Planet of Freedom
Twenty-three - All Good Things...
On the day they landed on Ugorrim, Judy had an extremely uncomfortable backache, and finally had to relinquish piloting duties over to her father. Lying on one of the shock couches, she waited for the discomfort to ease, at the same time listening to the conversation around her. For several days, she had been plagued by almost constant backaches, but today had been the worst.
"Will, do you have the coordinates entered into the navigational computer?" her dad asked. Judy could feel the tension in his voice. Relying on the vision of the flutter-dragons during such a delicate and intense situation as a landing would be nerve wracking, and she felt guilty having to force that on him.
"Yes, sir. Itís in," her brother said.
"John, Rrangruk said that heís assembling a medical team, and that if Don wasnít in any worse shape than you were last time we were here, there should be no problem," her mother declared from the communications console.
"Great, then letís get the old girl down."
Judy knew that the Jupiter II was descending, but the discomfort that began in her back was now changing venue. Please, no, not now, she thought. Then she sighed as the pain dissipated once more.
"Hang on, everybody. Iím not the skilled pilot that Don is, so this will be a bit rougher," Dad said, cutting in on her thoughts. Silverado watched the instrument panel intently, squeaking softly.
Soon she felt better and followed the landing with more interest. A bit of turbulence shook the ship, and Judy watched her father grip the controls tighter, his knuckles turning white with the effort. Then they were into the lower atmosphere and the surface was rushing toward them. A slight hesitation in the descent of the craft indicated the activation of the repulsers. Then the slight thump of landing signaled the completion of the journey.
Getting up from the couch, she stood at the observation window and saw several bear-like creatures, most of them white, waiting nearby. Penny activated the ramp and Rrangruk and his medical team came aboard.
"The tricky part is the transition from the cryogenic state to the life support," Rrangruk rumbled. His sharp black eyes looked in her direction. "And it appears that you will be needing medical assistance soon as well," he added with a toothy smile. She smiled back weakly.
Aurora chirped in concern as another wave of discomfort rolled across her abdomen. Her back still hurt, and she was worried about Don. She was not about to interrupt her mother and Rrangruk over something that would probably take some time to develop. ĎYou keep quiet,í she admonished the flutter-dragon. Flapping her wings, Aurora settled down, wrapping her tail around Judyís neck. Mom was adjusting the controls that would bring Don out of his cryogenic state.
As soon as the return to normalcy was achieved, Donís unconscious form was placed on the stretcher and the various life-supporting machinery attached. The awful wound was still evident and Judy shuddered. Another pain. They were getting closer together, but Judy was still not overly concerned. First babies took longer.
"Iíll be right along, Maureen. I didnít get everything shut down from the landing," Dad said as he worked at the control panel.
"I... I will come in with Dad. The wound...it brings back....Iím sorry." Her mother nodded and left with the Urgorrim medical team.
"Iíll be right back, Dad," she said, thinking that she might as well get some of her things to take when she went in with her dad. The next pain came as the elevator reached the lower level. Obviously she had miscalculated; she was not only in labor, but probably had been for the past few days. She was at the same time relieved and horribly disappointed. Several more minutes passed. She could almost see her muscles contract as the next spasm came on her. Too fast! she thought. Judy leaned against the wall, panting. The pain was becoming more intense and with frightening speed.
Now her concern wasnít in not having Don with her, it was fear
that she would have the baby alone, and she wasnít prepared for that.
It caused a paroxysm of fear to pass through her mind. ĎDad!í
she cried telepathically. She didnít have his ability, but hoped that
he would hear her now. Judy could feel his mental presence, even though
he wasnít concentrating on her. ĎDaddy, please help me!í
ĎJudy?í his thoughts asked. ĎJudy, whatís
wrong?í And then immediately a declaration. ĎIím coming.í
Relief flowed through her and she headed to her cabin. As she reached the door another contraction ripped through her, and she gripped the edge of the doorframe. Vaguely, Judy heard the whoosh of the elevator and then felt her fatherís presence near her side.
"Judy, the baby?" he asked. She could only nod.
"Oh, good Lord," he breathed. "How far apart?"
"I donít know, Dad. Iíve been worrying so much about Don that I let everything that Mom taught me fly out the window." Suddenly, Judy could restrain herself no longer, and she began to cry. She cried from the pain, from fear, from disappointment. Her dad put his arms around her and comforted her. "I feel so stupid," she added.
"Youíre fine, sweetheart. We need to get you comfortable. You donít need to be standing out here in the doorway," he said soothingly. Silverado chirped from his shoulder.
Another contraction came and she gripped her dad so hard that he took a quick intake of breath. "3:43," he said looking at a wall clock He led her to her bed and then he turned to the intercom. "Robot," he said sharply.
"Yes, Professor Robinson," came the answer.
"Call my wife and tell her to get back here immediately. Judyís in hard labor."
Judy felt another pain coming and moaned as it strengthened. It seemed to last forever.
"Two minutes," he murmured.
The pain had receded and Judy couldnít help herself. She giggled and then moaned. "Dad, I need help getting on the bed."
"Oh, Iím sorry, dear," he said, the embarrassment at his lack of foresight plainly showing on his face. He gently picked her up and laid her on the bed. About the time she was sitting somewhat comfortably, the next spasm hit her, eliciting a sharp cry.
"Good heavens, if that wasnít exponential... That was no more than a minute and a half," he said, gathering the pillows behind her back so she could recline more comfortably.
"Daddy, itís not a mathematical equation, itís a baby," Judy hissed tersely between clenched teeth.
"Will was the only one who came this fast, and I didnít even have time to get there until the very end," he said in consternation.
"Dad, I need your help. The baby isnít patient and Iím not ready," Judy had regained a slight sense of equilibrium and gave instructions calmly and patiently to her father. Another blanket of pain. So fierce, penetrating and seemingly forever. The intensity temporarily broke her concentration. About the time that one pain began rolling into another, her dad finished carrying out her instructions. Aurora was sitting nearby, her golden eyes glittering with worry. Suddenly, she flew up and sat next to Silverado and waves of soothing, calm feelings entered Judyís mind.
"Thanks, Dad," she gasped. Itís time, she thought. She strained, pushing and then lay back to rest. Again and again. It seemed an eternity. Exhaustion set in. Just come, my child. Letís get this over with. Please. And then, finally she felt a cessation of pressure and heard a cry.
"Mark!" she said happily, panting from the exertion. "Let me see him, Daddy." The tears started flowing down her cheeks. Her dad looked up at her, deep emotion etched on his face. He looked back down at her baby, and she saw a tear roll down his face.
"Heís beautiful, princess," Dad said, gingerly laying him on her stomach. The baby was loosely wrapped in a sheet, and his feet and hands waved in indignation at this rude expulsion from his comfortable world of nine months. His soft cries tugged at her heart, and she took a tiny hand in one of hers and with her other, touched his cheek, his ears, nose, and mouth, her fingers finding every part of his body. She smoothed his damp, dark, full head of hair and giggled when Mark found his thumb and sucked it noisily.
Mom rushed in the room and looked at the sight in wonder. "Youíre a grandma, Mo," Dad said softly, his eyes shining with emotion. Quickly she finished taking care of mother and child, and Judy was soon cuddling her firstborn.
Don felt wispy tendrils of conscious thought coalesce and he wondered where he was. Then he remembered the Graxod ship and shuddered in remembrance. It was then he realized that his present surroundings were totally unfamiliar. Looking around, he saw a great shaggy bear-like creature on the far side of the room. Urgorrim! he thought and wondered how long he had been unconscious.
"Don," he heard John say and turned his head to see his father-in-law grinning broadly at him. Silverado and Jimmy Doolittle sat on his shoulder squeaking triumphantly.
"What happened after.... How long have I been out of it?" he asked in confusion.
"You were hurt badly enough that you were put in cryogenics and youíve been out of it for almost a month," John explained.
"Judy?" he asked.
"Sheís fine, my friend," John answered.
"You won the duel, I see," Don said, with a smile of his own. "Never doubted it." He looked carefully at John. "Bet Kalingdor didnít know what hit him."
"I suppose. Now, Don, you hush a minute and listen to what I have to say."
"Yeah," he said, puzzled. Suddenly he felt so tired and just wanted to go to sleep again. A whole month. That would mean.... "John, the baby?"
"You are the father of a beautiful, two day old, eight pound, nine ounce baby boy. Congratulations Papa."
His befuddled mind felt the impact of that statement. "A father? Me? Two days old? When can I see him?" His voice rose in excitement.
John laughed. "Thatís up to Rrangruk. Heíll make those decisions, Iíll be indisposed for a day or two."
"My son...." he fell asleep, a great smile on his face.
Rrangruk approached quietly as Don drifted back to sleep. The professor nodded a greeting. "Congratulations, my friend, on being a grandsire. Now we need to get you ready for your session in regeneration. It should be simple this time compared to the last."
"Yes," John concurred in a low voice, his mind still on the miracle that occurred two days previous.
Two days later, it was John who slowly returned to consciousness and Don who was standing nearby, Jimmy perched on his shoulder. "Hi, Grandpa. About time you decided to join us. How do you feel?"
Silverado was nowhere to be seen or sensed. John looked around in wonder, blinked and then looked back up at Don. "Great, Don. How about you?"
"Wonderful. I have spent the last day holding Mark and listening to everybody fill me in on the past events. That must have been incredible, delivering the baby. Thanks."
"You want me to lie or tell the truth?" John asked with a smile. "I was scared to death. And yes, it was incredible." Sitting up, he continued gazing around the room. It was as though he couldnít get enough.
Silverado came streaking into the room, landed on the end of the bed and peered at him. ĎMy friend, you have saved my life. I may not need your eyes anymore, but you are still my friend. You are still needed,í he assured the agitated flutter-dragon. The lizardís frantic squeaking subsided into chirps of contentment.
"Well, whatís next, John?" Don asked. "What do we do for an encore?"
"We go back to Karturm, watch Mark get big and fat for a few months and then we slowly travel to Alpha Centauri, exploring the galaxy on the way," he declared.