"Ken, P'nyssa has requested that you join her down in sickbay, room four."
I looked up from my book and said "Sure thing, Lance. Tell her I'll be right there. Any idea what this is about?"
"It's a surprise," Lance replied calmly. "That was her wording."
"Gotcha," I said, smiling and knowing almost exactly what was going on. It had been hard to miss Lindsay's rapid growth in the past couple of weeks and the only "surprise" that could be this important had to be her giving birth.
Elated, I ran down to the SDisk and arrived at sickbay four not ten minutes later. Lindsay was sitting on a short stool, her legs bent under her in such a way that she could immediately rise to a kneel if she had to. Her back was against a cushioned support. Her eyes were shut and her breathing was coming in slow, measured counts. "That's it," P'nyssa was saying as I entered. "Deep breaths."
"Contractions are coming about once every three minutes," she said to me as I walked in. "She wanted you to be here."
"Well, I'm here."
Lindsay looked up at me, reaching out with one hand. "And I'm glad." I smiled at her, feeling for some unknown reason tears forming in my eyes. She was so unbelievably beautiful like that, even if she was obviously in a lot of stress. "Anyone else here?"
"I told everybody," P'nyssa said, "But they'll be here before too long. I think they're all aware of your surprise." She smiled, and Lindsay grimaced. "You okay?"
"Just a little twinge."
"How long ago did she show?" I asked.
"About twenty hours," P'nyssa said.
"Twenty hours?" I asked. "Why didn't you call me then?"
"Because," Lindsay asked, "I'm a priparous Han and it probably wouldn't be more than a day before I finally went into second-stage labor, that's why," she gasped.
"She's broken water, I take it?"
"That's why I called you," P'nyssa said. "Her contractions are down. It's about that time. Sometime in the next hour, I'd guess."
"I'm here!" I turned around just in time to see Doctor Cordelia Lear, Han Chief Medical Officer, walk in the door. "What's the situation?"
"Del," Lindsay said, "I really want P'nyssa to be my OB, okay? If she needs you, she'll ask."
"Got it. Can I help with anything?"
"Just give me a few pointers," P'nyssa replied. "What's the standard dilation on a Han?"
"18 centimeters, average. How long has labor been?"
"20 hours since show," P'nyssa replied. "We're down to one contraction every 2.3 minutes, using ten contractions as a sample." She pointed at the monitor. "Contractions are lasting about eighteen seconds."
"Still a little short," Dr. Lear replied. "I feel a little odd saying this, Doctor Traken, but I'm going to let you do this on your own and do as Lindsay asked. From our conversation last week, I get the feeling you've delivered every different species on Pendor. You're a lot more qualified than I am. I'm used to dying people."
P'nyssa nodded as the door opened. My jaw nearly hit the floor. "Is it time?" Olivia asked.
"A little longer," Lindsay said. "Come here." Olivia made her way around P'nyssa and Dr. Lear and slid into Lindsay's outstretched arm. "I'm glad you came."
"I would never miss this," Olivia admitted. The tiny Mustel, barely a quarter the height of Lindsay (who was short for her species anyway) had once found Han threateningly huge. Now it looked as if she had found one she counted as a friend.
Slowly, other people moved in. Aaden arrived, as did the Sarah and Rachael, two of the first Han I'd ever met. Sarah was the youngest of all the Han, Lindsay the second. They were such different women.
The Han are pronouncedly hermaphroditic, a fact emphasized by the fact that Lindsay's cock was taped to her belly to keep it out of the way. Lindsay was gasping. "Take deep breaths. Ken, you coach her. You know how better than most people."
I grinned and joined Lindsay opposite Olivia. "How're you doing, sweetheart."
"Oh, Ken, it's what I've waited for."
"What you going to name her?"
"Maia-ah!" She gasped the last part. "Maia," she said. "Sorry."
"Hey, it's okay. Right now, I want you to relax. Olivia, take her hand and don't let her squeeze. She just has to relax and take it easy. Take deep breaths, Lindsay. Come on."
"I'm trying," she gasped again. "I feel... "
"Contractions at one minute," P'nyssa said. "And that's... I see her head. I see it! Here she comes! Now, push, Lindsay, push!"
Olivia and I pushed Lindsay up off the stool so she was kneeling. Rachael, bless her soul, came and helped. We held her up while P'nyssa literally reached into her vagina with both gloved mittens. "I've got the head. Push, Lindsay, just a little more."
A few seconds later, a loud and new crying sound heralded the child's slide out, into P'nyssa's waiting arms. "Okay! I've got her!"
Lindsay collapsed, crying, as P'nyssa stood up slowly and placed the child on Lindsay's stomach. Lindsay let mine and Olivia's hands go and reached for the child, who was gurgling and coughing. P'nyssa patted the child on the back as she coughed up a little more fluid then began breathing normally. P'nyssa wiped the baby's nose and mouth to clear any more fluid away. "She's beautiful," Lindsay gasped.
"Yes, she is," I agreed. I'll be honest and five centuries from now Lindsay can strangle me for writing this down, but no infant is really, physically beautiful. The Han are no different; the fur was spotty, the tail all crinkled up, the face all pinched and the nose more like a pig's than the beautiful brown muzzle of a Han. But that didn't matter. She was a lovely child, all like her mother. "Hello, Maia."
The baby gurgled softly. We were all paying attention to the baby when I heard a splat on the floor. "Placenta," I said. "Better clean that up."
"I'll get it," Dr. Lear said. "Doctor Traken, it's time to cut the cord."
"Yes, I think so." P'nyssa reached down and with a quick jerk, clamped the umbilical cord in two places and cut it. Neither baby nor mother noticed. I reached down and tickled the child's foot, and she pulled it away from my fingers. "P'nyssa, Apgar reflex is a two."
She nodded, grinning. "I'd give her color a one."
"One," I agreed, glancing up at the wall monitor. "Heart rate and respiratory are both twos."
The child was squirming gently against her mother's belly as Lindsay cooed and spoke the her newborn. "Muscle tone one or two?"
"One," P'nyssa said. "It's so hard to tell these days."
"That's still an eight," I said.
"What does that mean?" Olivia asked, looking up.
"That means the baby is going to be listed as very healthy. No surprises in store."
Lindsay looked up and smiled. "I could have told you that." She looked up at all of us, a crowd of people standing around her and smiling. "20 months ago we were all going to die. And now..." She began crying earnestly. "Now I have Maia."
I nodded. "And Rachael has Page, and Sarah's going to have--"
"Titania!" Sarah said, giggling.
I rolled my eyes. "Titania in a couple of weeks. And very soon after that, the Han will have doubled their population." I shuddered to think of 37 Han in the throes of the terrible twos running loose all over the starship."
P'nyssa drew a tiny sample from the infant's thigh. "Jean, I... Damn. I'm sorry, Lance. It's been a few months since I did that, huh? Lance, I need this worked up for a nanochine suite as soon as possible."
"Right away, Nyss. And, apology accepted. I understand it's hard sometimes to be separated from friends, especially in a stressful situation like this one."
"Thanks, Lance." She turned and leaned over. "Now then, Lindsay, you're probably exhausted."
"Worse than that," Lindsay said. "I'm beyond exhausted."
"You're also endorphined out to a state Ken and Aaden will never appreciate."
"Hey!" I laughed.
"So," P'nyssa continued, "We're going to take you two and put you into your own cabin and see to it that you are not disturbed. Maia's fallen fast asleep already, which is good, because so is her mother any second now. We're going to put you into a wheelchair and Ken and Olivia here are going to put you to bed in familiar surroundings."
"Okay," Lindsay yawned. We helped her into the chair and wheeled her into the hallway. A SDisk later she was in her cabin.
"Okay," I said. Olivia picked up Maia. "One, two, three!" Lindsay stood up slowly, her legs like rubber, then flopped down onto the bed on her back. I slid behind her and rolled her onto her side as Olivia slid the baby against her belly.
"Ken?" Lindsay asked.
"Should I be worried about rolling over onto Maia in my sleep?"
"The odds of you rolling over and being a danger to her are about one in ten thousand. Even then, between your maternal instinct and Lance's watchful eye, she should be more than safe. On the other hand, the odds of her going into respiratory arrest because she's separated from her mother are about one in six hundred."
"Oh," Lindsay said. "How... how long should I sleep with her?"
"Until it's no longer comfortable. Until she wants her own room."
Lindsay looked down. "She's so beautiful."
Olivia nodded. "Yes she is. Congratulations."
"Thanks, O." Lindsay patted Olivia's hand. "O? I know this is asking a lot, but... could you stay here?"
"I'll talk to Doctor Tell about giving you some time off, Olivia."
"Thanks." I gave her a hug, leaned over and gave Lindsay a kiss, then reached down once and touched Maia's head. "Welcome to the world, Maia. Goodnight, you two."