Chapter 11—Joshua

Nelly, holding her baby in her arms, arrives with Paul at the two Smiths’ apartments with a transporter.
—I’m going to call David and then the mobile medical team.
—Our son is one week old. Do you think David will be able to fool them?
—You’ve never seen him do it, have you?
—No, I haven’t.
—If he tells them the baby was just born, believe me, they won’t question it.
The baby cries.
—Oh oh, this little boy needs feeding.

—Lucky him.
—Don’t tell me you’re jealous, taunts Nelly.
—He’s got unlimited access to your breasts, he answers winking.
While Nelly feeds the baby, Paul heads to the communication door. He calls his friends through the interphone. It has been a long time since he’s done this.
—Hi there! He says into the intercom. Suggestion Master needed. Our son is ready for his 25th-century registration. Well, in about a quarter hour. He is presently feeding.
He hasn’t to wait for very long to hear some paces behind the door. David appears first, followed by Beth. They all hug in joy.
—Well, this is kind of a rehearsal for us too, says the Major with a smile.
—Yes, we want to try the Dalygaran way of delivery. We can’t do it here, well, at least not in front of 25th-century humans. We’ll call the medical team as soon as the baby’s born. David will have to use his suggestion ability then as well.
—Come, I’ll show you our little prince.
—What’s his name? asks Beth, somewhat mechanically as she already knows the answer.
They talk as they head into the living room. Paul just turns around to smile at her, and as they stand in front of Nelly, he theatrically announces:
—I present to you…, Joshua!
—Joshua, whispers Beth. I love this name.
—Where’s Sylvester? I told him we’re coming back today. He should have seen the transporter arrival alarm.
—He told me he’ll be back soon.
This is Lucia, just entering the living room. She opens her eyes wide adding:
—He’s so small.
Lucia hugs her friends one by one.
—Oh, I forgot something, says Beth suddenly, turning tail and vanishing through the kitchen door.
—What’s got into her? wonders Nelly.
—That is Beth, giggles the Major.
Beth is back in her bedroom looking for the inter-temporal communicator. As soon as she finds it, she nervously types: “Sylvester what are you doing? Paul and Nelly are here with the baby.” Then she rummages in their closet to take a teddy bear she found a few days ago for their daughter. She’ll have to find another one now.
When she is back in the living room, she gives the teddy to Nelly.
—Oh, it’s lovely. Thank you.
Everybody hears the entrance door opening. Paul almost runs to meet Sylvester. He hugs him warmly.
—Hey son, come see your brother.
He takes Sylvester by the arm and leads him to Nelly and the baby.
—Hi Sylv, says Nelly.
—This is Joshua! announces Paul, no less theatrically than before.
—He’s just a shrimp. Is it normal to be so small?
Nelly bursts out laughing.
—Yes, Sylvester. This “shrimp” was in my belly before, remember. Thankfully, he is small. I found him heavy enough the last days.
—Oh, I didn’t want to … er, I’m just not used to babies.
—It seems your brother has had enough. Do you want to take him in your arms? proposes Paul
—You won’t break him, says Nelly softly.
—I would like to, intervenes Lucia holding out her arms.
Nelly gives her the baby.
—Hello, little boy. This is Auntie Lucie…
—Well, maybe we should call the medical team right now. Let’s get rid of these 25th-century formalities, proposes the Major.
—Yes, you’re right, confirms Paul. The sooner they come, the sooner we’ll be able to enjoy family time with baby Joshua.
Everybody knows what he or she has to do. Nelly takes her son back and goes to the bedroom she usually shares with Paul, and the others just wait in the living room.
Paul and the Major prepare themselves, one to lie, the other to fool no fewer than three to four humans at once.
When they hear the bell ring, there is a sort of tension in the air. Paul goes to open the door.
—Hurry up he says, the work has started already.
The medical team follows Paul. When they enter the living room, the Major walks up to them and says:
—Put your material on the table. Don’t ask questions. Follow us.
While Paul and the Major head to the bedroom where Nelly is with the baby, Sylvester rummages in the bags of the medical team.
—Here it is.
He takes a tablet and fills the report of Joshua’s birth with plausible data.
When the medical team enters the room, they can see Nelly lying in bed with the baby in her arms. Before one of them has time to express surprise, the Major speaks again:
—Thank you, you did a really good job. The delivery has been successful. Do you remember the last time it was so easy? Everything happened as expected. This is a boy and his name is Joshua. Let’s let mother and son have some rest now. We’re going back to the living-room.
When they are in the living-room, the Major goes on:
—You’ve properly filled the requested files. Everything is done. You’re going to sit down on the sofa over there, until I tell you it’s time to take your stuff, and leave. You’ll remember this as an ordinary delivery. Just review in your head how well it went.
The medical team couldn’t leave the apartment just after 5 minutes of intervention. When the Major thinks the wait is sufficient, he asks them to stand-up and go away, congratulating them once more for the good job they did.
The two men and the two women of the medical team take their bags, and shake Paul’s hand before taking their leave as suggested by the Major.
—Congratulations, Sir, they say one after the other.
—You’ve got a beautiful boy, adds one of the women.
—He looks like you, adds the other one.
—Goodbye, Sir. Goodbye, everyone.
When the door is closed, everybody looks at each other without saying a word until Nelly arrives with the baby in her arms.
—Do you think it worked? she asks the others.
Everybody looks at the Major. He has been motionless since the medics left. He is very pale.
—They behaved like puppets, remarks Lucia.
Suddenly, the Major seems to stagger. Beth takes his arm and leads him quickly to an armchair.
—Four people. Even for me, it’s many.
—When you changed my name from Lucia to Lucie, there were about 10 people, objects Lucia.
—It was not the same thing. Changing your name was really easy. From Lucia to Lucy, there is only a slight change and not so much suggestion to use. It was just a quick effort for a short moment; it didn’t last 30 minutes, unlike here. I had to make them think they really proceeded with the delivery, when nothing actually happened. I had to make them build memories from previous ones they had. It needed much more energy.
—And you succeeded, adds Paul. We all know what this power costs you. Thank you very much for your help. We’ll have a quiet life in the 25th-century now. Our neighbors will be able to testify the medical team came here for our baby, after having regularly seen Nelly pregnant. No more manipulations in some databases. Joshua is the first of the family to have a real birth certificate…
—… filled by his brother, underlines Sylvester.
—Nobody will ever know you filled the original certificate.
—Yes, I’m not used to it being so easy. Nothing to crack, no firewall to overcome. Just typing in the baby’s data.
—Don’t be so disappointed, giggles Paul.
—Well, it seems that mother and son need a nap, says Nelly.
—Have you all seen the cradle? asks Paul.
—Yes! they all answers in chorus.
—Ok, ok. I think I’m going to take a nap with my family. Bye.
—Sylv, it’s time for my call to mom and dad.
—Ok, Lucia, you’ll find me in my studio.
—Beth, David, I’ve got something for you. Maybe we should go to your place, says Sylvester, when everybody except the young couple has left.
In Beth and David’s living-room, Sylvester puts two collars on the table. One brown, with dark-brown motifs engraved all around, and a purple one, with dark purple motifs.
—Is this what I think it is? We’ve got to put it around our necks?
While talking, Beth holds the purple collar in her hand, looking at it from all possible angles.
—How does this work? she wonders.
—Well, it’s really simple. When a Dalygaran purrs, it activates a special zone of the brain, here, just over the neck.
Sylvester points somewhere behind his head and goes on:
—This zone is activated too during love moments for humans, well, at least ones like you. I did my tests on David. So when this happens, your cerebral waves will be transformed into purrs by a micro-synthesizer.
—Er, I just wanted to know if there was some on/off buttons and how it can stay around the neck. There is no clasp. But thanks for the explanation, Beth taunts.
—Oh. Well, it’s always on. And it feeds on body heat. No clasp is needed. Frigellyan material adapts to your body.
—Great. And when did you do these tests?
—During one of your afternoon rests, answers the Major.
—This guy only has to think about you to activate his love zone.
Beth smiles frankly before asking:
—Shall we try them? What do you think?
Beth doesn’t wait for any answer and puts the purple collar around her neck.
The Major takes the brown one. Then they face each other, holding their hands.
Quickly, both can hear a sound, but they stop immediately.
—It’s horrible. Perfect to give one an earache, guffaws Beth.
—Yes, it seems that I overestimated something. To remove your collars just pull at them. I’ll make some adjustments. Your transporter’s here?
—Sylvester, we can wait a few days, you know, Beth says softly.
—That’s right. Go and join Lucia, adds the Major.
—I’m having some difficult times with Lucia at present. Tinkering relaxes me.
—You call this tinkering? interjects Beth amazed.
—Well, it’s my way of doing it. But you’re right. I should join Lucie now. I’ll improve your collar later. By the end of the week, you’ll be able to purr. I promise.
—Thank you so much, Sylvester. And goodbye. Take care of yourself, replies Beth.
—Goodbye my friend, says the Major.
—See you both soon.


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