Author: Alzo David-West

Dust whirled in a sunbeam. The early dawn was sapphire. A monomorph somewhere about seventeen, with gentle eyes and regrown arms, walked down a vernal glen. They saw two hares and three toddlers in the bordering woods. Branches of a birch wavered in the sky as a bird warbled in its nest.

They foraged for much of the morning and into the afternoon, occasionally stirring pill bugs that had gathered in shady nooks and moss. After nine hours, they returned to their tiny dwelling, with a twine sack full of plants. There they made a meal of dandelions, honey, mushrooms, and pine nuts; then they slept for some time. And when they awoke, two newborns were by their side, and in a year, when the pair could walk, both went away and grew up with the other forest toddlers, as they had once done, too.

225,228 denizens, simple and self-generating like themself, went about the thirty-four-hour days in much the same way-wandering, rearing, playing, napping, foraging-without memory or recollection of the bygone histories, pandemics, and wars of the dead distant sphere from which the modified genome came. The arcadia was the only world the sheltered offspring knew, and they all had no concept to question it, only an urge to occasionally thank the drifting entities singularly called Keeper.

On the outer side of the vast dome habitat with a self-healing emulsion shield, which an autonomous AI system had maintained for ten-thousand years, rains and comets descended on shiny, icy wastes. Mornings faded into grey and black and then turned into sapphire morning again. Rings of moonlets and meteoroids mingled over the glowing bright horizon.