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3.

Rachel hardly spoke in the next twenty hours, and Clay limited himself to what he felt were necessary updates. She hooked up her vac suit to his life support system, and after a few hours it was clean enough for her to live in again, and at that point they both put on their suits. He slept a little, then she did, then he did, then she did, and when she woke up, she opened her eyes and said, “I’m still mad at you.”

“Okay,” said Clay, “I’m still mad at you.”

“Why are you mad at me?” she challenged him.

“Why are you mad at me?” he replied. “Hey, do you want to go straight for that third planet? Or land on one of the outer one’s moons? Or what? I need to know.”

“Well, is that atmosphere breathable?”

“Let’s see.” He brought up the Planet Three data. “Overall, a bit low in oxygen, a bit high in CO2. A lot of argon, two percent plus. Radioactivity is at a nominal level. I don’t see any obvious poisons. Gravity is about 80% of Earth. Some volcanic activity, not a lot. It’s got three moons.”

“Let’s land on this highland,” said Rachel, running a finger along the high ground. The screen changed color slightly, and then marked where she pressed. My screen likes her, thought Clay. Pity I’m not on such good terms with her. He was feeling very, very attracted to Rachel, and it irritated him, because he was so mad at her. He couldn’t remember why.

“Whatever you say, dear,” he replied. She arched an eyebrow, as if to say, so, you wish to continue the struggle? Then she rolled her eyes, let out a breath and turned her vac-suited back on him.

Three hours later, he asked her, after weighing the question for most of three hours, “So are we planning on landing with your fighter in tow? And then what, fix it?”

“Clay,” she said, not turning, “I trust you can put this little combo arrangement on the ground safely. Trust me once we land.”

“Okay,” he said, amicably, “it’s eleven hours till we put down, and only a 3.5% chance the extra drag will destabilize our descent and cause us to crash and become, dead or alive, permanent residents of this system.”

“Oh, fine,” she said, turning. “put us down on the highland then. On top of that hunk of rock, it’s airless up there. No drag.”

He thought a moment, mostly out of a desire to slow down. “Okay. And if you need air, we can probably stage safely there and then drop down into the atmosphere down in the holes.”

“Mmm,” she said, looking at the planet display to his right. “We need a name for this place. I think we should call it Holey.”

“Holey.” He studied her. “Holey,” he said, still amicable. He was giving her suggestion due consideration, assuming that the bosses would veto it. “Sounds great to me. Holey. Huh.”

“Yes,” said Rachel. “As in, the Holey Place. I’m Holey, Fred. Is it George who gets a hole in his head?”

“Goddess, Rachel.” She turned to him, smiling. He smirked. “Are you still mad at Ron?” he asked.

“I’m always mad at Ron,” said Rachel, as they melted together in a long, slow, very thorough kiss.

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