I done broke myself. Have a tease

Sorry folks, I pushed too hard getting Bound done and published and haven’t been able to write in a week. The next episode of The Bargain is drafted and I considered just posting as-is, but I’d rather give y’all good stuff late than sloppy stuff on time.

But I’ve been doing a bit of plotting on a spinoff of How NOT to Save the World. Y’all may remember Lerato. She got a brief mention as the newest member of the secret leadership, and the one who offered to arrange an ‘accident’ for Cheng if he couldn’t handle learning the truth.

This spin off is about how Lerato joined the rebellion and earned her spot on the council. Sort of. It’s also a story of love and magic curses and betrayal and learning to face our fears. It’s going to be a bit more serious than How NOT to Save the World, but still have some of the same troperific fun. In between angst and drama and espionage.

And here’s how it starts:

cw: violence, death

Donagh was dragged through the camp, his arms bound before him. All around lay the dead and dying. The few of his comrades still on their feet spat on his shadow as he past.

He looked everywhere for Aran. Aran had to be alive, he had survived so much, he couldn’t be dead. And Aran would listen to to him. Would believe him. Then together they would find the traitor and take revenge.

But Aran was nowhere, and he began to fear that Aran had died after all.

Before the fear could fully take hold, he was thrown to the ground. A familiar pair of leather boots appeared snd he struggled to his knees. ‘Aran! You’re alive!’

‘Yes. I’m sure that’s a disappointment to you.’

‘What? No!’

Aran drew his sword and set the point against Donagh’s throat. ‘Luckily for you we don’t have any time to waste.’

Donagh tried to speak, to say something but horror made the words stick in his throat.

“As you have betrayed, so may you be betrayed, in your next life and every life to come.”

Then there was a quick slice of pain, and the world went dark.

The beginning.


Lerato’s story will be coming sometime in 2023 or 2024. Haven’t fully worked out the schedule yet. In the meantime, you’ll probably see more of Lerato in the upcoming season of How NOT to Save the World.

How NOT to Save the World, S1 E10

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

T-Minus 1 year 240 days

Though the public didn’t know it, the two dozen people gathered in the large dining room were most of the true leaders of the rebellion-turned-dictatorship. Two-thirds of them were magic users or mystics, three-quarters non-humans. They sat in a circle in long-established sequence, ordered by the length of their service. Service to their greater cause and Ameohne’e (in that order). It was a system Ameohne’e had introduced shortly after her death and funeral. Few knew where she learned it from, but it had worked for them.

The people gathered there did not all hold official positions. Wu was there, of course, at Ameohne’e’s right hand. And Deborah, a few spots down the circle from Wu. But some were like Claudia. The low-level security guard had no interest in advancing, but everyone knew she was the go-to if you had an on-the-job problem you couldn’t go to your seniors about. Or Goran, who had worked the laundry in the old hidden base and now did whatever odd job needed doing. He had a chronically wet shoulder from being the substitute parent figure for everyone who knew him — even people three times his age.

Shin, the highest-ranking member of the military to join the rebellion (and survive — she had been one of the people to argue for Winehurst’s… permanent dismissal. But then, she’d had more dealings with the man than most) stood to lay out the background for the meeting. “As most of us know, Colonel Cheung Bo leads the Space Forces because the Forces are loyal to them, and they will support the status quo as long as Ameohne’e does not cross a line they cannot live with. That line being deliberate harm to civilians. Cheung has no loyalty to Ameohne’e, no knowledge of this circle, and no idea of what our true cause is.

“There have always been plans to bring in both Colonel Cheung and other top military leaders, but we had wanted time to cement the loyalty of the troops before taking such a risky step.

“Five days ago, Cheung learned that Tamrat Tessaro has been begun work on the offensive weapons we will need to survive what is coming. Cheung has not confronted Ameohne’e yet, but they have been talking with other high-ranking officers. And not just in the space forces. Removing Cheung would be risky, especially if other officers believe it is part of a cover-up. Bring them into our secrets so early is also risky. Leaving them in place without trusting them is perhaps the greatest risk of all. Which risk shall we take?”

Sitting to Ameohne’e’s left was the newest member of the circle, Lerato Schlender. This was only her second meeting with the circle: she’d joined after Ameohne’e took office. Like most invitations to the circle, it had been a simple message. Gene had identified her as one of the emerging leaders of the no-longer-cell organization that had supported Ameohne’e’s coup. “There’s a meeting next week. Be there.” And she was.

Still unfamiliar with the format, the person next to her (relieved to no longer be the ‘youngest’ member) had to give her a nudge.

With a gulp, Lerato stood up and said shortly, “I don’t know Cheung to have a feel for how they might react. But you — we — can’t keep the big secret forever. I know there’s a timetable, but if there’s one thing running a cell teaches you, it’s that plans only take you so far. So bring them in. See how they react. Worst case, they can have an accident, and we deal with the fallout as best we can. Need be, I’ll handle the accident myself.”

She sat down, forgetting to be embarrassed when she noticed several others glaring at her. Leading a cell in an underground rebellion also taught ruthlessness and practicality. She glared right back.

Her neighbor, one of those glaring, stood next. “There will certainly be no need for ‘accidents,’ but bringing Cheung in is the wisest course.”

Around the room, some speaking only to say which approach they favored. “Relieve him,” perhaps. Or “We should wait.” Others would have put a Roman Senator to shame with their speech making. The mystics and magic users might refer to their art and the lessons it gave or rely on more mundane arguments.

It took several hours — one reason these meetings were rare and held late at night. Even if it meant a long tired day for most of the circle tomorrow.

Finally, almost all had had their say. Wu stood up briefly. Zi said only, “I cannot see which way this cast will fall. If we do tell them, we must have security ready to deal with fallout beforehand. If we need an ‘accident,’ it will not be the first. But I would avoid it if possible.”

The room was silent for a moment. Waiting while Ameohne’e weighed everyone’s words. Sometimes she had come to a circle already sure in her decision. Sometimes she came knowing what she wanted but unsure of how to accomplish it. Rarely she came, like tonight, with no idea of a right answer.

But hours of listening, letting the wisdom and experience of her colleagues guide her, brought her some measure of surety.

As always, her was the final voice. She didn’t advise, she decided.

“I will tell Colonel Cheung and two of their subordinates that they trusts. Wu and Deborah will handle security for the meeting. Wu, make sure to include Claudia on the guard roster. Lerato will plan ‘accidents’ for all three but not activate any of them without explicit orders from myself or Wu. The rest of you, start putting together contingency plans for if we end up needing to go public in the next two months.” She sighed. “I know it’s hard for us to get together, especially now. But we’ll plan another meeting in four weeks to deal with any fallout. Hopefully, we won’t need it.”

 

“Colonel Cheung?”

“Yes, Ms Littlesun?”

“I realize that you have some… let’s call them concerns at the moment. I’ve never played games with you, and I’m not going to start now. But I’d rather discuss this in person.”

“As you say, Ms Littlesun, we have not played games. So, I will ask your assurance that this meeting will only be to talk.”

“Only to talk, Colonel. In fact, I thought maybe the clean rooms here. Some folks find the lack of windows reassuring.”

“I am sure. But as I do not have a fear of heights, I am not concerned about windows.”

“My office then, next Tuesday at… let’s say 10am. It’s a big office, so feel free to bring a couple of staff. Just make sure they aren’t the type to play games either and know the meaning of ‘top security’.”

“Everyone on my staff knows the meaning of ‘top security,’ Ms Littlesun, or they wouldn’t be on my staff. I will see you then.”

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How NOT to Save the World (S1, E9)

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How NOT to Save the World, S1 E11