Athos is a planet which was colonised by Earth-humans belonging to a religious sect who believed that women are the root of all evil. All babies born on this planet are conceived with female genetic material imported from off-planet, gestated in uterine replicators, and brought up by the father and his Designated Alternate Parent (who may be his lover, or simply a friend and relative). Athosian men take the responsibility of childcare very seriously. A man who wishes to have children has to earn enough social duty credits to show that he is a fit parent, and the most effective way to earn this is by being Designated Alternate Parent to his partner's children. However, men have to earn a reasonable amount of social duty credits to be Designated Alternate Parents in the first place, and can have credits deducted for bad behaviour.

A recently imported consignment of ovarian cultures all contained a gene for telepathy smuggled in by a Cetagandan refugee (himself a telepath). Hence, we are a few decades from a situation in which nearly all Athosians are telepaths.