Urvine tore his gaze from the stars and stared at the small flat screen, his attention completely focused on the three slowly rotating spheres in front of him. Around him many other Creators were doing the same. The huge room was in silence – silence like nothing on Earth. Sounds were unnecessary here and therefore did not exist.
“Oh my god Joe, it’s turned blue! It’s blue!! I’m pregnant!!!!!!” Hazel screamed in sheer delight. She and Joe had been trying for a baby for what seemed like the longest time. She could hardly believe her eyes but she knew the test was correct. Hazel just ‘felt’ different this week and her instincts had been right because here was her proof – a tiny blue line on a white plastic stick. Joe’s wide grin mirrored hers. He lifted his wife off the floor and whirled her around in the air, whooping and cheering. Hazel threw back her head and laughed with undiluted pleasure.
Urvine gently touched one of the spheres on the screen – the blue one – to correct a slight imbalance, a tiny wobble after each full rotation which would have been imperceptible to the human eye but which, if ignored, would have become steadily more pronounced. A slight frown crossed his forehead – this one was precious. More precious than anyone on Earth could know.
“I can’t fit into anything anymore!” laughed Hazel, stirring her frothy cappuccino, “I’m only five months along and I’m as big as a woman should be full term. I still can’t believe it’s triplets! Oh my god, you should have seen Joe’s face when he found out!”
Hazel’s best friend Marcia laughed with her. Marcia had three children of her own but had not had them all at once. She could hear a slight undertone of worry in Hazel’s voice, common for a first time mother, but did not remark on it. Marcia was delighted for Hazel and Joe. They had been through some bad times recently but with Joe’s strength and Hazel’s optimism they had bounced back from every difficulty. And now Hazel seemed even more vibrant and determined than before. Marcia was sure the couple would make fantastic parents and had been deeply moved when they had asked her to be the children’s godmother. She had replied with happy tears in her eyes that nothing could be a greater honor.
Urvine’s screen remained the same. His eyes had remained on it solidly for the past seven Earth months, unblinking. The silence was total and complete. The three spheres continued their development and Urvine was motionless yet utterly alert. If only human concentration could also work that way.
Hazel took the three tiny outfits to the checkout, one each for the girls and one for the boy. She and Joe had had a silly row earlier that morning and it was still very much on Hazel’s mind.
“We can’t spend what we don’t have,” he’d shouted in frustration, “we never planned for three babies. We have to buy three of everything – the price of buggies and cots, I had no idea. And what about when they get older? How are we supposed to manage then? You tell me that! What are we supposed to do for money?”
Hazel had yelled back that it wasn’t her fault and it had been as much of a shock to her as it had been to him. Besides, what was she supposed to do about it? Surely this was a blessing. They’d just have to get by the best they could. Her emotions were all over the place at the moment which had made her burst into tears. Joe took this as a sign she was trying to make him feel guilty and stormed out. These little outfits were adorable, just the thing to cheer Hazel up. How sweet the babies would look. They weren’t that expensive. Surely Joe wouldn’t mind the purchase.
“Oh my!” exclaimed the girl at the checkout, eyeing the baby clothes, “are you expecting triplets?”
“Yes I am,” beamed Hazel, “only two more months to go! Then I’ll be able to see my feet again. I can’t wait!” The girl rang the amount into the register and as she gave Hazel her change, another woman came rushing over to them.
“Marcie! What are you doing here?” exclaimed Hazel in surprise.
“I saw you through the window. I was just on my way to the Post Office. How’s it going?”
Hazel rolled her eyes and smiled grimly. “I’ll tell you over coffee. I’ve got a real craving for a cake anyway. My treat.”
Marcie agreed, easily persuaded by the thought of a cream cake. Walking down the road, Marcie began to tell Hazel a funny story and Hazel was back to her usual laughing self in no time, worries about Joe and the babies banished for the time being.
A flashing red dot in the top left hand corner of the screen grabbed Urvine’s attention immediately. He sent an immediate telepathic inquiry to Platen. Platen, uncertain of the situation, sent a general inquiry around the entire Creation Room. The Creators knew in an instant that something had gone wrong. Although technically sharing one mind, each Creator had its own responsibilities and hardly ever had to link with another. However, as with everything, sometimes things could go awry. The red dot blinked more rapidly now… that meant one hour Earth time. If only he could see through the millions of stars, all the way to Earth, maybe a few hours into the future?
The Creators still were unsure of the problem and each tried to track it using their own terminal and memory data banks. The Creators were near perfect, the Creation equipment was perfect but sometimes human unpredictability would interfere in the processes and the Creators would have to deal with unforeseen circumstances the best they could. One Earth hour to track down the problem and fix it. Urvine was in charge of the prevention of the coming nuclear war and his plan had been flawless, or so he had thought. What was going on down there? He glanced out at the stars, as if they could help him.
“So then I said,” Hazel told Marcie, through a mouthful of cream cake, “how is it all my fault? You had something to do with this pregnancy as well, and he just went out in a huff. I know he’s worried about money but to be honest, Marcie, most of the time, I’m just so damned excited about being a mother and having these babies, I just can’t think about anything else! It’s such a huge thing! He’ll have calmed down by the time I get home anyway. Maybe I’ll even get another foot rub if I’m lucky. I need reassurance I still have feet, I can’t even see them.”
“Don’t worry about things, Hazel. It’s normal to be worried about money and I’m telling you as a single mother things are even harder. Not that you’ll ever need to think about that of course, love. But the kids are worth it. I wouldn’t swap mine for anything, even though the boys are next to useless, they just eat all my food, spend all my money and make a load of mess for me to clear up. And Jessica’s just as bad. But I wouldn’t be without them for the world. Money’s not everything. Don’t worry about Joe; like you said, he’ll be fine when you get back. Trust me on that.”
“Marcie,” Hazel smiled, giving her friend a kiss on the cheek, “I wouldn’t change you for the world. You’re the best. I’ll be off now. I expect Joe will be back from work for his lunch since he stormed out without taking the sandwiches I’d made him. I’ll call you later, OK?”
Thirty more Earth minutes and still no results. What could the problem be? It had to be an unforeseen. Something minor could happen down there and the ripples from that could cause a global disaster. A global disaster was imminent anyway but that was supposed to have been taken care of! But for some reason, no one in the Creation Room could get any information on the hitch. They would just have to ride it out and try to patch things up after the event. It had happened before and would happen again, the humans being none the wiser. The Creators didn’t like chaos but sometimes the best laid plans end up that way, as both humans and Creators know only too well.
Hazel turned into her street clutching the bag of baby clothes in one hand and holding the other hand above her eyes. It had been a fairly miserable morning but suddenly the sun had come out in all its glory. Hazel smiled and took this to be a good sign. She walked into the house and laid the bag down on the dining room table. She heard footsteps upstairs. Joe must be home. Eyeing the bag, Hazel decided to hide her purchases in a cupboard for now. She didn’t want another row. She thrust the bag into a cupboard and eased herself into a chair. Her back was aching. She closed her eyes and tried not to think about it.
Suddenly the dining room door flew open. Letting out a small cry, Hazel felt her heart beat wildly as she took in the unexpected sight. The man in her doorway was not Joe. He was dressed from head to toe in scruffy clothing, wore a dirty red baseball cap and held a small rucksack in one hand. He had a couple of Hazel’s necklaces in the other hand which he hurriedly stuffed into the rucksack, his eyes darting wildly around the room. The man’s breathing was ragged and fast and his skin pallid and sweaty. He looked stoned out of his mind. Hazel had never seen anyone on drugs before except on TV and this guy reminded her of one of them. She heard the blind on the kitchen door rattle in the breeze, the man must have broken in that way. She had never thought the door was secure enough. Anyone could have broken its glass. And now – someone had.
“Get down on the floor, bitch,” the man rasped, “face down! And don’t move until I’m gone. Or I’ll kill you. You understand? I said get down! Now!”
Frozen in shock, Hazel simply stared at him. The man started to stride towards her when she heard another sound, Joe’s key in the front door.
“Hazel, are you here? I forgot my lunch and I – what the hell? What’s going on? Who are you?!”
Joe saw the terrified look on his wife’s face a second before he saw the gun in the burglar’s hand.
“Get down on the floor! Both of you! Or I’ll kill you both! I will fucking kill you!” the man repeated, his eyes wide and darting, both hands shaking wildly.
“Don’t hurt my wife!” pleaded Joe, “she’s pregnant. Look, please, just take what you want and leave. We won’t call the police. Just don’t hurt us!! I’ll give you whatever you want. Do you want money? Jewelry?” He held out his hands, palms up, to demonstrate willingness to do whatever was necessary to get this person to leave – and quick. Joe had an idea. He had just been paid. His wallet was in the inside pocket of his jacket. He reached for it impulsively – anything to get this man to leave. Surely he would be happy with over a thousand dollars.
High on drugs the burglar did not see a desperate man trying to protect his wife and unborn children. He only saw an enemy reaching inside his jacket for a gun. He must get in there first. He fired at Joe, hitting him in the thigh. With a yelp of surprise and sudden agony, Joe fell back on to his wife, who had also begun screaming hysterically. The man squeezed the trigger again, aiming at the couple but shaking badly. This second shot went through Joe’s arm and into Hazel’s belly.
Forty five Earth seconds. Urvine’s screen showed multiple flashing warning lights and a blue sphere spinning precariously out of control. The two pink spheres were amazingly still normal. The blue sphere was beginning to disintegrate. At this stage nothing could be done. A telepathic message of extreme annoyance was broadcast to every Creator. One Creator had made this mistake at the cost of the blue sphere – the boy baby – the future Ambassador for World Peace. The only one to stop the future nuclear war. And now he had been destroyed before his birth. This was the gravest error ever made in the Creation Room and could not be undone. A lot of work would be needed to sort this out and time was extremely short. Thirty Earth years was not long in Creation time at all. With a sigh, Urvine saw the two pink spheres begin to disintegrate, one stretching into an ellipse and toppling over, the other collapsing in on itself and turning grey before disappearing altogether. Urvine shook his head, frowning, and cleared the screen. This project was over. Another plan must be formulated immediately.
“No! Hazel, no!! Oh god, what did he do? What did he do? Not us, not us, it can’t be happening,” Joe cradled his wife’s head on his lap, tears running down his cheeks and falling on to hers. His concern for his wife took over his entire being, he was hardly conscious of his own pain. She was barely breathing now. A neighbor had heard the shots and screams and called 911. Joe could hear the sirens in the distance. Hazel was rapidly weakening and was hardly aware of where she was or what was happening. She was dying and so were the lives inside of her. Despite her pain, she felt an overwhelming grief for her babies, heartfelt sympathy for her husband and an all-consuming sadness for the loss of her dream. With a final sigh, her gaze drifted from Joe's beloved face up to the stars, as she took her final breath.