(C)Tooluser August 2011

This story is fiction, and any resemblance to real people or places is entirely coincidental.

As always, comments and encouragement welcome, please email me at


Hope you like it, anyway.


Digital Inc

Harrison Delaney put his shoulder to the rough baulk of timber and pushed, feeling it shudder as the sawblades bit and began screaming through the tangerine-colored wood, throwing clouds of choking, sandy sawdust into the air. The cloth wrapped about his lower face was long since soaked with sweat and stifling, but better than breathing sawdust for four hours. The itchy, bitter-tasting wood chippings worked into your hair, down your shirt, and into your mouth. Nevertheless all the guys who worked for Mercier & Sons knew they were lucky. Better to eat sawdust than join the desperate jobless rabble outside the gates and not eat at all.

Ever since the Crash, work out here in the DZ — the Deregulated Zone — was scarce, and each month scarcer still as workshops and factories one by one fell silent and threw out their loyal workforce to fend for themselves while the economy “readjusted.” Now with fewer workers to give them custom, and those few hoarding their uncertain wages against hard times ahead, stores and even beer-halls were putting up their shutters, and the crowd of hopefuls outside the Mercier gates grew ever larger. The thought could grow in a guy’s mind that for everyone outside the boardroom, “Economic Readjustment” looked pretty much the same as “Economic Free-fall,” but a guy who liked having knees that bent only nature’s way kept that thought inside his head. Peace Enforcement got very vigorous about Un-American Attitudes these days.

It was surely past the end of the shift, and Delaney wished he dared look to see if foreman Kapinsky was at his station, but since the management had made the efficiency saving of removing the safety cages from the big saw blades only an idiot with a death-wish took his eyes off the job.

The raucous caw of the shift-change klaxon blasted out above the shriek of tortured wood. Delaney and his two team-mates Moses and Harv staggered back aching from the rig and let the next shift step forward smartly into their places. Work carried on, and Mercier’s didn’t lose a cent of production.

Delaney wiped the sweat out of his eyes, stared up at the big electronic display, and cursed. They’d only just made shift target: so no bonus. He stretched his aching back, cramped after hunching and twisting for so long, and brushed itching wood chippings from his shirt before leaning over to his nearer crew mate and yelling in his ear.

“Hey, Harv! Where you gonna go celebrate?”

Harvey Blucher stared at him bug-eyed above his sawdust-caked kerchief. He jerked it down. “Celebrate? Del, are you nuts?” he yelled. “Word is they’re gonna re-time the job and cut the rate again!”

“Hey! You guys!” Kapinsky yelled. “Clear the goddamn’ floor! Ya ain’t workin’: ya ain’t here!”

Harv waved acknowledgement and they turned to head outside, elbowing their way through the shift-change crush.

“Shit!” Delaney said, shaking sawdust out of the bottom of his shirt as they jostled their way out to the locker room among the others ending the half-shift. “You mean it about the rate? For real?” He looked up as Moses Brown loomed above Harv’s shoulder. “You hear this?”

“Keep it down!” Moses looked left and right before nodding assent, his bald head gleaming. “Gonna clip another point-fifty, I heard,” he rumbled.

“Scrip or Red?” Delaney said. He meant it as a joke, but it came out too sour. Neither of them bothered to answer: everybody was paid in the so-called New Certified Dollars, but if you lived in the DZ the bills came without that all-important red holo-flash of the Economic Freedom Association that certified them as permitted trading for foreign currency. Uncertified bills could only be used inside US borders, and even then a lot of fancy places wouldn’t take them. Not that there were many fancy places outside the Bankers’ Enclave. People joked the value of uncertified dollars had dropped so much they were worth about the same as the old Confederate money. That was another sour one.

“Man, what I’d do if I earned two dollars fifty red an hour instead of C-scrip,” Harv said as he opened the locker and they all grabbed their lunch-pails off the shelf. Delaney grabbed his heavy overcoat, too. “Then I’d be celebrating all right!”

Moses grinned. “Fuckin’ banker! Put it into Yuan or Dong or Euros and buy a yacht, right?”

“Well, you could at least move out of that goddamn’ dormitory.” Delaney said, shrugging into his coat. He rented his own room, in a boarding house. Just.

“Heard that!” Moses said. “Been beddin’ down with guys so long I’m startin’ to think I really am a fuckin’ Beyell. C’mon, man - let’s go hit Susie’s tonight, fuck-it.”

Delaney shook his head. “Not me.”

“Of course ‘not-you,’ tightwad,” Harvey said, punching him lightly on the arm. “Beats me what you’re saving for.”

Delaney hunched a shoulder. “Rainy day, I guess.” His fingers strayed unconsciously to his belt where the the bulk of his savings — everything except his hold-out money — were stitched inside. It wasn’t much: a few weeks’ money; he hadn’t calculated it recently. Worth less than it used to be, too, with prices going up the way they were. And he was going to lose ground even faster after old man Mercier cut the rate.

Harvey spread his hands, enlisting Moses’ support. “Hey, listen to the guy! He don’t know it’s fuckin’ pissin’ down already. Take it easy, Del! Okay, we’ll just go suck down a coupla beers-”

”-And then go to Suzie’s, okay, birthday boy.” Delaney managed a half smile. “On us,” he said, indicating Moses and himself.

Moses snorted laughter. “You better just be meanin’ we’re paying for him. You meanin’ the other thing and there’s gonna be trouble, Beyell.”


Harvey snickered before Delaney caught on. “Oh, yeah. Right, ass-wipe,” Delaney said, pumping sarcasm into his voice. “How’d ya guess? Suzie’s girls are just gonna sit and look on while we three fuckin’ Beyells have a hot time together, dicking each other instead of them. Happy fuckin’ birthday.” He leveled his finger at Harvey, pistol-style. “Guess for once, you can lose all you want this lunchtime.”

“Hell,” Moses said as he slammed the locker shut again and spun the dial. “It all the same - he just givin’ his money to me. You want we cut you in?”

“Play against you two card mechanics?” Delaney said, grinning. “I thought we were buddies!”

“No such thing in poker,” Moses said.

“I’ll pass,” Delaney said, as he always did. The truth wasn’t just that gambling bored him: after the shift he needed his quiet time. “See you back here for the other half.”

“Yeah Del.” They bumped knuckles, and his two buddies turned away to saunter along to the temporary packing-case card tables and find a game they wanted to join.

Four hours was the longest a man could work on a saw rig before his concentration became too likely to wander, so the shifts were split: four hours on, four off, and then four on again. For the next four hours Delaney was his own man.

Four hours wasn’t long enough to go home, and drinking alcohol was forbidden. Anyway, only an idiot would drink and then go back to feed timber into those hungry, gleaming, un-caged blades.

So the men grumbled, but not too loudly, and sat around the yard or the scrubby bit of wasteland next the sawmill, whiling away the hours with dice, pitch-penny and five card stud until their shift resumed.

Delaney turned into the crowded yard where stolid cart horses snorted great steam clouds as they stood, waiting to be attended with Zen-like patience. The yard rang with shouts and the crash of iron chains on stone as men dragged big logs into the mill. He wove between the horses’ warm, strong-smelling flanks and ducked out of the factory gates, flashing the barcode on his day-card beneath the reader. The gateman grunted acknowledgement as the reader pinged, barely shifting his gaze from the scuffed black terminal bolted to the wall. Merciers didn’t care about men walking off their premises. As he ducked past the gate and out into the street, Delaney caught the low mutter of a sports-cast bulletin. Outside, Delaney eeled through the crowd of ragged hopefuls and then ducked across the street, dodging the crush of old pick-ups, sawn-down and converted to horse or human power now nobody who wasn’t a fucking banker could afford gas, cursing the slippery horse-dung underfoot.

Another store had closed. Delaney paused, staring blankly at the raw softwood planks half-blocking the windows and found he couldn’t recall exactly what business it had been, though he was sure he should. Poor food did that to you, he’d read it somewhere: fucked with your recall. Nothing to do with DZ Re-Orientation. So they said. You had to work your mind to keep it sharp. Determined to remember, he leaned closer, jamming his face into the chink between two boards and peered through the scratched glass.

The cramped interior had been gutted; the bare, painted cement walls and floor showed gritty gray trenches where cabling had been scavenged, a lot of it. The regular pattern nagged at his memory, but it wasn’t until he noticed the faded hand-written sign taped to the wall — “No Creddit” — that he recalled the place: Silicon Valleys. He’d worked a commission here and Ned Gash, the tightwad owner, had tried to welsch. Well, okay; he’d tried to pay in jack, but tit-fuck software and v-bukkake did nothing for Delaney.

Delaney bent his knees a little, craning his neck to peer through the chink in the planking up at the wall above the cash desk. Sure enough, there was the mural, and it was definitely not his best work. A tired pastiche of various impossibly-tittied, leering virtual starlets posing to advertise their particular specialities. To his trained eye the women’s poses all seemed mechanically executed; only the lithe, silver-haired figure of Peaches on the far right-hand-side seemed to have any feeling about it. He smiled wryly, acknowledging his own bias as he stood up. If Gash had been running Peaches he’d have grabbed that V-time no matter the stinking, laggy, lo-res interface. Probably would have caught scabies off his unsanitary hardware too.

He hadn’t been able to afford the jack, the Vee-time, for too long, but his profile was still there, wherever “there” was: filed with the tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of other punters pursuing simultaneous virtual affairs with splinters of the same immortal ten-year-old boy. Peaches was a Pixie: a virtual, digital starlet, one of the stable owned by Digital Companions Incorporated. Just like all their others, Peaches was a full, Turing-compliant AI, comprising several tens of billion lines of code: enough digital ink that a printout would cover the world a foot deep, Digital claimed. The run-time for the state of the art psychscape and emo modeling was nearly as great as for the spatial physio sims that rendered the taste, smell and feel of his delectable body as precisely as its appearance — right down to skin pores and virtual pheromones.

Delaney steadied himself against the rough planks as someone shoved past him, half-grunting an apology. He straightened up, trying to ignore the too-familiar distress he always felt at the thought of Peaches these days. Stupid, Delaney told himself as he pulled his coat closer about himself and stepped back from the window. The AI just loads the file of your mutual experience to generate the splinter you know as Peaches. When you’re not logged in, it doesn’t exist. It can’t miss you. No matter how much you miss him. He looked around, consciously pushing down the memories of the virtual life he’d once had, before his exile to the DZ. “Parapsychological Dependence” Digital called it; a purely human aberration, no more sensible or real than when people had given pet names to their automobiles.

“Vee addiction” others called it, arguing for tighter regulation of virtual environments and “emotionally resonant logic constructs.” The very term AI: “Artificial Intelligence” had become an issue thanks to the lunatics arguing for a fledgling “Virtual Rights” movement. If it looked like a duck, and quacked like a duck, then it had to be a duck, right? They’d been quoting Turing himself as authority. Delaney felt uneasy about that argument, but couldn’t remember the details. There’d been hacking incidents and covert virus deployment, with all the corporations screaming about the “ fomentation of disloyal anti-business interests” while simultaneously hiring covert cyber-ops teams themselves. People had been asking each other nervously what exactly a “cyber war” would entail, with opinions ranging from freejack entertainment all the way down to humans living in caves again.

It was all curiously muddled and blurred — emotional shock could do that, they said. His own, personal armageddon. The anonymous accusation and his arraignment before the CDR board, the weeks of waiting, working all hours in his white, white office. That was all he could remember of his professional, pre-beyell life now: brightness, whiteness, and everything being clean. Two worlds had fallen apart and he hadn’t even noticed.

Well, the Crash had put paid to the jacker’s war and a great deal more besides as the government enacted emergency legislation “to protect the financial heart of our great nation.” The heart had survived, but the rest of America increasingly resembled the DZs. Pretty soon the only place still open around here in New Hoovertown would be the Banking Credit Mission. There was a shabby crowd gathered already, huddled beneath the weather-stained sign that read: Bankers of America — working for YOU! He saw someone had spray-painted the “B” into a “W” again. You think they’d fucking learn. At least he’d never sunk so low he’d queued up for a bowl of their slop after chorusing their “Team Inspirations” like a fucking puppet as they scrolled across the screen. “Noble Banker, hear my plea; credit trickle down to me!” Yeah, right.

Delaney hurried on down toward the wharves, the wind cold on his face, anticipating his lunch and trying to forget the feel of fine hair beneath his hand and the solemn gaze of silver-irised eyes into his own.

He found himself a spot out of the wind, in the narrow alley mouth next a disused warehouse and, after checking to be sure he was alone, settled down against the graffitti-daubed brickwork to enjoy the view. If you didn’t remember to watch your back, the helpful citizens of New Hoovertown reminded you by sticking something sharp in it.

The river was hammered dark metal, plowed by passing ships, and the bright winter sun called every colored detail vividly to his eye. He wished he could still afford to paint, but he’d never lost the joy of looking, and it was cheap, too. He smiled as he opened his lunch pail.

The bread was hard; the usual heel of a loaf split and stuffed, but as well as the cheese, today he had a few cuts of salt bacon too.

He was staring out at the view, watching a rusting steamer thumping past and enjoying the contrast of the cool, granite-gray water against warm cream paint and iron splotched with rust the rich color of old blood, when Delaney became aware that he was no longer alone.

“Gissa bit of your bread, mister,” the boy whined. “I ain’t eaten nothin’ since yesterday.”

Delaney chewed and swallowed. “Me neither,” he replied.

The boy was wearing a ragged adult’s suit jacket; the sleeves were turned back to his elbows, and the once-bright, green-striped lining was discolored and fouled to shades of umber and burnt sienna. It was cinched tight around his waist with a twisted length of scarlet and black electrical cable and hung almost to the ground. Beneath it, Delaney glimpsed small bare feet, mauve with cold.

The boy’s brown hair was a mess: chopped short at the front and long in back - hanging almost to the collar of his dirty jacket. It was clipped short up both sides, jacker style, yeah right, like a gutter-trash kid would have sub-cute data-ports implanted behind his ears.

The rest of him was cute, though. Very cute, if you liked elfin, and Delaney personally did. The kid’s nose was short and small, and splashed with freckles (or maybe dirt) across his cheeks too. His eyes were wide, blue-gray, his gaze fixed on the bit of bread Delaney was holding.

“Please mister,” he said in his beautiful, high clear boy’s voice, and paused to swallow. “I know how to make you feel realll good,” he added, coming closer.

It was on the tip of Delaney’s tongue to deny that he was really a “Beyell”: although in the last years before the Crash the criteria for being added to the CDR — the “Child Defence Register” — as a Boy Lover had grown so broad that practically every able bodied man was in the frame, and once again in the Land of Opportunity it was money and political pull that decided whether being accused of liking the company of boys, never mind being caught with, say, an actual photograph of your son in your wallet would result in the letters “BL” being stamped across your ID or not. Just prior to the Crash, the hysteria had grown so bad that merely questioning whether criminalizing half the human race was sane had been enough to get your name submitted.

Cynically, Delaney wondered how much of that was to do with forcing the “Economic Efficiency Measures” through. Stripping Beyells of the vote and disbarring them from “sensitive” government posts had made the Bankers coup — ahem! “Economic Restructuring and Revitalization for the New Generation” — just ever so much easier. And who could possibly complain? It was all being done for the children, right?”

Still, at least it had democratized prejudice. Amongst all the poor, bloody, long-suffering straight guys swept up in the CDR net, a few, like himself, really did love boys.

“What?” Delaney felt his cock stir. “What do you mean?”

“You know.” The boy moved closer and dropped his voice confidentially. “Trading, like. Oh!” He paused to swallow again, and licked his lips. “You got bacon! You can do me, fer bacon.”

He looked up from Delaney’s lunch pail, his little face hopeful. “You wanna see? I’m nice,” he said, fumbling at the cable tie at his waist. “Clean an’ no fleas, honest!”

Before Delaney could say anything the plastic cable grip clicked undone and the boy’s jacket flopped open. A minor land-fill of old, print newspapers cascaded from the front of it and fell disregarded on Delaney’s legs.

Beneath it the boy was naked. Slender — achingly so — and slim-waisted, his pale skin smudged with newsprint, his knees almost as muddy as his bare feet. His small dick was no longer than Delaney’s little finger and curled down from his bare, smooth groin over pale, perfect, grape-sized balls.

“So ’ow about it, mister?” The boy looked meaningfully down at the tent in Delaney’s pants. “I can tell you wanna.”

“Yeah.” It had been a long time without contact in either vee or meat-space; too long. “It’s kind of hard to miss.” Delaney felt his mouth dry with anticipation.

The boy crouched down in front of him, eye to eye. “What you offerin’?”

Delaney raised an eyebrow. “Bit of cheese for a fuck?”

“Jack out! I want some o’ that meat.” The boy wiped the back of his hand against his lips and swallowed, looking meaningfully at the glistening, fatty scraps in Delaney’s lunch pail.

Delaney grinned. “No problem, kid. I’ve got a whole lot of hard meat for you to enjoy.”

The boy rolled his eyes and flicked his mo’ back, jacker-flash. The pale afternoon sun gleamed on the white skin, visible through the close-cropped stubble, the sweet curve of his skull begging for Delaney to cradle it in his palm. “You on the level or just pissin’ me about?” the kid said. “If you wanna cum in my mouth it’ll cost you half that bacon.” He twisted half sideways, briefly exhibiting a pink little wrinkle between two lean, sexy little asscheeks.

“Nah,” Delaney said. “Ain’t had bacon for so long I’d only trade it for a real good fuck. You look so small, I’d cum before I got my dick a fourth of the way up that tight little shitter.”

“Hey - I been trainin’!” The little boy’s ring flexed and gaped a little. “See? I’m prime sojer-peacefuck, I am!”

“Sure you are.” It was the claim of just about every juvie street-rat that they’d bought off a Peace Enforcement raid by offering up their skinny little ass. “Bet you’re just RAMed to the max, too - a proper little fractal-ink pixie e-boy. Gonna show me your ink?”

Flash of white.

“Hey! I ain’t no duellist! Zee-ro, man!” The kid blinked, fast as a shutter. “Fuck you, Beyell!” he sneered. “Like you could afford the j-j-jack!” The stammer was fast and flat as a drum-machine, followed again by that uncanny blink. He looked anxious. “Aww, come on, mister!” he said, like the insult had never passed his lips. “You gimme a bit of bacon before and I’ll suck you off some, first.”

“A taste of bacon and cum, huh?” Delaney found he was shivering, muscles jumping like he’d OD’d on caffeine. Damn cold’ wind all of a sudden.

“I get all your bread an’ cheese if you can’t get it up again!” The kid’s grin revealed a chipped tooth, but but he was suddenly confident, impudent. Sexy as hell. “A suck and a fuck, I get everything, deal?”

“Okay, okay - deal.” Delaney reached into his lunchbox and pulled a small, greasy morsel off the larger piece of bacon. “Here.”

The boy grabbed it, shoved it in his mouth, and chewed. “Mmmm,” he said, eyes closing in ecstasy as his jaws worked. A little trickle of saliva escaped from one corner of his narrow lips and he hastily scooped it back in with a little, pale pink tongue. At last he swallowed and sat back, smacking his lips. “That’s real good, mister,” he said, eyeing the rest longingly.

“Well, time to start earning your bacon,” Delaney said. “Starting with your name.”

“Me name?” A stop-motion flicker, and the boy looked wary. “W-w-what you want to know me name for?”

Delaney shrugged. “Just being friendly.”

“Yeah?” It was the boy’s turn to arch a narrow eyebrow. “Friendly would’ve just give it me.” He widened his big, storm-colored eyes in hopeful appeal. At the same time he shifted from crouching to kneeling, so his little dick came back into view from between his smooth thighs.

Delaney chuckled. “Does that eye trick often work?”

Another wide, chipped-tooth grin. “One or the other, yeah. I get stuff whether it makes ’em guilty — or horny.” He leaned closer and put his hand on Delaney’s thigh. “I guess you ain’t the guilty type, yeah?”

Delaney leaned back against the wall as the boy slid his hand higher, stroking his cock through the rough woolen serge. “Not particularly,” he said.

“That’s good.” The boy began unbuttoning the man’s flies. “Nice,” he commented as he slid his hand inside Delaney’s pants. He squeezed the man’s cock, and then expertly maneuvered it out of the entangling linen.

The air was cold, and the boy’s hand circled round the base of his cock didn’t feel much warmer. The kid leaned down and licked the red tip.

“Nice,” he said again. “You gimme all your bread and cheese after you cum in me mouth, right?”

Delaney felt his cock harden. “And the bacon if I get all the way up your ass.”

The kid laughed. “Sure, Beyell, and rough as you like. You’re gonna fill my gut twice, honest, an’ only once wiv bacon.” He ducked his head and licked the head again, his mo’ flopping down over his forehead as he kissed it and fondled it, and Delaney groaned.

“Get on with it,” he gasped.

Delaney watched as the boy began bobbing his head, letting just the tip of Delaney’s cock penetrate his little mouth, enjoying the contrast of its wet heat and the winter cold. The kid was an expert, too - taking in just the tip, then more, then less again, using the whole of his mouth; his tongue, teeth and hard palate, building the pace until he was slurping wetly up and down Delaney’s hard cock like a demented, cut-rate splinter of Peaches.

“Deeper,” Delaney ordered, eager for the sight of the boy’s mouth stretched wide around his thick shaft. “Oh, yeah - good boy!” He gripped the urchin’s shaggy mohawk and began humping his thick meat up into the kid’s straining mouth. “Oh, yeah,” he groaned. “Suck my meat.” It just felt so fuckin’ good to push his cock into wet warmth like a man was supposed to do.

The boy coughed, drooling round the big cock now being rammed unceremoniously in and out of his little mouth, but made no attempt to stop him, going back to sucking as soon as he could, and Delaney felt that little tongue rubbing expertly against urgently invading cock.

“Fuck, you’re good,” Delaney grunted, feeling his balls tighten. “Good little cocksucker! Yeah! Hope you like the taste of cum!” He rubbed his hands over the boy’s short-cropped stubble and shut his eyes, concentrating on the hot slipperyness around his cock as he fucked the boy’s mouth.

“Oh, yeah! Uh!” he grunted, shivering and thrusting deep, enjoying the feeling of humping into that warm little cave, his cock-head bumping rhythmically against soft wetness, trying to prolong the feeling - god, the little urchin’s mouth was as good as any virtual he’d ever had: hot, tight and slippery. He forced himself to remember that the kid needed to breathe.

It had been too long: Delaney groaned, toes curling and lights going off behind his eyelids.

“Ah!” he grunted. “Auh -fuckYou’reGood,” he gasped as he felt his cock erupt in the boy’s mouth. “Uhhh! Nnnnhhh! Uhhhhh!” He curled upward, his cock spurting cum, and slitted his eyes open, watching the little kid slurping and gulping on his hard, glistening meat, globs of white slithering down his iron-hard, pulsing stalk.

Delaney slumped down again, against the wall. “Damn,” he gasped. “Damn, I needed that.”

Large blue-gray eyes regarded him anxiously. “You’re still gonna do me ass though, aincha?” Puppies couldn’t look cuter.

Delaney stretched out a shaking hand and pulled a morsel of bacon off the remainder of the joint. “Here,” he said.

Instant suspicion. “What for?”

“For your name.”

”’Ere, you ain’t one of them, right?”

“No.” Delaney held out the morsel. “Not a Snuffer. Go on kid - pick a name; I don’t fuckin’ care what.”

The kid snatched the shred of meat from between his fingers and muttered somthing.

“What? Say again?”


“M-mink,” the boy mumbled, chewing. “I ain’t gonna say nuffin’ more: not for a whole hawg, I ain’t, so don’t fuckin’ ask.” He shifted closer — or at any rate, closer to Delaney’s lunch pail.

“Okay.” Delaney moved his lunch to his other side, between himself and the wall. He picked up a hunk of bread, and tore it into two unequal halves. “Here.”

Mink’s eyes flicked to the bread and up again.

Delaney grinned. “Yeah, that’s right - I’m stealing the larger part of your bread.” “You what?”

“Well, I reckon you were right: after cumming like that, I don’t think Peaches himself could get me hard again.”

“Aaah.” Mink waved a dismissive hand that somehow casually snagged the bread. “Fuckin’ pixie! Don’t tell me you got the RAM for that. Anyhow —” he bit off a such a large chunk of bread that he had to stow it, chipmunk-style, in his cheek before continuing. “I got tricks - muscle tricks. Don’t tell me you could fuckin’ sniff gettin’ near a fuckin’ zeebargoed Dog Boy long enough to get a ’lectron on yer dick - ferget Peaches!”

“Talk’s cheap,” Delaney said, moving the lunch-pail out of reach again.

“Yeah.” Mink masticated horribly, grinning. The view of half-eaten bread was dreadful. “Guessed you couldn’t be as dumb as you look. Cum’s almost as good as marge, ain’t it? Fer bread?”

“My god,” Delaney said. “How many guys would you need for one slice?”

A wicked grin. “Depends how you spread, I guess.”

Delaney snorted.

“Look.” Mink’s hands were empty, but whether he’d eaten the bread or disappeared it into a noisome pocket for later, Delaney couldn’t say. “I’ll do yer a mousie: trick for a bit of cheese, yeah?”

“It’s your cheese, I think,” Delaney said, the vision of Mink eating still large in his mind’s eye.

“Only if you can’t get your ’orse in me box, mister. An’ if you can I get the bacon and the cheese both, you recall? Reckon you’re a regular flash-recharge, amount of cum you shot - Vee me if you ain’t!”

Delaney found himself smiling back “What does bread taste like with soft soap?” he drawled.

The chipped tooth was there and gone again in Mink’s dirty, gap-toothed grin. “I gotta straddle, yeah? I ain’t no Banker-jack — strick’ly say-’n’-show, right?”

“Right.” Delaney pulled off a good crumble of the strong, yellow cheese and held it palm-upwards. “Cash, or rather, cheese, on the nail.”

“Yeah!” Mink grabbed the morsel as he shot to his feet, his huge coat swinging together like greasy curtains, rendering him abruptly modest. For a moment.

The boy spread his legs, straddled Delaney’s waist, and then hitched one dirty little bare foot up onto the wall, his huge coat forming a tent.

His legs were too slender. With his arms upspread to support the coat, his ribs were too visible, his collar-bones too.

Delaney forced his hands to remain at his side: freezing out the true Beyell’s besetting weakness. He forced himself not to dwell on sliding his arms up around that too-fragile ribcage, of the boy curling, sinking down to sit on his lap, ear against his heart, and breathe out that soft boy-sigh that you answer with the touch of your large, strong hands, and the warmth of your big body around him, and the kiss on his head that says “It’s okay, son,” as all boys are your sons, and you love him. Nobody loves with their heart. You love with your body: with every single taut, pumped, hard inch of it.

A flash of white and the stink of SteriBac in his nostrils. He’d learned the orders they thundered at him in the Adjustment Center before his expulsion into the Zone, where Beyells scratched out their meager existence — Objectify Your Lust! — Absorbed the paranoiac shrieks of hate that passed for policy in the tame lap-dog Senate the corporations had bought: You cannot love, Inferior Man: for WE define love, and declare your difference to be Error!

Delaney blinked and the sterile white walls were gone again.

Delaney admired Mink’s smooth skin; the small dark nubs of his nipples; the lean loveliness of his form. His pose was practised, sculptural; the tilt of his head calculated, poised. His eyes now shadowed and unreadable.

Mink tilted his hips. Beneath the pale curl of his boyhood, beneath his smooth spheres, a red eye blossomed and winked. Delaney felt his cock twitch and swell in response.

Mink smiled. Giggles shook his shoulders. “And you reckoned I couldn’t get’cha hard! Yer achin’, aincha, Beyell?”

“Yeah.” Delaney’s cock felt hard as iron. He shuddered. “You’re going to sit on it?”

“Oh, no!” Mink kicked up from against the wall and turned, eerily balletic, pivoting on his other foot; his bent, raised leg skimming over Delaney’s head, his huge coat flying wide as he spun and then settling around him as he landed on all fours. The coat tails slid aside like curtains revealing a crescent of creamy white, smooth skin with a blossoming, hungry red hole between the small curved cheeks.

Gripped with lust, Delaney rose to his knees and shuffled across the muddy floor of the alley. His hands shook as he stroked those taut, lean cheeks. He touched the tip of his hard cock to that red, beckoning mouth, and pushed inside into slick, expert heat.

He felt Mink tense as he bottomed out, and then -

Constriction: the boy’s ring closed down with ferocious intensity, crushing his flesh. Gasping through the waves of pain, Delaney fought to extricate himself, even as he knew it wouldn’t work. He doubted it was a full military grade enhancement the little shit was running: SM enthusiasts judged adrenal override sufficient for a rectal cuff.

“Coney in the hole!” Mink yelled, and it seemed to Delaney that the alley exploded with snarling, feral rat-children. Silently, small hands ripped at his pockets, his coat, dragging it off him. He reached down to shield his balls; slapped away a small hand he guessed for Mink’s even as he twisted and drove his elbow sharply up into something that crunched, swung his fist and punched another looming snarl.

A taller, darker figure loomed on his unprotected side and the world exploded blue-electric in stars and pain. Mink was yelling:

“Fuck, no! Arfur you fucktard!”

In the confusion Delaney looked up and glimpsed the sleek, gray and white shape of as a Citizen’s weapon: embargoed to everyone here in the Zone. Electricity kicked his shoulder again, and he jack-knifed and would have fallen but for the muscle-cuff’s grip about his cock. Shattering echoes jangled through his nervous system as the charge surged through him again, a raging electrical firestorm, but even as the grip on his abused cock slackened and he fell jerking and whimpering onto his side, he felt a blossoming of hope.

The patter of running feet shuddered through his consciousness like falling blood. Fading.

Delaney ached his way back to consciousness in painful increments, focusing groggily on the shine of boots at eye level, and above that, the brash, synthetic blue of EverKleen uniforms. Peace Corps. The biggest fucking gang on the block. He groaned; knowing they’d mistake it for pain. An amateur would think he’d been kicked in every muscle. He knew better: the fuckin’ sojerboy Peace fuckin’ Corps knew better: they had taught him. He wet his lips, and croaked:


Delaney managed to uncurl. Peace didn’t like you in fetal position. They liked watching you curl into fetal position, whimpering, as they decided where next to introduce you to their steel toecaps.

They weren’t kicking him. Ergo: they wanted information. He hoped they were too busy to kick him after they got it.

“The weapon.”

“Never saw it!” he croaked.

“Fuckin’ lyin’ piece of trash!”

Delaney gasped as one of them thudded a boot-tip into his thigh. Drew in breath as a moan. Whimper on the second kick.

Blue arc, and a spine-jolting agony that seared through his muscles without the benison of oblivion. A high voice, made higher with excitement, and hate: “Fuckin’ Beyell!”

“Easy Cher! It’s a tool, not a fuckin’ toy! You! Contact where?”

Delaney choked, struggling to breathe with almost-paralyzed muscles and drove a fluttering arm to try and gesture towards his shoulder.

“Fuck!” Frustration at the standard contact pattern burn: he guessed they’d been hoping for something sexy like Banker-grade concealed stuff. A boot connected with his shoulder, slamming him over against the wall.

Someone leaned over him. Delaney was too shot to even tense, but all she said, in a mock-deep voice was: “I’ll be back.” That fuckin’ robotic voice-clip they all thought was so funny. He bet they could do it without the fuckin’ comms-rig.

Fuckin’ rookies.

Some unknown time later, Delaney rolled over and forced himself to sit up. His shirt and undershirt were ripped, and his pants, whole enough for decency, but-

His hands flew to where his belt used to be. Gone, and with it his savings. He still wore his boots, though one was loose: the laces sliced through. Delaney stared at his boot, and a slow smile spread over his face. If he ever met that “Arthur”, he thought, he should give him a big, hearty handshake for discharging that weapon and drawing Peace Corp’s priority attention as a Citizen In Distress. Otherwise the alley-flashers would have stripped him naked and left him with a cut throat.

If it came to that, he should thank the fuckin’ PCorps too. He doubted the rookie would come back but her threat had evidently been enough to keep other human scavengers away from this alley. Yeah, thank everyone except that scammer Mink. If he met that kid again, there was a score to settle.

Delaney felt a rustle of unease pass through him. Even now, he felt himself responding to the memory of the boy’s body. Those skinny legs and twig-thin arms were standard around here. That pert little prepubescent ass and his well-used hole likewise. Delaney curled his foot within his boot, tracing his big toe over his final hold-out money: a ten and a five. A day’s wages when he’d stitched it in there. Now worth about half: a night in a crib, or food for a couple days. For three, four dollars he could have some anonymous little mouth or ass and no consequences except for maybe a dose. So why was he sitting here tenting his pants over some treacherous little shit?

Freaky. Rectal cuffs were a cheap enough implant, and Mink’s occaisional machine-gun stammer certainly could be the legacy of some hurried back-street slash-n-jack, but there was something else, he could feel it.

Flash of white.

The silken, heated smoothness of Mink’s mouth on him, swallowing. The impossibly smooth warm-porcelain white of skin, perfection of form and beauty that only possible in vee, with the skill of a team of data-artists crafting a Pixie from fractal codelets; data coalescing into beauty.

Flash. - something else. Something. Like a razor blade in an apple.

He pushed himself groggily to his feet, trying to ignore the aches and bruises his body was so assiduous in reporting. The lighting seemed wrong: there seemed to be a patch of shadow where none should be. Delaney staggered towards it, one boot flapping loose, supporting himself on the wall until he focused on his black coat. Buttons gone, pockets eviscerated, but still here. They must have flung it away as too cumbersome while running. He picked it up and pulled it on, shivering.

His day card was gone, of course: the little brats would sell that soonest, so they’d robbed him of that afternoon’s pay as well as what they’d taken. He pulled the coat closer around himself as the cold wind found its way in. Fuck. They couldn’t have robbed him more completely if they’d been fuckin’ bankers.

End of part one.

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