Episode Five [Preview]
Broadcaster and minor celebrity Koba Julo stumbles upon a meeting of the dead Fusada Kul’s former allies in Orta, while Eppis lays the groundwork to protect her family. Sofita and Dox arrive in the Slavic Empire, much to the chagrin of Ambassador Velto Wram.
Antarctica West Islands – Ramaxia
8 Bamx 2228 – 0230 hours
Koba’s favorite café was a coherent mix of ancient Gabonese rustic and modern Brasilia opulence. A true hovel by femarctic standards, its menu had introduced her to fried bananas smothered in a sauce of thick sour cream and brown sugar.
Human companies made their real money in Antarctica City on import goods, but leasing space along the commerce strip of Entry-Port Secondary was like free tourist advertising. They stocked their tiny shops with all sorts, reminding the homogenous femmar that grander women awaited them between the poles.
“Rolly,” Koba tossed her napkin onto the empty plate and addressed the petite girl working behind the chrome-coated bar. “Where’s Yvette?”
Yevette Komba had been a preferred dish; tall and stocky, her coal-colored skin glowed under the water-closet lights where they shared clandestine trysts.
“She’s gone back home,” said Rolly, teapot in hand. Her neon green jumpsuit’s red snaps and yellow zipper matched the hibiscus blooms on the wallpaper. “She went back home because she was getting too fat.”
Koba sucked her teeth. “Why do humans dislike body fat?”
“You’re not fat,” she said, refilling the bizak’s mug with honey tea.
“If I were, you’d never see me.” Koba smiled. “I’d be in my residence, touching myself, constantly.”
Laughing turned the girl’s cocoa-colored cheeks pink. “Well, Madame Yvette is back home, being touched by the man she married.”
Koba gulped down the heated tea.
“You think Yvette told him about the three of us?”
“There is no three of us,” she said, rolled locks tumbling with a shake of her head. “When I found you and Madame doing what you do, you asked for a kiss, and I gave you one. Then I left you to it.”
“You should’ve stayed,” Koba said. “It would’ve changed your life.”
“My life is fine unchanged,” she assured, finger raised.
“Unchanged is no way to live, Rolly.” Koba set three gold coins on the table. “Neither is being thin. Gain some weight.”
“I’ll get fat when you get fat,” she yelled as Koba exited.
The four corners where Port Avenue crossed the Commerce Strip contained the relics of Antarctica City’s once-thriving human district.
When the Robust Gen ran things, humans blanketed three city blocks with unique shops, food carts, and quaint hotels. After the Polluted Gen ascended, the Second Office ousted them, one shop at a time, until Koba’s kermatic-sibtox, Rasa Jyr, stepped in and negotiated for them, a meager square.
Past the quiet of Port Avenue lay the waterfront where the silvery fingers of Entry Port Secondary stretched out over the bay, and the lights of Entry Port Prime pulsed beneath the choppy surf.
Bits of bright twinkled on Stephenson Ridge. Once a mountain’s highest peak, Stephenson now contained cargo decks with shimmering tiers that appeared reflected in the bay’s rough water. Along the skyline stood a pair of glowing high-rises, rydokular monstrosities that lorded over a bloom-community filled with bizaki stupid enough to live there on purpose.
Raucous laughter peeled out under the pedestrian bridge.
A group of muscled bruisers appeared, each clad in tight pants and colorful, big-collared shirts. Behind them lingered a uniformed Bakiprime with a familiar deep red architeuthid stained on her scalp.
Koba hadn’t seen the slate-colored Deltad Polvix in over fifteen years. The bruiser’s hide seemed darker with age, that or her signature red streaks had dulled. Intent on reacquainting, she moved toward the stairs, pausing when a stunning zaxir joined the bullish Polvix on the quay.
Rotund and glowing beneath the lights, she fell into the bruiser’s muscular embrace.
Polvix romancing a zaxxy felt strange given her habit of chasing turbaned hizaki around the citbluz. Long yellow fingernails danced over the red tentacles on Polvix’s scalp, and when the pair kissed, those fingers deposited a tiny sliver of paper into the officer’s collar.
They walked beneath Koba’s position on the bridge before Polvix dismissed the zaxir with a slap on the rump. After several agonizing moments, Koba sprinted to the stairs. Grasping the tubular rails, she kicked up her feet and slid down without taking a step.
She caught up to Polvix at the Yukat Launch Center, an open-air shuttle bay surrounded by metallic ribbons that made it look like an algae bloom hurricane. The lofty bruiser tapped her Ramaxi-Credit ID ring against a boarding sentry screen before jogging over to the line of citizens entering the undersea ferry.
Shuttle Pekada, a glass salamander with an oversized head, was the only way back to the mainland. Unwilling to pay for such a quick trip, Koba distracted the boarding attendant, an aging bizak with some strong opinions on this year’s crop of BK Glides.
When the departure bell sounded, she excused herself without plugging her credit stick into the attendant’s handheld. Concealed within a group of subaki and bizaki, Koba filed toward the last row of plushy back seats.
Polvix had plunked down in front, her sights set on the backside of an hizak who’d boarded without wearing her suit jacket; this was the lewd bruiser she used to know.
A gentle lurch came when the shuttle dropped into the sea.
Dark polar water closed in outside the glass, loaded with mobs of luminous icefish that parted for their advance.
Coligon’s smooth voice rang out on the overhead, estimating the arrival time to Pikalit, along with the Triad’s current weather conditions. Good-natured Coli felt like an old friend. At the Bizaki Academy of Citizenry, where she’d come of age, the lifeform’s voice had been ever-present in the classrooms, showers, and dorms; she’d even made herself available for talks when young Koba straddled the gape.
The shuttle rocked as they rose out of the waters of the Ramx’atol. When the doors opened, everyone filed out into the motley-colored realm of the Dirtoxian Plateau Launch Center, a world drenched in vivid kaleidoscopes cast from the station’s irradiated glass ceiling.
Outside, a circular-common housed a clutch of globular paxo-carts. Dark subglacial cypress trees surrounded the concrete park, their phosphorescent leaves shivering in a midnight breeze heavy with the scent of cooked food.
Polvix sought out a specific cart and knocked on its backdoor.
An Eleventh-Gen bizak greeted her, and after exchanging some words, they shook hands before Polvix retired to a nearby table. The bizak appeared moments later with a tray of food, and while talking to Polvix, she pointed to the cart. The tall marix nodded at some questions and beamed with pride at answers to her own.
Afterward, the bizzy refused to take the marix’s payment; rising from her seat, she jogged back to her cart, smiling.
This was a cit-cat sit-down.
The young bizak had gone to the Citizen’s Catalog and pulled her biological maker information, a procedure that notified Polvix of a young citizen potentially seeking her out. By now, nearly every Tenth-Gen had met up with at least one biological donation she hadn’t raised; Koba had done it twice already.
Polvix discarded her trash in a nearby brazier before heading into the dark, and Koba would’ve followed had she not spotted another familiar face enter the food court.
Pita Wex, another long-ago bluz-buddy, was now Bakiprime of the Woxidat, the Arkelon assigned to the waters around Yazhou.
Tattooed on her scalp were two koi floating head-to-tail resembling the yin and yang symbol native to the Jungwanian culture. Ginger-hided with milky blotches throughout, she veiled her dark golden freckles beneath a bright sheer blouse, one sealed at the chest with a thick front stripe. Such modesty came with bondship.
Buying a transit-sized bottle of water from a cart, Wex exited in Polvix’s direction, and Koba tracked them to Pikalox Grand Terminal.
The Fifth Gen had established continental transit long before Koba was born, inventing long ‘slides’ that floated on a kyron pulse and moved at top speed through air-sealed tubes.
Pikalox Grand was still the largest transit hub in the nation, and it looked like a giant red crab crouched over the triangular park where all three of Pikalit’s domes met. Two daily slides ran through Pikalox; the Inbounder and the Outbounder.
Each connected the Triad to Utama.
Polvix and Wex waited for the Outbounder on the same platform without noticing each other. The lengthy slide slowed to a stop, its doors parting with a hiss. Polvix entered first and sat up front, ignoring Wex as she strode to a spot in the middle.
Two high-ranking marixi didn’t arouse scrutiny as Pikalox was the single access point to the military’s Gulidox Terminal. Yet, they’d been close friends out of Orta, and today they behaved as if strangers.
Moments later, the Orta Slide out of Gulidox slowed onto the opposite platform, and among its exiting passengers was Bakiprime Fos Tis.
A jade-colored bruise with patches of brown along her neck and shoulders, the unbonded Tis advertised her wares with a bright orange blouse opened wide to display the dark green seam between her suzsch. She’d been Fusada Kul’s closest friend, active in the troubled Komadon’s life right up to the day she died.
Trotting to the Outbounder, Tis boarded two rows in front of Koba, who now sat hunkered down in the last row. Outside her window, tribes of tendril-laden squid slapped at one another over clusters of glowing anemones.
Conversation filled the cabin as they climbed the Pikatal’s ascending terrain. Over the ridge, the slide raced across the flat Ditoxian Coastal Valley, where cloudy waters hovered like haze above a tigoz plantation. For miles, their massive seaweed spines, covered with large white blades, rose from the depths.
Steam obscured the windows as they sped out of the bay.
Warm glacio-volcanic pools covered the coastal flat, each lightly colored puddle packed with acropora coral and surrounded by bedded keltavi plants. When Koba was a donat, she’d wipe the windows dry with her shirt, hoping to see the ripe blue rice paddies outside.
Coligon’s airy timber heralded a momentary stop in Mynu before recommencing toward the elevated heights of the Yulitox Valley.
Bone-white terraces of glowing subglacial flora whirred past before a mighty rush of water pounded the windows. Suddenly, they curled downward and moved behind the powerful falls that spilled into Lake Utamx. Their descent lasted seconds yet caused Koba’s stomach to jump.
The world outside became submerged once more, and when a dome appeared on the horizon, Coligon wished everyone a productive day. Moments later, they idled into the spiral tower of Jyrtax Terminal. Erected over the femmar-made Utamx river, every major slide moved through Jyrtax, including a for-pay vocational line bound for Marixitak Station in Orta.
Utama possessed the continent’s lone highway to the surface, and naturally, they collected tolls from those unwilling to drive to the Pikalox. Everything cost something in Ramaxia’s political center; a greedy city, Koba half-expected the dome to begin charging visitors for the use of its public restrooms.
All three marixi went separate ways at the end of the deck.
Koba barreled down the entresol’s length, hopping over small geysers that chopped the gray floor into squares. Like its little northern sister Mynu, dome Utama belonged to the hizaki, and no amount of rumbling aquascapes or textured surfaces remedied its lack of bold colors.
Leaving the station, she entered Utama’s tiny citbluz district and spotted Polvix entering the Exruzat. Founded by a Tenth-Gen hizak, the ‘Zat catered to hizaki admirers but kept a strict age requirement barring elders and youth.
Koba debated following the marix inside, but the aroma of fried food in the air began nagging her stomach. The bright signage of Rakuta Bakuti gave her mouth-watering fantasies of a crunchy deep-fried bakuti breast. Unfortunately, the moment she pulled out her credit stick, Polvix emerged from the citbluz dressed in Ortosk-style flair.
Polvix returned to the Jyrtax and met with a local named Vaniav Gwo.
Also dressed for bluz-hopping, the hulking Gwo punched shoulders with Polvix before the pair boarded the Utox Slide. Gwo, another known ally of Fusada Kul’s, had been Polvix’s best friend in Orta. Assigned her own Ornithocheirus, the ranking Bakikom served as liaison to the Axyrn Division at ISO Main in the north pole.
Gwo had crossed paths with Koba back in her cit-bluz days, stealing away all the best zaxir. Patches of black and gray riddled her sandy hide, and she’d tattooed a vibrant green moray eel on her scalp, its three frightening teeth bared for effect; no doubt she still wrangled the bellies.
Suddenly, Fos Tis and Pita Wex reappeared just a few citizens ahead of Koba in line. The two marix ignored one another, sitting on opposite sides of the cabin, yet before Koba found a seat in the back, the slide-tube beside them outside pulsed with a new arrival. Fresh from Orta’s Marixitak station, the Turkol Shuttle let loose a gaggle of noisy bruisers, and behind them came Zerix Julo and Bam Yuxi.
One could dismiss all these high-ranking officers taking liberty simultaneously, but all being former peers of Fusada Kul and acting like strangers? This would pique anyone’s curiosity.