2 Cloister Building
Utama Metro – Ramaxia
7 Bamx 2228 – 1040 hours
Tiled rooms fostered pleasant echoes, yet Eppis Banto still found public urination highly uncomfortable. Unable to hold her stream until reaching Level-Nine, she trudged up to the row of gapirx. This modern unit might’ve passed for a perfect replica of the tall ice holes her ancestors used if not for its porcelain saddle and internal waters.
Damning her situation, she yanked her tailcoat aside and pulled at the trouser snaps between her legs. She mounted the high saddle and aligned her gurxil over its narrow opening before quickly diminishing the pressure on her bladder. After the last drop, an unwelcome blast of warm air followed, drying her gurx before she could dismount.
“Leaking in the Lobby with the rest of the herd?” Sofita Kul stood against the closed restroom door, suited neck to boot in that horrendous Orta-issued uniform. “You’re still drinking too much at day-rise.”
“Toxian tea remains habitual,” Eppis refastened her suit pants as the gape flushed.
She studied her old friend in the long sinks mirror. Indifference once defined that broad face, but today Sofita’s eyes displayed a warmth unseen since their youth. Her hair, lush and long when younger, remained cut above her ear lobes, the longer locks upon her crown pulled back tight by a woefully plain barrette.
Eppis lifted her hands from the long sink’s rushing water before punched-starting every hand dryer in the room.
Sofita rolled her eyes. “They monitor the gapes?”
“Don’t wager against it,” Eppis warned.
“Before you inquire, yes,” Sofita joined her at the sink and submerged her hands in the trough’s flowing water. “I entered Cloister through the front door.”
Eppis folded her arms over her chest.
“You wouldn’t want the Ruling Platform ignorant of your visit,”
“I’m a Divisional Komad,” Sofita wiped her hands on the back of her uniform pants. “I’m allowed to enter and exit the Cloister.”
Eppis eyeballed the muscled globes of Sofita’s girsuzsch.
“That attire is obscenely transparent.”
“Mandatory fashion aside,” Sofita cocked her head. “You believe me reckless today?”
“Nothing you’ve enacted these past decades indicates you’re anything but,” Eppis replied. “Your ill-timed visit aside, at Yukon, you spoke of plans reborn. I wasn’t aware that your strategy included risking exposure with regular visits to the Cloister.”
“Eppis, recall the day you, Pitana, and Lax, came to our estate,” Sofita moved in alongside her. “Fusa collected me by the neck and tossed me into the lake,”
“I have a pristine recollection of that incident,” it was the first time in her seven-year-old life that Eppis witnessed an adult behaving violently; the only time she’d ever see a donation abused.
“What immediately followed?” asked Sofita.
“Fusa rewarded Fusada’s violent counter with laughter, and then a punch to the gut,” Eppis narrated shortly.
“Lax and ‘Pita jumped in after me,” she nodded. “But not you, Eppis.”
“You remained submerged,” Eppis said. “I suspected you’d swam to a safer shore, having been through similar encounters before my visit.”
“You trusted my tactics then,” she mused. “Where’s that confidence now?”
Eppis conceded with a nod. “Why’ve you come here, Sofita?”
“Why did CM Wram call Pitana to Cloister?”
“The deceased Empress of the Slavic Empire falsified the gender of her heir,” Eppis relayed while fixing her buttons in the mirror. “Anything regarding that particular helovx-nation falls under the purview of the Chamber.”
“Second Office doesn’t have blanket jurisdiction?”
“The Second Office cannot exercise sole jurisdiction because the Slavs are reliant on technology dispersed by Wram Constructs,” Eppis explained.
“Ah,” Sofita attained. “The anticipation of consigned interest.”
“You said at Yukon that she’s disguising her offensive against us behind a desire to rejoin Wram Constructs,” Eppis reminded. “Involving the Chamber in a conflict of interest just promotes this storyline.”
“Lekada Wram’s covert schemes aside,” Sofita eyed her in the mirror. “The gender of Juliana’s heir liberates Ramaxia from custodianship of Uralskey?”
“Helovx males are problematic enough,” Eppis declared. “Dealing with one put in charge by others is near impossible.”
Sofita huffed a laugh. “Extraction of Ambassador Wram to follow?”
Eppis furrowed her brow. “I hadn’t thought of the ramifications!”
Velto Wram had been a shard in her hide since their youth.
Transitioned to Mynu as a bioengineering prodigy, the young bizak’s conceptual design talent found her placed in classes alongside Eppis. Enrollment in political science put her in Sofita, Laxum, and Pitana’s social circle, yet obtuse countenance and confrontational nature kept her at constant odds with refined hizaki like Eppis.
“Surely Pitana will find another hovel to send her to,” she grumbled.
“Velto needs to come home,” Sofita insisted softly.
Upon graduating from Mynu, Velto had developed a revolutionary protein re-sequencer. She tossed this accomplishment aside when elected to represent East Toxis, where she delivered Eppis, her first political failure in Cloister, legislating citbluz ownership rights from hizaki to zaxiri.
“How do you intend to secure her participation?”
“You’re my CM One,” Sofita deflected. “They’re your Committee, not mine.”
Those words brought relief since Fusada Kul had refused to accept Eppis as her First. “I cannot legitimately recall Velto, neither can Pitana,” she explained. “Velto’s continued exile relates heavily to Ilo Cux being a monogamist.”
“Are you seriously judging Ilo?” Sofita aimed a stern gaze at Eppis. “You’re aware that Ilo confessed her collusion with you in acquiring Velto. Confessed it while delivering Fusada’s donation,”
“A laboring zaxir will say anything,” she dismissed.
“Ozbi didn’t seem to care when she heard it,” Sofita arched an eyebrow. “Interesting how citizens in love with monogamists are blind to societal perceptions of them.”
“A recall is unwarranted at this time, Sofita.”
Sofita shook her head.
“Velto’s no threat to your bond, not with Ilo around.”
“I never considered her a threat, thank you,” Eppis clarified. “Uncontrollable, yes. A romantic rival, no.”
One windy day Velto appeared in their dorms with a voluptuous subak named Ozbi Tis, whose braided hair spirals bragged of a Vanda upbringing. Unable to discern the beauty’s hide color, Eppis focused on how the light stippling along her hairline darkened along her neck when she laughed.
After noting Ozbi’s lingering gaze, she attempted conjugation. Her partialism for facades had matured into a desire for masks that covered the eyes; whenever they met again, Eppis couldn’t stop fantasizing about the petite subak in an exquisite domino mask. Overcome by lust, she’d momentarily entertained grouping up with Velto for access to the lovely subak, but Eppis hastily abandoned such a scheme as visualizing Velto naked turned her stomach.
Opportunity had arrived when Velto moved to Toxis.
Anticipating Ozbi’s relocation, Eppis planned to acquire a residence near Wram’s penthouse until her kerma interfered with insisting she remain in Mynu. The domineering elder’s obstruction proved advantageous when Ozbi opted to stay another year in Mynu.
Despite this development, Eppis had found her access to Ozbi limited by Velto’s constant visits until the arrival of a gorgeous zaxir named Ilocux.
The corpulent belly had won not only the nation’s Prime Citizen pageant but also Velto’s highly-sexed heart. Waxamists carried a sense for one another, and it hadn’t taken long for Ilo to approach Eppis plans to divide to and conquer their prospective life partners.
Eppis hadn’t seen the beautiful zaxir in years.
“I wonder how Ilo’s faring on the precipice of her vitality,”
“Midlife is upon us,” said Sofita. “We cannot avoid it, Eppis.”
Fear of turning forty-four kept Eppis from hibernating some years.
“Resurrecting Fusada’s ambition,” Sofita added softly. “Will make things problematic for you,”
“Navigating the problematic is a skill I’ve mastered,” boasted Eppis. “So long as you appreciate that nothing is beneath our makers,”
“Our advantage rests in them believing they know us,” Sofita said. “I’m defeated, Lax indifferent, Velto, a ball of rage, Fyla forever a victim—”
“-and Eppis Banto lives beneath the thumb of her kerma,” Eppis agreed. “Pitana must be the only heir they trust. How is she these days?”
“She awaits Velto’s extraction order.”
“Come again?” Eppis blurted. “It’s been two hours since the severance motion. She should’ve been notified by now, Sofita.”
“Pengon,” Sofita tapped at her lapel. “Display the Divisional Assignment Board.”
Illuminated data danced upon the hizak’s eyes.
“Are those ocular implants?” she inquired, moving in close.
“No, they’re my eyes,” Sofita said. “The Shell’s optic-interface functions without my needing to ignite it fully.”
She asked, “Is it wise to allow this semi-sentient armor access to your anatomy when not fully activated?”
“Divisional received an Ambassador Extraction notice,” Sofita huffed in frustration. “It’s addressed to Primekomad Yilaz.”
“Is this Yilaz an issue?”
“She’s TermSabo,” Sofita’s mouth twisted. “A Polluted Gen eel who hasn’t worked a mission in over a decade,”
Eppis pondered the rank and file. “Divisional assignments are subject to retrieval from Komad’s and above, correct?”
“I’m impressed, CR Banto,” Sofita remarked, her flitting eyelids changing the floating text beneath them. “I’m contacting Komad Ergat in dispatch, informing her of the assignment error.”
“I’m acquainted with that name, Ergat.”
“Erg’ attended your tavzkoltil,” Sofita paused, “with Lax.”
Anger swelled as that memory of her bonding day ached like a dying tooth.
“You associate with the likes of Ergat,” she hissed. “After her lewd behavior at my tavzkoltil?”
After their twentieth year, Eppis and Ozbi had cohabitated peacefully in Vanda until Tee dropped in uninvited, demanding to know why they’d remained a duo. When her explanation failed to impress, Tee insisted they share a meal with two citizens of her choosing; Ibur Grik, a modestly famous bluzerie designer with a partialism for wanton bellies, and her lover, an uninhibited zaxir named Acari Tol.
Acari and Ibur had first visited for drinks, but soon enough, the debauched zaxxy and her germ-phobic hizak fell in love—with Ozbi. After months of avoiding the three sexually, Eppis relented. It hadn’t been wholly unpleasant due to Acari’s appreciation of her desire for masks, yet when Ozbi insisted on bondship, Eppis begrudgingly complied.
The ceremony proved a lavish affair due to House Tol outspending Line Banto at every turn. Yet, Acari sullied its beauty by engaging Laxum and that bruiser Ergat, in the back of a ceremonial transport hired to bring the betrothed to their post-tavzkoltil celebration.
“There’s always sex at a bonding reception, Eppis,”
“Between the guests of the bonded, afterward!” she retorted hotly. “Not with a member of the bonding party before the ceremony!”
Ozbi found the situation highly entertaining and called it Acari’s last fling. For Eppis, though, the entire incident offended her clandestine monogamist tendencies.
“Your anger lies with Acari, not with Ergat.” Sofita closed the information over her eyes with a blink. “Ergat kicked the collection order back to Pengon, who deferred to Toligon seeing how it’s a coded OHA mission.”
“Good, then Toligon will notify Pitana,” Eppis then scowled at Sofita. “Laxum and Ergat should’ve refrained,”
“Why?” Sofita asked, stone-faced. “I didn’t.”
“You engaged Acari Tol before our bonding?”
“No,” Sofita shook her head. “I bounced Ozbi.”
Eppis soured. “Orta wit doesn’t suit you.”
“Pitana will tailor a new request,” Sofita grinned. “Pengon will assign a new operative that, by default, serves between the poles.”
“Bearing in mind the ill-will Velto continues to hold for you,” Eppis questioned, “might it be safer to allow an assassin like Yilaz her due?”
“Cloister humor doesn’t suit you,” Sofita countered as Eppis checked the time on her handheld. “Heading out for your midday?”
“Heading out?” Eppis scoffed.
Sofita pushed air out her nose. “Bruiser verbiage remains habitual.”
“Leave before me, please,” snapped Eppis.
Amused and undaunted, Sofita exited the lavatory.
Episodes 4-6 of the Tactical Pursuits arc, and episodes 7-8 of Internal Vision, have been collected and removed for eBook publication. (Spring/Summer 2021) Please visit Femitokon.com for release updates.