The small hospital’s surgical room was crowded with family and close friends. It was a rare occasion. On most planets, including New Hope, babies were born in birthing chambers often referred to as “artificial wombs.” Only rich eccentrics and the poor living in the shadows of society had babies as nature had originally intended. In her long career, Doctor Elizabeth Jordan had delivered dozens of babies at her modest clinic near the space port.
“Nina? Nina, don’t let go. Oh, shit!” screamed Pearl, “I’m burning and my insides are about to pop out!” Pearl was reclining nearly in an upright position. The table had been reconfigured for delivery. Dr. Jordan’s stool was so low she was practically sitting on the floor. Nina was on Pearl’s right holding her hand and relaying instructions from the doctor.
“Hold on, breathe, Pearl, breathe.” Nina whispered as Pearl squeezed her hand.
“Ah, we are crowning. Now, mother give me a good push with the next contraction.” said Dr. Jordan.
“This is exciting!” exclaimed Vivien. “Usually when I’m this excited around Pearl, bullets are flying accompanied by small explosions.”
“Oh, this is gross. When Ronald and I start having children, I’m definitely using an artificial womb.” said Denise. “I imagine Pearl will have to settle down, now she’s got a baby to look after.”
“Phew! A lot you know.” chimed in Mrs. Chang. “Having a baby is just the start of many adventures. You see. Baby good for Nina and Pearl. Make strong family.”
“I’m glad I was able to take a furlough and not miss this.” said Katie.
“It’s the least they could do since you let Lt. Probst get all of the glory for capturing that rogue general.” added Tanya Yates.
“Now Sergeant Tanya Yates, there’ll be no more talking shop at the birth of my baby sister. By now, you should know that it is the Star Army way to reward their officers. If you’d just look at the facts, you’d see that Lt. Probst only got a citation for breaking up a smuggling ring. He didn’t get a medal or a promotion. Star Army wouldn’t even admit that they had a rogue general passing technology to a hostile government.” replied Katie.
Just a few months earlier New Hope’s sun had ejected a large amount of plasma forcing everyone to seek shelter as the planet was bathed in radiation. Gaean Prime and Gryphon IV forces that had been conducting war games on the planet shifted focus and helped the planet recover. They helped repair infrastructure electronics, provided medical assistance and augmented New Hope City’s police, fire, and rescue services. The Xeog carrack, Lannah d’Tule, also assisted in the emergency helping to repair the GPS and other monitoring satellites on which New Hope heavily depended.
They, the Xeog, were saddened by the loss of Azumi, but also intrigued that a Kabasu would take a Xeog back to her home world. Azumi’s disappearance also produced awkwardness in that Azumi’s assets and business dealings were things the Xeog government did not wish to be associated with. So, a mysterious will appeared leaving Azumi’s condominium, a lucrative escort service, and partnership in the White Rabbit Night Club to Pearl. Pearl dissolved the escort service and sold the condo. With the money from the condo, she and Nina had a house built on the edge of town. Technically, they were still in the city limits, but the center of New Hope City was a good thirty minute commute away. The neighborhood they had chosen for their home was nestled among the huge Agriculture or “Ag” domes. The area residents worked in one of the domes or the power plant or made the long commute into the city.
The birthing vids had emphasized riding the contractions of labor like floating on rhythmic ocean waves. Pearl had never spent any time at the beaches of New Hope’s small ocean. The only floating she was familiar with was floating in zero-g since she had grown up on a space station. Nina was her lifesaver. Nina was somehow linked into Pearl’s body and was able to help Pearl with the breathing and pushing. Pearl was tired and ready for it to be over. Her hair was pasted to her face with sweat, she was hot and cold at the same time. Her teeth chattered and she had passed the worse smelling gas in her life.
“Here it comes.” whispered Nina. “Push, mistress, push.” Pearl gritted her teeth and pushed. In a brief flash, the baby’s head and shoulders pushed through and the baby practically fell into Dr. Jordan’s hands. The room was filled with gasps and “oohs” and “ahhs”. The baby drew its first breath and then began to change color as she filled her body with air.
“Uhh, the baby is green. Pearl’s baby has green skin?” asked Denise.
“Of course, silly.” replied Vivian, “She’s part Xeog.”
Dr. Jordan had cut the cord and given the baby girl to a nurse who began cleaning the baby while the doctor checked on Pearl. When she was satisfied the new mother was ok, Dr. Jordan stood up and took the baby from the nurse. She turned to Pearl and Nina. “It is an old tradition to let the spouse present the new born to her mother, so Nina, here is your daughter. Nina’s best impassive expression betrayed a slight bit of confusion.
“Go, ahead honey, just like we talked about.” said Pearl.
Nina cradled the baby where everyone in the room could see. “You are our family,” she began “and it is my pleasure to introduce the newest member of our family, our daughter, Jun Kay Lemay.” She handed the infant into Pearl’s arms. With tears in her eyes, an exhausted Pearl held little Jun close and beamed.
3 years later
Colonel John Forrest looked over the latest mission analysis. It was another disaster. The simulation projected the odds for mission success at 18 percent and the odds for team survival at a nice big zero. The mission was to find out why a Z-lab had gone silent, a particularly nasty Z-lab. The best option was to nuke the lab, but the brass wouldn’t go for that. They would rather expend lives, good lives, to recover whatever was in that lab. There was an asset the simulations showed that would increase the mission success to over 50 percent. An asset which officially didn’t exist. Yet, it did exist, but was so rare as to be nearly undetectable. All he could do was change the parameters and run the simulation again. Hopefully he could get the success rate up a few percentage points before they arrived at the lab.
A knock came at his cabin door. “Enter.” he said.
“Sir, we may have found one.” said an excited Captain Louden.
Nina had finished loading the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher. She was enjoying a last cup of tea and looking out of the kitchen window. There were two plum trees in the back yard struggling to survive. Pearl had become an environmental activist. She was convinced that if New Hope became more habitable, then more good people would come to New Hope and make the planet less desirable for “less desirable” people.
A giggling naked little girl with long dark brown hair and bright green skin ran through the kitchen and into the laundry room. “Jun, Jun, honey. We need to get dressed so we can go.” Pearl said as she walked into the kitchen. “Nina, did you see where she went?”
“You will find her in the clothes hamper in the laundry room. It’s her new favorite hiding place.”
She was barefoot, wearing shorts, and a faded yellow tank top straining to cover ample breasts. She had a massive amount of red hair and full lips. But her eyes, her eyes were cold and fierce. “May I help you?” she asked.
“Yes,” the colonel began “I’d like to speak to Ms. Lemay.”
“I’m Ms. Lemay.” she said.
“Ms. Nina Lemay?” he asked.
“Yes, I’m Nina Lemay.” she replied.
He smiled. “No doubt you’re Ms. Lemay. But I believe you are Pearl Lemay. I would even wager the pistol you’re holding behind your back is pearl handled. I’m Colonel John Forrest and I’d actually like to speak to both of you.”
“You arrived on the shuttle early this morning?” asked a silky voice. He looked past Pearl’s shoulder and saw an attractive young woman with short platinum blonde hair. “So this is what a Cyndee looks like.” he thought.
….. excerpts from the first chapter of the next adventure – “Nina’s Nocturne”