Read an Excerpt
'I WANT YOU.'
The old vintage recruitment sign with the image of Uncle Sam on it mocked Ricardo Clark. The finger pointed in his direction. Someone had marked out the part that said 'for the U.S. Army' and written over it with 'for the Alliance', some new form of government that had taken over power when the old government had crumbled.
Not that he had to worry. He'd been discharged years ago because of some stupid asthma thing and now he was a hundred pounds overweight, give or take a few pounds. Who would really 'want' him? He should have been able to stay in, but the military was overcrowded. They'd stopped recruiting after they pulled out of the Middle East and were looking at reasons to let go soldiers. Hell, with all the advancements in medicine he could have had his asthma cleared up in no time, but he didn't fight it. Not like he should have done. He had a place to go, others didn't, and they needed the stability of working for the government.
Rico continued his walk to the bakery. The only thing he was good for was eating a few doughnuts before going to his boring data entry job. After the big flood in 2050 there were tons of data that needed re-entering and a lot more of it lost. With his military career he had the necessary clearances to process the sensitive data so he was pretty secure in his job, unlike some others. It sucked, but it paid the bills. The homeless population was bigger than ever. It also kept his mom off his back. She was always asking him when he was going to find a nice boy and settle down. She'd bring up the old 'I helped fight for your right to marry whoever you want, now do something about it and make me proud. I want grandkids!' Rico didn't even know if he liked kids, not that it was an option now anyway. He was single and barely making ends meet. The job might have been steady, but it wasn't high-paying.
Before he was born there had been a big fight over government involvement in same-sex marriage and his parents had been in the 'trenches' as it were, fighting to make changes. Finally the government had passed a bill stating that it would take no part in deciding who a person could or could not marry and that each state had to abide by this bill, allowing people to marry whoever they wanted to. Or something like that. Rico couldn't remember the exact wording, but the gist of it was that same-sex couples could get married and have that marriage recognised wherever they went.
There had been a big outcry and some churches had taken a big stand, but, all in all, after a few years, no one really cared and it was business as usual. Still, there were the hatemongers out there, but as time passed they faded away from the spotlight. When Rico had hit puberty it was all old news and there were different things to fight over. The churches prayed over the state of the world and blamed the rest of the nation for the coming apocalypse. Turned out it was a flood, not zombies taking over. The church still took credit saying their God was bringing down the sinners of the world. They never could come up with an explanation for how their congregations weren't spared.
Rico didn't really care because faith didn't really fit into what he wanted out of his life. He had big plans, like with his military career. It was supposed to be his ticket to law enforcement. He was thinking CIA or FBI. Now he was a glamorous clerk sitting behind a desk and clacking away at a keyboard all day.
He finally reached the shop and walked in.
"Rico! Your usual?" The owner winked at him.
Rico nodded and bellied up to the counter to wait for his order. It should've made him sad that the pastry people knew him, but he was hungry and running late. He didn't have time to be upset about a predicament of his own making. No one let him get so out of shape. That was all on him.
There was a new guy behind the counter and Rico couldn't stop staring. He was rugged and lean with short blond hair that stood on end and bright green eyes. He had scruff on his face and a shiner, like he'd gone a couple of rounds in a fight. But that wasn't what caught Rico's gaze. It was the black plugs in his ears and the tattoos running up and down each arm. They were colourful and he wanted a closer look, even leaned over the counter a bit before he caught himself. He could make out some sort of creature's head on his right shoulder in a dark red with black horns and it looked like wisps of smoke tied everything together. There were a few other things, but he couldn't make them out without getting closer. On the other arm were a koi fish and cherry blossoms and other small tattoos.
But a man like that wouldn't look twice at the fat blob he'd become. Maybe when he was still in the military Rico'd have had the balls to approach him. Now he just took his sweets and left the bakery.
The city looked better than it had in years and he enjoyed his walk, taking a big bite of the gooey confection. The weather was nice, the sun shining. He was actually sweating a bit, the hazard of his extra pounds. For the first time he thought maybe he should do something about it. He thought back to the blond with those tattoos and threw his doughnuts into the next trash bin he found, but that didn't stop him from licking his fingers.
The day was the same old, same old. The only exception was that his thoughts drifted back to the hot guy at the bakery. He knew what his spank fantasies would be about that night. It wasn't like his job forced him to think. He looked at papers and entered information into the central system that the Alliance had hooked back up after the flood. If it wasn't for them, the United States would probably still be in the dark.