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Leona sat up in hers and Mateo’s bed in the morning of July 9, 2124. She hadn’t seen him for days, but she had always known that he was all right. Well, perhaps all right wasn’t the right term to use. Alive was just about as far as she could take it, but that was enough for them, because they couldn’t really ask for more with lives like these. At present, he was like a rock, completely unmoving, and barely breathing. She even checked his pulse a few times to make sure he really was still alive.
During one of the interim years, the others had built for them a new hut, not too far from their group shelter, apparently by the words of Arcadia, who told them that this much was okay. They rotated its use according to the number of people left on the island, and of course, only had to let Leona and Mateo have it for one day every year. She got dressed and stepped out of this hut upon the smell of breakfast. Everyone looked exhausted, not so much physically, but mentally. They had all been going through Arcadia’s expiations, and living the time in between, for the better part of two decades. Before that, they had false memories of being stranded on this planet. It took its toll more and more each day. Vearden, in particular, looked extremely distressed. There were only nine of them now, and though only she, Paige, and Mateo had any level of memory of the ones who had been taken from them, the others felt something. There was something from their souls that had been rubbed away too much, leaving them feeling hollow...dispirited. Though they couldn’t technically remember their missing friends, they could feel that something was wrong.
Horace was preparing to boil some eggs, Lita was trying to get comfortable in an awkwardly constructed beach chair, and Mario was looking for extra blankets for her. Everyone else was curled up by the fire.
“Is Mateo okay?” Darko asked.
“He’s okay,” Leona assured him. “You guys had a whole three years to act as temporary Saviors. Mateo and I had to complete just as many tasks in only three days. He just needs to sleep it off.”
“Well, if he doesn’t wake up, how will we know who’s missing this time?” Horace asked. “I mean, you two don’t remember enough details,” he said, referring to Leona and his daughter, Paige.
“I know who’s missing,” Vearden said solemnly.
“Her name was Saga. Saga Einarsson. She was my best friend...my partner.”
“How do you remember her?” Mario asked of him.
“It’s like he said,” Lincoln answered instead. “She was his partner. That’s a bond that cannot so easily be broken.”
“Wasn’t Samsonite my partner?” Aura asked. She did not remember him after he had been taken. Mateo had to give her a brief oral report of their history together.
“I can’t explain that. Though I suspect,” Lincoln hesitated, “that their bond was, well, deeper.”
“I cannot speak to their bond,” Vearden interjected, “but I can tell you that I was closer to Saga then I’ve ever been to anyone...possibly closer than anyone has ever been to anyone else.”
Arcadia teleported in. “This is true. This is not the first time that Saga has been torn out of the timestream.”
“It’s not?” Lita asked, finally deciding to just move to a table and lie all the way back.
“She sacrificed herself to save hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people,” Vearden explained. “It was the only way to prevent a disaster.”
“Yes,” Arcadia supported. “He crossed dimensional borders to get her back, risking his life throughout several parallel universes.”
“Yet you’re making him do it again?” Horace asked, feeling particularly protective of his people.
“I did not do that to him the last time,” Arcadia defended herself. “Technically Saga did it to herself.”
“But you’re still making him go through it a second time,” Leona pointed out. “He still once more feels the pain of her loss.”
Vearden just sat there, wide-eyed, unsure how to handle the support of his family.
“Yeah,” Darko said, “we should be exempt from whatever expiations you have planned. You should give her back right now.”
“That I will not do,” Arcadia stated plainly. “She’s gone, and you won’t get her back until the end. Or rather, Mateo won’t get her back, because you’ll all be gone too. But trust me, you’re gonna want to complete this round of expiations.”
Lita, as if called to stage, screamed in agony and wrapped her arms around her belly.
“That’s why,” Arcadia said, pointing to Lita.
Leona looked between them. “Her? Is she about to go into labor?”
Answering her question accidentally, Lita’s water broke, splashing amniotic fluid all over their food, and Horace’s leg.
“Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!” Mario was frantic. “It’s happening! It’s happening now! What do we do?”
“Calm down,” Lita tried to comfort him. “We’ve been over this. We’ve planned for it.”
“But we’re on an island! On a different planet!” Mario cried. “We have to get out of here!” Rage in his face, he threateningly approached Arcadia, who wasn’t the least bit afraid. “You. You can get us out of here. You have to take us back to Earth. She can’t give birth a billion lightyears from home!”
Arcadia lazily lifted her hand to present their surroundings. “Look around.”
They all started looking around, except for Aura, who was keeping her eye on Lita’s condition. At first, nothing seemed different, then they noticed something weird in the distance. The island was...broken...unfinished...fractured, but whole. Now Leona realized what was happening. It was merged; merged with some other tropical island. Kayetan Glaston was somewhere nearby.
Arcadia pointed towards the border of the two islands. “Carry her to the other side or her baby will die.”
Now Mario was really upset. “What! What are you talking about?”
“Do you know what pristinely ungifted means?”
“You mean like Connor Higgins?” Darko asked.
“Or Jennsen Rahl?” Aura suggested.
“Yes. Lita’s child is just that. She cannot be affected by temporal manipulation. The only way to save her is to give birth to her on the other side of the merge border.”
“Horace, Darko, Lincoln,” Mario ordered, “lift her chair and help me get her to the other side.”
“Are you calling me fat!” Lita screamed, but was ignored by Mario, who was just trying to fix the problem.
While the four strong men were carrying her down the beach, desperate to make it before labor really kicked in, everybody else followed beside, including Arcadia. She continued explaining their situation, “only two people may cross the border with Angelita, and neither of those people can be Mario Matic.”
“What!” Mario repeated. “I’m not leaving my wife.”
“You will. You will physically be unable to cross, so don’t even bother trying.”
“The hell I won’t.”
It took them several minutes to get to the merge border. Lita’s cries of agony increased along the way. Leona kept track of the contraction times in her head. She and Vearden were chosen, to be the two who cross the border and deliver Lita’s baby. They held onto the chair and dragged it over the sand the rest of the way while Horace pushed as far as he could, and then stood with the rest to watch them work. Darko ran back to camp to retrieve supplies they would need. He was able to throw them across the border, but was still not able to cross either. Mario kept his face pressed against an invisible force field, like a new father admiring his newborn from the other side of the glass of the infant ward.
Vearden felt that he needed to do this, because this was the sort of thing that Saga would have done. She spent years alongside Doctor Baxter Sarka, treating salmon and choosers on an as-needed basis. Before that, she worked as a nurse centuries in the past, utilizing modern techniques as best she could without arousing suspicion. Throughout her life of healing and helping people, she had assisted in an incalculable number of births. Though Vearden himself new little about it, this was his responsibility. Leona knew a little about it herself, while Aura provided some guidance as well, drawing on her maternal instinct, even though she hadn’t had any children before.
Angelita was in labor for hours, all the while in a great deal of pain. Dr. Sarka never showed up, nor did they have any form of pain relief beyond a little aspirin from a first aid kit. The delivery itself, however, wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It didn’t give them any problems that they weren’t equipped to handle on their own. The little baby came into this world exactly as she was supposed to; head first, and quickly crying. Vearden wiped her down with one of the blankets, snipped the umbilical cord, and handed her to a happy and loving mother.
“What does she looked like?” Mario asked, pounding on the forcefield with his fists. “Eva? Catania? Hannah?” They hadn’t quite settled on a name yet.
Angelita smiled and addressed the crowd. “Ladies and gentleman, I present to you...Brooke Victoria Prieto-Matic.”