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  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 001, Sur Two, Tuesday, Sol 41 (001.2.41)  12:35 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Friday, 15 April 2016  2:00 PM PDT 
  • Distance traveled:  177,541,128 kilometers   Time Delay:  4 mins 18 secs
  • Distance to Mars Rendezvous:  214,868,624 kilometers

“We’re going to miss you on Mars,” Jenna said to Ken. Ken replied, “Bring me back a souvenir.”

Ken was on a newly created ship christened, Romeo Sierra One. It stood for Return Ship One. It wasn’t a very imaginative name, but it would be the first human inhabited ship to return to Earth from outside the Moon’s orbit. It was also a mission put together in two days.

Romeo Sierra One's Orbital Transfer back to Earth

Romeo Sierra One’s Orbital Transfer back to Earth

Romeo Sierra One is more like a shuttle, than a full ship. There are no Quill sections perpendicular to the core, meaning that the crew of four will be in a weightless environment for the journey back to Earth; however, because Earth and Mars are almost at their closest point in their orbits, the return trip will only be fourteen days. The ship is not using a core Command Section, but is using one of the Quill Auxiliary Command sections that is installed in a core configuration.

The crew of the Sagan was informed on Wednesday of Ken’s mission to return, and Ken asked for three volunteers with specific skills. The ship will be back at Earth Prime two days before the departure of the next Mars Mission, and anyone who wants to come back to Mars on that mission was guaranteed a place on the crew.

Jenna had not informed Earthside ESEP of Ken’s mission, and it was still to be kept secret, but now it was time to let Claude on Earth Prime, and Megan know before they had visual indication of a ship leaving the Sagan.

Jenna asked Communications Officer John Schultz to set up a scrambled video call to both Claude and Megan. When he was ready, she began,

“Claude and Megan. The following message is for your ears only. This is not to be discussed with anyone without my authorization. The embargo is until Sol 54 of Sur Two at 04:00 Noctis Time for need-to-know personnel on Earth Prime, and until Commodore Hart releases the embargo for the rest of ESEP. Pause this message if you need to take measure to secure your communication.

Pause now.

The rest of this message is for Megan DeLuca and Claude Dubois only.

In a few minutes you will probably be receiving reports of a ship departing from the Sagan. For anyone who becomes aware of this, the cover story is that it is a remote controlled ship with Jeramy Prater’s body aboard. That is, in fact, true.

It also carries a crew of four people, one of which is Commodore Hart. He is returning to Earthside to attend to our security issues. Our crew is aware of the mission, but they are under orders to not discuss this with anyone off ship. Megan, please monitor all communication to verify that no one is violating my orders.

They should be docking with Earth Prime on, or about, Sol 55. We have the ETA as 03:35 Noctis Time. It is a short, fourteen day trip. I have given a guarantee that any of the three crew members with Ken, may return on the Data mission that leaves two days later.

Claude, will you make arrangements to shuttle Ken to the surface as soon as possible. If needed, the ship he’s on, named Romeo Sierra One, can rendezvous with a shuttle prior to docking at Earth Prime.

Also note that we are sending the bodies of Lars Wilson and Joseph Volkov back on this ship.

We made this decision two and a half days ago, and I’m sorry I didn’t let you know before now, but we felt it necessary to keep this under wraps. Commodore Hart would prefer to be able to move quickly once he’s back on Earth, and not be under surveillance once he’s on the ground. Megan, please make arrangements for Ken to move from shuttle to his destination unnoticed. He will provide the destination upon arrival.

Sorry for the cloak and dagger, but we seem to be at war, and it’s time for our move. Megan, I saw the message about the new Earthquake in Nippon. Take any action you need to address the situation. I’ll be available for return messages, if needed.”