The summer had been cloudy, so Mother was extremely late in her pregnancy. Anxious, Eva stood on tippy-toes and tried to glimpse into the panelled cervix on her side. She jumped up and down, trying to glance in at the human growing there. Anon stood back, regarding her futile attempts to get a closer look.
“Eva!” he shouted, “leave Mother alone will you… she’ll birth the new person when she’s good and ready.”
“But I want to see it nooow” Eva replied, turning towards Anon and stamping her feet a little.
Anon sighed quietly. Mother had been promising to birth the new colonist for several hands of days now, and Eva had been growing increasingly impatient. “Maybe if we climb up and clean the solar panels she’ll be able to get more energy!” Eva suggested helpfully, beaming from ear to ear.
The spectacle was getting too much for Anon, so he turned away from Mother and wandered back down from the hill on which she sat towards the habiviron. Eva had been birthed a grown adult, but Mother had somehow downloaded a youth into his potential mates mind. Though they had been together on the colony world for over a year, her personality had not developed to match her physique. It was sufficiently frustrating for Anon to be welcoming the birth of a new colonist, if not only for someone for Eva to play with.
Glancing up at the sky, Anon could see that the sun was beginning to slip towards the distant hills that spelt dusk, and unsafe time of day even after Mother’s drones had largely purged the region of large predators. There was always the chance some of the indigenous fauna would eventually outsmart Mother and get close enough to the habiviron to hurt himself or Eva. He called to her, attracting her flighty attention, and indicated the sun. She waved acknowledgement and dropped the branch she had been positioning as a ladder to climb onto Mother.
Anon watched her as she ambled back down the hill. Behind her Mother made quite an impressive sight. The cervix was a closed circular patch on Mother’s side a metre in diameter on an extruded section of the cornucopia’s otherwise smooth and uniform flank. Mother herself was perhaps 30 metres long, and 3 metres high at the centre, a slightly oblong jet-black tablet. Anon was aware that Mother had been launched from a distant human colony, but she was insistent that her origins were not information Anon needed. Nor did Anon need to know how long she had been here on New World before she had birthed him.
All that was certain was that she was old, very old. While she had keep much of New World’s flora distant from her person with grazing animals, the grassed earth had risen at least a metre up her sides even before Anon had been tanked, downloaded, and birthed. Eva was persistent, and had pestered Mother a number of times on her origins, but Mother had consistently eschewed clear answers, focusing instead on trying to develop Eva emotionally. What Anon had gleaned from these conversations was that he was not the first man to walk New World, Mother’s oblique answers suggesting that a number of versions of him had not acclimatised successfully to the colony’s environment and biosphere. How many versions and phenotypes had failed, he dare not think. For starters, the doors to the habiviron appeared to be more suitable to humans rather taller than his 1 metre.
“Mother”, he asked the habiviron as he entered.
“Yes Anon,” she answered, “you have a request?”
“No Mother,” he replied, “a question. Will you birth further goats once the new human is downloaded and released?”
“I am not sure Anon.” she replied, “There is little time left to this summer for such an exercise. Perhaps it would be better to let them breed naturally this season.”
Eva skipped through the door and into the habiviron, a particularly annoying looking gait for a full-grown woman. “Hello!” she exclaimed, before exiting the commonroom towards her quarters. Anon sighed again. 3000 colonists stored in Mother’s database, and he was the sole companion to an adolescent.
“Will the habiviron have sufficient production over the winter to feed three humans?”
“Yes Anon. With the gardens you will harvest this summer and autumn to supplement the greenhouses and algae farms, there will be sufficient food production. If this is insufficient, it may be possible to eat several goats.”
Anon looked out the window of the commonroom and up the hill towards Mother. He could see several of the herd grazing the ground near her, a shepherd drone floating nearby. He had wondered how one would taste.
“But surely they are necessary to maintain the distance of the flora from your person Mother?”
“No Anon. The season in which Eva was birthed was particularly fruitful, a critical mass of animals will soon be achieved.”
“Enough to counter-balance predation?”
“The goats are very large animals. The learning database suggests that domestic animals are normally small enough for humans to dominate easily. Was there some corruption of their template in their transit to New World?”
“No Anon. As far as I am aware this is the normal size for this species of animal. Corrupted species have not been birthed here on New World.”
“Oh, while I think of it. Have the other animals also reached critical mass yet?”
“No Anon, not all species are yet at critical mass. But I remain hopeful.”
“Thank you Mother.”
“You are welcome Anon.”
A squeal echoed out of the corridor from the commonroom, and Eva ran into the room, arms waving. “Quick! Quick!” she shouted, “Back to Mother!” She bolted out of the habiviron before Anon could check the colony’s safety via the drones, and was running up the rise towards the cornucopia.
“There!” she shouted, pointing to the cervix. Around it, several drones had congregated in the half-light of the dusk. Anon could see several more circling the colony fully lit and issuing the low hum known to scare away New World’s native carnivores. And there, into the light of the hovering guardians, she climbed shakily from the cervix on unsure feet, an adult female, resplendent.