Genderpunk 2077: One

The wind whipped through my hair as I hurried to meet my client. I looked around at my surroundings, a nest of unfamiliar buildings painted in white and accented in various shades of purple. It occurred to me that I’d never been to this part of Cumulo before… To be honest, I haven’t been to most parts of Cumulo before. Since moving here three months ago, the only parts of Cumulo I’d seen lay between my apartment and Cumulo Station. The rest of the district was just an amorphous blob in my mind, just like the rest of Sidereal City.

I looked down at my phone instead. The RUNR app’s map showed me the way to my client, and once I’d picked up the package, it would update to show the package’s destination. I deliver the package, I get paid through the app. Simple. For a brief moment I felt ridiculous; what kind of courier didn’t even know ner way around ner own neighborhood? Then again, I’d only been a courier for about twenty minutes. I desperately hoped that this job would pay better than my last one… My life as I knew it depended on it.

I hurried along another street clad in whites and purples. Maybe I should give some thought to what I’ll say when I meet the client? I can’t afford to look suspicious. I had every right to be in this district—I still had my provisional Gemini social license, after all—but I’m always afraid that someone will discover my secret: that I’m not a Gemini at all, but ungender. It’s tough to go out when you’re worried someone will figure you out. If anyone were to realize that I was ungender, they’d drop me faster than a rotten banana and probably call Social Support on me too. The last thing I needed was some Social Support Officer arresting me because I scanned gray.

So I had to play it cool. Wave hello, maybe exchange a couple of pleasantries. Keep things focused on business. Secure the package, hold it like… However a courier would hold a package. Under ner arm maybe? Maybe I should hold the package with both hands; that would keep it safest. But I’ll need a hand to hold my phone and follow its map. Wait, how large was the package going to be? What if I had trouble carrying it? I should have read the listing more carefully, I think I can still double-check it in the app if I…


Oh shit, I was already here! I turned towards the voice to see a slim gust leaning against a wall near the entrance to a five-story apartment building. My client was dressed in a pastel purple shirt and darker purple slacks, and faer brown hair just brushed the top of faer shoulders. I thought all that purple was a bit much, but I could hardly argue; I was decked out in shades of purple too. If I wanted to pass as a gust, I had to look the part, after all. Fay stared at me with an air of impatience, holding up faer phone with one hand in an attempt to compare me with my RUNR profile picture.

“Uh, yeah,” I stammered out. “I’m Spica.” At least my name wouldn’t give me away; star names like mine could belong to anyone.

“Great,” fay answered curtly, holding a small package out to me. “Here’s the package.”

I took the package gingerly, grateful that it could be carried comfortably in one arm. My phone chirped musically, signaling that the map had updated to show the package’s destination. I’d be taking it to the other side of Cumulo… Forty minutes away. I sank into myself for a moment and sighed—I really hadn’t looked at the listing carefully enough, this would take a lot longer than I’d hoped. Then again, I needed the money; it’s not like I could afford to be choosy.

For a moment I worried that my client would see my lack of enthusiasm and want the package back, but when I looked up from my phone I saw fay’d already gone back inside. Fay’d barely talked to me at all, which honestly was for the best thanks to the whole being ungender thing. Nothing to do but start making my way to my destination.

Unfortunately RUNR’s map was accurate, and the journey took almost exactly forty minutes. It really was more time than I wanted to spend on one job—between finding the listing, accepting the job, retrieving the package, and walking to the destination, it’d taken me about an hour so far. An hour wandering through a sea of white and purple, building after building of oppressive architecture determined to broadcast its disdain for anyone not assigned air at their gendering. Like me. I had to remind myself for the third time today that I chose to live in this district.

The destination was a small shop selling various paper products. The existence of a shop like this kind of boggled my mind, honestly. Literally everyone has a phone, and phones are so much more convenient for literally anything you could do with paper and a pen, which the shop also stocked a variety of. I couldn’t imagine coming in here and spending money on this antiquated stuff, but I suppose some people are into that sort of thing. Then I remembered that I couldn’t have spent my shields here even if I wanted to since I didn’t have a Gemini commercial license—not even a provisional one.

My shoulders slumped in defeat for the second time this job as I walked through the shop. Of course there was another gust behind the counter; I gave faer a weak smile as I approached and set the package down on the countertop.

“Package for Paper Dreams from Mistral Hardy,” I explained.

“Ah, good,” the gust answered. Fay were a bit shorter and heavier than my earlier client, and faer gray-white hair was pulled back into a bun. Naturally fay wore an assortment of purples and whites along with a pair of gold earrings. “Just a moment,” fay continued, tearing open the package.

Ah shit, the client was supposed to accept delivery on RUNR before I handed the package over! “Excuse me,” I started meekly, “I need you to verify the delivery…”

“Yes yes,” fay dismissed, removing the last of the packaging to reveal a ream of multicolored paper within. “Perfect, everything looks to be in order.” Faer inspection complete, fay retrieved faer phone and pressed the button to complete the delivery. “That will be all, please,” fay said demandingly.

“Of course,” I responded, but faer attention was already on to other things. I made my way back to the door and stepped out of the shop as another ping chimed out from my phone. The payment from the delivery had gone through! For that hour’s worth of work, after taxes and platform fees were deducted, I’d made… 27 shields and change. It was more than triple the 8 shields and 65 shards my account started with this morning, but I’d need to run another nine jobs like that before I could pay my debt, and I only had until the end of today to gather the money.

I sighed yet again and flicked back to the RUNR listing page when my stomach loudly protested my dedication to this new job. I’d eaten all the food left in my apartment for breakfast this morning, which was to say, hardly anything at all. I was hungry, and if I was going to spend the rest of the day running deliveries around Cumulo, I couldn’t do it on an empty stomach. Okay then, that settled it—my next stop would have to be a quick bite to eat.

A note on the language of Genderpunk 2077

The vast majority of people in Sidereal City are one of into twelve distinct genders, one named for each sign in the Western Zodiac. In day-to-day life, however, people are generally referred to by their element, of which there are four: Fire, Earth, Air, and Water. Each gender falls into the same element as its respective Zodiac sign, and each element has its own set of pronouns:

Fire: se/sim/sis  (“se” sounds like “say”; “sis” sounds like the first syllable of “sizzle”)
Earth: ke/kem/kes  (“ke” sounds like the letter “K”; “kes” rhymes with “says”)
Air: fay/faer/faers  (“fay” rhymes with the letter “k”; “faer” rhymes with “air”)
Water: mey/mer/mers  (“mey” sounds like the month “May”; “mer” also rhymes with “air”)

Notably, groups of people who share the same element use the same pronouns as a single person of that element. Whether a pronoun refers to a single person or a group depends on context. For groups of mixed elements or when individuals’ elements are unknown, neutral pronouns are used:

Neutral: they/them/theirs  (same as in modern English)

Ungendered individuals lack an element altogether, but are not considered to be “neutral” either. Thus, they have a unique set of pronouns:

None: ne/ner/ners  (“ne” rhymes with the letter “K”, “ner” rhymes with “air”)

Lastly, there are slang terms used to refer to a person depending on their element:

Fire: spark
Earth: crag
Air: gust
Water: wave
None: nil