Oh wow, the world-building here. There’s so much going on in this one: a discussion of the way those in power work so hard to make sure those who don’t have power aim as much of their pain as possible at anyone other than the powerful; the regret and pain of the particular kind of survivor guilt that comes with something akin to passing or being not-quite-as-much-as others further weighted down from above. It’s marvellously done, and the kind of brilliant characterization common to People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction.
“Firebird” is about a girl who has been trained to obey, isolated from everyone, and is now in the position to reach out to someone—or something—on behalf of the organization that has both trained her and left her near-broken. And when she realizes who (and what) she is communicating with, everything fractures for her.
It’s possible I wanted to understand this story just a bit more, like I wanted one more piece of the unfolding conspiracy, or a reason, or a goal to be uncovered or something, just to feel like I had all the pieces and could guess how it would all end, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t really enjoy the narrative nor that I thought it was anything but incredible—it was, I just (as always) wanted to feel a bit more of a hopeful uptick, but that’s my own reader quirk, not at all a fault of the story.