Finally the last passenger was loaded on the deck above the Appleberry's and the countdown for launch was begun. Kate wished for her teddy-bear who was strapped in underneath her seat.
10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 went the countdown. "Liftoff," shouted the captain over the speakers. A great rumbling filled Kate's ears and then a heavy weight began pressing her down into the padding of her chair.
On and on it went, breathing was difficult. She could barely see her mother or Nathan out of the corners of her eyes. Her vision seemed to fade and she wondered if she were going to black out. The doctor who had OK'd her for the trip had mentioned the possibility.
Then all of a sudden the weight was gone. The rumble in her ears faded and she heard her mother give a little sigh. "Well," said her father from the far side of Nathan, "that wasn't so bad was it?"
"Can we get up," Kate asked. I have a funny feeling in my tummy.
"Like down on an elevator, right Kate," Nathan asked.
"That's free fall," said their mother, "and I'm afraid we can't unstrap until we're ready to board the ship."
"It won't be long folks," said the captain over the speakers. "You can all loosen your straps, but please stay in your seats."
About 15 minutes later, the captain announced docking with the Mars ship. The Appleberry's still had to wait while the deck above them was unloaded, but soon they were unstrapped and floating about.
A man with strangely bulky boot that stuck to the walls of the ship caught them by one by one and had them hang onto the ladder. He then unbuckled their things from under the chairs. Kate hugged her teddy-bear happily.
The family did not exactly climb the ladder since they were all floating, but they pulled themselves along it to the circular door they had entered the ship by. It now led through a round grey corridor to another round door.
As they passed through the second round door, Kate asked "Now we are in the Mars ship aren't we?"
"Yes," replied her father with a grin.
A young man floated up to her and grinned as well. "Yes. Welcome to your new home for the next four years. Which compartment are you in?"
"Compartment 45-3 and 4," replied Matt Appleberry.
"Just take hold of this lead," instructed the young man, "and I'll take you right there." He held out a thin grey rope with many loops in it.
Each one of the Appleberrys grabbed a loop, and after checking to make sure that everyone had a firm grip, the young man pushed off and pulled the Appleberry family down a long series of winding corridors.
Finally the young man, who's name it turned out was Mark, and who was part of the permanent Mars ship crew, pulled up short. The Appleberrys came bouncing to a halt. In front of them was another round doorway. Inscribed above it was the number 45.