I sat with one hand gripping the edge of Voss Park’s desk and with my other I held my hair back from my face. I felt like bantha poodoo, not to mention deeply embarrassed. “I am so sorry about that.” I mumbled.
“Merlyn maybe you should go pay the doctor a visit.” Voss’s concern would have been almost funny if it weren’t for the fact that I had just suddenly and violently thrown up in the waste basket by his desk. “There’s been a bad case of Corellian flu going around and I hate to say this but you really don’t look so well.”
I nodded and took the tissue he handed me to wipe my mouth. “You’re right, I don’t feel so great.” The truth was I hadn’t been feeling so great for a while but had just put it down to lack of sleep.
He grinned and made a motion with his fingers that I had missed a spot. “Regular rest and some food would help that you know. You push yourself too hard. I heard you spent nearly fifteen hours straight in the pit fixing ships the other day. You know that is against regulations.” He poured a glass of water and handed it to me.
“I hate seeing broken ships lying around. We need all the working ships we can get.” I shrugged, sipping the water slowly. “I can’t sleep, I can’t settle so I make myself useful.”
“I am quite sure that when the Admiral said you should do something productive to keep busy until the Virulent returns from what ever mission Admiral Larsen has it on he didn’t mean kill yourself by working over time in the flight deck pit.” He said with a sigh, “Even the chief of ops came to me worried about the time you’ve been spending there. Half the crew are sick with this virus so it’s no wonder you are too. Don’t make me pull rank and forbid you to go down to the hanger.”
I gave him a weak smile. “You’re right, I just wish….” I stopped myself from saying what I really felt out loud, Voss knew it anyway, “I suppose just buggering off to Hjal would also not be a good idea.” I said with a sigh. I had been toying with the notion of going to spend some time with Navaari but never quite made up my mind about it.
“Oh I am certain Thrawn would not mind you going to Hjal but please don’t just leave without telling me, the paperwork is a bugger.” He teased. “Really, Merly, go see Doc Thracer and for goodness sake get some rest and maybe eat something, you look like something out of one of those awful holo-horror dramas Fel likes to read .”
“You know you can be really bossy some days.”
“Just because I care.” He shot back with a grin.
“Thanks.” I got up a little shakily. I had been feeling queasy for a week or so on and off but usually it went away after a while. The throwing up was a fairly recent event and given that someone on the base had contracted the Corellian flu which had spread rapidly, my being unwell was not a surprise. What had surprised me this time was that it had been the smell of the stim’caf Voss had poured me which had made me so sick.
“I swear as soon as I hear anything from him I will come and find you myself.” He added looking at me with genuine concern. “But really if Thrawn comes home to find you dead or in a coma or something from this flu it will be ugly.”
I nodded again, mumbled another embarrassed apology for being sick and made my way to the medlab where Doctor Thracer didn’t seem all that shocked to see me. “I’ll be right with you dear. This Corellian flu outbreak is creating a lot of paperwork. Go wait in exam room two.”
He came into the small room just as I was throwing up again. “Oh, that’s not very good. Let’s see what’s going on shall we.” He said as he shut the door.
I stood quietly by the bed as Doctor Thracer fussed. He asked questions, took my temperature and then waved the small hand scanner up and down my body. There was a moment where he just looked at me with an expression I could not decipher and then he tucked the scanner away.
“So?” I asked. “What’s wrong with me this time? Did I manage to catch this wretched flu?”
“Nothing is wrong with you. You are in perfect health.” He said with a smile.
“Well I don’t feel healthy.” I snapped. “I feel sick and tired and just plain out of sorts.”
He nodded. “Yes, that’s perfectly normal for a woman in your condition.”
“My condition? I thought you just said I wasn’t sick.” I said, confused.
He looked at me in surprise. “Merlyn, you’re not sick, you’re pregnant.”
The shock of his words drained the blood from my face and for a moment the world around me spun out of control. I felt his hands catch me and the next thing I knew I was lying down on the bed trying to recall how to breathe.
He handed me a glass of water. “You really didn’t know or suspect?” He asked with surprise.
I sat up slowly and shook my head. “How is this possible? How did this happen?” I asked him.
He frowned for just a moment, deciding if the question was a serious one or not then after taking a good look at my face decided I wasn’t messing with him. “You are sexually active are you not?” He asked carefully.
I nodded. “Yes but….”
“And you don’t take anything to prevent pregnancy from happening do you?”
“No.” I said crossly. “But Thrawn does.”
Doctor Thracer shook his head ever so slightly and sighed. “He didn’t tell you.” He murmured.
“Tell me what?”
“The Admiral stopped taking Evexelhan.” He said naming the drug which enabled men to have sex without producing viable sperm thus preventing unwanted pregnancies. The drug had become very popular for members of the Imperial navy who did not want to suddenly find themselves landed with a baby and a wife after one night of shore leave. Thrawn had told me a very long time ago when the topic of babies had been brought up one evening that he had taken care to prevent this possibility. It would have been a very bad thing to get pregnant during Palpatine’s reign.
I looked at him, stunned. “When was this?”
“Shortly after he returned from his exploration of Mount Tantiss.” Doctor Thracer frowned because really he was giving me information that was, in theory, private between him and Thrawn. “He said the drug had started to give him headaches, which is one of the known long term use side effects.”
“That was ages ago.” I protested, “He should have told me.” And I wondered why he didn’t. That was very unlike Thrawn, he usually took care to avoid any unseemly complications of any sort and babies would be considered a major complication, at least in my book at any rate.
The doctor frowned and fiddled with the scanner in his hand. “The chances of you conceiving a child with him were, as far as statistics go, incredibly slim, next to impossible actually, and you are not together that often perhaps he felt the risk was minimal or maybe he really just forgot. He’s had a lot on his plate lately.”
I stared at the doctor angrily. “Yet here I am, minimal risk aside, pregnant.” My mind reeled as I spoke that word out loud. “He should have said something. I am certain he had no intention of any sort of family plans, this is not something he wanted especially now.”
For a terrible long moment an unhappy silence weighted the air down.
“I can advise you on your options.” He said quietly after watching my face carefully.
“Options?” I asked a little confused then I realised what he was not saying. I narrowed my eyes at him. “You mean like terminating the pregnancy?”
He nodded carefully keeping his expression neutral.
I shook my head. “No way. That is not an option I even want to hear about.” I said angrily, unconsciously clutching my abdomen, suddenly fiercely protective over this little life I had thought was lack of sleep, bad dreams and stomach flu.
“Merlyn, apart from the pregnancy is everything alright? Between the two of you is everything alright? You don’t seem happy about this.”
“Don’t seem happy? You just told me the impossible has happened.” I couldn’t stop the tears that welled up in my eyes. “I’m too shocked to know what to feel.” Which was the truth.
“The shock will wear off. How will you feel about it after the news has had time to sink in?”
I thought about it for a moment and then gave him a little smile. “It’s clichéd and silly and probably the most girly thing I will ever say in my entire life, Da’han help me, but I want this.” I said. “We’ve talked about it, you know, on and off through the years we’ve been together but always the time just wasn’t right and then when you told me that it would be damned near impossible I had given up the idea but …this child is nothing short of a wonder.” I whispered the words carefully. “I think apart from the shock I’m well…pleased, I guess… I think.”
“You’re very good at hiding your joy well.” Doctor Thracer said wryly.
I made a face at him. “Well, this could not have happened at a worse time. Thrawn’s in the middle of a war that will last for who knows how long. The last thing he will need or want to hear is that he’s going to be a father.” I didn’t even want to imagine that conversation.
He nodded without comment but his expression said he wasn’t buying my explanation.
“How far along am I? Can you tell?”
He looked at the scanner’s data. “Approximately forty two days, give or take, so nearly nine weeks going by Coruscant standard time.” Nirauan’s days were longer and instead of five day weeks, here they stretched out over into seven days per week. We tried to keep to Coruscant standard time when ever possible but it wasn’t always easy to do given the planet’s time and rotation differences.
I did some mental math and nodded. “His last time on the base.” I said with a sudden flashback to that particularly memorable evening. Just the thought made me blush but the doctor tactfully ignored this.
“When you missed your period did you not wonder?”
I shook my head. “I was never regular, I’ve told you that, especially with all of the sport and exercise I do and lately it’s been even more irregular than ever. I just put it down to stress, general bad eating habits and lack of sleep.” I sighed. “I didn’t think anything was wrong until I started throwing up at the drop of a hat and then I just assumed it was this stupid flu that’s been going around.” I said, “But all of a sudden I can’t stand to be around stim’caf any more and you know that’s not normal for me.”
That made him smile, my stim’caf habit was legendary on the base. “It should pass. Cravings and changes in food and drink likes and dislikes are pretty standard.”
“I hope it goes away soon!” I said, alarmed at the though of not being able to go near stim’caf for fear of throwing up.
He nodded. “It’s normal as is the morning sickness which, despite its name, can occur at any time I am afraid to tell you.”
“Ugh.” I made a face.
“Drink lots of fluids and you need to eat better as well as rest more. I will make up a diet plan for you and we’ll need to monitor your weight gain. I should warn you, you’ll be tired and you will have mood swings due to all the hormone changes.”
“The drinking and eating part I can probably manage in between the throwing up parts but the sleeping part… can’t guarantee that unless you have a sure fire cure for getting rid of nightmares.”
“I wish I could help you with the bad dreams, Merlyn, I see what they are doing to you but I don’t know how to help other than offer you some sort of counselling to discover their roots.”
“Talking won’t help.” I said with a shrug.
He sighed and nodded. He knew all about my strange gifts and the issues they brought with them. “I want to keep a very close eye on you. While Chiss and human physiologies are similar there are some major differences which will complicate this pregnancy greatly. That means monitoring your health carefully. I don’t want to scare you but this will not be an easy pregnancy.”
“Differences? Aside from the obvious appearance ones what should I know about?”
“The major one I am concerned with right now is the different gestation times. Humans carry offspring from between two hundred and fifty-nine to two hundred and ninety-four days. Chiss gestation times are longer by nearly fifty to sixty days. I don’t know what sort of stress that will put on your body.”
“He wants me to return to the Virulent and work with Admiral Larsen. I would have been there now except the Virulent is off on some mission and out of contact for another month or so.”
“Well I don’t really care what he wants from this moment on you are my patient and you will remain here. While I am sure the doctor on board Larsen’s ship is good he will not know yours or Thrawn’s medical histories the way I do, he certainly won’t have much experience with Chiss physiology and I have better equipment here.” He said thoughtfully. “Don’t make me pull rank on you to get you to do as I ask.”
“You’re the second person to say that to me today.” I smiled.
“I’m surprised you don’t hear that more often. You are reckless and impulsive but if you want to carry this child to term you will have to curb that nature and settle down a bit.”
There was something he wasn’t telling me so I asked outright. “What’s the but? Because I hear a definite but in there, what are you not telling me?”
He drew a deep breath. “Most inter-species pregnancies don’t last to term. The variables in DNA make it almost impossible to grow a viable embryo that lasts beyond fifty-six days and, to be brutally honest with you; this is usually a good thing due to the deformities and mutations that occur.” He looked at me to make sure I was actually hearing what he was saying. “You need to be prepared for the fact that the chances you will carry this child to term are very, very slim. I will do everything I can for you to make it possible as long as it does not place your life in any danger but statistics are not on your side.”
“So what you are telling me is not to get too attached to this baby?”
He sighed. “Without trying to seem like Doctor Doom here, yes. If you make it past the two hundred day mark then we can hope a little but before that, especially in the first hundred days I would advise caution and that’s the reason I don’t think you should be anywhere else but here.”
“I will have to lie or find some really good reason why I should stay here.” I said quietly.
“You already have a good reason, dear, you’re pregnant with his child.” He was puzzled.
“How long before it starts to show?” I asked ignoring the unasked question in the doctor’s eyes.
“Not for a while yet, at least a hundred and thirty days or so depending on development.”
“So we can keep this a secret, at least for now?”
He looked at me for a moment then nodded. “Yes, if that is your wish.”
“And you won’t tell Thrawn or anyone else?”
“Unless you give me permission to do so I am legally not allowed to but why, if I may ask, do you not want to tell him or is he not the father?”
I shook my head. “Oh he’s definitely the father.” I said quickly with a smile I couldn’t quite stop. “There’s never been anyone else.”
He nodded. “Then what is the problem?”
“He has enough to worry about and as you said I might not carry to term. I’d rather tell him good news when I know the news is good. If I tell him now and things go wrong ….” I shrugged offhandedly but suddenly and to my surprise I didn’t want to think about that. “Besides it’s not as if he is here every day to see what’s going on. I’m not even sure when I will see him next so best not to worry him just yet, especially while he’s in the middle of his biggest move yet. When we know for certain there will be a baby then we can tell him, okay?”
He wasn’t happy about this but he nodded anyway. “As you wish but I have to tell you I don’t like it and I am pretty certain he won’t either when he does find out. You know how is about you keeping secrets from him.”
I made a little gesture with my shoulder. “Well that’s my problem when it happens isn’t it. Right now he’s busy, in fact he’s up to his neck in it. I don’t want to add to the stress.”
“I heard that he was planning on going after the ships at the Sluis Van yards.” Doctor Thracer said as he loaded up a hypospray. I gave him a look. “Prenatal vitamins, nothing more.” He said as he pressed the spray gun against my neck. “You’re eating habits are terrible when Thrawn is away and your body needs a boost.”
I nodded. “The fleet needs ships, though I find it weird there are not more Imperial ships out there. I mean the Imperial navy was enormous and not so many were actually destroyed at Endor. Where did the rest of the ships go? I mean surely if an Imperial Captain heard that a Grand Admiral had survived and was trying to take back the Empire would he not come running to join in?”
Doctor Thracer shrugged. “I agree with you but I have no answers. Thrawn often asked the same question as you and I had no answers for him either. Perhaps these ships are holed up somewhere so remote that no one knows what is actually going on, or maybe the crews simply gave up and left these ships abandoned somewhere in space. I don’t think we will ever know.” He dug out a data pad from one of the drawers and started to punch stuff into it.
I shook my head. “It doesn’t add up, you know.” Then, suddenly feeling exhausted I discovered I didn’t really care about ships or fleets or much of anything. I sighed. “I didn’t know he spoke to you about his campaign?”
The doctor smiled. “We have come along way from the very first time you met me, you know. I have you to thank for that.”
I raised my eyebrows at him.
“You have a way of bringing people together, though I don’t think you notice that much. After Endor he had no one to talk to about you and what you were going through so he came to me and through that experience we developed a friendship after a fashion. He does not confide in many people nor does he have many people he would call friend but somehow I am honoured to be one of them so yes he talks to me about his campaigns though not in great amounts of detail. Friend or not that’s still classified information but I think he finds it of use to have a non military point of view sometimes.”
“So he finds it weird as well that so much of the Imperial Navy is … missing.”
“Yes but he cannot afford the resources to try and find them or try to obtain information on where to start looking.”
A thought flashed across my brain but I bit down on it before it could show on my face and I changed the subject quickly. “How long will this nausea and vomiting go on for?”
“Hard to say, though in normal human pregnancies it usually subsides after eighty to ninety days though there are exceptions to this rule and given the nature of this pregnancy I can’t say with any certainty this will hold true for you. I can give you something for it if you need it.”
I shook my head. “No.” When he raised his eyebrows at me I explained, “You can’t tell me for sure that anything you give me won’t harm the baby can you?”
“No. You are the first human I know of to conceive with a Chiss. I have no idea what will happen so I am going to have to do some research on Chiss pregnancies. I truly didn’t even think this was possible and I remember telling you that when you asked me some time back. I guess I am eating my words today.” He smiled.
“So this is a good thing right?” I asked carefully.
“Yes, if you two wish a child this is a very good thing though I cannot stress enough caution in your optimism but the fact that you even conceived at all is a very good sign, bad timing aside.”
That made me smile. “So… tell me what I need to know about being pregnant because this is a first for me.”
Doctor Thracer handed me the data pad and did his best to educate me on the subject of being an expectant mother. By the time he let me go I was more bewildered and astonished than ever. I was grateful to get back to my quarters so that I could just lie down. It was an awful lot to take in and on top of it all I was worried about Thrawn. The attack on the Sluis Van Ship yards should have taken place and I had half expected to hear about the results by now.
As I lay on the bed I could not help but think about the lack of Imperial ships and wondered where the rest of the ships had gone. I was certain now, from the dreams I had been having that the Emperor was not dead but very much alive and also planning some sort of grand come back. The real mystery was why had he not found Thrawn? The two of them would have been invincible together. But then again, I thought the together part was probably the real issue. Palpatine had let power go to his head and for all intensive purposes I thought he was just mad. Sharing had never been high on his list of things to do and sharing with Thrawn, well that would be just wrong in the Emperor’s books. I wondered if he was simply waiting on some hidden planet somewhere for Thrawn to do the major damage to the Rebels and then sweep in and take the end glory for himself. If that was the case then Palpatine was more than just a power hungry madman he was a petty idiot. Thrawn did not want to rule the galaxy as its new Emperor; he wanted to bring back the law and order which had held the empire together so that if there was an invasion from some nasty unknown species that lived beyond the galaxy’s edge then just maybe we’d all be prepared, at least that was his story and so far he was sticking to it.
I absently rubbed my belly and thought about the new life that was growing inside of me with a sigh. It was too early and too small to sense or feel anything yet it was there. A child, our child. The prospect was daunting. Oddly enough I found myself wondering what Palpatine would have thought of this had it happened while he was still alive and on Coruscant. Chances were good he would be repulsed by the idea of a human and a Chiss mating and producing offspring but there was also a good chance my child would be a force user and that would complicate things even more. If Palpatine lived and if he ever found out I was certain he would want this child to train especially if it had Thrawn’s brains and my talents. I knew a sliver of icy fear then, and hoped that what ever gods were watching over me stuck close by because I was quite scared to death which, I suddenly realised, was probably how my own birth mother felt when she had discovered she was pregnant with me as well.