By the last quarter of the twenty-first century CE, astronomers on Earth will have identified five or six extrasolar planets that give every evidence of being habitable by humans and other terrestrial life, if at vastly inconvenient distances given no way around or through the lightspeed barrier has been discovered. Nevertheless, nations and supranational entities will have resolved to send colonizing missions to these new worlds.
The third such mission departs Earth orbit in 2100 CE, sponsored by the European Union and the states of Israel and Filastīn. Its goal is an apparently Earth-like planet that has been given the name Rahab, circling the star Melek.
The Euro-Israeli-Palestinian mission itself consists of a single vessel called Uriel. Uriel the starship will be guided and managed on its centuries’-long (objective) voyage by a cybernetic Artificial Intelligence also called Uriel, which cannot, in practice, be distinguished from the vessel itself. Aboard Uriel are no organic creatures at all: it is a seedship, its cargo a comprehensive archive of flash-frozen gametes—human, animal, and vegetable—and a cybernetic library of human knowledge so vast no woman or man could ever find the end of it.
Arriving in the Melek system, Uriel scouts and surveys Rahab and its neighborhood. The planet Rahab, it turns out, is a lifeless waterworld, entirely covered by shallow seas with the exception of one small landmass, a seismically overactive island of volcanic origin. This island—later to be named Away—is far from ideal for human settlement: too small and, due to frequent, often massive, quakes, too hazardous.
After consideration, Uriel resolves the planet needs more land to be suitable for colonization. The AI manufactures a squadron of semi-autonomous robot drones. Deployed to the largest of Rahab’s four moons, Beliyal, the drones set to mining, sapping, and placing precisely shaped explosives. Meanwhile, Uriel seeds the planet below with genegineered marine plant and animal life intended to establish the basis of an ecology suitable for colonization.
When the drones on Beliyal complete their work, Uriel retreats to a safer orbit and initiates the moon’s destruction. Titanic fragments of Beliyal, too huge to burn away as they fall through the atmosphere, plunge from orbit into Rahab’s shallow ocean. Steam shrouds the globe, then smoke and ash as the assaults on the planetary crust disturb faults and hot spots under and near Away, causing massive, sustained vulcanism. With serene cybernetic satisfaction, Uriel observes the four moon-birthed archipelagos newly punctuating Rahab’s seas, the greater expanse of Away—thrust up higher and broader from the ocean floor—and the growing chain of new volcanic islands off its west coast.
As the environmental disturbance subsides, Uriel nudges Rahab’s evolution along by seeding it with more life. Genegineered corals build complex reefs around the tropical moon archipelagos. Algae and lichens create soil on the rocky surfaces of all the islands. Eventually, Uriel is able to introduce more complex plant life and the first few invertebrate animal species, each in its own niche, as the AI establishes interlocking ecologies, marine and terrestrial food chains, across the globe. At the same time, Uriel’s drones are mining the system’s asteroid belt for raw materials to construct a complex network of communications satellites in orbit around Rahab and a space elevator to ease transport to and from the planet’s surface.
Once the elevator is complete and dropped to Rahab’s surface—its orbital counterweight the seedship Uriel itself, its terrestrial anchor an equatorial island of one of the new archipelagos—Uriel sends down new drones equipped to work on land, sea, and in the air. They establish agriculture on those islands suitable and construct the beginnings of a city on the large island nearest the elevator’s footing, which will become known as Haven. In the city, they build facilities for combining mammalian sperm and ova, then gestating the resultant embryos. First born of these nurseries are a second form of remote, semi-autonomous tools of the AI: anthropomorphic organic robots built on a cybernetic brain and nervous system, called Nurturers.
Terrestrial and aerial invertebrates, and non-mammalian vertebrates including amphibians, reptiles, birds, had already been established around the world. Now, under the Nurturers’ care, marine mammals are conceived, gestated, and released into Rahab’s waters. Non-domestic land mammals are distributed around the planet in the environments where they will best prosper. Finally, the Nurturers and the AI’s drones begin gestating stocks of domestic mammals and of humans. Cattle, sheep, swine, etc, are distributed to prepared agricultural zones, while companion animals and children are reared and educated by the Nurturers in Haven-city.
By the end of the fourth decade after the first baby’s decanting, human civilization has spread over most of Rahab—there are thriving settlements in all four moon archipelagos. Away will always be settled thinly, on account of its tectonic instability and vulcanism, but it has major mineral wealth and its climate is better suited to traditional European food crops and grazing animals than the tropical archipelagos, so it is mined and farmed by a small permanent population and migrant crews—eventually, the need for workers on Away will lead to establishing a global-service program whereby young people (18 – 21) are required to work for the government as and where assigned.
Over the span of colony year (YC) 50-51, Uriel’s Nurturers gradually withdraw from contact with the men and women they reared and, in effect, die. Parts of the great nursery complex in Haven are repurposed as factories, a redundant duplicate of the AI’s vast library, and a hospital, while the central structure is rebuilt as the Gratitude, a monument dedicated to the Nurturers, Uriel, and the homeworld.
Life goes on, population increases, Rahab prospers. To supplement the mineral resources of Away, mining stations are established in space, primarily on Rahab’s three moons and in the asteroid belt between the orbits of the gas giants Leviyatan and Behemot. In YC 75, Uriel determines humanity’s foothold on Rahab is secure and its own purpose fulfilled. It announces to the world that it will now begin to withdraw from active supervision of or interference with the colony as it prepares to surrender its autonomy. By YC 100, while Uriel’s library remains—enhanced by the AI’s records of its voyage from Earth and transformation of Rahab—accessible to anyone who wishes, the AI itself is no more.
Twenty-three years later, a slow, inexplicable crisis that Uriel could not have guided the colony through threatened to extinguish all mammalian life on Rahab. A transmissible—indeed, drastically contagious—rogue gene of untraceable origin appeared within the mammalian gene pools. Bonding to the X-chromosome, it made female embryos unviable, resulting in miscarriage during the first trimester. Women workers in the space elevator’s counterweight were the first to be infected, but the plague (soon to be known as Eve’s judgment) passed quickly into the general population, human and other mammal, of Haven, the other islands in the archipelago, and the the rest of the world. The last girl born on Rahab was one Derdriu, of Westwind in the Windwards. While the sudden rash of spontaneous miscarriages radiating out from the Haven was noted with concern, it was when domestic mammals began producing only male offspring that the threat began to be clear. The Eve’s judgment gene was quickly identified, but no mammal on the planet could be found that did not already carry it. Over the next thirty years, geneticists attempted to isolate and remove the gene, but every attempt failed.
Simultaneously, other efforts were underway to preserve the human species (if not other mammals) on Rahab. The artifical wombs (colloquially known as bottles) used to gestate the first generation were recreated. The first few bottle-born babies were either clones or conceived in vitro using donated ova and sperm, but the former method was considered unsatisfactory and the latter depended on an exhaustible resource. A method of merging the genetic material of two sperm cells within a denucleated somatic stem cell was developed—XX zygotes thus created were unviable, but XY embryos developed normally.
Another team developed a means of producing animal flesh (beef, mutton, pork) industrially, in the vats or tanks of so-called meat factories, and no real effort was made to preserve other mammalian species in the same way as men.
The last boy born to a woman was Anwar, of a coffee plantation in the mountains of Away, in YC 171 (or EJ 48, in the count soon to be made official, its basis year the year the Eve’s judgment gene became manifest). For decades before Anwar’s birth, most baby boys were already the offspring of two fathers, gestated in and decanted from bottles in the nursery complexes established in every archipelago except Away. Every man was required to submit annual sperm samples to the Ministry of Birth’s archive from age fifteen to twenty-five. Derdriu died in 55 EJ in a sailing accident. The last woman in the world, Jannicke, lived to the incredible age of one hundred nineteen (by which time she had been demented and under constant care for thirty years) in EJ 92, at Olives-town on Away.
Up until Jannicke’s death and for nearly a century after, attempts to destroy the Eve’s judgment gene continued; since the X chromosome remained within the gene pool, it was felt that eventually an attempt would succeed and women could be reintroduced. Because of this possibility, Parliament and the Ministry of Births resisted occasional pressure to tamper with the gene pool and/or the hormonal regimen in place during artifical gestation to produce a higher percentage of naturally homosexual men, whose lives in a necessarily homosocial culture would be more fulfilling. The great majority of men, therefore, would rarely, if ever, feel real physical passion for another person, although the same men would have sex with other men since there was no other option and would form affectional bonds that often led to marriage (most often in pairs, though multiple marriages were neither uncommon nor stigmatized); a very small minority remained celibate, a considerably larger minority remained for all practical purposes single without entirely turning away from sex, and there was no stigma against raising a child or children without a partner (the second father would be chosen from the archive at random by Ministry of Births computers and kept anonymous).
In popular culture, however, truly homosexual men and their desire for each other were valorized, presented as the norm.