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RECOVERY
Thomas is in good spirits and the medical prognosis is all positive. He just has to be careful for the next few weeks until he’s fully healed. The mission can’t afford for him to re-tear his incisions by trying to come back too soon. So, Maria is restricting his movements as much as possible (although she does allow him to hang carefully from his trapeze for limited periods of time).
As Samantha heads to the final weeks of her pregnancy, she’s a frequent visitor to Sick Bay in order to monitor her baby’s health. She and Thomas talk about pregnancies, of which Thomas has personal experience. (Long story) He’s actually more empathetic to Samantha than Jenny or Ming. The other mom on board is Maria, of course, who is strictly professional about the matter.
Remora, meanwhile, is demonstrating that she’s a more than capable co-pilot. Still, Dave makes sure to perform the really important maneuvers; what Remora does is keep the ship steady while Dave takes off for his normal shifts of sleep and down time.
Mars looms ever closer.

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POST OP

We don’t know exactly how much surgery Maria will do in the next thirty years until she comes back in time to join our voyage, but it was enough experience to successfully extract Thomas’s appendix. Let’s not forget Don’s role, too. He only recently got his nursing degree and he was fantastic. Thanks to the two of them Thomas will make a complete recovery.
That got us over the first hurtle. There’s more to come, though, as it’ll be weeks before he can resume his piloting duties. Remora insists that she can fill in for him, but we’ll have to see. Out here, there are no do-overs if a mistake is made. It’ll be Dave’s call whether she can actually pilot the ship during his sleep hours.
Thomas is in good spirits, except that he feels he’s let us down with his illness which is ridiculous. It could’ve happened to any of us.
The prognosis is that he’ll be able to resume his full duties in a month, just a week before we enter Mars orbit. That’s when we’ll really need him. In a sense we’re lucky this happened now and not when those maneuvers will determine whether we safely orbit the planet or be flung off into to the Oort Cloud.
No pressure.

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CRISIS MODE

Thomas, our co-pilot, has come down with appendicitis. Maria has him in sick bay, and has determined it hasn’t burst. Yet. As of this moment Maria and Don are prepping him for surgery.

Before launch we all went through every physical test known to medical science. However, this is just one of those things that comes out of the blue.

How does this affect our mission? A lot. At this point of the voyage Dave can handle things by himself by waking up every four hours, but obviously that’s not sustainable for more than a day or two. We need Thomas.

Right now, though, we’re more concerned with his health as friends who’ve known him for ages. Remora and Marlon need our support, too.

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JENNY’S DREAM
Why is Jenny a member of the crew? She has no obvious skill set other than negotiating contracts (at which she’s very good), but she could represent Bambi, Ming and Dave while remaining on Earth. (Those are her only three clients, and Dave is retired from basketball.)
One can see that she wants to stay with her husband Luis, but I’m away from Marcie and we’ve worked it out, so it can be done. Ostensibly she’s in charge of making sure Bambi records singles on a regular basis, but Bambi’s a pro and doesn’t miss deadlines.
There are still a lot of tasks in maintaining the ship that don’t require deep technical knowledge, but just the ability to follow instructions. Being detail-oriented, Jenny is fantastic at that and has proven herself to be highly reliable. She doesn’t get any credit for it, though.
This probably is what led to her having a dream in which her role became crucial. That’s an understandable reaction.
BTW, Samantha didn’t really sneak around in the dark to create new undergarments for herself. On this ship privacy is pretty much a thing of the past.

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ALIENATED
Samantha came clean to Remora about where merfolk came from. Answer: not Earth.
This goes back to over 15 years ago, when Samantha found herself transformed into a mermaid. Unwilling to give up her human life, she quickly sequenced the merfolk genome in order to change herself back.
What she found a block of human DNA (which allow merfolk and humans to mate), aquatic DNA of various water-dwelling species and a block of Something Else. The later had no relation to anything on Earth. Fortunately she was able to manipulate the Earth-based genetics to restore her original form, which led to the breakthroughs she’s made since.
She never mentioned these details to anyone, not even Rupert or Rosalind, but it was around that time she begin voicing a desire to go to Mars.
Anyway, now Remora knows, but she has reservations about the theory. We’ll find more, soon enough.

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BLINK
Our flight manifest doesn’t include a sizable addition to cargo. No, not the dodo stowaways (or even the stowaway inside Samantha!) but the elephant in the room that no one talks about: that there’s something moving around the Martian surface waiting for our arrival.
Whatever it is, it’s moving the wreckage of our previous failed missions to a point near a suspicious circular opening that begs exploration. So, we’re going to explore it.
Until then, our only course of action is watch it with our cameras currently In orbit. It remains inscrutable, so in the meanwhile we avoid bringing it up. All we’d be able to do is speculate inefficiently.

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With Roger’s regular site still down, we’re presenting his weekly report from space here.

PLANET DAY CARE
Now in the sixth month of our interplanetary voyage, we’ve settled into one of our primary tasks: Keeping four inquisitive children occupied. Adding to the degree of difficulty in the anti-boredom department; one of the kids is the young Leonardo da Vinci.
Thanks to our 3-D printers we have plenty of toys, and when they get tired of them we simply melt down the plastic and build new playthings out of it.
Every day there’s a school lesson sent from Earth by Sue Havens. The kids respond to the assignment, but the signal delay does interfere with the interaction.
Finally, each child has a simple, non-mission-critical task to perform every day which is written on the daily log sheet along with everyone else’s. This ensures that they feel like they’re actual crew members like their parents.
When we return to Earth their reward will be a lot more than a lousy T-shirt. (Although they’ll get those, too!)

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With Roger’s regular site still down, we’re presenting his weekly report from space here.

MERFOLK
Samantha has extensive experience with merfolk, due to her close friendship with Remora. In fact, many of her advances in genetics came when she was transformed into a mermaid herself, and she desperately needed to restore her original code. Later on, she occasionally returned to that aquatic form to visit the merfolk undersea Capitol and act as a representative of humanity.
Human culture is still unaware that there’s a mermaid on board the Mars expedition; in all the publicity pictures Remora is in her human mode. The merfolk culture knows, of course, and is following our progress intently. In addition to being mankind’s greatest adventure, it’s also the most extensive cooperation between humans and merfolk in history.
(Besides the marriage of Thomas and Remora and the birth of their son Marlon, that is.)

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With Roger’s regular site still down, we’re presenting his weekly report from space here.

CELEBRITY STATUS
We’re so focused on our daily jobs at maintaining the ship’s functions that we don’t get a sense of how people back on Earth are reacting to us. We’re used to Bambi (and to a lesser extent Dave and Oscar-nominated Ming) being our resident celebrities, but the rest of us have always kept a low profile. (In the case of Samantha and her genetics research, time-traveling Maria and Remora the mermaid that was by design.)
Now things have changed, even for the children. Every action of ours is beamed back home for a waiting world that’s become obsessed with us. True to form, that’s including betting.
On a week when the Supreme Court allowed sports wagering, humanity has already been placing bets on the kids’ board games. Clay and Candide, competitive since birth, have always been evenly matched so their outcomes are perfect for that purpose.
Now we have to make sure the dodos don’t try to influence the results.

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IT’S A GIRL

Maria’s been doing regular ultrasounds of Samantha’s growing offspring, more than usual for what is so far an uneventful pregnancy. This is, of course, due to the unusual nature of this being humanity’s first space gestation.
All the readings are in the normal range so far, so the big suspense has been the gender reveal. Maria has been looking closely at the images for a month now without seeing a sign of a penis, but she’s held off making a final determination. Now, she’s ready to conclude that Samantha and Dave have a baby girl on the way.
Back on Earth oddsmakers began paying off on the news, although some are holding out until the actual birth. Governor Argus issued a statement expressing delight at the prospect of a granddaughter. Samantha, true to form, kept up her usual duties as mission commander. She’s nothing if not focused.
Now she needs to pick a name.