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Fides grew on the main viewport. Yellow was the predominant color, the bright yellow of sands alternating with the darker yellow-brown of grasslands. There didn’t seem to be any large seas, but there was an intricate network of rivers which twisted through the grasslands and emptied out in the desert sands, there to evaporate and keep the water cycle going.

The captain chose a “garden spot” that had a good mix of streams, small lakes, and rocky outcroppings. Before long they would have to live only on what the planet itself could offer them.

As Elfi and Irmin came down separately in the lander, Bastian brought Superior down to the surface on the last of its propellant, as they breathed the last of its air. He set the ship down on her three remaining fusion drives. When she settled to the ground Superior complained a great deal, expressing her displeasure with groans of overstressed metal and popping joints. There were horrible wrenching noises.

From the empty spot where the lander plugged in to the mother ship, Lukas, Elfi, Bastian, and Lysee rushed out of the hatch and down the ladder to the ground, not even bothering to check for breathable air first, since they were finished anyway if there was none. Fortunately there was plenty of oxygen, and it smelled fresh. It was sunny and a very comfortable 25° C. No one had any complaints about Fides so far.

Standing safely at a distance, they were joined by Elfi and Irmin. All of them watched their poor ship sag into itself and finally collapse. The fusion drives tumbled to the ground like giant logs.

“Irmin, see if any of the engines are still okay. Maybe we can start this colony right, with electric power.”

“I’ll get right on it, Captain.” But Irmin stood there for right now, holding Elfi’s hand.

Bastian and Lysee sat close together some distance away from the others, oblivious to everything but their own world.

Lukas let his eyes drift over and catch Karin’s eyes staring back at him with suspicion. She didn’t want to be the first to say it. “Well, congratulations, Ensign Durr,” he said. “It looks like you and me.”

“Sounds like fun,” Karin muttered half in jest, resigned to her fate as a baby factory. But in truth, as she reappraised Lukas in the new light of Fides’ sun, she thought it was not a bad outcome. Not a bad outcome at all.

Fides was a world without extremes. There were no mountains higher than a thousand feet. There were no bodies of water larger than Lake Eire. All in all a dull place, but they would be too busy trying to survive to grow bored. And after ensuring their basic necessities, they would be very busy making babies and renewing again the human experience.

Later, after Lukas and Karin had explored more of the planet in the lander (on a trip to learn as much about each other as to learn about Fides) they decided there were no forms of animal life more advanced than small winged lizards, and no forms of plant life more advanced than a tough kind of winter wheat that covered the globe-encircling prairies. So it was a benign world, then, but they had yet to see what the winter was like.

When their honeymoon was over, Lukas and Karin returned to the crash site again on the endless expanse of Fides grasslands, where the other couples welcomed them home.

“I think we’re back in Kansas, Toto” Karin said.

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Strangers In Paradise