Chapter 15.1

Tuesday, November 27, 2018 (Scottday, Aries 29, 0031)

The crew was wandering about the control deck in their flight-suits, waiting for word from home that Mike is safe and they can proceed with the landing site. Or, if that message doesn’t arrive before they hear from Mission Support, the crew will need to come up with an excuse for not firing the thrusters to place them on a trajectory back to Earth. Another seventy-two hours is all that is left before they have to decide to either land or head for home. All that is left to do is don their helmets and gloves and strap into the landing seats, now re-attached to the deck, while Tom and Carl will be strapped in at the control console.

Feelings are mixed among the crew. Tom is sorely missing his dear, sweet Penny. Though longing to be home, he understands that being there won’t bring her back to life. He glances over at Sally. She looks back at him and smiles, dimples appearing at the corners of her mouth. He is finding it easier now to answer her smile with one of his own. Sally has been a wonderful friend and crewmate.

Gazing again at Sally, Tom now truly sees the beauty that she holds, both inside and out. A new thought flickers through his consciousness; they are going to be spending the next two years together. This is a truly pleasant idea, especially now that she is single. As the two of them share a background in geology, Tom sees them spending a lot of time together, exploring Mars and making new discoveries together. Perhaps discovering a deeper relationship with each other… someday.

Sally is contemplating the landing to come, not wanting to return to Earth without first setting foot on the surface. The fact that she will be one of the first geologists to set foot on another planet has her feeling like she is striding about a foot off the deck. There will be times when she will assist Carl in his geochemistry tests on the planet, but like Tom, she sees the two of them working side by side at every opportunity.

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