Cooperation xB Societal Behavior | Reproduction
Regarding the variety of methods Cooperation xBs utilize to enable societal reproduction (and communal childrearing therein)
Despite the sterile, machinal influence once forced upon their bodies, the xBs of Ohniaka III are no strangers to the idea of propagating a new, Cooperation-made generation. It is true that Borg nurseries are sterile, unloving hostels of life; certain xBs are able to recount the cold corridors of stacked drawers of infants churned out by the behemoth of a Hivemind, only for those "units" to be tossed into maturation chambers when their neo-natal augment grafting procedures are complete. What separates Cooperation xBs from the Collective's ideas of propagation, of course, is shirking the Hivemind's cold indifference to individuality, instead opting to utilize their medical and technological knowledge to better the lives of those who wish to extend themselves into another life.
The designated member/volunteering childbearer of a paired xB couple, polycule, or other kind of romantic grouping is called a “Forerunner.” Forerunners are in no way bound to gender, at least in the view of major Federation societies— or else if their species requirements varies in need of participating parties to induce gestation. Due to an extremely large percentage of the Ohniakan xB population being gender non-conforming (or some other form of non-cisnormative gender in relation to the xB’s original species’ understanding of reproductive capabilities and/or gender roles), the only qualifications required to be a Forerunner are simply a cleared bill of health from an xB Medical worker, and a verification that medical therapy required to allow gestation will not harm either the child or Forerunner.
These Forerunners (and even their close-of-kin partners) are not the sole tenders to these cybernetic offspring, however. Perhaps thanks to a mixture of the Collective's remnant influence and the meshing of alien cultures, xB “familial units” are extremely decentralized and far more community-rearing focused, with individuals in living blocks tending to communal nurseries, daycares, and activity centers in rotating shifts. The living dwellings of Ohniaka III have floor-wide nurseries that individuals will take time tending to, interacting with, and enriching children either freed from the Borg maturation chambers or made by xBs themselves. During this time, an xB is taking on these shifts is called a “Caretaker,” providing a chance for communal parenting at volunteer shift discretion and volunteering.
METHODS OF REPRODUCTION
As is with the utilitarian, yet individuality-celebrating nature of xBs, the first option I’ve seen regarding xB reproduction are the Ohniakan Maturation Chambers: places that bear a significant semblance to the original technology of Borg maturation chambers, although much warmer and friendlier. For those who wish to produce children by their own personal gestation, however, the plethora of options remains as diverse as the Medical Division’s availability of procedures and desired augmentations to the self.
To placate a non-xB audience’s possibly impatient curiosity before reading any forthcoming material: yes xBs are able to reproduce (in most cases), no they are not ignorant to the acts it may require, and yes the offspring do come with cybernetics and nanoprobes— albeit in a far less graphic way the Collective forces on assimilated peoples.
The Maturation Chambers of Ohniaka III are usually chosen if none of the available parties are either willing or able to be a Forerunner, due to medical or personal reasons. Any chosen number of partner(s), tertiaries, or other closely-bonded donors may assemble in the Reclamation Project offshoot facilities to submit their genetic information for combination and creation. These chambers are inherently inlaid with the same, nanoprobe-riddled technology that knits together drones churned out by the Collective, and their usages are therefore exclusive to Cooperation citizens.
Machinal gestation times vary by species as does base-species compatibility, and therefore I cannot provide an exact development timestamp (though I am told anywhere from 5 months to 1 earthen year, pre-stated factors applied). It does stand to say that fetal developments occur naturally rather than the heightened “productivity efficiency” of the Collective, allowing the fetus' organic and cybernetic matter to integrate naturally as-per cellular makeup. The Donors must sign witness certificates understanding that they have helped create a life; this is to serve as both a next-of-kin documentation should anything happen to said-offspring, and to bind the guardians/donors in responsibility and accountability should anything harmful happen to the offspring while in their supervision.
Regarding Forerunnership, absent are terms like “mother,” “father" from xB medical ledgers, and merely ascribe the role the individual plays in birthing the future child. All that is given in paperwork is “Forerunner” and “Donor:” the latter either identified by intercourse that resulted in the pregnancy, or those who have sought services from medical clinics relating to artificial insemination and/or compilation of genetic material. Like the Ohniakan Maturation Chambers, the gestation period is not artificially accelerated and varies greatly by species, and this time of gestation for a Forerunner is seen is extremely meditative and personal.
As said previously, communal childrearing is an important dynamic in Cooperation culture, but an xB that volunteers to be a Forerunner has a very unique, implication-heavy relationship to their offspring. The knitting together of another body by a Forerunner's nanoprobes and organic-cybernetic makeup within their own binds a Forerunner’s matrices to the child’s unique cortical node for the rest of their lives: similar to that of a Vulcan imbuing a part of their sacred Katra. The Forerunner and child share a faint, yet concrete connection that can be as potent as a remnant memory from the Collection, though the extent of these connections will have to be judged over time as the Cooperation culture continues to grow and age (the first recorded Ohniakan offspring born in 2372). Even in this short time allotted for societal study, it's been observed that this bond will be stronger than the offspring's Donors (since Forerunners can live solitary lives and can request impersonal insemination), but Donors who give the Forerunner their genetic material for help crafting this new life can be people personally significant to the Forerunner.
And so balances out the celebration of uniqueness between xBs who choose the Maturation Chambers versus those who wish to act as their own maturation chambers: both have their unique pros and cons per-individual. For what is reproduction, if not the act of giving life to an individual body, and that body having no say in the matter of its genesis? If that new life holds within their body a passed-down lineage of Borg machinery, naturally woven and integrated into their bones with implants they never asked for, how responsible are they for a brand new cybernetic lineage thrust into the Alpha Quadrant that said person must accept as part of themselves?
For me, it’s an admittedly vast concept that I’ve tried to grapple with when working my shifts as a Caretaker. But considering xBs, I believe I see their point in the phrase the Cooperation lives by: Individuality’s Needs, Community’s Many. It can be an xB’s wish to create life, certainly, but the xB created as a byproduct must be considered, and they will only go forward by communal support into a world that unfortunately does not look kindly on xBs. “Reproduction should not equate to assimilation by extension of will,” so I’ve been told to ponder by Junction Horus.
And this bears a heavy thought, if the reader will allow me to offer a personal comparison for better understanding: the words made me reflect deeply on how my own extended family expected my mothers to raise me to fulfill a lofty career in Starfleet, despite my own desires (and their encouraged love) to be a xenoanthropologist that have made me to be a much happier, self-made man.