by Deborah J. Ross, writing as Deborah Wheeler
Relieved to still be alive, Kithri signaled shipbrain to begin the disengagement from duo
flight. She resolved not to say anything about Eril's brief mutiny. They were still alive, she'd never see him again after today, and perhaps the storm itself had taught him better than to try it again. This wasn't space, where he knew all the dangers and how to deal with them. Yet she couldn't help thinking that in the end, when it mattered, he'd come through better than she expected. With him as a partner, she could duo
her way through a black hole.
She knew she was rationalizing, making excuses. If she had any sense she'd turn around and fly back to Port Ludlow right now. But if she did, she=d be throwing away her last real chance to get off Stayman...
It's just one run. I can survive anything for just one run.
With the end of duo
linkage, Kithri's vision returned to normal. She slowed the scrubjet to subsonic. To the north, just inside the boundary of the Plain, lay a pile of partially completed permacrete structures, the abandoned first colony site. Fine white dust rose from the disturbed soil where the slow-growing scrub had not yet, after centuries, re-established its dominion. The merest breeze blew it aloft, an eloquent reminder of the fragility of Stayman's ecology and the dismal failure of the first spaceport. The Federation had long since moved its base to the current location, where water was more readily available. It had never tried to revive the first site, a costly and difficult project. There was no reason to, as long as the miners were willing to haul the jaydium across the Plain.
Kithri lifted her eyes to the vast, whitened Manitou range, rising high above a line of brownish dust haze. Peak after purple peak surged skyward, hard-edged against the dark blue horizon. The drifted snow on the summits glimmered in the sunlight.
Behind her, Eril drew a quick, hissing breath. She was still in such rapport with him that she experienced his awe as if it were her own. The pleasure she felt at his mental touch built into a preorgasmic thrill. She caught her breath, her heart pounding in her chest.