***Previous episodes of A Common Enemy can be found on the top menu, or start at A Common Enemy. A little sci-fi in progress. ***
Palenda slithered into the resting cocoon and gently touched Rosna. He knew she was asleep, but he needed to feel her nearness. They had come so far to save their families; perhaps even their species. Such responsibility.
The Elengia always crewed their ships with families. Even so, Palenda and Rosna were exceptional, even by Elengia standards. She was the commander and he, her second-in-command. He could think of no other similar couple in all of the Elengia exploration teams.
Once mated, Elengia could not be parted from their mate for more than five days at a time. The connection between a mated couple was strong and for life. The crewing arrangement was driven by biology, not choice. This ship had 3,000 couples and 4,000 children. All births were twins or more. Singletons were very rare. Most of the children on this ship were under five Elengia years, yet about half were already able, if necessary, to crew this massive inter-galactic ship.
Palenda thought of the history of his species as he waited for sleep to come. Elengias were good at two things: reproducing and science and technology. Reproducing was their problem: too many too often. Any planet in the universe could only sustain so many of any living creature. Despite the incredible advances they had made in science and technology, the Elengia could not find a way to prevent conception in their own species. They had seen many other species in the universe achieve this, yet it seemed to be the one scientific advance that escaped them. What, Palenda wondered, was it about their own biology that they did not understand sufficiently to be able to curb their fertility?
Elengia children were born with all their parents knowledge and expertise. They had to learn to apply their knowledge and they had to learn new advances in knowledge or other fields outside their parents’ areas of expertise, but they were born skilled. It was these children who would colonise the planet below.
The ship, like any planet, had limited resources and limited space. As the Elengia couldn’t control their breeding, they had to control their mating. This was horrific for them, hence their never ending hunt for a solution to the problem. They were able to pin-point the times when conception would occur but those were also the times when the Elengia had the greatest difficulty controlling their desire to mate. At those times the males slept apart from the females. This alone took up valuable space on the ship.
For many couples on the ship, keeping apart wasn’t too difficult as they had roles in different areas. For Rosna and Palenda this was not so easy. They spent their working hours in the command post together and the Elengia desire to mate was something beyond all reason, almost uncontrollable. Rosna would not come into a conception cycle again for six months after the birth of the twins. By then, hopefully, the planet below would be under Elengia control and more children would be possible.
Palenda wondered if this species below had a way to prevent conception that the Elengia could adapt to their own physiology. There seemed to be an awful lot of them: scanning suggested about eight billion, if the species differentiation of the scanner was correct.
Palenda rolled over and pulled the sound pads over his ears. Tomorrow would bring more information, more decisions, more mysteries to solve. Tonight was not a night for mating.