Kyra looked around the lab. Everyone accounted, standing shoulder to shoulder in tight quarters. Oddly enough, the room seemed empty without Kieran.

“I appreciate everyone coming down on such short notice,” said Kyra, her eyes moving slowly around the room. Trev stood to her left, everyone else directly in front.

“I want to start by congratulating Rog and Emy for a job well done. The mission to Neraj was a success. Risking life, they returned with the agent of retribution and Trev has administered the agent to Kieran.” Heads nodded in respect.

“Let me start with an update. I won’t beat around the bush. Kieran has fallen into a coma. The agent appears to be overwhelmed by the ferocity of the virus at this advanced stage. In short, it’s not working. Prognosis, it’s only a matter of hours, if that.”

Kyra paused to allow her comments to soak in. Surveying the room she noticed not a single pair of eyes had broken contact with hers nor was there a single tear, yet.

“At least that’s what science tells us.”

Kyra paused again. Her bearing, missing only the conductor’s baton, took command of the atmosphere. The room filled with the sound of breathing, the invisible umbilical cord to life.

“Well?” queried Rog, breaking the silence and birthing “well” with his eyes, cheeks and vocal cords as if it had three syllables and weighed ten pounds.

“I think you heard what she said,” snapped Trev before Kyra could respond, still smarting from his earlier encounter with her. “We’ve all done everything we could, no one is at fault. If he hadn’t been a child of the shells we wouldn’t even be having this conversation now.”

Rog rarely lost his temper but Trev had a way of getting under his skin and if he was insinuating or trying to absolve him of some non-existent guilt, well . . . the thought was cut off with a look from Kyra. Then she looked at Trev as if to say the floor is all yours but I think you’re going to need a shovel if you continue down that path.

“What I meant to say,” started Trev, until Kyra’s gaze told him it was time to shut up. “What I meant to say, is Kyra believes we still have a chance.”

“Is that true?” asked Em, her eyes as big as saucers reflecting a glint of fear. The lower lip of her eyes, with ever so slight a tremble, held back a flood of tears.

“I believe we still have a chance,” said Kyra.

“What’s the plan?” asked Rog.

Kyra sighed. Rog’s can-do attitude energized her resolve. “I’m afraid I need to go this one alone.”

“I’m not going to let–”

“I know you’re not Rog, which is why I love you to pieces. There is one thing you can do.”

“Consider it done.”

“Take the crew down to the chapel and pray like you’ve never prayed before.”

“Now you know,” Rog started to say.

“I know Rog. Recite the periodic table if you must; just recite like the words would unlock the map to our new homeworld. Can you do that?”

The outside corners of Rog’s eyes dipped to meet the upward curve of his closed lip smile. At times like this he wondered why not Kyra, until he felt Yul’s hand on his shoulder.

“I’m leaving my comm on. You call and I’m there. Are you sure–”

“I’m sure Rog. Now get going.”

As soon as the crew had left Kyra turned to Trev. “Get the scissors. I need you to cut these bandages off my hands.”

“May I ask why?”

“I can’t do what I need to do with them on,” said Kyra

“Would you mind telling me what you intend to do?”

“Trev, I don’t have time to explain. Would you please just get the scissors?”

“No.”

“What!?”

“Kieran’s as good as dead and if you walk into that room with these open cuts you are as good as dead too.” Kyra had never seen Trev quite like this before. Why he was digging his haunches into the ground like an angry bulldog defied her understanding.

“Kyra, I know you don’t blame me for Kieran’s,” Trev caught himself, “for what has happened to Kieran, but I will not be responsible for you foolishly throwing away your life in a, damn it, I need to say it and you need to hear it, in a lost cause.”

“Trev, listen to me.”

“I’m not letting you walk into that iso ward with open cuts. I’m just not going to do it.”

“Trev, what if I told you I would be in no danger?”

“Impossible.”

“Trev, will you at least admit if we stand here arguing, Kieran will die?”

“That’s a cheap shot and you know–”

“Damn you, answer the question!”

Kyra never saw it coming and apparently neither did Trev.

“I’m sorry sweetie, but that little snot-nosed dilettante had it coming,” said Rog.

“Rog, such big words, a girl might get the wrong impression if you keep that up.”

Rog thought for a sec, hesitated again, and decided he would let that one slide. “Give me those hands.”

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