Editor's note: this submission contains scenes of gay male sexual content.


"... All I'm asking is can we really trust a woman, a grown woman, who hasn't fulfilled her most basic civic duties?"

This came from the tall, silver-haired Kennedy Cooper, a political pundit sat at a roundtable in a television studio. The host of the show, a perfectly coiffed Shari Wainwright interrupted:

"I mean, what has Senator Avalon been doing out there in the Borderlands? Twiddling her thumbs?"

"Worse - twiddling herself!" Cooper chimes in.

Hearty chuckles from all those around the table.

"I'm just saying, Shari," continues Cooper, "is this the woman we want leading our Re-United States?"

Watching from her hotel room, Senator Melissa 'Misty' Avalon switches off the television in disgust.

She sits in the silence for a moment, studying her reflection in a mirror. Her golden-brown hair is in a chic chignon and her tasteful pencil skirt and cream blouse hug her curves. The outfit is bold without being audacious. Exactly the image she wants to project.

Avalon swings her long legs around the other side of her chair to face her campaign manager, Jack Switch, whose maple syrup eyes watch her with calm detachment.

"What do I do, Jack?" Misty asks.

"You stick to the talking points," he replies.

"Okay. I can do that. Wait, what are my talking points again?" She's only half-joking.

There are only a couple of weeks left on the campaign trail before the convention, and what had seemed like a slam-dunk primary season win for Misty is now precarious. In post-meteorite America, the single most important issue of national security is repopulation, followed closely by reclamation of the uninhabitable Deadlands.

When the meteors had hit, decades before Misty was born, those not killed in the immediate aftermath faced a decade of nuclear winter, disease, and hunger. A few pockets of civilisation, in the more western cities, survived with patchy electricity grids and ocean air to moderate the weather, and it was here - mostly west of the Rockies - that what was left of the nation was placed.

Now, a hundred years after the meteorites, people were dying young and, on the whole, faster than they could breed. There was no hope for civilisation if they couldn't kickstart the economy and reverse the population trend. Sex was the number one social good any one person could partake in, regardless of skills or intelligence.

Misty's popularity was based on her status as an everyman. She was raised by simple folk on the borders of the Deadlands, imaginatively referred to as the Borderlands. She knew the worst the meteors had wrought, she lived in the shadows of the hulking skeletons that were once buildings so tall they scraped the roof of heaven itself. She knew what it was like to try to eke a living out of dead soil and poisoned water.

Out there, in the Borderlands, the pressure to repopulate was negated by the pressure to feed those who already exist. But as a farmers' daughter, Misty Avalon was a woman of the people. That is, except for her glaring lack of reproduction. That could be overlooked, to a certain extent - but it could also throw into doubt her commitment to the ideals of the Re-United States.

"Your talking points," Jack said, crossing the room to stand behind Misty, leaving a whiff of cologne and musk in his wake, "you know these off by heart."

"Remind me," Misty pleaded.

"Alright. Number one. Economic investment in the Borderlands is the key to regenerating industry."

He kneads at a knot in her shoulder with his thumbs.

"Okay," he says. "Your turn. What's next?"

"R and D on meteorite-based technology will create jobs and speed up recovery"

"Good girl," says Jack, despite the fact the 'girl' is his boss and in the running for President of the RUSA. But Misty doesn't notice, she just leans into his hands as he continues to knead at the stress.

"Number three, subsidies for food producers in climate volatile zones, and for research into soil revitalisation technologies" says Misty.

"Yep, and last one?"

"Raise the incentives for reproduction and adoption for all biologically mature citizens, while doing away with nil-birth penalties."

"See," says Jack. "You got this. People just want to be able to relate to you."

"Yeah, but the baby thing..."

"The baby thing just makes people wonder if you're doing your part with repopulation."

"It doesn't come off self-serving?"

"What? Given that you'll be subject to the penalties if you don't manage to repeal them?"

Misty nods.

"There are going to be questions, sure," says Jack. "But it's nothing we can't handle."

Later, after Jack had gone to find a GovOrg, a government certified orgy — a fact that gave Misty an uncomfortable and unfamiliar twinge in her stomach — she goes over and over the talking points for the Wainwright interview the next day.

Shari Wainwright was the top-rated political affairs host on television, and she was incredibly influential. Even among the masses who didn't get television, Wainwright's opinions were quoted ad nauseam in the news-flyers and radio clips.

If Shari Wainwright really thought Misty wasn't doing her reproduction duty, then she would be very hard to win over. And if Shari Wainwright couldn't be won over, there wouldn't be much hope for winning the election.


That night, Misty dreamt she was at a Senate sex party, one of the ones they hold at the start and end of every parliamentary session. The very same-sex parties she's avidly avoided in her waking life.

Sometimes she visits GovOrgs in her dreams and she wakes up with the ghostly touch of dreamed sex still lingering on her skin. But this time, she doesn't want to be here among the decrepit 35-plus crowd that usually makes up the Senate sex scene.

She drifts through, while Senator Douglas of the North-Western Union licks his lips lasciviously at her and Senator Sweetie Grayson, the darling of the Democrats - as she's known - lowers herself enthusiastically onto his cock.

Gagging in the cloying atmosphere, thick with sex and hot breath, Misty stumbles towards a set of double doors, pushes them open, and takes in great big gasping lungs full of air. A voice behind her, and she turns to see Jack Switch there, something unrecognizable in his eyes. Is it surprise? Lust? Or disappointment?

"You're not supposed to be here," he says.

And she feels like she's betrayed him like she's done something wrong.

He holds his hand out to her, beckoning, but instead she falls backward off the balcony and into a writhing mass of bodies below. She sinks in, the Venus fly trap of naked flesh closing around her.

Television studio lights are always so bright, it's almost disorienting. And sitting in Shari Wainwright's studio is no different.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, Misty wonders how many Borderlanders go without electricity and for how long to allow Wainwright Tonight to broadcast three nights a week.

Shari's wearing her trademark red power suit, of the fashion that pushes her breasts up for display, covered only by a thin layer of silk. She wears the Pro-Population RUSA ribbon on her left breast, almost exactly where the nipple must be. Her blonde hair is down around her shoulders today, but still - as always - perfectly coiffed. Her red lipstick matches the red of her suit exactly.

By contrast, Misty wears a subdued emerald green skirt with her ubiquitous cream blouse and neutral-toned makeup. Bold colors don't suit her olive complexion as well as muted autumnal hues, but the press always has a field day aligning her clothing choices with her supposed prudishness.

Speaking of prudishness, that was - predictably - what Shari was focusing on now.

"... Do you not agree repopulation is the highest national priority of post-meteorite America?"

"Yes, of course I do," says Misty. "Without sufficient population, we'll never be able to re-establish industrial dominance and reclaim the Deadlands — "

"Spare me the rhetoric, Senator," interrupts Shari. "What do you say to those calling for you to submit to a fertility test?"

Misty's eyes search out Jack, standing next to the cameraman. He gives her an encouraging nod.

"I say it's a double standard. No male candidate is being asked to undergo a paternity test, and yet without one we can't truly know they've fathered the children they say they have."

"But of your opponents, Senator Rodriguez has been a regular feature of the society sex circles for several years, and Arnold Chung did voluntary service as a GovOrg stud in the '30s. So there is a good faith effort to fulfill their duties. And Governor Sonia Ganymede, of course, has birthed several —"

"Yes, but Shari. You know I adhere to mutually exclusive polyamory. We don't sleep with anyone outside the commune."

"Ah. I'm glad you brought that up," says Shari. A look of triumph in her eyes worries Misty.

"Let's ignore for the minute the criticisms that MEP simply bypasses the ban on marriage, and talk about this for a second - so that we can understand, of course," says Shari.

"MEP is a choice many good Pro-Population Americans are making —"

"To protect themselves from disease while still fulfilling their procreation duties, yes, we know."

Misty folds her hands in her lap.

"Then I'm not sure what you're getting at, Shari."

"Perhaps our next guest can help. Come on out."

And out of the darkness beyond the lights steps Darla Shane. Ruby red lips, swinging hips, tiny waist, cascades of golden curls framing her porcelain skin. Five-foot six of hell on stilettos.

Misty shoots a look of panic at Jack, but of course, he has no idea what's going on and just looks confused.

Darla takes a seat opposite Misty, barely acknowledging her.

"Darla Shane, welcome to the show," says Shari.

A look of pure, predatory glee in her eyes, she turns to Misty. "Senator Avalon, do you know this woman?"

"Yes. She is a former member of my polyamory commune."

Turning back to Darla: "So I guess you must know each other intimately then, Darla?"

"Actually, Shari. No." Misty wanted to reach over and slap the smirk off Darla's face, but nothing she could do could stop the trainwreck now.

Darla continued: "Even though I was part of Senator Avalon's commune for several years, she never once joined us in our orgies and as far as I know she never once had sex with any of the other members.

"No one ever said anything because we didn't want to harm her career, but I want people to know that Senator Avalon doesn't care about repopulation and she thinks she's better than all of us."


Jack ordered room service to Misty's hotel room because she didn't want to be seen outside after the disastrous end to the Wainwright interview.

She soaked in a hot bath and let Jack take care of everything, while every second of the interview replayed over and over in her head.

Why had Darla decided to out her like that? They'd never been friends, exactly, but she hadn't thought they were enemies.

The commune was a respite from political life for Misty. A group of friends she'd had from the Borderlands where everyone respected her boundaries and left her alone.

It was true she'd never joined in the orgies, but MEP commune dwellers by nature tended to be less sexually adventurous than the rest of the population. It was the perfect place to hide and the perfect excuse to avoid the societal burden of sex, sex, sex all the time.

The stupid part of all this, thought Misty, is that she wasn't even opposed to sex. It's just that as a Borderlander, life had been different.

Non-family members were few and far between out there in her village, right on the brink of the Deadlands. She'd always been so focused on school and then politics, that she'd just never got around to having sex.

But then, around 18 or 19, when everyone else had been having sex for years already, she felt weird about her lack of experience. She wanted it to be a non-issue, not a freakish thing that she needed to be cured of.

And after she was elected to office, when everyone knew who she was all of a sudden, she couldn't very well go to a GovOrg and have someone discover she had no idea what she was doing. It would have been front-page news.

Misty sighed, watching bubbles from the sponge fall haphazardly onto her bare breasts. She was front-page news now, anyway.

"Dinner's up Misty." Jack's voice drifted in from the other room.

That was odd in itself, she thought. He was avoiding seeing her naked, which had never been an issue before. Despite the fact their relationship was purely professional he'd always treated her with the same lack of inhibition that characterized post-meteorite American life.

Nakedness wasn't something to be ashamed of when society actively encouraged promiscuity at all times in hopes of bolstering a population almost wiped out a century before.

Misty wrapped herself in a hotel robe and stepped into the suite. Jack had set up dinner on the table and lit candles.

"Candles?" Misty asked, seating herself.

"Mandated power outage starts in five, I thought it would be easier to just light them now," Jack answered.

They ate in silence. Or, rather, Jack watched Misty pick at her food. He topped up her wine glass.

"Drink. Relax," he says.

"I'm trying," she says, taking a sip, and feeling the warmth of the wine wind its way through her limbs, tingling her skin as it goes. "But it's a bit hard to relax when I just saw my career go down the drain."

Jack's hand settled on top of Misty's own hand and she felt the wine tingle her skin again. Or was it Jack's touch?

"Do you trust me?" he asks.

"You know I do," Misty responds.

"Good. Then I need you to tell me what you're hiding."

The lights flicker off — the power outage — and Misty takes a deep breath. Maybe this will be easier to admit in the flickering half-light.

She looks at the beautiful lines of Jack's hand next to her own and lifts her gaze to his. There's something inscrutable in his eyes... concern? She can't help but wonder if it's purely professional... or something else. Either way, she has to trust him. What other choice does she have?

"I'm ... oh god, I'm so ashamed."

"It's okay Misty."

"I'm a virgin."

She waits for Jack to pull away, for the sound of disgust to catch in his throat, for the disapproval in his voice. But none of that happens. He squeezes her hand.

"Is that all?"


"You're not a sworn celibate?"

"No. I just... never had the chance. And then it became a thing and I didn't know how to not be a virgin without it being really obvious and a big deal, and oh god it feels so good to tell someone..."

Tears of relief spring to Misty's eyes and Jack tugs her up by her hand and wraps her in an embrace. She smells the faint, sweet smell of his sweat mixed in with wine, cologne, and tobacco. It's a comforting smell. She realises she hasn't been this close to a man since her father died, and even then it wasn't like this.

She sits down on the side of the bed and Jack brings her a glass of water, then sits beside her.

"You know, my parents illegally married."

Misty looks at him in shock.


"Yeah. They met at a GovOrg in the Southern Union a few years after marriage was outlawed.

But after they met, they decided they didn't ever want to be apart. So they ran away together, found a black market minister, and... brought me up."

"But you're not... Monogamous?"

Jack laughs. He's spent entirely too much time at GovOrgs to be anything close to that.

"No. I'm not." He shrugs. "But I'm not against it."

"I'm not anti-sex," says Misty. She feels like it's important to let Jack know this. "I just don't know how to have it not be a big deal."

"Well, we've got a problem we need to solve. We need people to see that you're pro-population and we need you to be relatable..."

"Ok, well what do I do? How do I do that?"

"Darla had a point. If you're abstinent, you seem not only old-fashioned, but unlikeable. People want a leader who's like them. In the old days, people elected leaders they wanted to have a beer with. Today they elect leaders they want to fuck."

Jack stood up and paced the room. He had that look on his face, the one he got when they were polling low and their backs were against the wall and everyone was relying on his genius mind for strategy to pull them through.

"We could go on the attack, try to discredit Darla... "

"News travels too slow," Misty interrupted. "We don't have enough time and besides, the damage has been done."

"Well then we —", Jack starts again.

"No, Jack. It keeps coming back to one thing. And you know it"

He stops pacing and kneels in front of Misty.

"Misty, you don't have to do anything."

"No matter how I look at it, the answer's always the same. I need to show I'm committed," she says, taking a deep breath. "Pregnancy would be best, but in a pinch, we'll have to set our sights lower."

Jack considers the options. He knows she's right.

"I need you to find me someone to sleep with, Jack. Take care of it for me. Privately. Someone we can trust, but who won't be suspicious to the press."

"We can leak it to Wainwright. Fudge the timing - the truth but not quite," he says.

"It's better than me walking into a GovOrg tomorrow and opening my legs," says Misty, a smile playing at the edge of her mouth.

"I think it just might work," says Jack.

"Oh, I think it will," replies Misty, confidently. "And if it doesn't, we'll leak video. That'll shut everyone up."

The next day is a whistle-stop tour of the North-Western Union.

The salt air is invigorating. No wonder those who can afford it flock to the state; the ocean breeze keeps the worst of the dust storms at bay and the landscape is relatively unscarred from the meteorites.

Misty passes the day with stump speech after stump speech to crowds more interested in how she plans to open up the Deadlands than when she plans to open her legs. Through it all, Jack is steadfastly by her side, keeping her spirits up, her mind focused, and her body nourished with food and water.

But that night, at a charity event for rich New Seattlites to help Borderlanders, Misty is ambushed. She's set off-kilter from the moment she arrives by a picket line of protestors outside the hotel, all wielding signs with Pro-Population slogans and reeling off hurtful chants designed to sting.

Things don't improve once she's inside. She's heckled during her speech, harangued by the press on her way in, and a gate-crashing protester throws red paint on her - tarring her with the symbolic blood of unborn future generations; a punishment usually reserved for back alley vasectomists.

She manages to maintain her composure and professionalism throughout, but the minute the door to her suite shuts, Misty sags. Jack dismisses her team of concerned staffers quietly and returns carrying a bottle of wine.

"Hey. I scored some booze. It makes everything better."

Silence from Misty, but a few deep breaths and her spine straightens and her shoulders square again. After a second, she sits up and takes the glass from Jack.

"You always know what to say," she says, sipping the cool, crisp pre-meteorite vintage sauvignon blanc. "Oh, it's good stuff"

"I figured after the day you've had, there was no point settling for substandard hooch."

She laughs at that then, a bit of tension easing out. And then Jack's hand brushes her hair back from her shoulder, cupping the base of her neck. They stare at each other, frozen for a minute, as the line that can never be uncrossed quickly approaches.