Season Content notes: fictional bigotry
T-minus 1 year 85 days
Lerato Schlender squeezed her partner Johlene’s hand and looked around the room. Officially, the cell network that supported the coup was dismantled. The message boards were made semi-public so most anyone could join.
Unofficially, Lerato and a few others had pulled together a new, tighter, cell network of trusted comrades. Lerato’s team, though, was the same one she had fought with throughout the coup. They’d nearly died (or killed each other) more than once. But now they were the tightest team at Ma’evoto’s disposal and the reason Lerato had been invited onto the council.
Like most members of the team, Lerato looked human but wasn’t. They dressed and acted to blend in, and their IDs said human, which pre-coup had given them access to places many magical people were cut off from.
They hadn’t thought the coup would magically fix everything, but they had thought they would be done with their human aliases. They might have been wrong.
“We have two jobs.” Lerato told her team. “We need to take one ourselves and pass the other one on.
“The first is the most dangerous. Higher wants to get some our of folks recruited by ‘the good guys’.”
Like many magical creatures, especially among Ma’evoto’s people, they had owned the labels ‘monster’ and ‘evil’. They were the bad guys, the villain protagonists of the story who were going to kick ‘the heroes’ ass because fuck so-called heroes anyway.
“Higher thinks that at least a few of the old so-called ‘elected’ leaders are running the resistance. They’ve got the start of a cell structure, but it’s tinker toys compared to what we’re used to. Ideally, two of us would be recruited, with the rest running support and backup.
“The other job is less risky, but may be more critical. Like I said, the other side is running a tinker-toy cell structure, and some of their cells have been identified. A few of those cells haven’t been broken up, because higher has further use for them.
“One of those cells has been given to us to shadow. The cell we’re looking for has gone to ground, so we’ll need to find it, then keep it from disappearing again.
“We are not to interfere with it unless we get orders from higher or they are doing something that will kill civilians.”
“Good,” Ani muttered from the back. Ani was a rarity even in their magical world — and an actual vampire: died and reborn with a hunger for blood. Most of those rare vampires were truly monstrous, reflecting the pre-Stoker folktales. But a few of them, such as Ani, realized that they could fight against their instincts; could be something other than a monster. Though it was a near thing, Ani had controlled herself long enough to reach her town’s wise woman. After the return of magic, they had appeared in Eastern Europe like dandelions in spring and were just as tenacious. Ani more than any of them understood how easy it was to let laziness or lack of care create innocent victims.
She (since her rebirth Ani literally covered herself in triangles — including a few tattoos) looked at each of her fellows in turn, waiting for a nod or agreement. They gave it, of course.
“Any word from Mama Stoica?” Johlene murmured.
“Two,” Ani said with a smile, “she managed to save both of them. She promised to introduce us next time ‘work’ gives me a month off.”
Lerato cleared her throat, “Back to business, folks,” but she smiled at Ani as she said it. Two more vampires saved since Ma’evoto took power was very good news as far as the team was concerned.
Johlene shook her head, “I’m surprised we even got that first job. I know most of you can blend, but I’m the only actual human, and the ‘good guys’ can’t be foolish enough to let recruits in without testing them.
“The rebellion is doubling down on their bigotry. I’ve been approached three times in the last month by folks wanting to ‘commiserate’ on how rough it is to be human these days. Nothing overt but… I think some rumor of Mama Stoica’s work is getting out because the last one was talking about humans being locked up in blood brothels.”
“What the hell?” “Fuck!” “How dare they!” “Oy ve…”
Johlene nodded. “I know. And they’re the good guys, right?”
“Only in their delusions.”
“Hey, I’ll have you know I am 100% villain. I even have a membership card!”
“Yes, you got it out of a cereal box.”
This time Lerato whistled.
“Johlene’s right,” Benjy said. He was a leprechaun, and you asked him about pots of gold at your peril. You asked him why a creature of Irish folklore had an English name at even greater peril. “But I think she’s trying not to mention that we had our own traitor two years ago. I know we think that… that…,” failing to find a strong enough insult, he growled and moved on, “didn’t get much information out, but it’s still possible they identified some of us.”
“I doubt it,” Lerato said, “We accomplished a lot since ditching that asshole, I can’t imagine they wouldn’t have targetted us before now if they could have. Still, better safe. On both counts.
“Kay-kay, we’ll pass the infiltration on to… Pan’s team, you think?”
“They usually know what they’re about.”
“And they’ve got at least two humans, right?”
Ani shook her head — Pan’s team was hers. “You know I can’t confirm that. But they’ll do well with it.”
“Right, right, sorry.”
“That leaves us the shadowing.” Lerato pulled up a grainy security image on her PDD and projected it onto the wall. “This is our first view of them. They were involved in an attack on a warehouse right after the coup. We think there’s five of them, including one technomage, but only two showed up on the security cam.
“As you can see, one is an android, unusual design. You’d think he’d be easy to track, and the security teams did back-track him and identify some of the people he spent time with. He disappeared right after this. Someone in the nerd branch back-tracked his design to a 200-year-old movie and suggested that he might have a ‘skin suit’ he can wear when he wants to blend in and look human…