tagNonConsent/ReluctanceCock of Ages Ch. 02

Cock of Ages Ch. 02

byCreamer©

Baltimore

April 18th, 1951

I found Mrs. Amy Hunter at the florist shop where she worked.

I was a little less-nattily dressed this time around, and instead of the sample case I had Cromwell conjure me up a battered old attaché -- still all the same gadgets, but in a dark brown, weatherbeaten bag that hung around my shoulder. I had traded in my tailored salesman's suit for a long peacoat, Merchant Marine surplus, and I had re-done my hair into a more rakish style. Instead of shirt and tie I wore a ribbed black sweater. I was going for a gritty post-war pseudo-beatnik intellectual look, the mysterious stranger with a chip on his shoulder and unrestrained libido. Add in a cocky swagger, and you have the confident young poet who any recently-married and soon-to-be-widowed young lady might find attractive.

I wasn't going to try to make her in the store, of course, I was just scouting out the territory. Amy was working the register when she wasn't arranging more bouquets, and she was doing it in the slow, tired way that showed off both her proficiency and her apathy about the whole exercise. This was no giddy schoolgirl with a heart of gold. This was a long-suffering, depressed individual who took a cynical view on life.

She was almost the polar opposite of sweet, sweet Sarah, wearing a black turtleneck and large round glasses. A cigarette hung from her lip and was replaced almost as soon as it was gone -- that made her a rebel. In 1951 women didn't smoke in public, as a rule. She wasn't pretty, but she was attractive. Long facial features, long dark straight hair, short torso and legs, a modest bust and barely perceptible hips. As I overheard her interact with the customers and her boss -- a matronly lady whose face could go from smile to scowl in microseconds -- I caught on to her sarcastic wit and her generally pessimistic outlook on life.

You might think that would be a drawback, in my line of work. But the truth is you can make a depressed woman almost as easily as an optimistic one. You just push different buttons. Cynics like Amy got just as randy as any happy housewife, they just had a different path to their horny place than the June Cleaver model. She had been recently married, and had been getting it pretty regularly. With her husband gone her hormones, so devoted to pairbonding in the early stages of the relationship, would have her thinking in that direction. The fact that she drank would certainly help, too.

I bought a short bouquet of daisies from her, flashed the smile, gave her the warm-up to the mating ritual. Not too much -- I just wanted to catch her eye at that point, burn my face into her memory (along with a jolt of a powerful attractive pheromone) and touch her hand, lightly, just once, which I managed when I took back my change. Thank you, thank you, smile, look, linger, out the door, look back, go. Stage One was complete.

I knew she didn't get off until 3:00, and it was still late morning now. Plenty of time for a cup of coffee, read the charmingly quaint 1951 newspapers, and maybe cruise for a freebie or two.

I mean, I had my List, and those were the girls I had to visit. But I wasn't restricted, on most missions, to sticking to just the List. I was actually encouraged to pursue non-entangling liaisons (agency-speak for "quickies") that would help spread the biochemical gospel in my juice to as many women as possible. Having more testosterone coursing through my system as mortal man gave me a motive, and one does like to keep one's professional skills sharp. Besides, the preliminaries are always rewarding. Pure observation of the Fifties Female added to my database of seduction techniques.

In the space of two hours in that coffee shop I spotted five women I could have pursued -- each taking more or less time to successfully seduce. They ranged from a coquettish teen who had, in my professional opinion, likely recently discovered sex in some form and was desperately eager, to the middle-aged war widow who hadn't gotten any in so long you could see the desperation on her face. I noted details of style and dress and mannerism.

Ranking my choices, I put the widow as the easiest and quickest to score. A casual glance had a paper with the want-ads spread out in front of her, various jobs circled. Unemployed -- or underemployed -- that could be helpful. She was having a single cup of coffee and plain toast, no butter. That told me she was broke and watching her weight -- she could have gotten a rasher of bacon for fifteen cents. Toast and coffee was a dime. She had a pack of Lucky Strikes by her elbow as she read.

I slid into the booth across from her and handed her the bouquet. She looked startled and confused for a moment, then suspicious -- all perfectly natural and expected emotions, under the circumstances.

"For you," I said, graciously, bowing just a hint."

"For . . . me? Who are you?" she asked, brusquely. Trace of northern accent -- New York or New Jersey, maybe both.

"I am a representative of the rest of the universe, which has directed me to bring a little sunshine into your life."

"Uh . . . why?"

"Because you deserve it," I said, as if it settled the matter. She was still confused, but she was starting to catch on to my game, a little. I could detect the seed of a smile. Women are suckers for flowers -- that's a human universal.

"And upon what, pray tell, does the rest of the universe base that?"

"Hey, I just work here," I said in mock protest. "I get the memo and the work order, I go and dispense sunshine and happiness. I don't ask why." The smile was starting to blossom. Time to strike. "Hi, I'm Jack. Jack Morrow," I said, casting her my best friendly, disarming, enchantingly attractive smile as I offered her my hand.

She returned it, despite herself, and shook my hand. "Candace," she said. "Candace Greene." She took out a Lucky and lit it, staring at me intently the whole time. "So, you trying to make me, mister?"

"Please, call me Jack. And yes, Candace, I'm trying to make you," I said seriously, a trace of laughter in my expression. And I never looked away. That would be weakness, and with this woman you needed supreme confidence. "How am I doing so far?"

She shrugged as she exhaled. "You're still sitting here," she observed. "That's better than most."

"Are you so unobtainable, then?" I asked.

"No, I'm just very, very choosy," she replied. "But it's the middle of the day, I don't want to look for a job I've got to get, and I like your smile."

"What kind of work are you looking for?" I inquired, politely.

"A rich man's mistress, but there doesn't seem to be much call for that. Secretary, probably. I can type. Clerk if I have to. Waitress, if you put a gun to my head."

"Rich man's mistress," I said, stroking my chin. "Any good at it?"

"Never tried. But I'm willing to learn. I have all the tools." She exhaled again, pursing her lips teasingly. She probably didn't even know she was doing it. "You a rich man in need of a mistress?"

"Maybe," I shrugged, taking one of her Luckys without asking. Territorial thing. I was establishing my dominance. "But if I was that rich, I'd probably look for someone beyond entry-level." That was a term that wouldn't come into wide usage for another three decades. By using it I sounded clever. I also had shoved back, a little. "Mostly I'm a humble purveyor of daisies to pretty women, and when I'm not busy with that or the numbers of my diamond mines, I'm a gentleman of leisure. I had some leisure time, and you looked like the kind of woman who both appreciated daisies and who also had some leisure time."

She laughed but was on guard. "You're good with the banter, Jack, and I'm sure you're a nice guy . . . but I really do need to find a job. Soon," she said, with just the smallest amount of desperation in her voice.

"Well, maybe we could work something out," I said, toning down the suggestion into a casual remark. "Would you consider a temporary position?"

"I'm not a—" she said as her eyes opened wide.

"I wasn't implying that you were," I said, instantly. "Or we wouldn't be playing these verbal games. I just figured your time was valuable, and if I purchased, say, a few hours of it . . . say for fifty bucks . . . that might give you some breathing room on your job search."

She considered, warring with herself. Fifty bucks in 1951 money was pretty significant. A week's pay, for some. But accepting it would make her a whore, and that was crossing a line.

"I don't know . . ." she said, doubtfully. "For fifty bucks you could get a couple of nights with the . . . working girls over on Fleet Street."

Time to close this thing. "I don't want a whore, Candace, I want you. Look," I said, gently, "You look like a really nice lady, and I like the way you laugh. Under ordinary circumstances I'd ask you out, wait until Friday night, take you out to a club, drinks, dinner, dancing, maybe a long drive, then a second date on Saturday at the movies, with dinner, etcetera, etcetera. But the problem is I'm on a train to California tomorrow, and I don't have the time to do all of that while I lure you into my web of deceit and try to get you into a compromising position. So I'm getting to the point. I'd love to lavish you with attention and delicacies, but I figure you could probably use the money more than the flattery right now."

"I . . . well, you're probably right about that," she admitted with a depressed sigh. "And honestly, it's been so long since I was on a real date that I appreciate the attention. But . . . fifty bucks? For a few hours with me?" she asked, clearly not believing I was serious. "You shouldn't tease an old lady."

"Hardly old," I said. "Besides, in my experience a woman doesn't really know what to do with herself until she's in her late twenties." Candace was clearly past her late-twenties, but all women everywhere enjoy flattery. Come to think of it, most men do, too.

"Well Mr. Morrow, how shall I respond?" she asked with a weak smile. "With outrage that you think I might be that kind of girl? With suspicion because you're that kind of man? Or gratitude that the universe at large has seen fit to not only bring me flowers, but to give me a month's rent for what I suddenly want to do very, very badly?"

"I'd go with the third," I suggested. "You're a pretty lady. I'm a handsome stranger. Those are some very nice daisies. And no one will ever know," I said, pronouncing the words that have closed more propositions than "I love you!"

She considered. She finished her cigarette and drained her coffee. "Let's go," she said, decisively. "I live in a fleabag right around the corner."

Five minutes, thirty nine seconds. Not quite a record, but impressive.

***

I've got the best fucking job in the entire fucking universe.

I was recruited moments before I was going to be sentenced -- what for doesn't really matter -- it wasn't murder or terrorism or jay walking or anything, just a misunderstanding that got out of hand and saw me unexpectedly in a courtroom, fearing for my freedom. I don't even know why she pressed charges. She seemed happy enough when I left.

But as I was about to be sentenced, a grim-looking man with the severe-looking Department of Public Health logo on his arm approached the bench and whispered a few minutes to the judge. The old man raised his eyebrows, shrugged, and plopped the gavel down: sentence suspended. Then the DPH man approached me, introduced himself as Dr. Weems, and asked me if I'd like for him to buy me lunch.

Five minutes earlier I had expected to be eating a cold lunch out of a Styrofoam box and fighting Bubba McRapist for the privilege, so I was more than happy to grub on his dime. We found a comfy café three blocks over, ordered, and then Dr. Weems gave me the pitch.

"Tom, how many women have you fucked?" he asked, patiently. It was odd hearing that word come out of such a . . . mild-mannered mouth.

"Today?" I asked, curious.

"Uh . . . no, I mean, how many total?"

"Couple of hundred," I said, after some quick figuring. "Hard to keep an accurate count."

"I bet," he said, dryly. "I've studied your records. Scores of random encounters in the last year alone. You rarely stay with one woman for more than a week, and if you've been faithful to her during that week, we haven't heard about it."

"Well, apart from the morose interest you have in my sex life, what is all of this about? I mean, I'm appreciative," I said, hurriedly. "Don't get me wrong. I really didn't want to go to jail. But unless you're an admirer of my work and . . ."

"No, no, nothing like that," Dr. Weems assured me. "No, this is a business proposition. I see that you are currently unemployed --"

"Well, screwing the boss' wife on top of his desk while he's at lunch is apparently considered grounds for dismissal in this backwards jurisdiction," I grumbled good-naturedly. "Not to mention criminal. Barbarians!"

"My point is, Tom, we've been watching you. You are what we in the trade call an Alpha Casanova."

"I, um, I like to screw," I shrugged, as the waiter put our drinks on the table. "Early and often. With lots of pretty ladies. Nothing unusual about that."

"Not the fondness for screwing," he agreed. "But the rate of success you have is unusual. It's incredible. From what we've been able to tell, you are perhaps one of the most efficient seducers in the world. You meet a woman you want to have sex with, and you can usually talk her out of her panties in less than twenty-four hours."

"And this . . . impresses you?" I asked, confused. "I was just about to go to jail because of it."

"Oh, my, yes, it does impress me, Tom. You're an expert. Further, you're kind of pathological about it, too. You vary your technique, tailor your dialog, even wear disguises when necessary. Very impressive."

"Let me guess, you want me to see if your wife will cheat on you?" I sighed. "Okay, I've done that before. Here's what—"

"No, no, thank you, I'm a widower. My wife died three years ago of SANS," he said quietly.

"Oh. I'm terribly sorry," I said, meaning every word. Of all of the nasty little bugs killing people these days, SANS was a particularly nasty way to go.

"That's partially why I'm talking to you, actually. As you can see, I'm with Public Health. And we've been a little . . . busy the last few years."

That was an understatement. Every since I was a kid, we've been in a Pubic Health Emergency, due to the wave after wave of dire diseases that had rapidly spread among the population. The last War was probably why -- too many factions with delusions of competency and access to basic lab facilities let loose a plague of designer plagues. Some nasty bugs had been unleashed, and several of these designer diseases had reached past the troops in the field and infected civilian populations. SANS was a big killer, but there were two-dozed or so related syndromes that would be taking out whole towns, if left alone. Worse than that, a lot of the viruses left you alive, but sterile. That's why our population had been shrinking slowly but surely since the War.

I listened to him explain it with half an ear, but I already knew the story. SANS, SAS, ASAC, C-NAS, plenty of other cryptic acronyms too. They call them "S-Panel" syndromes, and I have no idea why. Lots of icky viruses had made it back home, despite the best containment precautions. Now the US population was shrinking by half-a-million a year, both due to the diseases and the dramatic over-all fall-off in births. America used to have over 315 million people. We were at 240 million now, and that was slipping as fewer babies were born. In a few generations we'd be back to pre-industrial levels of population.

The government had always said that there was nothing to worry about. But everyone knew better. Human beings being what they are, most of us ignored the news and got on with our shallow, depressing little lives and tried not to think about the future.

" . . . so we've tracked the issue to a common genetic marker," Weems was explaining. "It's ridiculously common, we discovered, and makes us susceptible to all the S-Panel virons and viruses. It's a kind of 'back door' in the messenger RNA."

"Well, great, get crackin' on that cure, Doc. I have every confidence in you."

"Oh, we've done that," he said, casually. "We know how to eliminate the . . . weakness. The problem is, you can't just jab someone with a needle or give them a pill. Genetic-oriented diseases can take generations to manifest, and by that time it's too late. Hell, some of the S-Panels have been around since Columbus, but didn't present as life-threatening until this last few years."

"So . . . we're doomed? And I was having such a good day, too," I chided.

"Tom, the issue isn't that we're doomed, it's how many of us are doomed. Right now only about two percent don't have the 'back door'. Which means that that two percent will survive, and, maybe, breed. But in the meantime, billions will die childless. Imagine the world with ninety-eight percent less people in it."

"Sounds good to me," I agreed. "I've always thought the joint was too crowded."

"Oh, it is. But . . . well, that cappuccino you're enjoying. That one cup of coffee represents whole industries that will be wiped out through lack of workers. The farmer, the processor, the truck driver, the shipper, the brokers, the roasters, the retailers, the dairies, the guy who made the mug and the guy who made the drink. All gone."

"I . . . guess I should switch to decaf," I admitted, sheepishly. "Okay, you've made a point. End of the human race is bad for the coffee industry. I get it. So?"

"So, we think we may have found away around the whole idea of certain doom."

"And I assume it isn't coffee."

"No, Tom. It's sperm."

"Well if you're looking for taste-testers, I regret to inform you—"

"No," he interrupted, chuckling, "no, Tom, plain, ordinary sperm won't do it. We need to inject the corrective measure directly into the germ plasm of the genetic population generations before they will be needed. That's the rub. Anyone we inoculate now, well, our civilization will fall apart before they will be of any use. Oh, it will contain the spread, but the damage has long been done."

"So unless we have some sort of time machine, we really are screwed, huh?" I asked sighing.

"Exactly," Dr. Weems said, leaning closer and speaking with great deliberation.

It took me a few moments to realize what he was saying, and the implications started to occur to me with the force of a sudden avalanche.

"Oh . . . but . . . wait, I . . . uh . . . but you . . . I mean—"

"Let's just say -- hypothetically -- that we do happen to have a time machine," he said, softly. "If we did, then it would be vitally important to make certain that this humanity-saving treatment will find its way into the gene pool. Which presents a very important problem, Tom. How can we surreptitiously inoculate our ancestors against the present series of plagues without them knowing? Not to mention the idea that doing so will have irrevocable impact on our present?"

"Uh . . ."

"You find a man of exceeding intelligence, with a nearly pathological sex drive, superior seduction skills, and you send him back with orders to impregnate certain people. People who will pass the resistance down to their children, until enough of the present-day population survives these plagues and rumors of plagues."

"Oh . . ." I said, dully. "That would be someone like . . . me."

"Someone exactly like you, Tom. We've found you, and a few dozen just like you, to enter a special government program. We want you to go back in time and fuck everyone you can. Knock them up. Have a bunch of children. And never have to bear the responsibilities involved."

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