Decisions

The medtechs hovered around Miranda, trying to get her to lay back. The doctor joined them. "Mrs. Mendi. You really must calm down -- we only want to help you."

"Michael..."

"Your baby's in the next room. A physician is checking him."

The physician took the bundle of clothes from a nurse and laid it on a table, crooning in a soothing tone to the baby inside. She unwrapped the layers of blankets that had apparently been the baby's protection. A fist made its way through and waved in the air. The physician gently grabbed it, "Oh, you're a strong one." She peeled back the last layer and screamed.

People came running, and stopped in their tracks when they saw what was on the table. "It's a Recessive!"

The small baby had his face screwed up in pain and was bawling with strong lungs. His arms and legs thrashed in the air.

In the other room, Miranda sat up despite the doctors, "Michael!" She turned a blind face to one side, "Andre!"

Andre was already moving. He placed a hand on Miranda's arm as he went, to let her know. Bursting into the commotion, Andre shoved his way through the crowd to the baby.

A medtech had tentatively put out his hand to the baby, only to get kicked by a thrashing foot. "Ow! That hurt." He pulled back his hand in sheer shock at the strength of the kick.

Andre made it to the table, and started humming in a low tone. The baby still cried, but his movements were slowing down. Andre reached out and gathered the baby into his arms. In a rich, low baritone, he sang, "Hush little baby, don't say a word; Mama's going to buy you a mocking bird. If that mocking bird don't sing, Mama's going to buy you a diamond ring..."

The baby hiccuped and with a last, tentative cry, quieted down.

The watching crowd had also quieted, more from astonishment than anything else. One medtech found his voice, "How could you bring a recessive into our City?!" Another raised the cry, "It must be destroyed." Others chimed in.

The baby stirred, making a whimpering sound. Andre sang to him with desperation. In between lyrics, he addressed the crowd, "Michael's only a baby!"

"It's a recessive!"

Andre shook his head and pushed his way through the crowd again. People moved back, not wanting to come in contact with the baby. The last of the recessives in the City had been thrown out a bare 10 years earlier, and memories of rage and destruction were on everybodys' minds.

Andre poked his head through the door, "Miranda, I'm taking Michael to a doctor who will take care of him. I'll contact you later."

Miranda's voice came back full of relief, "Thank you, Andre." The strong, proud woman had not been defeated with the loss of her vision, but she had had to rely more on companions than she ever had in her life. Only her husband had stayed with her more consistently than Andre and Mirabel. They would let her be with Ken soon -- then everything would be alright. In the meantime, Andre would take care of her son, just as he had for the past three months.

Andre made his way out, and was heading out, when five RCF officers moved in front of him.

"You can't take that out of here."

Having trouble keeping his voice to a moderate level, Andre managed -- for the baby's sake. "Michael needs medical attention, the same as Miranda and Mirabel. He's obviously not going to get it here. Move aside."

"It's a recessive. The High Council won't let it live anyhow. It'll save you some trouble if you just hand it over now."

"No." Andre protectively shifted the baby in his arms.

A new voice, rich and full of command entered the fray. The officers all stiffened, but Andre didn't turn around as the Colonel spoke. "Let him through."

"But Colonel Mede!"

The Commander moved up beside Andre. "What are you going to do, shoot a famous archeologist? The High Council has not yet rendered a decision. Until they do, I choose to let this man leave on his own reconnaissance. He is not a prisoner. And that," she gestured to Michael, "is only a baby." Her voice had not lost its hard tone. With a suddenness that drew a cry from Michael, she barked in the command voice, "Stand aside!"

The officers reluctantly moved. Andre quickly strode beyond them to the door before turning and looking back at the Colonel. She regarded him with no change of expression, but slowly nodded. Shifting the baby to one arm, Andre awkwardly saluted her, then left.

Once out of the RCF area, Andre carefully wrapped Michael back in his blankets. "Shh... It's alright. Yes, I know it's hot. Just a while longer, little one."

He looked around the corridors with some bewilderment. Seven months in the Wastelands, fighting every minute for survival, did a lot to deacliamitise one to the make up of cities. Oh come on. I'm an anthropologist and a geographer. Surely I can find my way around one user-friendly city! With a sigh, he headed to a corridor junction where there would probably be a direction finder.

With one finger, he awkwardly tapped in the name of the person he was thinking of. When the computer responded with verbal directions, he slapped himself lightly on the side of his head for not remembering the commands could have been given verbally also.

Shifting the baby to the other arm, he memorized the directions and started off.

The door opened and a large dark-anglo man looked at Andre. "Hello," he said in a puzzled voice.

Andre felt waves of tension leaving him in a rush. He laughed with relief, "Carlos. It's Andre."

The other man's eyes grew wide as he stood frozen in surprise. With another second, Carlos had reached out to embrace Andre when he noticed the bundle. Instead, he gripped his brother's shoulders, "Andre! My God!"

They stood looking at each other for long moments, then Carlos stepped back and waved Andre in. "Come in! Kei will be so happy to see you. They said you were dead. I can see that's not true. But..." Carlos trailed off as he silently indicated the dirty, torn rags that were the remnants of the Survivor Scout uniform and the many healing scars under it, indicative of how close it had been at times. With another gesture, Carlos inquired about the bundle Andre carried.

Andre looked down and unwrapped the clothes. On cue, Michael let out a loud cry. "Oh hush," Andre affectionately rocked the baby.

Carlos stared in astonishment for a moment, then turned and headed to the next room. Andre watched after him with pain, I thought he'd be different...

"In here!" Carlos' gruff voice raised in a call when he noticed his brother hadn't followed him.

It was Andre's turn to be surprised as he walked in to see the sink filling with warm water and next to it, Carlos carefully ripping a clean sheet into strips.

Seeing the surprise, and misinterpreting it, Carlos explained, "He's going to have to have new swaddling clothes before I can go to the store and this is the best around." He grinned, "We have plenty of sheets."

I wasn't wrong... Oh my brother. Andre surrendered the baby to Carlos' care, with some fussing as Michael wasn't inclined to take the change willingly. The bath was even less accepted, but the two men coped as Carlos explained over the baby's cries that Kei was at the hospital and would be home in another hour. A couple times, Andre tried to explain about the baby and what had happened to himself, but Carlos kept putting him off, "It can wait. You're here -- that's all that matters. And you're next on the list, you know." When Carlos finally got Andre to go take a shower of his own, Andre had to admit it felt very good indeed.