Monday, October 10, 2016

One Down by Bryce T. Hughes

Release date: September 14, 2016
Subgenre: LGBT science fiction, short story

About One Down


An impenetrable barrier keeps Earth's ships from leaving. Teams of specially-trained heroes fly the limited allowed space wiping out the debris specialists suspect offended an alien force. Separated from her lover, Jane treasures her team and performs her duty, but she suspects a lie fuels the international sport. With her friend Julio's life hanging in the balance, she faces the deadly force penning her planet and battles the hypocrisy of her government.

This is a LGBT short story with lesbian and gay content, and mild swearing.


My left wrist vibrated, Mom calling. I should’ve called her first. Julio’s diagnosis leaked from the space station, and she’d reported the breaking news on her early edition. I rushed to the solarium to take the call in private.

“Morning, Mom.” My eyes burned in the simulated sunlight; I’d been at the station’s hospital all night.

“What the hell happened, Jane?” On my wrist screen Mom’s mouth tightened. Her connection from Earth came through my circuits as clear as my team’s.

“I don’t know much more than what you reported. No one knows how the Hitchhiker virus gets into a player.”

“Why aren’t they protecting you kids?” Her pitch jumped above of her newscast range. I was 23, but I bit back telling her I wasn’t a kid.

“We wear military-grade red suits when we go out there. We go through decontam. But somehow Julio brought back the Hitchhiker.”

“Get off the team. Go crazy if you have to. Just stop.” Mom  hunched over her desk framed by her news casting awards.

“Mom, there’s interference. Maybe dust storms around the station. Come visit if you can get away from work. And watch out, okay?” Close as I could get to reminding her nothing was private, and what she’d said could be interpreted as treason.

“Give my love to Julio and Dolores. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“Gotta go. Love you always.” I flexed my wrist, breaking the connection.

Merri passed me zapped mashed potatoes. I dished up, swallowing disappointment. My step-mom’s Christmas food smelled like the same processed crap I got on the space station. She had as many surgical enhancements as I did, all of them cosmetic.

“What do you do up there when you’re not playing the Game?” Benny stroked the Senior Player patch on my sleeve.

“I stare out the windows, sport. I always hope I’ll see something out there.” No way to tell a seven year-old about the crushing vastness outside the ship, the trapped feeling inside of it. “I mean, who are they? What kind of civilization could fence us in like toddlers in a playpen? And why?” Dad gnawed on veg protein and kept his focus on his plate. He got redder, though. He knew something.

“Can you see the aliens?” Benny bounced on his chair. I ruffled his hair. Another weird holiday with a step-mom my age and her bright kid from her first marriage. At least talking about the Game kept me from watching Dad get wrecked on the latest drug he’d cooked. Or thinking about how many weeks it’d been since Tesh called. She’d be feasting with her parents in Pacifica, a hop from our place in San Francisco. They grew their own food, and every meal featured Earth delicacies.

“Not yet. I watch for a ship unlike any other ship, or yeah, an alien. Right out there, floating to starboard in an incandescent uniform.



About Bryce T. Hughes: 

Bryce T. Hughes, aka Bat Hughes, contributed to Specklit, the Apokrapha anthologies, Dark Bits and Vignettes From the End of the World, and the Pan Book of Horror: Dark Voices series. Hughes has been captivated by speculative fiction and space travel all his life. He grew up and completed his MFA in California. He now travels and writes full time. "As a teen, it mattered to me, and still does, to find books with people like me in them. Books with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and gender-variant characters gave me a sense of connection and affirmation, rare and sustaining support while growing up in a small town."

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