World Running Down by Al Hess

Valentine Weis is a salvager in the future wastelands of Utah. Wrestling with body dysphoria, he dreams of earning enough money to afford citizenship in Salt Lake City—a utopia where the testosterone and surgery he needs to transition is free, the food is plentiful, and folk are much less likely to be shot full of arrows by salt pirates. But earning that kind of money is a pipe dream, until he meets the exceptionally handsome Osric. Once a powerful AI in Salt Lake City, Osric has been forced into an android body against his will and sent into the wasteland to offer Valentine a job on behalf of his new employer—an escort service seeking to retrieve their stolen androids. The reward is a visa into the city, and a chance at the life Valentine's always dreamed of. Finding the androids means navigating both pirate territory and Val and Osric's growing feelings for each other. And as they attempt to recover the "merchandise", they encounter a problem: the android ladies are becoming self-aware, and have no interest in returning to their old lives. The prize is tempting, but carrying out the job would go against everything Valentine stands for, and would threaten the fragile found family that's kept him alive so far. He'll need to decide whether to risk his own dream in order to give the AI a chance to live theirs.

AdultDiversity Representation/Neurodiversity/Own VoicesScience Fiction/Post-ApocalypticScience Fiction/RomanceRomanceDiversity Representation/LGBTQ+/Own Voices

Content Warning: profanity; alcohol use; M/M open door sex and sexual elements; brief violence; brief misgendering and transphobia; body dysphoria; abduction; classism; risk of forced sex trafficking; toxic friendship/codependency; a fictional denomination of Mormonism and discussion of religion

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