Darkship Revenge – Snippet 02

Over the mind-link with Kit, I received wordless irritation and panic. The ship shook again, and a blinding flash of light burst from my screens.

Alarms screamed.  And Kit was there, unstrapping me, pulling me away from the seat, pulling me out of the navigator’s room.

You have to fire on them.  They’re going to destroy us otherwise.  Go. I can give birth alone.  I’ll give you coordinates. I tried to pull away from his hand, back to the chair.

He suggested I do something biologically impossible to the coordinates, and got a hand under my knees, pulled me off my feet and ran carrying me.

You can’t do this, I wailed at his mind.  Another pain – contraction? – hit and another explosion somewhere on the skin of the Cathouse.  I tried to scream at Kit that the attackers’ weapons clearly weren’t any stronger than ours, otherwise we’d already be dead, but if they kept at it, they would eventually do real damage.  But what came out was an ululating, incoherent scream.

He dumped me on my back, on our bed, and started frantically stripping me.  He looked at my lower portion with an expression of utter horror, which frankly was a new reaction.

“Push, Thena, Push,” he said, both mind and voice.  I tried to tell him what to do with this instruction, but my mouth wouldn’t work right except for screaming.

I panted through the pain, and groaned in frustration, because I could push, but it didn’t seem to do anything except bring on more pain.

I’d read just enough in the last few months to know all the things that could go wrong with a birth.  Too big a head, too big shoulders, hemorrhage, death, and that was just for the mother, without counting on things like the baby being strangled by the umbilical cord.

Maybe the civilizations who didn’t teach women to read had been right.  “I’m scared,” I managed to say between screams.

Kit’s eyes widened.  He grabbed our medkit from under the bed, and brought the examiner gadget which looked like a giant magnifying glass to bear on me.

“This thing doesn’t work,” he said, in a distracted tone.  “It has no setting for giving birth.  It says you’re experiencing muscle-contraction pain, and that your heart rate is elevated.  And the baby’s heart rate is fine.”

Pain struck again, stronger this time.  As it receded, I found I’d grabbed hold of Kit’s tunic, and pulled him really close.  Really close.  I must have used the super strength with which the mad genetic engineers had endowed me too, because he was a shade of purple, as the tunic collar tightened on his neck.  And he was trying to pry my hands loose.

I forced myself to let go, and heard him take deep breaths.  I’m trying to help. He mind-sent in a tone of great and offended dignity.

Which he was, for all the good it did us.   And of course the medical gadgets wouldn’t work.  They had no setting for pregnancy. In Eden most people decanted their children from artificial wombs.  Those who didn’t, planned the time and manner of their children’s arrival, so it didn’t happen aboard a darkship, months from civilization.

Kit had a smear of blood across his forehead, his feline eyes were wide open in terror.  He looked like some sort of primitive god, who kept screaming for me to push, interspersed with “Damn you, damn you, damn you, damn you.  What possessed you to come on a long trip alone with me when you knew this was coming?  Damn you.  Push, Athena, push.”

“But it shouldn’t be difficult,” I wailed back, between screams as the pain struck me.  “Humans have been doing this forever.  It should be natural.”

He made a sound that might be a laugh.  “Push, Athena.”

It all seemed like a crazy dream, and I kept noticing things that I’d failed to register. Like how there was blood everywhere, but I didn’t remember bleeding. I should have been clearheaded.  I mean, I’d had no drugs.

We didn’t have any of the drugs women commonly use to eliminate pain in childbirth, and of course Kit didn’t want to give me any of our other pain killers because he wasn’t sure how they’d affect the baby.

Our gravity cut out, and Kit slammed a hand in my middle, to keep me from floating, while he stayed in place by holding onto the bed.

“There should be better ways to do this,” I yelled.  “This is a bad design.”

He laughed again.  “Come on, Athena.  The baby has crowned.  I hope you like hair because this one has a lot of it.”

I thought crowned meant he could see the head.  Why didn’t he pull it out, then?  I yelled “It’s a bad design.”

“Granted,” he said. “That’s why we have bio-wombs.  Push it out, damn it. Push!”

A big explosion hit the outside of our ship.  We were just getting pounded, and we weren’t returning fire.  Even if the baby and I survived, we were going to die.  “We’re all going to die.”

“Not on my watch!”

Ship alarms blared.  Blood was everywhere.

“Let me die in peace! The people who wrote about the beauty of birth lied,” I said. It might have come out as an incoherent wail.  “They lied!”

There were clots of blood floating in air the and that Kit – with his feline looking eyes, his calico hair – looked like a blood-smeared nightmare as he yelled, “push, push. push.”

“You push!” I yelled.

Suddenly gravity cut in again.  Pain sliced me in half. And then there was a sudden, astonishing relief.  The type of relief that calls for angels singing and choirs of joy.

Kit did something. I tried to look down.  There was a baby, but I couldn’t muster the strength to reach down and pick it up.  It made faint mewling sounds.

Kit took off running. I lay there, exhausted and bonelessly relieved. Had he run away from the baby? Did the baby have three heads?  Before I could grow alarmed enough to sit up, Kit ran back in, babbling something about no vital systems being affected, and auxiliary artificial grav having kicked in.

He picked the baby up.  “We… we have a daughter.”

The creature he showed me was wrinkled and red, but I’d been told this was normal, by various stories.  In this, they were apparently right.  He picked her, cleaned her, burnt the end of her umbilical cord – who thought up that system? It’s as though humans were born unfinished – set her down on the bed again, examined me through one of the med sensors, muttered something about not needing stitches, then sat on the side of the bed slowly bent to rest his crossed arms on his knees and his face on his crossed arms and looked like he’d like to pass out, as if he and not I had done all the work. He was saying “light, light, light,” in a slow chant.  Since “light” was close to a swear word for pilots of darkships, this sounded a little crazed.  “Kit?”

He shook his head.  “I thought you were going to die.  I thought you were both going to die.”  His hand was shaking, as he rested it on my knee.  “Are you all right?”