Derick scanned the room until he located her lying inclined on a bed by the window, cradling a swaddled object close to her bosom. She looked up at the door and their eyes met. She seemed half conscious, but she was smiling. That was good enough for him. He grabbed her hand.
"Sorry I'm late. I chose the wrong route."
She placed her free hand on his cheek. "It's OK babe. I know you did your best."
"Who would have guessed 495 would be clear this time of day? I should have taken 495."
"Chalk it up to one of those - how do you put it? - statistical anomalies."
Derick motioned toward the pull-out couch next to the bed. "How long has he been out?"
"Not long. I think the grand finale was a bit much for him though."
"I mean Franklin seemed to be the best route by at least 30 seconds, but then I forgot to account for the construction on thirty-"
A tiny fist emerged from the blankets, then opened wide revealing five chubby pink fingers. He watched the hand movements and became instantly mesmerized.
"You wanna hold her?"
Derick grabbed his daughter and carefully sat down in the large easy chair next to the bed. He studied her, analyzing and remembering every feature and curve. Every few seconds she'd open her eyes and he'd catch a fleeting glimpse of them. She was the most marvelous thing he had ever seen. He looked over at Carolyn anxiously.
"Go on," she yawned waving her hand at him. "I think I'm gonna catch a nap. I'm still in a little pain."
Derick smiled at the baby. "Lightweight."
Carolyn giggled. "Yeah right, what did you do today? I just made a person!"
Derick reclined fully in the chair, causing the leather to squeak and groan under his weight. He placed the baby on his chest. "I got a lot of things planned for you little baby," he whispered. "We're gonna change the world! But first, I think an introduction is in order. Your name's Faith. And me? Well, my friends call me Derick. But you? You can call me Daddy."
The two of them rocked for a while to the quiet hum of the florescent lights, exchanging coos and promises until they both were asleep. Derick was in the middle of one his all-too-familiar war dreams when he felt the hand moving his shoulder.
He snapped to attention, his eyes darting around the room, processing the world around him in large chunks.
Room, hospital, Carolyn, baby, where?
"Where's the baby!" he snapped, standing up.
"Mr. Anderson, it's OK," a nurse said. "The baby is in the nursery. We took her to run her first tests."
Derick sat back down and exhaled. "Why did you wake me then?"
She pointed to his jacket pocket. "Your phone has been vibrating non-stop for the last ten minutes. She leaned in close enough for Derick to catch a whiff of hand sanitizer. "Mrs. Anderson mentioned you work for the government. I thought it might be important."
Derick fished the phone out of his pocket and began checking his missed calls when the phone began vibrating again. He looked at the name. It was his department chief.
"Uh, thanks," Derick said.
"My pleasure, Mr. Anderson. If you want to see your daughter, just hang a right out the door, make your first right, and the nursery is at the end of the hall."
Derick stood up and stretched before shuffling over to his sleeping wife and kissing her forehead. Her skin felt warm on his lips and she was still perspiring. He lowered the temperature on the thermostat then touched the green button on the left side of his phone.
"Derick, it's Jonah. How are the wife and baby?"
Derick opened the door and turned right down the hall.
"Both doing well. She looks like her mother."
"I know you're probably wondering why I'm calling at such a time."
"The question had occurred to me."
He made his first right and continued. He could see the reflection of light off of the large nursery window at the end of the hall.
"The Director is holding an emergency meeting this evening with all departments. We've got some thing going on with the Department of Health they want to tell us about. We also got a bunch of data in today they want us to help 'em sort through. You can worry about all that when you get back from paternity leave, but we need all hands for the meeting. Boss's orders."
Derick covered his eyes with his hand. He had to be kidding.
"You gotta be kidding."
"Wish I was man."
Derick rolled his eyes and approached the large glass window. He quickly located the bassinet labeled 'Anderson' and smiled. However, an uneasiness came over him as he waved at Faith for a few seconds while trying to figure out what combination of words might convince Jonah to let him be.
Then he noticed it. He stepped back from the window.
"The meeting is at 1930 back at the building. So I can expect you there, right?"
Derick scoured the room for a few seconds and still could not locate the one thing that was missing from the picture.
There were no other babies in the entire nursery.
His mind went to work on the probability of such a thing. A hospital this size, in one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the country. His numbers weren't adding up. He looked around for a nurse but the hallway was empty. Then, a frightening thought entered his mind.
"Derick, you know just because you don't answer me doesn't mean you can miss the meeting."
"Jonah, you said HHS sent files over to the office today?"
"Yeah, tons of em."
He paused, unsure whether he wanted to ask the question.
"I believe the CDC. Why?"
"What kind of records?"
"Ah, don't worry. We got plenty of time to worry about-"
"Jonah, it's important! What kind of records did they send?"
"I dunno, a bunch of birth stats and stuff. I wasn't really in the mood to start dive'n in, you know what I mean? Why, you know something I don't?"
Derick placed his hand on the nursery window and stared at his baby resting in a sea of empty beds. As if sensing this, Faith broke one arm free of her swaddling and raised it in the air. Derick took a few seconds to take the moment in before turning around.
"Let me grab my jacket, I'll be there as soon as I can."
YOU ARE READING
The Omega ChildMystery / Thriller
On June 13th, 2015 at 2:25 am, a baby boy is born at a small hospital in Lancaster Pennsylvania. His birth is no different than the thousands of births that have come before him in that very same hospital, except for one thing: It is the last human...