PHD #207: The Children Are Our Future
The Children Are Our Future
Summary: Fellow Aquarians meet in Sickbay.
Date: 21 Sept 2041 AE
Related Logs: None
Astra Rose 
Sickbay - Deck 10 - Battlestar Cerberus
Being able to accommodate combat casualties requires room, and the Sickbay has it. Beds line each side of the room with privacy curtains strung up and readily available. Large vaulted lockers hold access to the supplies at the far end of the area. Nearer the front, a Petty Officer sits ready to dispense simple items like ibuprofen and aspirin. Further to the rear is an area prepped twenty-four hours a day for emergency surgery. To the side are a set of double doors that lead to the Recovery Ward where patients can recuperate.
Post-Holocaust Day: #207

Sickbay has finally calmed down after the fiasco in the starboard hangar. It is as quiet as an active sickbay can be, save for the thin, plaintive cry of a baby. Two cries, actually, rising and falling, not quite in synch, giving an effect of sirens. And then there is a shushing, and a woman's voice lilts, the accent Aquarian, northern archipelagoes. She begins to sing, a soft lulling song, traditional, her voice tired yet sure, high and sweet.

"In that direction lies the sea.
Its darkling fathoms call to me.
It bids me board a ship and roam
Where land is lost to wave and foam."

A nurse leads an obviously sight-impaired woman to a seat, the woman holding a folded whitestick in her left hand. "Please sit here, Miss, and I'll be right back," the nurse advises her gently. Rose nods, smiling in the direction of the woman, but her eyes are downcast - not because of sadness, but because they're quite cloudy from cataracts and she likely cannot see much. Sitting down in the chair, she begins rolling up her sleeve, presumably in preparation for drawing blood. A number of faint needle marks and needle bruises mar her left arm - not an attestment to a lack of skill, but evidence as to how often the woman gives blood for testing.

As the sound of the infants breaks the silence of sickbay, and the singing starts, Rose tilts her head to the side, trying to catch the melody. Smiling as she does, she helps finish the melody by humming softly to herself. Apparently, she's heard it.

The woman keeps singing, rocking two newborns in her arms, not far from where Rose is sitting. Their crying quiets, stops, and is replaced by soft suckling as she shifts them against her, drapes the blanket over her. She looks over to the blind woman, regarding her thoughtfully. "Pardon me," she says quietly, her voice still tired, but shy and gentle. "I… am wondering… you're from Aquaria? There are… are others?"

Rose straightens up suddenly, apparently very self conscious at being addressed. She wipes underneath her eyes, swallowing back the emotion, likely combined between memories and the question. She probably doesn't even realize that Astra can even see her. "I, er, there's…" Sniffle. "-representatives of all of the Colonies aboard. How did you know…?"

"It's a song from Aquaria, and you know it," answers the woman. "Not many others know it." Her voice gentles even more. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. I just… got rescued a few days ago off of Aerilon… I just found out about… Aquaria." She swallows hard, her voice quavering slightly. "My name's Astra Koios. I have… had a school there. On Aquaria. And I'm babbling. It just hurts less knowing… I'm not the only one. Not much less… but… less."

"From the sound of those hungry babies, I'm going to wager that there are more than you think," Rose says softly, a smile reaching her face. She hasn't quite figured out where Astra is yet, only half-glancing in her general direction. "My name's Rose. Rose Ibbhanas. You're Northern Archipelago, aren't you? We're practically neighbors. I, er, lost most of my accent when at university, on Aerilon. It's good to hear it again." A pause, as her chin lifts and she squints her eyes, trying to get a bead on the blur-that-is-Astra. "How old?" Obviously meaning the twins.

"Yes. Skerry Province. I was born on Aulin Island, went to Auskerry School, arts division, and then moved to Insley with my husband to start our school there." She sighs. "I was vacationing on Aerilon when all of this… happened." Another swallow, and she sighs. "They're…. wow. Five days old, actually. Born in the back of the Raptor that rescued us. I've got a flock of refugee children from Aerilon too. Seven of those, poor ducks."

Rose gasps softly at Astra's story, biting her lower lip. "I hope they're okay. I mean… they're okay, right? You had enough anti-radiation medication? You should have the doctors check for a P-32 marker that indicates immuno-deficiency caused by pre-natal introduction of…" She then sighs, and her shoulders slump. "I'm… I'm sorry," she almost whispers. "I, um, tend to get ahead of myself. I'm sure they're fine. I, uh, grew up on the mainland, on the coast. Near Hebrides."

"We found an abandoned mine. We were up watching the Icefields Sled race, and in a lodge when we saw what happened. A bunch of us figured it'd be better to get somewhere more secure, and this old homesteader, Lothair, never did give his last name, just Lothair… he worked in this mining camp when he was young. So we went there. We had cases of anti-rads. More than we needed. It was the food…" Astra gulps hard. "The babies are fine. Need to put on some weight. So do I." She smiles. "The doctors are monitoring all of us, though. And… Hebrides… oh goodness, we used to hop to the mall there and just do awful things."

Rose beams a wide smile at the recognition. "I'm glad that they're fine. I really, really am. The science nerd in me kind of gets out of control. I thought, 'Oh no, anti-radiation medication introduced during all three trimesters' and that just made me dizzy with information." A slight pause - she seems to have identified Astra now, or at least, what she can make out. "Your husband… is he aboard?"

"Gods be thanked, the most critical part of development was before the attacks," answers Astra. "The medics haven't found anything too worrisome yet, except for a few enzyme imbalances that are more because I was starving than anything else." Astra sighs, then falls silent for a long moment. "My husband… died on Aerilon…. looking for food." She clears her throat, and makes a soft, half-choked sound. "So…"

The trembling of her lip and the darkening of her eyes shows how moved Rose is. "Oh, gods. I'm so sorry," she whispers. Leaving her whitestick behind, she gets up and very carefully reaches out for Astra, hoping to take her into a consoling embrace. She seems quite mindful of her surroundings and how Astra holds the babies to her, approaching her from (what she thinks is) the side. She repeats, "I'm so very sorry," her voice choked up as the tears roll down her cheeks.

Astra shifts in the bed, leans into the embrace. Her head droops, and she allows herself to weep. Not long and not loudly, but there is a note of relief in her sobs. "Th-thank you," she finally manages, her thin frame still shaking. "He was a good man. Leto Koios. I love him so much. He was my heart, my dream, the love of my life." She sighs softly, giving a little laugh as the babies shift in her arms, tiny hands reaching for Rose. "But now… I have my children. Not just the twins, but… the other seven too. I love them with all my heart. They are why I survived. Not hate, not revenge. Love."

Rose still partially embraces Astra after the sobs finish. Sniffling, she says, "I guess they're all yours. Not just these two. I mean, who cared for them? Who are they going to look to now that their world is completely gone?" She nods slowly to Astra with a sad smile. Then, she looks down at the babies, and can't help but get that miraculous soul-lifting smile when confronted with something so innocent. "Do they have names yet?" She asks, obliging both twins by letting them grasp the fingers on her free hand.

"The one who's holding your fingers, that's Evanthe. The one who's trying to eat your clothes is Evandra." Astra smiles wearily. "The other seven… I want to adopt them, unless some relative or other turns up. But I don't think it's likely." She shifts. "Would you like to hold one of them?" She strokes Evandra's curling hair. "They call me "mama", the other children. I'm all they have. We're a family now."

"Finding any living relatives is going to prove difficult, although it's not impossible. I can try for you, if you like, as I'm currently living with all five hundred of us in the starboard hangar," Rose explains. At the offer of holding one of the infants, she says, "Oh, may I? I'd love to!" Gladly taking whichever bundle of joy their mother is willing to part with for a brief moment.

Astra shakes her head. "All seven are from Aerilon. I understand that rescue ops are just starting here. If you could, that would be wonderful. I know their parents are dead… but I was hoping maybe an aunt or uncle…" She falls silent for a moment, then shakes herself and slids one of the babies into Rose's arms. The newborn gives a little hiccup, then kicks her legs a little. "This is Evanthe. Evanthe Phaedra Koios. She's the older. The one I expected. Didn't have a medic, nor a midwife, so all I had was one of those home pregnancy testers to know what was what. But twins? No, that I found out during labor."

Rose carefully accepts little Evanthe into her arms, showing the extra care of someone who doesn't have a lot of experience with children, but knows the basics: the crook of the arm supports the head and neck and upper back, and hold with enough firmness to capture a baby bird but not crush an egg. Her face is alight with wonder. "You really had no idea? I'd think with twins it'd get a little crowded in there," she laughs softly. "Kicking in tandem, too!" She coos softly at the infant, bouncing very gently. "I wish I could see her," she murmurs. "I know she's beautiful, though."

"No idea. They're my first…" Her voice falters a moment. "I'd never been pregnant before, and who knows what to attribute to that, and what is caused by anti-rads, lack of food, and gods forbid, is the radiation getting to me?" She sighs, then settles Evandra against her breast. "And, by the time I was far enough along someone more experienced might know something was up, I was the only adult left." She smiles as Evanthe settles in Rose's arms. "They're identical. They've got each a shock of hair, curly, strawberry-blonde. Round pudgy cheeks. Evanthe's eyes are open right now, and she's staring up at you. Her eyes are starting to change color from grey to green. And yes, they are beautiful." She tilts her head. "Were you… if I don't offend, asking, were you born blind, or—?"

Rose's lips purse in a smile, as she clearly imagines the little girl in her arms from Astra's description. "Anti-radiation medication was stretched very thin amongst the survivors I happened to find myself with on Sagittaron," she explains, lips still pursed in a smile. How can you not smile when holding a baby? Especially one that you can give back. "We were forced to ration. By the time the rescue team found us, I was very sick." The smile fades a little, but she doesn't seem troubled. "I've some lasting internal problems that they're monitoring and still testing for, but my eyesight being what it is, is the only real problem I have." Laughing as the little one gurgles, she brushes some of her curly hair aside, for no reason other than to dote on the baby. "I'll be lucky if I can have children. I mean, when I'm ready. If I'm ready," she laughs again.

"I don't know if *I* am ready…" mutters Astra. "I'm sorry to hear… about your eyes. Gods. Sorry just doesn't seem to cover all the stuff people've been through, does it." She shakes her head. "They think… I should be able to carry to term again, but… I'm still bleeding more than I ought. Falling right before delivery and then getting kicked yesterday aren't helping." Astra looks thoughtful for a moment. "Rose… look… we've just met and all but… if you can't… and you… want to… I'll carry the baby for you. I'll donate the egg for you. I mean…. how many of us are there? And of those, how many can't… because of radiation? I can. And Aquarians have to stick together."

Rose glances up at Astra as she opens up, and her offer is met with a kind, but hesitant, smile. "Miss Koios, I appreciate the offer. I really do. But I'm in no hurry — I'm not even married! And besides," she says, slowly and carefully transferring Evanthe back to her mother. "With these two, and a small gaggle of potential adoptees? You're going to be quite busy."

"Insanely busy." Astra laughs softly. "But I've gotten into the routine of taking care of the seven, and now I don't have to be…. well…" She swallows hard, then looks down. "Astra is fine. No one really calls me Mrs. Koios. And Miss…" She winces, then settles Evanthe against her shoulder, patting her back with one hand. "By the way… do you know what the arrangements are for schooling, here? It would be good for the children, give them something to focus on."

"Sorry, sorry," Rose winces, realizing that she misspoke. "There aren't many children in the starboard hangar. Twenty, tops. I don't think it's been a priority. I suppose it's something to think about, then. But not until you're better, and until you and your lovelies are stronger."

"Twenty. So… about a third of the children onboard are my responsibility." Astra chuckles, pushing her grief away. "And no school. Well…" She draws in a deep breath. "I will, once I am more recovered, I will have to speak to someone about setting up a school. Because… well… I'm not much use on a military ship. I'm an artist. I'm an art teacher, for gods' sake. But I know about teaching. I know about children. I know about child psychology. If so many brave men and women are protecting me and mine… protecting humanity in the present… the least I can do is help give us a future."

Rose nods slowly, smiling. "Well, then, I may be able to help you in that regard. You see, myself and a few others have started organizing the survivors a bit. We're trying to find something for us to do, to give back to the fleet. So once you've recovered, we can talk more." She glances over her shoulder as her nurse returns. "I have to give a pint of blood, now, I'm afraid. Please… take care of yourself?"

"I will take care of myself. And my children. Will you take care of yourself too?" Astra smiles. "And I'll be happy to work with you. And maybe… you and I can talk about Hebrides… And please come see the children, if you like." She shifts a little, wincing, then settles the babies, drifting off to sleep, on pillows set at her sides for such things. "It's been so good to talk to you."

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