Ornithocheirus – In Flight
Raxuta`acarol (Pacific Ocean)
1 Yubol (June) 2228 – 1320 Hours
They veered through a stretch of Mammatus clouds, their fluffy white bumps reminiscent of the ice sky outside Orta’s dome. No portion of an ice sheet’s belly ever looked the same, no matter where one observed it outside the domes.
Patches of stretched white carpeted the stratosphere so thinly that it couldn’t mask the blue. Ornith pushed through it, creating a window to the heavens. Beside the flier, another appeared, mimicking its every move.
Fuzo let loose a contented sigh; the damn thing finally worked.
They’d flown in low over the Utah Bay last month, to see within its shallows, the cities that once teemed with millions. Keen for a closer look at the ruins, Fuzo coasted them a few feet above the waterline when Orny’s impact-sensor began pinging.
An incoming projectile closed in on their position, and when she’d initiated the Clone Counter Measure, nothing appeared to lure the missile away. The lifeform quickly seized control and avoided what turned out to be a twenty-first-century ballistic missile launched from the California Islands.
Desolate cays situated off North America’s western coast, the islands contained bands of helovx that refused to live among mainlanders. These people contended that the world’s current state came from the abandonment of Jesus Christ. The deity’s father, a non-corporeal being called God, then sent Lilith’s polar daughters to punish them.
It was an old form of religious worship, a devotion based on fear.
World Oceans taught that religion bound helovxi together. However, Komad Kul considered organized faith a form of collective mental illness that kept helovx in a constant state of internal anxiety.
The hizak stirred in the seat behind her.
“Clone Counter needs a contrast adjustment,” said Fuzo, eliminating Orny’s double outside with a keystroke.
“When we get back to Orta,” Kul remained focused on the text moving left to right past her eyeballs. “Order a defrag,”
Kul always spent an extended flight reading. Fuzo could read, but she hated it, and she might’ve ended up illiterate as most her caste had it not been for a Tenth-Gen bruiser named Yuxi.
An aggressive donat, Fuzo spent most days in the Penalty Pool, separated from her playmates. Before her fifth year, a uniformed bruiser named Yuxi appeared once a week. When Fuzo got too rowdy, Yuxi kermatically pulled her aside and shoved an axico in her hand. The kindly marix eventually trained her to recognize the words.
“Donmat,” Kul’s voice cut through her. “Did you review the manual I gave you?”
Moments like this convinced Fuzo that the brooding hizak could read her mind when not in Femitokon-mode.
“It’s a guard-book,” she griped. “Why do I need to know what a helovx does when they’re standing watch?”
“The chapter I highlighted,” Kul said. “Concerns elevator-operation.”
“Verticals?” she spat. “I can work a vertical,”
“It’s an elevator,” Kul said. “Their tech is not our tech.”
Fuzo faced the dour hizak. “Did helovx invent verticals?”
“The Femati used similar means of internal-leveled travel.”
“We had it before they did, though, right?”
Kul fixed an indifferent gaze upon Fuzo. “Whatever helps you hibernate at the end of the year, Dox.”
A map of continental Yazhou appeared on the foreword screen and Fuzo touched the blinking circle indicating their position. A bordered window of text appeared with statistical information about Jungwa.
“How many diplomats does Jungwa have at the Hotel?”
“Just one,” Kul replied. “Same as everyone else.”
“Why just one,” Fuzo asked. “Helovx companies have lots of reps at the AC.”
“Ramaxia Primada is governed by the Second Office. Antarctica City falls under the jurisdiction of the Third Office.” Kul blinked, closing the free-floating text in her eyes. “You’re an operative of the Sorority of Defense. I advise you to study the organizational structure of the Committee.”
Being lectured felt worse than reading.
“Permission to speak freely, on a different subject,” she turned to find the Komad watching her in that disinterested way she always did. “I feel that I earned this position.”
“Did I suggest you haven’t, Donmat?”
“Sometimes, I feel like…” she paused. “I feel like, you tolerate me.”
“I’m hizak,” Kul crossed one leg over the over. “I tolerate everyone that isn’t hizak.”
Fuzo turned back to the map. “Why aren’t we checking in at Kuril?”
“The mission parameters are clear.”
“I know our orders, Kul,” she said, employing the hizak’s name to shift their conversation from something official. “I just don’t understand them.”
Kul cleared her throat. “The Prime of Kuril is Laxum Jyr,”
“The former CR of Utama?”
“The current prime of Kuril,” Kul said, nodding. “Jyr retains enemies in Ramaxia,”
“Politics,” Fuzo huffed. “I don’t like CM Wram using us to fuck over CR Jyr. Why does no one call CM Wram out on the ice for her bullshit?”
“Ambassador Jyr isn’t aware of our mission because if notified, she’s obligated to make a diplomatic show of our presence to the representative at Hanshagul,” Kul smiled before elaborating. “Helovx become fearful when told Femarctic operatives are in their territory. Frightened helovx in positions of power, are unpredictable.”
“They’ve got zero reasons to fear us, right?”
“They have one reason,” said Kul. “Australia.”
In 2184, long before Fuzo’s birth, an administrator got taken from Base Thirteen by some Australians. Primary Fusa Kul was a lowly Primekomad in the AC back then, but when she got wind of the situation, she set out to apprehend those responsible. Fusa Kul went on to murder everyone in continental Australia.
“They started that shit though, right?”
“You believe the hostage story?” Kul asked. “You think a five-foot-five helovx woman weighing a hundred eighty pounds, forced an hizak, six-foot-eight, and two-thirty without shoes, off base?”
“Are you suggesting she went willingly?”
“Ubo Litx and Miley White were lovers,” said Kul. “Litx was foolish enough to believe she and White could leave Ramaxia and cohabitate in Australia-”
“—are you being real, right now?” Fuzo interrupted. “I don’t care how in love you are if it’s even possible to love an helovx, Litx was hizak, and hizaki never do anything on impulse.”
“Litx might’ve planned their departure, unaware of White’s ruse,” Kul peeled the optical reader from her ear. “When the shuttle she’d stolen reached that ASIO submarine, they separated her from White, and put under lock and key.”
“In Battle Studies, they said Ambassador White got caught spying,” Fuzo said. “That’s why the Primary went after her, right?”
“Why would a Primekomad stationed in Antarctica City get called to collect a spy that far out of her authority? I’ll tell you why,” Kul’s picked up her axico and began tapping on its surface. “When Ambassador Prime, Gentix Relo, discovered Litx clandestinely left the base with White, the first citizen she called was CR Ryo Uym of Utama. Relo’s tale of Litx expatriating became an abduction report.”
“You’re saying Uym lied about what happened?”
“Politicians fabricate, Dox, it’s a vocational requirement,” Kul replied. “CR Uym contacted Primekomad Kul, via a private channel, then the Primekomad contacted the Promad Zag of the Kasko.”
Fuzo faced her, “How do you know any of this?”
“Orta archives contain a record of the communication,” Kul stared down at Fuzo. “I can give you the citation number if you want it.”
“The genocide,” Fuzo asked. “Is that why Primary Ixo sent Primary Fusa to ISO?”
“They taught you of her sentencing?” amusement flashed in the Kul’s eyes. “In my time, CM Banto banned all things related to the Yulitat Coup.”
“The Ninth’s ascension wasn’t a coup,” Fuzo asserted. “Primary Ixo died during negotiations for ascension—”
“-there was no negotiation!” Kul interjected.
Fuzo refused to back down.
“You’re saying PC Zag helped the Primary perpetrate a coup?”
A higher ranking marix would’ve rewarded her outburst with a punch to the fronts, but Kul was hizak, and hizzah’s lived to teach lessons.
“Pita Dag, remember her?”
Fuzo nodded; her generation grew up watching markees of Bakiyulix Pita Dag.
The marix had walked on Tharso, toured the off-world stations, and guided donational audiences through Ixco’s underground canyons. Orta still required viewing the live broadcast of her death because Dag was a prime example of a marix giving her life, without hesitation, for the sake of others.
“Zag blamed Primary Ixo for the Rubo Tragedy,” Kul explained. “At the Perth Incident tribunal, Zag refused to separate herself from Ikat and Kul and found herself sentenced to ISO right along with them. While incarcerated in ISO, the three formulated a plan to take control.”
Fuzo brought her teeth together.
“Permission to speak freely?”
“Isn’t that what you’ve been doing?”
“You’ve got zero respect for the Primary,” she accused. “Don’t you love your kerma?”
Kul leaned over and put her face near Fuzo’s.
“When I turned three, Fusa Kul entered my room, wrenched me up by my hair, and slapped my body upon the floor as one would a fish on the ice. She planted a boot to my chest and applied just enough pressure to make me scream.
“Screaming makes Fusa Kul smile. In time, I refused to cry out because when I did, my sib came running. When my sib interfered, and she always interfered, Fusa beat her until she lost consciousness.”
Uncomfortable, Fuzo kept her eyes forward.
“No, Dox,” Kul’s cold breath cut into her cheek. “I do not respect or love Fusa Kul.”
Fuzo digested this new information.
Fusa Kul represented marixi strength. Standing over nine-feet tall, her scalp stain depicted a snarling fusaxica that Fuzo saw up close when the powerful marix afforded her rank in a ceremony after her Final Trial.
“Why serve a Primary you hate, Komad?”
“I’m an operative in World Oceans, Donmat. An operative doesn’t think about her feelings, she just carries out orders.” Kul relayed this with little emotion. “What else do you want to ask me?”
“Did Primary Ixo really—”
“-yes, Donmat,” Kul said flatly. “Ixo Kul died of cardiac arrest while negotiating the ascendance of the Ninth.”
Anger welled up within her. “You’re patronizing me.”
“Patronizing,” Kul smirked. “That’s a big a word for a bruiser,”
“Did Primary Fusa kill Primary Ixo?”
“What do you think?”
“I think that if I had a marix for a Komad,” she scowled at her commanding officer. “She’d answer me instead of asking me what I think.”
Orny’s voice quelled the tension.
“Komad, coastal traffic is clear.”
“Why this aversion to the Orny’s vox?” Kul asked.
“I don’t like the tone,” said Fuzo.
“Tone?” Kul repeated and when Fuzo didn’t respond, she made the conversation subjective. “Dox?”
“It’s a strange baritone, Kul,”
“It’s a male voice, Dox.”
“We are approaching landing coordinates, Komad.”
Kul frowned, “Orny, remain silent.”
“Is there a reason for this request, Komad?”
“If Donmat Dox had a real Ornith,” she mocked. “It wouldn’t be a male.”