The Bruces sat around the table at the bar, slowly sipping their beers. They were scheduled to ship out tomorrow, on their first foray to the front. Normally, men about to be shipped out wouldn't be allowed to spend their final night in the US out at a bar, but the Bruces were different. They didn't carouse, and drank very little; they were dedicated soldiers facing a high probability of death, and no one was going to hassle them about a little R and R.
A Murphy came by, lifting his bottle to the table. "Here's to the first Bruce, may he rest in peace!" he said, giving the familiar toast as he walked by to join his own. The Bruces nodded as one, solemnly taking a small sip. Like the Bruces, the Murphys were techno-tweaked clones of a great American war hero; unlike the Bruces they tended toward the rowdy side. The Bruces looked at each other as one mind; they would leave soon, before the inevitable Murphy fight broke out. Bruces took their responsibility as killing machines very seriously and always saved their aggression for the true enemy, according to assignment.
A woman came by, and leaned over the shoulder of Bruce 104. "Dance with me?" she asked. The other Bruces looked at 104, waiting for him to turn her down. When he said yes they were surprised, but not very. Bruces liked music.
The woman slipped her arms around Bruce 104's neck, and smiled as he hesitantly set his hands on her waist. "I'm Imelda," she said. "What's your name?"
"Private Bruce, ma'am," he said in the rumbling velvet voice that had helped make the first Bruce a radio star after his war had ended.
"You fellas are clones, aren't you?" Imelda asked.
"Yes, ma'am," Bruce 104 said, twisting her in time to the music. A small smile played at his mouth; women were fascinated by the idea of clones, and orgies were a pretty regular part of life as a Bruce. He wondered how many other Bruces she would want to join them.
"Do you have any children, Bruce?" she asked.
He looked down at her in surprise. Reproducing himself was the last thing a Bruce ever thought about. "No, ma'am," he said.
"Why not?" she asked. "Doesn't that part of you, er, work?"
"Sure does, ma'am," he said with a suggestive grin. If there were other women at her orgy, he hoped they were as pretty as she was. He tightened his arms around her, and enjoyed the sigh of pleasure she made.
They danced quietly together, each pleased by the feel of the other. When it was over she asked, "Would you like to come home with me?"
This question needed clarification. "Um, just me?" he asked.
She smiled. "Yes," she said. "Just you."
"Well, sure," he said, "but I can't stay long, since we ship out tomorrow. Let me tell my buddies."
The other Bruces were as bemused as he was by the single invitation, but they told him they'd cover for him, which is an easy thing to do in a squad of clones.
Bruce 104 walked Imelda the couple of blocks to her apartment. He kept his arm wrapped around her shoulder, enjoying the way her fluffy blonde hair tickled his neck in the wind. She gave him her key when they reached her apartment, and he opened the door and checked inside for her as slick as a Cary Grant.
She lit some candles and turned the lights back off. "Would you like a drink?" she asked.
Bruce 104 had never had a drink as a solo. "Later, perhaps," he said nonchalantly. He realized he'd never really done anything as a solo, and frowned.
Imelda came over to him, and moved her hands over his shoulders. "I think you're very strong," she said.
"Yes," he said. "You're very pretty."
"I know," she said. She took his hand, and lead him to the bedroom.
He stood passively while she removed her clothes, then his. She kissed him then, a deep kiss meant for him alone; he tried to keep his aggressiveness in check, but the incredible intimacy of being just one man with just one woman suddenly unleashed a torrent of feelings in him. He worried that he'd hurt her by his madness, but she did not seem to mind; she too was swept up in the powerful intimacy of coupleness.
He filled her gladly, wildly, and when she whispered "Bruce, would you make a baby with me?" his only response was a pounding release that overwhelmed them both.
He talked then, with her wrapped up in his arms; he told her of his mission, and his almost certain death; he told her of the Bruce nightmare, passed from Bruce to Bruce since the beginning, of rushing madly into battle to face the enemy, only to discover that the enemy is also a Bruce.
She confessed that she too was a clone, though not techno-tweaked like him; she was a fashion runway model, working odd jobs since her career had peaked at eighteen.
"You're still very beautiful," he said.
She shrugged. "The world is full of over-the-hill women who look like me," she said. "I want to do something special with my life. That's why I want a baby."
"You'd be a wonderful mother," he said, although he really didn't know what that meant.
"Thank you," she said, her eyes filling with tears. The tenderness and protectiveness he felt toward her almost choked him, and he filled her again, hoping with every breath and heartbeat that he was able to give her the baby she wanted.
He stayed for an hour, then knew he had to go. They clung to each other at the door. "I'll probably die," he said. "But if I don't, I'll come find you."
"I'd like that," she said, and kissed him again. "If my baby is a boy, do you want me to name him after you?"
Bruce shook his head. "Give him a name of his own," he said.
She nodded. "Okay."
He started down the hall, then turned back to face her. "Imelda?"
"Why did you pick me? Why not one of the other guys?"
She smiled. "I liked your eyes," she said, and she closed the door.
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