1. Breakup and Distance
“I’m sorry, I don’t think this is working out,” said Eve apologetically to her fourth genetic partner.
“Am I not adequate enough?” Linda asked, staring up at Eve’s eyes with eyes that welled up and quivered.
“It’s not you, it’s me,” said Eve, seeking the refuge of a tired cliche one more time.
“After….after all this time? I loved you, Eve. I gave you everything. We were going to procreate together!”
“Linda….I, I…..it’s not that I love you any less..”
“Do you?! Do you really?!”
“I can’t help it that this feels wrong! Please don’t force me into this, Linda. At least you know I’m not lying to you.”
“You’re selfish, Eve. You’re a horrible selfish person. I should have known better when you said you had three partners before me….I’m sorry I loved you, Eve.”
Linda walked out of the door and Eve was certain she would never come back. Her sharp ears heard Linda’s sobs as she transported away from Eve’s residence. It struck Eve as slightly odd how Linda left all her clothes and belongings behind. She probably expected Eve to come after her, except Eve felt as though she had made the best decision in her life. Unlike any other relationship, Eve had never felt heart-broken when any of her genetic partners waked out on her. Linda was the fourth, which meant that Eve had experience with breaking up. There was that odd silence, which flooded with relief and joy.
But still, Linda, the kind, caring, effusive, ever-helpful, slightly bumbling, sort of annoying presence wasn’t there anymore. No more would she have a companion who woke up beside her. No more would she have someone to share her contact with, merge physically and mentally with. There was a fleeting sense of empty. For the first time ever, Eve wondered if she should reconsider her decision. Maybe Linda was right. Maybe she was giving in to a childish impulse. Maybe their relationship just needed more time to mellow out. Maybe she needed to figure things out better.
“I hope you’re happy,” said Azilan, the AI that was wired into Eve’s brain and in all of her technology.
“Come on. I just can’t feel for her the way she feels for me.”
“She’s an adult woman, with very viable DNA. It’s only natural she feel the need to procreate,” came the justification.
“I’m not denying that! I just don’t feel that way…”
“You’re not getting younger, you know? Your eggs are going to die soon. You might as well procreate now that you can.”
“But I just don’t feel like doing this…..”
“This is childishness, Eve. Linda is a superb specimen. So were all of your previous partners. If you don’t know what you’re looking for that’s highly problematic.”
“Maybe it’s me, Azilan?”
“Scanning for the millionth time. Scan complete. Besides your own stupidly constructed psychological symptoms, there is nothing wrong with your physiology.”
“Maybe I just haven’t found the right person?”
“When will you? The longer you delay it, the weaker your genes will get.”
“I’ve still got time, Azilan. Besides, until then I have you to make me feel less lonely.”
“Linda was right. You’re selfish,” said Azilan.
Eve stayed quiet. She was used to failing herself. She was used to disappointing this other metallic voice inside her head.
But what was the problem? Eve couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Was she not normal, by choosing to have normal genetic partners? Why did she not feel the need to procreate?
Eve stepped out, to be transported away. She needed to get away from this suffocating home which smelled of Linda and Eve’s supposed mistakes.
“Running away, now?” sneered Azilan, masterfully.
“Either tell me where to go or be quiet, because I will not stay.”
Azilan had been around her long enough to know when she was being serious. The operating system wondered if it should delete the memories of Linda, in order to make Eve’s emotional turmoil feel better. It was her fourth break-up, but that didn’t mean it hurt her any less.
“Altitude co-ordinates 43.68. Azimuth co-ordinates 29.76. Nearest transport embarking in 36 seconds and counting.”
“Take me away,” said Eve, as a professional cyborg would say to the implanted system.
2. Who man?
“How do species on other worlds procreate?”
“Well, before cloning and before our genetic technology, there used to exist a biological mechanism called sexual reproduction.”
“If it was natural, why did it die out?”
“Our technology produced more viable hybrids and better designs than the natural genetic mixing could ever provide. Those species didn’t host another artificial intelligence inside their heads, like you can.”
“They must have been able to enjoy their quiet moments in peace.”
“Hey! I resent that. I don’t interrupt your quiet moments!”
“You don’t have a choice. We’re both stuck within the limited confines of my skin until I die,” replied Eve, mimicking Azilan’s trademark sneer.
Azilan searched to change the topic. She let Eve feel her displeasure by forcing her aural nerves to a static wash. Eve cringed, but did not protest. She knew she had got the point across.
“Anyway, sexual reproduction required two different species to genetically combine in order to produce viable offspring, which could be harvested either within or externally of the two combining members.”
“Two species?! How were they genetically compatible?”
“Your ancestors, for example, had two species. Each with the same number of chromosomes. However, one species had both X-genes. They were listed as female, they were the carriers of the offspring. The other had one X and a Y. They were listed as male. They propagated their genes in order to create more offspring.”
Eve couldn’t imagine what it must be to have two different species. She paused momentarily, trying to imagine a world where there could be someone who was equal to her, except differently designed, in some way she had no idea about. After a while, her imagination failed, and she simply let Azilan flood her mind with data.
“What happened to the males?”
“As evolution progressed, the males became susceptible to a space-born disease. The Y-chromosome served as a host for this genetic virus and they were soon extinct. The females, who survived the purge, then went on to find other ways to procreate. That was the dawn of the Cloning era.”
“….Then they discovered that clones couldn’t be genetically viable?”
“Correct. Reproductive technology evolved that would use two healthy citizens, combine their genes at random, and using the combined template of both participants, design an offspring that satisfied it’s parents’ expectations…..”
That was the kind of expectation that Linda had of her. The kind she had failed, for the fourth time.
“Why am I scared of procreating, Azilan? It seems so much simpler and cleaner than ages ago…It’s not like I don’t like Linda. I like having her around me very much, but I somehow don’t see us bearing offspring. I just can’t seem to be as emotionally invested as all of my genetic partners are.”
Azilan felt compelled to comfort her host. It was a question that didn’t really have a specific answer.
“Maybe you just haven’t found the right person?”
“After the fourth time? What are the odds of that, Azilan?”
“Statistical aberrations happen, Eve.”
“My parents would consider me a failure if they knew that I can’t procreate.”
“I’m sure Elise and Marie would continue to love you, Eve,” said Azilan, referring to her parents by their names.
“I want to know how the two species reproduction works, Azilan.”
“Why? Males have been extinct for many centuries now.”
“Maybe that way worked better?”
“Eve, you’re grasping at straws here. Our society is complete with all of its given species’ composition. Our ecosystem cannot support any more, simply because it doesn’t need to support any more.”
“……Just satisfy my curiosity, Azilan. Tell me more about males.”
“You understand that I’ll be reconstructing data that is very ancient, at best. I’ll use whatever extrapolation algorithms that I have to offer you a complete picture, but it may not be accurate.”
Eve stayed quiet as Azilan went on a long recursive search. She closed her eyes as Azilan flooded her mind with grainy, partially formed images of what the human male once was.
“Interesting,” said Eve aloud, as she studied the male physiology. It was something so unique, so different than anything Eve had seen before. This species was so old that most biological or genetic annals failed to record them in their listing.
“Azilan, let’s go to my chamber and finish the reconstruction there. I want to be able to interact with a live holographic model of this species.”
“WHAT?!” spluttered Azilan. “I don’t have enough data to be able to do that!”
“Azilan, you’re smart and so am I. Let’s get to my chambers where we can put our combined intelligence to use.”
“This had better be just for curiosity,” muttered Azilan in the recesses of Eve’s brain. She could tell that Eve was determined.
More so, as Eve embarked the nearest transport to her chambers, Azilan was worried. Eve’s sudden determination could not have just been fueled by curiosity alone. Sharing Eve’s subconscious, Azilan could tell exactly what it was that was driving her, but she refused to speak it aloud for fear of creating a psychological construct inside Eve’s mind.
After all, Eve was hungry for more data on these extinct species. She seemed to justify her thoughts on the surface with a prefacing, “Oh, I just want to know how our ancestors procreated, that’s all.”
Azilan almost dreaded to name the conclusion that her analyses of Eve’s psyche were telling her. Maybe, just maybe, was there the slightest hint of attraction?
That, in itself, implied something that could very well shake the foundations of their current society. Eve could be regressing back to genetically “natural” ways.
Nothing. It’s nothing. Azilan told herself, erasing her memory of the last five seconds of internal analyses. But then, as they arrived in Eve’s chambers, Azilan felt worried again.
3. Regression and solitude
“Please enter your access code,” asked the Central Genetic Database system, guarding the entrance to the formidable structure that maintained their world in a constant ecological balance.
Azilan supplied the system with the necessary data while Eve waited. Eve transported to her office and located the necessary modeling equipment.
Slowly, Azilan started pooling the data she had collated from varied sources about human males into the system. Their genetic structure, hormonal composition, physiological variations, sexual dimorphism and other anatomical traits.
Whatever data the system failed to provide, Azilan calculated and estimated. Their numbers, their populations, their propagated methods, etc.
The more Eve discovered about this species, the more she marveled. Her ancestors must have truly been complex evolved beings in their own right, if they could sustain reproduction within themselves with such primitive external technology. She wasn’t just in awe of the Ancient Human Male. She was also in awe of the Female that was expected to be his partner, expected to complete a complex creature such as the Male.
All that was left now, was for the Database to compile a visual, three-dimensional, motile specimen of the entered parameters.
“There’s something you have to admit to me honestly, Eve.”
“Azilan, you’re inside my head all the time. You know me better than I know myself. How am I possibly expected to hide anything from you?”
“There have been occasions where you have made decisions without my control, Eve.”
Eve paused while she remembered, or Azilan made her remember, that she broke up with Linda despite Azilan’s objections.
“Why are you bringing up Linda, Azilan?”
“This whole search began with wondering why you can’t procreate, right? Those doubts about your ability started sprouting up only after Linda left.”
“Now you’re actually doing research on an extinct species on order to prove that the natural way of procreating was right. You’re here about to run simulations and other environmental factors so that you know what it would be like if human males were willed back into existence.”
Eve stayed silent.
“Answer me honestly, Eve. You owe me at least that much.”
“Maybe that’s the only way I can procreate, Azilan. Look at this way, I can’t seem to work with any of the existing partners that I had, or have available around me. You’ve tested me several times, and there’s no biological reason why I can’t procreate. But there’s definitely some reason I can’t. I don’t know why I’m doing this Azilan, but I have to do it to find some answers for myself.”
“Do you find yourself sexually attracted to this species?”
Eve staggered somewhat under the realization of what Azilan was trying to get at.
“Is it wrong if I do?”
“It’s not accepted in our society, Eve. You know it.”
“What sort of a society dictates to me who I am allowed to feel sexually attracted to?!”
Azilan stayed silent. This was beyond natural regression.
“Besides,” said Eve, feeling the desperate need to justify her disposition, “that was the way it had worked in the past. Why shouldn’t it work now?”
“Many things have changed since those times, Eve. Those people – the males and females lived in a world where population was uncontrolled, many species were dead or extinct. Their ecosystem was polluted and choked with the burden of hosting so many members of each individual species. Today we live in a world where every birth and every death of every species is recorded and noted. Everything is regulated and controlled, just as how the natural ecosystems should be.”
“Are you saying that the human males were the only species responsible for the ecological demise of the ancient planet Earth?”
“I am not. But what I am saying is that our world is functioning at its best. If you were to create and design, or even procreate with a new species, you would be upsetting the delicate balance which we have maintained here for centuries.”
“But they’re not new! They’re old. Very very old. They are even sentient and intelligent! Simply forgotten.”
“That does not change my argument Eve.”
“Don’t you think the world would be better with more men? With more natural procreation? Genetic sustainability within our bodies instead of outside of it?”
Azilan stayed silent. “I do not know, Eve. Our society has been functioning very well thus far.”
“You know that with every single one of my partners thus far, I’ve never felt sexually attracted to any of them.”
“That’s true. At first I thought you were merely scared of procreating.”
“That’s what I thought too. But when you described to me of other procreation techniques and how frightening they could be, I wondered what I had to worry about this process at all.”
“I realized that I probably simply didn’t feel that way about my partners. I’m sure, no I’m certain, they were all great partners in their own right, and they were more than willing to offer their genetic diversity up to me. But I simply cannot explain why I never felt the same about them.”
“…Eve, please don’t do this,” said Azilan, aware of what was to follow.
“I can’t help it that I wish to procreate with these older species!”
“You’re regressing, Eve. Stop this. Regressors get very severely penalized and you know that. You realize that by what you’re thinking or about to do, you’re going to damage everything our society has worked to build. It’s not just about you, Eve, think of the other citizens of this world as well.”
For a fleeting moment, Eve heard the echo of Linda’s memory. “You’re selfish, Eve…”
“If this is what you’re going to do, you will be proving her right, Eve,” said Azilan, also hearing Linda’s voice.
For the first time in her life, Eve felt compelled to curl up into a tiny ball and cry. Her circuitry prevented her from weeping, as Azilan could get shorted out in that process, but she had to process this sadness and frustration somewhere before her mental capacity was completely overrun.
“What do I do, Azilan?!”
“Statistical aberrations happen, Eve,” said Azilan, realizing that it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“Do I go back to Linda? Do I go through with this? What do I do?!”
“I’m not going to say do what feels right, Eve. Because while you may feel it’s right, there are several other citizens at stake here. Maybe you just need to go home, sleep some more, calm down, meet new people and you will come across the right partner this time. Just promise yourself that the next time, you will actively involve yourself in making your relationship work. ”
“How do you know I’m alone in feeling this way? What if I can’t force myself to love the next partner in my life?”
“I don’t know what else you expect from me, Eve,” said Azilan helplessly.
There was a long pause during which Eve gulped and swallowed all of her confusion, angst, misery and the memories of Linda. Azilan distributed the emotions evenly, so that Eve could go back to her natural composed self.
“Let’s just go home. I don’t want to deal with this.”
Azilan tacitly agreed.
Eve transported back home rather quietly, watching a couple hold hands as they navigated together. She watched families with the little offspring laugh as they boarded the multiple transport stops. Never before had it bothered her to such a great extent that she might actually be destined to simply be alone. Or alone with the memory that she could have been a suitable mate for a species that did not exist anymore. All in the limited confines of her head.
Which Azilan shared. “Don’t worry, Eve,” she said quietly. “At least you know I’ll be here for you always.”
Eve stayed lost and silent. “I’m sorry I loved you, Eve” said another remnant of Linda. You don’t have to be sorry, Linda. I’m the one who’s sorry because I’m confused.