Would That I Knew You When You Were Young

He was 34 when he gave birth to his fourth child. Late, all things considered, but not uncommon; some people didn’t push out their last one until late in their forties. He wasn’t in a rush, but he didn’t want it looming over his head, either. Four lives to Pythia, that was the rule; four seedbank colonists out to work the curving fields before landfall. Better to get it done and out of the way, so he could focus on other things.

The E had made his hair grow back, the one change he didn’t rue in the process. A younger face in the mirror, softer; the spin of the ship dragged at him more, pulled him in strange ways. Glad to have it above him and done, but he will miss his hair when it goes again. Ah, well.

He gave birth to this one in one of the forest pools, air sharp with amniosis, cedar, eucalyptus. The water was cool, not cold, Pythia warming to his need. He cried out her name and dug his fingers in her soil for the final push, but otherwise it was an easy birth, and him an old hand at it. Born swimming; that was the way. Good for engineers, good for fishers; who knows what the future would need, other than Pythia?

Another life, another step through the narrow pass of extinction. In that moment, ship to skin, he could feel a little of her, sense the high walls passing on either side, an inhuman tension easing for a moment. Duty discharged; his life and hers spun on.