Disregarding all the other indications of natural progression of the interaction of sets of states of energy, Lee sat quietly in the copilot’s seat, prepared for launch, and decided he was in need of a good, long, comforting hug.

The checklists were completed.

He trusted the automated software, the elecromechanical switches and valves, the launch crew but he wanted those 10 to 30 seconds of a hug that reassured him he was alive and genuinely wanted by another person.

The rocket ship did not want him, really didn’t need him.

Most of the mission could be completed without him.

He looked over at Guin, strapped into the other copilot’s seat, her face invisible behind the visor.

“I love you.”

Guin spoke through the gritted teeth of an anxious smile.  “Yeah. Me, too.  I love you.”

Guin turned her helmet toward Lee, her grip on the chair arms relaxing slightly.  The two of them had frequently discussed the phrase “I love you” and its blanket use for many situations which required a subanalysis of the situation, intonation and body language to exactly position the meaning of those words, even in a text message.

They chose to show their love more frequently than speak it.  A moment like this one, where they were immobile and practically helpless, speaking it was the right response.

A computer-generated voice spoke a 10-second countdown into their earpieces.


The transport ship left the surface of Mars and rocketed toward a rendezvous with the interstellar traveler orbiting the Red Planet.

Lee and Guin shouted with joy.

Lee laughed to himself and had to ask to tell Guin if she also thought the word “Oort” was the sound a seal made.


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