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LOVE CONQUERS ALL
by Fred Saberhagen
Published by Baen Books
Copyright (c) 1974 by UPD Publishing Corp. Revised edition (c) 1985 by Fred Saberhagen
Baen jacket by Susan Collins.
THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN
Sexual Freedom: There are no limits on where, why, when, how or with whom. The only dirty word is "No."
Freedom from Want: Zero Population Growth has been achieved and at last the world's resources have caught up with demand.
BUT YOU PAY A PRICE. Decency is a social offense, and the Right to Life of the unborn is zero -- even its mother cannot protect an "unauthorized fetus."
IS IT WORTH IT? Or is rampant, coercive liberalism the worst tyranny of all?
In the tradition of Brave New World and 1984, LOVE CONQUERS ALL is a realistic assessment of certain trends in our society taken to their logical conclusions: the result is a scathing science fictional indictment of our generation's most cherished shibboleths. This is iconoclasm in the grand style!
Interesting twist - imaginative distopia [Patterson, Goodreads]
ARTHUR RODNEY walked through his little California house, calling his wife's name, but only music answered him. The hidden sensors of the hifi system marked Art's passage from room to room and as he passed the system changed the music for him, blending each piece more or less smoothly into the next. When he entered the children's room, where the two beds and a scattering of toys reposed in a somehow ominous stillness, there came from the speakers a cacophony of metallic sounds that bore an intended resemblance to a baby's cry. Little Timmy and Paula had wanted that teenage stuff for their room, and he and Rita had agreed, though the kids were really far too young, but never mind that now, no one was there. The discordant metallic baby cries cut off when Art went out.
In the master bedroom he was fed the music of pulse-beating drums, fit for a wild and wiggling dance that must find its appropriate end upon the bed. No one here, either. The glass in his wide windows (looking out over his neighbors' desert landscaping, complete with plastic iguana) had darkened itself almost to opacity against the force of the California sun, but the sun was getting into the bedroom anyway, reflecting blue and green through the depths of the inside-outside swimming pool. By this water-mottled light that quivered in all of the bedroom's many mirrors Art saw that a small piece of white paper had been propped against the massage unit on his bedside table. He tossed his box of handcarved Staunton chessmen rattling onto the large circular bed, set his digital tournament clock down gently, and picked up the note, which was in Rita's handwriting.
Darling, please believe that I love you as much as ever, but I must go away for a time. The kids are with me and will be okay. I really am pregnant again and Dr. Kuang says he has had to report my pregnancy to Family Planning. It's the law, as he says, and I guess that I can't expect him not to report it. I will call you or at least write you soon so try not to worry.
As he read, Art's knees went weak with fear confirmed, and he sank down on the edge of the round bed. He glanced up at the overhead mirror, but learned nothing from the sight of his own slightly pudgy, dark-bearded face, pale and enigmatic in its shock. He looked down again and re-read the note three times and dropped it on the bed beside him.
Putting his weight on the bed had quickened the heartbeat of the hifi drums, though if he sat still the system would soon switch to soothing, lulling music and in a little while he would be granted silence. He could get up and turn the thing off but he felt too numb. Where to look for escape, for guidance? Where else but on the short bookshelf built into the wall beside his bed? The words of Eros are those of the true heart. Shortly he reached over and pulled out a well-fingered gray volume with Philosophy of Pleasure lettered on the cover in a beautiful and lively pink. But then he sat there holding the book unopened.
It was obvious that Rita had run off to her sister-in-law in Chicago. She would not have taken the children to leave them with anyone else. Rita meant to go into hiding somewhere and bear an unwanted child, even if she had to put it up for secret adoption later. Just the kind of thing that sister-in-law Ann would encourage her to do; quite likely it was Ann who had suggested the scheme to her in the first place... thought faded out into pain and shock. His wife was gone.
How far pregnant was she? It couldn't be more than ten weeks or so, he thought. He tried to remember when she had last gone off the pills for a menstrual week, but he had trouble keeping the dates in his mind, because his mind wanted to forget it.
So it would have to be about six months before she bore the child, assuming she could remain in hiding and get away with it. If instead, as seemed more likely, the FP caught up with her and gave her her abortion anyway, she would probably go to jail. So it was in the cases one read about. In any case she was going to be gone for months. As well as being the mother of his children she was Art's favorite sex partner, too. He opened the book and began to make plans for the changes in his sex life that would be brought about by Rita's prolonged absence. After half a minute he realized what he was doing, threw the book aside, and went back to re-reading the note, hoping without real hope to find some less terrible interpretation of its words. But there was none.
Pulling the phoneplate toward him on the bedside table, Art started to punch out the number of Ann and George Parr in Chicago. They had recently moved into a new house there—business at George's karate school was evidently good—and the new number was still fresh in Art's mind. He had looked it up for Rita last weekend. But when he was halfway through punching, he hesitated and then hit the blankoff key. Rita had been gone only a few hours at the most, and probably had not yet reached Chicago. Talking to George was not likely to do any good since Ann would be the one most actively helping Rita—and arguing with Ann about anything was, in Art's experience, certain to be futile. Anyway it was not the kind of thing Art wanted to talk about over the phone. Best not to call at all but to go straight after Rita and for her own good compel her to behave sensibly. And the sooner he caught up with her the better.
He reached for the phoneplate again, and this time tapped out the number of the Chess Director's Office, in the mid-California branch of the Bureau of Arts and Games. There was a wait, with evanescent rainbow static on the plate. Then a man's florid face appeared.
"Oh, hi, Art," the face said. "What's up?"
"Listen, Nick, I just called to say you'd better not pair me in for the first -round of the Quarterly. I'm taking a little trip and I don't know if I'll be back in time."
"Oh, okay. Let me know about the August Monthly, hey?" "Certainly I will. Go'th Eros." "Goodbye."
For a moment Art continued to stare at the blank phone. In spite of his larger worries he found himself irritated by the Chess Director's offhand manner. Bureau of Arts people were supposed to believe in the importance of what they were doing; they should show at least a little formal regret when a rated master withdrew from an event. Nick had seemed as indifferent as a factory foreman checking attendance.
The thought of factories reminded Art that in courtesy he should call his own place of employment before he left, but the chime of an incoming call forestalled him.
On the plate appeared the face of a young woman, full-featured and of flawless skin. "May I speak to Ms. Rita Rodney, please? I'm Ms. Lazenby of the Bureau of Family Planning."
An unpleasant contraction in the stomach. "This is her husband. Ah, Rita's not in the house right now. Ah, she's out shopping somewhere, I expect."
Ms. Lazenby smiled, a friendly smile that could become sympathetic if the need arose. "Actually, the reason for my call concerns you too, Mr. Rodney, and your two children." She paused just enough for Art to have gotten a question in if he had felt the need. "Will you ask Rita to call me back as soon as possible if she returns home during business hours? We're open until five. Or otherwise to call me in the morning at her earliest convenience?"
"I will, yes, I'll tell her that."
"Thank you," Ms. Lazenby blanked off.
Art sat clutching the phone. Dr. Kuang had smelled trouble coming, had called in Family Planning right away, reporting Rita as a problem case. Call back tomorrow, Ms. Lazenby, and you'll probably get no answer, and you'll be very suspicious that something's up. But call back two or three days from now and you'll have a willing Rita here to talk to you, I promise you that. Or maybe you'll never have to call again, maybe by then the Certificate of Abortion will already have been fed into your FP computer banks.
What next? Oh yes, his job. Art punched out the number of the Macrotron Electronics plant in San Bernardino, and then the personal extension number of Pete Kinelo, his boss in the test-equipment maintenance and engineering department.
The plate showed the Macrotron trademark, and then the taped image of a girl who was nude or nearly so, it being impossible to tell at the moment because she was partly concealed behind a receptionist's desk. A small vase of roses stood before each breast, so that her nipples were just concealed. "One moment, please," the girl said, smiling pleasantly. "Your party has not yet answered his or her personal phone. We are continuing to page your party; thank you for waiting."
The music of Swan Lake began. The girl affixed an electrostatically clinging sequin to each of her nipples, coyly displayed a G-string and wriggled into it, and then writhed up from behind her desk in an erotic dance. In a moment she was dancing along the shore of a lily-pond, and then in and out of the curtain of a small waterfall.
Art waited impatiently, looking at his watch. There were several other calls that he should make. One was the bank, to see how much cash was readily available, in other words how much Rita had taken; fortunately he had come home today with the check for first prize in the Weekly in his pocket and so should at least be able to buy a ticket to Chicago. Another call would be to the Office of Transcontinental Transit, to see how soon he could get a seat on a tube train.
At last the dancing girl was replaced by the face of Pete Kinelo. "Art?" "Hello, Pete. I can take next week off, too."
"Oh, good." Pete beamed through his thick glasses. "Then I can bring another substitute engineer in for a week. That'll put us in real good shape on employee utilization. Say, there's nothing wrong, is there?"
"No, no. Ah, I've been winning quite a few prizes and I've got my nerve up. I'm going to try some of the big tournaments coming up around Chicago."
"Great. Fine. Be sure and let me know if you're coming back week after next."