Barb couldn't help the sheepish grin on her face as she scaled the stairs two at a time, hearing Dirth's breathing behind her. He was back. They were back.
"Little out of shape there?" she joked. Her grin disappeared as soon as she looked back and saw the heavy anguish painted across his face. Her foot hung in the air, mid-step. "Are you OK?"
He looked up at her, doubled over at the waist. "I can't… feel… my legs." He toppled to the ground, his large body splaying awkwardly across the stairs.
Barb hurried down to kneel beside him. She picked up his hand. It was trembling.
"Come on Dirth, you can do this. We're almost there."
"I saw…" he heaved, "A vision." Barb looked deep into his eyes. "I think it was my son." A liquid layer gleamed where she watched him, and a big tear formed at the corner of his eye. "I can't, quite, explain it." He breathed in through his mouth, raspy and wet. "But I seem to know it in my heart." Barb wiped the cascading tear off his face with her thumb. "The woman, back there, said I might remember, more, when I woke up." Another tear, ready to plunge. "Do you know if she's right? Is it true? I have a son?"
Barb nodded. It was her turn to cry. "You have a partner. And she was pregnant." A laugh escaped her. "Well, what did he look like?"
Dirth smiled in relief. "He looked beautiful. He was just a baby." Then, a breath in his eyes like he was seeing an open sky. "Kaemi…" he said the name with wonder.
"Yes." Barb wiped her own tears away. "That was her name. But we haven't seen them in a few days. And we don't know what happened to them. There was a war –"
"I do…" he whispered. "I do know."
Barb marveled aloud. "What did they do to you in there? Make you prophetic?" Her joke fell on distant ears.
"I was always part… seer…" Suddenly the breaths grew more ragged and started rattling out of him, rousing Barb to action.
"Come on, Dirth, get up, we need to get out of here!" She tried to wedge her shoulder under his arm. His face scrunched up in pain.
"No, I can't," His head dropped down. "It must be the visions. I'm numb. I can't. Barb," He looked up into her eyes. "I can't."
"Hey Barb?" came Lisa's voice over the comm. "What's going on? Graves is out of the med room and he is on the move. He looks concerned. We think he's looking for you."
Dirth let out a low, slow groan.
"Dirth can't move," Barb answered urgently. "We're in the stairwell, but he can't move. I need help! Can you send someone?" Her voice echoed loudly up and down the walls. "I'm scared he's gonna die or something; I don't know what's happening!"
"OK," Lisa said calmly. "Just stay calm, Barb, we're gonna figure this out. I'll send Chungrae as soon as I can – MB Lews is hot on him right now."
"What did they do to him?!" Dirth's eyes rolled back in his head. "He's not himself, he's not responding, he's –"
"Adams is looking into what they did to him in there. But right now we just need to focus on getting you both up to the glider."
"I can't lift him on my own," Barb answered, trying to soothe the rising panic in her veins. "I really need help; I mean, his eyes…" Dirth's eyelids started fluttering open and shut. "They're closing, or something. I think he's fading. I need help!"
"Stay calm Barb, it'll be OK," Lisa assured her. "I'm sending Chungrae now."
"Send everyone!" Barb cried. "I mean he needs help, he needs medical attention! I don't care who knows!"
"Barb…" Lisa said, more hesitantly now. "We can't call everyone. We don't know what's going on right now, or who we can trust. Nothing is as it seems, and we don't know what they did to him. We don't even know who 'they' is!"
Barb stifled one gasped scream with her hand. Nobody knew anything and everything was bad. She took a few heaving breaths and tossed her head to get the hair out of her face. With extra-ordinary strength, she bolstered Dirth across her shoulders and raised him into a standing position so he leaned against her. For a second she felt the stairwell around her spin and her legs quake. She was running on fumes.
"Well then screw you guys." With one tremendous huff, she lifted Dirth clear onto her shoulders and took one big step up the stairs. "One!" she shouted, "Two!" She felt herself start to buckle at the waist and took another deep breath in to strengthen her core. "Three!"
After what felt like an eternity this way, Barb reached the roof access door and shoved it open with her side. Every muscle ached as she stepped onto the roof, dragging Dirth along with her. The Glider was there.
Tears of joy burst from her eyes. "We're here!" she cried, into her comm.
A sharp tinny pulse came through her ears. Were they trying to talk to her? The tinny pulse sounded again.
"Hello? Hello?!" Barb cried into the void.
"Oh agatha," came Lisa's voice, quiet now, revealing nothing.
"What? What is it?"
"That sound." There was a long pause. "It's… it's the health monitor they have on Dirth. Adams just patched me into it."
"Yeah, and?" Barb could feel Dirth's weight bearing down on her. "What? What is it?!"
"My screen's red, Barb," Lisa said finally, a searing pain constricting her throat. "Because…I think… that means he's dead."
"What? No!" Barb let Dirth's hanging body slide them both to the floor. She swiped the hair out of his face and peered into his closed eyes. "No, no, no…" She let her fingers run along his neck to feel for a pulse. He was so warm. "No, no, no…" She stacked her hands on top of each other and placed them over his heart. She began to pump, hard. "Do you hear me, Dirth? No!" She threw all her weight down into him, the night sky an ebony blue fading fast around her. "Will someone send some fucking help!"
"Barb, I…" came Lisa's voice, helpless, once again. Barb grabbed the comm from her ear and flung it away. That was enough of that. They weren't helping her.
"Dirth, come on!" she fought. "Don't you want to see Kaemi! And your son? You haven't even given him a name yet! Don't you think you need to do that, Dirth? Don't you? Huh? Come on, wake the FUCK up so you can name your son!" Her mouth dropped open in a loose, angry howl. "Come ON!"
After so much unparalleled exertion, Barb's arms had turned to jelly. Her back and stomach quivered with pain. She tumbled on top of him in a bedraggled heap, begging him to stay. "Please, Dirth, don't leave…" Nothing else mattered now. She had no one. No Connor, no Bob, no Sandy, no home. She wasn't even on the right side. If she didn't have Dirth…
As the sky turned a raisin purple around her, strong arms lifted her up and hoisted her into the glider. Doors sealed and tiny gasps of air prepped her for flight. As she shuddered and sobbed in the thin blanket wrapped around her, she failed to notice the sky begin to glow as the sun slowly wakened. Gray-streaked clouds came into view. Only in the fading moments before she cried herself to sleep did she remember Chungrae's waving hand as the glider carried her off once more into the lightening day.