by Matthew Sanborn Smith
A guy wasn't supposed to have the hots for his great-grandmother. But circumstances had left Poyo with no other options. For one thing, rejuvenation baths had given her the body of a twenty-year old. For another, he was related to everybody on the planet.
Too many people had died on the harrowing voyage of the generation starship, Botswana. The handful of survivors did what people do with one another and now that they'd arrived on Stuckey's World, everyone in the world was blood. Their population now numbered in the thousands, but most of them were clones. There were only twelve genetically distinct types.
"What's the problem," Sari asked, when he'd confided in her. "You've got six-hundred kids, and you can make six-hundred more, or even six thousand more if you like." She was a seventh generation clone of his mother, Elzhbieta and he worked with her in the chem labs. She made the world's supply of processed cheese food. He made crabs, the good kind of crabs, to stock the ocean that his uncle was working on.
"You don't understand," he said. "you weren't sexually conceived."
"That's your excuse for everything. Elitist crabshit!" She hadn't known what a bull was, you see. All she'd ever seen were cloned cows.
"No, this time, I really mean it," Poyo said. "Clone zygotes are manipulated to detest sex. I don't even know if you can have sex. The colonists thought this up long ago, to avoid a planet full of birth defects. They figured their bases were covered. They just never anticipated my situation."
The blue crab at his workstation was going to come out with seven extra legs. He flushed it and started on a new one. Poyo shook his head to clear it.
"Just don't make a baby, that's all." Sari said.
"That's not all. Humans avoid incest as a matter of course. It's socially ingrained, if not genetically ingrained."
"So we don't make babies!"
"So don't make a baby!"
"You don't understand."
"I need someone, Anise," he finally confessed at his great-grandmother's breakfast table. Everything was white and sterile here, including her clothes. Overcompensation, he figured, for the filthy state to which the ship had reverted by the end. She must have given his problem some thought, because her expression didn't change.
"What if some woman fell out of the sky and solved your problems" she said. "Wouldn't your children have the same problem? Would you want to put them through what you're going through?"
"No," he said, surprised by the maturity of his answer. "So that's it, huh? Somebody's got to be last so I just take the hit for the whole race?"
"I'm sorry," she said, taking his hand.
"You're beautiful," he told her.
"Don't bring it there,' she said, and pulled her hand away.
"It's either that, or suicide, at this point."
Anise slapped him. "Too many people died so you could be here, Poyo."
"Is this what they wanted for me then? I'm going to die alone eventually. Why spend years suffering?"
"You'll get used to it. I've been widowed for nearly forty years now."
"So you're happy about that?"
"No, I'm not happy."
"Then you're not used to it. I can't do this anymore, Anise, I'm sorry." He turned to leave.
"What?" There were tears on his great-grandmother's face.
"God damn it! You look like him. I don't want to lose you again."
"There's six-hundred people out there who look the same as I do, Anise."
"They don't act like you. We made a mistake when we removed the sexual urge. We made another species, they're not really human. But what choice did we have? Stay with us and we'll rebuild the ship and we'll seek out other people."
"That'll take twenty years." he said. "What am I supposed to do in the meantime?"
"In the meantime. My soul rotted away a long time ago, Poyo. I've done some bad things. I've always done what I needed to do to keep us alive. She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him.
"So in the meantime, you'll keep your mouth shut."