Ad Astra Per Aspera
The starship "Ad Astra" has been my home for more than forty years; I was orphaned by the Nano Wars when I was 8, but my parents--who were influential with the New Hope Society--saw that I was taken aboard the giant interstellar vessel when the world political situation began to deteriorate.
Nearly 15 kilometers long, "Ad Astra" is basically a giant cylinder designed to rotate and create artificial gravity for the 10,000 people living inside; although I barely remember the cities of Earth, the older people say the inside resembles a quiet suburb, with apartment blocks, farms and rivers filling the inner surface of the cylinder.
Of course, if you live on this ship like me, you would know that, but this record may survive our interstellar journey. Originally, "Ad Astra" was propelled by a light sail--a vast rig designed to catch photons beamed at the ship from a gigantic laser in Earth's orbit--but we lost the laser just two years into the journey.
Most of our crew figured the laser had been shot down by forces of the Terran Union--the military government of Earth, opposed to the New Hope Society--but, for whatever reason, a trip to Tau Ceti that should have taken half of my lifetime would take several hundred years instead.
But that wasn't the end of our problems; shortly after the laser went down, all the men and boys on the ship started dropping dead. It appeared that the Terran Union had sabotaged our life support system with a Nano-Plague virus--one specifically aimed at males-- and only about 50 young boys survived. I was one of them; as it happened, all of the hundred boys and girls in my school were quarantined in the ship's hospital with Amazonian Meta-Pox-another disease probably foisted on us by the Terran Union--but ironically, that one saved my life.
I would stay in the hospital with other boys--ages 10 to 14--while the ship's women systematically flushed the Nano-Plague virus from the life support system, and tossed the corpses of their fathers, brothers, sons and husbands into space. When I was finally let out of the hospital--now 11--I found I was treated like a priceless jewel.
Girls fussed over me, and women intervened whenever I looked like I might be doing anything remotely dangerous; but it was the same with all the other boys--we represented the only hope for the population's survival. I didn't understand that at the time; all I could see was how traumatized my stepmother was with the death of her husband, and how much my stepsisters Angel and Sara--ages 12 and 13--missed their dad.
With a catastrophe like that, things were never really normal again; women took over all the jobs men used to have--from farming, to life support maintenance, to firefighting--and we boys continued to be pampered.
But then, about two years later, something strange happened; women started getting pregnant all over the ship. That included my 8th grade teacher, our school principal, and even my stepmother. She was clearly embarrassed: she didn't even tell me until she was six months along, and it was pretty obvious something strange had happened.
"But how can you have a baby without Dad?"
"Oh, Jason," Mom said, embracing me as best she could, with her swollen belly between us; "Mommy had to have some help, now that your Dad is gone..."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, the Plague took away all our men," Mom said, tearfully; "but we have to have babies to keep the colony alive..."
"So Mommy had to have some help ... to make another baby..."
Mom didn't clarify that--she was pretty upset--but I soon got a full run-down on the situation. At the start of the 9th grade, my beautiful teacher--the widowed Mrs. Amanda Blaylock--took me aside for a private meeting after school. I felt a little awkward about that; although I had only just entered her class, I had seen her around the school before, and she figured prominently in my fantasies after I discovered masturbation about a year before. 42 years old, with a pretty face and long red hair swept back with a barrette, she had huge breasts and trim sexy legs, generally complimented by strappy high-heeled sandals. Somehow, she didn't quite seem to belong on an interstellar spacecraft, but every boy in school had a crush on her.
"Did you want to see me, Mrs. Blaylock?"
"Oh yes," she said, inviting me to take a seat opposite hers.
"Jason, have you heard of the Seed Project?"
"The what... ?"
"Well, I'm sure you've noticed that a lot of our women have been having babies recently. To be frank, that's because Captain Brazil has ordered a crash-breeding program to reconstitute our male population. All our surviving males--ages 14 and up--are being asked to copulate with random, anonymous partners."
At this point, Mrs. Blaylock crossed her legs and I felt dizzy—both from catching a glimpse of her panties beneath her skirt, and from trying to understand what she was saying.
"We haven't involved the younger girls yet," she continued, "but that'll be changing soon. What I need to know is if you'd be willing to have sex with our females, so they can have babies."
Suddenly--thinking about the many older girls and women I knew--I felt the blood draining from my head. I thought about the girls I'd had crushes on--the 10th grader Baksho Devi, my classmate Suki Nakayama, Mrs. Blaylock--and I nearly passed out.
"Easy there, tiger," Mrs. Blaylock said, catching me as I reeled in my seat; "it's not as exciting as you think."
"Huh?" I said, woozily. Close by now, I could smell Mrs. Blaylock's perfume--vaguely resembling fresh-baked bread--and recovered my senses.
"You'd have to do it in the dark," Mrs. Blaylock explained, "and there's no talking. It has to be impersonal, so you and your partner don't recognize each other."
"What if a girl ... doesn't want to do it?"
"Well, that's not an option; the captain wants the population built up now, before you boys get older and nuclear families start re-forming with husbands and wives. You can imagine, a husband wouldn't necessarily want his wife to be going off to get poked by a random stranger every weekend."
"Does this mean I can't have a girlfriend? Would that be disruptive?"
"No," Mrs. Blaylock said, smiling, "Project Seed is just for the short-term; eventually, boys and girls will go back to having normal lives."
"So, should I ask my mom if it's okay?"
"No, she already knows we're having this talk. So what do you say?"
"I think I'd like to have sex," I said.
"Good man. I knew you'd be a team player."
Somewhat sheepishly, I told Mom about Project Seed, but she already knew all about it--that was where she'd gotten her baby. My sisters were a lot more embarrassed--they'd be partners for someone, too--but I was assured by Mrs. Blaylock that the computer wouldn't assign me to someone from my own family.
So I waited, impatiently, for my first appointment with a random partner. It would come the next weekend at the Ship's Nursery, where all the anonymous coupling had been taking place, so (perhaps irrationally), I stopped masturbating, wanting to be as potent as possible.
Unfortunately, that meant my balls were positively aching with pressure by the time I showed up for my session, and my discomfort was hardly assuaged when I was met by a chubby, brown-skinned lady with enormous breasts nursing a light-skinned baby. Breast-feeding like that was hardly unusual, but the baby didn't look more than a few days old: was it that urgent to breed, that ladies weren't even taking breaks between pregnancies... ?
"You must be Jason," the lady said, extending a free hand to shake; "I'm Dolly Mendoza."
"You seem ... busy," I noted; "should I come back later... ?"
Dolly seemed confused for a moment, then realized that I must have thought she was my partner.
"Oh, I'm not your partner," Dolly said; "I'm just here to show you how things work."
"So, is that your baby?"
"No, I was just nursing this little one because his own mother is pretty young and didn't have much milk. I've got plenty of milk myself, though, after I squeezed out my last little one a month ago...
"I'd like to have another," she added with a wink, "but I haven't had a chance to work on that yet."
I looked down sheepishly at her toes, tightly bound in the vamps of chunky cork-soled sandals and poking out under the hem of her long skirt. Dolly then handed the newborn over to another lady who took over the nursing and invited me to follow her to a red-lit bedchamber. It was surprisingly bare aside from a single large bed with plush sheets, but it wasn't a hotel so I wasn't too surprised.
I certainly was suprised, however, when we entered the room and Dolly's voice suddenly sounded unfamiliar as she spoke; if I hadn't known it was her, I wouldn't have recognized her at all from the strange pitch and tone of her voice.
"You'll notice the change in my voice," Dolly said.
"Yeah, what's up with that?" I asked, hearing my own voice sound strange in my ears.
"We discourage you or your partner to speak in the chamber," Dolly said, "but if you do, the vocal modulator will make it hard to recognize who is with you. And of course we'll turn the lights down all the way before you begin."
"Should I get undressed?"
"Here, let me help you," Dolly said.
She said it so matter-of-factly, I didn't even think to protest. A few moments later, I was sitting naked on the side of the bed, with Dolly standing fully clothed beside me.
"Ma'am," I said, "what's it like ... the first time?"
She smiled. "It'll be special. The girl knows it's your first time."
"Well, geez," I said, "what if I cu...