THE BIRTH OF AMARA
More than 950 years earlier, the survival of the Senoobian race had hung on the success of three starships that carried birthing units with embryos. The Syzilian and the Volarion were dispatched to found a colony on Karyntis where it was hoped the Senoobian race might eventually flourish again. The Syzilian had a small unit with embryos to birth twelve infants in vitro; the Volarion’s birthing unit carried 60 embryos. Sadly, with the loss of both ships, the embryos on both starships perished along with both crews―except for Bayn, Darz and Jeliko. The third ship, the Langorion, was dispatched to Nanzema but its fate was unknown.
These grievous losses were the death knell for their race―without children, there would be no future. Such terrible losses haunted the three of them and left them distraught on a personal level because they would never know the joys of having children.
In the spring of 1962, however, Bayn had an epiphany. While Darz and he were taking a few ounces of gold to their buyer in Nazca, they noticed a family with two children. The family was obviously poor, but the parents and their children chattered and laughed, seeming genuinely happy.
That evening after sharing their afternoon meal, all three of them sat down outside their home as the sun began to set. Noticing that Bayn seemed distracted, as if he were troubled by some problem, Darz said to him, “You haven’t had much to say today. Is something bothering you?”
Bayn sighed heavily. “It’s just that I’ve been thinking about our situation again,” he said.
His two comrades gave each other an ominous look and rolled their eyes.
“We were sent here to found a colony but we failed at that.” He paused, looking at each of them solemnly before continuing. “But I have an idea.” He hesitated, as if he were unsure how to proceed. “Look, the odds are we’re the only surviving members of our race. Once we die, our race is extinct.”
“Really!” grumbled Darz, irritated at being reminded of their predicament.
Bayn assumed an avuncular tone. “Look, we need to have children,” he declared. “Think what it would mean to have a child or two around! All we need is a healthy male and female and, well, here you are. It may be too late now but I think you two should take each other as mates and give it a try. Why not?”
Neither Darz nor Jeliko wanted to be the first to respond to such a proposition so they looked at each other nervously with blank expressions. Having children was a subject they had always avoided and, even though they were in their later years, parental feelings they had never before acknowledged were awakened, recalling the sense of purpose they had lost when the Syzilian was destroyed.
Bayn fixed his gaze on Jeliko. “Every member of our crew, including ourselves, longed to have children. And everyone left behind on Senoobis wanted to have children. We all desperately wanted families and children but were denied them by the destruction of Senoobis, the Volarion, and the Syzilian.”
Jeliko responded with raised eyebrows. “Excuse me, but I’m getting a little muddled here. What exactly are you getting at?”
“I know that you and Darz have always had special feelings for each other. I’m just saying that maybe you two have more of a chance to have children than you realize.”
Darz looked at Jeliko nervously. “Yes, you’re right, of course. I’ve always loved Jeliko but we’ve never considered mating.”
“And I’ve always loved Darz,” she managed, glancing sheepishly at him. “Look, I admit that in a way I think of us as mates or,” she paused as if to choose her words carefully, “maybe it’s more like brother-sister feelings but, as for children, I wouldn’t know where to begin. We have no birthing equipment and, even if we did, given my age and 720 years in a sleep module, whatever eggs I might have are probably no longer fertile.”
“I’m sure you could say the same about my sperm,” Darz stammered uncomfortably.
“Besides that, we don’t have a DNA scanner or any of the other equipment we would need!” Jeliko declared brusquely.
“Wait! I didn’t mean in vitro,” Bayn interrupted. “I know it’s a long shot but I was thinking of the old way, natural birth.”
Jeliko’s mouth dropped open. “You mean sexual! Are you mad? Not one Senoobian female had a natural birth in the 500 years before the launch of the Karyntis Mission. It’s a painful and risky business.”
Bayn looked at both of them apologetically. “I know and that’s what has been bothering me. Look, I’m no longer your superior officer and it was presumptuous of me to bring up such a sensitive subject. It would be your prerogative alone to act on it. It’s a shame we weren’t emotionally able to act on this 50 years ago. We—I mean you—should at least try to have a child before it is too late for sure. It’s time you thought about yourselves on a personal level. Even if you can’t have children, why not be a real family.”
Jeliko and Darz looked at each other shyly. Darz blushed. They both felt self-conscious, even a little embarrassed. They had never dared to think of each other in a sexual way but now they were forced to acknowledge feelings that, although long suppressed, now allowed them to see each other in that way. Bayn continued. “It would be a great risk to you, Jeliko, and by the Mark of Dolahktus I would rather die myself than lose you in natural childbirth. Of course, Darz and I would be there to assist you.”
Jeliko was not reassured. She scowled at Darz. “Don’t you think you and I should discuss this?”
Darz nodded, “Yes, of course,” but his voice was unsteady.
Gathering steam, she turned to Bayn, “Look here. This sounds wonderful but, never mind my age, do we really want to have a child and then leave it here to fend for itself after we’re dead? Wouldn’t it be selfish on our part to have a child then?” She paused to let the impact of the question sink in.
Darz said, “Bayn, she has a point. Even if we were able to have a child, she couldn’t have a mate when she growns up. Humans aren’t an option.”
Bayn said, “You’re right but we don’t know how much longer we’ll live and I believe it would be worthwhile to have a child who can know what it’s like to live as a Senoobian. Besides the pleasure it would give us, we have to pass on the disks to someone who can look after them.”
Darz was skeptical. “Well, maybe so, but sometimes I think we should just destroy them so they don’t fall into the wrong human hands. What good will they be after we’re dead?”
Bayn was not dissuaded in the least. “I believe the disks may be valuable to some race in the future. Besides, I’d like to know that what happened to Senoobis and us won’t be forgotten. And by the way, the files in the disk library on fertility, natural conception and natural birthing—you should review them before you two decide what to do.”
Darz and Jeliko finally agreed to become mates and give it a try. In 1965, after a long and difficult labor when Jeliko almost died, a baby girl they named Amara was born. “By the Mark of Dolahktus,” Jeliko declared when the painful delivery was over, “No wonder our females gave up natural birth!”
Bayn proudly assumed the role of uncle and the three Senoobians became among the most protective parents on the planet. Mara had sparkling green eyes and thick bushy black hair. Her nose was narrow and pointed like Jeliko’s and she could wiggle her ears; her features were those of a pixie. She was mischievous, a little imp, but her smile was adorable and even the humans who saw her were captivated by her adolescent beauty.
She quickly learned to talk and by the age of ten there was no end to her questions. Her curiosity was boundless so, using the disks, she learned mathematics, astronomy, physics and the history of Senoobis. She was so full of energy that she mastered the grace and agility of the Proxima—the communal dance forms that were at the same time physical, artistic and social expressions—and the martial arts. She took it all to heart and mastered it all.
She came to love hats and always wore one. By the time she was 15, she made them herself. But the hats she dreamed up were bizarre—they first surprised and then amused not only her parents but any hapless human she met. She grew to be tall and wiry like Darz.
At last the three Senoobians experienced the joys and frustrations of parenting. Amara was headstrong, always a challenge and sometimes a mystery to parents who had no experience with children. She often made them laugh. Sometimes she made them swear. They were often stumped about what to do with her but no matter what she did, they adored her. It was the happiest time of their lives.
 Dolahktus was a mythological figure who placed an occultic mark above the doors of those he resented to put a curse upon them. His name was often invoked when nothing seemed to go right.