Anthea threw herself into the work, swallowing her despair as the days passed with no word from moon. No word from Jin.
The new shuttle wasn’t scheduled to enter service for several more months, not until it was slated to take the Mars team to their ship waiting in orbit around the moon. Now there were thoughts of evacuating Lunar Base if necessary or possible. No other craft was large enough to carry a full investigative team to the moon and leave enough room for the base’s personnel.
They competed the job in two weeks.
Anthea was surprised when she found her name on the expedition’s roster. Ever practical, the Agency wanted her along to check on the status of the Clarke if possible. Whether or not the Mars mission went forward in light of current events, the powers-that-be wanted to know if their investment of billions of dollars was salvageable.
She met the rest of the crew the next day, only hours before the hasty launch. They were a ragtag group, and she was a stranger to them all but one. The Agency was sending Thomas Khan to check up on the Clarke alongside Anthea. One of the most highly decorated astronauts in history, he would command the Mars mission. For this trip he’d serve as co-pilot under Maggie Chidlow.
Hurried introductions acquainted her with Gustavo Fangen, mission systems tech and historian, Major Aaron Bonell and his squad of Marines consisting of Sikander Hibbert, Jolene MacKey, and Sanjay Coombe, and a strange little physicist named Montie Barzelay. The Agency believed he had the best chance of explaining whatever was happening.
The next few hours were lost in a flurry as they were rushed through several rounds of briefings, media interviews, and the obligatory crew photo session—complete with uniforms and official mission patch. Someone had rendered the transmuted moon in embroidery, centering it within the words Operation Verdant Moon – I.S.S. Neil Armstrong.
When asked by a reporter what they hoped to discover when they arrived in lunar orbit, she stammered through an answer. “I only hope Jin…um, I mean, uh, I hope the Lunar Base crew are okay.”
An hour later they were strapped into the Armstrong on the launchpad. An hour after that they were rocketing from the Earth.