Philia, Part 7

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 3 here.

Read Part 4 here.

Read Part 5 here.

Read Part 6 here.

“It’s the last jump home. She might not survive it.” Paul looked into Mary’s eyes.

Mary nodded. “We need to get home if she’s going to have any chance at all.” She reached for a panel on the infirmary’s wall and tapped it. “Miss Grayven. Are the preparations completed up there?”

The speaker reported the reply, “Yes, captain.”

“Then proceed.”

—-

Grayven stood from the captain’s seat. “Ben, Avi, ready to go?”

“Fully.”

“Then make the jump.”

The pilots’ fingers danced over their panels, finessing every last crinkle of space. The stars on the viewscreen folded in on themselves. Grayven felt the foldspace encompass the ship.

—-

Paul kept his eyes locked on the plastic dome that held Philia. It had been the best they could do to create an incubator. Her skin was almost gray, her eyes half-lidded. Her hand twitched.

Mary reached into the dome to hold those tiny fingers. The fold took them.

—-

The ship rocked. Trent sat at his station, watching for the first hint of broadcasts. He knew the pilots would be able to prevent any insertion into already-present mass, but he had something else to do. There. TerraGenesis’ frequency. They were close enough to the end of foldspace that he could access it.

“Sir, you’ll have a connection in three seconds.”

—-

“We’re almost through.” Paul held his fingers against Philia’s inner arm. The pulse grew weaker and weaker. The little girl heaved another breath.

—-

The stars unfolded. Earth’s circle filled their viewsceen.

Trent made the final connection. “You’re on.”

Grayven’s words were controlled but fast. “TerraGenesis, this is Guidant. We request immediate reentry for one shuttle. We have a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Please waive all customs.”

A burst of static, and then the reply. “Guidant, you are cleared to send one shuttle. Please transmit its beacon number. What is the nature of the medical emergency?”

Trent tapped his console again.

Paul glanced at the blinking light. “We have a go.” He unhooked the monitoring equipment from Philia. “Mary, out of the way. We need to move.” He pushed the incubator out of the door and down the hall. Shuttle access wasn’t far.

One left. One set of doors. Trent had opened them from the bridge. Heather waited in the pilot’s seat. “This is going to be bumpy, people, but I’ll get us there as fast as I can.”

Mary stayed at the side of the incubator, her eyes never leaving Philia.

—-

Grayven answered, “We have an infant suffering from foldsickness.”

“An infant?” The staticky voice cut off for a moment. “We’re clearing the way as best we can.”

Trent tapped his panel twice more. “Shuttle Morning Star is away. Sending identity information now.”

The voice responded, “Sending coordinates. Who the hell was stupid enough to have a child while traveling through foldspace?”

Grayven kept her voice steady, “Someone who was attacked by pirates.”

The voice did not respond.

—-

Heather punched to maximum thrust. The shuttle trembled. Now was no time for finesse. Space was crowded here, this close to home. She checked her coordinates once, twice, changed altitude.

Paul counted. “She’s gone too long without breath.” He flung the dome aside and put his mouth over Philia’s mouth and nose. Breath. Breath. Two fingers against her chest. Compression. Again. Again.

The ship rocked. “Hold it steady!” he bellowed, trying to keep count in his head.

Mary’s hands wrapped around Philia’s tiny fingers. Their shaking was not from the trembling of the shuttle.

—-

“Trent, where are they?”

“They’ve made it into the atmosphere. They’ve started the approach at a hospital in Minnesota province. TerraGenesis is sending them to the best natal care facility in the world.” His eyes stayed on his monitors.

—-

In his cabin, James stayed on his knees, hands folded, eyes closed. His mouth spoke silently. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead.

—-

Heather lifted the throttle, leveling off the shuttle for landing. One last jolt. They were there. She released the hatch and ran to open it. A team of doctors waited.

They rushed into the shuttle. Paul blocked the way. He shook his head.

Mary cradled a tiny gray form to her chest.

“My daughter… my baby… Oh, Philia! …Philia…”

Read Part 8 here.

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