Name: Kayla The Rivera
Genre: YA/ Sci-Fi Thriller
Title: Dangerous To Go Alone
Word Count: 99,000 words
Themes: This is an #ownvoices novel that focuses on belonging, family ties, morality, and immigration policies in the not-so-distant future.
35-Word Pitch: Rebecca enters a lethal video game tournament to rescue her family from war-torn Mexico. But when a terrorist virus turns her headshots into real-life murders, she must decide who to sacrifice—family or humanity?
Your first 500 words:
Rebecca Leroy was nine points from beating the world record in Guttural Gladiators 4.
Of course, she’d been the one to set the world record nine months ago. Her fingers flew over the controller, herding an enemy through grainy weeds. That record had secured her a spot in this year’s Global Games Tournament. And the GG Tournament was the reason she was sitting here, alone, in a safe house, playing games to the noiselessness of 3 am solitude.
Her thumb hesitated over the pause button. She shook her head. Now wasn’t the time to get superstitious. Breaking the record again couldn’t make her situation any worse.
She drove her character forward.
Muffled insults poured through the comm-wall’s baseboard speakers. Rebecca reached forward and turned the volume lower, so it wouldn’t wake Mrs. Shepard. The woman had been a gracious host mother for the past two months, but Rebecca wasn’t dumb enough to take that for granted. She plugged her in-game character forward, around the high-resolution ruins splayed across the comm-wall of her temporary bedroom. Really, she was lucky Mrs. Shepard had taken her in at all, after her family got deported. In 2052, it was lucky to find anyone who’d risk being near her after that.
Rebecca shook her head again. Nine points away from her record. Concentrate. It was the perfect goal to distract from the cabin’s silent walls.
There were two minutes left in this player versus player round, plenty of time to break her record. She equipped her character’s sword. Crouched. Moved forward. The grasses swayed in her first person camera, fingering over the nearest player. She smirked. She’d herded them between two fallen pillars in the gladiator arena, where they wouldn’t see her approach.
The enemy player turned. She drove the sword straight through their chest.
The opposing team’s chat box blew up.
>WHAT THE HELL?!
>THAT WAS CHEAP!
>YOU STINKIN’ BORDER!
The last phrase hit her between the ribs. She’d heard it often enough, spouting from puckered mouths since she was in middle school, but its hit never softened. Her mouth curled down on the left side. Border, huh? She memorized the commenter’s username—Erader—pressed her joystick forward and, catching his avatar with its back turned, skewered her sword straight through his spine.
His character crumpled in a gulley of animated blood.
ERADER HAS BEEN KILLED. ERADER LEFT THE GAME.
“Take that, sucker.” She set the controller down in her lap and punched the air with a victory fist.
Her spare hand hardened over the controller as the end-match statistics rolled in. Her username, Reb-ellion, sat at the top of the charts. Most accurate, most kills, most points. New Guttural Gladiators 4 Multiplayer record set. Congratulations. She didn’t smile as the low, celebratory music trickling out of the comm-wall’s baseboards. Congratulations. Another record broken.
She’d expected that to make her feel better. Slowly, she lowered her victory fist. It was supposed to feel like she’d faced a fear. Or at least make her feel less alone.