PAC Goruym (Arkelon Class)
Ramx’atol (Amundsen Sea)
1 Yubol (June) 2228 – 0930 Hours
Femmar believed the brain to be the most advanced central processor in existence. A truth so self-evident that after the Second Gen terminated the ultimate neuronic lifeform, Femaki’xirpaxul, they created another standalone construct to take her place.
Unlike her forerunner, the prime lifeform Femtrux utilized her Femarctic handlers in creating the Collective, lessor cerebral entities that begat smaller neuronic lifeforms who interacted exclusively with the femmar.
Fifth Generation bioengineers replicated these subhives for placement within their new cyber-biotic constructs. The first of these vessels, the Toxic Class Submersible, a fusion of cloned prehistoric marine life and tharspin parts, had been the most significant achievement in advanced cybernetics until the birth of the Arkelon Carrier.
Arks, produced from a fossilized Protostegidae, possessed a turtle-like exterior that housed a network of circuitry imbued flesh. Every floating carrier in the Polar Air Command contained a tenacious squad of Delphic Strikers. Made from raptorial whale’s unseen since the Tortonian Age, piloted Delphics took to the air and shallows, attacking targets with high range sound pulses.
Newly ranking Donmat, Fuzo Dox, couldn’t contain her excitement.
The lanky marix walked the flight deck as if it were her first day on the planet, her gray hide drowned in patches of dull black. Her handsome beauty caught the attention of Bakikom Uvi Gaz, a Tenth Gen whose thick corded arms stretched the fabric of her red and white uniform.
A striker-pilot with a reputation as a brood-bear, Gaz zeroed in on Dox.
“You a Femitokon?” she called out.
“It’s my first year,” the brawny Dox brought a fist to her stomach in a salute. “No real missions yet, Bakikom,”
“You’ll get your share,” Gaz’s eyes roamed over Dox’s charcoal and smoke uniform before combing the deck around them. “Where’s your Komad?”
“She’s aboard our Ornith,” said Dox.
Once Dox joined her on the platform, Gaz brought her boot down onto the release clutch. The metal lift jerked on its descent, giving Gaz an excuse to take Dox by the arm.
The polar wind gave way to rhythmic music on their descent into the pungent Striker Bay. Where pony-tailed bizaki roamed, a pulsing beat followed. Their music, a fusion of poetry and singing born among the first generation of miners, was an acquired taste.
Past the gauntlet of box-headed Delphics, a bizak handler busily scrubbed a beast’s titanium underbelly. The randy creature greeted Dox and Gaz with trills, whistles, and squeaks, her large dolphin-like body bouncing beneath jetted water sprays.
“I think you’re making her icy,” Dox joked.
“She loves it,” said the bizak. “Right, Beck!”
The beast shivered with pleasure, causing the makodak unit dangling from her angular head to bob up and down. Meaning’ maker for a day’, the bio-synthetic mask fused to a pilot’s face when she entered the Delphic.
“Can you breathe with that?” Dox asked Gaz.
“It forces fluid into my lungs,” she bragged. “I breathe the fluid,”
“It lets the delphic breath for you,” Komad Kul appeared out of nowhere, her dead eyes fixed on Gaz.
Clad in the ivory uniform of a Divisional superior, she possessed that whitish-gray patina native to House Kul, but her broad angular face didn’t mesh with the short hairstyle Orta commanded.
Marixi were bald by design, and clearly, Kul wasn’t marixi.
Her infamy hadn’t come from the Primary being her kerma, nor did it exist due to being the twin of the deceased Fusada Kul, once considered Orta’s finest. Kul remained the only hizak to serve World Oceans as an armed officer, and the only citizen capable of hosting the mysterious Femitokon Shell.
“It connects me physically, to Beck,” Gaz said, eager to placate Kul she put some space between her and the Donmat. “Its programming fools her into thinking she’s pregnant.”
Dox knelt beside the bizak. “Has this been her only Ark?”
“All her life,” the handler replied.
Dox held up a hand, seeking silent permission from the Delphic to pat it. When the beast appeared receptive, she petted its angular brow. “Did she experience depression on arrival?”
“Some of her sisters did,” the handler replied.
Gaz spoke up, “You interested in delphics, Donmat?” but before Dox could reply, the vessel’s commanding officer’s thundering voice reverberated from above.
“That backswell is going to sink my Ark!”
Bakiprime Deltad Polvix was a brawny femmar with a snow-white hide covered in hashes of gold. Inked onto her scalp was a large red Architeuthis whose tentacles spread over her forehead, ears, and neck; a lingering menace that advertised her sexual nature.
“Komad Kul!” Polvix leered down from the elevated deck as Kul brought a fist to her abdomen in a salute. “Where’d they find a uniform to fit those brainer cheeks?”
A former peer of Sofita’s deceased twin, Polvix had once latched onto her thick backside at a citbluz until Fusada intervened by punching Polvix in the gut.
“Do you know how fucking gorgeous those hizbacks looked when you ran across my flight deck just now?” Polvix demanded.
The ranking pilots hid their amusement, but the bizaki chuckled openly, causing the Delphics to click and whistle.
Without a retort, Kul retreated toward the platform.
“Look at that bounce, Gaz!” Polvix shouted. “That’s what happens when a hizzah spends some quality time in the weight room!”
Dox at her heels, Kul stomped onto the release clutch and kept her back to the striker bay on its rise to the surface.
“Orta needs to assign you to me, Kul,” Polvix yelled. “Gory’s got plenty of chairs big enough for that backswell!”
Goruym’s operational intelligence, nicknamed Gory, rested in the capable hands of five fleet assigned hizaki, two of whom filed behind Polvix and regarded Kul with a mix of fascination and disgust.
Back on the launch deck, another of Gory’s assigned hizak jogged to intercept them.
“Komad Kul?” conservatively dressed, she opened her arms. “My name is Tharsix Kusat.”
Kul recalled Kusat from her first week in Mynu, when eight-year-old hizaki attended classes alphabetically until testing afforded some a more demanding curriculum.
“Administrator Kusat,” Kul saluted. “I’ll refrain from embracing.”
Kusat lowered her arms. “Komad Kul, the Bakiprime’s sexual harassment of you is unacceptable. If you wish to lodge a complaint-”
“—Marixi do not file charges against each other.”
“You’re not marixi,” Kusat blurted.
Dox stepped up behind Kul, her brow bent.
“Administrator Kusat, I appreciate your observation and concern regarding the Promad’s disrespect,” Kul remained civil. “Though I’m not genetically marix, I serve as a Fleet Operative of World Oceans.”
“I was discourteous,” Kusat conceded. “My offer remains, Komad Kul.”
“Thank you, Administrator Kusat,” Kul dismissed herself with a turn and, with Dox behind her, continued toward her Ornith.
Ornithocheirus was a biomechanical pteranodontid that hardly resembled its ancient namesake. It looked more like a winged bubble with a giant glass face and luminous photovoltaic skin that came alive when flying above the clouds.
Kul dipped her head when entering, a silent warning to the lumbering Donmat; her first days aboard, Dox’s forehead collided with the curved casing around Orny’s rear hatch.
Their movement awakened the navigation panel that stretched the length of a half-circle dash. Illuminated outlines upon the nubby black carpet revealed closed storage cabinets, fitted puzzle pieces surrounding an oblong exit hatch in the floor.
Dox fell into her red padded chair and tapped at the many shapes and colors upon the forward array. Looming before her was a large round window bordered by checkered solar panels, each displaying a charge percentage.
Kul ignored her wide and thickly cushioned operations seat and called for the bowed glass’s canopy function to blacken out their view of the Goruym’s flight deck.
“Did you see the attack footage?” Dox held a palm-sized disk between her fingers.
Kul asked, “There’s no digital feed?”
“Highly classified,” Dox shoved the disk into one of the array’s sliding brackets.
The entire cabin transformed into an underwater village, where an enormous shark coasted between Dox and Kul before diving suddenly and speeding between the structures at their feet.
Movement within one of the pedestrian tubes lured the shark to a specific apartment.
Dox knelt into a position where it floated outside a large porthole window. Suddenly, the giant fish slapped the glass with its tail, and Dox stepped back as its massive head pushed into the jagged hole.
Unseen jaws labored as dark water billowed out from its gills. When the shark pulled out, a cloud of fleshy debris came with it, and as it turned to get clear of the spoiled sea, it froze as if taken by surprise. The beast considered Kul with caution; she stood where the observational sphere recording the assault had been floating.
One open-jawed lunge abruptly ended the playback.
“Orny repeat,” Kul ordered, touching the three-dimensional scene to freeze it. “It punched a hole with its tail, not its side bulk. That’s deliberate.”
Her finger moved the action forward in slow motion.
“Here, it backs up fast, before the implosion force can pull it inside,” she halted the action again at its discovery of the recorder. “It hesitates before moving in on the ob-sphere.”
Kul leaned back on the navigation panel’s edge and, in her peripheral vision, caught the Donmat smirking.
“My cheeks aren’t going to sink, Orny, Donmat!”
Dox’s mouth fell open. “Komad, I wasn’t thinking—”
“-Can you focus, please?”
“I’m sorry, Komad.” Dox’s bald head darkened. “I thought you couldn’t read minds outside of Femitokon Mode,”
“I can surmise some thoughts through observation!”
“Again,” said Dox. “I’m sorry.”
Kul refocused on the shark.
“Unusual behavior for a great white,”
“With all due respect, Komad,” Dox shook her head. “That thing’s forty feet from the dorsal to the tail.”
Kul huffed a sigh. “It’s not ramxkul, Donmat.”
“Are you sure?” Dox protested. “Look at the size of that thing.”
“A ramxkul’s jaws are larger, its fins are ragged, and its snout contains bony protrusions,” Kul studied the shark in the frozen playback. “One trait our ramxkul does share with this non-polar species is an incapacity for the logic displayed here.”
“Does that mean they can’t think logically?” asked Dox.
“Yes, Donmat,” Kul replied.
“What if it’s…” Dox stepped into the scene. “Something older?”
Kul breathed. “Are you suggesting it’s prehistoric?”
“We can’t rule it out, Komad,” Dox muttered. “When I was a donat, I saw the bones of a shark pulled out of the Vand’takal, and it was much bigger than this.”
Second Gen fossil discovery, and the Fifth Gen’s subsequent cultivation of the genetic material, proved immensely popular among Dox’s generation. The Donmat had spent her first week on duty, marveling at Orny, whose base organics came from the preserved remains of an Ornithocheirid found on Greenland’s bay floor.
“It’s not a megalodon,” Kul disagreed. “It moves with the skill of a fish that evolved hunting smaller prey. It also displays behavioral sapience, like our Delphics.”
“You think it’s a clone?” Dox asked.
Kul pursed her lips. “Perhaps the helovx cloned an organic from one of our throwaways,”
“Never happen, Komad.” Dox sniggered. “Helovx can’t get near one of our throwaways, much less clone anything.”
The era of humans hunting large aquatic mammals ended after Ramaxia began releasing engineered subjects unfit for cybernetic fusion, into the sea. Cloned cybaleen set loose by the Prime Lab soon integrated with native populations and, with their higher reasoning, led the native species to recognize and attack human whaling boats.
“I know they have fish farms, but they can’t make something like this.” Dox closed out the underwater scene with a tap. “Maybe a rejected ramxkul got loose and bounced a great white and had a baby.”
Kul set her stoic eyes on the Donmat.
“Bounce,” Dox mumbled. “It’s another word—”
“-I know bounce is a euphemism for sexual congress, Donmat.”
Dox folded her arms over her chest and went silent.
“Ramxkul house an inherent dislike of native shark populations,” Kul reminded. “They were engineered to keep sharks out of the subglacial bays.”
“How did they go from protecting us to eating us?”
“Ramxkul do not consume the living, Donmat,” Kul glanced at her younger charge, aware of the Eleventh Gen’s misguided view of unsanctioned death. “Neither does Faltrix for that matter,”
“What would you call recycle?”
“Faltrix processes corpses, she doesn’t kill living citizens.”
“Not if they’re male,” Dox blurted, and met Kul’s stare. “Save it, Komad, I got the speech from Prime Hibz my first day assigned. We Femitokon’s kill all males upon apprehension, and if I feel the need to notify the Collective of my actions, I can kiss my place in Orta, goodbye.”
After a beat, Kul said, “Femtrux knows the purpose of this Division.”
“Femtrux knows what CM Dag tells her,” Dox strutted back to her chair. “That’s why the Cavern of Death is off the grid.”
“After the Sister Suicides, prime hive Femtrux decreed that terminating males to end the free-birth epidemic was an irrational solution,” Kul explained. “Femtrux proposed the sterilization of males as a rational alternative.”
Dox huffed, “Clasper-killer Dag ain’t rational.”
Amused, Kul didn’t chastise.
“Displeased that Femtrux interfered with her custodianship, CM Dag ordered operatives of Terminal Sabotage to begin terminating every male collected before processing them to Faltrix.”
Kul stopped Dox from spinning in the swivel chair with a well-placed boot.
“Anticipating such a maneuver from CM Dag, Femtrux halted Faltrix from processing the predeceased without a record of natural or unnatural, death.”
Dox’s brow flexed. “That’s why hive Faltrix needs a paper trail?”
“Armed with the power to cite all dead males as damaged,” Kul nodded. “CM Dag created the Femitokon Division to execute males. Unwilling to risk another rebuke from Femtrux, we process their bodies in the Cavern of Death.”
Dox shook her head, “We serve an unethical Division, Komad.”
“We don’t terminate males,” Kul reminded. “We eliminate hybrids.”
Dox sniggered as Kul slipped behind the frosted panel hiding their gapirx. No other Ornith contained such privacy measures as most were occupied and operated by a single-femmar. Orta insisted on saddling the hizak with a marix partner on missions; this meant design adjustments.
“What amuses you, Donmat?” she asked.
“The Shell got made so one bruise could hunt down males hiding in the skin. When you refused to do it, CM Dag wanted the Shell put in somebody else, but there was nobody else.
“I heard that since you won’t hunt males, Orta sent you between the poles,” Dox brought up her fingers in quotes. “To hunt hybrids.”
Kul sat upon one of the cushioned seat boxes that lined the right side of the cabin. “We still have a shark problem, Donmat.”
“A meg problem, Komad,” Dox corrected.
Kul smiled. “You believe megalodon has returned after two and a half million years of extinction, Dox?”
“Whales are bigger than they used to be,” Dox paced the cabin, her routine when explaining herself. “The great white evolved from megs when prey got smaller and moved into cold water. What if the whites are changing back into megs?”
Kul tempered her condescension. “The helovxi theory of Isurus Origin states that C-Carcharias descended from I-Hastalis, not C-Megalodon.”
“Tow-doss theory says great whites come from the big-toothed sharks,” Dox paused. “What’s so funny, Kul?”
The hizak’s dead eyes rarely expressed joviality. “I’ve never heard the Otodus Origin Hypothesis, referred to as the tow-doss theory,”
“Just because I didn’t say it right, Kul,” Dox groused. “Doesn’t make what I said, wrong.”
Kul nodded. “Evolution takes too long, Dox.”
“Helovxi can’t engineer shit like this,” Dox pointed to nothing. “They’re too stupid.”
“One of them could, and this shark ate him for dinner.” Kul remove her boots. “Prepare coordinates, Donmat.”
Dox jumped into her chair. “Where to, Komad?”
“Yazhou,” Kul began scratching her bare feet against the floor. “This will be your first time around helovxi, Dox. You’re in for a treat.”
“Ornithocheirus, flight pattern north to launch,” Dox pressed a button on the navigation panel. “Thirty degrees at mark fifty-seven. Eighty-eight, east of thirty-eight.”
“Donmat,” Kul asked, when the propulsion kicked in without a vocal affirmation from the Ornith. “Where’s Orny’s voice?”
“I can see what Orny has to say,” Dox aimed her head at the large screen set within the blackened window. “The words are right there on her interface-monitor.”
“His interface monitor,”
Dox sucked in her lips.
“Kul, we need to talk about Orny’s programming,”
“An Ornith’s identity isn’t programming.”
“Orny has female parts,” Dox protested.
“Gender is fluid, Donmat. It’s not pinned to a body part,”
“She can’t be male, Kul,” Dox blurted. “We’re Femitokon,”
“I know, Donmat,” Kul moved to her chair, brought up Goruym’s surface deck manifest, and entered their departure time. “I’ve been a Femitokon for five years.”
Dox went silent in defeat as Kul swiped the manifest aside to reveal a map of the Antarctica West Islands. Decades of volcanic flow after the Eros Impact led to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet’s melting, turning the once mountainous peninsula into four large islands.
Port Antarctica dominated the northernmost island, while Surface Medical, erected on Faraday’s old helovx settlement, trained select helovx women for life on the submerged Ramaxia Primada. The smallest island, at the mouth of what was the Amundsen Sea, contained a globular building called Surface Quarantine, a prison for helovx women unable to cut it at Surface Medical.
Antarctica City, an interaction center for enterprising helovxi and Ramaxian merchants, dominated the last island. One of the busiest global ports, its colorful and bright skyline could be seen from orbit.
“Kul,” Dox’s gravelly voice rose an octave. “We should fly over—”
“Our path is north, Donmat,” Kul vetoed. “The AC is west.”
“It’s polar-night,” Dox pouted. “I’ve never seen the AC lit up.”
Kul sat unmoved until hearing Dox quietly gabble.
“What, figures?” she demanded, but Dox kept silent. “Being a hizzah, how could I possibly appreciate the red, green, and gold lights?”
Dox stared at her without a hint of shame.
“You said you couldn’t read minds outside of Femitokon mode, Kul.”
“Orny, fly us over Antarctica City,” she shook her head. “The marixidoe on board wants to see the pretty lights.”