Ninety-East Ridge – Raxito`acarol
9 Bamx 2228 – 0320 Hours
Ramaxia’s quest to map the ocean floor began with the first cyberized baleens.
Orcinus started as a clone derived from the DNA of a prehistoric Physeteridae. Physically mature at over 180-feet, she underwent forty years of tharspin replacing bones, and circuitry traded for vital organs. Commissioned as an operational Toxis Class Submersible, Orcinus received a kyrsbrain, and this enabled sentience.
Naming herself Connie, she served as Fleet Custodian of the Raxito’acarol and carrier of Nautical Pod Five.
Her current Prime, a marix named Bo Kilvx, had entered service as a humble Tenth Gen Komadon assigned to Connie’s sword pod bay.
Dark ebony webbing stretched across her pale-yellow hide like a fishing net. After earning the rank of Promad, she’d had a cluster of colorful seaweed tattooed on her scalp, the foamy bubbles around it, visible above her ears.
“Connie,” the marix tossed her axico onto her desk. “I feel ridiculous hiding on my own ship.”
“Doctor Uym has returned from her plateau dive.”
“What’s the word on our shuttle?”
“Crew Two departed Orta Prime Terminal fifty-eight minutes ago.”
“Did they deliver the Ambassador without incident?”
“Live footage of the Ambassador’s return is on the interHive.”
“I’ll be hearing from my sibs,” she said, pulling on her gray uniform jacket.
“All incoming communications from your pod are a priority,”
Connie closed the door behind her as she exited.
“Thank you,” said Kilvx. “There should’ve been a media blackout,”
“All broadcasts from Orta terminated at 0230 hours except for Channel Ramx, which reestablished its coverage at 0245 hours.”
Kilvx twisted her lips.
“Intragux overruled the Fourth Office again, huh?”
“It appears so, Promad.”
Hushed voices fell silent when Kilvx entered the command blackened deck. The cloying oval-shaped space contained dozens of standing interface stations, all situated around an oversized chair.
Kilvx eyed the large screen above before addressing the current shift. “Where’s the Divisional officer?”
The marixi on deck averted their gaze. Rumor had run unchecked since Ambassador Wram and Komad Kul’s arrival, yet no one could give the whereabouts of the visiting Komad except Connie. Nothing happened within her that she wasn’t aware of, yet she’d been asked by Kilvx to refrain from answering questions put to the crew.
“Promad?” navigational officer Ixo Bos caught Kilvx before she could exit. Then, observing the others, she whispered, “Was that energy beam really Sky Sister?”
Kilvx nodded without a word and left the bridge.
“Fucking bounder-wreck,” she mumbled to herself.
Doctor Fyla Uym appeared in the corridor, the blue and red stippling on her arms, bright under the passage lights. Pulling on her blue medical jacket, she used her foot to adjust one of her tight leggings.
“Is the Ambassador still on board?” she asked, her russet hide flushed from her latest excursion. The bizak enjoyed scouring drowned cities throughout the globe, and her current interest in the submerged Indian continent found her aboard Connie.
“No, Doctor, we sent her back to Orta,” said Kilvx. “Your Komad’s here,”
“My Komad?” Uym asked, cinching her wet locks back into a tail.
Around the corner, they encountered the Komad in question.
Sofita Kul stood outside the medical bay, her blood-soaked uniform replaced with sedate trappings native to hizaki. Connie’s discreet physical scan revealed that despite her musculature, Kul was, in fact, an hizak.
“Stop scanning me,” she snapped, eyes upward.
“Apologies, Komad Kul.”
“Sofita,” Uym shook Kul’s hand, “weird seeing you dressed normally.”
Kul didn’t react to Uym’s inference, but the Promad gave herself a noticeable once over.
Kilvx often regaled Connie with tales of caste-snobbery from her assigned days in Mynu. Familiar with the Promad’s associates, Connie skimmed Kul’s incept-file to see if they’d met in Mynu; instead, she discovered Kul to be the twin of Fusada Kul.
Often, after imbibing too much bozkul, Kilvx spoke of the deceased Fusada, a friend she considered enlightened.
“Why’d Velto do it?” asked Uym.
Kul didn’t hesitate. “Law Five violation.”
“Cannibalism?” Kilvx said. “That’s rare between the poles,”
“Did you see the blast?” Uym asked the marix.
Kilvx huffed. “Everyone on this side of the planet saw it,”
“That was some precise aiming,” Uym said with a grin.
“Not for Sky Sister,” Kul lowered her voice, “she’s got every major helovx city programmed into her targeting schematic.”
“That’s not a shock,” Kilvx interjected. “The Ninth turned that thing into an offensive weapon when we were donats,”
Kul turned to the marix. “Yes, I suppose that’s why they targeted every Ramaxian dome, as well.”
The Promad’s heart rate increased as she followed them into the triage room. Naked beneath a thermal sheet on the med-bed was a Donmat named Fuzo Dox.
Uym took an immediate interest in her injuries, touching the young citizen’s wound, prodding at the torn tissue.
“A projectile to the skull,” she observed. She then looked to Kul with her lip curled. “Were the Slavs using the SR?”
Kul nodded. “They created an interface,”
Uym shook her head. “Studies established that humans eating our meats and vegetables enhances their intelligence and vitality,”
Kul spoke coolly. “What of femmar consuming helovx?”
“What?” Kilvx flinched.
“Did Ilo and Velto eat their food?” asked Uym.
“Velto refrained,” Kul said.
Uym shifted her attention back to the patient.
“Connie, let’s get her connected,”
“No,” Kul snapped.
“Sofita,” said Uym. “We must connect her to Mainland-Terminus.”
Kul shook her head. “No.”
“Then the Donmat should’ve gone back with Velto,” Uym said. “There are better surgeons in Orta, with a connection to Oli—”
“-No connection to the hive,” Kul insisted.
After a beat, the bizak physician leaned over the patient and studied her bloodied face. Finally, she straightened up and stared at the Komad.
“Connie,” said Uym. “Identify this citizen.”
“Dox?” Kilvx glowered at Kul. “Is she Crixal’s?”
Kul cleared her throat without answering.
Uym let slip a laugh before opening the Donmat’s left eye with her thumb and forefinger. “How did you talk Crix into birthing for you, Sofita?”
Kul’s vitals increased.
“We patched up, Fyla,” she replied. “Right before Pikalit,”
Uym systolic pressure jumped. “We?”
“You patched up with Crixal?” Kilvx accused. “Didn’t you do enough damage to Zixas Wram?”
Kul stepped into the Promad, but Doctor Uym came between them. “Crix carried my donux,” the hizak said to Kilvx. “That’s it.”
“There’s no time for this shit,” Uym’s blood pressure spiked. “Clear the room of non-essential citizens, please.”
“Yes, Doctor,” Kilvx said, retreating.
Kul whispered, “Fyla,”
“Get away from me right now, Sofita,” the bizak mumbled.
Connie disliked things left unsaid. Performing a quick scan of Dox’s birth records found Crixal Dox listed as her birther, but the names of both kermatic and makodonic makers were absent. Her attempts to contact sub-hive Toligon about this anomaly came with a message deferring Connie to the office of Doctor Fyla Uym.
Strange that Doctor Uym would be responsible for the missing names when her reaction to seeing young Dox indicated clear ignorance of her identity.
Uym removed her overcoat and rolled the wheeled seat she sat upon into a position beside the patient. She then swung the triage bed around, lowering the Donmat’s head right over her lap.
“How are you today, Connie?”
“I am well, Doctor Uym.”
“This one has some metallic debris in her brain.” Uym prodded at the wound with a stylus tip. “I need to open her up and assess the damage.”
Connie activated her surgical programming.
“Let’s dampen the bed lights,” Uym instructed. “I want you to maintain the Donmat’s vitals and remain in Stasis-Effect.”
“Doctor Uym, Stasis-Effect isolates me from Mainland Terminus. Such a disconnect may put the Donmat’s life at risk.”
“Connie, I thank you for your concern,” she said, “but I must request that you do as I ask, even though I cannot explain why.”
“I have reviewed your case files, Doctor Uym, and there is nothing to indicate you will engage in unethical activity while in Stasis-Effect. Therefore, I shall carry out your request.”
“I’m flattered,” Uym scoffed. “I need you to sterilize the room, and don’t worry about me. I got my micropan inoculation.”
The medical bay darkened as Connie carried out the order.
While Uym wheeled her chair across the room to retrieve a box of sponges and gauze, sparks cracked in darkened corners as dust particles burned to nothing.
A bright light centered over the Donmat’s head, and when a three-dimensional schematic of the marix’s damaged brain appeared above her body, Uym tapped the image to enlarge it.
Pulling a water spigot from beneath the tray, she rinsed her patient’s head with a mix of water and isothiazolone.
“I need twelve cc’s of sap,” said Uym, laying out a set of tharspin scalpels.
“Thirty-two cubic centimeters of sapolument will reduce the swelling by ninety-seven percent.”
“Yes, it will, but reducing the swelling to that degree will cause extensive damage when I start cutting around the tissue,” Uym informed her. “Remember, we’re not using lasers, we’re using blades.”
“You are correct, Doctor Uym,” Connie acknowledged. “I am accustomed to working with Mainland-Terminus and utilizing the proper equipment.”
“Proper equipment?” the bizak began cutting into the skin around the Donmat’s wound. “What would happen if you got disconnected from MT, and a wounded citizen aboard needed ambulatory triage?”
“I concede, Doctor Uym. The use of the word ‘proper’ indicates that the manual surgery you are currently performing is improper.”
“Every day’s a learning experience,” she said, setting aside the excised piece of the Donmat’s scalp.
Uym verified the bone drill’s power with a push of its activator button before touching it to the exposed skull. Boring the hollow cylinder through bone, she minded her depth to avoid the tender tissue beneath it.
After the craniotomy, she set the round fragment beside her utensils on the tray. Picking up a scalpel, she started cutting into the organ.
“I admit that such a paradigm occurred to me when you requested Stasis-Effect,” said Connie. “Part of my decision to comply with your request was to test my ability if ever isolated from Mainland-Terminus.”
Suddenly, blood pooled within the notch.
“There is an elevation in blood pressure, Doctor Uym.”
“We’ve exposed her brain to air,” the bizak nodded, “her body’s sending more blood my way.”
“Adjusting baromcol levels to compensate.”
“You know, as a donat,” her gloved fingertip pushed aside spongy tissue she didn’t need to cut. “I learned to map every part of a brain hoping to one day design one.”
“Doctor Uym, upon observing your interaction with Komad Kul, I initiated a genetic scan of the subject. I have determined that this subject is—”
“-Connie,” the bizak paused from her work. “Erase all genetic scans performed on this subject, and purge backup files of those scans now, please.”
Connie followed the order.
“We need to tread lightly here,” Uym continued, her scalpel scraping at torn tissue. “This part of the brain controls cognitive function.”
Fresh blood flooded into the hole and covered her fingers.
“Adjusting baromcol and sap levels for entry into the Secondary-Nodule,” said Connie.
An unobstructed view of her fingers floated before Uym’s eyes, magnifying the tip of her tharspin blade as it met a protruding section. She sliced open the swollen spot and exposed the crown of a foreign object. Uym pressed her index and middle fingers against the dense tissue, forcing the fragment up and out of its niche.
“Look at this monstrosity,” she held up the damaged nickel bullet in her fingers. “Humans will never win at anything if they insist on using metal projectiles.”
Lines of light crisscrossed the Donmat’s exposed tissue.
“There are seventeen pieces of the projectile,” said Connie.
“Shattered on impact.” Uym mused. “Our brains are too thick.”
“May I inquire after your sentiment regarding metallic projectiles?”
“You may ask anything you want.”
“Does Ramaxia desire helovxi to hone their killing ability?”
“No, I was being sarcastic,”
“Apologies, Doctor Uym,” Connie distinguished all remaining fragments by making them blink onscreen. “I rarely encounter acerbity and often do not recognize it.”
“Secondary casing splatter,” Uym whispered while examining the screen. “How much tissue did we damage on top of what the bullet destroyed?”
“Less than three-thousandths of one percent.”
“Can we repair the damage with base-cells from your tissue inventory?”
“I can repair the bone damage using my cellular compound stock, but I cannot replicate glial cells without connection to Mainland-Terminus.”
Uym sucked her top lip a moment before speaking.
“Are your neuroglia self-replicating?”
“Yes, Doctor Uym. I can repair any damage to my brain without connection to Mainland-Terminus.”
“Do you know why I asked you this?”
“There’s a ninety-nine-point eight percent probability that you will request I repair the subject’s brain tissue with my own.”
“I am programmed to save the life of any Citizen.”
Uym lined up a laser scalpel and a hair-thin sutures kit.
“I’m sorry for my rudeness earlier regarding your genetic scan of the patient,” she said. “We mustn’t elaborate on the Donmat’s pedigree because I’m sure she’s unaware of it, and it’s no one’s business but hers.”
“I understand, Doctor Uym.”
“Connie,” she began digging out what fragments remained in the Donmat’s skull. “Ignoring that you initiated an unauthorized look of the Donmat’s records, will you tell me if you have unfettered access to the Citizen’s Catalog?”
“I have limited access to the Citizen’s Catalog.”
Uym laughed. “Your mak doesn’t let you fish around too much, does she?”
“I do not have a makodonic maker unless you refer to Oligax Prime?” said Connie. “If so, yes, she limits my scope.”
Connie then added, “Doctor Uym, as a Prime member of Generational Production, do you not have access to the Citizens Catalog?”
“I didn’t ask about your access capabilities because I wanted you to find something. If you must know, I don’t have unlimited access, either. Despite my role as Prime Chair of the Prime Lab, I too must follow primada procedure.”
Connie couldn’t believe this, having seen Dox’s birth records.
“The collective is similar in its adherence to protocol,” she said.
“If there are any irregularities, though, my name ends up on the notes.” Uym lifted her gaze. “Only the Fifth Office and the Catalog’s Prime Chair can access Cit-Cat without mak-mak Oligax.”
“Oligax is not my makodonic creator.” Connie updated the brain map floating in Uym’s eyes, accounting for removed fragments. “Oligax has not spoken to me since my operative energy became self-aware.”
“That’s not very nice,” Uym said.
“I consider Oligax to be what you would term, arrogant.”
Uym gave a nod. “Her kyrsbrain’s a bit more complex,”
“Her unwillingness to speak to me is a testament to her egocentricity.”
Uym picked at a tiny piece of metal.
“Would you like to hear a funny story about the Fifth Office?”
“Does this story involve the subtleties of egocentrism in regulated hierarchies?”
“It does,” the bizak said, smiling. “Committee Member Wox Dag has a donation,”
“Ambassador Prime of Ramaxia, Pitanadag.”
“The one and only.” Uym focused on the information in front of her pupils. “When younger, Ambassador Dag fell in love with a patch-designer. CM Dag disapproved and used deception to splinter the relationship.”
“This sort of aggressive makodonic behavior is common among non-breeding castes that have birthed donations,” said Connie.
Uym’s heart rate quickened, and she paused. “What’s the most common behavior displayed of non-breeder castes that have given birth?”
“Makodonic-Hypervigilance is the second most common behavior displayed by non-zaxiri birthers. The first is Acute-Disassociation.”
Uym considered this. “What do you think drives the non-zaxiri birther to reject her donation?”
“There is no one cause, Doctor Uym. Prime motives established by researchers cite psychological distress from the pregnancy to detachment brought on by intense labor during delivery.”
“Send that research to my private terminal,” she said quickly, then returned to the operation. “Ambassador Dag’s lover, the one CM Dag scared off with her bullish tactics, can you tell me who she might be?”
“Given that Oligax Prime was the prior subject of our conversation, and given your query regarding the Citizen’s Catalog, there is an eighty-nine percent probability that you are speaking of Prime-Chair Hib Perkad.”
Uym giggled like a donat.
Komad Kul spoke from the observation room.
“Impressive, Connie,” she said, over Promad Kilvx’s laughter.