December 11, 2010

Zion's Children - pt 35

Of the two, it was General Hiawithus who took the news the hardest. He sat down so quickly and heavily into his chair, that Marcus Alexander feared he had broken something.

"Surely..." Even words failed him.

Levi clasped his friend's shoulder with his hand. It was one thing to speculate about a matter, another to have it turn out to be the truth.

"Byrin is close to finalizing the sequencing on the antibiotics for this. I've looked over his work, and I have to agree with his conclusions. The Conglomerate did this to" Marcus sat across the desk from his commanding officer.

"I authorized those vaccinations...I did this..." Archibald Hiawithus was close to sobbing. Tears pooled in the bags under his eyes and slowly leaked out and down his saggy cheeks. "Levi, I am so sorry..."

"It's not like you knew, Archie...I know you better than that," Levi said in a soothing tone.

"What happens next?" the general asked.

"Like I said, Bryin's almost finished..."

"Can he prove it?"

Marcus hesitated. "Not at this point, it's all speculation really. But give him enough time, and I'm sure he'll be able to prove it."

"Send him to me when he's able. I still have a few friends in the Hierarchy. I can't promise any action will be done, but a case will be made to the Presidential Council to rebuild Zeta Muria and make things right." He might have looked frail, but the desk thundered as the general brought his fist down on it.

"That's not necessary," Levi said. "We just want the Conglomerate to leave this planet."

A feminine throat clearing interrupted them. "Grandfather, if you give me a moment, I can tell you why that would be a bad idea."

Levi straightened and regarded his granddaughter with questioning eyes.

December 09, 2010

Zion's Children - pt 34

Byrin spent the time waiting for the computers to analyze Lily's blood and spit out a formula for an antibiotic to battle the nameless disease compiling all his information on it. When he returned to Conglomerate space and the Core worlds, he meant to present his findings to his superiors in order to root out the people who had done this. He just hoped it wasn't people he knew.

Or worse - his superiors.

"How will you know the antibiotics will work once you have a formula?" Miri asked, sitting next to him. She had thought about returning to her home to tell her grandfather of the breakthrough, but hadn't yet. She was afraid that he would order the ConFleet personnel offworld
once he learned of the plot against their people.

"I'll test it on one of the patients. Probably several actually. It'll take some time to get the dosing right." Byrin sighed. "We're not through this yet."

"No, we're not." Miri glanced over to where Doctor Alexander and Lily were working. Well, they were pretending to work. They were having a quiet conversation between the two of them. It was always good when two people could have a meeting of the hearts at times like these. At
least that's what she hoped was going on.

"I'm still not sure how they were able to pull this off," said Byrin. "I mean, how do you infect an entire population? I'm pretty sure that this isn't a normal contagious virus, because we all have it."

Miri shrugged. "I don't know. We've never known anything like this. In fact, in general we were a very healthy people. Grandfather couldn't see the point of everyone being vaccinated when your ConFleet first arrived. We've always been healthy, so what was the point. But of course they insisted. Something about boosting our immune systems since we were getting offworld visitors now, and how we wouldn't want to get sick from any new bug they brought with them."

It was as if lighting struck Byrin again. If there was a God, such as these people worshipped, then surely He was striking Byrin hard with revelations. "Of course!" the doctor declared. "That's why we all have it! Since they can't ever be sure who has Jewish ancestry, this would be a sure fire way to kill everyone that has even a smidgen of the right DNA. The bastards included it in our vaccinating shots!"

"Grandfather's not going to like hearing any of this," sighed Miri.

"No one will."

November 24, 2010

Zion's Children -pt 33

Lily thought they were joking. She said as much. "You can't be serious. I've never had this!"

She had been taking a quick break when the three, Byrin, Marcus and Miri, had called her into the lab. They had come together, not sending just one to come get her. Once inside the lab, with the doors shut, Byrin dropped the bomb saying that she was a survivor.

Marcus pulled his chair close to her. "Lily, you told me that the Flu Scare on your world was what inspired you to go into nursing. Did you get the Flu?"

"Of course I did, my entire family had it."

"Was there anyone who didn't have it?" Byrin asked.

"I suppose. Not everyone will get a disease. You know that. Some people have stronger immune systems...some..." Lily paused. "Wait, you think there's a reason why ConFleet personnel aren't sick and you want to know if the same was true during the Flu Scare."

"Something like that," admitted Byrin.

"Nothing sticks out in my memory," Lily sighed. "But I'll keep thinking."

"Good. Had your world seen anything like this before the Conglomerate came to your world?"

That question caused both Marcus and Miri, as well as Lily, to look at Byrin at surprise.

"Nothing of that magnitude," Lily admitted.

"We never saw anything like this either," Miri commented. "Grandfather has grumbled about that more than once."

"Surely you're not suggesting that the Conglomerate is somehow responsible for this?" asked Marcus, incredulity plain on his face.

"You said it yourself," was Byrin's answer. "Left over antisemitism is still present in our government. To the point that it's holding up partnership with this world."

"Well, yes, but...Byrin what you're suggesting is mass genocide."

"It wouldn't be the first time that's happened to this people group, now would it?"

"But not everyone on a Colony World is of Jewish descent," argued Lily. "Mine were American/English."

"Colony worlds were settled generations ago," Byrin stated evenly. "You're trying to tell me that you've never had any Jewish person marry into the family?"

Lily's mouth hung open. "Ah...Great-grandmother Pearl was Jewish."

"I think that it would be hard to find anyone on a Colony world that doesn't have some Jewish ancestry," Byrin said.

"What you're suggesting, is outrageous!" Marcus shook his head. "But I think you're right. I just don't know how they'd mass infect people."

"Or target a specific group," said Lily.

"DNA." Miri looked at Byrin for confirmation.

"Exactly. It's an artificial virus that has been engineered to target specific DNA strands."

November 22, 2010

Zion's Children - pt 32

Marcus was more than a little surprised to see Byrin and Miri back so early. He had thought, had hoped that the two would stay out all afternoon. Given enough time, the two could become good friends.

"Byrin, Miri? What?"

But Byrin blew on by without so much as glancing at the older doctor.

Miri however paused long enough to say, "He's had some sort of breakthrough..." then she too had disappeared into the lab.

Marcus looked down at the patient he was tending, the persistent Evvie who refused to die. She was too far gone to be aware of anything. He passed the pad in his hand to the nurse attending him, saying, "Keep on with the usual, Amber."

He didn't even hear her reply of, "Yes, doctor," as he too changed course and went to the lab. Inside he saw the basket and blanket from their picnic set in the corner, out of the way no doubt.

Byrin was multi-tasking, calling up information on a couple different computer screens and telling Miri what he wanted as he went. "I'm going to need genetic splices of the virus cells in your blood, mine, and Lily's. And then I'm going to need DNA mapped of each of us."

"What in the world have you stumbled on?" Marcus asked, trying not to get in the way.

"Genetics," Byrin answered, rolling the chair out of his way. "Miri made a comment about 'her' people and it was like lighting struck me. Marcus...everyone tested has had some form of this virus in their blood...but who is dying from it?"

"These people..."

"Colonists, Marcus! Descendants of Exiles. After so many years, all of these people are genetically linked."


"That's what was bothering me about the test results I was looking a right before the just didn't click. Antibodies! The person whose blood I was looking at...had atibodies! I just checked to see who it was. Lily Bennett...another Colony child, has not only had this plague, but she's survived it!"

November 20, 2010

Zion's Children - pt 31

At the touch of his hand, Miri's heart began to beat a thousand times faster. He was going to kiss her...and she was going to let him. She'd never been kissed before...and had often wondered what it would be like. Especially since Byrin had arrived. It had been a pleasant diversion from the death and despair surrounding her.

But at the last moment she turned her face away so that the kiss landed on her cheek, which was now flaming red.

"Miri?" he asked gently. "I'm sorry...I thought..."

"No Byrin, don't apologize," she answered softly. "I like you...a lot. And I'd love to kiss you."

"But?" He ran his hand over her hair, as much to comfort her as to feel its softness.

"It's just not how my people do things." She was alarmed to see his face freeze. "What?"

"What...repeat what you just said..."

"I said, it's not how my people do things. You know, court each other and such..."

"Your people. Miri...that's it." Byrin leapt to his feet quickly. "We have to get back to the lab."

"Ok." She was surprised when he knelt down and helped her put things away.

"We have to hurry," he said. Once she had stood and lifted the basket, he whipped up the blankets and gave it a quick shake to knock dirt and debris away. "I'll kiss you later, however you want, I promise. I've figured out why your people are dying."

Miri hurried.

November 18, 2010

Zion's Children - pt 30

The walk to Lake Aryn took them about half an hour. The farther they got from the city, which had no name that Byrin had ever heard, the clearer the air became. There came sounds of wildlife that Byrin hadn't ever heard here.

Lake Aryn was set far enough into the woods, that Byrin felt cut off from all reality. In the background, were blue mountains that had snow caps on them.

"This is beautiful," Byrin said. He was taken by the view as Miri quietly spread out a blanket, and then began to set out the food.

"Byrin, I'm sorry I sedated you," Miri said quietly as she sat and watched him. "I was worried about you, the way you were talking. You won't do us any good if you burn yourself out. But I should have handled it much differently, and I apologize."

Byrin looked down at her and smiled. "It's alright, Miri. Honestly." He sat down next to her and got comfortable on the blanket. "I should have been taking better care of myself. Besides, Marcus did warn me about the possibility of you sedating me if I didn't take care."

"Oh." Miri didn't know what to say to that. So she changed the subject and wwaived at the foo. "It's not much, but it's good food."

Byrin glanced at the sandwiches and fruits. They did look good. "What kind of meat is in the sandwiches?" he asked, taking one.

"It's roast beef." She had also saved a couple of her cinnamon buns for dessert, but she hadn't puled them out yet.

He took a bite. "It's good," he said around the mouthful. He swallowed. "Tell me about yourself, Miri.

Miri was struck with sudden shyness. "There's not much to tell. Not really. I like to help people, which is why I've ended up in charge of Marc's nurses. What else would you want to know?"

"Would you ever want to leave this planet? See Earth? Alpha Centauri? Y-Tritan?" He wasn't quite sure why he asked, but it came out before he could stop it.

"Sometimes. I'd like to see the planet we came from, walk the land where Christ walked. But I wouldn't want to stay; this is my home. I would be a stranger in a strange land."

"Aren't we all?" wondered Byrin quietly. "I was born in America, or what used to be America."

"I'm aware of Earth history. Before the plague struck, I spent a lot of time reading whatever literature Marcus could get for me. It used to be a beautiful world."

"So you've seen pictures too. Yes, it was. There are still a few parts that weren't touched by the bombs, though. It's not as bad as some of the propaganda would have you believe."

"Where have you been?" Miri asked.

"On Earth, or off?"


"On Earth, I've been across the Atlantic Ocean to most of Europe, such as Italy and Spain. England. I've visited some islands...Hawaii, St. Thomas, Australia." He paused briefly as he remembered. "Germany. I've been to Germany. That was a hard country to visit. They've never recovered."

"Forgiveness can be a hard thing for some people." Miri commented. "I do not think many people who were sent into space as Exiles will ever truly forgive and trust anyone who tolerated the Nazi regime. But I don't think that they should suffer forever because of their sins. I must admit, I've always wanted to see the Fire Rings of Y-Tritan."

"So have I. I've been there, but I've never seen the Fire Rings." Something about the moment caught Byrin by surprise. He was sitting there, looking at her smiling at him. Her hair fell in careless waves framing her tired face, out of which her eyes twinkled with a happy light. The sun was shining down throuh the tree branches, giving the moment an ethereal touch. He leaned foward, touching her face with his hand. He meant to kiss her...

November 16, 2010

Zion's Children - pt. 29

"I thought I told your grandfather to keep you home today!" grumbled a somewhat rested Dr. Hamilton as Miri entered the lab. He had done as he'd intended and had gotten a long enough nap to see himself refreshed.

Byrin turned from his computer and saw a hesitant Miri standing just inside the doorway. He wondered what was in the basket she was holding, but she was talking and it would have been rude to interrupt.

"My understanding of Grandfather's report of your words," Miri was saying, sounding nothing like her usual self, "was that you wanted me to take the day off. You said nothing about my staying home. In fact, Marc, Grandpa approves of my afternoon plans and gave me his blessing."

"Did he now?" Marcus scratced behind his right ear and returned to his seat, not realizing he had stood in the first place. "Well, then my tell me what your plans are and what brings you to the lab?"

"I..." Miri took a deep breath. "I am walking out to Lake Aryn and having a picnic. I was wondering if Byrin might like to come with me?"

"Me?" Byrin was surprised. "I..."

"Oh, go ahead and go with her," Marcus chided. "You haven't gotten that deep into anything that a few hours would hurt."

"I don't know." Byrin considered the info on his computer screen. "I've only just gotten started on the new blood samples."

"The air by Lake Aryn is still fresh," Miri argued. "It will help clear your mind...further..."

Something about the sample information on the screen was bothering him, but he found himself wanting to go with her. He stood, saying, "You're both right. Let's go Miri."

November 14, 2010

Zion's Children - pt. 28

Miri was caught in a dream.

Or was it a nightmare?

Nope, she was a wake. All of this was real.

Sighing, she rolled over in her bed, and saw that it was daylight. And had been day for some time. She ought to bolt from bed, throw on some clothes and race out the door. But she was hesitating, partly out of fear of facing Byrin...and partly because she was tired. Deep inside, where her heart was.

She took a deep breathe, and delighted in the scent of warm cinnamon. It made her think of the cinnamon bread that her grandmother used to make years ago. Grandmother had always made it when she knew that Miri was feeling sad about something, or just didn't feel good. Grandmother...had taken that recipe to the grave with her. Miri had always meant to learn how to make it, but she had never found the time. She'd always had something more "important" to do.

With a heavy heart, she rose from her bed and readied herself for the day.

Miri stopped in her tracks as she came into the kitchen. There on the table, in the spot that Grandfather always set her plate of food for either breakfast or supper, sat a great plate of several rolled cinnamon breads. They were fresh, too, because the white frosting was still dripping from the edged of the buns.

Levi appeared from the pantry, a generous dusting of white powder still on the front of his shirt. "Miri...I was just coming up to check on you."


"What? Didn't know I could cook?" Though Lev looked grim, he was a little amused at the moment.

"No, I know Grandmother's recipe?"

"I know several of her recipes. Sit already, dig in!"

She was hungry...for the first time in days. Miri sat in the wooden chair, only slgihtly aware as her grandfather set a full mug of milk at her elbow. She bit into the warm cinnamon bread...and marveled at how close her grandfather had been at replicating the recipe. "Oh Grandpa..."

"I've talked to Dr. Hamilton a couple times today. He said for you to stay home today and take the day off. He's concerned about how tired you were."

Miri wanted to argue, but didn't have the heart. "How long was I asleep?"

"A long time. It's almost noon."



Miri sighed, but said no more. She finished her bun, and started on a second one. She had all afternoon to do...nothing. She didn't want to stay away from the hospital, but she knew she needed a break. What could one afternoon off hurt? But what would she do?

November 12, 2010

Zion's Children - pt. 27

Byrin woke as quickly as he had passed out. As he had been knocked out. He should be angry with Miri, but oddly enough he wasn't. While he felt a little sluggish, a side effect from the meds, he felt rested. He wondered how long he had slept.

"Good morning," Marcus said, somewhere nearby.

"Is it?" He sat up on the cot, vaguely wondering how he had gotten there. Marus sat in the office chair he usually occupied when sitting, at a computer station close to the door so that he could leave quickly at a moments notice.. "How long have I been out?"

"9 hours. Probably not long enough. Miri only gave you a half dose, but you were tired enough to sleep past the normal time."

"I feel better, so it was good enough." He stretched and rose to his feet. "Is Miri in yet?"

"No. I spoke with Levi a few minutes ago and she's still asleep. After we put you on the cot, I gave her a sleeping pill and sent her home so that she could have a rest as well. We've all been running on empty for too long." Marcus shifted in his seat.

"What about you?" Byrin wondered where he could get something to eat, but didn't voice the question yet. "You don't look like you've slept any time recently."

"I'll be laying down shortly." Marcus smiled tiredly. "I was keeping vigil. Evvie pulled through the night, though just barely. I doubt she'll last much longer. I'm surprised, Bryin, that you're not more upset."

"At what? Miri?" Byrin took a deep breath. "I saw the look on her face, Marcus. It hurt her to do that to me. How can I be angry?" He shrugged. "Women are strange creatures."

"That they are."

"I like her Marcus." Byrin shrugged again, managing not to blush like schoolgirl with her first crush.

"So I've gathered."

"Besides, you did warn me that if I wasn't careful, she'd do exactly what she did."

Marcus chuckled. "I did, didn't I?"

Byrin stretched. "Now, if you'll point me towards some food...I'll recharge and get back on track."

November 10, 2010

Zion's Chidren - pt 26

Marcus Alexander had been sitting beside the resting form of Evvie. She wasn't long for this world. The disease had ravaged her quickly, and the good doctor was going to see her rest in as little pain as medicines would allow.

Had been.

All of a sudden, Miri walked up to him quickly. "Marcus..."

"Is something wrong?" Marcus looked up, but didn't rise to his feet. He didn't know why he asked that question anymore. Something was always wrong.

"Not yet. Please come with me to the lab."

The young woman didn't wait for him to answer. She had barely even stopped.

Sighing, Marcus rose to his feet. Miri didn't seem upset enough to warrant hurrying, so he didn't. Probably Byrin had found something that she didn't want to say where everyone could hear. He stopped to speak to a patient or two on the way.

He entered the lab, just in time to see Byrin collapse into Miri's waiting arms.

"What in the world?" Marcus hurried now and crossed the room quickly. "Has he..." Then he saw the hypo on the floor and the tears on her face. "Miri?"

"I had to, Marc."

He reached out and took some of the other doctor's weight off of her.

She continued speaking as they drug the unconscious doctor to the cot in the corner. "I had to. He isn't sleeping, he's sneaking back after he's left to run more tests. How will he ever find the asnwers if he kills himself?"

"I understand," Marcus said kindly. He helped the young woman cover Byrin with a blanket.

Briefly, she told the older man what Byrin had done.

White eyebrows ruffled. "That's not good. None of it."

" you think he'll..."

"Do I think he'll be mad? Probably." Marcus sighed. "But I also think he'll get over it. Most men do. Now Miri, speaking of sleep...I want you to go home and climb right into bed." He pulled a package out of his pocket. "In fact, do the same thing you just did to Byrin." He handed something to her. "Pop this first, and go to bed."

Miri looked at the small white pill in her hand. The very thought rather made her shudder, but she saw the wisdom in what her friend was saying. "All right."

"And don't worry about Byrin. I'll be here when he wakes up and I'll smooth everything over before you get here."

She nodded. "Very well."

Marcus sighed as she left. Young people! He said a quick prayer over Byrin, then he too left the room. He meant to hold Evvie's hand until she passed into the next world. She wouldn't know, but he would. He might follow his own advice and get some sleep after that, but he doubted he do that until the morning.

November 08, 2010

Zion's Children - pt. 25

Byrin could not rest...every time he tried to lay down to sleep, anxiety drove him to his feet again. So far, the initial sampling of ConFleet personnel's blood had been the same across the board. Only half had been gathered, but he had no doubt that the remaining samples would test positive for inactive virus DNA.

Almost like antibodies.

The thought circled in Byrin's head.

Truth be known, no one was resting well after this discovery. So far, one had requested transfer out.


"I don't understand it Miri," Byrin said to her the next afternoon after she had brought him a tray of supper. It looked like pieces of chicken, or what passed for chicken in this world. The potatoes were recognizable enough, even mashed. He poked at it as he spoke. "We've been working on the assumption that this was a new disease. Something unique to this world. Yet my blood...shows evidence that it's not."

"It's not possible that you've all been exposed since coming here?" Miri sat in the chair next to him. Her other duties had been finished for the night. All she had left was making sure that Byrin had something to eat and left the building at a decent hour.

", it's not." Byrin glanced around the lab cautiously, even though he knew they were alone. "I called a friend in Command, and he sent me some old test results. For myself and a few others. I couldn't ask for all of us."

"Obviously," Miri said quietly.

"The DNA was there before. In every instance." He took a bite of the meat without thinking. Whatever kind of fowl it was, it was very tasty. He took another bite. "It's almost like we've already had the sickness and have antibodies."

"You have antibodies?" Miri's face brightened with hope.

"Almost." Byrin sighed. And that quickly, he'd lost interest in his meal. "The DNA strands don't look like antibodies...not really. It's almost like they're dormant cells."

"Again you say, 'almost'."

"Yes. It's what I don't understand. I feel like I have a ticking time bomb in my veins...but...Miri, one of the tests I did last night was to expose my blood to infected blood. The DNA strands didn't act like antibodies...the virus cells just became inactive."

Miri scowled, for more reasons than just one. She had seen him leave last night, so he must have returned after that. And what he was suggesting wasn't good. "Just like that?"

"Just like that. There was no interaction between the two sets of cells that I could see."

"How many times did you try it?"

"I tried it three seperate times," he admitted. He set his plate of food to the side and rubbed his face tiredly.

"You need sleep," Miri suggested gently.

"I know, I know...but I can't."

He was despairing, Miri realized. Sinking into a deep dark pit where he could see no way out. "I didn't bring you anything to drink," she said suddenly. "Wait here."

"You don't need to..."

But she was gone. Byrin sighed and returned to his computers. For an insane moment, he considered praying. Miri told him from time to time that she was praying for him, that he'd find the answers to save her people. She seems so sure, so confident in the god of her faith. But he...

Something hard and cold pressed to the side of his arm. He turned, startled. Miri stood there, and empty hypo in her hand.

"Forgive me, Byrin," she said, her face white.

Already he felt drowsy. "I'm going to..."

She caught him in her arms as best as she could before he fell to the floor.

November 06, 2010

Zion's Children - pt. 24

Miri's surprise at Lily's admission was quite evident. "You?"

"Yes." Lily couldn't stop herself from blushing. "I surprised you haven't noticed, given how you take care of everyone."

"I have been a bit distracted," murmured Miri, her mind racing. " know, now that you mention it, Doctor Alexander has been a little more chipper since you arrived."

"He's very devoted to your people, Miri," was all Lily could bring herself to say.

"Yes. He's been here for a long time. He's a good man, Lily. And he's a like believer. There's nothing to be ashamed of there."

Lily smiled, though just barely. "This isn't exactly the time to be starting a relationship. Like I said, he's very devoted to your people."

The younger woman didn't have an immediate response. She sat there a moment, looking discretely at the other people. Most were praying on their own, though here and there were a few people praying together. Or praying for each other. She had heard tales of blood fueds ending...of broken friendships being mended...discordant familes reuniting...all because of this plague. "Perhaps this is the best time," she said aloud. "Time is short for many of my people. Many relationships...friendships, families...have been mended because of a close death. No one wants to waste what time we might have left. No one wants regrets. And if Byrin has found the disease in ConFleet people, then you're time could be short as well. Why should we sorrow? I can at least befriend Byrin, witness the love of God to him. He might never believe, but we would be richer for a friendship, and I would have at least tried. At least you don't have that concern."

"No, I guess not. But it would be hard to compete with your people for his attention."

"He might be a compassionate doctor, but he is still a man. If he feels anything for you, the only thing that would hold him back would be a direct 'no' from God. You can at least be his friend. He is a lonely man, Lily, though one wouldn't see it easily. He hides in his work well."

"Don't we all, to some degree?"

"Most likely." Miri took a deep cleansing breath. She was feeling better. God didn't always answer her like she wanted, but He always answered. "Well, shall we return to our duties?"

"Yes. They're probably looking for us by now."

"Then let's not make them look long."

The two women stood up; one graceful, the other unable to take the military out of her manner, but graceful in her own way.

November 04, 2010

Zion's Children - pt. 23

Miri, irate and tired, excused herself from the medical facility. She informed Lily quietly of her departure, stating she was stepping out for some fresh air and would be back shortly. Has she not been so upset by the doctors behavior and remarks, she would have noticed the shocked look on Nurse Bennett's face, as well as the concern. Since she did not, she left before the other woman could ask what was the matter.

Outside, the air was really no fresher. It smelled of death just as much as anywhere else. Still, the light was brighter and encouraging. The air was brisk, though no where near a chilly as it should have been for this time of year. The fluffy clouds in the sky weren't blocking the sun at the moment.

The chapel she sought was a quick walk from the hospital, made quicker by her stride. There were more people inside than there used to be. The recent events had brought even the skepitical of their peopl back to their faith...and tested the most faithful. So far, she had heard of no one deserting their faith, but she hadn't been staying in touch as much as she used to.

Not since Byrin had arrived. Much had changed since then.

She found a quiet corner of the chapel, as alone as she could get amongst so many people beseeching the same God for deliverance. She sat on the floor, drawing her knees to her chest. Her first prayer was that no one would disturb her...that her grandfather would not notice her presence at this time of day, that Marcus or Lily wouldn't follow her...she just wanted to be alone with God.

What would You have me do, Lord? she asked Him silently. Daily I fight this disease as I fight sin. And yet, when I am near this new doctor, I find myself thinking of other things. Wishing he was a believer so that my affections for You see my problem Lord? Even now, he distracts me. I need to focus. How can I help him find answers and I can't do that if I'm worrying about whether he likes me, without worrying if he's eaten much has changed in me since he's arrived. No one has ever affected me like this, always I've been able to focus on You without anyone distracting me. Lord?

There was no answer, no warm presence to assure her that He was there, that He was listening even. She drew a deep breath.

"Miri?" came a soft voice.

She looked up and saw Lily standing not that far from her. She refrained from sighing again. "Yes, is something wrong?"

"I was going to ask you the same thing. Mind if I sit?"

"Go ahead."

Lily sat next to her, her legs crossed Indian style. In her wrinkled ConFleet uniform, she looked uncomfortable and out of place. "You looked upset when you left, and in such a hurry I didn't get chance to ask you what was wrong."

Miri bit of a sharp response. Her people were dying and she was crushing on a silly mane, what could be wrong? Instead she said, "Nothing out of the ordinary."

"I see." Lily leaned against the wall. "It can be hard working with someone you're attracted to, especially in such dire circumstances as we're in. You feel guilty for being wanting to be happy, for dreaming when people you love are dying."

Miri made a noncommital sound. "You know the requirements for our faith. If your 'crush' doesn't believe likewise, what is the point of allowing such feelings continue to distract you?"

"We're only human, Miri." Now Lily sighed. "We can't help who we like, or don't like. Or even who likes us. Emotions are troublesome things."

"Tell me about it!"

Lily hesitated but a heartbeat. "I'm having the same problem, Miri."

November 02, 2010

Zion's Children - pt. 22

"What is this?" Marcus asked, incredulous.

"It's a sample of my blood," Byrin explained.

"I can see that!" exploded Marcus, his temper short these days. No doubt Miri would threaten to sedate him an day now. "What gave you the idea to test your own blood?"

"What better control sample?" Byrin shrugged. "I'd like to draw samples from all CF personnel. I know it'll take a bit of time, which we don't have, but I think it will be vital. This disease is supposed to be new, with no vaccination available yet. But clearly, it's not as new as we've been lead to believe. Bits of its DNA are floating around inactive in my blood. I haven't spliced enough to tell if it's merely dormant, in which case I'll eventually get sick as well, or if it's dead."

"Bloody hell," the older doctor said, out of character. "Get to splicing then! I'll see that you get your other samples. Miri..."

"I'll get Lily started on it right away." She left the room quickly, a chilliness to her graceful stride.

"You need a nap," Byrin said gently. "Before Miri takes matters into her own hands."

"She'll put you down just as quick." But Doctor Alexander lowered himself into a chair with a deep sigh. "None of us has been sleeping well, Byrin. Not even Miri, though she hides it better than most. Levi..."

Byrin sat in the other chair, and rolled over to his superior officer and friend. "No, this isn't easy on any of us. These people shouldn't be dying. Levi what? Has he been pressuring you?" His own interaction with the old man had been limited and intimidating.

"No, no...nothing like that. Archie was telling me just this morning how Levi tells him how often he finds Miri asleep by the side of her bed. Poor girl prays and cries herself to sleep."

Byrin wondered what she prayed...wondered how she could still pray after seeing so much death.

"And you'd never tell it by looking at her," Marcus continued. "Must be her youth."

"She's not that much younger than myself," Byrin pointed out.

"I know," the other man said in an odd tone.

Byrin opened his mouth to question him on it, but the woman discussed reentered the room at that moment.

"Nurse Bennett recovered from her surprise at the request nicely, and has started the task already." Miri handed over a vial. "This is her blood, as I've noted on the side. She thinks that it will be complete by late tomorrow." She picked up a nearby hypo.

Marcus held up both hands in protest. "Now Miri, jut because I've been irritable doesn't mean you need to sedate me. Not yet."

Her eyebrows shot up. "I wasn't going to. I was going to help Lily by drawing your blood for this, since you're right here. However, if you're tired enough to be wary of me..."

He guffawed. "I promise to lay down for a little after this, I promise."

"Then I shall hold you to that. Now, give me your arm."

When done, she marked the vial and handed it to Byrin. "I do not know what inspired you to check your own blood...and neglect to keep me informed...but I hope it leads us to some answers. And soon."

So that's why she had a bee in her bonnet, mused Byrin as he took the second vial of blood. "You had already left for the night, Miri. I apologize for not calling you from your bed."

"Sarcasm is not an attractive quality," Miri snapped back.

Marcus cleared his throat. "I'm not the only one in need of a nap, now am I?"

"Indeed," remarked Byrin as the young woman turned red and left the room.

October 31, 2010

Zion's Children - pt. 21

In a very short time, life became routine to the newcomers.

Lily Bennett did her duty, tended to the sick and the dying, and slept poorly. She found herself growing to like many of the people she ended up covering with a sheet. They fought to the end with such a cheerful attitude that she felt guilty for not wanting to be here in the first place. Just like her ancestors had never asked to be Exiled, neither had their ancestors. They were here against their will as well. And just like her world had never asked for the Flu Scare, neither had these people asked for this disease to ravage theirs.

Byrin Gold worked hard and slept little. He ate even less, though Miri managed to get a bite or two into him each day. He gathered new data, and reviewed the old, finding only new questions and no answers. He didn't interact with the patients as much as Marcus and the nurses did, but each time he questioned one of them about their earliest symptoms his desire to end this disease grew. Each colonist had been given the standard vaccinations when the Conglomerate had first sent ships to this world.

The two new nurses, whose names Byrin had never bothered to learn (Amber Linderman and Rose Montoya) worked different shifts. Amber nursed patients during the day, Rose at night. They saw each other at shift change, and some meals. They both longed to go home, but were compassionate enough to truly care for their patients.

The first two weeks the days passed by with little change for any of them. Somehow though, they all managed to make a few new friends. Miri was loved by all, as she showed love to all without judgment. Marcus spent much time with Byrin, learning as much from the younger man as he was teaching.

Lily, despite her hardline Christianity, grew to like Amber and Rose as nurses and even a little personally. She did not agree with their lifestyle, but they were dedicated nurses. She dealt mainly with Amber, who had a keen sense of humor, but heard good reports about Rose from nightshift. She also enjoyed her time each day with Marcus, wishing circumstances allowed for personal affections to grow.

Somehow, Byrin learned to work around his attraction to Miri. He knew it was there, but would have denied if anyone else suspected and questioned him on it. When he allowed his mind to ponder it, it the quiet hours he pretended to sleep (for her sake)...he knew great frustration because he could see that she believed the same as Lily and knew that a distant admiration was all she'd ever allow. Which is why he didn't ponder her care of him, or allow himself to imagine that she equally admired him. These people were dying, and if he allowed himself to be distracted by fantasies, the very woman he admired would die as well.

But things changed the day Byrin decided to draw a sample of his own blood...

October 30, 2010

Zion's Children - pt. 20

It was late when Miriam returned to the small home she shared with her grandfather. It had been a long day of assisting Byrin in the lab. The man seldom took a break and even if he wasn't wearing himself down, he was pushing her to her limits. After all, she was only human.

She paused in the small living room, listening. Above the gentle breeze whistling through the windows, she could hear her grandfather snoring. This little house of theirs was old, had been old when Levi had been young. Miri sometimes thought he had forgotten what it was like to be young, but then he was from a different generation. His parents were children of the Exile. Great-Grandma Bernice had been 16 when she'd been shipped here, she had met her husband here 3 years later. Great-Grandpa Joshua had been 15 when he'd arrived.

Today's development had been far from encouraging in the lab. She doubted she understood the science of it any better than the doctors. How could a virus keep on living and replicating after its host body was dead? There was no new energy to be had, so how did they keep going?

Marcus and Byrin had discussed digging up older bodies, but had decided not to. They didn't think it necessary at this point to risk offending any colonists, and they didn't think they'd have her grandfather's permission anyways. She knew he would deny them, if they ever asked. He was very touchy about the dead. She didn't relish the though herself, but she had to admit that she was as curious as the doctors. What happened when there was nothing left for the virus to consume?

Did it turn on the other raw materials present? The wrappings and the coffin? What if it all turned liquid and managed to seep out the wooden coffins? If it was capable of consuming other organic lifeforms, would it ravage the world? But if it was able to do that, why hadn't it already?

None of it was pleasant thinking for this time of night.

She skipped the meal her grandfather had left warming for her and went straight to her small room. The bed was not large, but it was almost comfortable. Still, she didn't lay down yet. She knelt by its side and lowered her head atop her hands.

"Please God...end this suffering. Have Your people not suffered enough at the hands of their enemy?" Tears leaked from her eyes in a steady streak, running across her folded hands onto her bed coverings. "Your people here are dying. They have died other worlds. It's not the dying...the crossing over into Your's the suffering. Please God...ease our pain...take away this sickness...please..."

Hours later when Levi came to check on her, Miri was fast asleep in the kneeling position. Her body lax against the bed, tear stained still damp. With gentle hands, he lifted his granddaughter and managed to get her under the covers without waking her. He found her such many nights, and doubtless it would continue until the disease had wiped them all out. Still, he added his own petitions to hers as he laid himself back in his own bed.

"Please God...let this end..."