Forgive any errors for this scene was excised and never made it past the first draft phase. =_=;
Last year, Ilo Cux was named Prime Citizen of Ramaxia.
Tuzaxi Hide Care presented her with a contract to be the face of their product line, and the credit stipend was the largest Ilo had ever seen. Eager to make the deal Ilo signed with Zil Presentations, the first talent agency to come calling.
It didn’t take long for Ilo to realize that Zil was just another form of citbluz.
Last night Ilo and some other prominent Zaxiri were dispatched on another of Zil’s assignments. A luxurious transport from the elite Toxikal Bluzel collected Ilo and her companions and whisked them, along with Crixal Dox, to the Toxis high-rise of Clan Wram.
Old hizzah Lekada Wram had a penchant for beautiful bellies and a reputation for ignoring refusals. Ilo and the other Zaxiri spent their night enduring the unwanted advances of Lekada and her slimy elder peers, except for Crixal.
Always crafty, the black-hided beauty latched onto to old friend Zixas Wram, free from Orta on an academic pass. Crixal confided in Ilo that the pass was bogus; Zixas couldn’t read much less study anything in Mynu. When Zixas left the party, she too Crix with her.
Ilo dreaded the drink given to her by elder Wram because taking it meant the old mollusk would be back for a second drink, and then a third.
After that drink, Ilo felt herself getting woozy. Drugged, she quickly found a hall of private rooms and locked herself away in some donats room.
Waking at day-rise, Ilo emerged unmolested and passing by the toilet-room, found Lekada sitting at a desk, clad only a robe and hair wrap. Two of the models that had accompanied Ilo last night was passed out naked on the erotic couch at the far end of the room.
Ilo crept out of the upscale residence, unnoticed, and entering the dark stairwell, she bounded down five floors before finding a maintenance door.
Freedom was Ilo’s until the hem of dress not got caught in the electronic door. The sheer purple frock was borrowed from Crixal, and Ilo didn’t want to tear it, but the door clamped shut and wouldn’t open without an access card.
“Do you need help?”
Startled, Ilo fell against the door.
“Citizen, you frightened me,” Ilo stood up, her sights trained on the trapped hem of her dress, “I don’t have a key-card to open this door, and it’s shut on my bluzerie.”
“I know you.”
Ilo tugged at her dress, “I’m in print and BEB ads,”
“I don’t watch the BEBBLE.”
Ilo recognized the condescension and turning, she found the golden hided Bizak from Mynu.
“Last year in Mynu,” Ilo put her hand on her hip, “You called me stupid,”
“I didn’t call you stupid,” Velto’s hands had gone behind her back as if hiding something, “When you were talking with my friends, you spoke with an air of intelligence I found interesting, for a Zaxir.”
“Zaxir are interesting,” Ilo spat.
“The moment you got their undivided attention,” Velto said. “You turned into a twit.”
“I’m not stupid,” Ilo said.
“Then why act stupid?” Velto asked.
“I’m not a twit, either.” Ilo added, and when Velto’s eyes drifted to the dress caught in the door, Ilo snapped, “Hey, this can happen to anyone!”
Velto flashed that adorable smile and slid her access card through the door reader. When it popped open, Ilo snatched her dress free.
“Why aren’t you leaving through the front?” Velto asked.
Ilo replied, “I don’t want that slimy-ass creeper Wram sending one of her lackeys to follow me home,”
“Are you talking about Lekadawram?”
“Old stump doesn’t have the brains,” Ilo said. “Or the fronts, to impress anyone other than herself.”
“Did she hurt you?” Velto’s eyes fell to the bruise on Ilo’s arm.
“I’ve been swimming around eels like Wram a long time,” Ilo said.
Velto raised a hand to the bruise but didn’t.
Ilo grinned, “I got this sneaking out of the room I slept in.”
“She drugged you?” Velto’s hands formed into fists.
“I came here last night with some models from the agency I work for. I just forced the lock to a room at the back of her residence, and hid out,” Ilo said, assuring. “It was weird in there, a bunch of machinery, and these balls that glowed building on the walls.”
“Glowed buildings?” Velto said, confused.
“You know those balls that when you touch them, a picture of the building comes up,” Ilo said. “But the building’s not done yet because there’s no walls or windows in it?”
“A Schematic-Sphere?” Velto asked.
“One of those!” Ilo made sure to present her fronts to the shorter Velto. “I was safe, I locked the door and slept undisturbed until whatever she gave me, wore off.”
“You need to be careful,” Velto had become serious. “She’ll fixate on you, and then use whatever means at her disposal to smear you if you refuse her.”
“Oh doe, all my immoral deeds were exposed ages ago by my rival contestants,” Ilo walked toward the rounder-station on the street. “You can’t run for something like Prime Citizen and not put all your most salacious misdeeds out there.”
“I didn’t think of that,” Velto said, following.
“Did you ever get the information you wanted?” said Ilo.
“Information?” Velto asked.
“When we first met in Mynu,” she said. “You were questioning all the wrong breeders, for all the right info.”
Velto lowered her gaze, “Oh that, no.”
“What were you trying to find out?”
“What drinks were most popular, in the bluzsh.”
“You were trying to make a new drink. Figures.”
Velto moved alongside her, “What figures?”
“Zaxiri don’t need new drinks,” said Ilo. “They need better hygiene units.”
“Every bluzsh has units,” said Velto.
“One unit per floor,” Ilo said. “There are five citizens per floor.”
“They all use the same unit?” Velto curled her lip.
“No cold and ready breeder wants to wait in line to clean up between rides,” Ilo explained, “Most don’t bother, and that’s how infections get started.”
“I didn’t know that was an issue,” Velto said.
“You’d know if you stepped inside a bluzsh, to just talk.” Ilo smiled.
Velto pointed to her own groin, “Have you ever had a-?”
“—an infection?” Ilo put her hands on her hips, “I’m good enough at using my body that I don’t have to work a bluzsh.”
“My lover, she’s still in Mynu,” Velto said. “She says that guzshlix infections are sometimes fatal if they’re ignored.”
“My maker developed an infection,” Ilo confessed. “She started working overtime after my kerma was collected for termination.”
“You’re the donation of a male?”
“You say that like I’m a disease.”
“I didn’t mean to sound—”
“—Disgusted?” Ilo snapped. “Well, you did.”
“Your maker, did she get better?” Velto asked.
“Her broken heart made her hyper-sexual,” Ilo said. “Lack of hygiene units killed her. It was a simple inflammation of the gashcol wall, but it got worse because she didn’t cleanse between lovers. I was nine when she passed.”
“I’m sorry,” Velto stopped walking. “My lover, she says that no Zaxiri should have to die because they need more proper hygiene units.”
“Your lover’s in Mynu?” Ilo asked, smiling. “She a Hizzah?”
Velto’s lips twisted in distaste, “Ugh, no! She’s Subak.”
“Figures,” said Ilo, disappointed. “Why wouldn’t she be?”
“What does that mean?” Velto demanded.
“All the good bizzies end up with subs,” Ilo sighed.
“I’m going to talk to the CR of Toxis,” Velto said. “Zaxiri dying because of a lack of hygiene units is unacceptable.”
Ilo stepped close enough to smell the scent of Velto’s hair.
“When you’re indignant like this, it makes you taller.”
“That’s funny,” Velto wasn’t laughing.
At the rounder stop, Ilo turned to find Velto staring at her backswell.
“You hungry, bizzy?”
“I am, you want to eat me?”
“Do you want to eat with me?”
“When we first met,” Velto tugged the front of her suit. “You called me an annoying little spec.”
“You were an annoying little spec,” Ilo got close to put her fronts in Velto’s face. “Now, not so much.”
“I don’t think it would be appropriate.” Velto stepped back.
Ilo laughed, “I don’t even know what that word means.”
“Can you stop playing dumb, it makes you ugly?” Velto snapped.
Ilo stopped laughing, “I don’t know what that word means, either.”
“My kerma just tried to take advantage of you,” Velto said.
Ilo frowned, “Aw, she’s really your kerma, huh?”
“That was my room you hid out in,” Velto walked away from the rounder-stop. “Please tell me you didn’t leave my schematic-spheres in display mode. They take a long time to recharge.”
“I turned them off,” Ilo followed. “Then I got busy going through all your things.”
Velto turned, “You did what?”
“Your donat-size bizbats are so cute!” Ilo said.
“They’re not donat size!” Velto’s eyes drifted down to Ilo’s fronts. “They’re a size zero.”
Ilo smiled, “I didn’t even know bizafem-wear had a size zero!”
“You can go ride yourself,” Velto grinned.
“I owe you some eats,” Ilo grabbed Velto’s hand. “Let’s hit the day-rise place down the street.”
“Hit the what?” Velto asked.
“You’re coming to eat, with me,” Ilo said.
Briskly walking Velto to West Toxis Square, Ilo took her to the first café she spotted on the corner. After being seated, Velto examined the place, as if studying it with a purpose. Their waitress, a Bizak with hair pulled back like Velto’s, smiled at Ilo.
“Hi there,” Ilo said. “I want some fried patotok shreds, itabix-flats with extra syrup on the side, and a plate of zatolixa strips cooked medium. I don’t like them crispy. Oh, and I want a large glass of palux-juice, keep them coming.”
“You’re Ilo Cux,” the waitress said.
“You found me.” Ilo smiled sweetly.
“I voted for you,” said the waitress. “In all the categories.”
“Aw, thank you,” Ilo said.
Velto looked up from the menu screen on the tabletop’s surface.
“Excuse me, what brand of food processor are you using?”
“It’s a Wram model,” the waitress said.
“Do you like it?”
“It’s better than anything we had before,”
“Do you think you’d one small enough to use at your residence?”
“That would be amazing,”
“If all the Citizens ate at home, you wouldn’t have a job,” as Ilo spoke, both regarded her as if they’d forgotten she was there. “I would never eat at home. I like being with other citizens.”
“Not all of us do, or can,” Velto said.
“Veltowram,” Ilo said. “You’re such a polar fox, digging your hole in the ice and hiding.”
The waitress’s eyes went wide when Ilo said Velto’s name.
“How can you say that about me?” Velto demanded.
“I’ve seen your private room,” Ilo said, “You’re in it way too much,”
The waitress’s eyes shifted from Ilo to Velto.
“You’ve met Lekada,” Velto snapped. “If you lived there, wouldn’t you hide?”
“You got me there,” Ilo said, smiling.
“I’ll have some patotok, but mashed, and I need my zatolixa strips crispy, I want to crumble them up on my pats. To drink, I want milk,” Velto glanced at Ilo. “You should get some too,”
The waitress asked, “Bear, wolf, or faxuto?”
“Bear’s milk, please,” Velto smiled when Ilo laughed. “What? What’s wrong with bear’s milk?”
“It’s bitter,” Ilo complained, face twisted.
“It’s supposed to be,” Velto rolled her eyes at the waitress, “That’s why you drink it at day-rise. It gives you a kick.”
“I spent the night in your room, Velto,” Ilo said, “I don’t need a kick.”
“I’ll be right back,” the waitress dismissed herself, and then scurried over to the other wait staff and began whispering.
Ilo looked back to find Velto staring at her frontals again.
“What’s a Wram Atmospheric Assembler?” Ilo spoke with enough volume to bring Velto’s attention back to her face. “I’ve seen those words on the little drainage grills, where I live.”
Velto’s brow furrowed.
“What floor do you live on that you can see the gutters?”
“I don’t live in a bluzsh, short stack,” Ilo said. “Tell me, what is it?”
“It creates moisture to humidify the air, and cycles the rains,” Velto said. “It was created by an ancestor of mine, back when the domes were set.”
“The name Wram is on so many things,” Ilo said.
Velto frowned, “Don’t remind me.”
“Have you designed things?” Ilo asked.
Velto took in the room, “What makes you think I’m responsible for anything?”
“When I saw you in Mynu with all those brainer snots,” Ilo said. “You were one of them and not the hired help.”
“Those snots are my friends,” Velto said. “About Lekada, I’m sorry-”
“—forget it, I already have,” Ilo said.
“I’m sorry you had to deal with that,” Velto said.
“Forget about it, she’s a Ninth,” Ilo reached over the table and took hold of Velto’s hands. “They’re entitled sharks with no boundaries. They’re shits, and they know it.”
The waitress returned with drinks.
“You don’t get along with your kerma, do you?” Ilo asked after the waitress departed.
“I don’t hate her, I just,” Velto focused on her milk.
“It’s hard with kermas. They’re not the first maker you see, and when you’re small, you never get to sit on their lap or touch their swell. There’s never a physical connection.” Ilo saw Velto stare as if she just passed gas. “What’s wrong with you?”
Velto whispered, “Can you please not talk about frontal-play, in public.”
“Are you serious?” Ilo gasped.
“Yes,” Velto said.
Ilo raised her voice, “What donations do with their nestors suzsch, is not frontal-play.”
“You can stop now,” Velto pushed her glass of milk away.
“It’s not sexual, Velto.” Ilo smiled.
“It’s weird when you talk about it,” Velto snapped.
“We wouldn’t want your desire for subbies fronts hindered by the annoying donats they were actually designed for,” Ilo said, delighted to see Velto smile. “Maybe you should invent a machine for donats to just grope fronts,”
Velto teetered on the verge of laughter, “The market would be solely hiziburxic!”
“Alter it so it can shoot milk like helovx women do!” Ilo laughed. “Bear’s milk, to get them going at day-rise!”
Velto laughed so hard with Ilo that they garnished the attention of the entire eatery. Ilo’s face went cold as tears of happiness pooled in her eyes. When the waitress returned to refill their glasses, Ilo found Velto staring at her.
Ilo met her gaze boldly, smiling at the waitress when she departed.
“Your nestor didn’t let you play with her swell?” Ilo asked.
Velto turned serious, “Of course, she loved me.”
“Loved?” Ilo said. “Oh Velto, I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault,” Velto said. “It was Lekada.”
“I read that CM Wram’s nestor killed herself,” Ilo whispered.
Velto nodded, “Yes, she did.”
“Again,” Ilo said. “I didn’t mean to bring that shit up,”
“My kerma’s always been a predator,” Velto said. “My nester, her name was Hal. She was a nurse, or that’s what she wanted to be before my kerma found her.”
“Let’s talk about Hal,” Ilo said. “Not Lekada.”
“Hal started as a makodonic nurse at a local ZHC in Toxis,” Velto took off her jacket, showing off her thin arms. “When she became a nurse at the ZHC in Utama, the Hizak doctor she worked for treated Fee Banto.”
“The Primary’s bond partner,” Ilo said.
“Back then they were just sibs that took to riding each other,” Velto curled her lip. “Hal got invited to a meal at Fee’s citbluz residence. In her diary, she expressed feeling honored because an elite among Zaxiri wanted to get to know her.”
“What happened?” Ilo asked.
“When Hal got there, she had one drink and woke up with Lekada on top of her. Unlike you, she punched and ran.” Velto cleared her throat. “She then transferred to a ZHC in Pikalit and moved back in with her makers.”
Ilo didn’t know what to say.
“A few months passed before Fee found her, claiming she’d filmed the encounter and that Lekada was going to put it out on the stream,” Velto sipped her milk. “There was an election coming up in Toxis, and my kerma desperately needed a Subak bond-partner.”
Ilo didn’t know how to change the subject.
“She gave birth to you, right?”
“Not by choice,” said Velto. “Zaxiri avoid Clan Wram because we’re prone to generational makoduxilopas,”
Makoduxilopausal donuxi developed too quickly after insertion. The facial plugs on developing donats fuse to the lining of the makodux, and during delivery, tore free, taking a chunk of the makodux with it.
All birthers bleed out after delivering.
Ilo learned from Hibby that the condition came from the kermadux gland of an Hizak carrier, but it skipped a generation in the genetic lines that carried it; Ilo suddenly felt guilty for taking comfort in the fact that Velto a safe bet since old Lekada was an active carrier.
“After my sibs killed their birthers, Lekada insisted that Hal give birth to me,” Velto said. “It damaged her, physically. When I was born, they had to take her makodux out.”
Ilo felt her eyes tearing up.
“Hal was around until I could walk,” Velto said. “She left me one of those ziko-markees. I still watch it, when I feel like I forget what her face looks like.”
Dabbing her eyes, Ilo forced down her curiosity about the details of Hal’s fate.
“Were you her only donation?”
Velto said, “Yes, scheduled.”
“You say that, like the alternative’s bad,” Ilo said.
Velto softened, “I didn’t mean to.”
“So scheduled Wram,” Ilo said. “What have you made for the Citizenry?”
“The Wram Processor,” Velto whispered.
“That thing that makes food, in this place?” Ilo asked.
Velto glanced around them, “Yes, that thing,”
“Did you come up with that, all on your own?” said Ilo.
Velto shrugged, “My kerma says I stood the shoulders of my betters.”
“Your betters? None of them made what you made,” Ilo said. “The only thing your kerma ever makes is idiotic policy.”
Velto smiled, “I knew you weren’t as stupid as you pretended to be,”
“So how did you come up with your thing?” Ilo asked.
“I started with a pre-existing line of code, from an operational sequence program in the Wram Atmospheric Assembler,” Velto said. “I lifted that line of code, the one that dissembles the carbon dioxide exhaled by you and me and turns it into breathable air.”
“Not to interrupt what you’re trying to tell me,” Ilo said. “But why do we need that Atmospheric thing?”
“It allows for a humidified oxygen supply in a subterranean environment,” Velto talked with her hands. “It negates the need for enormous ventilation connection to the surface.”
Ilo giggled, “I like that word, enormous.”
“Do you want to hear this, or not?” Velto said. “The code designed by my ancestor was a basic formula that rearranged the subatomic particles around us, to form molecules.”
“These molecules it makes, is purified, wet-air?” Ilo asked.
“Exactly,” Velto said.
Ilo grinned, “I still like the word, enormous.”
Velto shook her head and smiled.
Some admirers were looking at them from the kitchen, and when Ilo waved at them, a few happily waved back; when Velto turned, they all quickly got back to work.
“Doesn’t it bother you that people are always staring?” Velto asked.
“You took a line of code and then what?” Ilo asked.
“I expanded on it. I created a sequence capable of forming molecules from atoms of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen. My assembler arranges them into amino acids, to form proteins and cells.” Velto glowed with confidence. “These cellular particles get processed into whatever edible sustenance one finds in the assembler’s production files.”
Ilo narrowed her eyes, prompting Velto to explain.
“If you want a steak, it can make a steak,” said Velto. “From whatever base protein source, you have on hand.”
“Why not just make the whole faxuto,” Ilo ignored Velto’s annoyed expression. “Oh! Better still, one of those birds from Brasilia, with the white feathers and yellow beaks. You don’t eat them, but you can teach them to say your name! Mrawk! Ilo is pretty, Mrawk!”
“It can’t replicate living things,” Velto said.
Thrusting her hands into Ilo’s juice glass, Velto dug out some ice.
Ilo felt her heart in her throat; when a Bizak was genuinely comfortable around you, she picked at your food, sipped your drink, and sat close enough that her arm touched yours.
“Living things comprise of complicated quantum structures,” Velto said. “The assembler’s construction program is limited to a simple replication formula.”
“One dead thing, becomes another dead thing?” Ilo asked.
“Exactly,” Velto said, eyes down.
“You don’t think that’s impressive?” Ilo asked, “Anyone can put seaweed, or krill, into your processor, and then gorge on faxuto steak or roasted bakuti.”
The waitress returned, and as she set their plates in front of them, another waitress refilled Ilo’s juice and gave Velto a fresh glass of milk.
“You shouldn’t downplay a feat like that by telling others it’s something you borrowed from some line of code.” Ilo scolded.
“My project was funded to create tharspin, not ready-made food,” said Velto. “That’s why my code is considered an accidental accomplishment.”
“Some Ninth-Gen eels didn’t get what they wanted,” Ilo snapped, “The citizenry got something amazing. Like Rasa Jyr says, what the citizenry gets is all that matters,”
Velto stared at her, “Did you just quote Rasajyr?”
“I know politics, okay,” Ilo said.
Velto laughed, “CM Jyr was the only one that thought the processor was brilliant, well, her and Sofita Kul,”
“The Primary’s other donation, right?” Ilo asked. “She wrote that scary book about the Femaki’xirpaxul trying to kill us.”
“The books a little more than that,” Velto said.
“I don’t read uxiligol,” said Ilo, between bites. “I like reading things that aren’t real. The way she wrote it though, it was so weird and wonderful. Did you read it?”
Velto nodded, “It’s like the Femaki’xirpaxul wrote it,”
“She was a crazy birther with a Hizzah brain, how scary is that?” Ilo asked.
Velto smiled, “I think that was the point,”
“Sofitakul is the only hizzah I would ever consider breeding with, and that’s a real if because Hizaki get on my nerves,” Ilo said.
“Why is she even in the running, then?” Velto began shoveling food into her mouth. Like most bizzies, she lacked basic table manners; most learned after bonding.
“She’s a free-born, like me,” said Ilo.
“Sofita was born in the scheduled production,” Velto said.
“Femmar do not twin out,” Ilo shook her head. “Sofitakul was already in there when that bruiser sib of hers was implanted.”
“Her name is Fusada,” Velto snapped.
“I know, I’ve ridden her,” Ilo smiled.
Velto paused a moment, then began speaking with her mouth full, “How did you win Prime Citizen as a free-birth?”
“It’s all about genetics in the first round,” Ilo said. “After that, it’s all up to the citizenry.”
“Your chromosomes held up under scrutiny?” Velto asked.
“My DNA’s so spectacular, it blinded some of the judges.” Ilo said, and when Velto rolled her eyes, Ilo demanded, “I’m not supposed to love myself?”
“It’s a skill I’ve yet to learn,” Velto lifted her milk and with one tip of the glass, gulped half of it down. Letting out a belch she added, “I can’t believe I’m talking like this with a stranger.”
“It’s my face,” Ilo said.
“No, it’s not,” said Velto, staring at Ilo’s fronts.
“You like bellies?” Ilo asked.
“I like thickness,” Velto said. “You’re thick in the places I like,”
After the waitress arrived to remove their dishes, Ilo pulled out her card to pay.
“Don’t even think about it,” Velto said. “I make three times what you do in credit.”
“How’s that possible?” Ilo demanded.
“It is what it is,” Velto said, confident.
“I bet I do less for it,” Ilo quipped, setting her card beside Velto’s. “You’d be surprised at the credit I get just for showing up naked at social events.”
The waitress whisked by taking Velto’s card and leaving Ilo’s. At that moment Ilo felt like that donat on the playscape whose dress was soiled and whose shoes no longer fit.
“You don’t owe me anything, Ilocux,” Velto said.
Ilo looked up from her card, “What?”
“I can see it in your face,” Velto said.
“What’s in my face?” Ilo asked.
“You don’t owe me anything,” said Velto. “For buying you a meal.”
Ilo’s heart froze, “That’s not what I was thinking.”
The waitress returned, and after shifting her eyes from Ilo to Velto, she handed Velto’s card back to her, “Citizen Wram, I just want to say, it’s an honor to serve you.”
“Thank you,” Velto raised her card, and the waitress touched her handheld to it.
After it dinged, she left them alone.
“How much did you tip her?” Ilo asked.
“Ten percent,” said Velto.
“No shit?” Ilo smiled. “You must be great at the citbluz,”
“Bellies love me at citbluz,” Velto slid out of the booth.
On their way out, Ilo made sure Velto walked out in front and passing the staff, she heard their hushed gossip: it was about time one of their caste got something like Ilocux. Suddenly, Velto turned around.
“Why are you walking behind me?” she asked, brow furrowed, “Walk by my side, I can’t talk to you when you’re behind me.”
A wave of anxiety washed over Ilo; respect was a strange creature.
Stepping up alongside, Ilo remained at Velto’s side until they reached the door, where the shorter bark opened it for her.
Outside Ilo said, “I catch the Rix Rounder going east.”
Velto nodded and walked with her to the stop.
The rounder slowed, its bumper guards bouncing lightly against the curb. Four fleeters emerged and made no effort to hide their wanton leers of Ilo.
“Can you make her feel more like a piece of meat?” Velto said.
One of the bruisers turned, “I can turn you into a piece of meat,”
“Come at me, toob-shit!” Velto snarled.
Before the short Bizak could step to the Marix, Ilo yanked her by the arm and then shoved her into the rounder. Falling into their seats, Ilo laughed at Velto’s rage.
“How can you stand it when they look at you like-?”
“—like I’m a torso, with no head?” Ilo asked, “Objectification doesn’t bother me, what bothers is me when citizens think I can’t pay my own way.”
“The waitress took my card,” Velto said. “That’s what weirded you out?”
“So, are you destined for the Cloister?” Ilo asked.
“I don’t have what it takes for politics.” Velto shook her head.
“That’s a shame,” said Ilo. “Your mind works in an honest way,”
“That’s bad for politics,” Velto said.
The rounder came to a stop out front of the arch to the Luzat Circle. Stepping from the rounder, Ilo took a confused Velto by the hand.
“You’re going to walk me to my door, aren’t you?”
Leading Velto under the arch, Ilo said hello to the Sixth-Gen bruiser stationed at the watch kiosk and urged Velto on with a friendly smile. The pair walked through the circular neighborhood hand in hand, around a massive fountain and greenspace that centered a ring of connected multicolored townhomes.
“A friend of a friend lives here,” Velto said.
“Is it your Mynu lover?” Ilo asked, teasing.
Subbie’s were assigned units in these neighborhoods upon completion of their vocational training.
“Do you live here?” Velto asked.
“I live with a friend of a friend,” Ilo said.
Yulia Utat was a subbie Ilo met after befriending a bluzerie model named Riba Nox. Following the genetics round of Prime Citizen, Ribno, as Crixal called her, had invited Ilo and Crix to the Shell home she shared with subbie Yulia.
A talented hair stylist, the thick Yuli had known Ribno since their first Subaxir Social when they were eleven. The pair of breeders enjoyed sex with each other and often grouped up exclusively with Marixi. Ilo employed Yulia to create her current look and eventually moved in with them when Ribno offered.
“How good a friends are you?” Velto asked.
“I don’t have a prime if that’s what you’re asking.” Ilo led Velto to an end unit that was the color of an abalone shell, with light blue trim and sun-bleached white stairs.
“No one knows you live here,” Velto said.
Ilo smiled, “The media would never think to look for me in a place like this.”
Reaching the front door, Ilo turned and planted a kiss on Velto’s lips.
Velto stepped back as if burned.
“What’re you doing?”
“I’m seducing you,” Ilo said.
Velto’s eyes had scanned the area before stepping back down onto the pavement.
“I can’t touch you in public?” Ilo lost her smile.
“It’s not a good idea,” said Velto.
“Are you ashamed to be seen with me?” Ilo demanded.
Velto said, “Not at all-”
“—then kiss me,” Ilo spat. “Before you make me mad.”
Velto shook her head, “Not out here,”
Ilo took Velto’s hand, but Velto broke free.
Velto tugged at the hem of her suit.
“I can’t be seen entering your residence!” Velto was again the shitty little stump that insulted Ilo in Mynu.
“You well-dressed worker-scrub!” Ilo stepped into her. “You’re embarrassed by me!”
Velto stepped back, “No,”
“Excuse me” Ilo demanded. “For not being some subbie with a degree in hearing you talk about your problems!”
“—lower your voice!” Velto said through her teeth.
Ilo shouted, “Sorry I won’t be wiping your future donations ass!”
“Stop it!” Velto cried, her eyes wet. “You don’t understand!”
Ilo didn’t understand and stood alone on the pavement after Velto dashed to the strip between Yulia’s unit and the next residence. It was too early for any of her subbie neighbors to be home, no one knew they were there. Joining Velto in the alley, she found her hunched up against the side of the residence.
“Velto, talk to me,” Ilo reached out, her voice comforting.
“You don’t understand,” Velto inhaled. “Being with me, its problematic,”
“Talk to me,” Ilo put herself in Velto’s sight line. “What’s the problem?”
“Why can’t you just let me walk away?” Velto demanded. “There are thousands of others you can have, you don’t need me!”
Ilo spoke without hesitation, “I deserve a citizen as beautiful and intelligent as you.”
Velto stared at Ilo for what seemed a lifetime.
“I’m not ashamed of you,” Velto moved in close enough that Ilo felt her breath, and touching Ilo’s face like a donat with a new toy, she said, “I just don’t want you involved with my shit,”
“What shit are you talking about?” Ilo asked.
Velto shook her head, “It’s complicated, Ilo.”
“You can tell me all about it when you’re ready,” Ilo took Velto by the hand and led her to the back entry. “Just come inside with me, please?”