Last February, Tinhouse Magazine started their first Plotto contest on their blog.  In 500 words or less, you had to write a story based on the selected prompt from the Plotto book.  I attempted a couple of these: below is the only one I completed. (I need to keep my eyes out for more of these contests, however, since it was great fun.)

The prompt was:

{A’s} profession is a hazardous one—aviator, automobile racing driver, steeple jack, “human fly”—and {B} considers this fact an obstacle to their marriage

But of course I turned it into a science fiction story involving a group marriage.  So yes, plenty of GLBT content — technically everyone in the story qualifies as bi, but in 500 words you can only get across so much.

This one is PG-13 rated (unless you have a strong objection to group marriage).  Read it after the jump:

There were four of us in the Collective Cohabiting Unit. Then Jeanne met a combat drone pilot while out consulting.  Jeanne and I had met Su and Radha at an Ubuntu Hobbyists’ conference three years before.  I’d always found women easier to get along with, three to one didn’t bother me.  And these women were perfectly capable of taking care of themselves.

But adding a fifth?  And another man? Complicating matters, the military didn’t recognize Collectives.  Too much bureaucracy, they claimed.

“He’ll have to marry one of us,” Jeanne was ready to volunteer.

But, no, Dan wanted to meet all of us, individually, first.

Su did not adore him.  She left her biometric log active, even though we’d each agreed to turn it off so as to not bias his case with the others. I took a look before I could stop myself.  Her unease fluttered at the back of my mind as my turn came.

Dan had old-fashioned classic looks and an LED smile.  He shook my hand, then held it.

“It’s wonderful to meet you, Ian,” he said.

At twenty-three I’d programmed the first 3-D holo-responsive bio-receptors.  I’d made most of my money from video games. The military drone controllers were based on the same technology.

Dan and I spent sixteen hours alpha testing my new algorithms for the Subzoonia III navigation and attack game.  After four hours, we opened up our biofeedback channels to each other.  Our rhythms synced like we’d always played together.  I hadn’t laughed so much in years.  Hadn’t shared a whoop in triumph with someone for a long, long time.

Exhausted, we powered down. Then he kissed me. The rest of the night was a pleasantly exhausted blur scented with inhalable chocolate and coffee.

“So, marry me?” he murmured the next morning, hair tousled and body sprawled.

I panicked.  Collectives were modern, flexible. Easily revisable. Marriage was a different matter.

“What if something happens to you?”  Combat droners had to keep track of up to a dozen remote devices at once, providing feedback and adapting on the fly. The first thing they did was hack out the fail-safes, improving reaction time by crucial milliseconds but risking biofeedback brain damage.

“You just played with me.  I’m good.” He winked and my heart thumped. “Take a chance with me, Ian.”

“Meet Radha first.  We all agreed.”   He pouted and showered, then pinged her to go out to breakfast.

Su and Jeanne appeared at my door within minutes.

“Ok, so Radha will send him on his way.  Say Jeanne was just infatuated, sorry. Problem solved.”


“I left my bio log open so you’d get the hint.”

“Despite what we all agreed. You changed the rules without me.”  I snatched up my phone to tell Dan yes.  “Consider the hint taken.”

Writing someone out of a Collective contract is easy.  The women were perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, after all.