Could activities on the Mars Space Station ever be routine again? The entire world seemed to stir. Amazement upon amazement, questions upon questions were asked on Earth. What happened on that distant Mars space station? Is this a hoax or has NASA Mission Control simply gone crazy? NASA, who headed up station communications, was bombarded with questions and press briefings. The commotion at Mars Mission Control in Houston, Texas increased tremendously. The heads of the European, Canadian, American and Brazilian Space Agencies were all at Houston trying to sort out the situation and getting as much information as possible when the MSS was in communications range. The Deep Space Network antennas in Goldstone, California; Madrid, Spain; and Canberra, Australia hadnt had a minutes rest.
While events on Earth seemed to be chaotic, things started getting back to normal on the MSS. Gaea, attempting to make the best of her situation, got into the thick and thin of science. There was so much to learn and so much to see.
Califa appeared to take in everything with such vigour and relish. Her enthusiasm brightened up the crew tremendously. It was like having a curious little child onboard. At 33 years of age, though, Califa wasnt a child, at least in human years. For a Hobbit, though, she has just come of age. Either way, Califas never-ending curiosity brought forth many interesting conversations amongst the crew and herself:
"Why is your skin so dark?" she asked.
Like the rest of the crew, Boateng was becoming used to her Hobbit directness - not that he was offended by the question.
"I come from a land where the sun shines very hot the whole year round," he answered. "My people all have dark skins to protect us from the hot Sun.
"Is that planet ball hot?"
"Planet ball?" William, who was busy making some notes and reading a manual, answered distractedly.
"Yes, that red planet ball you call Mars. Is it hot? It must be blistering hot like the fires of Mordor. Looks like a giant round ember. Does anyone live down there? It must be a giant hot desert. Have you been down there? Did it burn?" Califa leaned on his knee and gazed earnestly at his face.
"Hmm, what did you ask?" The commander had been focusing on his work and had not heard a single word.
"The red planet ball. Is it hot?" she asked again.
"No, Califa. Mars is extremely cold. It has seasons like we have on Earth but there is little atmosphere. The planet cannot hold in the heat. Even the Martian summer months are below freezing temperatures."
William answered Califa uneasily. He often felt uncomfortable when under a flurry of questions from a child, and the curious Califa, he thought, was equally as intimidating. Scanning through the pages of the manual, William tried to continue on with his heaps of tasks, but he could not ignore anymore her weight leaning on his knee. He looked into her face.
Her expression was one of rapt attention. He looked into her curious eyes and realized that he was explaining planetology to a fictional character. What did she know of the Earth he was using for comparison? How much did she understand? William made a mental calculation of the hours he would need to answer all of her questions.
Oh, but he had so little time to spend with this little creature. He had work to do. He would soon have to communicate with Earth and provide his latest status report. The communications windows on the last two passes were almost exclusively dedicated to explaining the presence of a 17th century woman and a hobbit. He had to get back to reality!
Her big bright eyes clearly told him she was waiting for his answer. Just then, Javier entered the lab. "Javier, do you have a moment?" William decided to pass her off on Javier. "Could you accompany Califa to the Library? I believe we have some magazines in there about Mars. Maybe you can show her how to use the reference computer."
Javier took a deep breath and held it. No one told him that babysitting was part of the job description! "You dont have to stay with her," William continued. "Just take her there and get her a magazine."
"Magazine? What do you store in your magazines? Do you keep weapons there? Mr. G said I would not need any weapons. He said I would not have to fight any nasty creatures on this adventure. Why do you have magazines?" Califa was confused.
Javier shot a look at William who tried to hide a smile of merriment. "No, Califa," Javier started explaining. Magazines are like books. They have many pictures and descriptions about people and places. You will probably find them interesting." Javier and Califa headed in the direction of the library.
William watched them leave and for a moment was lost in thought. He had so much real work to do and it looked like these unexpected visitors would be here for awhile. He better find something for them to do.
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