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  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 001, Sur Two, Tuesday, Sol 20 (001.2.20)  02:42 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Thursday, 24 March 2016  2:00 PM PDT 
  • Distance traveled:  98,233,416 kilometers   Time Delay:  3 mins 48 secs
  • Distance to Mars Rendezvous:  294,176,366 kilometers

Jenna didn’t normally work the night shift, but with all the work done to repair the Comm section after the meteoroid strike, she wanted to give as much of the crew a good night’s sleep as possible. Paige also volunteered to work the shift, and it was decided that the ship’s computer could monitor the systems, which allowed the engineer on duty to sleep, unless there was a significant problem.

It was now a quarter to three in the morning. Jenna was reviewing the manifest of Charlie One. The chase ship had been launched the day after ESEP Earthside lost contact with the Sagan. Before the launch of Charlie One, it had been decided to have it continue to the Sagan, even if contact was restored. The only thing that would have turned it back would have been if the crew had been lost.

Since it was unlikely that Charlie One would immediately return, it treated as a Mars-bound journey, and it was loaded with as much of the cargo as possible. With the crisis resolved, Charlie One would now merge with the Sagan and its crew would join the Sagan’s crew.

“They certainly loaded up Charlie One,” Jenna remarked to Paige. Jenna and Paige were at two workstations in the Operations Center of the Command Deck. Jenna’s normal workstation was two deck lower, but the night shift usually worked on the same level to allow conversation and to back each other up.

“It will be strange to have new people come on board,” Paige said. “I think Mars is testing our adaptability,” Jenna replied, “but the new people should help reduce the workload, and it was a good test of our rescue capabilities. Claude put together a full ship in less than twenty-four hours.”

It was quiet for a moment, then Paige said, “Did you expect this…all the surprises?” Jenna thought, then answered, “My background was in the Royal Navy, but my combat experience was limited. We trained to make field decisions, but most of the time everything was planned to the last nut and bolt. When I was in her Majesty’s service, I wondered how I would do if I faced combat conditions. I guess this is my answer.”

Paige said, “You’re amazing to me. It seems like nothing rattles you.” Jenna smiled, “Can I tell you a secret? Losing Nick really hurt. I didn’t realize how much I depended on him until he was gone….and there’s another secret….it was the people on this ship that kept me going, like when you stepped up and protected our computer systems, and then broke into the ESEP system. It was brilliant, and it allowed me to do everything I needed to do in the situation.”

Paige said, “Thanks, but I have to tell you it was a bit fun taking down the curmudgeons who tried to take over ESEP.” Jenna smiled, “Yes, but they wouldn’t have lasted long. People like that never really accomplish anything.”

Paige and Jenna chatted most of the night. It was the most relaxed Jenna had been in days. At 6:00 AM, she met with her Command team for the morning briefing, and as it broke up she got a text message from Paige, asking if she could see her before she went to sleep. Paige came down to Jenna’s quarters and Paige closed the door.

Paige said, “I wanted to tell you that for the first time, I don’t feel like Anna’s little sister, and that is because of you. Being selected for the crew was…amazing, but I knew it was in part because they wanted to study siblings on a mission…but when you brought me in to help Dane, and then asked me to give the word to begin the countdown, I felt like I was worthy of being on this crew.

Jenna responded, “Perhaps I….” That was all she could say because Paige suddenly moved forward and gave her a passionate kiss. Jenna didn’t resist. She was actually surprised by how much was enjoying it. Then she started kissing Paige back. After several minutes Paige slowly pulled back. Quietly she said, “I also wanted you to know how much I want you…in case you’re interested in spending some off duty time together.”

Jenna was speechless. Paige said, “I’ll let you get some sleep, and maybe we can talk later.” Paige gave her one last kiss, then turned and walked out the door. Jenna was an expert in dealing with almost any crisis that could come up, but nothing had the physical or emotional impact on her as Paige’s kiss. Jenna’s entire reality changed in a matter of seconds.