Genderpunk 2077: Seven

The location turned out to be a bar near the edge of the district. A crag built like a brick wall stopped me just inside the entrance and told me to wait while ke stared at me menacingly. I typically avoided bars like the plague—you had to be at least 21 years old to enter one thanks to an old law that was never updated for the modern licensing system, and that meant a more invasive identity check than the typical license scan. But this was Underview, were they really about to demand ID here?

After an uncomfortable minute of being stared down, a spark approached from somewhere inside the bar. Se looked fierce too, like se was always a half second from punching out the nearest person. Se glared at me, sizing me up, and for a moment I was preparing to say hello to sis fist.

“Spica?” Sis tone had an unmistakably hard edge, as if se wanted to cut me with sis voice.

“That’s me,” I hesitantly confirmed.

“Follow me,” the spark demanded, turning to leave before I could move.

I gingerly sidestepped the crag bouncer (who had not stopped glaring) and followed after the spark who was rapidly disappearing into the back of the bar. I followed sim through the main room, down a short side hallway, and through a door marked “employees only” to a table set up in a spare room. The spark took a seat opposite another imposing crag. What was with all these aggro types?

“Don’t mind my security,” a voice like liquid silk rose from the third person at the table. They gestured gracefully to the seat across from them: “Please, have a seat.”

My brain tried for a moment to decide an element for them and quickly gave up. They were dressed in every color imaginable, their clothing shimmering in the back room’s inadequate light as it shifted from hue to hue. Even their hair got into the act; they had dyed their shoulder length straight hair in rainbow highlights. The upper half of their face was obscured by an ornate fox mask that left nothing but their mouth exposed, which was grinning smugly. There was no question: This was Denisserah Vixx themselves.

“Spica Hope, yes?” Vixx purred. “Just joined the Den today, and yet I hear you’ve been quite a very valuable Vixxen.”

“Uh, thanks?” I stammered out, still stunned. I noticed I was sitting across from Vixx, though I couldn’t remember sitting down. I recalled seeing Vixx, being shocked… And that was it. “Just in the right place at the right time, I guess.”

A sly expression appeared on Vixx’s face. “What happened to make Spica Hope call Underview ‘the right place,’ hmmm?”

I didn’t post anything about my past disgust of this district in the Vixxen’s Den… That comment was the kick my brain needed to start back up again. “I’m sorry, did you need something?”

“Right to the point,” Vixx replied amusedly. “That’s good. I brought you here because you’ve been helping my Vixxens all over the district, and well… I could use your help.”

“Why me?” I asked suspiciously. I was starting to get an uneasy vibe from Vixx’s obvious smarm. “I don’t know what you need, but I’m sure there are a dozen other Vixxens who would be a better choice…”

“Because you’re here,” Vixx interrupted matter-of-factly. The words hung in the air as I waited in vain for clarification.

“It’s that it?” I finally replied. “I learned about your act a few hours ago. I haven’t heard any of your music… I don’t know the first thing about Genderpunk.”

“Oooh, very true!” Vixx mocked. “You aren’t exactly a dedicated fan… I’m not sure you’re into my music at all. But for this job, maybe that’s a boon? Besides, I don’t think many of my Vixxens who’re able to help with this would be willing…”

Vixx trailed off ominously, which was a huge red flag. Claiming their biggest fans wouldn’t be willing to help them with something? That something must be pretty questionable… Or even dangerous.

“Look,” I stated directly. “I’m about ready to walk out of this bar, leave the Circle, and never look back.”

“You wouldn’t do that.” Vixx made a show of acting hurt, though they were quick to turn it around. “Not when you need me more than I need you.”

“What…” I said, confused.

“Your debt,” Vixx answered flatly. “Or have you forgotten, with all your running around the district?”

How dare he turn my debt around on me. “Like I could forget,” I spat back. I should have left the bar right then, but for some reason I stayed in my seat. My decision might have been related to the two heavies seated on either side of Vixx; disagreement felt like it might end poorly for me.

“I’m just saying,” Vixx deflected. “Vixxen’s help each other out. You help me, and I help you. It’s a win-win.”

“Help you with what?” I replied cautiously.

“I need your help putting on a show,” Vixx responded simply.

They thought their fans wouldn’t help them put on a show!? There was obviously more to it than that. Vixx was Genderpunk though, so they were probably deeply opposed to gender licensing… “You’re expecting me to break some licensing law to help you do it,” I guessed.

Vixx’s mouth spread into a broad grin again. “See, this is why I wanted you. You’re sharp, and cool under pressure.”

Vixx’s flattery felt hollow in the face of their disregard for my safety. I scowled patiently until Vixx followed up with an explanation.

“I’ll be the one sticking my neck out,” Vixx insisted. “The most you’ll be doing is bending the city’s unjust licensing laws… Something I’m sure you’ve been itching to do anyway.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I said, trying to hide my shock. Did this person think I’d be willing to break the law just because I used to live in a gray district? What kind of asshole was I dealing with!?

“What do you think it means, ‘Gemini’?” I could hear the scare quotes around my borrowed gender clear as day. “You wanted to make a life out of blending in with gusts; that’s why you applied for an interpersonal license. I’m just offering you a better opportunity to put it to use.”

“How…” I stammered, stunned. Not only did Vixx know I was ungendered, they even knew about my provisional license! But there’s no way they could have done a full scan… Right? Only a Social Support officer…

“I’m not Social Fucking Support,” Vixx spat, as if they could read my mind. “That’s the first conclusion everyone jumps to. This shit isn’t too deeply hidden if you know how to look. Besides, you have a more pressing question on your hands, don’t you?”

“What’s that?” I answered hesitantly.

“I’m giving you an opportunity to change your life,” Vixx purred devilishly. “The question is: Are you in?”