Episode One [Excerpt]
After Ambassador Laxum Jyr fails to report the death of suspected hybrid Pym Zhang, the Ambassador Prime of Ramaxia, Pitana Dag, enlists operative Sofita Kul to determine if the deceased man dabbled in Femarctic bio-sciences.
Kuril Base North – Primada Sector
Raxuta`acarol (Pacific Ocean)
1 Yubol (June) 2228 0130 Hours
Unlike the other young men before him, he didn’t dive for a dark corner when she entered the room or collapse onto the floor sobbing.
The oppressive heat no longer caught her unawares; red-blooded helovx ran cold under the sea, and this boy persisted in turning up the thermostat.
“How are you today, Wu?” she asked, in his native Hamgyong.
Wu sat on the room’s lone bench, entranced by the ocean outside. Prone to tension, his species required intervals of analytical downtime to maintain mental balance. This need to calm their psyche proved their mastery at complicating an already perilous existence.
Laxum Jyr moved her fingertips over the climate-control pad. Thick glass walls surrounded the room’s dark planks of polar tile. The circular bed in the corner remained untouched, its thick cushion-top covered with bleach scented sheets.
She sat beside him on the bench and placed the bag she brought at his feet. The sea beyond the glass cast dull patterns over his naked body and his angular face seemed lifeless stay for the tear drops caught within his long lashes. She wrapped her hand around his upper thigh and relished how the skin pebbled beneath her touch.
Helovx males were stingy with their affections when it came to her kind, yet Wu proved more accommodating than most. Early in his captivity, he’d confided that her hide reminded him of the sharks that stalked his childhood houseboat.
Visible through her open robe, the impressive streaks inherited from her kermatic maker were a source of pride, but she didn’t know their hue. A femmar of the hizak caste, Laxum was utterly color-blind.
Perhaps her hide did resemble the sea tiger, but the vilest folklore regarding the origin of her species claimed the femmar were sharks gone bipedal. A shark eliminated the weak and devoured the dead; it simply wasn’t sentient enough to warrant comparison to a Femmar.
“Our doctor informs me that you’re sixteen today,” she pulled a cloak from the bag and shook out the fold. “I’m a citizen of the Tenth Generation. I’m forty-three. If the next forty years are as eventful as the first, I’ll have no regrets.”
Wu stayed focused on the water outside.
“I’m aware of the chill you endure, this far down,” she draped it over his naked shoulders, her knuckles feathering the soft protrusions on his chest. “Tell me about the last birthday you celebrated.”
“I was twelve,” his voice pleased her. “My mother took us to the mountains,”
“Who is us?” asked Laxum.
“Me and my sister,” he replied. “I was excited. I never saw snow. On the way home, we stopped at a roadside stand. A plane flew over our heads, and tiny balls of light chased after it.”
His cropped scalp tickled her palm.
“The lights moved so fast and whistled very loud. I covered my ears, it felt like someone blowing a whistle beside me,” Wu inhaled when she lifted his hand to her lips. “The lights chased the plane, over the ridge. My mother turned to us and said, I want you both to know that I love you very, very much.”
Laxum detached, letting his hand drop between them.
“Clouds were sucked down over the ridge where the lights chased the plane,” his voice dulled to a whisper as his memory took hold. “The ground shook beneath my feet. This black ball of smoke shot up like a blooming flower.”
Laxum admired her new manicure.
“Who saved you from the impact wave, Wu?”
“A man dragged us down into a ditch…mother was screaming when the winds took her away,” Wu blinked as if woken. “Why am I here, Ambassador Jyr?”
Laxum stiffened. “My name isn’t enunciated as the English word, jeer. It’s pronounced like the English word, year. Repeat my name, Wu, and this time, do it properly.”
He corrected himself. “Ambassador Jyr why—”
“—you were part of a team whose strategy entailed sinking an explosive onto our outer hull,” she tired of repeating this story. “Your team failed to assess the proper depth, and the pressure imploded your device before it could succeed.”
Wu petted the cloak. “This material is strange,”
“It’s called gwobix,” she smiled. “It’s like your silk.”
“It’s from Antarctica?” he asked.
Laxum didn’t mind the boy using the helovx name for Ramaxia if he didn’t mind her refusing to call him human.
“It has a hole for my…” his voice trailed off as he lifted the front of it over his lap. “Is it for men, from Antarcti—”
“—no, Wu,” she asserted. “We femmar do not produce males,”
His eyes shifted to her open robe. “How are your babies born?”
Laxum loathed helovx curiosity. “Explaining the complexities of genetic engineering would be lost on the likes of you.”
“We make fish,” he whispered.
“Using our technology, yes,” she agreed. “You now have hatcheries,”
He closed his eyes. “We made you—”
Laxum palmed the back of his head and drove his frail figure to the floor.
“I’ve worked so hard in my resolve!” her shadow loomed dark across his bare buttocks. “I’ve progressed much in my attempt to interact with you, Wu, without resorting to abuse.”
Frightened eyes fixated on her hands.
Helovx males were masters at escalating verbal conflicts. In the early years of Femarctic expansion between the poles, their warrior caste, the marixi, displayed legendary physical cruelty.
The term Fear the Fist had been born from violent altercations between men and marixi soldiers; a clenched fist in the rectum quieted even the most argumentative of men.
“This obscene tale you perpetuate about creating us!” Laxum was no brute, but her kindness withered before ignorance. “Humanity was barely cloning cattle when the impact occurred!”
No longer content with his silence, she wedged her foot beneath his testicles and pressed her other heel into his back.
A soft cry came, an utterance of defeat.
“Rise, Wu,” she stepped clear and strode to the bed. “I don’t keep you alive to hurt you.”
The land-male lay dazed beneath the polar female; such was the world’s way, even on dry land.
Out of the trench, the troublesome tingle in its snout dulled the farther it swam from the structure. Calm ruled the shallows where brighter waters held nothing untrue.
High tides drowned the residences tucked within the flattened crags. Land kissed the sun only a few hours a day, that’s when the man it sought came here to escape.
A swipe of its tail brought it close enough that its snout sensed weak pulses coursing behind steel.
Footsteps drummed over a beating heart. Through the narrow window, a sudden turn revealed terrified eyes. The man dropped his luggage and fled, leaving behind a stench of palpable fear.
It rushed over the structure, forcing its heft through narrow paths until it found the man’s window. Snout inches from the glass, memory illuminated the darkened room.
Inside, the man’s heartbeat beckoned.
Surface Operational Housing Unit #3
Dirtox’takal [Lazarev Sea]
1 Yubol 2228 – 0630 Hours
Sofita Kul woke on the chaise to find the detective staring down at her.
“I heard you divisional barks were prone to bouts of sleep,” clad in a tight Citizen’s Guard uniform, Ziw Balru’s physique had held up well in the eighteen years since they last spoke.
Sofita sat up and stretched to lessen the stiffness in her arms. “What do you want, Podpromad?”
“That’s a lousy greet,” Balru skulked before surveying their surroundings. “You’ve chosen a shitty place to hide, Kul.”
Shitty wasn’t a fair assessment, but it was close.
Each apartment in SOHU3, a residential base for civilian laborers and their pods, looked out over an atrium that housed a shuttle pavilion, a communal pool, and a single market that sold more protein blocks for sustenance replicators than freshly grown foodaxi. It lacked the artificial skies that crowned the benthic domes on the mainland. Not that Sofita ever appreciated their majesty—like any hizak, she relied on others to describe how those indigo skies dulled to violet before a scheduled rain.
“Plenty of engineers, here, though,” Balru glanced the open-air patios above, each cluttered with potted subglacial plants and blooms, and spacious enough to accommodate the profoundly social bizaki-caste. “Still crave bizzies, Kul?”
Sofita ignored Balru’s leer since they’d met following Sofita’s seduction of Balru’s bizak sibling. Without awaiting a retort, Balru’s stout face hardened.
“Should your blaster be out like that?” she demanded, pointing her head at the stringy hand-unit clinging to the chaise.
Sofita eyed Balru’s bare right hand. “I assumed Guardia gloved at all times.”
“I’m no longer on the street, Kul,” Balru said, as if Sofita born yesterday.
She tossed her discarded workout pants over the blaster.
“Feel safer now, Podpromad?”
“The citizens on the other side of the pool do,” said Balru.
“Those breeders aren’t scared of me,”
Balru frowned. “Don’t call them breeders, Kul.”
Born with ilitux, Balru lived among the citizenry, unfettered by the aggression native to her caste. She drew clear lines in the snow when it came to zaxiri and subaki; one was for sex, the other raised you until you were eight—neither deserved blanketing with a crude term.
Sofita jammed the balls of her palms into her eyes.
“How have I earned a visit from you today, Podpromad?”
Balru pulled a duxpak from her uniform pocket.
Fingernail thin and pliable, a dux displayed digital documents without the need for a handheld device or a bivtop computer.
Sofita immediately recognized the subak pictured on its surface and felt the spheres within her body tremble. Inside each one was a phasic armor called the Femitokon Shell, and Sofita remained the only citizen capable of igniting it.
“That citizen has nothing to do with me,” she said, turning away.
Balru whispered, “She’s Fusada’s donation!”
“I don’t care,” she whispered back.
“You cared enough to finance that book of hers,” Balru accused. “The one that killed her career.”
“The Committee destroyed her career,” she argued. “Not me.”
Balru sat beside her on the chaise. “Tavo came into the precinct, Kul, concerned about her safety.”
“That subakidoe is no threat to the Primary,” she assured, softly.
“No, but you are, Kul,” Balru’s deep voice gained an edge. “When you published her book, you established a connection to her.”
“Fusada was next in line to rule, not me,” Sofita addressed the marix plainly. “Her being dead and my still breathing, doesn’t change that.”
“You and Fusada are one citizen in the eyes of the Collective,” Balru reminded.
Set breeding schedules and precise genetics had negated the existence of twins among the Femmar. The Kul sisters were an anomaly brought on by their maker’s carelessness before the abolition of Femarctic males.
Femtrux, the prime consciousness responsible for ensuring balance within Ramaxia’s vast psionic networks, rectified the twins’ existence by assigning them a single gen-code, adding an extra letter to designate their separate bodies.
“I think we can all agree,” Sofita studied Balru’s sharpened stare. “Femtrux needs her kyrsbrain replaced.”
“That’s not funny, Kul,” Balru then lowered her voice. “Our makers killed theirs to take control,” the subject of their bearers in the Ninth wresting control of Ramaxia from their makers in the Sixth was still too taboo for open discussion. “You want her to end up dead and discarded on the surface, like them?”
“She’s not my problem, Balru.” Sofita affirmed. “We’re stuck with the Ninth until the day we recycle. I’ve resigned myself to that fact. You should do the same.”
“You have a donation,” she muttered. “Is this what you want for her?”
“It’s not my job to want for her,” Sofita said. “It’s her job to want for herself.”
After a moment of silence, Balru leaned closer.
“Our paths crossed in this life because of him,” her lips barely moved as she spoke. “I’ll always be grateful that you brought Kin home, but I don’t like how you’ve just dismissed—”
“-I saved Kin, and Kin owed me,” Sofita whispered. “I collected on that debt, and in return, he got his precious donation.”
“That precious donation is in Divisional now,” Balru’s voice lost its edge. “They assigned her to TermSabo, Kul.”
“Styba’s the best Orta produced,” Sofita spoke as if bored, though inside her stomach turned thinking of Styba Balru serving Terminal Sabotage. “They’ll do with her as they see fit because that’s how World Oceans works.”
Balru remain unmoved.
“You might at least give young Tavo some—”
“-that citizen in that file is not my problem!”
“She’s gone to the Cit-Cat, Kul!”
For every donation created from a mutually combined patch, and then raised by her biological makers, at least one was born with no knowledge of who made her. Loving strangers collected those formed from blind-patch combinations, but the uncollected entered the care of a caste-center.
Tavo Ex, the young citizen in Balru’s file, had acquired her makers identity the same way all former caste-center donats did, the Citizen’s Catalog. Balru’s concern rang true; the subak being Fusada’s only offspring meant the Catalogue automatically notified the eldest living Kul—the ruthless Primary of Ramaxia.
Tired of the tension, Sofita changed the subject.
“What is it with the Eleventh, and this need to know their makers?”
“Most times it’s about sex,” Balru slipped the duxpak back into her uniform and rose from the chaise. “Twenty-six percent of the Eleventh is pre-bonded. No one wants to find out she’s riding her sibox.”
“What is it with you orcas and your statistics?”
“Statistics created by you brainers in Mynu?”
“You revel in reminding me I’m not marixi.”
Femarctic castehood was a genetic non-negotiable. Born hizak and engineered to manage or educate, Sofita’s choice to retire from intellectual life and train in the military remained unprecedented—as did risking her life bearing a donation for Kin Balru.
“They’re nothing like us,” Balru cracked the stress from her neck. “Even though we raised them.”
“I haven’t raised anyone,” Sofita reminded.
“You did more than donate a patch, Kul,” Balru’s words tickled the scar above her gashcol. “Washing your thighs of Styba must’ve been easy for a hizzah like you,”
“Styba’s better off without me, Balru,”
“You should’ve told her the truth when you crossed paths were her in Orta,” Balru scolded. “She was young, but she would’ve understood.”
“Why didn’t you tell her, Balru?”
“I’m a Tenth-Gen,” Balru said. “Speaking up isn’t our strong suit.”
Sofita narrowed her eyes. “Being lectured about my life choices isn’t my strong suit.”
Balru didn’t disguise her disillusionment.
“I’ll leave you to your anonymous life, Kul.”
Watching Balru depart, Sofita called out, “Ziw?”
The marix turned with a puzzled look on her face; bruisers didn’t employ their given names unless speaking to or of lovers and family.
“I’d never collect Kin,” she assured softly.
“I’m aware of that, Kul,” Balru huffed with a nod. “You saved Kin back when you cared about something other than yourself.”
The beefy detective exited the pool, waving politely to the bizak attendant at the gate.
Don’t let it hurt your brain, ‘Fita.
Fusada often said this whenever something bothered her; today, that voice sounded close enough to be real.
Sofita cleared her mind of the past and snatched up her axico, determined to lose herself in some literature. Regrettably, she still wasn’t alone.
The rocks surrounding the darkened water hole had been filled corpulent zaxiri lazing about in the frosty artificial wind, and the whispers started the moment Sofita stepped out of her pants.
“Why is her undershirt still on?” “Her fronts are too big, and what’s wrong with her backswell?” “Is that hair on her head?” “That axico isn’t real. Bruisers can’t read.”
All that remained of the gossipy herd now were two half-naked zaxiri, one young, the other, a mid-lifer like herself. Neither bothered hushing their thoughts on Sofita’s heated exchange with Balru.
Between them, concealed in a modest pool-robe, sat a subak, presumably Sofita’s age.
Engrossed in an axico, she was every bit as top-heavy as a zaxir, but her caste lacked those flabby arms and the hanging, dimpled belly that marixi loved pawing at when everyone’s clothes were gone.
The lone appeal of any subak was her suzuk. Braided hair advertised a subbie’s origins, and the beauty across the water wore a single rope, indicating she’d grown up in Toxis. No subak ventured out without her hair woven in suzu, nor would she deliberately flirt with anything resembling a marix, sexual opportunists that didn’t understand the nuances of consent.
While a teen, Sofita and her hizaki peers attended socio-sexual parties where the attending zaxiri always knew what she wanted and boldly expressed what they expected in return. Subaki, however, required constant coaxing with no guarantee of a ride.
Despite their complicated nature, Sofita’s thighs had bounced their share of subaki. Even now, her mind conjured ways to pleasure the aloof chunk of ice across the water.
Suddenly, the subak brought up her head and fixed her eyes on Sofita’s side of the pool.
“Komad Kul?” came a familiar tenor.
Pitana Dag approached with arms open.
Unusually lean in her fashionable pantsuit, the long-faced Dag changed little since their teenage years, wearing her thick hair molded into seven neatly fashioned cylinders that formed a single row from her brow to her neck.
Zaxiri interest was a given since hizaki were sexual partialists that kept things exciting, but the subbie’s hungry stare felt strange; hizaki were too self-absorbed, and their compulsive use of sophisticated vocabulary put off even the most unpretentious of subaki.
“You’re a long way from the helovx-hotel,” Sofita rose from the chaise and entered Dag’s embrace. When the breeders across the pool began whispering, Sofita couldn’t help imitating their murmurs. “That color brings out the brown in your hide.”
Never in on the joke, Dag examined her jacket sleeve.
“My stylist claims this the color of helovx blood,” she cast an inquisitive eye. “Does the phasic enhancement in your anatomy eradicate your hizaxikogatix?”
“No Ambassador,” Sofita became the proper hizak. “If it altered my physicality, I wouldn’t be obligated to sustain this musculature.”
“I’ll refrain from commenting on your physique,” Dag pulled a small brush from her trouser pocket and began dragging it over her suit jacket’s front. “That swimsuit is atrocious, Komad.”
Hizaki abhorred cosmetic simplicity; refined sartorial choices were strategic as appearance influenced judgment. Their congenital color-blindness enslaved them to hairstylists and fashion designers. Dag’s clothier demonstrated considerable talent by endowing the willowy hizak with a noticeable girsuzsch. Beyond her donational years, the lanky Dag’s buttocks had failed to achieve an ideal prominence; for hizaki, the bigger the rump, the better the brain.
“I’m not a conveyance clerk, Komad,” Dag adjusted her long legs to sit upon the chaise. “My presence here is punishment for a perceived tardiness in delivering pertinent information to CM Wram.”
Since elevation to Ambassador Prime, Dag resided full-time in a sea-floor facility built to house helovx diplomats; the lone drawback to this esteemed position was answering to an hizak elder named Lekada Wram.
The infamous Second Office of the Committee, the only thing old Wram despised more than helovxi was Sofita Kul.
“Spite is one of her better endowments.”
“I attempted to acquire you in Orta, but your superior directed me here,” Dag’s thin lips pursed as Sofita sat beside her. “Primekomad Hibz is a miserable bruise.”
A young zaxir’s arrival interrupted their conversation, her plump flesh stuffed into a sheer bluzerie that left little to the imagination. Long black hair curtained two bulbous fronts, each covered with spots that curled like a ribbon across her chest.
“Sorry to disturb you,” her sugary smile exposed two rows of perfectly cusped teeth. No other creature on the planet possessed teeth like a femmar—the closest had been the crabeater seal, and they were extinct.
“Is that an ambassador service pin?” she asked.
Dag’s hand moved to the medallion on her collar.
“I begin classes in Mynu this week,” the young thing aimed a casual finger toward the two older breeder’s poolside before letting loose a barrage. “My nestor is a burxol therapist, my other mako, she’s an intimacy counselor, with the Zaxiri College.”
Sofita and Dag craned their necks for a look.
This round beauty was far too young, but an educated zaxxy and a sub trained in orgasmic therapy were worth more than a fleeting glance.
The young thing’s voice rose an octave.
“Did you go to school in Mynu?”
Dag’s attention rebounded.
“May I inquire after your name, citizen?”
“Hako,” she declared.
Sofita interjected, “What’s your nestor’s name?”
Hako bent over to focus on Dag’s other pins, putting her bulging fronts on full display. Unnerved by the view, Dag stood and began removing the tiny medallion from her lapel.
“Hold out your hand, Hako.”
Hako beamed, “You’re going to let me touch it?”
“She sure is,” Sofita leered.
Dag cautioned Sofita with a glance before placing the pin in Hako’s palm. “They provide me with many of these on Ramaxia Primada,”
“Base Thirteen?” Hako gasped. “You work with helovx?”
Sofita asked, “Does your nestor work by appointment?”
“I don’t know bruise,” Hako’s nostrils flared. “You should go ask her.”
Dag cleared her throat. “You can keep that Hako,”
“I can’t take this,” Hako purred, clutching the pin strategically to her cleavage.
Dag’s hiziburx centered on large suzsch, and if this zaxxy had met her twenty years ago, Dag would’ve sought quiet permission to grope and fondle. Today, she remained the stolid elder with her eyes fixed to Hako’s face.
“Consider it a gift,” she lifted a hand to Sofita, “In our day, there were so few zaxiri seeking education in Mynu.”
Hako’s eyes shifted furtively.
Strange hair notwithstanding, her muscular arms, rude behavior, and that stringy blaster peeking out from under those pants proved Sofita was an idiotic bruise—and bruisers didn’t go to Mynu.
Hako slipped into Dag’s space.
“Can I ask you something?”
Dag took a step back.
“Inquire of me anything, citizen,”
“I want you to call me, Hako,” she tapped a flirtatious finger to Dag’s bottom lip.
Dag stiffened, “You may call me, Ambassador Dag,”
“You’re Pitanadag?” the young thing’s face flushed darkly. “It’s an honor to meet you, Ambassador, I’m taking part in the Helovx-Initiative,”
“You’re bound for the Office of Helovx Advocacy,” Dag’s disposition quickly improved. “Do you have a particular field of interest?”
“I have a particular field of interest,” Sofita threaded her fingers behind her head and reclined on the chaise. “Does your nestor make room calls?”
“Not to thick-backed bruisers wearing shitty hairpieces,” Hako seethed, then aimed a saccharine smile at Dag. “I’d like to stay polar, Ambassador. Maybe service on those Helovx-Care Floats, in the Ramaxic’acarol,”
“Now Hako, when in Helovx Studies, you must refer to that body of water by its helovx name, the Arctic. Your instructor will make an example of you,” Dag continued to mind her distance. “What was your inquiry, Hako?”
“Yes, my question!” the zaxxy laughed before turning serious. “Helovx women have trouble birthing. Do you think, someday, citizens like me could live between the poles, and help them?”
“They’re fragile,” said Dag, “But they’re also formidable.”
“I hear some are worse off,” Hako’s large eyes shone like a playful seal. “My kerma says that helovx breed with their donations. If a child is born genetically damaged, like, if they can’t walk or talk, the parents eat them.”
Dag and Sofita exchanged knowing glances; Hako’s kerma, likely a bizzie, seemed desperate to discourage her zaxiridoe from leaving the mainland.
Sofita had encountered a few incidents of inbreeding, typically among those isolated at sea, while cannibalism remained rare. Over thirty thousand humans lived between the poles, nearly dying out in the years following the Yosemite eruption. Before that, they’d endured a drastic culling by the Eros Impact Event.
“Perhaps, in the future,” Dag placed a platonic hand on Hako’s shoulder, “Citizens like you will help them.”
“Thanks, Ambassador,” chimed Hako.
“Your makers up for a group?” Sofita jerked her head toward Dag. “The Ambassador’s not due back to the Helovx Hotel just yet.”
“Sofita!” Dag admonished.
“If you’re looking for that sort of thing, soldier,” Hako put her hands on her fleshy hips. “Go visit the citbluz.”
“My room can be our bluz,” said Sofita.
Hako huffed in revulsion before walking away.
Not all zaxiri worked the massage parlors, dance clubs, and erotic rooms of a Citizen’s Bluzsh; some aspired to more than rent-free boarding and daily orgasms.
Across the pool, Hako relayed Sofita’s rude offer. The subak sucked her tongue and glared, but the older zaxir smiled in delight before embracing Hako on a flirtation well done.
Dag aimed a sour expression at Sofita.
“Must you continually perform?” she asked.
Sofita’s time among the marixi required regular displays of crudeness; performing, as Dag intimated, was essential to assimilating.
“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,” Dag said 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 by 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.
“When finished reviewing that file,” Dag rose from the chaise and smoothed out the wrinkles in her pants. “Dispose of it in a divisional pak-bin, not of one those citizenry street units.”
Sofita stood and snatched up her training pants.
“That’s a dreadful design,” Dag pinched the fabric between her fingers. “What material is this?”
“Jaxol fiber,” she answered. “Soaks up the sweat.”
“How often do you perspire?”
“When I’m running or lifting weights?”
Unnecessary physical exertion made Dag shudder.
“Fusada almost acquired Cristi, yes?” she asked.
“Komadon Kul might’ve acquired him,” Sofita stepped into her pants. “If CM Dag hadn’t pulled her from Term Sabo.”
“That’s the second time you’ve referred to Fusada as Komadon Kul,” Dag admonished. “She’s not a stranger, Sofita.”
Unwilling to elaborate on the rift that had developed between Sofita and Fusada before her death, she walked through the exit gates, holding them open for Dag.
“An helovx witness testified that Cristi, in the summer of twenty-two fourteen, kept a younger male close to him,” she slowed so Dag could catch up. “The witness said that he could control sharks and alter helovx moods.”
Dag surveyed the area before whispering, “Did our males have such abilities?”
“Only a Tenth-Gen male’s capable of temperament manipulation,” Sofita replied quietly. “Ninth Gen males sense only dispositions. They can’t alter them.”
“Then, my mak’s summations are correct?”
“It’s beyond debatable now,” Sofita’s mind drifted to some unpleasantness in her past. “There are no males beyond the Tenth to prove her theory,”
“Did you acquire this male of Cristi’s?”
“Never found him,” she said with a shake of her head. “One of the women claimed they killed him before our agents raided his boat-city, she said he wasn’t an angel, like Cristi, but a demon.”
“The ideology of being controlled by an imaginary higher power,” Dag mused.
“Cristi appealed to that archaic belief,” Sofita added. “Calling himself an Angel of this God.”
“I recognize the convolutions of helovx religion. You composed enough work on the subject in your conventional days,” Dag caught herself. “That was discourteous of me, Sofita.”
She let it slide. “Witness said this demon killed all of Cristi’s daughters.”
“Hybrid females?” Dag whispered.
“I’ve yet to find a hybrid girl,” said Sofita. “The witness stated the two other angels turned on the demon, and that’s the only fragment of the woman’s account, I believe. No helovx is skilled enough to kill a male femmar. Not one capable of fucking with their psyche.”
“Don’t say that word, fuck.” Dag brooded. “I appreciate that you bruisers have appropriated that helovx expletive, but I find it distasteful.”
“So,” she teased. “I’m conventional, for a marix?”
Dag furrowed her brow. “I apologized for being discourteous.”
“I’ve yet to apprehend this Tenth-Gen male,” Sofita said with a grin.
Dag surveyed the area again for passersby.
“Perhaps he’s hiding in the skin.”
After the ratification of the Balanced Citizenry Act, it became illegal for males to exist in Ramaxia. Those at large lived undetected by taking on the gender identity of an ordinary citizen.
The BCA also made it illegal to house, or hide, a male.
A detective like Balru, with access to subversives capable of doctoring files, turned her male sibling, the one Sofita liberated from a Retraining Center, into a female named Kin.
“Sofita,” Dag paused at the shuttle bay entrance. “I haven’t communicated with Laxum since her last evaluation,”
“Lax must know about Zhang,” Sofita assured.
“Zhang worked for the Bumo Corporation,” Dag stayed hushed. “Ensure nothing remains of his body for autopsy-”
“—and acquire all things related to his work.”
Dag smiled at her before entering the noisy embarkation bay.
The polar water reeked of briny kelp and seals hopped upon the wet porch’s platform, their barks echoing as they slid playfully into the bizaki assigned to oversee arrivals and departures. Her shuttle, a bland inorganic model marked with an OHA logo, bobbed in the moon pool’s choppy water.
“What do I do if I encounter his research?” Sofita asked.
“Proceed as if Ambassador Jyr is Prime on this mission.”
Laxum’s airy tenor sounded off in her thoughts: destroy everything connecting him to Ramaxia and terminate anyone familiar with his name.
“Sofita,” Dag took hold of her arm. “It’s said that the Shell activates with rage,”
“I ignite it by channeling my conscious anger,” she explained. “The sudden change in my limbic system is what draws the energy from its spheres.”
“Perform activation,” Dag ordered.
Sofita shook her head, “The Shell’s classified, Ambassador,”
“Fusada would’ve activated it for me.” Dag pouted.
“No, she wouldn’t,” she quipped. “Because she couldn’t,”
“That’s a discourteous thing to say.”
“Komadon Kul’s not here,” she reminded. “If she were, she wouldn’t be so sensitive to take a fact, as an insult.”
“That’s the third incidence, wherein you’ve spoken of Fusada as if she weren’t your bone!” Dag’s hands disappeared behind her back. “Be they virtuous or corrupt, those in our past are the ingredients that form us.”
“Fusada’s contribution to my life?” she cracked. “Her demise.”
“That’s offensive, Sofita Kul,” Dag strode onto her shuttle’s extended deck, without offering a goodbye embrace.
Don’t let it hurt your brain, ‘Fita.
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.”
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.”
Hanshagul Provincial Coast
Jugnwanian Hasan, Yazhou
1 Yubol 2228 1450 Hours
Dox emerged from the Ornith, her face twisted at the lagoon’s foul stench. Since setting down on the deserted beach, the young marix had been unusually silent. Sofita was long acclimated to the globe’s different waters but adjusting to her young charge’s temperament proved a challenge.
Dox acknowledged quickly. “Yes, Komad?”
“Is there an issue between us?”
“Doesn’t matter, Komad,”
“Did my thoughts on the Primary anger you?”
“I’m an operative in World Oceans,” Dox declared, her eyes on the swampy shoreline. “I don’t feel. I just follow orders.”
When Dox shoulder-checked her as she passed, Sofita spun around to confront her.
“Come on,” she raised her fists. “Let’s slap it out.”
Dox slowly turned to face her. “I don’t think that’s wise, Komad,”
“You’re telling an hizak what’s wise?”
Dox put her hands on her hips.
“That’s not what I meant, Komad.”
“I know,” Sofita began dancing in a fighting stance. “If you only had a marix for a Komad, then your fists would be up right now.”
“That’s not it—”
“—then get over here!”
“Komad,” she sighed. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“I’m a Kul,” she warned. “You couldn’t hurt me if you tried.”
“This is stupid!” Dox spat.
Sofita taunted her. “You afraid?”
“Of you?” laughed Dox.
“I killed to win my Final Trial,” Sofita hopped closer. “You barely survived yours, even with your face planted in the snow through most of it!”
Dox hands curled into fists.
“That’s not what happened!”
“Don’t fall on your way over here, Toob!”
Dox’s jaw tensed. “You’ve got the Shell, Komad.”
Sofita circled her, fists still ready. “I don’t need to power up to take you out, you Pure-Gen fuck!”
Shocked, Dox mouthed the word, fuck, and then charged.
Sofita dodged with a sidestep and struck the Donmat’s lower back, but the tall marix whirled around with a right hook aimed at Sofita’s head. She blocked the punch with her arm up and then jabbed a fist into the taller marix’s ribcage.
Doubled over only a second, the Donmat scrambled and tried to tackle her legs, but Sofita hopped up, vaulted off her back and landed a boot to the marix’s lower back, sending her face down into the sand.
“You better now?” Sofita panted.
Dox lay unresponsive, but unlike her Final Trial, this was a ruse.
Knowing what to expect next, Sofita moved in alongside the fallen bruiser, relaxing as Dox hooked an arm around the back of her knees. Swept off her feet, she landed hard on her backswell.
“I’m better now, Komad!” Dox declared, on her feet and clapping her hands together once before striding victoriously to the Ornith.
“We’re ahead of schedule,” Sofita tucked her knees and rolled onto her feet. “I’d like to remain that way.”
The Donmat reemerged with a bare hand.
“Where’s your blaster, Dox?”
“You think we’ll need them?” she asked.,
“How are we going to cut through the jungle?”
Dox sheepishly bobbed her head and pulled a blaster onto her hand.
Suffocation: The Femitokon Series Volume I
- Author: Tina Anderson
- ISBN: 978-0-9744195-0-3
- Publisher: Gynocrat Ink
- List Price: USD $1..99