, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 1, Sur One, Sunday, Sol 50 (1.1.50)  22:56 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Tuesday, 23 February 2016  2:00 PM PST

Commodore Dubois voice was loud and insistent, “MR. JACKSON, RETURN THAT POD TO EARTH PRIME, NOW!” Jenna could tell by the video that Claude knew his only option was to talk him back on the spaceport. Then Zeke Jackson’s image came up on the Command deck’s primary monitor. He was in the pilot’s seat of a construction pod. Jackson looked calm…too calm. Jackson looked at the camera and said, “Commodore Dubois, it has been a pleasure serving under you….but if I’m not going to Mars, I’m definitely not going back to Earth….at least in one piece….au revoir!”

The monitor changed to an image of a small construction pod moving away from the spaceport and heading straight down toward Earth. On the Command deck a voice said, “Sir, he’s turned off the Comm.” Then another voice said, “Sir, Davis is in a pod and he is going to pursue.” A second pod was now in the image and it was following the path of the first one, but by now the first pod was almost too small to see.

From the second pod Davis reported, “I have him in sight, but I think he has used all his fuel to accelerate. I can keep him in sight with my camera, but I’ll never catch up to him.” Claude’s voice was now resigned. “Stay with him if you can, but don’t go out of safety limits.” Everyone realized that no one could stop Zeke now.

The Command deck’s main monitor now switched to the camera on the chase pod. It was continuing towards Earth. For the next 45 minutes the chase pod kept recording the fate of Zeke Jackson. Every few minutes someone on the Command deck could be heard trying to call him, knowing his Comm was turned off. As Zeke’s pod began hitting the outer atmosphere it started gyrating and then spinning. Claude ordered the monitor to be shut down, and then he left the Command deck.

This was the third time she had watched the video of the events leading up to Zeke’s death. The first was with Wendy and Ken last night less than an hour after it happened. The second was this morning when she played it for the crew, and now she was alone in her quarters and had to see it again. She knew how much it meant to Zeke to go to Mars, but no one had anticipated that he was suicidal. It made sense now that it happened, but Zeke was too full of life to think that he might end it for any reason.

But this was not a time Jenna could dwell on Zeke Jackson’s suicide. Yesterday the Earth Prime team closed out the ESS Carl Sagan and earlier today it undocked and moved into a similar type of orbit as the QE II, but they were thousands of kilometers apart. The QE II’s orbit was set to use the Moon to boost it on the correct trajectory, while the Sagan was taking a more direct path.

Tomorrow the QE II will fire a series of pellets to accelerate out of Earth’s gravitational pull. Then two days later it will accelerate again to approximately 100,000 kilometers per hour. A few hours before the second firing, the Sagan will begin a series of firings to accelerate to 150,000 kilometers per hour. A few days later the Sagan will catch up to the QE II and it will accelerate to match the speed of the Sagan. Then during the next week the two ships will become one.

There will be a time to mourn for Zeke, but it will have to wait a couple of weeks. Now, Jenna needed to sleep.