JULY 25, 3151
After serious prodding, mostly by me, Sera sent a droid across the empty space between our two spheres to string an electronically shielded cable that would restore communication between us and those on the other side. She blamed the delay on the dearth of resources required to fabricate the mile long wire. Our first visual consisted of Frank and Paul shaking hands, neither of them fully aware that Albert had patched their images together, each alone in front of separate cameras with arms outstretched. The system could not accommodate tele-presence transmission.
I watched from our apartment. While my little angel drew nourishment and her father sketched plans for a pressurized tunnel between the hemispheres, Emily operated the video camera to present my baby to her other grandparents, my mother and father.
Mother expressed joy but anguish over our separation dominated her features. Both my parents wanted to suit up and come over, but Sera refused their request. When engineering had enough material ionized from dark energy, it would construct Albert’s tunnel between the spheres, within an estimated two to three years.
Cleopatra lay naked on her blanket matching her fingers to her toes, and while I decorated her first birthday cake, Jimmy barged in. He stopped in his tracks and stared, as if he’d never seen a naked female body. The relaxed attitudes toward nudity we experienced on Mission One had become stringent within our present reclusive society. Children, especially the only other girl, seldom intermingled, and adults gathered only whenever Frank called a meeting. We needed my father’s rooftop garden to encourage socializing.
I scooped Cleopatra from her blanket, wrapped it around her bare bottom, and presented the bundle for Jimmy to hold. He recoiled and backed out of the room, as if facing a Jedi laser gun.
“Come back in here,” I demanded.
“I just came to talk to Albert.” He stepped forward but continued to avert his gaze.
“Well, he’s not here, but his daughter is.” I tapped his shoulder and pointed at the couch. He backed into it and plopped down. “I nominate you as Cleopatra’s sitter whenever Sera and I are away.” I replaced the blanket with a diaper and nestled her into his cradled arms. “There, that wasn’t so bad.” Cleopatra smiled and cooed and fingered the fine hairs sprouting under Jimmy’s nose. “I have to pick up some items at the commissary and will be right back.”
“I’ll inform Frank that we have a guest, and that Albert needs to come home immediately.” As an act of defiance, I pulled Mother’s cross out from under my blouse.
I returned alone and empty-handed. Cleopatra cooed while Chewbacca, his knuckles pressed to the floor, pranced around the room, until she noticed lunch had arrived. I sent Jimmy to exert the influence over Frank and Albert that I apparently lacked. I lifted my smock to the delight of the only individual who ever expressed an interest in my breasts. She had one side drained when Albert walked into the room followed by Jimmy who stopped and gawked.
No time like the present for some instruction. “This is how babies are fed.” I fought a surge of modesty but made no effort to cover myself.
He said, “I wondered how she could eat without teeth.”
“I’m thankful she hasn’t any.” When my baby’s mouth loosened its grip, I pulled the blanket over her head effectively covering my nipple until I could pull my blouse over my breast. I stood and approached Albert. “It’s your turn.”
“To feed her?”
“No, to change her.” I held Cleopatra at arm’s length, and Albert pinched his nostrils. “And to sit with her so Jimmy can return home.” I faced Jimmy. “Thank you for your help.”
He rushed from the room without offering additional babysitting services.
Albert continued to glare at Cleopatra, as if the ooze seeping around her diaper with its accompanying odor was a personal affront. “Are you going to take your daughter or not?” I demanded.
“You do it.”
He turned to leave, as I laid Cleopatra on the floor and removed her soiled diaper. I yelled, “Don’t leave. We need to talk.” He stood with his back to the door. “You don’t really want this child.”
He glanced down and muttered, “I didn’t expect we’d be living together, just that you wanted a baby.”
“And I should raise her all by myself?”
“We never talked about that part.”
With Cleopatra cleaned and diapered, I carried her into our bedroom and laid her in her crib. When I returned, Albert hadn’t moved from the door. He sunk to the floor in his frog-legged position, and I squatted in front of him.
I asked, “How come Bob and Helen sign themselves when they greet me?”
“I don’t know.”
“You did it a couple of times, too.”
“Because they don’t.”
“Mimicking some crazy behavior without a sound rationale is not your style. I want to know why you signed and why you stopped.”
He blushed. “Because your baby might be a special gift from God.”
“She’s a special gift from your DNA. If God is involved in any way, She just allowed it to happen.”
“I don’t believe I am the father.”
I pointed to his crotch. “You shoved that thing into me and it hurt like hell.”
He cast his eyes down. “You were already pregnant when that happened.”
Had he guessed I’d still been a virgin when we finally consummated our relationship? “Well, who do you suppose got me pregnant that night back on Mission One? The Man in the Moon?”
“I don’t know who the Man in the Moon is, but I don’t think it was me.”
“Well, who do you think you screwed? My droid?” I considered confessing the fraud Sera and I concocted, but he shook his head.
“I think you were already pregnant, and you used me as a cover.”
I stood and turned my back to him. “You were the only man capable of getting me pregnant.”
“Maybe it wasn’t a man.”
“Go back to your project, and get that crazy notion out of your head.”
I faced him as he scrambled to his feet. “Build that passage so I can go home to my parents.” As he opened the door, I asked, “Why did you and the others stop that stupid gesture?” I pulled my mother’s cross from under my blouse. “I still wear this thing.”
“I stopped because my father forbade it. Bob and Helen hide the gesture by sliding their thumbs across their palms.”
“That’s ridiculous. I’m going to grab Helen’s hand the next time she greets me with it.”
“Not you. Since you gave birth, they use the sign to honor your baby.” He ducked out of the room, and I stood dumbfounded.
I resigned myself to the role of a mother who loves and tends to her child, disregarding Bob and Helen’s veneration, Frank’s agitation, and Albert and his mother’s hesitation. If the gods chose my child or me as some kind of connection between human and divine, She or He will have to speak in a loud voice.
JULY 25, 3151