They sat without talking in the café on the concourse by the gate; she distracted herself by people-watching while he studied — for the hundredth time, it seemed to her — the extensive 'Employee Guidelines (Human)' on his Pad.

"Everybody's human," she observed. The café staff, the security guards, even the ticket agents at the Polixaci Trade Authority counter had been human. "Where are all the aliens?"

"What do you mean?"

"It's a spaceport."

"Sure, but they employ locals to run it."

"If they're locals, shouldn't they be Chinese? Or Mongolian, or whatever?" Outside the plate-glass concourse window, the Gobi desert stretched away like the Martian plain. If only there was a window on the other side, looking towards the immense silver lander: that was another thing she wanted to see in person, at least once.

He chuckled; "Everything's relative."

"You can still back out, you know." She said it conversationally, trying not to betray the emotions churning her stomach.

He looked up from his Pad, he turned it off. "I really can't."

"They said. You won't have committed to anything until you actually get on the lander. Right? They said."

"Eight months isn't so long."

"Eight months is forever. Eight months with no face, no mail, nothing."

"In an emergency, I could—"

"So I get to hear from you when you're dead, great. Meanwhile, you'll miss everything." Her hand was on her stomach, just below her stomach, where there was as yet no appreciable bulge.

"Come on. You're exaggerating."

"Oh, okay, I'm exaggerating."

"Your father did, what, three tours in the middle east back when he was our age? Weren't you born while he was deployed?"

"That's different. He could call. He could write. He was still on Earth."

"I'll make enough money working this one circuit to start a real business, Jan; with enough left over for a nice house where we can raise our kids. It's just eight months."

She was silent a long time. She knew he was right. She didn't have to like it.

"Look, there's one." He gestured with his head.



It wasn't a Polixaci; something else. She'd seen one of these on the news, once. Lignol? They were rare, even near the embassy in New York. It plodded down the concourse, carrying a small silver case. "It's going home?"

"Probably. Change liners at Friktik. He'll have to wait there for the connection, though, maybe six months? They don't always line up the way you want." He'd done his research. He said, pointedly, "Eleven stops, each with a layover. I'll be back here before he's home."

"You don't have to go"

He switched his Pad back on. "I want to go."

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