Kuril Base North
Raxuta`acarol (Pacific Ocean)
1 Yubol 2228 0130 Hours
Unlike the other young men before him, he didn’t dive for a dark corner when she entered the room or collapse onto the floor sobbing.
Thick glass walls surrounded the room’s dark planks of polar tile. The circular bed in the corner remained untouched, its thick mattress covered with bleached sheets. Wu sat on the room’s lone bench, entranced by the ocean outside.
Prone to tension, his species required intervals of analytical downtime to maintain mental balance. This need to calm their psyche proved their mastery at complicating an already perilous existence.
Laxum Jyr moved her fingertips over the climate-control pad. The oppressive heat no longer caught her unawares; red-blooded helovx ran cold under the sea, and this boy persisted in turning up the thermostat.
“How are you today, Wu?” she asked in his native Hamgyong.
She sat beside him on the bench and placed the bag she brought at his feet. The sea beyond the glass cast dull patterns over his naked body, and his angular face appeared lifeless stay for the drying tear drops captured within his long lashes. She wrapped her hand around his upper thigh and relished how the skin pebbled beneath her touch.
Helovx males were stingy with their affections when it came to her kind, yet Wu proved more accommodating than most. Early in his captivity, he’d confided that her hide reminded him of the sharks that stalked his childhood houseboat.
Visible through her open robe, the impressive streaks inherited from her kermatic maker were a source of pride, but she didn’t know their hue. A femmar of the hizak caste, Laxum was color-blind.
Perhaps her hide did resemble the sea tiger, but the vilest folklore regarding the origin of her species claimed the femmar were sharks gone bipedal. A shark eliminated the weak and devoured the dead; it wasn’t sentient enough to warrant comparison to a Femmar.
“Our doctor informs me that you’re sixteen today,” she pulled a cloak from the bag and shook out the fold. “I’m a citizen of the Tenth Generation. I’m forty-three. If the next forty years are as eventful as the first, I’ll have no regrets.”
Wu stayed focused on the water outside.
“I’m aware of the chill you endure, this far down.” She draped it over his naked shoulders, her knuckles feathering the soft protrusions on his chest. “Tell me about the last birthday you celebrated.”
“I was twelve,” his voice pleased her. “My mother took us to the mountains,”
“Who is us?” asked Laxum.
“Me and my sister,” he said. “I never saw snow, it was exciting. On the way home, we stopped at a roadside stand. A plane flew over our heads, and tiny balls of light chased after it.”
His cropped scalp tickled her palm.
“The lights moved so fast and whistled very loud. I covered my ears. It felt like someone blowing a whistle beside me,” Wu inhaled when she lifted his hand to her lips. “The lights chased the plane over the ridge. My mother turned to us and said, I want you both to know that I love you very, very much.”
Laxum detached, letting his hand drop between them.
“Clouds were sucked down over the ridge where the lights chased the plane,” his voice dulled to a whisper as his memory took hold. “The ground shook beneath my feet. This black ball of smoke shot up like a blooming flower.”
Laxum admired her new manicure.
“Who saved you from the impact wave, Wu?”
“A man dragged us down into a ditch…mother screamed when the winds took her away,” Wu blinked as if woken. “Why am I here, Ambassador Jyr?”
Laxum stiffened. “My name isn’t enunciated as the English word, jeer. It’s pronounced like the English word, year. Repeat my name, Wu, and this time, do it properly.”
He corrected himself. “Ambassador Jyr, why—”
“—you were part of a team whose strategy entailed sinking an explosive onto our outer hull,” she tired of repeating this story. “Your team failed to assess the proper depth, and the pressure imploded your device before it could succeed.”
Wu petted the cloak. “This material is strange,”
“That material is called gwobix,” she smiled. “It’s like your silk.”
“From Antarctica?” he asked.
Laxum didn’t mind the boy using the helovx name for Ramaxia if he didn’t mind her refusing to call him human.
“It has a hole for my…” his voice trailed off as he lifted the front of it over his lap. “Is it for men, from Antarcti—”
“—no, Wu,” she asserted. “We femmar do not produce males,”
His eyes shifted to her open robe. “How are your babies born?”
Laxum loathed helovx curiosity. “Explaining the complexities of genetic engineering would be lost on the likes of you.”
“We make fish,” he whispered.
“Using our technology, yes,” she said. “You now have hatcheries,”
He closed his eyes. “We made you—”
Laxum palmed the back of his head and drove his frail figure to the floor.
“I’ve worked so hard in my resolve,” her shadow loomed dark across his bare buttocks. “I’ve progressed much in my attempt to interact with you, Wu, without resorting to abuse.”
Frightened eyes fixated on her hands.
Helovx males were masters at escalating verbal conflicts.
During her species outreach between the poles, their warrior caste, the marixi, displayed legendary physical cruelty. Fear the Fist was a term born from altercations between men and marixi; a clenched fist in the rectum quieted even the most argumentative.
“This obscene tale you perpetuate about creating us,” Laxum was no brute, but her kindness withered before ignorance. “Humanity was barely cloning cattle when the impact occurred.”
No longer content with his silence, she wedged her foot beneath his testicles and pressed her other heel into his back.
A soft cry came, an utterance of defeat.
“Rise, Wu,” she stepped clear and strode to the bed. “I don’t keep you alive to hurt you.”
The land-male lay dazed beneath the polar female; such was the world’s way, even on dry land.
The troublesome tingle in its snout dulled out of the trench the farther it swam from the structure. Calm ruled the shallows where brighter waters held nothing untrue.
High tides drowned the residences tucked within the flattened crags. Land kissed the sun only a few hours a day; that’s when the man it sought came here to escape.
A swipe of its tail brought it close enough that its snout sensed weak pulses coursing behind steel.
Footsteps drummed over a beating heart. Through the narrow window, a sudden turn revealed terrified eyes. The man dropped his luggage and fled, leaving behind a stench of palpable fear.
It rushed over the structure, forcing its heft through narrow paths until it found the man’s window. Snout inches from the glass, memory illuminated the darkened room.
Inside, the man’s heartbeat beckoned.