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“Come in, Mandy,” Rodrick said, standing. “Have a seat.”
“Thank you,” she responded, taking the chair in front of his desk. “I asked for this meeting, Captain, to
discuss several things.”
The tone was set—it was to be strictly business. Duncan resisted his inclination to grin, for just to look
at her was pleasing.
“First,” Mandy said, “there is no doubt that Theresita Pulaski is pregnant. The fetus is quite well
formed, and it looks and tests to be quite normal.”
Duncan rubbed his chin and said nothing, for it was obvious that Mandy was not finished.
“Which brings up some questions,” she went on. “It is biologically impossible for Theresita to have
been impregnated by a Whorsk. Due to the time she spent journeying down the river, it is equally
impossible for the father of the child to have been one of the Russians abKoardl Mthaerx . And since
she was
three months pregnant when Jacob West rescued her, it can’t be his child. That, of course, leaves one
“I agree,” Duncan said. He had been procrastinating on that matter. He’d sent a half-dozen scout flights
to the area of the Great Misty River, but their reports were all identical: nonvisibility and no life signals
emanating through the fog that hung over the river.
“I won’t presume to make suggestions,” Mandy said, “but—”
“I know,” Duncan cut in. “We’re going to have to send a ground party to explore the river.”
“The problem is that we don’t know what kind of child Theresita is carrying,” Mandy said. “It tests
normal. There’s just one strange thing—”
“For a four-month-old fetus, the brain seems too well developed.”
Rodrick felt a chill, as if a sudden draft had swept into that climate-controlled office. Perhaps he should
have taken charge of the situation sooner. “Have you discussed abortion?”
“We have. I talked with Theresita again today. She will obey an order to terminate the pregnancy, but
she will not choose to abort voluntarily. At first Theresita seemed inclined in that direction, but we
procrastinated too long for an abortion to be emotionally acceptable to her. She’s now experiencing the
maternal syndrome.” Mandy chuckled without mirth. “Furthermore, she is curious about the fetus. As
am I. Jacob, incidentally, has told her that the decision is hers and hers alone.”
Rodrick drummed his fingers for a moment. “For the good of the colony, should I order her to
terminate the pregnancy?”
“I don’t know,” Mandy admitted. “How can there be men—beings—so much like us that
crossbreeding is possible? It’s a bit frightening.”
“I’ve studied the recordings of Theresita’s debriefings,” Duncan said. “It’s not wise, of course, to draw
conclusions based on such scanty information, but do you agree that it seems that someone with pretty
advanced medical techniques healed some very severe wounds on Theresita’s shoulder?”
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