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6.

"This vessel does not seem safe for flying in, Samantha," Martouf said, getting an alarmed expression when they entered the plane. He studied the nearest wall closely.

"Continue walking, Martouf - there's a lot of people behind us who wants to get to their seats." She gave him a gentle push.

"I apologize." He looked at the rows of seats. "You said I am in seat 14A?"

"Yes, and I'm in 14B, just beside you." She pointed at the small numbers above the seats. "That's the numbers."

Martouf nodded and walked down the aisle, looking at the numbers until he got to his seat. "I am in the inner seat?"

"Yes, you are. Give me your bag, and sit down."

He quickly did as she told him. Sam put her own carry-on and his in the overhead compartment, then sat down beside him.

Martouf touched the walls of the plane, and examined the window. "I really do not feel this plane is a safe mode of transport."

"It's safer than cars. You've got nothing to worry about at all," Sam reassured him.

"That's hardly reassuring! Cars are not safe at all!"

Sam smiled. "Fasten your seatbelt." She grinned. "So you won't fall out of your seat if the plane should, oh, start rotating, perhaps?"

"What? It may do that?" Martouf frantically looked for the seat belt.

"Sorry." She took his hand and squeezed it. "It won't do that. It was just a bad joke. This is the seat belt." She showed him. "And this is how you fasten it." She clicked her own belt in place.

Martouf found the belt, and repeated what she had done. "Thank you."

"The flight attendant is giving some safety instructions. Since you haven't flown before, you should listen to them," Sam told him.

"Certainly," Martouf said, looking up from his study of the flight magazine.

When the flight attendant had finished her speech, Martouf looked more concerned than before, and when the plane started rolling along the runway a few moments later, he got an alarmed expression, and threw nervous glances out the window.

"Relax, she just told us about what to do in an emergency because they are required by law to do so - and in the very extremely unlikely event it will be necessary. I've flewn many times, and there has never been a serious problem."

Martouf nodded, but still gripped the armrests hard as the plane increased its speed before take-off. "I do believe you," he told her.

The plane lifted and Martouf made a pained sound and closed his eyes.

Sam sighed and put her right hand on top of his left. He immediately grabbed hold of her hand, clinging to it as if for dear life.

"We're in the air now, and flying more steadily. You can let go now," Sam told him gently.

Martouf opened his eyes and looked down at their hands, then back up at her with an embarrassed expression. "I apologize for my behaviour, Samantha. I hope I did not squeeze your hand uncomfortably." He quickly let go of her.

Sam smiled at him. "No, it's no problem."

"First time flying?" a flight attendant asked, giving him a friendly smile.

"I have not been on an airplane before, no," Martouf replied.

She nodded and handed him a bottle of water and a bag of peanuts. "It's a fairly short flight - we'll be back down before you know it."

"Thank you." Martouf accepted the water and the snack, and the flight attendant left. He studied the small, sealed plastic bag he had been given. "Is this some sort of sedative?"

"The peanuts? No, why would you think so? And that's just water."

"Ah." Martouf nodded. "Peanuts? That was the... legumes that was in the sauce of that chicken dish we ate."

"Yes, only these are probably salted and roasted - and not cooked in a sauce, of course."

"Of course. How do they taste like this?" He looked closer at the bag, as if he somehow could learn something of their taste from that.

"Open it and try. It's... a snack. A small meal, I guess."

"I am not hungry," Martouf said, but opened the bag anyway. "Lantash is curious about the taste," he explained.

"Sure, blame him." Sam smiled.

Martouf gave her a sheepish grin. "Lantash is also curious about the taste." He took one of the peanuts from the bag and looked at it. "Now when I see them like this, they resemble tlalca'cahuatl." He tasted it. "Yes, I believe it is the same, or very similar, though these are salted. I do not understand how I did not realize it earlier, when we ate them in a sauce."

Sam shook her head, smiling fondly. "You know, I kind of envy you that fascination, experiencing all these new things here. I mean, don't get me wrong, I get to do that a lot too, when I travel to... other countries. It's just that we don't usually immerse ourselves in the cultures much."

"Your, ah, culture also has many strange new things to learn about, since it is more advanced than many others." Martouf looked out the window. "We are flying at a very high altitude. I cannot see the ground, though that is possibly due to clouds and the time of the day."

Sam nodded. "Both, yeah. The cruising altitude is above 30000 feet, so we are pretty high up. You'll get to see San Diego from the air when we approach it - there's a lot of light. When we fly back it will be daytime, so maybe that is more interesting, though."

Martouf took a deep breath and leaned back in the chair. "I will endeavour to look for both."

"How are you doing? Still nervous?"

He gave her a wry grin. "I will admit that the flight seems to be progressing without incident, but I am still looking forward to landing - or rather, to having landed. Safely."

"Well, I'm glad you're more relaxed." She checked her clock. "Another hour, then we'll be preparing to land."

"It will be 9:45PM, then, correct?"

"Yes, that's when we land - after about 2 hours and 15 minutes of flight."

"But it was 8:30PM when we left Denver?"

"Denver - and Colorado Springs - are in a different timezone compared to San Diego."

"Timezone... ah, I understand. Of course, we are moving so far to the west that the sun sets an entire hour later. That makes sense."

"Exactly." Sam yawned. "Sorry, I am getting pretty tired. I got up very early."

"Perhaps you should sleep for the remainder of the flight, then," Martouf suggested.

"Nah, I'll be fine. I'll sleep when we get to my brother's place."

He was silent for some time. "How much does your brother know about your work?"

Sam snorted. "Nothing, really. He thinks I'm working in deep-space radar telemetry. Fortunately, he isn't interested in science, nor in anything that has to do with the Air Force, so he doesn't ask."

Martouf nodded. "That is fortunate. Hopefully, his disinterest will extend to my background as well."

"We can hope. He hasn't made a lot of questions about dad suddenly being healthy after almost dying a couple years ago - nor has he wondered too much about the fact that dad isn't reachable most of the time, so it isn't too much to hope for. Well, at least he hasn't mentioned it to me, he may have done so to dad. Anyway, his wife, Marian, is a bit more curious, but I think you'll be fine."

"It'll just be your brother Mark, his wife, his children, Jacob, and us?"

"Yes, at least as far as I know, and I would think we would have been told if anyone else was invited." She smiled at him and put her hand on his upper leg. "Don't worry. It will be fine."

"Thank you." He put a hand over hers, and smiled at her. "I appreciate it."


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