Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Conduct Unbecoming an Officer"

This poem is from the January 8, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] wytchcroft. It also fills the "fuck or die" square in my 1-2-13 card for the [community profile] trope_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.

WARNING: The following poem contains seriously dark material. These include vulgar language, use of a biochemical weapon, impaired consent, sexual complications, body horror, mockery, unprofessional behavior, disfiguration, suicide and other death, relationship damage, war and related violence. If these are sensitive topics for you, please think carefully before deciding whether to read onward.

"Conduct Unbecoming an Officer"

At first it was flattering,
the increased size and stamina
of his intimate equipment,
and hey, he'd always wondered
about multiple orgasms.
He wasn't wondering anymore.

He was running back and forth
between sickbay and various science labs,
playing guinea pig and pincushion
to a bunch of unsympathetic and/or giggling techs,
because the damn thing would not go down.

Hengst whimpered
and adjusted the ice pack
that he had stuffed down the front
of his combat pants.
What had started out
as the best day of his life
was rapidly turning into one of the worst.

Finally one of the medics called him into an office.
"I have good news, better news,
bad news, and worse news,"
she said to Hengst.

"Lay it on me,"
the soldier said stoically.

"The good news is that we've identified
the source of the problem," she said.
"In last week's attack on the alien base at Venus III,
you were exposed to a biochemistry-altering compound.
The better news is that there is
a simple way to relieve the symptoms."

"Whatever it is, Doc,
just fix me so I can return to duty,"
Hengst said.

The medic shook her head.
"It's not something I can do for you,"
she explained in a regretful tone.
It was the first time all day
that he'd gotten sympathy
instead of sniggers.
Hengst began to worry.

"The bad news is that the only solution
is sexual intercourse with another affected individual,"
the medic continued. "The worse news is that
the process creates an unbreakable biochemical bond
between the two participants. We suspect
that the Venusians are dosing ... inappropriate partners ...
more or less on purpose."

"I hate Venusians," Hengst muttered.
Of course he hadn't been the only one affected;
he could hardly have missed seeing Klaus
skulking around in a paper gown in sickbay
or bitching out the hapless techs in the lab.
Maybe Klaus would take similar offense
and order an attack on something bigger than a base
so that Hengst could get a little of his own back.
"Well ... I guess we'll just have to suffer
until the swelling goes down."

"I'm afraid that's not an option,"
the medic said, sliding a datapad
across the desk to him.

Hengst read the summary
of similar cases already reported
and the preliminary analysis of patterns.

The higher a victim's libido,
the harder the alien compound hit.
In several reported cases
it had actually proven fatal.
In a dozen more cases,
there had been "severe tissue loss."

According to his test results,
Hengst fell toward the high end.
So did Klaus.

Well, fuck.

"I can't do this," he groaned.
"Klaus is my superior officer.
Do you have any idea what this could do
to crew morale? To our careers?
Klaus and I would both get court-martialed
for conduct unbecoming, and rightly so!"

"As opposed to the damage to crew morale
and our careers if we both dropped dead
or thrown out on medical discharge
for crippling levels of tissue loss in important places,"
Klaus said as he walked in without knocking.
"Quit nancying around and fuck me.
That's an order, soldier."

"You can't order me to fuck you,"
Hengst protested.
"That's an unlawful order, and just saying it
is grounds for sexual harassment!"
Not to mention that now Hengst
was going to hear "fuck me" every time
he looked at Klaus from now on.
They'd been friends since boot camp,
and this was a hell of a blow to that relationship.

"Do you want to die?" Klaus snapped.
"Look at these records."
He grabbed the datapad and tweaked it.
"These two women both refused to have sex
with each other, and they're dead.
These two men, same story."

Hengst didn't want to die,
but he really, really didn't want to
climb into bed with Klaus either.

Klaus switched the display again.
"This man offered but the woman refused;
they survived, but both with disabilties.
There's a court-martial for conduct unbecoming
over making the sexual overture,"
Klaus said as he ran a finger down the screen.

"Those pictures are hideous,"
Hengst said faintly.

"Think about how that damage would look on you,"
Klaus said. Hengst crossed his legs. Klaus went on,
"This pair, the woman offered but the man refused.
She lived, he died, and the conduct unbecoming charge
was cowardice resulting in preventable death.
Scuttlebutt says the family plans to sue for benefits."

"I hate the Venusians so very much,"
Hengst grumbled.

"That's the spirit," said Klaus.
"Are you going to let them kill us,
or are you going to shut up and fuck me
so we can go blow the slimy bastards to plasma?"

"Fine!" Hengst snarled.
So they locked themselves in Klaus' cabin
Hengst fucked Klaus,
which was desperate instead of pleasurable.
Then Klaus fucked Hengst,
which was not fun for Hengst at all
and not much better for Klaus.

They peeled themselves apart
with a sound like ripping tape.
Their sweat had turned tacky all of a sudden
and it smelled disturbingly of dark chocolate.

Unbreakable biochemical bond,
Hengst recalled, his stomach lurching.

Grimly they went their separate ways.
Hengst and Klaus filed their reports
and were soon approved for duty.

It was beyond awkward.
It was miserable.

They discovered by trial and error --
mostly error -- that they were obliged
to have intercourse at least once a week.
Other than that, they tried to avoid each other,
but on a ship this size it was impossible.

Morale bunched and pinched around them.
Nobody blamed them ... exactly ...
but everyone seemed to look at the two victims
with "there but for the grace of god"
all over their mercifully unbonded faces.

The issue wasn't simply one of
"conduct unbecoming an officer"
but of circumstances that led to
the unbecoming of an officer,
costing the fleet valuable personnel.
Hengst and Klaus looked away from each other.

It was enormously gratifying
to bomb the new Venusian colony
into a glowing crater of orange and gold.

There were casualties, though:
not one but two more couples
got hit by the bonding compound.
The first couple gave in to the bond.
Of the second, one man ate his gun
and the other died of shock shortly after.

The medic forwarded to Hengst and Klaus
a report from another ship
about a bonded triad.

Someone, probably in Communications,
leaked that report around the ship.
The effect on morale was ruinous.
Klaus threw a very public fit about the breach,
but well, people didn't listen to him
quite as well as they used to.

Hengst mourned the wreckage of his friendship.
Klaus mourned the continuing disintegration of
what had been a perfectly shipshape command.

They hoped that somebody in Research
was looking for a real cure.
Without a counteragent,
this could turn the tide of war.
Whatever that Venusian compound was,
it was a devastating weapon.

* * *


The charge of "Conduct Unbecoming an Officer" covers a wide range of misbehavior deleterious to military function and/or morale.

Priapism is a serious medical condition in which an erection will not go away. Although usually played for laughs, it's not very funny.

The trope "Fuck or Die" / "Mate or Die" has subtle variations but all of them usually play into rape culture. In this case, the tropes Sex Pollen and Aliens Made Them Do It also apply. The compound in question is an aphrodisiac that activates an imprinting routine. I wanted to go against the customary "happily ever after" approach and show how ruinous this scenario would probably be.

Military sex is fraught with complications, especially regarding sexual trauma. It can be very destructive to morality and morale.

There are rules about unlawful orders.

Sex can ruin friendships and other relationships.

The trope Ate His Gun refers to a specific method of suicide. Unbearable suffering, whether physical and/or psychological, is among the leading causes why people seek an end to life. Preferably that should be a last resort. There are ways to avoid committing suicide and to help a suicidal person.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, event, fishbowl, gender studies, horror, poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, weblit, writing
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