The Seeds of New Earth (The Silent Earth, Book 2)

By: Mark R. Healy

“Two years?” I said. “You started this process early, then.”

She walked along the line of a-wombs, scrutinising each one in turn. “Yes. There was a time when I considered going ahead with thawing and implantation, but then realised I wasn’t ready. I was getting ahead of myself. In the end I got cold feet and shelved the idea. I hadn’t told you about it before because… well, I didn’t think you’d react well to it.”

I grunted, infuriated. “You got that right.”

“Well, don’t get all worked up over it. I had every right to do what I did.”

“The bioengineering was irresponsible, Arsha. If this doesn’t turn out the way you hope, you’ve wasted half of the samples.”

“Let’s wait for the results before we jump to conclusions, huh, Brant?” She gave me a disdainful look as she stalked past. “Now let’s get to work.”

“Wait a minute. Before we rush into this, can we go over the procedure so there’s no confusion? I want both of us to be clear about what we’re doing. It’s been a long time.”

“Yeah, okay. By the end of today we want the embryos inserted into the a-wombs. That’s our goal. Hopefully in the coming days they implant and begin growing as they would in a natural pregnancy. The first step is to activate the a-wombs, get them running again. At the moment their interiors are sterile and empty, so we have to initiate the secretion of the endometrium – the sticky lining of the womb. That will allow the embryos to implant.”

“Right, then we blend the amniotic fluid and pump that into the a-womb membranes, ready for secretion.”

“Correct. Following that, we just need to place the frozen embryos into their thawing tubes, leave them some time to warm up, and then insert them into the a-wombs.”

“And that’s it for today?”

“That should do it, yeah. Easy, huh?”

I rolled my eyes and pointed up at the bank of LEDs. “We need to keep an eye on the juice, make sure these lights don’t drain our reserves.”

“We’re still getting a good charge through to the cell bank from the roof. We can run it for eight or ten hours a day, no problem.”

She tilted the touch panel that was attached to the first a-womb and began adjusting parameters with her fingertips.

“Let’s get these fired up,” she said.

I followed her lead and began stepping through the same procedure on the a-womb next to her, labelled “Two.” The tech still looked in great condition – unlike the rest of the world outside, there was no dust or sunlight filtering through to the inner lab, and the plastic bezels around the screens looked as though they’d just rolled off the factory floor. The screens themselves were unmarked and responsive to the slightest touch of the finger. It almost felt like a little slice of the old world had been transplanted into this new one.

One by one we went down the line, and between the two of us we soon had the first six a-wombs running through their initiation procedures. There was no visible change occurring in those translucent bladders, but at a microscopic level, tiny sensors were testing skin integrity, temperature, hormone levels and a number of other parameters within the microcosms of the a-wombs.

“Shit,” Arsha said suddenly. “The touch panel on six just died.” She tapped her fingertip on it repeatedly with no success.

“Try a reboot,” I said.

“Yeah.” She pressed a button on the underside of the display and held it there for a few moments as I moved over to have a look. The touch panel began to glow softly again as it re-initiated, but then it winked out again.

“Nope,” I said. “That’s toast.”

“Dammit,” Arsha muttered. “This gear is supposed to be state-of-the-art. Nothing but premium components.”

“Well, it has been decades. Even top of the line stuff isn’t one hundred percent.”

“Yeah.” Unable to keep the disappointment out of her voice, she reached across to the next a-womb along the line and began the boot sequence. “Let’s hope this one works.”

I counted along the line of active units. “You’re adamant about implanting six, aren’t you,” I said, resigned.

“Yeah, I am.”

“Well, I’m only doing two,” I said firmly. “Unengineered.”

She shrugged. “Then I’ll do four of the engineered ones.”

I shook my head slowly. “I can’t help you when raising these children becomes too difficult, Arsha. If it becomes too much work for you, you’re going to have to come up with some answers. I don’t want to sound harsh, but that’s the reality. I think you’re reaching too far.”

She ceased her fiddling with the a-womb and looked at me. “I know what I’m doing, Brant. Don’t you think I’ve assessed this and planned it all out? I’ve considered all the options pretty damn thoroughly, and this is what I believe to be our best chance. I’m sorry if that doesn’t coincide with what you think is reasonable. We’re just going to have to differ on this.” Returning her attention to the touch panel, she said, “Why don’t you get started on the amniotic solution?”

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