I am struggling. Working 12 and 14 hour days so I have been too exhausted to write effectively. Not giving up though. I can still make it if I write 2000 words a day which is what my average was last year. Work has calmed down this week so I will keep slogging on. Anyway, here is the next installment.
Donnor was jolted awake by the opening of the supply hatch on his cart. The hum of electricity and the swaying motion of the cart had conspired to lull him to sleep. As the hatch opened the compartment was flooded with electra-sun and he had a brief glimpse of the plant filled corridor of the secret lab before a fairly large piece of furniture was rolled into the cart by the robot arm.
It seemed to be some kind of bed – maybe for a very small child or an animal. Were they conducting some kind of hideous experiments on animals here? Donnor thought that kind of cruelty had been stopped, but the mattress held a bundle securely wrapped and obviously incapacitated.
Whatever it was, there was no real time to react - it was coming in and Donnor was trapped between the back wall of the cart and the encroaching furniture. He had to stand, and suck in his stomach to allow room for the bed, which caused him to lean over its occupant.
“Don’t worry,” he heard a voice say, “He’ll be fine in the conveyor, and protected from exposure to any possible infection. He’ll be safely at the outtake hatch in 10 minutes. We’ve never lost one!”
The supply hatch whooshed closed, shutting out the bright light and Donnor felt the cart begin to move. Filled with morbid curiosity, he dialed up his pocket sun and reached to flick back the blanket covering the bundle in the center of the bed.
It was hideous. Small, pale, nothing more than a fuzz of hair over its eggshell head. Hands that were so curled and wrinkled they appeared ancient. Were they conducting some kind of shrinking experiments on the old? He had heard rumors that they were trying to find ways to reduce body mass to allow for longer space flight but this was crazy. This poor person was obviously completely incapacitated. Small yes, but incapable of managing even the lightest work load.
Staring at the wizened, sleeping face Donnor wondered what wisdom had been lost. He reached out a finger to stroke the poor thing’s cheek.
“Were you a promising Roboticist? A Fusion expert? No probably not. They wouldn’t run an experiment this dangerous with anybody important. I bet you were the janitor.”
The touch of his finger triggered movement as the hapless victim of science opened its eyes and turned its head questing for the tip of Donnor’s finger with an obviously hungry mouth.
“Oh you poor thing. They shrink you, destroy your life, and don’t even have the decency to feed you?”
Donnor’s body was wedged securely upright and he could not work his arms to the pocket of his pants – otherwise he would have pulled out the remains of his energy bar from lunch to share with the… person? in the bed before him.
Having nowhere to go, and forced into the uncomfortable stoop over the bed there was nothing to do but study the strange little occupant. It seemed to have no control over its arms and legs, waving them randomly in the air. It had lost all bowel control as well, judging by the tiny hygiene control pants it was wearing.
Donnor felt a powerful urge to pick it up and give comfort. Whatever had happened to this poor being, they didn’t deserve it. How awful it must feel to be so small and helpless.
He reached out, and gathered the bundle of blankets and warm humanity into his arms. And he knew, just like that, this wasn’t a victim of some crazy experiment, this was a baby.
Donnor had never seen a baby, and the pictures they had shown in 2nd grade biology were a hazy memory. He knew that women had them, but they were not part of society until the baby was 2 years old and looked like a miniature person. Babies were not part of his world.
He could feel the tiny fluttering heartbeat, sense the laboring of the lungs. It was so fragile. How did humans ever survive this tenuous beginning? He felt a sense of protectiveness towards the tiny being in his arms – a sense of purpose.
“I’ll keep you safe baby,” he cooed. “No-one is going to hurt you.”
He was so wrapped up in the wonder of the moment that he didn’t sense the cart coming to a halt. The doors whooshed open and the bed began to trundle out. Donnor looked up to see a woman frantically searching the empty bed, her face a mask of terror.
“No, no, no,” she moaned “Where is my baby? Where – is – my – baby!”
Donnor stumbled out of the supply cart, still clutching the baby to his chest.
“Its here,” he mumbled. Then, clearing his throat and speaking louder, “He’s here, he’s safe.”
The woman looked up at him, a series of emotions flickering across her face, confusion, relief, fear, anger.
“You give me my baby!”
Numbly, Donnor held the bundle out to her feeling an unreasoning sense of loss as it was taken from him. He was so dazed that he didn’t even think to run, or try to evade hospital security. He could still feel the slight pressure of the baby’s weight. His nose was filled with the powdery soft odor of his skin. His fingers ached for the velvety feel of the newborn skin.
Donnor went meekly and silently with the hospital Goon, too profoundly caught up in his new internal landscape to give any thought to the punishment that was coming.