Passing Perfect -(Chapter 2 of Smudge)
Prof. Douglas K. Hooker
On old worlds, those with millions of years of settlement, there's always 'artefacts'.
There are fossils, lots of fossils, millions of fossils, and not all are going to get their own display case in a museum. A lot are packed in sub sub basements, forgotten.
Get a job, from cleaner to guide, even sub-junior archaeologist, and you can get your hands on these fossils. There isn't much of a market, and you'll likely end up in the clink. But get them off your planet to Smudge, and you're rolling in wealth.
I'm sure the planet has another name, but I've never met anyone who knows it. We call it Smudge. You won't learn about it in school, if you aren't out in this section of the galaxy, you don't need to. Like a red light district, a slum, a toxic waste dump, it's not on the map. Unless you fly out there.
If you fly out there, yeah, its marked, unnamed blob, maybe a smudge on the map. If you don't know better, you'd assume it's a lifeless chunk of rock.
If you're someone with something to sell that you can't sell anywhere else, you'll know Smudge like your hand middle.
You'll know, or you won't survive long. You'll know where to go, how to get there, what not to say, and who buys what.
Ahmet buys 'antiquities'. He's kind of a monopoly. He has like a spot about half klic from Pier One, the place most Spucks berth.
There are other Piers in other 'cities' on Smudge, (if you want to call any rathole a city on Smudge) but the bazaar leading from Pier One is where it happens.
I travel to Smudge on my Spuck, (bought and paid for) with a small but motley crew, about four times a year.
I own a flop house where rooms are rented by the hour, so I have a place to transact business, satisfy physical needs and buy information. I consider myself as close to a Smudgee as I'd like to be.
One day, while I was haggling with Ahmet over a small but rather beautiful mosquito trapped in Amber, (which was about sixty five million years old, give or take a millennium), I saw a figure approaching. I thought it a man by height, realised it was a fem when she was beside me.
She ignored me completely, in fact, was rude. She stepped up, began to talk to Ahmet as if I wasn't there, when I was in midword.
I gave her a stare...she was absolutely beautiful. I knew she was a Supergirl.
From her conversation I checked a long time contract being fulfilled. She gave Ahmet a fan of cash and a small item, then marched away.
Ahmet played show and tell once she was out of sight.
Show and Tell
He told me that about three times a year a Supergirl will give him a Superboy 'key'. Ahmet would contact the Superboy with a cryptic; "I have what you're looking for," which provokes a response.
When near certain when and where and how the Superboy will be coming to collect it, he'll contact the Supergirl.
That's all he does.
He gets more money being a 'lost & found' than I do in four trips.
"You see, Doug.." Ahmet explained, "The males on their planet can't pass on their genes. They can slam day and night, but they fire blanks."
Didn't mean much to me.
"Supers who can't reproduce, are killed, banished, lowest of the low. Choice is to leave Steel, (the planet) or get sperm from an outside Super. Whoever the poor fool who lost this key, he'll be coming round the mountain in a few months, she and her friends will grab him, extract his sperm, hop into their ship, impregnate themselves, arrive home, bear kids. The girls will be fine, the boys will be sterile."
I'm trying to grok the output, getting that the Supergirl came from a mudball called Steel and the Superboy who is 'coming round the mountain' is from some other super world.
"That's sick, isn't it?" I try, not sure.
"What do you expect from Eugenics, Doug? That fem looked at me as if I were slime, didn't even see you. So, I'll rip them both sides and the middle."
"Ki see that?" I point.
He showed me the 'key', a tiny hollow crystal clamped with gold caps top and bottom, holding what looked like blood.
"You take that and you have a passport to their worlds."
I thought about it a few seconds. Could I pass for a Eugenic?
"Do they have anything on their worlds that would sell?" I ask.
"I'll visit you later," Ahmet muttered, taking the key out of my hand.
I left the plaza, to the attic flat I kept locked.
I turned the key, all air was sucked out. I pressed a couple of buttons, fresh clean air I purchased on Savorn went in.
I set the thermostat to twenty five, waited in the hall, reading my mail. When the light blue, I entered the air lock, took off my clothes, dropped them into the purifier, stepped under the shower, scrubbed vermin from my flesh, entered my flat, into my private bathroom.
I took a hot shower, washed, oiled, and took a gander at myself in the mirror.
I looked good, but not super. It might tax a few thousand credits of beautification
to appear Eugenic.
The effort to go from normal guy to Superboy didn't seem worth it, Ahmet better have a plan.
There seemed five hours of daylight left. Ahmet didn't leave his stall until sundown.
To kill time, I checked selections, settling on a fem who said she was nineteen, but
seemed fourteen, with the fleeting beauty of youth.
In five years she'd be a hag, but I wasn't slamming her in five years.
As she was in a room below it was a moment before she knocked, I had her strip
in the airlock, shower, before I'd touch her.
She looked fine enough. I had her, paid her, and out.
I went into my sani, had my rooms misted with antiseptic, showered again. By the time I was done, so was my flat, the pungent smell blasted with a breeze of Savorn air, and perfumed by a moodie.
I pulled on slacks and a shirt, made myself a meal, had a bottle of wine on the table
before Ahmet arrived.
As the whore before him, he stripped, showered, left his outside garb in the airlock, entered in an embroidered caftan.
Ahmet was about my age but skinny, ratty looking at best, all around dishonest cutthroat.
After bouncing around the point until I was between numb and psychotic, I gave him
a look he'd seen before, so got to the point.
"I have customers who would pay very highly for a glimpse at a Super world."
"You know if I'm caught recording I'll be killed," I said for form's sake.
"That's why they will pay so much," he added, sipping my wine.
If I had the key I could get on the world, if I could pass for a Eugenic.
Superboys wore kevlar pants, tight as varnish, with a flare at the foot. Boots, with toe protectors and thick soles. Superboys wore sleeveless kevlar vests. If it was hot, they took off the vests. Superboys have long hair. Long and straight or long braids, or long dreadlocks. But long.
Anyway, Ahmet wasn't here for the wine.
Question; what did I want?
No, I had one.
I had a couple of wives, a few kids, scattered about.
I didn't want power.
I was quite content to steal fossils or antiquities, sell them on Smudge, spend a
few days indulgent, go wherever, spend time with one of my wives and kids,
and start again.
I didn't see any provocation. I gave Ahmet my bored face.
"My clients have a ship. They are negotiating to trade a pair of pandas for some
other fauna. They have permission to dock at the Space Station. They're
supposed to have a Gennie handle the face to face final transfers, that will be you."
"Uh." I grunted.
"The key I give identifies you as from Molbe. The Pandas are going to Tellur."
He paused, he didn't have to.
I knew better than he did how far apart the worlds, how little connection there was between them. Unnecessarily, or because he was accustomed to having to annotate his conversations;
"How likely is it that anyone on Tellur will know you? You travel with Pandas, return with the whatevers, and turn back into Doug Hooker."
Ahmet's voice was his best feature. I imagined the snake in the garden spoke the same way.
I thought about walking a Super world, first normal to do it. Thought about slamming a Superwoman. The only sticking point, was what could he offer me to take the chance?
Or was the chance the chance?
"I see I have given you interesting thoughts..." Ahmet beguiled, drinking more of my wine.
"First I'd like to see if I can be turned into a Superboy ...then I'll decide."
"Very well, my friend. I will make my contacts, and will contact you."
"I'm leaving in three hours."
"Yes, of course", he flicked a negligent hand, "but I know how to find you."
Ahmet is like Smudge Bugs, they always find you.
When he removed his mangy bod from my squat I had the room sprayed. He had a rancidness, like Smudge. You always feel one swallow from a puke on Smudge; and that describes Ahmet.
With him gone, I took out the good stuff and poured myself two fingers, but it was a large glass.
Then I sat back and mused. Was I perfect enough to pass for a Eugenic?
Yeah, I looked good, but that good?
I was tall, built, in decent physical condition, thirty eight years old, but no Eugenic, tho' I suppose in some ways most of us were partially Eugenic.
Historically, we all went back to Earth.
Korea, which had been fairly unimportant in global politics became central. People who were vociferous in their opposition to Genetic Manipulation in their own countries, lined up for the benefits they could get for themselves, for their unborn children.
Without the burden of religion, morality, superstition, Korea could see how far it could go. Followed by Moldavia, Bulgaria, and as the Dutch had a noisy population, Suriname was where they did their work.
Eventually, there were three races, those without G.M., those with limited G.M. and those who made perfection a religion.
It wasn't one hundred years before any eye could identify a Eugenic.
Though there's a few norms like me, DNA would betray, that's why every Eugenic walked with a little vial of bodily fluid.
Eugenics didn't just zap bad genes and interbreed so as to prevent imperfection,
they 'enhanced' and segregated themselves from average people. Over the
centuries, they got more perfect, we kind of stayed, well normal.
Could I, a Norm, pass as a Eugenic?
It was a fine muse which went well with Scotch, for about an hour, then, I packed
away my clothes, pulled on something a rag picker would pass, locked up my
hideyhole and left my flop house.
Abandoning my crew on Smudge, I took out my Spuck, en route to Earth. I'd been wallowing in my own company when I got the hail and was invited aboard a luxury yacht.
I connected my Spuck, stepped out to be met by the usual bored rich phylum. They led me to their dining room, and while I stuffed my face, they pushed the 'passing' idea. I repeated what I'd said to Ahmet; I'll agree to 'procedures', then decide. There was no obligation on my part, for failure would be death.
I figured the procedures would be cosmetic.
I was brought to a white room, told to undress, scanned, given a small cup of liquid to drink. This had me parked in the sani for the next two hours, and I think one of my kidneys came out.
Then there was an enema, as if I wasn't clean enough. Almost completely exhausted, I was to lie on an antigrav bed where I was coated in a liquid which began to burn like mild acid. While weightless, my muscle tone and fat assessed, manipulated, and I was wrapped in a tight bandage.
With my skin on fire, wrapped so tight breathing a chore, the enema seemed pleasant. Then I was to get up and lift weights. I could barely raise my arm, much less the weight, especially when grav in the room was increased by fifty percent.
After a small forever, when I was ready to faint, I was allowed to lie on the antigrav bed, prodded and poked, then to pedal a bike until I was a breath from unconsciousness.
I was allowed a lie down, poked, prodded, given two litres of weird tasting liquid. More exercises at double gravity until I really did pass out.
When I woke, I was lying in warmth and couldn't open my eyes, felt tubes in my nose. I heard a voice explaining I was in a warm oil bath. My eyes had been glued shut, but the glue would fail in an hour. I was to relax.
I heard voices speaking the dialect Eugenics used, which was a form of English. I'd done some negligent study of the language, which let me get a rudimentary grasp I was being given various facts about the world I was going to.
Then I was plucked from the oil bath, my eyes were opened and I looked at my hairless muscular body, which gleamed.
I used the toilet, cleaned my teeth, came out for another two litres of the drink, more exercises, precisely calibrated.
After lunch, (more liquid) my finger and toe nails were dealt with, I didn't look. I just relaxed. Then my teeth, then more exercises, another liquid meal, and another long visit to bathroom, where my pipes were again cleaned.
More exercises until exhaustion, so I could be dumped into the oil, tubes up my nose and my eyes glued shut.
On my third day it was more of the same, but after lunch there was dialysis, to remove impurities from my blood.
I got my first real meal later that evening and after a normal bathroom visit it was again the oil bath.
On my fourth day, I had breakfast, exercised while hearing more Gennie conversation, lunch, exercise, and then my hair was done, washed, interweaved, dyed a light brown, and silkened, however they did it, it was done. And there I was.
Not a freckle, mole, discolouration, hair, pimple, wart, anywhere on my body. Perfect muscle tone, glowing. I couldn't believe myself.
A voice wafted over an intercom; "Do you like what you see, Professor Hooker?"
Being naked, being a Superboy naked, was different. I had a lot to broad off about.
"Do you believe you can pass, now?"
"Will you do it?"
"On my terms," I reply, and begin to dictate how much money each of my wives was to receive, now. How much they were to receive if I didn't survive the trip. If I did survive, I got that chunk.
The yacht got underway, and for eleven days I strutted as a Superboy. I ate the Super diet, wore the Super costume. I watched vids of Eugenics, I exercised, I slept in the warm oil.
I held myself tall and disdainful, holding my head so my audience got a view of my nostrils. I spoke as Gennies did, short sentences, cold commands, contemptuous eye cuts, and that almost girlish way they flashed their silky hair.
My life was regimented. The time I woke, and how I woke, alert and moving. When and how often I bathed and washed my hair. The exercises I did, for how long. What I ate, when and how. And each day, I came from my cabin, dressed in kevlar slacks, the kevlar vest, heavy boots and briskly walked the length of the ship. I strode with purpose, dismissing all I saw.
In my cabin I was naked. I'd remove my uniform, sponge the vest and slacks, polish my boots, then exercise, more vids. I learned to love my body. An almost homosexual love of my body, of being in my body. Scorn for those who were not me.
Most of my day, a Superday, was divided between exercise and grooming. This is why they looked the way they did. It wasn't metaphysics, it was routine.
After eleven days, I was again subjected to the burning lotion which removed hair from my body, dialysis to remove any stray impurities, another wash out and enema.
On the thirteenth day, I transferred to the ship which held the Pandas. There
wasn't a person aboard who did not fully believe I was KrimValdonParnScoto,
of Molbe, who would trade the Pandas for Squarmets on Tellur.
I believed I was Krim, sure I was special, important, a Eugenic. Perfect.
I kept to my regiment as if I'd been born to it. I had watched my 'history' on the
vids, knew who I was, where I had lived, what I had done. It was fabrication,
speculation, gossip, invention, for normals didn't know how Supers lived.
We knew how they dressed, how they spoke, their names and what they signified,
but not much else. The vids, I had been warned, were templates, flawed templates.
I studied Pandas and Squarmets, so I'd sound like a zoologist. I hovered between
excitement and terror, between anticipation and doubt as we proceeded to liaison
with the Gennie Ship.
I didn't just look like a Superboy, I felt like one.
And I had a 'key'. A 'key' of genetic material that 'proved' I was a Eugenic.
I wore a vest with pin cameras hidden in the seams of my vest, so my employers
could get their glimpse of how life lived on a Gennie planet.
I was more than ready, had to dull myself down, cause a Gennie never showed excitement.
Liaisoned with a Supership, I logged aboard. This was it. The jumping off at the deep end. Either I worked or I didn't, and if I didn't, I was dead.
A Gennie world
I came through the airlock, was confronted by ten Eugenics.
For a moment, but just a moment I was split; in one sense, they were 'me'; dressed as I was dressed, standing as I stood, but in another, they were Other and I was Doug.
Their hair ranged from a dark blond to near black, long and flat to long and wavy. My hair fit their grid. They were all perfect, blurring into ten reflections of perfect, then sharpening into unique.
They eyed me cold, as I was cold.
They stared, I stared.
The ice storm went on, until one pointed at a slot.
I didn't know what to do, but only a microsecond.
This is what the key was for.
My hesitation was not fatal, it was how a Superboy would behave.
I stepped with deliberacy, key into the slot, moment of pause, read out; Eugenic.
They gave a nod, their mouths almost smiling. The first introduced himself,
rolling his four spliced names, giving the piece he was called by. I gave him Krim.
If I hadn't listened to those vids for the past two weeks I wouldn't have understood a word. They spoke quickly, clipping, leaving out connections.
The easiest answers were 'yi' for yes, and 'ni' for no, fragments of sounds, ending before starting. They asked questions of my world, my family, I gave a hook remark about sisters.
One of them liked to talk more than listen. I stole his biography, cutting and pasting where necessary.
As we got to business, moving the animals from one ship to another, I hid the key
I'd used in my boot.
Working with them, moving as they did, synchronizing, I almost believed these
men were part of my family.
I have admit, there was a kick to it. Unlike humans where you have to be, "Joe, pick that up", "Sam, to the left", Supers moved as a gestalt, and I think that's because 'we', (they) are tuned to their own bodies.
It's hard to explain, because they are humans, genetically enhanced, culturally
regimented, but doing nothing beyond a group of synchronized swimmers or a
marching band. That they do it all the time, is why they seem Super.
The cages carrying the Pandas were too large to get through the airlock, so we
had a topic of discussion, a problem to solve.
I was watching them, how none scratched, fidgeted, made unnecessary gesture.
They stood in perfect balance and harmony at all times. No slouching, no neck craning, no expressions.
I joined the five that went down to get different cages, it was what I was being paid for. No doubt my employers had selected the cages knowing it would force a visit to Tellur.
Where we landed and where cages could be gotten was as it would be on any other planet, since animal cages aren't items usually used on Space Trucks, so wouldn't be in the hangar.
And here we were; on Tellur; the moment of revelation.
My transmissions were in random bursts, no closer than six minutes apart. As I was moving, hopefully, the bursts wouldn't register, if they did, I wasn't there.
We rode a car normals would call a limousine due to its size, but seemed average, as we passed so many of them. The driver sat alone in the middle, equipment around him, we sat behind in the middle, the sides of the vehicle armoured. I guess traffic accidents aren't often fatal.
The windscreen was transparent, the cameras I wore were picking up lots of
What hit first was that on their world, they didn't dress in kevlar but in loud and ornate mixes of colours and styles as if they were going to different costume parties.
While I gaped, conversation raged between the others over some local political matter that didn't concern me.
One of the Supers suggested we walk from here, so they could show me sights.
This was the gift. I'm sure it was causing orgasms on the other side of the camera.
The world was very clean. There were people cleaning the sides of buildings, the
sidewalk, the street, the vehicles that were parked. Everything looked new.
The air was clean, the vehicles ran on hydrogen power. Whatever moisture was
in the road was drained into yellow painted mushrooms, which were every block.
Many of the 'shops' were gyms, followed by bars which served energy drinks,
followed by hair stylists, clothiers, jewelry.
I didn't see any kind of security mesh, and doors were open as it seemed to be Springtime.
I got the match, from the well armoured vehicles to the lack of security that being a
Eugenic, death was not an option. None would do anything to risk their precious lives.
On the streets were Supergirls with children every where. The children were quiet,
perfectly behaved, walking behind or with their mothers.
What the fems wore were in myriad colours with embroidery and fringes and
sequins and beads. I don't think there was an inch of unadorned fabric anywhere.
The fems wore their hair short. Some very short, many collar length, a few
shoulder length. It seemed only young girl children had longish hair.
We passed dozens of beauties the guys didn't give them half an eye, only one fem, with long hair who was coming from a gym got attention.
She looked at my crew, at me, and she was sizing. Her eyes went from faces to fronts so obviously, I almost dropped a hand over my crotch.
We didn't break stride, kept walking, but the fem had stirred us, if we weren't on a 'mission', I think we'd fight for the chance to be with her.
To distract, one of my crew began indicating buildings, parks, statues, pools. I positioned myself to get the fullest view for transmission, but started to feel queasy.
Where everything is perfect and beautiful, it becomes ugly and unpleasant. I didn't like being here.
There was this creepy sensation, similar to being on Smudge, where you want to
get off the street, away from what you're seeing. Same feeling, opposite provocation.
We saw another fem, like the first, long hair, beautiful, her garments thinner. At the
time I was only connecting dots, but the truth would bear, the shorter the hair, the
more recent the birth of a child. Those with infants had the shortest hair.
I didn't notice any older people, if I had to give ages, from birth to thirty seemed the
statistic. I almost mentioned it, the anthropologist in me needed the data but kept
silent, as it might be a Gennie thing I, as a Gennie, should know about.
Anyway, we get the cages and start back, I'm sure my employers are getting their
Sudden, another fem in my path. She gives me a look and a smile and says;
"Hi Gingerhair," and flicks one of my braids with a long perfect finger.
I looked scared, cause one of my crew chuckled. Another said, (rough translation)
"We can break for lunch, about an hour and half."
Well, I couldn't refuse.
My girl had long golden hair. Not blonde, but thick gold, fabulous. She had a smile
that was X rated. Lascivious? Lustful? Erotic? It got me on.
We went into her place and when she flicked off her dress, wasn't a stitch under it. And she was all she was. Before I lost my mind entirely, I took off my vest, put it so the camera would be peering out the window, stopped browsing and got to business.
She was good, the best I'd ever had. I could of been a virgin. And when we were done, I had five minutes to shower, dress and go.
My crew passed their remarks, I was too drained to reply.
We reached the pier. I put my hand in my pocket where the key should be, assuming some kind of 'log out' as there had been a log in. There wasn't a log out, nor was there a key in the special pocket.
I stifled a laugh.
I'd guessed, when Ahmet gave the Steel story, how the girls got the keys. I'd made a spare with my DNA., kept that one in the pocket. If I'd lost the real key or it was copped, there'd be no way I'd read Gennie, unlike the Gennie who'd owned this key...now that's the jump there.
If a Gennie lost his key, he was a walking DNA file, he could make another...so it
couldn't be his DNA in that key...there was something Ahmet hadn't told me...
Now wasn't the time.
The Gennies and I got the cages onto the ship, the Pandas in and off, the Squarmets into my ship and it was a fond farewell.
These Supers meant something to me. I felt they'd been watching my back. I felt
grounded with them, like we played on a championship team and had that kind of link.
Maybe I'd discorporated, believing my own lies, but leaving them, leaving Tellur, I felt I was going in the wrong direction.
The Norm ship seemed dirty and cramped and stank. It was the stink that hit me hardest. For Tellur smelled clean, a cleanness that pushed into my nostrils, cleared my head.
I went to my room to get away from people smell. I continued to be Krim until we docked with the yacht, I was handed a pay pack, my aud/vid taken, a few words of commendation and directed to my Spuck.
I ought go back to being Doug Hooker, but I didn't. I didn't want to. I liked how I looked, so dragged it out, until I saw the bristles coming out of my face.
And Back To Smudge
I rode my Spuck back to Earth, back to work at the museum, everyone commenting on how good I looked. Everyone wanting to know which health camp I'd spent my vacation at.
I called the name of the most famous, and went back to my quiet decent life of stealing fossils.
In a couple of months, I was enroute to Smudge and Ahmet.
We met later in my rooms where over my wine we could laugh about a Supergirl stealing the DNA of a normal.
"What happened to the real KrimValdonParnScoto of Molbe?" I asked.
"Dead." Ahmet yawned.
"Dead?" I crinkled.
"When they take the sperm from their victims, sometimes the Vampires pull too hard and kill him. So he never collects his key. I have a few of them, had them for years."
"The key...." I began
"I've been paid to hold it and send Krim the message to come. She'll pay me when KrimValdonParnScoto of Molbe arrives."
"The key..." I try again.
"I must go," Ahmet hastens.
"Yah." I drop as he goes through the airlock.
He's as bad as the vampires, maybe worse. Without him, those harpies wouldn't have....
They'd find another way....
I thought of my Supergirl, how her skin felt, so smooth and velvety. I guess when she has my baby and tests it's DNA and finds out it's not Super...
Well, that's beyond my control.
Question: what's really in the key?