Caleb walked out of the cafe with his expeditionary pack slung over his shoulder. It was about the size of a kid’s school backpack but heavier. It included clothes, tools and emergency supplies, everything except the vacuum suit he would be wearing when exploring the structure.
He was a half dozen steps down the hallway when he heard the cafe door slide open again behind him, then Faith’s voice call his name. He stopped walking but paused before he turned around, trying to order his thoughts and prepare appropriate responses based on what she was likely to say. Finally he turned.
She was standing with her hands at her sides, alternately balled into fists and wiping them dry on her uniform. Her jaw was set and her chin high but her eyes were not hard. “I just wanted to say good luck,” she said.
“Thank you,” he said.
“And,” she said then paused and exhaled. “And be careful.”
They stared at each other for a long time and finally Caleb nodded and started to turn. Faith said, “When you get back maybe we can get together and talk.”
Caleb froze mid-turn. He had not expected that and had no answer so he just said, “Okay.”
“Okay,” she answered.
“Okay,” he repeatedly stupidly, then finished his turn and walked down the hallway.
Caleb mulled Faith’s words while he made his way down hallways and went up lifts and crossed decks until he arrived at his destination. He touched the pad next to the door and a moment later it slid open. Nel greeted him with her alien smile. She cocked her head as she drew him inside. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” he said vaguely while he laid his pack down and took the glass Nel offered him. “Do you want to talk?” he asked.
Nel laughed, a strange sound that could have come out of a baby goat. “No,” she said and leaned in and licked his earlobe.
“Me neither,” he said and took a swallow from his drink.