“Did you get the expenses approved by the uni?” Persephone asked.

Demeter bit her lips to the side before she answered. She thought about her answer. “Yes,” she lied laconically.

“Good, good…” Persephone’s reply came after the lag.

Demeter paced up and down in her little apartment. She had indeed requested money for finishing her project, but they had turned her down. The subject matter was controversial enough, her professor told her. He had liked the project and gave her the go-ahead, but no cash was coming in. And the live streaming to Persephone would add up very quickly.

But it was imperative, dammit!

Demeter had seen how important it was for Persephone’s experience. For their bond, even. Sure, the audio messages were fine, but seeing is believing. Even with a plain old cybereye camera like Demeter’s, seeing the point of view was quite immersive. She started filing up and cataloguing the recordings and their texts, all with the couple’s consent, naturally. She felt too ashamed to go through their initial test, the night where Persephone lead and Demeter followed, but she did go through a bit of the first date. That was embarrassing as hell too, but in-between all the giggling and the shame, Demeter managed to get some notes down for their encounter. It was perhaps the most important bit of her entire paper, the first date. Sure, the first time of intimacy would be the juiciest, but the date was important as well. And, if Demeter might say, it had been a success.

Sure, there was awkwardness, which was to be expected. And Trip took his time to acclimate, but the poor bastard didn’t get a dry run or any of the hours of talking she and Persephone had already. The date smoothed out after a while, and ended so romantically!

Persephone sent a text. “I have so many things to tell you, Demeter, that I don’t know where to begin. But mostly, I wanna say thank you, for making me this gift.”

Demeter felt tears in her eyes. She wiped them off, sniffling as she took down notes and feelings about the date, now that she had them all fresh in her mind.

“Silly girl, getting all mushy about it,” she muttered, scolding herself. She finished her notes and replied to Persephone. “I’m glad you feel that way!” Smiley face, smiley face.

Then she sighed and pulled up her ebanking reports, trying to see how she could possibly make ends meet.

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“It’s time for your routine physical examination,” the AI told her. Persephone groaned and got herself ready, taking a quick shower. She was in no mood to get poked and prodded again.

Zoe came in and sat on the toilet, taking a wee. “You got called?” she drolled, her face resting on her hand.

“Yeah. Got no choice. Not that I had anything else planned for today.”

Zoe frowned. Persephone could see her through the foggy plastic. “But why? So they can see if you’re ready for breeding? We’re just cattle…” she sighed.

Persephone peeked her head out and pointed at the shampoo. “You know how it is.”

“Yeah…” Zoe said and passed it on to her, then resumed her rebellious, bored pose. The bathroom wasn’t that big.

Persephone stopped the nanowater, saving it, and applied shampoo. “One of the things drilled into the colonists’ minds all day and night is this: The AI is god.”

Zoe blew a raspberry. But she was sitting on the toilet, panties down, so Persephone wasn’t certain if it was a sound effect or a real one. Her little sister was such a piggy, sometimes.

“The AI keeps you alive. The AI will provide for you. The AI will make sure that no-matter-what, it’ll get a bunch of humans, generations later, down to the target exoplanet and help them start an offworld colony.”

“And what about us in-between?” Zoe complained and wiped herself clean.

“We make babies,” Persephone said, freezing in shock. Not from the water, which was rather cold, but from the sudden realization. “Fuck. All my friends have given birth already. I’m next,” she said, spelling out her doom.

“Can’t you cheat or something?” Zoe said from across the room. Of course she let the door open, one more reason for Persephone to be freezing.

“I wouldn’t dream of it, sis. It’s one thing to complain about our situation, and another to actively sabotage it. I’m not crazy.” Persephone rinsed herself off and toweled down.

Zoe threw her a t-shirt and panties.

Persephone put them on mechanically, as if in a trance. One foot after another, staring through the hull and straight towards empty space. “I’m twenty-three. That’s the optimal fertile age. Fuck. Fuck, Zoe!” she spat out. “Fuck!”

Zoe popped her lips. “I think that’s the literal problem. Fucking.” She held her pants up in the air.

“Fuck!” Persephone said and snatched the pair of pants, and hobbled all over, putting them on in a hurry.

She hurried off to the medical bay, dreading of what they’d tell her.

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