John escorted Kyra to the communications portal, closed the door and locked it. He motioned for her to take the center chair as he sat in the one to her left. Placing the earphones on, she followed suit.

John spoke into the comm.. “Testing. Testing. Can you hear me?”

“Loud and clear,” responded Kyra.

“You know, we don’t have to do this,” said John, his face like stone and about as white in the dim light.

“I’ve never forgive myself if I didn’t,” responded Kyra, her face matching his. “You know, I must respond to the signal so I might as well know as much as possible.”

John looked without blinking, the skin on his cheeks hanging down like wet laundry on a hanger, his finger on the switch. “Last chance.”

“Play it.”

He did.

Kyra listened. When the tape was over she took the headphones off and gently placed them on the console in front of her. Turning to look at John her cheeks begin to quiver and her eyes blinked like windshield wipers. Clenching her teeth only made it worse and as the echoes bounced in her imagination she lost control and began to sob uncontrollably for what seemed like an eternity.

After a long pause John said. “You don’t have to go.”

Kyra wiped her eyes and tried to smile but there was no smile forthcoming. Her head still shaking ever so slightly she stood up and said, “I have no choice.”

John stood not knowing whether to hug her and in the awkwardness of the situation straightened his back, fixed his eyes on hers and lifting his right arm with alacrity and precision, saluted. Nodding his head in the affirmative and in a steady voice managed just a single word, “Understood.”

Categories: Story, John Discovery, Kyra