What did she love about Lucy? The flowing hair, the perky breasts… the way she would get up early, sneak out of bed quietly, and tiptoe downstairs to toast the bagels? These were parts of it, Tracy knew.
But there were also the spousal dental benefits that came with Lucy’s job at the Post Office, and the reduced family-plan car insurance rate, and the right to shop for cheap cigarettes at the local PX with Lucy’s military ID card. These things could not be discounted either.
“You seem a million miles away,” purred Lucy. “What are you thinking about?
“Only this, my love,” Tracy answered, burying her face into her wife’s soft, pale shoulder, and covering her neck with wet kisses. “Only this, and the knowledge that, should you die tonight, I will have the legal right to grant consent for any and all necessary examinations or procedures regarding your corpse.”
“He tied you up?” her father asked. “He forced himself on you?”
“Yes,” she answered, her voice quaking with fear and shame.
The old man reached for the phone. “I’m calling the Sheriff!”
“No, Daddy!” she screamed. “I have to get… tested first. You know… to see if there’s a… baby.”
“But he could do this to another girl if we don’t stop him!”
He started to dial, but she grabbed his arm, wincing from the pain of the fresh fracture.
Her eyes, bruised and puffy, pleaded with him.
“We have to wait, don’t you see? If he put life in my belly, that proves he’s a good man, Daddy, and it was love! Love!”
He lit another cigar, the reflected light from the diamond-studded platinum S.T. Dupont Prestige Collection lighter even brighter than the flickering yellow flame it produced.
“Cuban, you know,” he said. “We used to do whatever we wanted on that damned island, until the Communists took it from us.”
She nodded, swirling the 50-year-old Macallan single-malt, watching the precious amber liquid dance along the sides of the Waterford cut crystal glass.
“But it won’t last,” he said. “You can’t take what you want with guns and expect to keep it. The only way to make something yours forever… is to buy it.”
He threw the thick bundle of hundred dollar bills on the bed.
“Pick it up,” he commanded.
This heat he was feeling… was it the tropical climate? Was it the moist, heavy air being pushed forward by the edges of the coming monsoon? Or was it… something deeper, something… more primal? Like… a 60% savings in payroll?
“Yes,” he heard her say. “Yes, I will be yours.”
“You will?” he asked. “For… four dollars an hour, with a negotiable one percent annual bonus based on performance?”
“Yes,” she said, kissing his feet with fiery abandon. “Yes!”
“More trouble, sir. At well-head 317.”
Goddamn it. This was the last thing Josiah needed. It was hard enough keeping the grid alive… producing enough juice to fry all the bacon and execute all the terrorists. But these uprisings… they wasted time and money, and they made him look bad to the Council of Presidents.
“Is it the Solarites?”
The young Private only nodded. Josiah hit the desk with his fist, causing a gold frame, holding a hologram of his late wife, to jump.
Jenny. She had died in a Solarite attack two years ago, killed by maniacal sun-worshipers who thought that the weak yellow star 90 million miles away could meet all of humanity’s energy needs. Idiots.
“Call in the float ships, then. If oil doesn’t flow tonight… blood will!”
Annie backed away, her face a mask of utter terror.
“But…” she whimpered, “You told me that you were from… Hawaii!”
Mukumba grinned. “I also said that I loved you, and that I’d take care of you. Do you still believe those things too?”
His laugh, wicked and cruel, seemed as sharp as the curved Arabian sword he held in his dark, muscled grip.
“This is a very old blade, you know,” he said, turning the polished scimitar to catch the glow of the firelight. “Who knows how many white infidels have died upon it over the centuries? Hundreds? Thousands? What would you guess?”
Annie, backed up against the hard stone wall of the mosque, just shook her head, too frightened to speak.
“No matter. I’m sure it has strength left for one more weak, stupid American.”
The patient in room twelve was screaming again. Rachel turned up the volume on her desk radio, drowning out the man’s pathetic demands for morphine.
What else could she do? Should she tell the man the truth: that they had no painkillers stronger than St. Joseph’s aspirin tablets? That she and Dr. Calder had been selling the substandard, government-issue opiates on the black market, and using the money to build their dream chateau in the mountains?
Doctor Wright approached her desk, a tired expression on his young face. Just a month out of med school, he was still naive enough to care about their patients, to think that he was somehow more than just a cog in a long-broken machine. He made her sick.
“How’s our John Doe?” he asked.
“Oh, he’ll be fine,” sneered Rachel. “It’s only three bullets.”
“I wish we could just go ahead and do the surgery without waiting for approval from the Bureau of Triage,” he sighed. “They’ve got a six week backlog.”
Six weeks, thought Rachel. In six weeks she would be on holiday with Dr. Calder, skiing, sipping champagne, and losing herself in caviar-flavored kisses. All on the taxpayer’s dime.
“All I have ever wanted,” said Stanley, barely holding back the tears, “was to pick grapes. Crouching in the hot sun, working twelve hours without a break, feeling the sticky, salty sweat soak though my clothes… it was my dream.”
“I know, my sweet,” cooed Alice soothingly. She held him, rubbing his aching back with her soft womanly hands. “I know.”
“But how can I compete?” he asked. “These… foreigners… they’re shorter, they don’t tire, and their brown skin never seems to burn! They don’t even complain… at least not in any language I can understand!”
“It isn’t fair, my love. But we’ll fix it.”
“How?” he asked, pitifully. “With petitions? With politics?”
No, she thought silently. With bullets.