“You’re up.” Gelb Harrington jerked his thumb at the door. “Neltoq Adjooshian. Ultoq, male, 40 solar years old.”

“Ultoq?” I said. “I haven’t trained with them! I don’t have the…the necessary background to even begin to-”

“Yeah, I know. You handle Type G organisms only, with Type Q in emergencies.” Gelb was smoking again, in defiance of regulations, and let the ash build up at the end of his cigar. “But Albert is out today. Last minute. Grandmother. Very sad. You’re up.”

“Surely Mil’Raq could-” I tried again.

“Spoken for. Listen, it’s not my first choice, but I’ve done my homework. You’re it.” Gelb noticed an empty cup in my trash, he scooped it up and let the ashes begin fluttering down into it.

My assistant pinged as Neltoq’s file was uploaded. “It says that he’s considering ending his life,” I said. “Really? He’s suicidal?”

“After a fashion,” Gelb said. “He’s also one of the key scientific advisors on the Project. Let me be clear about this. Crystal. Under no circumstances is Neltoq to end his life, do you understand? He is too essential to the Project to be let go.”

“Now you know that I can’t promise that,” I said. “Counseling is a varied field. While it’s inadvisable for humans and most other Type G organisms, some like the Oeilverti can suffer irreparable damage to their genome if they don’t self-terminate by their sunset date. And of course the Type Q-”

“Save it,” barked Gelb. “Your appointment is in 15 minutes.”

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