Genderpunk 2077: Two

Another purple and white convenience store. This was the second or third one I’d passed on my way to Cumulo Plaza (I wasn’t really paying attention) and I’d barely been walking ten minutes. Like every other convenience store, I was sure it sold snacks that could keep my hunger at bay, and all of them were off limits to me. While my provisional Gemini social license granted me the right to live in this district, I’d need a commercial license in order to buy anything here, and of course I didn’t have one. For the hundredth time since moving here I was envious of every gendered person in the district. They’d never even think to worry about licensing just to buy food.

I shook my head to drive that thought away. Getting in my head about this would only ruin my day, and I couldn’t afford to ruin this day any further… Better to press onward to Cumulo Plaza. Cumulo Plaza had an EleMart with lax security, and more importantly, it would be full of people this time of day. With enough people coming and going it would be trivial to slip in, grab something small, and slip back out without being noticed. The first time I did that I was terrified I’d get caught, but the second and third times were easier, and the fourth and fifth times easier still… By now I could do it without batting an eyelash. I’d also long since gotten over the guilt I once had over stealing food from EleMart. They were a huge chain, and after all, it was literally illegal for me to pay them for it.

As the street I was walking on opened up into Cumulo Plaza, familiar sights started coming into view. There was the entrance to Cumulo Station, anchor of the plaza and by extension, the district. The bland gray Social Services office, same as every other Social Services office in the city. The imposing presence of the local Astral Orthodox Church. A variety of other common shops and storefronts, including the aforementioned EleMart. There were plenty of people around, so getting in and out of EleMart would be a cinch. I’d be back to my deliveries quicker than you could say…

Oh shit.

EleMart’s lax attitude to security had clearly changed recently. A very prominent license scanner had been installed at the entrance to the store, greeting each gust who walked in with a validating checkmark on a small screen and a friendly chime. A scanner like that wouldn’t be able to check my gender, but it would check for a compatible commercial license and sound an alarm when it couldn’t find one. When that happened, the menacing-looking spark standing by the entrance would spring into action. Sis red and orange outfit stood out in stark contrast with the sea of people dressed in purple walking in and out of the store. Hiring a spark for a security job might be playing on gender stereotypes, but the message was clear. Between the security guard and the license scanner, my chances of getting into EleMart had dropped straight to zero.

I don’t know how long I was staring at the entrance to EleMart, but it couldn’t have been long before my stomach rumbled again, bringing me out of my stunned stupor. There was no way I could push myself to run deliveries for the rest of the day without eating something. Stumped, I pulled my phone out and stared at the screen, hoping there was some solution hidden amongst the mess of available apps.

My thumb swept idly across Lightspeed’s icon. I’d forgotten about Lightspeed, though in my defense, it was for good reason. Even though there wasn’t a single shop in the district I could legally spend money in, I could always order delivery on Lightspeed thanks to the gig economy-shaped hole in Sidereal City’s licensing laws. I couldn’t be too upset with it since that same loophole allowed me to register as a RUNR courier and make some money as a side gig… Or a main gig, as it were. I could order some food from Lightspeed and have it delivered to my door in half an hour or so.

Or I could if everything on Lightspeed weren’t so expensive. Everything seemed to cost more and offer less than I could buy at EleMart (in theory, anyways), and on top of that I’d have to pay a delivery fee and a platform fee, neither of which were cheap. On top of that, Lightspeed would only deliver to my registered address, so I’d have to go home and wait for my order instead of working through my lunch. Then again, I could hire a RUNR to pick up my food and bring it to me while I was working…

Stars, was I really considering getting a RUNR delivery while making a RUNR delivery? There had to be another answer here somewhere… I glanced down and spotted Venn, an app I’d barely used in the three months since I moved. Again, that was for good reason: Venn was a social media app (“Where Your Circles Intersect”), and I didn’t know anyone in Cumulo. I’d used it in the district I’d moved from, but since I was dead set on starting a new life, I hadn’t kept in touch with anyone since I’d left. I doubt they’d want to hear from me anyways; I wasn’t exactly subtle about wanting to move out of Underview forever.

That said… Underview Circle used the Social Credit feature. Venn described the feature as a better way to track member contributions to a Circle’s development or goals, but Underview Circle had adapted social marks into a secondary currency. Shields were always scarce, but a neighbor might pay you in marks in exchange for a favor or some food. Most shops there accepted them too, even though they were useless outside of the district.

A tap into Venn confirmed that my account was still active, and a few more taps confirmed that I was still a member of Underview Circle. Underview Circle was still lively as ever, and more importantly, I still had a pretty significant social credit balance: 162 marks. They wouldn’t make the smallest dent in my debt to Axiom since there was no way to convert them into shields, which was all the more reason to spend them on food. I wouldn’t have to settle for snacks, either—I could buy myself a decent meal.

But that would mean going back to Underview, the district I swore I’d never set foot in again. It would mean giving up on my dream of getting out of that gray district and earning enough licenses to have a gender of my own. It would mean facing the other nils and telling ner that ne were right; going into debt for a provisional license was never worth it, corps always won in the end. I wasn’t as clever as I thought I was. I couldn’t succeed where so many of my peers had failed.

Another loud growl from my stomach convinced me that I needed to eat. I took one more peek at RUNR to make sure I wasn’t missing the listing of a lifetime, but it didn’t take long to confirm that there wasn’t really a job worth taking right now. With a deep breath and a sigh, I swallowed my pride and started towards Cumulo station. Besides, I didn’t have to call it quits for good. I’d still have the entire afternoon to make money, and there were sure to be plenty of jobs in Cumulo when I came back here after lunch. I’m sure everything will work out.

A note on licenses in Genderpunk 2077

The government license system touches nearly every aspect of life in Sidereal City, though for most people it’s hardly noticeable. Each license covers a broad category of interaction—for instance, social licenses cover access to social groups and residential spaces (including the right to live in them), while commercial licenses cover most interactions where money is exchanged for goods and services. Licenses also grant access by a level from Basic to Paragon, with a basic license granting access to most services necessary for day-to-day life within its category.

Licenses are also gendered, and since a license generally grants access to things associated with that gender, most people tend to be funneled into social groups and careers that are typical for their gender. For example, security guards are most likely to be Aries because Aries licenses grant easy access to that career path, whereas a Libra would have a much easier time becoming a teacher. Similarly, the Libra would most likely be living in an air district, surrounded by other gusts, while most of the Aries’s social interactions would be with other sparks.

By consequence, licenses are what keep most ungendered persons out of “polite society.” Lacking a gender, the vast majority of nils don’t have any licenses at all, and thus most things gendered people take for granted are out of reach for ner. Like most systems in Sidereal City, there’s a corporate-friendly loophole to exploit here: Provisional licenses. Some corporations are allowed to issue provisional licenses, which grant the same access as a basic license but come with a contract and debt to the granting corporation. Naturally, corporations only grant single provisional licenses rather than entire sets, which is why Spica has a provisional Gemini social license but not a provisional Gemini commercial license.