Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any people, real or fictional, is entirely a coincidence. In addition this story involves homosexual thoughts, feelings and actions. If this is not what you want to read, please visit another website. In addition if reading this story is illegal in your area you need to go to another webpage now. If you want to contact me my e-mail address is below.

Love From the Printing Press

By David Cross

Chapter 1

The war had a victor and a vanquished. Wars always did. But this one, due to chance, karma, irony, or whatever, found the victor finding that victory was a pleasanter name for a kind of defeat.

The vanquished side underwent all the usual upheavals that accompanied the end of a war: revolution, economic troubles, crime, and so on. But the people who lived under the weight of defeat knew it, and bore up under the strain because they knew they'd lost.

For those who had "won", the adjustment was not so easy. The government of the day found it easier to solve its problems with the printing press than to admit that it had dangerously overextended itself in every way during the war. And so economic upheaval attacked the victor, and people wondered why times were hard when they had "won".

Amid the ruins of victory-defeat, two people who otherwise never would have met did so, and changed their lives and the lives of their families forever. In doing so, they would unknowingly precipitate a much-needed lancing of the boil that their government was creating by refusing to pare down its military, and re-establish itself on a sound footing to deal with the problems of peace, which were always so different than the problems of war.

Randy Anderson lived on the planet Adrel. It had been named by an explorer with a penchant for coming up with planetary names out of thin air, and so it had stuck. The long-ago expansion into space from the planet Earth, with the invention of superluminal-velocity spaceships and the sophisticated computers to control them, had led to an outpouring of human beings eager to find out about the galaxy they inhabited. In the five hundred years since the initial human expansion, humanity now populated a thousand planets in the galaxy, and more were constantly being terraformed or explored. Adrel and its opponent had been settled at nearly the same time not long after spaceflight had begun in earnest and so were fully terraformed and capable of sustaining a high standard of living.

Adrel's erstwhile opponent, Daxyn, had been named by the same explorer, and its star system was, as stellar distances went, not far from Adrel. It was, in point of fact, only a parsec away. The war had started over something nobody could even remember, since it had been going on for twenty years or more. Humans being human, it had likely started because one star system had something more valuable or more desirable that the government of the other wanted. That didn't matter now. The two had essentially fought each other to a draw, but because Adrel had technically "won" by managing to hold onto more of its space fleet than Daxyn, it had been able to dictate the terms of the armistice, although what it amounted to was a mutual surrender.

Randy's father was the Minister of War, renamed the Minister of Defence after the armistice, and as such controlled the most powerful agency in the government. The armed forces employed, in one way or another, a quarter of the planet's population, and even with money falling in value by about ten percent a year or better, people still counted themselves fortunate that the government chose to keep them busy working.

So Randy was conscious of a social status accorded him by reflection from his father. When he started going to the private school that many of the upper crust sent their children to, he was the one looked up to by the others in his grade. Even the teachers handled him with kid gloves to an extent. His status hadn't saved him when he'd gotten caught fiddling with the library retrieval computers to display pornographic images when someone input a query, and he'd been forced to reprogram the retrieval system from backup tapes under the headmaster's supervision.

But if he didn't hand in his homework occasionally, teachers usually winked and said to hand it in the next day.

The school prided itself on being philanthropic enough to accept what were euphemistically termed "economically disadvantaged academically motivated children." What that boiled down to, in plain talk, was that the hand of patronizing charity was extended to children who tested highly enough in the public schools to warrant the grudging acceptance of such a tiny few as to be nearly meaningless when compared to the total number of children who couldn't get in. Yet many poor families aspired to have the wealthiest private school accept their children at no cost, and labored mightily to try and ensure that their child would be the one to score the highest on the tests so administered.

Derek Gunnarson was one of those fortunate few to have scored highly across the board and be allowed to cross the hallowed grounds of the posh school. He had what might be termed some "dangerous" ideas in his head, since he had thought much along these lines, and concluded that the way the school manipulated the feelings and hopes of many poor people was a microcosm of the way Adrel's economy and society manipulated the feelings and hopes of nearly everyone who lived within it.

Yet Derek knew to keep his mouth shut. He'd learned that on the first day, when the kids teased him because he hadn't had a chance to get a haircut in the fashion affected by the well-off: short on the sides and in back, with a slicked pompadour up front and the hair behind it precisely combed in swift strokes to put every hair in its place. Oh, his clothes were presentable enough, but it had been made clear that they should be sent back at the earliest opportunity and that his wardrobe should consist of the school uniform, or the "right" kind of clothes. So doing a lot of talking would just get him teased more, and maybe even bullied if someone got it into his mind to do so.

Even after Derek got the de rigeur haircut and school uniform, he was still marked off as different, and he didn't have a lot of friends; actually, that was a bit of comforting fiction Derek told his parents. He didn't have any friends. So the years went by, as he went from ten years old to fifteen years old, his life barren of much interpersonal interaction even as his mind was enriched by knowledge of literature, science, engineering, mathematics and many other things besides.

Yet his life and Randy's still would never have crossed, except that the government, desperate for a way to try and ease the rising social tensions that had accompanied a bittersweet victory, had hit on the PR trick of parading before the media as many poor people as possible who'd "made it" to convince the people whose wages were losing value every month (what they didn't know at the time was the beauty of cost-plus war contracts, and inflation adjustments in salary agreements), while the rich seemed hardly affected, that really, you could still "make it" even if the economy did seem to be struggling at the moment. Never mind the idiocy of printing money when there was no economic expansion to warrant doing it.

And so Derek and his hapless fellow "disadvantaged" students were herded in front of the school's truthfully beautiful front doors, made from a species of tree native to the planet before human settlement, and which resembled oak on Earth, but was denser and stronger, weight for weight. Randy's father, politician to the core, was standing behind the boys, grinning his head off along with a group of other powerful officials. The cameras and media people ate the whole scene up, and the Minister did seem honestly interested in the boys, enough to shake each of their hands and congratulate them for having shown up that day to help out their planet's government. For a fifteen-year-old, getting your hand shaken by one of the biggest wigs in the government can be pretty overwhelming, and even Derek's cynicism was smothered for the time being.

Randy, also fifteen years old, had come out to watch the media circus since his father had photophoned ahead to say he would be showing up. Derek caught his eye for the first time that day. He was shaking the hands of the officials that had shown up that day, and looking quite smart doing it too. Derek was about Randy's height, at 172 centimeters tall, or as he sometimes liked to convert to an archaic system of units extant before spaceflight, 5 feet eight inches tall. Derek's weight was less certain, but he estimated the boy probably weighed about 65 kilograms, or 140 pounds in the old units. Randy, likely being somewhat more muscular, weighed around 70 kilograms, or 155 pounds.

Derek's hair was a medium brown, whereas Randy's was dark blond. He wasn't sure about Derek's eyes, but his own were a piercing blue that made people wonder if he wore special contact lenses. He didn't, though; it was purely genetics that gave him a strange pair of eyes which were almost electric blue in color. For some odd reason, Derek's overall appearance caught Randy's attention and held it. He didn't know why, and he knew from what his father had told him about the event that all the boys standing there were scholarship students who had been allowed to enter, so there would be no way his friends would ever understand the two of them becoming acquaintances, let alone friends.

Yet... Randy felt drawn to Derek for some odd reason. This scared and excited him simultaneously, and his heartbeat raced when Derek looked up just for a fraction of a second, holding Randy's eyes with his own. He went back to contemplating his shoes, and that broke Randy's paralysis. Randy deliberately looked away, and waited for his father to come over and take him out for lunch.

Of such chance encounters can history be made.

I can be contacted at this e-mail address. A parsec is an astronomical distance measurement, equivalent to 3.3 light-years, or 31,221,300,000,000 kilometers.