Hours after the Slavic Empire Incident, operative Sofita 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.