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  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 1, Sur One, Thursday, Sol 47 (1.1.47)  01:30 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Friday, 19 February 2016  2:00 PM PST

CODE ALERT! Text in three parts to follow:

CODE ALERT – PART ONE:  Closeout of ESS Queen Elizabeth II will occur today at 16:00 NST. All Earth Prime team members should have inspected and finalized all areas on the ship by 13:00 NST. No non-mission equipment should be left on the ship. Please account for all tools, suits, and other Earth Prime equipment and notify the Earth Prime Director’s Office of any missing items.

CODE ALERT – PART TWO:  All non-essential personnel should be off ship by 12:00 NST today. Final inspections of all cargo areas will occur from 08:00 to 11:00 NST and Hab area inspections will occur between 10:00 and 13:00 NST. Inspection teams will work from stern to aft closing out areas behind them.

CODE ALERT – PART THREE:  Security personnel will be at both entrance hatches at 12:00 NST today. All personnel must have proper authorization to enter the ship. At 16:00 NST all hatches will be closed and sealed. No one may enter the ship without pre-authorization of the Nick Castillo, Director of ESEP, Rear Admiral Jenna Wade, Commodore Ken Hart, AND Commodore Claude Dubois. Ship will depart from port at 10:35 NST on Sol 49.

The Code Alert was broadcast at 01:30 NST. It was now 05:34 NST and Jenna was rereading the Code Alert. She had read it yesterday after Duncan sent the final draft to her, Nick Castillo, and Claude Dubois. As she sipped the morning tea she wondered if it would work.

Early yesterday morning one of her crew had discovered evidence that someone was trying to stowaway on her ship. The person had left equipment in a cargo area that would keep him or her alive in an unheated and stagnant air environment.

In three days the ESS Queen Elizabeth II will leave the Earth Prime spaceport and because she will be under her own power, life support functions such as circulating air and heat will be shut down in some cargo areas. It was in one of these sections that equipment had been found that would keep someone alive for a few days.

Whoever was responsible was clever. They chose an area that none of the crew would have reason to enter. They had some type of quick attachment device that allowed them to put a tablet in front of the camera playing a loop of the cargo bay. A person would have to be the monitor to catch them putting the tablet in place and with almost 100 cameras in place, no one was going to catch it.

It took several replays of the video of the cargo area to catch the moment the tablet was put in place and it was not removed for 29 hours, so it was impossible to track down the person based on the time the camera was disabled. The person also managed to avoid all other cameras leading to that section. This person was good.

After the equipment was discovered yesterday morning, Duncan ordered it left in place. He had a hidden camera with a motion detector installed with a view of the equipment. Duncan left two security people hidden away near the cargo quill ready to arrest the person if they came back to check on the equipment. The perpetrator didn’t.

Time was running out. The person would likely board the ship just before departure from the spaceport. That would make him or her easier to catch, but it would mean the QE II would have to return and redock, which had never been done before. Ships are constructed with the first section already docked at the spaceport. Docking the mass of the entire ship would be nearly impossible. They had to catch the person before the QE II undocked.

Duncan decided to try to trap the person at the closeout. By having the inspection of the cargo areas end at 11:00, and the putting Security in place at the ship entrance hatch at 12:00, he felt that the potential stowaway would try to check on his or her equipment during the hour after the end of the cargo inspections, but before Security took positions at the hatches.

Jenna, Nick, and Claude all agreed, but now Jenna was having doubts. This person was not stupid and they had avoided detection on a ship covered in cameras. Somehow it didn’t make sense that they would fall for the trap.

Jenna dressed for the day and headed to the Command Commons area to grab some breakfast. Only Ken, Nick, Claude, and her knew about the plan to catch the stowaway. One of her reserve crew members knew about the equipment, but he was told to not discuss the situation with anyone. Most of the Command staff came to the Command Commons area while Jenna was there, but she kept the conversation on the closeout events, and avoided any hints that a significant security issue was overshadowing the day.

The morning kept the crew busy with the closeout procedures, but at 11:00, Jenna and Ken announced that they would have a working lunch in her quarters. The two of them climbed down to the Commons area to get a lunch ration, prepared it, then headed down to her quarters.

Once there she contacted Duncan and Nick and pulled up the camera feed from the hidden camera. Jenna knew that nothing had happened or else she would have been called. She looked at both of Duncan and Nick on the monitors and said, “You don’t mind if we eat, do you?” Nick said, “No.” Duncan was unresponsive. Jenna was concerned that if they didn’t catch him or her the departure schedule might have to be pushed back, but at this point it was up to Duncan, and she and Ken would just have to focus on their jobs.

Over the next hour Ken, Nick, and Jenna talked about mission issues. None of them were significant, but lately all their conversations had been about major issues. This was one of the rare times when they could chat about the mission rather than discuss the mission.

At 11:58 NST, Nick said, “It looks like our person didn’t take the bait.” Duncan replied, “It doesn’t make any sense. He has to know that his stuff could have been found. He should have come.” Jenna joined in, “May he’s changed his….” Jenna looked closer at the monitor and then said, “Mr. Duncan, what is that flashing icon at the bottom of the screen?” Duncan casually answered, “That’s just the motion detector icon.” Jenna tried again, “But why is it flashing.” Duncan thought for a moment, “Uhm, well it flashes when it senses….wait, we would see the person…unless….but he couldn’t have…he doesn’t….” Jenna interrupted him, “Mr. Duncan, he has fooled your camera and he’s there.”

Before Jenna had finished Duncan had sent the signal to his staff on board. Hopefully, it would not be too late.