The humans appeared to be holding their own on this harsh world. With a population of roughly one million inhabitants, there were somewhere between 273 and 456 births reported every day from all the sectors. The humans were a hardy species and that hardiness expressed itself in the gene pool from which their infants emerged.
There were isolated reports of infants born dead. Giving birth was always a risky business. Not all infants survived delivery and those that did would not necessarily survive the first twelve months. Those who survived the first 60 months had decent chances of surviving the next 800 or so months.
What was strange was not the number of infant deaths but the fact that most of the dead infants were blue. They were usually buried immediately. People talked about the blue babies. Preachers ranted about them. Rumors were rampant and opinions were divided and divisive. Some people thought it happened from working in the mines. Everybody knew somebody who had blue lung and died of it; that is, everybody except for the mine company doctors who ignored the miners’ complaints. If that blue dust could get into your lungs, why couldn’t it get into your infant’s blood?
The preachers were of a different opinion. The Sectarian Church Council had met to pray on the blue baby deaths and the conclusions were sermonized from the wooden pulpits of every village church and house of worship. The blue babies were an abomination and offended the eyes of the Lord. They were the Devil’s own spawn. They were a sign of God’s displeasure with the sins of the people and the approach of the End of Days.
That was what the preachers told their flocks. What they said amongst themselves, far from the ears of the unanointed, was different. The preachers who had attended births talked about the blue babies. Some were honest and told the others that the many of the blue infants had taken a breath or opened their eyes or cried out. There was no moral issue with those that were born dead. Nothing could be done about them. Those who were technically alive in the first few moments were the issue. Obviously they were not viable. Who knew what suffering was in store for them. The only moral action left to the preacher was to put the child out of its misery. Or was it? There were a handful of younger preachers who questioned the wisdom and the morality of snuffing out the flame of innocent life of a child of the Lord. The elders who participated in the council deliberations told those young preachers that they would be well advised to follow the orthodox line, which they would better understand when and if they reached the venerable age of wisdom.
You had to understand. This was not a time to buck the opinions of your neighbors or to go against the preaching of the Church. You would survive as part of the group or you would die alone.
Neither was it a time to be blue.