by Jakob Drud
Jake Durow tucked Malia into her bunk in the cabin annex on the Bruma colony transport. He
had his rituals to make her feel safe, and Jake dutifully went through the motions of kissing her
on each cheek and turning the screen in the annex to a view of Lightspace.
The interstellar medium that the gigantic Bruma ship had entered after leaving Earth gave off a
blissful glow, and it was perfect for lighting a child's sleeping chamber. After another quick kiss
goodnight, he touch-closed the fleshy wall so a stripe of light from the main cabin fell on the foot
of her bunk.
He found Andrea waiting for him and gave her a lingering kiss. She was three months pregnant
and all kinds of beautiful. In a population of three hundred thousand colonists there would be
many, many pregnancies. Life was so much more precious than any of the farm equipment or soil
tenderizers or space elevator cables bound for Blue Two. But of all the future lives he would see,
Jake felt the one Andrea carried was by far the most important.
"Da-aa-ad!" Malia called. "It tickles."
Andrea reluctantly broke free of Jake's embrace and opened the wall again.
"What tickles?" she asked.
"I'm sure it does, honey," Andrea said. "But not as much as I'll tickle you."
"No!" Malia shrieked, but when Andrea started tickling, Malia's mock panic changed to
"Mom, it really tickles," she said when she'd caught her breath.
Jake joined them, but when he bent in to look at her stomach, all he could see was a tiny
pinprick. It was barely even red. Malia would probably forget about it overnight, but like all five-year-olds she knew how to complain. Still, Jake felt tension seep into his solar plexus. Parental
anxiety, of course, but he wondered what on the ship could have stung her. The Bruma aliens had
inspected everything: every cubic centimeter of cargo, every square inch of skin on their human
passengers. There were air filters everywhere, and the space ship's fleshy floor sucked up dirt,
waste, and fluids. It would have caught a bug as well.
He shouldn't worry, and he shouldn't fuzz about an itch at bedtime, or Malia would use it as an
excuse to stay awake. But he did sit down and let his fingers run over the pinprick, prodding,
feeling the skin and the soft stomach underneath.
"Andrea," he said, keeping his voice low so Malia wouldn't hear. "I think there's some kind of