Lamont turned his eyes to the viewing windows two paces from their table. They were so positioned that one set of windows angled downward, toward the dark globe beneath them, and the others upward, toward the cold and unblinking canvas of stars. The windows were made of thick transparent composite, but it was nevertheless unnerving to think that mere inches separated him from the vacuum of space.
“Fifty people packed in here like kippers would make anybody nervous,” Lamont admitted, wincing as he sipped his coffee.
“Nearly a hundred if the colonists join us,” Rosemary smiled. She had looked tired when she entered the room, but it didn’t take much to bring color back to her cherubic cheeks, and her tea did the trick nicely.
“Do you think they will?” Lamont asked.
“I hope so,” answered the medic. “I’m not pleased by the classism that seems to have developed between us and them since we’ve been out here. The space between decks shouldn’t be enough to do that.”
Lamont shrugged. “They’re supposed to form bonds with each other, not us. After all, we’re meant to part ways.”
“Well enough,” Rosemary allowed, “But Lord knows how long we’ll be out here before that happens. Until then, we’re all working together.”
Lamont tossed his unkempt head toward the dark shape of the planet below. “What about this one? Any chance we’ll plant the colony here?”
The young woman responded with a dry laugh. “Not bloody likely. I’ve been pouring over spectrographics for the past fourteen hours, and we’d need to be fairly desperate to put our eggs in this particular basket.”
“There’s life, though,” Lamont pointed out. “Apparently a lot of it. Our species has spent the past forty years building colonies in places far less pleasant than this.”
“Where there’s life, it finds a way,” Rosemary accepted. “I spent a year studying beetles that have carved out a niche for themselves in the petrified forest of Nottingham.”
“And yet the science staff seems to be snubbing their collective noses at this planet,” Lamont pressed.
Rosemary bit her lower lip, a peculiar expression she made when she was thinking. “Well,” she said after a long moment, “Beggars can’t be choosers. When life on Earth was threatened, we had to take what we could get. Up until now, that was the Solar system. But as you said, we’ve made one Escherspace trip and have found ourselves in orbit of a planet teaming with life. That’s a set of dice that we feel like we can roll again.” She gestured toward the windows. “This will still be here for the next research ship.”
“Are you curious about what’s down there?” Lamont asked.
“Naturally,” Rosemary answered, gulping down the dregs of her tea. “But scientists are trained not to rush things.”
Lamont sat back and folded his arms thoughtfully. “That must be what’s getting under Carter’s skin,” He mused.
Rosemary arched a brow quizzically.
“He’s not a scientist,” Lamont clarified. “Obviously, he’s got scientific training. But fundamentally, he’s an explorer. His whole career has literally been making long shots, taking chances. And he’s been placed at the head of a crew that’s been trained for a totally different way of thinking.”
Once again, Rosemary bit her lip. “It must be difficult,” she finally admitted. “Thanks for that.”
“For what?” Lamont asked.
Rosemary pushed back her chair and stretched, unsnapping the wide collar of her uniform jacket. “I was feeling cross at the captain for making me pull a long shift. I thought he was being irrational. I’m beginning to see that it’s not that simple.”
Lamont grunted and fished in his shirt pocket for a cigarette.
Halfway to the exit, Rosemary stopped and turned back to the newspaperman. “Back to bed with you,” She ordered, her hand waving as if it held a wooden spoon. “It’s going to be a long couple days. You’ll want your wits about you.”
Next: Expedition Plans