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This chapter brings the first section of the novel to a close, with a hint of what’s to come in the illustration. I love that Linda gave Slim’s space suit little toesies! Next week, a change of perspective…

Kudzu

Chapter 7

“I hate these things,” Slim said, trying to get his tail comfortable in the tail of his space suit. “Whoever designed them clearly never actually met a raccoon.”

Amelia’s voice came across the intercom system. “Testing, testing.” It came from speakers built into the walls all over the ship, and from the earpieces in the spacesuit helmets.

“Loud and clear, Amelia,” Michael said. “Good job.”

“Hey, it wasn’t me. Jaworsky got the thing working.”

“Oh, right,” Slim said. “He plugs in a cable after I fixed the relays, and he gets all the credit.”

“Teamwork, right?” Michael raised a fist, bumped it against Slim’s paw; Slim drifted slowly backward until he caught a handhold with his foot. “Good job, everyone. In case it hasn’t been said, and I don’t think it has, we’ve survived this long because we all worked hard and worked together. If there was any doubt that a raccoon can do anything a human can, Amelia put that to rest, piloting a spaceship for the first time, through conditions that would challenge the best human pilots, and she got us here alive. Whatever happens now, we have that.”

The intercom spat Tharp’s voice, somewhat abashed. “Thank you, Michael. I appreciate the sentiment. I’m sure we all do.”

Jaworsky’s voice cut in. “Group fucking hug. When the mutual admiration love-fest is over, can someone tell me what the fuck is going on? I’m down here playing with radiation to get some more electric routed to someplace we can use it, and it would be good to know what we’re planning on doing, so I’m not just spinning here with my thumb up my ass.”

Colleen laughed. It was the first time since the accident.

“Yeah, okay,” Amelia said. “Ten minutes till we dock, if you can call it that. Cross your claws and pray we don’t come across something unexpected. You guys in the docking bay, get your suits on and tested, and then get strapped down. We’ll be evacuating the atmosphere in there before we open the door, because we can’t afford to lose any. I don’t want to lose anyone to a faulty suit.”

Slim stopped fussing with his tail and got his helmet on. Colleen and Michael checked each other’s suits, and then Slim’s.

“Two minutes and counting,” Amelia said. “In case you’re too butch to use a seatbelt, let me remind you that I’ve never done this before. That means you, Susan.”

Susan’s mutter spread through the ship. “Now she tells us.”

“One minute, ten seconds.”

The ship vibrated as the auxiliary rockets went into an extended burn. A gentle thump, and the vibrations stopped.

“And touchdown.”

“Nice flying, lady,” Jaworsky said, over the sound of held breaths being released.

“Thanks, Earl. So, um.” Amelia hesitated. “Well, folks, we have reached our final destination. Thank you for flying Air Amelia. And, uh, considering our fuel situation, welcome home.”

END OF BOOK I

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