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.


Managing the lab had always been Samantha’s biggest challenge (and one that’s never been a part of her official job description). That’s supposed to be the purview of the department chair Professor Allele but…it’s not.
As previously mentioned, it was Samantha’s goal to put the lab in capable hands before she left for Mars. Those appendages turned out to belong to Vince and Feryl, two lab assistants who occupy the lowest rung of the department’s ladder (not counting the test subjects). Yet, they’ve shown a unique talent for leading their superiors in ways that aren’t noticed as such.


As she prepares for Mars, Samantha is also keeping a close watch on those remaining behind; particularly Pam, Vince and Feryl. She needs Pam to continue as dorm resident advisor, and for Vince and Feryl to keep the genetics lab from spinning out of control.
The problem is that these crucial individuals form a romantic triangle, no matter how much Pam denies it. The twist is that when Pam is in her cat form, she actually seems to like her rival. For her part, Feryl has absolutely no idea that Pam and Palmtop are the same, and she takes Pam’s insistence that she has zero feelings for Vince at face value.


All of crew going to Mars are given a specific weight limit on items to take on the voyage, which isn’t as restrictive as it sounds. Keep in mind that the ship’s 3D printer can create most any item; when one of the children gets bored with a toy, it goes into the mix of plastics and emerges as something new.