Rayland had wasted no time in organizing his public address about the explorer mission.
Olivia arrived exactly when he had asked for her, and she took her seat at the town hall meeting, right where he had assigned her to sit. She knew this was hard for him. In all honesty, he would rather not discuss the exploration missions at all. If it had been up to him in the beginning, he would have rather left her to her devices in the Grid, or so she assumed.
Looking out at the crowd, she was impressed by the size. More people had shown up than expected. So many, in fact, that they couldn’t all fit in the public forum chamber. Those that had managed to work their way inside were huddled close as Rayland took the stage.
“Greetings, Citizens,” the mayor said, checking his microphone. “I’m sure many of you in the audience have heard rumors about Explorer One. I wish I was here to deliver better news to you about the mission, but unfortunately, what you have heard is true. During our latest mission, Explorer One suffered critical damage and was lost at high altitude.”
Olivia watched as what had been nervous whispers and a kind of macabre excitement suddenly turned into concern and discomfort. It was one thing when someone heard it through a long chain of strangers. It was another to hear it told as fact.
Olivia knew this would be the case. No one had experienced death aboard the World Ship. No one had tasted the bitterness of its harsh reality. It was like John once said to her… living in this town makes it easy to forget the gravity of the situation.
“When I initially scheduled this forum,” Rayland continued, “I didn’t plan for it to be a solemn event. I know, that as Explorer One has lit our path, many of our citizens have taken their first steps into the frontier, seeking their own place to settle down and call home. That adventurous spirit is what drives us. I support our future, out there, and I continue to support the work that we do here at Mission Control. As we move forward from this tragedy, I want to assure each and every one of you out there. We’re in this together. I’ll talk about it more in time, but for now, rest and mourn, remember and cherish. This is not our last day.”
Olivia was almost impressed by his speech. Though, in honesty, it meant little to her. He continued to seek unity and community. She still craved answers to the secrets of their home.
As the crowd started to disperse, Olivia pushed her way to the rear doorway and stepped through to the backyard of town hall. Before she could navigate around the building, however, she was intercepted by Samantha, who was looking rather panicked.
“What is it?” Olivia asked.
“The helicopter is back,” Samantha sputtered. “Pregnant arrival. Ready to deliver!”
“Caleb isn’t here,” Samantha said, her voice on edge. “We have no doctor.”
“Where is the helicopter?”
Samantha bolted toward the front of town hall, and as Olivia followed she could already hear the sound of the helicopter growing in the distance. It came cutting over the buildings, and people scattered as the pilot brought it down right in the main junction in front of town hall.
“She needs help,” the pilot yelled as he threw off his headset. “She’s having trouble.”
“I’ll call Caleb on the radio,” Olivia said. “Get her inside Mission Control.”
The pilot did as ordered and started to open the back door of the helicopter to pull out the gurney that the woman rested on. Olivia saw her now, very pregnant and looking quite worried. Olivia stepped up to help the pilot move her, and as they worked at the restraints, Olivia decided to get more information.
“Where have you been?” she asked.
“In the Core. She went into labor before we could get her out. She didn’t want to fly while trying to have the baby. We waited a while, but it’s been a long time and she’s still not having any luck. We think something is wrong.”
Olivia stepped off the helicopter and looked at the captivated crowd that surrounded them. She didn’t have a doctor, that was true, so she would have to settle with the closest thing she could get.
Down the road from the Olivia reached the front entrance of the pet shop and nearly collided with Doctor Julio Jones. He had just stepped outside, clearly intending to investigate the helicopter’s sudden arrival down the road.
“Uh, can I help you?” he asked.
“Yes,” Olivia said as she took deep breaths. “You… woman… baby.”
“Someone is having a baby. We need your help.”
Julio shook his head. “No, no, I don’t do human medicine. I can’t help you.”
“Caleb is gone. You’re our only option.”
He frowned, but then turned toward the stairwell. “Nima!”
There was a moment of silence, then a young woman appeared. She looked just as confused as one might expect, but she continued to approach. “What’s the problem?”
“You’ve been helping with delivering puppies and kittens,” Julio said. “Now they want you to deliver a human.”
Nima looked shocked. “I would think Caleb—”
“No Caleb,” Olivia said. “Just you.”
“I’m not sure I’m cut out for this.”
“You’re literally the most experienced person for the job. We need you.”
Nima was clearly hesitant about all of this, but it was clear her options were limited. Samantha took a firm grip of the woman’s hand and practically dragged her into the main street and toward the helicopter.
Another painful yell from the woman.
“It’s going to be okay,” Samantha said, holding the woman’s hand. “What’s your name?”
“Arrrrgh,” the woman grimaced. “My name is April. Oh, it hurts so bad.”
“I know,” Samantha assured her. “Hang on. We’re getting help.”
As if on cue, Samantha heard the steps of someone walking up the helicopter ramp. She turned to see Olivia and a young woman behind her.
“You’re not Doctor Jones,” she said.
“I am not. Nima Patel. I’m here to help.”
Samantha shrugged ever so slightly and stepped back as Olivia and Nima took control of the situation. Nima stepped right up so she could get a better look at the patient’s face.
“What’s your name, dear?” she asked.
The woman rolled her eyes. “April. My name is April. Someone write it down!”
Olivia smiled. The irony of that comment…
“Okay, well April,” Nima said. “I need to feel your belly, okay? I think I might know the problem, but we need to be sure.”
“Okay,” April said, wiping the sweat and tears from her face.
Olivia looked outside of the helicopter and saw the pilot was busy moving people back from the rear of the helicopter, while Samantha did the same on the side. The citizens looked scared. This was another big change for them. Lost explorers and now agonizing childbirth. They were being exposed to too much.
“Okay,” Nima said as she gently felt April. “Yup. Alright. Nothing to worry about. We’ve got ourselves a stuck baby.”
“What can we do?” April asked, sounding panicked.
“No problem. We’re going to just… move the baby a little bit and help it get in the right position.”
“How?” Olivia asked.
Nima looked at them both and smiled. “Don’t worry. This is easy peasy. April, I’m going to have to do some pushing on your abdomen, okay?”
“Do whatever you need to do,” April said, clearly exhausted.
Nima didn’t delay. She started pressing in various places, sometimes so hard that April groaned or complained about the pressure.
Olivia waited, captivated by this moment, until she saw Nima’s concentrated face light up with a smile. “There we go,” she said happily. “We’re getting some movement now.”
“We are?” April asked.
“Yes,” Nima said, looking to Olivia. “Now, we need water and towels. Lots of towels. Have someone go to Caleb’s office and get his spare kit, just in case.”
Olivia nodded. “Of course. Right away!”
The next hour was filled with a lot of screaming, a lot of encouragement, and a lot of unknowns. Olivia was captivated by how expertly Nima Patel handled the situation, from her first moment aboard the helicopter to the very moment she handed the town’s only newborn to its mother for the first time.
April was exhausted, but her eyes sparkled with renewed energy as she held her little girl.
With a moment of silence, Olivia stood next to Nima and shook her head. “That was… incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it. How did you know what to do?”
Nima smiled at her. “I suppose this is my special skill. I just hadn’t discovered it yet.”
“I’m so glad you were here,” Olivia said. “We needed you. I don’t think anyone could have taken another bad blow.”
“Well, I’m just glad I could help,” Nima said. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get April and her baby moved to Caleb’s office so we can make sure everyone is okay after the ordeal we’ve been through.”
“Right,” Olivia said. “I’ll get some people to carry the gurney.”
“Thank you, Olivia,” Nima said. “I appreciate it.”
Outside of the helicopter, Olivia felt a wave of exhaustion hit her like a ton of bricks.
She’d spent a great deal of time sitting and reviewing data ever since the incident with Explorer One. The adrenaline rush of today’s events had nearly fried her brain.
As she waved for a few of the engineers to go help Nima, she caught sight of Scott Baker, the pilot that had been in charge of the retrieval. He was sitting on one of the steps outside of town hall, and he looked like he could drop from exhaustion.
“Hey,” she said waving at him. “You okay?”
“Is she… are they…”
“Both April and baby are alive and well,” Olivia assured him.
“Oh, I’m so glad to hear it,” he said, letting out a long breath of air. “I was so worried.”
“It all worked out in the end,” Olivia said, taking a seat next to him. “We’re glad everyone is home, safe and sound.”
“I just heard about the Explorer One incident,” Scott added. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here to help search for them.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” she said, honestly. “Listen, Scott… was the woman your only arrival out there?”
“You didn’t… see anyone else?”
Scott raised a brow. “No. What are you asking me about?”
“Nothing,” she said. “I was worried in the confusion that someone else might have arrived and we missed them. You’re sure there was no one else?”
“Positive,” Scott said. “No worries, Olivia.”
“Of course,” she replied. “Thank you for your time, Scott.”
In the distance, as Nima led a few engineers that were carrying April’s gurney, Olivia could hear the soft sounds of a newborn baby echoing in the air. It was surreal, to hear something she had nearly forgotten existed.
In that moment, she made a promise.
No more memories forgotten or lost.