Author: Gerard Mulligan

As she requested, he had retrieved the red blanket from the bed upstairs and thrown it over her feet as she lay stretched out on the sofa. She had murmured thanks and was soon falling asleep with her hands instinctively covering her stomach. He waited, hovering over her, for anything else she might need. Only when she actually began to snore gently, did he pull away and drift over to the table to sit and read the paper. God, he thought, glancing through the black headlines, this world was a total mess. War, war, and more war blotted every page. They only finished one when they had started another.

After a few minutes, he had had enough of the paper. He took up the coffee and looked out the window onto the street five stories down. A light rain fell outside. Four months to go before the baby was born. They were getting there. Four months was a long time though. Behind him, on the wall by the door, the clock ticked. In three hours, he had to be at work. He hated working nights. He knew that he would probably not get to sit down again until well after midnight. Still, the rent and bills had to be paid. And it would be worth it. This was a good home. A fresh home. They had arrived just in time though, another few years and the place would have gone to hell. Still, for the moment, everything was still reasonably good. It could be all brought back. As he had been told during his introduction, there was no ‘irreversible damage’ yet. They had time to fix everything. Once they had the right people in place.

Their child would be among the first. Yes, some of the early stacks had been here for nearly twenty years now. Some were already preparing to leave their birth homes and head out to take the positions to mold this new home. However, everyone knew the first stacks rarely ever rose to prominence. They did the ground-breaking work, prepared the way as such, but it was the stacks that came after which really reaped the rewards. There was endless debate about why that was. He reckoned it was because simply by then there was enough of them, after forty years or so, to forge the links around the entire planet needed for good governance. The first stack was too spread out on too many continents to really connect up. That was why he had waited until volunteering to come here. By the time their child was leaving school, there would be plenty of them in government and civil roles so finding a suitable position would be much easier.

The clock ticked on. He had to get up. He needed to get the uniform ready, shower, and pack some food for the night ahead. No matter where he went, he always had to work. So many planets, so many jobs. All the same no matter where it was. Work was work. Maybe soon, he might have to think about giving it up and settling down. He still fondly remembered the first planet. What a place. Days that went on forever and water as clear as the air itself. That was a good planet. And more-or-less colonized by now. They were already thinking of giving it a ‘Settled’ designation. Maybe then, in twenty or so years, when the child was reared, he would give it some more thought. But until then, he had to work. He stood, leaving her sleeping peacefully, and went to get ready.