written by Travis Cannon

The Federation shuttle craft spun around through space at impulse speed. The pilot of this shuttle was one Lieutenant Norman Craig, and the other Federation officer on board was Ensign Tracy Carson. They were heading to rendezvous with the U.S.S. Pioneer after making contact with the Nawlo. The Nawlo were an interesting people. The language was much easier to understand that Tracy thought it would be. The Nawlo, themselves, looked very similar to Vulcans. They had pointy hears, and their skin and hair were similar to Andorians. Earlier, back on board the Pioneer, when they made first contact with them, Craig had turned to Braxis and made a crack about that.

“Hey, they’re a cross between a Vulcan and Andorian!” Craig had said.

Braxis had responded by saying, “You attempt at humor was both inappropriate, and insulting.”

The Nawlo wanted to make a trade with the Federation. The Nawlo had heard of the Federation through their dealings with the Velos on the alien built space station AO-5. Captain Kelsoe had agreed to trade with them, anyway the Pioneer needed to stop at Velos to meet with the Velosian Ambassador. Upon arriving on Velos, a Velosian trader told the Pioneer about the Nawlo. So Kelsoe decided to send Craig and Tracy in a shuttle craft to Nawlo to visit with the Nawlo Ambassador Rizex. Meanwhile Captain Kelsoe and the others met with Ambassador  Koraan in Voliar.

At the moment it was completely silent within the shuttle craft. Tracy looked up at Craig, who was monitoring the shuttle’s systems. Craig turned and saw her looking at him. She smiled.

“Yes?” Craig inquired.

“Oh,” Tracy replied. “I was just wondering when we were going to tell our parents about us?”

“What?” Craig said, ignoring the systems now.

“Why can’t I still my parents?” Tracy said. “We’ve been seeing each other for a little more than a year.”

“Look,” Craig said. “Our relationship is complicated. We’re both senior officers aboard a starship.”

“So?” Tracy said. “Other people have gotten married aboard a starship.”

“I know,” Craig said. “But we really are not really serious yet, are we?”

“What’s that suppose to mean?” Tracy said. “I thought we were serious.”

Craig shrugged. “I don’t know. If it wasn’t for the Tealuians we would never had gotten together.”

“So what? Are you saying that the Tealuians temporary control over you made you fall in love with me?”

“I don’t know what I’m saying,” Craig said.

Suddenly the monitors became to beep. They turned back to the controls. Craig looked down.

“Sensors are picking something up on a high pitched frequency,” Craig said.

“What is it?” Tracy asked.

“I think it might be some sort of ship,” Craig said. “Try and hail them.”

Tracy pressed a button on the communication controls. She looked back up.

“No response,” she said.

Craig looked down at the sensors.

“Whatever it is, it’s coming closer,” Craig said.

Then came a loud humming noise. Both Craig and Tracy looked up out of the window. They saw a huge yellow ship that looked like a baseball bat with the butt of the bat as the front. It came speeding pass them. The speed of the ship sent a solar shock wave out and it hit the shuttle craft. It went spinning out of control. Craig and Tracy clung onto the control station for dear life as the shuttle was thrown away. The panels behind them began to spark and they exploded. A rush of white steam began hissing from the above panels. The controls began blinking off and on. Craig worked at the station.

“Trying to level us out!” he shouted over the hissing steam and sparks.

Tracy, too, was working on the controls.

“Attempting to send a distress signal,” she said.

“Powers failing!” Craig shouted.

“Warning, system overload,” stated the computer.

“Losing main power!” Craig said. “Bring back-up systems on line.”

“Communications are malfunctioning,” Tracy said.

The shuttle craft began to level out as Craig got control back. It became steady, yet the inside was shaking violently. Tracy turned in her chair.

“What’s the matter?”

“The Warp Core’s malfunctioning!” Craig said.

Sparks flew from his console.

“We have to shut down the Warp Core!” Craig shouted over the sparks. “We have no choice!”

“Then do it,” Tracy said.

Craig nodded, he turned to his left towards the engine controls. He tapped the shut down button. The shuttle craft’s warp nacelles lost their lighting and the shuttle slowed down, until it was motionless.

And there the shuttle craft hovered, dead in the vastness of space.

The Pioneer was in orbit around the planet of Velos, awaiting the return of Lieutenant Craig and Ensign Carson. Currently, Captain Benjamin Kelsoe sat in his ready room going over the treaty they had just gone over with the Ambassador Koraan on regards to furthering the trade between the Velosian and Federation peoples. The door bell chimed and Kelsoe looked up from his personal computer console.

“Come in,” Kelsoe said.

The doors opened with a hiss and Commander Connor Burt walked into the room with a data pad in his hand. He walked up to Kelsoe’s desk and placed the data pad down.

“Today’s duty roster,” Burt said.

“Ah,” Kelsoe said, picking up the data pad and looking through the list. “Why don’t we extend shore leave a bit longer, you agree?”

“Certainly, Captain,” Burt said. “The crew could use a nice long break after our last mission.”

Kelsoe put the data pad down and looked up.

“Oh yes,” Kelsoe agreed. “How is Chase?”

“Dr. Braga?” Burt said. “He’s fine. He is, however, still trying to get used to his gray hair. Personally, I think he looks better. But that’s just me.”

Kelsoe chuckled and then when he finished he became more serious.

“Seriously though,” Kelsoe said. “Have we heard any word from Craig or Tracy?”

“No, sir,” Burt said. “I think the might still be trying to talk with the Nawlo. After all, sir, we have know idea what their language is like. It could be pretty hard.”

“You got a point there, Connor,” Kelsoe said. “But just in case, I want to check.”

They both emerged on the bridge shortly. Kelsoe immediately stepped over towards the science station.

“Braxis?” Kelsoe said.

“Yes, Captain?” Braxis replied.

“Can you run a sensor sweep and tell me if you can locate the shuttle?” Kelsoe asked.

“Yes, sir, why?” Braxis inquired.

“No reason,” Kelsoe said. “I just want to make sure they are okay.”

“I’m sure they are, Captain,” Braxis said. “But I shall run a sensor sweep. It will take sometime, but it will be done.”

Craig sat up. For a moment he had forgotten where he was and why he was there. He looked about and found himself on the floor of the shuttle craft. The only lights on were the emergency lighting. He looked around and saw Tracy laying in her chair unconscious. Craig pulled himself to up off the floor and stumbled over to her. He placed his two fingers on her neck, and was warmed inside to feel a pulse. He looked at her sleeping face, and smiled.

“Oh, Tracy,” he said softly to himself.

He raised his hand and gentle moved her hair away from her eyes. He bent down and kissed her forehead. When he pulled his head back he saw that her eyes were now open.

“What happened?” Tracy inquired.

Craig leaned back into his chair.

“Some sort of shock wave from that ship heavily damage all of the shuttle’s main systems,” Craig said. “Right now we’re operating on back-up power. In approximately twenty-four hours, will be out of power. Twelve hours after lose of power our oxygen will run out. We have four space suits in the cargo area. I could use the oxygen canisters on the two other suits to give us each four more hours in the space suits. Altogether that would give us twelve hours in the space suits. So that gives us forty hours to live.”

“What are you talking about?” Tracy said.

“The communications are scrambled,” Craig said. “There is no way for us to send for help.”

Craig lowered his head.

“It’s all gone,” Craig said. “Everything is gone.”

Tracy lean forward and placed her hand on Craig’s.

“Quiet,” Tracy said. “We’ll find a way to send of help. Try not to be so gloom.”

He looked up at her and smiled.

“Yes,” Craig said. “That’s right. Try and not think morbid thoughts. That’s good!”

He gave her a peck on the cheek and then stood up.

“I’ll get working on the suits,” he said and headed for the cargo area.


Craig stood beside the suits. From behind him, the door slide opened and Tracy stepped inside. Craig was utterly unaware of Tracy entrance. He sat there, holding the tricorder above the oxygen canisters. The tricorder made a beeping sound that did not sound satisfying. Craig groan and hit the wall. When he did this, Tracy jumped. Craig became still. Slowly he placed the tricorder down and turned around to looked at her.

“Yes?” he inquired.

“I was just wondering how its going?”

“Oh,” Craig said, he turned his back to her and picked the tricorder up. “Not good so far. I don’t understand! I should have been finished and hour ago, but the suits are not cooperating.”

“They do that sometimes,” Tracy said.

“They?” Craig said.

“Suits,” Tracy said.

“Funny,” Craig said. “Here I am trying to save our lives and you’re making jokes.”

“Sorry,” Tracy said. “At least I’m not seeing everything negatively.”

Craig put his tricorder down, again, and stood up. He turned around and stepped over to her. He reached out and slowly gripped her hand in his.

“I’m sorry, Tracy,” Craig said. “I just don’t wont to lose what we have.”

“I thought that you were not sure about us?” Tracy said.

“Hey!?” Craig said soothing. “Who am I kidding? We have something. I knew it sense the first time I saw you. Something just sparked inside me.”

“I know,” Tracy said. “I felt it, too. You know, maybe if we worked together we could get it down quicker.”

“I don’t know,” Craig said. “It’s kind of tricky stu...” but he stopped. Her expression obviously said otherwise.

“I gets lonely up there,” Tracy said, gesturing towards the cockpit of the shuttle.

“Oh, yeah?” Craig said. “Well come over here, and let’s finish this, together.”

“Now that’s more like it,” Tracy said.

Kelsoe sat in the captain’s chair looking at the view screen. On the view screen was Nas Di, the Velosian cargo ship captain who they had saved from the strange spider creatures. He looked very grim.

“Captain,” he said. “I’ve heard about what has happened and have persuaded my government to let me help you search for your missing crewmen.”

“I’m entirely grateful, Nas Di,” Kelsoe said.

“It is the least I could do for your help with the Kadii,” Nas Di said. He still had vivid nightmares about those spider-creatures tearing through his own ship.

Kelsoe nodded. He quite understood how Nas Di felt.

“I thank you, again,” Kelsoe said.

“It is not problem at all,” Nas Di said. “Nas Di out.”

The view screen then blinked back to the Velosian ship over Velos. The triangle like ship turned and went into warp to begin their search.

“Captain, we are receiving a transmission from Nawnow,” Tuff said.

“On screen,” Kelsoe said. “Perhaps they can spread some light on what has happened.”

The screen blinked to an image of a cross between a Vulcan and Andorian, with pointy ears, white hair, and blue skin. Burt turned to Braxis and winked. Braxis shook his head, but did not respond.

“I am Ambassador Rizex,” said the Nawlo.

“Ambassador,” Kelsoe nodded, in greeting.

“I have heard from the Velosian government about what has happened,” Rizex said. “I want you to know that we had nothing to do with it. I had a great time meeting with your crewmen. Ensign Carson did a marvelous job learning our language and teaching me yours.”

“I can see that you’ve learn English very well, you are doing a marvelous job, Ambassador,” Kelsoe said.

“Thank you,” Rizex said. “I have contact you to offer any assistance that we can afford to help find Ensign Carson and Lieutenant Craig.”

“Thank you so very much, Ambassador,” Kelsoe said.

“I have on thing to suggest that I think can greatly help you in your quest for your crewmen,” Rizex said. “Our planet is located close to a trading space station, it might be wise to inquire about your crewmen with any cargo ships around here that you can find. These cargo ships usually log in ever ship they encounter.”

“We’ll do that, Captain,” Kelsoe said. “Thank you, again.”

“I will implore my government to send out as many ships as we can spare to look for your crewmen,” Rizex said. “I hope you find them. Ambassador Rizex out.”

The view screen blinked back to the image of Velos. Kelsoe turned to Braxis.

“Braxis,” Kelsoe said. “Begin scanning for any cargo ships that may have been around Nawnow in the past hours.”

“Yes, Captain,” Braxis nodded.

“Meanwhile I’ll be in my ready room and at least try to get some rest,” Kelsoe said. “Commander Burt, you have the conn.”


Craig sat in the pilot seat in the cockpit, staring out at space. From behind him the door opened and Tracy came out and slowly at down in the co-pilot’s seat. She looked over at him and then back out at the stars.

“What are you looking at?” she inquired.

“Nothing really,” Craig said. “I’m just thinking.”

“I was right, wasn’t I?” Tracy said.

“About what?” Craig asked.

“About the suits,” Tracy said. “We need finish them quicker, than if you worked alone.”

Craig smiled. “Yes we did.”

“Let me ask you something and be honest,” Tracy said.


“Are you as bored as I am?” Tracy inquired.

“Yeah,” Craig said. “I would saw so.”

Tracy lean, placing a hand on his leg.

“Then why don’t we make thing more interesting?” she said, with a wink.

“Huh?” Craig said, looking at her hand and then up at her face. Her read her expression. “Oh?”

She leaned forward and kissed him slightly on the lips. He returned her kiss and soon they embraced each other fully. Then Craig suddenly pushed away.

“Wait,” he said. “Are you sure we’re ready for this?”

Tracy smiled back at him.

“I haven’t been sure about anything before,” Tracy said, leaning forward and kissing him on the lips.

He looked up at the stars with his mouth gapping in amazement. She raised her hand and gently moved his face back towards hers and kissed him gently on the lips. Craig closed his eyes and returned the kiss.


There was a beep from the control panel. Craig sat up and pulled himself up off the floor. He blinked, trying to wake quickly. He stepped over to the control console and looked down at it. From behind him, Tracy sat up.

“What’s the matter?” Tracy asked.

“We’re loosing power,” Craig said. “We only have twelve more hours of air left.”

The lights in the shuttle became very dim, now, almost black. Tracy patted the floor next to her. Craig sighed and slowly walked back and eased himself back down on the floor next to Tracy. Tracy put her arms around Craig chest. He returned her hug.

“They’ll find us,” Tracy said. “Captain Kelsoe won’t give up on us.”

“Yeah, I know,” Craig said. “It’s just that it’s been a day, and now sign of them.”

“Well, there’s no way that we could send a transmission for help,” Tracy said. “But we’ve got good people onboard the Pioneer. Now of them will leave us for dead. Remember when Commander Burt wouldn’t leave Captain Kelsoe, when the So’ja had captured him? Remember the caverns on Tealu?”

“You’ve made your point, Tracy,” Craig said, kissing her on the forehead.

They leaned back onto the floor.

“Let’s try and get a little more sleep,” Craig said.

Tracy began to shiver.

“It’s getting colder in here,” Tracy said.

“No more power to generate heat,” Craig said, pulling her closer to him. “We best keep close together.”

“No problem there,” Tracy said as she leaned her head against his chest.

“Nor here,” Craig said, as he started to feel the cold as well.

Space is very cold, and soon the shuttle would become as cold as space.

Captain Kelsoe sat in his ready room, looking out the window at Velos. The planet, itself, was not as beautiful from space as Earth, but it was pleasing to the eye. But that is not what was on Kelsoe’s mind. It had been almost twenty-five hours, since that had last heard from the shuttle. He was becoming worried. There had to be some way for them to find them. He would not leave his people behind. The Nawlo have been completely unhelpful. The Velosians, themselves, began a search for the shuttle craft.

The doorbell chimed. Kelsoe looked up.

“Come in,” Kelsoe said.

The door slide open and Burt stepped in holding a data pad.

“I think we’ve found something, Captain,” Burt said, laying the data pad down on the desk.

Kelsoe leaned forward and picked the data pad up.

“We’ve found a particle waves of some sort of cargo ship,” Burt said. “Intertwined with the cargo ship’s particle waves is a Federation signal. However it is very faint.”

“Do you think its the shuttle?” Kelsoe inquired.

“I don’t know, Captain,” Burt said. “Braxis said it could be, but not to get our hopes up.”

“Do you think its worth investigating?” Kelsoe inquired.

“To be frank, Captain,” Burt said. “Hell yes.”

“Very good, then,” Kelsoe said. “Set course for this cargo ship and inform me when we’ve reached them.”

“Aye, sir,” Burt said, leaving the ready room.

Less than one half hour, the communication system beeped and Burt’s voice come out.

“Sir, we’ve found the cargo ship,” Burt said.

“On my way,” Kelsoe said, tapping his badge.

Kelsoe stood up and straightened his uniform. He then walked towards the doors and entered the bridge. When he had entered the bridge, Burt stood up.

“She’s huge, Captain,” Burt said.

“What?” Kelsoe said, stepping down into the center of the bridge. “On screen.”

The view screen turned on and they saw a huge yellow ship that looked like a baseball bat with the butt of the bat as the front. Underneath it were boxes, that we no doubt its cargo. Kelsoe looked over at Burt.

“You’re right,” Kelsoe said. “That thing is huge. It’s bigger than any Romulan vessel we’ve encountered.” He turned to Braxis. “Are you detecting the Federation signature?”

“Yes, Captain,” Braxis said. “It is definitely that of the shuttle craft.”

“Are we picking up Craig or Tracy?” Kelsoe inquired.

“Negative, sir,” Tuff said from his console. “I’m only readying a bout a hundred other life forms. Whatever they are.”

“Open a channel,” Kelsoe ordered.

Tuff pushed a button on his console.

“Channel’s opened,” Tuff said.

“This is Captain Benjamin Kelsoe of the Federation starship Pioneer,” Kelsoe said. “We wish to speak with you.”

They’re responding. Kelsoe smiled.

“Good, on screen,” Kelsoe said, turning to face the view screen.

The screen flashed a very militaristic looking bridge. Seating in the captain’s chair was a species they had never encounter before. He had two ridges on his forehead that kind of make a shape of a “V”. Along the edges of their ridges are little green spots. The ridges blended in with his skin tone. His skin tone ranged from light to dark. He wear his brown hair long. His clothing was very militaristic.

“Federation, you said?” inquired the captain.

“Yes,” Kelsoe said.

“You’ve might of heard of my species before, Captain Kelsoe,” the captain said. “We are the Kai. I am Captain Palior of the Her Majesty Royal Cargo cruiser.”

The Kai Imperium, Kelsoe thought. The Kobal warned us about them.

“Very nice to finally have first contact,” Kelsoe said, trying to hid his thoughts. But the Kai captain saw straight through him.”

“No need to worry, Captain,” Palior said. “Our reputation is more than true, but as you can see, we are just a cargo ship.”

“I’m quite sure,” Kelsoe said.

“Now what is it that you want?” Palior said.

“We’ve pick up a Federation signature in you particle trail and it matches that of one of our shuttles that have been missing,” Kelsoe said. “Do you know where they might be?”

“No,” Palior said. “I’m sorry. But we did encounter a shuttle, it might have been a Federation one. However it was in our path, and we were going at a tremendous speed. At that speed, and big bulky cargo ship cannot change its course as well as on of our battleships can. I’m afraid, if that was your shuttle craft, it spun widely out of control and is probably destroyed by now.”

“Well, if its all the same to you,” Kelsoe said. “I would very much appreciate if you gave us the coordinates in which you encountered the shuttle.”

Palior looked at Kelsoe for a while, obvious trying to decided on whether to help or not. He finally gave in.

“Very well, Captain,” Palior said. “I’m transmitting the coordinates in which we encounter the shuttle.”

“Thank you,” Kelsoe said.

“It was no problem, but I must warn you,” Palior said. “Not all Kai are as nice as I am. Palior out.”

The view screen went back to showing the enormous ship, which soon speed of at a tremendous speed, that was not warp, but could be compared to warp. Kelsoe turned and looked at Tuff.

“Did you get the coordinates?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” Tuff said. “I’m transmitting them to helm control.”

“All right,” Kelsoe said.

He turned and sat down in his chair.

“Mr. Zimmer,” Kelsoe said. “Set a course for those coordinates, maximum warp.”


Craig was sitting up looking counting the seconds until they had to get into the space suits. And that time was almost upon them. Tracy lay asleep next to him. He had gotten all the cloths he could find and placed them over her. He could stand the cold, at least he thought, but it was become pretty cold in here. He placed his arms around himself, hugging himself, rubbing his hands along his arms to give himself warmth. Still counting down the seconds, he stood up and walked together the ice frozen window. He brought one hand up and wiped away the ice from the special glass-plastic material that made up the window. He looked back at Tracy and with the clock in his mind ticking away decided that it was time to transport off the shuttle. He slowly walked up to Tracy and rocked her gently awake. Her eyes opened slowly and she looked up at him. She obviously must have seen his expression.

“It’s time, isn’t it?” she said.

“Yes,” Craig said. “We must get into the suits and transport out of her.”

She looked at him and noticed that his lips were become blue.

“We better hurry, you don’t looked so good,” Tracy said.

Craig helped her off the floor and they both walked into the cargo area of the shuttle. Tracy was able to put her suit on quicker than Craig because, thanks to his care in putting cloth over her, she was warm than he was. Tracy had to help Craig ease into the suit. He grunted as he moved his arms, he was obviously in some pain. His lips were really blue now. As soon as his helmet was on, he nodded to Tracy to confirm that he was getting oxygen. Tracy pulled a tether out of her suits supply belt and attached it to Craig. She pulled the wary Craig closer and activated the suits internal beam out.

Within seconds they were floating above the shuttle in space. She kept a grip on Craig, even though he was tethered to her, she still wanted to keep in close. He was passing in and out of conscious until the suits internal environmental systems warmed him up.

“We’ve reached the coordinates, Captain,” Zimmer said, as the Pioneer dropped out of warp. Kelsoe stood up.

“Anything on sensors?” Kelsoe inquired.

“Negative, Captain,” Braxis said.

“Wait!?” Tuff said. “I’m picking you something!”

“What is it?” Kelsoe said, turning.

“It’s Nas Di’s ship, Captain,” Tuff said. “He’s hailing us.”

“On screen,” Kelsoe said.

The screen flashed to Nas Di on the Velosian ship’s bridge.

“Captain Kelsoe?” Nas Di said. “Have you had any luck?”

“We were able to get a clue from a Kai cargo ship,” Kelsoe said.

“Kai, you say!?” Nas Di said.

“Yes,” Kelsoe said. “Why? Is there a problem?”

“The Kai are not to be trusted, Captain Kelsoe,” Nas Di said. “They have fooled many Velosian captains to wonder into a part of space were the Imperium battle cruiser, Konar Class, very big and dangerous vessel, would be waiting.” Nas Di paused and looked of screen, he then looked back. “My sensor officer has informed me that no Imperium ships are on sensors. You are lucky, Captain. Usually you do not meet such nice Kai.”

“Have you had any luck, Nas Di?” Kelsoe inquired.

“Unfortunately our luck as not be as good,” Nas Di said. “We are going to try and scan the Rift.”

“The Rift?” Kelsoe inquired.

“It is the border of space between the Oralian Sector and the Imperium space,” Nas Di explained. “It looks like a huge green nebula that stretches on for light-years.”

“That is most kind of you,” Kelsoe said. “That sounds dangerous, I cannot ask you to put you or your men in danger.”

“It is no problem, Captain,” Nas Di said. “We are friends. And friends help friends no matter what.”

“Thank you, so much, Nas Di,” Kelsoe said. “I will not forget all that you have done.”

“Think nothing of it, Captain,” Nas Di said. “Nas Di out.”

Kelsoe turned to Braxis.

“Beginning scanning for any Federation signature,” Kelsoe said. “Anything, I don’t care our weak it is, as long as it is Federation.”

“Aye, Captain,” Braxis said, turning to his station and beginning scans.


The shuttle was now a pin point amongst the stars of space. They were now floating in an entirely different position than they last were, or the shuttle was drifting quicker than they were, Tracy didn’t know which, but the fact remained, the shuttle and they were spreading apart slowly.

She looked over at Craig, who’s eyes were half shut and half opened.

“Norman?!” Tracy said, shaking him. “Norman?!”

“What?” Craig said sleepily.

“Stay with me, Norman,” Tracy said.

Craig smiled weakly.

“I’ll try,” Craig said.

“You’re sick,” Tracy said. “You shouldn’t have given me all the blankets!”

“Well, I thought I could stand the cold,” Craig said slowly. “I wanted to keep you safe.”

Tracy smiled.

“That was very nice of you, but its no excuse to leave me!” she said.

“I’m not leaving you,” he said sleepily. “I’m right here.” He laughed softly.

“You know what I mean!” Tracy cried. “You did medical attention now!”

“Don’t worry, Tracy,” Craig said. “They’ll find us, just like you said.”

Tracy had begun to doubt that now. They had thirty minutes left and still there was no sign of Pioneer. She floated there, alongside Craig, and suddenly something popped into her mind. These suits hand communication transmitters.

“Craig,” Tracy said. “I think I might be able to combine our suits communications and send out a Federation signal.”

“What?” Craig said, he was obviously out of it.

Tracy moved Craig gently around, so that she could access his communications form his armband control panel. Within minutes she had connected the two systems. Then using her armband she programed the signal and began transmitting the signature, hoping that the Pioneer would pick it up.


Tracy floated there, wondering if the Pioneer had picked up their signal or not. The shuttle had disappeared from sight twenty five minutes ago, and she was not sure if the Pioneer would go to the shuttle first, before picking up the signal. After all the suits transmitter could not transmit as far as the shuttle’s could have. Suddenly she heard a nose from Craig. She looked up at him. He was barely able to open his eyes.

“Tracy,” he said slowly. “How much time?”

She had to push back tears when he spoke.

“Five minutes,” Tracy said.

“Oh, I’ve got to... I’ve got to... got to tell you something,” Craig said slowly.

“Warning, four minutes of oxygen left,” the computer voice said.

“Four?” Craig said.

“Ignore the computer, Norman,” Tracy said. “Go on.”

“What it is... is... is...,” Craig paused and closed his eyes.

Tracy feared the worse.

“Norman?!” she cried.

“Warning, three minutes of oxygen left.”

“Norman?!” she cried.

“What?” Craig said, opening his eyes. He looked at her. He continued, but really slowly. “Oh yes. Tracy, I... I... I love you.”

Tracy smiled and tears came to her ears.

“Well?” Craig said slowly. “Aren't you going to say anything?”

“About time you said it,” Tracy said.

“Warning, two minutes of oxygen left.”

Craig smiled and his eyes lids became heavy and slowly closed.

“Norman?” Tracy cried softly.

Tracy cried softly and held Craig as close as the suits would allow. They floated there in complete silence except for Tracy’s tears.

“Warning, one minute of oxygen left.”

“Oh shut up!” Tracy said.

“Please rephrase the question,” the computer retorted.

Tracy continued to cry softly. And then, through her tears she saw a reflection in Craig’s helmet. It was the Pioneer. She smiled weakly.

“I told you, Norman,” she said softly. “I told you they’d find us.”

“Warning, thirty seconds of oxygen left,” the computer said.

There was a beep and the communication systems came on.

“Kelsoe to Tracy Carson,” came Kelsoe voice. “Are you there?”

“Yes, yes, we’re here,” Tracy said softly.

“Good,” came a relieved voice. “Prepare to be transported aboard.”

Tracy looked at Craig and smiled as they blue lights sparked around them as they transported back aboard the ship.