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 website now. If you want to contact me my e-mail address is below.

Love From the Printing Press

By David Cross

Chapter 3

Derek woke up on the first day of the week, called Moon's Day for some strange reason. The historical experts knew the derivation of the Adrel planetary calendar, but the actual reason for the names of the days was a piece of historical trivia few people bothered with. What he knew was what most people on the planet knew: eight days per week, four weeks per month, ten months in a year. This was done deliberately since the planetary year was just a shade over 320 days (26-hour days, at that) long.

The other seven days of the week had been named, apparently in a fit of pique, Merced's Day, Visalia's Day, Wotan's Day, Odin's Day, Freya's Day, Saturn's Day, and Sun's Day. Derek couldn't argue with the naming; what mattered was that everybody agreed on the same calendar to use, so as to keep the planet from going haywire.

The school generally ran such that six days out of the week were devoted to classes, and the remainder to letting students catch up on any assigned homework, or to sponsored cultural, sporting or educational activities. One time, for example, the entire school had been the site for a much-celebrated literary reading, where famous authors known throughout the galaxy had come to read selections of their books, which could be printed on paper but were more commonly available in electronic format for those who liked to take advantage of the features in book-reading programs, such as the ability to project the words in front of one's eyes for easier reading - definitely a boon to people who were advancing in age.

But Derek wasn't really thinking about calendars. He'd lain in bed that morning, which was still crisp and cool. He, like all the other students of Sefren Vadil Prep, had been given his own dormitory room, an ample seven meters by seven meters with a full-height ceiling. He had his own bed, a desk, a closet, and so on. It was certainly a scale above what he'd been used to at home. His bedroom there was about four meters by four meters, and the bed threatened to sag. No, his family wasn't poor poor, but they certainly didn't have a lot to call their own. By law every person on Adrel was guaranteed housing, but the actual wording of the guarantee meant that those who didn't make a lot of money weren't "guaranteed" much more than a one-floor, three-bedroom house with furniture that was sporadically replaced, if at all. And this started Derek thinking about the recent events relating to the war that had ended. As soon as he'd been old enough to digest the news in electronic, video, or holovision form, he'd followed what he could of the war correspondents' dispatches, and the broader social and economic milieu in which it took place.

It seemed strange that the war had touched Adrel comparatively lightly, but when one considered the space fleets fielded by both sides, it was clear that the majority of battles had been settled in space, and that the war itself had dug into a kind of predictable manuevering, where one side's move was easily countered by the other. This factor, Derek suspected, was what had driven the war to a standstill more than anything else; the fact that there was no sense of danger on either sides, no sense of immediate annihilation. It was only that last desperate move launched by Daxyn that had forced Adrel to launch that massive counterattack that had finally revealed to even the most obtuse admiral that the war had ground into a stalemate.

This had meant a kind of absurd twilight suffused Adrelian society. People acted as though they were at peace in the school, yet the signs of war were still to be found if one looked: the military police constantly traversing the globe; the extension of the functions of government in organizing a war economy; the slow increase in the percentage of the planetary population employed directly or indirectly by the Ministry of War; the reports of this person or that person killed in a skirmish.

And now that the armistice had held for six months and a formal peace treaty was being hammered out, Adrel's government still acted as though a war was on. And why not? They were the victors. And victors could afford to field large armies, and reward their numerous generals and admirals with fine uniforms, commendations, parades and all the rest. That cost money, money the government was loath to admit it didn't have.

Derek, though, didn't feel like much of a victor. His parents' letters to him - his family could not afford a private photophone and using a communal one cost money they couldn't easily spare - on secure communications chips, which were quite cheap and routinely used for correspondence of all kinds, were supportive and encouraging, to be sure, but even so his father in particular couldn't help but occasionally let his frustrations through.

Especially in the last couple of years, it seemed that no matter how big a raise the polymer-steel works gave his father, it just never seemed to quite help get the family any further ahead. And his mother would occasionally mention that victory or no, the occasional shortages of food still plagued the factory workers. The shortages were never acute, but they inevitably meant poor diet and nutrition for those unfortunate enough to not be able to grow their own food, either naturally or hydroponically.

Derek was thankful that he hadn't heard anything about mass starvation, but he had to wonder why a planet little touched physically by a war couldn't seem to produce everything its citizens needed. He thought, I'm treading on some dangerous ground here. Why am I thinking things like this instead of memorizing the computation of eigenvectors? I'll think too much about the wrong stuff, and say something I shouldn't, and I'll get kicked out of this school and there goes any chance I have to help my parents!

Randy, stuffed full after an excellent meal, was in the aircar, heading back to Vadil Prep. His father had held out the exciting prospect of an off-planet vacation, and had as much as said he could bring his friends along. The prospect of enhancing his prestige fuelled his ego as he imagined bragging about the trip to his friends.

As father and son prepared to say good-bye, Randall said, "Now, Randy, son - try to curb your enthusiasm. I know it's natural for you to want to burst out with the good news, but you might make someone jealous, and you never know who in this school you may end up having to deal with in a professional capacity some day."

Randy was only half-listening. His father's well-intentioned guidance and reminder that because everybody in the prep school was being groomed to perpetuate the wealth and security of the upper crust, the smooth transition from one generation to the next depended crucially on smoothly functioning interpersonal relationships, unfortunately didn't take hold then as it did later.

And so Randy's bragging reached the ears of one boy named Derek, who could only futilely resent the privileges he was theoretically entitled to, but in practice did not enjoy. Randy's insensitivity would, in time, be forgotten, but it would paradoxically bind the boys in a mixture of resentment and attraction at first.

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