Chapter 15: FSB

  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 001, Sur Two, Sunday, Sol 25 (001.2.25)  22:51 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Wednesday, 30 March 2016  2:00 PM PDT 
  • Distance traveled:  119,862,792 kilometers   Time Delay:  4 mins 00 secs
  • Distance to Mars Rendezvous:  272,546,960 kilometers

Zeke had worked with Anna and Keira to establish protocols on merging Charlie One with the Sagan. This time the integration would all take place over the next hour. Charlie One stood a kilometer off to the side of the Sagan after finishing a six-hour deceleration to match speed with the bigger ship.

Ken crossed from his workstation to Jenna’s and said, “Can we talk in your quarters?” Jenna looked surprised, but got up immediately and they started down the Quill. On the way Ken called Wendy and ask her to join them.

Wendy was just a few feet behind them as they climbed off on to the level of Jenna’s quarters. After they all entered and the door was closed Ken began to talk, “We may have a problem. You asked me to look at the Charlie One crew from a security-risk standpoint, and I believe we may have one of their crew that could be a problem.”

Jenna responded first, “What type of problem?” Ken said, “Joseph Volkov is the Captain of the ship. He was selected because they had no experienced Captains immediately available, and he had pilot experience. It was a risk, but they decided that if a Captain was needed, another ship would be sent.” Wendy said, “That doesn’t seem to be a problem.”

Ken nodded and said,

“No, but he was a pilot for the Russian Air Force, and washed out of their cosmonaut program. He flew for Aeroflot for a while, then he moved to the United States. NASA wouldn’t let him into the program because of his background. We let hired him and he was competent as long as he was sober, but he’s had a few issues with drinking. About a year ago he apparently had a girlfriend that straightened him up and he was doing better, but in a review of his emails, it seems she’s been pushing him to get on a Mars mission.

His sister moved to the United States at the same time he did and she now lives on Maui. Recently, she pushing him to remember his birthright and recently told him that their aunt from the home country sent them $10,000.”

Jenna said, “Let me guess, they don’t have an aunt.” Ken replied, “They don’t have any relation left anywhere. They were the last of their family when they came here in 1998. Also, the girlfriend…she doesn’t exist prior to three years ago.”

  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 001, Sur Two, Monday, Sol 26 (001.2.26)  22:13 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Thursday, 31 March 2016  2:00 PM PDT 
  • Distance traveled:  123,467,688 kilometers   Time Delay:  4 mins 00 secs
  • Distance to Mars Rendezvous:  268,942,064 kilometers

The crew of Charlie One were surprised and disappointed when they were told they would have a twenty-four hour quarantine in their Hab section. They were told that Dr. Summers had ordered it at the last-minute, but it had actually been ordered by Director Wade. It gave time for Ken to get his security team to Maui.

Jenna had informed them that at the end of the quarantine they would meet in Charlie One’s Mess section for a welcome and orientation. Now, her Command team enter their Hab section slightly less than twenty-four hours after the ships were merged. Ian Banks and Jeramy Prater casually waited outside. They were under orders to not allow anyone out that was not under escort by a Sagan crew member.

Jenna welcomed them and thanked them for their quick response to the emergency. She continued,

“You have been put into a very difficult position. Each of you had only hours to decide to join this mission, and at the time you didn’t know if it would be a rescue mission, a recovery mission, or a mission to go to Mars. Now you are committed to at least a two-year adventure that you didn’t know you’d be a part of two weeks ago.

Our crew is under the observation of Counselor Wendy Stevens and her Earthside team. Each of our crew was evaluated after I selected them, for final approval for this mission by ESEP. Each of you will now undergo a similar evaluation as you are oriented to duties on the Sagan.

Don’t worry. No one is at risk of being put in a pod and sent off in the general direction of Earth; however, it is important we know how we can assist each of you to transition into the reality that we have thrown at you.

For the time being, we will keep you assigned to your current quarters. Eventually, some of you may be moved into quarters that make more sense based upon your assigned duties. If there are things you need from Earth please give the list to Ling Cho, our Logistics Officer. The Data will be launched on Sol 58 and we can add almost anything to its cargo that we may need. It will arrive at Mars in 64 Sols after it leaves Earth orbit.

We are establishing a three-week orientation program for all of you. After that, we will give you an official assignment; however, I would guess most of you will know what that assignment will be within a couple of weeks. We will not be making any decisions about surface assignment for several weeks.

I will be interviewing each of you over the next several days. My Chief of Staff will be giving you your schedule. For tonight, please get some sleep, and we will begin the orientation schedule at eight in the morning. Also, each of you will have a physical exam tomorrow with our medical staff. Again, thank you for your sacrifice and welcome to our crew.”

Jenna and her Command team shook hands with the eighteen new crew members and then headed back up to the core. Naomi walked over to Joseph and said, “Mr. Volkvo, the Director would like to interview you now.”

  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 001, Sur Two, Tuesday, Sol 27 (001.2.27)  21:34 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Friday, 1 April 2016  2:00 PM PDT 
  • Distance traveled:  127,072,584 kilometers   Time Delay:  4 mins 06 secs
  • Distance to Mars Rendezvous:  265,337,168 kilometers

Joseph Volkvo had been separated from his crew for almost twenty-four hours. He had been questioned about his girlfriend and his loyalties. The questioning had only been been for about an hour last night and then he was confined to a spare quarters on the Sagan under guard. 

During the day he had been given food, and allowed to go to the bathroom, but he was not allowed access to anyone, nor was he allowed to communicate back to Earth. It was now 9:30 at night and he was summoned to the Director’s quarters.

Jenna, Ken, Naomi, Wendy, and Anna were already there. He was told to sit down in a seat facing Jenna workstation. Jenna brought up a video of his sister. She began to speak,

“Joseph, I am safe. ESEP had people come to take me back to the mainland. They tell me that my life was in danger, but they have assured me that I’m not being held hostage. They are offering to protect me, and I will be allowed to go almost anywhere in the world under a new identity. They say that if you accomplished your mission for the FSB, that I would have been killed because I could identify the agent that visited me. I know this is true. They say that once that agent is caught, the less reason the FSB would have to kill me. They have also arrested your girlfriend.

It is over. We should cooperate with them. They have pictures of the agent who came to me. They have video of her at the airport and the rental car agency. They will find her and we can go away somewhere. They are asking me to convince you to cooperate, I am not being forced. Putin would have us killed and there are no other options.”

The message ended. Joseph looked up at Jenna and said, “So you’re holding her hostage.” Jenna shook her head and said,

“She wouldn’t even be involved in this if the FSB hadn’t brought her into it. Don’t you get it? The FSB can’t be associated with sabotage of the Mars mission. The entire world would be coming down on Russia if they were exposed. There were three options. If you sabotaged this mission she would have been killed within hours, if you had tried and failed she would have been killed, or held hostage until you got back and then they would have killed both of you. If you decided not to do anything she would have been killed to cover their tracks. You put her life in danger. We’re trying to save her, you fool.”

Joseph laughed, “Maybe some things are worth dying for. Maybe I don’t care.” Jenna leaned down to him and said,

“For your sake, I hope you care. I don’t think you understand our situation here. As of last night you are no longer a member of this crew, and only members of the mission are going to Mars. Your sister is cooperating and as long as she does she will avoid charges of espionage. If she stops cooperating she won’t be a hostage, she’ll be an inmate. What I’m asking for is simple. I want to know how you met your girlfriend and what you know about her. I want to know what she asked you to do, or what she implied you should do, and I want to know what you know about FSB operations. You have to convince me you are worthy of being on this mission and you have a long way to go.”

He smirked, “What are you going to do push me out into space?” Jenna looked him in the eye and said,

“Put yourself in my place. You have limited resources and a dangerous multi-year mission to Mars. Now you have a saboteur on board that will be a constant threat to the mission and the lives of the people on board. What would you do?”

  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 001, Sur Two, Wednesday, Sol 28 (001.2.28)  20:56 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Saturday, 2 April 2016  2:00 PM PDT 
  • Distance traveled:  130,677,480 kilometers   Time Delay:  4 mins 06 secs
  • Distance to Mars Rendezvous:  261,732,272 kilometers

The two ESEP security people had entered the office of SpaceTech. It was an employment agency that found temporary and permanent employees for high-tech industries. SpaceTech was a major recruiter for ESEP on the West Coast, and it was established by two people who left another recruiting agency to specialize in finding people for ESEP and their suppliers.

Bob Williamson became the sole owner of the company, after his romantic relationship with the other founding partner ended. He had three recruiters working for him now, but he was ESEP Recruiting’s main contact.

He welcomed the ESEP people into his office and asked them to sat down. He was nervous, but he didn’t want to show it. “How can I help you?,” he said. One of them replied, “Mr. Williamson, we won’t take up much of your time. We are making security audits of our suppliers, and if we could just ask a few questions, we’ll be on our way.” Bob smiled and said, “Fire away.” The other ESEP person said, “Mr. Williamson, have you ever been approached be someone who asked you to send certain applicants to ESEP…maybe they even offered you extra money to do it.”

The ESEP team could tell that Bob was surprised by their question. He became visibly nervous. Bob felt his core sink, and suddenly he was trying to remember what he did that might be illegal. He tried to seem calm when he asked his next question, “Is that illegal?” The first man said, “Probably not; however, it is an important that we learn about the situation. So you have had someone ask you to send us certain people?” Bob said, “Yes, there is a woman who represents someone who is trying to help people get high-tech job at ESEP, but they are doing it to help these people…and they all have excellent qualifications.”

The other ESEP person pulled out a picture of the woman at the Maui airport and said, “The woman doesn’t happen to look like this does she?” Bob’s eyes grew large and he said, “Yes, that’s her. Who is she?” At that, one of the ESEP people stood up and went outside Bob’s office to make a call.

About five minutes later Commodore Ken Hart received an urgent message from his Earthside security office. It said,

URGENT!  We have a hit on the woman. A recruiter at SpaceTech has ID’d her as one who has been supplying ESEP people with excellent qualifications. Protection and recovery protocols ordered. Determining size of breach. FBI informed. Containment in process. Will duck blind SpaceTech for as long as possible.

Ken contacted Jenna and Wendy to meet. A few minutes later they gathered in Jenna’s quarters just as Paige was leaving. Ken said,

“We may have a major breach. A few minutes ago one of our Security teams found a recruiter who has been sending us applicants supplied by our mystery woman. We don’t have any information yet, but we are taking the recruiter and his staff to a safe location to be interviewed, and put in our own people in his office. We are also copying all their records. We should be able to find out what agents of FSB have been sent to us, and if we’re lucky we might be able to get the woman.” 

Jenna said, “How quickly can we arrest the planted employees?” Ken said, “We have teams ready to go once we have names, and we won’t stop with just those hired. We will go after anyone sent by the woman. My best guess is that we have about six hours to act before FSB begins to realize something is happening.”

Jenna said, “When will we know more?” Ken said, “I’ll have them give me an update by midnight.” Jenna said, “Let’s keep this between us and meet again at midnight.” Wendy and Ken left. Jenna contacted Naomi and said, “Naomi, manage all Comm traffic until further notice. Let Ken and my traffic flow. Redirect all other traffic through me.”  

  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 001, Sur Two, Thursday, Sol 29 (001.2.29)  20:17 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Sunday, 3 April 2016  2:00 PM PDT 
  • Distance traveled:  134,282,376 kilometers   Time Delay:  4 mins 06 secs
  • Distance to Mars Rendezvous:  258,127,376 kilometers

The Command team of the Sagan had gathered in the Director’s quarters after mess. All of them were aware something significant had been happening on Earthside during the day, but communication from Earth had been sparse. 

Jenna began the meeting,

“As you are probably aware, there has been a lot of security activity going on back on Earth. After we discovered the saboteur on Charlie One, we began a broad investigation into possible security breaches. Last night we were informed of a significant issue that involved the woman connected to our saboteur. Ken, would you brief them.”

Ken said,

“The sister of the saboteur had been visited by a woman, who we now believe to be an agent of the Russian FSB, the successor of the KGB, and she encouraged his sister to tell him to take action to force our mission to be aborted. We believe that the woman was really pushing him to do more than sabotage, but that she didn’t want the sister to think they were asking him to sacrifice himself. The woman gave her $10,000, and said she would be back in two weeks, hopefully to celebrate her brother’s success.

Because of this security breach, we sent out our people to our suppliers to see if there were any more security issues and we got lucky. A recruiting firm in San Jose was given $10,000 for every applicant hired by ESEP. The firm was sent people who would tell them that ‘Dina’ sent them. The applicants had impressive aerospace and science backgrounds, and ESEP had hired almost all of the people sent through this agency. The owner of the agency identified the same woman as his contact as the woman whom had visited our saboteur’s sister.

In reviewing the agency’s records, we discovered that 33 people had been hired who we believe were trained agents of the FSB. We immediately took custody of 28 of them and seized all their records and electronic devices. Three others took their own life before we could arrest them, and two others were able to elude us.

What we have discovered is a massive effort to infiltrate ESEP. We believe that up until recently, the FSB was focused on industrial espionage; however, they clearly have shifted to a mission of sabotage in order to slow us down. We have evidence that the plane crash that took the life of the Director and some of our senior people was not an accident.

It will take us some time to identify how far the FSB have infiltrated, but there is no doubt that we have not eradicated the threat.”

Jenna said, “Megan has sent us an update.” Megan’s came up on Jenna’s largest screen. She began,

“I assume you are now aware of that the FSB has been infiltrating our organization. What you may not know is the scope of the infiltration, nor how long they have been doing it.

Based on emails, phone records, and hiring information, the Russian FSB has had agents in ESEP for at least five years, and maybe more. The 33 people we discovered have been working a network of people, some may not realize it. Based on emails sent to the engineers that participated in the management coup, an effort to plant seeds of confusion, and disillusionment with the ESEP leadership have been occurring for years.

Some FSB agents have been working a network of people to gain information, and some have been building confusion and resentment. Since last night we have been watching all emails for particular activity and we have found several people who may either be FSB plants, or are being manipulated by FSB agents inside ESEP.

We now believe that FSB has been manipulating at least 5,000 of our team members. We believe that Joseph Volkvo was identified and set up by a FSB agent in ESEP. It will take us months to identify which people the FSB agents have manipulated, and we will have to create educational programs on how to identify FSB agents inside the organization.

It has become obvious that FSB is aware they have been caught. We have many employees who are disappearing. As of the last count, there are 41 people who have not shown up for duty, and we have lost contact with them. There has also been a rash of burned homes and apartments of ESEP employees that have disappeared.

Interpol is taking the lead on the investigation; however, the FBI is now posting the names and images of the suspected FSB agents at all U.S. airports, ports, and border crossings.

That’s all I have for now. I’ll have more at the morning briefing.”

Jenna said, “That’s all for now, we’ll talk about this in the morning…Ken, Naomi and Wendy, would you please stay.” The rest of the Command team left and then Jenna said, “Wendy, I have blocked all your incoming and outgoing emails since last night. We need to talk.”