She couldn’t travel anymore, not like this. Not for a few days, at least, and who knew how long it would be until the baby would be ready, especially given the limited medical care they knew they expected to find in this time period. If only they’d Flickered to Emily’s time, or anywhere even close to it, she’d be in a hospital now, surrounded by doctors and nurses and sensors and wires and operating rooms and medications and the myriad things she’d grown up with and had always expected to have around her whenever she was sick or hurt.
It had been a week since she’d been able to walk, even for a half-hour at a time, and finally Simon had called the company to a halt. They were in a small valley, lined on the west by trees, orange and red and yellow in the early fall sun, with a babbling brook fed by runoff from the mountains flowing in from the north. They had game, access to clean water, and shelter, and Simon knew that he wasn’t going to find anything better as a place for Emily to give birth.
To keep from going crazy, he’d spent the week setting up a perimeter around the camp as if they’d be there for months. And maybe they would be – depending on how Emily and the baby were doing, and whether or not winter arrived early, he could see scenarios where they didn’t leave until spring. At night, Simon sat staring into the fire, waiting for her to let him know it was time, but each night passed uneventfully. He’d slept some but not enough, crawling into their tent after he’d stood watch, falling asleep clutching his rifle with one hand, the umbrella at his side as always.
As the week dragged on, Simon became withdrawn, even from Emily. Everyone assumed it was worry that something would go wrong with the birth. Pater and Jenna tried to assure him that even in this crude environment, she’d delivered lots of babies who did just fine, especially to healthy and strong women like Emily. Simon nodded at their advice, knowing that they looked to him to set the tone for their company, and tried to put on a better face for their sake. But while he was worried about the birth, his few dreams filled with the nightmares of expectant fatherhood, he was struggling much more with the weight he found himself carrying.
Why had the umbrella picked him? Walter had said that he’d sent it back to find someone who could change the past, prevent the monster war, and save the human race. But that was too much for any one person to do, and Simon could not see what he was supposed to be able to do against such a daunting task. He’d let Marcus get killed. Walter had turned out not to be the savior Simon had hoped for, and it had become too hard to pull the truth out of Walter’s lies. He’d thought about giving up leadership to Emily more than once – he knew the umbrella would accept her, and Simon had seen her inner strength guide them through some very difficult times, but after she’d become pregnant, that wasn’t an option.
They’d been in this time for nearly a year now, and Simon had long wondered why. He cared deeply about everyone they were traveling with – Pater and Jenna and the rest had proven themselves strong, courageous, and dedicated to what he and Emily were trying to do, but this wasn’t where he needed to be if he was going to fix anything – the umbrella had shown him that. He needed to be at Genomatics headquarters, learning about what was going on in their labs that had caused the monsters to be, and finding some way to stop it. But he wasn’t a scientist, and he wasn’t an army, and he wasn’t a savior. He was just Simon. Even with a wife, friends who’d followed him without question, and the umbrella, he just didn’t know how it would be enough.
He’d finished dinner and was at the brook washing up the dishes when the shouts came from Emily’s tent. Jenna and Pater were leaning through the flap, waving frantically for him to come back. He couldn’t quite make out what she was saying, but the urgency was obvious. Dropping the dishes, he turned to climb up from the water’s edge. Simon reached the camp quickly, and his heart leapt to see that the look on Jenna’s face was one of excitement, and not of fear. “Simon! They’re coming – they’re coming now!”
“They?” His mind filled with images of an attack on the camp when his family was at its most vulnerable, and he whirled around to see where they might be coming from.
Pater smiled, his weatherbeaten face a mixture of bemusement and joy. “No – not the monsters, Simon. Your babies. There’s two. Twins!”
“But how? Why? Now?” Simon knew he was babbling, that he should be in the tent with Emily, but he was too shocked to move.
Pater’s smile grew even bigger. “It’s a miracle, Simon. A sign. We’re coming back – humanity’s not done. You and Emily are the ones we’ve been waiting for for so long.” Suddenly, his eyes widened. “What the hell is that? Your umbrella –it’s glowing!”
Simon reached back and grabbed the umbrella out of its straps. It was indeed glowing, and as he looked at it in wonder, it started to flicker. “Oh, no! Not now!”
Then he was gone.