|Primary Characters:||Ed, Sloan, Tom|
|Description:||Sloan is acting strangely, and Ed wants to know why. When he and Tom find out, they are devastated, and they have to find a way of saving Sloan’s life. No matter what it costs Tom.|
Ed yawned and stretched. Was it really possible that it was past midnight? Where had the day gone? He vaguely remembered having eaten a few times since 6 a m when they’d begun their work, but other than that, it seemed as if only an hour or so had passed.
“I’m beat. Anyone else want to pack it in for tonight?”
“Yes, perhaps it would be best. Sloan?”
“What? Oh. Yes. Sure. My back’s killing me and my legs -“
Ed smiled at her, a twinkle in his eye hinting at his true intent.
“Why don’t I give you a back rub?”
Sloan sounded strangely indifferent to the offer when she dropped down into a more comfortable chair in the room that served as living room, dining room and whatever else they needed apart from bedrooms and the lab. Though he tried his best, Ed couldn’t get the reaction he had hoped for from his lover.
“Mm. That was great. Now I really need to go to bed. Goodnight, guys. Wake me early, so we can get on with this.”
“Oh, ok. Are you sure you don’t want some company?”
It was now the third week Sloan had chosen to sleep alone. That had happened before from time to time, but that was only when it was that time of the month. By now Ed had begun to worry. Either about a medical problem, though Sloan assured him she was fine, or that he or Tom had offended her somehow. But that too seemed difficult to guess at.
“Positive. Sleep well. See you tomorrow.”
And she was gone. Ed and Tom exchanged a look. Having their own rooms wasn’t a hardship, but why Sloan had suddenly decided to shut them out of her life was beginning to alarm them. Though the topic was awkward to say the least, Ed was by now desperate enough to try and discuss it with Tom.
“Did you and Sloan have a fight?”
“An argument, a quarrel.”
“Oh. No. Nothing like that.”
“Hm. Me neither. She wouldn’t -“
Ed had merely been thinking out loud, but since Tom was now wondering what he had been referring to, he decided he might as well talk the matter through with his friend, who also happened to be Sloan’s other lover.
“I guess she wouldn’t be seeing someone else?”
“Who would that be? There’s only you and me here.”
“Exactly. So that’s out. That’s one of the reasons women start sleeping on their own. I think.”
“Like faking orgasms.”
“Faking orgasms? But that isn’t possible. Sloan could never hide that from me.”
Ed was beginning to wish he had never brought up the topic in the first place. This was a little like having to explain the facts of life to a kid brother. Except this brother was sleeping with the same woman.
“No, I guess not. Though I wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell. I just meant -“
“And Sloan has never faked any orgasms with you, Ed.”
Oh, no. Most likely Tom could tell whenever Ed – No. Not a good thing to dwell on.
“Look, can we not talk about Sloan’s orgasms, ok?”
“I thought that was what we were discussing.”
“No. I mean yes, but that’s not what I was getting to.”
“But you said -“
“Yes. I know what I said. All I’m trying to figure out is why she doesn’t want us anymore. I was hoping you’d be able to offer some insight.”
“No. I thought you knew more about women than I do.”
Oh, this was just great. Now he was a sex guru. But in a way it made sense. As modest as Ed’s experiences in that department had been, he was sure he knew a lot more about love and relationships than poor Tom.
“That might be true, but this time I’m clueless.”
“Why don’t we ask her?”
Good question. Why didn’t they? For one, Ed already had tried asking. Not exactly straight out, but at least he’d tried to approach the sensitive topic. He knew he was on his own. Tom wouldn’t know the first thing about what made women turn away from their lovers.
“Well, I did try a couple of times.”
“And what did she say?”
“Nothing’s wrong. We don’t need to worry about a thing. Except we do. Is it my imagination or was everything fine about a month ago?”
“No. It seemed that way to me too.”
“And now, suddenly she doesn’t want us to sleep with her. I think that’s a bit odd. Don’t you?”
“I have never questioned any woman’s decision.”
“And you didn’t have any thoughts on it?”
Tom considered this in silence for a while, and Ed was beginning to think that Tom too, found this conversation embarrassing.
“Naturally, I was upset.”
“Ed, do you think we have offended her somehow?”
“It’s hard to tell with women, but I don’t think so.”
“Could it be a medical problem?”
“That has occurred to me. But she was adamant. Nothing’s wrong. And I could hardly force her to submit to an examination. Besides, I’m no specialist. I would kind of like to leave that sort of thing to some other doctor. If you can understand that.”
“Yes. I understand.”
Ed took a closer look. Tom’s face was always hard to read, but he had sounded sincere. Maybe it wasn’t so hard to understand that this whole thing was awkward.
“I guess all we can do is wait and see.”
There didn’t seem to be much more to add. After saying goodnight, both men retreated to their new rooms.
Next morning, they woke up to find Sloan already dressed and on her way into the city. When she caught sight of her lovers, she hurriedly gave them some sort of explanation for her sudden decision to leave right in the middle of an intense period or work.
“Sorry about this, guys. I need to go into the city right away.”
“Is anything wrong?”
“No. Nothing’s wrong. This is just something personal. I should be back early this evening. Anything you’d like me to get for you?”
“I don’t think so. What about you, Tom?”
“No, thank you. I don’t need anything.”
“Sloan, please. Can’t you tell us what’s going on?”
“Ed. I didn’t realize I answer to you, or Tom.”
“That’s not what this is about. Can’t you understand I worry about you?”
Normally, Ed knew that Sloan wouldn’t be this indifferent to his concerns. This time, however, she appeared too distracted to focus on her lovers. What could this be about? She had never before shut him out like this.
“There’s no need. I can take care of myself. We’ll talk later, ok? Like I said, I’ll be seeing you tonight. Be good.”
For a second Ed thought she was referring to the mortifying incident that had occurred between him and Tom, and he felt his ears heat up, then it dawned on him that Sloan was referring to their work.
“Ok. We got it covered. In fact, we might be done by the time you get back.”
“Great. Now I really need to get going.”
Ed bit back the words that were on his tongue. It was obvious his lover wouldn’t listen to him. Helplessly, he watched Sloan get into her own car and drive off. Great? More like a disaster. For a moment, he even feared this would be the last time he’d ever see her again. But he was just being silly. And there was work to be done, so they’d better get to it.
“Right. I guess there’s nothing else for it. Shall we get back to work?”
Struck by a sudden idea, Ed turned to Tom again with a question.
“It’s a long shot, I know, but did you sense anything from Sloan before she left? You know, her emotional state.”
“Yes. She appeared to be anxious about something.”
“Yes, nervous, tense, agitated.”
“What? And you didn’t say anything.”
“What was I supposed to say? She had made up her mind to go. Should I have tried to detain her against her will?”
“No, of course not. But what could she be nervous about?”
“I don’t know. There doesn’t seem to be anything in this place that could cause such an effect. You have not experienced anything threatening here, have you?”
“No. And you haven’t either?”
“No. Nothing like that. But I am sensing your agitation right now.”
“Stop that, will you. I’ll ask if I want you to read me.”
“Never mind. This is bad. We have to figure out what’s wrong. Why won’t she confide in us? I don’t get it.”
“I’m afraid I don’t either. But don’t you think Sloan will tell us eventually?”
“I hope so. Ok, let’s get to work. I did promise we’d be more or less done by evening.”
“Yes. I’ll get started right away.”
At least Sloan was back by early evening, just like she had promised. But if Ed had been hoping she’d be more forthcoming, he was disappointed. She merely picked at some dinner that Ed had to fix, though he was almost as bad at cooking as Sloan.
After that she took a look at the work Ed and Tom had done, declared everything satisfying, then vanished into her room. The room that they had all shared only a few weeks ago. This was beginning to look more and more serious. And there didn’t seem to be anything Ed could do about it.
In the next couple of days, Sloan very rarely left her room, and when she did, she frequently snapped at the men, hardly ate a thing, at least not food, but Ed noticed that she had taken to sneaking out at night, when she thought the others were asleep, to have snacks and desserts of various kinds.
Could she be sulking? Ed hadn’t known her when they were teenagers, but he knew girls could go through stages like that. But Sloan wasn’t a kid anymore, and he had never known her to care about food or any other domestic matters. The whole thing was a mystery.
Sloan herself didn’t pay much attention to the men’s reaction to her behavior. Her mind was too busy trying to come to terms with what she had just learned. She had been called a genius on some occasions. That didn’t impress her much. As far as she was concerned, she had a job to do, and as it turned out she was qualified to do it. Her grades had won her a scholarship, so naturally doing well in school had helped her along. That was all that mattered.
But her brains did very little to help her deal with her changed situation. Part of her had a really hard time even understanding it had happened. Even though her first suspicion couldn’t possibly be true. There was another explanation, far more likely, that no doubt would prove to be the correct one.
In a few days she’d have the test results. Until then, she’d just have to get on with her work. Ed and Tom must have noticed her changed attitude. But she couldn’t consider their feelings right now. They would simply have to wait.
When she reviewed Ed’s and Tom’s work, she found that most of it was done. But that only took them so far. It was like that most of the time. Once a project was finished, you had to file away the results and get on with the next phase of your work. But they had arrived at a standstill. The test results from the male dominant Tom had caught didn’t add much more than they already knew.
At least the man was still in custody. He was being charged with the murder of all the innocent patients at the hospital, but the other surviving dominants had managed to get away. There was no clue as to what they had hoped to gain by the attack. The man had resisted all attempts at making him speak. One explanation might simply be that it was a means of terrorizing the human population of the city.
The day when the other test results arrived came far too soon. When she had the envelope in her hand, she didn’t feel prepared. In fact, she experienced a highly unscientific urge to tear it up and go back home. But that was ridiculous. Sooner or later she’d have to face the facts, whether or not she liked them.
She considered opening it in the car on the way back, but decided that the news would keep. Back at the base, she just had a few words with Tom and Ed, before seeking refuge inside her own room. Now there was no putting it off any longer.
But the news didn’t come as any surprise. She had already surmised what was happening, long before the test results arrived. Of course, it was one thing to just guess. It was quite another to know for sure. And wishful thinking never got anyone anywhere. Part of the test results was unclear lending itself to a very ominous interpretation. Sloan tried to console herself by blaming some kind of error. She would have the test done over again. What she feared simply couldn’t happen, could it?
After staying inside her room for far longer than she had intended, she finally gathered up the courage to speak to Ed and Tom. No matter what this would mean for all of them, she couldn’t keep her secret to herself anymore. They both deserved to know. As far as she knew, they never kept anything from her, and it wouldn’t be fair of her to shut them out. She found Ed still in the lab, but she couldn’t see Tom anywhere.
“Hello. Is everything ok?”
“I don’t know. Ed, there’s something I need to discuss with you. Both of you. Where is Tom?”
“He went for a walk.”
“If you like I’ll go look for him.”
“No. We’ll wait. Have you had any dinner?”
“I had something a while back. What about you?”
“Me? No. I’ll get something later. Ed -“
“Remember how we found the 1.6 deviation?”
“How can I forget? Your biggest discovery ever.”
“Don’t be too sure. And just like interspecies hybrids are an impossibility among primates, it would be impossible for a human and a dominant to reproduce?”
“It stands to reason. To my knowledge there has never been any chimp/gorilla crosses even in captivity. Sloan, what is this about? Have you had some new reports come in? About all those rapes? They can’t be intending for human females to – No. It’s impossible.”
“Just a second. I think I hear Tom outside.”
She was right. The dominant was back and he appeared to be pleased to see her again. His shy smile always had an effect on Sloan, but this time, she wasn’t sure it was the same one it used to. -Ok, guys. There’s no easy way of saying this, so I’ll just say it. My circumstances have changed a bit. Quite drastically, in fact. I’m pregnant.
“You are? But that’s fantastic, isn’t it? I mean, the timing is a bit off and – You always said you wanted kids one day.”
“I know. And you’re right, the timing stinks, but that’s not what concerns me right now. You see, it’s just not one baby, it’s two.”
“Twins? That’s even better.”
Not until now, did it dawn on Ed that while he might be very happy about his impending fatherhood, Tom must be feeling a bit left out. There was no way he could ever hope to father a child with a human female. Or was there? Was that what Sloan had been so worried about? But all their research had told them a human/dominant hybrid was impossible. Just as a human/chimp hybrid would be impossible. And Tom certainly didn’t look as happy as Ed had been up until a few seconds ago.
“Sloan? Is there anything else you need to tell us?”
She hesitated, biting her lip. How did she say this? She hoped Ed would be able to reassure her one way or another. But how could he know, when the specialist she had approached still hadn’t been able to tell her, without doing further testing?
“One of the fetuses is a girl. The other one’s a boy.”
Tom still hadn’t said a word, and his face was more than usually closed and tense. Why hadn’t he said a word? Surely it couldn’t be disappointment or even envy?
“The girl is your daughter, Ed.”
“Ok. Great. I always wanted a little girl with your hair. But what about the boy?”
“Dr Margolin couldn’t say.”
“I think the test results were corrupted somehow. She’s going to run another one just in case. But I think I’m going to have to go back for more specific testing.”
“But if there’s no mistake?”
“I don’t know. Ed, I just don’t know. But remember the experiment we did, where we resequenced Tom’s DNA? He was technically human for a while. You don’t think -“
They turned eagerly towards Tom, even though it was highly unlikely that a man who had been trained as an assassin would know more than they did about genetics and heredity.
“All I can say is, let’s hope the test was corrupted somehow. That boy had better be your son, Ed.”
“I don’t have anything else to say.”
Tom turned abruptly and left the room, leaving his lover and his friend standing there, stunned and emotionally drained. What was up with Tom? This was so unlike him.
If Ed hadn’t known any better he’d have had to say this was an attack of teenage sulking. Perhaps if you were never allowed to be a kid, that kind of thing might come back with a vengeance later in life. Was Tom jealous? Ed couldn’t figure out what to make of his reaction.
Sloan didn’t feel up to guessing games, so she decided to ignore Tom for the moment. She had a feeling she would need all of her strength to get through this pregnancy. How would her changed circumstances affect her work? She hadn’t even begun to consider those implications.
Something Ed said interrupted her train of thought and she looked up, startled.
“What? Sorry, I was thinking about something else.”
“I said, how far are you along?”
“Oh. About four months.”
“I know. At first I didn’t want to face it and then I just needed to make sure. Sorry. I know I should have told you guys sooner.”
“That’s ok. I think I can understand. Our relationship isn’t exactly standard.”
At that, Sloan managed a feeble smile. You could say that again. And again. Non-standard relationships, that was her specialty alright. She was involved with two guys, and one of them wasn’t even a human. Yes, he was. He was as human in the spiritual sense as anyone she’d ever known.
“Ok. You’re probably going to bite my head off, and that’s ok. But I am a doctor. So, Sloan, are you eating ok? Getting enough vitamins?”
“Look who’s talking.”
“Me? I’m not the one who’s going to have a baby.”
“Yeah? We’ll have to figure out a way so you can do that some day. It’s only fair.”
“Why not? But not for a while, I hope. Let’s get you through this pregnancy first.”
“Sorry, Ed. I’ll be seeing dr Margolin for this. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Mind? Are you kidding? I’m totally relieved. When I said let’s get you through this pregnancy, I was talking purely as a father.”
“Oh. But anyway, can you forgive me for being such a bitch in the past couple of weeks?”
“You know I always forgive you. For anything.”
“I don’t like the way that sounds. Like I always do something you need to forgive me for.”
“Of course not. Let me look at you. It doesn’t show. Is dr Margolin sure about the time frame?”
“There you go again. Playing doctor.”
“I guess I can’t help myself. And there’s no one I’d rather play doctor with in the entire world.”
“The feeling’s mutual. And yes, she’s right. Did you expect me to fill out like a balloon?”
“No. Yes. That’s what I’m worried about. You’re not eating enough, are you?”
“I’ll tell you something, Ed. Try eating when you’re feeling sick each morning, and come back and tell me how much you feel like having a balanced meal.”
“Ok. Point taken. But please try, ok?”
Sloan rummaged through her purse and came up with a piece of paper.
“You take this. It’s the list dr Margolin’s prepared for me. All gross healthy stuff.”
“This looks good.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You’re not going to have to eat that stuff.”
“Yes, I am. If you think I’m going to cook two different types of meals for us, you’re mistaken. And I’m not going to take a chance on your cooking either.”
“Ok. You’re the chef in this joint.”
“Fine. Aren’t you going to bed now? It’s late and you need your rest.”
“Stop fussing, ok? I might feel a bit tired, but if I go to bed now, it’s just because I feel like it. Not because you tell me to.”
“That’s understood. Come on, let’s go.”
“We – are not going anywhere. Sorry. The way I feel right now, I don’t want company. Maybe later.”
“Ok. I understand. Good night, Sloan.”
“Good night, Ed. I’m glad you’re being so supportive.”
Ed knew she was referring to Tom’s odd behavior. Well, if Tom didn’t want to be a part of this, Ed couldn’t force him. It was Tom’s loss.
“Maybe it’s got something to do with never getting to be a kid himself. He’s probably not ready yet.”
“No. That could be it. And anyway, there’s no way that other fetus could be his, right?”
“That’s highly unlikely. Don’t worry about it.”
“You’re right. Worrying won’t change a thing. Ok, I’m going. See you tomorrow.”
Ed decided to go to bed as well. He felt exhausted, just from going through this emotional upheaval. It was still very unreal. How could he be a dad? But just like Sloan had always wanted kids, so had he. He would just never have dared to hope they’d have them together.
His hand was on the doorhandle, and he was about to open his door when he felt a hand on his arm. He whirled around and found Tom standing there, with a very somber look on his face.
“Sorry to startle you. There is something I need to discuss with you.”
“Ok. Come on in.”
“Ed. This baby Sloan is carrying -“
“Yes, what about her?”
“Nothing. I mean the boy.”
“Ed, if that baby is mine, there’s no way Sloan can carry him to term.”
“What are you saying?”
“If the baby is a hybrid, Sloan will die giving birth.”
“How do you know that? No offense, but you weren’t a scientist or a doctor among your people.”
“I know. But this is something we all know. A very low percentage of human women are capable of conceiving with one of our males. That’s the reason for all the rapes. If only one in a thousand or even one in a million conceives, that’s considered important. That woman would be abducted and – I don’t know. I always refused to – It’s never happened to me. But I think they use the fetus and the mother for experimentation.”
Ed couldn’t find anything to say. His mouth went all dry. Sloan dying. That couldn’t be allowed to happen.
“But you just said that it’s extremely rare for a woman to be able to conceive. Why would Sloan be one of those few percent?”
“I sincerely hope not. Ed, you’re a doctor. You could find out for sure, couldn’t you?”
“No. Not me. She’s seeing another doctor in the city.”
“But there is a way of finding out for sure? A DNA test?”
“Yes, sure. My god, this is terrible. What are we going to do?”
“Let’s just hope the baby is yours. Everything will be fine then.”
“Yes. I’m sorry, Tom.”
“For you. If you want to have children -“
Tom’s face turned into an unreadable mask again. He got up and turned to leave. But in the doorway he turned around and faced Ed again.
“You will let me know, won’t you?”
“Yes, of course.”
When Tom had left, Ed sat down on his bed, but sleep was the furthest from his mind. He buried his head in his hands and gave in to despair. Sloan couldn’t die, she couldn’t. She just couldn’t belong to those few percent of women.
He didn’t get any sleep that night and when morning came, he had decided not to tell Sloan what Tom had told him. She mustn’t be upset. When she went into the city to see dr Margolin, Ed decided to come along. They had discussed what they would tell the specialist and had come to the conclusion that Ed would be Sloan’s fiance, and the father of the baby. If the other fetus should have another type of DNA they would feign ignorance of the cause. Mutations did occur. No one knew that better than they did.
Ed could tell Sloan was almost as nervous as he was. He was with her the entire time the tests were taken, holding her hand, trying his best to be supportive, though his mind was in turmoil. If only the lab had screwed up the tests –
The new results wouldn’t be available until early next week, so they had a seemingly unending period of waiting ahead of them. It so happened that they didn’t have any particular pressing tasks at the moment.
Sloan developed an almost hysterical interest in interior decorating. They might not actually own the base they were living on, but no one was going to show up any time soon and ask to have it back, so they might as well make it more habitable. Obediently, Ed went back and forth to the nearest town to buy wall paper, paint and fabrics. But soon Sloan lost interest, leaving the place half finished, and a storage room filled with all the stuff Ed had bought in town. She had refused to buy any baby things. There was something almost superstitious about her terror of making any preparations.
Under normal circumstances, she would have called her mother. As it was, she became unusually obsessive about lining up photographs of her family on her bedside table.
On the day the new test results were to arrive, Ed took her into the town to check their P O box. And sure enough, the small envelope that looked so harmless, but which contained her judgement, was there. Ed had never seen Sloan this pale and tense. Normally, nothing scared her. No one knew that better than he did. He took her hand and held on to it as they walked back to the car.
“Do you want me to open it?”
“No. I’ll do it. Should we wait until we get back or do it right now?”
Ed thought about it. Probably opening it back home would be wiser, but on the other hand, he didn’t think he could take the pressure for that long. He would much rather have it over and done with.
“If you want to open now we’ll do that, otherwise we’ll wait. You decide.”
“Ok. Here goes. I’m just being silly. You’d think we were some hillbillies they write about in the tabloids. Woman gives birth to alien child. We’re scientists. These things don’t happen, right?”
Ed didn’t reply. With eyes fixed on the piece of paper Sloan impatiently pulled out of the envelope, which she’d already torn to shreds, he waited breathlessly.
Her indrawn breath told him what the result had been. What were the odds of that happening? About the same as someone like Tom going over to their side.
“Look for yourself. They’re trying to make it sound so routine. Like a mutation happens all the time. Haven’t they ever heard of the dominant species at all?”
“They probably assume I’m the only possible father. It would be a bit impolite to imply that you’d been -“
“Oh. I see. Yes. But even so. I might have been -“
That was another possibility Sloan didn’t want to contemplate, and neither did Ed. Fortunately, that had never been even remotely possible.
“Ok. Let’s get back. When’s your next appointment with dr Margolin?”
“Not until next month. I’m perfectly healthy and besides my husband is a doctor. Well, my fiance. Which is the same thing. Ok. I want to talk to Tom about this. In a way this is really great, isn’t it? Tom’s chance to become a father, against all odds. Who would have thought? I only wish he wouldn’t act this strange. But I guess lots of guys want to chicken out when something like this happens. I just never figured Tom would be like that.”
“No. I guess there’s no way of knowing.”
When they got back, it turned out that Sloan had a headache and she wanted to go to her room and lie down. Tom was nowhere to be seen. He had taken to going for long walks since they’d moved out here.
“Just get some rest. I’ll talk to Tom when he gets back. Go on. If you like I’ll bring you something to eat or drink.”
“No thanks. Well, maybe just a glass of water.”
“Water’s good. Ok, coming right up.”
Ed brought her the water, and a little later Sloan went to sleep. Tom still hadn’t made an appearance, and Ed was beginning to wonder what the dominant had in mind. While trying to keep up a brave front for Sloan’s sake, he didn’t have time to dwell too much on the shock he had just suffered. The worst possible news.
It was late, and Ed had brought Sloan some food, since she claimed the smells in the kitchen made her sick, but Tom still hadn’t showed up. Fortunately, Sloan couldn’t have any idea of what Ed was going through on her behalf. He tried his best to keep his conversation light and untroubled. Time enough later. Ed would have to figure out what to do.
Since it didn’t look as if Tom was going to be back that night, he decided to call it a night. He didn’t feel like walking around the grounds in the dark, just to search for the missing dominant.
By the time he was changed and about to get into bed, there was a knock on his door. It was a bit eerie the way Tom made his way inside the house without a sound. But he was a friend, someone they could trust, and more than that, he was better than the best guard dog or burglar alarm. No one could get inside the house without Tom knowing about it. As long as he was there, naturally.
Of course it was Tom. No one else had been anywhere near the base since they’d moved out there. This was it. There was no putting it off any longer. Tom deserved to know the truth. So Ed took a deep breath, bracing himself for the painful revelation.
“The baby is yours, Tom.”
What else was there to say? But Ed had no idea what they were going to do about it. He hoped Tom did, but he wasn’t holding his breath. Like he had pointed out no more than a few days earlier, Tom was no expert in these matters.
“I was afraid of that.”
“I’m sorry. So what do we do now?”
Tom didn’t reply. His eyes had a faraway look and Ed had a good idea that even if he said something, the dominant wouldn’t hear him. So he waited. And finally, Tom seemed to find the strength to go on.
“Ed, you must terminate the pregnancy. Is it possible for you to abort the male fetus without harming the other one?”
“Yes, it’s possible. But you can’t be serious. Are you asking me to -“
“Remember what I told you. There’s no way Sloan can survive this. The baby is literally going to kill her. You can’t let that happen. Please save her, Ed.”
“But I – I can’t. You’re asking me to kill your own baby.”
“If you don’t, Sloan will die. There’s no other way. If you can’t bring yourself to do it, could you show me how?”
“Let me get this straight, you’re asking me to show you how to kill your own child?”
“There’s nothing you can teach me about killing, Ed. All I’m asking is that you show me how to abort the male fetus, without harming Sloan or the female fetus. Can you do that?”
“I don’t know. Do you realize what you’re asking me?”
“Yes, I think I do. But isn’t Sloan’s life worth it?”
Ed didn’t reply directly. He had to say everything that was on his mind, before arriving at any conclusion.
“I’m not against abortions. In some cases there’s nothing else to be done. But this – We’re talking about the woman I love, for heaven’s sake. And my baby. And yours.”
“But there is nothing else to be done.”
“Ok. Wait a minute. When does this fetus become a deadly threat to the mother’s life?”
“What do you mean?”
“How soon in the pregnancy?”
“I don’t know. Late, I think. In the last two months or so. But like I told you, I’ve never been involved in that kind of thing.”
“Yes, you told me. But you think we have some time? Sloan’s about four months along.”
“Yes. But what is the point of waiting? Do you think you could change anything?”
“I don’t know. What if the baby is delivered prematurely? Could it survive?”
“It’s possible. But you are assuming that this baby will gestate for nine months. Our women are pregnant a much shorter time. What if the baby will be born much sooner than you expect?”
Tom was right. Ed hadn’t given that any thought. And he should have known better. They already knew something about the gestation of a dominant female. His idea would most likely never have worked.
“You’re right. I have to tell Sloan. We could go back to the city. I think we could ask to have the mutated fetus aborted. They think it’s a spontaneous mutation. That would be understandable.”
“How soon could you go?”
“Tomorrow. Sloan will call her doctor and they’ll schedule the procedure as soon as possible. But this is a late abortion. There will be formalities, I think. I’m not a GP or a gynecologist, so I’m not familiar with all the rules and regulations.”
“But it can be done in time?”
“I think so.”
“If not, could you do it yourself?”
“Yes. Yes. I know how to do it. It’s not something I’ve ever done. But I could do it. Sloan’s life is at stake. I can’t worry about my own feelings. But what about you, how do you really feel about this?”
“Just save Sloan. Don’t worry about me.”
“Ok. Sloan is what counts. But how do I tell her this? She was so happy today. For your sake as well as her own.”
“Yes. As a scientist, she’ll know this is necessary.”
Ed looked up. Tom’s face was suddenly not a mask anymore. All kinds of emotions moved across his tense features. His eyes sought out Ed’s and nodded grimly. They had an understanding. Sloan’s life would have to take precedence.
Next morning, after another sleepless night, Ed went to wake Sloan. He remained standing outside her door for a much longer time than he’d intended. It was so hard to shatter her dreams like this. But they couldn’t afford to put it off any longer.
“Sloan, there’s something I have to tell you.”
His tone immediately told her something was wrong, and she knew it was something to do with her children. Besides, Ed’s face was always an open book. Something had upset him deeply.
“Tom just told me that no human woman can survive giving birth to a hybrid child.”
Sloan felt an almost physical pain at Ed’s words. But somehow, she’d always had a bad feeling about the hybrid. Her training told her that in the majority of these cases there was no happy ending.
“I can’t have Tom’s baby?”
“No. You’d die. And we can’t let that happen. Please, say that you understand.”
“Would the baby survive?”
“Tom didn’t say, but I doubt it.”
“So whatever we do, he dies. I see. And there’s your daughter to consider too. If I decide to go ahead, I’ll be putting her at risk. You’re right. There’s no choice, is there? How does Tom feel about this?”
“He wants you to survive.”
“Where is he? I want to talk to him too.”
That was a good question. Ed hadn’t seen or heard anything from the dominant since last night. His guess was that Tom had left again. On some mysterious errand, he hadn’t confided in his friend.
“I haven’t seen him this morning. This has to be painful for him, so I guess he wants to be alone.”
“I see. Ok. I’ll call dr Margolin. We’ll have to do this soon. It’s late as it is.”
“I know. Sloan, we’ll get through this somehow.”
She nodded absently and reached for the phone. If she was going to have the strength to carry this through to the end, she’d have to do it quickly. So there’d be no turning back. It was a horrible feeling to call and order her own child’s death. But she knew she had to be strong for her daughter’s sake.
Dr Margolin’s voice didn’t betray any surprise on hearing her request. That made Sloan suspect she knew more than she had let on earlier. She agreed to see them that afternoon. The procedure would be scheduled as soon as a time could be found for them.
While Sloan was getting ready, Ed took a look around. His suspicions had been correct. Tom was gone. But they didn’t have time to worry about Tom’s comings and goings.
They didn’t say anything during their drive into the city. Both were too busy brooding. It couldn’t be said that either one of them was particularly observant. Ed parked the car in an underground parking garage in the same building dr Margolin had her surgery. He barely had time to lock the door, before the attack came. Sloan was already out of the car, waiting for him by the elevator.
A man sneaked up behind Ed and it was only the reflected movement in the car window that warned him about the attack. With an agility Ed didn’t know he had, he ducked, rolled away from the attacker, and came back at him far more ferociously than he thought he was capable of. Forgotten was his Hippocratic oath. In the moment he knew Sloan was threatened, he ceased to be a doctor and was just an ordinary man. Before he knew what he was doing, he had knocked the man up against a BMW parked next to his car. The car alarm went off, but Ed hardly noticed.
His attacker was stunned but not incapacitated. Ed had to fend off a blow to his head, and took a hit in his side, but the pain didn’t have time to register. Now his fist made contact with the other man’s chin, with a very satisfying thud. And to his astonishment, the guy went down and didn’t move again. But this was no time to enjoy the rush of victory. Sloan. If they’d already gotten their hands on her –
Ed whirled around, anxiously searching for his lover. To his surprise and shock, he found Sloan standing over a tall blonde woman, apparently making sure her attacker was similarly put out of action. His girl was amazing. There was no other word for it. She was pregnant, and had just had a dreadful shock, but there was no getting to her.
“I’m ok. What about you?”
“I – uh – I’m fine. How did you -“
“Oh. This. That bitch was trying to drag me to her car. So I decided to teach her a lesson.”
“Are you sure you’re ok? The baby -“
Yes. The baby and the other baby. One who was destined to live, if they were lucky and the other, who wasn’t going to get a chance. That brought them back to their grim purpose.
Agreeing that it wouldn’t do much good drawing attention to themselves by calling the police, Ed just dragged the unconscious bodies into cover between two cars. When those two came to, he was hoping they’d give up and make their report to whoever had employed them. And they both knew who that must be, since this was just a pair of ordinary humans.
When they walked into dr Margolin’s office, she raised her eyebrows slightly when she noticed their disheveled appearance, but she made no comment. Ed blushed, and made some kind of explanation.
“We had a rough trip here.”
“I see. Well, we’d better get started. First I want to do an ultrasound. Is that alright with you, Sloan?”
“Yes. Of course.”
“We need to make sure you and the girl are in good condition.”
It was incredibly painful to watch the tiny heartbeats on the screen. But Sloan forced herself to get on with what she had to do. As soon as this was over, she wanted to go to bed and sleep for about a year. Well, at least a month.
Finally, they were back in dr Margolin’s surgery. She looked somber and Sloan experienced a sinking feeling. Something was wrong. Would even the girl survive?
“I’m afraid the male fetus is severely deformed. There is no question of carrying him to term. Even if you don’t do anything, that fetus will abort spontaneously any time now.”
“But the girl is ok?”
“Yes, that’s one healthy little girl.”
“So we can leave the other fetus and let nature take its course?”
“Yes. That would probably be better. Any surgical procedure at this point will be risky for the other fetus. But you’ll have to be hospitalized right now.”
“Is that necessary?”
As she said it, Sloan knew it was. She just needed a little time to prepare herself.
“You will be comfortable there. And we can keep an eye on you and -“
“Ok. I understand.”
The memories of the next few days were something Sloan always did her very best to repress. To some extent she was successful. At least, Ed was with her round the clock, offering his special brand of support. She had never thought she’d be that dependent on someone else, but now she was extremely grateful to have him by her side.
When it was finally clear that their daughter would be safe and the pregnancy could go on without any special measures, she was allowed to go home. Now, however, she would be seeing her doctor once a week, instead of once a month, and she was under strict orders to call immediately if she noticed any change. After this bad scare, Sloan was perfectly willing to play by the rules. Anything, if only their daughter would survive.
On day 18 of Tom’s absence, he returned late at night. They didn’t hear him come in. The next morning, he was just there. Ed was shocked and saddened by the changes he could see in his friend. If he didn’t know any better, he’d guess that Tom hadn’t eaten in all that time, and probably not had much sleep either. But what was worse, was the look in his eyes. There was a haunted look in them that Ed hadn’t seen since he and Sloan had rescued Tom from the secret government agency.
“How is Sloan?”
“She’s going to be fine. And the baby too. I mean -“
“Yes. I understand.”
The dominant sat down at the table, but he seemed to have no intention of having any breakfast. From what Ed could tell, with no special senses, Tom was completely exhausted.
“Where have you been? We – Sloan’s been really worried about you.”
“There’s no need for you to worry about me.”
“Maybe you should get some sleep. No offense, but you look awful.”
Tom didn’t appear to have heard him. Ed put down the tray he’d been getting ready for Sloan, and walked over to his friend. He put a hand on Tom’s shoulder, but the dominant’s reaction took him by surprise. Tom got to his feet faster than Ed’s eyes could follow and he whirled around as if expecting a blow.
“Hey, man, take it easy. It’s just me. What’s wrong?”
Ed gasped when he saw the look in Tom’s eyes. The dominant seemed to be close to tears.
“I tried to find out more about why my people are so obsessed with producing a hybrid child.”
“You confronted the dominants again? On your own? Tom, you’re out of your mind. You can’t take that kind of risk.”
“It’s ok. As you can see, I’m not injured.”
“Did you find out anything?”
“Yes. I think Sloan needs to know this too. Is she awake? Do you think she’ll be up to seeing me?”
“Are you kidding? Now that you’re back, there’s no way I can show up in there without you.”
A pale smile greeted that statement, but Tom didn’t seem to have anything more to say.
“Ok. Let’s go. But are you sure you’re not going to have anything to eat first? And the way you look, I’d really recommend getting some sleep before you talk to Sloan. She’s not going anywhere, you know.”
“No. I’ll be fine. Just let me tell her this, then I’ll sleep.”
“Wait. Before you go, there’s something you might want to know. About your son -“
“We never had to – What I mean is that he was so severely deformed, there was a spontaneous abortion. A miscarriage.”
“I see, thank you for telling me this.”
“Alright. You know the way. I’ll just get this for her.”
Tom followed Ed into Sloan’s room. She was in the bathroom, but when she heard the door, she returned. Catching sight of Tom, she ran to take him into her arms, but to her distress he pulled back out her reach.
“What’s the matter, Tom? Where have you been?”
“How do you feel? Is everything ok with you and the baby?”
“Yes, we’re both doing well.”
“Good. That’s all that matters. Sloan, there’s something I need to discuss with you, if you’re up to it.”
“Of course I am. I’m not an invalid. Sit down.”
Tom pulled up a chair and did as Sloan told him to. Ed brought the tray over and managed to talk his lover into going back to bed. Absently, she complied, but ignored the tray on her lap.
“I wanted to find out what was behind my people’s obsession with hybrid babies. And I went after someone who could give me some answers.”
“You didn’t? Tom, you’re absolutely impossible. How can I trust you on your own when you go and put yourself at risk.”
“Ok, we’ll talk about that later. Did you find out anything?”
After a brief pause, in which he seemed to brace himself for something really difficult, Tom went on.
“Yes. They are terrified there will be a surviving hybrid. If that were to happen, their existence would be endangered.”
“Why? In what way?”
“Such a child might grown up with most of our powers, combined with your morals and empathy.”
“I see. That would be – Yes. But why shouldn’t it happen one day?”
“You know why. A human mother can’t carry the hybrid to term, and both mother and child would die.”
“Yes. What if we could construct an artificial uterus?”
The idea captured Ed’s interest and for a moment he tried to envisage how such a project might be undertaken. But remembering Tom’s strange mood, he decided to postpone those plans.
“We can talk about that later, Sloan.”
“Yes, you’re right. Tom, what’s wrong? You seem – I don’t know. What happened?”
“I had to – The male I managed to capture didn’t want to part with this information willingly. So I had to – “
So that was the explanation for Tom’s haunted eyes, and strange behavior. Ed and Sloan both knew how much Tom hated having to resort to violence, and they could guess that he had also had to kill the dominant. Poor Tom. Again and again he had to break the promise he had made to himself about never killing again.
“I understand. You did what you had to do.”
“I know. Well, that’s what I had to tell you. I’m glad you’re ok, Sloan. And Ed, I’m really happy for you. Now I think I should get some sleep.”
“Yes. You look like you could use it. Thank you, Tom. For doing this.”
When Tom had disappeared, Ed and Sloan went back to discussing the project they had dreamed up together moments before. This was a chance that was too good to be neglected. The future of humanity might depend on it.
In the evening, Tom emerged from his room, looking a little better, after getting a little sleep. While Ed prepared dinner for them, Sloan wanted to talk to Tom about something. This time, he looked a lot less tense, and even allowed Sloan to hold him for a while.
“Tom, I’ve been thinking about all this. About you becoming a father. If that means something to you, I’d understand if you want to have children with another woman. A dominant.”
“I don’t. Not with one of my people. How could I raise a child who will most likely be a dangerous killer? Besides, there’s no other woman for me.”
“I see. What about a hybrid? Wait, I see the problem. But what if it were possible?”
“How could that be possible? Any woman who agreed to -“
“No. Not a woman. It might be possible to make an artificial womb.”
“Oh. Well, in that case, I’d love to one day become a father. But I was hoping you and Ed would let me be in your daughter’s life.”
“Of course. We wouldn’t do without you for anything. I hope you know that.”
“I was hoping that was true, but I wasn’t sure.”
“Oh, Tom, you have to realize how much you mean to me. To both of us.”
“I hope you understand how much you mean to me. Both of you. Even if I can’t show it like a human would.”
“You’re doing great. Come here.”
And this time, Tom didn’t seem at all reluctant to accept her touch. When Ed came to announce that dinner was ready, he found Tom on the bed beside Sloan, his head resting on her shoulder. Ed was about to back out, rather than disturbing their intimate moment, but Sloan indicated for him to stay. So he walked up to the bed and sat down on Sloan’s other side, brushing away a few stray strands of hair out of her face.
“Is dinner ready?”
“Oh, I forgot. Yes, dinner’s ready. That’s what I came to tell you. I hope you’re hungry, because I can’t honestly say it’s all that nice. But you’ll have to take it or leave it. This is as good as it gets, out here, without takeout.”
“I’m sure it will be ok. Come on, Tom, let’s go. Aren’t you hungry too?”
“Yes. Ed, I’m sure dinner will be fine.”
Despite everything, it appeared their relationship was getting back to normal. At the dinner table they were able to keep up a reasonably cheerful conversation. Even more than in the past they were keenly aware of how alone they were, and how dependent they were on each other. It was a sad feeling, but there was also a great deal of comfort to derive from their closeness.