THE ROAD TO ZHORA: A STAR TREK FAN-FICTION STORY
By M. C. Pehrson
Word Count: 1580
Rating: PG for mild thematic material
Summary: Spock’s daughter has her baby in a setting not unlike the Nativity.
Soft, silent snowflakes drifted down from the night sky, swirling magically in the headlights of oncoming ground cars as Grandfather Jo-Ree drove T’Beth through the countryside of Zhorash. How nice it was just to sit back in comfort and gaze out at the storm. She had always loved snow, ever since she first experienced it on Earth when she was a teenager. Before Father was sent to prison, he and Lauren had gathered the children each autumn and gone into the mountains to enjoy the season’s first snowfall. A few years ago, it had even snowed right in downtown San Francisco. But this storm was many, many light years away from that distant time, that distant world. This snow was falling on Sydok.
“Oh my, look at this,” Grandfather said suddenly.
The road was curving up sharply into the highlands. It was colder here, the snowflakes falling so fat and thick that T’Beth could barely see the forest that grew to the road’s edge. The pavement’s thermal coating was slick with accumulated slush. She felt the wheels slip and saw Grandfather ease back on the throttle. As the car continued on safely with its load of gifts, T’Beth felt a tightness creeping over her belly. The contraction lasted a minute or so and left her with a crampy sensation deep down inside.
Braxton-Hicks, they called them on Earth. Here, the Sy healers had another name for the occasional contractions that every woman experienced in late pregnancy. Only it seemed to T’Beth that she had been getting far more of them than usual during the trip. Since she was barely eight months along, she put the fleeting worry out of her mind and thought of other things. She could not afford any health problems just now, with Lord Sa-Beron expecting her tonight in Zhora. There were points of etiquette that needed clarifying before the Donari observers arrived for tomorrow’s festivities. After that, she would be free to enjoy Counting Day with her grandfather. It would be her first, and she knew that Jondar was looking forward to showing off his newly discovered granddaughter. The winter festival had changed very little from ancient times, when the great clans of Sydok gathered to count their members and celebrate each new life with feasting and gifts.
T’Beth noticed a sudden stirring that reminded her yet again of the new life she was carrying. A baby—another fatherless child like the sad, abandoned little infant she had once been. It hurt to think that she had fallen so short of her dreams for a loving husband and home. These past weeks at the embassy had been particularly embarrassing with her rapidly expanding waistline and her co-workers’ questions. She had firmly denied any rumors that she ever kept company with a princeling. Looking them in the eye, she had lied outright, and received her prenatal care from a Sy healer so there would be no Starfleet record.
She could only hope that word of her condition did not find its way to her father at the Romar Penal Colony. She felt like such a coward for not telling Spock, but every time she had tried to come out with it, the admission stuck in her throat. So now what was she going to do? Just show up one day with a baby in her arms?
Grandfather’s voice broke into her thoughts. “Are you warm enough, Cris-Tabeth?”
“Yes, I’m fine,” T’Beth answered.
She touched his shoulder and could feel the good, honest warmth of his concern for her. With his great silvery beard and carload of presents, he reminded her of Earth’s Santa Claus. All he needed was a red suit. Smiling to herself, she turned to the dash controls and checked their location. The display showed a little settlement just ahead.
She eased back in her seat and was about to speak when a sharp, painful contraction caught her. She gritted her teeth to keep from crying out. There was a feeling of deep pressure…a faint popping sound…then something warm and wet gushed from between her legs.
For a moment the shock drove all other thought from her mind. Then she felt the baby squirm inside her, pushing against the taut uterine wall, and she experienced an overwhelming surge of panic.
“Grandfather, stop!” she cried. “Stop the car!”
Jondar’s head swung around and he gaped at her.
“Something’s wrong,” she blurted. “I…I think I’m hemorrhaging!”
His amber eyes widened. Abruptly he mumbled something and checked the road. Snow had piled into deep drifts along the shoulder. Just ahead, Tome-al-pec was coming into view—a frozen scattering of steep-roofed buildings nestled among the trees. Wordlessly he drove into the parking lot of an inn and stopped the car. Switching on the interior lamp, he leaned over her, worry evident in every crease of his old face.
In the light they could plainly see that the wetness on her clothes was not from blood.
“Your sac has broken,” Jondar said with some relief, but the furrows between his bushy eyebrows were as deep as ever. “The baby will be born tonight.”
A fresh wave of pain brought tears to T’Beth’s eyes. There was no way to control this frightening thing happening to her. “No…no…it’s too soon! The baby’s not ready!” And the thought screamed through her mind, I’m not ready, either—I don’t think I ever was—I don’t know if I ever will be!
Grandfather’s hand pressed hers. The touch was warm and reassuring.
“Wait here,” he said.
He left the car. Her eyes followed him into the office, then she was alone with her fears. Another pain gripped her. This time she cried out loud. Her face was wet with tears when Grandfather returned to the car, scowling.
“The nearest healing center is at Zhora,” he said in a disgruntled tone, “but the roads are about to be closed and all public transportation has already been suspended.” He glared at the icicles hanging from the hostel’s eaves. “Tome-al-pec is a very small settlement. These are the only rooms available, and because of Counting Day they are already overfilled. However…”
T’Beth felt another contraction coming, and braced for it. What was Grandfather telling her? Was she going to have this baby right here in the car?
Jondar turned to her with a strange mix of anger and apology. “When I told him I was Jondar Jo-Ree of Parliament, and my granddaughter was entering her confinement, he said…he said that he had no use for Donari sympathizers, but we could stay in his garage.”
It isn’t really so horrible, T’Beth told herself for the umpteenth time, and perhaps someday she would even laugh about this night. At least they had found a healer among the inn’s stranded travelers, a young Sy willing to assist in the premature delivery of a new little “Donari sympathizer”. But just now, a wintry chill was overpowering the borrowed space heaters, and the stale stench of mechanic’s oil was making T’Beth queasy.
Lying in a corner on an improvised bed, she phoned Lord Sa-Beron with the news of her delay, and between contractions, attempted to brief him on the fine points of Donari etiquette. Then all through the night she labored, sipping Mother’s Root broth while Grandfather blustered and paced back and forth in the dirty garage.
Just before dawn, the snow stopped, the clouds drew back from the stars, and T’Beth experienced an overwhelming need to push. Oh, it was real enough now—this great, immovable object that clung so stubbornly to the protective confines of her womb. The baby felt huge down there, yet when it finally came free and lay squalling in the healer’s hands, the creature seemed so puny that T’Beth was shocked. For a time the ugliness of the garage faded and she saw only the wet, waxy-looking infant with its clenched fists and wide-open mouth. The healer cut the umbilical cord, cleaned and swaddled the bald newborn in a soft blanket, and handed it to her.
“She is small,” he pronounced, “but quite healthy.”
Hesitantly T’Beth reached for her daughter and her arms instinctively tightened over the blanket. Perhaps it was the feeling of warmth or the sense of her mother’s nearness; gradually the crying subsided until the newborn let out a soft, shuddering sigh and went quiet. Miniature lids popped open, revealing eyes of amber liberally streaked with brown. Then T’Beth noticed something else.
Jondar moved closer and touched a fingertip to the little nub of a point on the baby’s ear. “Oh, your father will be pleased…” His great hand settled on T’Beth’s shoulder. “That is, once you tell him.”
T’Beth felt a fresh stab of guilt. “I will, Grandfather, I will,” she promised. But when?
It made her ashamed to think of her father sitting in prison, unaware that she had just given birth to his first grandchild…and today she wanted to think only pleasant thoughts. She wanted to leave behind the stink of oil and blood and deception. She wanted to drive on to the clean, sanitary healing center at Zhora, where her extended Sy family would shower gifts on her and rejoice over the little child born on Counting Day—the luckiest day in the entire Sy calendar.
Weary from the night of labor, T’Beth held her lucky little daughter close and whispered the name she had chosen for her.
“Bethany,” she said. “I will call you Beth-Any.”