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Back to the Beginning

The look on Sophia's face haunted Adam to the point where he had difficulty getting set up on the GPS localizer course at Moscow. He was still a thousand feet high at the outer marker, and with his pre-landing checklist incomplete, he had to go around. The field was down to minimums, and the whole episode cost him time. Still, holding for the long series of shuttles behind him who all shot perfect approaches, he had time to think.

What was bothering him was the way the whole thing had been laid out for them by God Frederick Müller. Sex was such a cut and dried affair if you subscribed to LOVE. Paradoxically, total fantasy manipulation in the form of MANDORLA III was the ultimate erosion of personal freedom that had begun, if he remembered his history, with the right-wing backlash in the 1980's to NOW. The NOW membership soared, in spite of enormous resistance, right up to the end of the century—when the slow erosion of feminism world-wide began with the Declaration of the Last Crusade. By the time the fundamentalists united after that bloody and radioactive conflagration, which lasted almost a century, the most militant of the women took the only route left open to them by a loutish male-dominated society and escaped—abandoned mankind, actually, and who could blame them?—at first in trickles of ten or twenty—combatants, most of them, from the South Asian War—and later by the thousands, when they commandeered launch vehicles en masse. They went to the Lunar Delta. To several of the moth-balled off-world habitats. And it was rumored they went to pockets of resistance here, beneath the oceans and in old nuclear shelters.

In the beginning no one took them seriously, and by the end no one took them at all. And now there were simply no women left. There were clones, of course, who could not reproduce sexually. And there were the androids, who served a surrogate function only. And there were the thirty MANDORLA III's. LOVE. Had God Frederick Müller in his wisdom synthesized a human female? Would it be possible for Adam and the other Federation Presidents to get the whole thing rolling again? Should they even try to do that in the first place? Publicly, no one would say. But in private, the guarded comments were unanimously in favor of finding out.

It took incredible singlemindedness on his part, but for over a month Federation President Seth had avoided all fantasy with his MANDORLA III save his single original Jacqueline turn-on. She was not intended for that purpose. The service bulletins said that it would lead to premature aging, but it appeared from the data they'd been collecting that if a single personality were maintained for one and a half lunar phases, the III would become fertile, just like women had in the years nearly forgotten now. Adam hoped the information was accurate. Since Federation President Seth was past the assumed age of fatherhood, as near as they could figure, it would be up to Adam to seed Jacqueline; and then—he became erect at the thought—each of the other twenty-nine III's in turn.

They were advocating revolution, Adam knew. Surrogates were big business, and where there was a dollar to be made, lions guarded the gates. But breathes there a man in this wide world-without-women who doesn't appreciate a challenge?

He flared the aircraft neatly, and set it down expertly in the teeth of a thirty knot crosswind.

*

Jacqueline surprised him at the door. She wasn't the type he'd have considered for his own III episodes, but as he crossed past her and into President Seth's foyer, he reconsidered. She was much more sensuous than he remembered. Could it be he was getting old? No, not that old, he reminded himself. He was the great male hope. Those thoughts would never do.

He looked for some sign of the ancient hurt she must bear, after a life of destruction and disappointment. There was none of that; rather, a kind of feminine serenity graced her dark eyes. One of the most famous, most desirable women in history, and she wore her survival like a medal, like a challenge to one and all to dare to approach existence her way, with love of life. And lust. There was plenty of that in Jacqueline. Her eyes burned with it as she greeted him.

"Adam. So good of you to come." She kissed him very lightly, almost girlishly, on the cheek. "Seth called from Somalia and he says he's going to be late. I hope you don't mind." She smiled. "I'm sure we'll be able to occupy ourselves in the meantime. Wine?"

He nodded. "Thanks." Her hand touched his as she passed the glass to him. Adam felt that old tumbling in his gut. He knew he wouldn't be able to hold off for long. Jacqueline looked right into his eyes as she toasted:

"To the two of us. And the future."

"The future."

"Who knows what it'll hold? Did Seth give you the good news?" He shook his head no. "I'm ready."

"You mean—?" She nodded:

"Four days, moderate flow. Over a week ago. And I can only conclude, from this incredible excitement that I feel, that NOW is the time."

"Shhh." Adam glanced in the direction of the holoscan.

"Oh don't worry about that. We reprocess everything that goes out. There's no problem."

"So you mean…." She nodded emphatically:

"Uh hunh. Seth says don't bother to wait for him. He doesn't know how much longer he has left anyhow."

Adam rubbed the stubble of his beard thoughtfully. Jacqueline circled over to him, very slowly. She kissed him soft on the lips and held him behind the head with both hands. She bit his lip, hard, and he returned the gesture. He could taste blood in their kiss. Blood. That was it. The sign for which they'd been waiting. Seventy-five years and blood would signal the dawn of a new race.

Adam wondered how he would compare. The woman had loved a President, a millionaire, and a rock/roll superstar and finally a king in the post-corporeal. He hoped he could measure up.

Jacqueline led him, hand in hand, to the bedroom. As she closed the door, she attacked him with kisses and fondling, the very model of a divine soldier of LOVE. She fell to her knees before him, tugging confidently at his unvelcro. The excitement was unbearable. Adam's mind was crowded with images of sex and sex remembered and sex imagined and sex prayed-for. He knew that he could not let her continue in this way, and she sensed this. As they moved towards the bed, the door crashed open. Jacqueline screamed as the weight of Adam's body pushed her to the floor.

Two GFM convoys stood over them. Adam was confused at first, then angry when he saw the clone. She was a perfect JACQUELINE1122, and Adam realized what was happening as one convoy spoke:

"Federation President Adam, I'm sorry to disturb you at this delicate time. We have orders to suspend this MANDORLA III. You may use the JACQUELINE1122 as you desire."

Jacqueline seemed submissive. Adam realized that recognition of GFM authority must be built into the III's, and he was at a loss for a response. Jacqueline looked at him imploringly. It took a courage which only could have been legacyware from her namesake for her to speak at all.

"Please Adam," she said. "Don't let them do this. I want you."

She clung tightly to him. Tears streaked her cheeks.

"I want you."

Before he realized what he was doing, Adam kicked the convoy in the groin. Man or clone or droid, the force of the kick sent him reeling. In a flash, Adam was on the other convoy, and with Jacqueline's help, he too was soon out of the action. The clone stood there, wearing her pink blood-stained suit and pillbox hat, whimpering for her now-aborted liaison.

"Quick, Jackie, let's get out of here." She took his hand and they made a break for the front door. There was a small chance they could get to the aircraft. Adam hoped Jacqueline had been right about the reprocessing of the holoscan. He put the thought from his mind as they ran for their lives.

*

God Frederick Müller smiled. It was good. Fear of the unknown had been sown in Adam. It was an essential component. Dolores brought her synthecaf and the younger woman was shaking her head as she poured the drink.

"Who could have thought it would work out this way? Our data from so far back as the 1950's indicated that men wanted multiple partners. Masters and Johnson covered the whole phenomenon in the nineties. Fantasy has always been a normal part of male sexuality."

"And it will continue to be, Dolores."

*

Adam managed to collect his own MANDORLA III before Homeland Security could put the whole thing together. He felt an incredible exhilaration as the three of them hurtled through Federation Airspace. What had begun as a simple fight or flight reflex had annealed into a plan. And it was a good one.

He set the craft down in VFR conditions at his NorthHemi hideaway. There was no chance of detection. Federation President Seth had used the three hundred year old log cabin for up to six months at a time when the mullahs were hunting him like a dog. Adam still went there when he needed time alone. And, man oh woman, did he want some time alone. And he'd need more than three months or six months. More like a lifetime.

He would have to eat properly, he knew. The forest was full of caribou. He had weapons. He had perhaps twenty-five good years of fatherhood left. He could go through many MANDORLAs in twenty-five years.

Jackie and Sophia looked at him. He thought about pouring himself a good long congratulatory drink, but the women moved towards him. Each took him by the hand. They tugged him towards the bedroom. It was all happening so quickly.

They pushed him gently down on the bed. He felt a kind of weariness overtake him. Four hands touched his body, soft. They traced mystical patterns of energy on his skin. The women tantalized him, with words and murmurs, and with their tongues and with little nips of their teeth. Their breath was warm on his skin. Sophia kissed him. Jackie mounted him. They called his name over and over again, as if invoking some ancient spell. He felt himself flowing into Jacqueline and the future and then the women lay protectively down on either side of him.

She would bear his child. A new human being would exist, conceived in the image of a fantasy. Jacqueline, Sophia, Raquel, Marilyn, Cameron, Jennifer, and women as yet unimagined. Women…as variable and individual as human imagination. Women…as weapons in the war to end all wars.

And they would go on like that for many years. Adam, just Adam, and his Eves.

*

God Frederick Müller experienced an immense concentration of energy deep within herself. Her body surged with its force, and she watched contentedly until Jacqueline and Sophia and dear, dear Adam lay asleep.

LOVE had finally brought them together again, men and women. It lived through Adam and the grace of God Frederick Müller. Men would think, when the pieces were put together and the Federation Presidents came to discuss what had happened, that they had outwitted the dark forces that had conspired to keep them womanless on the earth.

It was only feminine intuition, but God Frederick Müller was inclined to believe that LOVE, indeed, would some day come to conquer all.

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