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  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 1, Sur One, Saturday, Sol 49 (1.1.49)  00:13 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Sunday, 21 February 2016  2:00 PM PST

Jenna was still awake. In two days they would be leaving Earth orbit and the cord would be cut. There would be no turning back. It is what she had been working towards for years, but she had let the lack of issues during the last few months lull her into believing that they would be immune to last-minute problems.

The ship was in great shape. They were ahead of schedule on almost every checklist and if they had to leave a this moment, they could. What she didn’t expect was the personnel issues. Her crew was fine and had recovered from a last few days change in the pilot, but she didn’t anticipate a stowaway issue.

What really bothered her was that the stowaway, Zeke Jackson, was the type of person she would have selected for her crew….except she never saw his application because he only had a bachelor’s degree and it was in physical education with a minor in engineering. He also had barely passing grades…in his major, but straight A’s in his minor.

Zeke was on a basketball scholarship and apparently he was barely able to stay in school because he missed the workouts and sometimes practices. His coaches threatened to pull his scholarship if he didn’t focus on basketball. His distraction was his love for engineering, but they couldn’t offer him a full ride scholarship.

He graduated but getting an advanced degree was out of the question. He wormed his way into an ESEP job and quickly worked his way into space. His superiors always praised his work, but without at least a master’s degree he was lucky just to be on the construction crew. He was an expert in piloting several types of pods used in the construction of the ships, and was fully qualified for pressure suit work.

He was able to avoid detection when he was preparing the cargo section by using his skills as a pilot and his inch by inch familiarity with the ship. Zeke able to pilot a pod to the QE II using various structures to cloak his movements. He then docked to the cargo section and entered from the pressurized pod into the pressurized section.

Zeke only had one camera to fool, and once that was done he was undetectable. He was very careful and knew that if anyone suspected they might put a hidden camera in place. When Duncan had one installed in an attempt to catch him, Zeke recognized the fake component and created a new video loop of the scene from its perspective. He then used two tablets to fool both the original camera and the hidden one. Zeke’s only mistake was to think that the tablet blocked the motion detector.

Jenna realized that she hadn’t had anyone recheck the Zeke’s stowaway compartment to be sure everything was ready for departure. She was about to contact her Peyton Rhodes, her other reserve crew member who was on night shift, but then she decided she wanted to see it for herself.

She climbed up to the Command deck and checked in with the crew on duty, then continued up to the core. In the last section she was almost weightless, which is a relatively rare feeling on ships designed to have the crew work in a gravity environment.

The quill of the cargo section had been sealed, but she knew that it was still pressurized and heated so she opened the hatch and floated down into the quill. She noticed a light was on and someone was in the third section. She decided to find out why one of her crew was in the section, so she quietly approached. Zeke saw her staring at him as he turned around and he jumped and fell.

“How the HELL did you get away, and on board my ship???” she said with the best fake anger she could muster. He stammered, “I’m sorry, Ad..Admiral. I..I..did it the same way.” Jenna looked at him with genuine concern, “What did you do to the Security team?” Zeke was still rattled and said, “NOTHING, no nothing…they always stay outside the room…they don’t know I’m gone.” Jenna was relieved, and then said, “You are going to go right back and get in your bed. I am going to call them in thirty minutes and have them check on you. AND DON’T GET CAUGHT!”

Zeke couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He should be shoved out an airlock but the Admiral was giving him the chance to make this second violation go away without reporting it. He almost shouted, “Yes Ma’am!…and thank you, Ma’am!” Zeke began gathering up the equipment he’d brought over and when he looked up again Jenna was gone.

As promised Jeanna contacted the Security team and asked them to check on Zeke. In a minute the guard called back and said, “He’s sleeping. Do you want me to wake him up?” “Nope, but I would like one of you stay inside the room with him for the night,” she replied.