Here’s my entry for the first Flash Fiction Draw Challenge (the post for the original May draw is here). In case you didn’t know about this challenge, there’s a video here explaining (and showing the fifth draw), but the quick version: I used a deck of cards (three suits) to randomly put together a genre (in this case: science fiction), a location (in this case: above the clouds) and an object (in this case: a dog whistle) and challenged anyone who wanted to play to write something over the next week, with a maximum of 1,000 words.
I was tempted to go urban fantasy on this one, but I decided I’d hold onto that until fantasy comes up on a draw, so I tried for something a bit more purely science fiction. And, like most of the science fiction I really enjoy, I couldn’t help but consider it from a queer angle.
You can’t escape DNA.
The moment he saw the cross-and-helix, Hilo knew he was in trouble. At least Hilo was on one side of the plane, and the Bio-Essentialist was on the other.
Bio-Es were comfortable enough to wear their symbol in public? The pendant around the man’s neck was gold. It caught the light as the plane banked after takeoff.
The passenger beside Hilo had offered a brief polite smile, then logged her tablet into the plane’s network. The woman had a newsfeed strip running at the top of her screen. Hilo tried to glance at it only in passing.
Bill C-95 scrolled by. “Purity Earns Another Pass” was the pithy—if insulting—headline. Its supporters in the United Earth Government were still unable to get it through thanks to New Zealand, Norway, the Netherlands, and Canada.
Canada. He’d land in Vancouver in less than two hours. Once there, he could get to the consulate—it rained a lot in Vancouver, which was like the Quiesci homeworld—and a single gene-scan later he’d have what he needed.
A confirmed identity as one-eighth Quiesci. A way off-world.
Joseph would follow him via Vancouver, and then they’d be safe.
He twisted his wedding ring, guilt tightening his stomach. This was all his fault.
That the plan was to out himself as partially Quiesci didn’t make the Bio-E less dangerous. Until they landed, they weren’t technically in Canada. Even in Hawai’i, Hiding his DNA was a minor crime.
Hilo shifted, still keeping one eye on the Bio-E across the cabin.
The woman beside him spoke softly, looking up from her tablet for the first time.
“I’m sorry.” Hilo didn’t have to affect a blush. “Never quite enough leg room on these things.” It wasn’t untrue. Being tall in a space designed for those of average height was never fun.
The woman nodded, then glanced across the cabin.
Had she seen him eyeing the Bio-E?
He waited, but she turned back to her tablet. He pulled out his own, pulling up some medical research he needed to catch up on. Just a normal human doctor heading to a conference.
Almost an hour into the flight, Hilo had noticed two things about the Bio-E. One, the man regarded the crowd of passengers, and narrowed his eyes a few times when looking at passengers who, Hilo supposed, fit his bigoted and entirely unscientific conceptions of what someone with mixed DNA might look like. Two, he kept touching his pendant.
That he’d noticed the latter was the only warning he got. It was barely enough.
At the hour mark—the middle of the flight—the Bio-E raised the helix-cross to his lips, and blew on it.
The shriek would have made him cry out had he not recognized the danger just a second before it did. A dog-whistle. Not for canines, of course, but emitting a sound beyond the range of human hearing.
Pure human hearing, at least.
Hilo had inherited far, far better audial acuity than that.
He flinched in his seat, managing to grip his arm rests but maintain a blank stare at the chairback in front of him.
Beside him, the woman turned and said something. He had no idea what it was, of course. The painful shriek covered everything else.
It stopped a second later. He forced himself not to look. Instead, he faced the woman, aware sweat had broken out on his forehead, knowing she’d said something, but having no idea what it was.
“Sorry.” His own voice was muffled. His ears ringing. “I was daydreaming. What was that?”
She frowned. Her mouth moved.
Another shriek. Painful now.
Hilo managed a smile, waited for the woman’s mouth to stop moving, and said “I’m fine.” He didn’t hear his own voice.
Her frown didn’t stop, but she nodded.
He didn’t know if he could take much more of this. He clenched his fists, wanting to press them against his ears to drown out even some of the noise, and…
It stopped again.
Hilo exhaled, and risked a glance at the Bio-E.
He wasn’t looking Hilo’s way. He’d risen from his seat, and was in the first aisle, looking back down the length of the plane behind him. It was smart, really. He probably planned to blow his whistle multiple times, each time watching a different group of passengers.
Then the man turned his attention Hilo’s way.
“Could you not?” the woman said, rising.
The Bio-E’s smile was borderline feral at her challenge. “Could I not what?”
The flight attendants stirred, uncertain.
“I lost my hearing at Hellas Basin,” she said. “Your bigot-whistle is fucking up my implants.”
Now everyone was staring at the Bio-E, who looked off-balance and unsure.
“We have to know,” he said, still holding the pendant tightly in one hand. But in the face of a soldier—let alone a veteran who’d survived Hellas Basin—he apparently knew he was outclassed.
She drove the point home. “Sit down,” she said. It wasn’t a request.
“Sir,” the flight attendant closest to the Bio-E said. “I’ll need to take that.”
Once the pendant was in the attendant’s hand, Hilo finally exhaled. The woman sat beside him. For the first time, he noticed her tags.
“Thank you for your service,” he said, ears still ringing.
She smiled. Then she tapped on her tablet. Across the screen, large text appeared.
Are you okay? Can you still hear?
He blinked at the words, but he nodded.
She reached out and squeezed his hand.
“The Vancouver landing strip is pretty confusing,” she said. “If you’d like, I’d be happy to walk with you once we land. Make sure you don’t get lost.”
He had a pretty good view of her ears, and he was a doctor. There wasn’t the slightest tell-tale glint of metal anywhere in her ears or near them, no ports, no nodes.
“Thank you,” he said again. “You’re kind.”
The rest of the flight passed in silence.