Pete the Geek on Morale (Chapt 7)
Five Years Have Passed
Morale was the opposite of Smudge; a Fundie commune without the religion, mixing 'family values' with communism and a few megs of individuality;
You got your own house, did what you wanted inside, but when you opened the door, you conformed to every edict they had, and they had a lot of them.
There were reasons; Morale matched a lunar colony; an underground cavern where everything had to be rationed and no one allowed to pollute.
Everyone worked, food was meted out depending on body size, type of labour, and health.
There were choices, for example; peas or string beans, yellow curtains or pink; but that's about it.
Only small Spucks with preordered goods called at Morale and DoGooder agencies took a glom every six months or so.
From the moment I sat with Nal in the purple lounge on the Spuck I knew he'd come. Not if, not maybe; When.
"Citizen Petre Singer; you have a visitor ," comes the voice of Reception Clerk Nancy from the Entrance corridor along with the image of Superboy.
"Send him down," I call, and lock off.
It's taken him a bit over five years to find me. But he's here.
"Peter!" I call in a mommy singsong, "we're going to have a visitor."
"Who?" my son says, his perfect hair flashing around his perfect face.
"Surprise." I say.
"I don't like surprises, Mom." he warns.
My heart is about to jump out of my chest, as we wait.
Then a knock at the door and before I call "Enter!" in steps Superboy.
He's as exactly as he was, even wearing the same clothing. Looking at Peter.
And Peter, who has no problem communicating exclaims;
"Wow! He's tall!"
Me, whose trying to fool somebody into thinking I was cool, goes;
"Hi Superboy. You're just in time for breakfast!"
He is taking up the entire corridor which leads into my front room/livingroom/
diningroom. He steps carefully, as if he thinks he'll go through the floor.
Peter approaches Superboy.
Does he know?
Does his DNA pulsate?
Superboy looks at me. I can't read his expression, I don't think he knows how he feels.
"I'm Peter," my son says.
Superboy is staring at my son.
He knows it is his son.
He didn't know he had a son.
Now he does.
And carefully Superboy says; "No. You are Miach," .
Peter shakes his head, walks to the table, sits, looks at me, unaware of what he's just seen and heard. He looks to Superboy, then back to me, asking;
"Mom, who is he?"
"I am your father." Superboy answers.
"Really? Nahhh." Peter decides. Then to me, "Mom?"
"Yes, Superboy is your father. Biological, anyway." I flick, turn my back to hide my amazement that Nal has accepted Peter.
I take another bowl, spoon oatmeal into it. One step and Superboy is right by the table. I hand him the bowl.
"What's this?" he asks.
"Breakfast," I reply.
The bowl is a teacup in his hand. One swallow. He goes to the fridge, yanks it open, sees the nearly whole chicken I roasted yesterday, takes it out, pops it into the micro.
Peter is staring, mouth open. This was a week's food for us. Last night, I had a leg, my son had a wing, tonight we'd eat....
Superboy took the chicken, the entire chicken, (minus one leg and one wing) sat down on the chair and began to eat. Fast, ravenously.
Pete stared, finally blurting;
"You've eaten all our food!"
"I'm hungry," Superboy repeats, stuffing more into his mouth.
"He's greedy." I droll.
"I'm hungry." Superboy replies.
"You're greedy," I flick, then to my son, "he's not very nice is he?"
"No!" Pete replies, "Mom what will we eat?"
The chicken is a skeleton, I suspect Superboy will crunch the bones for dessert.
"He'll buy us more food." I tell Pete.
Superboy swallows, "I have no money."
"When was the last time you ate?" I ask.
"Three days," he admits, softly.
"Three days?" Pete exclaims.
Superboy looks at me an instant. I can't but view him with compassion.
Where could he go? Whom could he ask? He looks away, sees a half gallon jug of water, drinks it off.
I think he realises how astounding his behaviour, for he drops his eyes. I glance at Pete. We're both seeing Superboy the same way. Superboy 'gets it', hoists himself from the chair, moves through the room, probably looking for an out, sees my room, goes in.
"Mom, what's wrong with him?" Pete asks. He's never seen anyone who didn't share, cooperate, include others in activities.
How do you explain a Gennie to a Norm child? A half norm child.
How to explain half of Pete's genes comes from race enhanced, imbued with certainty of superiority and right to everything in arm's reach?
"Pete, remember the story of the Lonely Pony?"
"Ohhh, yeah!" he nods, his eyes wide with wisdom, and quotes.
"The Lonely Pony woke up one day
his mommy and daddy had gone away
he by himself and all alone
and by himself began to roam"
The story goes on to how the Lonely Pony meets other animals and doesn't know how to behave. He eats all the food for Little Donkey, steps on the eggs of Plucky Chicken. The animals who have sheltered him in the barn, run him away. He goes into the Empty Plains, suffers, and realises that to live in society he must share and be kind.
Lonely Pony is a popular story on Morale.
Superboy is glaring from the doorway. He knows we're talking about him.
"Pete, take Superboy to..."
"My name is not Superboy," he says in a deep, petulant voice, "it is NalDriGarMiach. And your name," he points at Pete, "is Miach! MiachNalDriGar!"
Pete shakes his head sadly, pityingly, "No, it's Peter Singer," he says carefully,
looks at me as if we're equals viewing a clumsy puppy that keeps falling over.
"Take him to the park," I say to Pete, "I'll clean up and go shopping. Try to keep him out of trouble."
"You speak of me as if I am an imbecile!" Superboy barks.
And Pete, in a singsong, "No, you're okay. Come. Give me your hand. I'll take you to the Park."
It's crackface to see little Pete take charge of an enormous Superboy, but that's
what Pete did. There was a look of incredulity on Superboy's face as Pete led him out of the house.
If Superboy had thought he would scare or impress anyone...
I never imagined it would happen this way.
Never thought Superboy would accept a child of my body as his son.
But he had.
Now it was up to me.
Morale was like living on a ship. Every house had it's own vent system, so dust, dirt, germs could be sent into space. I walked through the rooms, pulling down the beds, making sure light things were put away.
I opened the purifiers which as soon as I walked out, would fill the room with a mist, then suck everything into space.
I went to the market to get more food, everyone aware I had a guest.
At the shop, I informed the dispenser of Nal's very large appetite. The best that could be gotten was a portion for an extra active Normal adult.
Not a Superboy.
As I pedalled up with the groceries, Pete was standing terrified in front of the house;
"Mom! You better call his parents to come for him!"
How could Pete see Superboy as a four year old?
"What did he do?" I ask, putting the bike on the stand.
"Mom, he walked on the grass, where it said don't walk on the grass. He plucked apples, where it was not allowed. And he almost hit a policeman! He's in jail now!"
"I told you to watch him." I reproved.
"Mom, he doesn't listen!" Pete exclaimed.
"I noticed that about him. Do you want to eat first, or go to the jail?"
With the kind of awe reserved to the mind dead; "Mom, we better go to the jail."
I carried in the groceries, used the sani before getting back on my bicycle, Pete on his and we peddled to City Centre.
"Welcome Citizen Petre, Citizen Pete. I'm sorry to tell you your visitor had to be contained."
"I understand, Policeman Greg, but he never came from a proper family. He needs education."
"I don't think we can allow him to live here, Citizen Petre." Then he led me to a side room. Superboy was in a niche, sitting on the floor. He looked like a little kid told to sit in the corner.
"Why don't you call me Nal?" he asks, raising his face to mine.
Bluntly; "They're going to ship you off Morale."
"Do you have my key?" he asks.
"You aware you've committed crimes?"
"Do you have the key?"
Knowing everything I did/said recorded; "You are not alone on this planet. There are fifty thousand others, with just as much right to live as you do. Maybe more. For they contribute to society. You take."
"Do you have my key?"
I turned to leave.
"Wait," he begged.
I turned, he unfolded, came to stand just at the edge of his alcove.
I said: "If you serve this society, repair the damage you've done. I'll get you the key."
"What does that mean?"
"Instead of waiting here until if/when a ship arrives; maybe six months, then being taken aboard as a prisoner, and having to pay for your sojourn or be gang pressed into some mining colony to work it off, you would live and work here."
He didn't understand.
"And with the right attitude."
He knew there was a trick. "What attitude?"
"Any attitude but the one you're wearing now." I advise.
He looked at me with perfect incoherence.
"One," I hold up a finger, "I walk out, you stay until a ship comes. Never get key." I held up another finger; "Two, you behave and work and you'll get the key."
He glowered. It was the best glower I'd ever seen.
Then Policeman Greg stepped in,
"Citizen Petre, it's clear you can't communicate with him. Eugenics don't comprehend their life is no more or less important than yours, mine."
"Can't we try to educate him?" I say in my most compelling voice.
"We'll have to speak to Judge Betty," Greg said, not holding out much hope.
I looked at Superboy, shrug. Greg and I go off, Pete is escorted to my neighbour's cubbie.
Judge Betty found the situation interesting. Obviously rehabilitating a Superboy was an intellectual challenge.
An immediate trial was decided (it's kind of unbusy in the law enforcement
department of Morale) and it would be beamed throughout the colony.
The trial started just after the Court room was cleaned (it was usually used to store dry goods).
Evidence against Superboy was given, he said nothing because he didn't appreciate he was on trial.
When called upon to speak said; "I am hungry."
Lawyer Stewart told him his response was inappropriate. Was he guilty or not?
"Guilty?" he asked, the word unknown.
Prosecutor Gwen went into a long and eloquent speech about him being amoral. She made allusions to lions being hungry and killing without sentience. Psychiatrist Fred gave a tutorial on Eugenic acculturation.
Superboy realised everyone hated him. He was a prisoner of normals who viewed him a beast. Suddenly he checks this is happening to him.
He made a complete change.
Since I was only looking at him, the blab flying over my head like engine noise
I grok the micro second he caught the interstices.
Then I was called upon.
"It's my fault." I admit. "I let Pete take him to the park."
The trial continued, debates and arguments until everyone was hungry.
Finally, Judge Betty decided to give Superboy a chance. She sentenced him to ten hours of community service, paroled him to my charge. I must keep him inside until he was sent for.
I bicycled home, Policeman Greg beside me. As we reached, he activated the door frame, explaining 'house arrest'. When Superboy was brought, he wouldn't be able to leave until he was fetched. As Superboy was now 'a ward of the state' meals would be provided for him.
Then Police man Greg gave me a stunner. "Just in case."
Pete came from next door, where he'd watched the trial.
"Mom, I don't think he's gonna work out, I always wanted a father, but not him."
"Give him a chance, he doesn't know better."
In twenty minutes the police brought Superboy into my living room, told him about the doorframe, released him from stasis. He went quickly into my room. when the cops left Pete and I entered my room.
Superboy was sitting on the floor by the closet. Looked like he was going to cry. I came in, sat on one side of him, Pete on the other. I didn't touch him. I didn't say anything.
After a minute little Pete stood, put his hand on Superboy's arm, "I told you not to walk on the grass. Next time listen to me."
And Superboy broke down and cried.
It was just another kick in the face for him. For five years he must of bounced ship to ship, until he penned that nothing goes to Morale accidentally, and nothing that goes to Morale docks on Smudge.
He couldn't get to Morale, couldn't get home without his key.
I never worked that number into the equation.
Pete was upset, trying the compassion thing, trying to get his arms around Superboy's big head, trying to hold it to his little chest, looking to me for help, after all, I was the Mommy, I was supposed to do the hug up thing.
(I'll get him water), I mouth, going into the kitchen, just to not be there. I grabbed a jug of water then a wash rag.
I was afraid Superboy would push me away,
(Don't touch me! Don't put your mouth on me! )
the words he'd used when we 'made love ', so gave Pete the cloth, the water, returned to the kitchen to get dinner on the table.
I was feeling crappy now, cause I'd caused all this, at least most of it.
I called, "Pete, bring him to the table. I know he's hungry."
When no one came I went to glance, saw Pete trying to tug Superboy, wiping his Superface with a washcloth, giving him water to drink, saying,
"Don't cry any more. It's okay. Come, come."
Finally Superboy gets up, into my bathroom and Pete says;
"Mom, you're gonna have to help me. He's too big to manage."
"You're doing fine, Pete."
"I'm sorry I made him cry."
"It wasn't you. He was embarrassed by the trial. He doesn't know any better."
I lead to the table, piling peas on Pete's plate, then potatoes, then a slice of turkey-kind.
"Mom, you better get him," Pete advises after a few chews.
I get up. Superboy is standing over my sink, gripping it, crying.
"If you don't stop", I threaten, "I'm going to put my arms around you."
He doesn't move.
"I know you're hungry. come." I leave him, back to the table, make a plate for him and cover it.
"He'll be here soon," I say eating. (Eating a little faster than usual before the Super vacuum comes).
Pete and I are almost finished when Superboy arrives, I point at the seat. He sits, I gesture for him to uncover the plate, he does.
He starts to eat, he's hungry. Fortunately, by the time he's finished the food on his plate, we've cleaned ours.
"Do you want more?" I say as he's gotten the second to last forkful in his mouth.
I scrape the what's left onto his plate. There is no more food at the table.
The bell rings, Pete answers, calls me. I have to sign for Super's supper.
I come back with the tripartite covered plastic.
"Are you still hungry?" I ask.
I put down the plastic, open it. It's a similar meal, meat kind, starch and vegetable.
I pour Pete a drink, myself, pour another for Pete, another for myself, and leave
the remaining quart for Superboy.
"Pete, you have homework?" I ask.
"No. The trial only was on. I didn't like the way they had..." I know he's trying to say he didn't like how Superboy was held in stasis, but can't, and ran to his room.
I should go after my son to console him, but as I rise, the beautiful voice wafts;
"Do you have the key?"
"I think you better concentrated on your punishment."
"What are they going to do to me?" he asks.
"Have you plant a few trees."
"That's all?" he exclaims.
"Yeah, what did you think?"
He shudders. Oh lord, did he think they were going to roast him over a fire?
Force him to lick lizards? Poor demented thing.
"It's nice here. The people are very nice. They cooperate." I say.
He drinks off the juice, gets up and walks into my room. My concern is my son.
My son who is being raised to not be a Superboy. I go into his room.
"Pete, this is why we don't do anything wrong. Your father didn't know."
"It's all my fault." Pete cried. "I brought him to the park! I didn't stop him!"
"No, it is not your fault," I wrap Pete in my arms, holding him as I can't embrace
his father. "Pete, if I say don't do something, and when I look away, you do it, it wouldn't be my fault."
"You told me to watch him, I let you down."
"No, you did your best." I say, rocking him in my arms.
The phone rings, it's for Pete, his best friend Kwame wants him to come over.
I say go; I'll look after Superboy.
When Pete is gone I go into my room, Superboy is stretched out in my bed, fast
asleep. I close the door. I wash the dishes, put them away, go to the computer.
I keep our stuff in excellent condition so nothing is supposed to go bad, all I need to do are a few diagnostics.
Time flies, for Pete's home, time for bed, and when he's asleep, I go into my
room, get into bed with Superboy.
When I wake in the morning, Superboy is still asleep. I go into the bathroom, shower, dress, wake up Pete, breakfast, and he goes to Kwame's house for lessons.
The Police call, they'll be around for Superboy in an hour.
I go into the bedroom, put my hand on his shoulder, shake him. He's sleeping hard. I shake him again, he wakes, almost slaps my hand off his shoulder, but I've already removed it.
"The police are coming for today's work. Shower, I'll havebreakfast ready for you," and go out.
Takes Nal about thirty minutes to get into the dining area. He eats my breakfast,
eats the one provided by the city, back to the bathroom and is ready when the
Police come for him.
"Don't cause any trouble. It's only ten hours of work, just do it." I advise.
When he's gone I mull, then to the com. At lunch time the Police return Superboy.
"He did fine work today", I'm told, "tomorrow he'll do his last five hours, and he'll be just fine." Police Man Wayne says, touching the grid once Superboy is inside.
Superboy goes to the table, begins to scarf my lunch, asks; "Where is my son?"
"Visiting a friend." I say, reaching to get a bit of my salad, he moves the bowl away.
"A friend?" he repeats as if it's unsavoury, chewing.
"Yeah. He has a lot of friends, he's happy, and popular." I try for another bit of lettuce, but Nal is fast.
Chewing like a rabbit, he tosses; "He can not associate with..."
"With what?" I say, "with what? With normal people? Huh? Listen you conceited piece of shit, he's not like you. He will never be like you! Everyone hates you. Do you want that for him?"
He glares at me.
"Besides, he's only half, hence he'll never have a key." I fling, grabbing the bowl from him, scrapping up what he's left behind.
"Where's the key?" he demands
"I'll tell you tomorrow."
"Tell me now. I have wasted five years of my productive life looking for you to get my key. What do you want from me? You have taken my essence. You have gotten all I can give."
Still the Key
Why did I expected more from him?
I pull the chain from my neck, the key is at the end. I put it on the table. He looks at it, takes it up. Stares at it lying in his hand.
His face goes from a brief flicker of joy or triumph to a queer questioning. This is what he's chased for five years. It's over now.
Five years ago a Supergirl from Steel disappeared with his key. That's why he wound up on the Spuck going to Smudge, why he was raped and left for dead. Why he asked me to help him. Why we had sex. Why he has spent his life chasing me.
All for that tiny vial, which proves he's Superboy.
Not looking at me he says; "You could have given this to me when I walked in yesterday."
"Why didn't you?"
"I wanted you to stay for awhile."
"Miach!" he growls.
"You'll make a full breed Miach on your home world." I flick as a mosquito. And knowing I have the power, I dig the knife a little deeper. "I wanted Pete to know you so he'd never consider being a Superboy of value."
"Nal. My name is Nal. Address me as Nal. I am not..."
"You are a generic Superboy. A Eugenic. Interchangeable. The women on Steel realised that. Your genes, any Superboy genes, no difference. My genes are unique. Yours are not."
He'd never tipped the equation over, seen it from the other end. But he's devoted five years of his life to me, I could be kind.
"You are special to me. You are unique and wonderful, to me. But among your people, you are a grain of sand on a large beach."
His astonishment morphed into a twisted Epiphany. His eyes fell from my face, crawled around the room. He pushed up, nearly upsetting the little table, turned his back, took a step, then around to face me, shaking his head, a step, a stop, overwhelmed by the force of truth.
But he couldn't survive with the truth. I watched his back, how his shoulders straightened, and he turned to face me.
"No." he barks.
"No," I sing back.
"Do you imagine I could stay here, with you?" his face must twist at the last word, to emphasise how abominable I was in his perfect eyes, and then enlarging his contempt, "Live in this hole in the ground, among these limited inferiors?"
"Do you imagine these limited inferiors want a greedy carnivore like you here? The only reason you weren't shipped out as fertiliser was because of me and Pete."
Now that I've got his attention.
"Don't pretend it didn't cut you to the bone to hear people describe you as they did yesterday."
Got him there. He shook his head, stalked off to my room. I heard the water running, quickly opened the fridge and ate eight strawberries he didn't know I had.
When he's gone I'll remember having to hide and horde food.