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Authors: Edmund Cooper

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But while the luminaries of the international political
scene were passing through an acutely depressive phase, the women of the world—or most parts of it—were basking in the high noon of emancipation. Not the phoney emancipation that ‘freed’ women from the maternal bonds imposed by men, that allowed them—with an inferior physique, a smaller brain capacity and several thousand years of mental inhibitions—to operate on an equal-pay-for-equal-jobs basis. But the real emancipation. The emancipation from the bondage of evolution. The right to contract out as a child-bearing machine.

It went to their heads. In the west first, of course. It definitely went to their heads. The birth rate declined so rapidly that the Catholic Church had oecumenical hysterics (after trying and failing to face the facts for half a century). It used up four popes in ten years and then split in two, each part thereafter sub-dividing at regular intervals until what had once been a great institution finally achieved a sort of slow-motion parody of that lowly creature, the amoeba. Eventually, as always, the Anglican Church followed suit. Buddhism, on the other hand, seemed to be somewhat more robust and capable of accepting—in theory, at least—a new level of existence. So did Islam. But, in the end, both had to be modified. Drastically modified.

Meanwhile, women everywhere revelled in the emancipation from animalism. Three pregnancies—the sentence of the average married/mated human female in the earlier decades of the twentieth century—did not only mean twenty-seven months as a foetal vehicle. It meant at least thirteen years as a programmed teaching machine. It meant one quarter of the total average female life span. That was the real bondage. It was the mechanism by which maidens were turned into matrons, and matrons were turned into crones.

Birth control, practised by the minority since the dawn
of civilization, became the prerogative of the masses. It was the end of the million-year slavery. It was the beginning of woman, the social force. It was also the end—quite by accident—of man, the master.

By the early 1970’s, contraception had become a major industry. The population of the world was nearly four thousand million. Therefore there were roughly two thousand million females, nearly half of whom were in the child-bearing age range. The 1970’s became the Golden Age for the birth-control propagandists, the great drug houses, and the pharmaceutical chemists.

The I.U.C.D.—the intra-uterine contraceptive device—a simple plastic spiral inserted in the womb was certainly one of the most efficient methods of birth control ever devised. Temporarily, however, it suffered an eclipse. It suffered an eclipse because, from the profit-making point of view, there just wasn’t enough money in it. It could be manufactured for a penny and fitted by a trained nurse for ten shillings. It was virtually a complete answer, with minimal side effects. So the advertising agencies—fortified by multi-million-pound appropriations—got to work and temporarily smashed it.

They boosted the pill. Any kind of pill that would do the job—but preferably one that had to be taken daily, so that the great drug houses could declare impressive dividends. Several misguided scientists produced pills that only needed to be taken once a month. The drug houses bought up the patents, or if they could not do that they bought up the companies that tried to manufacture and distribute the ‘lunar’ pill. One misguided British biologist—unfortunately incorruptible—succeeded in developing a pill that needed to be taken only once a year. Oddly enough he soon died in a car accident; and, coincidentally, his laboratory was
simultaneously destroyed by fire. The formula disappeared. His widow, however, was generously provided for. She retired to the south of France.

Meanwhile, pills proliferated. By the 1980’s, there were fifty-seven different varieties. Many women, with commendable brand loyalty, stuck to the same pill throughout their child-bearing years. But there were also those who tried a sort of pill pot-pourri—having a vestigial compulsion, perhaps, to wash whiter than white.

Interesting things began to happen; in the U.S.A., first of all, then in Britain and Western Europe, then elsewhere. The proportion of male babies born began to decline slightly; with a corresponding increase in the proportion of female babies. At the same time the mortality rate for male children under the age of five increased a little, while the mortality rate for female children under the age of five decreased slightly.

There were other changes also. Most girl babies were quite as strong and as big as boy babies. Their cranial capacity was as large, if not larger. When they reached adolescence, it was no longer necessary to separate boys’ athletics from girls’ athletics. In all fields the girls could compete very well with the boys, thank you. In some fields, they were definitely superior… The psychologists had a ready answer, of course. The boys were beginning to feel insecure because they were noticeably outnumbered…

But the challenge was not only on a physical level. It was a woman mathematician who provided the first major modification to both the general and the special theories of relativity. It was a woman delegate who successfully steered through the U.N. Assembly the International Nuclear Disarmament Charter. It was a woman physicist who discovered the epsilon three particle.

By the beginning of the twenty-first century, throughout the world men were significantly outnumbered by an average majority of seven to five. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, women—or, more accurately, the new breed of women—were on the move. Particularly in the west. Having demonstrated their equality and, in many cases, their superiority in several masculine strongholds—notably the sciences and politics—they began the great take-over bid.

They were, numerically, in an unassailable position. Physically and psychologically also, they were in an unassailable position. For, except by consent, and for the first time in a million years they were—both in the literal and in the metaphorical sense—impregnable.

The orthodox western concept of marriage took a beating. During the latter decades of the twentieth century the disintegration had been hastened both by easy divorce and by the more efficient and widespread birth control. With the development of greater social security and a noticeable numerical imbalance between the sexes, marriage—as a social institution—fell apart. It became socially acceptable for women to live with men as and when they wished. It became socially acceptable for women to have babies without declaring or involving the father. Promiscuity was no longer a social crime: carried to excess, it was merely regarded as slightly vulgar—rather more acceptable than gluttony and infinitely more acceptable than prudery.

Female prostitution vanished. Male prostitution began to grow. Marriage became, for the old and the rich, a status symbol For the lonely, it was just a temporary refuge—a sort of friendship with the fringe benefit of instant sex.

As the twenty-first century progressed another kind of pill came on the scene. It was a longevity pill; and though
it did, in fact, slow down the ageing process, it also had some peculiar side-effects—such as a tendency to induce satyriasis, nymphomania or infantile regression in certain types of individual or in anyone who over-indulged.

The longevity pill—under-researched and oversold—was a costly failure resulting, during its brief exploitation, in the damage or destruction of hundreds of thousands of individuals of both sexes. Compared to spare-part surgery—which had progressed to such a degree that practically anything except the brain and the endocrine system could be replaced—it was no more than a dangerous experiment.

It did, however, trigger off a great international effort to extend human life by artificial means. The most successful system developed consisted of a complex programme of enzyme stimulation, in turn triggered by an equally complex pattern of injections which varied according to the body chemistry of the individual. The drawbacks to the system were that it was expensive and that it had to be aligned with the psychosomatic history of each person undergoing treatment.

Inevitably, after a brief and disastrous period of exploitation by private enterprise, it passed under state control—thus providing the government with a convenient means of increasing revenue while at the same time maintaining comprehensive records of individuals. Whoever desired and could afford the longevity treatments—or time shots, as they came to be known—was at the mercy of the state. If you observed the basic rules of society and if you had an income of five thousand lions a year or more (the devalued pounds, marks and francs had long since been superseded by the European lion) your expectation of life could be extended to more than one hundred and fifty years. If you were politically or socially undesirable, or if
you were just plain poor, you would be denied time shots; and your expectation would be no more than ninety-five years at the most.

It was into this woman-dominated world of change that, in 2025, Dion Quern was born. He was the son of an infra—one of the steadily dwindling minority of regressive women who had no talent for anything but loving and child-bearing—and a wild Irishman who had no talent for anything but alcoholism and drank himself to death a month before Dion was born.

In a society already controlled by dominas, the new type of super-women who had already demonstrated their ability to triumph against masculine opposition, Dion’s mother could only earn enough money to keep him out of a state orphanage by becoming a brood mare.

So she sent him to a private nursery and retired to one of the numerous baby farms patronized by the more prosperous doms and their squires. It had become fashionable for dominas to have babies by proxy. Dion’s mother became a professional proxy. It earned her two thousand lions a pregnancy and enabled her to pay for her son’s progress from nursery to public school.

While he was a baby, she went to visit him regularly. When he was at public school, he went to visit her regularly. They got on well together; and despite an unhealthy real-mother—real-son relationship, they had a lasting affection for each other.

Dion rarely saw his mother when she was not pregnant. And so he came to think of her as a large rock-like creature, whereas, in fact, she had been basically small and finely formed.

She managed seventeen successful pregnancies (eleven girls and six boys) before she died of melancholia, an
embolism and a totally overloaded heart. She might have been resuscitated, of course, if she had been sufficiently important or if there had been enough lions in her bank account. But thirty-four thousand lions had been just sufficient to buy Dion an education to the point where, against stiff female competition, he won a state scholarship in cybernetics.

He never took up the scholarship. He attended the funeral, saw the oddly frail body consigned to a cleansing furnace of atomic fire, and felt the shamefully obscene tears course down his cheeks. Then he thumbed his nose at the kind of world that could do this to the only person he had ever loved, and decided to live by his wits.

He was, at the time, just eighteen years old. He had a long way to go. By the time he had matured, the ratio of men to women was five to twelve.

Three

D
ION
Q
UERN
was drunk and not a little bewildered. He was drunk because he had disposed of more than half a bottle of hock before he had started on the cold chicken. He was bewildered because he was at the mercy of a big blonde Peace Officer who did not look as if she had the slightest intention of calling the dry-cleaners.

Presently, with a sizeable portion of cold chicken and green salad inside him, he began to feel a little better. Well enough to appreciate the brandy and the black coffee. Well enough to realize that Juno Locke was merely playing with him on a short string. When he ceased to amuse her she would let the dry-cleaners cart him off to another dose of psychoanalysis.

So what? So it didn’t matter a coprolite. He’d had a grade three analysis before. The psychos were further out and deeper down than the paper dolls they treated. All you had to do was toss them a few pubic shock images, or get all twisted with submission neurosis or womb envy, and they would lay polysyllabic eggs all over the place. Then you got three decent meals a day for a month, ten shots of partial recall, fifty lions and a year’s probation. It was a bit boring, really, but not too inconvenient. Providing you didn’t fracture the probation.

He tried to remember when he’d had his last grade three. He tried to remember in case the present contretemps was a breach of probation. That could be serious. Grade two
analysis. Three months and the wide screen treatment, including, maybe, the electronic twitcher. Less than idyllic… But he couldn’t remember. The last dose
seemed
quite a long time ago. But so did yesterday’s breakfast…

Juno Locke sipped her brandy and coffee, and read his thoughts.

“I’d say not less than six months, and not more than a year. Bad luck, stripling. It could be a grade two.”

He jumped as if she had put another laser hole in him. “How the Stopes do you know?”

“I’ve seen the look before, little one, many times. When a sport falls flat, usually the first thing that happens is the far look. He’s trying to remember when he had the last analysis. He’s trying to work out if he’ll move up a grade… Not being able to remember is a bad sign. It’s a sign of not wanting remember… Now, have some more brandy and make me laugh.”

“Bulldozer!” he shouted furiously. “Sex zombie! Shrivel-womb!”

She smiled. “Please. You’re bruising my ego.”

“I’d prefer it to be your throat.”

Juno surveyed him calmly. “You’re quite a big little meistersihger, really, I suppose. Care to try?”

“Nobody is worth a one—not even a Peace Officer.”

“So,” she said gaily, “at last we’re getting sensible. Have some more brandy…” She poured a large measure into his glass. “Let there be civility all round.” She picked up a light house tunic and slipped it on, covering her breasts. “There, how’s that?”

“Thank you,” said Dion. “It seems rather fair.”

BOOK: Five to Twelve
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