Donglion Merigold Strax yawned, stretching his arms and scraping up against the roof of his isotube. A moderately attractive young man, his lack of muscles and slight pudginess were made up for by his sharp aristocratic cheekbones, flowing blond hair and piercing white eyes. Presently, he tilted his head back as a mechanical arm extended towards his neck and he was injected with a cocktail of stims, dream preservers and general anti-amnesiacs. He dug his fingers into his hands, smiling when he drew blood. As the initial jolt flew through him, banishing any trace of drowsiness, he recalled the events of the previous day and night. He went through his dreams: antique resource requisitions made of concrete, meek Amazons taking turns sucking his cock, an old sailing ship where all the sailors were gorts, being a package on a rocketship, lots of gort voices, a countdown, being thrown against a wall at the highest speeds imaginable.
Some of these dreams seemed especially vivid, but he did not let this bother him. His job, self-appointed may it be, was simply to recall his experiences faithfully, however strange or disjointed they may be. If they did not make sense, then he would remember that they did not make sense. He would preserve this secret truth, that sometimes life does not conform to the standards of so-called reason. Alone, if necessary. And not with one of those horrid machines! Who knew what their little edits for "clarity" amounted to? Where one finds a flux, one must record the flux! Machines be damned.
Robotic hands scrubbed Donglion up and down with dandelion scented purifying wipes, while sonic pulses rained down on him. He laid his arm out, palm up, to have his blood sample taken and winced as he received his vitamin and nutrient suppository. Music began to dribble out of the machine, broadly classical, which never had been played before and never would be heard again, being produced by applying a very complex algorithm to samples of Wagner and Bach. Donglion wasn’t sure if he liked this addition to his isotube (one of many he had had personally commissioned from a cyberdoc), the music being constantly interrupted by all the buzzing and whirring. Case in point, the laser arm buzzed as it worked its way through his mouth, leaving a slight burning sensation as it cleared away detritus, while the cleaner arms whirred as they polished his nails, leaving them sharp and shimmering.
And with that, it all stopped. The arms retreated to their various compartments. The insipid music faded out, leaving just the isotube’s natural hum and a slight echo. He punched the top of the machine, where he knew the speakers to be, but there still was some violin noise, barely audible and in a soft, sentimental style not to his liking. Annoyed, he tried to calm himself with a deep breath before the realization of what came next filled him with excitement. Right on cue, a small door flipped open, one that not even the cyberdoc knew about, Donglion having installed it himself based on some old manuals. Reaching down, sitting on a pile of horrific poetry written on rice paper with a paintbrush, was a small physical print-out of her. Golden brown hair (the kind of thing an external brain would "correct"). Full pink lips. Thick black eyeliner that’d be whorish on any other woman. Deep seafoam green eyes. That little upturned grin, not quite a smile.
He winced, piercing his lower lips with one of his canines, while one hand held the print-out and the other his throbbing member. Pumping rapidly, he saw her, sitting on a bench in the Crystal City, watching gorts working at a crack. The crack itself was vaguely vaginal and he thought of what must surely lie beneath those green robes, flowing like a man’s but still tight enough around the chest to show her powers, which were commendable. He was fully erect now, his penis having grown to impressive proportions at the thought of those beauties, well-proportioned and not impractical, slightly upturned. His hands wandered to the tip and he could feel a wetness. Leaning back a little in the tube, he knew it would not be long. The thought of her eyes, not shallow and glistening, but sharp, strictly focused on the most insignificant thing, some gorts doing routine maintenance (the Crystal City was slowly falling apart).
The mechanical arms flicked out again, cleaning up the aftermath. He just kept pumping, without effect now, until he had to turn the print-out over. This left Donglion standing at the back of his isotube, panting with effort, his body having gained a pleasing masculine musk and his face a satisfied glow. The former, he admitted, could be attained with an autostimulator or homeowhore, but the latter, he thought, required manual effort. Looking around it was, he thought, perhaps shameful that he used an isotube at all. But, if one was to live in an age, one must make some concessions to that age. (Orlando got married, albeit to an adventurer who spent all his time at sea. But she was a woman and so more vulnerable to the pressures of time and circumstance than he). So, he used an isotube for his daily maintenance, for what was strictly necessary (a slight fib), but for fulfilling his masculine needs, for jacking off, he made no compromise with the femininity of this fallen world.
With a click, the isotube door swung open. Donglion decided, in that spirit, it was unmasculine to just sit and watch her watching. The girl in the park would have a name. He would find it in the holoarchives and ask her father to ask his for her hand. His own father demanded a marriage, after all, but none of those hyperdependent women who were paraded in front of him had ever gotten him hard. (At least, not from their presence; some could give decent head.) No, for his wife, he needed someone whose femininity corresponded to his own masculinity: sharp, volatile, anachronistic. Not these bloated floatbags or needle-thin display pieces. He needed a wife who could kill him, if she wanted to. But she never would, because despite her relative autonomy to this world and its horrors, she would still be a woman and so still be dependent, but only on him. His masculinity, being refined and strong, could accept nothing less.
With a new determination, Donglion stepped out into the world, only to find himself stopped by the air. It was warm. His family hovermanse was kept cool, for his mother was prone to fainting. And this was not even the dry warmth of the Crystal City. It was a damp warmth, humid, and stuck to his skin, and with it the must of this place, which, looking around, was dark and filled with hideous little details. Along the walls were great red curtains. In front of them were faux wooden support beams. The floors were a darker wood and creaked a little as he stepped forward. Overheard, an orange circular light illuminated the room. At the opposite wall was a desk with a heavy, leather bound book on it. Next to it was an engraved double door. The soupy strings hung over the scene.
Walking towards the book, he was surprised to find himself in his old room again. He did not know if this reassured him or was ten times more terrifying. Perhaps being kidnapped was worse, practically speaking, than hallucinating a strange room, but being kidnapped was easier to understand. They were due for another gort uprising (something really had to be done about those guys) and it was plausible that they might think to ransom him for weapons or food or something (whatever gorts like).
He looked over his room, trying to reorient himself, but he couldn’t really do it. His kosho metals, which usually gave him so much joy, seemed dull, even when he polished them. Imprinting his hand into the hidden receiver on the floor, he fingered through his collection of physical books, magical things, but they just reminded him of the leather book on the dream table. Even as he glanced at his exercise mat, where he exalted his virility with training exercises and by playing games with the older boys, he felt vaguely uneasy. Somehow, it even reminded him of his own initiation into manhood with Gyulion Danz, which had so humiliated him at the time, but now seemed a fond memory. A magical feeling came over him. There was something occult here, in the memory of Gyulion’s manhood, how it tore into him like a wild tiger…
He lowered his hands, as if to hide the pressure in his crotch from himself. Quickly, he grabbed some gel, styling his hair into its familiar shape, and reached over to the closet. A bright red gown caught his eye, the opening at the front showing off his chest hair while the long flowy sleeves hid his lack of muscles. And of course he did not mind the V-shaped opening at the bottom, constantly threatening to reveal his member. As long as no one knew it was erect because of the thought of Gyulion pounding his ass and calling him a little twig who he could snap at a moment’s notice, this would be proof of his masculinity and strength. Perhaps it might even entice his mystery lover.
Stepping out in a pair of silver slippers, Donglion stopped when he saw his parents waiting patiently for him. His father, as usual, wore his white robes of state with black flaps and a green hair clip. His mother was in an appropriately feminine blue dress, long, vaguely reflective, semi-flexible rings running up and down it. They appeared to be breathing, but otherwise did not move, simply standing there, his father with his hands interlocked in front of him, his mother with her arms at her side, both looking down and grimacing slightly.
"Mother! Father!" he shouted, embracing them both, "What are you doing here? I thought there was a council session this morning."
"We are not here," his father said calmly, "And neither are you."
He retreated towards the wall, head slumped down in his hands. The room seemed to shake, but he knew it was just his brain rattling around and threatening to burst.
"We are sorry, Donglion, but we gave you as long as anyone reasonably would. A man your age, well, he ought to have at least taken a few lovers."
He looked up. "What do you mean?"
"This is just a prerecorded message," his mother explained, "That is… what they told us, anyway… that you would hear all of this when you got there."
"Yes," his father continued, "We feel that your social and physical development is neither normal for a healthy male nor healthy for a normal male. This would, under ordinary circumstances, be resolved by testosterone therapy, but the cyberdoc’s blood and semen tests have not detected any abnormalities."
Donglion shook violently.
"Since there is no detectable problem on a physiological level, they cannot prescribe any physiological solution."
"This is for your own good, ultimately," his mother chipped in, "The mind priest, they believe that you have certain… suppressed tendencies, which make… normal lovemaking impossible. Hence, your…"
"Horseplay," his father grumbled under his breath.
"All normal healthy young boys engage in horseplay!" Donglion screamed. Looking around for any kind of holomat emitter, he shoved them violently, only to feel flesh and blood. Alarmed, he crumpled into himself and fell to the ground in a heap.
As if anticipating this, his mother squatted down. "People talk, Glion. Your father… he’s a prominent man. To have his son, his only son, pass adulthood and six suns without ever having taken a ‘lover’ and stubbornly refusing marriage to all the pretty young girls on offer…"
"It raises questions. Questions which hurt me." His father leaned over at him. "You understand that, son? How your abnormality damages me? My reputation is my life. It is all of our lives, since it is on my reputation that everything we have rests on. And you, of course, have nothing for yourself. So, by being abnormal, you harm not only me, but yourself as well."
"That’s not true," Donglion muttered from his heap, "I do not depend on anyone. Not for what matters. Only for food and drink and so on. I am not essentially dependent on someone's external opinion. Not like you…"
"So, we have arranged for Farfolo to send you here, for training."
He looked up. "Training?"
"The kind of training…" his mother trailed off.
"You will not find it entirely pleasant, but I do think, ultimately, it is necessary for you to realize the fullness of your being. And to save my political career."
Donglion tried to take deep breaths. Training. The word meant exercise. Exercise was physical exertion for the sake of improving one’s potential for performing future, more challenging exertions. Dominating the body and, through the body, the world. It was not a masculine activity. It was masculinity.
So he stood up, wiped away his tears. Perhaps this wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Just then, his parents fell away. Everything, the world fell away. The blue crystalline walls turned to striped green wallpaper. The glass floor, looking down on hovertrams filled with commuters, turned to dark wood with a huge red rug. There were bookshelves in the corners and paintings on the walls and there was a huge spiral staircase at the back of the room. The entire shape of the room shifted, turning from circular to octagonal. And at the front, instead of opening out onto a balcony, the wall actually turned inwards, where it was adorned with candles and a silver sigil like you see on a precinct crest but made of metal instead of being a picture on cloth.
Looking down, he saw how even his clothing had changed. His red dress had gone black and its slick simplicity was replaced by overcomplicated loops and knots. It was much tighter as well and extended further down, past his knees. His male pride was securely hidden, while the short puffy sleeves showed off his embarrassment.
Reaching up, he was relieved to find his hair still styled the way he liked. Something to hold onto in this hell house where you could not trust your senses. He shivered.
"Are you cold?" someone asked.
Up on the stairs, he saw an ancient woman, black hair long like a man’s but tied into a semblance of femininity, wearing a dress much like his but with silver detailing and a necklace with the same symbol as was hung on the wall and illuminated by candles. Her nails, long and painted black like her lips, clacked against the railing.
"Excuse me?" he whimpered, afraid to speak.
"Don’t worry, baby." She approached him rapidly, feet tapping against the floor. She looked down at him. She held his face in her hand. "You will be much warmer once we have you in the proper undergarments."
She let go of him. "Come," she said, pointing to the door opposite the one behind which, he now realized, he would find his isotube and the leather bound book. "The Sisters will take care of you now."