How NOT to Save the World (S1 E6)

Season Content Notes (incomplete): violence, anti-nonhuman bigotry, consensual violence

T minus 1 year 363 days

Ameohne’e Littlesun waited in one of the government building’s cleanrooms with a giant carafe1 of coffee2 and an aching head. She was not happy with herself, Wu, or the world at large. She was especially unhappy with the clock, which said her current appointment was running ten minutes late. Eleven.

On the other side of the door, Tamrat Tessaro pretended he wasn’t holding off a panic attack. Which meant he was slouched down, tapping his foot, and cracking gum every few seconds. The guard on the door was frustrated and growling. “Take them off.”

Tamrat popped a bubble3 to hide his shakes. “No.” He scratched the side of his head. “Look, the boss man wants me, I came. But if she wants to drag me away from my single day off4 this month, she can take me as I am.”

“It’s a cleanroom.”

“So you clean it after I leave. I’m not taking them off, and I’m not putting on the damn suit. Don’t like it? I’ll go write up my resignation letter.5 Tomorrow. Because, get this, I am off today.”

This argument, and variations on it, had been going on for most of the ten minutes Ameohne’e had been waiting. If she had known this, she would have been even less happy.

Before the guard could rebut, the door of the room opened, and Ameohne’e yelled, “What the hell is taking so–” she cut off abruptly as he saw Tamrat. Ameohne’e didn’t even notice the man’s clothes because her eyes were immediately drawn to the bunny ear headband6, one ear folded down, the other tall enough to Tamrat would need to duck a bit in most doorways.

Tamrat, who usually didn’t pay attention to what anyone was wearing, immediately noticed that she wasn’t wearing a clean suit.

“Tamrat Tessaro?” Ameohne’e asked.

“Evil Overlord?” Tamrat replied, too distracted glaring at the guard to watch his tongue. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, his tawny skin paled and he barely kept from cringing.7

Ameohne’e waved for the guard to stand down and grinned. “And I have the list8 in my office.”

“The List!” Tamrat’s jaw gaped. “You know the LIST!?”

“What self-respecting Evil Overlord9 wouldn’t?” Ameohne’e stepped back, suddenly much more at peace with the world. “Come into my parlor.”

“Said the spider to the fly.” Tamrat slapped his hand over his mouth, then banged his head into the wall. “I have no filter. I’m going to get myself killed. She’s going to throw me out a window because I can’t keep my damn mouth shut.”10

Ameohne’e laughed. The guard stubbornly muttered, “Sir, the cleanroom–”

“Can be cleaned. That’s what magic and modern technology are for.” She turned back into the room. “Oh, and Tamrat, you’d be safer in here. No windows.”

Tamrat followed the chuckling overlord into the room, muttering to himself.

“Alright, Tamrat, your name landed on my desk as someone who is always exceeding the mission brief, looking to build bigger, better, and out of budget.” With the door closed, the cleanroom was completely soundproof. Quiet enough that it usually pumped white noise into the impossible silence. Otherwise, folks working there ended up with unhealthy levels of stress and too many sick days. In that silence, Tamrat’s gum popping sounded loud enough it made him jump.11

“Um, well, yeah. I mean, why do a half-ass job, right? Hey, why is there a cleanroom here, anyway? I mean, it’s not like your manufacturing nanochips or something here.”

“Espionage. The computers here are supposed to be completely disconnected from everything else. Most folks have no idea how tiny a good bug can be these days, but you probably know something of that.”

Tamrat’s jaw dropped open, and he had to catch his gum before it hit the floor. He looked at it a moment, looked around for a garbage bin, then shrugged and popped it back in his mouth. “I mean, a bit, yeah. Not my area, but you have to know something. Still, this is, like, overkill. Or something.” He thought a moment. “I think.”

While Tamrat had been talking, Ameohne’e had been summoning up a holo projection.

“I need an engineer, with a background in spaceship and satellite design, who isn’t afraid to think big.” Ameohne’e pulled up an image, a sphere. Going by the scale notation is was around 6 miles across and had the Greek letter Lambda carved into one side.

Tamrat leaned closer and blinked. “Troy?” he blinked again. “You want me to build Troy?!”

Ameohne’e started to reply by Tamrat kept talking. “Alright, you know the List, so I suppose Troy isn’t too surprising. A bit more obscure.12 Also, you realize the maneuvering systems were shit, right? And the whole giant mirror thing… those kinds of AIs are STILL fiction and probably always will be. Argus we do not have. Also, I don’t think much of his politics.

“The basic idea is doable, I suppose. I mean, hollow asteroid designs as a practical matter go back to the early 21st century. But that’s not what you are looking for, is it?”

He actually stopped this time, and Ameohne’e hurried to answer. “No, it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, giant space station is cool. But I’m more interested in giant space laser.”13

“So why not the Death Star?”

Ameohne’e grinned and fiddled with the hologram controls. “Would you believe I hadn’t heard of it until last night?”14

“How the hell do you know Troy and not–”

The hologram exploded in a shower of sparks. “Also, for all its flaws — in both politics and physics — at least Troy was built with functioning armor and couldn’t be taken out with a single lucky shot.”15

Tamrat blinked at the fizzling light show. “You do have a point.”

He thought a minute. “Given modern technology, a profligate use of magic, and enough money, could probably do something in 5 years or so. Can’t imagine why you’d want it, but every Evil Overlord has to have some ridiculously over elaborate secret base, right?”

Ameohne’e grinned. “Exactly. But you have 18 months.”16

“Whaaat!”17

Ameohne’e ignored his sudden hyperventilating. “There will be bureaucrats over seeing the project. Their only job will be to make sure you have what you need, when you need it. Personnel, money, magic, you name it, you get it…”

An hour later, Ameohne’e and Tamrat shook hands and left the clean room. Tamrat had mostly regained the ability to breathe normally.

If Ameohne’e figured right, it would be about six months before Cheung Bo learned about this little project.18 She was almost looking forward to the Colonel’s reaction. Almost.

Return to:
How NOT to Save the World S1E5


How NOT to Save the World (S1 E5)

Season Content Notes (incomplete): violence, anti-nonhuman bigotry, consensual violence

The triumphant heroes took their bows, and the screen faded to black. Wu shook zir head. “That was…”

“Classic.” Tracey spoke quietly, trying not to wake the child curled up in her lap.

“Not the word I was looking for. And I’m not sure how it got on your ‘Evil Overlord’ list. That trash compactor was never intended as a death trap.”

“Come on, the explosions? The laser beams you could see? The aerodynamic starships? You don’t see vids like this anymore.”

“For which blessing, I will make a large donation to the next artistic fundraiser that hits you up for money.”

“Ha.”

Tracey shifted, preparing to stand.

“Would you like me to take them to bed?”

Tracey shook her head and pushed herself up out of the person-eating couch. Ho’neheso stirred, opening their eyes to look at her a moment before snuggling back into her arms. “You’ve stood in for me too often the last few years. I’m grateful, but Ho’neheso needs me to step up and be their father again.”

Wu followed her as she carried Ho’neheso carefully to their new—and well protected—bedroom. “You never asked them to change their name.”

“No.” Tracey laid her child on their bed and pulled the covers up. “They lost so much already. As long as I could keep them hidden…”

“And what of you? You no longer need to hide who you are.” They started back down the hallway towards Tracey’s rooms. “Taking an Anglo name made sense when you wanted to move unnoticed in North America. Even with the tribes reclaiming so much of their land, Anglo is still the ‘norm’ north of Mexico.”

Tracey grunted. Wu only stated the obvious when zi was building towards something big.

“You will be remaking the world in a new image. As you once remade yourself. But is Tracey Frederickson the person who should be remaking the world? Or Ameohne’e?”

“Does it matter? I’m me, whatever I call myself.”

Wu shook zir head. “Deborah has some interesting things to say on the importance and meaning of names. And I believe some of the First Nations have similar beliefs.”

Tracey let herself collapse on her bed. ”Wu… just drop it. I can’t think about this right now.”

Wu said nothing. Zi knew that sometimes it was best to sit back and let Tracey argue with herself.

Which is exactly what Tracey did. Argued, and remembered. Her thoughts circled endlessly until arguing stopped and only memories remained.

Setting up Tracey as a fake identity. The last time she saw her father. The day she read her obituary. The… No matter how hard she tried she couldn’t push the pain and the memories away. A sob caught in her throat.

With hard-learned patience, she steadied her breathing. I control nothing if I cannot control myself. Stepped back from the painful memories and watched them, like clouds scuttling across the sky. She looked for the meaning that tied them together. The belief behind the pain.

“Ameohne’e is dead,” she finally whispered, “They named her dead and did the rites. I walked away from that name, from that life. I killed her. There is nothing to go back to.”

“We live in an age of magic. Your servant would be honored to find a necromancer to resurrect her.”

“Ha. Ha.”

Wu knelt beside her, hand outstretched. Tracey sat up and rested a hand on Wu’s head. “What would you ask?”

“Only this. Does your soul bleed for the loss of who you were? Tell your servant it does not and I swear by the heavens I will never speak of it again.”

“I…” Tracey couldn’t say it. “I can’t answer that.”

Wu’s head bowed further, hir hand pulled back to hir heart. “As you will.”

Tracey’s fingers tapped against the bed, quick and discordant. Never before had she refused Wu an answer. It was her right. But she had never…

She pushed herself up and began pacing the room. On her third circuit, Wu stood.

“With permission,” the dragon said, “your servant will retire for the night.”

Pacing wasn’t helping. The buzzing in her head grew worse.

“Yes, go.” Another circuit before Wu reached the door. Quickening her steps brought her to the door as Wu opened it. “I’m sorry.”

Wu bowed. “Your servant will do all zi can. But I cannot fight your demons for you.”

“No.” Tracey smiled. “Zi can only precipitate the battle.” She stepped back from the door. “You can go if you want. But I would rather have you with me while I fight them.”

Wu closed the door. “Then I will stay.”

Tracey had been right — she did not have the time or energy for a crisis of identity. Certainly not one that kept her up and cost her sleep. She had stolen two hours from a too-short night already to spend time with her child.

But Wu was also right — she could not do what she must if she was not sure of herself. And that meant knowing who she was — and who she would be.

It was when she found herself wishing she could seek out the medicine woman who had guided her on that long-ago vision quest that she realized it had never been a question. Tracey was a mask she created. She was — had always been — Ameohne’e. She had come to believe the mask was the truth, like an actor playing a role for too long. It was time to take it off.

It was far too late when she finally crawled into bed. Wu climbed in behind her and wrapped hirself around her. Zi had been a supportive but silent presence throughout the night. Now Ameohne’e murmured, “One day you are going to be wrong, and I’ll be there to see it.”

“I have been wrong often. But not tonight.”


Note on names: You might recall from episode 1 that our Evil Overlord went by Trevor in the newsleter and Tracey on here. Similarly, there he reclaims the name and identity of Ma’evoto and on here she reclaims the name and identity of Ameohne’e. To the best of my knowledge, Ma’evoto (like Tracey) can be gender neutral, but I decided to continue the split naming, and Ameohne’e is explicitly a woman’s name. Feel free to mix and match names in your personal headcannon.

Sorry folks, don’t have the spoons to footnote this one. I’ll try to come back and update later, but no promises. FWIW, this episode was rather light on the tropes iirc.