Kerguelen Plateau - Raxito`acarol
9 Bamx 2228 – 1030 Hours
Tendrils of yellow seaweed curled tight around towering spires of kelp. A group of whales cut through the flora with their thick baleen combs, sending up nutrient-rich clouds into the shallows.
Ramaxian biologists of old had cloned hundreds of blue whales, releasing those unfit for cyberization into the sea. Healthy rejects bred with the native populations until there wasn’t a whale alive untouched by their superior genes. That’s why, when Orcinus drifted over the flanks, she set off an undersea chorus of pulses and moans that required her crew to mute the decks.
The marixi of Nautical Pod Five were uneasy with a Divisional agent on board, yet their Promad remained unsettled by things greater than an hizak playing soldier.
Bo Kilvx hadn’t visited a genbluz in almost a year. Unlike most marixi, she found zaxiri unappealing; having grown up with three zaxiri sibs, she couldn’t muster the erotic enthusiasm. Zaxiri were also the reason she avoided most cit-bluz.
Acquiring lovers within Fleet proved impossible. All a bruiser her age could score were hizzahs aroused by muscles; objectification of any sort made her uncomfortable. Old friend Ryoz Julo had suggested requisitioning some subaki nurses, and Bo entertained the idea until finding every subbie in service was an Eleventh. She refused to ride anything young enough to be her donat; also, young subaki walking decks would most certainly distract her crew.
After Doc Uym’s first visit, Bo considered requesting bizaki medics, but her comrades in the PAC unwittingly convinced her otherwise; Pita Wex often shared tales of the mild depravities prevalent on an Arkelon. Even Deltad Polvix had recounted orgiastic stories that aroused Bo as a bruiser, yet troubled her as an officer.
“Promad.” Her communications Komad, a tenth gen named Luru Atix, looked up from her com-stand. “Priority message from the SOD.”
“Let’s hear it,” said Bo.
Atix, a black-and-white hided bruise teased for looking like she was born in a Cit-Guard uniform, shook her head. “Your eyes only, Promad.”
“I’ll be in the Ort,” said Bo before exiting.
In the central walkway, Sofita Kul came up behind her.
“My Ornith says there’s a message for me.”
“Orta Call Room,” Bo said, jerking her head in its direction.
The Ort was a spartan space with one standing desk and a gold-trimmed projection pad that took up most of the room’s metal floor. An undersea map of the Raxito covered the far wall; Connie’s traversed path highlighted in pink.
Bo stepped to the desk, bristling when the hizak moved in behind her. “Do you have to stand there, Kul?”
The ex-scholar brought her hands up.
“What’s wrong, Promad?”
“I grew up with zaxiri sibs,” said Bo, apologetic. “They’d stand right behind me and draw things on the back of my head with our maks lip jelly sticks.”
When the Sorority of Defense logo materialized over the pad, the kermatic voice of Pengon filled the room.
“Incoming message from Prime Chair Ikat.”
Bo whispered, “What happened to PC Zag?”
“I dare you to ask,” cracked Kul.
“Promad Kilvx, please acknowledge.”
“Promad Bo Kilvx,” she said. “One-zero, zero-six, zero-six, eight-five, MX.”
The logo spun while processing her identification.
“Komad Kul, please—”
“-Komad Sofita Kul, PRY one-zero, zero-one, B.”
Pengon spoke, “Komad Kul, there is no longer an alphanumeric at the end of your code.”
Kul closed her eyes. “Yes, thank you.”
When the logo vanished, the new Prime Chair appeared on the projection disk. Gid Ikat was an aging brute with broad shoulders and a spotted yellow hide. Her brutal face would’ve inspired more fear were it not for that off-centered left eye.
“Promad Kilvx,” said Ikat. “The Orcinus will retrieve Ambassador Po Das from Kermadec Base for an update in service training.”
Das oversaw the helovx-nation of Aotearoa, and ‘an update in training’ was Orta-speak for a ‘permanent recall.’
“Komad Kul.” Ikat’s tone hardened. “You’re the only divisional agent within range, so you’ll be carrying out a Sorority of Defense mission.”
Kul nodded. “I understand, Prime Chair.”
“Without utilizing your Ornith,” Ikat said, almost smiling. “You’re to make landfall for a CIR-Eighty at the following coordinates,”
Those coordinates led to a stretch of water just a few hours outside Perth’s submerged ruins. ‘CIR’ stood for Classified Information Recovery, the number eighty indicating the years between 2180-2190.
“Komad Kul,” the brooding elder went on, “You’re to destroy the data upon recovery and then embark on a SOD Code Three at Darling Island.”
Code Three meant sabotage.
“How much time do I have?” Kul asked.
“You have eight hours before a seaquake shakes the plateau,” said Ikat. “Fifteen hours before the resulting wave hits Tasmania.”
Primepromad Tyle Hibz, the long-faced commander of the Femitokon Division, appeared beside Ikat.
“Any questions, Kul?” she asked, her gold-and-red banded hide dull in the holographic projection.
Kul straightened up. “No, Primepromad Hibz.”
“Komad,” Ikat said. “You failed to return after that shit you pulled with the soon to be former Ambassador to the Slavic Empire—”
“-We all mourn the death of Citizen Cux,” Kul snapped. “As for my actions, I fulfilled a request of Rod’ntil put upon me by the Ambassador, as per the required conditions noted in World Oceans Citizenry Rule Four.”
“You’re on thin ice now, Kul,” Ikat warned with menace. “Watch you don’t fall through.”
Kul saluted and left the room. After saluting also, Bo caught up with her in the corridor. She’d parsed the information in silence; Orta was finally taking out the Bass Plain Bridge.
“Kul,” she said. “You think the Tribes violated something by building that bridge?”
“CM Jyr offers tharspin to them at a low cost, but only to maintain the Connector.” Kul talked over her shoulder. “According to the Second Office, that highway of theirs was finished at—”
“-The Bass Plain Highway spans Tasmania,” Bo interjected. “Maybe the Tribes consider the bridge a natural extension?”
“It connects one coast to the next,” Kul said, laughing. “I suppose building it one foot above the tidal flood plain technically makes it a bridge?”
Bo laughed with her.
“With the Ninth, there’s always fine print.”
Following the Perth Incident, the United Tribes of Aotearoa drove out the last Caucasians residing on Te Riu-a-Māui. After first being purged post-impact, the pakeha had returned to positions of power over the Māori after Australia’s government seized fertile lands throughout Tasmantis.
Then, Fusa Kul had decided genocide was in order.
After Ramaxia wiped out the last Australian’s, the pakeha in Te Riu-a-Māui had fled to Tasmania, and while there, reactivated the island’s hydro plants and wind farms. The reinstituted United Tribes had sent troops and captured their facilities, forcing the pakeha to work in return for their lives.
Many fled Tasmania to unpopulated Australia, where they’d found death at the hands of Femarctic soldiers. When more kept coming, Ramaxia intervened.
If the United Tribes allowed the Caucasians to live in Tasmania freely, the femmar would construct a conduit channel connecting the Māori’s populated highlands to Tasmania’s newly generated energy. It had been an agreeable compromise, sweetened when the Tribes requested the structure contain tread and foot traffic paths.
The femmar had built them a floating bridge that spanned fifteen thousand miles. The Tasmantis Connector’s long deck was attached to tharspin cables that were threaded through supports buried within the Tasman Land Bridge. Its terminus sat in Crown Hobart until fifteen years ago when the United Tribes petitioned the Second Office to build a coastal highway to Mount Cameron Port.
CM Wram, in a rare show of charity, allowed it, and the Tribes negotiated with CM Jyr for the tharspin needed. Yet, after reaching their tharspin quota, they’d planted anchorage struts north into the submerged Rushy Lagoon region and erected marine support pylons to Furneaux Island’s exposed plateau.
Next came cable-housing towers at Deal Island, followed by supported decks at Hogan Island. Clearly, the Māori had planned to extend their reach across the sea to Wilson’s Promontory on the Australian mainland.
The Bass Plain Bridge was now a year shy of completion, with a total surface measuring one hundred eighty miles. World Oceans knew these exact figures, having sent Orcinus sailing undetected beneath the Hogan span these last three years.
Bo tapped Kul on the shoulder, stopping her.
“We can’t do this kind of earth-shaking shit without authority from the Chamber,” she said, and when Kul made a show of being impressed, Bo folded her arms over her chest. “I may be stuck floating out here, but I keep up with the suits in Cloister.”
“Ikat’s Prime Chair now,” said Kul. “She’ll destroy the Bass Plain and offer it up to Fusa as a gift.”
“You think she’ll use Sky Sister?”
The hizak nodded. “There’s been no report of Zag’s death, that means Sky Sister’s primada access sits in limbo. Ikat will use this time to rock the planet’s mantle and make a wave large enough to aid me in taking out the bridge. If it fails, they can blame it on Zag.”
Bo tapped the com-pin on her lapel. “Komad Atix, begin Ambassadorial retrieval. We got a quake coming.”
“Promad...?” Atix sounded unsure. “Connie’s long-range sensors detect no seismic activity.”
“Trust me, Atix,” came Bo’s final word.
“Get clear of here before the wave hits,” said Kul.
Bo protested, “I won’t abandon you,”
“Nothing,” the hizak whispered, “must interfere with Connie’s life support systems.”
“I can drop the Donmat in Orta—”
“-You keep my Donmat here,” Kul demanded. “Until news from home reports that Velto is clear of Chamber censure.”
“Wram’s going down, Kul,” said Bo. “If Ikat’s cracking ice, then the Committee will do the same with Wram.”
Kul assured her with a smile. “Velto will confront any move to bar her from reentering politics with a professed desire to self-terminate,”
“If Velto suicides, then Lekada Wram loses her position.” Bo stopped in the corridor. “This shit’s really happening, isn’t it?”
The hizak faced her. “I inherited Fusada’s destiny long before I inherited her armor.”
Bo grasped Kul’s arm.
“You floated dead this whole time!”
Kul shook her head.
“You look me in the eyes,” Bo challenged. “You tell me that’s not true.”
“When I encountered Jal Bos, it woke something within the Shell,” Kul spoke quietly, her gaze unwavering. “It woke something Fusada left behind. I don’t know what, and I don’t have time to explain. I didn’t plan on any of this, I swear it.”
Satisfied, Bo led Kul to the Sword Shuttle Bay.
“I’ll take to the water from here, Kilvx,” she started hyperventilating in anticipation of a dive. “I need to splash off now if I want to make the projected coordinates in the time allotted.”
“Can you swim there in that amount of time?”
“With the Shell engaged, yes,” Kul then embraced Bo and whispered in her ear. “Fuzo Dox guarantees my ascension.”
Bo pulled back as if punched.
“Don’t wait for me, Kilvx,” Kul added.
Bo stepped between Kul and the water’s edge.
“Did you and Zixas?”
Kul rolled her eyes. “Don’t put Dox in danger by taking her back home, not before I have allies in Utama.”
“You can count on me, Kul,” Bo tapped her arm. “Whatever you need.”
“Fyla’s watching us right now,” Kul spoke under her breath. “You’ve got her interest. I want you to encourage it.”
“Encourage it?” Bo wasn’t sure she understood. “You mean like,”
“-Yes,” said Kul, hushed. “She can’t be vulnerable.”
Bo whispered back. “You think CM Uym would hurt her—”
“-Fyla’s already her victim, Kilvx,” said the hizak. “Victims are manipulative. Be the mark and keep her from trifling with us on Ryo’s behalf.”
“Hey, Kul,” Bo nodded and stepped back. “Keep your head.”
“I always do, Promad.”