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The emptiness in David Becker’s mind was absolute. I am dead. And yet there was a sound. A distant voice . . .


There was a dizzying burning beneath his arm. His blood was filled with fire. My body is not my own. And yet there was a voice, calling to him. It was thin, distant. But it was part of him. There were other voices too‑unfamiliar, unimportant. Calling out. He fought to block them out. There was only one voice that mattered. It faded in and out.

“David . . . I’m sorry . . .”

There was a mottled light. Faint at first, a single slit of grayness. Growing. Becker tried to move. Pain. He tried to speak. Silence. The voice kept calling.

Someone was near him, lifting him. Becker moved toward the voice. Or was he being moved? It was calling. He gazed absently at the illuminated image. He could see her on a small screen. It was a woman, staring up at him from another world. Is she watching me die?

“David . . .”

The voice was familiar. She was an angel. She had come for him. The angel spoke. “David, I love you.”

Suddenly he knew.

* * *

Susan reached out toward the screen, crying, laughing, lost in a torrent of emotions. She wiped fiercely at her tears. “David, I‑I thought . . .”

Field Agent Smith eased David Becker into the seat facing the monitor. “He’s a little woozy, ma'am. Give him a second.”

“B‑but,” Susan was stammering, “I saw a transmission. It said . . .”

Smith nodded. “We saw it too. Hulohot counted his chickens a little early.”

“But the blood . . .”

“Flesh wound,” Smith replied. “We slapped a gauze on it.”

Susan couldn’t speak.

Agent Coliander piped in from off camera. “We hit him with the new J23‑long‑acting stun gun. Probably hurt like hell, but we got him off the street.”

“Don’t worry, ma'am,” Smith assured. “He’ll be fine.”

David Becker stared at the TV monitor in front of him. He was disoriented, light‑headed. The image on the screen was of a room‑a room filled with chaos. Susan was there. She was standing on an open patch of floor, gazing up at him.

She was crying and laughing. “David. Thank God! I thought I had lost you!”

He rubbed his temple. He moved in front of the screen and pulled the gooseneck microphone toward his mouth. “Susan?”

Susan gazed up in wonder. David’s rugged features now filled the entire wall before her. His voice boomed.

“Susan, I need to ask you something.” The resonance and volume of Becker’s voice seemed to momentarily suspend the action in the databank. Everyone stopped midstride and turned.

“Susan Fletcher,” the voice resonated, “will you marry me?”

A hush spread across the room. A clipboard clattered to the floor along with a mug of pencils. No one bent to pick them up. There was only the faint hum of the terminal fans and the sound of David Becker’s steady breathing in his microphone.

“D‑David . . .” Susan stammered, unaware that thirty‑seven people stood riveted behind her. “You already asked me, remember? Five months ago. I said yes.”

“I know.” He smiled. “But this time"‑he extended his left hand into the camera and displayed a golden band on his fourth finger‑"this time I have a ring.”