One Year Later

While he'd never thought he'd return to Celis IX, but now here Rick stood, holding hands with Crienna, the attractive Terlix woman he'd met during his recent travels, talking to a familiar doctor while an old friend died in the next room.

"Is there anything you can do?" Rick asked while a lump formed in his throat.

Grim-faced, the doctor shook his head and said, "Human physiology is strange, I've never seen anything quite like it. Apparently, it's lethally dangerous for your species to breed with any other species."

"I'm aware of that," Rick growled.

"Well, this girl, Karen, made a great mistake," the doctor murmured. "She's pregnant by a species called Uru'um, and she miscarried this afternoon. Her lover rushed her to the hospital, but frankly, at this point there's nothing I can do but make her more comfortable."

Suddenly aware that the doctor didn't realize Rick and Karen were the last of their species, he asked, "How did you know to contact me?"

"Karen had some sort of note about it in her personal belongings," the doctor answered. "Uru'um wasn't thrilled about me contacting another man, but when a patient is in Karen's condition, we do what we can to honor her dying wishes."

"I understand," Rick answered. "Luckily, we were passing through the system today and able to make it in time."

"Would you like to see her?" the doctor asked.

"Yes."

As they strode through the back rooms leading to the one where Karen lay dying, Crienna reached for Rick's hand and intertwined their fingers. "Are you all right?" she asked.

"Fine," he grunted, despite the curiously dead pit in his stomach. "We were never really close, actually. I only knew her a few days."

"Then why would she want you contacted?" Crienna mused.

"I can only guess," Rick answered, although he'd already developed his own fairly-certain theory. Crienna didn't need to hear the truth right then, though.

As they walked, they passed a crying spiked man, and Rick recognized him as the man Karen had danced with the night before he'd left the planet forever. So, something had come of that tryst after all.

Finally, they reached the room where Karen lay. Seeing the tiny woman on the bed, filled with needles and surrounded by machinery, Rick was reminded once more of Regun, and how she'd died before him. Her ghost seemed to flicker at the corner of his eye, blaming him for rejecting Karen and sending her down the same path toward death.

Crienna slipped a comforting hand onto Rick's shoulder as he sighed. He suddenly felt very cold inside.

The End.