Byrin flicked the computer screen off. Disgusted, he could no longer look at it. "Why do you think Miri is taking longer than the others to bounce back?" he asked the nurse sitting next to him.
Lily Bennett smiled gently. "I don't think that she is. She was hit harder than some because she gave herself an advanced version of the virus, and she was exhausted at the time no matter how much sleep she'd just had. Not to mention that she's probably also a bit more, shall we say, genetically pure than most. And she's not the only one that was hit hard. She's just the one you care about the most."
"That's..." He found that he couldn't deny it. "...very observant of you."
Lily smiled broader. "It's part of what I do."
He chuckled. "I do care about her; a lot. I..." Byrin rubbed his hands over his face. "I need sleep. I'll tackle this again in the morning, I guess. I mean, it still doesn't answer the question about why the virus activates in test tubes, or why it continues to break down after the person is deceased."
Lily nodded. "Sleep sounds like a good idea. Byrin, have you ever considered the possibility that the virus acts the way it does, simply because that's how it was made?"
Byrin stopped in the middle of standing, considering her question. "Because it's been programmed. It's not some virus they found and mutated, they made the entire thing." He ran the idea over in his head, and finished standing. "It does have that look about it now that you mention it. It could be that they've been testing this for years, on Exile worlds like Zeta Muria...and Beta Talisman. I bet if I ran a search on the previous Exile Colonies that have been partnered, I'd find similar outbreaks."
"I wonder if they're perfecting it for a specific release, or if they just want to 'tag' anyone with the right genetic markers?" Lily pondered out loud.
"Either. Both, maybe. Lily, why haven't you ever shared these ideas with me before?"
The nurse answered with a shrug. "I wasn't assigned to help you, remember? Besides, why would I think that the famous genius Byrin Gold would need help anyway? Especially mine?"
Byrin grimaced. "Do I really come off that conceited?"
"Only most of the time. We learn to like you anyway."
Byrin chuckled as if embarrassed. "Gee, thanks."
Lily stood to her feet, to better look him in the eye. "Seriously, Byrin. I've come to like you a lot better than I did on the trip out here. I certainly respect you more. For all your bluster, you genuinely care for your patients. And you've fought for these people, to the point of exhaustion. We'll never be romantic, they way you wanted on the way out here, but I think we could be friends. Besides, like I said. You care for Miri, so I don't think you want anything like that from me anymore."
"No, I don't. No offense, you're still a beautiful woman." He smiled at her.
"I still have the same problem though," Byrin sighed. "You both have the same belief system."
Lily paused, then seized the moment and prayed it wouldn't get her reported; they were not speaking as officers right now anyway. "Byrin, if Miri is the second Christian you've found yourself attracted to recently, maybe you need to consider why. Maybe God is trying to get your attention."