His pass-out ceremony was not as he expected. There was no grand assembly with others. It was momentary—a model of Utility.
Lieutenant Mutia, the Hubot8 Corps supervisor of Sexuality and Deviance, confronted him in the main tunnel. 'Attention, Mark5!'
He stiffened, saluted, eyeing the nipples outlined by her cling top uniform. Her small uptilted breasts were the latest style. Not to look would have been impertinent.
'At ease.' She'd noticed his glance—Hubots noticed everything—and confirmed it with a whiff of musk. 'You are to graduate now. Fall in.' With the jigging walk that emphasized her neatly moulded arse, she led him past the distorting walls:
Individual freedom is forbidden.
All sub-class organics will be sterilized.
Sub-class pop limit is 2000.
They reached the portal of the Sanctum—an area used only for pass-outs. They entered a domed, lozenge shaped space lined with blindingly brilliant gold leaf. Recessed shrines at each end enclosed backlit naked statues of elders. A man in one. A fem in the other.
She led him to the twice-life-sized sculpture of the imposing naked fem. Deep-lined but still beautiful face, long thin legs, spare flanks and sunken breasts. They knelt on the plush cushion in front of it.
'Begin,' Mutia ordered.
He called up the Invocation from Integritas Femina on his mind screen and recited it:
Enchantress of the Third Age.
Repository of carnal joy,
I dedicate my lust to your practiced flesh.
Kiss your knowing eyes,
Fill the sepulchre of your thighs.
It went on for twenty mawkish lines. As the words began, the bronze sculpture softened and started to move. It sensually gyrated and finally squatted to display the slack flesh of its vulva. As the liturgy ended, it resumed its first pose and re-solidified—became as imposing and resplendent as it had been before the invocation.
'Well done, M5.' Mutia favoured him with a second whiff of musk and replaced his cadet flashes with twinkling trooper insignias. 'You are now a Trooper Class One. Congratulations. Your mission begins.'
He didn't know whether to thank her. Should one thank a machine? Since his parthenogenesis—his extraction from ectogen fluids fertilized from sperm taken from the Sex Corps Masturborium—there had been no role model except her. Just pedi-Mechs that his infant mind had forgotten, the Kindie-Bots who'd herded them in batches and the Mech Cub minders with their painful prods. Unlike the sophisticated Hubots, Mechs had only basic responses. So, since he'd joined the Corps at ten, she was the nearest thing he'd had to a mentor.
'Dear Tutor, do graduates come back here for reunions?'
'So I'll... never see you again?'
He felt he was losing a mentor and friend. Wanted to prolong the moment. Felt more should be said. 'Is there any advice you can give me?'
'You have twenty-two years left. Do not waste them.' She held out her hand and he shook it, feeling the same poly-smooth skin he'd cut up in the wrecking bay. Her shake was too precise to be organic and, in this silent, hallowed space, he heard the faint seductive whine of her servo-powered hydraulics.
He said, 'Perhaps I'll recyc you one day-slot?'
'Sentimentality! Remem, all emotions lie—lack Rigour, Utility and Conformity. You will not recyc me as your time at Disassembly is over. You are being assigned to Promass—a more responsible position. You leave tomorrow-slot at 0900.'
'Well... Well... thanks for your help over the year-slots.'
Her imperturbable expression matched his. 'You are smart, unit M5. You comply—which demonstrates Utility and Conformity. Continue to conform. You will go far.'
He had the urge to hug her. But that would have lacked Utility.