The Dilemma, 1

As devastating as the doomsday revelation had been, Nikolas realized that the days going forward would be far more difficult to endure. Those lucky enough to be offered a place in the survival attempt would be faced with the knowledge that their loved ones would be excluded. It was easy, he admitted with some shame, to think about the upheaval in the lives of the scientists and technicians and doctors who would make the attempt at survival. They would be forced to temper the hope they felt against the crushing knowledge of certain loss of everyone and everything they held dear. At least they would have the excuse of being powerless to change the situation. To some degree their values could be quantified. Each was chosen solely on what he or she would bring to the endeavor: knowledge, skill, thought. No such excuse would exist for those making the decisions of death and possible life.

Like him.

It had been more than a month since Nikolas had given his father the final list of servants to make the survival attempt. Not a day went by that he did not second-guess each of the choices he had made. It grew harder and harder to interact each day with the limited staff ensconced on Spoon Island knowing that some of them would not be included when the time came.

That time was almost upon them. Soon the only occupants of Wyndemere would be limited to those making the attempt to survive the approaching disaster. When Nikolas asked his father about the fate of the servants that had not been chosen by him, Stefan assured him that a single flight was reserved to ferry them back across the ocean to Greece before international travel became impossible. All that would be left to do, Stefan continued, would be to gather up all the others chosen to attempt survival and transport them to Wyndemere.

Nikolas was so focused on the startling variety of experts already at Wyndemere that he did not think about the other component of people that would make up the group until much later. He realized with a start sometime around midnight that he had not seen the completed list of those who would make the attempt at survival.

Though he was certain that his Spencer family would be listed, Nikolas needed to see it for himself. Gia firmly put a stop to his intention to go and knock on his father's suite right then and demand to be reassured of his concerns. She reminded her husband that - disaster or not - Nikolas was still Prince of the family. He only had to state his wishes to have them be so.

As soon as dawn broke Nikolas rose from bed and made his way to the Great Hall. It had been made the staging area for all the up-to-date planning and execution of what he now thought of -and referred to in conversations with his father- as ‘The Attempt’.

Upon first glance, the Great Hall seemed unchanged. The long wooden table (capable of easily seating over 100) was still in place but now all around the room small round tables were placed like moons in orbit around a planet. Every day they seated more and more occupants.

From the very first arrival, the experts selected had convened in the Great Hall. People were busy reading documents and sharing murmured conversations. At any moment one of the experts there might be pulled into a discussion seemingly outside his or her range of expertise. Two days earlier Nikolas observed one such instance between the family's personal pilot and an Olympic freestyle swimmer. He was not privy to their quiet discussion but each seemed deeply interested in the other’s dialogue.

Today an animated ‘disagreement’ between a renowned surgeon and an English seamstress held the attention of those near the far end of the room. At least for a moment. Attentions soon returned to the tasks at hand.

Nikolas spotted his father deep in conversation with a Somali woman with a vaguely familiar face. Her keen, elfin features tugged at Nikolas as he approached the pair. Steps away, he recalled with a nod just why she seemed so familiar. Her powerful, understated performance in a recent highly attended motion picture had garnered talk of her profession's highest award.

“Iska waran, young Emir.”

Nikolas nodded politely at the friendly greeting. “Allow me to introduce Khaali Siyaad Bedri. Despite her questionable career choice to affiliate herself with the Hollywood community,” Stefan’s eyebrow rose imperiously, “I assure you that she is possessed of a quite superior intellect. She is,” Stefan explained, "a remarkable mimic and phonetician. And adept at a number of dialects that I have not yet mastered.”

At any other time Nikolas would have been fascinated by his father’s admission. For as long as he could remember, members of the Cassadine family had marveled at the sheer number of languages Stefan spoke -both fluently and conversationally. Most of them would be skeptical to believe that there was someone who outdid his accomplishment.

Khaali Siyaad murmured a soft response in Russian and excused herself from their presence. “I need to see your final list,” Nikolas began without preamble as soon as the beautiful actress had crossed the room.

Stefan raised a brow at the lack of address. “Good morning, Father,” Nikolas automatically corrected through gritted teeth. A lifetime of training made the response to censure second nature. Nikolas could not have ignored the instinct if he’d tried. "I need to see your final list. I need to make certain that a number of open berths are available when we attempt survival.” It was not a request. “I need room -at the least- for my mother, Lucky, Aunt Bobbie and Lulu.”

Stefan showed no reaction to his son’s demand. “I am gratified to see that you at least realize Luke Spencer's presence during such a feat is what American lingo would term a ‘non -starter’," he replied.

Nikolas bristled at the pointed observation. “I am aware of the danger Luke Spencer's disruptive behavior would pose. This isn't about him.”

"Yet without his presence, Laura will not make the attempt. Nor will your brother Lorenzo,” Stefan added. “Barbara will choose to forego the opportunity to survive in order to be near Caroline, who will not accept an invitation that does not include Michael Corinthos or Jason Morgan."

“Then you have to make them come! Whatever it takes!” Despite his resolve, Nikolas couldn't disguise the desperation in his voice. “Lock Luke Spencer away until it's over!”

Stefan gently cupped Nikolas’ face. “In giving me you, Laura has earned a debt from me that I can never repay. But I will not condemn this effort to failure before it is even begun. If -when the time comes- you are unable to convince Laura to accept the place reserved for her, so be it.

 

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