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  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 1, Sur One, Saturday, Sol 56 (1.1.56)  19:05 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Monday, 29 February 2016  2:00 PM PST
  • Distance traveled:  12,623,747 kilometers   Time Delay:  36 secs
  • Distance to Mars Rendezvous:  379,786,005 kilometers

The aft camera was focused on the ESS Carl Sagan as it approached. At a hundred kilometers away it looked big. This was the first flight of this design and while both the Sagan and the Queen Elizabeth II consisted of the same elements, the Sagan only had one rotating Quill section and the rest of the Quills were cargo sections.

The Sagan was longer than the QE II, but the with the exception of the stowaway, Zeke Jackson, the Sagan had no crew. The QE II was meant to carry all the ‘organics’ including humans.

The QE II had fired its ICP drive and was now travelling 94 kilometers per hour slower than the Sagan. The QE II would now slowly increase its velocity using chemical reaction engines. When the Sagan comes along the QE II will match its speed.

As the First Officer, Anna was in charge of the final maneuvers and in charge of merging the two ships into one. She was also responsible for the new crew member, Zeke, that snuck on the Sagan and faked his death. Anna was not pleased with Zeke; however, he would make her work easier.

Anna called over to Zeke on the Sagan. He responded quickly to her call, “This is Zeke.” Anna asked, “Zeke, I’m showing all hab sections powered up. Did you do a line check on all the fluid lines?” Zeke got to know most of the crew while he was on the construction team, but Anna tended cold and impersonal. He was cautious around her. “Yes, Ma’am. I did a pressure check and visual of all the lines,…twice. I have one line in Quill 1B that I’d like to check again. It was damp and I wasn’t sure if it was condensation or a small leak.”

Anna was doubtful. When she did a line check it took her three hours. He was saying he did it in two hours and did a visual survey twice. She would check the tapes later. She suspected he was trying to ‘Biff‘ her, but for now she would play along.

Anna continued, “You can go ahead and disconnect couplings between Quill 1 and the Core Command section.” Zeke replied, “That’s already done Ma’am, and I’ve sealed the bulkhead hatches and tested them. They are ready for SEP as soon as you are alongside.” Again, Anna was doubtful, but this she could check right now. She pulled up cameras on both sides of the bulkhead hatches and in fact, they were closed and sealed. She checked the status of the seal, and it was a green light to SEP.

Anna was impressed…a little..and she said, “Very well.” Zeke then took a chance, “Ma’am, may I suggest something?” Anna didn’t like pushy people, but she also didn’t have a good reason to refuse him. Anna said, “Go ahead.” Zeke said, “The Sagan is ready for the QE II’s hab section. I know we’re into evening, but it would take less than an hour to integrate your hab section as soon as you are here. That would leave the Command section, the cargo section, and the ICP section to integrate, and I can get do them tomorrow.”

Anna was amused. This guy had no clue of what he was talking about. He was going to do a week’s worth of work in two days. Anna decided to let him down slowly, “Zeke, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but that is pushing our schedule too much. I will run it by the Commodore, but I’m pretty sure will stick to the recommended schedule.” Zeke replied, “It doesn’t hurt to ask.” Anna responded, “No, I guess not. I’ll check in with you when we are alongside.”

Anna ended her conversation, and then called up the video of the Sagan for the last few hours. She was able to condense all the video by sorting for movement and the file now showed every place that Zeke had been. She began skimming and watched him work. He was fast. He decoupled and sealed the bulkheads faster than Anna thought possible. He wasted no motion. His visual check of the lines was brilliant. He had a cloth or paper and a vapor tester. He ran the paper down the hoses and looked for moisture then scanned them with the tester. He was especially thorough around couplings where a leak was more likely. She watched him come back the way he came checking the lines again.

Anna was going to wait to talk to the Commodore about Zeke’s idea, but she decided that maybe they should consider his plan. She climbed down two decks to the Commodore’s station and saw him talking to the Admiral. Jenna saw her and asked, “How’s Zeke doing?” “Very well,” she replied. “He’s amazing fast in his work.”

Jenna said, “I think you’ll like him once you get to know him.” Anna continued, “About Zeke, he suggested, and I discouraged this, but he suggested that we move the hab section over immediately once were alongside, and then he said he could get the other three sections done tomorrow. I know that’s ridiculous, but I wanted you to be aware of his suggestion.

Ken said, “Does he have the Sagan ready for SEP?” Anna said, “Yes, and I verified his work.” Ken looked at Jenna, “Your thoughts?” Jenna said, “As long as we can have everything ready on our end, then it would be great to transfer the flag tonight and be already settled in.” Ken turned back to Anna, “Can we have our section ready?” Anna was a little amazed they were taking this idea seriously…and a little defensive about whether she could have ‘her’ ship ready. Anna stood up straight and said, “Yes, we can be ready by the time we’re alongside.” Ken said, “Excellent, let’s make that our plan unless somebody has an issue with it.”

He tapped his pad to call the Comm Center. Krista Parker was on duty, “Yes, Commodore?” Ken said, “Krista, give me a Code Alert and tie me into the Sagan, and ESEP.” Krista said, “Yes, sir…….All stations, all hands, CODE ALERT from Commodore Hart.” Ken tapped in and said,

“Crew of the QE II and the Sagan. We are considering merging the Hab sections of the QE II with the Sagan and transferring the flag as soon as we are alongside. That would give us about one hour to prepare the QE II. The Sagan is ready to receive us once we are there. The cargo sections, the ICP drive and the Core Command would be integrated tomorrow. In ten minutes the First Officer will call for a go/no go from all the crew. Thank you.”

Jenna looked at her pad and laughed. Nick had sent her a message. It said,

“ESEP engineers are having cardios. Warn me next time you’re going to try to kill my staff. :)”

Ken then tied into Keira and Zeke, “Keira and Zeke, are you good with this?” Keira replied, “Zeke and I have been discussing this. I figured it was a no go, but it is really easy peasy.” Ken continued, “Zeke, are you good to go out in a pod and tug us?” Zeke said, “Pod is ready and I’m good to go.”

Ken then turned back to Anna, “Okay, Anna. Put it into motion. Do the go/no go, but don’t wait until then to start prep.” Anna said, “You realize that if we actually get all this done by tomorrow, we’ll be a week ahead. 

Jenna said, “That’s it!” Ken and Anna looked at her. Jenna continued, “We’ve been trying to figure out what holiday to have for the first day of Sur 2. It is Assimilation Day, and we will have two days to plan it!