Tavitax Ice Club, Shore Drive
Pikalit - Ramaxia
8 Bamx 2228 – 2010 Hours
Twenty minutes had passed behind the bluzsh when Warixo Atiba emerged from its back door wearing a skimpy waist towel. Slung over her muscled shoulder was a struggling half-naked bizak named Koba Julo.
A talented journalist, Koba enjoyed status among her generation’s hizaki for her coverage of the Sister-Suicides. At the same time, her constant crossing of Tee Banto made her a hero with the Eleventh. Exiled to Antarctica City, Koba had developed a broadcasting enterprise called Ramaxi Entertainment.
Its first investor was Ilo Cux, who, in turn, convinced Eppis of its profitability. Channel Ramx struggled after the Fourth Office barred it a broadcast license. Unwilling to take such a hefty financial loss, Eppis had advised Koba to forgo the Bizaki Entertainment Bureau and release her programming straight to Intragux. Lucky for all involved, the Eleventh Gen matured with a preference for watching most of its entertainment via the interHive.
Eppis pulled her lounge robe tight as they approached. Her hair was still damp under the drying wrap, just an hour fresh from her appointment with the young arousal therapist, Ebival Kul. How fast her ruse crumbled in the hands of a sexually talented subak, the inevitable burxol, Eppis’s ultimate defeat.
When the transport door opened, Warixo tossed Koba inside. The panicked bizak scrambled to the opposite window, her robe parting to serve an unwanted view of her shapeless figure.
“I thought they sent Term Sabo to kill me,” she said, jumping when Warixo slammed the door. Before Eppis could speak, the bizak raised a hand. “This isn’t a Cloister Transport.”
“No, this is a rental,” said Eppis. “Procured for this meeting.”
Koba’s robe remained open.
“You want out of Channel Ramx, right?”
Eppis averted her eyes, and reaching over, closed the robe.
“I’m here to inform you that the Tenth is ascending.”
“We’ve got no Primary,” Koba exclaimed.
“Femtrux says otherwise,”
“Sofita Kul?” Koba spat, forcing Eppis to dab away a light speck that found her cheek. “The same Sofita Kul that told us all to fuck off after she got Fusada’s armor working? The same Sofita Kul that said Ramaxia isn’t worth dying for, let our donats deal with it?”
“Situations change, Koba.”
The bizak’s narrow eyes widened.
“She dropped us like we burned her hands!”
“I’m not here as a courtesy,” Eppis declared. “Your committee needs you.”
“My committee?” she leaned in with her arms on her thighs. “My Primary died in 2212, and Sofita Kul killed her back up.”
“We’ll continue when the disrespect ends,” Eppis said. “I’d like to engage in a mature dialogue, one I recognize you’re capable of.”
Koba combed her fingers through her long black hair.
“This was Sofita’s plan all along. Distancing herself until no one gave a shit. Moving up in Orta toward eligibility.” The bizak then sighed with a nod. “It’s the quietest power grab. I’ll give her that.”
“Sofita’s recent change isn’t part of a grand scheme,” Eppis said. “She’s a Komad with little chance of advancement with the Primary ruling Orta.”
Koba appeared to rethink it.
“My respect for you and my peers is unmatched,” Eppis added. “I wouldn’t have taken part in such long-term subterfuge at any of your expenses.”
“Let’s say I take your word for it,” Koba said. “What do you need from me?”
“That which Fusada needed.”
Koba grinned. “To embarrass the Committee every chance I get?”
“A talent you’ve exhibited prior.”
Koba laid back, relaxed. “I’d kill to accommodate, but my old Cloister sources treat me like I live on Tharso.”
“I’ll obtain a source for you in Cloister,”
“What about Orta?” Koba countered. “I can’t keep up with the shit storm without access to the shit.”
“Orta is irrelevant,” said Eppis.
Koba let loose a disbelieving laugh.
“Politics can’t be Sofita’s plan. I mean, she cut off Zixas Wram’s head just to get into Orta.” The bizak tempered herself. “Not to discount your position, but Orta is ground zero for any Primary’s ascension.”
“Whatever allies Sofita seeks in ranks are hers to seek,” said Eppis. “My campaign centers in Utama, and your media position places you under my purview.”
Suddenly, the transport door opened, ushering in a lofty marix on a cloud of savory cologne. She climbed in alongside Koba, bringing Eppis face to face with the one-eyed striped bull stingray etched on her scalp.
“Julo,” Bam Yuxi shifted her puzzled eyes to Eppis. “You’re keeping some interesting company these days.”
“I got tired of waiting for your red girz outside,” said the bizak.
The handsome marix smirked before speaking in that deep melodic voice. “Our CM1 wants to make the Committee your chew toy?”
“Same thing you wanted, right?” Koba asked.
“Cloister is your front line, Julo, but you’ll need ears in Orta,” Bam handed Koba a small palm-sized orb. “The unit is an old untraceable model put into service before the communicatory overhaul in 2212.”
Koba seemed to recognize it. “This belonged to—”
“-It was Kul’s,” Bam revealed. “You get caught with it, you say you’ve had it since she helped you infiltrate the Sorority of Defense.”
Examining it, Koba smiled. “This picks up the Prime Chair’s band signal.”
Bam moved her legs away from the door.
“Dismiss your green self, Julo.”
“I have a question.” Koba gawked at Bam. “Fusada Kul had one donation, a subak, right?”
“Kul’s donation is a subak, yes,” Bam confirmed.
Koba looked to Eppis. “She didn’t have any other donations?”
“Kul had no other donations,” Bam stated flatly.
“I want to believe this, but,” the bizak’s gaze shifted between them. “Bam, you logged hours at a Caste Center in Pikalit, mentoring a marixidoe put there by Fos Tis.”
Eppis recalled her kerma’s taunt about the zaxir, Dox.
“The marixidoe placed in Caste Center Five belongs to Crixal Dox,” Eppis revealed. “Fos placed her there on behalf of Ozbi, who refused to terminate the newborn as ordered.”
“I met that bruise, Dox.” Koba turned to Bam. “Crixal birthed her?”
When Bam nodded, Koba pressed.
“Is she Fusada’s? She’s gray like a Utamaxi Kul.”
Bam answered her. “Fuzo Dox is not Fusada’s donation,”
Eppis felt her heart drop upon realizing Koba’s observation. If young Dox wasn’t Fusada’s, then she had to be- “We’re not to see each other again, Koba,” she said.
The bizak made a hasty exit. “Don’t worry,”
Bam extended her muscled arm, pulling the transport door closed as Koba left them. She set her sloe-eyes on Eppis, watching as Eppis reached for the transport’s com-button.
“Atiba’s taking Koba back inside,” said Bam.
“I relay orders to that Podkomad, not you,” Eppis set her eyes on Bam’s rugged visage and avoided those prominent fronts hanging snug in the V of her silk shirt.
“You relayed orders to Zerix Julo, loud and clear. You wanted me, Banto. Here I am.” Without an invite, she joined Eppis on her seat, eyes roaming. “You’re looking good these days, all wrapped up and nowhere to burn.”
Eppis faced her. “Remove yourself from my space, Promad.”
Smiling wide, the marix retreated to the opposite seat.
“We can sit here, stare at each other all night,” she said, sighing. “I get one day a month to return home. I prefer to spend it with my donation.”
Life hadn’t been kind to Bam Yuxi.
Two years after bonding to a pair of cherished hizaki, she lost the first at Igitat. Before Fee Tat’s death, Bam had patched up with her and Iba Ukel. Seven years after the birth of their bizakidoe, Iba died from surgical complications stemming from an attempt to reverse her hizaxikogatix.
Orta’s mourning edicts saw Bam promoted from Terminal Sabotage to Marixi Administration. Yet, when Line Ukel demanded custody of her bizakidoe, Bam turned over the donat and transitioned to a command between the poles.
“Sofita Kul is not your concern,” Eppis stated.
“Kul broke into ISO Secondary. She killed a Ninth-Gen Promad,” said Bam. “If I hadn’t ordered Zerix Julo to wipe the footage—”
“-I’m not privy to why Sofita was in ISO.”
“That’s an untruth,” Bam leaned toward her. “CM Wram orchestrated Bumo to be a straight-up Jungwa-related assignment for Kul. Until you, Eppis Banto, put her in Vosk ISO.”
Eppis jerked her knee from Bam’s grasp.
“When you noticed some dumbass Donmat trying to hack your bivelox, you traced the hack to an Ornith in North America.” Bam grabbed her knee again, holding it. “You studied the queries and found what Dox was looking for in that database. You opened the unread message from Nazca. You saw the name, Jal Bos.”
“Take your hand off me,” she warned.
Bam released her. “You took it upon yourself to visit Sofita.”
“Interesting narrative,” she mused.
“Three hours before departing, you pulled Fusada’s brain-scan logs from the Project Femitokon archive.” Bam’s eyes flashed with amusement. “You dangled Jal in front of Sofita because you knew the Shell would react.”
“Let’s assume such a paradigm occurred.” Eppis uncrossed her legs. “Given the results of my alleged manipulation, I have questions.”
Bam leaned back. “And I have answers—”
“-There was a spike in neural activity the day Fusada died—”
“-But you haven’t earned those answers, Banto,” said Bam.
Eppis regarded the bruiser without missing a beat. “The tale spun by Fyla Uym states the Shell interfered with Fusada’s emotional state. Her failure in igniting it became too much to bear in this unstable condition.”
Bam shrugged. “Fusada wasn’t used to failing.”
“Did she fail?”
Bam’s eyes shifted. “What’s going on with Sofita Kul?”
“Not relevant to you, nor this discussion.”
“Here’s a bit of relevance,” Bam said, “Kul doesn’t have what it takes to kill the Primary.”
“Our path will be fought in the Cloister,”
“Fine,” Bam’s smile faded. “You don’t have what it takes to square off against the First Office.”
“Don’t bet against my resolve,”
“Ryo Uym isn’t like all the other hizaki.”
Bam stared into her eyes.
“Outwit old Uym too many times, Banto, and she’ll beat you until you can’t walk anymore. And afterward, while you crawl to that Vandosh estate of yours, she will have gotten there first to cut your subbie’s throat and rape your bizakidoe.”
Eppis’s heart pounded in her ears.
“If by some gift of fate CM Uym is removed from your Cloister stratagem, that leaves the Primary,” the marix sat back, confident. “Fusa Kul, without Uym’s guidance, is a rabid bear, and rabid bears always resort to physical confrontation.”
Eppis nodded. “The Shell awards Sofita a fighting chance.”
“If you know this, so does CM Uym. If she knows this, so does the Primary,” said Bam. “What happens when Uym gets the Primary her own Shell?”
“We’ve anticipated this scenario,” Eppis said.
Bam’s voice boomed. “That’s what I wanted to hear,”
“Remove yourself from my transport, Promad,”
“Before I go,” she raised a finger. “We need to address this tribal bullshit you feel extends to my crew.”
“I’ve made your position in this effort quite clear,”
“Let me clarify my position for you, CM Banto,” as Bam spoke, her amusement faded. “You cannot put an hizak in the Primary chair without our support. She’s more than aware of this. That’s why she left her caste behind and became one of us.”
Eppis forced a smile.
“The sooner you accept sharing her,” Bam added. “The easier your tactical pursuits will play out.”
“I’ll take it under advisement, Promad,”
“Let’s not speak again,” Bam reached for the door. “If you must pass a message, do it through Tis.”
“I don’t associate with Fostis,”
“If you plan to take on CM Uym and your kerma, you’ve already calculated a means of protecting your pod.” Bam reasoned. “Breaking your bond is the smartest move, and when you do it, Tis won’t take kindly to some waxamist tossing her sib to the ice.”
“She’ll confront me at every opportunity,” Eppis figured. “That’s how we’re to share information? My bond’s disgruntled sibling accosting me?”
Bam exposed her large cusped teeth in a smile.
“Covert communication is a beautiful thing, Banto.”