Episode Eight

East Ramaxia, Winter
Exact Location – Classified
Dubol (January) 1, 2215

Sofita’s breath crystallized on the air.

One-hundred days ago she woke in a recovery room, her body sore from the surgical implantation of the spheres.

The hibernation that followed would be her last peaceful sleep.

Waking from it, Sofita had entered Femitokon Holistics unscheduled. Ignoring the cries of Fyla Uym who demand she wait, Sofita stepped onto the circular platform.

Once it had lifted her high into the injection cloud, her body become a match-head dragged against the grain. Flesh inflamed, Sofita’s agony was lost in the rotary gale.

The nanites in the mist had started cataloging every portion of her body, spinning her with enough force she lost her breath. When it had finally ceased, Sofita opened her eyes to find the cloud pulsing in time with her heart.

A bolt of light then pierced her skull from behind and had paralyzed her as it escaped through her forehead, just above her eyes. Unconscious only a few moments, Sofita woke standing upright on the pad.

The second successful host of the Femitokon Shell, Sofita then walked out of Holistics without a word to the excited Fyla. Passing dozens of smiling Bizaki and a few impressed Marixi, Sofita had kept going until she reached the patch of surface ice designated for ignition testing.

Meanwhile, two miles below in a dimly lit control room sprinkled with floating interfaces, two Bizaki bio-techs, and an Hizak design engineer couldn’t muster the excitement; they’d been here before, with her sib Fusada Kul.

Pacing above them on the wall-walk was Primekomad Tylehibz.

Hibz had once championed Fusada; the best Orta had ever produced. Hibz’ hoped were dashed after the Primary’s donation had committed suicide; it destroyed Hibz to see the Shell adhering to an Hizak.

Behind Hibz with her back to the wall was Doctor Fyla Uym, the Tenth-Gen designer of the Femitokon Shell.

Fyla had often reminded Hibz that Sofitakul wasn’t just some Hizak, she was the most intelligent alumna that Mynu had ever produced. The Hizak’s superior intellect mattered little to Hibz, but it had meant something to Hibz superior and friend Uli Zag. The Prime Chair had insisted Project Femitokon go on and she’d approved the Hizak’s request to join the next round of test subjects.

“She’s got no business being out there,” Hibz said. “We’re wasting our resources entertaining the whims of a grief-stricken scholar.”

Fyla eyed that back of Hibz decorated head.

The design adorning the bald scalp of a bruiser remained the only sign of a creative streak in the warrior-caste, and that single spark of imagination wasn’t the only thing she admired about them.

Fyla had been prepared to halt the Femitokon Program following Fusada’s death. It wasn’t because of the death toll. Fyla was tired of being at the beck and call of the Sorority of Defense; Fyla had entertained Sofita’s candidacy because she needed closure.

Sofita surviving implantation had shocked everyone.

When the energy had fired its bolt of blue into Sofita’s brain, Fyla demanded they shut the injection cloud down. It would’ve caused inoperable brain damage, but in those moments, it seemed that Sofita was already dead.

Suddenly, Sofita’s body had come to life, frightening everyone in the lab.

A young technician asked Fyla what was happening, but Fyla had no idea; her hope was rekindled seeing the Shell energy enter willingly into Sofita’s spheres.

“That grief-stricken scholar’s brain is the only one the Shell likes,” Fyla was careful not to talk down to Hibz. “That alone earns her a spot here.”

Hibz turned, “The Shell chooses its host now?”

“I won’t discuss the intricacies of the Shell’s operative intelligence Primekomad, but I believe in Sofitakul,” Fyla said. “Her reason for being here may spring from a misplaced sense of responsibility, but she deserves a chance.”

“Calm down, Doctor,” Hibz said, employing the bruiser’s standby of turning discourse around by accusing her opponent of overreaction.

“You better believe in her too Primekomad,” said Fyla. “She’s all that’s left. The other three you hand-picked over her failed.”

The elder Marix smirked before turning her back on Fyla.

Naked on the surface, Sofita saw the beacons shimmer in lines that formed a path toward the horizon. Planting her feet, she steadied herself against the strong wind. She curled her hands into fists and with eyes shut, she internalized.

Ryo Uym had once opined that an Hizak’s internal-vision did more harm than good.

Sofita had chalked the snide comment up to envy; not every Hizaki was capable of internal-vision. Those able to master internal-vision transcended the citizenry and lived to serve as paxumal to the Collective.

Memory is a killer, Ryo had said. Bringing memories to life only destroys what one builds in the here and now.

For Sofita, there was nothing left to destroy.

Closing her eyes, she returned to a day when she was small.

Fusa’s towering figure came at her with arm raised and eyes livid.

The back of Fusada’s little bald head appeared and blocked Sofita’s view; Fusada took the brunt of Fusa’s anger, again.

Sofita clenched her teeth as the wind died down.

Her name called, Sofita looked up through the opening in the tile floor. Fusada peered into the hole, nose bloodied, her split lip stretched in a smile.

‘I can take a punch better than you ‘Fita, I was made for this.’

Sofita screamed as heat melted the snow around her feet.

In the control room below, the floating screens sprang to life.

“She’s activated it!” the first technician cried.

“Her sib kept it up forty-seconds,” Hibz looked over her shoulder. “Let’s see how long it takes this Kul to putter out.”

“Sixty-second mark maintained,” said the tech. “The shell continues to inter-phase with her neurology!”

“She’s maintaining it!” Fyla felt the skin on her arms tighten as the Shell mapped Sofita’s nervous system. Her vital organs appeared on the screen, then her brain and spine came to life, followed by musculature.

On the surface, the silver-skinned Sofita was one with the Shell.

Willing it to lift her from the ice, Sofita felt energy shoot from the heels of her newly formed boots. Rising above the ground, she studied the enlightened path and just imagined how fast she wanted to move.

“She’s moving over the ice,” the first technician cried, “Speed now exceeds our fastest known-”

“—How’s the body holding up?” Fyla demanded.

“No systolic anomalies,” the first tech replied. “The Shell’s maintaining itself and her!”

Sofita flew over the desolate white.

Sailing past a ledge, she abandoned the parameters of the testing strip and barreling toward the coast, she felt free for the first time in many years.

In the control room, the screens went black.

“She lost it!” Hibz yelled.

Sofita stared down at a seal peeking its head out of the ice hole.

In the control room, a collective sigh of disappointment.

“She powered down on purpose,” the third tech winced. “Readings indicate there’s a biologic in her path.”

Hibz growled, “She intentionally powered down!”

“Calm down Primekomad,” Fyla entered the control line.

“She’ll never get it back up again,” Hibz said, joining the control line. “Tell me you saved the ignition data?”

When the first tech nodded, the screens bounced back to life, resuming right where they’d left off.

Fyla couldn’t believe her eyes.

The first technician cried, “She just reactivated it!”

“Subject Kul did a provisional power-up,” said the third technician.

“The buildup and ignition required less time this outing,” the Hizak finally spoke.

Hibz stared at Fyla, “It can be controlled that easily?”

“Why is everything shaking?” Fyla asked of the live-view feed.

“She’s not hovering now, she’s running,” the third tech smiled. “Her speed is so fast that impact with the surface ice is minimal.”

“It’s astounding Doctor Uym!” said the first tech.

“Kul’s the first,” said the Hizak.

Hibz was elated, “Kul’s the only!”

“Keep on running Sofita,” Fyla touched the outline of Kul’s body on the screen as its arms and legs pumped in motion. “Keep on running and never stop.”

Level 21 – Session Hall
The Cloister Building, Utama
0730 Hours – Bamx 11, 2228

The notion of accountability was favored by the Sixth Ramaxian Gen, and it was no surprise that an old soul like the Ninth-Gen Sernatae, Yirgizul, idealized it. Gizul convened this session to measure the culpability of a citizen named Velto Wram for utilizing Sky-Sister to enact genocide upon an helovx nation.

Pentox had taken Sky-Sister off-line following its misuse and anticipated conference with the Prime Femtrux. Tolitat rarely conferred with Pentox on the daily, but hours before this special session was convened, she’d been summoned alongside Pentox, to appear before Femtrux.

Tolitat relayed to Femtrux citizen Sofitakul’s initial incursion; the Hizak had employed her previous position of privilege during a mission for Orta. Kul, a former administrator, had retained favor since Tolitat once expected her to serve as a primary paxumal.

Tolitat had then reminded Femtrux that as an active operative of World Oceans, the Hizak was the sole responsibility of hive Pentox.

Pentox had readily accepted ownership of Komad Kul but relayed to Femtrux her ignorance of the operative’s whereabouts or actions, citing multiple exchanges with what appeared to be the operative energy of Fusadakul.

Fusada Kul had been dead for decades.

Femtrux had been silent many moments before informing Pentox that the hive was no longer operative custodian of Sky Sister. Tolitat was relieved upon being dismissed without the burden of being assigned the weaponized system.

Curiosity nagged Tolitat over Pentox’ state after the dismissal.

Larger matters loomed.

Tolitat brought the Session Hall to life and sensed the silent presence of Femtrux. The prime lifeform’s presence wasn’t unexpected; if Tenth Gen Ambassador Veltowram was found to have overstepped her bounds, the Chamber and its Ruling Platform were required to enact censure.

It was a delicate situation because Ambassador Wram was a genetic inheritor, bound by birth to serve the Tenth Gen on its Committee when the time came. Femtrux chose to stealthily supervise this session because Wram had accessed Sky-Sister’s primada control with the help of a genetically-coded incoming Primary; the current reality suggested that the Tenth Gen lost both their Primary candidates with the deaths of Fusadakul and Zixaswram.

Members of the Chamber began filing into the Session-Hall and activating their touch-screens prompted Tolitat to log their attendance. The platform high above the session hall remained empty; these citizens were gathering in the corridor outside the Primary’s office.

Teebanto, the Fourth Office of the Committee, had arrived first.

A white-hided Hizak with dark gray streaking her thick-backed figure, elder Tee exhibited style and grace, but her tribal nature hadn’t ebbed with age. Entering the hall, the Ninth-Gen fixed her smiling eyes upon old friend and enemy, Lekadawram.

Anything related to diplomacy between the poles fell under the auspices of Second Office, Lekada Wram. Her appreciation for the severity of her situation was noted in the somber expression and tensed jaw of the pink-spotted and brown-hided Hizak.

Standing in front of the Primary’s door was a thickly muscled Marix named Gidikat.

Clad in an Orta-Prime uniform, on the back of elder Ikat’s scalp was a volcanic island that erupted flames that flickered along her jawline and licked at her forehead and cheeks.

Woxdag entered and stopped to allow Tee to fix the loose flower her stylist had placed in her up-do. Born Woxbanto, the Fifth Office of the Committee remained a model bizhiz, a skilled laborer respected in a Hizak world.

Wox’ ascendance to the Committee had been guaranteed before Sixth-Gen Eppisdag, chose the Bizak to follow her. Wox had been bonded to elder Dag’s heir, Pitadag, an interstellar pilot that lost her life in orbit. Wox had decided to accept the office offered by elder Dag, over the office she’d been born to, and this was how her sibox Tee came by a place on the Committee.

Such was the way of things following the Yulitat Coup.

2184 had started poorly when the inaugural payload of tharsis-ore from Tharso burned up and killed Primary-candidate Pitadag. Following that tragedy, mid-term elections gave the Ninth-Gen a majority wall in the Chamber.

On the heels of the political turmoil came the defection of an Hizaki named Ubolitx. Litx’ failed rescue from the helovx and the subsequent genocide perpetrated upon the Australian people had ended a year filled with socio-generational hostility.

It was no surprise when the Ninth-Gen forcibly took control of Orta and strong-armed the Sixth into subservience, and like the Sky Sister situation unfolding at present, Pentox again had been the unassertive means to an end.

“Where’s Fusa?” Wox whispered to Tee, a gleam in her eye.

“She, Ryo, and Rasa are assembled over some Aotearoan nonsense,” Tee said. “I suspect Ikat’s been excluded because no one knows where Uli Zag’s escaped too,”

Ikat caught them staring and glared back at them.

Wox looked away, “I didn’t realize Ikat was still alive,”

“Why wouldn’t she be?” Tee stared at Ikat boldly.

“Ikat’s Prime of Terminal Sabotage,” Wox whispered behind a cupped hand to Tee’s ear. “You don’t keep that position without killing a few friends.”

Tee smiled at Wox, “Why do you keep up with drama out of Orta?”

“Orta drama, is the best drama,” Wox grinned. “Someone’s always punched, ridden, or killed.”

The Primary’s door swung open and through it stepped Ryouym.

Ryo was a tall Hizak whose portentous face haunted Tolitat. Hive Pentox hadn’t been the only one to unintentionally aid the Ninth during the coup; careful wording by Ryo, then CR of Utama, led Tolitat to delete evidence that indicated the Hizak’s guilt in her own maker’s transport accident.

Clad in a form-fitting black suit that brought out the red stippling in her brownish-gray hide, Ryo wore her hair up high and kept it molded to resemble the sculpted folds of a gashcol.

Rasajyr followed her out.

A contrast to Ryo in every way, Rasa’s flowing white suit jacket covered her large rump, and the Hizak’s hair was shaped into well-crafted dips and relaxed waves. The short style complimented a narrow face that came to life on sight of Wox.

Rasa had been bonded to Wox by way of Pitadag, but after the pilot’s death, the Bizak physician broke their bond. Though Rasa remained bonded to she and Pita’s lover, the Subak, Pelru, Rasa sustained a sexual relationship with Wox.

Fusakul emerged from her office like a fusaxica from her cave.

A hulking Marix, she stood nine-feet tall, and etched upon her bald head was the snarling face of a fusaxica with bloodied fangs and pawed claws that covered her sturdy shoulders.

Fusa had those claws engraved upon her gray hide the night she’d bonded to Tee and Wox’ deceased Zaxir sibling, Feebanto.

Kul took Ikat by the collar with both her hands, “Where’s Zag!”

“We’ve been to her offices, and her residences!” Ikat didn’t shy away. “She’s gone!”

When Kul released her, Ikat pushed Kul away.

“I did not hear that,” Kul gnashed her teeth. “Not from you.”

Kul and Ikat were lofty Marixi, and their age showed in the fine lines where their bald heads met their resilient faces.

“There’s a limited number of locations for her to shelter,” Ryo came between them; there was no word for an Hizak as brutal as a Marix but if one was created it might stem from the name Ryouym.

“Hiding indicates guilt,” Rasa said.

Ikat kept her eyes trained on Kul, “My agents are looking all over Ramaxia,”

“Her guilt’s irrelevant,” Ryo snapped. “What’s transpired is over.”

“We must rid ourselves of the remains,” Tee approached them but paused to address the Second Office. “Lekada, where’s Velto?”

Lekada scowled at the name of her donation.

“She’s in the Cloister,” Wox put a comforting arm around Lekada. “Waiting to be spanked.”

“I don’t recall your name being Lekada?” Ryo’s eyes narrowed.

“No,” Wox smiled, “My name is, kiss-my-swell.”

Rasa sighed, “Must we behave as donats?”

“I don’t think you understand the severity of the situation, CM Dag,” Ryo stepped past Rasa and stonily addressed Wox. “I’d like for you to appreciate the severity of the situation.”

Wox nodded like a donat, “Yes, CM One.”

Ryo whisked down the hall, and Rasa followed. Tee made a stern face at Wox, mocking her with a scolding finger wag as she too followed Ryo out. Primary Kul glared at Wox, but her eyes were clearly amused; the Bizak was one of the few weaknesses the lethal Fusa permitted herself.

“What was done to the Slavs causes me no harm,” Tee said falling behind. “The situation warrants an opportunity. Surely we can use it to keep Velto out of the Cloister?”

Rasa turned on her, “Velto’s not reentering politics, is she?”

“Her intentions are clear,” Lekada sighed.

“You haven’t viewed her sit down with the press?” Tee asked Rasa. “I ordered it blocked, but that troublemaker bone of yours, Koba Julo? She broadcasted it anyway.”

Kobajulo was the donation of Rasajyr’s sibling, a Subak. Though an Utama institution, Line Jyr carried clout in Pikalit, a pedigree that ensured the Bizak correspondent sustained opportunities, no matter how often Tee used her office to have the Tenth-Gen severed from vocational assignments.

“Why is Koba Julo still operating in the media?” Ryo asked.

“Why is Koba Julo still breathing?” Kul demanded.

Rasa stopped, “We do not murder journalists, Primary Kul,”

Kul addressed Ikat.

“Ikat, you find your best Termsabo bark, and put her on the task of finding PC Zag,” she said. “She was never really a friend, was she Ikat?”

Ikat stood nose to nose with Fusa.

“No Primary, Zag was not our friend.”

“The only reason you’re still alive right now Ikat,” said Kul. “Is because you knew this way back when and I didn’t listen to you.”

“No Primary, you did not,” Ikat said.

“If you wish to retain your newly elevated rank,” Kul lowered her voice. “I better have Zag, dead by next Cloister session.”

“You’ll have Zag, Primary.” Ikat said, a cruel gleam in her eye.

The Primary marched into the session hall first, and as Ryo, Rasa, and Lekada passed Ikat, Tee stopped and faced the scolded Marix.

“Breathe, brooder.” Tee teased.

Ikat scowled down at the striking Hizak.

“Oh, that charming lazy eye in your left socket,” Tee laughed as Ikat’s smile faded.

Wox chuckled to break the tension.

“Stop flirting,” Wox pulled the smiling Tee away by her arm. “We have Cloister!”

In the Session Hall, the Primary took her seat in the uppermost deck of the rotunda. Her first officer, Ryo, sat directly beneath her on the dais with Tee and Wox seated to her right, and Lekada and Rasa on her left.

On the opposite side of the hall were all ten of Ramaxia’s dome representatives.

The highest deck on the right was just a few feet lower than the Ruling Platform, and it belonged to Vanda Prime. Stationed here was Tenth-Gen Eppisbanto and her Cloister-Aid. Directly beneath her on a shared deck was Central Vanda’s Ninth-Gen CR, Jixaru, and North Vanda’s Tenth-Gen representative, Qulgrik.

Centering the Chamber side was the shared deck of East and West Toxis, with Ninth Gen’s Uwavgrik and Gentixrelo seated respectively with their aides. Underneath them was the platform of Toxis Prime. Inhabited mostly by employees of the Prime Lab, the representative position fell automatically to the Prime-Chair of the GPD; currently the Ninth-Gen physician Ribawygz.

Below Toxis and to the left of the Chamber hall was the large deck occupied by all three Tenth-Gen representatives of the Pikalit Triad. The substantial Bizak population had elected three mild-mannered Hizaki; Peljyr of Prime Dome, Yegidas of the Greater Dome, and Cruzotegal of the Northeast.

At ground level, directly opposite the lectern of the Sernatae-Second, was the lone interface-station of Utama, and sitting with her aid was Ninth-Gen Hizak representative, Ryljyr.

When Sernatae Gizul appeared, all conversation died down.

The Primary and her Committee ran Ramaxia, and the citizenry exercised oversight with their elected Chamber, but all activity in the Cloister remained under the jurisdiction of the Sernatae.

Gizul, the former Administrator Prime of Marixi Administration, walked the deck extension in the middle of the session hall and nodded at members of the Chamber as she passed. The Hizak then cast her eyes up to acknowledge the Ruling Platform.

A dark-hided elder with a stern countenance, Gizul was often the subject of political satire on the interHive that mocked her hair choices; her hair today was styled into two large balls situated on each side of her head; one on her crown, and the other behind her ear.

Gizul stepped to her pulpit and nodded to the Sernatae-Second, her first-born donation, Ixogizul. Tolitat dealt extensively with Ixo because she was the current Prime Chair of Mynu, as well as Prime Administrator of Marixi Administration.

The Sernatae’s stately voice was amplified by an audio collar.

“This Special Session of the Cloister is called before the Ruling Platform of the Ninth Generation to allow Representatives of the Citizenry to review the actions of Ambassador Velto Wram, and her use of the Stellar Kyronic Yaw against the helovx-nation, the Slavic Empire.”

Ambassador Wram sat in a chair upon the testimonial deck.

Tolitat recalled the Bizak’s service in the Chamber representing West Toxis many years before; the Tenth-Gen’s enormous round eyes weren’t native to Clan Wram, nor was her even-toned and unmarked hide.

“I call to the Cloister, Prime Chair of the Ramaxian Armed Forces, Uli Zag, Ambassador Prime of Ramaxia, Pitana Dag, Ambassador to the Slavic Empire, Velto Wram, and-” Gizul paused. “Komad Sofita Kul and Donmat Fuzo Dox, of the Sorority of Defense division of Surface Operations.”

“Sernatae, may I speak?” the Primary calmly asked.

Gizul looked up at her, “Primary Kul?”

“We’ve been unable to locate PC Uli Zag,” said Fusa.

“Thank you, Primary Kul,” Gizul said, as a signal flashed on her orbital socket interface from Vanda Prime. “CR Prime Eppis Banto of Vanda?”

“Thank you Sernatae,” said Eppis, audio collar activated. “My ill-feelings regarding the helovx aside, I’d never advocate the destruction of any helovx-nation.”

Agreeing whispers filled the session hall.

“We’re not animals,” Eppis added. “We don’t murder those weaker simply because they’re weak. I’d like to think, as femmar, we’re above such brutal behavior.”

Like-minded murmurs agreed.

Gizul’s voice echoed throughout the hall.

“CR Pel Jyr of Pikalit?”

“As Representative of Pikalit Prime, the most essential city in Ramaxia,” a collective groan came from the Chamber and many smiled. “I’d like to know why CM Lekada Wram and her so-called Office of Helovx Advocacy, hasn’t taken responsibility for the destruction of the Slavs!”

Applause rang out from every Tenth Gen representative in the hall, except Eppis Banto; she joined Ninth Gen’s Relo, Grik, Ru, and Wygz in being unmoved.

Even Ryl Jyr, the one Ninth-Gen who typically sided with the younger Tenth on many issues, remained stoic amidst the Tenth Gen’s call for Lekada’s answerability.

Lekada Wram’s signal appear in Gizul’s eye.

“Second Office, Wram?”

“Sernatae, remind CR Jyr of Pikalit Prime that while I’m ultimately responsible for programs within the Office of Helovx Advocacy, the destruction of the Slavic Empire took place against my direct order,” Lekada spoke wearily. “I wanted no engagement with the Slavs, and I expressly forbid any retaliatory action.”

Ryl Jyr spoke when recognized by Gizul, “Are we to understand, Sernatae, that the Slavs were to go unpunished for the murder of Prime Citizen Ilo Cux?”

An echo of displeasure filled the hall.

Ryo Uym spoke when acknowledged.

“Sernatae,” said Ryo. “Remind our Utama colleague that there are punitive measures in place to counter helovx-nations that fail to interact with members of the citizenry in ways considered, unlawful.”

Ryl looked to the Sernatae, and when Gizul gave the nod, Ryl spoke.

“The First Office is aware that such punitive measures exist alongside precedent,” Ryl eyed the Primary. “The last time a citizen of Ramaxia fell to harm by way of an helovx-nation, our esteemed Primary commandeered a World Oceans lifeform and enacted a similar response,”

The Chamber rallied noisily in agreement.

Ryl Jyr effectively challenged the Ruling Gen’s right to punish Velto Wram for genocide and improper use of Orta-assigned technology by merely citing Ubo Litx and the destruction of the Australian population.

“Sernatae,” said Ryo. “The Primary engaged in a rescue mission and retaliated in the heat of the moment,”

“Sernatae,” Lekada Wram spoke when recognized. “Ambassador Wram’s actions were seeded in a moral violation discovered before the death of citizen Cux,”

“Noted,” Gizul nodded. “I call Ambassador Prime of Ramaxia, Pitana Dag, to the floor to provide context on Ambassador Wram’s state of mind before the incident.”

Walking to the center of the floor, the tall Hizak stepped onto the levitation pad and sailed it to a position before the Sernatae.

“Ambassador Dag,” Gizul said. “You know that in the Cloister before the Sernatae, you are to be truthful at all times.”

“I know this Sernatae, and I will be truthful,” Pitana touched her chest with a spread hand, a sign of respect and reverence.

“The Axyrn Division delivered evidence to me that your office was not notified of any impending action against the Slavic Empire,” Gizul spoke to Pitana while reading the flat screen built into her podium. “Ambassador Prime Dag did any communication take place between you and Ambassador Velto Wram, outside normal channels, regarding the deteriorating situation in the Slavic Empire?”

“No Sernatae,” said Pitana.

The Chamber fell quiet, and Lekada Wram smiled.

Pitana asked, “May I elaborate, Sernatae?”

“Yes, Ambassador Prime Dag, please,” said Gizul.

“Before Ambassador Wram departed for the Slavic Empire, I made it clear that any impropriety on behalf of the Slavs would result in her immediate extraction,” Pitana said. “For the record, I bestow upon all of my Ambassadors the freedom to exercise on-scene decisions regarding diplomacy. I’m not their kerma, I’m their Prime.”

A dull rumble moved through the hall.

“CR Eppis Banto of Vanda Prime,” Gizul said.

“Sernatae,” Eppis said. “May I speak with Ambassador Prime Dag?”

“Yes, CR Banto,” Gizul nodded. “Keep it within the protocol.”

“Thank you, Sernatae,” Eppis said. “How are you today, Ambassador Prime?”

Pitana nodded, “I’m fine, thank you CR Banto.”

“Ambassador Prime Dag, in discussions with your field Ambassadors regarding their autonomy, did the subject of reactive decisions involving helovx aggression ever occur?” Eppis asked. “If affirmed, did you as their Prime express that such decisions should never be enacted alone?”

“I make it clear to them, CR Banto, that no retaliatory action is to be taken against helovx persons, and or helovx societies, under any circumstance,” Pitana declared. “Yet I must note, I feel strongly that Ambassador Wram felt herself in danger. In her situation, I feel she made the decision she thought best.”

All three of Pikalit’s representatives were nodding.

“Forgive me, Ambassador Prime Dag,” Eppis said. “Did you speak to Ambassador Wram at any time while she was in the Slavic Empire?”

“No, CR Banto,” Pitana replied. “As I stated earlier, there was no communication between myself and Ambassador Wram during her final days between the poles.”

“Then you cannot speak to what Ambassador Wram was feeling,” Eppis said. “Or as to what was transpiring at the time of the incident,”

“I agree, Sernatae,” Ryo Uym spoke when recognized. “Prime Dag’s observation of Ambassador Wram’s state of mind is irrelevant.”

“No, CR Banto,” Pitana seemed humored. “My opinion doesn’t seem to mean much.”

Laughter echoed in the Chamber, mingled with disgusted laments.

“Sernatae,” Sernatae-Second Ixo Gizul stared up at Eppis, “Evidence obtained by our Axyrn’s sync of the mission logs of Ornithocheirus Five indicate that these helovx were involved in hostile activity.”

Gizul nodded, “Noted, Secondary Gizul.”

“This hostile activity did result in the death of a citizen,” Pitana added.

Velto Wram jumped to her feet, “That citizen was my partner!”

“Ambassador Wram!” Gizul slammed her round concrete gavel against the podium. “You’ll remain silent until you’re given permission to speak.”

Velto sat down.

Tee Banto wished to speak.

“CM Banto,” Gizul called, her eyes fixed on Velto.

“Sernatae, we all appreciate the free-reign Ambassador Prime Dag affords her Ambassadors, and in any other situation one might consider Ambassador Wram’s actions purely defensive,” said Tee. “But Sernatae, weren’t two Divisional officers dispatched to ensure the safe extraction of the Ambassador and her bond-partner?”

“CM Banto is correct Sernatae,” Pitana said. “Komad Kul and Donmat Dox of the Sorority of Defense were sent to carry out the extraction.”

“May I ask, Sernatae,” Lekada spoke up. “Why did Ambassador Prime Dag choose two agents from the Sorority of Defense over two officers from Surface Operational?”

Gizul nodded, “Prime Dag, do SOD officers typically handle extractions?”

“Sernatae,” the Primary chimed in without the aid of an audio collar. “Why was operative Komad Kul chosen for this particular assignment?”

“I didn’t choose Komad Kul,” Pitana declared. “I put in a request via Pengon for the highest-ranking officer with the most hours logged between the Poles.”

“May I inquire as to why?” the Primary asked.

“Sernatae, please inform the Primary that there was a mission assignment error,” the Sernatae Second spoke up. “Following the Chamber and Ruling Platform’s decision to cease aiding the Slavs following the misgendering of their leader, the subsequent extraction order was delivered to Terminal Sabotage.”

“Is this true, First Office Uym?” Gizul asked.

Hushed whispers filled the Chamber; Sernatae Gizul held no liking for the Terminal Sabotage Division and often spoke of disbanding it.

“Reviewing the request log, Sernatae,” said Ryo as if uninterested. “Yes, an error in assignment did occur.”

“Sernatae,” said Tee. “Does Prime Dag wish us to believe that a new request wasn’t tailored to make Komad Kul the logical choice.”

Rumbling filled the hall.

“Is that a question, or an opinion Sernatae?” Pitana asked.

Laughter erupted, and this time Third Office Rasa Jyr joined Wox Dag in smiling.

“I’m going to consider it a question,” Gizul said, stern.

“Sernatae, I fail to comprehend what’s being asked,” Pitana said. “I’ve no history of special ordering agents to ensure certain ones for assignment. My knowledge of Divisional agents is marginal at best. My awareness of Komad Kul’s position in Divisional-,”

“—Are you claiming you had no prior knowledge of Kul’s rank and Division before she was assigned?” Lekada demanded.

“Second Office Wram, protocol!” Gizul cried. “You will address me and request to speak to the witness directly.”

“Sernatae, may I finish?” asked Pitana.

Gizul nodded, “Yes, Ambassador Prime,”

“As I was trying to say before I was interrupted,” she said. “I wasn’t aware of Komad Kul’s position in Divisional until recently when I hand delivered a mission to her, in the month of Yubol.”

“The Axyrn investigated that mission, Sernatae,” the Sernatae Second reminded. “Prime Dag had been dispatched at the request of CM Wram to meet with Komad Kul.”

“I recall that mission, from our last special session,” Ryl stood and addressed the Chamber. “Ambassador Prime Dag was called to verify a private discussion with Komad Kul, regarding a communique from Ambassador Laxum Jyr.”

Pel Jyr spoke when allowed, “A communication that CM Wram claimed never came to her office,”

The Bumo Investigation had been an exciting special session due to involving fleet-operations; it entertained the Chamber far more than dome legislation. The Second Office had been just days from dismissing the Ambassador for failing to catch this Bumo Corporation from first housing a hybrid and then engineering a deadly fish that was on record as being destroyed by Komad Kul.

Ambassador Jyr had testified to being at a crossroads in her secret investigation involving the Helovx-nation of Jungwa, and a company within their borders, called Bumo. Kul’s subsequent mission log vindicated Ambassador Jyr, citing her involvement in the investigation from the start.

“Sernatae, I delivered the mission specs as ordered,” Pitana said. “I’ve known the Komad from an early age, and I wished to reconnect.”

Gizul cocked her head, “Friends when young?”

“We attended many of the same caste-training schools in Mynu, but I lost touch with the Komad, after that,” said Pitana.

“CR Banto of Vanda?” Gizul called.

“For the sake of full disclosure, and my intense dislike of being interrupted, I too attended caste-training with Ambassador Prime Dag,” Eppis grinned. “I also knew Komad Kul in the years following Mynu and was a donational acquaintance of citizen Velto Wram.”

Laughter filled the hall, but Velto Wram wasn’t amused.

“Thank you, CR Banto, but there will be no more interruptions.” Gizul shook her head and shifted her gaze back to Pitana, “Thank you, Ambassador Prime Dag.”

“Sernatae,” Primary Kul spoke up. “May I break protocol and inquire something unrelated to the matter at hand?”

“Yes, Primary,” said Gizul.

“I’d like to ask Ambassador Prime Dag,” the Primary said, “When she visited Komad Kul, was it at her residence, or was she in barracks?”

Pitana didn’t hesitate, “It was at her residence.”

“May I ask another question, Sernatae?” Kul asked, and when the Sernatae allowed it, she said, “Where’s Komad Kul, in residence?”

Pitana Dag hesitated until Velto cried out.

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Ambassador Wram!” Gizul shouted.

“Sernatae, we’re wasting time!” yelled Velto. “My life is on trial, and the Primary wants to know what her donats front door looks like!”

Laughter exploded from the Chamber.

Gizul banged her gavel, then pointed at Velto.

“Ambassador, it’s been awhile since you raised steam in my Cloister, you’ll not speak another word out of turn, or I’ll have you removed.”

Velto fell back into her chair, “Apologies, Sernatae.”

“I can answer the question, Sernatae,” Pitana stared up at the Primary, “Komad Kul lives on Base Three, Primary.”

“Thank you, Ambassador,” said Kul.

The hover pad returned Pitana to the witness dock.

“Fifth Office, Wox Dag,” Gizul said.

“I’d like to hear Ambassador Wram’s side of the story,” Wox said.

“Ambassador Velto Wram,” Gizul said. “You have the floor.”

“Thank you, Sernatae,” Velto was unable to step onto the hover pad because its standard rest setting was too high. When the pad lowered to accommodate Velto’s lack of height, there were quiet chuckles throughout the Chamber when the hover pad moved Velto into place before the Sernatae.

“I’m not going to say that I’m not responsible for the actions I took against the Slavic Empire,” Velto’s arms moved as she talked. “The Second Office says I disobeyed orders. Yes, I did.”

“PC Wygz, of Toxis Prime?” said Gizul.

“Unbelievable!” Velto cried. “You hizzah’s can’t wait five minutes until I’m through talking!”

Whistles and thundering laughter from the Primary followed.

The Sernatae slammed her gavel down.

“Velto Wram!” she pointed. “You utter that word in my Cloister again it will be the last word you utter in my Cloister.”

Velto put her hands on her hips, quieted.

“Sernatae, no one denies that Ambassador Wram took matters into her own hands,” said an amused Riba Wygz. “But the loss of one life cannot justify the extermination of an entire helovx nation.”

Primary Kul spoke up, “Sernatae, I respectfully disagree.”

Riba and the other Ninth-Gen laughed, but Ryl Jyr wasn’t amused.

“Sernatae,” Ryl stood, “As a citizen that cared for and knew Ilocux, I think the humor being displayed here is disrespectful.”

Gizul nodded, “I agree, thank you CR Jyr of Utama.”

When Vanda Prime was recognized by Gizul to speak, Velto sighed in frustration.

“Sernatae, I too was angry at Ilo’s death, but Ramaxia cannot arbitrarily commit genocide,” Eppis declared. “I stand by that. It may make me unpopular with my Primary, but I stand by it.”

Velto spat, “Sernatae, may I finish?”

“Ambassador Wram,” said Gizul.

“Moral posturing aside,” Velto glared up at Eppis before turning her attention back to Gizul. “I’m certain your Axyrn has a log showing I called Prime Dag and that call was intercepted by the Second Office.”

“It is logged,” said the Sernatae Second.

“Please share with the Chamber,” Gizul said to her Second.

“Yes, I demanded the extermination of the helovx within the wall,” Velto said. “Yes, it was demanded before the death of my partner,”

The details of Velto’s communication with Lekada Wram appeared on the interface screens of the Chamber and the Ruling Platform; conspicuously absent from the transcripts were Lekada’s words to Velto about her obligation in demanding rod’ntil from Komad Kul.

Tolitat had obliged Sernatae-Second Ixo Gizul in striking those comments from the record, as they served no purpose in the chain of evidence regarding the matter at hand.

“Before my partner,” Velto struggled to continue. “Before Ilo was brought onboard with a blast wound in her belly-”

“Do you need a moment, Ambassador Wram?” Gizul asked.

“Sernatae,” Velto’s voice broke. “There aren’t enough moments in this life,”

Gizul’s fury turned to pity.

“My desire to eliminate the Slavs,” Velto cleared her throat. “It was due to a violation of the Fifth Tenant of the Ramaxi L’uxial,”

Gasps and murmurs filled the Chamber.

“Sernatae,” asked Wox. “Were the helovx feeding on, us?”

“No, Sernatae,” Velto snapped. “Tell her they were feeding on each other.”

“With all due respect, Sernatae, helovx have been feeding on each other in times of environmental bottle-neck, for centuries,” said Tee. “They’re animals, it’s how they behave,”

“The Slavs were not in a bottle-neck, Sernatae,” Velto remained collected. “They harvested aborted fetal tissue and processed it through the protein-sequencing technology given to them by the Second Office.”

The Sernatae Second stepped into space behind the Sernatae and handed her a bivx. Gizul read its surface and then nodded at the younger Gizul, dismissing her.

“I’ve been given notice from Komad Kul, currently onboard the TCS Orcinus, that she and Donmat Fuzo Dox are unable to attend Cloister today due to mission responsibilities.” Gizul looked up from the pad. “The Komad has sent along footage from her investigation of the Slavs, as recorded by her ocular scanners.”

“Sernatae, may I speak?” said Wox.

“CM Dag,” Gizul said.

“No one questions Ambassador Wram’s account. I certainly don’t question it,” Wox’ face twisted. “Nor do I wish to see evidence of it,”

“Sernatae,” Tee spoke up. “What’s being decided here is what should be done with Ambassador Wram regarding her hasty decision to enact fatal measures upon an entire population.”

Gizul softened, “Fourth Office Banto, part of decreeing punitive measures upon those in service to the Citizenry and accused of acting against the Citizenry’s best interest, is to determine the circumstances upon which the wrong-doing occurred.”

“We understand this, Sernatae Gizul,” Ryo said. “Despite my Primary feeling that Ambassador Wram behaved accordingly, her actions were not something my Second Office would’ve made.”

“Sernatae,” Lekada nodded. “As CR Banto said prior, we’ve evolved.”

“Do I regret what I did to the helovx-nation of Australia?” Primary Kul said without being acknowledged. “Maybe. Yet their crime was pale in comparison to what the Slavs did here. They perverted our technology, they killed one of our most loved citizens, the former bond of my heir, Fusada.”

The Chamber went quiet.

“Sernatae,” Kul added. “Ambassador Wram’s motivations are, in my opinion, above reproach.”

Gizul gave the nod, “First Office Uym?”

“Ambassador Wram did not react, Sernatae, she avenged,” said Ryo. “Reaction is instant though lingering, while revenge requires forethought and planning. Ambassador Wram clearly displayed planned forethought in manipulating Komad Kul by demanding recompense in the form of granting her access to a Primada operational tier within a weaponized system in World Oceans.”

The Chamber remained silent as Ryo spoke further.

“Primada tiers are safeguards enacted by Prime Hive Femtrux to ensure that no officer, ambassador, or agent abroad, can access destructive operations without instantaneous consultation with a proper superior,”

Gizul permitted Lekada to speak.

“Authorities with the power to review the situation independently did so, and acted accordingly,” said Lekada. “There’s plenty of blame to go around here, and none of it is the Citizenry’s. Ergo, this matter should not be reviewed before the Chamber.”

The Chamber erupted in whistles and howling until the Primary’s booming voice silenced the hall.

“Ambassador Wram ordered Sky Sister to burn everything within the walls of the Empire because someone in Orta affirmed it!” she declared. “Prime Chair Uli Zag knew full well such action had precedent considering that she and I took part in something just like this just before some of you in here were born.”

“Zag allowed it,” the Primary added. “Because she thought it was the right thing do to.”

Gizul stared up at her, “What proof is there of this?”

“The testimony of the two Promad on duty in Orta,” said the Primary. “Sky-Sister called Pentox for permission to carry out Ambassador Wram’s request, and Prime-Chair Zag gave it to her.”

Hushed conversation filled the hall.

“This testimony just arrived,” Gizul glanced her screen. “I would like to have been given time to review it.”

“Apologies Sernatae,” said the Primary. “I just got it myself,”

Gizul didn’t appear pleased.

“Sernatae, rather than attempt to hold the Second Office accountable, I’d like the Chamber to appreciate the position she now stands in,” Rasa Jyr spoke up. “Our relations with the helovx will never be the same now that they’re aware of our ability to eliminate them from orbit.”

“Thank you, Third Office Jyr,” Lekada stood. “I motion that Ambassador Wram be stripped of her position in the Office of Helovx Advocacy,”

“Seconded,” Tee Banto said. “I propose we ban Citizen Wram from any future opportunity to serve the Citizenry,”

Eppis Banto added, “I second this,”

The Chamber exploded with furious rebukes from all three representatives of Pikalit and a visible show of support from Fifth Office Wox Dag.

Velto was prepared to shout out, but when Sernatae Gizul gave her a warning glare, the Bizak calmed.

“I deserve to lose my position in the OHA, but not my right to represent,” Velto fixed her eyes on Lekada above. “Such an action in my time of grief might force me to shame my legacy and terminate my life.”

Gasps and whispers filled the Chamber.

Ending her life would remove Velto as Lekada’s living genetic inheritor and upon her death, Femtrux would cease recognizing Lekada Wram’s position as a member of the Ninth Gen Platform.

“I don’t like that sort of posturing Ambassador Wram,” Gizul scolded. “Yet such things are beyond my purview in the Cloister.”

Velto held her head high.

“Second Office Wram,” Gizul stared up at Lekada. “Have you considered this implication?”

“Not until this moment,” Lekada said, bitter.

“Then it’s out of your hands, and in mine,” said Gizul, addressing the Chamber. “It is my decision, Citizen Velto Wram, that you have acted with gross impropriety in your dealings with the helovx-nation known as the Slavic Empire.”

Velto stood with her hands at her sides.

“You’ll be stripped of your authority within the Office of Helovx Advocacy. You’ll be forbidden any future interactions with the helovx, and this includes the export of your food-replication technology.”

Lekada Wram smiled at this, but Ryl Jyr stood.

“Sernatae,” said Ryl. “Forgive my intrusion while you issue the sentence, but are we to level penalties against businesses held by private citizens?”

“CR Jyr of Utama,” Gizul regarded Ryl with a friendly eye. “When those businesses are operated by those serving the citizenry in an official capacity, yes.”

“Thank you, CR Jyr,” Velto nodded to the elder. “But I accept this penalty and understand why it’s being levied.”

“My point, Sernatae,” said Ryl. “Is that such penalties would surely discourage wealthy entrepreneurs from considering a civic office,”

“Citizen Wram,” Gizul eyed Ryl before lowering them to Velto. “I’ll not take from you your right to represent, that’s not my place, but your actions in the matter of the Slavic Empire are to remain on your record until you recycle from this world,”

Velto said, “I accept this ruling.”

“This is my final ruling,” Gizul addressed the Chamber. “Cloister do you accept this ruling?”

A resounding ‘yes’ filled the room from the Chamber.

The lone signal of dissent in Gizul’s eye came from Lekada Wram.

Lekada’s opposition as a minority among the Ruling Platform during a Chamber review, gave the Sernatae allowance to ignore it.

Port Copeland, Tasmania
1530 Hours – Bamx 11, 2228

Sofita’s body seized up from the pain.

Taking a deep breath, she rolled to the end of the boat and felt the pistol she carried wrapped in plastic slip from her fingers. Fishing the gun out from the bloodied water around her boots, she fell against the closed window and knocked her head against its glass.

Forcing the window up, she rolled over the pane and fell to the floor. There, she found Brown-Eyes free of his binds. When his eyes found hers, he darted past her and jumped through the open window.

Hearing him splash outside, Sofita crawled to a defensible position in the corner of the room and unwrapped the gun. When he came back through the window carrying the boaters first aid kit, and a tackle box, Sofita cocked the weapon.

Brown-Eyes dropped the tackle box at her feet and returned to bed to dab ointment from the kit onto his enflamed wrists and ankles.

Sofita kept the pistol trained on him as he rose to enter the bathroom and when he reappeared wearing a terry cloth robe with the hotels poorly embroidered initials on the skirt, he stepped to her and pushed the gun aside.

“We locals use tharspin ammunition,” Brown-Eyes knelt to study the wound. “It’s broke right through your skin, eh?”

“Back off!” Sofita growled.

He shouted, “I got triage experience, let me get it out!”

Sofita quickly turned her back and presented the torn flesh; allowing him this close wasn’t unwise since she could break his neck if forced. After examining it, Brown-Eyes walked to the window and returned with a plastic cup full of water.

Soothing saltwater ran down her shoulder and stung her ripped hide. Fingers pressed into the tender portions around her wound.

“There y’are,” he whispered before digging his fingers in deep.

The pain made Sofita queasy, and she refused to cry out.

After digging it out intact, Brown-Eyes held the flattened projectile out before her.

“Strong enough to cut your skin, but not break y’bones,” he said. “You lot are a sturdy mix.”

“Not skin,” Sofita gasped. “It’s hide.”

When Brown-Eyes took the damaged shrapnel to the bathroom, Sofita snatched up the cup and bounded her way to the window. The salt water soothed her hide.

“You’re still munted,” Brown-Eyes sat on the bed with the tackle box in hand and patted the empty space beside him. “Let me patch it up,”

Gun in hand, Sofita sat down beside him.

After preparing a suture kit with fishing line and a hook, Brown-Eyes stood on his knees to get a better angle on her arm. When he caught her staring into his parted robe, he furrowed his brow.

“Eyes off the merchandise,” he scolded, stabbing the curved hook into her hide.

Sofita inhaled sharply as Brown-Eyes threaded the fishing line in cross-hatches using the thickest portions of her hide to secure the seam. The loud snap of his teeth bit-pulling the gut and tightening each crisscrossed join came in regular intervals. His work caused some discomfort, but it was minor compared to having been shot.

“Where’d you learn to dress a Femarctic wound?” she asked.

“You lot are no different than the seals in the harbor that get chopped up by our propellers,” he said. “If I’kin gets to fixing them, I’kin fix you.”

Finished, Brown-Eyes disappeared into the bathroom.

The discarded bindings lay shoved under the bed, untied and untorn. No local Tasman got out of those knots without cutting them on something. Rolling her arm to test the tension of stitches, Sofita kicked off her boots and stripped off the remainder of her clothes.

Reclining on the bed with the gun still in hand, Sofita caught Brown-Eyes in the bathroom doorway, staring at her.

“On the rocks,” he said. “You went silver,”

“Yes, I did,” Sofita sat up, feet on the floor.

“If’n you do that again,” he slowly moved towards her. “Y’kin get me to the coast, leave me there,”

Sofita shook her head, “You’re not local, Brown-Eyes,”

“Dun’trust me, I’dun care,” he sat beside her. “We need to get out of here,”

“My armor isn’t responding,” Sofita stood. “I need to find a way to juice it up,”

“Are there other silver farc…silver soldiers flying around?” he asked. “We can holler out and get them to pick us up,”

“You and I both know I’m not a real soldier,” Sofita turned to find him staring at her backside.

“All you fighters are nude-nuts,” he laughed nervously, staring up at her head. “You’re the first I’seen with hair,”

“I won’t be the last,” Sofita lied watching his eyes fall to her fronts. “The silver soldier before me, she got this armor going with an orgasm.”

Brown-Eyes started, “It’s in your body, this silver?”

Sofita stretched out her hand, “I’m going to touch you,”

He didn’t shy away when she gently took hold of his face, but when her hands drifted to his neck, he jerked free and retreated to the headboard.

“I’m not suited for the likes of you,” he whispered.

“What’s that mean?” she asked, sitting beside him.

“I find you lot rather disgusting,” he said, eyes on the window.

“If willingness escapes you,” Sofita snatched up the discarded binding.

Brown-Eyes jumped from the bed and Sofita caught him before his feet touched the ground. Falling with him onto the bed, Brown-Eyes quickly rolled off the side and tried to shelter beneath it.

Sofita lifted the mattress from its frame and tossed it aside.

“Dun’hit me, okay,” he pleaded on his knees with his hands raised.

“You don’t fight me, and I won’t strike you,” Sofita said.

“I can’t promise that,” he exclaimed. “If I can’t run away I got to fight,”

“I’m not going to kill you,” Sofita said. “I planned on killing you, but if you’re compliant, you’ll live through this.”

Brown-Eyes allowed Sofita to bind his wrists.

Hauling him to the mattress now sitting in front of the bathroom door, she pulled his wrists over his head and tied them to the bathroom door handle.

“No, I’dun want this,” he said, kicking at her.

Sofita slapped him hard across the face, quelling his fight.

“I’m going to suck you off, that’ll get you popped first,” Sofita said. “After that, I’ll get you hard again, and you’ll last long enough on that go to get me off,”

“That’s disgusting!” he cried. “What kind of armor works like that?”

“Just close your eyes and think about your girlfriend,” Sofita straddled his legs and trapped his shins between her knees.

“Get off me!” he screamed, and when Sofita laughed, he became enraged. “You farcs got skin like rubber and your cunts smell like the inside of a tape deck!”

Sofita drove her fist into his stomach and then allowed him a moment to recover. Grabbing hold of his thighs, her larger hands moved over his hips and along his muscular abdomen.

“Stop this, please,” he begged. “I don’t want this,”

Sofita gripped his chin and brought his head up.

“Doesn’t matter what you want,” she said.

The man bucked as Sofita ran her tongue past his navel.

“If my teeth come down on you,” she warned. “It’s your fault,”

Brown-Eyes calmed before banging the back of his head against the door.

Sofita took him into her mouth and locked her lips around the base of him. Her mouth full of his soft flesh, she wrapped her arms around his waist and rolled onto her back. Beneath him, Sofita felt his labored breaths as his penis hardened within her mouth.

Working up a copious amount of spit, she pushed her tongue against the underside of it and sucked until his scrotum seized up against her jaw. He cried out, and when his body tensed, warm spill flooded the back of her throat.

Sofita slid out from under him, and at the window, she rinsed her mouth out with a curled hand full of water.

“Wasn’t so bad now, was it?” Sofita asked, finding him still on his stomach, arms in an X over his head. After a few moments, she returned to the bed, “It’s time for round two.”

“Why are you doing this?” he demanded.

“Stop acting like you don’t love it,” Sofita said. “Helovx males are whores!”

“You fucking farc!” he screamed and kicked at her.

“Come on Brown-Eyes,” Sofita easily subdued him. “It’s not personal,”

Savoring the sweat on his neck, Sofita took his ear into her mouth and became lost in it salted tang. Trapping his legs tight between her own, she reached up and grabbed his wrists and ground her slippery enflamed gash against his soft flesh.

Brown-Eyes twisted away from her kiss, but he couldn’t stop his body from responding. Fully aroused, he cried out as the distended bloom of her gash mulled over his erection.

Penetration had aroused Sofita since her sexual development. Watching his manhood slide in and out stoked her excitement. Taking him by the hips, she began pulling him into her until he back rocking of his own accord.

Brown-Eyes was no longer unwilling. His fingers glided over her uzx and grabbed hold of her suzsch. Sofita got an arm around his waist and with her foot on the floor, she reached up to untie his hands. Arms free, he pulled Sofita down onto him.

Grinding against her, his hips jerked with the precision of an helovx skilled in the pleasuring of a femmar. His member slid in and out of her gashcol, stabbing at the sensitive roof of her guzshlix. Coldness swelled in the pit of her stomach. The man clung to her tight, thrusting into her as the folds of her gash tightened around him.

Brown-Eyes knew what was coming; if she climaxed with him inside of her, the natural suction would bind them together for a few sweet seconds.

Heat flashed behind Sofita’s eyes. Visions of Jal Bos writhing beneath her invaded as his scent seized her senses.

Fusada, make me one with you, please, his cold breath found her face.

Sofita cried out as a groundswell of pleasure swamped her backside and raced into her lower abdomen.

Touch me, please, Jal’s lips found hers, and when she tasted his tongue, her guzshlix began to tighten.

Brown-Eyes latched on tight as Sofita tried to break free.

“No! You farc bitch!” he cried, desperate for her orgasmic contractions to take him higher than any woman ever could. “Don’t break it, don’t break it, please!”

Grabbing him tight, she dug her fingers into his hips and pushed down. A slick snap broke their connection, and Sofita climbed from the bed.

Channeling the pleasure that coursed through her, Sofita internalized, provoking every sensation. Energy lashed out from her feet and spiraled to her head, its sudden rush nearly rendered her unconscious.

Fully ignited, Sofita saw the man through the Shell’s eyes.

Brown-Eyes crawled across the floor, his arousal bobbing and red. On his knees, he stared up at her with eyes like an ice-cold belly desperate for release.

“Don’t leave me like this,” he ran his hands up the back of her legs and grabbed the cheeks of her backswell. “Finish me!”

Where did you find this one, Komad?

A portion of Shell disengaged to expose her swollen gash.

Sofita lugged Brown-Eyes back to the bed and turned him away from her. Rising to his knees, he pressed his back to her chest and squirmed in her embrace when she began roughly jerking his manhood.

While the Shell repaired the gunshot wound, it scanned the man. An itemized list of the most efficient ways to kill him appeared across Sofita’s eyes.

“Don’t stop again please, I’ll do whatever you want me to,” he cried out in Ramaxi; his body trembled, and his teeth chattered as Sofita’s finger pushed its way into him.

Sofita grunted into his ear, “You want me to finish you doe, huh?”

“Please, please,” he panted, his head tilted back on her shoulder.

He’s like a blue-brained Subbie.

“Who am I?” she asked, licking his ear. “Tell me who I am!”

Brown-Eyes gasped, “Komad Kul, you’re Komad Kul!”

Sofita pushed his face into the mattress and with two fingers deep inside of him she swiftly shook his manhood until it spat into her hand.

The smell of his ejaculate was comforting. Sofita wanted to taste it again, swallow it as she had before. Instead, she made a fist, allowing the Shell’s sensors to analyze its make-up and then let him sleep until sunrise.

Brown-Eyes woke and without looking at her, disappeared into the bathroom. Despite centuries without organized religion exerting guilt, many helovx continued to assign shame to sexual pleasure.

He’s got too many anatomical anomalies, Komad.

Sofita closed her eyes, “Fyla will examine the findings,”

We can’t trust Fyla, you said this yourself.

“You are not Fusada,” Sofita said, climbing onto the roof.

The man peeked his head out from the window.

Sofita called down, “You ready to get out of here, Brown-Eyes?”

His body wrapped in a sheet, he climbed up to meet her.

Sofita picked him up under his legs and holding his back she felt his arms curly tight around her neck.

Don’t drop him hizzah or you’ll ruin this lovable moment.

Sofita ignored the Shell and took off toward the direction of the Connector. After flying over a thousand miles, Sofita powered down on the cliffs of eastern Tasmania.

Walking in silence, she fell behind him on foot.

You think he’d be more talkative after last night.

Brown-Eyes slowed after spotting a fleet of rescue pontoons out at sea. Excitedly he bounced along yelling and waving his arms, careful to avoid the drop-off.

“Your accent is pristine,” Sofita said.

“What?” he continued waving his arms at the ocean.

“When you attacked me back at the docks,” Sofita said. “For a second, I thought you were a local.”

“You’re talking mad again,” his gait slowed, but he didn’t turn around. “I was born and raised in Tasmania.”

“I thought you might be ‘rised here too until I popped you off back in Copeland,” Sofita said. “I don’t know where you shipped out of Brown-Eyes, Port Austin or Vancouver Bay, but you’re one of the best.”

“I know you’ve no reason to trust me,” his accent remained as the wind blow the sheet up and exposed his taut narrow buttocks. “But I think after last night, you’d at least stop being on the defensive,”

“Tazzy’s and Aotearoan’s don’t call it genocide Brown-Eyes,” Sofita said. “Only Nauists and Jungwanian’s do. Since you don’t look like you’ve been raised on rice, I’m going to assume you’re from the Western Hemisphere.”

The man slowly turned and faced her.

“Since I never gave you my name and you seem to know it,” said Sofita. “I think it’s only fair you tell me yours.”

He flashed a smile that looked rehearsed, though it could’ve been his real smile. Speaking now, his accent was distinctly North American.

“My name’s Adam, Komad Kul,”

“Like the first man from the Garden of Eden?” Sofita asked.

“I didn’t know they allowed Hizak to enlist in World Oceans,” Adam grinned and with hands on his hips, he cocked his head. “I mean other than pushing duxpak, at Marixi Administration,”

We know this voice, Komad.

“You’re Colonel Adam Pierce?” Sofita said.

Pierce’s smile faded.

Rushing her, he was no longer a slap-happy local. The man delivered precision kicks to Sofita’s counters and failing to land a blow, he stuck at Sofita’s healing wound.

Let me take over, Komad.

Sofita refused to allow the Shell to fight even if Pierce proved one of the most skilled helovx she’d ever engaged. If was Sofita’s turn to rush him; she seized a leg and latched onto his bicep and lifting him up, she tossed him over the drop-off.

We should’ve taken his body home.

The falling Pierce regained control in mid-air. Forcing himself into a tuck dive, he safely hit the water lined up straight.

“Adam,” Sofita whispered. “Lilith again hands you over to Eve,”

18 BAMX 2228.



Gross Neglect – Citizen Death.
Compliance with P’uxial on Duty.
Failure to Appear in Orta.



 Successful Mission CIR-80.
Successful Mission SOD-3.


19 BAMX 2228.

Trixitat Bakuti House
Utama – Ramaxia
1500 Hours – Bamx 20, 2228

Surrounded by the continent’s highest peaks, massive Lake Utamx marked what was once pre-impact Ramaxicon’s southern pole of cold. Underwater, upon Utamx’ uppermost benthic plateau, sat the domed capital of Utama.

The nation’s oldest and smallest city, Utama was the birthplace of clan’s Balru and Gizul and remained the ancestral home of the ruling Kul’s, but Utama didn’t become a political center until the First-Gen produced the original Jyr’s.

House Kul ruled Ramaxia, but Utama belonged to Line Jyr.

Laxumjyr made it a point to return once a month on her scheduled leaves from Kuril Base.

“Deep in thought, are you?” Ryl Jyr glanced up from her plate. “That always frightens me, Laxum.”

“My thoughts were of you, elder Ryl,” said Laxum, of the former logistics director with a talent for managing others. Dining with her kerma’s sibling made Laxum contemplate the many helovx synonyms for a parents’ siblings; tetya, aunt, and guma, why was there no Ramaxi term for a makers’ sibox?

“If Daka remained living and sat between us now,” Ryl lifted her snifter of paluxi and rocked it. “She’d ask if you were thinking of me when you left Utama,”

The local Utamati welcomed Laxum with open arms despite her desertion from politics; once elected to represent Utama, and they’d forgiven her abandonment even if no one else in Line Jyr would do the same.

“I might’ve dined with Rasa if I desired insult,” Laxum said.

“You know I love you,” Ryl smiled, then became stern. “As does Rasa whom you will refer to as your kerma and not by given name as if she were a common stranger,”

“Ryl,” Laxum grinned and eyed the glass of nux before her. “You recall my words when you tactfully relieved me of my Cloister seat?”

Ryl tossed a napkin onto her meal plate and pushed it aside.

“You spoke of returning when your anger abated,” she said, picking up a fork and stabbing at the dessert cake between them.

“You’re cognizant that I’ve no aim to return,” Laxum said, apologetic.

“You’re a brat, I see that now, Laxum,” Ryl said, unapologetic. “I’ve indulged you these many years because you resemble my mako. You never met your eldermak, she died after your kerma was born.”

The Sixth-Gen Subak had lived eight months into Ryl’s life before succumbing to a neural-aneurism. The salacious incident remained shrouded in rumor due to Rasa’s determined unwillingness to discuss it; the elder Subak died during an intense burxol.

Laxum wished to expire in the same fashion.

“I never thanked you for stepping up when I retired,” Laxum said.

“Retired? You fled,” said Ryl, “I stepped up, as you call it, on the assumption you’d return.”

Laxum leaned back, “Politics isn’t for me,”

“What will you do in ‘thirty-two when your kerma steps down?” Ryl asked.

Laxum shook her head, “Rasa’s not stepping down, Ryl,”

Ryl stopped picking at the cake.

“Rasa’s made it clear that she prefers the Eleventh to ascend over the Tenth,” Laxum shrugged. “I’ve no qualms with it nor do I care.”

“She hasn’t discussed such things with me,” Rasa said softly.

“No doubt she never discussed her own ascension,” Laxum said.

Ryl lowered her voice and canvassed the room for listeners.

“When Fusa, Ryo, Lekada, and Tee were told they weren’t ascending,” she said. “Do you know what their course of action was?”

“Fusa gained control of Orta,” Laxum said, nodding.

“Ryo and your kerma convinced the Cloister to support Fusa as their Primary. It was an easy task after Tee so expertly dragged Ixo’s name through the slush,” Ryl became tight-lipped. “We Ninth consumed the rumors and considered them truths, but I see that the Eleventh abides no ill-tales of the Tenth.”

“Their sentiment is strong,” Laxum thought of Vyx and Acari who were somewhere in Toxis by now gash deep in bellies.

“The Pure Gen will not be swayed by the Ninth to push the Tenth aside,” Ryl said. “No matter how silent your generation pretends to be,”

“You feel Koba’s name for us is a ruse?” Laxum smiled.

“Your silence speaks volumes,” Ryl grinned. “And your donations still hear it,”

“Ryl, I have missed you,” Laxum raised her glass.

“I believe Sofitakul is neither weak nor naïve,” Ryl said. “She and her First Office must labor to build a majority within the Cloister,”

“I’ve not spoken to Sofita outside the confines of divisional business,” Laxum shrugged. “She’s Hizak, Ryl, she can’t be Primary.”

“There hasn’t been an Hizak in the Primary chair,” Ryl said. “Since the days Fusofitakil.”

“That portion of history is rather quiet,” Laxum said.

“That’s about to change,” Ryl’s eyes smiled. “According to Digicast-Monthly, there are three uxiliuk in the works with Fusofitakil as the prime subject,”

Laxum leaned in, “I heard of a digicast being made based on Sofita’s gol, Up on the Ice,”

Ryl shook her head, “The development of that one is being stalled due to the Fourth Office’s objections regarding the implied sexual relationship between Fusofitakil and Femitokon.”

“There’s not one shred of misinformation in that gol,” Laxum laughed. “Sofita cited Balrusok’s journals,”

Ryl frowned, “CM Banto considers those journals to be private thoughts cultivated from misinterpreted observations,”

Laxum laughed heartily.

Seeing Velto Wram enter the restaurant, Laxum waved.

“It’s good she’s is getting out and about,” she said.

Ryl turned, wiping her chin, “Veltowram is here!”

“She’s dining alone again,” Laxum rose from her seat.

“Invite her over, Laxum,” Ryl covered the cake with another napkin and pushed it to the center of the table, “I paid my respects at Ilo’s presentation, but I wish to say more.”

Velto was clad in mourning white, and when Laxum approached, the Bizak put her hand out for a shake, and Laxum took it and pulled her in for an embrace.

“You’re punctual,” Laxum whispered.

“Ryl Jyr is one of the few hizzah’s I like,” Velto said, following Laxum to the table where elder Ryl stood waiting.

Velto’s grief called out from the lines beneath her eyes. Her diminished appearance since Ilo’s demise didn’t stop the subbies and belly’s in the restaurant from ogling.

Upon her return, Velto had become an object of desire; Subaki wished to comfort the tragic grieving citizen, while Zaxiri saw a noble lover willing to kill thousands for daring to take the life of a breeder.

“Citizen Wram,” Ryl extended her hand, and Velto shook it.

“CR Jyr,” Velto smiled. “How’ve you been?”

“Call me Ryl please, we’re not in Cloister,” Ryl motioned for Velto to sit in the chair between them and poured her a glass of nux from Laxum’s bottle. “How have you been feeling?”

“Lonely,” Velto took a swig, “The house in Toxis, it’s so quiet.”

A Subak at a nearby table turned from watching Velto and put her hand on her chest and shook her head at her friends.

“When I lost my Daka, I never thought I’d go on,” Ryl said. “When waxami takes hold, it’s difficult to break free.”

Laxum never knew Dakazil.

Citizen Zil had been a Zaxir from Utama who won the title of Ninth-Gen’s Prime Citizen by besting Toxis favorite Feebanto, by eight-hundred ninety votes.

Like the belly that followed her in the Tenth, Daka had been a waxamist, though unlike Ilo, she’d kept it under wraps. After Daka fell hopelessly in love with Ryl, she retired from celebrity life as not to bring attention to her monogamist leanings.

Velto seemed genuinely touched.

“I wanted to thank you for coming to Ilo’s presentation,” she said. “If anyone understood, it would be you,”

The waitress, a slim Bizak in a snug uniform, collected the plates with napkins on them and eyed Velto, “Can I bring you anything Citizen Wram?”

“I’ll have a shot of tirg,” Velto said. “And a tall glass of ale,”

“A tirgol drinker?” Ryl asked.

“You don’t grow up with Lekada without developing a taste for the hard stuff,” Velto said.

The waitress smiled at this and Laxum’s long gaze was interrupted by Velto’s foot tapping Laxum’s shin under the table.

“What are your plans now, Velts?” Laxum asked quickly. “Are you going back to Wram Constructs, full time?”

“I’ve been banned from offering tech to the helovx,” Velto frowned.

“You don’t intend to limit your involvement?” Laxum asked, as rehearsed.

“I am actually,” Velto eyed Ryl, “I don’t think I’ll stay in Toxis, either.”

“After Daka passed,” said Ryl. “I had no choice but to relocate.”

“Why?” Laxum asked.

“Too many memories in the house,” Ryl said.

Velto seemed lost in thought before shifting her eyes to Laxum.

“I’m thinking of settling in Utama,” she said. “I’m glad I found you here, Ryl.”

“I can recommend some excellent dwellings,” Ryl finished the remaining paluxi in her snifter. “Be warned Velto, Utama’s about to develop a sheet of slick ice.”

“Explain?” Laxum asked.

“So many Eleventh Gens already reside here for Cloister work,” said Ryl. “You’ll need to ensure your habitation choice centers on spaces unwilling to lease to them.”

“I never thought of that,” Velto laughed. “I spent my twentieth year in Toxis, where it’s always crazy.”

“No one will be immune when our young Zaxiri and Subaki begin making irrational choices,” Ryl said quietly. “Marixi will appear in places unsuited for them, Hizaki will bargain for daily time off, and Bizaki get to revel in their short time being the most wanted citizens on the couch.”

“Velto was certainly that, in her twentieth year,” Laxum said.

Velto smiled, “You got no business complaining,”

“I benefitted greatly from your popularity,” Laxum raised her glass.

“I want to ask you something, Ryl,” Velto leaned in. “I don’t want to insult you-”

“—I’ve no qualms about discussing my twentieth,” Ryl said, smiling.

Laxum laughed at this.

“It’s not about that,” Velto said with a smile, then lowered her voice. “Laxum says you’re not fond of Cloister service,”

Ryl pushed her snifter away.

“I know what you’re going to ask, and I must tell you, I’ve not managed administratively in over twenty years,” Ryl said. “I’d be no good at Wram Constructs.”

The conversation paused when the waitress returned with Velto’s shot of tirgol and a tall glass of ale.

“I appreciate the offer, Velto, but when I exit Cloister Service, I’ll be retiring from vocational life altogether,” Ryl said, then eyed Laxum. “Laxum, cease seeking to find the undergarment line on our waitress’s backswell.”

The waitress smiled brightly.

“I could really use your direction in overseeing the restructure of our research and development,” Velto said to Ryl. “Shifting away from systems tailored for helovx-”

“—there’s plenty of competition these days in the citizenry-market,” said Ryl.

“I was thinking, off-world,” Velto said.

Ryl paused, “Tharso?”

“Ramarixicon,” Velto said.

Ryl’s eyes lit up.

“I don’t believe our administration intends to pursue colonization,” she said.

“Maybe they won’t, maybe they will,” Velto dropped the tirg filled shot-glass into her ale, and then chugged it. “I’d like Wram Constructs to be ready.”

“That’s brilliant,” Laxum said to Ryl, “You’re familiar with the administrative side of RIO,” Laxum shifted her attention to Velto, “Cloister service has armed elder Ryl with knowledge of drafting contract requests to the Committee.”

“You’ve Cloister service experience also, Laxum,” Ryl frowned. “You know how to draft requests,”

“I have an ulterior motive to enabling your retirement,” Velto’s nature of getting down the business served her well around Hizak like Ryl. “I’d like to strike for the Utama seat.”

“I hope you’re sincere. I’ve very much desire to exit politics, but all those who offered to replace me don’t care about Utama much less Ramaxia,” Ryl spoke softly. “My Gen’s filled with flatterers that want nothing more than to promote the Committee’s interests.”

Velto nodded as Ryl explained further.

“Tenth-Gen candidates these days are few and far between,” she said. “The Eleventh are all far too inexperienced.”

“No young upstarts?” Velto asked.

The waitress returned with separate checks, and when she reached for Laxum’s card, Laxum made sure to touch her hand.

“Eppis Banto’s oldest, Obiz,” said Ryl. “She reminds me of you Laxum, in ways best not mentioned.”

“She did have an Hizak, didn’t she?” Velto asked.

“Young Banto cares about governance, it shows in everything she does. It’s a pity her kerma refuses her allowance to grow,” Ryl handed her card to the waitress. “The poor hizakidoe has applied to every office outside of Vanda but mine own. No one will give her a chance for fear of Eppis.”

“She can accompany me to Kuril,” Laxum said.

“Ozbi would love that,” Velto snapped. “Her oldest, between the poles?”

“Life between the poles suits Laxum,” Ryl said, “It keeps her out of trouble.”

When the waitress returned with their cards, she slipped Laxum a contact-tab.

“It’s important Laxum stay out of trouble,” Velto snapped.

“If you’re serious about striking for my office,” Ryl said. “I’ll gladly endorse you and facilitate your run by stepping down.”

Laxum and Velto both stared at her.

“I don’t want to push you,” Velto said, quickly. “I remain sincere in that I could use your expertise at Wram Constructs.”

“I’m certain Laxum’s told you of my desperation,” Ryl chuckled.

“I don’t get to talk to Laxum much,” Velto raised her voice to pull Laxum’s attention away from a different Bizak waitress. “Laxum’s a terrible influence.”

“Agreed,” Ryl said.


Seeing elder Ryl off at the valet station, Laxum and Velto stood at the valet curb waiting on their transport where a group of svelte youthful Bizaki loitered for their next assignment.

“Stop staring,” Velto slapped Laxum’s arm, “You’re making my hide crawl,”

“My admiration is habitual at this juncture,” Laxum smoothed out her sleeve where Velto had creased it. “The only citizens assigned to Kuril are bruisers and other Hizak.”

In the back of Laxum’s transport, Velto pulled off her jacket to relax. Enacting the privacy canopy between them and the driver, Velto tilted her head back and sighed.

“That was painful!” said Velto.

“She’s old, but she means well,” Laxum said.

“I was referring to you!” Velto cried. “The waitress wasn’t there five minutes, and you’re putting the moves on her.”

“Do you deny that she was exquisite?” Laxum asked, typing in the communication-code from the tab given to her by the waitress.

Velto said, “I don’t look at other Bizak.”

“Reconsider your stance,” Laxum countered. “Your availability is changed.”

“I just lost my partner, Laxum,” Velto stared at her. “A citizen that I promised to grow old and die with,”

Laxum ignored Velto, frustrated when tapping Sofita’s icon on her Filmark screen brought no result.

“Who’re you calling?” Velto demanded.

“I’ve attempted to contact Sofita since arriving in Utama,” Laxum slid her Filmark back into her pocket. “She’s not responding to messages sent to her residence,”

“She’s not on Base Three anymore,” said Velto.

Laxum started, “As of when?”

“Last week,” Velto said. “Primary asked Pitana in Cloister where Sofita lived.”

“The Sernatae allowed this?” Laxum asked.

“It was ridiculous,” Velto snapped. “That whole session was an exercise in punching my fronts.”

Laxum’s eyes instinctively fell to Velto’s flat chest.

“Where’s she residing now?”

“You’re an Ambassador,” Velto said. “Trace her Gen-Code,”

“I’m being observed closely since Bumo,” Laxum rolled her eyes. “Pitana decreed that when off-duty I’m to refrain from taking part in dubious behavior.”

“You’re OHA and ‘Fita is an Orta grunt,” Velto snatched the Filmark out of Laxum’s pocket and tapped the OHA’s interface screen. “She’s in Orta Main right now, at Femitokon Holistics.”

“What of Dox?” Laxum asked. “Vyx and Acari, expressed concern having not seen her on liberty in Toxis since what occurred at Uralskey.”

“Who are Vyx and Acari?” Velto asked.

“The Donmat assigned to protect me at Kuril,” Laxum said.

“I didn’t have assigned guard,” Velto said.

“Pitana claimed that Ilo refused them,” said Laxum, realizing the conversation had taken an unfortunate turn.

Velto changed the subject, “Dox is aboard the Orcinus until hibernation,”

Laxum tapped the canopy, and when their driver’s tattooed scalp appeared, Laxum gave her a new destination. Darkening the window again, Laxum felt the transport change direction.

“When I first met that marixidoe,” said Velto. “I could see-”

“—Orestes?” Laxum said, nodding.

Velto looked out the window, “Yeah, Orestes.”

“That unfortunate bruise inherited those Uym-eyes,” Laxum said.

“Lax,” Velto said. “You realize Femitokon Holistics is Fyla’s lab, right?”

Laxum sighed, “I’m capable of being civil,”

“When it comes to Fyla?” Velto asked. “On that note, if Sofita’s got us back to doing what we’re meant to, the donation Fyla made with your patch-”

“—is my gen-heir,” Laxum snapped. “I’m aware, Velto.”

“Then grow up and be more than civil,” Velto said.

“Because you and Eppis have set the standard for civility,” Laxum countered.

“We’re expected to be at each other’s throats,” Velto said. “It’s the part we play in this show, and you know that.”

“Perhaps Sofita’s show is better scripted,” Laxum said.

“You keep up the silent treatment with Fyla, and you’re going to freak her out,” Velto said. “We need her one-hundred percent, Laxum. Come on, you know the shit she’s been through,”

“I’m the aggressor?” Laxum cried. “Fyla betrayed my trust,”

“She’s still a victim,” Velto said. “I’m not excusing what she did, she’s flawed, and to make a fair observation so were you back then, trying to spread your genes all over the place,”

The Tenth had been tasked with donating their patch four times in the production years of 2210 and ‘11. Laxum had been deliberately excessive; when accosted by a citizen desiring her patch-code, she accompanied them to the nearest ZHC and thumb-to-pad, allowed the use of her patch too many times to count.

Oligax had been counting; on Laxum’s sixth visit, the Hive restricted both her makodonic and kermadonic patches. Furious at the overreach, Laxum sought out Fyla, who was back then, a high-level administrator in the Prime Lab. Fyla had promised to submit Laxum’s patch one last time for a blind mix.

During Fusada’s recycle-presentation, Fyla had approached Laxum and admitted to mixing Laxum’s last patch with her own. It took everything within Laxum to refrain from physically assaulting Fyla.

“Life’s too short to stay angry,” Velto said.

“Says the angriest citizen in Ramaxia,” Laxum mumbled, shifting her attention to the windows as they glided into Orta Main and onto a tube bound for the Divisional Sector.

“We’ve all ridden each other over at one time or another, Lax,” Velto said. “That’s what friends do,”

“Then my delivering Fyla a chilly reception should be expected,” said Laxum, as the transport slowed at the entry kiosk.

Two Donmat stood at the watch, and one of them waved the transport along after Laxum dismissed the window by touching it, and then flashed her Ambassador credentials.

“What are you thinking about now?” Velto asked. “You’re never this quiet.”

“I witnessed Fusada riding Fyla at a citbluz once,” Laxum said.

Velto grimaced, “Please feel free not to share,”

“Did you and Fusada, ever?”


“Such rebuke, you were bonded!”

“Why are you asking me this?”

“I’ve always been curious about our group’s intersexual dynamic,” Laxum said. “We heirs are rather exclusive.”

Velto scolded, “You need a hobby that doesn’t involve your gash,”

Out of the transport they walked over the forecourt, passing some elder Ninth in uniform, a Komadon their age, and a few youthful Fleeters.

Laxum whispered, “Imagine living among Marixi,”

“I’d rather palm my face,” Velto said.

When they entered Femitokon Holistics main lobby, the Ninth-Gen Promad in charge stepped up behind the young Donmat at the watch desk.

“Where’s Doctor Uym’s lab?” Velto asked.

“Are you expected?” the Promad asked before the Donmat could answer.

“I’m here aren’t I?” Velto asked.

“Ambassador Laxum Jyr and Citizen Velto Wram,” Laxum handed the Donmat her credentials. “We’re friends of Doctor Uym and Komad Kul.”

The Donmat’s eyes lit up at Velto, but the Promad wasn’t so impressed.

“Call it down,” the Promad ordered.

The Donmat tapped at her screen as the Promad ignored Velto’s agitation.

“Cleared,” said the Donmat.

The Promad said, “Sub-floor eight door two, Ambassador Jyr,”

“Thank you, Promad,” Laxum followed after Velto since she took off walking without a word of thanks to either of the officers.

“Calling us in, is she serious?” Velto groused.

“You’re in Orta, there is a rank and file,” Laxum said.

“Fuck her ranking file,” Velto entered the vertical with Laxum on her heels and pushed the button for sub-floor eight.

“You recall our physics advisor in Mynu?” Laxum asked. “She ejected you from class due to your obvious issue with authority.”

“She kicked me out because I told her she could lick each of my authorities,” Velto grabbed both her frontals.

The vertical slowed with a loud clunking.

“Why is it that every lift in Orta sounds like someone’s out there pulling the cables by hand?” Velto asked as they exited.

Holistics proved to be a room full of cube-stations. Dozens of workers, mostly young Subak and older Bizak, skimmed about in tight-fitting medical uniforms.

“I’m here to see Doctor Uym,” Velto said to the Tenth-Gen Subak at the reception desk.

“You can go right in Citizen Wram,” she said, her eyes lingering and her Filmark to her shoulder.

Laxum followed behind Velto and could hear the receptionist return to her Filmark.

Yes, it’s her.

I wonder how long she’ll be mourning.

Do you think I should talk to her?

Finding a door with Fyla’s name over it, Velto pushed her way in. The empty room contained two separate desks and an interface station. Floating across the window of a sealed door opposite them were the words STUDY IN PROGRESS.

Opening the door, they entered a darkened space whose single source of dim light came from a large monitor on the far wall. The screen depicted a noiseless sexual encounter with an helovx man, from the point-of-view of the citizen on top of him.

“Viewing icers on Orta time?” Velto announced their presence.

Grinning, a uniformed Sofita came toward them while Bo Kilvx, a Promad that Laxum knew from her occasional visits to Kuril, stepped away from Fyla and the two young Hizaki in lab coats.

“I didn’t know you were back,” Sofita embraced Laxum.

“You’re rather busy I see,” Laxum recognized Sofita’s hands on the playback.

“Promad Kilvx,” Velto shook Bo’s hand, and turning to Sofita she asked, “Are we watching this through your eyes?”

Sofita nodded, “The Shell recorded it, for posterity.”

“He’s posturing all right,” Kilvx said.

“Now that is a prime helovx violation!” Laxum laughed while onscreen Sofita’s fingers penetrated the man’s anus. “Tell me he’s not deceased, Sofita. Tell me he’s in custody somewhere.”

“You like that Ambassador?” Kilvx laughed.

Like isn’t stout enough a word, Promad,” said Laxum.

Fyla snapped, “Don’t be disgusting, Laxum,”

“Does this piece of girsuzsch have a name?” Laxum said.

“Its name is Colonel Adam Pierce,” Sofita replied.

“Why does that name sound familiar?” Laxum said.

Sofita replied, “He was in my report on Bumo-”

“—the North American conversing with Zhang?” Laxum asked.

“In the flesh,” Sofita said.

“In the flesh, indeed!” Laxum exclaimed. “Look at you, Sofita! Feeding your gooz that hanger!”

Kilvx laughed, “You got some serious skills Komad,”

“You’re so ugly ‘Fita,” Velto stood by the door as if being farthest from the playback made her less complicit in viewing it.

“No one ever looks at Sofita’s face,” Laxum added.

The young Hizaki doctors laughed.

“His response is unique for an helovx,” Fyla walked to the playback and touching the screen made his skin disappear, showing only his body fluids in a thermal display.

Laxum sucked her tongue, “You’ve ruined the show,”

The tallest of the younger Hizaki stood beside Fyla.

“His physiological response is unique,” she said. “It’s as if he’s been engineered to-”

“—to what, Gwo?” Sofita asked.

The young Hizak touched the screen, removing the infrared. The playback now displayed the man’s organs, body fluids, and musculature.

“Studying his response,” Gwo used her stylus to magnify the area around his crotch. “The blood flow’s heaviest above his clasp,”

“Helovx call it a cock,” Laxum said.

Fyla added, “The technical term Doctor Gwo, is penis,”

“I’m aware of this, Doctor Uym,” Gwo said quickly. “I completed helovx-studied my sixth year in Mynu,”

Laxum stepped between them.

Gwo said, “In the average helovx male, Doctor Kul,”

“Komad,” Sofita corrected her.

“Kul,” said Gwo. “Blood flows into the penis and making it erect. Here, the amount of blood passing into the proper region isn’t enough of it to maintain this level of arousal,”

Velto said, “Where’d you get such a large ryd, Sofita?”

Kilvx began laughing.

Laxum made a fist and stuck her thumb between her index and middle finger, “It protrudes like a turtle’s head,”

“I was born with it, Velto,” Sofita replied.

“My rydok is inferior until I pump it,” Laxum said.

Gwo turned, “There’s a means to pump it?”

“Subbies have ryd pumps,” Velto said.

Sofita added, “Helovx have clitoris pumps.”

“How does one acquire them?” Gwo asked.

“Import Export in the AWI,” said Velto.

“Not a clitoral pump,” Gwo said, deflated.

Fyla exclaimed, “Must we pervert my staff?”

“That’s an impressive ryd Kul,” Kilvx said. “Fusada’s was bigger,”

Fyla displayed shock at the Promad.

“Fusada’s was impressive,” Laxum formed a fist again with just her middle knuckle out, “When she bounced blue at the bluz, it was like, boom!” Laxum extended her middle finger out all the way.

Doctor Gwo and the other Hizak laughed.

Kilvx nodded, “It stayed that way too, even after she doused you.”

Fyla cleared her throat and stepped to the back of the room.

“I fell victim to her aim once,” Laxum turned to Kilvx.

“Collateral damage,” Sofita added.

Gwo smiled, “I avoid Marix at the citbluz, no offense Promad.”

“Doctor,” Sofita walked to Gwo. “Would his oppositus have anything to do with these strange readings?”

“Is that why everything’s on the wrong side?” Kilvx asked.

“His situs inversus is intriguing,” said Fyla, joining them.

“Doctor Uym?” Kilvx asked.

Fyla softened and smiled, “Call me Fyla, Bo.”

Sofita and Laxum exchanged curious glances.

“Fyla,” Kilvx grinned. “Is oppositus common?”

“No,” Fyla beamed at Kilvx. “Pre-impact percentages of those born with this condition were at zero-point zero-one.”

“Only one in ten-thousand?” asked Kilvx.

Gwo and the other young Hizak then exchanged looks.

“Some bruisers do read,” Velto snapped at them. “And some have actual degrees in things.”

“Considering the bottle-neck that occurred during the Dark Years,” Gwo frowned and stepped from Velto’s line of sight, “A case like this is-”

“—statistically improbable,” Fyla said, rewinding the footage to Sofita’s powering up of the armor. “Komad, did you order the Shell to-”

“—No Doctor Uym,” Sofita crossed her arms over her chest. “I didn’t order the Shell to unmask my gashcol. The Shell powered down over that specific area on its own,”

Fyla stared at Sofita.

Laxum stepped past her and resumed the playback at normal speed.

“That clasper is starving,” Laxum said, watching the man wantonly crawl to Sofita’s feet. “I hope you ended his famine, ‘Fita.”

“Why’s he so red?” Velto blurted.

“Helovx blush in red,” Fyla moved away. “Their blood’s red,”

Gwo and Laxum stepped closer to the playback.

“No matter how hard you hizzah’s squint,” Velto said. “You can’t change your genetic engineering.”

Fyla and Kilvx laughed and Laxum turned to Sofita.

“Does the Shell allow sight of color?”

Sofita shook her head.

“That’s unfortunate,” Laxum said.

Fyla tapped the screen, returning it to the skinless scan.

“This is where you take him to the bed,”

“Handling him like a subbie doll!” Laxum laughed.

Velto groused, “Can you turn off the sound?”

“There’s no audio on this,” said Fyla.

“I was talking to Lax,” Velto said.

“Where’s the audio, Sofita?” Laxum pouted. “Riding noise is the best noise!”

“I must say, Komad Kul,” Gwo closed out her tablet screen. “I’m impressed you knew well enough to employ an orgasmic surge,”

“My sib did it once,” Sofita said.

Fyla eyed Sofita before walking to her workstation.

“I was unaware she ever ignited it,” said Laxum.

“The first and only time,” Sofita said and then tapped the screen to fast-forward to the end. “He orgasms here,” she said, returning it to the infrared. “When helovx do that, their blood goes to the sexual organs. Why isn’t there a heat signature in the testicular region?”

“This was my point of contention,” said Gwo. “The blood builds in his thighs, his buttocks, and over his, penis, the tissue is engorged but the temperature contracts,”

“He’s burning cold, like us,” Kilvx whispered, mesmerized.

“Komad,” Fyla hesitated. “Is it possible that this helovx man was engineered to interact sexually, with us?”

“It’s possible,” said Sofita.

“Helovx don’t have the biogenetic technology capable of developing new life,” Gwo argued. “They can’t even clone preexisting organics,”

“You didn’t witness those Bumo sharks,” Laxum said.

Gwo asked, “Did they genetically engineer a predatory fish?”

“Vai Zhang,” Sofita said. “She was a female humanoid engineered by a hybrid to morph into an elasmobranch lifeform,”

“Zhang engineered shark fused children,” Fyla spoke softly to Gwo. “He used our genetic processes.”

“Zhang’s was a hybrid?” Gwo asked. “What’s a hybrid?”

Fyla shook her head, “Nothing of concern Doctor Gwo,”

“That means classified, hizakidoe,” said Kilvx.

“How did Zhang pull that off?” Velto asked.

“Hybrids are born capable of reading our language,” Sofita replied.

“I meant to say, where the fuck was you at Prime of Kuril?” Velto said.

Laxum frowned, “I remained silent during the investigation,”

“Silent enough not to notice there was an investigation?” Velto asked.

“I don’t recall any portion of my vocational requirement,” said Laxum. “Stating I need answer to you, Velto,”

Gwo stepped to Sofita.

“I won’t inquire further on a classified subject,” she said. “However, I’m going to request you sexually engage this helovx again. Have the Shell perform an endothelial scan.”

“You wish to know why his blood flow doesn’t correspond with the physical results beneath the skin?” Sofita asked, and Gwo nodded.

“I think it’s best you just acquire him,” Fyla said.

“He’s NAUSIS,” Sofita eyed Kilvx. “Acquiring him isn’t an option,”

“Dead or alive,” Gwo said. “We can still determine his make-up.”

“Preferably alive, Sofita,” Laxum added. “Process him through Kuril,”

“That’s an Helovx Violation, Ambassador,” Sofita mocked, sternly.

“Next time I’ll bring the digicast,” Laxum rewound the playback to the point where the man climaxes. “Look at the distance of that expulsion,”

“He hit his own face,” Kilvx laughed.

Gwo stepped to Laxum and whispered, “Did our males ejaculate this way?”

“Our males swelled inside of you during a burx,” Laxum’s eyes remained on the screen. “When they burned, juice bled from every pore on their clasp. If fortunate enough to burx simultaneously,” Laxum shifted her eyes to the enraptured Gwo. “The experience was pure pleasure undefined by words,”

“Dual burning with a male gets you pregnant, hizakidoe,” Velto said flatly.

Fyla snapped, “Can we change the subject please?”

“From every pore?” Gwo whispered.

“Their clasps expand and contract,” Sofita joined their conversation. “Like a balloon, Gwo. The ejaculate bleeds out.”

“Sadly, Pure Gen,” Laxum patted Gwo’s back. “You’ll never know the experience of handling a real hanger.”

“Strapping-on is nothing like the real thing,” Sofita agreed.

Gwo became visibly uncomfortable.

“You’re both sickening,” Velto said, and Kilvx laughed into her fist.

“I’ve been considered worse,” Laxum said.

“Doctor Gwo, destroy the playback,” Fyla said.

Laxum started, “You can’t destroy this, it’s relevant instruction!”

“You’re a pervert Laxum,” Fyla hissed.

“Gwo don’t do it!” Laxum pointed at the young Hizak.

Gwo said, “Apologies, Ambassador.”

Sofita raised her hand, and Laxum saw the thumb-drive between her fingers. Taking it, Laxum slipped it into her pocket.

Sofita pointed her head at Fyla when the Bizak began talking to Kilvx again, but Laxum’s attention remained fixed to Sofita’s head. Years ago, Sofita was shorn bald; her hair was shoulder length now, pulled back tight in a rectangular barrette with the small tail curled neatly on her crown.

“Do you prefer your hair this way?” Laxum asked.

Kilvx eyed Sofita, “She’s not talking to me.”

“What’s wrong with it tied up in the back?” Velto asked, sparking Fyla’s attention.

Gwo spoke up, “It’s uninspiring,”

“It’s uninspiring,” Laxum parroted.

“You should see it when she powers up,” said Velto. “Turns into a noose.”

“How does it do that?” Kilvx asked.

“The Shell does it on its own,” Sofita looked to Fyla.

“Sofita?” Laxum’s lowered her voice, “Can the Shell engage you, sexually?”

Velto shook her head, and young Gwo turned away.

“I’m only asking what everyone wants to know!” Laxum declared.

“If they could do that you pervert, Sofita wouldn’t have committed an helovx violation to induce burxol and reignite,” Fyla pushed her way past.

“Refrain from speaking to me as I have you, and cease calling me a pervert,” Laxum said. “What’s the term for a citizen that uses another’s patch without permission?”

Gwo and the other Hizak looked up.

Fyla stormed out of the lab and Kilvx followed her.

Sofita moved closer to Laxum, “What’s wrong with you?”

“I tire of her judging me,” Laxum said.

“We all judge you,” Velto called from the door. “You make it easy,”

“Lax, if you’re still angry with Fyla-” Sofita said.

“—I’m beyond it, thank you,” Laxum said.

Velto appeared beside Sofita, “You can’t come in here on her turf and start throwing the past up in her face.”

Gwo was wise enough to slip out of the room with the other Hizak.

“Get over it, get past it, and stop holding it against her,” Sofita took Laxum by the arm. “She’s the reason you’re going to ascend.”

“You wish me to go thank her?” Laxum demanded.

Sofita stepped into her, “Maybe I do.”

Laxum refused to cower.

“You’ll be waiting a long time, Sofitakul,”

Ramaxia Primada Consulate
0810 Hours, Bamx 21, 2228

Ambassador Pitana Dag was considered the most cordial citizen to ever serve as Prime of the Office of Helovx Advocacy, but for the helovx diplomats assigned to interact with her, the lofty Hizak was intimidating.

Pitana stretched out her arm so that her young Subak assistant could get at it with a suit-brush, “Remind me, Doka, what type of assistance are they requesting?”

“They want more gold,” she said, frowning.

“Feeding survivors isn’t Aotearoa’s priority,” Pitana said. “They seek to repay investors for their unauthorized bridge,”

Doka agreed, “Recouping their losses seems to be the goal,”

Dokagil was the fourth donation of a Zaxir bluzerie model named Kalrogil. Her maker was Pitana’s former Mynu associate, Yixgax. Kalro and Yix had been bonded to Sernatae-Second Ixogizul, and the deceased Bizak energist, Pridosuv.

Though Doka carried the genes of two other femmar, she possessed the wide-nose and large lips native to Line Gizul, and like her elder Yir, her hide was a patchwork of dark and light.

“Have they all arrived?” Pitana asked while Doka buttoned her suit jacket.

“We’re one short,” Doka tapped at her tablet. “The NAU replaced their representative,”

“Nauists are masters at moving like glaciers,” Pitana complained.

“We can wait in the adjacent conference room to see if she makes an appearance?” Doka said, aware that among Hizaki, she who arrived last and exited first, ruled the negotiation.

“I doubt today will be the day that the Nauist makes an appearance,” Pitana nodded for the young Subak to open the door.

The diplomatic conference room was modest due to there being only five helovx-nations meeting there regularly. Envoy’s from the usual four got to their feet when the stoic Pitana entered, but traded smiles with the younger Doka appeared behind her.

“Good morning everyone,” Doka smiled. “Does anyone need more coffee, tea, or juice?”

All four helovx women declined cordially.

Pitana’s first order of business was to address Ambassador Anna Runga.

Aotearoa’s request for financial assistance following the horrific natural disaster that struck their island earlier that month was met with a proper decline. Pitana followed with a lecture on Aotearoa’s ill-advised construction of a suspension bridge.

The Maori-native defended that her government’s attempt at self-reliance shouldn’t be penalized; surely the femmar aren’t in the business of charity. Anna’s comment was an attempt to suggest that Ramaxia intended to keep the helovx-nations dependent.

Jungwanian ambassador Sorkhaq Tani, a plump narrow-eyed woman with a taste for Hizaki fashion and hairstyle, accentuated Anna’s point by stating that the Third Office’s current cap on tharspin exports further limited growth.

The light-eyed Coptislamic ambassador Ingrid al-Hasat remained uncomfortably silent while Pitana reminded the room that there would be no current stability between the poles without the involvement of Ramaxia. Brasilia’s dark-skinned ambassador Paola Ithengui politely thanked Ambassador Dag for reminding them that in times of prosperity it was easy to forget those that ensured their current way of life.

Runga, Tani, and al-Hasat, exchange derisive glances as Ithengui spoke, and this prompted Pitana to launch into a well-rehearsed confrontation.

Pitana was two words in when a portly woman opened the meeting room door. Bustling in with a cup of coffee in hand and a briefcase to her chest, she cast an apologetic smile.

“Sorry I’m late,” her dark eyes shifted to the Ambassadors.

Clad in a form-fitting Subati, the colors of which Pitana didn’t know, the woman greeted each of the other women by name, and they all seemed to know her.

“North American Union?” Doka asked, pulling out a chair for her.

“Yes, and you’re Dokagil?” the woman’s long hair appeared absent of color, just like her smooth skin and toothy smile. “I’m sorry, Doka, can I call you Doka? Good. I wasn’t told what time I was supposed to be here, and my watch isn’t on polar time, just yet,”

Pitana cleared her throat, “Where’s Doris Evans?”

“Old Doris was recalled,” the woman cast humored eyes at Doka. “I thought you might’ve noticed that Ambassador Prime,” setting down her cup she extended a well-manicured hand, “I’m Deborah Chase.”

Pitana didn’t take her hand, choosing instead to lean back in her chair so that Doka could whisper in her ear; Doris Evans developed a thyroid condition, and this Chase was her obvious replacement.

“I guess only Bizaki shake hands,” Deborah mumbled, sitting back down.

“Ambassador Chase?” said Doka.

“You can call me Deb,” she smiled.

Doka also smiled, “You’re the human that passed our depth trials?”

“The one and only,” she said, “The water here’s so cold, but invigorating.”

“Don’t be late again, please,” Pitana added, touching the screen of her tablet she shifted her attention back to Anna. “The final matter I wish to address with you Ambassador Runga is your government’s accusing Ramaxia of generating the wave that destroyed your bridge.”

“The United Tribes have never said this,” said Anna. “These are media headlines,”

“Your Prime Minister’s married to the man who owns your largest media outlet,” Pitana said. “How could they not be of the same opinion?”

“I don’t want to interrupt, but you’re not bonded are you Ambassador Prime?” Deb asked. “Partners don’t share the same mind, just the same space.”

Anna Runga hid her amusement, but Assistant Gil grinned.

“Don’t interrupt, Miss Chase,” Pitana said.

“Sorry, Citizen Dag,” she said.

Pitana started, “I’m Ambassador Prime Dag.”

“When you called me Miss Chase,” Deb said, politely. “I assumed you were speaking informally,”

Pitana remained calm, “I’m never informal.”

“Good to know,” Deb said and then like a donat testing her boundaries she added, “You can call me Ambassador Chase because we’re both Ambassador’s,”

Doka hid her smiling face behind the tablet.

“Ambassador Runga?” Pitana ignored Deb. “Why does your media hold this belief that we’re responsible for what is clearly a natural disaster?”

“The wave came at a strange time,” Anna said quickly.

Pitana slammed down her bixiv.

“Do you have proof that Ramaxia generated this wave?”

“Ouch,” Deb mumbled. “I hope that’s a brigibix.”

Pitana stared at her.

“Those ones are indestructible,” Deb reached for Pitana’s tablet. “If it’s one of those bendy Ukel biv’s though-”

“—Do not touch my bixiv,” Pitana snapped, and Deb recoiled. “Ambassador Runga?”

“Relations being strained as they are, Ambassador Dag,” Anna chose her words carefully. “Perhaps a gesture of goodwill?”

Pitana demanded, “A gesture of goodwill?”

“To bring around public opinion,” Anna said, smiling. “The collapse of the bridge was devastating and costly. Perhaps a new bridge design and a lift on tharspin restrictions,”

“You’re suggesting we award you more tharspin to help build a bridge that shouldn’t have been built in the first place?” Pitana kept her tone light yet hostile. “I fail to see the logic of such a request, since you’re accusing us of destroying the bridge you just built, with tharspin we never gave you.”

“I beg your pardon, Ambassador Prime Dag?” Anna said.

“Over the last eight years, you and I have negotiated every tharspin acquisition, there’ve been dozens of requests for repair materials for the Connector,” Pitana said. “I’ve nothing in my records to indicate an application for this Bass Plain Bridge.”

“We considered Bass Plain to be part of the Connector,” Anna said. “There’s a license for that-”

“—Ambassador Runga, don’t assume me an idiot,” Pitana leaned back, confident, “You know how things work, and you know what constitutes a new project under our infrastructure and materials trade agreement.”

“May I interject, here?” Deb said but didn’t wait for Pitana to affirm. “Eight years ago, the Third Office added proviso’s upon tharspin exports that insisted on concise documentation of how exported tharspin was to be used,”

“Unfairly,” Anna looked at Deb and nodded.

“Ruling Gen’s of past never made such nonsensical conditions,” Deb said.

“Nonsensical?” Pitana put her arms on the table. “We’re the cultivators of the material, we shouldn’t have a say in how it’s utilized?”

“The OHA’s founding mission statement clearly states that Ramaxia is to aid humanity in its quest to sustain itself,” Deb also put her arms on the table. “Yet under the regime of the Ninth, that’s right, I said regime, the OHA runs the world between its poles like a caste-center, handing out toys with directions on how we’re to play and when and with whom.”

Pitana remained calm.

“You’re a Tenth, Ambassador,” Deb tried to ease the tension with a smile. “I get it, you have to tow the Ninth line, but there are no Ninth here. It’s Ramaxia in your chair, and the human-nations of Ramaxicon in this room.”

“I’ve no qualms towing the line when it’s righteous to do so,” Pitana brought her hands together. “Ramaxia should’ve been consulted on the construction of this bridge,”

“With all due respect Ambassador Prime,” Anna said. “It’s our country, and we don’t need permission to build a bridge.”

“You do if you plan to use tharspin in it,” Pitana countered.

Anna blurted, “There was no tharspin in the Bass Plain!”

Deb closed her eyes in defeat as Doka handed Pitana a duxpak that Pitana then slid across the table to Anna. On it was a running slide-show of captures of the underside of the Bass Plain taken from a position under the bridge.

Its tharspin components were highlighted in Ramaxi lettering.

Anna held the duxpak, eyeing it bendable screen in silence.

“Tell me again, Ambassador,” said Pitana. “About this bridge with no tharspin it.”

“We all do it,” Deb blurted. “Every human nation pads its import requests with codes given to them by the Tenth-Gen administrators desperate to get around the Ninth-Gen’s makodonic-state.”

“Is that so?” Pitana nodded. “Please reveal more,”

“I’m in the tell it like it is business, Ambassador,” said Deb.

“That’s painfully obvious,” Pitana added.

“Not painfully, respectfully!” Deb pointed at her yet kept her tone level. “I respect the Ramaxian nation for its outreach and willingness to rebuilt cultures that offer them nothing in the way of growth.”

“We’re grateful,” Pitana snapped.

“But please, Ambassador Prime,” Deb shook her head. “Please refrain from acting like you’re ignorant of what happens in the AC,”

“We will speak of export affairs another day,” Pitana said, dismissive. “As for today’s business, the current administration doesn’t care if your public is dissatisfied with us, Ambassador Runga, and for the sake of diplomacy we’ll continue to trade.”

“Thank you,” Anna whispered.

“If you need more tharspin, you can have it,” Pitana eyed Deb. “Since what occurs in the AC remains in the AC. Your imports, however, will be monitored by the Second Office until the Third Office is assured of no more bridges to Australia.”

Taking the duxpak from Anna and handing it to Doka, Pitana turned in her chair to face this Deborah Chase.

“Ambassador Deborah Chase of the North American Union,”

“That’s me!” Deb noticed the others cast her looks of warning. “Ambassador Prime Dag,” Deb affected concern. “Can you ratchet down the hostility? We’re here to be diplomatic yes? Isn’t that the point of diplomacy?”

“Is this your first official office, Miss Chase?” Pitana asked.

“Ambassador,” Doka whispered.

“What?” Pitana snapped at Doka.

“Ambassador Chase,” Deb spoke up for Doka. “To answer your question, no, Ambassador Prime Dag. I served four years on the National Security Council, and I was the Assistant Secretary of Human-Ramaxian Affairs during President Colin Gideon’s second term.”

“That’s impressive,” Pitana said. “Unbelievable but impressive.”

“Ambassador Prime Dag that was a bit backhanded,” Deb’s smiled faded. “I’m not Hizaki, but I know insults disguised as compliments when I hear them.”

“I’m not impressed with your lack of protocol,” Pitana’s spread her hands on the table and fought back her anger.

“Other than trying to bully me with your body language, which by the way, you’re very good at doing,” Deb smiled wide. “May I inquire as to why we’re focusing on me when I’ve only been here for all of ten minutes?”

“I’ve decided that you’re next on my list of things to do,” Pitana replied.

Deb’s brow rose, “You’re a sweet talker, huh?”

The women at the table veiled their smiles while Doka again did not; when Pitana glared at the young Subak, she retreated to her Filmark.

“My advisors in Orta tell me that an agent of the North American Union Security Intelligence Service was seen in Tasmania during the tsunami,” Pitana said.

“An agent?” Deb was shocked. “Like a soldier?”

Anna Runga leaned in when Pitana pulled out a duxpak with images of a man kicking a native man from his bike.

“This agent was seen on the bridge,” Pitana said, setting it on the table near Anna.

Deb snatched the duxpak up before Anna could get hold of it.

“That’s a Level-Two Mynu maneuver, Ambassador Dag,” Deb looked it over and smiled at Anna. Shaking her head, she added, “I see what’s being implied here, and it’s ridiculous.”

Pitana said, “Excuse me?”

Deb looked boldly at Anna, “Your news people filmed the collapse of the Bass Plain?” she then softened and touched Anna’s hand, “I’m sorry for the loss of life your tribes have endured.”

Ambassador Runga seemed to appreciate the gesture.

“Anna,” Deb said. “You know there’s no way one human man took out that bridge before that wave hit.”

“Our investigation indicates that it collapsed before the wave arrived,” Anna said.

“It’s ridiculous to suggest that one Nauist jarhead took down an entire bridge,” Deb eyed Pitana. “Even if he was a trained agent, which this man hardly fits the bill, taking out a bridge? Without explosions?”

The other women smiled.

“We’re the North American Union,” Deb laughed. “I’ll just come right out and say what you all know about us—we’re about explosions, not subterfuge.”

Ingrid al-Hasat said, “Truer words were never spoken,”

“You’ll never forgive us for the Skeleton Coast pipeline?” Deb asked, lighthearted.

Ingrid smiled at her, “It was the denial that hurt.”

“At least they didn’t blow up your port,” Paola Ithengui added.

“That wasn’t us!” Deb pointed at Sorkhaq Tani, “Sorki, you better fess up, I’m serious!”

“I don’t know anything about blowing up a port,” Sorkhaq put her hands up in surrender.

The human women chuckled amongst themselves.

Pitana had lost control of the room.

“Excuse me, Ambassadors,” Pitana said with volume. “May we return to the matter at hand?”

“Sorry, Ambassador Prime,” Deb said. “I forgot you were here,”

Pitana glared at her, unsure of what to do.

“Okay, that’s not true Ambassador Prime Dag, how could anyone ignore you?” Deb brightened and asked flirtatiously, “Is that your real hair? How do you get it to stay like that?”

“My hair is real, Ambassador Chase,” Pitana said coolly.

“The matter at hand is easily explained,” Deb tucked her lips. “We have tourists that visit Aotearoa all the time. Tasmania, by extension of the Connector alone, is Aotearoa. Hell, I’ve gone shark diving there,”

Pitana leaned in, “Are you suggesting this agent was on vacation?”

Deb leaned in also, “Do you know what the word hypothetical means?”

“Yes, I know the word hypothetical,” Pitana said.

“Before we jump into hypotheticals, let’s look at this picture,” Deb turned the duxpak around so Pitana could see it. “I see a man wearing a jacket common in my country. This suggests he’s North American. He’s got no weapons, there’s nothing to indicate that he’s a soldier.”

Pitana leaned back in her chair and rolled her head to crack her neck; it was a calming exercise she’d learned in one of her World-Oceans classes, but it was also an intimidation tactic.

“You’ve no established history of missions in Aotearoa,” said Pitana, “But you do have a long-established history of tourism?”

“You see, you’re coming around,” Deb pushed the duxpak at Pitana. “And we haven’t even gone into hypotheticals yet!”

Pitana was deadpan, “I’m so impressed that you’re impressed with me.”

“Let’s say, hypothetically, this man is a tourist. Naturally, as all tourists do, he makes his way home,” Deb pulled her clunky briefcase onto her lap and after snapping it open, pulled out a folder with a human medical symbol on it. “Let’s say that upon arriving home, the man gets an exam in port and doctors discover signs of sexual assault.”

“What does helovx on helovx crime have to do with this?” asked Pitana.

“Let’s say, hypothetically, while fleeing the tsunami this man says he was,” Deb opened the folder and read verbatim. “Attacked by a trained femmar in a silver uniform that had a black symbol on its head.”

“Our definition of hypothetical is different,” Pitana shifted and swung one leg over the other. “I don’t consider lying to be in the hypothetic.”

Deb’s eyes bored into her, “Let’s say, hypothetically, his physical exam backs up his claim because they find strange fluids on his skin.”

“Fluids?” Pitana asked.

“Not to stray too far from acceptable conversation,” Deb grinned. “But I’ve heard you femmar do tend to splooge,”

Doka pushed air out her nose and turned her head, while Paola’s shoulders shook in silent laughter.

Pitana remained stoic, “Hypothetically.”

“Of course!” Deb beamed. “I have never had the pleasure myself because CM Wram’s got some serious rules about that sort of thing, doesn’t she?”

Deborah Chase’s eyes were dark enough to be Femarctic.

“Let’s say his hypothetical exam confirms his hypothetical story, and during his hypothetical sexual assault, his skin was burned in certain tell-tale places,” Deb opened the folder again and looked at something specific, and with eyes wide, she added, “And hypothetically, bruises heal much faster than burn marks.”

Pitana forced a smile, “May I see the report, Ambassador Chase?”

“What report?” Deb quickly closed the folder and shoved it back into her case. “We’re in the hypothetic. There was no rape because there was no agent.”

Deborah Chase’s large breasts almost touched the table top.

“Yoo-hoo!” Deb’s hand shook in front of her chest. “My face is up here,”

Pitana’s eyes shot up to Deborah’s as Doka cleared her throat.

“How were your pictures of this man on our bridge, obtained?” Anna asked. “Ambassador Prime Dag?”

Pitana kept her eyes on Deborah, “I can’t tell you that, Ambassador Runga.”

Deb held Pitana’s gaze.

“Was there a femmar agent in Tasmania?” Anna demanded.

“No Ambassador,” Pitana faced her. “There was no operative in Tasmania.”

Suddenly, the sound of a popular pikavel song blasted out from Deb’s phone, its vocalist rapping about the need to eat before quitting time.

“Sorry,” Deb exclaimed. “I forgot to silence this, I am so sorry,”

“No phones are to be brought into this conference room,” Pitana said.

“It’s an old school Filmuk,” Deb chirped. “I requested it, and don’t worry, I know I got give it back if I ever leave the station for anything,”

Pitana said, “Where did receive permission to acquire it?”

“Under the Third Office’s AWI citizenship rules,” Deb kept her eyes on the device, “Helovx residing in territorial Ramaxia may purchase communications technology that is considered out of date and no longer updated by current technological requirements.”

“I believe those rules apply to people living in the Antarctica City,” Pitana said.

“Verbiage doesn’t specify an exact location,” Deb shook her beautiful head. “Can I be excused if you’re done with me? I promised to meet some friends for my morning chow.”

Pitana sat back, “You have friends here, Ambassador Chase?”

“These Pure-Gen gals are the sweetest things,” Deb winked at Doka. “You’re all so chatty, not like your momma’s.”

“We reconvene in two hours,” Pitana said. “Please don’t be late, again.”

Deb brought her fist to her stomach in an Orta salute, and as she exited, she shook hands with Anna Runga; reminding Pitana that her attempt to turn Aotearoa against the NAU had failed.

“I hate to ask this, Ambassador,” Deb paused at the door. “But are you done with everyone? I know the goal was probably to yell at Anna today, and since that’s out of the way can we go get some lunch now and reconvene later?”

“That sounds wonderful,” Paola was the first to stand, and when she did, the rest of them followed and began filing out without being dismissed by Pitana.

“Citizen Gil,” Deb turned after herding them out. “Would you like to come with? There’s always room for one more.”

Doka eyed Pitana, “No thank you, Ambassador Chase.”

Once alone Pitana waited for Doka to say something.

“Find a copy of Third Office’s rules regarding technology disbursements to people assigned to Ramaxia,” said Pitana. “Verify there is no exact location specified,”

“I will, Ambassador,”

“I’m not bonded, Doka,”

“I know, Ambassador,”

“That’s why I’m unaware that couples don’t think alike,”

“Of course, Ambassador,”

“My hair isn’t a form, it’s real.”

“It’s real, Ambassador,”

“She took control of my assembly!”

“Your assembly, Ambassador,”

“I want a full dossier on that woman, Doka,”

“Full dossier, Ambassador,”

East Ramaxia
Location Unknown
0130 Hours, Bamx 25, 2228

Life was complicated and sometimes beautiful.

Sixty-six years ago, Ulizag was born to appease Femtrux.

Her makers had vigilantly disguised their resentment with affection and love, and at age eight Uli arrived in Orta to find that her makers were the exception, not the rule.

Surrounded by a legion of maladjusted caste-sisters, Uli spent her toob years struggling with the disparity. As a brooder, she’d enforced her higher standards with the help of like-minded Marixi, and Uli recalled the day she’d abandoned her moral compass to side with Fusakul.

The death of her makers by suicide years later was punishment enough.

The supreme commander of Ramaxian World Oceans sealed her fate the day she allowed Pentox to parse the gen-code of Sofitakul. Standing naked on the ice, Uli smiled; her temerity surviving on the surface without food and water these many weeks would be something her enemies would speak of in the years to come.

Blaster harness tightened over her knuckles, Uli had made a fist.

How many hours had passed since making that fist? Uli couldn’t bring her palm to her face, she couldn’t end her own life even now that it was over. The scent of her assassin came on the wind. How long had the young Donmat been tracking her?

“Balru, is it?” Uli called out without turning her head. “You don’t have to answer me, Donmat Balru.”

Stybalru was Orta’s finest Eleventh.

Uli recalled seeing her old toober-friend Ziwbalru in the stands during young Styba’s Final Trial. Mindful and fearless, Ziw often stood up to bullies like toober Kul; this was why Uli lost her to the Citizen’s Guard.

Uli considered herself Orta’s finest despite the maniacal Kul’s barely besting her on the Trial ice. Standing second to Fusa Kul might’ve destroyed Uli had it not been for the soothing affections of a male Hizak named Fitaxkul.

The regal Fitax was Primary Ixo Kul’s prized donation.

The night of Orta Attack, he’d revealed his gender to Uli after the pair had indulged in an intense flirtation for many months; carried out under the guise of Uli’s extramural visits to the Primary’s estate.

The Primary had organized social gatherings with Orta’s top candidates with the intent of educating them on the etiquette of future leadership. The usual guests were Uli, Pita Dag, Tyle Hibz, and Daka Kil, along with top performers like Dirg R’lx, Odax Itat, and Pik Acari.

Fusa Kul’s top physical standing had never warranted an invite.

Fitax had once whispered in Uli’s ear during one of those meals that the likes of Gid Ikat and Tux Tol, two moderately performing broods with legendary mean-streaks, were invited only because of their pod’s importance in Ramaxia.

Uli felt her killer come closer.

“Did you know that this is the spot where Sofitakul insisted on training after activating the Femitokon Shell?” Uli felt the icy wind against her hide. “She chose this stretch of ice because it was where Femitokon found Fusofitakil’s body.”

Young Balru was adept at being unheard.

“They say Femitokon’s soul was broken after finding her dead twin,” Uli extended her arm so that her assassin could see that the blaster on her fist was charged and ready. “They say Femitokon’s mind died out here. I can appreciate that, can you?”

The young Marix came up behind her.

“The Primary sent you to collect me, but you’re too good to take me back because Ziw raised you well,” Uli sensed Balru pause. “Do not falter Balru, you must carry out the orders of your Primary, this above all things is why we breathe.”

Young Balru’s naked skin found Uli’s, and though respectful of the inevitable, Uli instinctively resisted. Balru’s hand found Uli’s and brought the palm to Uli’s lips so that her body could accept what her mind already knew.

Uli did all she could in this life, and now it was over.

A flash of burning pain flooded her mouth, scalding its way up into her nostrils as urine bled down the inside of her thighs. When her back hit the ice, Uli saw the naked Balru standing over her. Neck and fronts covered in Uli’s blue blood.

Balru raised a clenched fist to her muscled abdomen and gave a salute to her fallen leader.

SEAL Command South
Port Austin, North American Union
9:00 AM, July 25, 2228

Colonel Adam Pierce endured three months of Tasmania searching for signs of a Ramaxian base in Australia.

Roaming the dangerous coasts, he mingled with the xenophobic locals, some stupid enough to scout inland for him for some gold and freshwater. After each of his scouts disappeared without a trace, Adam was confident the farcs had something going on in the heart of Australia.

Adept at playing by the rules, Adam followed the orders of his superiors, even when they were complete morons like General’s Payne and Dixon. He was stuck answering to these fools because his real bosses had chosen to dismiss his theories.

Adam’s life before age twelve was a mystery.

What memories he did have were of two ruthless parents who trained him under the guise of abuse. Maturing at their survivalist camp in the Yukon mountains, Adam had mastered various firearms and fighting disciplines.

At seventeen he’d enrolled in the North American Union Youth Corps, but during his third year, Adam took a man’s life. He was given two choices following the murder of the fellow candidate; face death by execution or enroll in SEAL Operational.

After five grueling years of training, Adam earned a position in the North American Union’s Security Intelligence Service. Almost twenty years before his Australian folly, Adam’s first mission for NAUSIS had led to the discovery of an Ornithocheirus flier.

There’d been reported sightings by civilians throughout the globe, but no one had ever got close enough to confirm its make. Adam believed it existed and had begged his superiors for a allowance to find it.

After months of playing whore at Holy Cross, he’d finally witnessed Thokai. Asking around, he found her to be the third designated Ornithocheirus in service to Surface Operational, and she belonged to a divisional Komadon named Fusada Kul.

Failing to acquire photographic evidence, Adam had been recalled.

Assigned to low-level surface reconnaissance of farc bases, it took him years to earn enough service time for a transfer to Ramaxian-Investigatory. When sea-farers began whispering of a silver-skinned farc with unusual powers, Adam requested permission to investigate in the field.

NAUSIS declined his request and instead had returned him to SEAL Operational as a plant to assess their covert missions.

Desperate to prove his Ramaxian base theory, Adam talked his SEAL superiors into letting him investigate the recovery of the Rankin submarine off the coast of Australia. While there, he’d discovered that NAUSIS had indeed believed him; they’d simply assigned another agent to investigate.

Playing a lowly foot soldier meant enduring idiots like Payne and Dixon.

He loathed Port Austin due in large to the General’s residing there; typical Midlands-born sixty something’s that when young, benefitted from their rancher-families wealth. Men like these were considered honorable for giving up a cushy life to serve the Union, but their elevated social status never abandoned them; where was the sacrifice?

“Corporal Pierce,” Payne crossed his legs. “You stated in your report that you first saw the farc agent when she accosted you on the bridge?”

Adam said, “Yes General,”

“Was she in her silver uniform,” Dixon asked.

“It’s not a uniform, per say,” Adam said. “It’s a skin-shield of some kind, a metallic fiber, but it’s alive, to the touch.”

“Something new they’ve spawned,” Dixon said to Payne.

“She activates it with her emotions,” Adam said. “It increases her strength,”

“She can fly with it too, correct?” Payne asked.

“It’s not flying, its hover movement,” Adam said. “Energy is emitted out the back of her feet.”

Dixon sighed, “The farcs now have super suits,

“There’s evidence the Ramaxian’s are in Australia,” Adam said. “My report indicates an encounter with Magnetic Ion clusters,”

“Yes,” Dixon shuffled his papers. “These ion-things moved in a pattern against the wind?”

“Indicating a preset path,” said Adam.

“Border guards?” Payne said.

“My thoughts exactly, General,” said Adam.

“We know what’s going on in Australia,” Dixon dismissed. “Explains why we can’t reconnect with our pre-impact satellites,”

“Our eyes in the sky are gone, Dix,” Payne complained. “Now they’ve got a fucking laser gun in orbit that can wipe out an entire country,”

“Since the Slavic Empire incident,” Dixon spoke to Adam. “There’s been a public outcry to recall Ambassador Chase,”

“Speaking of Ambassador’s,” Adam interrupted. “It’s interesting that the TCS Orcinus retrieved Ramaxia’s ambassador to Aotearoa, just hours before the quake.”

Dixon looked at him, “What’s a TCS?”

“It’s a Toxis Class Submersible, General Dixon,” Adam said, politely.

“Those farc subs that look like whales,” Payne laughed at Dixon, before turning his attention to Adam. “Colonel, there was no buildup of the Polar Navy on any fault lines.”

Dixon agreed, “This quake was natural, Pierce,”

“Unless they’ve another way of enacting seismic upheaval,” Adam said.

“Thank you, Colonel,” Dixon cleared his throat, “The General and I will look into it.”

“Am I dismissed?”

“No, not just yet,” Payne moved his chair closer. “You said in your report that you saw the farc agent on the bridge, just before the collapse?”

“Yes, General Payne.”

“You then stated in your report that when the bridge collapsed, you fell from it,” Payne eyed Dixon’s notebook. “A day later you were attacked on land by the same agent?”

“Yes, General Payne.”

“This agent followed you twelve hours,” Payne scratched behind his ear as Dixon’s lips curled into a smile. “And you didn’t know it?”

“My report clearly states that I fell from the bridge and swam to shore,” Adam said. “I found a boat and made my way to the Australian coast where I encountered the Mag-Io clusters that destroyed my boat.”

Adam’s eyes remained fixed on the bridge of Payne’s nose.

“I joined up with a band of refugees on the beach, and together we sailed back to Tasmania. On higher ground, we were attacked by the farc agent. She continued to pursue me until she caught up with me and then threw me over a cliff.”

“We reviewed the report,” Dixon said. “According to the flyover team that initially spotted you, you were walking with this operative not fleeing from her.”

“What’s the point of this line of questioning?” Adam asked.

Payne furrowed his brow, “Your intake examination found Femarctic vaginal residue in your hair.”

“That examination’s incorrect,” Adam spoke robotically. “As I stated prior in my report, I had no idea the agent was following me until she grabbed me. Surely, the flyover team saw me turn and attack her.”

Four uniformed men suddenly barged into the room.

Two walked to Adam, and each took an arm as Commissioner John Perry entered and declared the interview over.

Every territory in the NAU boasted a leader, and John Perry ruled the Texan Territories.

General Dixon rose to his feet, “We’re not done here!”

“Yes, you are,” said Perry with a smile. “By order of the President, we’re taking Colonel Pierce into custody.”

General Payne was shocked, “He’s our soldier!”

“No General, he’s our agent,” Perry slapped the man on the arm and winked. “We lent him to you, and now we’re taking him back,”

Adam appreciated the retrieval but hated Perry’s posturing.

Men like Perry wore the uniform of an educated bureaucrat; trained in a classroom he was adept at serving the needs of the few. Like him or not, he was Adam’s superior.

Sitting in the backseat of the Commissioner’s pristine sedan, Adam quietly contemplated Austin’s sandy beaches and boardwalk.

“Remind me again why those boys had you in Australia?” Perry asked.

Adam replied, “SEAL-Command located the Rankin,”

“It’s good you called it in,” said Perry. “We lost contact with Fichte,”

Adam thought of the ginger-haired Captain Fichte. Arriving in Tasmania, Adam had found his NAUSIS brother assigned to find the farcs in Australia.

“That dead thinker’s media-sphere,” Perry said. “Did you find it?”

“When I arrived at the location for launch,” Adam said. “The farc agent was there,”

“Waiting for you?” Perry asked.

“I never got to the dive point Commissioner,” said Adam. “The agent jumped me the moment I went in to retrieve my gear.”

“She knew you were coming,” Perry said. “She might’ve killed Fichte,”

Fichte had fought for his life while Adam had choked him out.

“I anticipated they’d sabotage the bridge within a year of its completion,” Adam said. “Right time, wrong place,”

“That farc Komad was dispatched the minute Orta found out those clowns in SEAL ops discovered the location of the wreckage,” Perry griped.

“I agree,” said Adam. “The SOD’s always known where it was.”

“What did that bitch White have on them?” Perry said.

“Whatever it was, Komad Kul destroyed it,” Adam said.

“She did take out the bridge, correct?” Perry said.

“Kul sabotaged it with a corrosive substance, it was as weak as paper when the receding waters gained momentum,” Adam said. “I was clear of it when what remained was taken out by the wave.”

“Fucking farcs,” Perry said. “You called it though Pierce, they took out that bridge. You think just like these farc bitches. That’s scary.”

“Not scary, just obvious. Tharspin licenses are extremely regulated because that’s how Third Office Jyr limits infrastructure growth throughout the planet,” Adam said. “Second Office Wram would never allow the United Tribes enough tharspin to build a bridge to Australia, not when there’s a base there.”

“The base you never found?” Perry asked.

Adam said nothing.

“Don’t worry, we found it,” Perry set some long-range photographs on Adam’s lap. “After that thing in space destroyed the Slavs, Fichte robbed some locals of their pictures.”

“It’s a ship lifting off,” Adam said. “I knew they were in space,”

“No weapon on it,” said Perry. “Just the words Tharso on the side,”

“That’s the farc word for Mars,” Adam said.

“Are you serious?” Perry asked. “They’ve got a gun up there, and they’re on Mars,”

“They’ve likely a colony on the moon as well,” Adam gave the pictures back to Perry. “I managed to plant the identifier cell in the silver-farc,”

Perry startled, “She fucked you?”

“After the collapse, we holed up at a hotel,” said Adam. “Her suit took damage from some mags we encountered.”

“Fail on one end, and succeed on another,” Perry laughed. “Did you review the findings?”

“The cell measured her armor’s ignition sequence,” Adam explained it all methodically as if it was business as usual. “The electrical activity in her brain is what ignites the armor. She used an orgasm as a means of jump-starting it.”

“You think that’s how she runs it,” Perry asked. “Being turned on all the time.”

Perry’s juvenile depreciation of its complexity irritated Adam.

“No Commissioner,” he said. “There’s more to it than that.”

“I couldn’t do your job, Pierce. What did she smell like? What did it feel like?” Perry’s morbid curiosity made him a blubbering adolescent. “Their damn pussies are higher up, right? They don’t have nipples on their tits, do they?”

“With all due respect Commissioner, I’d rather not revisit it,” Adam lied; his arousal at the sight and smell of farc cunt had always disturbed him, and his desire for the silver soldier made him consider psychotherapy.

“We’ll get you a rape shower,” Perry slapped his leg. “And a real woman.”

“A shower will suffice, sir,” Adam forced a smile.

“What’s your next move, Colonel?” said Perry.

“Tara Whitley?” Adam asked. “How is she?”

“The docs haven’t cleared Ensign Whitley for a return to the field,” Perry replied.

“Using her brother as a source of information at Port Yukon was sloppy,” Adam glanced out at the last of Austin’s white sandy shoreline. “She should have expected him to be killed eventually,”

“Why the interest in Whitley?” Perry asked.

“The silver-farc killed her brother,” Adam said.

Perry started, “The bitch that killed Whitley’s brother in Holy Cross was a Komad named Sofita Kul-”

“—Kul’s the Femitokon,” Adam said flatly.

“Your prior intel suggested her name was Fusada,” Perry said.

“I believe,” said Adam. “They’re one and the same,”

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