Early on, it became apparent that we weren't getting all of the help we COULD -- or even SHOULD -- get from the Confederacy. The psych boys and the policy makers and the politicians puzzled it out -- and, oddly, the AIs helped more than one would expect. Most of the Confederacy left supporting us to the Darjee -- which allowed them to ignore uncivilized behavior by both us and the Swarm. Some of them knew better, but just couldn't bring themselves to play; others apparently had an interest in watching the Darjee take it in the shorts and were willing to gamble -- after all, the Swarm weren't the first threat the Confederacy had dealt with. Of course, it had been a LOOONG time since the last engagement, but...
The Darjee weren't putting out one hundred percent, either. They were between a rock and a hard place -- if they gave us too much, we were a worse threat than the Swarm -- but if they didn't give us enough, we couldn't do our job. Add to that the fact that the Darjee had other things to do besides put forth a full-fledged support effort for their rather vicious protégés, and it becomes obvious that the handouts would be limited in scope.
Technology assimilation was another matter. We had a limited period in which to try to maximize the benefit of technologies that other races had been developing for millennia. Look what giving whiskey and rifles did to Native Americans and you can see the dangers of that -- but we weren't going to defeat the Sa'arm with what we had. So the Darjee doled out bits of this and that, crossing their fingers that we wouldn't go wild with anything -- and we adapted the technologies to our needs. This kept a lot of hothouse brains going twenty-four hours a day...
Some things just take too long to replicate. It wasn't enough to get bodies off the planet -- we needed all human knowledge and culture. The Darjee gave us a scanning technology that went all the way to the molecular level, but they didn't give us a method of replicating the target quickly beyond a certain size; if you wanted a duplicate of the Louvre, for instance, nanobots would do it -- in several months. We didn't have the time or resources for such, so it was decided that we would evacuate some facilities, along with people. By Year Three, it was clear that, efforts to stabilize things by taking along the less desirable as second-class citizens aside, we were STILL participating in someone's idea of a eugenics project -- which was unacceptable to a large number of people both on and off the homeworld. The methods we were using for extractions were great for starting colonies that would be self-supporting -- but once they were up and running, we could move things better by less resource-intensive means.
Managing priorities was a bitch; the war effort HAD to come first -- but the evacuation was a pivotal feeder. Every body we got off the Earth was a producer of additional bodies we would need to engage the Sa'arm -- which meant every body counted and the evacuation effort must be maximized within the support constraints. Colony ships were great -- and we sized the original hundred pod ones up tenfold -- but once we had essential services set up on a colony and it was environmentally adjusted for habitation, we didn't need pods -- or, at worst, we could manufacture them on-site.
Replication technology is a lot faster than manufacturing, on the small and medium scale -- but you have to do research and development first. We had places doing that on Earth -- and you could no more replicate them than you could any other product that doesn't exist. It wasn't enough to evacuate the hothouse minds -- we needed for them to have familiar surroundings to work within to get the job done. That meant not only taking scientists and technicians, but taking the labs and the fabrication facilities. On top of that, you have the issue of economics -- for every one of these primary resources, you needed three to six support personnel -- butchers and bakers and candlestick makers -- to take the load off so they could concentrate on their jobs. Concubines take care of a lot of keeping the home fires burning, but they have resupply needs and requirements for communications and infrastructure ... We needed to jack things up.
The first cube ship rolled off the assembly line in orbit around Nova Terra at the end of Year Five; it was a giant cattle car, capable of evacuating and processing 250,000 people. It was all rooms and corridors and hallways and dining facilities and briefing areas -- and mounted six field- bubble generators capable of collecting a facility a quarter of a mile in cubic volume and toting it for a month, then setting it on a new planet. Transit time was cut to a week; crews were Fleet Auxiliaries, and the kind of trouble to be expected from a mixed mess made regular pickups simple by comparison -- but it helped cut down on the eugenics angle, and it allowed us to extract critical facilities.
Selection was by a number of means -- multinational corporations tended to have the facilities, and they stumbled upon the means. DuPont was the first; they traded ALL of their proprietary process information for the extraction of six research facilities, workers and all -- and their top tier management, of course.
When people started going off-world more or less without regard to their CAP score, many of the disaffected settled down and 'normal' extractions became easier. Confederacy staff started looking at making deals with individuals who didn't quite measure up, but who could provide a particular function ... And someone realized that if basic health care support was available to the entire population of the homeworld, not only would it cut a step or two out of extraction processing, the troops on the ground when the Swarm arrived would ALL be available for duty...
Jacques Moreau pulled up before the restaurant and got out of his van, collecting his toolbox from the back. It was an early summer evening in Year Five, which provided him with a fine view of a couple of sweet young things in skimpy clothing as he followed them inside. The number of females per male had definitely fallen due to extractions, and older, post-menopausal women were seeing increased popularity among those left behind -- but there was still a lot of stuff still out there that met the basic standards for pickup.
He flashed his credentials to the manager at the door. "Replicator repair," he announced.
The manager frowned. "There's nothing wrong with ours."
Jacques nodded. "You wouldn't notice, but there is a minor issue. We're going through ALL food replicators to fix a problem that could lead to output degeneration over time." The manager frowned and examined Jacques' credentials and the work order closely -- but they were genuine, even if his excuse wasn't. Jacques waited patiently while the manager called the support call center on the work order for verification; this was his 360th call in the last ninety days -- the drill was MORE than familiar.
"Okay, there are four replicators -- but you probably know that," the manager grunted. "Please don't haul them all down at the same time -- we're headed for the evening rush." People tended to eat out more and more -- it was a chance to socialize and the pricing had dropped dramatically due to the availability of cheap replication. Cooks now concentrated on making new and different foods that could be replicated easily, rather than mass-producing a few items on a menu. Besides, restaurants were a great place to get picked up ... Servers were in high demand as the average restaurant's business quintupled -- but cooks had a hard time if they were just hash-slingers. Female waitresses tended to disappear during a pickup, so restaurant owners shifted to males -- and gay males surfaced as a preference just because they were more detail-oriented, gossipy -- well, you get the idea. Jacques merely nodded and headed for the kitchen area.
The staff wasn't thrilled; Jacques was MOST DEFINITELY in the way. Food preparation was programming, extraction, and presentation -- people STILL didn't like the idea of eating the identical thing to the person next to them, so the wait staff routinely adjusted something or fed minor variants on a dish to keep people happy. Jacques moved from replicator to replicator, opening a panel and extracting a module and replacing it. The process took about twenty minutes; as he placed the last old module in a rack in the bottom of his toolbox, a light on a small round unit the size of a hockey puck next to it began to glow green. Jacques smiled gently; this was what he'd been working toward all these months ... Closing his toolbox, he headed out to the bar.
There was nothing technically wrong with the replicators; Jacques was adding an additional function. And that little green light meant that his period of effort was over, and it was time to extract his reward!
The addition was a module that provided six basic health-maintenance nanobots and dispensed them in the food. The Confederacy had decided that an announcement might cause all kinds of foolishness and insanity, so they drafted five thousand technicians to go around making the adjustments in secret. By the time people began to realize what was going on, the vast majority of the populace would already be treated and it would be a dead issue.
Jacques, personally, was selected for his task when he went for his annual CAP test. Jacques' hands were highly talented, but he lacked in other areas -- he had a five point seven CAP score and nothing in the world was going to improve it. But he was a premiere technician, and some things just can't be taught ... The desk agent had stopped him on the way out, "Can I have a word with you?"
"Yes..." Jacques was still smarting under his disappointment.
"Not fun, is it?"
"No." Knowing that your death sentence has once again not been commuted did rather tend to make for a bad day...
"You know, not everybody has to have a six point five..." the man said, eyeing him.
Jacques smiled ruefully, spreading his hands. "Do I look to you like some woman's idea of a gigolo?" Jacques was five feet eight, slight and wiry, balding, and had a rather long, narrow nose.
The man smiled. "Perhaps not -- but you DO have other talents, don't you? It appears that as long as you understand its basic function, you can create or repair just about anything..."
Jacques grunted. "Too bad that doesn't show up HERE!" he groused, waving his useless CAP card.
"Well, actually, it does." A door had opened and a Fleet Auxiliary Petty Officer stood there. "We're discovering that the early criteria for CAP selection, while definitely a priority for mainstream colonization, aren't all-inclusive. Would you perhaps like to hear more?"
Jacques DID want to hear more -- and he liked what he heard. The Confederacy offered him a job -- and a ticket out -- with the usual benefits! He was given his kit and a list of target locations -- and when he'd hit his numbers and done his time, he would get his reward...
Jacques hauled himself onto a barstool, having set his toolkit down, and scanned the restaurant from his perch while he awaited the attention of the bartender. The clientele barely showed the effects of having part of the top five percent of the human race cherry picked from it, but there were some indications. Really hot women were getting harder to find, and families sitting at the tables tended to feature parents with a wistful, beaten-down look. Young women ran the gamut from virtually nude to covered from head to foot, but older women tended not to bother with the extremes -- and guys didn't bother, either. You had a better chance of being struck by lightning than of being picked up if your CAP score was below the mark and you were male. If you WERE a volunteer, other guys didn't fuck with you; it was a summary execution offense to assault a volunteer -- one of several such offenses that had been instituted to keep volunteers from suffering reprisals. Marriage was 'until she gets picked up, ' not 'until death do us part' -- despite the fact that the numbers said the second option was the more viable.
The bartender surfaced, and Jacques ordered a draft and the menu. If he turned his back to the bar, Jacques could see new customers entering over the glass cover of the salad bar. As he watched, a pair of twenty-something girls came through the door. The first was an olive-skinned thing with dark, sullen eyes and dark brown hair; she was five feet five, maybe, and too wide to make the top ten list of most young guys, having that bell shape below her rounded breasts that led to hips probably four inches in excess of the legendary thirty-eight inch standard. She picked up Jacques' eyes and licked her lower lip while tugging the hem of her thin, empire-waisted top -- which accentuated the cleavage between her high, round breasts cradled in what was probably a bathing suit top from the pattern that bled through the thin fabric -- then dismissed him and moved on.
The girl behind her could have been her sister when it came to shapes, but her coloration was totally different. She had light brown hair and creamy skin with a sprinkling of freckles over the nose -- and she smiled at him, displaying a gap between her incisors before moving on, too, her big, round ass rolling in the tight jean skirt that displayed a considerable amount of her thick but muscular thighs due to some very artful fraying that laddered it from waist to hem. They settled onto benches near the entrance to wait for a table and Jacques turned back to his beer -- but only momentarily; he had a limited amount of time before his transporter ceased to function and self- destructed. He could get out after that, if he had to, but it would be complicated; the plan was to pick up his two women here ... He scanned the room from his perch, looking for other candidates, interspersing his scans with the consumption of his beer and the hamburger that appeared a bit later. As it turned out, his perch made for an excellent view, especially of women who went through the salad bar; their faces tended to be obscured by the frame, but their busts were generally well displayed by the lighting and the angle and the fact that they had to bend forward a bit to get under the glass.
Jacques was watching the show when the girls were seated in a booth right behind his stool a few minutes later -- and he discovered the other pair with them. The third girl was red haired, heavily freckled and rail thin -- and the fourth was -- well, between the size and the shape and the clothing, Jacques just wasn't sure whether the fourth occupant of the booth was male or female. As he watched them settle in, the young guy next to him snorted, "There's some real oinkers..."
Jacques merely grunted. The bartender, who had stopped to wash glasses at the sink in front of Jacques' position at the bar, chuckled. "They're regulars. We call 'em table-hangers -- or booth-flies."
"Why?" Jacques asked.
"They're in here almost every night," the bartender related. "They'll get a salad and they'll sit there, taking up space until closing, hoping there will be a pickup." He shook his head. "We had one three months ago, and they were all here -- fat lot of good it did them."
"No wonder," the young guy snorted, "Look at them. You've got Miss Piggy, there..." he pointed out the light-brown-haired girl in the skirt -- which was drooping open at the side to display a LOT of white thigh flesh. "Then there's her sister, who's already been roasted some..." The brunette was sitting beside her. "Then there's the skeleton -- and I don't know WHAT the fuck the OTHER one is!"
"That isn't terribly charitable..." Jacques mused. There was perhaps some justification for the remarks; the light-skinned girl had the snub nose and the gapped teeth and the freckles and the puffy, rosy cheeks. Her top didn't display her cleavage as much as her girlfriend's did, but that was because it had a transparent panel that displayed a couple of very pink nipples directly. She was DEFINITELY on display. As Jacques spoke, she lifted her eyes to his, then looked back down at the table top, embarrassed. "So, do you get a lot of sex from prime specimens?" Jacques asked.
"Well, no, but..." the guy mumbled.
"Looks can be deceiving," Jacques counseled as the four got up and headed for the salad bar. "I've seen some extremely ugly things that performed their function far better than their eye-candy counterparts." Fact was, Jacques thought the 'sisters' were cute and their wide hips and rounded bellies were attractive to him. Young guys who didn't know anything about fucking wanted pin-up girls -- and pin-up girls, by and large, weren't comfortable fucks. Besides, you couldn't trust them, and you couldn't trust other guys around them -- they tended to be empty-headed and selfish and would move on to 'something better' at the drop of a hat. Jacques wasn't going to hold women with his looks or with money -- but he had a new lure...
As he watched them parade through the salad bar, Jacques idly wondered if their shapes would change due to the health-maintenance nanobots. Obesity wasn't considered an issue per se, but diabetes and high blood pressure and a host of other associated items would trigger weight loss in those who needed it to avoid them. Neither of these two was really huge, anyway -- they were merely well-padded ... As they returned, Jacques discovered that he had the light one's attention -- and after some whispers, that attention extended to all four occupants of the booth. Jacques pretended to be scanning elsewhere, but every time his eyes returned to the booth before him, someone was looking back -- and keeping notes.
After he got caught the twelfth time, he quit bothering to look away. In a moment, the light one looked up and said, "I'm sure you've got something to say..."
Clearly, she was expecting to be insulted or chastised or something. "Well, yes," Jacques admitted, "but I would prefer to discuss it in private."
The dark one gave him the eye. "Let's see your card."
Jacques pursed his lips and surrendered it. The dark skinned girl took one look, snorted, and flipped it back at him. "Okay, so you're JUST a dirty old man. We're not hookers."
"I'm not JUST a dirty old man," Jacques insisted. He turned over the card. "Please look closer." The back side had a little liquid crystal window on it for special messages -- and Jacques' said, 'Special dispensation -- 2 concubines.'
The dark one didn't look -- she was angry at being taken advantage of -- but the light one did -- and gasped. "Marcia!"
Marcia, the dark-skinned girl, snatched the card, "What?" Then she glared at Jacques. "You know what you get for messing with a CAP card?"
"Yes. It is unaltered. I can prove it," Jacques insisted, bending low over the table to keep the conversation private.
"Marcia..." the light-skinned girl pressed.
"Lacey, shut UP!" Marcia snapped, scowling at Jacques. "How?"
"It can't be done here," Jacques murmured. "It requires an AI."
The other two girls in the booth were sitting there, bug-eyed. "Jeezus, Marcia!" the little redhead burst out. "Fuck it up, why don't you?"
"Shut up, Margaret," Marcia snapped. "What are the chances a guy with a five point seven can REALLY have two concubines?"
"Why would he lie?" the big girl asked. "They kill you for that!"
Marcia glared at Jacques. "Mister..."
"You have nothing to lose," Jacques declared quietly, "while I have just bet my life." He straightened his arms and started looking around. "I can go elsewhere. I just liked what I was seeing."
Claws sank into his arm. "Take me," little Margaret husked, eyeing him intently.
Jacques pulled the arm away. "I'll think about it."
Lacey looked about ready to explode! "Dammit..."
"All RIGHT!" Marcia snapped. "Let's pay our bills and then you can show us whatever..." Her eyes swept the other three. "If this isn't good..."
Jacques was succumbing to anger. "I guarantee you that this is the last time you will speak to me like this..."
Oddly, that was more effective than any old CAP card. Marcia shut up and eyed Jacques as if he'd just grown horns. "Yes, Sir."
"Now you've fuckin' done it," the big girl bleated. "Mister..."
"Don't even start," Jacques waved her off.
"Yessir," the girl bleated -- but in a moment she was sniffling. Jacques rubbed his face, then strode back to the bar. "My check?" he asked the bartender.
The bartender eyed him for a moment. "Just go. If they come back, we'll catch them next time." Jacques nodded and pointed to the door and the quartet rose quietly and headed out.
Once in the parking lot, the girls stopped to see how Jacques wanted to handle things. "I have to return the van," he declared. "Follow me." He put his toolbox in the back of the van.
"What if... ?" Marcia started.
Jacques pointed to Lacey. "Get in the van," he snapped. Lacey didn't say a word -- she just made for the van. "You'll keep up," Jacques declared. He turned to the van and the three remaining girls ran for a shitbox Nissan and piled in. As Marcia started the engine, Margaret snarled, "Why don't you piss him off, Marcie? That's a fucking plan!" Marcia didn't bother to say anything. In the back seat, Judith was still sniffling.
As they pulled out of the parking lot, Jacques flicked a glance at Lacey, "Are you satisfied with my bona-fides?"
"Yes. Yes, sir!" Lacey nodded, eyes wide.
"Take off your clothing and show me your body."
"Yes, sir." Lacey threw the top over her head and reached behind her for the zipper to her jean skirt. "Shoes?" she asked.
Jacques glanced at the floorboards. "I want to see your feet. There were men in the restaurant who believed you have cloven hooves."
"Excuse me?" Lacey shoved the skirt over her hips.
"Forget it," Jacques waved it off. "It was rude. Still, your feet are a part of you -- I will examine them."
"Okay." Lacey kicked herself clear of her high heels. Lacey ALWAYS wore high heels -- they did wonders for her legs...
"Do you do oral sex?" Jacques queried.
"Show me." Jacques adjusted the seat so Lacey could get her head into his lap. Lacey draped herself across the engine cover and went to work on his zipper. Ten seconds later, he was unfurling in her mouth. "What do you think?" he grunted.
Lacey backed off to examine the plush mushroom head atop Jacques' iron-hard shaft. "Mister, I'd be happy to suck this every day for you."
"At least one of you has the proper attitude," Jacques grunted, jiggling one of Lacey's chubby ass cheeks with his hand. "Suck some more." Lacey didn't argue.
Thanks to Lacey, Jacques' anger subsided by the time they reached the local CAP testing site. He was nowhere near orgasm -- too many distractions -- but her lips felt wonderful on his hot shaft and the handful of soft, round, pink-nippled titty he was mauling felt very satisfying. The engine cover was hard and got warm as they drove, but Lacey knew better than to complain. She got up on her hands and knees just far enough to clear the surface and let Jacques play, concentrating her efforts on his hot, firm shaft in her mouth. Marcia could be a stupid cunt all she liked, but Lacey was going with Jacques -- even if it was nowhere off-world! An old guy he might be -- but he had a NICE cock, and this was ALREADY the nicest offer Lacey had gotten in some time...
Jacques pulled up to the gate and waved his CAP card under the scanner. "Good evening, Jacques Moreau. I detect a female with you -- and three others in close proximity," the AI intoned.
"They are with me," Jacques replied.
"Very well." The gate slid open -- and stayed that way while Marcia gingerly drove the Nissan through. Jacques parked the van.
"Get out," Jacques directed Lacey. "Bring your shoes, but don't put them on -- and your CAP card. That's it." Lacey didn't argue and Jacques didn't even look at her while he extracted the toolbox and modules from the back of the van. The testing center door slid open as he approached and he stepped through, then turned to watch Lacey tiptoe through the door. Marcia, Margaret, and the big girl came dashing up behind. Jacques turned and moved into the building as the trio hit the door, not looking behind him.