission.”

Jenna was now satisfied, but she thought she would probe a little more, “Why can’t we know?” Nick was not supposed to give any hints, but he felt compelled to reassure Jenna. Nick said, “It is an experiment that has a high probability of failure, but if it works the crew will be very happy. We don’t want to elevate expectations and then be the cause of the crew’s disappointment.”

Jenna had one last question, “Why can’t I know.” Nick’s expression changed, “That was my call. I am authorized to tell you and Ken, but I’d like both of you to be surprised along with the crew.”

That was all Jenna needed. She would be the first, and probably last commander to let an unknown experiment on a Mars mission, but that is what made Jenna unique. She said, “Okay, have your people talk to Alex and if he agrees then it’s a go. I’ll talk to Ken.”

Jenna changed the subject, “How are Dane and Abby doing?” Nick frowned, “It’s gotten complicated.” Jenna wondered how much more complicated anything could become than losing your spouse, your in-laws, becoming a single parent, and being taken off the first human mission to Mars. Jenna had to ask, “What’s going on.”

Nick sighed and said, “Technically, this is probably a confidential issue, but since our Recovery Team learned of it at the same time Dane did, I can tell you. Trice was having an affair and planning on leaving Dane. She apparently had been with the other man when she went to pick up her mother. When he didn’t see her or hear from her he assumed she was dealing with the family crisis. Finally after two days he shows up at Dane’s house and learns from our team that Trice had died. It was a big scene with the guy, Dane and Abby. Trice had been taking Abby on her dates to let her get to know him. Apparently Abby was becoming attached to this guy because he was playing the ‘Dad’ role while Dane was gone.”

Jenna stared at the monitor for a moment then said, “Crap.” Nick continued, “There’s more and this may affect you. Dane was having an affair with Paige.” Suddenly Jenna was reminded that Paige was waiting to talk to her. She said, “Nick, we may need that replacement Comm Officer.”