The Collar Wars
The party with real meat instead of engineered was a huge hit and my unit was still singing my praises but the sound was ringing hollow for me by now. It was a simple case of this being the anniversary of Carol’s death and I was feeling it almost as hard as I had that first week. Maybe even harder. The assault upon myself had been physical and easy to shrug off and even had the rest of the officers sweating, but that was merely physical. This was an emotional pain that was ripping me up from the inside and I desperately wanted to crawl back in a bottle and drink myself to death. I had no real reason to live except to save my unit from frying, but sometimes I wondered if that was enough reason for me not to kill myself. I found myself in the same situation as I had been in a eleven months earlier staring at a picture of Carol and playing with a gun ready to kill myself. Only difference this time was that I was stone cold sober. There would be no excuse of being drunk, it would be simple, logically thought out, suicide. Of course the logic of suicide never made sense.
After a while, how long I wasn’t sure, an alarm went off on my clock letting me know it was time to inspect the barracks. I forced myself not to blast the twice damnable thing and instead slip my jacket on and drag myself to do my inspection.
Upon entering the barracks Drake called the unit to attention. There was a mad rush for bunks as each of my soldiers came to full attention at the foot of their bunks each. Each of them hand their hands in salute and as I walked past I had each of them go to full rest. Nothing seemed out of place, and even if it had I don’t know that it would have mattered in any respect to me, I just no longer cared about anything remotely like that.
As I left the barracks I could hear whispering as the unit swarmed around Drake. I could have listened into what they were saying but it didn’t matter anymore. I just wanted to be alone. Once I was back in my quarters I sat down and looked at the last memory I had of Carol, a picture. We had someone take it of us at the end of our first date. I had erased every other picture I had of her, and this one was the last reminder I had of her that wasn’t burned into my memory. I could still hear her laugh, see the way she way she closed her eyes and tried her hardest not to laugh at stupid mistakes I made around her. Whenever I was around her I tended to be all thumbs, nervous she would think I was too full of myself, and always scared that I’d let her in on too much of my past. She knew that my family was based solidly in crime but I don’t think she knew exactly how much I was steeped in blood. I had tried early on to separate myself from that. I had gone so far as to try to make an honest buck at an ice cream parlor when I was in high school. That had only lasted a few months when I had gotten into my accident. I had been damn lucky that I hadn’t died in it and the anger for what had happened fueled my rage. After I had recovered enough to I tracked down the driver and beat him to death. My parents cleaned up the mess and had trained me to keep doing just that. I learned to channel my anger into killing anyone. I had become a monster, and I had joined the marines to regain control of myself, of my humanity. Right now though it didn’t seem to matter much. Carol was dead, all I had left for myself was to protect my Hybrids. I had let myself down too many times, I couldn’t let them down.
I hadn’t been in the room for more than ten minutes when there was a knock. I would have ignored it but it would only lead to trouble. “Enter.”
When Drake walked in he looked like he was worried that he was stepping into a minefield. “Sir…”
“What is it Sergeant?” I didn’t want to talk to him, but at the same time I knew that what he had to say was important. What I was really hoping for was that I hadn’t missed anything obvious during the inspection. It wouldn’t looked good if was to call me on it. I may not use the collar to demand respect, but at the same time I wasn’t going to go easy on my troops. If I had missed something and Drake called me on it, I’d be asking for trouble.
“Sir I don’t me to be disrespectful, but the boys and I got together after you left, and we’re worried about you.”
“What’s got you worried about me?” It was nice to know they cared, I just needed to know how they knew I was upset.
“Well sir. You’ve been crying sir. We can all smell the tears on you, and we’re scared. We don’t want something to happen that would cause to get replaced.”
Damn it, I had realized that I had been crying. However a Hybrid nose never lies, if they said I had been crying, then I had been. I didn’t know what to make of the situation I knew my soldiers would go blabbering about it with other troops, that wasn’t their way. At the same time I didn’t want to show any weakness in front of them.
“I hadn’t been aware of that fact.”
“What’s been troubling you Lieutenant?”
“Just bad memories come back to haunt me is all. Memories that I don’t really want to share.” I really didn’t want to be talking to my sergeant, at the same time if I didn’t I’d have the whole unit going nuts.
“Sir if you don’t mind me saying this but you need to get out for a while.” He tentatively put his hand on my shoulder and gave me a gentle squeeze. His touch was another sign of just how much he trusted me. Most officers would have fried the hell out of Hybrid for doing something like that. I gently moved his hand off my shoulder instead.
“And where do you suggest I go? I gave up drinking and with the state I’m in if I started I’d never stop and would just crawl back into a bottle. The movies on this colony are all drivel so I couldn’t put up with those. So what do you suggest, because at this point tracking down an officer and beating him to death sounds like a good way to vent. IfI got caught though I’d be executed, so that’s out of the question as well.”
“Do you really want my suggestion Sir?”
“Drake one more Sir out of you and I’ll bust your jaw. It’s Sam damn it. I’m sick to the teeth of being called sir by you guys. Call me Sir, or Lieutenant around other Humans, here you call me Sam, do you understand me?”
“Yes Si… Sam?”
“That’s better, and tell everyone else that too. I’m getting sick of Sir, my unit is my family, I don’t like it when my family calls me Sir.”
“That’s better. Now you were saying?”
“I was about to suggest you go to the brothel.”
“That I go where?”
“Sam, we go to the brothels to relax, unwind, it’s one of the reasons we love you. You give us a chance to spend more time there. I worked my tail off to become a sergeant for extra privileges.”
“Drake I’m not going to pay to have sex with your fellow Hybrid, it’s revolting. It’s immoral, it’s…”
“It’s what sir? Is it the fact that the person will be a Hybrid?” I was fairly sure he knew the answer to the question. “Or is it something else.”
“It’s the fact that she’ll be a Hybrid, is both the yes and the no.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I don’t care about what she is physically. What bugs me will that she’s a slave, a sex object that is exploited with no say in what happens to her. It’s one of the reasons I hate the use of Hybrids periods, you’re all slaves.”
“Sam then go do for her what no Human does. You don’t have to go there for the sex, to tell the truth, when many of us go to the brothel it isn’t about the sex, it’s about comfort. Yes the sex is nice and all, but sometimes I just want to be held, it helps ease everything for me.”
“Simple as that Drake?”
“Yes Sam it’s as simple as that. You don’t have to have sex with her, you just need some female companionship to unwind.”
“I’ll take your advice into consideration. Dismissed.” Drake flashed me a quick salute and left the room.
I looked back at the picture. Maybe my sergeant was right, besides if we didn’t have sex I wouldn’t be cheating on Carol. I could just watch a video or something while being held. To say the least it did sound enticing and maybe it was just what the doctor ordered. Maybe I should have Drake retrained into a medic position.
I got up and dressed in a dress uniform and grabbed my vid chip. I was going to go to the brothel and see what things led to. I straightened my tie as I headed into the barracks and called Drake over. “Sergeant I’m taking your advice. I’m going to be off base for the next few hours. If something comes up that requires my attention let me know. Make sure nothing happens. Am I clear?”
“Of course Sam.”
The brothel was a fifteen minute drive off base which meant that I needed a car which was simple enough and I was pulling up to the one sex shop on the colony, if you don’t include the one for Hybrids. The outside was kind of boring, but with no competition yet it didn’t have to have huge signs advertising the hottest slabs of sex toys on the colony. Though that would be changing in the very near future. I wasn’t sure what I had expected but it definitely wasn’t the sumptuous surroundings, which weren’t even hinted at by the stark exterior. Spread about the room were fainting couches and love seats with beautiful male and female pleasure Hybrids draped upon them. All of them dressed in provocative clothing that left little to the imagination without actually revealing anything. I had never been in a brothel on Earth or any of the colonies I had been on, so I had no idea if this was normal. I just accepted it for what it was; ‘the menu.’
A woman approached me, the only other Human in the room. “You’re new here, lieutenant.” She said looking at both my face and insignia. “What can I do for you?”
“A fellow soldier thought that this might just be the thing to cheer me up.” I wasn’t going to let on that one of my Hybrids had been the one to make the suggestion.
“Well I am Tallia, the Madame of this establishment,” she said. “Have a look around and find someone you’d like to spend a little time with. Once you have picked someone out come back with them and we’ll discuss payment arrangements."
I left the Madame and looked around almost nervously. I had never considered myself a prudish person but I was still uncomfortable with the sexuality that oozed so easily from these Hybrids. I had heard somewhere that when engineering pleasure Hybrids they had given them the ability to consciously control their pheromones. I was now in a position to say that I had reason to believe them.
Like military Hybrids, the pleasure ones were also animal based you can’t have a genetically engineered individual looking like a real Human. Because of laws that had been created in the mid twenty-first century prostitution and strip clubs were illegal. At the beginning of the twenty-second century with genetic engineering having made great leaps and allowed for creating Human animal Hybrids. At that point the courts had ruled that since Hybrids were created instead of natural they could be owned as slaves as they did not have the same rights as Humans. With that said it was quickly decided that since Hybrids had no rights that they could be used as sex slaves. The courts agreed and quickly they were making Hybrids that would serve solely as sex slaves.
Of the females I was looking at, I had no interest in the males; I saw a wide variety of species all with fairly animalistic features, with only a Humanoid form. Many felines of varying species, several vixens, a few skunks. The one that caught my eye however, was a raccoon who was curled up on a love seat.
She was slender, with ample cleavage, and a coquettish look that was disconcerting considering what she was. She was fluffy, and had the expected black mask. Her long, ringed tail was wrapped around her feet. She was dressed in an anachronistic schoolgirl uniform with the shirt tied just under her breasts. I doubt that any school in Human space has used a real uniform like that in at least four centuries, but the image has never died away. I walked up to her to try and get a feeling if the chemistry would work as well as it needed to. I wasn’t even sure if this was the way things were meant to work, but I had to risk making a mistake if I was to get anywhere.
“Hello,” I said in a voice that betrayed my nervousness.
She smiled sweetly. “You’re new here aren’t you.” It was a statement, not a question.
“No ... yes ... well I’ve been on the colony for ten months but I’ve never been here before.” I was incredibly nervous and was beginning to regret coming here, but the raccoon had an almost gravitational pull on me now that I was closer.
“I take it that you’ve never done something like this before.” Once again it was a statement. Her voice was gentle, something about it seemed like it had been trained to be used just for the purpose of entrancing individuals.
“I ... uh ... well no. I’ve never been to a brothel before.”
“Well then there is a first time for everything.” Her smiled widened as she moved her feet and tail and patted the seat next to her. “Have a seat and tell me about yourself.”
I couldn’t tell if she was genuinely interested or it was just part of her role as a seductress. Still I felt comfortable with her. “Well my name is Sam. I’m a lieutenant in the Marines.”
“I already knew that you were a lieutenant since you’re in uniform. What I mean is what brought you here?”
I felt stupid that I told her I was a lieutenant since, as she had pointed out, it was obvious from my uniform. “Well, I’ve been feeling depressed lately and one of my fellow soldiers suggested that I come here and try to… I don’t know what the right word would be… I guess get some therapy works as well as anything.”
The raccoon giggled. “Therapy works just fine. That’s what we’re here for. Sometimes people come here because one of the psychiatrists tells them to come here and relax for a few hours a week.”
“I guess that’s what I need, therapy. Something to help me to deal with the depression.” I knew this was the one I wanted to spend a few hours with. “What’s your name?”
“My name is Chelsea, but I’ll answer to any other name you want.”
“Chelsea is perfectly fine. So what do we do now?”
“Well,” she said standing up revealing that she was a just a little taller than I had thought. “Since I assume that means you want to hire me, we go over to Tallia and negotiate a fee. Start your bid at a hundred credits for two hours, and do not let yourself be talked higher than a hundred-and-sixty.”
She took me by the hand and led me over to Tallia who was standing behind a tall desk. She looked up from what she was doing to see what she wanted. “Ahhh Lieutenant I assume you have chosen this young lady as your company?”
“Well then let’s set a price. Since you’re new I think I’ll give you the bargain price of two-hundred credits for two hours.” I was glad Chelsea had given me an idea of what to do or I’d have been wasting money.
“I was thinking closer to a hundred.”
Tallia sneered. “Don’t insult this beautiful young lady, she’s worth far more than that. How about one-ninety.”
“I could see one-twenty.” I wasn’t good at haggling; I hadn’t done it since I was on the Tackal colony eight years ago.
“We’re not talking about one of those second-rate girls that the typical working Hybrid gets. Chelsea here is a premium specimen. One-seventy-five.”
“She looks tired and like she would have a hard time pleasing me.” Chelsea gasped and snapped her head around to glare at me. Either I had said something that had badly offended her, or I had said something really good and she was just playing along. “I’ll say one-thirty.”
Tallia gave me a steel hard look. “I’m sure she is nowhere near as tired as you seem to think, but I’ll let you have her for one-fifty-five.”
“Deal. Two hours for one-fifty-five.” I was glad that I seemed to have gotten better at haggling since Tackal.
“You’re never going to get a deal that good again Lieutenant. Next time it will be more expensive.”
I grinned broadly. “Well then Chelsea will really have to please me, or I won’t be back if it’s going to be more expensive.”
It was Tallia’s turn to smile. “Oh Chelsea will please you, more than you can possibly imagine. Now is there anything special you require for your room?”
“I just need one with a comfortable bed, and a vid player.”
Tallia raised an eyebrow. “Won’t Chelsea be enough for you that you need extra stimulation?”
“No,” I shook my head. “I just have something special in mind.”
Both Tallia and Chelsea looked confused but neither said anything. “Take suite seventeen and show him the time of life.”
Chelsea took my arm and gently led me towards the rooms. “So I look so tired I might not be able to please you?”
I laughed. “I just said that to get the price down and you know it.”
She squeezed my arm. “I know.”
When we got to the suite she pushed me gently in. “Would you like something to drink?”
“Just a Coke.” I went over to the video player and inserted the vid card.
“Here’s your Coke,” she said, handing me a bottle. “So now what is this extra special thing you have in mind?”
“Just sit down on the bed and we’ll get started.”
“Do you want me to get undressed? Or do you want that pleasure?”
“We’ll get to that.” I sat down on the bed next to Chelsea and put an arm over her shoulder. Picking up the remote for the video player, I hit play and a few seconds later was met with the intro song of Merry Melodies.
“What’s this?” The confusion obvious in Chelsea’s voice.
“An old cartoon series from the twentieth century. It was my girlfriend’s favorite. We used to snuggle up on the bed together and watch it for hours.” I could feel the tears welling up almost instantly.
“What happened that you can’t watch it with her? Is it because you’re in the service?” Chelsea seemed at a loss to understand the situation.
“She died a year ago today. She was hit by a truck. I rejoined the Marines in order to put my life back together.” My voice was going to start cracking soon and I knew there was no stopping it. The tears were already starting to flow feely now.
“I’m so sorry. Are you sure you want to watch this?”
“Ye... Yes. I want to... To pretend that you’re her for right now.” I then looked at her for a second and realized that something would break the fantasy. That damn collar. “There is something I need to do to help the dream.”
“What? I’ll do anything I can to help, it’s what I’m here for.”
I moved up onto my knees and straddled her legs. I then reached around her neck and unlatched the collar.
“What are you doing!?” she screamed. “It’s fifty lashes for me if they catch me without the collar. Why are you doing this?”
“Carol wore no collar and as long as you’re with me neither will you.”
“But I’ll still get the lashings.” She was cowering away from me now as if I had gone completely mad.
“I’ll take the lashes if it comes to that. No one should have to wear these damnable collars, especially anyone I’m intimate with.”
“I can’t take the collar off. Hybrids are not allowed to go without their collars.” The mental programming was strong but I was going to make her stronger. I was certain that I knew how to break the programming.
“Don’t you ever dream of a day when you didn’t have to wear a collar?”
“It’s a foolish dream. Hybrids will always wear collars.”
“You didn’t answer the question. Have you ever dreamt of it?”
“Yes,” she said meekly looking everywhere but directly at me.
“What do you dream about doing?”
“I dream about walking through woods just listening to the sounds. I’ve never been off this planet; I just know woods from pictures and vids. It’s a silly dream, I’ll never get away from here.”
“Never say that. I’ve overheard the Hybrids under my command talk. It’s the dream of being rid of their collars that keeps them going. Someday no one will have to wear a collar again.” She was helping me focus on something other than my own pain but it wouldn’t last.
She nodded slightly and then looked me in the eyes. “Okay. I’ll keep dreaming, but for now it’s your turn to dream.”
She opened her shirt and pulled my head down on to her chest engulfing me in a blanket of sensations. There was of course the feeling of her silky fur on my cheek, followed by her scent, which was a mix of fine perfume, and a slight musk that I assumed was her natural scent. I instantly relaxed, a feeling of warmth washing away the pain of a year of loss.
“Tell me about your girlfriend. Carol was it? What was she like?”
“She was the friendliest person I’ve ever met. She loved the whole world and it seemed that in the months we were together that nothing could ever get her down. She liked to listen to people’s problems and I don’t know how many people she helped doing just that. She loved cartoons from the twentieth century. She also loved raccoons; she had tons of toy raccoons all over her apartment. I guess that’s what attracted me to you in the first place.” I was starting to cry again.
"What kind of stuff did you do together?" Chelsea's questions were keeping my emotions in some check but I knew I would eventually slip but for now I would go on.
"She loved to sing karaoke. We'd go to karaoke bars and she'd sing for hours."
"I bet she had a wonderful singing voice." I could hear a sad smile in Chelsea's voice.
I almost laughed. "She had a voice that had all wonderful qualities of a jammed pneumatic wrench."
"A pneumatic what?" confusion clear in Chelsea's voice.
"You don't know what a..." Of course she didn't know what one was, she was a pleasure Hybrid after all. "It's a power tool. When they get jammed up they produce a sound that is the audio equivalent of having a shock collar being used on you."
I could feel Chelsea flinch. "I've felt that shock, I wouldn't want to hear it. How did you meet her?"
"She was a friend of my sister. When I got out of the Marines the first time round my sister introduced us." It hurt to think about it but I needed to get it off my chest, though I knew eventually Chelsea would ask the wrong question without intending to. "Our first date was at an ancient ice cream parlor. In fact I had my first job there so it just seemed right."
“How did she die?” It was of course the obvious question I knew, and the gentle way Chelsea said it made me know that she really was worried about me. It was also the question that I had been dreading.
“She was crossing the street when she was hit by a cargo truck. The driver had been drunk, so of course he was executed for premeditated murder. I saw the whole thing happen from the window of the restaurant she was meeting me at.” I started to cry heavily.
Chelsea stroked the cheek that wasn’t buried in her chest. “It’s okay, it will all work out. You’ll find someone again.”
“You don’t understand. I ... I ... I was meeting her there to propose.” It was at this point I truly broke down. My body was wracking as if I was being hit by massive electrical charges that ripped through my whole body. I had lost all pretense of control, I didn’t need it now. I clung to her the way a sailor would cling to anything in a storm. It didn’t matter that I was vulnerable in front of a Hybrid. As far as I was concerned at that moment she wasn’t a Hybrid, she was just somebody who cared.
She kept talking to me in a low soothing voice, but I never understood any of it. What was important was that I was holding her and that she was holding me. I don’t know how long we were like that because I woke up when I heard an alarm. I could still feel her fur, now soaked with tears, on my cheek and there was a slight weight on my legs that I realized was her tail.
“What was that?”
She smiled weakly. “I’m afraid that it was the timer letting me know that you only have ten minutes left with me.”
“Oh.” I looked at her as if for the first time. Even though her shirt was still open, I wasn’t drawn to her out of any sort of sense of lust despite her beauty. There was something else that had me hooked on her. It was the simple fact that she cared about me. Not just because she was getting paid, but because she seemed to genuinely care. The last person I had felt that way with was Carol and it was the anniversary of Carol’s death that brought me to someone else. “Can we do this again sometime?”
“I’ll be here. Next time you want to see me call ahead, that way you’ll know I’ll be available.”
What she said reminded me of what she was and it hurt. She didn’t deserve this, even if it was what she had been engineered to do. Especially because of that. I looked over at the end table and saw the collar. After what had just happened I hated that thing even more. It was the symbol of the wedge that society drove between us. I picked it up as if it were something three weeks dead. I just stared at it, wishing it to cease to exist. “I guess that it’s time to put this damnable thing back on you.”
She put a hand on my cheek, drew my face up to hers and kissed me gently, the feel of her narrow muzzle making for an interesting kiss. “It’s okay. I know that it’s not your choice, but something that is demanded of you. It meant more to me than you can imagine being rid of it even for a little while. It made it easier to dream.”
I put the collar back around her neck hating myself for doing it, but knowing the punishment faced if I didn’t. It would be fifty lashes, court martial, and a one-way trip back to Earth. Then I would never see her again. Once the collar was back on her I straightened my clothes so they looked a little less rumpled and got ready to leave. While I was straightening my clothes she had retied her shirt and started to brush out her hair, obviously getting ready for seducing another customer. I hoped that when she was with her next client, she would fantasize that it was me she was with.
She walked me out to the parlor where Tallia was waiting for us. “I hope your experience with Chelsea was to your satisfaction lieutenant.”
I nodded my agreement. “It most certainly was. I will be returning for another session with her in the near future.”
“Well I’m glad to hear that she was able to satisfy you.”
“She was just what I needed.” I assured the Madame.
“I’ll come see you again as soon as time and money allow,” I said to Chelsea with a wink.
She returned the wink. “I’ll look forward to it. You were one of the most pleasurable clients I’ve ever had the fortune to serve.”
I left the brothel with a renewed vigor that had been missing for some time. Gone for so long that I hadn't even noticed it was missing. The collar though had been a stain. Putting it back on her had broken the fantasy and I needed to do something about that. I decided that killing someone would be the perfect cure, and I had a list of potential targets a mile long.