Chapter 12.1

Monday, November 26, 2018 (Johnday, Aries 28, 0031)

From: Jackie Miller
Subject: What are you talking about?
Date: Aries 28, 0031 05:30
To: Chen Kaiying

(CLT): 8 min 6.39 sec

Where is Michael and what are you planning to do to him? What the hell is going on and why the hell are you doing this to us? Screw the damn code.

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After striking the send key, Jackie began pacing unevenly around the tiny stateroom, waiting in agony for the reply. At this distance from Earth, it would take just over sixteen minutes before the reply is received, at the earliest. After what seemed like hours, the reply came in and she began reading. The significance of the message slammed her in the chest like a boulder, and she slumped to the deck.

From: Chen Kaiying
Subject: Michael
Date: November 26, 2018 5:55 a.m.
To: Jackie Miller

(CLT): 8 min 6.45 sec

Michael is safe for the time being. We are holding him hostage in your home and he is secured to prevent escape. Your husband will be killed though, if you fail to help us complete our assignment. It is no coincidence that you are on this particular mission. This undertaking has been in the planning for over two years. It was arranged for you to replace Commander Cody. That particular car accident worked out to our advantage, as no one discovered what had been planned.

It is essential that your spacecraft does not land on Mars. How you prevent that is of no concern to us. No one needs to die on the ship. It will be sufficient to abort the landing and force a return to Earth. You will be compensated ten times what you would otherwise receive, plus Michael will live. Think very carefully about your decision and the penalty if you do not comply. Whether Michael lives or dies is in your hands.

Chen Kaiying

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