The Y Chronicles

Bryan Alston Patrick

Part 1

“Hey!” Stuart stepped around the counter with a length of pipe in his grip. “You can’t come in here.”

The small green boy, or girl—Stu couldn’t tell them apart at that age—looked at him with more curiosity than fear, or maybe that was judgment in its eyes.

“Get out of here!” He shouted again, taking a few more steps toward the creature.

He or she—it, whatever—finally complied and exited the store. Their kind didn’t steal so he wasn’t worried about that, although there had been recent reports of green youth behaving more like their human peers. His main concern was the happiness of his customer base. Most of the people in the neighborhood who shopped in his grocery weren’t comfortable around botas, the few left of them. Emancipation hadn’t meant shit in terms of healing wounds.

“Damn weed.” Stuart wasn’t even really mad at the child as much as he was frustrated by the stress of the situation. They’d all been living together long enough that some natural empathy had developed. But then again, he didn’t like seeing stray dogs going hungry either.

“She’s just a child,” Won said, grabbing the pipe from her husband’s hand. “Relax.”

“You relax,” Stuart said. “I can’t have our customers seeing that. They won’t be comfortable coming in here. Weeds carry diseases.”

Won rolled her eyes. “So do humans.” She was about to say something about all the diseases that had been cured with bota tech but that was the most tender sore spot in global history.

A trail of clear liquid had followed the child out the door. Won and Stuart both noticed it at the same time.

“She might have been injured,” Won said sadly, not that there was anything they could have done to help.

“I’ll get the mop,” Stuart said, heading for the store room in back.




All Jenna knew about her condition after years of participation in studies, trial treatments and fundraising events was that one of two possible genes—it was believed—was doing something it wasn’t supposed to do, like a “bad line of code in your software,” Dr. Connor had explained when she was 11. Or maybe she had said “operating system.” Whichever. Her condition was a more recent and even more rare variation on another rare disease that had never been well understood but two thousand more people had it in North America. Jenna knew of only thirty-seven other people with her diagnosis. Eight of those thirty-seven she counted among her close friends. None of them were getting better.

Her buddy, Matt, had actually been the first on the Y list but he chickened out. The others were furious with him because it could have meant a cure for all of them. Jenna couldn’t be mad at him. She understood why he was so afraid.

When he dropped off the list, she moved to the top. It was Dr. Connor who had gotten their condition on the master list in the first place. They could have been easily overlooked with so few numbers.

“I understand if you’re frightened,” Dr. Connor told Jenna. “I would be frightened if I were in your position and as it is I’m frightened for you. You don’t have to do this. I’m sure one of the others will step up. Maybe one of the older ones.”

“No,” Jenna said, “I want to do it. You always said it’s better to study genetic disorders in young people. I’m 17 now. I’ve had a good life but I’m still young enough to make a difference in all of this. I want to do it.”

Connor beamed love and admiration into Jenna’s eyes. She leaned forward and hugged her patient, gently to avoid triggering new bone growth. While it was unlikely that Jenna would ever be frozen in place like patients of the previous generation, her deformities were extreme, as was the discomfort and pain that accompanied them. She still had her pretty face, rich green eyes and wavy brown hair, but the rest of her body was the jagged, beastly frame of a vicious monster from a horror movie. The bone protrusions on her upper back and shoulders had continued to grow and by her 16th birthday were pronounced to the point of resembling retracted pterosaur wings. A year later they were even taller and sharper. Only one photo was taken at her birthday party that year. She put on a big blue bubble-goose winter coat with a hood on it to hide her body while she blew out seventeen candles. Matt had very gently kissed her on the cheek right after.

They really wanted each other. He was a fifteen-year-old extremely horny boy and she was, in her own words, “a divinely sexual being inside an untouchable body.” They couldn’t have intercourse but they found other ways of being close to each other. It was all very nice but even their minor physical contact had ramifications. Matt’s jaw had gotten inflamed during a make-out session and spiked outward on both sides of his face. He could still move it but the risk of it locking on him had increased dramatically. Their doctors and parents forbade further physical intimacy.

Jenna was ready to try anything. She had written in her journal shortly before winding up on the Y list: “I’m grateful for my life and it’s been a good one despite and because of everything. I’m grateful for my body and I can see my beauty. I know I’m infinite inside. I’m huge and strong and sexual and creative and gorgeous. I always try to stay positive but everyday possibility seems to shrink a little more and I lose a little more freedom. I can only go outside with a team around me taking every possible precaution. I can’t run or play games. I can’t touch anyone, not really, and I want to touch Matt and for him to touch me. Somebody might read this and I don’t care, I hope they do because I love Matt and I think he loves me. I want to lose my virginity with him but I probably never will along with so many other things I will probably never do if a cure isn’t found. It’s not that I don’t want to live—I do—it’s that I’m not sure I see the point when life is more and more out of reach and all I am is a burden on my family, my friends and the taxpayers (ha!).”

The first Y ship had shown up with its PR strategy together. The spherical, luminous craft hovered over Las Vegas, performing a killer laser light show against the night sky in the desert. They played Michael Jackson, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Elvis, Donna Summer, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga—the list of pop legends went on—they even submitted playlists the following day to BMI, ASCAP, SESAC and SOCAN. They replayed footage Carl Sagan had sent into space decades earlier. They showed a short video reel of their own actors performing famous scenes from American and British television shows. They hit every note. Not only had they come in peace, they came to rock.

Jenna and Matt watched the arrival together in the clinic lounge. They were both giggling constantly and trading looks of disbelief. Matt kept saying he thought it was fake. Jenna wasn’t so sure. She really wanted it to be real. Matt did too, so much that he was afraid it wasn’t and protected himself from disappointment by playing skeptic.

“Maybe not though,” Jenna said, after watching real national news anchors in totally convincing awe at what they were reporting.

“It has to be fake,” Matt persisted while wishing otherwise.

“But why would they do all this if it was fake?”

“Ratings. I don’t know. They’re probably getting crazy ad rates and shit.”

Matt always liked to talk like he had a kind of mechanical understanding of the world and the low-minded motives of its people. When Connor had gotten new grant money earlier that year he joked that “the government probably thinks there’s a military application for our disease.”

Jenna didn’t like to argue with him. Things like that didn’t matter that much to her and since they did matter to Matt she wanted him to have his point of view, whatever it was. But secretly, within herself, was the wish she didn’t even write in her diary. It was the first thing that crossed her mind when the footage of the ship over Vegas came on. Maybe those advanced beings from outer space have a cure.

She kept it to herself. Matt was protecting himself from hope and disappointment. So she let him.

“Even if it doesn’t work and/or I die from whatever procedure they have,” she wrote in her diary on her last day at the clinic, “I still have no doubts that I want to do this. I know it’s the right thing just because it might help other people even if it doesn’t help me. I’ve had a good life. I’ve had love. I’m ready.”

What she felt most nervous about on the shuttle the next day was pronouncing Y stuff. They had put up keys everywhere explaining that their race was called the Y, pronounced like “heene,” “heane,” “heine,” “heyne,” or even “guine,” depending on where on Earth it was being translated. The English letter Y was the closest visual symbol to their native character for the name of their people. Consequently, Y appeared everywhere on t-shirts, buttons, stickers, flyers, jewelry, tattoos, etc.

They were green like a lot of pop cultural clichés but they weren’t little with huge heads. They were tall and slender with proportional craniums, blue-gray or yellow eyes and facial features that were close enough to human to be palatable.




Nick had never thought of himself as a revolutionary—that was his father’s brand of bullshit—he was just thirsty. That summer was the hottest on record—but that was every summer, really—and more importantly the worst thing that had ever happened to him. Every day since late June had been at least 110. He was grateful for steady construction work on the new wing to the main Y hospital in DC. But the heat was taking its toll physically and psychologically. Power outages cascading through the eastern US knocked out his A/C for at least part of the night every night, making it nearly impossible to get a good night’s sleep.

Nick was tired and hot and angry and really fucking thirsty. The Y blamed the power outages on insurgents attacking their grid. They blamed the water shortage on human created climate change that had caused super-droughts that they were working to reverse but it “took time” according to their leadership, especially when their grid was constantly under attack. “Once again,” Y leaders argued, “human beings are behaving violently in opposition to their own interests.”

Nick’s team had been in charge of the demo on the wall between the new wing and the existing wing. There were some big refrigeration units that had to be relocated before that wall came down. Moving them was backbreaking and for whatever reason the foreman couldn’t get them a robot assist on it. The union had fought long and hard to keep the Y out and to keep its members from being replaced with artificial labor. They got what they wanted in the form of some legislation that guaranteed them “human priority” and stitched in to the fine print some language that prevented management from “employing artificial labor for the sake of cost savings to perform work or work related tasks falling within the mental and physical capacities of human labor.”

So there they were with these fucking refrigerators that were like half-fridge, half-vault. The whole team working together had gotten one of the units up on a dolly, rolled it nine or ten feet before the weight crushed two of the wheels off it. The whole package went off balance and the unit tumbled forward, face first on to the concrete floor. It was calamitous to describe it mundanely. Nick worried for several minutes thereafter that it might break through and crash to the floor below.

They wrestled it back up and turned it sideways on another dolly, hoping more even weight distribution would make the difference. The foreman had gotten word of the accident and showed up with a couple of Y technicians to inspect the integrity of the fridge unit before they could get it moved. The Y techs opened the unit while it was still on its side to inspect the contents, all of which had shifted around in the fall.

Nick wasn’t supposed to be looking but he did anyway and noticed that the unit was full of plastic drip bags full of a clear liquid, presumably one of the many drugs administered intravenously in the hospital. He didn’t really think about it. The techs seemed pissed off about the whole thing but they closed up the unit and told the foreman to proceed with the move.

It was obvious that the second dolly wasn’t holding up either. Nick’s team spent the rest of the day building heftier dollies before attacking the other three units. As they wrapped up for the evening, Nick went back upstairs to clean up the broken dolly and put the parts aside for use in another project. He noticed two plastic drip bags that had fallen out of the first unit during inspection and tumbled down under the back of the broken dolly. Nick eyed the bags for a few minutes, looked all ways and slipped them into his toolbox before taking off for the night.

When he got home, Rickie was there waiting for him, buck naked. “Power’s out at my place, Nicky.”

She worked five or six nights a week at the all-nude place at the end of his block. Between the record-setting heat wave, her profession, regular bathing and sleeping every night, Nick figured Rickie wore her birthday suit an average of 18 to 20 hours a day. The only time he’d seen her wearing anything else was when she was moving between buildings or on the rare occasion that the two of them went somewhere other than his place, her place or the club.

“Glad it’s on here,” he said, tuning into the indoor temperature difference, which was less than dramatic. “Kind of.”

“For the moment.” Rickie fanned herself with her hand. “You feel like doing it?”

Nick considered. “Mm. I’m pretty beat babe. Maybe we can get in the tub, just see what happens?”

Rickie grinned at him the way she did when she wanted something.


She just kept grinning.

“There’s a little speed left in the lunchbox, I think, from Rocker’s stash.”

Rocker danced at the club and trafficked in controlled substances in addition to appearing in hundreds of hardcore adult videos. S/he was paused mid-op on the way from male to female, maintaining characteristics of both. There was a large audience for Rocker’s type, especially among Y. It didn’t hurt that s/he was cover-girl pretty with the right hair and makeup. Much of her fanbase consisted of Y’s between the ages of 18 and 50 for cultural reasons people had yet to understand at the time.

“Ooh,” Rickie said, getting into the lunchbox that had Japanese cartoon characters all over it—cuddly animals with magical powers. “There’s more than a little. Want some.”

Nick hesitated. He really needed sleep. And the A/C was working, which meant that was possible. Getting high would be awesome but dangerous. His work was hazardous enough without doing it exhausted and hung-over. Plus, he was well into his forties and more concerned about his health. He had always been such an instinctive nihilist until mortality became tangible. All of a sudden he caught himself giving a shit about eating right, staying hydrated and getting enough rest. The union got Y medical, which everybody knew was the best but still—part of Nick was uneasy, restless, something—he couldn’t find much comfort in the idea that his health was in their hands. More and more, he felt like he had to take better care of himself.

Rickie was still in her twenties and wanting to party all the time. Nick really couldn’t keep up. Rickie didn’t get it or have any patience for it. She was such a fine little fox, Nick knew that he probably loved her and it wasn’t going to last.

He shook his head. “Big day tomorrow. Gotta sleep.”

Rickie stuck out her tongue and blew air in a motor noise. “More for me.” She did a line off the back of her hand and tapped out another one.

Nick remembered his toolbox and opened it up, worrying for a second he might have ruptured the drip bags on something sharp. But both bags were intact. He held one in his hand and studied it.

Rickie snorted the second line and tipped her head back, pinching particles off the tip of her nose. She leaned forward and noticed Nick staring at the bag. ” What’s that?” She asked reflexively as the feeling of her own thirst heightened at the sight of clear liquid.

“No idea.”

“Where’d you get that?”


“You stole it?”

“Nah. It was in the trash. Or might as well have been.”

“What do you need it for?”

“Don’t know. Just took it.”

“It looks like.”

“I know what it looks like.”

“You think we should.”


“Why not?”

“It might be dangerous. I’ll talk to Eric about it.”

“What’s that gonna solve?”

“He knows stuff.”

“He’s a drug dealer.”

“With a PhD in like, molecular chemistry, or something. He doesn’t just sell V7, he invented it.”

“Whatev. He’s probably at the club right now if you want to come with me.”

“You’re going to the club?”

“I just hit two bumps. I’m supposed to stay here and read?”

“No,” Nick said, taking the second bag from the toolbox, putting both in his outdated fridge, which he hoped would keep whatever the substance was cool enough to protect its integrity, “of course not. You’re free to do whatever you want to do.” Nick didn’t like saying it but there was nothing else to say. In his experience, women like Rickie didn’t respond well to possessiveness. Ironically, it was probably what she really wanted, but withholding it was Nick’s only chance to keep her around a while. As soon as he tossed the L word out there or even a soggy little tissue like “don’t go,” she’d be gone for good, on to the next macho asshole with a personality disorder ready to mistreat her. He was about to say “be careful” before recalling the backlash from the previous utterance. He swallowed the words before they went acoustic. “Have a good time.”

And she did, as usual. Rickie put on a tiny, shiny pair of violet shorts, a strapless black vinyl bra, the grayish plaid vest from one of Nick’s two suits, and a knee-high pair of InvisiBoots. Wearing all that, out the door she went, into the hot dark night.

Nick filled the tub with murky water, sat in it for a few minutes and toweled off lightly, leaving his body damp as he got in bed and let the tepid air from the A/C blow over him. Barely adequate comfort paired with total exhaustion knocked him out in seconds. He slumbered all the way down and undisturbed for a few hours.

Intense heat and intermittent clatter stirred him around 3am. He listened for a minute to what could have been burglar noise. Most breaking and entering action was non-violent—just desperate people covering basic needs. Nick was tired enough to just sleep through it but then there was the heat—the A/C was out again. He could tell from the absence of mechanical humming and slightly less than hot air moving across his skin. That meant the fucking power was out—again. At that point he was steamed enough to just kick somebody’s ass for waking him up, never mind picking his lock. But he was so tired.

Nick lay there for several moments, ambivalently, checking in with himself to determine whether he was more tired or more pissed. It was unclear. Then he remembered the drip bags. Exhaustion override. He reached under the bed for his weapons. The bat was too heavy and too long. He was afraid of breaking more of his own shit while trying to hit someone with it, especially in the dark. There were a couple of blades under there too but he wasn’t really up for stabbing anybody—that would mean either dealing with cops or getting rid of evidence. Finally, his fingers tickled the ribbed, rusty texture of a length of rebar he’d taken home from the hospital job. Perfect weight, nice grip, 14 inches and a fang on the end where the cutters had freed it—definitely the weapon of choice.

He took the rebar in his right hand and a flashlight in the left, creeping out of his bedroom into the square hall connecting the bathroom, kitchen and living areas, keeping his back against the wall. Some old latex paint peeling in big chunks off the inside of the door frame broke loose when he hit them, sticking to his wet skin.

Nick switched on the flashlight and hopped through the square hall, landing barefoot on the warm concrete kitchen floor. Putting the beam on the perp, he cocked the rebar. “Freeze, fucker!”

“I was so thirsty,” Rickie said, “I’m sorry. It’s just so hot!”

She was sitting cross-legged in front of the open fridge.

“You’re letting all the cold air out, damn it.” Nick set the rebar on the counter and held his hand out for Rickie to grab. “Come on. Get up.”

Her hand was wet when he touched it. He put the light on her face—it was shiny from moisture. Nobody was well hydrated enough to sweat that much. He aimed the beam downward. Draped across Rickie’s other hand was an empty plastic bag.

“Are you nuts?” Nick snapped at her.

“I’m sorry, baby. I was so thirsty I really thought I might die.”

“You don’t even know what the fuck was in there.”

“I know, I know.” She was shaking her head, foggy from all the chemicals in her system plus dehydration. “It’s like it didn’t matter. My body took over like, I couldn’t even stop myself.”

“You could have died,” Nick said, kneeling down to take the bag from her. “You still might.”

“I know, maybe, right. But I think I feel okay. I think it was just water in there.”

Nick shone the light on her face again. “It tasted like water?”

“Um. Yeah. Sort of, but sort of not.”

Nick was mad thirsty and everything Rickie had just finished saying about her body’s need fired off transmitters that rocketed through his nervous system and took over his movements. Outpacing conscious thought, he had set the flashlight down and taken what was left of the ruptured drip bag to his mouth. It was water—maybe—he couldn’t tell for sure, but just like Rickie was saying, it didn’t matter, that’s how close to death they were living all the time. The body, with its intuitive wisdom, was willing to gamble on the possibility of survival—that’s how fucked they were, that’s what had happened since the Y came although when he was honest with himself it was bad before then too but shit had definitely gotten worse. But all the frustration, dread and hatred washed out of him for a minute as the funny tasting liquid worked its way through his system. All his troubles were miles away, like he’d just done a line of high-end smack.

“Oh my god,” Rickie said. “Should we open the other one?”