There’s a good reason the Mars spacecraft is being tested before the actual journey. It’s better that we discover the unexpected now, when it’s parked behind the moon, rather than when it’s halfway to Mars.
Remora’s parents have been living in the water tanks growing the seaweed that will provide food for the crew. After several months, something about the conditions of space and the effect on merfolk physiology began causing their scales to fall off. Untreated, that could prove fatal.


While we’re in space, it will be Rupert and Rosalind who will be tasked with keeping the dodos out of trouble. Effectively, that means it will be up to Vince and Feryl. That assumes the dodo pair won’t eventually be welcomed by the dodo colony being reintroduced to Mauritius.
No, were not counting on that. It’s the one aspect of the mission that concerns Samantha since it’s the one variable beyond her control.


Facing three years of life locked within a the sterile environment of the Mars spacecraft, the gang set out into the natural realm of the Great Smokies. The kids, in particular, were more used to indoor activities than they were to being outdoors, and probably found this more alien than what they’ll encounter in space.


The squid, who is thus far nameless, has never been a happy camper. His favorite method of expressing himself is usually squirting ink in the faces of the unwary. Once everyone got wise to that behavior he seemed to settle down, even at one point working for the dodos. (That relationship was fraught.)


Feryl and Palmtop performed their magic act for a small group of friends and family at her house. It was recorded, and Samantha uploaded the video to me. It…was good.
You can tell that Feryl has a background in entertainment; she possesses an undeniable stage presence and an innate ability to hold an audience’s attention. Each trick was properly set up, and executed for a maximum payoff. (Sort of like the rhythm of a comic strip.) Even better, they were all constructed under the theme of cat behavior so you felt you were witnessing a cohesive set instead of a series of random elements.


With everything else going on, Feryl and Palmtop have been quietly working on a magic act. Every weekday since class ended at Havens U., Feryl comes by Patina’s house and picks up the pet carrier containing Palmtop. Then they get to work at Feryl’s home.
As noted before, Feryl’s father was once a stage magician, and she basically grew up on the entertainment circuit. She knows a lot about stagecraft, and of building a performance toward a payoff. (As a professional mascot I employ many of the same devices in keeping the attention of the audience.)


The house that was once the Argus residence and later bought by Jenny and Luis, will soon have new occupants. After we all leave for Mars, Rupert and Rosalind will move in with their son Gregor. Gregor has been staying there regularly, so it’ll be familiar terrain for him.
Rupert and Rosalind have been leasing a small house since their marriage, but this will be much larger and also with a lower monthly rent. As Gregor became a toddler, that other place has gotten very small.


No matter what form she takes, Pam/Palmtop takes a jaundiced view of the world. One aspect of this is a continued sense of personal denial, whether it involves her affections for Vince or her own desires for acceptance.
The later has manifested itself as an attraction for the applause that comes with show business. (The dodos have a similar goal, but that’s fueled by the sins of Greed and Pride.) Pam’s springs from an emotionally genuine need.


The semester’s over, the genetics lab is closed for the summer and Samantha can now fully concentrate on the January launch of the Mars mission.
She wishes.
She’d assumed that Vince and Pam, like last year, would spend the summer months as humans working for Sue Havens at the day care center. While Vince will indeed be doing just that, Pam had other plans.


Science fiction movies never show you the nuts and bolts involved in a space voyage. For example, leaving Earth doesn’t mean we’re exempt from paying taxes. We’re all officially employees of Fastrack, Inc. and we’ve had to arrange for our money to be deposited into our bank accounts while we’re gone, and have our W-2s sent to an accounting firm that will file for us.