Squaring the Circle
It was Thursday the 16th April, delivery day. Chuck and Kandie were on their way to Phoenix. The fusion engine hummed as they sped down the highway. The roof was down and the wind tussled in Kandie's hair. The overzealous sun seared down from a cloudless sky.
Kandie put her hand on Chuck's knee. Since the fire, Chuck had been inconsolable, like a child lost without a mother. She'd tried to talk to him, tried to talk to herself. She knew she had to remain positive for them both but Chuck was draining her energy. She was like a tired rechargeable battery.
“It could be worse,” Kandie said as she had said many times before during the past day.
“It’s hard to see how,” Chuck replied, “I'm now Mayor of a ghost town. We've lost our business, and look,” Chuck pointed down the road.
A gas station was approaching; there were the usual long queues of impatient people caused by the highly unpopular rationing procedure. They sped past it in a blur of colour.
“You can't go on blaming yourself Chuck.”
“I don't blame myself, the thing is I don't know who to blame, in fact...”
“I hate to say this. Anderton was right and I was blind. I didn't take any notice. Of course they didn't want us to succeed and they stopped us. I hope they didn't get the technology.”
“We've set it up from nothing before. We’ll do it again.”
“Not sure I want to. Let someone else do it, it's inevitable, it's just a question of time. There's a need for it now, everyone knows it.”
Kandie sat quietly for a moment and composed herself.
“Chuck, you're seeing the world half full. If we'd been driving down the road and Carlton was still there, you would have got everything your way. We've got to face it. It's gone. There's nothing that you can do about it. We've got to face the future. At least you're the Mayor.”
“Mayor! Why don't we move? Do something different. Go somewhere different?” Chuck said desultorily.
“Run away? Hide? What good would that do? Chuck, we've got a family and this is our home, this is their home.”
“Why don't you want to leave? Why are you being so pig headed?”
“Because I'm not a loser Chuck and neither are you.” Kandie shouted in exasperation. They passed the rest of the journey in silence and eventually they came through the gates of Phoenix, its dome twinkling in the sunlight.
Tom and Annie were looking into the small dark vessel where their daughter was wriggling, they could hear her but not see her.
“You’ll be able to hold her soon, Annie, be patient,” Goldie said impeachingly. The delivery people are on their way.”
“I want to hold her, I want to be out of this suit. I want to see her. I want to see her!” Annie pleaded.
Goldie held out her hand. “I know you do. You'll be able to soon.”
They stood inside the Phoenix dome; their baby was in the inner ring of cubicles. White figures as ever wandered around with their instruments. Recorders and check lists ensuring that all was well with the natal world they were in charge of.
After what seemed like hours to Annie, two people arrived.
“This is John,” Annie's microphone announced “and this is Sam.”
“Hello Annie, Tom. How do you feel?”
“Anxious and excited.”
John put out his hand to Annie.
“There's nothing to feel anxious about. She’s doing fine. Everything is looking good; she's shaping up fine. We'll just get set up here and we'll be ready to go.”
John and Sam set up a little partition around the cubicle and pushed the delivery table into the lip underneath the cubicle. They checked the fluid levels and that the pump was working fine. They placed the surgical instruments carefully out on the table.
“Okay, we are all set, are you ready?" Tom and Annie nodded.
“If you would just like to move back to over there.”
Sam positioned herself next to the controls on the far side of the cubicle and nodded at John.
There was a whooshing noise as the developing fluid drained away, a brilliant light came on in the cubicle, the window housing in front of the cubicle hissed and came down. She didn't move. John cut the cord and hit the baby on the back.
Annie and Tom looked at each other anxiously.
For a few seconds that lasted forever she made no noise. She just lay there in the bottom of the cubicle and then she started to cry. That wonderful piercing sound of a new baby announcing its arrival to the world.
Annie had tears in her eyes.
John carefully wiped her head and body and handed the baby to Annie in a small soft white towel. Her little feet wriggled and her hands grasped at the air blindly.
“She's a fine looking baby,” Sam said.
“Isn't she,” Annie said with pride, “isn't she, just look at her, she's beautiful.”
“She certainly is,” said Goldie smiling, “and she weighs just what we thought she would, 3 .17kg. A good average for a girl.”
Tom and Annie got disrobed and went through various administrative procedures and sat in reception waiting for a chauffeur to come by. Annie held her baby against her chest. She cried from time to time but Annie rocked her and she fell back to sleep.
Tom looked up and saw Ellephanie and his wife walking through reception. Kandie was pushing a small pram.
Kandie caught Annie's eye.
“Wait here Chuck I'll back in a minute.” Chuck glanced at her quizzically.
“Wait here, Chuck I mean it,” she said sternly.
Kandie pushed her pram over to where Annie was sitting and perched beside her.
“It's Mrs. Busey isn't it?”
“Yes,” Annie said coldly without turning to face her.
“Is this your baby?”
“Boy or a girl?”
“Has she been born today?”
“May have I look?”
Annie hesitated, turned and looked into Kandie's eyes.
“Yes, Mrs. Ellephanie, you may have a look.”
Annie unfurled her arms and held her baby on her lap, parting the little white towel just enough to see her face.
“She really is very beautiful Mrs. Busey.”
“Thank you,” said Annie warming slightly.
“We have an important thing in common Mrs. Busey. Our babies share the same birthday.”
Annie peered into Kandie’s pram. “He's very big isn't he?”
“Yep, he is very big."
Chuck stood wavering a few metres away, unsure where to look. Eventually he walked over to Tom and took him aside. Annie looked on nervously.
“It's alright, Mrs. Busey,” she said reassuringly. “It's alright.”
“Babies,” Chuck said awkwardly, “They all look the same to me."
“And to me,” Tom said quietly.
They stood in awkward silence for a moment.
“What are you going to do?” Tom asked.
“I'm not entirely sure yet,” Chuck said moodily, “What will you?”
“Don't know,” Tom said, “Move away, I think.”
“Well you’ll get paid for three months, at least that’s something," Chuck said. "Insurance you know."
“I know,” Tom said.
Chuck looked out of the window.
“Well we'd better be going," Chuck said.
“Are you going to stay in Hertferd?”
“I think I might,” Chuck said. “It seems I can't be a Mayor and have Carlton, so I might just settle for being Mayor alone."
“Well, good luck,” Chuck said extending his hand, “and for what it's worth, I'm sorry.”
Tom looked at Chuck for a moment and then cautiously extended his hand.
“Good luck Mr. Busey.”
“Thank you and… Well, you too.”
Kandie looked up.
“Good-bye, Mrs. Busey. Look after her.”
“I will Mrs. Ellephanie. Good bye.”
Kandie and Chuck pushed the pram towards the car in silence. Their new child cried all the way home, filling the small space with his voluminous voice.When they got back to Hertferd, there was an endless stream of people driving down the highway leaving the town, their cars and trailers full of possessions, children and noise. As they drew closer to Hertferd the column of traffic had stopped. There was so much traffic that no one could move. People were sitting out on the highway in their cars, talking, sharing food and drink. It looked like everyone was off to a music festival.