an extract from the novel
Hendry, Olembe and Xiang upped the temperature of their atmosphere suits, broke out strap-on illuminators from stores and set off through the maze of fractured corridors towards the cargo holds that stretched the length of the Lovelock. Kaluchek stayed behind with the still unconscious Carrelli.
Hendry led the way along the first lateral corridor, viciously bent out of true by the impact. As he made his cautious way forward, his headlight picking out buckled corridor floors and walls, it came to him that Chrissie was dead, along with who knew how many other colonists.
The disc of his headlight played over a sheared section of decking and a truncated section of corridor wall. He felt a wave of something ice-cold against the chest panel of his atmosphere suit and realised it was the wind from outside.
This was as far as the lateral corridor went. The rest of it was gone, sheared off in the crashlanding. He came to a halt on the threshold of the alien world a couple of feet beneath him, and waited for the others to catch up with him.
Olembe established radio contact and said, "There's no other way to get to the hangars. We'll have to cross the ice."
Hendry turned his head forward, playing the beam across a mess of mangled metal, much of it smouldering and glowing in the aftermath of the impact. The ice stretched beyond, pocked with dark gouges and blackened sections of what had been the Lovelock.
His heart thumped as he stepped down awkwardly and looked for the cryo-hangars. His boots crunched ice, the sharps cracks reminding him that he was the first human ever to set foot on extra-solar territory. If only the occasion had been a little more auspicious...
The Lovelock had been designed for functionality, and bore no relation to the streamlined starships so beloved of escapist holo-movies. It looked - or rather had looked - more like a series of children's building blocks connected by lengths of ugly lattice girders. Bruckner, during one briefing session, had referred to the Lovelock an oil-rig gone wrong. Now it resembled an oil-rig that had suffered a catastrophic blow-out.
Olembe pointed to the starboard sponson, or rather to what remained of it. Far to the right was a snapped spar, ending in a fused mass of metal. Hendry turned, looking for the port sponson. It too had been sheared off. The sponsons had held the maindrives, and he knew that with their loss went any hope of establishing the cause of the accident.
A thought occurred to him. "What were the chances of losing both sponsons?" he asked the engineer.
Olembe nodded. "Saboteurs could have got at both drives - but then again we might have lost one to a blow out in space, and the other during entry. There's no way of knowing." His voice sounded tinny, distant in Hendry's ear-piece.
"Wouldn't saboteurs have bombed the Lovelock before take-off, to satisfy themselves that they'd wrecked the mission?"
Olembe shrugged. "One group did try, but security caught the bastards. Maybe this was their back-up plan."
Hendry thought about it. "But what were the chances of the bomb or bombs detonating just as we arrived here?"
Olembe said, "Pretty good, if the bomb was set up to be triggered by the activation of the AIs when they came online approaching the destination system. It's possible."
Accident or sabotage, Hendry thought. He'd rather it be the former - the alternative, that the mission had been thwarted by jealous protestors, filled him with futile anger.
Olembe set off, picking his way through the debris. Hendry and Xiang followed.
He thought he saw something a hundred metres ahead, where the first of the hangars should have been. He stumbled, cursing the tight beam of his headlight. The only illumination, other than the three bobbing discs, was from the scant stars overhead.
But he could see enough to tell him that the hangar was intact, if dented in either the initial explosion or the subsequent crashlanding.
They came to a stop together, dwarfed by the flank of the cryo-hangar. A vast painted numeral told Hendry that this was hangar Two, and something withered within him. Chrissie was in hangar Three.
"Lisa," Olembe said, indicating the hatch. "Get in there. Run a systems check."
The pilot nodded, cycled herself through the hatch and moved into the hangar, disappearing from sight. Olembe signalled Hendry to follow him.
It was obvious that the metal-work holding the hangars together had not survived the crashlanding. The spars had snapped and buckled on impact, sending the cryo-hangars and cargo holds tumbling across the ice like so many casually scattered dice. A hundred metres beyond hangar Two, the broad monolith of hangar One squatted in the darkness.
They hurried towards it. Olembe entered the code into a panel beside the hatch and seconds later it sighed open. They stepped inside and automatic lighting sensed their entry and flashed on, dazzling them.
They were standing on a raised platform above the floor of the hangar. Below them, a thousand catafalques lined the aisles with reassuring, geometrical precision. Olembe was tapping at a touchpad set into the padded gallery rail.
He scanned the screen and turned to Hendry. Even behind the faceplate, Hendry could see that the African was smiling. "They're okay, Joe. They survived."
Without replying, Hendry turned and almost stumbled from the hangar. In slow motion desperation, careful not to lose his footing on the ice, he moved into the darkness. There were two more cryo-hangars somewhere, and one of them contained Chrissie.
He was aware of movement beside him: Olembe, keeping pace. He felt a strange concern that the African shouldn't be aware of his desperation.
Something loomed up ahead, the black shape of a hangar. He made out a tall white number Three stencilled across the corrugated flank. Beside it was another hangar, this one a smaller provisions store.
Hendry indicated the storage hangar. "We need to see what provisions we've got, okay? You do that, I'll check in here."
Olembe looked at him, the expression in his eyes registering Hendry's need to do this alone. He nodded.
Hendry turned to the hatch and tapped in the entry code with clumsy gloved fingers.
The hatch cracked and sighed open, easing outwards on lazy hydraulics. He paused on the threshold. A vast fear stopped him from taking that first important step. He wanted to know so much, wanted confirmation of Chrissie's survival, that he was too afraid to initiate the movement that would bring him the knowledge, one way or the other.
Like someone afraid of water and facing a vast ocean, he took a deep breath and stepped forward.
The automatic lighting failed to respond to his presence, and he knew.
He stumbled over to the com-screen set on the gallery rail, and with shaking fingers initiated a diagnostic routine.
The screen pulsed to life and a second later flashed up three lines of script. The words were in English, yet his brain refused to acknowledge the meaning of the simple message.
He read it again, then again, and felt grief fill his chest like something physical, as hard and cold as ice.
He swung his headlight around the interior, and a second later saw it. Across the chamber, where the banks of self-regulating fuel cells should have been, was a jagged, gaping hole in the corrugated wall revealing the darkness beyond.
He pushed himself away from the gallery rail and stumbled down three steps to the deck of the cryo-hangar. Maybe there was still hope. If the malfunction had occurred on crashlanding, and the resurrection program had already kicked in, then perhaps there was still a chance.
He stopped, swept his beam across the ranked catafalques. He found the third row and set off along it, counting the cryogenic units as he went. Chrissie was in unit Seventeen. She had always claimed seventeen was her lucky number.
He approached unit fifteen and slowed, trailing a hand across the cold surface of the catafalque. His footsteps clicked on the ceramic floor, loud in his ears.
He came to Chrissie's unit and stopped.
He should have turned then, walked away. He should have saved himself the sight that he would never, to the end of his days, forget. But a tiny futile hope pushed him forward. He reached out and took the lip of the crystal cover, and raised it, briefly.
His daughter was blue, and still, and when he reached out and touched her cheek it was frozen as hard as marble.
He wanted to lift her, to cradle her in his arms. He had the irrational desire to tell her that everything was all right, that she had nothing to fear, as he had done countless times in the past.
Instead he closed the lid, then turned and fled, following the crazily spinning disk of his headlight. Once on his way back to the hatch he stumbled painfully into a hard, unyielding unit. He fell to the floor, hauled himself upright and continued.
He emerged into the cold dark night and stopped, grabbing the frame of the hatch for support and taking deep breaths. For the first time he became aware of the wind, keening through the skeletal remains of the destitute starship.
He looked up. Fifty metres away across the ice was another cryo-hangar, this one marked with a giant number Four. As he watched, a small figure emerged from the shadow of its flank and approached him, growing larger. Olembe signalled with a wave.
"The sleepers in Five are fine," he called out. "But the stores are badly damaged. The fliers are wrecked. A couple of the trucks vehicles are operable, but..." He stopped, peering closely at Hendry. "Joe?"
It was all Hendry could do to shake his head, but the gesture conveyed all the meaning necessary.
"Christ, man. All of them?"
"All of... A thousand. All dead. Chrissie..."
"Christ." Olembe gripped Hendry's arm in a gesture both consoling and supporting. "Come on. Back to the ship."
He allowed Olembe to take his weight and somehow, his feet trailing through compacting ice crystals, they made their way back towards the towering structure of the Lovelock's distant nose-cone.
Halfway there, Hendry made out Lisa Xiang's small figure waving and running towards them. She skidded once or twice and almost lost her footing, before finally coming to a halt before them. "I was in the hangar-"
Olembe interrupted. "They're dead, right?"
Wide-eyed behind her faceplate, Xiang shook her head. "They're all fine. But while I was in there... I heard something."
Hendry was hardly aware of what the pilot was saying. He could only think of Chrissie, and the fact that of the four cryo-hangars only hers had malfunctioned.
"... so I came out. I was going back to the lounge when I saw it."
"Saw what, Lisa?" Olembe said.
She shook her helmeted head, as if in wonder. "It was... I don't know. A being... an extraterrestrial being." She looked from Olembe to Hendry, her expression behind the faceplate ecstatic. "It was over there, behind the microwave relay." She pointed to a downed antenna, perhaps twenty metres across the ice.
Hendry turned to look, his heart beating fast.
"We've been dreaming about this event for years, centuries..." She laughed, a little nervously. "Maybe... I don't know. Maybe they can help us. If they can survive in this climate, then perhaps-"
Olembe cut in, "Get real. Any creature making this their home is adapted, right? They've evolved to the hostile conditions. We couldn't live here, even with help. And anyway, what makes you think they'd help us? What makes you think they'd understand a fucking thing about us?"
Xiang stared at him. "This is a momentous occasion, Olembe. Need you be so cynical?"
"I'm being practical, sweetheart."
Xiang turned to look at Hendry. "What do you think, Joe? Should we try to make contact?"
He wanted to tell her that he was in no fit state to make such a decision. His head was too full of what had happened to Chrissie to contemplate the enormity of the fact that they were not alone in the universe.
He just shook his head, mute, and for some reason he recalled a book he'd read as a boy. It had been billed as an epic of first contact, and told the story of humanity's discovery of an alien race, and how the contact had brought humankind to another level of understanding...
It had awed him at the time, and later it had been one of Chrissie's favourite novels.
First contact... If it weren't for the nascent grief burning in his chest, he would have rejoiced.
He found his voice, "Perhaps Lisa's right. Perhaps we should try to establish some form of communication. We might learn from them. I don't know... perhaps they're technologically advanced. They might be able to help us repair..." He gestured around him at the wreckage, hopelessly.
Olembe snorted. "Look, we can talk about this all you want when we get back inside. Come on."
Hendry moved towards the nose-cone.
"Stop!" Xiang yelled. She was looking across the ice, pointing.
Hendry wheeled, made out a movement perhaps twenty metres away. Something emerged from behind the microwave relay, paused and regarded the three humans.
He made out a vague, silvery form, starlight coruscating in bursts from the angles of its attenuated limbs.
For perhaps ten seconds - though it seemed an eternity to Hendry - human and alien stared at each other across what was at once merely a matter of metres, and also a chasm of wonder and ignorance.
Without warning, Lisa Xiang stepped forward. She moved towards the alien, step by slow step, and raised her right hand in greeting.
Olembe said, "For chrissake, Xiang! Get back here!"
"It's okay, Olembe. I know what I'm doing..."
Olembe snatched something from amid the wreckage beside him - a length of metal which he held like a club.
Xiang paused, midway between Olembe and the alien, then adjusted the radio controls on the epaulette of her atmosphere suit. Her voice, when it issued from her helmet, carried across the ice to the extraterrestrial. "We come in peace," Xiang said. "We are from Earth, and we come in peace."
She would go down in history as they first human being to establish verbal contact with a member of an alien species.
And it was the very last thing she would do.
The alien moved.
Later, Hendry would have plenty of time to look back on what happened then as if it were a nightmare. An overwhelming terror eclipsed his grief, and the moment seemed to go on for ever. He and his colleagues were transfixed, rendered powerless.
The alien advanced with lightning speed and was upon Xiang before she had a chance to flee.
It was over in an instant. There was no time to register surprise or fear as the thing approached. One second Lisa Xiang was standing, knees flexed as if frozen in the act of flight, arms still outstretched, and then she disintegrated.
Hendry saw sections of body explode in every direction. Almost instantly she was no longer where she had been. In her place, stilled now and facing them, was her killer.
Hendry had the fleeting impression of something insect-like, bristling with a dozen scintillating blades, a glimpse that lasted a fraction of a second before Olembe acted.
The African leaped forward and swung his improvised club, and the metal made ringing contact with Xiang's killer. The creature moved, its retreat as swift as its attack. Hendry blinked and it was gone. Then he saw it again, fifty metres away, blades snickering the night air.
Olembe grabbed him. "You saw how fast it moved! Let's get out of here!"
Hendry was ten metres from the crumpled opening of the lateral corridor, though it seemed a mile away.
Olembe sprinted. Hendry scrambled over the ice after him, falling and crying out in panic. He climbed to his feet and took off frantically. It seemed an age before he reached the mouth of the crumpled corridor and passed into its shadow. He chanced a backward glance, heart thudding, fearing what he might see. The thing was still out there, watching them. It could attack at any second, cover the distance between them in an instant.
He sprinted along the uneven surface of the corridor, Olembe ahead of him. They came to a bend and Hendry almost wept with relief as he made out an open hatchway. Olembe dived through, grabbing Hendry and pulling him inside. He slammed the hatch shut and both men collapsed against the wall, breathing hard.
"The fool! The fucking stupid, idealistic fool!" Hendry looked at the African, and realised that he was weeping. "I told her, Hendry, I fucking told her! I should have stopped her!"
"You weren't to know, Friday. Christ, I said maybe we should communicate with the thing,"
"First contact," Olembe said. "What fucking disaster! First contact. It's been written about for a centuries, the glorious day when we'd meet sentient aliens-"
Hendry said, "That thing was sentient?"
The African stared at him. "You didn't see those choppers?"
Hendry shook his head. "I honestly don't know what I saw."
"It was armed to the gills, man. It wore armour. The mother meant big business. Sentient aliens, with manufacturing capability, and they welcome us like that." He slapped Hendry's shoulder. "C'mon."
All Hendry could think about, as they made their slow way back along the tortured passage-ways, was how they were going to break the news to Kaluchek and Carrelli. A thousand colonists dead, and Lisa with them - and they were imprisoned within a dysfunctional starship surrounded by a race of homicidal extraterrestrials on a planet that made Antarctica seem hospitable.
They reached the elevator pad and rose to the lounge.
Carrelli was sitting up, talking to Kaluchek. The women had found a stash of brandy and were holding squeeze tubes to their lips. As the pad lifted him into the chamber, Hendry pulled down the hood of his atmosphere suit and breathed the warm air.
Kaluchek indicated Carrelli. "Look who's back in the land of the living."
Carrelli smiled. "I'm fine. It was nothing. I'll be okay."
Hendry stepped off the pad, followed by Olembe. Silence filled the room like ice.
Kaluchek stared across at them. "What?" she asked, sensing something.
Carrelli stood and asked urgently, "Lisa? Where's Lisa?"
Hendry shook his head.
Olembe eased past him, walked down the sloping chamber and grabbed a tube of alcohol from the storage unit. He took a slug, ignoring the medic.
"Joe," Kaluchek said, "where the hell is Lisa?"
Hendry shook his head, words refusing to form.
Olembe snapped, "She's dead."
Hendry had never seen a face pantomime such incredulity as Kaluchek's did then. "Dead? How-?"
"Her breathing apparatus failed?" Carrelli said. "The atmosphere is deadly?"
Hendry just shook his head.
"Listen up," Olembe said. "We're not alone on this fucking ball of ice. We were attacked. Lisa was attacked."
Kaluchek raised fingers to her lips. Carrelli said, "What happened?" in barely a whisper.
Hendry had second thoughts about the brandy. He took a tube and drank. The liquid burned a path down his gullet. He fell into a sunken bunker and said, "Something... it looked like some kind of insect, armed with... I don't know, swords of some kind. It came at us faster than-"
Olembe interrupted. "Lisa approached the thing. She actually moved towards its and said..." He stopped.
Hendry finished, in a whisper, "She said that we were from Earth, and we came in peace."
"And then the fucker," Olembe said, "tore her to pieces."
Hendry looked from Carrelli to Kaluchek. Their faces were masks of shock, blood-drained and open-mouthed. "If it wasn't for Friday we'd both be dead."
The African shook his head. "I acted on instinct. Grabbed a piece of wreckage and hit the bastard. It gave us time to get back inside."
Dazed, as if she hadn't fully taken in what the men had told her, Kaluchek said, "It killed Lisa? Where is she? Maybe Gina could-"
"Sissy," Olembe said with pained precision, "imagine a samurai on speed, armed with a dozen scimitars. Lisa didn't stand a chance." Olembe paused, then said, "That isn't all."
Hendry's throat was sore with the effort of clamping back a sob.
Carrelli said, "What? What is it, Joe?"
He shook his head, words impossible.
With a gentleness Hendry found surprising, Olembe said, "The colonists in hangar Three... Joe found them. Chrissie was in Three."
"They're all...?" Carrelli said.
"The remaining three thousand are okay," Olembe said.
Carrelli moved quickly to his side. "Joe, I can give you something. A sedative, something to take the pain away for a while..."
Hendry stared at his brandy and shook his head.
She glanced around at the others. "If you need to be alone, Joe..."
"No." It came out faster than he'd intended, but he meant it. Right now, the last thing he wanted was to be left in the chamber by himself, prey to visions of the past.
He took another long drink, felt himself drifting. The conversation went on around him. He heard the words as if at a great distance.
At one point, Sissy Kaluchek said, "So... what now? What do we do?"
Olembe snorted, "There's precious fucking little we can do, sweetheart. The planet out there isn't exactly paradise, and the natives are hostile."
Kaluchek stared at him. "You don't think those things can get in here?"
Olembe looked across at Hendry. "Fuck knows. We'd better arm ourselves."
"And then what?" Kaluchek said.
"Well," Olembe grunted, "we can't get the ship up and running and fly out of here. We gotta face the fact, we're stranded, and there won't be no more starships coming thisaway, at least not human starships."
Carrelli said, "So we give in. Sit here and drink ourselves into oblivion. Is that what you're saying?"
The African turned and stared at her. "You got a better idea?"
Hendry found himself saying, "We could always go back into cold-sleep, set to wake in a thousand years..." The prospect was appealing.
Olembe laughed. "And what good would that do, Joe? We'd wake up, and what would have changed?"
Hendry shook his head and took another mouthful of brandy.
"We haven't explored the place," Carrelli said. "We have arms, technology. If this place has daylight..." she shrugged. "You never know, we might make a go of it yet."
"Strike up a pact with the friendly aboriginals," Olembe sneered. "Come on, Gina."
Carrelli faced down his stare. "I find your attitude very unhelpful," she said, her Italian accent suddenly very hard. "We're facing a bad situation, okay, and all you can do is give in."
"Hey, sweetheart, I ain't giving in."
"It sounds like it to me, Olembe," Kaluchek said.
Olembe shrugged. "Look, all this hot airing ain't gonna solve a thing. Right now it doesn't look too good. I'm a realist."
"So you're giving in," Kaluchek pressed. "You can't see a way out of this trap, right?"
Olembe stood and took a tube of brandy from the wall unit. "As of now, I can't see a way out." He moved up the incline to the far end of the lounge and slumped into a work-station, frowning at the screen.
Kaluchek watched him go, shaking her head. "Jerk," she said under her breath.
Hendry said, "Go easy on him, Sissy."
"Why the hell should I?"
Hendry shrugged. "He says what he thinks. He doesn't hold anything back." He looked from Kaluchek to Carrelli. "Admit it, he said what we were all thinking, but we didn't want to come out with it."
Kaluchek shook her head, staring into her brandy. "I don't give in. No matter what. No matter how bad things seems. There's always a way out, an answer."
Carrelli backed her up. "We'll survive. I know we will. All we need is knowledge. We can do anything if we have a full understanding of the situation we're in."
"I hope you're right."
The medic stood and moved to a vacant work-station. "I'll try to find out what we have left in the way of medical supplies."
Kaluchek watched her, then looked across at Hendry. "You should really have taken something from Gina, you know. Alcohol isn't the answer."
He ignored her. They drank in silence and stared out through the viewscreens at the dark night, the occasional star twinkling through the frigid atmosphere.
Hendry saw Chrissie lying in the catafalque, beautiful in death. Then the image was overlayed by the vision of Lisa Xiang, stepping forward, hand raised in peaceful greeting. He could not banish from his mind's eye her bloody and futile death.
His thoughts drifted, back to Earth, Chrissie.
He said, at last, "It's strange..." and stopped there.
He shrugged. "I was reasonably content, back on Earth. I lived alone." He told her about the Mars shuttle and the starship graveyard. "I talked to Chrissie every month or so, saw her every couple of years." He smiled. "It was enough to know that she was there, that sooner or later I'd see her again. Then she came and told me about the mission. She was going to the stars, leaving me for good. The painful thing wasn't so much being on my own, or even the knowledge that I'd never see her again -- though that was bad enough -- but not knowing what would happen to her. She'd live out her life among the stars, thousands of years after I was dead... and I wouldn't know a thing about it." He smiled. "Maybe I was a typical father. I wanted some control over her life."
Sissy smiled and shrugged.
"And now she's dead. It seems so damned pointless, so random. Why her? You know something, I was so looking forward to when she woke up and found me here."
"I'm sorry, Joe."
He stared at his brandy. "She was so fired up about the mission. She believed in the project. She wanted to build a world out here that worked, that didn't repeat the mistakes we made on Earth."
Sissy said, "We'll do it, Joe. Somehow, we'll..."
He said, bitterly, "Perhaps it's just as well she didn't survive. I mean, what are our chances-?"
"That's grief talking, Joe. We'll pull though."
A while later he said, "Did you leave anyone on Earth?"
She shrugged, looked uncomfortable. "Not really. I split up with a guy a year before I was selected for the mission."
"Mom left wen I was ten, ran off with some guy. Dad did a few years later. I had a sister I never saw. My kid brother... we did get along. He was killed in the cholera epidemic that swept through Canada a few years ago." She laughed, unexpectedly.
"Listen to me. 'A Few years ago'! All that happened hundreds of years ago!" She stopped, then said, "Wonder what happened to Earth? Do you think anyone survived?"
He thought about Old Smith, the people he'd lived with on the commune, Bruckner and all the other admin staff at the ESO... long dead and forgotten. Well, almost forgotten.
"If humanity did survive... five hundred years is a long time... who knows what might have happened. Maybe some groups did struggle though, build a better place."
She looked at him. "But you doubt it, right?"
He grunted. "Yes, I doubt it. We'd wrecked the planet. Left a nice mess for the generations who followed, if any did."
He looked across at her, her brown eyes reminding him so much of Chrissie. "Who do you blame, Joe?"
"Blame? You mean the politicians of the twentieth, early twenty-first century? The industrialists?" He shook his head. "They were just human, and greedy. They'd inherited systems and infrastructures it was almost impossible to change and break out of. I don't blame anyone."
"Human, and greedy? We're human and greedy, Joe. Does that mean there's no hope?"
"I had the same conversation with Chrissie. Do we carry with us the seeds of our own destruction? She had faith in the ultimate success of the project. We were starting from scratch, we'd learn from our mistakes."
"I think I would have liked Chrissie," Kaluchek said. She sipped her drink, staring across the room. Hendry took another tube of brandy. He lay back in the bunker and thought about his last meeting with Chrissie, the pain he'd felt when he'd said goodbye.
He slept eventually, and dreamed, and in his dreams Chrissie was five again, and they were playing snakes and ladders, Chrissie bewailing her luck when she landed on a snake...
He woke up suddenly, cut to the core by the realisation of his daughter's death. He sat up. Sissy was comatose across the bunker from him, sprawled out with a brandy tube clutched possessively to her chest. Carrelli was curled in a far bunker, quietly sleeping. At the far end of the lounge, Olembe sat hunched over a screen.
Chrissie was dead: all his time with her was in the past, now. The future he'd envisioned, with his daughter a major part in it, would remain nothing but a dream.
He looked up, and only then did he realise that it was no longer night-time beyond the viewscreen. While he'd slept, daylight had come to the planet. A weak, watery daylight, granted, but nevertheless a light that perhaps betokened some small measure of hope.
He stood and crossed to the viewscreen, realising as he did so that he would be the first human being to witness sunrise on an alien world. He looked out across a vast white-blue ice plain, as smooth a regular as the surface of a mirror. He scanned the horizon, looking for the sun - then lifted his gaze.
Zeta Ophiuchi was a small point high in the sky, almost directly overhead. He tried to work out the physics of so rapid a sunrise, and then gave up.
Then he saw something, but couldn't quite work out what he was looking at. He had never seen anything like it before, and it was as if his brain were having difficulty processing the unfamiliar data relayed by his staring eyes.
He leaned forward, gripped the rail, and tried to make sense of the celestial display above him.
Weakly he called out, "Sissy. Sis, look at this."
He heard a tired, "What?"
He said, "Get yourself over here."
He heard her climb from the bunker and pad towards him. He glanced at her, not wanting to miss the look of wonder that spread across her face.
"Gina!" Sissy almost screamed.
Olembe looked up from his workstation, then hurried over. Across the lounge, Carrelli woke up and stretched. She joined them and said, "What is it, Sissy?"
Olembe could only stare, eyes wide, before he began to laugh.
Carrelli smiled quietly to herself, her optimism vindicated.
Hendry gazed through the viewscreen. "Salvation?" he said to himself.
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