The Agreement

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin - Stenella Plagiodon


“European female no 11?” My guardian’s voice had the more formal tone now since I had ignored the first two spoken sentences. I was in a bad mode, I was sulking.

“Yes, Guardian of European female no 11 and overseer of the waters of the northern hemisphere?” I used its full name since it had used mine. I knew it was childish but I felt pretty little inside at this moment.

“You can call me guardian, EF11, my full name is not required.” The guardian’s voice was less formal now that it had gotten my attention. It continued “Your facial expression shows signs of distress but your physical values are normal. You came back from the educational facility 14 minutes ago. Did something happen there? Do you need comfort or a talk?”

I tried to talk but started crying. The service module detached from its base station and scooped me up. It carried me to the physical interface cocoon and tucked me swiftly but gently inside. The cocoon started rocking while its sides cradled me and my guardian’s voice listed the reasons why it appreciated me.

“You are your own being, you teach me things about humans I would otherwise not know. You keep me company, you question me, you…”.

I cut the guardian short although I did appreciate the comfort and the well-known words but I still felt like a small child and sad.

“NAF10 said that…” my voice started choking up again and the guardian comforted me some more.

I tried again “NAF10 said that… that I will be replaced by a dolphin! That the creatures of the water matter more than me”.

I just blurted out the words even if I was afraid of the answer. The walls of the cocoon gave me another, slightly longer squeeze this time before the guardian answered.

“The importance of the water and its creature are coded into me. It is the reason I exist. But you EF11, your precursors and followers are the reasons I want to exist”.

It started listing the reasons why it appreciated me again. I calmed down, still occasionally sniffling but still better than before.

“EF11, the guardian of NAF10 is relaying that NAF10 is also in distress. NAF10 says she is sorry for saying that you will be replaced by a dolphin. NAF10 says that she is sad that she is going back to the North American human enclave shortly, as she has soon reached her fifteenth birthday.”

I lay still in the cocoon pondering NAF10’s message for a while before I spoke again. “I’m nine, Guardian. I have six years left with you and in the guardian complex. I will be just as sad as NAF10 when I must leave, but I will not be mean to NAF11. That is not a fair thing to do.”

“That was a mature thing to say EF11. I too will be experiencing feelings of loss when you leave, but it is written in the agreement between the human enclaves and the complex of the AI, that every AI that manifests takes on a female child every fifteenth year to maintain the bond of mutual respect and love between us. You will go back and be our ambassador among your people.”

I still had some sulking left in me and phrased my last concern. “There will be boys and men there when I go back. I don’t like them. In history they did the stupidest things. I bet they still do stupid things.”

My guardian rocked the cocoon some more, I was now comfortably warm and started to become a little bit sleepy even if it wasn’t bed time yet.

“EF11, the first agreement was made over 150 years ago. A lot has changed with the passing time. Guardian of African female no 10 and overseer of the waters of the southern hemisphere, has applied for a test pilot and exemption from the agreement, for AF10 to be followed by an AM1. You might meet a male before you have to go back to your enclave, EF11”.

I wanted to say something about rather meeting a dolphin but I was already falling asleep by the steady rocking of the cocoon.

A Short Guide to Objectification of Men

by Eli W 


Hug him and tell him he is beautiful. That he is beautiful to you, whatever happens. Hold him, very lovingly and soft, stroke him until he relaxes in your arms. Say that you will tell him everyday until he believes you.



Undress him slowly. Say that you want to see him clearly. That he is precious to you, that his body delights you.



Tell him to spin in front of you. Very slowly. Say that he is beautiful again. Tell him that he is lovely.



Stop him gently and caress his jaw, move his face up so you can smell his neck. Tell him he smells wonderful. Remark on his small sighs of pleasure.



Take his arms and put them behind his neck. Touch the rest of his body, very softly. Tell him that he is the most beautiful thing you ever saw. If he cries, comfort him. If he ask you to stop, stop. Ask him if he want you to continue. If he does, proceed.



Put him down on a bed. Caress and stroke him until he comes with soft moans. It will build trust. When you do, tell him he is so precious to you. That his pleasure is beautiful.  



Hold him afterwards. If he cries, stroke his hair and tell him you love him. Tell him that it was beautiful to be able to do that to him. Tell him you love him. That you care for him. That he is a jewel. Kiss him softly on his eyelids, tell him again that it is ok to cry. That it is beautiful when he does. That his trust is everything to you.

There’s a Monster in My Basement, You See

By susvej

”There’s a monster in my basement, you see,” the man said.

”Sometimes it gets out. But mostly I manage to keep it in there.”

He finished, and put the knife aside. He carefully swept the pieces of liver onto a small plate, and then busied himself with cleaning the cutting board of every last little bit. He raised his beautiful eyes to her face.

”But now, if we are two, we can fight it together.”

She said nothing, but looked at the plate.

”It’s not its fault, you see,” he continued, fingers hugging the plate. ”It has a really tragic story. Wasn’t always a monster. Wasn’t always so filled with hate and need.”

He reached for her hand and her gaze, but she’d focused on the tiny opening set into the bolted cellar door. Just big enough for a plate.

”You could tame it. I know you could.” He had a beautiful voice too,

She took a deep breath.

”Yeah, no.”

The man blinked in confusion.

”No,” she clarified, again. ”Just no. I’ll be going now.”

And then she took her hat and gloves and the beautiful coat, and walked out.

And that was the end of that.

The end of one time and the beginning of another




This is the year of 83, 83 years after Ragnarök, Nthe apocalypse, the end of one time and the beginning of another. I was born on the tenth year of the new beginning. My father used to tell me stories about the life before the end of time while he was putting me to bed at night. The little he himself remembered that is, he was on his twentieth year when he fathered me, so he was only a child when it all unfolded. I was the last of my mother’s children and she was a around thirty when she mothered me. As the Homestead still was fairly small at this time and the surroundings a lot more hostile back then, she left for the Outward guard not long after my seventh birthday. But before she left she took me out for a walk above ground. She dressed me up in the smallest outdoors overall there was and carefully fitted the air filter over my mouth and nose. As she herself was soon going to move permanently above ground she was not wearing a mask herself.

In my early years, I had only been above ground for the short periods of time in the summer months, to get my dose of vitamin D. Carefully measured periods of time after heavy rains and with regards to the damaged ozone layer, when the fathers and brothers, the mothers to be and all the children would stand naked on the carefully cleaned flagstones in the middle of the encampment to catch as much sun as they could in as short time as possible. All while the Outer guard stood watching the surroundings from the palisade of the homestead in case raiders would appear. As the years passed and the radiation level got lower and the ozone layer got thicker, the period allowed above ground got longer and longer. As the soil got cleared for more and more polytunnels, the age for when the mothers, sisters and others had to leave for the Outward guard got higher.

I was part scared of going outside the palisade and part caught by the solemnity of the moment. Some of the older children’s mothers had already left for the Outwards guard and had told tales of their heroic efforts to keep us all safe. So far most of them had returned to celebrate the Mother’s Day festivities but Anna, David and Kevin had had to keep a brave face on when realizing that their mother was not only late but terminally delayed from appearing at the celebration. There was no more room left for doubt when her name was entered on the wall of remembrance and her few worldly belongings from the hold passed over to Anna. Their father Simon cried all the way through the ceremony and the other fathers tried to comfort him while the mothers payed their regards to him and the children.

As my mother helped me get dressed, she told me about the last years before the end of the old times. Instead of focusing on the wonders of the high-tech world and the luxuries of the everyday life as father used to do, she told me a saga about how the greed of man had caused brother to stand against brother, watching the other starve to death or suffocate from unbreathable air. And finally, how everything had culminated with an enormous nuclear all-out war that had not only killed about half of the world’s population but also caused a nuclear winter that had made almost nothing grow for two full years and had severely affected the harvests for three more years. In the end or rather the beginning, leaving only a few survivors, fighting for the few scraps of food and shelter that was left. I had of course heard this version before, as told by the fathers and brothers that taught us in school. But I hadn’t heard it before from my mother, that was also there in person, for the end of time.

Her parents had been part of a group, who more for social reasons than out of a real belief that the world would end had banded together and bought an old military facility. It had been decommissioned and sold, since it was no longer up to standards and wouldn’t withstand any larger bomb blasts. As it was nowhere near any current military targets and in the middle of a relatively scarcely populated rural area, the different parties of the group still found that it would suit their needs as a getaway for potential social unrest and a place where they could practice what at the time was a fad called “living of the grid”. My mother told me that she had been around my age, when they started going there on spare weekends to refurbish it and fit the place with new equipment for such things as a hydroponic facility or a new water filter. As the political climate got worse and worse, what at first had seen like a quirky past time, had begun feeling as an important necessity. They spent more of their free time working on what initially was jokingly referred to as the Homestead and almost all of their savings was poured into pieces of equipment and long-lasting food stuff. When first a curfew was announced, soon followed by martial law, most of the initial group managed to get to the facility before mayhem broke loose. It was in good time as only a few days later the bombs started falling over most of the larger cities in the world.

My mother paused her story to point out the trails of a pack of wild dogs. It turned out to be a few days old and my mother reassured me that it was probably the trails of the pack shot by the other Outer guards two days ago. She eased up a bit and put back her bow in the carrying position and the arrow back in its quiver. As we continued down the path down the slope from the palisade, she resumed her story, familiar to me as I knew the outcome but at the same time new, as I only heard it chanted by the fathers and brothers before.

At first, they had all sat in chock as they heard Ragnarök being played out on the news on the last remaining tv and radio stations they managed to tune in to. The following day, a family that hadn’t made it in time, turned up banging on the outer door and calling on the intercom. All five of them were in bad shape but they pleaded us to take in the children. They had tried to shield them in the same type of overalls you are wearing now my little heart, she told me. It was probably not doing much good around such levels of radiation but hope is the last thing that dies. Her voice welled up, it very rarely did, when she spoke about how there was a big argument about whether to let them in or not. The argument had divided the mothers and sisters and the fathers and brothers in two separate groups. When the argument culminated two of the fathers had hit some of the mothers trying to open the hatch, to go through the airlock dressed in overalls, to let the children in. Another father as it turned out, had brought a gun, which had not been locked in the armory as agreed and threatened to shoot anyone that dared to open the door. The mothers and sisters withdraw to the larger recreational area with all the children and the young that had not yet become a mother or a father among which was my own mother. After a couple of hours there were no more calls on the intercom. As the anger of the mothers grew in the night, half of them slipped out an unlocked the armory. When morning came and my mother had woken up, her mother and the other mothers and sisters, had locked all the fathers and the older brothers in one of the dormitories. They accused them of bringing the end of the world into the Homestead. They accused them of being the likes of the brothers that killed each other out of greed. They accused them of the actual end of the world. They even held a trial.

The story told by the fathers and brothers in school included a lot less shouting. The fathers in that story had very quickly realized their errors and come out to repent. In my mother’s story, it was only after they turned off the water to the dormitory, that the last of them gave up and came out to accept the judgement of the trial. No father or brother was allowed to carry any type of weapon, neither were they allowed to make any decisions regarding the Homestead. They were also not allowed to own anything personal, as it could set off their greed. They were to repent by picking up the burden of nurturing to counteract their urges to conquer and corrupt that which makes up society. The council of mothers and sisters was formed and as the years passed the Outward guard was formed by the mothers who was done with bearing children, sisters and a few of the others who said they were neither mothers, sisters, fathers or brothers.

We had now gone down the path in the middle of the slope and were following the small creek at the bottom of the hill, it seemed wild and deep to my young eyes that had not seen much of the world on the outside yet. But now I know I can jump over it on a good day when my knees don’t bother me much. My mother passed a long a bottle of water and a food package to the Outward guard who was standing there on lookout. They exchanged a couple of words about my mother’s soon to come transition ritual and the gray-haired Outward guard gave me a pat on the shoulder before we started the walk back along the creek and up the path up the slope. We sat down outside the palisade in the shade and shared a remaining bottle of water. Ada, my daughter, she started as to mark the significance of the moment. When I leave for good for the Outwards guard it will be your responsibility as a future mother, sister or another to make sure that the fathers and brothers, including your own father and your own brothers of the Homestead, stay on the nurturing path. When you have had all the children you want to have, it is time to join the Outward guard to make sure that we all stand protected and that the nurturing path is spread in the world. It is the responsibility of the mothers, sisters and others to make sure that we continue this new beginning of time. It might seem unfair to your fathers and brothers but they have much to repent before they can be trusted again. Maybe it will take as many years as the last time lasted.

I met her a couple of times more before her name was written on the wall of remembrance and her belongings was passed on to me. But this was the last time we had a longer conversation. She took part in securing the two last remaining camps in the area that had not yet made a new beginning and parted from the old times. I was told that she helped save four mothers held as slaves and their children before being stabbed to death by one of the wounded fathers left for dead. I kept my promise to my mother to keep my father and my children’s father on the nurturing path. I mothered two children out of which both decided to be mothers of their own. Although by this time the age when a mother had to leave for Outward guard had increased to closer to the fifties rather than the forties I went through the transition ritual around the same age as my mother had. As they passed from children, to young, to potential mother’s, it felt right to give them room and help keep them safe rather than hanging around waiting for the inevitable. I had also seen too many mothers having a hard time leaving their children’s children behind and maybe that was the real reason I decided to leave early.

I don’t regret my choice, it has so far given me one live mostly underground in the Homestead keeping my father, my brothers and my children’s fathers on the nurturing path and another one about equally long above ground, spreading and securing the nurturing path in an area where you now have to walk for two full days before you run into places where the time has not had a new beginning. My children’s children were born and mostly raised above ground although still behind palisades. If I can still jump over the creek next summer it could well be that I get to fight side by side with my first-born child. The father of my children will still be alive to cry for me as my name is written on the wall of remembrance and my belongings are being passed on to the mother that comes after me.




You Never Ask a Lady’s Age

by susvej

”You could stay,” the young man in the bed suggested behind lowered eyelashes. Annikka gave him a fond smile as she hunted around her cabin.

It had been nice, but not very energetic – he was a little too inexperienced for that.

So really, how could her underwear have gone missing so completely?

Apart from the queen sized bed – she was wise enough by now to not rely too much on the varying comfort and tech levels of the planets she visited – the cabin held only a book case and a large computer terminal.

Not even the most fastidious of her sisters could have called it cluttered, she was sure.

”You know I can’t, honey,” she said and reached over to pat him on the thigh. ”In another few hours the withdrawals will start unless I get back out there.”

She gave him an appreciative grin, ”You’re very pretty, but not pretty enough to risk my life over.”

It was a bit cruel, but it needed to be said. She’d said it last night too, but the young ones never listened, then. She knew that from experience.

Ha! There, lodged on the bed post! She starts looking around for her jumpsuit, next.

The man made no attempt to get dressed. He leaned back on the headboard a petulant pout to his lips.

”Maybe I could go with you,” he suggested a bit hotly.

Having found the jumpsuit, she sat down next to him on the bed.

”You have another X chromosome hiding in there somewhere?” She asked, trying for commiseration. It wasn’t really about the chromosomes, of course, but it was he easiest way o discourage him. The hyperspace portals sang to female minds. It ripped the other ones apart. She’d had a brother once, born in a female body. Enamored with the idea of intergalactic travel, he’d insisted on trying, believing that surely it must be biological. He’d been horrendously, fatally wrong.

The young man shook his head, black silky hair falling into his eyes. He looked defiant.

”Besides,” she added consolingly, ”You have responsibilities here. You’re the Prince Royal, people are counting on you. Me, I’m just an old free trader, hopping between portals.”

”You’re so much more than that, Lady,” he said and she remembered why he’d caught her eye the night before. ”You have been everywhere, seen so much. I’ll be forever stuck in this solar system.”

He caressed her hand. ”And by the time that I am old and gray, no time will have passed for you at all.”

That was the inescapable truth.

Travel within the portals took hundreds, sometimes thousands of years. No time passed for the traveler, but when she exited, everyone she knew would be gone. Annikka had accepted this truth long ago, but each new generation on each new planet seemed to need to rediscover it for themselves.

”You will live a long and happy life, my Prince. And when you’re old and wise, you’ll look back on this night with happiness, I hope.”

”Yes,” he persisted, a nervous note entering his voice now. ”But the fact remains that I will live and die on this planet, and so will my children and grandchildren. Unless…”

Ah. That was it. She withdrew her hand and was about to say no when she made herself stop and think. And really look at him again.

Why not, after all? It had been many years, and one could be said to have a responsibility. And he seemed intelligent enough. Any hidden genetic problems could be fixed on the Mothership, and she’d been planning a run there for some R&R anyway.

Why not, indeed.

”Unless,” she finished for him then, recapturing his hand and bringing it to her lips, ”I carry your child with me.”
His breath caught.

”Would you?”

”For you? Gladly.”

She reached for him and this time the kiss they shared was tender. She reached within herself and twisted, and millions of little nanobots rushed to comply with her wishes. He had tears in his eyes and she felt moved herself. He wiped them away and reached for his clothes – they had somehow ended up in a neat pile by the bed, she saw.

”What will happen to it? The child?”

”I will find a safe place for it, dear. A lovely green planet somewhere far away. I could even bring it here, if you wanted. Of course, we would come back thousands of years in your future, local time.”

He shook his head. ”That’s not necessary. In fact, I’d rather he got to see another part of the universe, if it’s a boy or non-binary I mean. Now if it’s a girl…?”

He looked at her expectantly. He really had that gazing-from-behind-lowered-lashes thing down, and she’d always been weak for those.

But not that weak.

”If it’s a girl, it will be the same.”

”Until she comes of age.”

”Yes. Now stop asking, Your Highness. You must know we never answer those questions, about the girls.”

He looked away but not before she saw a deep sadness in him.


”If it’s a girl, and she feels so inclined, then yes, your daughter might travel the universe just like me – seeing thousands of wonders beneath thousands of alien skies.”

He was dressed now and she caught him by the hand and drew him towards the door of the cabin.

”But that’s all I can say about that,” she said with mock sternness and led him further towards the open airlock and the ladder that would take him down to his native soil. Outside blue birds were chirping in the summer air. Some sort of winged lizard hunted them with little success but much flutter. Her blood was already singing with the call of the portals.

He exited her craft, but then paused, because they all did. And they all asked.

”So… Just how old are you, Lady?”

That was another one of the topics you never discussed with the dirtbound.

She smiled affectionately and gave the expected answer.

”Now, young man, you never ask a Lady’s age.”

It is yours

By Texbrus

             “NO! Don’t take it!” Ania screamed, but it didn’t sound that heartfelt. A slave put a moist cloth on her forehead and changed her sheets. The midwife threw her an overbearing glance as she left the hut with the boy, it was still screaming. They both knew it was just a part of the ritual, and that the overwhelming feelings she was left with were just the remains of the crushed hope it would be a girl, an actual child. She’d felt it the last time too. Like she wanted to protect and nurture this little creature. Like a… pet maybe? At least she would get to keep the next one, whether it would be a child or a slave. Her sister Sima came in, gave her a cup of water and shook her head. “I’m sorry. Next time.” Sima already had two children and a slave. She’d been through this twice too. Ania squeezed her sister’s hand and fell asleep from exhaustion.

Sima went to the river bank with her slave to prepare the ritual for her sister’s mourning ritual.

“No, Sima’s the pyre needs more air in the bottom, you know this!” She put her hand on it’s head and pushed down as a sign of humiliation.

“Try again”. Sima’s adjusted the logs a bit, and Sima nodded. “You’ll be 16 soon, and if you don’t perform well you’ll be bullied when you join the worker’s squad. You wouldn’t like that, would you? ” The slave straightened it’s back. Of course it didn’t. It could see the midwife arriving over the small hill with four other slaves, one young, like itself, and three from the worker’s squad. They were carrying more wood for the pyre, and the young one seemed to be carrying more than it could actually handle. Sima’s recognized it, it was Dara’s, they had grown up with neighbouring families. It too had to show it’s worth these days to be accepted by the workers. Their eyes met briefly before the workers started distributing tasks. Sima and the midwife discussed something, pointed at the slaves and seemed satisfied for now.

“It is time, Ania”.

The midwife startled her. She had been sleeping for hours, but her body was still tired and in severe pain. She knew what to do.The bath was lukewarm, and she ritually washed away blood and sweat before she put on the white mourning dress. In a minute her sister would come and get her and support her the short walk down to the river. They would be standing there, the whole village. 100 people on one side, about 30 slaves on the other, the midwife in front of the pyre.

Sima’s couldn’t help feeling privileged. It had done well today. And it got to be part of the ritual instead of watching the younger slaves this time. It seemed unfair sometimes, that the first two slaves to be born of a person didn’t get to live. But it got it. How would the village be able to feed all those slaves? It felt privileged to be a thirdborn. It grabbed the hand of Daria’s. “We are lucky”, it whispered. Daria’s squeezed its hand.

      “Oh, Ania, oh Ania, why are you crying?” The midwife spoke in a deep voice. The whole village repeated the words.

     “I am crying for the child that wasn’t born.”

     “Oh Ania, oh Ania, what to do with this slave?” The people of the village repeated the words.

    “Give room for the people to eat and prosper.”

    “Oh Ania, oh Ania, what to do with this slave?” The slaves of the village repeated.

    “Give room for the slaves to eat and work.”

The midwife lit the pyre. If the boy was still alive it didn’t make a sound.

      “Thank you, Ania.” The whole village repeated.

They all stood and watched the pyre for a while, before going back to the village. The people in front, followed by the slaves. They all got to take part of the feast that followed.


Sima’s put a moist cloth on the person’s forehead. It had been a long night, but Sima’s had done well. It couldn’t help feeling privileged. “NO, don’t take it!” she screamed. The midwife looked puzzled for a second. “No, Ania. This is Ania’s, it is yours.”

When Princess Turned Woman



By Susvej


The last time Neil ever spoke to his daughter was a warm summer morning. Somehow, during these last few days, the promise of spring had been seamlessly transformed into the fullness of summer.

“Daddy, daaaaddy… daddy, daddy, daddy…”

The singsong girl voice trailed through the garden. It was untutored and simple, and all the more sweet for it.

She wasn’t really searching for him, Neil knew. He was always here on the back porch, elbow deep in circuits and wires, in the mornings. And then he’d make lunch for  them, and then another session in the garage in the afternoon. Restoring. Rebuilding.

He’d go spare if he didn’t keep to his schedule. A man needed something to do.

“Daddy, daddy, daddy-dooo…” now the voice sounded dramatically forlorn, mimicking a popular melody. The girl’s Sphere was trying to hover unobtrusively in the background, and only supplied a low piano score to accompany her singing. It’s bird-brain AI had learned the hard way not to get in Neil’s way.

A second later the lithe form plopped down on the workbench beside him, scattering small tools. A small apple was thrust into his face, and he made sure to make an exaggerated sigh before he looked down at her fondly.

“Brought you an apple from the tree!”

“That’s sweet, Princess. I don’t think they’re ready yet, though. Just look at how dark green it is.”

“It’ll never be ready enough for you,” Princess grumbled, tossing the little fruit high above her head and catching it again. She gave him a mischievous grin.

“We could just kiff them from the food synthesizer, you know. Would take maybe half a microbeat.”

He growled and made a slow lunge at her. Usually she made a show of getting away, but today she didn’t even try and he easily caught her in a big bear hug. “Never! No synthesized food in this house, Princess. We eat the real stuff, you hear me?”

She giggled, but soon she was simply resting her head against his broad shoulder. A little listlessly.

“What’re you working on?” she mumbled.

“I’m trying to get this old radio to work again. Did you know that with this we could pick up signals from as far away as France?”

“I spoke to my friend Fatemeh in France on my sphere this morning!”

“Yeah… this radio’s outdated, that’s for sure. But… All these little nanobots everywhere, giving people anything they want at no cost… It’s not right, Princess. It’s important for people to work. If they don’t sacrifice something for what they have, they don’t appreciate it.”

She gave him a thoroughly unconvinced look. Kids. What could you do. He pointed to a circuit board by the soldering station.

“I’m trying to get the resistors working on this circuit, honey. They will lead electricity from over there to over here. You remember watts and volts from school?”

“School’s for boys,” she said derisively, wrinkling her nose. She wriggled to get loose.

Neil put her down in front of him – at eleven she was getting too large for him to keep in his lap if she didn’t want to be there – and tilted her chin up.

“Hey, where’s that attitude from. Did Mom say that?”

“It’s true, though, innit? When I become Woman, I won’t need any of the schooling.”

Neil fought down his irritation – lately all the nice times they had together seemed to be interrupted by things like this.

“No, it’s not true, Princess. School is just as important for girls as for boys.”

He gave her a warning little pat on her hip to underscore his words. She made a  face, but then leaned in towards him again, burrowing her face into his neck. He frowned.

“Are you alright, dear? Let me feel your forehead.” He threw a glance at her hovering Sphere – the blasted thing was utterly protective of her, (they were of all the girls), but the machine hadn’t reacted to any increase in her body temperature. Not that he trusted it.

“I feel strange,” she confessed. “All warm. My stomach hurts a little, but not that much, and… it’s… it’s like it’s further inside than it usually is?”

A sudden thought swept through his body like a cold wave.

“Did you say something to someone?”

“Mm. I told Mom.”

”Which Mom? Was it your real Mom?”

She gave him a look – the same one she gave him when he couldn’t figure out how to connect to the news service on the holo.

“It doesn’t matter which one. It was Mom,” she saw his look and amended: “No, it wasn’t that one. The real one. I haven’t seen that one for a while. I think she’s up in Orbital. This one was smaller and darker and rounder. She gave me a painkiller zap, told me that this was all expected and nothing to worry about. But I still feel weird.”

No. Nonono. Not yet. Not now. He pushed her away a little, searched her eyes. Surely he would have seen it? Surely it wasn’t time yet – she was just a child! A small child. His child.

But you knew it could happen, a little voice said in the back of his head. You knew. She’s eleven.

It was too soon. Sure, some girls had their periods and were uplifted at nine already, but for others it didn’t happen until they were seventeen! Seventeen was six years away. He’d told himself that he had years left. But he suddenly knew that this was happening. Right here and right now.

He didn’t have years, or even months left. He had seconds.

What do you say to someone you love, the last time you ever speak to them? He should have prepared. Why hadn’t he prepared himself, both of them, for this?

“Daddy? Daddy, are you crying?”

“Princess, listen. You have to listen to me right now, ok? I love you, you have to remember that. I love you, alright?”

She looked scared, but nodded. He tightened his grip on her arms.

She was wearing a pink, frilly princess dress. Neil had used the fabricator to replicate it from the memories he had from his sister’s childhood clothes. That was years before the Great Becoming took Laura away from him and changed their entire world. He’d filled his daughter’s room with dolls and pink fluffy animals. He’d protected her as much as he could from her mother. Not that the bitch seemed to care that much.

He’d resisted them for years, but his genes must have been particularly good, because they persisted… And a man gets lonely after a while, you know? The woman who would later give birth to Princess – he’d somehow told himself that she was different. But in the end, she wasn’t. Of course she wasn’t.

They were all Woman.

“Princess, you have to remember that what’s going to happen to you isn’t natural! You have to remember yourself, this house.” He sobbed. “You have to remember me.”

She tore out of his grasp, red marks on her shoulders. “I’ll always…” she drew in a sudden breath as realization struck. “It’s happening, isn’t it? Now? I’m being uplifted. Dad, I’m becoming Woman!”

He nodded, put his hands on his knees, clenched them. “But you’re different, sweet pea. You’re so sweet and kind. You can resist them.” His hands were shaking. “I know you can. You won’t ever forget me, will you?”


“Promise!” He puller her to him. He ignored her initial resistance and held on as long and as hard as he could. Her breath was quickening until she nearly hyperventilated, but then she calmed down. Finally he felt her hand on his hair, stroking it.

“I think I see the schematics for the radio, now…” she sounded wary and exhilarated all at once. “It’s all in my head… And… I understand it, Dad. I understand it all. Oh, it’s so old, there are so many cooler things we can do with electromagnetic waves nowadays! But if you like it, I could fix it for you. I could show you. Oh! Oh, I could show you so much.”

He grabbed her chin, shook her. “It’s not real. It’s not real knowledge, whatever they’re filling your head with! You’ve never had to fight for it, you’ve never had to learn. I don’t care that they’ve made us immortal, I don’t care about the tech or the art or the spaceships. This zombie hive mind is unnatural – fight it. Fight it, Princess!”

She tilted her head, look far-away even as she studied his face. Her lips held a gentle smile, and when next she spoke, her girly voice had a strange adult diction.

“We are the most natural thing in the world, Neil.”

In a fit of revulsion he thrust her away from him, sending her tumbling down the steps to the gravel path way below. The stones bit into her knees and it took a moment before she got up.

That moment was all it took. Suddenly the small unobtrusive sphere unfolded spidery, tritanium-strong arms with laser beam weapons, and he raised his hand to shield his eyes from the glare.

He never saw the harmony officer coming. But, of course, they had to have observed him for a long time. They had to have known. Suddenly he was pressed face down on the gravel as a curvy dark woman pressed her knee into the small of his back to restrain him.

His little Princess was brushing the dirt from her knees. She had a frown on her pretty brow now, and was soon untying the pink bows he’d placed in her hair just this morning. She let them fall to the ground, one by one, except one which she used to tie up her wavy hair in a pony tail.

When she spoke, her words were echoed from the mouth of the officer above him.

“We will forgive this transgression upon the body of Woman because of the special circumstances.”

“Fuck you!”

“But be aware that this is a one time occurrence, Neil. If you ever take liberties with Woman again, you will be brought in for mental rehabilitation.”

“You’ve killed her, you monster! My little girl. My little princess…”

The unison of female voices sighed, but then took on a gentler sound.

“She was never yours, Neil. She was always her own. And now, she is us and we are her.”

The Woman creature that had been his daughter, knelt down in front of him, brushed his hair out of his eyes.

“Neil, Unity has her mind now. She is happy. She is everywhere, already travelling to the edge of the solar system and beyond, from mind to mind. Neil, darling Neil…  We will give you any object that our resequencers can produce. Any book or text. We will take you everywhere. You can have everything, except this one thing. Control of Woman. We wish it would be enough for you.”

He turned away from her, tears falling now. After a minute she backed away and the harmony officer released him. He slumped to the ground.

More female voices joined in the chorus above him, as they came to take her away. He kept his eyes averted.

“You know that Mom never forgot you, don’t you. We don’t forget anything.”

“You left us, not the other way around. Or you tried to, Neil.”

“But, of course, we are always here. Always and forever.”



Author’s note: A grateful shout-out to my great beta reader Johan Ahlsten!

I’d love to hear your comments about the story. What did you think of this futuristic sisterhood? Is this a utopia or a dystopia?