Sorority of Defense Mission
Classified Information Recovery 80
9 Bamx 2228 – 1530 Hours
Splintered plateaus appeared like ghostly mile-markers.
Sofita stroked her way into a colony of sea turtles, their nodding heads indifferent to her lack of formation.
The Shell hadn’t spoken since Ilo’s death. No whispers came while aboard the Orcinus. No snide observations during her talk with Fyla, or a kind word regarding Kilvx.
Behind her eyes, she conjured the paxicol she shared with Fusada, regretting her comment to Kilvx about Fusada deeming her expendable. The truth was that Sofita had made herself expendable, and Fusada had accepted it without a fight.
“I found out you resigned from Marixi Administration.” Fusada stands over her. “Sold that fancy high-rise of yours in Pikalit, too.”
“I’m not suicidal if that’s what you’re asking,”
“Liar.” Fusada leans into her line of vision. “I pulled your self-termination request.”
Sofita lifts her head. “You had no right—”
“-We share a gen-code, ‘Fita!” Fusada sighs and then says, “I’m not here to lecture you.”
“Then let me sleep,”
“We need to talk about this shit.” She sits on the floor, staring up at her. “If he’s with Ryo, then something ties them together. Maybe it’s that donat,”
“I don’t care about him anymore.”
“You don’t care about anything anymore, I guess.”
Sofita looks into her eyes. “You resent my not aligning my life to yours so much, you’d deny me my right to die,”
“No ‘Fita, as much as hearing you say that kills me inside, I’m going to let you do whatever the fuck you want.” Fusada jumps to her feet. “But first, you’re going to help me.”
Sofita clenched her fist as her body began rising to the surface.
Fusada opens her hand and reveals a Retraining Node.
“We’re going to fuse and coax the Shell into working.”
“The spheres are organic.” Sofita frowns at the stone in Fusada’s hand. “That unit you hold, is cyber-organic.”
“Listen, the shell’s energy is inside of me now.”
Sofita accuses, “You deceived it into adherence using that thing?”
Fusada nods. “I can’t ignite it. It must do that on its own.”
“You think you can communicate with it?”
“Not just communicate, but control.” The marix sits beside her. “The energy is a hair close to sentience. It just needs a mind to imprint—”
“-A few seconds,” Sofita interrupts. “That’s all it would take, theoretically.”
“Yes, I knew you would understand.” Fusada wraps an arm around her shoulders. “You want out of this world, I can give you an out, but you got to help me.”
“With our minds as one,” Sofita stares at her smiling twin. “We can manipulate it so that my mind can imprint on it before I die?”
“No.” Fusada deflates. “Not you, me.”
Sofita sobbed in the depths, that day too painful a memory. Quickly, she invoked another to take its place.
Kin Balru holds their writhing marixidoe in his arms. He stands outside the Ornith’s hatch, spoiling for a fight. Hours of surgery to implant the spheres had caused Sofita to miss Ergal Jakix’s recycle ceremony.
“You can’t be here, Kin,” she whispers.
“Where were you today?” he demands.
“This is the Femitokon bay,” she says.
“I don’t care what it is,” his tenor is light enough to fool the onlookers into thinking he’s a female bizak. “I care about you, and I thought you cared about me.”
Water bubbled around her as her body temperature grew.
Ziw Balru jogs to them and takes the marixidoe from Kin.
“Let’s go, now,” the marix demands, grabbing his arm.
Kin pulls free of Ziw and comes between Sofita and the Ornith.
“You weren’t lying when you said you’d walk away,” the anger in his voice becomes sadness. “I thought you’d reconsider after Styba, and with Ergal being gone.”
The Shell’s awakening brought a fire to her feet that tore through her flesh. Her hide coated in plated white, she thought about her destination, which sent her speeding through the warm euphotic.
Miles moved within minutes until she broke the surface near western Tasmania.
A yacht sped eastward loaded with Māori bound for home shores; shortwave radios must’ve warned of an impending wave. Southern Australia and western Tasmania would bear the tsunami’s brunt, while coastal Aotearoa might suffer a sudden high tide.
Sofita stroked her way over the coastal shelf.
Shouts and gunshots resonated as hordes of frightened helovx crowded the marina. A gasoline-powered vehicle collapsed the rickety jetty, sending bodies and plastic containers into the sea.
Sofita passed through the anarchy unobserved, ducking once to avoid a driverless pontoon cutting across the water. Beneath another deck’s weather-worn stilts, she powered down; one helovx witnessing a farc was a rumor, but hundreds bearing witness made it fact.
Scabbed remnants of barnacles seeking a home covered the dock’s metal ladder. Climbing it brought her to a boating shack with the words Docking Yard Business Center painted on its door. Strewn papers covered the floor inside, and an empty cash register sat overturned beneath the shack’s lone broken front window.
She retrieved an elastic patch from her uniform belt and pressed its tacky backing over the bridge of her nose. It instantly morphed into a pair of holographic goggles that displayed the harbor without its water. Tapping the right lens made the seafloor dark, with miles of erratic sea life glowing atop hazy shades of loose sand.
The target lay buried beneath five feet of sediment.
A minor tidal shift appeared two miles past the coastal-water mark; the riptide receded at a glacier’s pace. A fracture zone had ceased trembling somewhere far away, and now a minor wave barreled toward land.
There were two types of tsunamis: donational-waves developed at the onset of a seaquake and came in low with a forceful push that inundated coastal plains. Kermatic-waves, what helovx called mega-tsunami, grew large enough to frighten Ramaxia’s cybermarine life forms.
Sofita tapped the glowing spectacles again for a long-range scan.
In the lightened haze, she spotted the decaying remains of the HMAS Rankin, a Collins-Class submarine last reported leaving New Perth on August 4, 2184. The hizak responsible for sinking the Rankin was named Ubo Litx, a Ninth Gen who made the fatal mistake of falling in love with a human.
Suddenly, the shack’s door handle clicked.
Sofita slipped behind it as it creaked open to reveal a narrow Caucasian man. Grit covered his bare arms, and there was blood splatter across his torn shirt and jeans; his running shoes, however, appeared brand new. She quickly caught his wrist and swung his body into the wall.
“Dun’kill me,” he cried, facing her palm blaster.
Within seconds, a distant siren began roaring.
“Christ, that’s a quake alarm,” his accent made the word alarm sound like allam.
Panicked, he sprinted for the door, but Sofita caught his shirttail and yanked him back. Then, grasping his short hair, she drove his head into the door. She studied him as he lay unconscious; the pigment was typical of a dock worker, but parting his lips with her fingers, she found his teeth too healthy for a Tasman.
The shack started rumbling.
Outside, the fleeing tide had exposed the gleaming bay floor; she needed to make the extraction point before the wave’s pulling force drained the entire harbor.
Against her better judgment, she closed her eyes and returned to that day in the Primary’s sitting room, the day she’d challenged Fusa’s ruling to deny her rank.
“You think you’re entitled because you got that shell working?” Fusa rails, her cold demeanor rattled by rage. “Fusada earned her rank!”
Orestes sits with his sad eyes averted, jumping when Fusa kicks over the chair beside him.
“You hizzah-fuck,” Fusa snarls. “You deserve nothing because you’ve done nothing.”
Rage burned within Sofita, eating up every ounce of bitterness inside her soul.
“I’m not going to fight Gizul’s order that you cycle through Toob and Brood training.” Fusa’s eyes shine with amusement. “But watch your back, hizzah. You might just get killed before your Final Trial.”
Wordlessly, Sofita salutes and marches out.
Fusa’s voice follows. “I should’ve killed you before you could walk!”
Energy exploded at her feet as the Femitokon Shell came to life.
No one in the marina noticed her barrel out the window, her launch ripping the frame from its foundation. Seconds later, she hovered above the objective point and searched the sediment for the entombed wreckage.
“You located the Maruk,” said the Shell.
“Welcome back.” Sofita dropped into the surf, boots first.
Palm aimed, she let loose a pulse that kicked up a blinding cloud. The haze cleared to reveal an exposed part of the Rankin’s hull. Finger pointed, she seared a circle into the metal and dislodged the disc with a gentle tap.
The upper body of Ubo Litx rose out as if presented for recycle. The hizak’s sea-bleached hair swirled around her darkened skull, and within her calcified fingers, she held the mission. Sofita touched the hizak’s upper arm bone, still set within the socket of her shoulder blade.
“Litx did all right in the end,” said the Shell.
Sofita seized the black orb, scattering Litx’s fingerbones. Cutting through the surface, she fired a blast of energy back at the extraction point, destroying what remained of the wreckage and its only Femarctic passenger.
Returning to the shack, she found the man still out cold. Powering down, she activated the Maruk and watched as Litx’s head and shoulders flicker to life above it, covered in blood and bits of flesh. The beleaguered hizak spoke over some twanging guitar and a gravelly voice; it was a tune from the mid-century twentieth, with a chorus about falling into a funnel of love.
“I’ve terminated them all without difficulty.
“Fusofitakil’s legacy was arming us with the ability to murder without remorse.
“Shame is a stranger, and guilt cannot live without shame.”
Litx collected herself.
“Crush depth for this vessel is two-thousand feet. I’ll blast through to the ballast tank when nearer to the coast. The release of pressure should create a hole in the seafloor big enough to dig my grave.”
Litx’s hand came for the Maruk, blocking the playback.
“Forgive me, Ramaxia.”
Sofita took aim and fired, reducing the device to sparks and a smokey wisp. Then, she turned in time to catch the oar aimed at her head. Snatching it from the man’s hands, she snapped it in two like a twig. The man grabbed a small fish bat off the wall, and when he swung high, she ducked, and when he swiped low, she jumped. When the club struck her midsection, she growled in pain and yanked it from his grasp.
No choice but to flee, he tripped over the door’s jagged threshold. Scrambling to his feet, he set out across the marina toward the only stretch of higher ground, a boulder-lined bulkhead.
A loud rumble signaled the donational-wave’s arrival. Marine life churned within its surge as it blanketed the exposed harbor floor. Atop its crest jostled a sidelined freighter, a tub toy fit for a mythological giant.
The fleeing man wouldn’t make the bulkhead in time.
Sofita sprinted after him and quickly reached his position. Slipping an arm around his waist, she ran with all her strength as water rushed her feet. Trudging onward with the man tucked under her arm, the lumbering ship’s shadow overtook them, and as water climbed her thighs, she visualized another time and place.
“You can beat their time!” five-year-old Fusada jogs alongside her when five young marixi pass. “You’re not just a hizzah. You’re my sib!”
No anger came with this memory, only pure love as Sofita hurled the man in her arms up into the sky.
Fusada catches up to the young marix who’d mocked Sofita on the track. She tackles her to the ground, and this makes the others stop running. They pile on, ignoring Sofita as she passes them.
Energy emanated at her feet, burning her hide as it climbed to her head. Shell fully ignited, Sofita rose from the rising water, twisted around, and fired a combined low-level pulse at the freighter with both hands aimed.
The mighty freighter butted against the pulsing shield she created, putting incredible pressure on her arms as the sea swallowed her torso. Glancing up, she spotted the frightened man peeking down from the tanker’s edge.
“Destroy the ship and kill this fucker,” the Shell cried.
Sofita thought back, ‘And put us in the center of a suck zone?’
Suddenly, the man flew over her in a running jump and landed on the bulkhead.
About to collide with the high rocks, Sofita focused the Shell’s energy into her arms and pushed with all her might. The tanker retreated a few feet with a muted boom, giving her enough time to backflip clear. She hit the ground running as the tanker plowed into the bulkhead, its nose buckling on impact. The land refused to give, forcing the mighty ship upward, casting a pale shadow over her as she chased after the man.
Many yards ahead, his arms pumped as the falling ship whined on its way down to crush them. Overtaking his position, Sofita scooped him up and flew them free just seconds before the upended vessel splashed down.
The Shell’s advance across the Tasmanian interior robbed the man of consciousness. When he woke an hour later and began struggling in her arms, she deposited him atop a parking garage in Mount Cameron Port.
“Something’s not right about Brown Eyes,” said the Shell.
“Explain,” Sofita said, watching the man flee.
“His heartbeat,” the Shell obliged. “It’s as slow as ours.”