“Bradley, there’s something on the board you should see.”
Captain John Leese spoke the words casually to Captain Bradley Clark, as the former passed into the officers’ mess and the latter passed out after a better-than-average steak dinner.
But Bradley could see in his friend’s eyes in an instant that whatever was on the board held importance—and danger, too.
“Good news?” he asked, forcing a relaxed smile onto his face.
“The best,” Leese replied, but in a way that gave Bradley to understand that he wouldn’t find the news very good at all. As he turned toward the board that lay just outside the mess, he felt his heart thump in his chest.
The notice, as always with such declarations from the general’s special office of subjugation, conveyed its message with great clarity and economy.
The following officer is hereby awarded subjugatory duties in the listed town.
Capt B Clark, 35th Rgmt, 4th Cpny: Springfield, NW
General Dumfries offers his congratulations to Captain Clark.
In appearance, the notice conferred an honor. Indeed, subjugatory duties also carried a medal to add to the five Captain Bradley Clark already wore across his chest. What the notice actually meant, however, was much more complex, and troubling.
Captain Bradley Clark, commander of the 4th Company of the 35th Regiment of General Augustus Dumfries’ Army of Western Liberation, must send the red panties to an eighteen-year-old girl of the town of Springfield.
Of all the strange, oppressive things General Dumfries had done since the rebellion of 2363, the institution of the ‘subjugatory duty’—the sending of the red panties, and the things that must follow—seemed to Bradley at once the most monstrous and the cleverest. At war with himself, just as he knew the general intended officers given this duty to be, he went to the quartermaster for the census list, and the photographs of young women of Northwest region, where Springfield lay.
The edict instituting the subjugatory duty did not specify how the officer assigned was to choose the girl who would receive his notice, in the form of the red panties. Thankfully, to make the thing a little more bearable, a convention had evolved that did not, it appeared, displease the general: the families of the town chosen for subjugation were ranked according to the head-of-household’s occupation, beginning with the mayor (if any) and followed by the town council, then proceeding down through the professional classes, until at least one eighteen-year-old daughter was found.
Here the process of choosing to girl to be subjugated as a symbol of her town’s abject abasement before the Army of Western Liberation became a little murkier. Most officers whom Bradley knew who had received the ‘honor’ of subjugating a girl would request photographs of the first five girls, and then choose the prettiest.
Bradley resolved not to do that. He would subjugate the highest ranking eighteen-year-old girl in Springfield, no matter her physical charms. Indeed, he held out a vague hope that the girl might have some physical infirmity that would give him the opportunity somehow to evade the duty.
But Springfield had a mayor, and the mayor had a daughter who had turned eighteen in December, four months before. Jenna Caprio. And she was beautiful: stunningly beautiful, with long blond hair and cornflower blue eyes, smiling shyly at the camera for her high school graduation picture.
Then he looked at the inspection pictures taken by the army counselor, Mrs. Trest, who had given the ‘Human Development’ classes at Springfield High in January: Jenna spreading her pussy, mossed with a little yellow hair, open for the camera; Jenna bending over a desk and spreading her prim little backside to show her anus. His cock grew stiff as a soldier on parade—how could he help it? The general’s Traditional Values in Human Development program couldn’t but accomplish its aim, when it filled the census files with these ‘inspection’ pictures.
Bradley sat back in his desk chair, in the big main room of regimental headquarters, stunned. He had known in theory why the subjugatory duty was both monstrous and clever, but he had not expected to be confronted so starkly with its twin nature. How could he do the right thing? What was the right thing? How could he subjugate this lovely girl? But how could he avoid it?
Yet, of course—for that was the genius of the thing—he wanted to subjugate her: indeed, from his cock’s point of view, he had never wanted anything so much. Bradley Clark held the rank of captain in the Army of Western Liberation, and his commanding officer had awarded him the subjugatory duty. He knew there were officers who would have gone through all the pictures of all the girls in Springfield until they found Jenna Caprio. In fact, since the mayor’s daughter of Springfield had such stunning beauty, if Bradley sent the red panties to any other girl, high command’s suspicions would be aroused. It wasn’t even impossible that this subjugation came about not as a result of any real infraction on Springfield’s part, but simply because a mayor’s daughter that beautiful automatically drew the attention of the general. Many stories went around the officers’ messes of the Army of Western Liberation of how all the photographs of all the girls went to high command, and those of the most beautiful traveled further, to the eyes of General Dumfries himself.
To drive a necessary wedge between the populace and the army—or at least one necessary by the lights of the general—all that was needed, really, was to make this kind of award from time to time. Army officers and NCOs were bachelors: General Dumfries had decreed it so in the terrible time before his forces ‘liberated’ the region west of the Rockies and east of the Sierra Nevada, which had become massively overpopulated in the flight from the coast that occurred in the aftermath of the food riots and the Californian War that resulted from them.
Men with families, the general said, couldn’t do what was necessary. Bradley, like most of his fellow officers, was a ‘Son of the Liberation’: the son of one of the original officers of the general’s army, conceived during the ‘celebrations’ of the general’s victories. Or at least they were all told that, though they were never told who exactly their fathers were.
Most of Bradley’s fellow officers, though none of the few he numbered as friends, looked forward to the subjugatory duty. Thus the general kept the loyalty of his officer corps while making the people who depended utterly on the hydroponic food supply controlled by the Army Corps of Agriculture remain in a state of continuing fear of and hatred toward those same officers.
And so Jenna Caprio would receive a small package in the mail. There would be a letter with the package, but even without the letter to accompany the tiny article of clothing, every girl in the Western Republic knew what lay inside a small package from the army, and what it meant: an officer of the Army of Liberation would soon arrive to spend a week enjoying her in the most public possible fashion—though all would unfold according to the officer’s pleasure so long as word did not come from high command that the general wished to see something in particular. And the general, along with the rest of the republic, would watch the subjugation via video feed to ensure that both officer and chosen girl fulfilled their roles.
“Oh, no,” Jenna whispered, as she looked at the mail lying at the foot of the front door on Friday, the 25th of April. At the sound of the mail slot creaking open she had hurried there, hoping her acceptance to college in the Eastern Commonwealth might finally arrive. She and her parents would have to sign all sorts of documents saying that she would return to Springfield after college, but the plan they whispered in one another’s ears when they were outside was that once in the East, Jenna would get in touch with one of the organizations that were rumored to smuggle defectors out of the insane dictatorship called the Western Republic.
Instead of that acceptance, however, she saw a slim brown packing envelope. In the upper left corner it displayed the unmistakable, gaudy seal of the Army of Western Liberation: a coat of arms that showed a raging grizzly bear on its hind legs and the nonsensical motto ‘No freedom without authority.’
Nonsensical or not, twenty-five years ago General Dumfries’ army of bachelors had terrorized the West into submission. The United States of America were a long-ago memory by then, and what government existed centered in towns like Springfield, which could maintain a meager food supply and run a hydroelectric-and-solar plant to keep the lights on. Jenna’s father was fifteen when the Army of Western Liberation lifted the siege that a band of outlaws had maintained for months on Springfield’s hastily erected palisade. He told Jenna that she couldn’t imagine what those days were like, and though she raged against the sentiment in her heart, her mind couldn’t help agreeing.
Springfield had welcomed General Dumfries and his army. When the general had decreed that his officers would award all the eighteen-year-old-and-above women of the town to themselves and to their men for three nights of celebration over the victory, every woman to entertain at least two men, Jake Caprio said, with both regret and defiance in his voice, “We knew it was coming. We didn’t put up a fight.”
For the general had done the same in every town he had ‘liberated,’ all over the West. Indeed, the first war-babies were already being born: the girls left with their mothers and the boys sent to the capital, Las Vegas.
The subjugations didn’t begin until eighteen years later—only seven years ago, when Jenna was eleven. By contrast with the liberation, the occasional arrival of a company of soldiers to enforce the duty, once every two or three years, must have seemed a very minor thing, Jenna had realized when she learned about the subjugations on her eighteenth birthday.
The information had explained what had happened two years before, when soldiers had arrived and she and her friends had been left at home and told to keep away from the windows all one day, while an indistinct voice seemed to boom on distant loudspeakers. Also what had befallen an eighteen-year-old girl named Mary, who had gone, they were told at the time, to the capital to be a secretary.
No, to give one girl every two or three years must not have seemed too great a price to pay.
Jenna sank to her knees in the front hall, her eyes fixed on the brown envelope. Her father was at the town hall, and she had the urge to pick up the envelope, run all the way into town, throw it in his face, and say, “See! This is what your parents did! You have to fix it now!”
She started to cry.
Her mother came in then from the garden where they grew some vegetables with their reclaimed water, to sell at the weekly market. Jenna heard her come through the screen door, and then the bang of the door closing. She felt the tiny breeze the door generated.
“Jenna?” Louisa’s voice came floating from the kitchen. “Can you come help me? I think we’ll use some of these for a salad tonight.”
Then, a little frustrated, “Jenna?”
“Jenna, what’s wrong?”
Jenna tried for a moment to reach her hands out to the envelope, still on the floor, but all she could finally do was point to it. With tears in her eyes she looked up at her mother, willing Louisa Caprio, who had always made everything better, to make this better.
Her mother stared with wide-eyed horror at the thing. Jenna knew the thoughts that raced through Louisa’s mind, because they were racing through her mind, too: run, hide, fight. Get in the car and hope a single tank of gas could get them close enough to the border with the Eastern Commonwealth that they could travel the rest of the way on foot before one of the army’s helicopters found them. Go into the mountains and find a cave where the army’s heat-sensing drones couldn’t track them. Take the guns concealed in the pit in their basement and declare the Republic of Springfield, then the Republic of the Northwest. March to Las Vegas and kill the tyrant.
But nothing would do. Her parents would be shot, and Jenna would undergo precisely the same fate, except with much more cruelty and a noose awaiting her at the end of her service.
She looked into her mother’s eyes. She could not even speak the thing that came into her mind, because the monitoring devices—the same ones installed in every house in the Western Republic to ensure law-abiding conduct—would surely be watching this scene very closely, now that the envelope had come.
Jenna blinked twice. Plan Beta.
Louisa gave a little sob and blinked twice back at Jenna.
Jenna turned her eyes back to the envelope that could only contain the most shameful, terrible object in the twisted little universe of General Dumfries’ Western Republic. With trembling fingers, she picked it up. Then, without another word to her mother, she turned and carried the red panties upstairs to put them on.