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  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 1, Sur One, Saturday, Sol 42 (1.1.42)  6:07 AM NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Sunday, 14 February 2016  2:24 PM PST

Jenna had finished her video call with Nick Castillo and then contacted her Comm Officer, Paige Flores. Paige wanted to meet with her, but under the circumstances she decided to put Paige off until she could dress for the day. Jenna also wanted the ship’s Counselor on standby in case she was needed.

Paige Flores was the youngest crew member. She was 27 and like all crew members, she had a special talent that uniquely qualified her to be on the first mission to Mars. Paige’s gift was her understanding of electrical and computer systems. She had a doctorate in electrical engineering and a masters in computer science; however, she looked more like a model than a geeky engineer.

Paige rarely formed attachments to anyone but her older sister, who was also on this mission. Anna Flores was the First Officer and Jenna had selected her to be on the crew six months before she began interviewing for a Comm Officer. ESEP administration was initially hesitant to have sisters on the same mission, but both were highly qualified and Jenna wanted her. It was the Counseling team that cleared the way for Paige to join the team because they wanted to study familial relationships during long-term missions.

Jenna was beginning to regret selecting Paige because she suspected that her maturity, or lack of it, might be a factor on this mission. Jenna was looking through Paige’s file to remind her of why she selected her when her door chimed.

“Come in,” Jenna said. Paige entered and said, “Good morning, Rear Admiral. Thank you for letting me come talk to you so early. Do you mind if I ask the Counselor to come and join us? I really would like her to hear what I have to say.” Jenna was already confused, but she touched her tablet to call Wendy. In a moment Wendy’s voice said, “Good morning, Jenna.”

Wendy knew that Jenna might ask her to come into this meeting, but she didn’t want it to sound like she knew. Wendy was surprised when Jenna said., “Wendy, Paige and I are meeting in my quarters and she asked if you could join us.” Wendy paused for a moment and thought to herself, “Paige wants me there?” She then realized she was creating an uncomfortable silence and blurted out, “Be right there!”

Paige then launched into her next thought, “I’ve been talking to Wendy and she has given me a different perspective on my situation and I really want her to hear this.” Jenna motioned to Paige to sit down and asked her if she wanted tea. Before she could answer the door chimed and without hesitation Paige said, “Come in!” Suddenly Paige realized that she should not have invited someone into the Admiral’s quarters. Paige said, “I’m sorry, I don’t know why I did that.”

Wendy came in and Jenna said, “That’s okay, but are you nervous?” Paige said, “Yes, I am. I’m not sure exactly what to feel right now.” Jenna said, “That’s understandable under our circumstances.” Jenna looked at Wendy and said, “Have a seat. I’m getting tea for Paige and I, would you like a cup?” Wendy said ‘yes,’ and Jenna began putting together a tea-tray for them.

Wendy decided to probe Paige while Jenna made the tea, “What’s going on, Paige?” At that invitation Paige launched into a stream of words,

“I talked to Dane last night….which was great….he’s doing better….he found out his wife was leaving him….that wasn’t good, but he’s okay…he and I were having an affair….he didn’t tell me he suspected Trice was cheating….Abby’s a mess because this other guy was trying to replace Dane as her father…I like Dane, but he’s now in this mess….I know ESEP knows about our affair….I was really mad at you Jenna, but Dane helped me see that he couldn’t have stayed on this mission….I want to stay here, but maybe I’m now too involved….I don’t want to be involved…”

At this point Wendy took control, “Paige, let me see if I understand your concerns. You were involved in a relationship with Dane, but you concerned that he needs to sort things out without you, you don’t want ESEP to hold this relationship against you and you want to stay with this mission, and you were mad a Jenna because you thought she kicked Dane off the mission too soon, but you understand there was no choice…is that everything?”

Paige looked at Wendy blankly and paused. Paige said, “Yes…yes, I believe it is.”

Jenna had sat down with the tea-tray and had poured everyone tea. She looked at Wendy and they both smiled. As Jenna handed Paige her tea she said, “Paige, I have no concerns about you or your ability to do your job. The only reason I would replace you is if you wanted off the ship, and I’m hearing that this mission is your priority. Wendy can help you sort out any issues you’re having about your relationship with Dane.”

Jenna paused and then continued, “Finally, I pleased to hear that both you and Dane understand that he had to go to his daughter. It is human nature to want someone to blame for the outcome of this tragedy, and I expected both of you to have some anger directed at someone. I’m not offended and I’m pleased you have forgiven me.

Jenna reached out to her and took her hand and said, “You’re part of our crew, period.”

Paige’s face and body began to relax. Jenna thought Paige might start crying, but she didn’t. Paige said, “Thank you. That’s all I needed to  hear.”

Jenna said, “I’m going up to grab a bite and then head up to the Command deck. Why don’t you head off to sleep?” Paige responded, “I can’t. I won’t be able to sleep until I know the countdown has started.” Jenna said, “Alright, then come up with me for breakfast and then we’ll both go to the Command deck. The countdown starts in three hours, and then you can head off to bed.”

The three of them ate a quick breakfast and then headed to the Command deck. Jenna had a flood of messages coming in but she asked Paige to prioritize them and between the two of them they worked through them with ten minutes to spare before the countdown commenced. By this time a long list of divisions and departments had given the ‘go’ to start the countdown.

All of the Earth-based stations had completed their checklists and now the spaceport was finishing up their list. It was up to the departments onboard the ship now. As it came down to the last ninety seconds, Anna, the First Officer, was running down the final four sectors,

“Science?” “GO!”

“Comm?” “GO!”

“Engineering?” “GO!”

“Navigation?” “GO!”

Anna then turned to Ken and said, “Commodore, we have a go to begin the countdown.” Ken turned to Jenna and said, “Rear Admiral Wade, we are ready to commence countdown with your approval.”

All eyes and the cameras focused on Jenna and she said, “Comm Officer Flores, everybody seems to think we should go to Mars. Do you agree?” Paige looked a little startled as all focus came to her. She smiled and said, “I agree!” Then Jenna had another surprise for everyone and said, “Then Comm Officer Flores, would you give the Commodore your approval?” Everyone on the Command deck was beaming. After all that happened in the past week, this made it all right. Paige turned to Ken and said, “You have approval to commence the countdown!”

Ken snapped back to the Anna, First Officer Flores, your sister says we can go!” Everyone wanted to laugh but they had cut the process too close and Anna quickly announced, “COUNTDOWN begins on MY MARK, in six, five, four, three, two, one, MARK!”

In 251 hours, seventeen minutes, and 32 seconds the ESS Queen Elizabeth II would begin her journey to Mars.