Battle for the Known Unknown Ch. 12bybradley_stoke©
Schmidt - 3750 C.E.
"Schmidt?" Paul wondered. "Why are we stopping at Schmidt? And why is the colony called that anyway. Was there ever a famous Schmidt?"
"I'm sure there was," said the captain of the space cruiser. "And I'm sure there are many Schmidts who are worthy to have a colony named after them. This colony, however, is named after Ronald Schmidt, the current hereditary president of the colony."
"Hereditary president?" Beatrice wondered. "Isn't that exactly the same as King or Prince or some other hereditary title?"
"Indeed it is," said Captain Turgenev. "But there is no universal law that dictates that the rulers of a colony shouldn't call themselves exactly what they like. There is no shortage of self-styled Kings, Tsars, Archdukes and Queens throughout the Solar System. There's even an Emperor, though his must be the smallest empire in human history. As you know colonisation of the Solar System wasn't exactly a planned or coordinated affair and many colonies were founded as nothing more than hereditary fiefdoms or business empires extended into space. This colony is just one of them. It was named after the family of porn merchants who founded the colony and continue to own it. But Ronald Schmidt is petitioning for recognised statehood in the Interplanetary Union and is making tentative moves towards the colony becoming a more conventional nation state, but as you'll soon see it has a long way yet to go."
Paul had heard of colonies that were governed by hereditary rulers, but as even the notion of private property was rather alien to him he'd wasn't at all sure what this might mean in practice. However, given the immensity of the Solar System it was inevitable that there should be a wide diversity of colonies and that many would be of whatever nature their founders decided they should be. This was, after all, how a relatively impoverished but idealistic colony such as Godwin happened to exist in the Kuiper Belt.
"Why are we stopping here?" he wondered. "It's Earth we're heading to. Why can't we go there directly?"
"Space travel is an expensive business, especially given the huge distance from Saturn to Earth," explained the captain. "Chartering a ship that travels directly to Earth without the benefit of a gravitational sling or refuelling is a luxury that only a very few can afford. Your journey isn't going to be in a straight line at all. There's an Earthbound ship due to depart from the colony in a few weeks time, while this ship heads towards other colonies in the Jovian belt. The interests of interplanetary commerce can't be ignored. Nevertheless, I'm more than certain that President Schmidt will do his best to be a good host."
Although that might be so, Paul was in no hurry to leave the good ship Molotov. He'd rather enjoyed his stay in his spacious luxury suite on the space ship's fifth level and, more than even that, the pleasure he'd enjoyed between the sheets with his new wife. Although he was still rather unsure about the meaning invested in the institution, married life was agreeing with him rather well. If what it meant was the constant and reliable attention of the most sexually desirable woman whose body he'd ever enjoyed there was nothing he could possibly complain about. Was it being married that made Beatrice such an agreeable and passionate lover? Paul was sure this wasn't the only reason, but the sum total of his earlier lovemaking was as nothing in comparison.
The sheets were damp with perspiration and semen when he awoke after his last night on board a space ship he'd hardly eat all explored beyond his suite. He had no time to rest however, as Beatrice ensured that he got dressed and ready to go. She then hurried Paul towards the space shuttle that would take the newly-weds and several dozen other people to the Schmidt colony.
"We don't want to miss our flight," she reprimanded Paul as he lingered by a stall that sold a selection of souvenir clothing from the Socialist Republics. In truth, Paul wasn't sure whether he'd ever want to buy the close-fitting clothes on display. He still wasn't comfortable with even the concept of commerce given that nothing ever came with a price on his home colony.
Paul's reluctance to leave was no less when he saw the waiting shuttle craft in which he and Beatrice would travel for more than a whole day. It was tiny. It was a long tube of which the greater part was just engine. There were windows along the sides by which he would have to sit on a seat strapped in by a belt. The only thing he could look forward to was the view through the windows of an empty void speckled with distant stars. There might be the opportunity for drinks and food and even some sex in the reclinable seats, but he'd become accustomed to somewhat more luxury. The shuttle flight was necessary because the Molotov came no closer to the colony than a few million kilometres. The only familiar company on the flight, other than Beatrice, were Sergei and Yuliya: two disgruntled officers from the Socialist Republic who'd been assigned to act as his guardians for the duration of his stay in Schmidt.
Even Paul's vague hope of being able to make love during the flight was rather compromised by the fact that he and Beatrice sat were sitting between his two guards. They were clearly uncomfortable by the blatant lovemaking of a heterosexual couple whose behaviour made them, if anything, even more disgruntled. When they weren't actively fucking one another, this couple announced to anyone who cared to listen that they were natives of the Republic of Schmidt. They weren't the only people to openly have sex during the flight, but even Paul felt uncomfortable by the fact that none of the amorous couples bothered to activate the privacy screens and its attendant soundproofing.
Throughout the Solar System, it was quite normal for people to have their bodies enhanced to accentuate or even exaggerate their sexual characteristics, but Ecstasy was the only place until now where Paul had ever seen real live people of such cartoonish proportions as this couple. The woman had enormous breasts and buttocks that were much larger than Beatrice's. These assets were further enhanced by close-fitting rubbery clothes that both hid and emphasised the contours of her unnatural body. The woman wore stiletto heels that were almost perpendicular to the ground so making her feet resemble pronged hoofs. Her waist was absurdly narrow, her thighs monstrous and her face had a baby-like cuteness with huge cheeks, swollen lips and over-sized eyes. The couple exemplified someone's bizarre sexual fantasy, but even Paul's immature masturbatory fantasies never quite encompassed anything quite so grotesque.
The view through the tiny portal didn't enliven the flight at all. Despite many years of wondering what space was like beyond the Kuiper Belt, Paul was actually rather disappointed. The sun was larger than the pinprick visible from Godwin, but it still wasn't very large. And it was a long time until the colony of Schmidt began to loom larger than any other dot in the firmament, and Paul was able to appreciate how different it was to most other space colonies. Not many were designed to resemble a saucer.
The most noteworthy part of the journey until then had been the midway point when the ship switched from accelerating at a standard gravitational force to decelerating at the same rate. This was the moment when the passengers, the amorous couple from Schmidt included, had to strap themselves in for the few moments their bodies were weightless. This brief moment reminded Paul of the horrifying fact that he was encased inside a small cylinder of metal outside of which was close to nothing at all.
There was rather more for Paul to view when the shuttle arrived at Schmidt. The passengers were escorted off the shuttle and wished a good day by air stewards dressed in the familiar tight uniforms of the Socialist Republics. It was then that Paul discovered how typical the amorous couple were of the citizens of Schmidt.
The official welcoming committee that stood to attention as Beatrice and he entered the reception hall was a gathering of sexual freaks all dressed in unsubtle and provocative clothes. Beatrice was comparatively modest in the gossamer-thin dress that draped over her voluptuous contours. It seemed that the national dress of Schmidt was made from rubber. The men and women of the reception committee wore costumes where when the flesh was hidden it was only with the purpose of further drawing attention to what was otherwise shown. In most cases, the breasts were bare as too was the crotch and anus. All the men were blessed with exceptionally large penises that were on full display.
It was obvious to Paul what the colony's main industry was and what provided its President with a sufficiently large fortune to maintain his own private fiefdom.
In case there was still any doubt, above the heads of the dignitaries was a huge holographic display of men and women engaged in indiscriminate acts of coitus with no regard to gender. There was also a lurid array of statuary that represented men, but mostly women, in exaggerated poses where the emphasis was clearly of a sexual nature.
Paul had often sampled pornography, but he'd never suspected that it could be the primary industry for an entire space colony. Schmidt not only served to satisfy the still huge appetite for pornography throughout the Solar System, but was proud of its status as one of the sex industry's most prominent providers. Paul wondered whether, if the colony had made its fortune from music, there would have been a similar display of its musical genius. Or, if from the manufacture of nanocarbon tubes, an exhibition of the innumerable uses made of the buckminsterfullerene molecule.
The proficiency the people of Schmidt possessed in the public display of sexual intercourse did not come with a corresponding aptitude in public speaking. The Minister of Foreign Affairs made an excruciatingly dull speech to welcome Paul that was both awkward and inept. Not one cliché was too threadbare. No sentence's effect was enlivened by its execution. And there was not one hint of originality. It was almost as if the speech, like the pornographic films from which Schmidt made its fortune, was assembled by committee and executed more to tick off points than to achieve its ostensible purpose. The applause that celebrated its uncertain conclusion must surely have been from relief that the ordeal was now over.
Paul was pleased that no other dignitary was assigned to follow the Foreign Minister's address. The time he spent listening had given him the opportunity to appraise his hosts. It was obvious that it was Beatrice rather than the Foreign Minister who attracted the most attention. She was also the one person who'd best suppressed any sign of boredom and restlessness.
The couple were then escorted by an entourage of dignitaries towards their hotel. As they walked along the pleasant marble paths of Schmidt, Paul noticed that it wasn't only pornographic images that were on prominent display. Along with the huge cinematic displays of carnal pleasure, there were almost as many images of President Ronald Schmidt and, judging from the family likeness, what was probably his long line of dignified predecessors.
There was something quite ridiculous about the President, but this was really no more so than his illustrious predecessors. It could be his huge moustache and wavy blond hair. It might be the weakness in his eyes and the cheesiness of his grin. It was certainly related to the fantastic and colourful wardrobe he wore, which was dominated by feather, fur and latex. Although the president seemed comical, it was apparent that his exercise of power within the colony named after his family was absolute and unquestioned. There was no obvious sign of censorship. The ubiquitous and explicit displays of every possible sexual act—including those that went well beyond any of Paul's sexual fantasies (especially regarding animals, children and excretory functions)—showed no restraint at all. Paul soon found that there was free and easy access to objective news coverage, some of which was highly critical of the President, but he also discovered that the people of Schmidt were peculiarly disinclined towards anything other than bland undemanding entertainment. And most of that had a very high sexual content.
The hotel in which Beatrice and Paul stayed was as blatantly lewd as everything else in the colony. It was decorated in lurid pinks and reds. The fittings were in plush velvet and leather. It resembled nothing less than an immense boudoir.
From the moment the couple arrived at the hotel, with their Saturnian guards ill at ease, Beatrice exhibited a capricious wilful unpredictability that Paul had never seen before. This conduct seriously exasperated Sergei and Yuliya. The room they were first shown just didn't meet Beatrice's standards of perfection. It was only after having been shown several other rooms equally well appointed and unashamedly vulgar, that Beatrice at last settled on one that necessitated the move of other more comfortably ensconced guests who rather resented being evicted from their bedroom.
This was just the beginning of a pattern of behaviour that the strangely stubborn and unsettled Beatrice insisted on. Within a week, they had stayed in more than one bedroom each night and had even moved to other almost identical hotels. During all this Beatrice remained forever indecisive, however much she insisted after each change of address that she'd at last found a room where she was at last certain she'd be content.
"So what was so wrong about that room?" asked Paul finally voicing his annoyance as he and Beatrice marched out of the Hotel Wilhelm Schmidt towards the Hotel Archibald Schmidt with Sergei and Yuliya carrying their bags in tow. "It had a lovely view of the esplanade. The en suite swimming pool was lovely and warm. And the bed was big enough for ten people."
"I just didn't like it," said Beatrice adamantly. "But I'm sure this hotel will be ideal. It's got a lovely holo-mural over that statue of a big-breasted porn star."
"I can't say it's any better than the one outside the Wilhelm," sniffed Paul, although he accepted his bride's opinions. They were newlyweds and it was probably to be expected that Beatrice would want everything to be perfect. But how perfect could anything ever be?
Beatrice's capriciousness extended beyond her dissatisfaction with the hotel suites. She had got into the habit of changing her plans abruptly and without warning, however many dignitaries and porn stars might be inconvenienced by her unscheduled changes. Paul didn't really mind this much. He didn't understand the meaning of celebrity or status, so he was blissfully aware of the offence she caused. But it was frustrating to be one moment heading towards yet another sex musical—which was always remarkably dull however sensational and showy it promised to be—and the next moment being diverted to some equally promising, and most often even less interesting, entertainment that the government officers had never anticipated the couple would want to see.
If nothing else, Paul came to see rather more of life on Schmidt than the government minders had intended. Not only did he see live sex shows, first night screenings of star-studded sex films (almost all made by the Schmidt Corporation) and the film studios and warehouses used by the industry, but some rather amateurish strip clubs, a sex revue that was unrelievedly inept, and a factory that manufactured the remarkably elastic clothing worn on the colony. He even got to see those sections in the space colony's hub where sewerage, water supply and electricity were managed.
"Tell me what you didn't like about that last room?" asked Paul when in the early hours Beatrice insisted on yet another move within the hotel complex. This once again greatly inconvenienced the hotel staff and their uncomplaining but clearly discontented Saturnian guardians. "It seemed so perfect when we moved in last night. And why do we have to move now of all times?"
Beatrice smiled broadly and kissed her husband on his lips and ran her fingers over his still tumescent penis. "I don't know. It just didn't seem right. The mattress was too soft. The window didn't give us a good enough view of the plaza. I just want things to be perfect."
"But for me, darling," Paul protested, "just spending more than one uninterrupted night in a bedroom is all the perfection I desire."
Nevertheless, Paul didn't spend all his days and nights with Beatrice. She developed the habit of seeking out time to leave Paul either alone or with whichever guardian who'd chosen to look after him.
"Where does Beatrice go?" Paul asked Yuliya who was currently assigned to him, while it was Sergei who was assigned to accompany Beatrice that morning. "I can't think there's much she can do by herself that she can't do with me."
Yuliya was distinctly ill at ease from Paul's direct question. She glanced over at Paul who was sitting on the sofa opposite her in the palatial chamber in the Esmeralda Schmidt Hotel that was his home that day.
"Beatrice just enjoys spending time by herself," she answered diplomatically.
"So where do you go with Beatrice when it's your turn to follow her around?" wondered Paul, who, despite believing that such concerns were appropriate for a newly married man, was conscious that he might be intruding on his wife's need for privacy.
The pale freckles on Yuliya's cheek and brow darkened and she nervously rubbed her shaven pate. "Sometimes she just visits me in my room and we... er... talk," she said. "You know, about girls' things." She looked up at Paul pleadingly. "I don't normally spend much time in male company. I miss the company of other women. It's good for us to spend time together."
"Of course," said Paul. "That's quite natural."
Yuliya seemed relieved that Paul was so understanding.
There was one aspect about Schmidt that particularly puzzled Paul. It did seem to be a peculiarly accident-prone colony. Why, only the other day the room he and Beatrice had slept in just the night before developed a serious climate systems failure that caused severe distress to the couple who'd rather reluctantly exchanged rooms with them. The room became so cold that they were very nearly killed. Then there was the explosion that ruptured the pathway that Paul and his wife might easily have been walking along if Beatrice hadn't changed her mind at the last moment and decided that an evening spent watching an amateur sex poetry recital was preferable to a first night matinee of a holographic animation feature at the Grand Schmidt Theatre. And worst of all was the unexplained assassination of a tourist at a sex robot museum that would have been on Paul's itinerary if Beatrice hadn't had such a raging headache that afternoon. This and a trail of other mishaps plagued the itineraries that Paul would have attended if Beatrice wasn't so habitually capricious. Although nothing was said about such incidents by the couple's two guardians, they did seem to be especially alert as a result.
It was good that Beatrice's wilfulness didn't extend to complaining about Yuliya's and Sergei's heightened vigilance. She was quite happy that every room they visited was scanned by equipment for suspicious devices or that even the most senior dignitary was subjected to electronic scanning and even a brusque frisk. It was also Beatrice's unconventional policy to chat as much with the ordinary citizens of Schmidt as with the dignitaries who'd been expecting to enjoy their presence. Paul didn't understand rank and privilege and was impervious to the effect of such snubs. In any case, the non-privileged, although clearly nervous of addressing celebrities like Paul and Beatrice, were most often the more engaging company even if their appearance was no less bizarre.