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Space is dark peppered with trillions of billions of millions of dots of light, that are streaking outward in spiral of tears, within this unfathomable black mass. Space is void, numb and mute. Space is deaf and voiceless. Space is the sacred home of the old gods; yet hostile and violent to life. Exposure leads to blood boiling in freezing veins that violently undulate, before bursting and cracking apart; exsanguinating spores of blood-ice crystals into the darkness from every single pore of exposed skin. Eyes crystalize, expand then then pop with no sound at all.
Space is an eternal sea of vacuum; yet space is not empty. Space is filled with dust and balls of gas and matter that might, if the conditions are right, build life. If there is any sound in space, it comes from within.
Ships of space don’t come out of the dark. They are part of the dark. Therefore, they are only seen in part. They don’t rust, as there is no oxygen. However, depending upon their age, they are pitted and dented; broken by bits of rock debris, which over time, collide into them. They are also riddled with Nano-sized holes, as meteors, impossible to see, puncture their sides, regularly.
Although the Excelsior is fifteen years of age, this, when analysing space craft, is old. She -for her captain has personified her thus- moves silently, sluggishly, ploughing heavily within this eternal sea. Her throbbing ion thrusters, which circle the craft equidistantly along her midriff, are blue balls of pressurised gas, they push her onward in this numb mute; however, they make at least part of her glow a pale blue in the darkness.
Within the very functional cramped control room of the Excelsior, a song is playing over a pair of portable cracked and muffled speakers. It is a song sung by a choir, possibly of hundreds. The tune is backed by applause, as it is sung in praise:
‘-There's an Earth-err waiting on the ground, He'd like to come and meet us, and fill us with his sound. There's an Earth-err waiting on the ground, He's told us not to blow it, because he knows it will come around, He told me, Let the children lose it, Let the children use it, Let all the children boogie…’
and while the song plays, a woman, whose name and title is flight Officer Patricia Jennings second class, is partially seen through the green, red and blue lights, of luminous buttons and semi- holographic screens, that surround him. She is twenty eight years of age. Though she looks older; as her pale pinched skin seems grey; her large brown eyes are buried deep in her skull sockets. She is gaunt, pinched thin due to poor diet and space sickness: a malady she caught three sectors ago. Her oily grey-green, single zip jump suit hangs off her making her look more masculine than feminine; yet her bright attractive eyes glitter with mirth as she tunelessly whistles along to the song while tapping buttons and scanning screens.
Jennings stares at one of the many consoles along the far wall. She stares deeply: unblinking. A look of concern causes brown wiry lines to fester upon her forehead. She moves to another console. She touches another button. The she stares deeply. Her eyes shine as her face is lit by lines of white: a reflection from the screen. She slowly stops whistling and wonder forces her to stroke her square jaw she moves from her jaw to massage something under her jump suit. It rests on a partially seen metallic chain around her neck.
In the background the song continues. In its orchestral chorus, many voices are heard singing in jubilation for this unknown man and this unknown place. The rhythmic clapping is hypnotic to her ears. Jennings appears distant: not in control. In this state, her fingers stroke over and then engage the “all hands” intercom button.
The whole ship then shudders with:
‘I had to phone someone so I picked on you, Hey, that's far out so you heard him too! Switch on the TV we may pick him up on channel two, Look out your window I can see his light, If we can sparkle he may land tonight, Don't tell your poppa or he'll get us locked up in fright...’
Jennings was interrupted from her trance like state by Captain Wallace’s voice, who blasts into her ear via the chat headset.
The voice is decidedly hostile.
‘Jennings!’ a short pause ‘Jennings!’ another pause ‘JENNINGS! This is your captain! Y’ know…the poor idiot that pays you to do your job! Now shut that mother fucking Earther crap off! Now Jennings! For Steller’s sake! I’m trying to sleep! Jennings! Jennings! I’m… I’m warning you! Jennings! I’m I’m warning you! Jennings! JENNINGS! If you, you don’t shut that that shit off, right, right fucking NOW! I’m coming up there, an’ I swear to the stars, I will come up there, I will come up there Jennings an’ will use your arse to seal that fucking coolant leak! Are we clear! Jennings, are we clear! JENNINGS!’
The song went off.
Captain Peter Wallace, officer first class, (who also has the emerald star for bravery) is brown eyed, dark skinned and very, very bearded. He is in his cabin, looking up at the wires of bunk above; tracing the lines with his pupils. Right now, he cannot sleep and he’s pissed off about it.
Time has passed and Wallace has tried everything to sleep. He had even tried masturbation. However not even that helped; especially as the semen spurted then floated out of reach, before he could tissue it away. That Earther song is the final straw. He lay there imagining pushing Jennings out into space without a suit on, or decapitating her in a lift malfunction, or crushing her by-
'Captain…Captain Wallace… sir?’ there was an awkward pause. ‘...sir.’
'What is it Jennings!’ Snapped Wallace.
Jennings used to the cold dismissive tone, replied in the official voice of respect given between a subordinate and a commanding officer; however, Jennings was certain that sooner, rather than later, she would snap. ‘Sir...could you come to control… please. Sir.’
Shit, thought Wallace.
He rubbed his tight curled grey hair in frustration. Two back to back twelve hour shifts and completed six hyper jumps with a partially working bosun drive and just when I manage to shut down, just when my eyes close I get woken up by fucking Earther music and who knows what.
‘Is it important?’ He asked coolly his voice stretched tight; visceral. Dangerous.
‘Sir…it’s… better if you simply come.’
Wallace hates Jennings. He hates her because she smiles a lot. He hates her because she always plays those hymnals and sings them badly. But most of all, he hates Jennings because Jennings is a believer... one of those who called themselves “Earther’s”.
Earthers! Even the name sounded crap. They believed, so Wallace had heard, that they were THE chosen people; that their descendants had come from some mythical planet called “Earth” I mean, for fucks sake, what sort of name is that? You might as well call the planet “Barry” or “Dave” or something equally stupid. Of course a planet has fucking earth. It was a joke. A sick joke to starve the poor out of air credits; Yet, this loony cult had found influence on the corporate board of the mining colonies, who -at the same time- supplied the raw elements needed to sustain vital life support on the planets of Cygnus 3; It was this that hurt like a space blister. Not the stupid fucking songs. The songs he could live with… occasionally…live with them. It was the enforced control that Wallace loathed. Control that Jennings and those who were like him had over the rights of the less fortunate.
He sat up and once more, out of an unconscious anxiety habit, pulled his hand through his tight curled fading to grey hair. He looked, with a warm sense of affection on his face, towards the image he had put up on the opposite wall, forgetting, in that moment that he placed it there to hide a particularly nasty stain caused by a decompression malfunction two tours ago.
Death was part of life in space. The two embrace like old lovers.
The image Wallace stared at was of the excelsior when she was commissioned: and boy, he thought, was she beautiful. A long tube like structure all white and pristine. Dent less and glittering. His eyes warmed as he recalled that the ship was once the pride of their fleet. Their computer Ai, known as Chamberlain, was the most expensive ever commissioned.
Time is a bastard though. Time had ripped into Chamberlain’s circuits and organic cluster brain. Time and the inability to pay for upgrades, had, after 15 years of service, led to a hideous accident.
Chamberlain malfunctioned and opened the wrong door. In computer terms, it was a simple switch malfunction. However, this switch malfunction led to the pulverisation of three of his best hands who had just taken off their suits, after finishing an external cleaning duty.
It had taken four crew two double shifts over planned leave to clean the mess up; and in that time, the report had been sent and the verdict of the council had confirmed. Both Chamberlain and the excelsior were to be mothballed: broken down for parts; while the captain, though recognised as not responsible, was also to be retired from active duty.
He hoped both he and Jennings might be able to get the ship to dry dock and that nothing would go so drastically wrong as to have to wake him up once more. But now…well it could be nothing, a fault with the containment system on level four. It had happened before. Jennings, despite being a wanker and an Earther to boot, was still a fairly competent at her position. She wouldn’t call him up to the control room without a valid reason.
Slowly, Wallace sighed, as he stood, his magnetic boots keeping him on the floor; he clinked and clanked his way out of his cabin and along the stained walls of the corridor to the only working service tube on his level. Let’s hope it’s the containment system in the lower decks he mused as the tube lift lurched to life.
Jennings hates Wallace, but for very opposite reasons than Wallace hates Jennings.
Jennings hates Wallace because she regards Wallace as having no hope and Wallace is willing to almost evangelically share this hopelessness with anyone, anywhere he can.
She also hates Wallace because Wallace had, since his first shift on board the Excelsior, had made her life next to unbearable. The puzzle was why Wallace had chosen her for this last trip. That made no sense. Unless, of course it was to throw more bile, before his retirement from active duty.
She recalls the words of Wallace as he left the control room 12 hours previously: “I don’t want to be disturbed! You understand me? You are not to call me unless it’s absolutely critical!” At which Jennings thought hail hamburger and said “sir” laconically.
As the shift wore on, Jennings had become bored. Since the decommissioning of Excelsior, and the removal of most of the crew, her job consisted of looking at greasy old green computer screens, adjusting the dial to the particle flow of the Bosun drive as it gradually fed on the particles it needed to prepare for the next star-jump; as well as scan for possible collisions with larger bodies of rock which were, in this sector of space, fortunately very few and far between. It was mind numbing, tedious and at the same time intricate enough, to the point that one mistake, might be a threat to the ship and –her- present two-man crew.
As she sat there, sullenly looking at the grey green screens, she recalled the interview for the position of officer second class.
Back then, Jennings looked immaculate, and very attractive, even though she said it herself. Her close cropped blonde hair suited her square jaw and her wide set eyes and full wet lips.
The blue and grey steel uniform with gold epaulettes was pressed and shone, and curved in nicely. In sum, she looked, believed and felt herself attractive and even though she was perhaps ashamed to admit it, very hot and damn cool.
She stood stiffly at attention as the door behind, hissed and then out of her field of vision, slowly curled open.
She desperately tried to hide the shock she felt as Space commander Wallace, first class and owner of the emerald star for gallantry first class, slowly and rather drunkenly, staggered into the room.
Wallace was unshaven and unkempt in appearance. His flight jacket was covered with stains. Moreover, she could smell that he stank of diesel juice, which meant as far as she was concerned that he had a huge drink problem, and that meant he was unreliable. It was only as the interview came to a close that she knew she would be in for a rough tour of duty.
'I see here, from your data cube...' Wallace, sneered, his eyes glittered with maliciousness as he spoke in a vindictive drawl '...that you…you… are an Earther?” the condescending weight on the last word sounded insulting to her ears. She didn’t flinch.
'Yes.' She replied awkwardly, sensing a blush of embarrassment rise in her cheeks.
'I see...' His words were drawn out drunk. The air became thick in a weighted pause as Wallace stared Jennings down. Then Wallace continued.
'...I’ll be frank with you... I don’t much like you. I, I don’t like the way you… you look an’ I definitely don’t like what you believe…however… by law, the captain of a star-ship must take at least one of your kind on board.’
Jennings squeezed his jaw together, as Wallace glowered vindictively. At the stare Jennings gulped nervously. She wanted to leave the room and vomit up her breakfast. But she held her ground. She focused her eyes at the far end of the room; as she tried to hide her emotions. yet, inside, she was blistering with pain.
She felt a drip of nervous sweat trickle down the side of her neck as she felt Wallace’s eyes glower into her, looking for a sign of weakness, any weakness at all. The pause was long. She felt it last forever.
‘I ask one thing…’ Wallace continued a he sneered ‘…don’t try to convert me or the crew! If you do…’ Wallace smiled but his eyes bore into Jennings with glittering fury. He stepped closer and closer towards her until their faces were less than an inch apart. She could taste the sourness of the booze on his breath at the back of her throat. She tightened her hands into fists and dug her nails into the palms of her hands. The skin gave way. A tingle of pain shot up her arm. She tried not to grimace. A small sarcastic smile touched the corner of her mouth
Wallace barely noticed. He spoke coolly and, Jennings thought, terrifyingly benign, ‘If you do… I’ll blow you into deep space.’ The words were whispered as Wallace smiled. She knew then that he meant it. Her heart jumped. She felt that she was looking into an abyss. However, she simply nodded and gave a brisk salute as Wallace, with a drunken dismissive wave, left the room.
The whole experience had left her feeling upset, frustrated and alienated. Now with this first tour almost over and on a duty that involved dry docking Wallace’s own ship, she looked weary. The uniform had gone, and she was alone with the largest cynic in the tri-colony for company. She shook his head, as an image of blowing Wallace out into deep space entered her mind. That would teach him a lesson. Yes that would-
A smile appears on Jennings face as the control room door curls open and Wallace enters the room.
‘There something funny?’
‘-Now what would that be?’
‘- Sir, Blowing you into space… sir.’
Wallace stared at Jennings. ‘-You’re a cunt… you know that?’
‘-Yes sir and so are you! Sir!’
Wallace grinned. ‘Going to make a spacer out of you yet. Despite your earther crap.’
Jennings looked down and away.
‘So why am I here? It better be valid; I shit you not.’
‘There’s… something errs, bouncing off the err… forward scanner… Sir.’
Wallace walked over to the main screen, and stared into the holographic monitor. Their faces shone gold green in the semi darkness of the room.
Wallace scratched his head. If Chamberlain was on line, things would have been so very different, but….
‘I wonder what that is.’ He found himself saying to no-one in particular, and checked himself... it’s true he thought, out here in the void, the loneliness could be so destructive. His mind wandered once more, as he saw the blip appear in the top half of the screen; as a matter of routine he automatically went through the failsafe procedure. When that proved negative, his mind raced.
Jennings smiled. ‘-it’s not an asteroid the chemical elements are far too ordered; there are far too many metal composites in the structure; it could be…’
‘-it could be a Delphic scout; they have been seen this far out…but there’s no organic components in the scan and Delphic designs always have organic composites within its structure.’
Wallace became worried. The Delphi were a warrior spacer breed. They had claims over the ore planetoids, so they said; and this led to minor skirmishes from time to time, if they attacked the ship would blow at one attack.
‘I, I’m waiting for the I C U to send a detailed projected image.’
There was a beep as the image corrector for unidentified objects began to make an image on the main screen at the far end of the room.
First a circle…then a dish, then an antenna… then a huge box like object, with legs projecting off it.
‘What in the four cells is that?’ Wallace stammered.
‘It’s reading as a structure of alien design. Not recognised by either the planetoids or the known races.
It looks like a probe… But it’s not Delphic? Could it be a trap? They have been known to trap ships but not this far into known Cygnus territory.’
The image was complete.
‘Oh my…Oh my Earth!’
Wallace sneered at Jennings.
‘What is it?’
‘Hope.’ replied Jennings, her voice almost a whisper.
‘What do you mean?’ Asked Wallace testily.
Jennings braced herself for the attack before she continued.
‘What you are looking at...’ she pointed to the screen nervously, hardly containing her excitement, ‘…is, is what we call… the sacred key… look…’
From around her neck, Jennings produced something that Wallace thought was incredibly delicate. It was a golden dish attached to a cube, with three long antennae stretching out from it in three directions. Wallace stared at the metallic object around Jennings neck; then he looked at the screen. Then he looks back again. They were similar. No, they were the almost same.
‘We, we get this when we become Earther’s… we believe it it is the hope… according to the ancient-’
‘-You mean the ramblings of that senile old spacer Weternhope? He was put in prison for being a fucking loony you know!’
‘- it, it contains a sacred key…’ she gulped air nervously awaiting Wallace’s bitter tirade.
‘The way...the way to Earth.’
Wallace looked at the view screen and then again at the necklace. My sweet stars, he thought. Could it actually be true?
‘You can’t expect me to believe that that we have found some fucking ancient Earth artefact...can you..?’ He tried not to hide his mirth or the rising anxiety, that was breaking the wall of cynicism within him.
‘Sir...’ Began Jennings, ‘...all I know is this...’ she raised her necklace to show Wallace. ‘...this is called the voyager, and that satellite out there... sir...it’s the same!’ Wallace hears the crescendo of excitement in Jennings' voice. At that moment, he wanted to punch her very hard in the face. Wallace started shaking his head from, side to side.
‘Can, can you deny your eyes?’
‘Oh oh, oh just just JUST FUCK OFF JENNINGS! I, I, I don’t need this an’ I don’t need you! Its’ easy for you isn’t it! Life is so easy and controlled!’ He took step towards her and almost raises a fist. Then he managed to gain control and lower it. ‘…Life’s not like that! Fuckin’ wake up! It it just isn’t!’
He sadly and painfully turned away to leave the control room, with his head lowered, his shoulders slumped. Then he turned back and in what Jennings thought as an after-thought, mutters:
‘Joss make sure you get the thing stowed safely.’
As Wallace slowly leaves the control room. Jennings looks at the image on the monitor screen. Yes it is that simple, it is. She thought happily as she begins to engage the tractor beam.
Slowly the Excelsior’s front airlock opens and the ancient craft is brought on board. Then, as the pressure was increased, the soundless silence ended.
With excitement building in her heart, Jennings makes her way from the control room to the front air lock hanger. She looks through the window to see the probe resting on the hanger floor. The door hisses and starts to curl open; though Jennings is through the door before its completes its cycle.
The ship is a lot larger than she expected it to be. However, its main antennae are damaged bent, no doubt, by collisions. With nervous eyes she glances all over the craft, looking for the promised key. Her heart leaps when he sees a gold disc. The promise from the founder! With her heart racing she climbs the structure reaches for it, and pulls it off the ancient ship.
Wallace is sitting on the floor in the computer room. His knees are drawn up and his head is bowed. The dimly lit room hums and hisses. It is a mass of brown wires and blue holes in the walls where glossy tubes pulse light into glossy organic cubes that are placed in even intervals around the circular room. Now, they fluctuate in pulses of light that glow between soft green and purple.
There is a dry musty smell of corrosion and burnt electrical connectors. It’s a smell that Wallace feels comfortable with. In the middle of the room is a blue circle. With his nerves torn to shreds, he gives the activation code and then says:
The circle in the middle of the room glows with a blue light. Slowly a face begins to form.
‘What is it, son?’
Of facing that the earthers might be real and there is a place for us to live and grow without being trapped within husking crafts that are breaking down of hating and of hurting Jennings because she was right all along of of of
‘-of…being wrong.’ Wallace stammers.
‘-Is finding earth so bad?’
‘-What do you mean?’
‘Cygnus is dying. Resources are being used up. The people are dying.’
Wallace stared into the face of Chamberlain, whose lines creased around the eyes. In the soft blue light created for the hologram they appear wet. Chamberlain’s voice crumbles into segments. ‘People need air. The colonies have faced being ripped apart by the the Delphi and other races, who see us as as a threat. Therefore, the council look to the religious movement of the earthers… it gives the colonies something to hold on to.’
‘So Earth could be our only hope?’
‘Or… it could be our greatest fear.’
Wallace looks up to Chamberlain. His eyes glistening with tears.
The communicator in Wallace’s ear starts to ring.
‘What is is it Jennings?’
‘Sir…I’ve found it.’
‘-Sir I’ve found earth. I know where it is. I’ve plotted its possible course from the disc. I haven’t got the equations for the bosun drive yet but I know where to-’
‘-The disc that we were told is on the craft that that would lead us back to earth!’
Wallace instantly thinks more Earther crap. Yet he pauses in his reply.
‘-Ok, ok. So there is a disc and this disc has information on it. Ok ok, have you put the relevant data into the computer yet?’
Chamberlain lights up. His eyes are aglow; it’s as if even he has found something to believe in.
‘Just doing it now sir.’
The little turd is determined isn’t she.
‘-Don’t you think that finding where we were from is worth the effort?’ Wallace asks over Jennings shouting about only needing one three pulse jump; and that they have enough particles for the trip.
‘-Can the bosun handle the trip, or will be blasted into vectors?’
The question is weighted.
Wallace knows that Chamberlain could do the equations however if he does, then he could lose more of his precious memory. In other words, this could be a one way trip. Chamberlain smiles sadly.
‘I can’t promise son. The system is weak. I could easily put us in the middle of a sun.’
Well that’s lifted my confidence.
‘-Ok, ok…’ Wallace scratches his beard as he gets up to leave. Chamberlain sadly smiles, before he dissipates back into the gloom from where he came.
The control room is brighter now that Wallace has re engaged Chamberlain. The greasy unwashed walls are green grey, more of the hard ware tubes are seen. The metallic floor dirty and greasy. Their faces seem green blue in the circle of lights in the control room. Wallace walks from the lift to see Jennings excitedly looking at a gold metallic disc in her hands. Wallace sees that she is oblivious to her surroundings. Only the dice matters. Only the disc and earth.
‘-It has music too; would you like to listen to it?’
‘-No I’d rather vomit’
‘Okay, let's listen.’
The gold plaque has a small port. Jennings feeds a wire into the plaque and then into a console. A moment later, a hideous warped sound that makes Wallace and Jennings grimace begins to fill the ship.
‘-What the Carell is that?’
‘-It's earth music.’
Jennings looked upset, her face is flushed, as she panics over the console. Touching buttons changes nothing. The sound makes Wallace hold his ears in pain.
‘-for fucks sake get that shit off!’
Jennings presses a button on the room is silent once more.
‘-I’ll run it through encryption analysis’ comes the voice of Chamberlain.
‘-Sir? Chamberlain’s higher functions are supposed to be- ’
‘-how do you expect to work out the equations for the bosun drive? Manually? Do you know how long that would take? It's uncharted space isn’t it?’
Jennings looked down and away.
‘-Whether we like it or not, if we are going to go to earth, we must engage the boson; so, we need Chamberlain. It’s either that, or dry dock; and if we go there, then we will lose the opportunity to go to earth, because, you know, you know, as well as as I, that this information will be passed onto some other gobshite from the council…Now… do you want to go to Earth or not?’
Jennings' face starts to go red.
‘Yeah, thought so.’
It took Chamberlain half an hour to make the equation. In that half hour Both Jennings and Wallace sat opposite each other in the canteen, drinking the last of the Diesel Juice.
‘What do you think, we’ll find when we get there?’
‘I I don’t know? Perhaps what was left of us, perhaps a garden?’
‘Why do you think we lost contact?’
‘The books tell us that we lost contact, nothing more. Look aren’t you curious? ‘
-‘Of course I am.’
‘-Then why the questions? Why doubt the books?’
‘-because humans ask questions, that’s what makes us survive. That’s what gives us strength. We ask questions and seek solutions. We reach out, we investigate, we analyse…We don’t rely on blind faith to get us through.’
‘But without faith, what are we?’
Wallace scratches his chin.
‘Hah, that’s a lie. You have a faith. You see the stars and our ability to survive as something noble. You don’t want to think that where we came from and, from that, who we are is relevant to our, our-.
‘-That’s untrue. ‘
‘-I’m I’m a a realist…’
‘You sound hollow.’
‘-I have the right to believe what I like.’
‘-and I don’t? Do you know what we believe in? Have you even thought about it? ‘
‘-Well, what do you believe in?’
‘-that’s not an answer! That’s fucking obtuse.’
‘We believe that where we came from holds the key to our survival here: in space. It’s our home! We won’t be cut off scratching out solar gems or for nuggets of air.’
‘Earth is, was a myth… it has no significance. We have to live in the now, for if we don’t we die and our- ‘
‘you know, I was like you once. I went through the corps training program. I came top of the ethics class.’
‘-then why become an Earther? Why give all that up?’
‘-because I wanted to believe in something greater-.’
‘-captain Wallace, I have computed the bosun fold to Earth; ready to fold in T minus fifteen seconds and counting.
Their faces paled.
‘You ready for this?’
‘Fuck you! Sir!’
Wallace grinned savagely. I bet you are. They took the empty seats scattered about the room. The seats slid forward and up.
Outside was the void… Wallace thought the void that…oh fuck it.
‘5 … 4…3… bosun engine start.’
Here we go. Wallace grimaces as he holds the sides of his seat.
The ship begins to shake violently. Wallace sees Jennings slide in and out of focus. Wallace starts to heave. His head pounds. Jennings screams and doubles over as the ship creaks and buckles in noises that deafen.
‘1…co-ordinates set… preparing for jump.’
There is a pause that lasts forever as time and space slow down. Jjjjjj- Uuuuuu-Mmmmmm-Pppppp
Light blasts, out in waves of emitted energy. There is a huge pulse of X-rays. The space where the Excelsior once was being now empty.
Wallace awakes feeling hungover. He vomits. A trickle of blood comes from the corner of his mouth.
‘Captain Wallace? Are you here sir?’
It was Chamberlain.
‘Is it Jennings?’
‘Patricia Jennings officer first class, is still asleep. We are in orbit and approximately 91.6 million m’s from the nearest star-’
‘Have you seen it? Is it there?’
‘You mean earth?’
‘What’s it like?’
‘You will see for yourself in three H’s from now.’
For the first time in months he saw something wonderful in Jennings. He wanted to touch her, kiss her. He wanted to-
Jennings smiled up at him. 'Did we make it?’
‘Yes' he slowly gulped, as a tear began to swell, 'yes, I think we just about did.’