“I’m sorry, but the answer is no,” Captain Diana Cai watched Ambassador Karr on her viewscreen as his face darkened. The Ambassador bit his tongue inside his mouth until he tasted blood. Captain Cai allowed him his moment. It was harsh news she had to deliver. “Our team has found traces of the Contagion in your soil.”

Ambassador Karr regarded the Captains teardrop stomach, covered only by a sheer cloth that allowed him to see the erotic and powerful exposure of her fertility. “Captain Cai, our cleaning efforts have been intense. Our scientists have found no active traces of the Contagion, and those minor elements still left are broken down. We are assured that, with proper precautions, the children would have a very low risk of infection.”

Captain Cai put her hand on her pregnant stomach, indicating she wished him to be silent. The Ambassador held his breath.

“Ambassador, our highest priority is the welfare of the children. We cannot deliver life to a world where there is any possibility of contamination. I have no doubt that your people deserve the children. I was guided on a virtual tour of the school that you built for the twelve we hoped to give you and I was very impressed by the design, all that light. . .”

Captain Cai looked around her command center, where sixteen women were operating the ship at various stations, all of them at different stages of their pregnancy. Seven years ago, the Bar’ak had spread the Contagion to every human world, rendering nearly everyone sterile. The only fertile humans were those members of the Fleet on space missions. After the infection the Fleet was split, the men sent to retaliate against the Bar’ak aggression, and the women charged with the task of repopulation. The situation was worse than the government let on. “Our children can only be released to colonies with enough security to keep them safe. Contamination levels are part of that security.”

The Ambassador ran a hand through his silver hair. “Captain, my people will double their efforts to clean our soil. We will have the remnants of the contagion removed in a matter of months.”

“Ambassador, I regret to inform you that we will not be returning for thirty seven years.”

“Thirty seven years?” The Ambassadors calm face had broken, and angry wrinkles, like a thousand scars, descended on his face. “Captain, that is outrageous, most of us are already aged past our prime. A delay of that long could kill our colony!”

The Captain put a hand on her stomach and the Ambassador gulped.

“Ambassador, I remind you that it is treason to raise your voice to a woman with child.”

The Ambassador knelt, the screen following him as he crossed his hands over his chest and closed his eyes. “Captain, Mother, forgive me, Life Giver, I pray to you. Please, spare us, give us one child, just one, to teach and love and hold. Please mother, mercy on us. The child you give us will be our most beloved creature, its feet will never touch soil. Please mother, I beg you.”

“I’ll do it.” Said a young Ensign, newly pregnant with her third child. “I’ll go.”

Captain Cai switched off the screen. “Adia, you are out of line.” The Ensign put a hand on her stomach.

“It is treason to raise your voice to a woman with child.”

Captain Cai put her forehead in her hands. “You read the reports, the soil is dangerous.”

“Yes. I read that in some parts of the planet, the soil has minor contamination. Captain, you saw the Ambassador. We cannot leave this colony to die.”

“Are you ready to be a symbol for the rest of your life? An object?”

“No, I’m not.” Adia walked out from behind her console. “Mother, I can’t do this any longer. I cannot continue to give birth and give my children away. I’ll go mad. I have the right to leave the program.”

“Actually, Ensign, you do not have that right. Humanity is in a dire situation right now. There are planets of worlds that cannot reproduce on their own. Even if you, and your children manage to avoid infection, even if you do that, the Bar’ak may find out you are there and return to this moon and spread the contagion again. Then we will have lost yet another fertile woman.”

“If you don’t leave me there, you may lose an entire colony! Mother, please. I want to go. Please, give me to them. Give them hope.”

“I can’t. I cannot let you go for anything less than an act of treason.”

“Then let me be a traitor.” Adia, cradled her mothers face in her hands. “I love you mother.” She lightly slapped the Captains cheek.

Captain Cai swallowed. “To strike a fertile woman is an act of treason, the punishment for which is death. Ensign Cai, because you are fertile, you will be spared capital punishment and will serve your lifelong sentence in the care of this colony planet.” Captain Cai nodded to two female guards. “Take her to transport.”

“Captain, mother, I promise you, I will give them hope.”

“No Adia, you will give them everything.”