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  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 1, Sur One, Sunday, Sol 57 (1.1.57)  18:49 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Tuesday, 1 March 2016  2:22 PM PST


Jenna began, “All stations, all hands we are initiating Assimilation Plan Delta. We are now on Priority Comm protocols. Communication only between linked subgroups, unless it is an emergency. Let’s look smart out there. Ms. Paige Flores, initiate go/no go.”

Priority Comm protocols meant that only the parties actively involved in a process or procedure were allowed to communicate with each other unless there was an emergency that someone outside the subgroup was aware of that needed to be communicated. This effectively told everyone at ESEP, “Just watch and don’t bug us.” ESEP could contact Naomi, but she would be the judge of what information to pass on to the crew and what to hold for later.

From her workstation Paige called out, “Assimilation Plan Delta subgroup, stand by” Paige then began calling through the list:

“Sagan Prime?” Anna responded, “Go.”

“QE Prime?” Keira responded, “Go”

Paige continued the list which involved almost all the crew, including the crew in construction pods. She finally wrapped up the list:

“Assimilation Crew Chief?” Zeke responded, “Go.”

“Operation Observer?”  Jeramy responded, “Go.”

Paige said, “Commodore Hart, all stations ready.”

Ken joined the group, “Jeramy show us what you have.”

Fifty seconds later Nick and the rest of the ground team on Earth saw the view from Jeramy’s construction pod. He was stationed about a kilometer above and looking down on the Sagan. Also in the view were the two sections of the QE II to its starboard side. His function was to keep an eye on the bigger picture while providing visual information for everyone involved.

Ken continued, “QE II Prime, begin Cargo section SEP.” Within seconds the image showed the cargo and ICP drive sections separate from each other. The QE II was now in three sections. Ken waited until the sections were only meters apart and then said, “QE II Prime, begin 180 Yaw on ICP and Command sections.” Slowly both the Command and ICP sections began rotating clockwise. This maneuver was necessary because both would be attached to the Sagan facing the opposite direction; however, ESEP procedures demanded that all ship construction and deconstruction work be done one step at a time. What the Mars Mission crew was doing was beautiful space ballet, but it was not protocol.

While the two QE II sections were rotating the Commodore continued, “Sagan Prime, begin SEP procedure.” The Sagan began to separate between the aft-most rotating Quill hab section, and the forward most Quill cargo section. As the two sections were moving farther apart Ken said, QE II Prime, move and merge cargo sections to the Sagan. It was about this time that the Command and ICP sections of the QE II had completed a 180 degree spin and they stopped. Keira announced, “180 yaw maneuver complete.” Ken responded, “Good, QE II Prime, move those sections into place and merge them.”

Nick’s office was start to have a flow of engineers walking in muttering and saying things, “What the hell?”, “What are they doing?”, and “Who do they think they are?” Nick knew he was going to have to calm them all down, but now he was mesmerized by the perfect ballet on the monitor.

In 38 minutes it was all done. The ESS Queen Elizabeth II was no longer a viable independent ship and it was now part of the ESS Carl Sagan. The engineers back on Earth were mostly angry; however, a few engineers had been suggesting that the construction and deconstruction of ships did not need to take weeks and multiple actions could be done concurrently.

All this was possible because the computer was actually maneuvering the sections and the humans were the inspectors making sure everything was going as planned. Theoretically, everything could be done at the same moment because the computer was aware of where every section was in space and what direction it was moving.

Part of the anger of the engineers was due to the exposure of their over cautious approach to ship construction. The crew of the new flagship Sagan proved the capabilities of the computer guidance and management software, and spaceship construction was about to become a lot faster than thought possible.

As for the 29 crew members of the Sagan, they could now look forward to several days of relaxation….except for the Admiral and Commodore, they would have hours of video meetings added so that ESEP divisions could tell them where they almost went wrong.