Nikki’s first face-to-face meeting with Elon Musk

A full chapter tease from Jack Chaucer’s upcoming novel, MARS COLONY AGATHA: NIKKI RED, coming 11-1-19:

CHAPTER 4
THE LINK
September 11, 2022 — Launch-Minus-11 Day
Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Cruising stealthily in a black Musk-designed Tesla sedan from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base toward nearby Kennedy Space Center, Nikki stared out the tinted window at the Atlantic Ocean and recalled her last disastrous visit to Florida in August 2019.

It began with her defying The Bridge leadership’s orders in Fort Lauderdale and nearly ended when she was struck by flying debris as Hurricane Felicia raged in Miami Beach.

But she lived.

And now she was back, and free, and here by her own choice.

She was ready to leave Earth on her own terms; saddened by her parents’ objections, but determined to blast her life so far past the ordinary.

Thirty-eight Raptor engines, quietly waiting on iconic Launch Pad 39A, would propel her beyond her imagination and into a cold, beautiful and deadly reality.

Dozens of Space Shuttle liftoffs had cleared that same pad; two missions had ended in explosions, deaths and parental heartbreaks.

But Nikki truly believed she would survive to see Mars up close.

Her extensive training in Antarctica had steeled her spirit for this all-in mission to deep space, and now Musk’s unexpected lifeline after the Red One splashdown only convinced her further that she was destined to actually land there in 2023 at age 26. Wow.

KSC headquarters rose about 10 stories in the foreground with massive American and NASA flags draped down one side. The boxy building was surrounded by sprawling parking lots dotted with palm trees, but Nikki’s eyes initially were drawn to the sleek, futuristic SpaceX sign on an adjacent rectangular building. The left leg of the X in the logo shot up diagonally and arced away, like the trail of rocket smoke.

Beyond all of that, at the edge of the ocean, the stainless steel Super Heavy Starship gleamed as it aimed toward the bright blue sky. From Nikki’s vantage point more than a mile away, it looked like a child’s toy, and in a way it was. Musk had been experimenting with rockets of all sizes since his aloof engineer father literally left Elon to his own devices during a rough South African childhood split from his mother and siblings. In reality, the full SHS stack stood 387 feet, 82 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.

This was beyond freedom.

Where this rocket would take her, there would be nothing but red dirt, ice and murderously thin air. No government. No police. No trees or animals. No streets, with or without names. Just a brand new, very old and very empty world, apathetic to the arrival of six human beings, one of whom remained an 11th-hour, L-minus-11 stranger to the other five.

Nikki scrolled through their names on her phone one more time:

1. Commander Xander Vermilyea. Really? Internal rhyme? Nikki still dabbled in poetry, but that name in the email Elon’s assistant sent her sounded more like a Muskian prank.

2. Pilot Jo Guigere. Not Joe. Not Josephine. But female, Nikki presumed. Awesome.

3. Engineer Ulysses Parker. She wondered if his middle name started with an S. like the old Civil War general and president who now graces $50 bills.

4. Dr. Susan Wilkes. Nikki tried to suppress her brain’s urge to stick with the 1800s theme, add “Booth” to her name and charge her as an accomplice in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

5. Specialist Edward Etergino. “E Squared” immediately came to her mind as a possible nickname.

And what would they think of Specialist Nicole Janicek, the late and unexpected wildcard crew member with the red streaks in her hair?

If I can find a way to get along with the person who shot me for six months at South Pole Station, I’ll find a way to get along with these people, Nikki vowed.

But first, she was scheduled to meet face to face with the visionary who designed the car she was riding in and the spaceship that would drive her to Mars.

***

Jane Rushmore, blonde and personable, ushered Nikki into an eighth-floor suite where Elon Musk, hipster-techno-casual in a black short-sleeved shirt and jeans, quickly looked up from his phone and grinned. The SHS pierced the blue horizon in the massive window behind him.

Still star struck, Nikki hesitated for half a beat before crossing the surprisingly drab, outdated carpet to shake his hand in the large, rectangular room.

“Welcome, Nikki. How was your flight?” he asked, guiding her toward a pair of recliners. “Come relax. Can I get you anything?”

“Good, no, I’m fine,” she replied as they both sat down across from one another.

“Most people I know try to avoid flying on September 11th out of, you know, extremely warranted superstition, but we’re L-minus-11, so …”

“It was no problem,” Nikki said, struggling to form more than simple sentences in this surreal moment.

“How old were you in 2001?” he asked, still grinning.

“Four,” she said, finally allowing herself to exhale.

He nodded as if he already knew that. “Back then I was one year away from launching SpaceX in a California office about the size of this room and look how far we’ve come. I’m still renting space … this time from NASA.”

“But now you’ve got a rocket on that launch pad right there ready to take six people to Mars,” Nikki pointed out while gesturing toward the window.

“Can you believe you’re one of them?”

“No … this all seems like a dream.”

“I’m glad you said dream and not a nightmare.”

“Oh, I’m scared,” she admitted.

“So am I. Perfectly normal. This is gonna be big … truly the start of something monumental in human history. Deep space travel and establishing a human base on Mars.”

“What do you see as my role in this mission … other than trying not to die?” Nikki asked, smiling as she realized she just echoed Thomas’ parting words to her.

Elon fed off her smile and practically bounced in his chair as he talked, with his hands in constant motion.

“I really see you as the link, the communications link between Starship and Earth on the burn to Mars, and then between Colony A and Earth from Sol 1 on,” Musk said, referring in space jargon to the crew’s first day on the Red Planet. “You’re considerably younger, more charismatic and less of a technical person than the rest of the crew, so I really see you as the person to help tell the story of this mission, human to human.”

“Wow,” Nikki beamed.

“It’s an important role … getting on camera, wearing GoPros, shooting videos and sending video emails — v-mails — to interact with especially young people and children in classrooms on Earth,” he continued. “Think of yourself as the first travel guide on Mars, encouraging the next generation to want to help set up a city there some day. Because this mission will be far more effective and inspiring if we maintain that human connection with Earth every mile and every step of the way.”

“What can I say? I’m humbled and amazed to do that,” Nikki said.

“Fantastic. Now when I say interact, as you know, there’s about a 20-minute delay in communications between Mars and Earth, so the videos will be more like a one-way video letter, if you will, and then you’ll receive the reply from Earth.”

“Of course.”

“The less glamorous role for you would be to get extremely involved in keeping the common areas and cabins clean aboard ship and in the Martian hab environment …”

“Housekeeping?” Nikki asked with a smirk.

“Your word, not mine,” he replied with a laugh. “But essential either way.”

She nodded, biting her tongue and smiling. “Anything else?”

“Oh, there’ll be many other tasks, I’m sure, but one very real thing to keep in mind is you are the most expendable crew member. I know. I’m shamelessly blunt. But that’s a fact.”

Nikki picked up her jaw, tilted her head and understood.

“I know. I totally get that.”

“It just means that when there are dangerous situations or choices or truck runs to be made, you should be the first to raise your hand.”

Nikki’s eyes met Elon’s and didn’t blink.

“I will do that.”

“Good. Even if any of the other five tries to be the hero and insist, you remind them what I’ve told you here today. This mission is all about sacrifice. It has no chance of succeeding without it.”

“I’m so ready,” Nikki told herself and the leader of SpaceX. “You have no idea how awful it felt to come crashing down and lose that opportunity.”

“On the contrary, I know exactly how it feels. I’ve seen my share of exploding rockets. And that’s why I reached out to you … someone who would appreciate this second chance like no one else.”

Nikki took a deep breath and grinned. “I do appreciate it and I thank you for tracking me down. I’m truly blown away by all of this.”

“You’re welcome,” Elon said, standing up and offering her a hug. “And officially, welcome to the mission.”

Nikki accepted his embrace and smiled.

“Thank you. What’s next?” she asked.

“Dinner with your commander and crew. You better enjoy real Earth food while you can get it. And after that, I have a little surprise movie for all of you. It should be an inspirational and bonding experience.”

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First review of MARS COLONY AGATHA … 5 stars from a woman in Kidlington, UK

The first review of my new novel, MARS COLONY AGATHA: NIKKI RED, is a 5-star review on Goodreads from “Mrs Rj” of Kidlington, United Kingdom!!!!! Here it is:

“An excellent read that had me engrossed from the outset. I enjoy science fiction but what I really appreciated about this novel was that I was never overwhelmed with scientific jargon, concepts and theories that usually go over my head – often a frustration I have with sci-fi.

The novel follows the story of Nikki, an American astronaut whose chief aim in life is to become amongst ‘the first humans to blast off for Mars or die trying.’ It has a great pace and the dialogue is great. You quickly become invested in the characters and are willing them on to success. Along the way, the story includes enough flashbacks to add a little darkness and extra tension as you uncover the protagonist’s backstory.

I thoroughly recommend this book.”

Here’s the link to the review

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2920248649?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

‘I saw your liftoff fail on YouTube. That was (expletive) sick.’ … Adam Upton is back for MARS COLONY AGATHA: NIKKI RED

I’ll be posting occasional excerpts from my upcoming novel, MARS COLONY AGATHA: NIKKI RED, leading up to the Nov. 1 release. Here’s part of a scene featuring the return of Adam Upton and Thomas Harvey, both of whom played major roles in the first three books in the series and still have some key scenes in the new one despite most of the action taking place beyond Earth orbit …

CHAPTER 6: PARKING LOT REUNION
Sept. 15, 2022
Middlebrook, New Hampshire

Adam Upton was easy to spot walking out of Dunkin’ Donuts — a stocky young man in shorts, ice coffee in hand, with a prosthetic left foot putting a hitch in his gait.

Thomas surprised him before Adam opened his car door.

“Hey Upton,” he said, offering his hand.

“Holy shit! Lee?!” Adam shouted, using an old, loaded nickname to warmly greet his former friend, former shooting-plot accomplice, former enemy and former fellow South Pole winter-over experiment of The Bridge.

They shook hands and even half-hugged before Thomas eyed his bionic foot.

“How is it?” he asked Adam, who also lost two toes on his right foot to frostbite after getting stranded in a snowcat mishap near South Pole Station in August 2020.

“I’m sorta used to that one now,” he replied. “It’s still weird driving with three toes on the right foot. I always feel like I’m slamming on the brakes to make the damn thing stop.”

Thomas shook his head.

“You came back here?” Adam asked.

Thomas shrugged.

“I saw your liftoff fail on YouTube,” Adam said, taking a slug of coffee. “That was fucking sick.”

“It sucked hard … fucking tanked that thing in the North Sea.”

“Did you and Nikki get tossed around with that ejection … like rolling around on top of each other and shit?” asked Adam, bug-eyed with enthusiasm conversing with his old classmate from nearby Lakeview Regional High School.

“Yeah, we fucked each other in front of four foreign-speaking astronauts while we crashed down, dumbass,” Thomas deadpanned, cracking up Adam so much he nearly fumbled his coffee.

… to be continued

MARS COLONY AGATHA: NIKKI RED, coming 11-1-19

MARS COLONY AGATHA: NIKKI RED … cover reveal!

Amazing job as usual by Damon Freeman and his crew down in New Zealand of capturing my concept for the cover of this novel, just as they’ve done for the first three books in my Nikki Janicek series, which has traveled from Lakes of the Clouds Hut in the White Mountains of New Hampshire all the way to deep space, and many interesting places in between.

The release date for the Amazon paperback and e-book of MARS COLONY AGATHA: NIKKI RED has been bumped up to November 1st! Here’s the blurb:

Nicole Janicek already has stared down a high school shooter, a cult of criminal ex-Scientologists and six months of frigid darkness at South Pole Station in her young life, but now she risks it all attempting to ride a rocket to Mars in 2022. After the Red One mission quickly aborts in the skies over the North Sea, Nikki gets a surprise phone call from Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX. What follows is a euphoric, historic, tragic and heroic mission to establish Mars Colony A, dubbed by some in the media as “Mars Colony Agatha” when misfortune strikes. While doubters predict the perilous mission will morph into “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie, Nikki and her crew are determined to write their own story. Through it all, Nikki is surprised to learn how strong her connection to those she loved on Earth remains despite the chasm of time and space.

Elon Musk stars in MARS COLONY AGATHA …

“I’m sure there are some people out there just rooting for our epic failure, rooting for the headline to say, ‘And Then There Were None’ … but I’m betting on my crew to outlive every one of them. Soon Mars will be full of human life, and no clever little media cowards will be part of that.” — SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, starring in the upcoming novel, MARS COLONY AGATHA: NIKKI RED by Jack Chaucer

Writing and editing complete. 50,995 words
Next: Formatting and conjuring a cover with Damonza of South Africa
Publication date: 1-1-20

Book blurb for MARS COLONY AGATHA: NIKKI RED (NIKKI #4) by Jack Chaucer

Nicole Janicek already has stared down a high school shooter, a cult of criminal ex-Scientologists and six months of frigid darkness at South Pole Station in her young life, but now she risks it all attempting to ride a rocket to Mars in 2022. After the Red One mission quickly aborts in the skies over the North Sea, Nikki gets a surprise phone call from Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX. What follows is a euphoric, historic, tragic and heroic mission to establish Mars Colony A, dubbed by some in the media as “Mars Colony Agatha” when misfortune strikes. While doubters predict the perilous mission will morph into “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie, Nikki and her crew are determined to write their own story. Through it all, Nikki is surprised to learn how strong her connection to those she loved on Earth remains despite the chasm of time and space.

… COMING JANUARY 1, 2020

Jan. 1, 2020 release for MARS COLONY AGATHA

At last, I have completed the story for MARS COLONY AGATHA: NIKKI RED. I’m flipping the title around for this final installment of the four-book series to emphasize Mars more from a marketing standpoint, though Nikki continues to be the MC as she has been for the entire series.

Now that the story is complete and there should be plenty of time for editing and polishing this summer, and the formatting/cover shortly after that, I’m moving up the anticipated release date to January 1, 2020. Why not kick off the next decade in style? This story is set from 2022-2026, just a few years ahead of what’s happening now, and Elon Musk and his Starship/Crew Dragon definitely have a major role to play in this book.

I’ve already posted the chapter titles for the first two parts of the book. Here they are for the third and final part:

MARS COLONY AGATHA: NIKKI RED
BY JACK CHAUCER
PART 3
CHAPTER 32: Distant Early Warning (a little shout-out to Rush!)
CHAPTER 33: Water and Wine
CHAPTER 34: Full Medical Disclosure
CHAPTER 35: Lifesaver
CHAPTER 36: Don’t Call Me Betty
CHAPTER 37: Sea Hag’s Secret
CHAPTER 38: Prescription Laughter
CHAPTER 39: The Perfect Sandstorm
CHAPTER 40: Fourth Rock from the Sun
CHAPTER 41: Captain Uranus
CHAPTER 42: Dearly Beloved
CHAPTER 43: Population Twenty-three
CHAPTER 44: Aggy
Total words: 50,955