In the Garden on Eden
Shen steps naked out onto the porch, where the house has placed a bowl of cut omnifruit and a cup of chai for her breakfast. Settling into her chair, she nibbles at a slice of omnipeach (Omnifruit! Looks and tastes like fruit, contains all the nutrients of a complete meal! Download the template now!), and accesses her exoself to start the day. Shen's mind expands, linking into the sensor web infusing the house and property, becoming aware of everything from the level of growth of the grass on the front lawn to the activities of the blind worms digging in the earth several meters below. Things to do, things to do. It's a beautiful day for gardening and there're so many things to do.

First things first. The front lawn needs a bit of a trim and the flower beds on that side of the house need weeding. Shen has the angelnet manifest a couple of effectors, shaped masses of ufog specialized for the task at hand. One materializes by the storage shed and picks up the push mower (Shen likes the rhythmic sound and feel of a push mower, although most of her friends just use powered units). The other appears over the flowerbeds and shapes itself for the digging and pulling that will be required.

Shen withdraws eir direct attention from the effectors but leaves a portion of her exoself to supervise. For the duration, a part of her will feel like it is pushing the mower, feeling the satisfying interplay of muscles in the sun, hearing the rhythmic sound as the mower goes back and forth across the grass. Another part will feel the sun-warmth-mixed-with-coolness of the turning earth as the effector's fingers comb through it. The satisfying yank as a weed is removed just right so as to not leave a root behind. The relaxing feeling of a task moving toward completion. Half the fun of gardening is the physical labor after all. Otherwise, Shen would just have the auto-systems do it all.

Shen luxuriates in the feeds from the effectors while finishing her breakfast and then turns her attention to another task. Getting up and stepping down off the porch, she heads for the strawberry patch in a corner of the backyard. She's having guests over for dinner this evening, and a nice strawberry shortcake will be just the thing to finish off the meal. Shen has had a bit of a fascination with ancient foods and cooking for the last century or so, and strawberry shortcake dates back to at least the ancient Interplanetary Age when the hardy Martian pioneers had to get by on 'short' rations from their hydroponics tanks - downright ancient and with a touch of romance and danger. She's accessed a few accounts that claim the treat originates from even earlier in history, back on Old Earth itself, but isn't sure she believes them. Old Earth was practically stone axe and chisel days after all. They barely did anything past basic survival back then, didn't they?

As Shen crosses the yard, the angelnet manifests a lightweight layer of faux clothing around her body, thickening at the feet, hands, and knees. Nudity on one's property has been a common practice for the last thousand years or so on Eden, but pushing through plants and dirt while naked can lead to annoying scratches and such. The angelnet layer will allow air and sunlight to pass virtually unimpeded while blocking dirt, debris, and the occasional thorn (trimming the rosebushes is next on the to-do list).

Settling down in the strawberry patch, Shen begins picking the red, succulent fruits, dropping them into a 'net manifested bowl that gently catches each one and wraps it in a protective layer that will prevent bruising and maintain maximum freshness for the duration. She's a determined harvester and only occasionally loses the willpower battle and pops one into her mouth.

As she's reaching for another berry (whether to drop it in the bowl or into her mouth, she's not quite sure), a Presence suddenly enters her sensorium. Azazis, the Second Singularity continental overseer has decided to pay her a visit. The entity in charge of an entire section of the planet (from the core all the way out to synchronous orbit) hovers in her mind for a moment, and then Shen feels a sudden burst of...intuition, prescience, minor suggestive compulsion. Reacting to the implanted notion, she activates her internal sensor suite and then finishes the motion of picking the berry, biting into it and chewing contemplatively. A host of internal genetic and chemical analysis programs and micro-sensors swing into action, interfacing with the main house mind in the process (as a particularly avid gardener for the last five centuries, Shen long ago decided that lugging a genestick around in her pocket was simply not sufficient and had herself augmented to incorporate such functions - amplified by several orders of magnitude when she links to external hardware - into her onboard systems). In a few minutes, a complete analysis floats in her mind along with a memory cluster teased out by Azazis. Of course! She sees it now.

The previous month, Shen had had lunch with an old friend, another gardener, but also a particularly avid vintner. E had served an excellent blueberry wine and Shen had wondered at the time if she might do something equally nice with her prized strawberries. The berry in her mouth has a minor mutation, a genetic quirk that is well within the rather fast and loose boundaries that Shen prefers to set for her creations, but which offers the potential, with a bit of minor adjusting and just the right combination of soil and climate, to produce a truly excellent vintage in only a decade or two.

Azazis had apparently been watching at the time Shen had the wine and the thought (for truly E watches all things) and has decided to offer a bit of a helping hand (or mind nudge as the case may be).

Sending a brief prayer of thanks up to the hovering transapient Presence surrounding her (which flashes back an acknowledging friendly emotive wave and then moves on, its' job done), Shen deepens her link to the house systems and activates one of her Copies. She updates its memories with this most recent experience, and then sets her Otherself the task of overseeing the geneweaver and bioforge systems that will turn the initial analysis into reality. She also directs the house to schedule and take care of the harvesting and preserving of the contents of the apple orchard across the lake, excepting one basket of apples that she'll handle personally (she does love making apple based foods, but there just isn't time to do the entire orchard unless she wants to delay her new winemaking project - and she doesn't). After which it's to break down the entire orchard and start converting the local environment (air, water, humidity, lighting and soil chemistry) to optimal conditions for growing the modified strawberries, informed by the results of her Copy's development work and final design. The various animals living in the orchard will be put into stasis and transported to other parts of the property or the planet as needed, there to resume their daily lives, many barely even noticing the abrupt change of locale.

With that brief diversion out of the way, Shen returns to her to-do list. The rest of the day is spent on a variety of satisfying (and ultimately aesthetically pleasing) chores and activities, including releasing a new version of the earthworm package that she had running under the property, lunch (grilled steakbush with mushrooms), and cleaning the fish pond (she actually does a deep link into the cleaner-bots for that, leaving her exoself to run her body through a nice Tai Chi routine to work out the kinks and help with post-lunch digestion). Swimming around as a dozen fish-shaped bots in a distributed network always leaves her slightly dizzy, but grinning.

As the day moves into late afternoon and then nightfall, Shen finally moves to her last (but most important) gardening task of the day. Walking to the small greenhouse at the back of the property, lit mostly by the glow of the day's sunset routine and the fiery line of the orbiting Ring habs, she enters and steps up to the cylinder settled in its protective net of effectors and sensors. The exo-womb is warm to the touch and, although she has a portion of her exo-awareness always monitoring internal conditions, it is somehow more satisfying to interface through the touchpoints on the pod, linking her mind directly into all the systems that are overseeing the growth of her child.

Only another month until e'll be ready for birthing. The product of her virtual group marriage with a hermaphrodite Goliath space captain, a classical guitarist who is also a particularly fine specimen of male mountain gorilla, and a rather winsome AI mathematical researcher who they all met at a party one night fifty years ago and really hit it off with. Regardless of whatever gender, orientation, or species she's being at the time, Shen has a longstanding attraction for big, burly sophonts with brains. Her co-spouses all qualify one way or another and she's looking forward to seeing them all tonight when they come over for dinner after some time away on their various pursuits (Virtch marriages are like that after all). After which they will all be coming out for another round of checking in on their soon-to-be decanted offspring. All good family memories, and she can't wait for their newest addition (the first child for them all) to join them in making more.

"Soon baby," Shen coos to her nearly formed offspring. "Soon, you'll be ready to come out and see the big, wide world."

By Todd Drashner

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