Hurtling away from Earth, I tried to think of a Plan G.
Plan F had been to crawl out of the rocket as it was launching, but I realized that would probably be more dangerous that just letting NASA make me, a turtle, its test subject in the first Mars mission with a living cargo.
I’d need better ideas than that.
I had to find a way to get back to my oasis in Arizona, where I had been mastering the art of cooking bugs on rocks.
I was getting REALLY good at that.
A white video screen suddenly rolled down in front of me. On the screen was the grinning face of John McGregor. He had recently been accepted back into NASA after a ten-year period of probation. He had been put on probation for pointing a billion-dollar rocket at the moon, because he thought it needed another crater. To be fair, the moon looked much better afterward, but he still wasn’t the kind of person I wanted as head of my launch team.
“How’s our little astronaut doing, Wilbur?” he asked. I shifted uncomfortably in my space suit. The suit was neither necessary nor functional. But someone at NASA had thought it looked cute. I heard laughter in the background. The video screen rolled back up into the ceiling, and I took the opportunity to fall asleep.
I slept for a while, lulled by the clanking of the ship. For all I knew, it was coming from a loose bolt in the life support system. But the effect was still soporific. Sometime later, I was woken up by the wailing of alarms.
“A fuel tank has exploded,” said a robotic female voice. I winced. I had known that SOMETHING would go wrong on this voyage. But I hadn’t expected it so soon. I heard a hissing noise behind me.
A concealed airlock in the wall had just popped open. I watched in disbelief as John McGregor climbed out. Behind him, the rest of my ground crew – Doreen Sanders, Ted Roman, James Corman, and Rachel Bluff – removed themselves from the hidden compartment.
“Hi, turtle,” said James Corman. Rachel Bluff cocked her head as the voice picked up again.
“Further travel may be dangerous! An EVA is required immediately!”
“Is that bad?” Rachel asked.
“I think so,” said Doreen Sanders.
“I don’t know,” Ted Roman said. “The voice seems so relaxed about it.”
“I’m sure it’s fine,” John McGregor decided. “Now, who’s ready to do some filming?” He shoved a cart labeled DO NOT TOUCH out of his way, where it fell over and spilled its contents on the gleaming metal floor. Somewhere, a red light beeped angrily.
I had no idea what was happening.
“What’s the music video going to be called?” asked Rachel Bluff.
“Some Folks Call Me Space Turtle,” replied John McGregor, proudly. He reached back into the compartment the group had emerged from, and pulled out a keyboard, clarinet, drum set, camera, and turtle costume. He climbed into the costume. “Sending a turtle into orbit to film a music video, under cover of a Mars mission,” he gloated. “People love turtles! I really am a genius, aren’t I?”
“I still don’t know how we got the money for this, just to film a music video,” Rachel Bluff said.