While we (the Mars crew) hide out in the top floor of the dorm, overseen by a visiting medical staff in preparation for the launch that’s only weeks away, life goes on for other residents. For example, Feryl continues to develop her magic act, all the while coming to terms with the reality of her origins.


Yes, our pre-mission lodgings turned out to be the top floor of the dorm. (It’s still owned by Bambi who leases it to the University, so she was able to make the arrangements.) I have a private room, but the married couples are cohabiting along with their kids.
We’re free to come and go, as long as we don’t arouse suspicion. That’s a tall order for Bambi, so she rarely ventures out. The same goes for Dave, who is still venerated on this campus after his student athlete exploits. As for me, my mascot costume is so recognizable that I’d be spotted immediately. Bambi and I end up playing a lot of cards.


The big introductory event for the Mars Mission concluded with a long speech by the Fastrack, Inc. CEO, Rose Trellis. We were spared watching it, since we were off giving private interviews elsewhere. Not so lucky was project manager Dethany, who had to sit through the whole thing. (It’s been told that Dethany has a long history with the CEO, as her career started as a personal assistant in Trellis’s office.)


The original plan was for the entire crew to convene a few weeks from now, to be sequestered in a controlled environment prior to launch. The mishap with the solar panel moved that up, after it became impossible to keep the mission secret anymore. So, we were all summoned for a big press conference at the local hotel ballroom to be introduced to the world.


Everything had been going so well.
On Fastrack One, the ship that will take us to Mars, all the systems were checking out with no glitches. The test crew was doing everything possible to uncover hidden issues before we left the vicinity of Earth, but all was working perfectly.
Then a rogue meteoroid sheered off one of our solar panels, sending it spinning onto the Moon’s surface. Fortunately no one on the test crew was hurt, and they still have enough power from the remaining arrays for their tasks, but we’ll need more for the actual mission.


It isn’t as if Samantha is never coming back to the Havens U. Genetics Lab; she fully plans to return when the Mars mission is over. It’s just that, for the time being, it will have to run without her for quite some time.
She’s done all she can to ensure that things will continue without her, but the truth is that she’s always been there before. Even now, being officially on sabbatical, she checks in often enough to keep certain individuals in line. That will change when she’s 140 million miles away.


It’s not surprising that Feryl is doing so well with her magic act. After all, she was raised in that field from birth, and even though her father retired from it she’s still a part of the milieu. It’s not unusual to continue a family business from one generation to the next.


As previously stated, my role on the Mars mission will be as the interface between the ship’s internal tech and the crew. In that capacity my mascot costume will be monitoring every facet of the ship’s functions and keep everyone appraised of the status.
In that regard I was naturally concerned when the simulator’s computer systems were hacked this week. Fortunately these are completely separate from the ones on the actual spacecraft, so the mission was unaffected. Still, it was highly annoying and caused delays in our training.


Of all the friends preparing to leave for Mars, most are in relationships. The exception is Bambi who, despite have tabloids linking her to dozens of other celebs, hasn’t had a significant other since high school. Of the rest, both partners are going on the voyage…except for me and Marcie.
Marcie and I have had our ups and downs (with the downs being my fault), but the Mars mission forced us to make a decision. About three years ago Marcie decided she couldn’t go, but acknowledged that I had to.


The dodos continue to be an issue for Samantha. Even worse, very soon she’ll be on her way to Mars and will no longer be around to control them.
I’ve previously stated that Vince and Feryl will be entrusted with keeping the pair in line, but that’s a lot of responsibility to place on two young people (no matter their abilities). That includes other non-human denizens of the lab such as Stan the spider. So, I’ve presented Samantha with the following solution: