10 am, EST, Saturday, May 24th, 2132, Lake Success, New York

"I'm pregnant," announced Slavica matter-of-factly, as Michael poured Bollinger in Slavica's eyrie.

He seemed barely to react, but put down the bottle carefully on the table. "Well, congratulations. I can't say I'm surprised. Is it . . ."

"Yes, it is. It's yours. Do you think I have time for another of you? I was going to get rid of it, it's a problem we don't need. But something said not. What do you want? I'm sorry, it's my fault." Her voice broke as Michael came around the table and held her.

"Don't be silly. It's wonderful and I love you for it. It's your choice completely." He took a tissue from the table and wiped her eyes.

"Oh, Oh . . . . thank you," was all she could croak, putting here arms around him. "I've been worrying about it such a lot. Where, how, the Institute, everything."

"How far can you get before," he hesitated, "before you have it?"

"It's due in August," she said. "We'll be ready in June. It's going well. The pathways are set already, now it's just to test the expansion to bigger groups."

They had included Ferdinand in the secret, and the Institute resembled an armed camp, with defences against any imaginable sort of attack. Slavica didn't leave, except electronically through her harness, which had been developed into a fully-fledged storage station with its own technician and back-up facilities. There had always been a gym and swimming pool.

Michael had worried about the impact on the students: "It must be obvious to them that something secret and dangerous is going on. They'll talk!"

"Most of them are pretty loyal to me," comforted Slavica. "And they wouldn't want to risk their degrees. And if they talk, then to whom? They're not going to stand up in the Assembly and announce it. What can we do?"

Most of the faculty and the students lived in the cloud, anyway, partly to make experimentation easier, and partly to minimize activity at the physical Institute.

"Who will you tell?" asked Slavica nervously. "What about Betty?"

"She's very understanding," said Michael, "but there are limits. No. I made that mistake once before . . ." and stopped.

"Once before what?" asked Slavica a bit tartly.

"You have to know," said Michael. "After Sven, thirty years ago, Betty had a depression, really bad, and we more or less split up for a while. There was a girl, in New York, in the office. And she got pregnant. When the baby was born, I thought I ought to tell Betty. That was the mistake, although funnily enough she was so upset it drove her back to me eventually. But she has never mentioned the boy from that day to this. He is married, works in the company, nobody knows except his mother, Betty and me. And now you."

"So is that what you're going to do with me?" sobbed Slavica, now seriously unhappy. "Hush it up? Push me under the carpet?"

"Oh heavens no, I would even tell Betty if that's what you want. The girl before wanted it hushed up; she wanted a normal marriage afterwards, and she got it. She must have told him at some point, but not where the boy came from, I suppose. She had other children, and as far as I know they are a happy family. I've stayed away. I look after the boy, when I can, without being obvious. I would have wanted it otherwise, but it was her choice."

"What will you do with me, then?" Slavica was a bit warmer.

"It's up to you. Obviously we'll arrange for the birth to happen privately. Then you'll have a home somewhere, your choice, and I'll visit quite often if that's what you want. It'll be years before we have to go public in any way. Or if you would rather not have me involved, I won't be."

"What do you want?" implored Slavica.

"I want you. And the child. Of course I do."

"OK," said Slavica, hugging him. "It's a deal. Can you fuck me now, please?"

So he did.


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