“Are you aware, Ambassador,” Sofita said. “That twenty-six percent of the Eleventh is pre-bonded?”
“None of those bonds will survive their twentieth,” Dag rejoined her on the chaise. “I barely survived my twentieth, dedicated lovers intact.”
At age twenty, the bodies of subaki and zaxiri released high-level hormones that set off latent pheromones in the castes around them. These surges within hizaki, bizaki, and marixi lessened the breeding castes’ romantic standards, setting off a period of promiscuity dubbed Twentieth Year.
Dag looked up as if struck by an epiphany.
“There are two years of the Eleventh!”
Unlike previous Ramaxian generations, the Tenth produced two years in a row. Pitana might’ve remembered this had she produced more than once. A generation’s twentieth year also affected their makers, reviving long dormant desires and drives.
“We all work with at least one of them,” Sofita teased. “Prepare for a resurgence, ‘Pita,”
“I’ve been solitary so long, I wouldn’t know what to do with a new group of lovers,” Dag, like Sofita, approached midlife without bond-partners. Gazing across the pool, she added, “Hako’s lovers will be a fortunate lot.”
“Careful,” Sofita grinned. “Hako might be your donation,”
“You persist in crossing the line, Sofita!” Dag’s lip curled. “Your infantile disposition rivals Laxum’s,”
“No one’s as bad as Lax.” Sofita declared. “She’s been twenty, for over twenty years.”
“How did you acquire this twenty-six percent statistic?” she asked.
“A Guardia mentioned it,” Sofita volunteered nothing more.
“I passed a Guardia upon my arrival,”
“Ziw Balru visited me today.”
“I recall Guardia Balru having a bizak sibox,”
“Kin Balru operates the clan’s eatery, in Utama.”
Dag nodded, “I recall your acquaintance with a Kin Balru,”
“I was acquainted with her, yes.” Sofita counted the coils in Dag’s hair.
“I found her a courteous bizak,” Dag turned. “Why didn’t you stay—?”
“—it didn’t work out.”
“On the topic of the Eleventh,” Dag cleared her throat. “A young citizen visited my offices last month, claiming to be my donation,”
“How did she find you?” asked Sofita.
“She confessed to forgoing the catalog after her birther admitted to choosing a donux because it contained my patch. When I assured her such a scenario was impossible, my assistant, Doka, accompanied her to Toxis,” Dag’s long face came to life with amusement. “Upon review, she discovered that her kermatic maker is Pitana Zag.”
“P-Zag!” Sofita’s declaration provoked a strange look from Dag. “What’s wrong?”
“That’s what Fusada called her,” she replied softly.
No one broached the subject of Sofita’s dead twin anymore.
“Citizen Zag resides in Vanda,” Dag went on, quickly. “She’s the Gutenberg Project’s prime curator, part of the Helovx Historical Literature Department at the Museum of Pre-Impact History.”
“You must’ve been concerned for a moment,” Sofita said with a smile.
“My initial reaction mirrored yours,” Dag affirmed. “I contacted Fyla immediately.”
Doctor Fyla Uym, the revered Secondary-Chair of the Generational Production Department, was also a genetic-heir and the third bizak ever to inherit a seat on the Committee of Five. Back when Fusada’s ambition to rule had been superlative, she’d tasked Uym with hiding their parental connection to their Eleventh-Gen donats.
Dag had agreed to the plan, despite her maker, the current Fifth Office, showing little concern that Dag would someday usurp her.
“I must confess to being a bit envious of citizen Zag,” Dag folded her thin arms. “The young hizakidoe is a graduate of the Mynu School of Design. She’s entered vocational service with a secondary level position at Acari Glide.”
Dag’s only donation had been born of her favorite lover, a zaxir patch designer named Hib Perkad.
“Have you heard from your donation?”
“I’m unaware of her location,” Dag’s brow bent. “Nor am I privy to the whereabouts of her maker.”
“You know where her maker is—”
“-Figurative communication,” Dag snapped. “Do you no longer recognize the emblematic, Sofita?”
“I’m trying to ascertain why you’d incorporate it,” Sofita accused. “When speaking about your life’s love.”
In the second production year, Dag had accepted a position in the Office of Helovx Advocacy. Hib Perkad opted to remain a patch designer at the Zaxiri College. Dag voiced her expectation that Perkad cease working after birthing their donat, and Perkad disagreeing had fractured the relationship.
“We all make choices that disappoint us upon reflection,” Dag confessed, and averting her eyes brought an end to the subject.
Sofita pushed air out her nose.
“How long have you lived on Ramaxia Primada?”
“Four years this Yulitat. I yearn for the mainland. I didn’t exile myself from it as you did.” Dag paused. “Apologies, Sofita, that was a discourteous thing to say.”
“I’ll survive discourtesy,” said Sofita. “I don’t recall us engaging in such contentious exchanges. It’s as if I’m conversing with Eppis Banto.”
Another gen-heir, Banto appeared to enjoy life as the only donation of the powerful Fourth Office, Tee Banto. It was the hizak’s feigned willingness to heed the mighty Tee’s every whim that afforded Banto the luxury of raising her donats and living with her bonds.
“Let’s set aside talk of the past,” Dag said. “That’s not why I’m here.”
“Now you truly sound like Eppis,” Sofita teased.
“Komad,” Dag pulled a duxpak from her suit jacket. “You’re traveling to Yazhou.”
“I’ll send Lax salutations,”
“You’re not to communicate with Kuril Base,” Dag declared. “You’re to have no contact with Ambassador Jyr until the mission’s complete.”
“What’s Ambassador Jyr done now?”
“I’m unable to explain,” said Dag. “And as you’re fond of saying, I don’t care too,”
“Your indifference is legendary, Sofita,” said Dag. “I’m shocked you haven’t shaved your head again and stained your scalp with the words ‘I Don’t Care.’”
“That’s not fair, ‘Pita.”
“What happens to you, happens,” Dag delivered words spoken by Sofita many years ago. “Fusada’s gone, as am I.”
Sofita sat there robbed of a retort.
“Moving on,” Dag frowned. “I was tasked with consulting with the Jungwanian ambassador about a man named Pym Zhang.”
“Did your task entail social dining?”
“That meal found me on the gape, for hours,” Dag scowled.
Sofita glanced up at her old friend, amused. “I thought the toilets on Base Thirteen were designed for helovx?”
The first Femarctic toilets had been thigh-high mounds of ice, topped with circular openings that one straddled, as one might a glide-cycle. The gapirx had since evolved into settable porcelain units, for a more hygienic age.
“Spare me your enlightenment, Sofita. I’m aware of the helovx custom to squat,” Dag’s face twisted in disgust. “How does a species evolve without a single gurx for urinating and defecating? Urinating from an orifice located beneath the rydok? It’s unsanitary.”
“An helovx female doesn’t have a rydok, she has a clitoris,” relishing Dag’s discomfort, she added, “Their cunts are as thick as our goozers, and if you’re unfortunate enough to encounter the wrong one, it will stink of a beached seal,”
“Do you lecture in Orta?” Dag spoke, unmoved. “The base terminology you’re employing must entertain the lowest of marixi.”
“Helovx males stand up straight and aim the penis.”
Dag raised a hand for silence, but then curled her fingers as if holding something. “Have you had occasion to handle a penis?”
“We’ve both had the pleasure,” said Sofita. “Helovx anatomy, Mynu, fifth year.”
“Manipulating interactive images isn’t equal to handling actual flesh,” Dag argued. “I’ll never experience it since CM Wram forbids helovx males on Ramaxia Primada.”
“When you met with Jungwa’s Ambassador,” Sofita began tapping through the dux files. “Did she have any advice on handling the penis?”
“It was laborious enough having to dine with her,” Dag groused. “Sorkhaq Tani is an agreeable woman, but Jungwanian cuisine is too diverse. None of it digests properly. Each bite promises misery.”
“What helovx cuisine do you prefer?”
“I adore whipped potatoes from the African Trisect, topped with the sauce they call, brown gravy. Thinly sliced cheese from North America is also favorable,” Dag paused to clarify. “Not the Texan variety they claim is orange, like feces. I’ve tasted only white. It’s enchanting.”
“Helovx fecal matter isn’t orange like ours,” Sofita quipped. “It’s brown, like their gravy.”
Dag took a breath and refrained from scolding.
The identification file depicted a dark-eyed man with his long black hair tucked behind his shoulders. He wore a colorless lab coat with the letters BUMO etched across the chest pocket.
“Pym Zhang was a geneticist,” said Dag.
“Living in Orta hasn’t eliminated my ability to read, Ambassador.” Sofita swiped her finger over the photo, bringing up a detailed account of his death. “Do we have this shark attack on file?”
“Processed to your mission-queue, Komad.”
“Why is he of concern to Ramaxia?”
“Zhang’s projects centered exclusively on our bio-sciences,” Dag replied.
Sofita shifted her eyes. “Our medical and tech manuals are off-limits to helovx,”
“The need for official sanction is unnecessary. Most helovx can’t interpret Ramaxi,” Dag explained. “Zhang was capable of reading our language.”
Sofita gave a start. “His date of birth?”
“The summer of 2192,” said Dag.
Sofita studied Zhang’s face, searching for a hint of the male that sired him.
“He’s one of Cristi’s,” she whispered.
Dag blinked. “No one is certain of-”
“—you’re here because Wram’s certain.”
Caro Cristi, a Ninth-Gen male designated zaxir, had been apprehended in Sofita’s youth for murdering his bond-partner, an hizak employed in the Antarctica West Islands. While awaiting termination for his crime, he’d somehow escaped custody.
“Komadon Kul’s pursuit blocked his ability to establish roots,” Sofita recalled. “Later, he underwent cosmetic surgery to alter his hide and eyes. He lived as a helovx man named Carl Crystal.”
Three years following Fusada’s death, Crystal had been imprisoned by the North American Union after his sect tried to blow up a homosexual registration office in the capital city of Banff.
Sofita turned to find Dag staring at her oddly. “Why am I catching the mission, Ambassador?”
“You’re Femitokon,” Dag collected herself. “A hybrid is involved.”
“There’s no hybrid to terminate, Zhang’s dead.”
“Are hybrids weaker than their male sires?”
“You’re polluting the subject, Ambassador,”
“No,” Dag insisted. “I’m taking the conversation adjacent to the subject.”
Sofita conceded. “Femarctic males aren’t weak.”
“You share my maker’s opinions?” Dag queried. “Her claim that each new generation delivers males capable of greater extrasensory-”
“—her opinions are required reading in the Division.” Sofita reminded.
“I’ve glanced her dissertations, as have you,” Dag said, dismissive. “I’ve no bias against bizaki rising above the routine, but their expositions lack the objectivity to substantiate principle in fields of science and medicine.”
Sofita smiled. “You suggest that being a bizzie renders CM Dag incapable of detaching her feelings from what must always be impartial viewpoints?”
“A theory not exclusive to me,” Dag defended with a smirk. “Laxum emphasized such in proving her emotionally unfit.”
“Laxum suggested no such thing,” Sofita laughed. “She predicated her case on your maker being merely Wox Dag, a citizen lacking any sanity that might substantiate principle.”
Dag giggled like a donat.
“You want to know if she’s is right?” Sofita tallied. “I can speak only of hybrids. They have no extrasensory or telepathic power. Either they hold exceptional intelligence, or they’re emotionally impaired.”
“What of their physical strength?”
“None have been tough enough to take me out.”
Dag’s eyes drifted to Sofita’s body.
“The energy in your blood guarantees this?”
“Are you suggesting that without the Shell,” Sofita bent the duxpak into a tube. “I can’t take out a male?”
Dag’s face hardened as her eyes set upon the rolled-up document.
“Relax, Komad Kul.”
Sofita’s aggressive physicality had always tainted her intellectual prowess. Hizaki sparred verbally, never bodily; the twin of a marix, she continued to struggle with this principle.