Posted by E.S. Wynn Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Tessa didn’t react, didn’t respond. Laying on the cot, she stared at one hand, picked absently at the blanket. The voice tried again: “Tessa, we need to talk.”
“What is there to talk about?” She managed. Beyond the cage, she heard the man hesitate, shuffle.
“Tessa, don’t do this.”
“Why not, Ben?”
Beyond the composite bars of the brig, Dimitrov sighed, began to pace. Slowly, hesitantly, Tessa’s fingers stopped moving, gave one last twitch outward, then balled into a loose fist.
“Look, Tessa, I know about the baby.” Ben finally said. “I couldn’t believe it when they pulled it off the audio in medical, but after the doctor confirmed it with a paternity test, I. . .” He hesitated.
“You decided you wanted to talk about it.” Tessa sat up slowly, but didn’t meet his eyes, just continued to watch her hand. “Right?” She looked up, smiled softly.
“Yeah.” Ben stepped up to the bars and wrapped his hands around them. “I mean, Jesus, Tess. A baby?” He looked away, shook his head. “Tessa, if my fiancé ever found out about this. . .”
“She’d be livid, I know.” She looked away again. “You told me all about Theo when we were together, how she used to tell you who you could see, who you could talk to or smile at when you were living together, how she’s already picked out names for the children you’ll have some day. Courtney or maybe Debra if it’s a girl, Ryan if it’s a boy.”
“I know all about Theo, Ben.” She stood, crossed to the bars. “When things first started getting serious between you and I, you couldn’t stop talking about her, half the time worshiping her, wishing you could see her again, half the time cursing the day you met her.” Her eyes narrowed. “I saw what she did to you, Ben. I know the medications she’s on, the anti-depressants, the anti-psychotics–”
“Stop, just stop it!” He broke away from the bars, crossed the room, burying his face in his hands. “Dammit, Tessa!” He spun back. “I’m not here to talk about Theo!” He shook his head, glanced at the floor. “Sure, she has her problems. Everyone has problems, but if they work at it, they can overcome them.” He looked at her firmly. “Theo and I will overcome them.”
“No you won’t.” Tessa said flatly. “She’s going to break your heart.”
“Not Theo,” he shot back, shaking his head. “Never Theo.”
“Jesus, Ben.” She laughed. “How do you think we got together? You were a wounded bird, I fixed your wing, we had some great sex.”
“That wasn’t me.” He stopped, jabbing his finger at her. “That was someone else. Theo may have left him, but she won’t leave me.” He said firmly. “She won’t.”
“I can tell you his name, Ben.” She pressed herself against the bars. “The guy Theo is already falling for, the guy she’s probably fucking right now, as we speak. You want to hear it?” He hesitated, unable to move, to respond. “Geoffrey Chambers. Look him up. He works as a civil engineer on Carridan IV. Right now he’s supervising the construction of a bypass about fifteen miles from where your wife is currently living.”
“This isn’t. . .” He shook his head, hesitated. “You can’t know that!”
“I’m a good listener, Ben.” She said. “You used to talk about transferring to the station there, pulling one of the old mothballed Slashdrivers out of long term storage and dropping orbital, then accidently putting a couple of rounds of flak–”
“Enough, okay!?” He shot back, gesturing fiercely. “Enough.” He hesitated. “Theo is going to leave me, fine. Geoffrey Chambers is the ass that is going to steal her away from me, fine.” He threw his hands in the air. “We had sex, multiple times, fine!” He pointed at her. “I still don’t want the baby.”
“Tough shit.” She shot back. “I already promised a more stand-up version of you that I’d bring her into the world, and I’m not going to break that promise.”
“You want to talk about failed relationships. . .” He shook his head. “Tessa, he doesn’t even exist in this timeline! There’s just this,” he gestured. “Us, me.”
“I’m not aborting.” She said flatly.
“You don’t have a choice.” He shot back. “I have a doctor outside the door that says, as the co-contributor to the fetus’ genetic template, I have equal rights.”
“Equal rights doesn’t mean full rights.” She shot back. “It means we agree to disagree, and I have the baby anyway.”
“I won’t let this go.” He said firmly. “If you have this baby, it will destroy me. It’ll destroy my relationship with Theo, my relationship with my family. . .”
“She’s a baby, Ben,” Tessa shook her head. “Not a curse.”
“She’s genetically modified.” Dimitrov shot back. “She’s the daughter of a gene-freak that slipped back in time with a body full of crazy technology.” He shook his head. “Jesus Christ, Tessa, at least think about the screwed up future she’s going to have. Everyone from here to Proxima is going to want to get their hands on you or her because of who you are, the techware you’re carrying.”
“At least it’s a future.” She tried, but his point had left her softer, triggered the moistness of tears at the edges of her eyes.
“It’s not, Tessa, not really.” He shook his head, breathed a sigh through his nose. “Look, you’re young. This won’t be your only shot at having a kid.” She looked away as he continued. “This just isn’t the time. I’m just not the right father.”
“Yeah.” She said softly. “You’re right. You’re not.”
“Look, the doctor outside has the pills you need to put an end to this.” He swallowed. “Just, just take the pills, and I swear I’ll leave you alone, okay?”
“And if I refuse?”
“Don’t do this, Tess.” He shook his head. “I don’t want things to get nasty between us.”
She looked up at him then, looked into his eyes and saw the iron there, the fear, the disgust. There was one thing she could do for him, one way to make him happy again, to solve things so they could go their separate ways and never see each other again.
“Fine.” She tried a smile, blinked as new tears broke, dropped in thick trails across her cheeks. “Bring him in.” She gestured. “I’ll do it. I’ll do it, but only because I love you.”
“Good.” Ben managed, then slipped away, crossed out of the room to the door and called in the doctor. The man smiled lightly as he stepped up to the bars, pulled a synthplastic case of pills from his breast pocket, shook several into the palm of his hand.
“Take three of these.” He handed them to her, slipped the case back into his pocket as she let them roll around her own palm. “One now, one in four hours, and the other tomorrow morning with breakfast.”
Tessa glanced at the pills in her hand, met the doctor’s eyes again almost reluctantly. Words came shaky, hoarse. “That easy, huh?”
The doctor looked at her pointedly, features tinged with sympathy.
“These things are never easy.”
“Yeah.” She looked down, breathed through the pause. As she looked up again, the doctor nodded once softly, turned away. The pills disappeared into her fist. Ben swallowed apprehensively.
“Do you mind?” She said finally, fixing him with a stare that was half hurt, half iron. “I’m about to kill our child. I’d like a little privacy.”
Ben swallowed, shifted, nodded.
“Sure.” He managed. “Sorry.”
“Save it.” She made a vague gesture. “You’re not him.” She looked at him pointedly. “I need to stop pretending that you are.”
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