This was a scene that worked when Femitokon ran in serial episodes at Patreon. We’d met Pitana Dag in Episode One and this felt like a natural progression to ending the first two arcs; unfortunately, it had no place in the novel structure of Tactical Pursuits as its narrative involved Eppis, Koba, Sofita, Ilo and Velto – with Fuzo’s perspective in recovery and closing scenes from the heads of Adam Pierce and Fyla Uym. Introducing the subak Doka added nothing to the plot though the goal of the scene had been introducing human diplomacy, Deborah Chase, and how Ambassador Prime Dag deals with the aftermath of the Bass Plain collapse.
Conference Room 2
Ramaxia Primada Consulate
0900 Hours – 22 Bamx 2228
Femarctic administrators considered Pitana Dag the most cordial Prime to have ever served the Office of Helovx Advocacy, but the helovx diplomats assigned to Base Thirteen found the hizak intimidating.
“Remind me,” the regal Tenth Gen extended her arm so that young Doka could hover a lint-wand over it. “What type of assistance is the United Tribes requesting?”
“They want gold,” the subak answered. “A lot of it.”
“Feeding survivors should be Aotearoa’s priority,” Dag frowned, the mahogany stripes along her jaw darkening against her russet hide. “Not seeking to repay investors for a fallen bridge.”
Doka took her boss’s place in front of the mirror. Wand in hand, she ran it across the front of her tan and pink subati and heard the saccharine voice of her birther, a failed bluzerie model named Kalro Gil, stressing the importance of zero lint.
Her two kerma’s, former Mynu chums of Prime Dag, had dissolved their bond last year. The trio refrained from breaking their bond after losing spouse Prido, Doka’s biological mak, waiting until their subakidoe became old enough to move out.
Yix Gax remained at Marixi Administration in Orta, alongside ex, Ixo Gizul, but Kalro lived it up in a new Pikalit penthouse with a renewed social schedule. Doka possessed Yix’s azure webbing, spread thinly upon the golden hide she’d inherited from the deceased Prido, while Line Gizul had handed down her wide-nose and large lips.
“Have they all arrived?” asked Dag.
“We’re one short,” Doka replied, buttoning the hizak’s suit jacket. “The NAU finally replaced their representative.”
“It’s been a month,” Dag complained. “Nauists are master glaciers,”
“We can wait in the adjacent room until she makes an appearance,” Doka suggested; among hizaki, she who arrives last and exits first rules the negotiation.
Ambassador Dag mulled the proposal.
Doka felt incredibly lucky to have acquired Dag as a boss. Though nepotism scored her an interview with the Prime Ambassador’s office, she and Dag had bonded over never knowing their deceased makers.
“I doubt she’ll make an appearance today,” said the Ambassador, opening the door for her assistant.
Doka stepped through first, smiling.
The diplomatic conference room contained modest helovx aesthetics, a rough carpet, a long desk, glass walls so that the five people representing their nations here once a week could enjoy the ocean outside.
All rose when the stoic Ambassador entered.
“Good morning, everyone,” said Doka, trading smiles with all four women. “Does anyone need more coffee, tea, or juice?”
Polite declines came before the first order of business—Aotearoa’s request for financial assistance followed the tsunami.
After the Ambassador declined, she lectured Anna Runga on the United Tribes’ ill-advised suspension bridge construction to Australia. Runga, an umber-skinned woman with a brilliant facial tattoo of black waves and dots, defended her nation’s self-reliance with a polite assertion that the femmar weren’t in the business of charity.
This passive-aggressive observation countered what many knew between the poles; the Second Office kept helovx nations dependent by design.
Jungwanian ambassador Sorkhaq Tani, a plump woman with narrow eyes and a conservative fashion sense, accentuated Runga’s point by inquiring of the Third Office’s sudden cap on tharspin exports. The blue-eyed and wooly-haired Ingrid al-Hasat, an envoy from the African Trisect, sat silent as Ambassador Dag reminded them that their current stability existed due to Ramaxian benevolence, not suppression disguised as charity.
Onyx skinned Paola Ithengui of Brasilia politely thanked the Ambassador for the reminder. In times of prosperity, she opined, it was easy to forget that Ramaxia ensured their current way of life. The others exchanged derisive glances that led Ambassador Dag into her well-rehearsed confrontation. Yet, two words into her scolding, the meeting room door opened to a chubby platinum blonde with an apologetic smile.
Burnt red sunflower blooms covered the ivory fabric of her form-fitting subati, and her smooth skin glowed beneath the lights, as did her perfect white teeth. Coffee in hand and briefcase to her chest, the cheery woman, addressed the room with her light brown eyes and regretted her lateness.
“Deborah Chase?” Doka rose and pulled out a chair for her.
“I’m sorry, Doka, please call me Deb,” she said and greeted each woman by their first name. “I didn’t know what time to be here, and my watch isn’t on polar time yet.”
“It’s fine, ma’am,” said Doka, returning to her seat behind Dag.
The Ambassador cleared her throat. “Where’s Doris Evans?”
“Doris got recalled,” Deb cast humored eyes at Doka. “I thought you might’ve noticed by now, Ambassador Prime.” Setting down her cup, she extended a well-manicured hand. “I’m Deborah Chase.”
Ambassador Dag didn’t take her hand, choosing instead to lean back in her chair so that Doka could whisper in her ear a reminder that Doris Evans had developed a thyroid condition.
“I guess only bizaki shake hands,” Deb mumbled, sitting down.
“Ambassador Chase?” Doka grinned, hoping to make up for Dag’s rudeness. “Are you the Debbie Chase that passed our depth trials?”
“The one and only,” she beamed. “The water here’s so cold and invigorating.”
“Don’t be late again, please,” the Ambassador interjected, touching the screen of her tablet before shifting her attention to Runga. “The next matter I wish to address is your government’s accusation that Ramaxia generated the wave that destroyed your bridge.”
“The United Tribes never said this,” Anna defended, eyeing Dag’s tablet. “Those are media headlines.”
“Queen Rowiri is married to the owner of your largest media outlet,” Dag countered. “How could they not be of the same mind?”
“I don’t want to interrupt,” said Deb. “But you’re not bonded, are you, Ambassador Prime? Partners don’t share the same mind, just the same space.”
Anna Runga hid her amusement, but Doka stretched her closed lips in a smile.
“Don’t interrupt, Miss Chase,” Dag said politely.
Deb chimed, “Sorry, Citizen Dag,”
Dag started. “I’m Ambassador Prime Dag.”
“When you called me Miss Chase,” Deb spoke politely. “I assumed you spoke informally.”
Dag said, “I’m never informal.”
“Good to know,” Deb nodded, but then, like a donat testing her boundaries, she quipped, “You can call me Ambassador Chase. Because we’re both Ambassadors.”
Doka hid her delight behind her tablet.
“Envoy Runga,” Dag snapped, returning to the matter at hand. “Why does your media claim we’re responsible for what is clearly a natural disaster?”
“The wave came at a strange time,” Anna said quickly.
Dag slammed down her biv tablet.
“Ouch,” Deb mumbled. “I hope that’s a brigibix.”
Dag slowly turned her gaze to Deb.
“Those are indestructible,” said Deb, reaching for the tablet. “If it’s one of those bendy Ukel bivs, though,”
“Do not touch my bivtab,” Dag nipped, and Deb recoiled.
“Relations strained as they are, Ambassador Dag,” Anna carefully chose her words, “perhaps a gesture of goodwill?”
“A gesture of goodwill?” Dag said, eyed wide.
“To bring around public opinion,” Anna insisted with a grin. “The collapse of the bridge devastated out Tasmanian trade. Perhaps a new bridge design and a lift on tharspin restrictions?”
“Yes,” rang Ambassador Tani. “Lifting restrictions—”
“-You’re suggesting we award you more tharspin to help build a bridge that shouldn’t have existed in the first place?” Dag kept her tone light, though her hostile intent remained clear. “I fail to see the logic of such a request, Envoy Runga, since you’re accusing us of destroying the bridge you just built with tharspin we never gave you.”
“I beg your pardon, Ambassador Prime Dag?” Anna said.
“Over the last eight years, you and I have negotiated every tharspin acquisition. There’ve been dozens of requests for repair materials for the Connector,” Dag reminded, her squared fingernail tapping the table. “I’ve nothing in my records to indicate an application for this bridge.”
“It’s part of the Connector,” Anna said. “There’s a license for that—”
“-Envoy, don’t assume me an idiot.” Dag leaned back confidently. “You know what constitutes a new project under our infrastructure and materials trade agreement.”
“May I interject here?” Deb didn’t wait for Dag to allow it. “Eight years ago, the Third Office added a proviso on tharspin exports that detailed how human nations could use exported tharspin.”
“Unfairly,” Anna looked to Deb and nodded.
Ingrid nodded, “Ruling Gen’s of the past never made such nonsensical conditions.”
“Nonsensical?” Dag sat up and put her arms on the table. “We’re the cultivators of the material, and we shouldn’t have a say in its utilization?”
“The OHA’s founding mission statement clearly says that Ramaxia is to aid humanity in its quest to sustain itself.” Deb also leaned in and put her arms on the table. “Yet under the regime of the Ninth, that’s right, I said regime, the OHA runs the world between its poles like a caste-center. They hand out toys with directions on how we’re to play with them, and when and with whom.”
Dag appeared calm, but excitement surged through Doka.
“You’re a Tenth, Ambassador,” Deb tried to ease the tension with a smile. “I get it, you have to tow the Ninth line, but there are no elders here.”
“I’ve no qualms toeing the line when it’s righteous to do so.” Dag brought her hands together, her eyes on Deb. “Ramaxia should’ve been consulted on the construction of this extension.”
“With all due respect Ambassador Prime,” Anna said. “It’s our country, and we don’t need permission to build a bridge.”
“You do if you plan to use tharspin in it,” Dag reminded.
Anna exclaimed, “There was no tharspin in the Bass Plain!”
Deb closed her eyes in defeat as Doka handed the Ambassador a duxpak. Dag, in turn, slid it across the table to Anna. A running slideshow flashed upon its screen, images of the underside of the Bass Plain, its tharspin components highlighted in Ramaxi letters. Anna held the duxpak, eyeing its bendable screen in silence.
“Tell me again, Envoy Runga,” Dag said, confident. “About this bridge without tharspin.”
“We all do it,” Deb proclaimed with a chuckle. “Every human company pads its import requests with codes given to them by Tenth-Gen administrators at the AC. Everyone’s desperate to get around the Ninth-Gen’s makodonic-state.”
“Is that so?” Dag goaded as if ignorant. “Please reveal more.”
“I’m in the tell-it-like-it-is business, Ambassador,” said Deb.
Humored, Dag nodded. “That’s painfully obvious.”
“Not painfully, respectfully!” Deb raised a finger yet kept her tone level. “I respect the Ramaxian nation for its outreach and willingness to rebuild cultures that offer them nothing in return.”
“We’re grateful,” Dag mused.
“But please, Ambassador Prime,” Deb shook her head. “Please refrain from acting like you’re uninformed of what happens in the AC.”
“We will speak of export affairs another day,” Dag said, dismissive. “As for today’s business, the current administration doesn’t care if your public is dissatisfied with us, Ambassador Runga, and for the sake of diplomacy, we’ll continue to trade.”
“Thank you,” Anna whispered.
“If you need more tharspin, you can have it,” Dag eyed Deb when she winked at Doka. “However, the Third Office will limit exports of seed stock and solar panels until the Second Office receives assurances of no more bridges to Australia.”
Dag took the duxpak from Anna, handed it to Doka, and turned her chair to face Deborah Chase. “Ambassador Deborah Chase of the North American Union.”
“Ambassador Prime Dag,” Deb sighed and ignored the others’ warning looks. “Can you ratchet down the hostility? We’re here to be diplomatic, yes? Isn’t that the point of diplomacy?”
“Is this your first official office, Miss Chase?” Dag asked.
Doka whispered the correction. “Ambassador—”
“-Ambassador Chase,” Deb reminded. “To answer your question, no, Prime Dag. I served four years on the National Security Council and served as Assistant Secretary of Human-Ramaxian Affairs under President Colin.”
“That’s impressive,” Dag mused. “Unbelievable but impressive.”
“I’m not hizaki,” Deb’s smile faded, “but I know insults disguised as compliments when I hear them.”
“Dag spread her hands on the table.
“I’m unimpressed by your lack of protocol,”
“Other than trying to bully me with your body language, which by the way, you’re very good at doing.” Deb’s lips spread in a smile, “May I inquire as to why we’re focusing on me when I’ve only been here for all of ten minutes?”
Dag quipped, “I’ve decided that you’re next on my list of things to do,”
“You’re a sweet talker, huh?” Deb countered.
Doka never saw the Ambassador like this, and as the women veiled their smiles, Doka refused until Dag cast a critical glare.
“My advisors in Orta informed me of a North American Union Security Intelligence Service agent in Tasmania during the tsunami,” said Dag.
Doka disguised her confusion by lowering her eyes; why would Ambassador Dag bring up the Orta operative after demanding Doka draft a denial statement should the matter be brought up by Runga?
A reactionary gambit at best, not Pitana’s Dag’s style at all.
“An agent?” Deb seemed shocked. “Like a soldier?”
Anna Runga leaned in when Dag took a duxpak from Doka’s pile. Upon it appeared images of a Caucasian man kicking a native from his bike. The hizak set it on the table near Anna, but wily Deb snatched it up before she could get hold of it.
“That’s a Level-Two Mynu maneuver, Ambassador.” Deb gave it the once over and then smiled at Anna. Shaking her head, she said, “I see the implication here, and it’s ridiculous.”
“Implication?” said Dag, entertained.
Deb looked boldly at Anna. “Your news people filmed the collapse?” she then softened and touched Anna’s hand. “I’m sorry for the loss of life your tribes have endured.”
Runga seemed to appreciate the gesture.
“Anna,” Deb said. “You know there’s no way one human man took out this bridge before that wave hit.”
“Our investigation indicates,” said Anna, thoughtfully, “that it collapsed before the wave arrived.”
“It’s ridiculous to suggest that one jarhead took down an entire bridge,” Deb eyed Dag. “Even if he was a trained agent, which this man hardly fits the bill, taking out a bridge? Without explosions?”
The other women shared a quiet laugh.
“We’re the North American Union,” Deb added, laughing with them. “The NAU is about explosions, not subterfuge.”
“Truer words were never spoken,” Ingrid muttered.
“You’ll never forgive us for the Skeleton Coast pipeline?” Deb asked.
Ingrid smiled at her. “It was the denial that hurt.”
“At least they didn’t blow up your port,” Paola huffed.
“That wasn’t us.” Deb pointed playfully at Sorkhaq Tani. “Sorki, you better fess up,”
“I don’t know anything about blowing up a port,” Sorkhaq said, her hands up in surrender.
The human women chuckled amongst themselves.
“Excuse me, ladies,” Dag spoke with volume. “May we return to the matter at hand?”
“Sorry, Ambassador Prime,” Deb said. “I forgot you were here.”
Dag sheened as if unsure of what to do as Doka closed her mouth.
“Okay, that’s not true, Ambassador Dag. How could anyone ignore you?” Deb winked at Doka again and then asked flirtatiously. “Is that your real hair? How do you get it to stay all coiled up like that?”
“My hair is real, Ambassador Chase,” Dag said coolly.
“I can explain this matter easily.” Deb tucked her lips, careful to remain on point. “We have tourists that visit Aotearoa all the time. Tasmania, by extension of the Connector alone, is Aotearoa. Hell, I’ve gone shark diving there.”
Dag leaned forward, her eyes sharp.
“You’re suggesting this agent was on vacation?”
“Do you know what the word hypothetical means?”
“Yes, I know the word hypothetical—”
“-Before we jump into hypotheticals, let’s look at this picture.”
Deb turned the duxpak around so everyone could see it.
“I see a man wearing a jacket common in my country, suggesting he’s North American,” she said. “He’s got no weapons, and there’s nothing to indicate he’s a soldier.”
Dag leaned back and rolled her head to crack her neck; it was a calming exercise she’d learned in one of her World Oceans classes, but Doka also knew it to be an intimidation tactic.
“You’ve no established history of missions in Aotearoa,” Dag said, deadpan, “but you do have a long-established history of tourism?”
“You see, you’re coming around,” Deb said, cracking her finger knuckles one by one with her thumb, “and we haven’t even gone into hypotheticals yet,”
Dag remained stoic. “I’m so impressed that you’re impressed with me.”
“Let’s say hypothetically that this man is a tourist. Naturally, as all tourists do, he makes his way home.” Deb hauled her clunky briefcase onto her lap, undid the clasp, and pulled out a folder labeled with a human medical symbol. “Let’s say that upon arriving home, he gets an exam in port, and doctors discover signs of sexual assault.”
“Helovx on helovx crime adds nothing to this discussion,” said Dag.
“Hypothetically, while fleeing the tsunami, this man says he was,” Deb opened the folder and read verbatim, “‘Attacked by a trained femmar in a silver uniform that had a black symbol on its head.’”
Doka struggled not to appear curious.
“Our definition of hypothetical differs.” Dag swung one leg over the other. “I don’t consider lying to be in the hypothetic.”
Deb’s eyes bored into the hizak. “Let’s say, hypothetically, a physical exam backs up his assault claim after they find strange fluids on his skin.”
“Fluids?” Dag parroted.
“Not to stray too far from acceptable conversation,” Deb said with a grin. “But you femmar do tend to splooge.”
Doka pushed air out her nose and turned her head while Paola’s shoulders shook in silent laughter.
Dag stayed indifferent. “Hypothetically.”
“Of course,” Deb said, humored. “I have never had the pleasure myself because CM Wram’s got some serious rules about that sort of thing, doesn’t she?”
“Yes, she does,” Dag said with a nod.
“Let’s say that during this hypothetical sexual assault, the man’s skin got burned in tell-tale places.” Deb opened the folder again and noted something specific that made her eyes go wide. “And hypothetically, bruises heal much faster than burn marks.”
Dag forced a smile. “May I see the report, Ambassador Chase?”
“What report?” Deb dropped the folder in her case and quickly snapped it shut. “We’re in the hypothetic, and there’s no rape because there’s no agent.”
Doka looked to Dag and, to her horror, found the hizak’s eyes fixed on Chase’s large breasts. Deb’s hand waved in front of her chest. Doka cleared her throat as Dag’s eyes shot up to Deborah’s.
“Excuse me, Ambassador,” Anna asked. “How were your pictures of this man on our bridge obtained?”
Dag kept her eyes on Deborah’s. “I can’t tell you that, Envoy.”
“Was there a femmar agent in Tasmania?” Anna demanded.
“No, Envoy.” Dag faced her then. “There was no operative in Tasmania.”
Suddenly, the sound of a popular pikavel song blasted out from Deb’s phone, its vocalist rhyming about eating before quitting time.
“Sorry,” Deb chirped. “I forgot to silence this,”
Dag hardened. “What did you bring into this conference room?”
“It’s an old-school Filmuk,” Deb answered. “I requested it, and don’t worry, I know I got to give it back if I ever leave the station.”
Dag asked, “Where did you receive permission to acquire it?”
“Third Office’s AWI citizenship rules,” Deb kept her eyes on the device as she explained. “Helovx residing in territorial Ramaxia may purchase communications technology that is considered out-of-date and no longer capable of manufacturer updates.”
Dag collected herself.
“Those rules apply to people living in the AC.”
“Verbiage doesn’t specify an exact location.” Deb shook her beautiful head. “Can I be excused? I promised to meet some friends for my morning chow.”
Dag sat back with an eyebrow raised.
“You have friends here, Ambassador Chase?”
“These Pure-Gen gals are the sweetest things.” Deb grinned at Doka. “You’re all so chatty, not like your mommas.”
Doka smiled warmly, “We reconvene in two hours, Deb.”
“Please don’t be late again, Ambassador Chase,” Dag added.
Deb brought her fist to her stomach in a mocking Orta salute. Then she shook hands with Anna Runga, a reminder that the Ambassador failed to turn Aotearoa against the NAU.
“I hate to ask this, Ambassador, but are you done with everyone?” Deb paused at the door. “I know yelling at Anna today was also on your list of things to do, but since you’re done, can we all go get some lunch?”
“That sounds wonderful.” Paola stood first, prompting the others to follow.
“Doka,” Deb whispered while herding the others out. “Would you like to come with? There’s always room for one more.”
Doka shifted her attention to Ambassador Dag.
“No, thank you, Ambassador Chase,” she said. “Maybe another time.”
Deborah’s mirth faded as the others left the room.
“I think you should know, Ambassador,” she whispered when alone. “While we all agree that the murder of citizen Ilo Cux is horrific, we’d like information on Sky Sister, mainly, how many canons are in orbit and what’s their primary purpose?”
Dag kept her composure.
“I’m in no way obligated to supply such information.”
“I appreciate that, but here’s how it looks.” Deborah’s joviality vanished. “We helovx-nations live with the knowledge that World Oceans can employ boots on the ground if they wish to wipe us out. Sky Sister tells a different story.”
“A story that will remain untold,” Dag decreed.
Deb regarded her warmly. “It was nice meeting you, Doka,”
Once alone, Dag sat silent until Doka tried to speak.
“—Find a copy of Third Office’s rules regarding technology disbursement to people assigned to Ramaxia,” the hizak calmly ordered. “Verify there is no exact location specified.”
Dag pouted. “I’m not bonded, Doka.”
“That’s why I’m unaware that couples don’t think alike.”
“Of course, Ambassador.”
“My hair isn’t a form,” Dag explained. “It’s real,”
“It’s real, Ambassador.”
Dag looked at her. “She took control of my assembly.”
“Yes, Ambassador,” said Doka. “She took control.”