It had been a long time since I’d been in the biome. A lot of the ship’s resources were fabricated, either through entirely synthetic means or in the bioreactors- essentially bacterial colonies reprogrammed to create whatever raw materials we needed, similar to one of the early ways insulin was farmed. For everything else, we had the biome, a small slice of Earth recreated as a perfect, closed system designed to keep homeostatic harmony, with us harvesting the materials needed, and replacing them with processable wastes and byproducts from the rest of the ship.
Sasha and his fiancé were already most of the way into their hazard suits when I arrived, and started to dress. One of the MaintOffs in charge of the biome checked to be sure our suits were sealed shut- to make sure we didn’t contaminate it- then sealed us in the decon suite.
I waited through the cycles of hot steam, alcohol and decon sprays, and even after, waited for Sasha to speak. I was here at their request, and I appreciated a chance to just be a spectator at someone else’s rodeo.
“You’re our plan B,” Sasha said, when the doors opened.
“Should I be flattered, or insulted? Or just wait for more information?”
“Well, first, you should say hello to my fiancé, Deena.”
“Howdy. We’ve met, but obviously, these are less formal circumstances. At least, I think they are.”
“I like watching him squirm,” Deena said. “He’s so used to being in the loop, especially when there are secrets he’s not used to being on the outside.”
“She has a point,” Sasha said with a grin, “but we didn’t ask him here to torture him, no matter how amusing that might be. My plan A wasn’t ever feasible, because trans men don’t produce sperm. I was pre-med, back on Earth, but I think I was still in the wishful thinking stage; I brought it up, with MedDiv, when I was first talking about transitioning. I wanted to be able to just flick a switch and be who I wanted to be, down to new DNA. But that’s not really a procedure they do, not even back on Earth, except in extreme cases. Because the human body really wasn’t designed to be restarted with new genes. It’s… basically the equivalent of a full body transplant. And if that weren’t enough, your cells replace at different rates, too, so it’s more like a series of transplants. Your skin will be replaced in 39 days. The skeleton takes 10 years, at the outside you’ve got hippocampal neurons replaced every 20 to 30 years. But the most important parts don’t replace at all; heart muscle cells stop growing at 10 years old, grey matter at 3. So you’d always have to keep the immune system suppressed, or it would attack your heart and brain. And honestly, the only real reason to still pursue it at that point is psychological, so there couldn’t be any nagging sense that maybe I’m not a ‘real’ man. And fuck that. I don’t need to adopt a toxically masculine death wish to prove my masculinity; and I’d rather live a real long life as me than worry about whether or not anyone else takes issue with my reality.”
“That sounds healthy,” I said.
“It’s likely solvable, long-term. I think if we, as a society, disliked trans people less, we might have dedicated the resources to building nano-gene-replacement tech that would do that safely; we use similar techniques to aid in a host of genetic disorders already, so it’s not as if the technology doesn’t exist- though to be fair we are talking a complete tear-down as opposed to replacing a single bad gene, or a cluster, or even a faulty chromosome- though there are plenty who might argue that’s the case if we’re replacing a y with an x. But even today you have a lot of people who see the disharmony as a psychological one, that the fix should be convincing us to be happy with what we have- of course, isn’t that capitalism in a nutshell, the people who have the most trying to convince the rest of us we’re content with what we have, so they don’t have to share?”
“I have brain worms,” I said, “and a whole series of head traumas. So feel free to dumb it down for me, because right now I couldn’t tell you if we’re in a forest or a desert.”
“We want to have a baby,” Deena said, “while I’m still young and most likely to have the least amount of complications. And for that, we need a donor.”
“And I checked with MedDiv, you’re the man on ship whose genes are most likely not to be allowed near a fertile human woman,” Sasha deadpanned. “Waste not, want not.”
“He gets nervous,” Deena said, touching Sasha’s arm as gingerly as possible through the hazard suit. “One part crush, one part hero-worship. Several parts a mid-level introvert uncomfortable dealing with an extroverted authority figure.”
“It’s an honor even to be asked,” I said.
“You have no idea,” Deena said. “It’s a very exclusive club.”
“But like the two of you, I have a partner, or maybe two, I’d need to discuss things with. Were it only up to me, I wouldn’t hesitate at all, and I am touched to even be considered.”
“Um, not to be pushy,” Deena said, “but how long do you think we’ll have to wait for an answer?”
“I’ll ask as soon as we’re clear of the biome. It doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you ask over message.”
“That seems fair. Also, far less impulsive than I would have expected.”
“I have developed something of a reputation in that regard, more than a little of it fair.”
“And, again, not trying to push…”
“Just anxious to know whether or not one of the more stressful and intimate decisions you’ve ever made is going to get blown up despite everyone’s best intentions?” I asked.
“Something like that, yeah, but how long do you anticipate your partners taking to decide?”
“Well, seeing as this is a normal occurrence for me, the typical turn-around is two business days. Elle’s likely to kill me immediately for asking. If she doesn’t, I imagine Sam can convince her to at least decide whether or not to kill me by breakfast tomorrow.”
“That seems reasonable. And for whatever it’s worth, I am rooting for her not killing you,” Deena said over-seriously. “Me, too,” I replied.