Joel, lying in a contoured memory foam rack had his eyes closed. "Black - Nothing. Wait, there are specks of white light, for an instant, then they streak by me."
Ferris glanced up at the observation dome overhead. A hundred grim faces looked down on her from the circular stadium seating surrounding the dome. She asked Joel, "Are you moving?"
The response was immediate. "I don't know. I might be, but I don't feel it."
"Joel, do you see any speck color other than white."
The pause took thirty seconds. "Yes, I see a red one at 10:00 o'clock."
"Good, focus on it. Concentrate on the red one. What's happening?"
"It's growing in size. Not streaking by like the others."
Ferris took a thermometer from the table at her elbow and wiped Joel's forehead with it and read the digital readout. 102.8 F. 1.2 degrees to go before withdrawal.
"I'm there. I just landed. It's beautiful."
"Describe it. Is it habitable?"
The stadium observers broke out in a cheer, slapping high-fives and hugging one another. Ferris raised her arm with an open hand and waved it gently. The crowd immediately went silent.
Joel, as though he sensed the jubilation paused, then continued. "I'm in a plain ringed with ruddy rocky outcrops. Looks like the floor of a meteor strike millenniums old. The sky has clouds and the color spectrum is right for oxygen. Wait." Joel turned the palm of his hand toward his feet. Water began to bead on the back of it. "Yes, I feel water. Not to deep; maybe 18-20 thousand feet. This will do. Launch the environmental pod. I can do the rest."
Ferris looked up as a dozen men and women streamed from the stadium. A few minutes later she heard a whirl of hydraulics as storage bay doors opened. Seconds later a man reappeared and nodded. But Ferris had already turned on the camera array and saw the geometric dome floating along the ship.
"Joel, it's out."
"I'm going to send a cloud of dirt from the planet to cover and insulate it." As he spoke Ferris and the others watched as red dust, then sheets began covering the dome. In no less than five minutes it was obscured.
Ferris wiped his forehead again. 103.4 "Joel, we are running out of time."
Joel's eyes whipped back and forth under his lids. "No problem. Is everyone ready for transfer to the dome?"
Ferris looked up and everyone was back in their seats. "Yes."
Instantly, everyone disappeared. Ferris looked at Joel. "It's just me, now." She wiped his forehead again. 103.9
"It's okay. I have them." He raised his arm over his head as if holding something up.
The camera display showed the red swirling cloud was gone.
"Yes, they’re right over me. I have to set them down before you bring me back."
She could see the straining of his arm as he brought his empty hand back to level with his waist.
"It's done." He dropped his arm.
Ferris drove the plunger on the hypodermic into the I.V. line and wiped his forehead again. 103.4. She sighed.
Joel opened his eyes and looked at her. "Well, is that all I had to do to get you alone?" He grinned.
She hugged him. "Let's head back." Kissing him, she said, "Well, we don't have to go in suspense right away. We can snitch a few months of a hundred-year trip for ourselves."