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Dystopias are never precisely the opposite of utopias–they are closer to being failed “perfected” societies than evil empires by design. And one of the first orders of business for a fledgling dystopia is to figure out what to do about sex. Ban its non-reproductive forms like 1984? Encourage no-strings-attached orgies like Brave New World? Allow sexual variety only for an elite like The Handmaid’s Tale?
Seven authors investigate sex in the shadow of totalitarianism in Circlet’s latest anthology Like an Iron Fist: Dystopian Erotica. Each story explores the lengths people will go through to satisfy their illicit cravings. An ID code-branded stripper with a secret undulates for the pleasure of off-world punters. A Scarlet Lettered young woman craves intimacy in a police-state Heartland. A space pirate plunders corporate booty (in more ways than one). And a shell-shocked former POW confronts a world where his personal horror has become an erotic roleplaying game.
The most bloodthirsty dictatorship can never entirely eradicate the most primal of urges. The stories of Like an Iron Fist burn with the smothered passions of the silenced and the oppressed. Read them before it’s too late…
Table of Contents:
We are Jones by Eric Del Carlo
Performance Anxiety by Reina Delacroix
The Corporation Loves You by Monique Poirier
George by Steelwhisper
Orion Rising by Angelia Sparrow
A Vision in X-Ray and Visible Light by Nobilis Reed
Tragedy, Then Farce by Peter Tupper
Excerpt from “The Corporation Loves You”
by Monique Poirier
Forty-five times. She’d heard the message forty-five times in the last hour.
“Your call is important to us, please stay on the com. Remember, The Corporation loves you. Your call is very important to us, please stay on the com…”
The Corporation didn’t know shit about Magdalena Pierrot, and if they did they would not have loved her. But that was all academic right now since she was dead in the water, out of fuel with less than two weeks of life support reserves left, and had been listening to this goddamned chirpy hold music for three goddamned days. Every few minutes the music was cut in with the cheerful monotone of the recording assuring her that her call would be answered by the next available associate. If Magpie got out of this alive, she was making it her personal mission in life to find the satellite that was transmitting to her coordinates right now and smashing it so hard it opened a quantum singularity.
“Here at The Corporation we strive to serve the needs of our faithful customers. You call will be answered in the order it was received by the next available associate. Remember, The Corporation loves you. Make yourself at home with The Corporation. Your call is important to us, please stay on the com.”
Like she had any choice but to stay on the com. She’d sent out her distress call on a band she’d figured was secure and that satellite had picked it up anyhow and hijacked her com without her say so. Worse, it’d frozen her poor baby solid. She couldn’t even turn down the volume unless she wanted to go hardware on its ass and start cutting wires–and though it was a royal bitch have to listen to elevator music and corporate platitudes, she wasn’t quite ready to hack and slash her way to dying in a silent tin can in the middle of an asteroid field.
“… Remember, The Corpora– ATTENTION. APPROACHING VESSEL. ATTENTION. APPROACHING VESSEL.”
Magpie’s eyes went wide and she dived for the com. Emergency Override had kicked in, and she was able for the first time in three days to flip on the view screen. She hit ‘mute’ while she was at it. No more elevator music. When the screen flicked on, all the air went out of her like she’d been punched in the gut. The ship approaching had a Corporation logo plastered across its hull. That was the last goddamned thing Magpie needed, not when she had a hold full of jacked goods, weapons, and medical supplies intended for delivery into the hands of the United Freedom Alliance. They were supposed to have met her here a week ago. They were supposed to have brought her a new tank of xenon for the ion drive.
They were dead.
She’d suspected it for a while, but no doubt about it now. Most rebel ships were pasted together from salvage and duct tape and pretty damned near impossible to sneak past a security checkpoint. The Corporation didn’t take well to anything they didn’t manufacture. Had a habit of ‘reprocessing available resources to maximum efficiency’–which meant melting down anything they decided was salvage into component parts. Including people who weren’t loyal customers.
Magpie set her teeth and picked up her sidearm. She was a check-runner. Her ship was a gutted Corporation Freighter that still pinged as Corporate Subsidy, and most of the time she was damned good at passing for legit. Most of the time she wasn’t caught with her pants down in a place that nobody had any damned business being, though. This was probably going to get messy.
* * * *
Fish decided to check out the distress call because it was the first unplanned thing that had ever happened to him. He’d been processing asteroids for ten years and he’d never come upon another vessel out here–there wasn’t anything this far out except asteroids and more asteroids. Even process ships like his were spread thin and in rigidly ordered patterns that ensured they didn’t cover the same ground. That would be inefficient. It wasn’t a process ship that he was approaching. It looked like a G3 Freighter with some post-consumer modifications. There was something just a little off about it, and he couldn’t place what. Aside from it being out here at all–that alone was strange.
It didn’t respond to com contact. There might not even be anyone alive inside; he’d picked up the distress signal three days ago from an auto-response beacon. He sidled up to it and established an airlock connection without trouble. Pressure was higher on that side by a notch or two, and when the airlock equalized it sent some air from that ship hissing through the vents and it smelled–good? Unfamiliar. Something about it triggered a sudden pang in his gut, something out of the deep well of programmed memory. Something from a life he never had. Vat memories could be unsettling like that. When the hatch popped open there was a Typhon-class anti-personnel plasma rifle pointed at his face. He stopped moving. He could hear both of them breathing in the silence that followed.
It was a woman behind the gun. She was youngish, more than twenty but probably less than thirty. Younger than him… or at least younger than his body. Not really fair to compare ages with real people, since he’d spent his first years of existence in a tank with a cranial feed programming need to know information into his head. Enhanced Service Personnel hatched from the tank at twenty years’ growth.
“You’re too old to be a helmet head,” she said, breaking the silence. There was something steely in her eyes; appraisal, maybe. “And you sure as hell are not Customer Service. Class?” she barked. Something inside him melted just a little, because she sounded exactly like a commanding officer. Part of his mind sang at having someone barking clean, crisp orders. It was a damned long time since he’d been worth enough of anyone’s attention to get personal instructions.
“Resource acquisitions and processing, ma’am,” Fish replied. “Only representation of The Corporation you’re likely to find out this far, ma’am. Responding to your Customer Service Inquiry, ma’am. Here to help.”
“99FF33F15H.” He found himself inclined to look straight ahead into some imaginary distance. To avoid her eyes. Because she sounded like a commander, and insubordination was not tolerated. But her next question had his gaze snapping back, his heart quickening just a bit.
“Got a name?”
“Fish,” he said softly. “Back when I had a unit, they called me Fish.”
She snorted, a tiny smile playing out more in her eyes than on her lips.
“Magpie,” she said. An image flashed through his mind of a black and white bird. He’d never actually seen a bird. Hadn’t ever been dirtside. More vat memory.
“It’s my name. Magdalena Pierrot. Magpie. You got buddies in there?”
“No, ma’am. Just some process bots.”
“Do you get grid this far out? From your com, I mean? Can you ping to central?”
“No ma’am. I report back to central from Station Epsilon Delta once every fourteen days. My ship returns to central for load management, maintenance, and upgrades every six months.”
“How long until they expect to hear from you?”
“Ten days, ma’am.” Her gaze flickered up and down him, quick as a panel lighting up.
“Then unless you do something really stupid, I don’t have to shoot you yet,” she said after a pause, letting the muzzle of the gun drop just a bit. “Now back your ass up, I’m boarding you.”
He did as he was told without really thinking about it, a sudden pang of anxiety flashing through him. He wasn’t ready for an inspection. Not that this was one, exactly. At least he didn’t think it was one. She hadn’t identified herself to him by anything but name yet, and it would certainly be insubordinate to walk over to the com and plug her name into the database.
“So you’re all by your lonesome in a ship this big, digging asteroids for six months at a time before you hit dry land?” she asked, catching his attention back. She was still oriented toward him, the gun generally trained on his position.
“That’s right ma’am,” he answered awkwardly.
“Pretty shit job, eh? You have emergency stocks? I need xenon, my tank’s tapped out. Got in a firefight with some persistent disaffected non-consumers. Tried to contact Central, but we’re too far out. I’m on my way to Epsy too.”
She’d been directly engaged with disaffected non-consumers. That meant company loyalty. She might even be military or paramilitary division. A customer loss-prevention assurance agent out here hunting rebels. That would make sense; her presence in the asteroid field, her post-market ship to attract rebel attention, her possession of anti-personnel weaponry and extreme predilection for utilizing it to maximum efficiency. Shit. She was exactly the kind of person who’d happily report any and all aberrations to central. Fish was aberrant.
“I can assist you with that, ma’am,” he said carefully. “I’ll need your Customer Satisfaction Assurance number, or, if applicable, your rank and personnel number.” The rifle came up with jarring speed, and she was standing there with gritted teeth and flashing eyes, looking right into him in a way that made his breath stop.
“All you need to know about me, 99FF33F15H, is that I am the woman with the gun and that I will shoot you dead if you seem like you’re going to be a problem. My activities are classified. I trust that you, as an Enhanced Service Person if I’m not mistaken, are able to maintain intra-department information security? Because if you’re not I’m authorized to terminate you.”
“I’m here to assist you, ma’am.” Fish said with more conviction than he felt, wondering just who or what she was. Why he’d gotten himself into this kind of trouble by coming to check out a distress call at all instead of simply reporting it to central. Customer assistance was not part of his employment profile.
“Show me where you keep your reserves,” she ordered. He nodded curtly, keeping his eyes down as he led her through the ship. That meant leading her through the areas he’d modified. Modification of Corporation vessels was frowned upon. She stopped exactly where he’d hoped she wouldn’t, and stared.
* * * *
There was a mural painted on the adjoining bulkhead between the airlock bay and the body of the ship. Magpie looked at it, and looked back at the Corporation Drone, and then back at it. She took a step back to try and see the whole thing better, making sure to keep her sidearm ready. It was all made of these tiny, tiny little lines and hash marks in patches no bigger than her hand, overlapping each other and crossing each other, and no two patches seemed to be exactly the same color. They were all pretty close; variations on red and brown, arranged in something that suggested it should have a pattern but which she just couldn’t piece out.
“That’s different,” she said. He was looking at the ground, looking damned nervous. “Application of alternate surface treatments for bulkheads and deckheads is covered in section 22a of the systems manual under maintenance and repair–”
“Where’d you get the paint?” she interrupted, looking back at him again. Couldn’t quite decide what model he was–there were about a dozen kinds of Enhanced Service Personnel clones and she knew most of them on sight. But she’d never seen one that’d lasted this long. He looked about forty. Going gray at the temples. Most Enhanced Service Personnel burned out or screwed up or showed aberration or something by the time they hit thirty and were liquidated for resource re-acquisition. He looked up at her, meeting her eyes. His eyes were that unnerving shade of grayish-greenish-brown that all clones had. He’d gone from nervous to plainly terrified. He hadn’t looked scared like this when she had a rifle trained at his face, but now she was asking about paint and he looked like was about to piss himself.
“The alternate surface treatments have been manufactured from mineral powders collected in the cleaning and routine maintenance of mineral processing robots combined with spent engine cleaner. It seemed a most efficient use of refuse materials in the absence of requisitioned goods.”
“You made paint from asteroid dust and shop slime? And you put it on your wall?”
“Yes ma’am. I understand that this may constitute and unauthorized modification–”
He swallowed thickly, eyes slipping sideways, to the room they were headed toward.
“It was a means of utilizing available man-hours during mission-crucial robotically-enhanced task management downtime. Ma’am.”
“So you painted because you were bored.”
He closed his eyes, apparently defeated.
“With paint that you made, by hand, by yourself, without any consumer goods.”
“What was your department before you were reassigned to resource acquisitions and processing?”
“Hands-on Special Operations Customer Care and Information Retrieval Personnel.” She blinked, looking him up and down again. Looking at his face, the line of his jaw. He hadn’t shaved in probably a couple of days. That was probably a dress code violation right there, but…yeah. Take ten years off the Drone and stick his face behind a shatter-resistant laminate sheet and she’d have been looking at Number Four Ground Soldier. Helmet head. Corporation shock troops for everything from quelling riots to running labor camps. He’d been one of those.
Which made it just plain weird that he was standing there now looking at her like he was scared. She’d never seen a helmet head look scared. Look much of anything, really–Ground Soldiers hatched out of the vat shark-eyed and jackbooted and ready to kill on command. The man standing before her wasn’t anything like that.
“What was the precipitating event of your cross-departmental reassignment?”
“Excellence of service resulting in retention of services beyond planned resource recovery operations. Special Operations personnel are retained for ten fiscal years. Upon review it was determined that my service record was sufficient to qualify for retention in a less intensive department.”
“Followed orders good enough that it was worth more to keep you on, huh? Fair enough. I always wondered where they got solitary mining overseers from. Hadn’t figured it was recycled soldiers though. Aren’t the odds for aberration and degradation of mission-crucial employee behavior patterns a lot higher than if they just minted a new batch? I imagine there’s a high degree of loss in acquisitions this far out. Rebels. Mining accidents. Extrasolar phenomenon. One good EMP or Gamma Ray Burst and you’re done out here. We’ve both seen just how much service provision is put toward attending customer service inquiries originating from these coordinates.” She took a step nearer to him, and he leaned back a little. “Maybe they just expected you to die. I guess every bit of utility they can get out of you past your expected shelf life is just pure profit, huh?”
“It’s been the prerogative of The Corporation that I not be liquidated. My Service Record is spotless, ma’am.”
“Except you paint.”
He met her eyes again. Stopped breathing. Swallowed. There was something really quite compelling about watching him swallow. About having his complete and undivided attention. Something very interesting, in fact, about looking at a piece of Corporation equipment that was behaving outside of expected parameters.
“You’re aberrant, Fish. If this activity was reported to central you’d be liquidated.”
“Yes ma’am. I would,” he replied evenly.
“After ten years of doing their most mind-numbing work out here on your lonesome. Cleaning and keeping tabs on mining bots. Doesn’t it ever bother you, Fish? Being all alone?”
“This is a solitary post, ma’am.”
“Not what I asked.”
“Employee satisfaction is not a measured parameter in the execution of this employment opportunity, ma’am.”
“But I asked.” She was close enough that she could feel his breath on her face.
“I love The Corporation, ma’am,” he said, breathless, words tumbling out with tight perfection. “I trust that it makes decisions with the best interests of the people at heart. The Corporation loves me. I am at home with the Corporation.”
“The Corporation doesn’t love you,” she said, closing the bare gap between them and laying her hand against his breastbone to feel the furious hammering of his heart. He gasped, eyes widening at the treasonous audacity of her statement. She leaned in and kissed him.
* * * *
Reality came apart at the edges for Fish the moment Magpie leaned in and touched her lips to his own. Impossible. This couldn’t be happening because this didn’t happen because this was not a thing that happened during the employment cycles of Enhanced Service Personnel. This kind of behavior was grounds for immediate termination without review. There was no way they wouldn’t be found out; someone would review the security footage of the two of them entering this hallway and not coming out of it for too damned long and they’d put two and two together and both of them would be terminated on grounds of conflict of interest with mission-crucial employee behaviors.
But her lips were so soft.
Any and all negative feedback expressed about The Corporation was grounds for immediate termination, she had to know that.
But the hand that was wilfully pressed against his breastbone slid downward, around the small of his back, and that sizzled along his nerves. His hands came to alight on her shoulders without any real effort on his part. She purred against his mouth; a soft, primal sound. A hungry sound. A sound that send vibrations through his suddenly hyper-sensitive lips and was perfect in a way that nothing this incomprehensibly wrong should be. When his lips parted her tongue darted inside, running slick and hot against his own. He felt himself reeling, falling backward against the bulkhead behind him and sliding down it to land, hard, on his ass. Found himself with his face inches from her crotch and Corporation keep him he could smell her through the fabric of her ship-suit. His gaze followed the line of her zipper from groin to belly to breasts to collarbone to throat and finally to meet her eyes and she gazed down at him in a distinctly predatory fashion.
“Show me your bunk, soldier,” she said with her commanding officer’s voice.
To read the rest, download the ebook today!
Seven authors investigate sex in the shadow of totalitarianism in Circlet's latest anthology. In the tradition of 1984, The Handmaid's Tale, and Brave New World, all of which dealt with sexuality in some form, these stories explore the seething sexuality under the thumb of oppression. Includes Eric Del Carlo, Nobilis Reed, Angelia Sparrow, Peter Tupper, Monique Poirier, & more.