If an unusual occurrence were sufficient to arouse interest within the scientific and engineering communities of any advanced planet in the Universe, then the pregnancy of a Velorian Protector would certainly rate that.....and perhaps more.
The planet of Tetra, eleven months after the return from Earth
"Morning, dear." William nonchalantly walked by her on his way from the house to the site of the new outbuilding he was constructing. Lounging on a large boulder carved out to make a comfortable seat was an extremely pregnant Lillith.
The word barely made it out of her mouth before a long yawn stretched her mouth into a wide oval. Her belly was now so large that she found it awkward to even walk, preferring to fly a bit when she could. Yet, even that had to be curtailed after William noticed how her abs would distort her belly. "Might be a problem with the baby", he would warn. In fact, William was constantly berating her with demands of "don't do this" or "don't do that". As always, Lillith tried to please him, although, she just didn't know what was correct to do and what was not! Within the last few days, her activity level had been reduced to sitting or lying down, but little more. A large Tetrite was now resting her head on Lillith's belly, her eyes moving to the side as she grinned expectantly. Suddenly, the Tetrite gathered an expression of wonder on her fuzzy face as she exclaimed "Oh, Mistress Lillith! I can indeed hear the little one! It is wonderful!" Lillith nodded and smiled as the visitor trundled off to tell her friends all about what she had just heard inside the Protector's womb. No sooner had she left than another Tetrite scampered forward from around a great boulder. Lillith greeted him, nodded her approval, and the Tetrite came forward to listen for himself. William again walked by on the same line to the house that he had just used in the opposite direction.
"You gonna be long today, hon?"
"I don't think so, Will'm", she muttered. The Tetrite looked up from his monitoring post at the front of her distended body. Her talking was masking any sounds the baby might be making. Lillith noticed his look and knew what the problem was immediately.
The Tetrite resumed his position at her belly just before Lillith absentmindedly continued. "Phil, are we gonna be long today?"
Phil, resting comfortably on a rather delightful new rock, flopped to the ground immediately. "One moment, Mistress." Trundling around the great boulder, around which visitors appeared and disappeared, Phil looked up the trail. Standing in single file was a line of Tetrites that reached nearly to the horizon, all patiently waiting for their turn to hear the curious sounds of their Protector's baby. Phil estimated the count at about 30,000, give or take a few thousand. Clearing his throat, he returned to his new rock.
"Mistress, perhaps it would be wiser to gauge our day by how you personally feel about continuing at any point in time."
Lillith shrugged and leaned backward as she stretched, causing the listening Tetrite to accidentally ride upward on her protruding belly. Stunned by the sudden reorientation, he let go only to slide rapidly off to land with a thud on the dusty ground. The sound and the small dust cloud served to remind Lillith that she had guests and she quickly sat back up. As the Tetrite skulked away, rubbing his head, William walked by, once more on his way to the outbuilding. Lillith gave a slight wave.
"Won't be too long, Will'm. I can stop anytime."
As William continued on his way to the building site, Lillith ran her hand over her expansive belly to remove the ticklish feeling left behind by the fur of her last visitor and looked toward the boulder expectantly. Craning her head up a bit, she called out, "NEXT!"
That night, at the habitat
William rolled over on his side as the two lover settled down to bed for the night. Lillith lay on her back, her hands cupping her breasts. A concerned look on her face pursed her lips and lowered her brow as she critically examined her own anatomy.
"Hm?" He was dozing.
"I think my boobies are bigger."
"I wonder where the energy's coming from?"
There was no answer from William except his breathing. He was already asleep.
Lillith looked over at him, wondering if he had even heard her. Finally, she sighed and ran her hands in circles over her belly. "Everything is bigger. I wonder how much longer." She barely got the last words out before a deep yawn stretched her mouth widely. Turning her face toward William and nestling it behind his neck, she wished she could sleep on her side too.
The following afternoon...
Leaning slightly backward, Lillith lumbered toward the habitat. The gestation period of eleven months was not unusual for Velorians. At least, that was what the last letter from Aunt Laurie said. The fact was, they just didn't know what to expect since there wasn't a lot of precedence nor documentation about Velorian Protectors giving birth. Velorian offspring were always engineered on Velor, the Protectors being the highest state of that art. The nearest species that procreated naturally was on Daxxan, Velor's sister planet. Not a very promising fact since Velor and Daxxan were not exactly on speaking terms these days. Yet, Lillith sent word back to Velor that she had conceived and that any assistance they could render would be greatly appreciated. Months passed without a word. It eventually became rather apparent to both Lillith and William that they were on their own. William was already working out a plan, although the details were a bit sketchy. After all, he had rarely been around a pregnant woman for any length of time, much less involved in a childbirth! Yet, for this woman whom he loved so deeply, he swore to himself that he would do what he could. He just wasn't sure at the moment what that might be.
Settling her round body comfortably on the sofa, William ran down the usual list of things that she might possibly like to eat or would make her more comfortable or even that she just might like right now. His serious pampering always made Lillith giggle a bit. She really did love every minute of it all. There were times when she would agree to something just to give William something to do and to see how he enjoyed doing it. He was full of nervous energy and getting worse everyday. She did what she could to help him as he did what he could to help her. Unfortunately, time was running out.
William was in the kitchen when she screamed out.
Rushing into the living room, he saw her clutching her side.
"Honey? Is it time? Should I get you upstairs? Stay down here? I know! I know! I'll get some sheets and water! Hot water! I think. Is that right? Was that a contraction? You feel any more? Is it time?" His hands were all over her, trying desperately to help. Lillith was just getting her breath back when she waved her hand to calm him.
"No, no more than just the one. Wow, that was a good one too!" She grinned weakly as he brushed her hair tenderly from her face. "Your son can really kick too, mister."
William couldn't help but smile back at her charming face. "My son? What happened to `our' son?" Lillith nodded.
"He'll be `our' son when he kicks you too, Will'm." She loved the way he laughed. A laugh, a smile, and a rewarding kiss.
"Lillith, I have a confession to make to you, honey. A son wouldn't be bad, but I'm secretly hoping for a daughter." Lillith's face showed her surprise.
"Really? I thought, you know, with Terran culture and all that...."
"Nope. I just think it would be good for the family business."
Lillith nodded, a bright grin adorned her face as she wondered how she could ever not love this man. She guided his lips to hers with a gentle touch of her hand under his chin and let herself fall deeply into the spell of .....
Phil suddenly burst through the door, out of breath!
"SIR! MISTRESS! Ships! Hundreds of ships!"
William snapped his head up toward the window to see the sky filled with the silver, teardrop-shaped interdimensional pods that the Velorian Messengers used, but the number of them was incredible! The sky was filled with hundreds of the silver ships! He instinctively jumped up and ran to the door. Lillith rolled and rolled, trying desperately to do the same.
William ran back for her and hooked her arm to help.
"Sorry, honey." Helping her to her feet, they both stepped outside. "My God, they're Velorian, but what's going on?"
Lillith gripped his arm a little tighter, her eyes wide with amazement.
The first ships to land were quite near the habitat. People dressed in white coats and blue jumpsuits began off-loading equipment, piles of it, from various ships. More people arrived with even more equipment. The activity was frantic, but no one seemed to even notice Lillith or William. Everywhere, Tetrites were underfoot, frantically scampering out of the way only to turn around and scamper right back into the thick of the confusion to see what was going on. A thick dust cloud began to rise higher and higher into the air from all the jumbled movement of so many living creatures in one spot. Lillith recognized the coats that nearly everyone wore. She leaned toward William.
"Lab guys. Engineers, scientists, and techs." William scowled.
"Lab guys? You mean..."
"Yep. Those are the folks that made me."
William felt very strange. He had never considered her `made'.
"Lillith?" His voice sounded very serious.
"I think I should talk to these guys about the lack of documentation. I don't recall a user's manual for you around anywhere."
When he looked to her with his silly grin, she only glared at him and patted her belly.
"You seem to have figured things out pretty well on your own, sir."
William broke up laughing. "Alright, then I'll just check on the warranty."
Now Lillith was giggling as she cuddled his arm tightly.
"You do that, Will'm. I'd like to hear the answers you get."
A cluster of white-coated men had gathered to discuss some point nearby one of the closest ships. Occasionally, one or more would point toward Lillith and William, then continue the discussion. Finally, the apparent head man, followed by the rest of the men now formed as his entourage, walked steadily up the sloping ground to the Protector and her mate. William never took his eyes off the approaching visitors as he leaned back to call out behind himself.
"Phil? Get out here, buddy. I'm gonna need a gateway."
Directly below him, Phil looked up.
"Whoops! Sorry, Phil. Would you mind helping me understand these guys, you know, just in case."
"Indeed, sir. You may proceed."
The head man stopped just a few paces from them, smiled a quick and obviously rehearsed smile, and began his announcement.
"Good day. My name is...." The sudden rattling of a heavily-laden technician approaching from behind interrupted the head man. Seeing this caused a quick change of subject. "Oh, yes, um, where is the birthing chamber?"
Lillith blinked. "The who?"
"The birthing chamber. The site where the offspring will be grown, uh, born."
Lillith and William looked at each other for the answer, without success. William gave it his best shot.
"We hope it will be upstairs in the bedroom, but Lillith keeps getting contractions downstairs in the..." The head man interrupted to give instructions to the sweating, overloaded technician.
"Upstairs, look for a bed."
With a grunt, the technician lumbered by William and Lillith, into the house. William had a question.
"Uh, excuse me, but what did that man just take into our house?"
The head man thought a moment as he hummed a tentative word until the elusive name finally escaped. "Um, Helix Multiplexor. I doubt we will need it unless the infant is genetically inferior, then we may have to make adjustments." William's eyes narrowed a bit.
The head man ignored him as he picked up his introduction where he had left off.
"I am Doctor Bi'la'Zar. You are Lill'th'a Velor?"
Lillith nodded sheepishly as William shook his head simultaneously. The Doctor poked at Lillith's belly lightly.
"My, my, my, what is all this?" William's eyes narrowed a bit more as the muscle in his right cheek flexed.
"`This' is my son, Doctor.", William growled.
"Daughter, dear", Lillith corrected pleasantly.
"Daughter. And what the hell is all this..." William had to stop talking to get out of the way of about a dozen engineers and technicians, all carrying equipment into the house. Lillith was busy greeting everyone and watching all the activity!
"Isn't this exciting, Will'm?"
"Oh, yeah," he groaned, "swell. Look, I just want to find out from Doctor Mengela here what he has planned!"
The Doctor corrected William as if he were an errant student.
"That name is Doctor Bi'la'Zar. Bie-la-Zarr."
"Well, that's fine, Doc, but I'm more interested in hearing you pronounce what the hell you plan to do here!" Again, William had to move out of the way of more technicians with even more equipment. "Jeez, you didn't leave anything home, did you? Lillith, what is this stuff?"
Lillith patted his arm. "It's alright, Will'm. Every Protector is created with the same equipment. I remember all this stuff from when I was a little girl! Gee, this is neat!"
William was beginning to feel a bit confused by the whole thing. Lillith seemed so enthusiastic about everything. Maybe, he thought, maybe he was overreacting. He tried to calm down a bit.
"All right, I just would like to know what some of this equipment is. That helix whatever that you brought in. What's that all about?"
The Doctor waved his hand and smiled proudly. "Oh, that? It allows us to manipulate DNA sequences by multiplexing overlays on the helical strands at postoptimal offsets."
A brief silence allowed William to blink twice before he looked at Lillith. She was doing the same to him.
"Honey, is that important?" he asked.
As the corners of her mouth pulled back and her eyes widened into a perfect "I dunno" expression, she glanced toward the Doctor who had a ready answer.
Her eyes swung back to William.
"He says it's important, Will'm." She topped it off with a reassuring nod. William didn't feel reassured.
"Uh-huh", he said. "And just what does all that mean to our baby?"
The Doctor had a professional smile of someone who enjoyed any opportunity to tutor the uninformed.
"Oh, it's all quite simple. Once we determine the suitability of the offspring, genetic anomalies will have to either be corrected or the procedure will have to be curtailed."
"Certainly, we have to insure that the Protector genetic pool is not polluted."
"My daughter polluting your gene pool?" William's ears were getting very red, but the Doctor continued to talk as if he were discussing the change of shoes.
"Oh, there's not a chance of that. If we cannot correct the problem, as I said, we'll simply curtail the procedure."
"Curtail the ... Oh, you mean you'll stop trying to fix the problem and turn the machine off."
"Oh, of course!" William and Lillith let out a sigh of relief. "We'd have to do that anyway when we abort the birthing."
William and Lillith froze! William had been trying to control his temper throughout the conversation, but Lillith didn't even try as hers exploded instantly!
"NO, NO, NO, NO, NO,..." The blonde Protector was right in the Doctor's face, her finger flailing mere inches from his nose. "You will not do any such thing! You never told any of us you did that! That's my child you're planning on throwing away! You animals! You filthy animals! You sons of ..."
William leaned back against the house and crossed his arms. A broad grin filled his face.
"No need to gateway, Phil. I know what she's saying."
Lillith's voice boomed loudly over the landscape as the Doctor retreated from her wildly angry attack.
"S'lah pistu pheinat! Forn'sk! FORN'SK!!"
William shook his head. "Such language. Tsk, tsk." He called out to Lillith. "Tell him he's a bastard too, hon! That'll confuse him."
Phil had a question.
"Sir, are you not concerned that these people might control the birth? I cannot believe that you would accept genetic manipulation of your child."
"No, Phil, nobody is touching that little baby. I don't care if she comes out with four fingers and two heads, that's our child and that's that."
Lillith's onslaught continued as she chased the Doctor back the other way. Her stream of Velorian expletives remained at a constant level. Phil was thinking a bit.
"Two heads may be a problem for the infant, sir. Would that not be worth considering genetic correction?"
William shrugged. "Maybe, but I don't think we'll have to worry about two heads. I'll tell you one thing though. With the gene pool that the kid has to draw from, not to mention that Jackal fella, Ross, who passed along something to the baby. Remember that earlier in the summer? Well, my guess is that either the kid is going to be just plain-jane Terran or that baby is going to grow up to be pretty incredible!"
Lillith had branched off to chase the other engineers and technicians away from the house. Her rude invectives continued relentlessly. Phil watched a moment, his head tilted slightly, before he trundled back into the house.
"He was a rather nice gentleman. A very imposing voice at times though, sir."
"Yeah, he was. LILLITH! NO HITTING!" William sank back against the wall, comfortably watching an angry mother protect her unborn child. "That's my girl!"
As Lillith waddled and ranted behind the tormented scientists, the scene looked very much like a committee being attacked by a large angry duck.
Early evening, in the living room of the habitat
An unstable truce had finally been called when Doctor Bi'la'Zar surrendered to terms. The science and engineering contingents were relegated to observing the birth, nothing more. They could take measurements and notes for study at a later time, but would have no active participation. Lillith also agreed to the providing of a genetic sample of herself for comparison with her earlier genes on file back on Velor, but nothing was to be taken from the baby. To underline the importance of compliance, William threatened not to throw them off the planet, but to crush every one of their spacecraft so they would have to stay. Doctor Bi'la'Zar's ringing ears reminded him why that would not be a good thing. The surrender was complete and enforceable.
While Lillith settled in upstairs to rest, the entire scientific staff retired to the living room. Work was done on various processing tablets while discussions filled the room with the indistinctive sounds of the human-like voice. William chased a technician out of his favorite chair and slumped contentedly into it. It had been a long, long day.
Suddenly, there were three booming knocks at the front door. Phil was nearby and jumped at the sound before calling out "I will respond to the door, sir."
William could only groan, "Swell, Phil, thanks. Tell them we don't want any and to please drop dead." His voice trailed off to a tired mumble. "Shit, haven't we had enough cheer for one day?"
Trundling quickly up a small table placed just for that purpose, Phil turned the knob of the door. Just as the door released, someone outside kicked the door open roughly. Phil jumped back in time to see a humanoid march in through the door.
She was only about five feet tall and so fat that she was as wide as she was tall. Dressed in a plain gray coat that almost covered the heavy, unbuckled black boots on her feet, she wore a faded red babushka tied unevenly around her huge head. Under that were glimpses of scraggly blonde hair that had seen very little care during her rather obvious long years. In each hand was a scuffed leather-like brown suitcase, both of which showed every mile of the many they must have endured. In an earlier century, her face would have caused her to be mistaken for the twin sister of Boris Yeltsin. Pretty, she was not. Neither was she very amiable. Her twisted angry face panned the room, forcing everyone into a nervous silence. The only thing that was missing when she walked in was the terrorizing sound of someone standing on the bass pedals of a pipe organ!
"Holy shit! Who's ringing the bells at Notre Dame tonight?" remarked William.
The woman dropped both suitcases with a simultaneous bang just before she demanded, "BABY!"
William looked at Doctor Bi'la'Zar. "It's for you."
Once more, the woman demanded, "Where baby!"
William held up his hand, as if keeping Doctor Bi'la'Zar from responding. "I'll get this one, Doc." Standing wearily, William approached the woman. She eyed him contemptuously all the while he was trying his best to smile.
"Good evening, my name is William. This is my home that you've just invaded. Is there anything I can do to make the occupation more enjoyable for you?"
"I am Uta. I speak Englatch. Dat's why I come."
"Oo-Tah. Very nice. Are you here to make our lives miserable too, Uta?"
"Sir?" said Phil, "Perhaps she is here to help."
Uta nodded vigorously. "T'aye! He smart fur ball!"
"Yes, we like to think of him that way." Phil's head rotated slightly.
"Who daddy?" demanded Uta.
"That would be me."
"You gat out! Daddy's always in way! You out!"
William sighed. "Jeez, I just can't wait to meet the next Nazi from Velor."
"Not Velor. Daxxan! I do baby for you wife."
The realization hit William like a thunderclap! "You're a midwife?"
"Yes! Dat good! I do baby."
William was so overwhelmed with relief that he hugged her, kissing her on the forehead. She hated it, swinging one of her suitcases at him.
"YOU OUT! No kiss! No funny stuff! You no kiss no more! Out!"
"Okay, okay, sorry! I'm just so glad to see you! You're the first person to show up that knows anything about babies!" Uta looked around the room at the amazed scientists, engineers, and technicians.
"I see dat. Where momma?"
"Oh, yeah, the momma! Yeah! Um, let me take your bags. Whoa! Don't hit me again! Alright, you carry `em. She's upstairs. Yeah, just follow me and don't swing those bags. I'll take you up to momma. Jeez, it's great to have you here. Watch your step there. Hey, Daxxan, eh? I thought you folks were cousins to the Velorians. You know, all tall and beautiful and all?"
"We are." She bore a striking resemblance to drunken, overweight Soviet Commissar climbing the stairway of Lenin's Tomb. William instantly became political. He needed this woman.
"Absolutely! Jeez, I mistook you for a Protector when you walked in. Really!"
As William and Uta disappeared at the top of the stairs, there was a lot of grumbling among the scientific staff. Doctor Bi'la'Zar spoke for them all.
"Welcome to the Dark Ages, gentlemen. The Daxxans have arrived."
"We hope to determine what, if any, genetic modifications were performed to allow the subject to conceive." Doctor Bi'la'Zar recited the liturgy straight from chapter and verse.
"My understanding is that the genetic structure was already in place", said William, "just dormant. What was it called, Phil?"
"The Khant'r, sir, the `Gift'."
Doctor Bi'la'Zar's eyes rolled. "Oh, that myth! There's nothing to that. I don't even know why we leave that fossil in there."
William stepped closer to the Doctor, not doubting for a minute how well informed the Doctor really was. He kept his voice low to prevent anyone else from hearing, but he made sure the Doctor did.
"Yes you do. You know damn well why you keep it. Keeping a secret are we?"
Doctor Bi'la'Zar cleared his throat nervously and quickly changed the subject by turning to the two technicians next to a large mechanical apparatus made of bright, highly machined metal. Two large gas containment cylinders were perched along the top of it. The older technician began his explanation, obviously uncomfortable with speaking to an audience larger than none. At first, he sounded as if he was trying to sell the device to William. He finally summarized in a final recap.
"So, this device, once triggered, is capable of generating an impulse of millions of lecturs of force per din in a vector tangent to the target surface minus the offset required."
William looked down at the equipment. The perfectly machined and polished surface was marvelous to see. Within moments, he felt he knew how it worked.
"It slices and dices."
The two technicians looked uneasily at each other before nodding. "That's pretty much it."
Just then, Lillith walked into the room, accompanied by a very annoyed Uta. "Alright, I'm ready." She was nervously biting her bottom lip, obviously not looking forward to any of this. The plan called for having the immensely powerful machine take a layer of skin cells from Lillith. No one was sure if it would work on a Protector out in the field within the influence of a yellow sun. It certainly worked alright back on Velor before a Protector was deployed.
It was then that William got an idea.
"Hey, you folks just want a sample for genetic testing, right?" Everyone nodded. "Have you guys ever thought to look at her brush?"
"Brush?" Doctor Bi'la'Zar was annoyed by the question. "What brush?"
"Her hair brush. Why don't you guys just pick a hair out of her hair brush? Why make her go through all of this?"
Rolling his eyes, Doctor Bi'la'Zar struggled to maintain his patience as he tried to explain to this simpleton why that was not possible.
"Her hair is invulnerable. It would not break off during brushing. Lillith, please step over here." William stepped in front of him and sat in the chair intended for Lillith.
"Well, that's interesting, Einstein. But have you ever wondered why the hair of a Velorian Protector only grows so long and no longer?"
Doctor Bi'la'Zar was extremely annoyed now! He'd spent his entire career manufacturing Protectors! "Of course! Everyone knows that the hair ceases growth at a length genetically predetermined and remains for the duration of their lifespan! Now if you don't mind..."
"WRONG! Her hair is continually growing!"
The gasps from the technicians and scientists filled the room. Doctor Bi'la'Zar's face became ashen, like stone.
"What are you saying?"
"What I'm saying is that her hair grows just like yours or mine. It just grows to a certain length, stops for a while, then eventually falls out to be replaced in that follicle by new growth. Don't believe me? Check ...her ...brush!"
The brush was quickly retrieved and there, among the bristles, were four perfect blonde hairs. The DNA techs were quite pleased with the samples, although they quickly learned to be careful with them. The hairs were as sharp as knives when they were pulled across a finger. While they worked with them, William looked over at a very quiet scientist who sat alone, staring at the floor. William walked over to him and put his hand on the man's shoulder.
"Look, I'm sorry I yelled before. It's just that..."
Doctor Bi'la'Zar spoke to no one in particular. He felt disillusioned in himself. He had just caught himself, as everyone else had, making a silly, childish, amateurish mistake. He assumed what he had always been told without ever looking to see for himself. It would be like always believing that the sky glowed from firebugs and never once looking up to see the sun. Doctor Bi'la'Zar was deeply embarrassed and his confidence gone.
"We never thought to examine the hair growth. It was documented centuries ago and no one thought to reexamine it. I feel like a fool."
"I wouldn't be too hard on yourself. I have a certain advantage when it comes to Velorian Protectors that you folks probably never had."
The scientist looked up with an expression that was half curious and half annoyed. "And what advantage would that be?"
"I live with one."
The scientist nodded.
"That would afford certain advantages for observation."
"Yep. Sometimes, if you don't observe, they insist."
Doctor Bi'la'Zar laughed.
"That experience is one we both share."
In the bedroom, a little after 2:00 AM
The room was dark, except for a pair of glowing oil lamps set on both sides of the bed. The light washed over the walls, fading quickly with distance. Shadows moved randomly as the tiny flames flickered. In the dim reaches of the room, dozens of eyes watched silently, their lab coats reflecting some of the warm light from the lamps as their faces reflected their wonder.
On the bed, a tired Velorian gulped for breath as Uta tenderly patted the sweat from Lillith's forehead. Lillith's eyes would open, look plaintively around, then close.
"Uta? Will it be soon?"
Uta spoke softly to her. "You bet. Soon, little one. Your baby is coming. I can hear her calling." Uta referred to the Daxxan tradition that a baby will call out to the world in greeting just before the birth. Some of the scientists leaned forward to hear better while the others knew that it was merely a tradition.
Once more, Lillith looked weakly around the room. "Where is Will'm? I need Will'm." Uta set down the cloth.
"I get poppa."
Just as Uta stood, the door to the bedroom slowly opened. Peering around the door, a beautiful blonde woman looked in and smiled. Lillith could see her face clearly in the dim light.
"Carpie! Come in, please!" The door pushed open allowing the statuesque figure of Carpathia of Tolan to enter. She was in full Protector uniform, her cape swaying as she walked to the bed. Seeing the scientists huddled across the room, she nodded politely.
"Evening, boys. Any of you play poker?"
No one nodded.
"Well," she continued as she smiled down at Lillith, "you probably don't have anything worth winnin' anyway. Hi, Lillith!"
"Hi-eeee, thanks for coming." Lillith's face showed genuine thankfulness.
Carpathia swept the hair lightly from Lillith's face. "I wouldn't miss it for all the cigars in the Universe. You're my best friend, Lilly, and just look at what you can do. You're really something!"
Lillith smiled brightly, scrunching her nose as she giggled. "I can't wait, Carpie! It's going to be wonderful!"
"Lillith, you have a guy downstairs who's chomping at the bit to be with you."
Lillith looked confused. "What's he doing down there? I wish he was here."
Uta slowly descended the stairs as William paced nervously in the living room. Uta had banned him from the room. Not wanting to do anything to hurt the birth, William voluntarily exiled himself to the living room, but he was about to explode with worry. Noticing Uta when she had reached about the middle of the stairs, he stopped pacing and stared intently at her, waiting to hear some news. Uta glared back at him for a long moment before she grunted her statement at him.
The gust of wind from the blur that flew by her on the stairs nearly knocked Uta down! Shaking her head, she began the slow climb back up the stairs. William was already kneeling at Lillith's side as Uta grumbled with each step.
"Always such hurry. Daddy always in way. Run, run, run. Hmph!"
William held her hand tightly against his cheek, lightly running his other hand along her brow. They looked into each other's eyes with so much emotion that Carpathia felt touched to her soul. The lightest whisper came from the awesome Protector of Tolan as her eyes filled with tears.
"Oh, Skeitra. See to their welfare always."
Standing close enough to hear her, Doctor Bi'la'Zar tapped her lightly on the shoulder.
"Carpathia, I never knew you to believe in those ancient myths. When did you start accepting all of that nonsense?"
Carpathia smiled and nodded once toward the scene on the bed before them.
"Look at what's happening around us, doc. Seems to me that this is a good time to start."
"Hmph! I'm disappointed in you, Carpathia. I thought you were more pragmatic than this."
Carpathia chuckled lightly before extending her thumb and forefinder into her cleavage to retrieve a dark Tolan cigar. Without turning around, she passed it back to the waiting hand of the doctor.
"Here, doc, I brought you some pragmatism."
"Ah! Delightful! Thank you, Carpathia!"
"Any time, doc."
Uta had finally returned to the bedside and resumed her work with the damp cloth. She spoke to Lillith calmly, drawing the attention of the young mother-to-be to her immediately.
"Young mother, listen to Uta. You pains come faster, eh? Dey come and baby come too. You breade when Uta say; You push when Uta say. Poppa, you hold momma by arm and here on leg." William nodded. Uta turned toward the crowd of onlookers. "Velorinna!"
Carpathia smiled at being called `a little Velorian girl'. She stepped forward and listened as Uta gave her instructions.
"You come over and hold momma like poppa on dis side. Dat good. Okay, Velorinna and poppa, hold momma!"
William and Carpathia gripped Lillith around her shoulders. Their other hands held Lillith's legs far apart by gripping just under her knees. Lillith was cradled between them. Uta waved her hand for them to release.
"Okay, okay, you do good. When Uta say hold momma, you do dat again. Okay?"
The helpers nodded. Uta leaned forward to Lillith.
"Little momma, you are Protector. Very strong. Baby maybe not so strong, eh? You no push unless Uta tell you. You be strong and save baby, eh? You baby be strong enough soon enough, eh?"
Lillith nodded just before she grimaced from a contraction. William immediately gripped her by the shoulder and leg. Carpathia almost did the same, but caught herself in time. Uta yelled loudly!
"HEY! Poppa, you hear Uta say `hold momma'?" She swatted William on the top of his head. "You poppa, but you still have to dink! Use head!"
Some snickering among the scientists made Uta stand up immediately. She glared at the now silent group before sitting back down at the foot of the bed. She just sat there, looking placidly at Lillith. Lillith stared back. Neither said a word. Slowly, ever so slowly, a smile formed on Uta's face. It grew into the warmest, brightest smiles that Lillith had ever seen. She couldn't help but smile back, but didn't understand why they were grinning at each other like this!
"Uta, what is it?"
"I hear your baby calling, little one."
Instantly, Lillith lurched as contraction after contraction shocked her. She tried to push up off the bed as she cried out, "Oh, Skietra! It's coming! The baby's coming!!"
Uta's smile never faded as she nodded vigorously. "T'aye! It is coming!" Calmly, Uta stood and gripped both of Lillith's ankles. "Come, Velorinna! Poppa! Hold momma!"
William and Carpathia cradled Lillith, holding on to the powerful woman as she struggled. Uta placed her hand on Lillith's belly, lightly stroking up and down as she spoke her. The sound of Uta's soothing voice calmed Lillith immediately.
"Momma, little momma. You no have to get excited. Dis is baby, not more. De baby come, no problem. You just breade. In. Out. Dat nice. In. Out. Good. See? No prob..."
Uta saw the top of the baby's head as Lillith dilated a bit more.
"Good. Good. Dat's fine."
Lillith felt the movement inside her! She fought against the urge to tighten her body down! She called out for William!
"Will'm! Oh, Skietra! Will'm!"
"I'm here, darling, I'm right here!"
Lillith was breathing rapidly, working hard not to do too much lest she harm her baby, struggling with all her strength against that same strength.
Uta calmly watched the baby move determinedly out of the womb. The contracting muscles driving the baby forward relentlessly. For Lillith, it was an eternity as she flailed on the bed to stay in check!
Doctor Bi'la'Zar jumped nervously forward. "Skietra, DO something!" Carpathia smiled.
Uta held up her free hand for a brief moment to quiet everyone down, but never stopped her patient words that instructed, urged, and calmed Lillith. Now, she sounded more serious than before.
"Okay, little momma, baby waiting for us, eh? You push hard. Just once, eh? Push!"
Lillith grimaced as she tried to push the baby from her womb. The baby's head was free and resting in Uta's hand, but the shoulders just wouldn't come. Uta called out again.
Lillith was drenched in her own sweat as she pushed again. Carpathia and William strained, their muscles expanding larger and larger as the force of Lillith fought against them!
Lillith screamed out as she pushed!
Suddenly, the baby rushed out into the world and Uta's waiting hands. Practiced hands that quickly tied off the cord in two spots as Lillith's body went slack.
"Poppa! You cut!"
William looked extremely nervous about that idea. "Me?"
"You! You cut! Uta clean baby!"
William took the knife from Uta, hesitated a moment, then cleanly cut the cord that ran from Lillith to the baby between the tied off points. "Aw, jeez, I..."
The sudden sound of a baby crying made William forget all about what he had just done. Away from the bed, Uta had cleaned the baby and had helped it to begin breathing. When Uta turned back around toward the bed, she held a brand new life wrapped a white blanket. She brought the bundle straight back to Lillith, resting the crying infant on the chest of the mother.
William tearfully counted ten fingers, ten toes, and one head. He looked up at Uta.
"What is it?"
Uta stood smiling, her hands together in front of her. "Dat baby."
Both Lillith and William laughed. He tried again. "No, I mean, is it a girl or a boy? Everything happened so fast I didn't see!"
Uta stepped wearily over to William and patted him kindly on his shoulder. "Dat girl, poppa. Nice, happy girl."
Near the window, Phil wiped the tears from his eyes as he spoke to himself.
"Marvelous! Simply marvelous!"
Turning to the window, he stepped out on to the ledge. Below him, visible in the bright light of four moons and the growing predawn light of a coming sun, over a quarter of a million Tetrites had gathered. They looked up at Phil silently, waiting.
"IT IS... A FEMALE!"
The Tetrites erupted loudly with cheers just as the tip of the sun burst over the rim of the horizon! Everywhere Tetrites celebrated! Screaming, hollering, jumping; making the ground shake! Shafts of bright sunlight flooded the bedroom where Lillith, William, and the baby could hear them all!
The sunlight illuminated Phil's face as he watched the wild celebrations. He could only smile and spoke his thoughts aloud, "The Brave Dawn of Tetra."
As he leaned close to mother and child, William repeated what Phil had just said. "Brave Dawn of Tetra. What's that in Velorian, honey?"
"Mara'Lyn a'Tetra", she murmured weakly. "Mara means dawn."
"I like that name. What do you think?"
Lillith smiled. "I thought you wanted to call a girl Laurie?"
"How about Mara'Lyn Laurie a'Tetra?"
"Oooo", Lillith pursed her lips. "That sounds very grand and formal indeed!"
"You don't like it?" William looked sheepishly concerned just before Lillith raised her head slightly to kiss him on the lips. When she rested her head back down on the bed, she was smiling with a heartfelt warmth.
"I love it!"
The new parents looked down at a chubby little newborn face as Doctor Bi'la'Zar stepped forward to the bed and spoke with a deep voice that said much of how moved he was by the event he had just witnessed.
"Mara'Lyn Laurie, daughter of William and Lillith, born this day on the planet Tetra, I bid you welcome to your world and the Universe."
Later that morning, about 9:00 AM
Every male in the house was strewn everywhere in the living room, all sleeping soundly. It had been a long night for them. The crescendo of snoring was deafening!
Down the stairs stumbled a young technician who had been assigned the task of the morning observations. His movement down the stairs was tentative, nervous, as if he knew he shouldn't wake anyone, but something very important was driving him to do so.
He cleared his young throat and barely called out, trying hard not to wake everyone.
The Doctor was resting uncomfortably in a straight chair. He grumbled a bit and repositioned slightly, but did not respond. The young technician tried a little more volume.
"Doctor Bi'la'Zar? Sir?"
Still, the Doctor did not respond. Two of the other engineers grunted as well, but only rolled over. To the technician, he didn't know what else to do. His young age combined with his overwhelming excitement into a mixture so volatile that it exploded as he yelled out!
Everyone immediately fell down, jumped up, and excitedly ran up the stairs to the bedroom as if they were answering a fire bell! The breasts of a Velorian Protector were never designed for that purpose. They are and have always been the energy reserves of the most powerful creatures in the Universe. The revelation that they now functioned like a Terran breast was electrifying!
Yet, William walked calmly up the stairs after the herd had already stampeded. He eyed the young technician suspiciously.
"And just how did we come to this conclusion, sparky?"
The tech nervously pointed toward the bedroom.
"See for yourself, sir! Please! I was only observing!"
When William walked in, there on the bed sat Lillith, calmly letting the baby nurse her left breast. She looked up at him, smiling the most contented smile he had ever seen. The fresh morning sun poured through the window to illuminate the entire bed and he was sure that he had never seen a more beautiful picture than what he was seeing at that moment. His mate and his child, doing the most natural thing in the Universe. Maybe what he was doing right now was part of it too.
"Look, Will'm! This baby is so funny! Look what she's doing." Lillith giggled at the antics of a baby suckling on her nipple. "Isn't that cute? Just like Daddy!" William cleared his throat as Uta glared at him.
"Lillith, honey, I don't think we have to tell these folks..."
Suddenly, Lillith's mouth dropped open and she screamed "Skietra! She's leaking something! Something is coming out of my baby!"
William shot toward the bed, knocking two engineers out of the way in the process. There, running down the chin of the tiny infant, was milk. Breast milk. Lillith was pleading.
"Please, Will'm, tell me what's wrong with her. Please tell me."
William smiled warmly at her frightened face.
"Sweetheart, that's milk and it's not coming out of the baby. It's coming out of you."
Lillith's face turned immediately down to stare incredulously at her own breast just before she looked back up at William. Her frightened expression hadn't changed.
"Is that bad?"
William quickly caressed her cheek.
"No dear, it's good. It's very, very good. You're feeding your child the way you were made to. You're a mother, Lillith."
Lillith's face softened as the realization of what William had just said took hold. She cradled the baby lovingly. So many thoughts and emotions were running through her mind. Lillith looked down at the contented infant still feeding on her nourishing milk. Her voice was a simple whisper filled with the wonderful mix of awe, pride, and love.
"I'm......a mother." She looked up at William, her face shining brightly and her moist eyes glistening. "I'm a mother!"
William nodded slowly before kissing her softly.
"Yes, darling. Yes you are."
Doctor Bi'la'Zar leaned toward the tall blonde woman standing next to him and spoke quietly, not wishing to disturb William and Lillith.
"Well, Carpathia, all honor to your beliefs, but it looks like Skietra did not have to make an appearance. All I saw here were the natural occurrences of a Universe of scientific laws."
Carpathia removed her unlit Tolan cigar from her mouth and raised one eyebrow when she looked at the smiling scientist.
"Think so? Maybe you're right."
In all the excitement, no one noticed a short woman in a long gray coat and faded red babushka carrying two heavy leather suitcases down the path from the house. At the junction of another path, she looked left a moment before turning right. She took a few lumbering steps before fading away.
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