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4.

They curved around and dropped toward the largest of the third planet’s three moons. Below them, the planet gleamed dark with a shimmer of atmosphere in the low parts of the horizon; seen mostly from behind, it was a crescent in the sunlight, brown to grey to purple where Earth would be white and blue and green. The moon they were landing on was mostly rock with a thin and unnourishing atmosphere of noble gases; it appeared as if vast augers had drilled holes in it here and there, hundreds of kilometers deep and hundreds wide.

“Holey indeed,” said Rachel as they set down on a peaky rock. Grey-black in the unfiltered light of the pink sun, it rose a kilometer or more from its tumbled environs, its sides sloped at 45-degree angles, the north side curved, the south, sun-facing side roughly flat. The whole thing seemed to have been pulled up out of a titanic hole it had been plugging. At the top, possibly some rock from space had glanced off it and busted off a chip, leaving a flat area the size of a racquetball court. There Clay set his Ghost down, Rachel’s Ghost still clamped on.

They got out and got the two craft separated. The gravity was just about that of Earth’s Moon, and it was easy to find a small boulder to set the disabled ship on. Rachel and Clay could have moved the empty Ghost in Earth gravity as easily as moving a sofa; in this milieu, either one of them could have handled it alone.

Rachel got into the back panel, clanked around, then leaned in her hatch, then went back to the back panel and clanked some more, making no actual clanking since the noble gas atmosphere didn’t make it up to the top of the peak.

Rachel came out from the back hatch. She stalked over to Clay, her vac suit boots’ tiny wrinkles gripping the cold stone. “Clay, lift,” she said over the comm.

“What?”

“Lift the stupid Ghost,” she said.

“Which end?”

“Whole thing, okay?” He could sense her rolling her eyes. He lifted the Ghost off the boulder, and she crouched down to get under it. “Now,” she said, “let’s pretend I’m Padfoot. I have never in my life opened this hatch. I hope this doesn’t dump poo all over me. I just cleaned this vac suit.”

“Hey, my ship did,” Clay pointed out. “Hey, it was the inside before, this would just be the outside.”

“Funny,” said Rachel. She got the hatch underneath open and commenced to clank around soundlessly.

“Rachel,” said Clay. She continued doing whatever she was doing. Presently she backed downward and spent a minute looking up into the hatch. Clay said, “Rachel.”

“Yeah?”

“Are you, uh, still mad at me? I mean, are we still arguing? I mean, I know, you’re always mad at me and all that, but are we still arguing or are we making up or what? Am I allowed to say?”

Rachel spent another long minute looking and probing and then came out with a sort of solid glass prism ten centimeters long. She held it up to Clay, who took it.

“Alternator or whatever,” said Clay.

“Alternator?”

“The thing that takes the solar energy and converts it into battery.” He looked at it. “End’s blown off,” he said, fingering the broken end. The glass was busted off in groovy curves.

“Can fix it?”

“Can replicate another one,” he said. “Pretty sure I can. Need some silicate. Sand.”

“Okay, Clay,” said Rachel, “I know what silicate is. Let me fix a few other items and we can buzz down to the planet. Can you also replicate some sealant for the skin? I have holes.”

“I know you do.”

“Clay.” He looked at her. She said, “I don’t remember even whose idea it was to separate. I don’t even know if it was on balance a good idea or a bad idea.”

“I don’t either. So. Make up?”

“Clay. We have sixty light years to go yet. We have lots of time to fight and make up and fight and make up. To everything there is a season.”

“So make up.”

“Clay.” He raised his hands in whatever. She went up to him and they clicked visors in a cool kiss. Then they strapped her Ghost on top of his, climbed into his Ghost and headed down to the holey planet below.

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