"Looks like rain."

Robbie doesn't answer.

Her face is upturned, her eyes scanning once-strange heavens. "Seems like there's always more change of rain when the big one's out."

Robbie still doesn't answer.

"You'd know the mechanics of something like that, wouldn't you? A big moon like that, basically a binary pair, and in that close? It'd have an effect on the primary's weather, wouldn't it? Not just ocean tides." She looked down at Robbie, sitting there, unconcerned. "That's the sort of thing you're good at. But you'll just keep it to yourself. Never mind that it'd help me predict—"

Thunder roars in the distance, and there is a flash, low on the horizon. She ducks back into the broken shell of the landing craft to change into something warmer. She doesn't mind running around most of the time in shorts and a bra — Robbie likely doesn't mind either — but if it's going to rain, best put on her suit.

She envies Robbie, not having to worry about the rain. Or the heat, for that matter. She clicks the helmet into place and the smell of the air she's breathing begins to gradually change. The rich, oily, slightly farty scent is replaced by a dry, metallic one: the difference between this planet's atmosphere and one ideal for supporting human life. She knows the taste of metal in it is mostly in her mind.

The rain comes on fast. By the time she steps back out, drops are already falling intermittently on her helmet, on the lander hull, on Robbie. She retrieves her cooking equipment, carries it in, comes back out for the weapons and the Sidewave Beacon. She probably could have left the Beacon out — they're supposed to perform for up to a year in worse conditions than this — but there's no sense in taking unnecessary risks.

"I don't suppose you'd want to help?"

Robbie never helps, never answers. He stares back at her with empty eye-sockets. The rain begins to fall harder, the drizzle growing into a downpour. She sits on the ramp and watches as the ground begins to steam, smoke, whatever it does.

Robbie would know. He'd probably be able to give her the chemistry of it just on smell alone: why it steams or smokes when it hits the ground, why it irritates the skin and leaves lesions that don't go away for weeks. Why it eventually strips flesh from bone, but leaves the bone. He'd probably know how to deal with it, how to filter the rain, make it safe for drinking so she wouldn't have to rely on the ever-shrinking pittance the urine recycler produces.

He says nothing. Robbie is decidedly un-helpful.

"Well, it'll cool things down, at least. A bit cooler would be nice."

The downpour becomes a deluge: the rising steam — smoke, whatever — has made the air opaque. She ducks back into the lander where she can still see, sits in one of the two pilot's chairs to wait it out.


It's in his ear.

We walks fast, he trips, he gets up and walks on without brushing off the leaves and dirt and oily street-dust. He ignores the old lady calling out to ask if he's all right. He ignores the funny looks from children and laughter from teenagers.

It's in his ear. It's in his ear.

He fumbles with his keys and unlocks the front door on the third try. He leaves them in the door when he closes it. He goes to the kitchen and grabs the carving knife.

It's in his ear. It's in his goddamn ear.