Mars or Bust!
Chapter 11: Backup Plan

Copyright© 2021 by GT Dodge

I already knew that Johnny believed all that crap.

Nancy Adams had called me. Not quite out of the blue, I’d run across her when I worked at le Foundation. By day, she climbed that management ladder, by night she volunteers at the Girl Scouts. She called to say she wanted to mail a thank-you, framed and all, to Wannabee Motor Homes for the Constellation Charts. And, too, she wanted to brag a little.

Vice President of Direct Contributions, Nancy Adams! She’s always been good at getting people off their butts and out the door and doing something. Something concrete. Usually, something big. But sometimes, little somethings. For example, she meets and sounds out private citizens who bring new ideas to the Board.

She thought she was telling me a story about Linc.

How Linc has changed, how Linc flamed this guy, an old friend.

“Oh, just an old friend of Linc’s who, get this, wanted to save the Board a trillion dollars. BY FAKING THE WHOLE MARS SHOT!”

I hate how she laughs.

She told me Linc was pissed! Linc had pulled strings, even Nancy’s string, to allow his friend to present a new cost saving strategy to the Board of Directors. And the guy has the balls (Nancy said ‘audacity’ but I knew what she meant) to show them how to fake it!

She said her mouth was hanging open the whole time she listened to Linc’s old friend:

Such research. Numbers, examples, figures, trends, risk mitigation, political implications, the conflicting positions of world leaders, the precession of the equinoxes, the phases of the moon, he had all the facts. All without notes. Impressive.

Such poise and presentation, the details, they just flowed.

How he had an answer to every question, every comment on the tip of his tongue.

How the Board wouldn’t arrest him, because Nancy reminded them that he and Linc had a history.

How he pointed at them, naming names and holding each of them responsible if anything happened to Linc. How they knew Linc was going. How Linc was never coming back. How it was all their fault.

How the security guards came in and how she had to lead him away by the arm.

How Linc had followed them down the hall all the way to her office and every cruel word Linc had to say. Judas. Last straw. Called in his last marker. How Linc said it was over.

Go figure.

How the two security guards had to drag Linc back to the Board of Directors.

How she took him in her arms.

How he cried.

I didn’t believe her. Not that last part. The second to last part, maybe. But not the last part.

I finally turned off her faucet with, “Nancy? What about Linc? Have you talked to him since? What does he look like? Is he still mad?”

I left Nancy thinking I still worry about Linc. Sometimes, the best idea is to change the subject.

Johnny booked me for a meeting. I was late, rushed. The room was empty except for Johnny. The projector was off. No coffee. What kind of a meeting is this?

Johnny looked like ... He was gonna cry ... He’d gone off a deep end.

It boiled out of him ass-backwards. “Linc’s going to die on Mars! There’s no way to bring him back.” Was that a sob?

“Calm down, Johnny! Linc has a plan! The Foundation has been working on it for eight months now. I even hired two assistants just to handle Wannabee Motor Homes’ side of it. We call it Mars Second Shot – Tee Em. See? I took a page from your book and trademarked the whole second phase! Look! We have plenty of firepower, a dozen cosmonauts on loan from Russia and Italy, a chain of three orbiting Habitats pulled by a JumpTruck with a nuclear ring all lined up to rescue the volunteer from the first shot.”

“You mean Mars First Shot, Tee Em? Trademarked, Sharmaine?”

I went on as if he hadn’t said anything. Associate Producers do that all the time. “Eight months out and off the drawing board. Two of the Habitats are in Quality Control already. The third is a Habitat Mark 2. But that one doesn’t have to be in place until they head back towards Earth.” I could have gone on for an hour. This is my life, now.

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