Friday, March 10, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: January 5, 2399

Neither Arcadia nor Vearden has any family in this reality. The closest thing to it is Team Matic, and they’ve been so great and supportive this whole time. It only seems right that they announce the latest news on the baby to them, and that they make a whole thing about it. So they’ve invited everyone to their home, including Kivi, to a nice brunch. They’re having it catered, because they don’t know how to cook themselves. Normally, to the best of their knowledge, one person or couple will show up a little early, and then others will trickle in. One will inevitably arrive forty minutes late, and blame it on something that no one believes, and when he does join them, they’ll remember why they just about didn’t invite him in the first place. For this group, they all come at the same time, because they all live together in the retrofitted disease research lab. Kivi called, and she can’t make it, so everyone is here.
“Thank you for coming,” Vearden says, holding a glass of orange juice. “If you’ll give our caterers another few minutes, they’ll leave, and we’ll be able to talk freely.”
Most of the caterers keep their poker faces on, but a couple of them are confused and curious about what they’re not allowed to hear. They knew it would be like this from the start, though. They won’t be serving the food. They’ve been asked to leave it, and come back for their stuff later. They remove the last of the foil, and start to leave. While they’re still within earshot, Arcadia decides to make a joke. “Great, now the human sacrifice can begin!” The caterers get out quick.
“Joking!” Vearden tries to shout at them, but they may not have heard. “Thanks for that, now we’re going to be on a list.”
“That’s okay,” Arcadia declares, “we work for the government!”
“It’s more like they work for us, but we’ll talk about that later. Go on, and dig in,” Vearden encourages.
Near the end of the meal, they tell the crowd the good news, and the strange news. They reveal that they had to switch to the government hospital, that the baby is a girl, and that she’s going to be born early, but not premature. She’s developing faster than normal, and while that is certainly cause for concern, they’re both time travelers—plus Arcadia was originally made out of clay, and is only borrowing this body—so it’s not the weirdest thing they’ve seen. “We’re going to keep an eye on little Delaney,” she continues. “All we care about is that she’s born healthy.”
“Delaney?” Leona questions.
“Named after her womb and egg mother,” Arcadia says with a nod.
Leona smiles. “That’s very sweet of you.”
“You can’t name her that,” Alyssa says bluntly as she takes another bite.
“What? Why not?” Vearden questions.
Alyssa talks with her mouth full. “You’re Berarians, right?”
“Well, not really. We were just expected to put something on the form, and that seemed like the least annoying one to choose.”
Still casually, Alyssa takes another bite of her potatoes. “Doesn’t matter. It’s your religion of record, and if you try to choose your child’s name, they’re gonna get mad. It’s not illegal, per se, but I don’t think you want that heat on ya. Can you pass the butter, please?”
“Alyssa, what are you talking about?” Mateo asks.
“Oh, you don’t know? It’s customary for a Berarian to name their child after the doctor who delivered it,” Alyssa explains.
“Well, I mean, I guess it doesn’t have to be a doctor. You would also name it after your neighbor if you were stuck in an elevator with him when you went into labor, and couldn’t get out.”
“I’m not naming my baby Cenric,” Arcadia says. “It’s perfectly fine for a forty-year-old government doctor, but not for a little girl.”
“Well, what’s his last name?” Alyssa asks. “That’s okay too.”
“Best,” Vearden replies. “Cenric Best.”
They grimace. Best Haywood.
“You could try finding out his middle name,” Alyssa suggests
“Says here that the feminine form of Cenric is Kendra,” Ramses interjects, looking at his handheld device.
Arcadia waffles. “I don’t hate that. Part of it is that I don’t like the idea of leaving my fate up to someone else. I was a god in another life, I’m not used to this. I suppose I should have read the fine print before I chose Berar.”
“Every faith has both advantages and downsides,” Alyssa muses, “like character traits for a roleplaying game. The way I understand it, Berarians respect their caretakers, and since the person who delivers you isn’t usually involved in your upbringing, that’s the best way they could think of to honor that person’s contribution.”
Arcadia looks over at Leona. “Maybe you could deliver her? I mean, Dr. Best could still be there if something goes wrong, but we’ll call you our midwife.” She turns back to Alyssa. “That would work, right? Her unmarried name is Delaney”
“I don’t see why not, but you would want to speak to a real Berarian about it.”
“I can think of why not,” Leona counters. “I’m not a midwife, nor a doctor, nor anything of the sort. Besides, I’m not really myself right now.” She indicates the Leona Reaver body that she’s wearing. “My life is in too much danger for me to be making plans for April. I’m sorry.”
Arcadia nods, and starts clearing the table. Others try to stand up to help, but Vearden shakes his head at them. She’s on autopilot right now, and any sudden move will throw her off. At the moment, she’s the only person in the room, and everyone else is just a statue that she has to work around. She takes Alyssa’s plate too, even though she’s obviously not yet done.
Leona frowns as she watches poor Arcadia try to work through this issue in her head. She doesn’t want her to backslide into the person she was before. “I don’t have time to become a nurse or midwife...but what about a doula? Do you have those here?”
“I don’t recognize the word,” Alyssa says, “but if you’re talking about a minimally educated birthing specialist, perhaps you’re thinking of a facilitatrix.”
“There, that sounds perfect,” Leona determines. “Would she be able to name her child Delaney if I do that?”
“I think so, yeah,” Alyssa responds.
“Really?” Arcadia asks, hope in her eyes. “You would do that for me?”
“Yeah, what the hell. You’re me, ain’t ya?”
Arcadia smiles, thankful for the offer, and grateful for their improved relationship. She’s closer with these people than she ever was with her birth family.

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