A meeting in the Global Regime’s International Space Station, three hours after the blast.
The deadline came and they gathered again in front of the blank video monitor. “We’ll do this by secret ballot,” Archie said, handing out slips of blue lab paper. “Just write ‘go’ if you want to return, and ‘stay’ if you don’t.”
The room was silent as each wrote the word that would determine how they were to die. One by one, they gave their folded papers to Archie. One by one, he opened them, read the choices aloud, and placed them carefully to his left or his right. “One for ‘stay’,” he began. “Another for ‘stay’. One for ‘go’. Another for ‘stay’.” He paused, read the last two without expression, then put them on his right. “Both of these are for going.”
“Wait a minute,” Charles said. “That’s only six. Someone’s missing.”
Archie looked around. Carter, Rudzinski, and Chang were there; Glaston, Redmond and himself. A creak of shoe leather by the cabin door drew their attention to the Russian. He stood, leaning on the door jam, frowning as always.
“Zinovy,” the commander said. “Yours is the deciding vote. Do we go or stay?”
Charles broke in: “It should not be up to him, of all of us. He’s the least. . .”
“Quiet, Charles,” Archie barked. “He has an equal right.”
Two brightly invisible beings stood in the back of the room.
“He is a mystery,” one said to the other. “What will he choose?”
“Look at him. What do you see?”
The bright one studied the tall cosmonaut looming in the doorway, muscled arms folded across a deep chest, dark hair sweeping over the high forehead, curling down around the ears.
His gaze traveled to the face, carved with rugged, Cossack-like features, its sternness accented by a jagged scar over the right brow, but broken by a dimple in the chin that could have held laughter at one time.
“His face looks. . .it looks empty.”
“Look at the eyes.”
The bright one shifted his gaze. “Oh, my God.” A silence.
“Always look at the eyes.”
“So he will choose. . .?”
“He will make the right choice.”
The taller of the bright ones turned. “But your concern is with the other, as you’ve requested. I will deal with this one.