Chapter 31: Minding a Lot

In which box theories are irrelevant to intersectionality!

The next day, when Stephanie tried to make her way to work, a parade of protestors waving signs prevented her from entering the parking lot, as their cordoned-off space was directly in front of the access point. She couldn’t immediately tell what they were protesting, but she might have been able to just squeeze past them, if it weren’t for the gawkers and Minäs milling around outside the yellow tape. As the gawkers were immobile at her car’s approach, she set the computer voice to its riot setting: “Make way! Make way!” The loud noise caused the Minäs to back up and cover their ears, but not the people.

When they still didn’t move, she hit her horn and set it to repeat. Finally, the sluggish crowd-beast opened up. As she inched her way through and into the Daily parking lot, she caught a glimpse of what was on their signs. It was not very catchy: Fire Mark Anderson Or We’ll Fire You! There was another variation: The Sports League Wins!

A woman in retro football gear—American style—blocked the entrance to the Daily, as she stood on a crate with a bullhorn and shouted, “What do we want?”

The crowd, which appeared to be composed equally of Minäs and traditional humans, shouted back, “His head on a platter!”

“When do we want it?”

“Now!”

As the entire crowd was acting like Minäs, that is, jumping up and down and whooping like lobotomized fools, it was difficult to tell. Except, of course, that the bullhorn made the Minäs cringe.

“Do you mind?” Stephanie asked the woman on the crate. “I just need to get inside. I work here.”

“Of course we mind!” the woman shouted in her bullhorn. “We mind a lot!”

The crowd then proceeded to shout, “We mind! We mind! We mind!”

As they were distracted and Stephanie was short, she managed to wedge herself past the woman on the crate. The Daily staff, rather than sitting at their desks or being out and about chasing stories, were instead congregated in the central room. Mark, however, wasn’t present.

“What’s going on?” Stephanie asked.

A fresh, young photographer held up a copy of the latest front page of the sports section, where Mark’s exposition on a live sporting event took up the prominent position. “He’s your boyfriend.”

Stephanie snatched the page from the photographer. “I haven’t read it yet. I’ve been busy.”

“He claims the real players are strippers, androgynes, and frauds, just as he suspected, and the good players are holographic images.”

“I was there. That sounds like an accurate assessment.”

“He called them androgynes,” the photographer repeated, his voice rising in a nasal whine. “Now the sports league is calling for his head.”

“Yeah, I heard them shouting. What’s wrong with calling them androgynes? I thought that was a compliment.”

“The problem is they don’t identify as that term. They identify as athletes, and Mark called their entire self-construct into question. Mark should be fired. He makes all of us look bad.”

Stephanie made a small indignant noise. “Why can’t they identify as both androgynes and athletes? What kind of narrow box are you putting people in? My brother identifies as both.” Well, that wasn’t precisely true, unless virtual reality sports made one an athlete. He was definitely an androgyne, though.

“Your box theory is irrelevant to intersectionality. And so is your lover boy, Mark.”

“Wow, who needs the JOI when you already have such loyal friends in the freelance photography crew?” Stephanie folded up Mark’s article and placed it in her teletyper bag. She wanted to read it in private, if not save it for posterity. “Where is he, anyway?”

Photo boy pointed with his chin toward the boss’s office. “Probably getting shit-canned.”

“Shit-canned?”

Fear flashed through her. She had been harboring thoughts of commitment to Mark. If he were fired for something like this, he wouldn’t work anywhere as a JOI journalist again. In fact, he might not find a job at all. The non-league arena of journalism was presided over by a few humans, but the articles and videos themselves were usually plagiarized and/or cobbled together by computers, if they came from high-class media outlets, or were developed by Minäs, who would repeat whatever they were told within the first few minutes they were told it, for the lower-class rags. The lower class articles had a tendency to repeat relevant propaganda and then trail off when the Minäs lost focus: The President’s executive order is now facsism [sic] serious threat to social order McSic’s shakes, delicious.

The next she knew, Mark would be lobotomized and writing gibberish. Okay, that was a conspiracy theory that unwanted individuals of society were turned into Minäs and put to work eating cupcakes, chocolate, and producing media. The media they produced was full of conspiracy theories just like that one, which was itself a bizarre kind of nested, box-like intersectionality.

She mentally gave herself a face slap and marched toward the editor-in-chief’s door, which she banged on with her fist.

“Enter!” she heard from within, and so she did.

The office was empty aside from her fat chief, Mr. Mast.

Confused, she stared at the fat man for a few moments before finding her voice again. “Where’s Mark?”

“Gone,” Mast said.

“Where?”

“He quit, the louse.”

That reality she hadn’t expected. Her eyes widened. “He did what?”

“He quit. My best editor. My best writer. My protégé. My surrogate son. He up and quit. My day is ruined. The paper’s ruined. Just listen to those annoying people out there.”

“My day’s ruined, too,” she whispered, as she was refraining from crying in front of her boss.

“Ah, Stephie, you’re a good writer, too. I wasn’t putting you down by calling him the best. You’re the best, too. And someday you’ll be an editor. Don’t you quit on me.”

His lips were really thick, she noticed for the first time. And she almost blurted out huh? She barely stopped herself. She and Mark’s relationship was ostensibly hidden from the boss, as work relationships were forbidden by the League. It was understandable that he had no idea what she was upset about.

“I’m not going to quit, but this place isn’t conducive to getting any work done. I’m going home.”

He nodded. “I understand. I understand. Just be careful with those crazies out there. If one of them goes on the attack, all the Minäs will follow. It could get deadly.”

She knew what he meant. She parted the blinds to survey the scene and was assaulted by the vision of three Minäs making sucking faces on the window. “That goes for you, too. I don’t see you as being safe in here forever. They could suck their way through the glass. You should probably go make a public announcement that Mark has quit. Dispel them.”

“That’s not what I want,” he said. “I want Mark back. Go talk to him, Stephanie. You’re his girlfriend. Beg him to come back.”

“I—” She stopped the defense in its tracks. Maybe he was trying to catch her out and get her to admit the relationship.

He shook his head. “I already know. I’ve just been ignoring it because you’re both my best, remember? Now go make use of your forbidden romance. Seduce the poor sucker back home. Oh, and get him to apologize to those idiots outside. That would be a far better way to dispel this annoying situation.”

Her inclination was to tell him no with as much disgust as she felt. But her self-preservation instinct was too strong for that. Seduction was not her forte, but this was Mark they were talking about. Mark. Mark would be an easy…mark. He loved her; didn’t he?


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