QSFer Mark Salzwedel has a new gay space opera out: The Lever.
In the future, a reporter uncovers a plot to change the DNA of selected young adults, abduct them, and cover up evidence that they ever existed. Her investigation takes her and three gay soldiers to Mars and eventually to the other side of the galaxy, where any misstep they make could doom the human race.
“You’re a doctor?” Roger interrupted.
“My name is Captain Sullivan . . .” the man began.
Roger was looking out the only porthole and watching stars slowly slide past it. “You’re the captain of this ship?”
“We’re not on a ship,” Sullivan said as he sat more upright finally. “And I’m not even the commander here. This is the Army Torus Tumatuenga, and you’ve been in our sickbay.”
A memory popped up reminding him of an urgent meeting to reassure an important contractor. “I’m supposed to be at a conference on the Moon, at Terminator Station, on the 13th!” Roger complained.
“Too late,” Sullivan said. He leaned back against the bulkhead. “It’s already Valentine’s Day. You were asleep a long time.”
Roger imagined the captain remaining with him, watching over him, for the many hours he was unconscious. He felt awash in a feeling of being cared for. He recalled when his nanny rubbed a warm poultice onto his chest everytime he had a cold as a boy. He found himself rubbing his chest and suddenly felt self-conscious. He let his arm fall back to his side. “And you’ve been here the whole time watching me?” he asked.
“Just doing my job,” Sullivan replied with a smile. “So, what do you do?”
Roger pulled himself up to a sitting position to face the captain. His mouth opened to relay his profession as custom required, and he knew it was something technical, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on his job title or duties. Frustration gave way to a momentary panic, but he was able to calm himself. He didn’t want to trigger another anxiety attack that would keep him blacked out for minutes or hours. “I work in technology,” he finally answered.
“Pretty ambiguous response, D-12,” Sullivan said as he chuckled.
“What did you call me?” Roger was starting to feel annoyed by this captain’s intrusiveness. Having watched over him did not give him license to interrogate him about his private life.
The man stood up and took a step to lean against the bulkhead beside the porthole. “Sorry. We got used to calling you by your chart code, since your ID chip wasn’t functioning when they brought you here. You told me your name, didn’t you?”
Roger regretted having gotten snippy with a stranger who was just doing his job. He had been taking care of him for days. He realized he needed to be more grateful and deferential. “Roger. Roger Hammersmith. And I’m sorry, but I’m having trouble remembering my job.”
“I’m sure it will come back to you,” Sullivan quickly responded. “It’s not that important. Do you think you’re up to eating something?”
It felt like the idea of eating was a masterful intuition on the captain’s part. Roger smiled and stood up next to Sullivan, so close that his shoulder and arm were only a couple of centimeters from the captain’s torso. “I am really hungry, I just realized.”
Sullivan put his arm around Roger’s shoulders. “I just checked with your doctor here,” he said pointing to the electronic device on his skull, “and you’re cleared to eat M-2 rations, if you take it slowly. I’ll show you where the mess hall is.”
Roger was surprised by the physical contact, but he enjoyed the feeling. It felt appropriate and nice even if he wasn’t used to that level of intimacy with men. He let his closer arm wrap around Sullivan’s rib cage and waist. He was feeling a deeper connection with that this man who had been taking care of him in an emergency. But he assumed that when he was completely recovered and no longer in danger of blackouts he would return to his life and job on Earth. He let Captain Sullivan lead him to the mess hall with their arms around each other and wondered what the food was like on a military station.
Mark Salzwedel‘s science fiction and fantasy stories have appeared in multiple publications, including one forthcoming anthology. He lives in New York City and writes stories and composes music when not working as an advertising copywriter.