Genderpunk 2077: Six

I’d been staring at Underview station for almost ten minutes now. All I had to do was walk in and ride back to Cumulo, how hard was that? Once there, I could pull up RUNR and start making money again. Sure, I needed another 200 shields and change to pay off my debt, but if I just push myself harder…

I looked down at my phone. It was nearly 2:00 in the afternoon; I wouldn’t get back to Cumulo until 2:30 at the earliest. And sure, I could work through dinner, especially with the meal I just had… But RUNR contracts were pretty hit or miss, and didn’t I work out needing to run another nine deliveries? Let’s be realistic here. I could probably run four. Maybe five or six if I’m lucky. Not nine.

I felt my body give up on me as I slumped against a wall, utterly defeated. I was well and truly fucked, wasn’t I? I’d just eaten my last meal before my life collapsed into corporate servitude forever. I’m glad I made it a good one, and I had decent company too. That was the first time I’d eaten with another person in… Over a year. I’d truly lost touch with the world outside myself, hasn’t I?

I picked up my phone and popped Venn open again. Tide’s invite to the Vixxen’s Den was still waiting for me. I might be screwed, but maybe I could do something worthwhile with my last few hours of freedom. I accepted the invite and started poking around the community. It looked much like any other to me, though to be fair, I hadn’t been in that many.

I dashed off an introduction and put it in the appropriate forum, then spent a bit of time looking through other intros. I found Tide’s; she mostly gushed about music and raved about how much she loved Vixx’s act. I was surprised by the variety of perspectives on display here; people of every gender seemed to like Vixx’s music.

I learned a little bit about the musical act as I was poking around too. “Vixx” was a Genderpunk act performed by one Denisserah Vixx, a guitar player and singer who claimed to embody every gender. Their name was supposedly made by combining two older names: back in the day, people were gendered into two broad categories of “man” and “woman” and named according to their gender; Denisserah was the result of smashing a name from each category together. That seemed like a weird thing to commit to, but I guess artists are a weird bunch.

Vixxen’s Den didn’t have the Social Credit extension enabled, but they did have a mutual aid forum where other Vixxens could ask for help from the community. I dashed off a post here too, going into a little detail about my debt, but nothing too specific. I didn’t really expect anyone to answer, honestly… Asking a bunch of strangers for a pile of shields isn’t exactly a reliable strategy, after all.

I was surprised by the other mutual aid posts though. Several of them were from other Vixxens here in Underview who were lost like Tide was, or looking for something they couldn’t find in the market, or just sort of clueless about life here. I guess Comet’s post attracted more fans than just Tide.

You know what, maybe I could help these people out. I knew this district like the back of my hand, and I might be the only one in this Circle with any experience here. Helping Tide let me feel like a person for a little while; maybe I could fill my last few hours before becoming an Axiom plaything with that feeling. I picked a post, sent a message telling them I was on my way, and headed off to meet the person who posted it.

The person who posted it turned out to be a gust who was looking for a souvenir from faer day trip to Underview. Like Tide, fay came here following Comet’s rumor, hoping to meet Vixx in the flesh. Fay’d never been to a gray district before, and now that fay were here, fay wanted something to commemorate the experience. The idea that Underview had anything worth keeping was bizarre to me, but it’s not my place to judge.

It didn’t take long to find a stall that was selling secondhand objects; things no-one really had a use for anymore, but the stall keeper was convinced had some sort of value. It all looked like junk to me, but I guess the stall keeper was right, because my gust client really liked a vintage train pass the stall was selling. It was from a few decades ago, before boarding was tied to licensing. I negotiated what felt like a high price to me, but my client was happy with it, so fay bought the pass and thanked me profusely. I guess fay were impressed; I’m just glad my familiarity with Underview was worth something to someone. I led my client out of the Market and watched the gust go on faer way.

The next hour and change was more of the same: Find a Vixxen on the mutual aid forum, dash off a message telling them I was on my way, and then help them with whatever task they were trying to accomplish. I helped a crag buy something at the market too, and helped a wave get somewhere else in the district. Another gust just needed help getting back to the station, and there was a spark that just wanted me to explain Underview’s social credit system to them. That one felt especially weird, explaining basic commerce to a grown spark, but it was a harmless request and it didn’t take long to do.

I stopped for a breather after the spark went on their way. I was still doomed, but it was nice feeling useful to people, at least for a little while. As I was resting, I got a ping from my phone; a notification from Vixxen’s Den. That had been happening throughout the day too; I got a couple of responses to my introduction post, starting with a post from Tide gushing over how thankful mey were that I’d helped mer. Each of the people I’d helped posted a thank you in the mutual aid forum too; this was probably another one of those.

I pulled out my phone to check, but it wasn’t from the spark I’d just helped. I’m fact, it wasn’t a post at all, but a direct message. My eyes grew wide as I opened and read the message, read it again, and then a third time. It was from a Vixxen’s Den admin who noticed my activity in Underview and had been keeping tabs on me. They sent me a location, a nondescript building far from the Market, and a time, twenty minutes from now. Vixx wanted to meet me in person.

A note on the history of Genderpunk 2077

Sidereal City is relatively new historically; older residents may even remember a time before the city bore its current name. While there have been many pivotal moments in its history, the two factors that truly made Sidereal City the city it is in 2077 were the rise of the Astral Orthodox Church and the turmoil of the 2030s.

The Astral Orthodox Church is a relatively new institution as well, springing up as a conservative culture jamming movement in the late 2020s. At the time, the goal was to “reclaim gender” by erasing the broad and nuanced concepts of gender that were developing at the time and replacing them with a strict 12 gender system based on Western astrology. The concept of “astral gender” spread like wildfire among conservatives, and gender testing slowly evolved from the Internet quiz it started as to the “scientific” gender test used by the Church today.

While the Astral Orthodox Church was influential in conservative circles, their broader influence could not have developed without the turmoil of the 2030s. Many social and political stresses came to a head in that decade, resulting in widespread conflict and the collapse of state government systems. As an organizing force that provided hierarchy and already enjoyed conservative buy-in, the Astral Orthodox Church became entwined with the government. While no modern government exerts authority at the scale of the old pre-turmoil nations, the Astral Orthodox Church is a potent force within the territory still controlled by Sidereal City.