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Space Cadets of the Apocalypse
The world didn't end on Mayan year zero, but it tried really hard. Six calderas in the Pacific Ring of Fire, from Yellowstone in California to Toba in Sumatra, erupted. Ash and ejected rock blotted out the sun. Without sunlight plants died, animals starved. Resource wars raged.
That was twenty years ago. I snagged a preferred posting by saving General Drayton's life. Now, barely in my mid-thirties, I supervise a military freehold: a series of caves that hide us from the marauding remnants of the Nation States. The Nation-States created genetic plagues that killed almost every woman. I was Drayton's junkyard dog, keeping the pack of new boys, abandoned or orphaned teens, in line until the military could absorb them or convert them for space colonization. Our task was growing vegetables and raising sheep and goats.
In the recesses of the cave, a spring created a freshwater shower in one chamber. I came around the corner and found one of my young charges washing the blood of a butchered sheep from his body. The wings tattooed on his back appeared to flap as his body flexed to his soft moans and heavy breathing while he pleasured himself. Angel-Wings we called him. His handsome body could tempt the dead to rise.
"I know you are watching. Let's talk--" Angel-Wings turned, exposing himself. He rubbed his body with soapy hands and motioned for me to join him. He wrapped his fingers around his manhood and made it big for me to see.
When Drayton and the soldiers overran one of the marauder tribes, they found Angel-Wings. He had used his handsome body and large endowment to gain power. He swore that the hugeness of his boner was a blessing by some demigod of fertility and he could father a girl child for the chieftain. Drayton might have freed him, but I had the job to educate and civilize him.
I pondered a cheap, quick frolic but nothing was cheap or quick with Angel-Wings. He apprenticed with Big Butch our meat-man and had persuaded Butch to let him slay and gut the next day's meat near curfew. When he returned to the sleeping cave, he reeked. Nothing stunted a boner or disturbed sleep like the smell of dead blood and rank entrails. While the other boys enjoyed each other in evening sex, he was banished to the showers. Angel-Wings took a deep breath, pushed his blonde curls back, and shook the water from his hair as if to present his lips to mine.
We regarded each other with that look that doesn't lie.
"You're avoiding the other boys again, aren't you?" I accused.
"I don't want to live a life this crude, this unimaginative. They sleep the sleep of contentment without ambition. I lay awake wishing for more. I cringe at their rough touch, their beards, their simple-minded satisfactions, their slime. I hate waking in the morning feeling used and polluted from their nocturnal emissions," his sarcasm flowed like water.
I stepped close enough to feel his warmth while I let the water wash away the day's grime.
"The other boys won't stop satisfying their physical desires because you think it's messy. You're working hard at not facing reality. I've told you before, cope with it." He brushed the water from me, his hands massaging my body, arousing my manhood to erection. Sex was too easy. I knew what he wanted; Not a one-night stand but to be my deputy, or the unseen power pulling my strings.
"Your body says you want me."
"You're too conniving and manipulative," I blamed him. He pushed his genitals against mine. Our manhoods grew together. For a few seconds, my thoughts were lost in his flesh. It was a few months since my last sex play, but I had to put him in his place. I ignored my physical response. "The truth is that you sneak away to do exactly what those boys did. You keep denying your body has needs. I'm not going to pat your head for being clever enough to hide your lust."
My body's response to his hands was losing me the battle. He was succulent and sexy, making the right moves to seduce me. It took a moment for pride to regain control of my judgment. He filled the moment with too much talk.
"You have a sweet deal going on here. You get the boys with the good bodies to raise to adults like they're your personal meat and Drayton gets the boys with the damaged bodies for space duty. I want more than furtive groping with a scarred-up veteran. I want to be your partner, your deputy." His hips ground against mine. My manhood stiffened and rose, betraying me. He kissed my chest and spoke softly. "I've heard that your body is too damaged to last much longer. When you join Homo Metallicus, I want to take your place. I want to be at the head of the line, first among equals to take over these caves. Then I will have my choice of all the boys."
By the stars themselves, this boy had big, low-hanging, brazen balls.
I knew what I was. My balls were silicone, the real ones blown off by a cannon in a failed execution. I had two fingers gone on the left hand, half my right foot eaten by wolves, scars across my torso from when I was nearly disemboweled, and a piece of an ear missing. I was the miracle of medicine. The doctors and scientists kept me functioning with injections and drugs. I still could take lovers to my bed and screw. However, I preferred sex on my terms.
"I'll take you as a lover but not my deputy."
It wasn't worth surrendering to Angel-Wings. Well, it could have been worth it. He couldn't simply shut his mouth for a few seconds let alone a few months.
"I don't just want adolescent boys. I want to be first to feel the lips of a woman on my face, to touch her hands soft and mild, to fondle her tits, too feel my hardness deep inside her, all warm and throbbing. Most of all, I want our baby sleeping on my chest. That means I have to be a leader. You're going to make that possible."
He wasn't after pure power, and that surprised me.
"Families may not be possible ever again," I said cautiously, not wanting to reveal information than permitted.
For the past fifteen years, the cure for the genetic plagues was perpetually three years away, almost ready, never quite ready. Artificial wombs waited to produce unborn girl babies if and only if the scientists managed to cure the plague viruses. The backup plan was cloning just male children. However, after three generations cloning would fail. Humanity was doomed to extinction without the cure. Angel-Wings wasn't supposed to know that.
"You and Drayton think I'm nothing but a boy-child, a gamin, a punk, a stripling. You two got old man lies and old man plans. I want more than man-lips sliding up and down my pole," he said. That much was true and once again if he concentrated on my seduction and not his monologuing he might have gotten his way. He lacked brevity. "Both of you had wives and children. I want a wife and child sooner than later. Together we will make that happen."
Damn and double damn. The little sneak eavesdropped. Two days before, I thought I held a private radio conversation with General Drayton. We discussed possible successors, the limits of the medicines keeping me healthy, and a new test of the antiviral cures.
"Most of my deputies just want a good lay before moving on to new assignments," I said, hoping that he'd take my lead.
Hope died. He was the misbegotten spawn of Machiavelli, a psychopath.
"Not me. I want to be free of the imaginary cures and excuses you use as our chains. Instead, I'll be your partner or even your brother if you can't hack the sex. I'll keep your secrets, too. Remember, I was the sacrificial lamb of a tribe of stinking savages. It was easy to interpret their dreams to my advantage and tame their lusts. My words saved me. I'll make these caves run a thousand times better."
I wanted to squeeze the life from his damn neck, and I could have done it right then and there. The drawback; dead bodies are hard to explain.
"You should be hung by your balls till they rot."
He fisted his giant boner and my erection in both fists.
"That's why you're going to tell Drayton I'm your lover and that you want me to replace you. It's easy. Take my body tonight and tomorrow declare me your successor, publicly and loudly." His sneer told me that he thought he had me by the cock. I had bureaucracy and the Chain of Command on my side. I slapped his face, hard.
"You insincere little brat. Drayton will explode and call hellfire down on both of us for shit like that. Command succession is a delicate matter. I have to soften his mind, prepare our path. I'll give you one night's multiple orgasms, and then you go back to the others. If you tell anyone, I'll knock your teeth down your throat so far they'll pop out your ass. Do you understand?"
He understood but didn't capitulate.
"I'll spend tonight in your arms, a new Morpheus for my troubled sleep. You and the night and the stars, one and each together," Angel said, sounding like a sly trickster who'd just won me at a carnival booth. I bristled and pushed him away.
"I changed my mind. I'm not going to deal with you in the throws of fake and insincere passion. Go and play with those your age." I waited for him to sleep before I went back to my chamber.
Drayton needed to know Angel's threats and my reactions. I retrieved my emergency radio and made my way to the top of the mountain.
"This Angel-Wings is too smart for his and our good," I said. Drayton's reply crackled in my earpiece.
"I warned you that little twerp had a serpent's tongue. You got careless." He laughed like I was making too much of too little. "I'll tell you how to fix this pretty boy. Rough him up, bloody his face, force him to his knees for some public sucking, or just bend him over and shove some fingers in his butt. That'll take him down a notch or two. That solves this crisis."
I felt that I had to stand up for myself.
"I'm not in the mood to just put the little weasel in his place. Tonight, I was so angry that I wanted to strangle him. He thinks he has a great mind and wonderful body no-one can resist." I wasn't one of Drayton's soldiers that could be ordered into oblivious acceptance of the little bastard. I waited, but there was a troubling silence, an odd delay in his response. I clicked the call buttons twice.
"General?" I said to the silence.
"I didn't go away."
I couldn't figure out Drayton's reaction. "I thought you wanted Lieutenant Windom to replace me?"
Silence ruled for a few heartbeats.
"Windom has a lover, and I'm developing alternate plans for him. I don't care how; find a way to partner-up with Angel-Wings. I told you, make him your bitch publicly and keep him happy for one or two years. I guarantee his ego will shrink."
Bad news. I didn't want Angel-Wings that close to me.
"Taking a lover this ambitious and impetuous would cramp my style and complicate my educational plans. I don't want the little Puck to find the rest of my secrets and hold them like a knife at both our throats. Believe me! He's capable of that."
"I think your so-called secrets and fears are overrated. Be Pan to his Daphnis."
"He's Brutus to my Caesar. I need him under my thumb, not licking my balls."
Drayton cut the radio link abruptly.
I shrugged and went back to my chamber intending to talk to Drayton tomorrow or the day after. Drayton didn't wait that long.
Soldiers arrived before sunrise, yanked me out of bed, gagged me, and tied my hands and feet. A sharp jab in my thigh made the world go black.
When the lights came back on, I hung naked above vats of space-rubber with a breathing tube glued to my mouth. I caught sight of Angel-Wings dangling beside me, struggling. The vats were the last stop for many men who were too old or too diseased to be of useful service in this apocalyptic world. We were now fodder for the construction crews.
Drayton was there to explain his reasons for my abrupt new assignment.
"I did everything but beg you to change your mind last night," he said. I poked both middle fingers at him, and he laughed.
"I wasn't going to dither, discuss, debate, and compromise with you. You acted with pride that would have become destructive. Worse, the scientists and doctors reported that the genetic plagues can't be cured. All infected men must leave the planet before the rebirthing humanity. You will build the space station at Lagrange Four. After that, you'll be part of the first interstellar spaceship, destination Alpha Centauri where there are habitable planets."
That was the last time that I heard a human voice that wasn't electronic or amplified. Six other volunteers already converted to space-rubber skin suits lay on slabs next to robotic bodies. Angel-Wings and I sank into the vat of space-rubber.
The space-rubber changed skin, melted bone, hollowed out the body thanks to nano-machines and quantum science. All of our fragile human organs were gone. We were no longer men but indestructible skin blobs.
Soldiers stretched me over a robotic skeleton. Once again I had arms, legs, torso, and a head. Thousands of optical control fibers pushed into my rubberized skin and merged with my human nerves to create the control system of a new robot. Quantum nano-machines worked to transform me into a hybrid, a cyborg, a mechanical man suitable for surviving and working in space.
Nuclear power cells and computers replaced lungs and heart. Electric motors and cables replaced muscle. No need to breathe or eat or drink. Instead, we would build bigger and more elaborate machines and use them to terraform the planets of Alpha Centauri.
Our new memory banks would retain the accomplishments of the human race. We, the new hybrids, the new cyborgs would journey on nuclear fire, land on strange new worlds, and build in the image of humanity. My cyborg descendants would never know disease or the failures of love, or the sting of betrayal, or wars caused by lies.
One day, a thousand years in the future, the human race represented by cyborgs will send a message to earth. It will say: It is ready.
A new race of disease-free humans would hear the message and answer in strange new languages. These new flesh-and-blood humans will find a legacy left on alien worlds, a gift from the past. These humans would never again fear death and extinction. The stars will be theirs to command.
2600 words more or less
FUTURES YET UNKNOWN
Ten Stories by Dave Fragments
*An Alien serial murderer and a furry detective with fleas.
*Murder on a world with altered humans.
*Disturbing apocalyptic visions *Monstrous dystopian societies.
*A man on trial for betraying the human race to robots.
*Devils, demons and ghosts.
*Survivors of a plague war.
*Cyborgs trying to be human.
*Six friends in a strange sinkhole.
*The truth about a world drowning in rain, without sun, without hope.
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