This was a flashback to Ilo’s second meeting with Velto – the one alluded to in Episode One that Ilo recalls as their first meeting. It didn’t fit into Episode Seven like I hoped and thus didn’t make it to the second draft. (Warning: First Draft – not as polished as I would like…)
Deleted Scene: Episode 7 (Tactical Pursuits Arc)
Characters: Ilo Cux, Velto Wram
Version: First Draft edit
Content Warnings: None
A year ago, yesterday, Ilo had been crowned Prime Citizen of Ramaxia.
Two hours after her victory strut down the runway, Tuzaxi Hide Care presented her with a contract to be the face of their product line; the credit stipend remained the largest she’d ever seen. She eagerly signed on with Zil Presentations, the first talent agency to reach out; her unsigned contract contained too many legal details, and any agency would do—or so she thought.
Before long, she noticed that Zil Presentations was just another form of citbluz. Most of her modeling assignments turned out to be escort gigs with the nation’s most famous or influential. Last night proved no different as she and runner-up to her crown, Crixal Dox, got collected by a push transport service for delivery to the Toxis high-rise of Clan Wram.
That old hizzah Lekada Wram had a penchant for beautiful bellies and a reputation for ignoring refusals. Ilo, Crixal, and a couple of other zaxiri spent the night enduring the unwanted advances of Lekada and the old hizak’s slimy peers.
Crixal, as usual, escaped early. The black-hided beauty latched onto old friend Zixas Wram, free from Orta on an academic pass. Of course, this was a lie; Zixas couldn’t read to saver her girz—yet when Zixas left the party, she took Crix with her.
Ilo dreaded the drink given to her by elder Wram; taking it meant the mollusk would be back for a second drink and then a third. She drank them, and not long after, felt woozy.
Sure she was drugged, Ilo quickly slipped down the hall and locked herself in some donat’s room.
Waking at day-rise, Ilo had emerged unmolested. She’d crept down the hall, passing the washroom where the two models from last night lay passed out naked on the floor. It took some doing, but she managed to slip past Lekada, seated at her desk, working in a robe and hair wrap.
Out the front door, she’d bounded down the hall and rushed into the dark stairwell. Five flights down found her winded at the maintenance door. Unfortunately, freedom had fled when her dress hem got caught in the closing door. Ilo couldn’t tear the sheer purple frock free because it was a loaner from Crixal. She grabbed at the door hand, pushing it up and down in vain; kyrstronic doors never opened without access cards.
“Do you need help?”
Startled, Ilo fell against the door.
“Citizen, you frightened me,” she mumbled, her sights trained on the trapped hem of her dress. “I don’t have a key-swipe to open this thing, and it’s shut on my bluzerie.”
“Hold up. I think I know you.”
“Everyone knows me,” she sighed, tugging at her dress. “I’m on the BEB,”
“I don’t watch the BEBBLE.”
That familiar arrogance forced Ilo’s attention from her dress, where she found that little golden-hided bizak from Mynu. It had been over a year since they crossed paths; Ilo remembered it because that’s how and when she’d Fusada Kul.
Ilo put her hand on her hip.
“You’re that little shit from Mynu that called me stupid,”
“I didn’t call you stupid. I said you turned stupid.” The bizak’s hands went behind her back. “When you were talking with my friends, you spoke with an air of intelligence that I found interesting, for a zaxir. The moment you got their undivided attention, though, you turned into a twit.”
“I’m not stupid,” Ilo said.
“Then why act, stupid?”
“I’m not a twit, either.”
The short citizen’s eyes drifted to the dress caught in the door.
“Hey,” Ilo snapped. “This shit can happen to anyone!”
Smiling like an adorable brat, the bizak slid her access card through the door reader, and when it popped open, Ilo snatched her dress free.
“Why aren’t you leaving through the front?” she asked.
“Because,” said Ilo. “I don’t want that slimy 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.”
The bizak’s eyes fell to the bruise on Iloi’s arm.
“Did CM Wram hurt you?”
Ilo laughed while shaking her head. “I’ve been swimming around eels like her a long time. This? I got this sneaking out of the room I slept in,”
“Slept?” The bizak’s hands formed into fists. “She drugged you?”
“Yeah, but I got away unscathed. Just forced the lock on a room in the back and hid out.” Ilo plunged her finger into her hair and fluffed up its volume. “It was weird in there, a bunch of machinery, and these balls that glowed buildings on the walls.”
“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. It’s like just lines and numbers telling how big each room is,”
“That’s what they’re called?” Ilo presented her large fronts to the shorter citizen. “I locked the door and slept undisturbed until whatever she gave me wore off.”
“You need to be careful,” the bizak said gravely. “Cm Wram fixates on those she wants and then uses whatever means at her disposal to smear you if you refuse her.”
“Oh doe, all my immoral deeds were exposed ages ago by rival contestants.” Ilo laughed while walking toward the streetside rounder station. “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,” she said, following her.
“Did you ever get the information you wanted?”
“Information?” she asked.
“When we first met in Mynu, you questioned all the wrong breeders for all the right info,” said Ilo.
The bizak lowered her gaze. “Oh that, no.”
“What were you trying to find out?”
“What drinks are most popular, in the bluzsh.”
“You were trying to make a new drink?” Ilo rolled her eyes. “Figures.”
The bizak moved alongside her. “What figures?”
“Bluzsh zaxxy’s don’t need new drinks,” Ilo said. “They need hygiene units.”
“Every bluzsh has units,” she countered.
“One unit per floor,” said Ilo. “There are five citizens per floor.”
The bizak curled her lip. “They all use the same unit?”
“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.” The shorter bizak pointed at 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.”
The bizak walked alongside her. “A lover of mine, she’s still in Mynu, she says that guzshlix infections are sometimes fatal when ignored.”
“My maker developed an infection,” Ilo confessed. “She started working overtime after my kerma got collected for termination.”
The bizak stopped walking. “You’re the donation of a male?”
“You say that like I’m a disease,” Ilo said.
“I didn’t mean to sound—”
“—Disgusted?” Ilo said. “Well, you did.”
“Your maker, is she okay?”
“Her broken heart made her hyper-sexual,” Ilo said, eyes averted. “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,” the bizak rejoined her. “My lover says that no zaxiri should have to die for lacking hygiene units.”
“Is that the lover in Mynu?” Ilo asked, smiling. “You didn’t strike me as a hizzah type,”
Large eyes narrowed as thin lips twisted. “Ugh, no! She’s subak,”
“Figures,” said Ilo, disappointed.
“All the icy bizzies end up with subaki,”
“My name is Velto,”
“I know, I remember,” said Ilo.
“I’m going to talk to the CR of Toxis,” she said. “Zaxiri dying because of a lack of hygiene units is unacceptable.”
Ilo moved into the shorter citizen’s space and inhaled her perfumed hair. “When you’re indignant like this, it makes you taller.”
“That’s funny,” said Velto, not laughing.
At the rounder stop, Ilo noticed the bizak stealing glances 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 said, tugging at the front of her suit jacket. “You called me an annoying little spec.”
“You were acting like an annoying little spec.” Ilo got her fronts into Velto’s face again. “Now, not so much.”
“We can’t dine together.” Velto stepped back. “It wouldn’t be appropriate,”
Ilo laughed. “I don’t even know what that word means.”
“Can you stop playing dumb,” Velto said. “It makes you ugly.”
Ilo stopped laughing. “I don’t know what that word means, either.”
“My kerma just tried to take advantage of you,” Velto reminded. “It wouldn’t be right for me to dine with you.”
Ilo frowned. “Aw, she’s really your kerma, huh?”
“That was my room you slept 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 said, following. “Then I got busy going through all your things.”
Velto turned. “You did what?”
“Your donat-size bizbats are so cute,”
“They’re not donat size,” Velto snapped, her eyes drawn to Ilo’s fronts. “They’re a size zero.”
“I didn’t know anything came a size zero,”
Velto grinned. “You can go ride yourself, Ilocux.”
“I owe you some eats.” Ilo grabbed Velto’s arm and briskly dragged the under-tall bizak to West Toxis Square. She snaked through the glowing trees and made for the first café she spotted.
After being seated, Velto studied their surroundings. The waitress, a bizzie with hair pulled back tighter than Velto’s, stepped to their booth and aimed a knowing smile.
“You’re Ilo Cux,” the waitress said.
“You found me.” Ilo smiled sweetly. “I want some fried patotok shreds, itabix-flats with extra syrup on the side, and a plate of zatolixa strips cooked medium. I like them chewy, not crispy. Oh, and I want a large glass of palux-juice.”
“I voted for you,” said the waitress, nodding and tapping Ilo’s order onto her tablet. “In all the categories,”
“Aw, thank you,” Ilo gushed.
Velto looked up from the menu displayed in the tabletop’s surface glass.
“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 use a small one in your residence?”
“That would be amazing,” the waitress said.
“Would it?” Ilo wondered. “I mean, if all the citizens ate at home, you wouldn’t have a job.”
Both regarded her as if they’d forgotten she was there.
“I would never eat at home,” Ilo added. “I like being with other citizens.”
“Not all of us do, or can, eat at home,” Velto said.
“You’re such a polar fox, Veltowram,” Ilo sighed. “Digging your hole in the ice and hiding in it.”
The waitress’s eyes widened upon hearing Velto’s name.
“How can you say that about me?” the golden-hided bizzy asked.
“I’ve seen your private room,” Ilo revealed, “You’re in it way too much.”
The waitress’s eyes shifted from Ilo to Velto and then back.
“You’ve met Lekada,” Velto retorted. “If you lived there, wouldn’t you hide?”
“You got me there,” Ilo said, laughing.
Velto shook her head and rolled her eyes at the waitress. For her part, the bizak smiled through starstruck eyes—clearly more impressed with Velto than Ilo.
“I’ll have some patotok, but mashed, and I need my zatolixa strips crispy. I want to crumble them up on my pats. And 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 grinned when Ilo giggled. “What? What’s wrong with bear’s milk?”
“It’s bitter,” Ilo complained, face twisted.
“It’s supposed to be,” Velto said, her large eyes lifting to the waitress. “That’s why you drink it at day-rise. It gives you a kick.”
“I spent the night in your room,” Ilo said, suggestively, “I don’t need a kick.”
“I’ll be right back,” the waitress said quickly.
Ilo watched the bizzy scurry over to the other wait staff and begin whispering. One of them lifted their Filmark and covertly aimed it at their table for a freeze. When Ilo turned back, she found Velto’s gaze again on her frontals.
“What’s a Wram Atmospheric Assembler?”
Her volume captured Velto’s attention.
“I’ve seen those words on the little drainage grills set under the curbs,” she added.
Velto’s brow furrowed. “What floor do you live on that you can see the street?”
“I don’t live in a cit-bluzsh,” Ilo said.
“Oh, smell me,” said Velto, making Ilo laugh. “Atmospheric Assemblers humidify the air and cycle the rains. They were created by an ancestor of mine, back when they set the first domes.”
“The name Wram is on tons of things,” said Ilo.
Velto frowned. “Don’t remind me.”
“Have you designed anything?” Ilo asked.
Velto surveyed the mostly empty diner.
“What makes you think I’m responsible for anything?”
“When I saw you in Mynu with all those brainer snots,” Ilo replied. “They acted like you were one of them and not the hired help.”
“Those snots are my friends,” Velto said, her elbows on the table. “About Lekada, I’m sorry-”
“Forget about her. I have.” Ilo reached over the table and took hold of Velto’s soft hands. “Most polluted-gens are a bunch of entitled sharks with no boundaries.”
When the waitress returned with drinks, Velto immediately pulled away.
“You don’t get along with your kerma, do you?” Ilo asked after the waitress departed.
Velto focused on her milk. “I don’t hate her, I just,”
“It’s hard with kerma’s,” Ilo mused. “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.”
Velto blanched as if Ilo had passed gas.
“What’s wrong with you, bizzy?”
Velto whispered, “Can you please not talk about frontal-play in public.”
“Are you serious?” Ilo raised her voice. “What donations do with their nestors suzsch is not frontal-play.”
Velto pushed her glass of milk away.
“You can stop now, Ilo.”
“It’s not sexual,” she laughed.
“You can’t talk about a subak’s fronts like that,”
“Oh no. I wouldn’t want your desire for subbies fronts hindered by the annoying donats those fronts were actually designed for,” she teased, delighted by the bizak’s toothy smile. “Maybe you should invent a frontal machine for donats to grope,”
“Never,” Velto teetered on the verge of laughter as she said. “The market would be solely hiziburxic,”
“You should make it, so milk shoots out, like those helovx titties,” Ilo said, giggling. “Bear’s milk, to get them going at day-rise,”
Velto’s roaring laugh garnished the attention of those recently seated in the eatery, and as joyful tears pooled in the bizak’s expressive eyes, Ilo felt her thighs go cold. They settled down when the waitress returned to refill their glasses, and upon her departure, Ilo caught Velto staring at her again.
“Your nestor didn’t let you play with her swell?”
Velto turned serious. “Of course, she loved me.”
“Loved?” Ilo deflated. “Oh, Velto, I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault,” she said. “She died because of Lekada.”
“I didn’t mean to bring that shit up,” Ilo added.
Everyone knew about Lekada Wram’s first bond partner, a subak forced to give birth and had killed herself before her donats left to caste strain.
“My kerma’s always been a predator,” Velto said without hesitation. “My nestor’s name was Hal, and she was a nurse, or that’s what she wanted to be before my kerma captured her.”
“Let’s talk about Hal,” Ilo said. “Not Lekada.”
“Hal was a makodonic nurse at a local ZHC in Toxis.” Velto took off her jacket, revealing thin arms and flawless hide. “She eventually got a job at this ZHC in Utama, where the hizak doctor she worked for treated Fee Banto.”
“The Primary’s bond partner?”
“Back then, they were just sibs that shared a birther.” Velto curled her lip at the thought. “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.”
“When Hal got there, she had one drink and woke up with Lekada on top of her. 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 that she filmed the encounter with Lekada and planned to it on the interHive.” Velto sipped her milk. “There was an election coming up in Toxis, and my kerma desperately needed a subak bond partner. Fee thought my mak would be perfect.”
Ilo didn’t know how to change the subject.
“She gave birth to me. Did you know that?” Velto said. “Not by choice. Most zaxiri avoid Clan Wram because of the generational makoduxilopas.”
Makoduxilopausal donuxi developed too quickly after insertion. The facial plugs on developing donat fused to the lining of the makodux, and during delivery, tore ree, taking a chunk of the makodux with it and causing the birther to bleed out.
“So, after my sibs killed their birthers, Lekada insisted Hal give birth to me,” Velto continued. “When I was born, they had to take her makodux out.”
Ilo felt her eyes burn.
“After I left to caste-train,” Velto went quiet and then smiled. “She left me one of those ziko-markees. I still watch it when I start to forget what she looked like.”
Dabbing her eyes, Ilo forced down her curiosity.
“Were you her only donation?” she asked instead.
“No,” said Velto. “I have sib from another birther with Hal’s genes.”
“So, Veltowram,” Ilo said. “What devices have you made for the Citizenry?”
After a beat, Velto whispered, “The Wram Processor.”
“That thing that makes food, like in this place?”
Velto glanced around them. “Yes, that thing,”
“How did you come with that?”
“My kerma says I stood the shoulders of my betters.”
“What a slimy thing to say,” Ilo pouted. “The only thing your kerma ever makes is idiotic policy.”
Velto grinned. “I knew you weren’t as stupid as you pretended to be,”
“So, how did you come up with your thing?”
“I started with a pre-existing line of code, from an operational sequence program in the Wram Atmospheric Assembler,” Velto explained. “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,” Ilo said. “But why do we need that Atmospheric thing?”
“It allows for a humidified oxygen supply in a subterranean environment.” Velto’s hands began moving as she spoke. “It negates the need for enormous ventilation connection to the surface.”
Ilo giggled. “I like that word, enormous.”
“The code designed by my ancestor,” Velto said, clearing her throat. “Was a basic formula that rearranged subatomic particles to form molecules,”
“These molecules it makes,” asked Ilo. “That’s purified, wet-air?”
“Exactly,” Velto said.
Ilo grinned. “I still like the word, enormous.”
Velto shook her head, smiling.
Some admirers watched them from the kitchen, and when Ilo waved at them, a few happily waved back; when Velto turned, however, they all quickly got back to work.
“Doesn’t it bother you that people are always staring?”
Ilo smiled wide. “You took a line of code, and then what?”
“I created a sequence that formed 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 cocked her head, prompting Velto to explain.
“If you want a steak, it can make a steak,” the bizak clarified. “From whatever base protein source you have on hand.”
“Why not just make the whole faxuto.”
Ilo ignored Velto’s annoyed expression.
“Better still, one of those birds from Brasilia, with the white feathers and yellow beaks,” said Ilo. “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,” she said.
When Velto thrust her hand into Ilo’s juice glass and dug out some ice, Ilo’s heart began racing; when a bizak got comfortable enough to pick at your food and sip your drink, she was ready to get physical.
“Living things contain complicated quantum structures,” she explained, chewing the ice. “The assembler’s construct-code is a simple replication formula.”
Ilo pursed her lips. “One dead thing becomes another dead thing?”
“Exactly,” Velto said, nodding.
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 that by telling others it’s something you borrowed from some line of code,” Ilo scolded.
“The funded goal had been creating tharspin, not ready-made food,” Velto revealed. “That’s why my code is considered an accidental accomplishment.”
“Some Ninth-Gen eels didn’t get what they wanted,” Ilo said with a shrug. “But the citizenry got something amazing. What’s that thing Ryl Jyr always says, what the citizenry gets is all that matters?”
Velto stared at her. “Did you just quote Ryljyr?”
“Politics bores me,” Ilo said. “But I love me some Ryl Jyr.”
“Well, Rasa Jyr was the only one that thought the processor was brilliant,” Velto confessed. “Her, and Sofita Kul,”
“The Primary’s other donation, right?” Ilo asked. “She wrote that scary book about the Femaki’xirpaxul.”
“That history is a little more just scary,” 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, was so weird and wonderful.”
Velto nodded. “Like the Femaki’xirpaxul wrote it,”
“She was a crazy birther with a hizzah brain,” Ilo said. “How scary is that?”
Velto grinned. “I think that was the point,”
“I got to be honest,” Ilo added. “Sofitakul is the only hizzah I’d ever patch up with, and that’s a stretch because hizaki get on my nerves,”
“Why is she even in the running, then?” Velto began shoveling food into her mouth; like most unbonded bizzies, she lacked basic table manners.
“She’s a free-born, like me,” said Ilo.
Velto pointed her spork. “Sofita was born in the scheduled production,”
“Femmar, do not twin out.” Ilo shook her head. “Sofitakul was already in there when that bruiser sib of hers got implanted.”
“That bruiser sib is named Fusada,”
“I know. I met her when I met you,” Ilo smiled.
“I wanted to ask you then,” Velto spoke with her mouth full. “How did you get into the Prime Citizen contest as a free-birth?”
“It’s all about genetics in that first round.” Ilo was sure she’d explained this to her before. “After that, it’s all up to the citizenry.”
“Your chromosomes held up under scrutiny?”
“My DNA’s so spectacular, it blinded the judges,” Ilo said, and when Velto rolled her eyes, she balked. “I’m not supposed to love myself?”
“It’s a skill I’ve yet to learn.” Velto lifted her milk and gulped half of it down with one tip of the glass. 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 down at her 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 set her card beside Velto’s. “You’d be surprised at the credit I get just for showing up naked at social events.”
When the waitress whisked by taking Velto’s card and leaving Ilo’s, she suddenly felt like a donat again, getting stared at for wearing a soiled dress and too-small shoes.
“You don’t owe me anything,” said Velto, and when Ilo looked at her, she added, “I can see you’re weirded out. You don’t owe me anything 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 said.
Ilo collected her card. “How much did you tip her?”
“Fifty percent,” said Velto.
“No shit?” Ilo smiled. “You must be great at the citbluz,”
Velto slid out of the booth. “Bellies love me at citbluz.”
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?” The bizak’s brow furrowed. “Walk beside me. 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, they reached the door, where Velto opened it for her. Outside, Ilo revealed she needed to catch the Rix Rounder going east. The bizak nodded and walked with her to the stop, but when the rounder slowed, its bumper bouncing lightly against the curb, four fleeters emerged and made no effort to hide their wanton leers.
“Can you make her feel more like a piece of meat?” Velto barked.
One of the bruisers turned. “I can turn you into a piece of meat,”
“Come at me, toob-shit,” Velto demanded, but before she could step into the muscular brute, Ilo pulled her into the rounder before it road away.
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 said. “Objectification doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is citizens thinking I can’t pay my way.”
Velto gawked at her.
“The waitress took my card,” she said. “That’s what weirded you out,”
“You’re friends with Fusada Kul, huh?” Ilo asked. “Are you destined for the Cloister, too?”
Velto shook her head. “I don’t have what it takes for politics.”
“Your mind works in an honest way,” Ilo thought.
“Yeah,” said the bizak. “That’s bad for politics,”
The rounder came to a stop out front of Luzat Circle. Stepping to the exit door, Ilo took Velto by the hand and pulled her onto the curb once the door slid open. The bizak said nothing while Ilo led her through a gated arch.
“Do you live here?” Velto asked of the circular neighborhood of brightly colored townhomes.
Closed-off communities like this were the domain of subaki.
Ilo smirked. “I live with a friend of a friend.”
Yulia Utat owned the three-story walkup. Ilo had met the subak after befriending her bluzerie model lover, Riba Nox. Following the genetics round of Prime Citizen, Ribno, as her friends called her, had invited Ilo to the Shell home she shared with subbie Yulia.
A talented hairstylist, the thick Yuli had known Ribno since their first Subaxir Social. The breeders enjoyed sex with each other but often grouped up with marixi. Ilo didn’t care about any of that; she employed Yulia to create her current look and stayed with them from time to time.
“How good a friend is this friend?” Velto asked.
“I don’t have a prime if that’s what you’re asking,” Ilo replied, leading them to an end unit faced with colorful abalone shell tiles. She turned to the shorter citizen and smiled. “I’m anonymous here. The media would never think to look for me in a place like this.”
Stepping to her, she planted a kiss on Velto’s lips.
“What’re you doing?” the bizak stepped back as if burned.
“I’m seducing you,” Ilo said.
Velto’s eyes scanned the area as she put some space between them.
“What gives?” Ilo lost her smile. “I can’t touch you in public?”
“It’s not a good idea,” Velto whispered.
“Are you ashamed to be seen with me?” Ilo demanded.
Velto balked. “Not at all-”
“—then kiss me,” Ilo spat. “Before you make me mad.”
Velto shook her head. “Not out here,”
Ilo took her hand, but the bizak wrenched it free and tugged at the hem of her suit.
“I can’t be seen entering your residence,” she spat, again the shitty little stump that insulted Ilo in Mynu.
“You’re embarrassed by me?” Ilo stepped into her. “Listen here, you well-dressed worker-scrub—,”
Velto didn’t back away. “That’s not what I said!”
“Excuse me,” Ilo growled. “For not being some subbie with a degree in how to wash your feet!”
Velto spoke through her teeth. “Lower your voice, belly!”
“Or what?” Ilo shouted. “I won’t be wiping your future donations ass?”
“Stop accusing me of thinking that shit,” Velto said, her eyes pooling with water. “You don’t understand, okay?”
Ilo didn’t understand and was left alone on the pavement when the bizak dashed into the alley between Yulia’s end unit and the next residence cluster. Ilo surveyed the nearest windows and found no nib-shits; luckily, it was too early for any of her subbie neighbors to be home. She found the bizak in the empty transport space, hunched up against the backdoor stairs.
“Talk to me,” said Ilo, her fingers grazing Velto’s tail of smooth black hair.
“You don’t understand,” she inhaled. “Being with me, it’s problematic.”
Ilo tipped over and put herself in Velto’s sightline.
“What’s the problem?”
“You’re so gorgeous,” Velto whispered, then raised her arms in frustration. “Why can’t you just let me walk away?”
“There are thousands of others you can have,” said Velto. “You don’t need me,”
“I deserve a citizen as beautiful and intelligent as you, Veltowram.”
Velto stared at her for what seemed a lifetime. Suddenly, the bizak moved close enough that her sweetened breath tickled Ilo’s lips.
“I’m not ashamed of you,” she whispered, touching Ilo’s face like a donat with a new toy. “I just don’t want you caught up in my shit,”
“What shit are you talking about?”
Velto shook her head. “It’s complicated, Ilo.”
Ilo took Velto by the hand and led her up the concrete steps.
“You can tell me all about it when you’re ready, Veltowram.”