Editor's note. I met Pete when we were in college together. He was a master of getting both himself and others into trouble. Only later did I learn about his family relationship with Ivory. At my request, Ivory asked her family members to provide written contributions to the Exode Trilogy. For completeness, I include here what Peter wrote, only slightly edited by me. Peter "provided" several women who gestated some of the Ivory clones.
1. Mothers of Clones
From a very young age I was taught to not speak about my family. Of course, I knew that we were wealthy. I was indoctrinated with stories about kidnappings and other crimes targeting the super rich.
I never thought of myself as having "a home" until I was in my middle twenties. By then, my parents had "resided" at a dozen locations around the world. I believed that my grandfather had been one of the early electronics engineers for JCN (Transistorized Computing of Japan). My father, as an artist, seemed to always be on the move: two or three times a year going to a new city to put up and display his works at some museum. I did not think about the source of all the money that I spent. I assumed that my grandfather had more than enough wealth to support both my father and myself.
In my 26th year, my carefree life finally came to an end. At that time I was deeply in love with a young woman who wanted children and a family life. I'll refer to her a Tina. I had good reason to believe that I was infertile. I'd paid a biology researcher to test my sperm and he confirmed that my cells did not interact normally with egg cells.
Tina refused to even think about adopting children until we had made "serious" effort to produce our own offspring. I had no objection to going through the motions of that "effort", but I made the mistake of contracting with a sperm bank and trying to impregnate Tina with sperm from a third party. When she did become pregnant we were both pleased, until the complications set in.
We had about one month of joy after realizing that Tina was pregnant and before Tina's health began to decline. Biological warfare had begun between her body and the cells of the embryo growing inside her. At great cost, I hired a research lab to investigate and I was shocked to learn that Tina was carrying my child. The biologists assured me that the embryo was not viable. It was growing more like a tumor than human embryo.
Fearing that my foolish actions would kill Tina, I went to my father for help. He immediately told me to bring Tina home. The next day Andy met us at the airport in Miami. An hour later we were on a yacht and cruising out into the ocean before I learned what "home" meant to my father.
With Tina and Lili still up on deck, Andy took me below and explained our destination. "You were six years old, so you don't really remember, but you did grow up at sea."
I searched back into my earliest memories and could not imagine what he was telling me. My early life was a kind of blur that mixed together in my mind images of many hotels, rented houses and private schools. I asked, "Here? In the Caribbean? Are you trying to tell me that I grew up in Cuba?"
He laughed. "Cuba? No. When I say 'at sea' I mean on a ship."
The yacht we were on was comfortable, but I could not imagine it as a home. With me glancing around at the luxuriously appointed interior of the yacht my father had no trouble guessing my thoughts. He went on, "No, not this old tub. Tonight, after dark we will transfer over to Many Sails."
Of course, I asked if Many Sails was a sail boat. Andy quickly grew tired of my questions, sat me down and explained the strange truth of my childhood. However, I did not really believe what I was told until later. About four the next morning Andy woke me from my sleep and called me out on deck. By then the yacht was inside Many Sails and we walked through a short tunnel that took me from the world of men into into the alien domain of the spaceship. First I was shown Tina, already sedated and in the care of the sentient spaceship that is Many Sails. There was not much for me to see in the medical suite since Tina seemed to be sleeping and all the medical work was being done by submicroscopic devices.
I then got to renew my acquaintance with Many Sails. I was shown recordings of my early life aboard the spaceship and given to chance to confirm that many of my early memories did indeed originate there.
A day later I was introduced to Grean. Ivory has already introduced you to Grean, so you should be able to imagine my shock and amazement. What was most difficult for me was watching my mother when she allowed her features to morph and reveal that she is a Kac'hin female, complete with pointy ears and over-sized eyes.
I could almost believe my father when he told me that he would also have had an alien appearance except for the fact that his embryonic development had been carefully altered so as to give him a near normal human appearance. Of course, I mean Earth human. Technically the Kac'hin can be counted as humans, too, almost. The whole complex story became more than I could process when Andy tried to explain that his father was an Ek'col, yet another human variant.
My attention was on Tina and since no attempt was made to explain to her that we were inside a spaceship, we were happy. Many Sails created the illusion that Tina was in a hospital and within two weeks what had briefly been a difficult pregnancy had been converted into a happy and uneventful time for us to enjoy. We left the "hospital" and "our" child was born five months later at my father's house on East Umbrella Island.
Those months spent at Umbrella Key were a joyful and peaceful respite after our fears that Tina's pregnancy would end in disaster. Most days we had long walks on the white coral sand beaches and Tina grew to feel very comfortable with Andy and Lili, who would arrive by car from the mainland to spend most of the weekends with us.
During that time I was struggling to understand who I was, where I had come from and why my parents had kept so much hidden from me. They wanted me to have a "normal" life. However, I was not normal and it did not take me long to ruin my relationship with Tina. I'd been allowed to keep most of my memories from our time aboard Many Sails, but I was unable to discuss my new knowledge with anyone but my parents. Each time I was with Tina I felt like a sneak and a liar.
I had become intrigued by the idea that it was possible for me to have children of my own. However, to do so would require that I turn over control of my life to Grean and Many Sails. I treasured my freedoms and the carefree years I had spent traveling around the world. I took the middle route, keeping knowledge of my origins secret while retaining my freedom to live among the masses of Humanity.
In other words, I did not change my ways. The only thing that had changed by the next time I returned to Many Sails was that Anna was waiting for me. Until then I was only vaguely aware of how my sister Marta was living out her life. I did know that she had a daughter and that she had lost her "husband" tragically. Or maybe I should say that she lost her husband "tragically". In any case, Marta was more like a distant cousin to me than a sister.
A normal person might wonder how I could be stupid enough to find myself in the exact same situation with Charlet as I had been in previously with Tina. All that really matters is that when Charlet and I arrived aboard Many Sails I was determined that the outcome of her pregnancy would be different. It was still early in the pregnancy and Charlet was in perfect health. I had searched long and hard for a woman who was so perfect and I had even found a way to prepare her for what she would face if we tried to have children together. I could not tell her the truth, but I told her that any child of ours would need extensive medical care.
Charlet was a free spirit and more interested in money than children. Did I buy Charlet so that I could have a child of my own? That is one way of looking at my actions. I prefer to say that we came to an agreement that satisfied us both. Charlet got enough money to keep her comfortable for the rest of her life. I got more than I had bargained for.
2. Zeptoscale Symbionts
In the years after losing Tina*, I finally came to know my mother's secrets. Only much later did I begin to realize how extensively she lied to me about her origins. Lili knew exactly how to entice me with her stories about tiny creatures living inside human bodies. I became fascinated by the idea that Earth could develop a new science of nanoscale robotics.
I wasted years on the foolish idea that Earthly technology might be able to detect the alien devices that are present inside our bodies. My thinking was limited to the universe of conventional matter. Before the arrival of the Buld spaceship, we Earthlings were not allowed any knowledge of hierions or sedrons. However, I knew just enough to stumble down a path that became useful to Anna.
Anything I can tell you about Anna is wrong and incomplete. Angela and Many Sails could easily sweep away all of my confusion, but they both know the burning depth of my resentment over how I was deceived. Tina and I were allowed to believe that she gave birth to a normal human. Only much later was I told that Tina was the birth mother of Anna*.
*[Editor's note. Given Peter's desire to live out among the people of Earth, he was systematically deceived about many things. Further, when he wrote this chapter, he was trying to "go along" with some of those deceptions. In particular, Peter invented the name "Tina" and a false life for her, much in the way he invented a false identity for his grandfather. As shown in Trysta's family tree, the first woman he managed to impregnate was Hana. Hana gave birth to Hilde. The true story of Anna's birth is an entirely different story that need not concern us here.]
When I first met Anna I had never known my niece, Ivory. I knew of her existence, but we had never met. I'd never been close to my sister Marta and she had no reason to even send me a photograph of Ivory. In fact, when I brought Charlet to Many Sails I hardly even noticed Anna. I had become comfortable thinking of Many Sails as "Atlantis", what I imagined as the base of operations for Grean. I was not allowed to even speculate about the nature of Grean's mission on Earth, but my mental model of "Atlantis" included the idea that dozens, if not hundreds, of people worked with Grean to support her effort to prepare Earth for the arrival of the Buld. I thought of my own efforts to advance computer and nanotechnology as a small part of how Grean used "her" influence to push ahead Earthly technology. I was comfortable living with that fantasy view of reality and I assumed that Anna was one of Grean's tools.
Lili knew how wrong I was, but it suited her to allow me to persist in my ignorance. Of course, Many Sails was the "Trojan Horse". With all my jokes about "Atlantis" I never contemplated the fact that Many Sails was ancient and at least as important as Grean. Lili needed a dupe and she used Many Sails to set me up as the target for Grean's wrath. Over the course of years I was led to believe that I had successfully isolated alien nanites from my own body, discovered how to erase their programming and insert my own. I had no idea that I was amusing myself with a game that had been invented by Lili, a game that served only to build up my confidence in the belief that I could use those nanites to guide a child of mine successfully through embryonic development.
I expected Charlet's pregnancy to be an experiment. I anticipated a difficult pregnancy with constant travails and improvisation in how to use nanites to push our embryo as far as possible towards viability and birth. I did not allow myself to imagine that our first try would be successful.
Just as with Tina's pregnancy, I did not notice when a clone of Ivory was substituted for the original embryo that Charlet and I had produced. When there were no complications during the pregnancy Lili was fulsome in her praise for the masterful job I had done in programming the nanites. I knew that given my primitive understanding of developmental biology, an uneventful pregnancy was as likely as continually rolling sevens on a pair of dice. My anxiety increased daily until Charlet was safely into the second trimester and Anna finally approached me.
Many Sails had snuggled up to a tiny tropical island and Lili, Andy, Charlet and I were enjoying a day exploring the reefs. I was never a great swimmer so by the middle of the afternoon I was on the beach trying to figure out how Tina's pregnancy could have gone so wrong while Charlet's was so smooth. Anna appeared and sat down on the hot sand beside me.
She was sweating and without perceptible modesty she pulled of her clothing. She was young and her perfect body seemed to glow in the sunlight, an image of health an vitality. I'd seen her occasionally aboard Many Sails and I'd assumed that she was present as a medical technician or nurse. I'd never spoke to her more than a few words; casual greetings made in passing.
She surprised me by disrobing then surprised me again with her words, "Uncle Peter, allow me to introduce myself."
Caught by surprise, I stammered, "You're my niece?"
"Well, not precisely, but I don't know how else to describe the situation. You see, I'm a clone of your niece, Ivory."
I could see hints of my sister Marta in Anna's features, but I was slow to believe what she was telling me. I quickly rattled of a half dozen questions that expressed by doubts, surprise and particularly my anger at the idea of being kept in the dark about such a thing, if indeed it was true.
That day Anna was on a mission, wanting to win me as her collaborator before Charlet returned to shore from her snorkeling. She ignored most of my questions and pressed on to the heart of what she wanted to tell me, "I know you've been trying to expand your knowledge of biology, but your efforts have been directed towards the wrong time frame."
I instantly knew that she was correct about me being wrong. I'd spent a decade studying the early critical period of embryonic development when the major organ systems were formed. Then the growing embryo inside Charlet had effortlessly cruised through all of early development and was now into the less eventful period of growth. Anna continued, "Left alone, Charlet's baby will turn out like me, another copy of Ivory, not significantly different in her behavior patterns. I need your help to take Angela to the next level."
I closed my eyes and rubbed them, wondering if I might soon awake from a dream. When I opened my eyes, Anna was still there, sparkling in the sun. I asked, "Angela?"
She nodded. "The child growing inside Charlet. I'm in communication with her and I needed to give her a name."
I objected, "That's crazy."
"No, the tiny devices in our brains allow us to communicate."
I knew at once that nanites could provide such a telapathic link, but I was uncomfortable with the idea of communicating with an embryo. "But her brain is just forming itself."
"You are too concerned with the biological components. The sedronic parts are there, fully formed already. I need your help to trigger the sedronic nervous system to activate its Kac'hin developmental program."
For a moment I did not know what she was talking about, then all my thinking shifted and I realized that she was absolutely correct. There had to be such a program and if it was dormant inside Angela's brain then it might be an almost trivial matter to switch it on. Anna was still talking, "The zeptoscale symbiont inside Angela is busily giving her a conventional human form. All we need to do is shut off that program and her brain will be free to develop along the Kac'hin developmental pattern.
I jumped to my feet, "Yes! It is even easier to shut off a program!" And I knew how to do it. I'd already learned how to shut off an existing nanite program. Anna and I hurried back to Many Sails. In my first flash of inspiration I'd imagined that we could almost at once give Angela a Kac'hin mind. I was wrong and it was not as simple a task as I first guessed, but we were successful. Even before Angela was born we knew that we had given her a very special brain. Of course, Anna and I were unaware of Thomas, so we imagined that Angela would be the first such Earthling to have Kac'hin cognitive abilities.
Given the telepathic link between Anna and Angela we also knew our next step. We needed to make another "Ivory clone" that would undergo brain development not just with the help of Anna, but under the guidance that could be provided by Angela. Even before the birth of Angela, Anna had named that next clone Anney.
And so it came to pass. The only complication was that I needed to find Anney's birth mother. No longer in need of a superb physical specimen, I found Cory✝, a woman who would be a good mother to both Angela and Anney.
When Grean finally noticed what Anna and I had accomplished it was clear that we had been the tools used by Lili to create Angela and Anney. Anna and I were never subjected to Grean's wrath. In fact, Grean came to realize that Angela has an important role to play in the difficult process of merging we Earthlings into Genesaunt Civilization.
Angela's perspective is more of a Kac'hin view than an Earthling's view of where human civilization now stands. Some day this world will have to decide if it is wise to follow Angela into the future.
✝[Editor's note. In the end, Anna was the birth mother of Anney. When Charlet and Peter went back out into the human world, Cory remained inside Many Sails and she was a very good mother to both Angela and Anney. I owe a special debt to Peter because of the way he linked my life to that of Hana, but that is a story that must be told as part of Exode.]