Season Content Notes (incomplete): violence, anti-nonhuman bigotry, consensual violence
T-minus 1 year 355 days
Ho’neheso checked the time. Ey waited ten more seconds, then stood up and walked out of eir room. It had taken eir over a week to find the security break. Wu, ey thought, was getting sloppy.1 In fact, Wu was just as meticulous as ever, but with so much going on, things got missed. What had been missed this time was a coincidence of timing across several layers of security.2 Someone quick and agile (and lucky) could get from the penthouse suite to a back service door without security knowing. Probably.
The security teams knew better than to make their rounds on a timetable, so there was a chance ey would be caught. But not a big one.
Wu and Ho’neheso had played this ‘game’ from the time she was 5 years old. Wu and eir Mom had both felt guilty that she couldn’t have what they thought of as a ‘real’ childhood. So Wu had started leaving intentional breaks in their security and challenging eir to find them. At first, the breaks were only internal, with the challenge being to get from her room to, say, the kitchen or the basement. As she got better at finding the breaks (and Wu made the breaks smaller and harder to find), she started leaving wherever the current hideout was entirely.
The deal was that when she ‘escaped,’ she’d send Wu a priority message. Ey then had until ze came to collect her to find other kids to play with, go shopping, or just enjoy a few precious minutes of freedom.
Two years ago, Wu had sat eir down and told eir that ze could no longer create breaks in the security for eir. Eir mom was no longer hiding as a precaution, but necessity. People were actively hunting her. Ze apologized for taking away eir game but said it was necessary for eir safety.
It took eir two months to find a break in security that Wu hadn’t known existed and escape for real.3
Wu had other people, paid people, who tested the security from outside. But Ho’neheso had become zir best internal security check.
Tonight, ey didn’t have any plans. Ey just needed someplace quiet and a chance to be alone for a few minutes. Wu and Mom wouldn’t be happy with eir for sneaking out. Ho’neheso knew the game eir mom played and what rode on it.4 But no one except his most trusted people even knew eir dad had a daughter. Eir mother had actually done some genetic theft and illegal gene slicing5 to have Ho’neheso, so even eir mom hadn’t known about eir until after Mama died.6
Sure that no one could recognize eir, ey pulled eir cowl low over eir face and slipped out the alley behind the building.7 A single press of a button alerted Wu to eir escape. But zi was in a critical meeting; it would take zir at least a few minutes to extricate zirself.
According to all the maps, there was a small, almost forgotten park a few blocks away. A quiet park at night would be perfect.
Sitting on a swing, Ho’neheso heard gravel crunching behind eir. Ey spun around to find a figure stepping into the moonlight.8 Ho’neheso found eirself looking at a woman with short spikey hair in a long trench coat9 with a subtle triangle pattern running around the hem. The woman held up her hands in a ‘peace’ sign before lighting a smoke. “Hey, just wanted you to know you weren’t alone. No trouble.”
Ho’neheso reached into eir pocket and took hold of her holdout gun. “Okay. No trouble.”
A dragon flew by overhead, one from the Welsh clans.10 Ho’neheso recognized him and cursed under eir breath. So much for some alone time. After a moment, the dragon came back the other way and took up a circling pattern over the park.
“Huh. You know them, kid?”
“Yeah.” Ey sighed. “He works for my mom.11 I just wanted some time away from everything, you know?”
The woman laughed. “I think we all do, sometimes. But it’s good that your dad cares about you.”
“Yeah.” Another sigh. Then ey bit eir lip. There was a question she’d been wanting to ask someone but hadn’t. Ey was afraid of sounding foolish. But a stranger in the night, who ey might never see again… “Um… Can I ask something?”
“Sure, I got time to kill.”
“Um… how did you know that you’re a woman?”
The woman, a technomage named Joan,12 inhaled abruptly, then started coughing. When she had her breath back, she put her smoke out and squatted down in front of Ho’neheso. “Hell of an introduction, kid.”
Ho’neheso shrugged and traced circles in the dirt with her toe.
“Ah, like that, is it?” The last thing Joan had expected was to meet a rich kid in the pack having an identity crisis, but it wasn’t the strangest thing she’d ever seen. She thought a moment and finally said. “Hell kid, gender is like love. No one can define it, but everyone knows it when they see it. Damn sure no know else can give you answers.”13 She looked up at the stars and the dragon circling overhead. “I spent years worrying about it. What was I? What’s it all mean? Then one day, I looked in the mirror, and I saw a woman.”
The two sat quietly. The dragon circled a few more times, then peeled off and flew away.
A moment later, Wu walked into the entrance of the park. Joan stared at hir a moment. “Ah… that your mom?”
Ho’neheso smiled as ey stood up. “No, but ze’s here for me.” Ey paused a moment. “Do you think… you might be here again?”
Joan said nothing for a moment, then sighed. This was a complication she did not need. But she’d been that kid once… “Sure, kid. You come here again, you’ll probably see me around.14 My name’s Joan.”
She watched the pair walk away and sighed again.
A moment later, she pulled out another smoke and offered it to the young man who joined her from the shadows.15
“You’re here early,” he said.
“Yeah, we’re gonna need to find a new meeting spot.”
He blinked. “Why?”
“Did you see the per with the kid?” She nodded in the direction they had gone.
“Well, I’ve seen zir before. Standing next to our Big Bad on a netcast.”
A few minutes later, two more figures emerge from the darkness.
“What is going on?”
How NOT to Save the World S1e6