A note from WriterObscura

Episode Four - Tactical Pursuits Arc

Illustration by Daniel Hurtado

Nitra Hall, New Warszawa
Slavic Empire – Uralskey Island
7 Bamx 2228 – 1940 Hours

Ilo never understood why humans hated fat people.

One article on the interHive blamed food insecurity, and she might have accepted that as an excuse before reading up on human cultural history. Heavy-set humans endured ridicule, mockery, and disdain, all made worse by the medical community’s support of a flawed measurement for body mass. That these Slavs, who reeked of sweat, urine, and incense, would consider her the unattractive one, felt ludicrous.

Men here strutted around like peacocks; cranial cartilage visible beneath their onionskin scalps. The women fared no better. What few strands of hair they had, they pulled back tight enough to keep their eyes from closing.

Ilo had procured for them hundreds of display-wigs from a friend back home, the kind destined for Style Sit windows, but she’d ordered ones made with synthetic human hair. The Empress had awarded her charity by insisting she dine with her each day at sundown.

Tonight’s dinner would be Ilo’s last. Ailing for many months, Juliana died overnight, and now they supped in her honor. Human mourning traditions involved some disturbing rituals, one of which, burial, seemed all too common.

Abandoning the flesh wasn’t the femarctic way.

The notion of discarding anyone’s corpse felt barbaric and strange. Another weird practice employed by these people was the covering of mirrors.

Ilo couldn’t imagine going a day without seeing her reflection. Black drapery covered every gilded-framed glass in the palace. Associating black with death felt odd; in Ramaxia, black represented the life below, and white, the death above.

Black clothing was celebratory, worn at bonding ceremonies or donation-naming parties. White signified the tundra where all things died eventually.

Ilo studied the tabletop’s white veiny marble, distorted through the clear basin in her empty glass bowl. Keen to adhere, she tried dressing like her hosts but couldn’t.

Unlike other humans, the Slavs donned archaic silk, lace, and brocade. Men wore colored shirts beneath leathery vestments adorned with gaudy buckles and straps. The women’s gowns boasted high waistlines on doublets and decorative sleeves that obscured their arms to the wrists.

Accustomed to sheer one-piece frocks, Ilo found their fashions confining. But, knowing no one here respected her bulk, she met the challenge halfway by stuffing her ample portions into a dark blue bati, a lifeless romper favored by zaxiri with real jobs.

She glanced at the warmed-over corpses of the Mikołaj women and found them donning the wigs she’d procured. Elderly and frail, they’d powdered their creped skin, painted their lips bright red, and regarded her with curious eyes shrouded in blackened paint.

Sitting opposite was a mixed bag of young and middle-aged men, the cystic scarring along their cheeks covered with face powder. Ilo smiled at the polite, a gesture unreturned by some, thanks to the femmar sitting beside her.

Velto Wram’s cantankerous nature used to be attractive. Old friend Laxum Jyr had once teased that putting the word “ambassador” before Velto’s name was what humans called, a misnomer. Twenty years of bondship made Ilo associate the petite bizak’s vitriol with Velto’s kerma, Lekada Wram. Another friend, Koba Julo, had opined that Ramaxia could run without sphere-farms for a thousand years if they could harness one ounce of Ilo’s hatred for Lekada.

Sinister in-laws aside, Ilo appreciated Velto’s frustration.

The bizak had discovered that the Slavs designed an interface for her SR-I that enabled them to operate it in their language. Outraged, she’d altered the sustenance replicator’s interface code to recognize only the Ramaxi language.

Before she could implement the changes, however, the protein re-sequencer unit disappeared. The SR-I control room alone was the size of a one-room apartment, yet the Slavs managed to tear down the entire thing in one night.

Its primary operators claimed ignorance of its whereabouts, so the clever bizak confronted Boris Kotko. The hulking Duke alleged he knew nothing of the unit’s location and assured Velto he’d find it before the district’s food stores ran out.

After many days, Velto wished to question the operators again, but Boris told her he’d had them executed for their involvement in the sustenance replicator’s theft.

Velto then demanded an audience with the Empress.

Though quite ill, Juliana had ordered Boris to expand his investigation. Yet after she took to her sickbed, Velto suggested that Kotko would kill his own Empress to delay her finding the unit. When the regal woman died, a mortified Ilo couldn’t face Boris, and dining with them all tonight, with Velto at her side, made things worse.

Ilo caught Boris Kotko’s stare; the bald man boasted a broad face with cobalt eyes that always drifted down to her fronts.

“Excuse me, Duke Kotko,” she asked in Sladdish, a fusion of pre-impact Russian and Polish, spiced with a bit of what Pitana Dag called, Yiddish. Whats this dishs name, again?

Zupa grzybowa,” he said. “Mushroom soup.”

“Delicious,” Ilo said, beaming. “I’ve another question if you’ll allow it?”

“Ask me anything, Lady Ilo,” he tapped a long, black-tipped fingernail on the table. “I hide nothing from you,”

“Why can’t you eat meat with cheese?”

Her question brought laughter.

“Our ancestors consumed this dish,” young Kasi raised a glass. “Our dietary rules come from old religious worship.”

Yesterday, the youngest Mikołaj boasted long healthy hair, something his mother insisted on to ensure her biologically female heir landed a husband. However, within hours of Juliana’s death, the former Duchess Kasimira cut that hair short and introduced himself as Duke Kasimir.

“We cling to these rules for sentimental reasons,” Boris gave Kasi’s hand a kermatic pat. “Your people are young, Lady Ilo. Religious observance is strange to you.”

Ilo snatched up her wine the moment Velto began talking.

“My species dominated this planet,” the bizak said. Long before you naked monkeys crawled out of a Cenozoic sea puddle,

“We have this annoying list of guilt trips,” Ilo spoke over her spouse with a smile. “We call them the Ramaxi L’uxial,”

“Your six moral laws.” Kasi turned to Boris. “The ones mentioned by Balantin.

Velto huffed. “­Ivan Balantin?”

No insult to you, Wram the Younger,” Boris said, knowing that addressing Velto this way infuriated her. “For us, Ivan Balantin is a post-impact Moses,”

“L’uxial aren’t actual laws,” Ilo straightened her back and leaned forward so that her voluminous hair eclipsed the rude bizak sitting beside her. “The basic moral stuff. ‘Don’t kill your own, don’t steal from your own, don’t eat your own’’, stuff like that.”

A pair of diners fled the table while others lowered their eyes.

“You’ve been very gracious with my ignorance,” Ilo added softly. “Thank you so much, Duke Kotko.”

“Lady Ilo, this is a meal, and at meals, we talk about food,” Boris spoke more to the room than to Ilo, and when the man beside him moved to stand, he hardened. “Sit down, Duke Jerrick.”

“Lady Ilo, Kasi said quickly. “What foods are popular in Ramaxia?”

“Pasta,” Ilo eyed Velto’s untouched pierogi. “We grow so much itabix.”

“Itabix is polar wheat?” Kasi asked, then addressed the table. “Polar wheat grows in the dark. It is as yellow as gold.”

Ilo nodded, rustling the long hair on her shoulders. When itabix noodles and keltavi noodles are on the same plate, all that blue and gold makes a gorgeous dish.”

“Keltavi is rice?” Kasi asked.

“I thought you were all color blind,” blurted Yuri.

“No, dumbass,” said Velto. “Only our thinkers can’t see color.”

Yuri Kotko was a piece of seal-shit who made no show of hiding his disgust for Ilo and Velto. Shorter than his brother, his vivid hazel eyes and light facial scars made him look less afflicted than the others, until he opened his mouth.

“­If you process raw grains through one of Velto’s machines,” Ilo said, hoping to ease the tension. “It makes more than pasta,”

“They know how the processor works, Ilo,” Velto said in Ramaxi.

Yuri rolled his eyes. “What won’t you eat?”

Ilo’s smile belayed her tone. “Are you asking me or insulting me?”

“We don’t eat shellfish,” Kasi leveled a warning gaze at Yuri. “Yet, we love fresh fish.”

Yuri raised a glass. “Shark steaks are delicious.”

Ilo’s stomach turned.

“You eat sharks?” she whispered, then eyed Velto. “They eat sharks.”

Velto ran a calming hand down her back.

“Your kind also eats fish,” Yuri said. “You’re an island like us.”

“An island?” Ilo smiled brightly. “We’re larger than Australia.”

Yuri pursed his lips. “You consider Australia an island?”

“No one considers Australia, anymore,” said Velto.

Silence fell over the room.

“Speaking of eating.” Ilo hated unpleasant escalations. “Some humans think we don’t eat at all. As you can all see from my size, I love to eat.”

Laughter rang out among them.

“Ramaxia,” Yuri asked. “Is that your name for Antarctica?”

“No,” Velto countered. “Antarctica is your name for Ramaxia,”

“We’re a bit sensitive about that, Kotko the Younger,” Ilo slipped her hand under the table and gave Velto’s thin thigh a warning squeeze.

Yuri shook his head. “Antarctica was its name for centuries,”

“Ramaxia’s been its name since the continent was part of Famarixicon,” Velto pushed her plate aside and set her thin arms onto the table. “Your species called that landmass, Rodinia, back when Ramaxicon was a big ice ball.”

“Ramaxicon?” Yuri mocked, confused.

“The proper name for this world is Ramaxicon,” Velto clarified. It was named six-hundred million years ago when our ancestors built this planets first cities beneath the ice of the Neoproterozoic.

“Potato, tomato,” Ilo said airily. “Words for things we eat.”

Kasi laughed heartily, prompting the others to join, and when he raised a glass to Ilo, the rest followed suit; Velto and the Kotko brothers refrained.

“I shall change the subject,” Yuri set his eyes on Ilo. Lady Ilo, where do you and your, uh, wife, plan to go once you leave and take our sole source of food with you?

“Wife?” Velto snapped.

Ilo made to speak, but Velto ordered her to shut up.

Raised by an intellectual bully and forced to endure a bruiser sib with no boundaries, Velto Wram spent her formative years drawing lines in the snow and lashing out at anyone daring to cross them.

“That word, wife,” she said. “It implies I’m lessor to her in some way,”

Ilo cracked. “You’re certainly shorter.”

Yuri chuckled at the exchange, ignoring Kasi’s foul glare.

“I have a degree in proto-physics,” said Velto. Before birthing kids secured Ilos fortune, my funds kept her in the best clothes, made sure she ate the best food, and allowed her to indulge in comforts your sad species can only dream about.”

“So, you see, Yuri,” Ilo declared. “She’s my husband, not my wife.”

The table quaked with laughter. Even Boris cracked a smile when Ilo planted a firm kiss on Velto’s cheek.

“You say one more word, Velts,” she warned softly. “And I’m going to put my foot so far up your gurx you’ll feel my toes on your tonsils,”

“I’ll smack the blue off you, belly,” Velto whispered.

“You better grow a few feet,” Ilo warned under her breath, then turned to the diners and said, “I think someone’s ready for night-night.”

Cheers exploded when Velto stood and knocked her chair back.

After she stormed out, Ilo finished her wine with one chug and stood up as well. Then, with a coy grin, she blew kisses at the guests before exiting.

Outside, a soured Velto waited by the door.

Walking home, Ilo lingered behind her shorter love, their footsteps drowned by the nighttime wind. Movement in the palace windows caught her attention; a frustrated Yuri Kotko marched past the glass with Kasi close behind him, desperate to placate.

Ilo wasn’t a pacifier, but she desired sex tonight. Reaching for Velto’s arm, she grinned when the bizak jerked free of her. Their armed escorts smirked as Velto told her to ride-off.

Neither man understood a word of Ramaxi, but a lover’s quarrel sounded similar in any language.

“You don’t know when to shut up, Velts,”

“What?” she turned, walking backward.

“Helovx owned this planet for a long time,”

“We’re the original custodians of this world,”

“No, our ancestors were,” said Ilo. “We’re nothing like the Femati. If you want to get technical, we’re more like helovx.”

“Forgive me, Doctor Cux,” the bizak mocked. “I wasn’t aware of your authority on helovx-studies or your degree in femarctic anatomy.”

Ilo stepped into her path and stared down at her. “I don’t need a degree to express myself, short stack. You’re not a hizzah, so quit acting like one.”

“Are you calling me a bizhiz?”

Ilo turned, whipping the shorter citizen with her hair. “Just because the suit fits, Velts, doesn’t mean you need to wear it.”

At the sky-blue corner house with a gilded onion-domed turret, Velto opened the left stained glassed entry door for her, but Ilo opened the right one and entered that instead.

“That’s mature, Ilo!”

Their lanky escorts grinned, revealing stained sharpened teeth.

Inside, the foyer’s woven tapestries shivered from the opened doors. Past them, twisted columns heralded a sitting room, where painted portraits of deformed and long-dead nobility hung on dingy daubed walls. Thick wooden paws anchored almost every table, while heavy moldings of grotesque foliage crowned the cabinets. Scores of helovx women dressed in black and white kept these ghastly furnishings dust-free, and when the youngest of them curtseyed, Ilo twirled around so the girl could remove her shoulder wrap.

“What happened to the pregnant one?” Velto asked.

Ilo smiled at little Miri. “This is her.”

Ignorant of their language, the girl perceived nothing unusual.

“What happened to her big stomach?” Velto demanded.

“She lost her baby.”

“Where’d she lose it?”

Ilo’s smile faded. “It was born dead, Velts.”

The bizak’s round eyes widened as Ilo took her arm and ascended the spiral stairs. Light from the gasolier filtered through the case’s stone surround, casting flecks upon its narrow triangular steps. Her first day inside the musty two-story dwelling found her wondering aloud why the helovx insisted on stairs.

Velto had teased that Ramaxia was a nation of ramps because breeders couldn’t see their feet.

“I want to talk about the girls here.”

“Why are you whispering,” Velto nipped. “They can’t understand Ramaxi?”

“Miri is the fourth girl I’ve seen pregnant since we got here.”

Velto bristled. “Helovx don’t have scheduled breeding, Ilo,”

“I know that.” She brushed Velto’s hairtail from her shoulder when they reached the top. “I haven’t seen any children anywhere.”

Miri recognized the word children.

Velto raised two fingers. “We’ll speak when we’re alone, Ilo,”

Hand in hand, they moved down the passageway.

After Ilo dismissed Miri at the door, she entered their room first and turned when Velto locked the door behind them.

“Why do you do that?” she asked. “They’re not coming in here.”

“You don’t know what they’ll do,” Velto said.

“They don’t have to come in here,” she assured. “They got cameras,”

“There are no surveillance devices,” said Velto. “I checked.”

Paranoia was the norm for a Tenth-Generation heir, or so Ilo learned after becoming involved with Velto.

Ascension carried enough intrigue to entertain the most discerning digicast viewer, and Ilo adjusted as losing her makers to the oppressive laws of the Ninth still haunted her.

Uniformed thugs had collected her kerma, a male zaxir named Kel’r, along with her other kerma, Pik Altos. An hizak, Pik was guilty of ‘housing’ a male and rather than serve the rest of her life in isolation for defying the Balanced Citizenry Act, she opted for suicide.

Tavo Cux, the zaxir left behind with a toddling Ilo, abused bozkul to cope. Often too drunk to work, the new citbluz owner had evicted Tavo, forcing her and little Ilo to stay at various low-end citbluz. In time, Tavo developed a gashcolic infection that barred her from the cit-bluz circuit, leaving the dark blue zaxxy drifting from one gazten to the next, her azure zaxiridoe in tow.

Sent outside one day so her mako could entertain a couple of clients, Ilo had spotted another zaxiridoe. After introducing herself as Hib, the young zaxir invited Ilo to play with her and her subakidoe sibs, Po and Bulata.

Hib’s makers appeared at nightfall, and the subak among them had commented on Ilo’s filthy dress and ill-fitting sandals. The tallest, a handsome hizak named Dak, asked Ilo where her maker was hiding. Unwilling to say, little Ilo hid behind her new friend until the subak asked Hib to say goodbye.

Ilo had watched them all cross the street, desperate to be part of a real pod. Midnight came and went with her laying on the playscape’s pebbles, counting all the Toxis skyline lights.

Suddenly, Hib had reappeared with her birther-mak, a zaxir also named Hib. Unlike the subak, the nice zaxxy had asked Ilo if her mak came down yet. When Ilo shook her head, the pretty belly waved over Dak and told her to take Ilo and Hibby across the street for some sweets.

Ilo wasn’t supposed to leave the swings, but when Hib grabbed her hand and hugged her, she’d felt safe. She’d been enjoying her first delicious cup of frozen kelsub cream when the adults found her mako dead in their room. Hib’s mak had returned with four aging bellies and a bald bruiser in a black-and-white uniform. She hadn’t cried when they told her of Tavo’s death, but tears came a week later when representatives from a caste center in Toxis removed her from Hib’s pod.

Ilo had then lived eight months with a group of pod-less zaxiridoe, reuniting with Hib while waiting in line to enter a Zaxiri House. The ten-year-old’s had stood beside one another to secure placement within the same Clutch.

“Velts?” Ilo called. “Have you heard from Hib?”

“Wait until you hear this,” Velto yelled from the bathroom. “You know that icer-cast she does on the interHive?”

“The one where she takes a shower, naked?” No matter how many pretentious skills Hibby learned at that Subaki Citizenry Center, she remained a zaxxy-whore at heart.

Three years passed at the Zaxiri House before Ilo noticed that her best friend wasn’t like other zaxiri. Twelve-year-old Hibby spent more time with their subak instructors and preferred reading over masturbating. Not long after, she’d gotten relocated to the Transitional Center across the street.

While Ilo learned about inducing burxols and being beautiful, Hib discovered where donats came from and how to balance a credit account.

“I logged on and left a comment,” said Velto. “So, she took me private.”

Jealousy whispered in Ilo’s ears.

“She asked about you,” the bizak called out, “How we were doing and shit, but she cut it short, said she was late for her mid-day, with Dyb Kul.”

Ilo’s mouth fell. “When did Dyb get a pass to free-ride?”

Velto replied while cleaning her teeth.

“Since dib guta bund brak,”

“Bond-break?” Ilo gasped. “It’s about time.”

Dyb finally got rid of Ebi Tat.

Before meeting Dyb, the subak had snared the affections of zaxir heiress Pitasa Jyr, at a Subaxir Socials. Theirs was a love born of first-time orgasms; even Ilo had fixated on the subby who’d first burned her.

Ebi and Pitasa had drifted apart when mandated socials with other castes began, but they’d reunited during their twenty at a Mynu gathering hosted by Dyb Kul.

Dyb and Ebi had become intimate and sought to connect with Pitasa, then a celebrity socialite. Pitasa soon brought her favorite bluz-buddy into their throuple, a strapping marix named Fos Tis, and all was well until Pitasa went axibosal.

Before bonding, Ebi had tried to push the bipolar Pitasa out of their lives, and the zaxir retaliated by outing Ebi’s illicit affairs with Ninth-Gen hizaki. Tired of the drama, Fos had abandoned the relationship during patch-collections, though her feelings for Dyb had been rumored strong.

“I don’t know why Dyb stayed,” said Ilo.

“Dyb had a donation to bring up.” Stripped out of her black suit, the petite Velto strutted by with her back straight, giving off that perception of an extra inch.

“What does that mean?” Ilo asked, watching as Velto pulled on an ugly sleeveless green undershirt that Ilo swore she’d tossed into the garbage months ago.

“What does what mean?” Velto unfurled her stretching mat.

“You think I don’t appreciate citizens that want to raise donations?” Ilo bore four citizens because doing so was her caste’s sole purpose, yet being zaxir, she held no desire to raise them.

“That’s not what I said, Ilo.”

Caught projecting, guilt seeped in like a bad smell. “It wasn’t fair of me to birth all those donats and tell you we couldn’t raise them. Thinking about it makes me moody.”

“Everything makes you moody these days,” said Velto, inhaling as she raised both her honey-brown arms to the ceiling. On the exhale, she bent over to grab her ankles, pulling the hem of her tight green shorts up to expose the miniature globes of her backswell.

Ilo’s desire for that tiny swell made her feel like one of those freaks with a taste for donats.

“What were you yapping about earlier?” Velto asked.

Ilo started. “I don’t yap,”

“You always yap,” Velto straightened up with her feet together tight. “You’re like a penguin that lost his egg.”

“The girls here get pregnant,” Ilo said, “and at eight months in-”

“-Helovx carry their young for a long time—”

“—at eight months in, I don’t see them for a week.” Ilo moved to the end of the bed for a better view of the bizak stretching. “They come back, not pregnant, and when I ask if they delivered, they all say they lost their baby.”

Velto bent at the knees, her arms up and out.

“Miscarriage is common, Ilo.”

“Not that common.” She wished she’d brought her Filmark; her social account, ‘Zax-Life,’ contained hundreds of freezes of an unwitting Velto. “Every girl I’ve met has been pregnant at least once in the year we’ve been here, but there are no babies.”

“They’re emerging from years of radiation exposure.” Velto rationalized. “Their chromosomes are still adapting.”

“There are no donations here,” she said.

“We’ve seen donats,” Velto said, inhaling.

“Two, in that rabbi woman’s house.” She grimaced when Velto’s spine cracked. “There’re no kids here, period.”

Velto exhaled. “They’re keeping them from us.”

“That’s weird, hiding their donats.” Ilo peeled off the cloying jumpsuit. Shoving the fabric past her ankles, she grasped it with her toes and tossed it across the room. “There are pregnant girls around, though.”

She plucked up her favorite moisturizer from dozens of atomizer bottles and scented creams on the nightstand. Pressing a line of goo along her azure forearm, she noticed her white spots brighter today. A few years ago, everything had started dulling, and Ilo dreaded the first well-meaning article citing her as an example of how zaxiri beauty faded with age.

Yet life in Uralskey had reset her hormonal clock. Her gashcol had regained its juice, and her hide’s suppleness was coming back.

“How can you tell when they’re pregnant?” Velto’s eyes followed Ilo’s busy hands. “They’re all so damn skinny.”

“Skinny is relative, Velts,” she said, reaching for her sea-salt moisturizer. “Are bizzies unhealthy because they’re shaped like seaweed?”

“Good point,” Velto noted with a shrug.

Ilo grinned. “I can smell a pregnant helovx.”

Velto watched intently as Ilo’s fingertips rolled over the folds of her thighs. “What do they smell like?”

“Stink aside,” she dismissed, unwilling to detail how human pregnancy hormones hinted at rotting seal flesh. “I can hear the secondary heartbeat.”

Velto approached. “I have a secondary heartbeat.”

“You want some attention, doe?” Ilo crawled along the floor and, upon reaching Velto, ran her hands up the back of the bizak’s spindly thighs. “Let’s list everything you did wrong tonight.”

“If you’re going to gripe at me,” Velto said, marching away, “then have the decency to put on some clothes.”

Laughing, Ilo tumbled back onto the bed.

“You’re a massive gurxhole, Velts,” she said as the bizak folded up her stretching matt. “I saw this in you the first time we met.”

“Yeah, I remember,” said Velto, her hairtail swinging like a pendulum as she bustled around the room, collecting Ilo’s discarded clothes. “At the Gathering Center in Mynu,”

Ilo sat up and planted her feet on the floor.

“That wasn’t the first time.”

“It was in Mynu during some Prime Citizen shit. The whole campus knew you bellies were in the commissary. I showed up because I wanted to-” Velto paused. “Wait, the first time we actually talked, was in Toxis.”

“What were you going to say?” Ilo pressed. “You said you wanted to, wanted to what?”

“I’m going to bathe,” Velto pulled her hair free of its bind and pointed at her. “Your attitude better be different when I come back out.”

“Enjoy that helovx tub,” Ilo cried. “You’re the only one of us that fits in it.”

Velto had put up with her jealousies while they dated, but Fusada Kul made it her mission to curb Ilo’s possessiveness. One contentious fight occurred after Fusada learned of Ilo’s hand in pushing Ozbi Tis out of Velto’s life. Though threatened, Ilo had behaved amicably toward the subak.

Hib and Ozbi had become friends at the Subaki Citizenry Center, so Ilo was willing to share Hib as a friend, but not Velto as a lover.

Luckily, an opportunistic hizzah named Eppis Banto set her waxamist gaze upon Ozbi.

A mastermind with a breeder’s looks, Eppis was still a closeted monogamist. Ilo had encouraged the hizak’s covert fixation on Ozbi. Regrettably, she’d known nothing of Velto’s prickly history with Eppis.

She missed Fusadakul.

Fusada had chastised Ilo not for being a selfish waxamist but for pushing Velto’s first love into the arms of a hizzah that went out of her way to devalue Velto at every turn. ‘Foos had been more than a cover for Ilo and Velto’s monogamous relationship; she’d been their friend, and one night on the surface, their lover.

Velto had taken Fusada’s death poorly.

She’d refused to accept the finding of suicide and lobbied Marixi Administration to have the case reopened. When that weird armor got blamed for Fusada’s death, the bizak resigned from the Cloister and returned to Wram Constructs.

Not long after, sibling Zixas had tried rekindling their relationship.

Velto’s slimy kerma, Lekada, had valued the marix, and that favoritism bred an entitlement that doomed Zixas to failure. Estranged for many years, the Wram siblings reconnected after Fusada died, a side-effect of Zixas’s new friendship with Sofita Kul.

Everyone grieved for Fusada, but Sofita had gone insane.

The brilliant hizak quit Marixi Administration and conquered the armor that killed her twin. After First Office Uym ordered its removal, Sofita had undergone a condensed Orta training program; that’s how the misguided hizak ended up in the same barracks as Zixas.

Velto emerged naked from the bath, smelling like charcoal filtered water. Two dark brown lines ran down the middle of her tiny fronts and came together in a faint blue blotch over the unaroused line of her gashcol.

“What’re you thinking about, belly?”

Ilo whispered, “You shouldn’t bait the Kotko’s.”

“I don’t bait. I bite.” Velto jumped onto the mattress and pawed at Ilo with comical fervor.

“Make sure you do your best,” she said, pushing her dimpled stomach against Velto’s swelling gash. “You know they’re watching,”

Velto looked into her eyes.

“I’d like to think they look away when we’re doing this.”

Ilo lashed her tongue against Velto’s and felt her uzx tighten.

“No one looks away when I’m doing this.”

Velts loved the darkest parts of her, but bondship to the most beautiful femmar in the world didn’t stop the bizak from masturbating to black-hided bellies.

Struck with a realization, Ilo sat up, knocking Velto off the bed. “I know what you were going to say!”

Velto peeked up from the floor.

“When was the first time we met?” Ilo asked.

“You got stuck in the door of my building, in Toxis.”

Ilo grabbed a pillow and slapped Velto with it. “You thought it was Mynu because you were there for that coal-colored whale, Crixal Dox!”

Guilty eyes gave the golden-hided bizak away.

“You wanted Crixal more than me, didn’t you?”

Velto stood on her knees. “I didn’t even know you, Ilo!”

“But you knew her,” she accused.

“Crixal rode my sib,” Velto groaned. “I’ve never spoken to her, ever.”

Ilo burned with shame as Velto climbed onto the bed beside her.

“This cannot be happening again,” said the bizak. “You put me through so much shit over a zaxir I’ve never been alone with, ever, at any time in my entire life,”

“Oh, Velts, I’m so sorry,”

“I love you, Ilo,” she whispered. “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”

Ilo reached for her. “I’m sorry.”

“What’s happening to you?” she sank into Ilo’s embrace. “The shit you’ve been saying, the way you’re acting. It’s like you’re twenty again.”

“You love me, right?”

“I love you with everything that I am, Ilo.”

Ilo closed her eyes. “I love you. I do—”

“-I can’t go through this shit again,” Velto broke free of her and walked to the window. “Whatever’s going on with you, it has to lighten up.”

Ilo was about to explain, but she found Velto staring out the window with the weirdest look on her face.

“What’s wrong, doe?”

“They’re so many of them,” the bizak whispered. “They’re walking and talking with one another, starting their day,”

Ilo opened her arms. “Come back to me.”

“The lights are on everywhere,” she said. “Like, they come alive at night,”

Ilo sighed. “So, they’re night people?”

“Helovx aren’t like us,” Velto explained softly. “They need to sleep for eight to ten hours, and they always do it at night.”

Intrigued by such a weird notion, Ilo joined her.

A note from WriterObscura

Hey there - Ilo and Velto proved a more hetero-normative alternative to Eppis Banto's poly-marriage. The pair are monogamous and that's caused problems in a society where group love is normalized.

Velto Wram is a gen-heir, just like Eppis and Sofita - and she's definitely got short-dude syndrome. XD

Thank you for reading.

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Bio: I'm here to remain obscure.

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