A Space Pirate Captain MacTaggart Story


Written by Craig Black and Jake Elmer

Dedicated to the memory of Richard Black (1968-2020)

Previously on Geddes Line:

The year was 3013 C.E. The month was August. After several months of waiting patiently, coupled with a few of their usual brand of misadventures, Alasdair and Kyoko Geddes were now finally ready to have the baby they so badly wanted. As time had gone by, and the baby had slowly developed, they'd gradually put more and more of their time and energy into preparing their ship, the Hunter II, for the new arrival, which was supposedly due around the beginning of September.

It wasn't just that birthday they had to look forward to, of course: Alasdair's own birthday was just around the corner, and throughout the week beforehand, Kyoko had been at a loss as to what she could get him. Normally, she'd have gotten him a bottle of whisky, but being heavily pregnant, she knew she'd have a lot of trouble trying to buy one this year. So she'd had to find an alternative, and ended up consulting a number of the company's staff on the subject - most of them were just as stumped, to say the least.

In the end, Kyoko did manage to find a suitable present for Alasdair - thanks to a model shop in the City of Armadhu that she'd not previously been aware of - and after a quick bit of planning, she also decided to give him a quiet birthday dinner as her parents' house on the planet Tenchō. So, after an impromptu pre-birthday party at the company's premises, the Hunter II had set off the night before Alasdair's birthday, in the hopes of arriving in plenty of time.

Unfortunately, the Hunter II never reached Tenchō that night, because it was at this point that things started to go wrong. About halfway through their journey, Alasdair and Kyoko were suddenly pulled out of hyperspace by a band of vicious Scrap Rats - salvage pirates intent on blasting them out of the Galaxy, and taking the Hunter II's remains for parts. To make matters worse, it was during this confrontation that Kyoko finally went into labour, but it took a considerable amount of effort to get the Scrap Rats to shut up long enough to hear this. When they finally did listen, the leader of the pack immediately changed her tune, and instead offered the Hunter II a special escort to a nearby planet, where she knew there was a hospital ship that would be able to help them.

The big question now was this - How long would the birth take? And would it be a successful birth...?

And now, the thrilling conclusion...

Our story continues where our last one left off, in the Kitwetwe System. This star system, including its namesake planet, was located roughly halfway between the systems of Sol and Hinode Ipushiron, and lay slightly off the beaten path in an out-of-the-way part of Sector LE15. The planet itself was not terribly well-known, even to those living in neighbouring systems, and anyone from further afield could be forgiven for not having heard of the place. However, the planet Kitwetwe was notorious within both political and humanitarian circles, thanks in no small part to the actions of one of its former governors.

This mad dictator - for there was really no better description for him - had only won the position through a military coup, and he'd attempted to further tighten his grip on Kitwetwe by instigating a race war among his people. The idea, apparently, was that by the time the war was over, the only survivors would be members of those ethnic groups the dictator considered inferior to himself. He himself would wait out the war in a secret underground city, from which he would emerge to rule over those survivors who, he felt, would be incapable of ruling Kitwetwe themselves.

Unfortunately for the dictator, his plan backfired dramatically, with horrific consequences for himself and the planet. He did succeed in leading his people to militant action, only for them to turn on him, and stage a military coup of their own, during which he was killed. Then, as often happens in this sort of situation, the newly-liberated people quickly began arguing over who should replace their fallen dictator. These arguments grew into fights, which ultimately erupted into a full-scale civil war.

That civil war began quite some years ago, but it was only in the last year or so that tensions had finally cooled down, and a reluctant ceasefire had been called between the various warring factions. The people's troubles were far from over, of course, as the civil war had left tens of thousands of people dead, and countless others dying, injured, destitute, and marooned on a planet that could no longer support them comfortably. By this time, the United Alliance had come into power across most of the Galaxy, and when they came to hear about what had happened on Kitwetwe, it was immediately decided that a program must be launched to try and get the planet back on its feet again.

One such form that this humanitarian aid took was the effective rebuilding of Kitwetwe's medical facilities, many of which had been destroyed in the conflict. Work had already begun on reinstating as many of the planet's hospitals as possible, but with the number of casualties to deal with, this work couldn't be carried out fast enough, and so it was decided to place hospital ships in the planet's orbit to try and pick up the slack.

So it was that when the Hunter II finally arrived in the Kitwetwe System, it was to one of these hospital ships that the ship was led to by the band of Scrap Rats. The ship in question was the UFA Loch Lomond, and as they drew nearer, Alasdair and Kyoko immediately recognized it as one of the hospital ships of the former Galactic Liberation Front, for two good reasons: Firstly, and more obviously, they'd actually visited this ship a number of times in years gone by; secondly, G.L.F hospital ships did not follow the naming conventions of those used by the former Stellar Federation and Independent Coalition - which were generally named after patron saints, or words relating to their function.

Whatever the ship was called, though, both Alasdair and Kyoko were immensely relieved to see it. Had the Scrap Rats not escorted them there, their only alternative would have been to either try and deliver their baby right onboard the Hunter II itself, or search around for a planet or space station with adequate medical facilities - and neither prospect sounded especially good to them just now. As they drew nearer to the Loch Lomond, Alasdair quickly gathered his nerves, and opened a communications channel with the ship.

"Loch Lomond, thes is th' cargo vessel Hunter II, calling th' hospital ship Loch Lomond. Ur ye receiving me? Please respond. Over..."

"Hunter II, this is the United Alliance hospital ship Loch Lomond," The voice of the ship's commander replied over the communications channel, "We receive you loud and clear! How can we help you? Over..."

"Loch Lomond, we require immediate medical assistance. Mah wife's jist gone intae labour, an' she needs help reit away! Requesting permission tae dock! Over..."

"Hunter II, you're in luck! We're standing practically empty just now. We're just about to hand over duties to the UFA Saint Jude, you see, so we've got more than enough room to accommodate you and your wife! Over..."

"Ack, that's a godsend tae us, Loch Lomond! Thes bairn wasnae due for another couple ay weeks, sae we figured we'd be fine oan thes wee trip. Over..."

"Evidently your baby had other ideas, Hunter II...Okay, you have our permission to dock. Please direct your vessel to Docking Bay 20. That's the nearest bay to our ship's maternity ward. We'll have staff waiting to get your wife sorted. Loch Lomond, out!"

"Aye, thanks, Loch Lomond! Ah owe ye one! Hunter II, out!" Alasdair closed the channel, and turned to Kyoko, "It's alrecht, sweetie kitten. Jist hauld tight, an' it'll aw be over suin..."

"For both our sakes, I certainly hope so!" Kyoko replied with a grimace - her contractions were getting worse by the second. Despite the pain she was in, she still managed to reach across and grab onto Alasdair's hand, "See if anything happens, Alasdair? I just want you to know that I've always loved you..."

"Aye, same haur...Ah love ye too, kitten..."

In spite of how panicked he was feeling, Alasdair was able to keep his cool long enough to pilot the Hunter II towards Docking Bay 20 of the Loch Lomond, and it felt like no time at all before the ship was safely docked and landed. Of course, it could well have been that plenty of time had passed, but nobody was keeping track of the time just now - they had more important matters on their minds. As soon as the Hunter II had touched down, the team of hospital staff had moved in and prepared to receive Kyoko from the passenger hatch. But she never appeared, and nobody knew what had happened until they suddenly heard Alasdair calling to them.

"Oi! Ower haur!" He shouted, and everyone looked to see Alasdair leading Kyoko down the cargo ramp, "Weel, ye didna think Ah was gonnae make 'er climb down 'at ladder, did ye?"

"As long as you're down safe, that's all that matters just now," A smartly-dressed border collie replied, clearly the woman in charge of the maternity ward, "Now, come on. We'll have you sorted out in no time, Mrs...?"

"Geddes," Kyoko replied, "Kyoko Geddes. And Alasdair here's my husband."

"Tierney," The collie replied, shaking Kyoko's hand, "Doctor Francine Tierney...Ooh, that handshake was a little tight! How far apart have the contractions been, Mr Geddes?"

"Ack, they've been pretty much constant!" Alasdair hissed, as he wrenched his hand free from Kyoko's grasp, "Christ, Ah can barely feel it now!"

"Well, we'll see to that in a while, but in the meantime, we'd better deal with your wife first. Give us a hand, would you?"

"Aye, sure..." Alasdair replied, as he helped Dr Tierney and her team of orderlies get Kyoko safely laid down on a gurney, "Ack, afair Ah forget..." He then dove into the inside pocket of his jacket, and pulled out a small flash drive, which he passed to one of the orderlies, "You, gang an' plug thes intae th' intercom panel next tae th' passenger hatch. Th' ship's computer will ken whit tae dae..."

"Why? What's on it, like...?" The orderly asked, but by then, Alasdair had already run off with Kyoko, Tierney, and the remaining orderlies, "Well, hello and goodbye, then." And with that, the orderly walked over to the Hunter II, with the flash drive in hand. After a few minutes, he managed to locate the intercom panel in question, and plugged the flash drive into it, "Alright, computer, what's all this about, then?"

"Pre-recorded messages explaining the situation," The voice of the ship's computer explained, "To be transmitted to friends and relatives of First Officer Geddes and her husband, in such an eventuality as is occurring now."

"Well, what are they supposed to do with those messages?"

"Put it this way, you'd better expect a few more visitors over the next few hours or so. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have my instructions to follow as quickly as possible!" And with that, the computer went silent, as it began to carry out its functions.

"Alright, fine, don't go into any more detail!" The orderly remarked, as he climbed back down from the passenger hatch. As he made his way out of the docking bay, he wondered to himself, "Just who is gonna be receiving those messages, anyway? And how many of them should we expect...?"

Needless to say, among the first people to receive one of the pre-recorded messages were Saburō and Kumiko Mori, up on Tenchō. A couple of days previously, they'd offered to hold Alasdair's birthday party at their place, and with this being agreed, they'd then handled the bulk of the preparations. They'd already sent out invitations to as many of Alasdair and Kyoko's relatives, close friends and work colleagues as they could think of, and most of them had replied back saying they were only too happy to come to the party. Then there was the matter of planning the party itself, and that Thursday night had seen Saburō and Kumiko finishing up the final preparations, ready for tomorrow. At this very moment, Kumiko had just finished making Alasdair's birthday cake.

"Would you look at that," She said proudly, stepping back to admire the final result, "Seems to have turned out alright, even if I do say so myself..."

"Well, it certainly looks alright," Saburō agreed, "You reckon he'll like it?"

"He should do," Kumiko went on confidently, "He's an absolute sucker for chocolate cake, is our Alasdair! And with my chocolate sponge recipe, and your ganache coating, it's certain to be a winner!"

"Anything you say, dear. Mind you, I'm still not quite sure whether or not I got the right mixture for that ganache. I might have to test it at some point before tomorrow..."

"Heh, nice try, Saburō, but you're not going anywhere near this cake until tomorrow! We've got to have some of it left over for the birthday boy!"

"Hmm, it was worth a shot. So, we've got the cake done. Anything else we need to do tonight?"

"No, I think that's everything. All we need to do is stick this cake in the fridge, and that's us sorted until tonight..." So Kumiko put a cover over the cake, picked it up, nudged open the refrigerator with her elbow, and slid the cake onto the shelf, "Right, that's that done..." At that very moment, they both heard the buzzing of the communications terminal in the living room, "Damn it, who could that be at this time of night? Come on..."

"Surely it doesn't take both of us to answer a call, does it?"

"Maybe not, but if they're calling this late, it might be important..." So Saburō followed Kumiko into the living room, and waited to one side while she answered the call, "Well I'll be. It's a pre-recorded message...And it's from Kyoko!"

"I suppose that'll be her letting us know she's on her way with Alasdair."

"Why would she pre-record that, though? Hush a moment, while I take a look..." Kumiko pressed the answer key on the terminal, and Kyoko's face immediately appeared on the screen. A small caption at the bottom indicated that this was indeed a pre-recorded message, and Kumiko pressed another button to get it playing.

"...Is it on? The green light means it's recording, right? Okay..." Kyoko then cleared her throat, and the message began in earnest, "Ohayo gozaimasu, Otōsan, Okasan. This is a recorded message, to be sent in the event that I go into labour when I'm not with you guys. If you've received this message, then that is indeed what's happened just now. Obviously I have no way of knowing where I am just now, but I've instructed the Hunter II's computer to send you the approximate coordinates for our present location. You know, on the off chance that you want to be there for the birth. This is Kyoko, signing out, no doubt in a great deal of pain..." The message then abruptly cut out at that point, and was replaced with the coordinates in question. There was also an additional list, of all the other people who'd received messages to this effect.

"Holy shit..." Kumiko muttered, as what she'd just heard started to sink in, "Did you hear that, Saburō?"

"Yeah, I heard it, Kumiko..." Saburō replied, equally stunned, "So does that mean...?"

"Our baby's finally having her baby!" Kumiko suddenly shrieked, and bolted towards the front door, "Come on, Saburō!"

"Hold on a second, Kumiko!" Saburō called, "We don't even know where she is!"

"Well, print those coordinates out! I'll be waiting in the car!"

"Alright, if you insist..." With that, Saburō took a look at the coordinates encoded into Kyoko's message, and pressed a button on the terminal to print them out. He then took a look at the printout, before running off to join Kumiko outside.

"Here's the coordinates," Saburō said, as he got into the car, "Hope you've got enough fuel!"

"Why?" Kumiko asked, "Where is Kyoko, like?"

"Onboard the hospital ship UFA Loch Lomond, which is currently in orbit around the planet Kitwetwe Prime. Which is about two hours' hyperspace travel from here...I assume you're not gonna try and manage that in the car, are you?"

"Of course not, Saburō," Kumiko replied, as she started up the car and pulled out of the drive, "We need only go as far as the Cooperative premises. You said the Kanjin was just about fixed up after its accident, so we might be able to borrow that..."

"Anything you say, dear. You're taking this surprisingly well..."

"And why not? We've both been excited for this moment, ever since Kyoko told us she was pregnant!"

"Fair enough, but you know what's just happened now, don't you? That's Alasdair's birthday party straight out of the window, make no mistake!"

"Well, given the circumstances, Saburō, I don't think Alasdair will mind missing his party too much...No doubt he's got more pressing issues on his hands right now...!"

As often happened, Kumiko was right on the money. Back onboard the UFA Loch Lomond, the mad rush was still on to get Kyoko prepared for delivery as quickly as possible. The delivery room itself had been informed of the situation as soon as the Hunter II had touched down, and preparations were currently underway for that area to receive Kyoko. Spearheading these proceedings were two of the nurses under Dr Tierney's command - A middle-aged Scottish Wildcat by the name of Rosalie, and her younger rabbit companion Campbell.

"Right, Campbell," Rosalie said, as they were finishing up their preparations, "I think that's everything we need, but we'd still better check."

"Yes, Rosalie," Campbell replied, "Scrubs and masks are all in place, and we have sanitizer if we need it..."

"What about apparatus?"

"Apparatus is all in place as well. We've got the IV pole, the monitor, all the tools are in place, and we're bringing in a chair for Mr Geddes, if he needs it..."

"And the machine that goes ping?"

"Yes, Rosalie, I remembered that this time. And they're all the more expensive machines. Just in case one of the administrators decides to pop round, you know..."

"I do know, Campbell. Well that seems to be everything..." Rosalie looked around, only to realize that something was still missing, "That's odd. I'm sure we've got everything here..."

"We do...Don't we?"

"Certainly looks like it, but it still feels like something's missing..." Rosalie thought about it for a few seconds, and then said, "Ah, of course!"

"What is it, Rosalie?"

"The patient! We haven't got a patient!" As if on cue, the delivery room doors burst open, and in came Kyoko, still being pushed on her gurney by Dr Tierney and her orderlies, with Alasdair also lending a hand, "Ah, good, you're here at last. What kept you, Francine?"

"It's a long way from here to the docking bays, alright?" Tierney replied, "Anyway, Mrs Geddes is here now. Where do you want her?"

"Over this way, same as always..." So Tierney and her orderlies wheeled Kyoko over to where Rosalie and Campbell were waiting - nearly crashing into their monitor in the process, "Mind the machines!"

"Sorry! Right, there you are. Oh, Mr Geddes, there's a chair there as well, if you need it..."

"Aye, wi' pleasure," Alasdair replied, and he walked over to the chair in question, "Ah coods dae wi' a sit down, after aw we've been through jusnoo!"

"Yes, well..." Tierney then turned her attention to Kyoko, "Now, don't you worry, Mrs Geddes. Just leave it all to us, and you'll never know what hit you!"

"Anything you say, Tierney-sensei..." Kyoko groaned, still feeling the strain, "Listen, can I just ask...?"

"Hold on a second, while we get you hooked up to this IV drip, Mrs Geddes..."

"What's that for?"

"Well, in this case, it helps us administer drugs to help reduce the amount of pain you feel over the course of the birth," Tierney explained, as she inserted the IV needle into Kyoko's arm, "It can be a right bastard otherwise..."

"I already knew that, Tierney-sensei. I just needed you to keep my attention so I wouldn't notice the needle going in..."

"Ah, have a thing about needles, do you? Well, that's nothing to be ashamed of. Most people feel a bit nervous when it comes to that sort of thing..."

"To be honest, needles don't bother me that much. At least, not as much as they bother Alasdair here..." Kyoko motioned towards Alasdair, who was still sat in the chair next to her gurney, "And actually, that's what I wanted to talk to you about, Tierney-sensei..."

"What's the trouble, Mrs Geddes?"

"Well, I hope he doesn't mind me saying this, but my husband's always been a bit squeamish. Seriously, he feels like fainting if I get so much as a paper cut or a nosebleed. And I'm just worried that this might end up being too much for him. I've heard how messy this process can get..."

"You're quite right, Mrs Geddes. Well, not to worry. If Mr Geddes ever starts feeling faint at any point, then he's allowed to get up and leave the room."

"It's not so much a question of whether he's allowed to leave, Tierney-sensei, but whether he's willing to leave..."

"Ur ye kidding?" Alasdair interrupted incredulously, "Dae ye really expect me tae bugger aff now, after aw we've been through...?"

"Alasdair, you know you're not good with blood and that sort of thing. Besides, nobody's making you stay here..."

"Weel, tough. Aam staying."

"I really think you should listen to your wife, Mr Geddes..." Tierney cautioned.

"An' Ah really think 'at, if mah wife has tae gang through aw th' pain an' misery ay pregnancy an' childbirth," Alasdair snapped, "'En th' least Ah coods dae as 'er husband woods be tae stay haur an' hauld 'er hand!"

"Alright, Mr Geddes, have it your own way," Tierney sighed, "But be it on your own head, and don't say I didn't warn you if you do pass out!"

"Aam fully prepared tae take 'at risk, Doctor! Besides, it's not as bad as Kyoko makes it out tae be..."

"Isn't it?" Kyoko asked suspiciously, "I bet you won't be saying that in a few hours!"

"Ack, a few hours is nothing! We've been through worse than thes plenty ay times afair..."

"In that case, Mr Geddes," Rosalie suddenly interrupted, "Perhaps you'd be so kind as to start holding your wife's hand, and let us get started as well?"

"Aye, ay course, Nurse. Carry oan..." But as the nurses made their start on the delivery, by asking Kyoko to take deep breaths, Alasdair couldn't help but feel that once again, he'd shot off his own mouth. If truth be told, he did have a thing about blood, and he'd just as soon have left the delivery room right there and then. But he had promised himself that he'd stay by Kyoko's side throughout this ordeal. After all, he might be feeling scared at that moment, but that was as nothing to how Kyoko would be feeling.

Finally, Alasdair decided on a compromise: He would leave the room if things did get too much for him, but he was going to try and hold out as long as he possibly could beforehand. But while his heart was estimating he'd be there a pretty long time, both his head and stomach were beginning to make rather less generous predictions...

Meanwhile, back in the Tenchō System, Saburō and Kumiko Mori were finally preparing to make the jump into hyperspace, towards the Kitwetwe System. However, things had been going rather less than smoothly up to that point: Having managed to negotiate the use of the Kanjin - Saburō's personal freighter - they'd then discovered that its fuel tanks had been completely drained during its repairs, so they'd had to waste time getting it refuelled. Even then, they'd only been able to get sub-light fuel, so they'd then had to take the Kanjin up to Tenchō Enterprise, one of the huge commercial stations orbiting the planet, to top up with hyperspace fuel. Considering the gravity of their present situation, both Saburō and Kumiko were finding their patience pushed to its very limits.

"Come on, can't you get a lock on those coordinates?!" Kumiko hissed, "We've lost enough time as it is...!"

"Look, it's not so easy to type them into the navigation computer with you breathing down my neck!" Saburō hissed back, "Especially not when I have to read them from this shitty carbon print!"

"It's the goddamn Kitwetwe System we're after!" Kumiko snapped, "That's all you need to know! Just type that in, and let's be off!"

"I just said it wasn't as easy as that! The computer has to find it first! I do wish you'd calm down a bit, Kumiko!"

"Our daughter's about to have a baby, Saburō! And if you hadn't wasted so much time refuelling the Kanjin, we'd have probably reached her by now!"

"Look, just stop panicking, will you, and be thankful that we're on our way there at all...!"

"Who said anything about panicking?! This is just the nerves talking! Just you wait until I've calmed down a bit, and taken proper stock of the situation...AND THEN I'LL START PANICKING!"

"Kumiko, you're getting hysterical! SHUT UP!"

"Er, Mori-sensei...?" The freighter's onboard computer interrupted meekly.

"And you can shut up as well!" Saburō snapped.

"No, let the computer talk, Saburō," Kumiko cut him off, "It's probably the only intelligent conversation we'll get all night! Alright, computer, what's the problem?"

"Well, you two shouting at each other, for one thing," The computer replied dryly, "And for another, there's another craft just jumped in from hyperspace not too far from us. Its Captain wants to talk to us..."

"Is that so? Alright, I suppose we might as well lose a couple more minutes. Patch it through, computer..."

"Understood, Mori-sensei. Opening communications channel..."

"Thank you..." Kumiko grabbed the microphone on the communications console, and spoke into it, "This is the cargo vessel Kanjin, how can we help you? Bearing in mind you have less than five minutes, because we're in a bit of a hurry..."

"This is the pirate cruiser Stellar Typhoon, calling the cargo vessel Kanjin," A well-known voice replied from the other end of the channel, "I take it you got that message from Kyoko and Alasdair as well, Kumiko...?"

Back onboard the UFA Loch Lomond, the situation was just as fraught. After the frantic rush to get Kyoko into the delivery room, everything seemed to have slowed to a crawl - including the baby itself: Up to that point, it'd felt as though the baby had been desperate to get out as soon as possible, but now that everyone else was ready to receive it, suddenly it seemed content to stay put. It was still alive, though - according to Nurse Campbell's machine that went ping - but that was of little consolation to either Alasdair or Kyoko, who'd now been in this mess for what seemed like hours.

"Ack, Ah dinnae ken..." Alasdair muttered, to nobody in particular, "Tae think we waur worried abit 'er dropping out ower early. Now she's decided she's not gonnae 'main out at aw!" He then took hold of Kyoko's hand again, for support, "Ye awrite, kitten?"

"I'm stuck onboard a hospital ship, light-years from anywhere, waiting for a baby that won't make its mind up as to whether it wants to come out or not!" Kyoko hissed, "How alright do you think I am, Alasdair?!"

"Ack, Ah only asked, Kyoko!" Alasdair winced, as Kyoko's grip on his hand tightened further, "Ow! Bearing in mind Ah still need tae use thes hand!"

"Oh, so you're in pain...?" Kyoko snapped, but then she was cut off by her umpteenth contraction of the night, "GAH!"

"Right, action stations!" Dr Tierney ordered, as her team of nurses sprung into action, "Campbell, how are Mrs Geddes' vitals?"

"Vitals are looking alright, Doctor," Campbell replied, looking at the monitor, "No sudden drops yet..."

"Okay, Mr Geddes, we're at the part where things really get messy. It's still not too late for you to leave, and we'll make sure to call you back when it's all over..."

"Ack, aam still staying haur!" Alasdair replied, "If it's gonnae be thes long an' arduous, Ah might as weel stay an' see why!"

"Nng, okay, Alasdair!" Kyoko groaned, "Have it your way...But...See if you do faint...? Don't say we didn't warn you!"

"Aam not gonnae faint, kitten!" Alasdair went on confidently, "Aam not as squeamish as ye think," He then turned to Dr Tierney, "What's th' score up at yer end, Doctor?"

"Well, why don't you come up this end and see for yourself, Mr Geddes?" Tierney suggested.

"Alrecht, Ah will!" So Alasdair wrenched his hand free from Kyoko's grasp, waited until he could feel it again, stood up, walked over to the bottom of the bed, took one look...

...And promptly passed out, right there and then...

Alasdair had no way of knowing just how long he'd been out cold for, but the next thing he could remember was feeling something cold and damp on his forehead. Within a few seconds, he'd regained consciousness, he stirred a bit over the next few, and at last he began to wake up. He opened his eyes and realized two things: firstly, that the cold and damp sensation on his forehead was because someone had placed a wet cloth there; and secondly, that that someone was Nurse Campbell.

"Aw fuck, mah heid..." Alasdair groaned, as he sat himself up. It was then that he noticed he was no longer in one of the delivery room onboard the Loch Lomond, but a quick look around revealed that he was in fact in a waiting room elsewhere on the ship, "Jesus, whit happened?"

"You fainted, Mr Geddes," Campbell replied, as she helped Alasdair upright, "Took just one look at the business end, and you were on the floor just like that!"

"Really? Ack, wouldn't be th' first time...An' whit abit Kyoko? Is she still alrecht?"

"Your wife is fine, Mr Geddes. Tierney and Rosalie are looking after her, and they sent me to look after you..."

"Aye, thanks. Didna drag me aw th' way haur, did ye? Ah mean, ye ur ower wee tae lift someone ay mah weight. Nae offence..."

"None taken. How do you feel, by the way?"

"A wee bit better...But Christ, Ah never expected 'at tae happen tae me!"

"From what Mrs Geddes told us, it sounds as though it happens a lot..."

"Aye, she woods say 'at. She was reit, though. Aam not ower guid wi' blood ur 'at sort ay thing. Tae be honest, even anything abit pregnancy tends tae put th' shits up me. Aw those gory technical details, ye ken?"

"Well, I'll grant you, it's hardly a bed of roses, but I wouldn't exactly call it gory. I get where you're coming from, though. My folks nearly decided not to have me. They'd already had the one kid, and they thought that was enough..."

"Weel, Ah bet yon Kyoko will say th' same thing when aw thes is ower..."

"...And I very much hope she'll mean it, too. My parents certainly didn't, because now I've got a big brother, a little brother, and two sisters. Not in that order, obviously..."

"Wow, breeding like rabbits, eh?"

"Heh, something like that, yes..."

"Weel, Ah can assure ye, if there's thes much pain an' misery gangs intae one birth, aam never trying for another kid again! Nae matter how much Kyoko screams, ur begs, ur cries..."

"Good call. I've got a little girl myself, and she's enough of a handful on her own! No way am I gonna try for another one! However many times my partner pesters me..."

"Bring him tae th' next birth ye dae. 'At shoods shut him up!"

"I'll bear that in mind, Mr Geddes," Then Campbell looked at her watch, and stood up, "Now, if you're feeling alright, I really must get back to the delivery room. I expect your wife will be needing my help."

"She shoods dae, if it's as bad down thaur as it was when Ah saw it!"

"Er, perhaps it's best not to think about that again, Mr Geddes. If you need anything else, just find a member of staff, and they'll be more than happy to help you."

"Alrecht, Nurse. I'll bear 'at in mind..." So Campbell headed off in the direction of the delivery room, leaving Alasdair with the place to himself. Now, however, there was something rather eerie about it. Maybe it was the sudden silence, or the strong smell of disinfectant, or the fact that he was now totally on his own. Or maybe it was something else entirely, he couldn't be sure. All he knew was that he was now feeling more nervous than ever - and he was also beginning to feel thirsty, "Ah think I'll gang for a walk," Alasdair said to himself as he stood up, "An' mebbe find something tae drink..." With that, he left the waiting room, and went off in search of a water cooler he'd seen on his way in.

Sometime later - and it was quite a while later - Alasdair was still walking around the empty corridors of the Loch Lomond. He'd been walking for quite a while, and in fact he'd already gone from one end of the ship to the other and back again, multiple times. He'd also found a water cooler around the midway point, and so he'd made a point of pouring himself a drink every time he passed. Occasionally, Alasdair would stop and make small talk with any hospital staff he happened to come across, but these were few and far between: The Loch Lomond's position over Kitwetwe was due to be taken over by fellow hospital ship Saint Jude, and so only the most essential personnel were still onboard. As such, Alasdair hardly met another soul.

Not that Alasdair ever found himself in complete silence, of course. Apart from the staff he'd talked to, and the echoes of sounds from distant wards, the ship's own radio station happened to be playing from somewhere as well, and as Alasdair stopped at the cooler for his umpteenth drink of water, he decided to stop and take a breather for a couple of songs. However, it seemed that the only songs the DJ was playing were ones that Alasdair had never heard of, so he decided to extend his wait until he heard a song he did know.

And then, about three or four songs later, he finally heard one he knew, and it was one with which he had quite an interesting history with - Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head. The fact was, shortly after Alasdair and Kyoko had gotten married, they'd found themselves watching Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid late one night. They'd then proceeded to stay up all night, repeating lines from the film to each other in a drunken stupor. To this day, neither of them could explain why they'd done it, but both of them still remembered it fondly. Needless to say, the song had just reminded Alasdair of that night, and it proved immensely helpful in calming him down during these troubling times.

"Yer soft...white...flesh..." Alasdair muttered to himself, remembering one of the lines he'd had the most fun with on that night, "Mine...Aw mine...!"

"Er, Mr Geddes?" Another voice said suddenly, making Alasdair jump, and spill his drink.

"GAH!" Alasdair yelped, and turned sharply, to see one of the ship's orderlies, an oddly familiar-looking blonde squirrel, standing next to him, "Jesus, ye nearly gave me a heart attack thaur! Ah didna realize Ah wasnae oan mah own out haur! Er, ye ur...?"

"Richardson," The squirrel replied, "Doctor Richardson. Sorry to disturb you, Mr Geddes, but I come with a message from the waiting room you were just in. You've got visitors."

"Really? Wow, yon ship's computer must hae done its job for once."

"Perhaps. Two of them say they're your wife's parents, and very keen to see you, too..."

"Aye, 'at sounds loch 'em, alrecht...Wait, two of them? Ye mean there's mair?"

"Definitely seemed that way to me, but I didn't have time to ask. Shall I take you there now, Mr Geddes, or are you in a fit state to walk there yourself?"

"Ack, Ah shoods be fine, Doctor. Thes is jist water..." With that, Alasdair ran off in the direction of the waiting room, "An' if th' computer has done its job properly, 'en Ah ken jist who th' other fowk will be...!"

When Alasdair finally returned to the waiting room, he discovered that he did indeed have visitors. Apart from Saburō and Kumiko Mori, as the orderly had indicated, there were plenty of other familiar faces to be seen - not least of all one Jaws MacTaggart. Of course, these were all people he and Kyoko had sent the pre-recorded messages to, so he'd fully expected to see them anyway. Nonetheless, he decided to feign surprise, as he assumed they'd be expecting some kind of reaction out of him.

"Weel, I'll be buggered! How did aw ye guys get haur sae quickly? It cannae be 'at long since Ah sent out yon message!"

"Most of us had already rendezvoused onboard the Stellar Typhoon when we got your message," Jaws explained, "We arrived at Tenchō just as Saburō and Kumiko were about to leave, so we decided to give them a lift."

"Weel, it's guid 'at you've decided tae turn up. Ah was getting bored ay waiting abit haur oan mah own..."

"Yes, I was going to ask," Kumiko added, "What are you doing out here on your own, Alasdair? I'd have thought you'd be in that delivery room giving Kyoko a hand?"

"Aye, Ah was," Alasdair muttered, "But as it turns out, aam rather mair squeamish than Ah thought. I'd fainted an' been dragged out haur within an hour ay us getting started!"

"Hmm, fair enough. You're not the only one who's like that. As I recall, Saburō here fainted at least once every time I gave birth."

"It's not a pretty sight down there, is it?" Saburō remarked.

"Still, at least you tried to be there for Kyoko...How's she doing, by the way?"

"Er, fine, Ah suppose..." Alasdair replied.

"You suppose?"

"Weel, I've not been back in thaur since Ah fainted. Apparently, yon midwife had strict instructions frae Kyoko not tae allow me back in until it was aw ower!"

"I suppose that's reasonable enough," Jaws continued, "Kyoko's probably got enough to worry about just now, without having to keep an eye on you as well."

"Aye, probably..." Alasdair then looked around, and spotted Leslie and Blackmask amongst the crowd, "Ack, Ah see ye guys managed tae make it haur alrecht!"

"Well, we couldn't not come along, could we?" Blackmask remarked, "I'd just been picked up by the Stellar Typhoon when we got your message, and Leslie here was already onboard."

"Weel, that's convenient, isnae it?"

"You're not much of a talker tonight. You nervous, kid?"

"Aye, nervous is one way ay putting it...Shite-scared woods be mair accurate! Kyoko's in thaur jusnoo having our bairn, an' Ah hae nae way of knowing whether either ay 'em will be alrecht...She coods die in thaur, ye ken!"

"Man, you're a real barrel of laughs tonight! But then I guess this is gonna be a long night, isn't it?"

"Certainly looks like it, Blackmask," Leslie agreed, "I remember it took me something like nine or ten hours to have Debbie! After all we'd been through during the War, it would have been a real anticlimax if that had been what finally did me in!"

"Yeah...And considering this is Kyoko we're talking about, we could be here for even longer..."

"Ack, Ah was gonnae ask, Leslie," Alasdair interrupted, "Whaur ur yon Douglas an' Debbie? They wi' ye onboard th' Stellar Typhoon?"

"Yeah, they came onboard with me," Leslie replied, "I had asked Douglas if he'd rather carry on to Tenchō, but he said someone had to look after Debbie while I was here."

"Aye, reit enaw..." The conversation flagged somewhat at that point, and everyone sat in silence - except Alasdair, who started pacing back and forth across the waiting room. To say he was anxious would be putting it mildly, and nothing his friends or relatives could say would calm him down, "Damn it, how much longer dae Ah hae tae wait?!"

"Probably a good while longer," Saburō replied, "You know, you could always go back to the delivery room. We'd still wait out here for you..."

"Saburō, Ah jist tauld ye they wouldn't let me back in thaur! They dinnae want tae risk me passing out again...An' tae be honest, neither dae Ah!"

"How long has Kyoko been in there, anyway?"

"Whit? Ack, Ah dinnae ken, Ah didna keep track..." Alasdair glanced at the clock - it was reading 0145 Standard, "Ah make it abit five ur six hours now, but Ah cannae be sure..."

"In that case, you'll have longer still to wait," Kumiko explained, "It probably took me about seven or eight hours to have Kyoko, and god knows how long for the rest of them..."

"Damn it!" Alasdair hissed, banging his fist against the wall, "Ah cannae wait 'at long...!" It was at this point that Jaws suddenly realized something.

"Hold on. It's past Midnight Standard, right?"

"Er, aye, reit..." Alasdair muttered.

"What day is it, then?"

"Friday, Ah think. Whaur ur ye going wi' thes, Jaws?"

"And what date?"

"August 20th. Why...?" And then Alasdair realized, "Ack, ay course! It's mah birthday! I'd totally forgotten, wi' aw thes madness!"

"Well, it's a good thing we all remembered!" Blackmask said, standing up and walking towards Alasdair, "And I had the foresight to bring my present with me!" And she handed Alasdair a small cardboard box, "I was gonna mail it to you, but then I decided it'd be easier just to give it to you in person. Happy Birthday, Alasdair."

"Aye, thanks, Blackmask," Alasdair replied, as he took the box and started opening it, "Mebbe you're not as big an arsehole as Ah thought..." However, his face quickly fell when he looked inside the box, "Weel, er...It's verra nice, Blackmask, but..."

"Yeah, it got a little beaten up in the rush to get here..." Blackmask admitted sheepishly.

"Ack, it's not yer fault..." Alasdair replied, as he pulled out bits of what was left of his present, "A flattened hip-flask, some shards frae a bottle ay Kalarya' a whisky-flavoured Field Marshals 2976 World Tour t-shirt!"

"Heh, sorry about that. But hey, it's the thought that counts, right?"

"Ah suppose...But mebbe next year, ye might think abit handling yer present wi' a bit mair care...!"

While Alasdair was getting reacquainted with old friends, and explaining the whole sordid situation to them, Kyoko was still in the delivery room, living that whole sordid situation, and naturally in a great deal of pain. Even with the drugs being injected into her system all the while, the pain was still more than she'd ever felt in her whole life - it was more than she could find words for. Kyoko glanced up at one of the monitors she was hooked up to, and as she did so, it went ping, as it had done throughout the operation. Everything seemed good so far, and she hoped it would stay that way.

"Come on, Mrs Geddes!" Dr Tierney called, as she and her team of nurses surrounded Kyoko's bed, "Just a few more pushes...!"

"What do you think I've been doing this whole time?!" Kyoko snapped, and then screamed as she felt another contraction coming on, "AAH! OH, JESUS!" Then it gradually subsided again, "Get this kid out of me!"

"Don't panic, Mrs Geddes. You're doing great so far!" Nurse Rosalie replied, in a reassuring voice, "I think a few more good pushes will do the trick, and then your baby will be here in just a few minutes!"

"A few minutes?!" Kyoko gasped, as she gave another push, "I've already been at this for...Well, it can't be more than a few hours! But it feels like days since I arrived here...!" She wondered if perhaps she had been in labour for that long, but then she decided it didn't matter either way - soon it would all be over, the baby would be here, and she would finally be a mother.

"Come on, push!" Nurse Campbell shouted, and Kyoko pushed as hard as she could. The pain was growing worse by the second, but she knew there was no other way. Several more minutes passed, until at last Campbell had more news for her, "We can see your baby's head, Mrs Geddes! Come on! Just give us one more big push, and it'll finally be over!"

"I...I don't know, Campbell...sensei..." Kyoko panted heavily, clearly feeling exhausted, "I'm...oh, jeez...I think I'm at my limit! I can't...push any...harder!"

"Just relax a moment, Mrs Geddes," Dr Tierney replied soothingly, so Kyoko did so. Once she'd made sure Kyoko was alright, Tierney continued, "Right, on the count of three. One...two...three...PUSH!"

Kyoko held her breath, closed her eyes, gritted her teeth, and pushed as hard as she could. As she did so, all her past memories with Alasdair flashed through her mind: She thought of the day they'd first met each other; the day they'd had their first kiss; the time when he'd helped rescue her from the prison planet Amesoko; their first date shortly afterwards; when she'd introduced him to her parents; all the adventures they'd had onboard the Stellar Typhoon; the day Alasdair had asked her to marry him, and the day they'd finally tied the knot; all the further adventures they'd had setting up and running A&K Geddes Freight Ltd; all the times they'd made love - well, some of them, or else she'd have been there all night.

All these memories and others flashed by in a haze, and Kyoko realized that the birth of their baby was just the start of a whole new chapter in their lives. What new memories would be made over the next few years? What new experiences would they have?

"What will the future hold for us...?" Kyoko wondered to herself, and then she got her first answer. The next thing she knew, she could hear the sound of a baby crying, and she exhaled sharply, "My baby!" She cried, as she opened her eyes, sat up on her bed, and saw Nurse Campbell holding up the crying newborn, still attached to her by its umbilical cord, for her to see.

"Congratulations, Mrs Geddes!" Dr Tierney said proudly, "It's a beautiful baby girl!"

"Is it...?" Kyoko gasped, feeling more exhausted than ever, "Well...Glad that's...over...!" Then, without saying another word, she collapsed back onto the bed, and fell fast asleep.

A little while later, and Alasdair was still nervously pacing back and forth across the living room. It was now some point after 0300 Standard, and most of his peers had fallen asleep waiting for news of the baby. Only Jaws was still awake, so that Alasdair wouldn't be on his own at such a nerve-wracking time in his life. If truth be told, she was just as nervous right now, but even so, she couldn't help trying to break the ice again.

"You'll wear out a trench in that floor if you're not careful, Alasdair!" Jaws remarked, "I know you're shit-scared right now, but..."

"Cool it, Jaws!" Alasdair snapped back, "Ah cannae help but be shite-scared! Not when Kyoko's been in thaur for Christ knows how long having our bairn! Ah ken you've aw tried tae help, but Ah jist cannae help it! An' ye ken fine weel 'at yon Finbar woods be th' same if it was ye giving birth in thaur!"

"Alright, I was just saying! You're right, though, Finbar would be a nervous wreck if he was in your shoes..." Just then, Jaws noticed one of the nurses heading towards them along the long corridor, "Hang about, looks like there might be news for you..."

"Huh?" Alasdair looked up, and saw Nurse Campbell approaching. He just couldn't help himself, and he lunged at her screaming, "NURSE! TELL ME HOW MAH WIFE IS DOING! IS KYOKO OKAY?! WHIT ABIT MAH BAIRN...?!"

"Whoa, calm down, Mr Geddes!" Campbell replied, prising Alasdair away, "No need to get so excited!"

"Ack, sorry..." Alasdair muttered, calming down, "Please, jist tell me how Kyoko's doing. I'm pure worried abit 'er...Has she had th' bairn yet?"

"That's what I've come here to tell you, Mr Geddes. Your wife is doing just fine..." She paused impressively, "And what's more, she's just had a successful birth! A healthy, beautiful baby girl, as a matter of fact. They're both in one of the recovery rooms just now..."

Alasdair was stunned: He had been expecting a daughter, yes. In fact, he'd been eagerly anticipating this moment ever since the conception. But now that she was finally here, he just didn't know what to think. After all the struggles, hardships and frustrations they'd been through, he and Kyoko were now finally the proud parents of a baby girl. He was finally a father.

"Weel, er..." Alasdair paused momentarily to gather his thoughts, "Ack, Ah dinnae ken whit tae say, Nurse...May Ah see 'em both?"

"Of course! Your wife said she wanted you to see them both. Just follow me, please..." So Alasdair followed Campbell out of the living room, to a chorus of rapturous applause from his peers - who'd just been woken up by his sudden screaming. The applause was partly for Alasdair and Kyoko, of course, but it was mostly because they'd been waiting for ages, and were tired beyond comprehension, but now it was finally all over.

"Well, sounds like it's finally all over, eh?" Leslie remarked, "Alasdair and Kyoko have finally had their kid..."

"Yeah..." Blackmask replied, and paused impressively, before adding, "I guess that means I've lost the bet, eh?"

"This is the room, Mr Geddes," Nurse Campbell whispered, as she showed Alasdair into the recovery room, "Your wife and daughter are waiting for you. I'll be hanging around out here if you need anything else..."

"Aye, thanks, Nurse..." Alasdair whispered back, as Campbell shut the door. He then turned to see Kyoko laying in the bed, still wearing her hospital gown - and now admiring a small squirming bundle in her arms. This was the moment Alasdair had been looking forward to all these months, and he could feel his heart begin to race as he walked over and took a seat next to the bed, "Hullo, sweetie kitten..."

"Hello, Alasdair," Kyoko smiled, and he could tell that the birth had taken a lot out of her, "I see you've woken up at last!"

"Heh, sorry abit 'at. Ah guess Ah was ower squeamish after all...Ah was pure worried abit ye an' aw. But aam glad tae see you're alrecht now...How badly did it hurt?"

"Oh, more than I could ever begin to find words to describe! But I should be fine in the long run. Battered, weary, but unbeaten, as they say."

"Aye, but it's aw over now..." Alasdair mused, looking down at the little bundle, "An' worth it an' aw, by th' looks ay things!"

"Yes, as you can see, this is our little girl." Kyoko held up the infant for Alasdair to see properly, "You want to hold her for a bit, Alasdair?"

"Aye, ay course..." So Kyoko handed the tiny bundle over, and Alasdair took it in his arms. As he looked down at his daughter again, she looked up at him, and he just couldn't help but feel overwhelmed with emotion. At last, he was a father, and this marked the beginning of the next stage in his and Kyoko's lives, "Aam sae proud ay ye, kitten..."

"I'm proud too," Kyoko replied, "I can still hardly believe we made this little beauty together!"

"Ah can," Alasdair pointed to the infant's facial features, "Swatch, he looks a lot loch ye. He's got yer ears, yer nose, an' a wee bit ay yer complexion..."

"Yes, but look. She's got your eyes as well."

"Aye, sae she does..." Alasdair said, noting that his daughter's eyes were indeed the same rich shade of hazel as his own. Now there was no doubt about it - this was his daughter, and nobody was going to take that away from him, "Christ, isnae she jist th' cutest thing?" A few tears began to stream down his face from the sheer emotion of it all.

"I agree, she is pretty adorable," Kyoko replied, a few tears streaming down her face as well, as Alasdair handed the bundle back to her, "So, Alasdair, how does it feel being a father?"

"Whit? Och, pretty guid sae far. That's was weel worth th' wait, Ah must say. Whit abit ye? How dae ye feel abit being a mum?"

"I'm glad, to say the least. I've been waiting for this moment practically since we met. I've always wanted to have a child with you, and now I finally have. Thank you, Alasdair..."

"Nae problem, kitten..." Alasdair smiled, and then he realized something, "Ack, Ah forgot tae mention, dae ye min' whit day it is?"

"What? Well, it was August 19th when we came onboard this ship. And it feels like hours have passed since then, so that can only mean..."

"...It's August 20th...Mah birthday!"

"Well, how about that," Kyoko remarked, though with all the drugs still flowing through her system, she didn't sound as excited as usual, "That means you and our daughter both share a birthday!"

"Aye, exactly!"

"And to think I was worried about getting you a decent present..."

"Ack, dinnae fash yersel', kitten. Thes is probably th' best birthday present I've ever received!"

"Oh, well, that's alright, then..." Kyoko leaned over and kissed Alasdair, before saying, "So, Alasdair, what do you want to call our new daughter?"

"Ah thought we waur awreddy agreed oan 'at? Ye min' we discussed it afair? We came tae an' agreement frae th' moment we kent we waur having a girl?"

"Did we? Forgive me for forgetting, Alasdair, but you know how it is, with all these drugs flowing through me. It makes it hard to remember things I've said in the past."

"Ack, ay course. Sorry. An' Ah thought Ah was terrible for remembering things!"

"Well? What did we decide we wanted to call her?"

"We agreed oan Morag." Alasdair replied, after an impressive pause.

"Morag?" Kyoko repeated, "As in, Morag Geddes, your mother?"

"Aye, exactly reit. Ye waur always ower disappointed 'at ye never got tae meet mah mother, an' Ah always said if Ah ever had a daughter, Ah wanted tae name 'er Morag. Th' way Ah see it, thes shoods kill two birds wi' one stone."

"You want my honest opinion, Alasdair...?"

"Lay it oan me, Kyoko."

"...I think it's perfect. I suppose all this is what your mother would have wanted for you, and what better way for her to remain in our memories..."

"Aye, exactly..."

Both Alasdair and Kyoko looked once more at the newly-named Morag. They thought of all that the future might hold for them both as parents, and they knew they'd be in for quite the experience. But they wouldn't miss that experience for the universe, and they felt confident that they could handle whatever challenges fate would care to throw at them during this new chapter in their lives. Nothing else in the universe seemed to matter to Alasdair and Kyoko just now. At long last, they were parents, and their quest for a child was complete.

"Welcome tae th' world...Morag Geddes..." Alasdair whispered to his tiny daughter.

A few weeks later, the Hunter II had finally returned to the planet Jura. For the most part, nothing seemed to have changed, at least from the outside. It was still parked in its usual location, on its usual docking pad on the tidal island outside the seaside town of Kyle Abbin. Recently, however, it seemed to have a different air about it, and Moonzie felt it as she came onboard one morning to pay a visit to Alasdair and Kyoko. Having let herself in - using the key they'd given her - she found them both sitting in the living room - strangely, though, Morag was absent.

"Awrite, ye two?" Moonzie began, "Been a while since Ah saw either ay ye around haur..."

"Och, hullo, Moonzie," Alasdair replied, "Aye, it's guid tae see ye again."

"An' it's guid tae see ye an' aw. Ah tell ye, it's been awful boring not having ye guys around th' place."

"Really?" Kyoko remarked, "I never took us for especially interesting people. What sort of things do happen when we are around the place, Moonzie-san?"

"Dae ye want a list? Sae, anyway, aam haur now...Where's th' bairn, 'en?"

"Sleeping off her breakfast..." Kyoko began, only to be interrupted by the sound of a baby crying, through the baby monitor they'd received as a gift from one Damaris Moss not long ago, "That is, she was sleeping. Okay, Alasdair, it's your turn..."

"Reit, Kyoko," Alasdair replied, standing up, "Be back in a moment..." And he went off to deal with Morag, leaving Kyoko and Moonzie with the room to themselves for the moment.

"We usually take turns to attend to Morag whenever she needs attending to," Kyoko explained, "Well, I say usually, but we've only been doing this for a few weeks...Oh, er, that's the girl's name. Morag."

"Aye, ay course, Ah min' ye both saying ye had 'at in mind. A beautiful name for a beautiful lassie."

"From one beautiful lassie to another, really..." Kyoko remarked knowingly, as Alasdair came back into the room, with Morag in his arms.

"Sae, thes is wee Morag, is it?" Moonzie asked.

"Aye, ay course," Alasdair replied, as he sat back down with Morag. There was a moment's silence, before he added, "Ack, Ah shoods clarify. Thes is th' moment whaur you're supposed tae gang 'Aww!'" Nobody did so, but everyone did manage a little smile: Even after all they'd been through, neither Alasdair nor Kyoko had lost their sense of wit. And they were both thoroughly convinced that if Morag was to inherit that sense of humour, then she was bound to go far in this Galaxy...

And that, dear readers, really is it. It's been a story of ups and downs. The story of the big and small moments. From the biggest, life-changing moments, to the tiniest, least significant incidents, and just about everything in between. Anything could happen to Alasdair and Kyoko Geddes, and generally has. It's been a long and tough journey, not only for them, but also for everyone who's helped them along the way. It's been a battle of wills and of wits, that's pushed their relationship to its very limits. Through thick and thin, they've struggled through everything the Galaxy cared to throw at them, but finally, for now at least, their story is over.

Well, sort of. There are countless other stories that could be told, and indeed, we may revisit our heroes someday. We may pick up where we left off, to see how Alasdair and Kyoko have gotten on looking after Morag. Or maybe we'll pick up a good while later, when Morag herself is a grown woman. Or perhaps we might even decide to fill in those gaps in the stories we've already told, to answer those questions that couldn't be answered at the time.

We may choose to return to the lives of Alasdair, Kyoko and Morag Geddes, and the Hunter II, at some point. But for now, the story really is well and truly over. And all that remains to be done is for us to do the tried-and-tested thing, and bid you adieu, auf wiedersehen, gesundheit, and farewell...