To Mars

Standing in Line

Kate Appleberry clutched her teddy-bear tightly to her chest. Her brother Nathan stood close beside her. Nathan was four years older, and trying to pretend that he was bored, but Kate could see the whiteness of his fingers where he held the straps of his backpack.

It made her feel a little better.

Matt and Karen, Kate and Nathan's parents, stood just in front of them. Each one held a carry case. They kept turning to smile at each other, and back at Kate and Nathan. Kate looked at the tickets in her Dad's hands.

One, two, three, four of them.

One for each Appleberry. With great daring she turned and peeked behind her. A strange man with a brown case smiled down at her. He had red hair and crinkly eyes. He seemed nice, and she wondered if he would be staying in an apartment near her family's.

Nathan poked her in the side and she swung around. He pointed toward the left, out the great windows. Kate stared at the two enormous ships. "The one on the right is about to take off," he whispered excitedly.

And sure enough, all of it's hatches were closing and the ground crews were scuttling away to shelter.

"Is that ship going to mars," she asked.

"The ship that is actually going to carry us to Mars is so big that it could never get off the Earth, so three little shuttles will take turns carrying people and luggage up to the spaceship," her father replied. "That is one of the shuttles."

Nate laughed and said "Wow! If those are tiny shuttles, the big ship must be bigger than the moon!"

"No," replied Matt Appleberry to his son, "but it is bigger than the mall your mother takes you shopping for school clothes at."

Kate was impressed. She had thought the mall was the biggest place in the world.

Nathan asked "What if something happens to the ship?"

Kate's eyes grew big and round with fear. Her mother looked down and reassured her. "Don't worry kids, the trip to Mars will be safer than the trip on the freeway here."

"Yes," said their father. "And there are additional safeguards. The ship is split up into 500 compartmentalized areas. Each one has it's own life support."

"Dad, how many people will be in our apartment," asked Kate.

"Not apartment, compartment. Although, in this case, they will be like big communal apartments. Each compartment contains sixteen rooms and one big common room with a kitchen," he said.

"And there are only two people allowed per room," added Nate with 10 year old superiority."

"Will we have to share the bathroom with everybody," Kate asked wistfully. She thought Nathan was a horrible bathroom hog, and the thought of all those other families, each with it's own bathroom hog was appalling.

"No dear," said her mother. "Each room has it's own. You will only have to share with Nathan."

"There goes the shuttle," shouted Nate!

Kate watched it rise on a tail of flame, higher and higher into the clear blue sky. "Dad," she asked, "how will we get down?"

Her father smiled at her and said "The shuttles are coming with us to Mars Kate. Don't worry, you won't have to learn how to fly."

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