By necessity Samantha’s sabbatical had to begin with the Fall semester so that she could devote her time fully to the preparations for the Mars mission. She’s meeting her goals as the launch date approaches, but she’s also still living close by the genetics lab. That proximity makes it hard for her to completely let go.


Mankind’s first expedition to another planet will include four children under age eight as part of its crew. This raises the stakes as far as safety is concerned, since everyone wants to see them return home.
It also creates added challenges, since they’ll still require schooling during the journey. For this duty they’d have veteran teacher Sue Havens who has over three decades of experience. In fact, Samantha, Jenny, Dave and I met as four-year-olds in the day care center that she runs.


After Vince was transformed from a mouse into a human, Samantha used her access into the university computer system to give him a private room in the dorm. With her leaving for Mars, that will no longer be the case. She did, however, give him a roommate she’s known for years: Patina’s brother Rusty Welding.


So we basically have a romantic triangle with three ostensible humans…all of whom began life as a cat, a mouse and a bird, respectively.
That’s the situation as we begin another eventful school year. This one, of course, will involve some of us heading to other part of the solar system.
Jenny will be on board, but she feels confident that she can be Feryl’s agent even from 140 million miles away. Sure, at first her magic act bookings will just involve children’s birthday parties, but one never know what that could lead to.


One has to sympathize with the situation that Feryl’s father found himself in. Here he was, in his twenties, doing exciting work in genetics with a fun side career as a stage magician, and one night he makes an amazing breakthrough.
And then, just as suddenly, an infant human lands in his care.


Transformed into a dove, Feryl flew as if it came naturally to her. …Which of course it did.
She caught up the evil magician and forced him off the road, crashing into a statue of Dave. He was taken into police custody where he was diagnosed with a mild concussion. Palmtop, after initially scaring Samantha, was completely unhurt thanks to being inside the hated pet carrier.


Feryl was excited about her first solo magic performance in front of paying customers. Of course, all the time she’d been growing up she been her father’s stage assistant, but never before tonight had she been the only one onstage. (Unless, of course, you count Palmtop, and you should)
The show went great, and Feryl’s father was beaming with pride. Afterwards, however, they encountered a former rival of his who had a long history of stealing ideas and secrets from other magicians. Now, he’s apparently made the move from violating the profession’s ethical standards to actual criminal theft. Using a trick box with a false bottom, he switched pet carriers and stole Palmtop.


Vince told Samantha all about the meeting with Feryl’s father, leaving Samantha with more questions than answers. She needs to tread carefully, not wanting to disrupt the budding romance between Vince and Feryl, the developing friendship between Feryl and Palmtop/Pam and Feryl’s role in maintaining order at the genetics lab.
Normally at this time of year Samantha would be gearing up for the start of the semester. However, she’s on sabbatical so she’s focused on the condition of the ship that will take the crew to Mars. So far it’s passed its structural tests, and no unforeseen problems have arisen. The only complication that’s developed among the crew was the issue with Remora’s parents that was resolved. (They’re fine now.)


Vince and Feryl’s relationship is progressing rapidly. They’ve become inseparable, although that statement comes with a caveat: Palmtop is always with them, in cat form. “Pam” has pretty much spent the entire summer as a feline, keeping an eye on them.
One of the few times they were apart from their four-legged shadow was when they drove to Feryl’s home so Vince could meet her father. Mr. Farnsworth turned out to have an interesting backstory.


For all her brilliance, Samantha does tend to break one rule of accepted scientific practice: she gets too close to her test subjects. (That includes the dodos, and pretty much explains their survival.) She does everything she can to achieve her research goals and have the animals survive…in some form.
Included in that is one particularly grumpy squid, who has been part of the lab’s ecosystem for a while. Let’s just say that making friends hasn’t been a big priority for him.