Skody Palace, New Warszawa
Slavic Empire – Uralskey Island
7 July 2228 - 4:45 AM
Gaslight flickered behind rosy glass while grander flames danced inside a tiled hearth. Fire light filtered through the ornate mantle, giving life to the birds painted upon the coffered ceiling.
The radiation haunting their bones was Elohim’s punishment for their ancestor’s cruelty. When the world ended, and Europe drowned, the Slavic descendants of Judean Kings barred outsiders from sheltering with them atop Ural’s highest peaks.
Duke Boris Kotko had been a boy when he learned that without a vagina, he would never rule. This reality came without bitterness. Unlike his mother, he understood that a Slavic Empire ruled by Juliana Mikołaj ensured Antarctica’s continued support.
“Boris?” Juliana whispered from her bed. “You must tell Kasimira—”
“-Sleep, my love,” he held her cold hands and longed to take her place. “Don’t leave this world distressed.”
She struggled to lift her head. “You must tell Kasi,”
“No stress,” Boris whispered, kissing her hand.
Juliana groaned in pain. “She must remain the way she was born,”
“You cannot get worked up over Kasimir,” he regretted saying that name when Juliana lapsed into a fit of coughing.
He pressed a gentle hand to her translucent chest and eased her back onto the pillow. Before this bout of cancer took hold, she’d been one of the few rotund women left in their world. Blessed with stocky arms and an ample bosom, Juliana possessed a regal face that Boris saw in dreams, both good and bad.
Suddenly, her sullen gray eyes came alive with the passionate spark that once aroused him when they coupled. “You’ve entertained her nonsense long enough,”
The only nonsense entertained was their reliance on Antarctica.
Boris and Juliana had grown up watching Ramaxia’s unsentimental Ninth crush their parent’s dignity. Primary Kul and her poisonous Committee held little regard for the humans responsible for waking them to the world.
Emperor Mikel Kotko, a great-great-grandfather, had dispatched his daughter, Sashonna, to seek the Fifth Generation of farcs out at their established dam in Greenland. After many arduous weeks over shallow seas, she reached her destination and speaking archaic Russian, gave the farc guards a name: Ivan Balantin.
Balantin, set adrift by the original farcs, had survived the chaotic seas in a small metal boat before his collection by the Russian Navy’s last commissioned ship. Exposure to the pole’s frosty extremes destroyed his hands, yet he’d dictated his life among the femmar to a trusted secretary. He’s spent his last days in comfort, dying before the Kamen meltdown that would poison those not yet born.
Evoking his name had earned Sashonna an audience.
She’d returned to the emperor free of her severest mutations and in the company of laborer farcs. The farcs purified their water and introduced a means to grab moisture from the air and freeze it. In the decades to come, ice caps reformed in the highest mountains, and air quality improved.
Infant mortality declined, teratogenic mutations degenerated, and as a result, Boris and Juliana’s generation were the first delivered without brittle bones and failing organs.
The Empire’s path to recovery stalled when Ramaxia’s Sixth Gen came to power. Relations cooled when their Primary expressed discomfort with aiding a human nation ruled by men.
Loath to lose Antarctica’s assistance, Emperor Mikel gave his throne to Sashonna. Bedridden after years of troublesome pregnancies, Empress Sashonna Kotko had died bearing her third son.
Unsatisfied with Maxim Kotko’s crowning, the Sixth Gen returned to Uralskey and attempted to remove the water filtration technology they’d left behind.
Boris’s great-grandfather had sent soldiers to confront them, but those unfortunate souls met their end under the boots of the brutal warrior caste. Like the ancient Joshua around Jericho, the bald musclebound farcs set up camps along the Ural Wall, murdering any man carrying a weapon.
Concerned yet ambitious, Anya Mikołaj, his great-uncle Oleg’s wife, struck a deal with the warrior farcs. After arranging the deaths of the Kotko Dukes and her Emperor, she placed herself on the throne, outliving her four daughters, but not her grand-baby, Juliana.
Boris had been a boy then. He’d abandoned all thoughts of the throne and spent his teens building his body for a day when the farc warriors might return. After his manly ceremony, he vowed to protect his Empress with his life, and yes, Juliana was his Empress.
Juliana had blossomed into a plump woman.
Capturing her heart, seventeen-year-old Boris became her most trusted advisor and enjoyed this elevated status until the Ninth’s ascendancy in Antarctica.
A brutal regime, their leader Fusa Kul had destroyed the Australians before wresting control of her nation from the Sixth. Her new foreign affairs administrator, Lekada Wram, reassessed their relationship with the Slavic Empire.
The wily thinker convened with Juliana, demanding a reason why Ramaxia should care for a people that offered nothing in return. Juliana reminded Wram that the Slavs had liberated the southern polar femmar from Lake Vostok.
The haughty Wram reminded them that the femmar awakened themselves and suggested that the Russians were merely in the wrong place at the right time. She delivered further insult by scolding them for their pride in a whore like Balantin.
Unable to hold his tongue, Boris hotly defended Balantin, forcing Juliana to dismiss him from the room. Retreating that day, he’d heard Wram opine that slaves to emotion, men were ill-suited for diplomacy. Juliana said that she, too, loved her whores and found it best to send them away when they got emotional.
Her words stung, but they’d garnished respect from Wram.
Juliana begged the pompous farc to consider her unborn daughter, the Slavic Empire’s next ruler, before making a clean break. Pleading this imaginary child was successful; Wram left Uralskey with its freshwater technology intact and had ensured continued food shipments.
Then, like a suitable whore, Boris set out to give his Empress, a daughter. Synagogue bells had proclaimed Kasi’s birth, yet his refusal to adhere to his feminine biology remained a guarded setback.
“Kasi knows what is expected,” Boris assured her.
When he leaned over to kiss Juliana’s forehead, a bead of sweat from his hairless scalp fell upon her bottom lip. He grabbed a kerchief from his uniform pocket and brought it to her sharpened smile.
“Borisov, my strong man, with eyes like the sea.” Her last breath danced between them before her mouth went slack.
“Juliana?” he whispered as her eyes lost their focus.
He clutched her wrist and, feeling no pulse there, the dull ache plaguing his head exploded. Rising to his feet, Boris pulled the hem of his uniform jacket down, turned away from his men, and bit down on his fist. Pascha, his most trusted, wrapped a cloth around his wounded knuckles as the older women tending the Empress dropped to their knees, wailing.
Every man standing bowed his head, except one.
“Is she dead?” asked his younger brother, Yuri.
A stunted version of Boris, he was a petulant man who’d inherited the Kotko baldness but nothing more.
“Our Empress is gone,” Boris spoke at him over the wailing crones. “You will tend to the Duke.”
Yuri’s face twisted in displeasure.
“Let Pascha go to the Duchess,”
The gangly Pascha snapped to attention, prepared to do anything asked of him.
“Pascha will see to the servants as they must prepare for tonight’s obituary feast,” when Boris stepped to Yuri, the men around the young Duke stepped back. “You’ll go to Kasi, and you’ll comfort him.”
“Must it be me that goes to her?” he groaned, eyeing the women wrapping Juliana’s corpse up in her sheets.
“The Empress is dead,” Boris flicked some imaginary dust from Yuri’s shoulder. “The duke may now live as the man he is, and we will respect this because he is our Emperor.”
“If he’s a man,” Yuri mumbled. “Why can’t he want girls?”
Boris admonished. “The problem lies not with his desires, but yours. A true cock loves only the hole to be fucked, not the ornamentation around it.”
Every man except Pascha chuckled.
“Kasimira makes me uncomfortable,” Yuri blurted.
Boris smiled and opened his arms.
Sheepishly, Yuri walked into his older brother’s embrace, but his grin died when the man’s knee jabbed him in the testicles.
Boris knelt beside the felled man, now collapsed, and choking.
“Is that uncomfortable, Yuri?”
Tucked into a ball, the younger Kotko nodded fiercely.
Boris led his men into the waiting hall.
“We all must endure some discomfort. My Empress is gone, and I’ll never be comforted again.” His wary eye noticed the clock, its short arm, a sea turtle, hovered over the five while the long arm, a galloping fox, inched past twelve. “Mark the time of her death,”
“Of course, Duke Kotko,” said Tatiana Karel, a raven-haired beauty, too thin for his tastes.
“Inform Wram the Younger that our Empress is dead,” he said, then thought fondly of their other farc guest. “Inform her wife, Miss Ilo, that she’s to dine with us after sundown to mourn our Empress.”
“Yes, Duke Kotko,” said Tatiana with a bow.
Boris turned to find Pasha had remained to help wrap Juliana’s body.
“Take my Pascha with you, Tati,” he said. “A gift for your service.”
The slim woman bowed again and bared her sharp teeth in a smile.