Anne and Edward had met at work and admired each other before falling in love. Her forests were resilient egregores of adaptive genetic code, cunning long-survivors facing climatic whiplash and cross-system disruptions with the single-mindedness of any living being and the deliberate planning of algorithmic design. His trees were greedy for atmospheric carbon and then misers with it, immune to fire in the sternest drought, not rotting even submerged by flood.
The ease of Anne and Edward’s love made their parents happy; the straightforwardness of their decision to have a child unsettled them with its implicit hope. Both of their conceptions had come after long struggles not with choice and responsibility but with guilt and shame.
Their children felt no guilt and no grief. Having never known other forests except in training and media they could visit the ones they built with the untroubled enthusiasm of first love while their parents avoided them as places filled with accusing ghosts they felt complicit in the murder and replacement of by others also named forests but not the same at all.
They visited Anne and Edward as often as they could, though, for they loved them deeply and they loved their granddaughter even more. During those hours, and sometimes long after, everybody avoided certain topics by unspoken protocol. They talked about the work but not the reason why it had to be done — not that either Anne or Edward cared much — and when they preened in shared pride about the toddler’s sweetness and achievements, they never touched upon the strange patterns in her first words or the uncanniness of her smile.