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Francine stirred her chocolate-stars drink and smiled at her friend Mel. “It’s a lovely day. No more dust storms expected for at least ten Mars days.”

“I understand you’ve become valuable as a key member of the agrarian science team.” Mel crunched a bite of her ‘Orbit’ cookie. “This is the Mars Café specialty, and I love it.”

“Central Command agrees. They just offered me the supervisor position, more money, stay long term, and bring my family here.” Francine paused. “Problem is I have to let them know in forty-eight hours.”

“Does your family know about the offer yet?”

“No, I’m heading to quarters now. I only found out on my way to meet you. I think Tricia, my youngest, will be easy, but my teen daughter, Marcie, loves her boyfriends.  Yancy is planted on terra firma with his tech writing. If they won’t come, I don’t know what….”

Mel reached across the table and patted her hand. “Good luck.”

# # # #

Francine activated her com screen to make a recording for earth reception. Her name, Dr. Francine Williams, appeared. She selected the private message option, and saw a notice on the screen, “Current transmission time is six minutes for messages to Earth.” She got comfortable in her chair and began. “Hello, honey. I have some wonderful news to report and discuss with you and the girls. You know my tour on Mars is up in two months, and I’d planned to come home for a visit and decide what to do next. But I got an amazing offer for a higher position, and a lot more money. They’ve just finished the new family dwelling. We can live there.” She bit her lip.  “It will be for at least five years until 2131.” Francine paused, giving thought how to best continue. “I have to give them a decision in forty-eight hours. If you guys come here with me, it’s simple. If you choose not to relocate, I still might stay, but I don’t want to do that. You don’t have to move for six months when Mars and Earth are closer to each other. Hugs and kisses.” She pressed send, launching the transmission. She didn’t expect a quick reply.

# # # #

#“Holy shit,” Yancy blurted out, then looked to see if either daughter was around. “The whole blasted family to Mars?” His balled fist hit the tabletop. He finished listening to his wife, and sat by their communications center, deciding what he might say next.

He saw she was waiting for a reply. Yancy pondered for a moment, then sent “more later.”

Shortly, his daughters came in from school. He quickly explained the message that came from Mom.

“That’d be fun,” Tricia waved her hands in delight.

The oldest, Marcie, was entirely against it. “I’ve got a special boy and all my activities. I’m not going to Mars.”

Yancy wasn’t surprised, and he observed her dress. Ever since her mother had left, she’d taken to wearing things that she knew her mother would disapprove. I’ve given her too much slack.

Marcie strutted into her bedroom and slammed the door to illustrate her dissatisfaction and that the discussion was over. She called her boyfriend.

# # # #

Yancy started his return video call. “As you guessed, Tricia is all for, and Marcie dead set against leaving. We could make her go, but we’d all be miserable. While I don’t love my technical writing all that much, it’s been good work for years, and I don’t see having to do it long distance from Mars. I sure hope you don’t make an arbitrary decision to stay and live there. You know what the likely end results would be, I’m sure.” He paused and took a deep breath, almost saying more. Then he shook his head and continued. “I love you. We don’t need to be apart much longer.” He sent his reply and sighed. It’s hard to picture the whole family living on Mars under one of the city bubbles.

# # # #

Francine sent her text acknowledgment. “Hum, “ she said aloud. “Time to change some minds.”

# # # #

The next day at noon, she sat, about to send a reply, and held up a finger for each bullet point. “Let’s see, a job for Yancy I’m sure he wants, the experience of a lifetime for Marcie, and special advanced classes for Tricia” Okay, ready as I’ll ever be.

“I’ve got good news for all of you, first to my baby. Tricia can enroll in the special explorer school tuition-free. She’ll get all the advanced education she craves.”

She leaned closer to the screen, “Now to Marcie. I took some writing of yours and a short recorded video and showed the Principal. He wants you on the ‘Cheer’ squad and to report social activities for the school newspaper.” She knew Marcie would love the team and reporting.

Francine smiled wide. “Yancy, here’s the best news. By staying and living here, not only do I get a big raise, and we have a fabulous home, but I’ve talked to ‘Communications and Information,’ in particular, the Mars Active Daily Digest. With your background, they want you on the staff to write anything you want, particularly entertaining fiction stories. You’d get a fifty percent increase in pay over what you’re making now.” Francine though for a moment and nodded, feeling she’d covered everything. “I must give them an answer tomorrow. Please say ‘yes,’ and make us a big wealthy, happy family again. Love you all.”

# # # #

Yancy viewed the video. His eyes opened wider. “They want me to write for M-A-D-D? I get a raise to write for ‘MADD’ Magazine? Wow.” He had to share Francine’s message with the girls but felt pretty sure what their answer would be.

# # # #

That afternoon, as Francine listened to her husband and younger daughter’s approval of her idea and wished to start packing soon, she smiled. But then, Marcie leaned into the frame next to her father and announced. “We’ll have to move my boyfriend, Billy, with us. He’s the father of the baby I’m expecting.”

Yancy had a dumbfounded look on his face as he closed the transmission.

# # # #

Francine recoiled in her chair. Another voice chuckled. A hand from behind her, reached under her arm, slid down the side of her torso, then gently glided to her abdomen and up to her breasts. Francine gave a low moan as Mel pressed her barely clothed body against her.

Mel laughed. “It’s going to get interesting here.”

Francine looked out her window at the brilliant stars of the Mars night. She drew a deep breath as she smiled at Mel. “It certainly is.”

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