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´╗┐Title: Spatial Delivery
Author: Garrett, Randall
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Spatial Delivery" ***

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                           SPATIAL DELIVERY

                          BY RANDALL GARRETT

                  _Women on space station assignments
              shouldn't get pregnant. But there's a first
               time for everything. Here's the story of
              such a time----and an historic situation._

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
              Worlds of If Science Fiction, October 1954.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


One thousand seventy-five miles above the wrinkled surface of Earth, a
woman was in pain.

There, high in the emptiness of space, Space Station One swung in its
orbit. Once every two hours, the artificial satellite looped completely
around the planet, watching what went on below. Outside its bright
steel hull was the silence of the interplanetary vacuum; inside, in the
hospital ward, Lieutenant Alice Britton clutched at the sheets of her
bed in pain, then relaxed as it faded away.

Major Banes looked at her and smiled a little. "How do you feel,
Lieutenant?"

She smiled back; she knew the pain wouldn't return for a few minutes
yet. "Fine, doctor. It's no worse than I was expecting. How long will
it before we can contact White Sands?"

The major looked nervously at his wristwatch. "Nearly an hour. You'll
be all right."

"Certainly," she agreed, running a hand through her brown hair, "I'll
be okay. Just you be on tap when I call."

The major's grin broadened. "You don't think I'd miss a historical
event like this, do you? You take it easy. We're over Eastern Europe
now, but as soon as we get within radio range of New Mexico, I'll beam
a call in." He paused, then repeated, "You just take it easy. Call the
nurse if anything happens." Then he turned and walked out of the room.

Alice Britton closed her eyes. Major Banes was all smiles and cheer
now, but he hadn't been that way five months ago. She chuckled softly
to herself as she thought of his blistering speech.

"Lieutenant Britton, you're either careless or brainless; I don't
know which! Your husband may be the finest rocket jockey in the Space
Service, but that doesn't give him the right to come blasting up here
on a supply rocket just to get you pregnant!"

Alice had said: "I'm sure the thought never entered his mind, doctor. I
know it never entered mine."

"But that was two and a half months ago! Why didn't you come to
me before this? Of all the tom-fool--" His voice had died off in
suppressed anger.

"I didn't know," she had said stolidly. "You know my medical record."

"I know. I know." A puzzled frown had come over his face then, a frown
which almost hid the green eyes that contrasted so startlingly with the
flaming red of his hair. "The question is: what do we do next? We're
not equipped for obstetrics up here."

"Send me back down to Earth, of course."

And he had looked up at her scathingly. "Lieutenant Britton, it is
my personal opinion that you need your head examined, and not by a
general practitioner, either! Why, I wouldn't let you get into an
airplane, much less land on Earth in a rocket! If you think I'd permit
you to subject yourself to eight gravities of acceleration in a rocket
landing, you're daffy!"

She hadn't thought of it before, but the major was right. The terrible
pressure of a rocket landing would increase her effective body weight
to nearly half a ton; an adult human being couldn't take that sort of
punishment for long, much less the tiny life that was growing within
her.

So she had stayed on in the Space Station, doing her job as always.
As Chief Radar Technician, she was important in the operation of the
station. Her pregnancy had never made her uncomfortable; the slow
rotation of the wheel-shaped station about its axis gave an effective
gravity at the rim only half that of Earth's surface, and the closer to
the hub she went, the less her weight became.

According to the major, the baby was due sometime around the first of
September. "Two hundred and eighty days," he had said. "Luckily, we can
pinpoint it almost exactly. And at a maximum of half of Earth gravity,
you shouldn't weigh more than seventy pounds then. You're to report to
me at least once a week, Lieutenant."

As the words went through her mind, another spasm of pain hit her, and
she clenched her fists tightly on the sheets again. It went away, and
she took a deep breath.

Everything had been fine until today. And then, only half an hour ago,
a meteor had hit the radar room. It had been only a tiny bit of rock,
no bigger than a twenty-two bullet, and it hadn't been traveling more
than ten miles per second, but it had managed to punch its way through
the shielding of the station.

The self-sealing walls had closed the tiny hole quickly, but even in
that short time, a lot of air had gone whistling out into the vacuum of
space.

The depressurization hadn't hurt her too much, but the shock had been
enough to start labor. The baby was going to come two months early.

She relaxed a little more, waiting for the next pain. There was nothing
to worry about; she had absolute faith in the red-haired major.

The major himself was not so sure. He sat in his office, massaging his
fingertips and looking worriedly at the clock on the wall.

The Chief Nurse at a nearby desk took off her glasses and looked at him
speculatively. "Something wrong, doctor?"

"Incubator," he said, without taking his eyes off the clock.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Incubator. We can't deliver a seven-month preemie without an
incubator."

The nurse's eyes widened. "Good Lord! I never thought of that! What are
you going to do?"

"Right now, I can't do anything. I can't beam a radio message through
to the Earth. But as soon as we get within radio range of White Sands,
I'll ask them to send up an emergency rocket with an incubator. But--"

"But what?"

"Will we have time? The pains are coming pretty fast now. It will be at
least three hours before they can get a ship up here. If they miss us
on the next time around, it'll be five hours. She can't hold out that
long."

The Chief Nurse turned her eyes to the slowly moving second hand of the
wall clock. She could feel a lump in her throat.

Major Banes was in the Communications Center a full five minutes
before the coastline of California appeared on the curved horizon of
the globe beneath them. He had spent the hour typing out a complete
report of what had happened to Alice Britton and a list of what he
needed. He handed it to the teletype operator and paced the floor
impatiently as he waited for the answer.

When the receiver teletype began clacking softly, he leaned over the
page, waiting anxiously for every word.

    WHITE SANDS ROCKET BASE 4 JULY 1984 0913 HRS URGENT TO: MAJ PETER
    BANES (MC) 0-266118 SS-1 MEDICAL OFFICER FROM: GEN DAVID BARRETT
    0-199515 COMMANDING WSRB ROCKET. ORBIT NOW BEING COMPUTED FOR
    RENDEZVOUS WITH SS-1 AS OF NEXT PASSAGE ABOVE USA. CAPT. JAMES
    BRITTON PILOTING. MEDICS LOADING SHIP TWELVE WITH INCUBATOR AND
    OTHER SUPPLIES. BASE OBSTETRICIAN LT COL GATES ALSO COMING TO
    ASSIST IN DELIVERY. HANG ON. OVER.

Banes nodded and turned to the operator. "I want a direct open
telephone line to my office in case I have to get another message to
the base before we get out of range again."

He turned and left through the heavy door. Each room of the space
station was protected by airtight doors and individual heating units;
if some accident, such as a really large meteor hit, should release the
air from one room, nearby rooms would be safe.

Banes' next stop was the hospital ward.

Alice Britton was resting quietly, but there were lines of strain
around her eyes which hadn't been there an hour before.

"How's it coming, Lieutenant?"

She smiled, but another spasm hit her before she could answer. After a
time, she said: "I'm doing fine, but you look as if you'd been through
the mill. What's eating you?"

He forced a nervous smile. "Nothing but the responsibility. You're
going to be a very famous woman, you know. You'll be the mother of the
first child born in space. And it's my job to see to it that you're
both all right."

She grinned. "Another Dr. Dafoe?"

"Something on that order, I suppose. But it won't be all my glory.
Colonel Gates, the O.B. man, was supposed to come up for the delivery
in September, so when White Sands contacted us, they said he was coming
immediately." He paused, and a genuine smile crossed his face. "Your
husband is bringing him up."

"Jim! Coming up here? Wonderful! But I'm afraid the colonel will be too
late. This isn't going to last that long."

Banes had to fight hard to keep his face smiling when she said that,
but he managed an easy nod. "We'll see. Don't hurry it, though. Let
nature take its course. I'm not such a glory hog that I'd not let Gates
have part of it--or all of it, for that matter. Relax and take it easy."

He went on talking, trying to keep the conversation light, but his eyes
kept wandering to his wristwatch, timing Alice's pain intervals. They
were coming too close together to suit him.

There was a faint rap, and the heavy airtight door swung open to admit
the Chief Nurse. "There's a message for you in your office, doctor.
I'll send a nurse in to be with her."

He nodded, then turned back to Alice. "Stiff uppah lip, and all that
sort of rot," he said in a phony British accent.

"Oh, raw_ther_, old chap," she grinned.

Back in his office, Banes picked up the teletype flimsy.

    WHITE SANDS ROCKET BASE 4 JULY 1984 0928 HRS URGENT TO: MAJ PETER
    BANES (MC) 0-266118 SS-1 MEDICAL OFFICER FROM: GEN DAVID BARRETT
    0-199515 COMMANDING WSRB ROCKET. ORBIT COMPUTED FOR RENDEZVOUS AT
    1134 HRS MST. CAPT BRITTON SENDS PERSONAL TO LT BRITTON AS FOLLOWS:
    HOLD THE FORT, BABY, THE WHOLE WORLD IS PRAYING FOR YOU. OUT.

       *       *       *       *       *

Banes sat on the edge of his desk, pounding a fist into the palm of
his left hand. "Two hours. It isn't soon enough. She'll never hold out
that long. And we don't have an incubator." His voice was a clipped
monotone, timed with the rhythmic slamming of his fist.

The Chief Nurse said: "Can't we build something that will do until the
rocket gets here?"

Banes looked at her, his face expressionless. "What would we build it
out of? There's not a spare piece of equipment in the station. It costs
money to ship material up here, you know. Anything not essential is
left on the ground."

The phone rang. Banes picked it up and identified himself.

The voice at the other end said: "This is Communications, Major. I tape
recorded all the monitor pickups from the Earth radio stations, and it
looks as though the Space Service has released the information to the
public. Lieutenant Britton's husband was right when he said the whole
world's praying for her. Do you want to hear the tapes?"

"Not now, but thanks for the information." He hung up and looked into
the Chief Nurse's eyes. "They've released the news to the public."

She frowned. "That really puts you on the spot. If the baby dies,
they'll blame you."

Banes slammed his fist to the desk. "Do you think I give a tinker's dam
about that? I'm interested in saving a life, not in worrying about what
people may think!"

"Yes, sir. I just thought--"

"Well, think about something useful! Think about how we're going to
save that baby!" He paused as he saw her eyes. "I'm sorry, Lieutenant.
My nerves are all raw, I guess. But, dammit, my field is space
medicine. I can handle depressurization, space sickness, and things
like that, but I don't know anything about babies! I know what I read
in medical school, and I watched a delivery once, but that's all I
know. I don't even have any references up here; people aren't supposed
to go around having babies on a space station!"

"It's all right, doctor. Shall I prepare the delivery room?"

His laugh was hard and short. "Delivery room! I wish to Heaven we had
one! Prepare the ward room next to the one she's in now, I guess. It's
the best we have.

"So help me Hannah, I'm going to see some changes made in regulations!
A situation like this won't happen again!"

The nurse left quietly. She knew Banes wasn't really angry at the
Brittons; it was simply his way of letting off steam to ease the
tension within him.

The slow, monotonous rotation of the second hand on the wall clock
seemed to drag time grudgingly along with it. Banes wished he could
smoke to calm his raw nerves, but it was strictly against regulations.
Air was too precious to be used up by smoking. Every bit of air on
board had had to be carried up in rockets when the station was built
in space. The air purifiers in the hydroponics section could keep the
air fresh enough for breathing, but fire of any kind would overtax the
system, leaving too little oxygen in the atmosphere.

It was a few minutes of ten when he decided he'd better get back to
Alice Britton. She was trying to read a book between spasms, but she
wasn't getting much read. She dropped it to the floor when he came in.

"Am I glad to see you! It won't be long now." She looked at him
analytically. "Say! Just what _is_ eating you? You look more haggard
than I do!"

Again he tried to force a smile, but it didn't come off too well.
"Nothing serious. I just want to make sure everything comes out all
right."

She smiled. "It will. You're all set. You ordered the instruments
months ago. Or did you forget something?"

That hit home, but he just grinned feebly. "I forgot to get somebody to
boil water."

"Whatever for?"

"Coffee, of course. Didn't you know that? Papa always heats up the
water; that keeps him out of the way, and the doctor has coffee
afterwards."

Alice's hands grasped the sheet again, and Banes glanced at his watch.
Ninety seconds! It was long and hard.

When the pain had ebbed away, he said: "We've got the delivery room all
ready. It won't be much longer now."

"I'll say it won't! How about the incubator?"

There was a long pause. Finally, he said softly: "There isn't any
incubator. I didn't take the possibility of a premature delivery into
account. It's my fault. I've done what I could, though; the ship is
bringing one up. I--I think we'll be able to keep the child alive
until--"

He stopped. Alice was bubbling up with laughter.

"Lieutenant! Lieutenant Britton! Alice! This is no time to get
hysterical! Stop it!"

Her laughter slowed to a chuckle. "_Me_ get hysterical! That's a good
one! What about you? You're so nervous you couldn't sip water out of a
bathtub without spilling it!"

He blinked. "What do you mean?"

Another pain came, and he had to wait until it was over before he got
her answer. "Doctor," she said, "I thought you would have figured it
out. Ask yourself just one question. Ask yourself, 'Why is a space
station like an incubator?'"

       *       *       *       *       *

Space Ship Twelve docked at Space Station One at exactly eleven
thirty-four, and two men in spacesuits pushed a large, bulky package
through the airlock.

Major Peter Banes, haggard but smiling, met Captain Britton in the
corridor as he and the colonel entered the hospital ward.

Banes nodded to Colonel Gates, then turned to Britton. "I don't know
whether to congratulate you or take a poke at you, Captain, but I
suppose congratulations come first. Your son, James Edward Britton II,
is doing fine, thank you."

"You mean--_already_?"

The colonel said nothing, but he raised an eyebrow.

"Over an hour ago," said Banes.

"But--but--the incubator--"

Banes' grin widened. "We'll put the baby in it, now that we've got it,
but it really isn't necessary. Your wife figured that one out. A space
station is a kind of incubator itself, you see. It protects us poor,
weak humans from the terrible conditions of space. So all we had to do
was close up one of the airtight rooms, sterilize it, warm it up, and
put in extra oxygen from the emergency tanks. Young James is perfectly
comfortable."

"Excellent, Major!" said the colonel.

"Don't thank me. It was Captain Britton's wife who--"

But Captain Britton wasn't listening any more. He was headed toward his
wife's room at top speed.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Spatial Delivery" ***

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