03:32 in bright blue numerals, the only light in the room. Well, of course, it was. It was three-thirty in the morning dammit.
The ':' between the numerals blinked on and off at her. Tukiko counted the seconds...
She turned to Tai, snoring softly beside her. Tukiko smiled. Dawwwww, his whole life was about to change, let him sleep for five more minutes.
"Sorry, my love." She whispered, and then dug him sharply in the side with her elbow.
The voice of Tukiko, currently taking up most of the back seat of her car, is interspaced with Tai, having forgotten English in his panic, speaking only Japanese.
The only other sounds above the roar of the car engine are of things hitting the fenders and the sounds of the suspension and transmission noisily disintegrating
"We have to stop off at the Devil's Own camp to tell them... OWWWWW! Never mind, drive! Drive!"
"Have you called Mom?"
"Call Joe, no wait; he'll just go back to sleep. Call Kirsten. No! Silja, call Silja!"
"Call Maisie. Tell her I'll be in late."
"We should have taken the road!"
"Mind that... what was it? A rotter? You've gone the wrong waaaayyyyy!"
"Oh I must visit the Sasquatch... No, of course not now!"
"Have you called ahead? Where? Haven, of course! To tell them we are coming?!"
"This doesn't look like the right valley... Are you sure? Really sure? What do you mean, No?! ...TAIIIII!"
"Awww dammit... gonna have to get the back seat valeted now. Never mind, keep going!"
"Tai if I have to deliver this baby myself I swear I am going to KILLLLL YOUUUUU!"
"What did Mom say?"
"Then call her!"
The two robed figures, the ones with 'Sun and Crescent Moon' tattoos, were not happy with having to let 'certain people' into Haven.
However, Seeker Troy had insisted, and so, after a short debate among the other Seekers, it was allowed.
Now the two unhappy men stood in opposite corners of the delivery room; both wearing expressions of assassins working out legitimate reasons for killing someone who, in their opinion,
should never have been allowed through the gates.
Meanwhile, on the delivery table, that same revered Seeker Troy was spending her eighth consecutive hour in the most undignified position known to man, well, woman if you want to be pedantic.
Any sense of dignity and feelings of the 'wonder of childbirth' had loooong since been left behind. Suddenly, she reached up and grabbed the collar of the man who was her partner.
With that same surprising strength required by surgeons to saw through bones and manhandle muscle,
she pulled him close so that she could make absolutely sure that he could hear her viciously hissed and deeply meant words.
"I AM NEVER, EVER, DOING THIS AGAIN!"
Tai retreated to the only vacant chair which didn't provide an eye-level view of the proceedings to nurse his crushed fingers.
Tukiko sucked deeply on the dangling water tube and, with a deceptively weak looking wave of her fingers, beckoned her mother closer.
Not being anywhere as naive as Taioko, Hyle's first action on reaching the bloated, sweating she-devil that used to be her daughter, was to take hold of her free hand in both of hers.
Then she pinned it firmly to the resilient, thick rubber top of the maternity bed.
If Tai had paid more attention to the deep gouges in said rubber top, he might have avoided the second-worst consequences of being a pregnant woman's 'birthing partner'.
Oh well, she thought confidently, he'll remember next time.
"Momma?" Tuki said, looking up at Hyle with huge wet puppy eyes. "They won't give me an epidural Momma." The bottom lip started to quiver. "Momma? Please, Momma, I want an epidural. I really do.
Then the puppy eyes narrowed and glinted, and the tired, pleading voice dropped an octave and gained an unholy growl.
"Tell them to give me a flipping epidural, Momma" It seems that even the unendurable agony of pushing out new life into the world wasn't quite enough to make Tuki use the other 'F' word.
Hyle sent an icy blue stare towards the closest midwife, followed by a terse "Do it!"
In the fifteen seconds since she had burst through the door, Hyle realised that the scream of agony she had heard was not, in fact, Tuki, but Tai.
She carefully prised Tuki's nails out of the back of Tai's hands and sent him to sit somewhere 'useful'. Meaning 'out of the way'.
Tai sat rocking and making that keening 'Haiiiii' sound that Japanese men do.
The next thing Hyle did was to dip into the capacious bag; which had been on standby in the cupboard by the front door for the last four weeks,
and produce a small portable cylinder of Nitrous Oxide.
The junior midwife, who had done nothing to deserve the stare of Nordic displeasure, turned to the senior midwife.
Realising that a decision like this was beyond her pay grade, the senior midwife turned to the resident physician.
The resident physician, who was just starting his shift, and had been briefed on potentially sensitive political ramifications, turned to the two robed figures in the corners.
In their turn, both men had caught the tone in the voice of the cursed Tech-mother of Seeker Troy.
Notwithstanding the years of training they had both endured to become members of Sun and Moon, both had suddenly found much more pressing problems needing their attention.
In the case of one, it was an untied shoelace he didn't have and in the case of the other, it was a phantom hangnail that required urgent attention.
Muttering "I'm just a doctor, dammit," the resident physician turned to the senior midwife and nodded.
The senior midwife turned to the junior midwife,
who was just disappearing out of the door and thereby securing the 'plausible deniability' excuse that would save her ass should everything turn uterus shaped in there.
Wishing she had thought of that, the senior midwife prepared the epidural.
The resident physician spotted the cylinder of nitrous oxide. He headed towards Hyle.
"I'm sorry, you can't just pull a cylinder of unauthorised gas out of your bag like that."
On the delivery table, the head of the beast turned in their direction.
"I didn't see anyone else rushing to relieve the pain of another human being trying to claw its way out of my...
" Tuki turned her head as far as she could, knowing Taioko was sitting out of sight behind the delivery table. The heavy gravel growl returned.
"I blame you for this Tai! Don't you hide, come here and give me your hand so I can show how much I love you."
Tai whimpered and turned imploring eyes to his mother in law. Hyle set her gaze on the resident doctor... who lasted about two seconds under the ice-cold Nordic stare.
"Okay, fine! It's not like I'm under strict instruction from our religious leaders or anything."
He retrieved the bottle of N2O from Hyle's bag and attached it, along with a bottle of 0xygen, to the ancient Boyle's Machine.
After adjusting the mix he strapped the face mask onto the, for want of a better word that could get him fired, 'patient'.
After several deep breaths, the Tuki everyone knew and loved returned to the scene... just in time for the midwife to jab a long needle right into her spinal column.