“Hey Von, got a minute?” asked Kyra, poking her head into his open quarters.

Von looked over his silver reading glasses like a professor taking the measure of his response to a student’s silly question. “Would be my pleasure. Come on in.” (responding in his sonorous baritone)

Kyra entered on tiptoes, quiet as a patron arriving late for the opera, and Von returned to polishing his twin las pistol with strokes sharp and practiced. Moving cloth whip tight, his detail complete with the focus of a soldier consumed in contemplation of imminent battle. Kyra watched, absorbed in the mediation of his routine, of hand on metal, of mind in flow. Von’s breathing flowed with the steady ease of a light rain as his hands moved faster and faster, cloth transparent with blur as the mirror-like finish of his las seemed as polished as possible. Yet, still he polished and she understood the exercise was not for the polishing of metal as much as the polishing of mind.

Without taking her eyes off his aged hands Kyra gingerly broke the spell. “I just had an interesting conversation with Em.” Von continued to work, not looking up. “She never ceases to surprise me.” Von smiled. Kyra pulled her cheeks up as if to reveal words hidden. “She agrees with the others.” Kyra paused again. Von held his las up to the light aligning his sight with the shinning shaft of retribution as he liked to call his instrument of righteous reprieve. “She feels we are chasing ghosts, our own, that we are unnecessarily placing ourselves in harm’s way, or as she so poetically stated, sailing into the darkness of our own souls.”

Von looked up, thumb under chin and index finger tapping his dry pursed lips as if lost in thought before uttering, “Hmmm.” Then he returned to work.

“If this is not a good time I can come back later,” said Kyra, somewhat annoyed that Von seemed to be preoccupied.

“Now is as good a time as any. If you have a question Kyra, ask, and with what little wisdom remains in my itchy skull, I shall endeavor to answer.”

“Fair enough. Em also mentioned a feeling of soullessness and sterility, here in space. I have to admit Von, I feel it too, which only heightens my concern with regard to this mission. What was once clear is now cloudy. On the one hand I feel drawn to the signal and on the other, well, I can’t get the echo out of my head, an emptiness I suppose, that somehow there are more important things. My Janus Von, do you realize I chose this mission over Yul? Do you realize she may not be alive when we return? When Em threw out that soullessness bit, and I know she didn’t mean it the way I’m taking it, well, I just wonder if I haven’t lost my way, that I haven’t misplaced my priorities.” Kyra paused and looked down at the ground.

“Please continue,” said Von.

“Have I become a cold-hearted selfish bitch?” Before Von could answer she added, “Yul could be dying right now, right now Von, and all I gave her were words. I said all the right things. But, well, you know. There are words and there are actions and right now I’m feeling like a huge hypocrite. The mighty Kyra, always talking about love, about relationship. Do you understand what I am asking?”

“Well—“

“Because I don’t.”

“We may need some snoot for this one,” suggested Von.

“I’ve been telling myself I had no choice. As soon as I heard that tape, I told John the same thing. I had to go. Papa always told me not to make decisions in the firestorm of emotion. I did. And then, well, is it just stubborn pride that is blinding me, keeping me from seeing the bigger picture, from recognizing what it seems the rest of the crew already knows? I mean, when I asked Em why she was here, you know what she told me?” Kyra’s eyes began to water.

“What did she say?”

“She told me she was here for me, for love, but for me, even though she thought, like the others, I was wrong, she came because of relationship, her relationship with me, because she felt, she knew I was wrong and that I was going to need someone as soon as I discovered that fact. Can you believe that? You know, she tried to tell me she was here because of the wanderlust in her blood, but I know better. She is here, with me, because I’ve lost my way. Now you tell me, who should be leading this crew?”

“Can I say something?”

“I’m sorry Von. I feel like I’m answering my own questions and the truth is coming down on me like a house of cards. What did you want to say?”

“I think you’re being too hard on yourself.”

“How so?”

“I’ve heard the tape. And although it would be nice to be by Yul’s side, she is in the best hands available. We have a mission–a Hynerian vessel has sent a distress call.”

“They’re lost Von. You heard what John said. The signal is old and Trev did not dispute that point.”

“Let me ask you a question. Could John be wrong or that he let his desire for you to return with him cloud his judgment? Is it possible, their technology has simply got it wrong? And for Trev, the boy hardly knows how to shave much less interpret distress transmissions.”

“What are you saying Von?”

“Life is frailing gray. There is no right or wrong, no fault or blame in this situation. We must act on the best available information. I will say this. If you had stayed with Yul, had not followed up on this distress call, I can say without any doubt, the ghosts of which Em speaks would have haunted you till the day you die. We have a window to act, and we are acting as any Hynerian would. Simply put yourself in the shoes of that crew. Would you want a potential rescue party to assume you were lost? Or would you want them to make every possible effort, regardless of the odds, regardless of what some alien technology told them about your condition? And Kyra, if we find survivors,” Von smiled, “do you understand where I’m going with this?”

Kyra wiped her eyes. “I do Von. Thank you. I think I’ll have that snoot now.”

“Why not,” smiled Von.” He poured two glasses and handed one to Kyra. “Now as for the soullessness of space, I feel it too, but it has nothing to do with space.”

“Really,” said Kyra, taking a sip of the amber liqueur. “Pray tell then.”

“Connections, my dear. That feeling has everything to do with connections.”

Categories: Story, Kyra, Von

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