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A note from WriterObscura

Episode Four - Tactical Pursuits Arc

Femitokon Holistics
Marixitak Ridge – Ramaxia
8 Bamx 2228 – 0115 Hours

The Femitokon Annex resembled the skeletal head of a ramxkul taking a bite of the shoreline. Beneath its white conical snout were two dark doors that opened to a barren lobby. Two uniformed Komadon stood sentry before an intricate maze of ground-floor offices, and at their center was a single vertical that only traveled down.

Birthplace of the Femitokon Shell, the cluster of sublevel laboratories employed only the best civilians, all of whom tended to one patient, Sofita Kul. The Shell’s hizak host detested returning for mandated exams, and in her resentment noticed that Phasics primary overseer, Doctor Fyla Uym, proved conspicuously absent.

Riltav Gwo stood in for Uym this night, unusual given the Tenth Gen bizak’s dislike of hizaki. Her pressed trousers revealed her fresh from academia, but unlike most Orta-employed hizak, she didn’t wear thick-heeled dress boots to enhance her height; her lofty hourglass-shaped hair did the job well enough. When Gwo expressed more concern for the energy’s symbiotic welfare than she did Sofita, it became clear the Shell was her actual patient.

The esteemed young doctor’s mood soured considerably with the arrival of Donmat Fuzo Dox. Stinking of citbluz soap, the marix busied herself by touching the room’s many surfaces before hopping onto the elevated shell injection platform.

“Hey, Kul?” Dox stared up into the darkened expanse. “When you get sucked up there, is it like being airborne?”

Sofita pulled her uniform pants up and over her hips. “The cloud is comparable to being underwater. I experience a few moments of unpleasantness before forcing myself to breathe.”

“Like you’re in a Delphic?” Dox asked, hopping in place.

“That platform isn’t the dancefloor of a citbluz.” Gwo pointed her tablet at the marix and shook her head. “Remove yourself from it, please.”

“The cloud is pure energy,” humored, Sofita explained, “it’s not a liquid,”

“So, its fluid, but not a fluid,” said Dox.

Gwo tapped on her tablet screen.

“Speaking of fluidity, please refrain from transphasic morphing in pelagic environments,” she set her tablet on the exam bed. “The loss of cells was microscopic and of minimal concern, but physical morphing was never intended under such conditions.”

“Wait, you left some of your DNA in that dome?” Dox asked. “Hey Kul, you think there’s any of it inside of you?”

Gwo rolled her narrow eyes, both set beneath neatly squared bangs that masked the webbing along her brow-line.

“Have we met before, Doctor?” Sofita inquired.

“Briefly,” Gwo cleared her throat. “I had the honor of attending a lecture you gave many years ago in Mynu, Doctor Kul,”

“I appreciate your recognition of my previous station,” Sofita said in kind. “But I’m no longer employed in that capacity.”

Gwo sucked in a deep breath. “Komad Kul, as you wish,”

“Komad Kul, as it is,” Sofita corrected before adding, “My Donmat’s question is tangential. Did my body contain any unwanted portions of the dome’s tharspin hull?”

“You’re lucky you didn’t lose your fronts in there, Kul,” joked Dox.

“The Shell purged all foreign cells during the reformation.” Gwo cast an irritated glance when the marix hopped again on the platform. “Forgive me, but when chosen to oversee Phasics, I was unaware I’d be minding a donat.”

“What are you a doctor of, anyway?” Dox asked, still jumping in place.

Gwo snapped, “I believe I told you to refrain, toob-shit.”

Shocked, Dox looked at Sofita.

“Doctor,” Sofita fought back her smile. “Are you the same Riltav Gwo that finished as Primada Scholar at Mynu Neurological?”

Flattery brought the young hizak to life.

“Though still enrolled, I remain their top candidate,” she bragged. “You needn’t worry. The overall Mynu scores achieved by Administrator Gizul and yourself stand unseeded. I finished one point shy.”

Dox raised a pinky. “You’re still at the top, right, Kul?”

“I’m flattered by your awareness, Komad,” said Gwo.

“My awareness is of your maker, Tee,” Sofita said. “How is she?”

Gwo deflated. “Citizen Gaz continues to educate in Mynu,”

Tee Gaz, a noted behavioral studies instructor, had shared classes with Sofita during her post-graduate period in Toxis. Gaz bonded to an hizak classmate named Fevi Gwo, whose career in donational psychology made them wealthy.

“Their subak bond,” Sofita inquired further. “Remind me of her name?”

Gwo sounded bored. “My nestor is Galx Acari,”

Dox chimed, “I know an Acari,”

“I doubt we’re related, Donmat,” the hizak dismissed. “I was cultivated from a select set of patches chosen by my kerma’s sibling.”

Dox crossed her arms over her chest.

“Aren’t all patches selected by someone’s choice?”

“I doubt anyone took the time to plan you,” said Gwo, unimpressed.

Dox evened her shoulders. “What did you say?”

Unfettered, Gwo closed the distance between them.

“I know you can’t read it, but you do speak Ramaxi, yes?”

“Dox,” Sofita spoke softly. “Gwo is a member of Femitokon.”

“It’s your lucky day, brainer,” Dox said, stepping back.

“Not yours,” Gwo countered. “You’re getting written up.”

Dox pointed to her crotch.

“You can check this ticky-box right here.”

Unintimidated, Gwo’s lips twisted into a grin.

“Neurological science, Doctor Gwo?” said Sofita. “Advantageous opportunities abound in the citizenry sector. Why apply your talents to World Oceans?”

“Respect maintained,” Gwo retorted, “one might ask the same of you,”

Sofita looked Gwo in the eye. “I’m here because this Shell killed my sibox. I was in her mind when this operative energy destroyed her, and I woke with a need to understand it.”

Gwo swallowed hard as Dox moved in behind Sofita.

“This pre-existing connection to the energy says something of your success in igniting it,” she spoke carefully. “To answer your query, my prime degree in applied genetics best serves Orta as my focus centers on the curative evolution of operative energies contained within biological constructs.”

Dox interjected. “I’ve no idea what you just said.”

“Your Ornith has a brain, yes?” Gwo tempered her hostility. “All brains have a natural energy within them that powers our body parts and formulates our ability to communicate with ourselves and others,”

Dox furrowed her brow. “I know what operative energy is, Gwo,”

“All constructs age, like you and me,” Gwo began speaking to Dox as if she were a donat. “Those designed to serve, like your Ornith, have their operative energies transitioned, that means moved, to younger bodies when their current bodies get too old. I specialize in these transitions. Do you understand anything I’ve said, or should I draw you a flow chart with pictures?”

Dox turned to Sofita for tacit permission to slug Gwo, but Sofita delivered a silent negative with her head’s downward shake.

“Where is Doctor Uym today?” asked Sofita.

“Good question.” Dox interposed.

“Doctor Uym is on another of her deep-sea dive excursions,” said Gwo. “She returns at the end of the month.”

Sofita stared into the young hizak’s eyes. “Did Doctor Uym follow up with you regarding my concerns about the Shell’s unsolicited invasions?”

Gwo casually retrieved her tablet from the exam bed. “Doctor Uym reviewed your report on the Shell’s conscious incursions, and will no doubt address these concerns upon returning.”

“Odd that Uym didn’t consign these issues to you,” Sofita said as Gwo drop the tablet onto the wheeled chair behind her. “The Shell’s adaptive processes do fall under your vocational purview.”

“I reviewed the Shell’s synaptic activity during these unsolicited communication incidents,” Gwo said, moving the wheeled chair beneath her standing desk. “I found nothing unusual, given its maturity.”

“Maturity?” Sofita said. “You’re suggesting evolution?”

“The Shell’s more than a manufactured energy Doc—Komad Kul.” Gwo recovered quickly. “The Shell is a responsive being that evolves with each new mission.”

Sofita pulled on her uniform jacket.

“I’m aware of its complexity, Doctor Gwo, and thus entertained such an evolutionary paradigm. However, upon reviewing its previous host’s neurological log, I found nothing indicating the Shell capable of progressive growth.”

“The data you pulled from the Phasics database is outdated.” Gwo put her hands behind her back. “I made Doctor Uym aware of this error,”

“Error?” she countered with a raised eyebrow.

“I requested the removal of the outdated information as it no longer applies to diagnosing current anomalies within the Shell,” Gwo explained as Dox moved in behind her. “Doctor Uym informed me that the information available must remain as-is.”

“Politics.” Sofita shook her head. “Is that why I wasn’t made aware of the organics comprising of male neurological tissue?”

“The organic base of the Housing Sphere is no secret, Komad,” Gwo said. “Even the prior host knew its origins.”

“Keeping the initial subject unpolluted,” said Sofita. “My review of the prior hosts neurological-logs found no report of conscious, or unconscious, interactions, suggesting that any capability of evolutionary advancement—”

“-The deceased Komadon Kul never achieved total active cohesion,” Gwo interrupted. “Interaction, conscious or otherwise, couldn’t have transpired.”

It was Sofita’s turn to place her hands behind her back. “My readings led me to believe that maturated collaborations could never be part of this Shell’s operational path.”

“Did you reach that conclusion from the outdated data you reviewed?” Gwo shook her head apologetically. “We discovered last year that the Shell progresses beyond its operational path with each new life-threatening experience.”

Sofita inched toward her. “What about my request for operative energy records going back to the prior host’s adhesion phase?”

“I reviewed all Op-En activity from Komadon Kul’s first day of adhesion, along with every record of her synaptic activity before and during her albeit brief state of ignition,” said Gwo. “I found no anomalies, Komad.”

Dox advanced towards Gwo’s discarded tablet.

“There must’ve been anomalous activity on the day she died?” Sofita held the young hizak’s attention while Dox inched closer to the wheeled chair.

“I’m barred from those reports, Komad—”

“-Why is that Doctor?”

“My assignment to this Division is two months old—”

“-Yet you’re Uym’s chosen prime while she’s away?”

“Komad Kul, I assure you my qualifications are above reproach.”

Gwo remained calm, given Sofita’s combative tone.

“My restricted access stems from security protocols required by Orta Main. That aside, I found no abnormal activity in any of the cerebral interface data collected from the prior host, in the timeframe that you requested.”

Sofita stepped into her space.

“Does Doctor Uym limit your scope for a reason?”

“No!” Gwo pivoted back on her boot heel, snatched the tablet from the chair, and slapped Dox across the head with it. “—No one limits me!”

She tucked the tablet into her jacket before closing the distance between herself and Sofita.

“I took it upon myself, however, to examine all the reports available to me regarding Komadon Kul’s mental history with the Shell.”

“Except the day she died?” Sofita said, undaunted.

“Those reports, I wasn’t cleared to review,” Gwo then lowered her voice to a whisper. “What I did review was the readings for the fifth day of Yubol. The day you ignited the Shell in the waters of the Vosk’tulak.”

Dox averted her eyes, but Sofita remained steady.

“I deleted it, of course, as I’m not ignorant of the rift between you and the Fifth Office regarding how the division employs the Shell.” Gwo became stern. “Your actions, Komad, were careless. If the Shell had succumbed to womb-dream, it would’ve devastated this Lab.”

Sofita softened. “Apologies,”

“The Shell is my care,” Gwo scolded further. “Endanger it again, and I’ll lobby to have it removed from you.”

“As the prime officer and host of the Shell,” Sofita said, respectfully, “I’m requesting you, Doctor Gwo, review Komadon Kul’s cerebral interface data on the day she died.”

Gwo sighed. “There would’ve been no interface to report—”

“-Humor me, Riltav,” Sofita opened her arms.

Hesitating a moment, Gwo stepped into her embrace.

“As you wish, Komad Kul.”

Dox rolled her eyes. “Try not to squirt, Gwo.”

The hizak stepped back without missing a beat.

“If I do, I’ll be sure to douse your face, Donmat.”

Sofita came between them and motioned for Dox to lead their exit. Out in the corridor, Dox moved alongside her.

“That Gwo is smarter than the other ones.”

“The netting on her hide,” said Sofita. “What’s her color?”

“Yellow, with some light red and orange. Those webs are human-shit brown,” she slowed her gait. “You think she might be your donat?”

Sofita stopped walking. “Why were you late to mission-call?”

“I wasn’t late,” she balked.

“Remind me, Donmat.” Sofita walked ahead of her and into the curative bay that housed Orny. “What’s the standard time of arrival upon notice of a mission alert?”

“Forty-five minutes.”

“How long did it take you to arrive?”

“Fifty-eight minutes.”

“Do you have another definition of the word ‘late’?”

Dox came to attention upon the floating platform.

“No, Komad!”

“Get on board,” she ordered.

“Yes, Komad!”

Dox jumped into Orny’s open hatch. Inside, the cabin came to life with lights. The blackness upon Orny’s spherical glass face faded, revealing the choppy waters of the launch pool outside.

“Ambassadorial Extraction Mission Assigned, Komad Kul.”

“Thank you, Orny,” Sofita said.

Dox swiveled in the steerage chair as a map of Uralskey Island appeared. “Is it true what they say about the Slavs?”

“What do they say?”

“That they’re all mutants,”

Sofita hesitated. “The current generation is lightly afflicted.”

While the Russians at Vostok Station burrowed their way toward the original subjects, Israeli scientists had confirmed the collision of meteor 7341-1991 VK with Eros 433, an asteroid in orbit around Mars. Astronomers worldwide debated whether Eros’ dislodged chunk would hit the Moon, while industrialists throughout Eastern Europe came together with wealthy Slavs in Israel to counter a worst-case scenario.

Atop the highest peaks of the Ural Mountains, paid prisoners began constructing what would someday be the Ural Wall, setting the subterranean foundations months before the dislodged piece of Eros missed its mark and altered the Moon’s orbit.

It wasn’t long before the Ural Wall’s completed western portion became public. The impact occurred, killing billions, and decades passed as the rising Baltic Sea settled inland, turning Ural’s peaks into an island. Thousands of European refugees flocked to it for shelter, but the Slavs had refused them entry. Eurozone leaders deployed tanks to the unfinished sections, yet all met their end by way of Russian fighter jets.

Work never ceased on the thousand-foot-high wall; its last block set three years shy of the Yosemite eruption. After the Mediterranean had expanded over continental Europe, the Slavs brought the first post-impact nuclear power plant online.

Poised to survive the Dark Years, the Slavs luck changed one cold night in December 2037.

The Anatolian Fault had collapsed.

Intense quakes shook the Urals, yet the mighty Wall remained intact. Aftershocks plagued the populated valleys well into the Spring of 2038, but one such aftershock dislodged a snow cap at Mount Konstantinov. A lake near Putorana overran its banks, and when floodwaters caused a power outage in the main reactor at Mount Kamen, engineers attempted to bring it back online.

An energy surge in the restart process had cracked a rupture disk. Then, graphite moderator components from the compromised reactor hit the air and ignited, forming a massive radioactive plume that decimated farming settlements.

Fallout permeated the air and water, seeping into every living thing with a heart. The wonder-wall that had protected them now entrapped them inside a poisonous bubble. By the century’s end, everyone considered the Slavs extinct, until Sashonna Kotko appeared on the shores of Greenland Base.

“Those people are survivors,” said Sofita. “True hominid cockroaches.”

“I’ve never seen a cockroach, Komad,”

“You will when we get to Uralskey,” Sofita said.

Orny emitted a pulse of energy from his undercarriage and slowly rose from the waters of the launch bay. Extending his wings, he curled their pointed ends into a set position before suddenly soaring upwards toward the ice sheet.

A few yards shy of colliding with the cavern’s icy sky, Orny veered into a beam of sunlight and exited through a sliver in the rockface. Within moments he barreled past a high-haired statue of Fusofitakil, putting the Southern Polar Ocean far behind him.

Sofita collected her Filmark from the chair’s arm compartment and saw a message notification from journalist Koba Julo. The nosy bizak had been a compatriot of Fusada’s, back when she’d waged a media war against the Ruling Platform.

Dox brought up a visual of the Mediterranean Shallows below, where fuzzy remnants of Europe’s mightiest cities appeared like shadows beneath the choppy surf.

“I heard about the altercation out front of Uxcals,” said Sofita.

Dox presented her profile. “I didn’t think a report got filed—”

“-It wasn’t,” she clarified. “What was the fight about?”

“I can’t talk about it,” Dox said.

“It can’t be worse than what occurred with Citizen Utat.”

Dox turned in horror. “How do you know about that?”

“Orny was well within his rights to report her.”

Dox pushed back into her chair and vomited a sigh.

“Doctor Utat is a member of the Femitokon Division,” said Sofita.

Dox gasped. “She never told me that,”

“Doctor Utat minds the ramxkul at Orta Biologic, and I suspect conversing with you wasn’t her goal that day,” Sofita crossed one leg over the other. “I reprimanded her for putting a divisional officer in a position of vulnerability.”

“Thank you, Komad,” said Dox stiffly.

Sofita pursed her lips. “What transpired at Uxcals?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Sofita endeavored to tread lightly. “Do you refrain from speaking of your Final Trial because of the circumstances around my Final Trial?”

After a beat, Dox answered.

“I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t part of it.”

Sofita stared at the back of her head.

“I’ve no regrets about defending my life. I don’t repent my actions as I had no choice but to make them. I’m aware I’m the sole combatant in this century to take a life during a Final Trial, and while this brings me no pride, I carry no remorse.”

Tension melted from Dox’s shoulders.

“I got into a fight with someone I fought with during my Trial. If you know anything about my Final, you know it ended with one Brooder standing.”

Sofita hummed. “On the ice that day when you woke and heard Balru shouting victorious, you thought she was celebrating what she’d done to you?”

Dox faced her. “Wait, were you there?”

“You were angry. You thought Balru sucker punched you.”

Dox nodded. “I grabbed the first dultax I could find,”

“Your anger was misplaced,” she said, and then Dox bristled. “Balru made a strategic kill on Bol because Bol was her biggest challenge on the fighting ice. She took Bol out first, to avoid dealing with her later when tired.”

Dox returned her attention to the navigation panel.

“Right after laying out Bol, Balru got jumped by a brooder named Kil,” Sofita chose words that would best reach the young marix. “Balru pulled that arm of hers back to slug Kil, and that’s when her elbow caught you in the head.”

“I never watched the playback,” Dox muttered.

“Balru didn’t know you were behind her.”

Dox said, “I thought she attacked me,”

“When you fell, your Mortay Suit was barely blinking.” Sofita’s handheld began vibrating with another message from Julo. “Worse, Balru kicked snow over the lights that were flashing. Then she walked away from you.”

Dox shook her head. “That didn’t come up in the review,”

“Balru was subtle, but my superiors caught it,” said Sofita. “She did the honorable thing and admitted her error in judgment.”

Dox leaned back. “Her testimony was the proof that I’d been unconscious.”

Sofita avoided the lewd scene playing on her Filmark.

“Hey, Kul,” Dox pointed her head at the handheld. “What’s so interesting?”

Sofita turned the Filmark toward her, and upon seeing a playback of her sexual encounter with a Tenth Gen zaxir, the young marix turned away, head darker than ever.

“Dox at Daxakil’s.” Sofita read the scrolling text. “You burxed her in under a minute, Dox. That’s some superior oral skill.”

“Can you turn it off, please?”

“You prefer Silent Gen bellies?” she asked, and getting no answer, she added, “I suppose they’re more inclined to engage you one-on-one.”

Dox faced forward. “We’re over the Baltic Ocean, Komad.”

“Should I allow Citizen Julo to air this footage?”

Dox tapped at Orny’s steerage array without answering.

“Is Daxakil’s nice?” asked Sofita.

Dox shrugged moodily. “Second citbluz I’ve ever been at,”

“You don’t partake in the citbluz?”

“You know I don’t, Kul,” she droned. “You can stop acting like you didn’t get notice of my suspension from the O G.”

“The notice from the Ortosk Genbluz lacked specifics,” Sofita said. “It stated that you required time off to attend mandated citizen-bluzsh therapy.”

Dox remained silent.

“Daxakil’s is expensive,” Sofita tallied. “Were you a guest of Citizen Bol?”

“Yes, Komad.”

“Did Bol spark the hostilities with Balru?”

“Yes, Komad.”

“Did citizen Huro put a thumb to your pad?”

Dox thrust out her lower jaw.

“I’m not a waxamist, Kul.”

Sofita put away her Filmark as their mission summary appeared on the forward screen. Skimming the details, Dox aimed a curious gaze.

“This mission got posted to Terminal Sabotage?”

“Ambassador Prime Dag took control upon discovering the assignment error,” Sofita said. “Pengon reassigned it to us.”

“Primary said TermSabo deals with citizens that collude with helovx against Ramaxia.” Dox then turned to her again with a dead expression. “That’s faxucrap, isn’t it?”

“You’re quoting CM Ryo Uym, Donmat,” Sofita said. “Primary doesn’t employ terms like ‘collude.’”

“TermSabo kills citizens, doesn’t it?” Dox pressed.

“If the Primary doesn’t have ice to crack with anyone under legitimate investigation for anti-Ramaxian activity,” Sofita said, nodding. “She allows Uym to pass on custodial collection to the Axyrn.”

“You’re saying a citizen can be targeted by the Primary, or CM Uym, outside the scope of the Sernatae?” Dox turned as Velto Wram’s OHA file materialized on the screen above them. “What did Ambassador Wram do?”

“CM Lekada Wram wishes to reinvest in Wram Constructs.”

“CM Wram’s marking her donation for death because she wants back in at a company she abandoned when she ascended?” Dox’s assessment impressed her. “If she kills Ambassador Wram, won’t she lose her seat on the Committee?”

“CM Wram’s not after her donation,” said Sofita. “Wram Constructs once had three owners, each with an equal credit-share of the company. Laxum Jyr sold her shares to Velto many years ago, making Velto a half-owner.”

Dox scowled. “That’s why CM Wram had us sneaking around Jyr last month? She knew the other owner wouldn’t sell, so she sent us to make Jyr look like a fuck-up?”

“Precisely,” said Sofita.

“If Jyr did fuck up,” Dox put the rest of the pieces together, “then old Wram would make it go away in return for Jyr convincing the majority owner to sell.”

Sofita said, “Ambassador Dag outsmarted that attempt by salvaging Jyr’s position and shielding her from any accusations of misconduct,”

“CM Wram’s hizak, she must’ve anticipated someone seeing this Termsabo order and Pengon choosing an operative with permanent assignment between the poles.” Dox turned to Sofita with her eyes wide. “You’re the target,”

Sofita chose to pollute the subject.

“Are all waxamists as clever as you, Dox?”

The marix narrowed her eyes as a holographic map of Uralskey sprung up between them. “Long-range scans indicate decayed conversion electrons.”

“Uralskey, island of the damned,” Sofita mused. “Home to over nine-hundred helovx, all of whom have adapted.”

Dox swiped through the information on Wram.

“Is Ambassador Wram related to Zix—”

“-Listen to me, Dox,” Sofita put a hand on the marix’s shoulder. “No matter what vitriol Wram aims at me, you’re to ignore it.”

“Vitriol? That’s like a bad attitude, right?” Dox rolled her eyes at Sofita’s silent judgment. “I’m not stupid, Kul. I just don’t know that word.”

“Ignore any insults aimed at me,” Sofita said. “And under no circumstances are you to flirt with Ilo Cux.”

Dox started. “Wram’s bonded to Prime Citizen Cux?”

Orny’s proximity sensors dinged as they cleared the clouds. Two lines of flame appeared atop the curtainwall.

“Orny, disengage our heat expels.” Sofita noticed Dox staring. “Slavs use natural gas.”

“I thought they split atoms?” said Dox.

“They’re unwilling to enact new exothermic processes.”

“Five helovx detected, Komad,” Orny announced.

“Strategic?”

“The female carries a locked breech pistol, model CZ75. The males conceal carbon steel knives in their boots, each with a five-inch wooden hilt. Each male also carries an AKS-74 series assault rifle.”

“Tactical?”

“These weapons cannot damage my exterior hull, nor can they damage the Femitokon Shell. They can bruise Femarctic hides and cause blunt force injury if fired at close range.”

“Set us down between the landing fires,” said Dox, and when a woman appeared, waving, she cracked, “That purple head wrap can be seen from Ixco.”

When Orny touched down, the soldiers surrounded the woman.

“What’s with those metal hats?” Dox asked. “Forget blasting them with my digger. I can throw stones and dent those.”

“They’re called Hauberks,” Sofita said. “Empire’s founders believed in returning to the simplicity of earlier centuries.”

Dox huffed a laugh. “Because returning to simpler times worked so well for that twentieth-century wacko, Pole Cat.”

“Saloth Sar’s name was Pol Pot,” Sofita corrected her. “Do you read up on helovx history when not forming exclusive relationships at the genbluz?”

“That’s not why I got suspended.”

“You requested the same partner each time—”

“-I’m not a waxamist,”

Sofita smiled. “Circling back to our prior exchange, your grasp of helovx history does impress me.”

“I took helovx-studies to help my career path,”

“A grander credit stipend is required,” Sofita teased, “if you intend to spend your twenty with one citizen.”

Unprovoked, Dox pulled on her palm blaster.

“Leave your digger, Donmat.”

Dox said, “I don’t think that’s wise, Komad,”

“They don’t use energy weapons here,”

“We know that for sure?” asked Dox.

“The Slavs have unethical curiosities,” Sofita said. “No weapons, no tech. Not even Orny’s staying.”

Dox peeled the digger off her hand and stuffed it under her seat.

“Civilian engagement will be minimal, Donmat,” Sofita assured. “I chose our arrival to correspond with the late-night hours. Helovx tend to sleep until sunrise. Should we encounter civilians, you are to remain silent.”

“Yes, Komad,” Dox acknowledged.

When the hatch door opened, their greeter tried to enter, but Sofita grasped her skinny arm and drew her back out.

“I’m Tatiana Karel,” she spoke in Ramaxi.

Orny’s hatch sealed shut before he touched off the wall and drifted away.

Karel followed like a sad puppy.

“Where does your bird go?” she asked in her native Sladdish.

“It goes on a trip,” Sofita spoke in kind. “I’m Commander Sofita Kul, and I’m here to speak with Ambassador Velto Wram.”

Long strands of light hair snaked out from beneath Karel’s headscarf.

“Lady Karel?” Sofita pressed.

“Commander,” she reeled about in an animated fervor and parted her lips, exposing her sharp teeth. “The Ambassador told us of your coming an hour ago. She waits for you below.”

Sofita and Dox followed Karel toward the cinder-block bulkhead, passing armed men who laid their weapons down as if frightened.

Descending the wall’s broad stairs, Sofita listened as Karel blabbered about entertaining visitors from Antarctica; not even the cast-iron elevator’s clanging cogs could drown her out. New Warszawa’s illuminated spires burned through the thick white haze before twisted metal and stained-glass gave way to a patchwork of concrete cubes.

Out of the elevator, Karel took them over a narrow iron bridge that led to the city center. People packed the cobblestone sidewalks, their scabbed faces set in disguised indifference.

“Kul,” Dox whispered. “I thought you said they’d be sleeping.”

“Greater mysteries abound,” she whispered back. “There are no birds here. No dogs, cats, or horses.”

“Or cockroaches,” said Dox.

****

Uralskey boasted no tumor-covered mutants, yet its resident Slavs carried an unrelenting body odor that forced Fuzo to breathe through her mouth.

Karel led them to ‘the Divozen,’ a detached two-story made of stones that smelled like they’d been grouted together with human excrement.

In the foyer, three sallow-faced guards with guns slung over their shoulders stood at attention when they entered, but they quickly hid their weapons upon seeing Fuzo and the Komad. Decaying tapestries covered the windows, their mildewy stink mixed with the leaking gas from the wall lamps.

An enclosed staircase took them to the second floor, where Fuzo checked her reflection in the glass panel of a tall standing clock.

“What are you doing?” Kul demanded.

“I want to look good for Citizen Cux.” She noted Kul’s disapproval and defended herself. “You know what I’m doing. No one spends more time in front of a mirror than a hiz—”

“-Fall in, Donmat,” Kul growled quietly.

Karel escorted them into a hall that reeked of Pikat-Lilly perfume.

Thank you, Lady Karel,” Kul said at the hall’s lone door.

Karel displayed her pointed teeth in a smile before bowing to exit.

Once alone, Fuzo whispered, “Why are her teeth like that?”

“Another mystery,” Kul said, moving aside the door. “Knock.”

After hesitating, Fuzo rapped her knuckles on the dark wood. It swung open to a short, honey-colored bizak wearing a thick white robe. Large round eyes inspected her from boot to face.

“You’re a little young to be a Komad,” she said.

“She’s a Donmat.” Kul slipped under the bizak’s arm. “I’m the Komad.”

A sensual voice rang from inside. “Feeta!”

Fuzo stepped gingerly around the outraged bizak, desperate to meet the zaxir whose image she’d pleasured herself to many times in her youth.

Tell-tale signs of the zaxir existed everywhere; a heavy quilt blanketing a rickety sofa; two thick bolster pillows jammed into chairs; tabletops cluttered with various lotions and perfumes.

“Where have you been, ‘Fita?”

Ilo Cux’s supple hide resembled shallow blue seawater, with white spots trickling down her shoulders and over her thick upper arms. She bounded toward the Komad, the massive globes of her suzsch bouncing in the cups of her tight sleeveless dress.

“You’re as beautiful as when we first met,” Kul never expressed warmth to anyone, and it made Fuzo uncomfortable.

“Try not to fall in love, you hizzah-bark,” long-nails fingered Kul’s arm. “Feel the muscles on you.”

The front door slammed somewhere behind Fuzo.

Ambassador Wram whisked past her with hands balled tight, and like a storm cloud, she closed in on Kul and Cux as they moved to ‘the bedroom.’ Cux led the Komad to a faded painting above the head of the bed. It featured a blemished wide-faced woman dressed in an ornate and antiquated gown. Tiny specs marked the portrait’s surface and dotted its bottom frame.

“Remember when you told me about the crazy powerful women here?” Cux tossed her long black tresses back for effect. “This room belonged to Anya Mikołaj.”

“Who’s that?” Fuzo blurted.

Cux turned with surprise before smiling at Fuzo.

Kul stood enticed by the image. “Anya brought Pita Ikat to this very bed and watched her palm her husband’s neck.”

Cux grimaced. “I’ve been riding Velto where a murder happened?”

“Anya wanted the marixi gone.” Kul was more excited by history than by Ramaxia’s former Prime Citizen. “She served the Kotko’s to Ikat in return for the promise of peace.”

“Sorry, doe,” the zaxir moved into Fuzo’s space; her lush black hair smelled of sweet paluxi fruit. “Who are you?”

Fuzo straightened her back. “I’m Donmat Fuzo Dox.”

“Dox?” Cux said flatly before turning to Kul.

“This is the Donmat’s first diplomatic retrieval,” said Kul.

The zaxir stared at the hizak. “Your gurxholiness surpasses my wildest expectations, Sofita.”

Kul smirked, another unusual display of emotion.

“Honestly,” Cux complained. “It’s like, in your genes to be diabolical.”

“Komad,” Wram’s voice dripped with malice. “How is it that you’re here?”

“Protocol dictates Surface Operational must retrieve diplomats from helovx-nations where impending extraction elevates the potential for hostility,” Kul droned. “As agents of the Sorority of Defense, we’re duty-bound to serve the OHA when no operatives are available for expedited extraction.”

Cux giggled. “There’s still a brainer underneath all that brawn.”

“You’re a Femitokon,” Wram said. “There are no males here to murder.”

Cux scolded her. “Velto!”

The short bizak stepped to Kul and pointed up at her. “You’ll exit my residence until I call you.”

No matter how ugly Wram behaved, ignore it. Desperate to follow Kul’s orders, Fuzo reminded herself that Kul did murder the Ambassador’s sibling.

“I’ll be on the north wall,” Kul said, marching to the door.

“When you get there, Komad,” Wram snapped. “Jump off it.”

Kul paused without turning, then exited into the hall. Fuzo followed, emerging in time to see Kul punch an iron sconce off the wall.

“Donmat,” she said, calm. “You are to remain with Ambassador-”

“-Komad?” Fuzo interrupted. “My senses are in overdrive,”

Kul nodded. “Heightened, as if you’re at the citbluz?”

Fuzo nodded back.

“Control it,” Kul warned. “Get back in there.”

“Where will you be?”

“Jumping off the North Wall,” she said, walking.

When Fuzo reentered, the bodacious Cux greeted her.

“Hey Velts, this is Fuzo,” she said. “Fuzodox.”

Wram put her hands on her hips and gaped at Fuzo’s face.

“Are you shitting me?” she said. “That crazy hizzah,”

Cux’s eyes came to life. “That’s what I said.”

Before Fuzo could inquire, the Komad reappeared. “Karel’s in the lobby. I’m to inform you, Wram the Younger, that the emperor wishes an audience.”

“Emperor?” Fuzo said. “I thought they had a queen?”

“Get rid of her, Donmat,” Wram pointed at Fuzo. “You tell Karel we’ll be there in twenty minutes. Tell her, don’t ask her.”

“Kasi was born female,” Cux spoke to Kul. “Boris Kotko might be Kasi’s father.”

Fuzo halted when Kul brought up a hand.

“Kotko bone cannot sit on the throne, Ambassador.”

“The Kotko brothers don’t care,” Wram said. “Like you, Komad, they do what they want in the name of self-preservation.”

Kul lunged at the Ambassador, but Fuzo caught her before she could lay a hand on the unfettered bizak.

“Sofita, let’s go downstairs for a stroll,” Cux took hold of Kul’s arm and quickly steered her toward the door. “The Donmat will go with the Ambassador to see Kasi.”

Fuzo studied the zaxir’s abundant backswell as it bounced with each step. Entranced, she failed to realize the shorter bizak was now in her space.

“What are you looking at, Donmat?”

Fuzo stammered. “I was, wondering—”

“-Wondering if that backswell has a crack in it?” Wram nodded, and when Fuzo grinned, the bizak shouted, “Get your bald girz downstairs and deal with Karel.”

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A note from WriterObscura

Hey there, I introduced Riltav Gwo in the Tactical Pursuits arc, but her character doesn't feature prominently until much later in the series. She a bullish sort of hizak that thrives in World Oceans because marixi love to throw down and aren't threatened too much by verbal insults.

When this episode posted at Patreon, many readers noted the high amount of technobabble. Hizaki often employ words no normal citizen uses in everyday conversation, and combined with the intricacies of genetics and phasic energy - made their conversation hard to follow. Sorry. :(

I enjoyed writing Dox and Kul in this one.

Thank you for reading.


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WriterObscura

Bio: I'm here to remain obscure.

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