Close to the end of the year, the offensive campaign against the Minare began. As many as 751,000 fighters arrived on the shores of the southernmost polar continent known to the humans as Antarctica. One such fighter was a lone bounty hunter and mercenary named Joy Agwa.
She was third and last born under the name Joy Ikaika to Mr. Kawai Ikaika and Mrs. Adaoma Ihekweme, on the US state island chain Hawaii. After the plague, change in the planet’s climate, and pollution rendered her home completely uninhabitable, she and her family immigrated to the west coast of what was formerly the US state of California. One day as they migrated deeper inland, she was separated from her family and the rest of her caravan by a flash flood. She ended up being washed into what was formerly the state Baja California, which was part of a territorial society called Mexico. Here, she was taken in by a band of traveling performers, who taught her to shoot, use hand-to-hand combat, and tracking techniques. She would ultimately use what she learned to eke out a violent living, after the group disbanded from dwindling clients. Around this time, she also changed her last name to Agwa. Originally a nickname of endearment given to her by the birth parents, it was her way to both honor her family and hope to one day be sought out by them.
These two chapters are from her autobiography Point Me Where to Go: A Veteran Gun-for-Hire Recounts a Lifetime of Triumph and Betrayal:
Payments in the past were things like rations, services, breeder bugs, or admission coins to visit a place to kick up my heels, but this was the first time ever that my reward would be that I’ve repaid a debt with a favor. It was something that I pretty much expected I’d have to do one day. What I didn’t expect was that I’d be riding in an alien dropship, packed with fighters, on our way to Antarctica, of all places. We were well on our way when I finished counting the number of people riding the dropship with me; one hundred and twenty, including me. There were four other dropships that picked up the rest from town, so I estimated it was up to about four hundred and eighty of us. A minority being non-EPC, but the rest being of the EPC militia.
The surrounding atmosphere was distressed. There were a few here and there speaking to one another. Some shared a laugh or two, but they were all mostly somber and pensive in tone. Most kept to themselves, looking at personal photos, singing folk songs, playing solitaire.
Overall, everyone wasn’t all too social. Then, I looked over and saw her, sticking out like a sore thumb with her fair skin tone and shocking neon pink hair with jet black highlights. She must’ve been wearing a hat and kept her head down when I counted everyone. She noticed I saw her and waved at me wearing the goofiest grin before she moved towards me. As she got closer, I noted that she couldn’t be older than seventeen or eighteen years.
She asked if she could sit next to me as she sat next to me, so I didn’t get to say yes or no. She had been wanting to talk to me since mission sign up when she overheard me speaking English. She could read Spanish, but she wasn’t all too good at speaking it without morphing into semi-garbled Spanglish. Despite this, she was still somehow a member of a largely indigenous Latin American militia. That’s not the oddest part though.
Her name was Xandra Bauer. If that name sounds familiar it’s because she’s the stepdaughter of Max Bauer. Yep, leader of the wealthy slaver pirate gang, and most elusive of my bounties, Max Bauer. Turns out, when our girl was younger, she stumbled upon a stash of leftist literature one of their slaves hid. Through the years she tried convincing Max that they were in the wrong, but his pushback became harsher as she became more of a thorn in his side. One day she’d had it, so she drugged him at dinner, then ran away from their secret private villa. Wasn’t long after, she had the fortune of running across a caravan heading to the hidden town of ChiapasI, where she knew was the base of the Ejército Popular of Chiapas. She at first assumed they would welcome an ally in ideology with open arms, but even though she was inducted, she found out she wasn’t necessarily “accepted.” She said she was okay with it, due to her background carrying so much baggage, but she really wanted to prove how worthy she was of their trust.
I could use what she knew about Max to help me find him, but I needed to survive what was coming up, and she stank of inexperience and clinginess. If I let her hang around, either she’ll be killed, she’ll get me and a bunch of others killed, or all the above. Whichever way this goes, I needed to find a way to increase our chances of survival. She needed to become aware of how much in over her head she was and sit this battle out. I could get her to help me after I’m done. The best way to achieve this, I thought at the time, was by bringing up the truth.
“Sounds like you’ve got a hard way to go,” I said, “Maybe you should’ve taken baby steps and freed your home’s slaves first.”
Right then, I saw on her face the sudden horrible realization that she completely forgot about them. Her eyes welled up before she ducked her head into her hands out of frustration. She then snarled to herself cursing her white privilege as she hit her forehead with the base of her palm. She called herself an idiot, and I agreed. Figured the self-pity party was for one, because she turned to look at me insulted.
“Look around you, kid,” I started off, “You went straight from being a slaver’s sheltered princess in the lap of ill-gotten luxury, to something way out of you league. We might be receiving some alien tech to level the playing field, but we’re heading into what is surely going to be the worst battle anyone here will face in their lives. You say your father is no better than the Baggsab. Have you ever seen the Minare, or even the Baggsab, in person? People like your father are monsters, but at least they’re not near impervious to many types of bullets, or fifty feet tall, or both. Nobody else wants to be here. This is some rebellious phase you decided to jump into headfirst. What were you thinking?”
Xandra wiped her eyes, straightened up, and stuck to her guns, saying something like, “I want to…need, to help make a better world. If it means fighting people like Max or evil aliens, it’s going to have to be done anyway. I know I’ve had some bad habits from my upbringing rub off on me. I’ve got to continue checking my privilege, remind myself not to be condescending, and remember that I don’t understand everything. If I live through this, I’m fixing my mistakes and putting an end to my stepfather’s business.”
Then she got carried away, standing up with her raised fist saying, “No more sneaking crumbs to slaves, the proletariat will rise, and the world’s wrongs will be corrected within my lifetime. ¡Un ejército para la gente!”
She expected everyone else to callback, ‘La gente para el futuro,’ as is usual for the group to do with their motto. Instead, everyone stayed silent, except for one who yelled at her, “¡Cállate y siéntate, gringa!”
I quickly pulled her back down and told her not to do that again. Then, the robotic voice sounded from above us and told us of our imminent arrival. Didn’t seem like we were in the air for too long. Then again, they managed to get to this planet without a wormhole, so why not have a vehicle that can smoothly fly from Mexico to Antarctica within three hours. I looked out the porthole window and saw the camp seemingly extending the whole coast, choked with activity. From what I’ve learned in the past, the more people needed to complete a task, the more difficult the task is, and this told me we were about to step off into a world of shit.
I The town was named after the former Mexican state it was located within.