This episode begins with a flashback to events leading up to Australian Genocide, before returning to the present. Just hours after the Slavic Empire Incident, operative Kul gets new orders to retrieve classified information from a submarine wreck, and then take out a human-built bridge ahead of a mega-tsunami.
Around 0200 Hours
Jixak (August) 21, 2185
A flashlight rolled along the floor, revealing the murdered men at her feet. The next watch-team was due within the hour, and she would wait for them.
Waiting was a skill she’d mastered from a life spent alone.
No one had ever visited Ubo Litx when she was an hizakidoe in the caste center. No one made an appearance at her graduation ceremony from Mynu. Like most orphaned femmar, she’d pulled her maker information from the Citizen’s Catalogue and found the names of her parents; none of them responded to her requests for a sit-down.
Lonely yet driven, Ubo had acquired a position in the Office of Helovx Advocacy and earned a sought-after post to the Ambassadorial Program. Her grandest day had been her assignment to Ramaxia Primada.
Five days into her twentieth year, that’s when she met Mylie White, a plump helovx with dark hair and pale white skin. The woman spoke a strange lyrical English and while together one day in a cramped vertical, Ubo inquired after which isle in the African Trisect, she hailed.
Mylie had laughed before revealing that Australia was her birthplace. She’d claimed her accent was born of pre-impact colonialism, yet Ubo countered that Nauist English, also a product of colonialism, sounded nothing like Mylie’s.
Weeks passed before Mylie took over tharspin negotiations for the Tasman Connector. After a year of working closely with Ubo, Mylie asked her to dine outside the boundaries of their working relationship. Mylie had easily seduced Ubo, partaking in the hizak’s penchant for urinating on others.
After one of their tiring trysts, she had asked how a color-blind femmar appreciated the color of burxolic spill. It was an intimate conversation, the likes of which twenty-year-old Ubo had never experienced. The affair continued for three years until Australia decided to recall Mylie.
Desperate, Ubo had submitted a request for the woman’s civilian residency, and naturally, Ambassador Prime Ryba Wygz denied it. Next, she’d journeyed to the mainland to register Mylie as her bond. The prime of Femarctic Services, an amicable hizak named Ryl Jyr, had warned Ubo that sexual involvement with an helovx would lead to her undoing; to protect her, Prime Jyr buried the bonding request.
Unfortunately, a fastidious clerk uncovered it months later and turned it over to her superiors. The Office of Helovx Advocacy removed Ubo from the Ambassadorial program and had mandated counseling for her sexual involvement with an helovx. Three months of intense counseling didn’t quash her feelings for Mylie, and so, after hibernation 2183, the OHA had barred Ubo from further service.
To be near Mylie, she’d taken a low-paying managerial job in a restaurant on base. The woman had supported Ubo during this vocational decline, and the week of her planned return to Australia, they chose to leave Ramaxia together.
Ubo had joined Mylie on the shuttle bound for the AC, convincing the Axyrn pilot of her intention to see the woman off at Port Antarctica. During the trip, however, Ubo had feigned illness and retired to the shuttle’s restroom. Free of observation, she’d ventured to the cargo hold and waited fifteen minutes for Mylie.
Once together, she’d held the woman tight when ejected from the shuttle’s service hatch. Safe on the ocean’s surface, Mylie had produced a homing beacon; Ubo never thought it suspicious, not even when a motorboat arrived with four armed men. No one spoke a word as they traversed the rough chop on the boat, but Ubo had sensed the men’s fear and loathing.
Mylie’s sudden coldness went unnoticed as well.
All guns were trained on Ubo when they’d boarded a small submarine off Heard Peak Island. Mylie exited quickly when the captain appeared, unwilling to afford Ubo a second glance. The woman she’d loved regarded her with scorn, warning the men to remain on their guard; thinker-farcs were as dangerous as the brutes.
Alone for five hours, Ubo had finally stopped crying. A man had entered the small room where she’d been kept, demanding she turn over her Maruk device. When she’d refused to acknowledge him, another man appeared with a shock prod in his hand. Ordered to strip, she’d pulled at her trouser snaps deliberately, forcing them to focus on her fingers as she closed the space between them.
Human necks break so easily.
Five men had rushed in, none of them willing to open fire for fear of death by a ricochet. All OHA staff had been through Basic Orta offensive training, so Ubo knew their anatomical weaknesses.
Alone in the dark, Ubo had stripped out of her blood-stained suit and listened to the ocean beyond the vessel’s hull as it whispered of an altered course. No longer moving eastward, they were running scared on a southwestern shift.
The crew scrambled, so desperate for home shores that they failed to notice that the six men guarding the farc hadn’t called in for over two hours.
Returning to the corridor, Ubo twisted the overhead bulbs from their sockets and then retreated to her cell. Solitary footsteps came in the darkness, followed by the repeated clicking of the light switch.
Mylie’s lyrical drawl entered the cabin.
When her beam of battery-operated light found Ubo’s eyes, Mylie inhaled and dropped it. She lunged for the door, but Ubo quickly slammed it shut.
“Where are you?” she whispered, hands raised. “I can’t see you?”
“I see you, Mylie,” said Ubo. “I finally see you.”
Mylie sank to her knees and felt around the floor for her flashlight, gasping whenever her hands found a corpse.
Ubo retrieved the torch and removed its batteries.
“Was there any sincerity in our engagement?”
The woman turned to where she thought Ubo stood.
“I love you,” Mylie whispered.
“Your feelings for me,” she asked, taking Mylie’s arm to help her stand, “were they invented by your government?”
“My orders were to spy and return home,” the woman’s hands found Ubo’s arms, chest, shoulders, then her face. “I fell in love with you. I couldn’t leave you behind.”
Ubo said, “Not if you required expedited passage from the mainland.”
“No, I love you.” Her fingers danced upon Ubo’s tears. “You have to believe me.”
“I’ve lost everything, Mylie,” Ubo sobbed. “Ramaxia’s no longer my home.”
“Please don’t be angry,” she moved into Ubo’s arms. “We can still get away from all this, just you and me.”
Ubo relished the scent of Mylie’s hair.
“If my government won’t let us be together,” the woman’s hands left her neck. “We can go to an uncharted island.”
Lips found Ubo’s as something bit into her hip. The woman shoved at Ubo but only pushed herself back to the wall. She dropped the syringe, its needle busted clean off.
Ubo remained silent, falling to her knees as her wounded soul shrieked.
“Fucking farc,” Mylie said, feeling along the wall for the door. Her hands grasped the latch, but she still hadn’t sensed the hizak standing right behind her.
“It failed to penetrate my skin,” whispered Ubo.
Frantic, the woman pounded on the wall.
“It’s out. The farc is out!”
Ubo laced her fingers into Mylie’s hair and, with a tug, snapped her head back. Stepping over the woman’s corpse, she entered the corridor and waited on the grated metal steps, alone. Eighteen hearts beat somewhere above; one was shadowed by a fainter, quicker beat.
Ninety-East Ridge – Raxito`acarol
9 Bamx 2228 – 0320 Hours
Ramaxia’s quest to map the ocean floor began with the first cyberized baleens.
Orcinus started as a clone derived from the DNA of a prehistoric Physeteridae. Physically mature at over 180-feet, she underwent forty years of tharspin replacing bones, and circuitry traded for vital organs. Commissioned as an operational Toxis Class Submersible, Orcinus received a kyrsbrain, and this enabled sentience.
Naming herself Connie, she served as Fleet Custodian of the Raxito’acarol and carrier of Nautical Pod Five.
Her current Prime, a marix named Bo Kilvx, had entered service as a humble Tenth Gen Komadon assigned to Connie’s sword pod bay.
Dark ebony webbing stretched across her pale-yellow hide like a fishing net. After earning the rank of Promad, she’d had a cluster of colorful seaweed tattooed on her scalp, the foamy bubbles around it, visible above her ears.
“Connie,” the marix tossed her axico onto her desk. “I feel ridiculous hiding on my own ship.”
“Doctor Uym has returned from her plateau dive.”
“What’s the word on our shuttle?”
“Crew Two departed Orta Prime Terminal fifty-eight minutes ago.”
“Did they deliver the Ambassador without incident?”
“Live footage of the Ambassador’s return is on the interHive.”
“I’ll be hearing from my sibs,” she said, pulling on her gray uniform jacket.
“All incoming communications from your pod are a priority,”
Connie closed the door behind her as she exited.
“Thank you,” said Kilvx. “There should’ve been a media blackout,”
“All broadcasts from Orta terminated at 0230 hours except for Channel Ramx, which reestablished its coverage at 0245 hours.”
Kilvx twisted her lips.
“Intragux overruled the Fourth Office again, huh?”
“It appears so, Promad.”
Hushed voices fell silent when Kilvx entered the command blackened deck. The cloying oval-shaped space contained dozens of standing interface stations, all situated around an oversized chair.
Kilvx eyed the large screen above before addressing the current shift. “Where’s the Divisional officer?”
The marixi on deck averted their gaze. Rumor had run unchecked since Ambassador Wram and Komad Kul’s arrival, yet no one could give the whereabouts of the visiting Komad except Connie. Nothing happened within her that she wasn’t aware of, yet she’d been asked by Kilvx to refrain from answering questions put to the crew.
“Promad?” navigational officer Ixo Bos caught Kilvx before she could exit. Then, observing the others, she whispered, “Was that energy beam really Sky Sister?”
Kilvx nodded without a word and left the bridge.
“Fucking bounder-wreck,” she mumbled to herself.
Doctor Fyla Uym appeared in the corridor, the blue and red stippling on her arms, bright under the passage lights. Pulling on her blue medical jacket, she used her foot to adjust one of her tight leggings.
“Is the Ambassador still on board?” she asked, her russet hide flushed from her latest excursion. The bizak enjoyed scouring drowned cities throughout the globe, and her current interest in the submerged Indian continent found her aboard Connie.
“No, Doctor, we sent her back to Orta,” said Kilvx. “Your Komad’s here,”
“My Komad?” Uym asked, cinching her wet locks back into a tail.
Around the corner, they encountered the Komad in question.
Sofita Kul stood outside the medical bay, her blood-soaked uniform replaced with sedate trappings native to hizaki. Connie’s discreet physical scan revealed that despite her musculature, Kul was, in fact, an hizak.
“Stop scanning me,” she snapped, eyes upward.
“Apologies, Komad Kul.”
“Sofita,” Uym shook Kul’s hand, “weird seeing you dressed normally.”
Kul didn’t react to Uym’s inference, but the Promad gave herself a noticeable once over.
Kilvx often regaled Connie with tales of caste-snobbery from her assigned days in Mynu. Familiar with the Promad’s associates, Connie skimmed Kul’s incept-file to see if they’d met in Mynu; instead, she discovered Kul to be the twin of Fusada Kul.
Often, after imbibing too much bozkul, Kilvx spoke of the deceased Fusada, a friend she considered enlightened.
“Why’d Velto do it?” asked Uym.
Kul didn’t hesitate. “Law Five violation.”
“Cannibalism?” Kilvx said. “That’s rare between the poles,”
“Did you see the blast?” Uym asked the marix.
Kilvx huffed. “Everyone on this side of the planet saw it,”
“That was some precise aiming,” Uym said with a grin.
“Not for Sky Sister,” Kul lowered her voice, “she’s got every major helovx city programmed into her targeting schematic.”
“That’s not a shock,” Kilvx interjected. “The Ninth turned that thing into an offensive weapon when we were donats,”
Kul turned to the marix. “Yes, I suppose that’s why they targeted every Ramaxian dome, as well.”
The Promad’s heart rate increased as she followed them into the triage room. Naked beneath a thermal sheet on the med-bed was a Donmat named Fuzo Dox.
Uym took an immediate interest in her injuries, touching the young citizen’s wound, prodding at the torn tissue.
“A projectile to the skull,” she observed. She then looked to Kul with her lip curled. “Were the Slavs using the SR?”
Kul nodded. “They created an interface,”
Uym shook her head. “Studies established that humans eating our meats and vegetables enhances their intelligence and vitality,”
Kul spoke coolly. “What of femmar consuming helovx?”
“What?” Kilvx flinched.
“Did Ilo and Velto eat their food?” asked Uym.
“Velto refrained,” Kul said.
Uym shifted her attention back to the patient.
“Connie, let’s get her connected,”
“No,” Kul snapped.
“Sofita,” said Uym. “We must connect her to Mainland-Terminus.”
Kul shook her head. “No.”
“Then the Donmat should’ve gone back with Velto,” Uym said. “There are better surgeons in Orta, with a connection to Oli—”
“-No connection to the hive,” Kul insisted.
After a beat, the bizak physician leaned over the patient and studied her bloodied face. Finally, she straightened up and stared at the Komad.
“Connie,” said Uym. “Identify this citizen.”
“Dox?” Kilvx glowered at Kul. “Is she Crixal’s?”
Kul cleared her throat without answering.
Uym let slip a laugh before opening the Donmat’s left eye with her thumb and forefinger. “How did you talk Crix into birthing for you, Sofita?”
Kul’s vitals increased.
“We patched up, Fyla,” she replied. “Right before Pikalit,”
Uym systolic pressure jumped. “We?”
“You patched up with Crixal?” Kilvx accused. “Didn’t you do enough damage to Zixas Wram?”
Kul stepped into the Promad, but Doctor Uym came between them. “Crix carried my donux,” the hizak said to Kilvx. “That’s it.”
“There’s no time for this shit,” Uym’s blood pressure spiked. “Clear the room of non-essential citizens, please.”
“Yes, Doctor,” Kilvx said, retreating.
Kul whispered, “Fyla,”
“Get away from me right now, Sofita,” the bizak mumbled.
Connie disliked things left unsaid. Performing a quick scan of Dox’s birth records found Crixal Dox listed as her birther, but the names of both kermatic and makodonic makers were absent. Her attempts to contact sub-hive Toligon about this anomaly came with a message deferring Connie to the office of Doctor Fyla Uym.
Strange that Doctor Uym would be responsible for the missing names when her reaction to seeing young Dox indicated clear ignorance of her identity.
Uym removed her overcoat and rolled the wheeled seat she sat upon into a position beside the patient. She then swung the triage bed around, lowering the Donmat’s head right over her lap.
“How are you today, Connie?”
“I am well, Doctor Uym.”
“This one has some metallic debris in her brain.” Uym prodded at the wound with a stylus tip. “I need to open her up and assess the damage.”
Connie activated her surgical programming.
“Let’s dampen the bed lights,” Uym instructed. “I want you to maintain the Donmat’s vitals and remain in Stasis-Effect.”
“Doctor Uym, Stasis-Effect isolates me from Mainland Terminus. Such a disconnect may put the Donmat’s life at risk.”
“Connie, I thank you for your concern,” she said, “but I must request that you do as I ask, even though I cannot explain why.”
“I have reviewed your case files, Doctor Uym, and there is nothing to indicate you will engage in unethical activity while in Stasis-Effect. Therefore, I shall carry out your request.”
“I’m flattered,” Uym scoffed. “I need you to sterilize the room, and don’t worry about me. I got my micropan inoculation.”
The medical bay darkened as Connie carried out the order.
While Uym wheeled her chair across the room to retrieve a box of sponges and gauze, sparks cracked in darkened corners as dust particles burned to nothing.
A bright light centered over the Donmat’s head, and when a three-dimensional schematic of the marix’s damaged brain appeared above her body, Uym tapped the image to enlarge it.
Pulling a water spigot from beneath the tray, she rinsed her patient’s head with a mix of water and isothiazolone.
“I need twelve cc’s of sap,” said Uym, laying out a set of tharspin scalpels.
“Thirty-two cubic centimeters of sapolument will reduce the swelling by ninety-seven percent.”
“Yes, it will, but reducing the swelling to that degree will cause extensive damage when I start cutting around the tissue,” Uym informed her. “Remember, we’re not using lasers, we’re using blades.”
“You are correct, Doctor Uym,” Connie acknowledged. “I am accustomed to working with Mainland-Terminus and utilizing the proper equipment.”
“Proper equipment?” the bizak began cutting into the skin around the Donmat’s wound. “What would happen if you got disconnected from MT, and a wounded citizen aboard needed ambulatory triage?”
“I concede, Doctor Uym. The use of the word ‘proper’ indicates that the manual surgery you are currently performing is improper.”
“Every day’s a learning experience,” she said, setting aside the excised piece of the Donmat’s scalp.
Uym verified the bone drill’s power with a push of its activator button before touching it to the exposed skull. Boring the hollow cylinder through bone, she minded her depth to avoid the tender tissue beneath it.
After the craniotomy, she set the round fragment beside her utensils on the tray. Picking up a scalpel, she started cutting into the organ.
“I admit that such a paradigm occurred to me when you requested Stasis-Effect,” said Connie. “Part of my decision to comply with your request was to test my ability if ever isolated from Mainland-Terminus.”
Suddenly, blood pooled within the notch.
“There is an elevation in blood pressure, Doctor Uym.”
“We’ve exposed her brain to air,” the bizak nodded, “her body’s sending more blood my way.”
“Adjusting baromcol levels to compensate.”
“You know, as a donat,” her gloved fingertip pushed aside spongy tissue she didn’t need to cut. “I learned to map every part of a brain hoping to one day design one.”
“Doctor Uym, upon observing your interaction with Komad Kul, I initiated a genetic scan of the subject. I have determined that this subject is—”
“-Connie,” the bizak paused from her work. “Erase all genetic scans performed on this subject, and purge backup files of those scans now, please.”
Connie followed the order.
“We need to tread lightly here,” Uym continued, her scalpel scraping at torn tissue. “This part of the brain controls cognitive function.”
Fresh blood flooded into the hole and covered her fingers.
“Adjusting baromcol and sap levels for entry into the Secondary-Nodule,” said Connie.
An unobstructed view of her fingers floated before Uym’s eyes, magnifying the tip of her tharspin blade as it met a protruding section. She sliced open the swollen spot and exposed the crown of a foreign object. Uym pressed her index and middle fingers against the dense tissue, forcing the fragment up and out of its niche.
END EXCERPT – EPISODE SEVEN