Flashback scene to the first real conversation Ilo Cux has with her future wife, Velto Wram. Velto’s a biochemist working for her mothers company Wram Constructs. Ilo’s a celebrity famous for her beauty and that she won the Prime Citizen Pageant – they’re both Tenth Generation Ramaxian’s, but Ilo is a free-birth while Velto is a scheduled.
This scene likely won’t survive Holodomor’s edits–it’s a flashback, and serves no real purpose to the plot, other than to give readers a glimpse into Ilo and Velto’s relationship.
What makes their pairing hilarious for me is that Velto’s short for a Femmar – while Ilo’s the perfect example of a Zaxir, as tall as any Marixi (warrior caste). They’re a true mutt and jeff (caste designs above are by Amelie Belcher, showing what a typical Bizak and Zaxir look like–Velto nor Ilo are anything but typical.
SET-UP: Ilo’s a Zaxir, the reproductive caste of the Femmar, while Velto’s a Bizak, the laborer caste. When they meet again (their first encounter was brief), Ilo’s almost twenty, and Velto’s eighteen. She’s sneaking out of a party filled with elder predators, and her celebrity gets her into situations like this, all the time…
“Do you need help?”
Ilo startled, her body fell against the door.
“Ah! Citizen, you frightened me,” Ilo collected herself, “Can you open this door please, I don’t live here, I don’t have a key-card to open it, and the door’s shut on my dress.”
“…I know you…”
Ilo didn’t have time for a conversation, she tugged at her dress, “If you saw the Prime Citizen pageant, then yes, you know me.”
“I don’t watch the BEBBLE.”
Ilo recognized that condescension. She glanced up to find the sphere-eyed, golden brown Bizak from her visit to Mynu at the start of the year.
“You’re right. We met last Dubol, in Mynu,” Ilo put her hand on her hip, and Velto’s expression changed as Ilo spoke, “I remember, because you called me stupid.”
“I didn’t call you stupid,” Velto’s hands went behind her back as if hiding something, “When you were talking with my friend, you spoke with an air of intelligence I found interesting, for a belly—a Zaxir. The minute the others showed you some attention, you turned into a twit.”
“I’m not stupid.”
“…then why act stupid?”
“Stupid belly’s puts brainers at ease, and I’m not a twit either.”
Velto’s eyes drifted to the dress caught in the door.
“Hey, this can happen to anyone!” Ilo snapped.
Velto slid her card through the door reader, and when the door opened, Ilo snatched her dress hem free of it.
“May I ask why you’re not leaving through the front lobby?” Velto said.
Ilo said, “So that slimy-ass Committee creeper Wram can send one of her lackeys to follow me home, no thank you. I left that eel sleeping on the floor of her pool room, where she belongs.”
Velto gave a start, “Are you talking about Lekada Wram?”
“Old stump doesn’t have the brains, or the frontal swell, to impress anyone other than herself.”
Ilo watched Velto’s round eyes find the bruise on her arm.
“Did she hurt you? Are you all right?” Velto asked softly, no longer the obtuse little bark she’d met in Mynu.
Ilo said, “I’m fine, I’ve been swimming around eels like her all my life.”
“This doesn’t look, fine.” Velto moved to touch her, but didn’t.
“I actually got this, sneaking out of the room I slept in.” Ilo grinned.
“Were you forced to sleep here?” Velto was outraged; now this was the little bark with the fire in her eyes.
“I had to come here last night with all the other VIPs from the Pageant. I just forced the lock to a room at the back of her residence, and hid out,” Ilo displayed her best smile. “It was weird in there, a bunch of machinery, and blueprint balls.”
“You know those balls, you touch them and a picture comes up?”
“One of those!” Ilo stepped right up to Velto, her frontal swell even with the short citizens face, “I locked the door back up, and played missing, until the eel caught me in the pool room trying to leak.”
Velto cleared her throat and stepped back, “I’m sorry.”
“She’s sorry. I pushed her in the pool and ran.” Ilo laughed.
Velto became serious, “That wasn’t wise. She’ll use whatever means at her disposal to smear you to the citizenry.”
“All my immoral deeds were exposed ages ago by rival contestants,” Ilo said, “You can’t run for Prime Citizen if you don’t put all your most salacious misdeeds out there.” As Ilo began walking toward the rounder-station in the distance, Velto followed.
“I didn’t think of that,” Velto said.
“Did you ever get the information you wanted?” Ilo asked.
Velto said, “Information?”
“When we first met in Mynu, you were questioning all the wrong belly’s, for all the right info.” Ilo said.
Velto lowered her gaze, “Oh that, no.”
“What were you trying to find out?”
“What drinks were most popular, in the bluzsh?”
“You were trying to make a new drink?” Ilo sighed, “Figures.”
“What figures?” Velto was alongside her now.
“We don’t need drinks,” Ilo said. “We need better hygiene units.”
“Every bluzsh has a unit,” Velto said.
“One unit per floor,” Ilo said, “There are about twelve citizens per floor.”
“They all use the same unit?” Velto was shocked at this.
“No hot and ready breeder wants to wait in line to clean up between rides,” Ilo explained, “Most don’t bother, and that’s how infections get started.”
“I didn’t know it was an issue,” Velto said.
“You’d know if you stepped inside a bluzsh,” said Ilo. “You Bizaki never go to the bluzsh, do you?”
“Have you ever had…?” Velto asked.
“An infection?” Ilo put her hands on her hips, “No, I’m good enough at using my body, that I’ve never had to work a bluzsh.”
“My partner—my friend, she’s still in Mynu,” Velto said. “She says that gashcol infections are sometimes fatal, if they’re ignored.”
“You got a Hizzah lover in Mynu,” Ilo smiled.
“No…” Velto curled her lip.
Ilo sighed, “My mak developed an infection. She started working overtime after my kerma was turned in for termination.”
“You’re the donation of a male?” Velto’s large eyes became bigger.
“You say that like I’m a disease.”
“I didn’t meant to sound so-”
“Disgusted? Well you did.”
Ilo walked on, and Velto followed.
“Your maker, did she get better?” Velto asked.
“Her broken heart made her hyper-sexual,” Ilo explained, “Lack of hygiene units, killed her.”
Ilo turned, “It was a simple inflammation of her gash wall, but it got worse because she didn’t cleanse between lovers. I was only eight so when she passed, I ended up in a Caste Center.”
“I’m sorry,” said Velto.
“They told me it was her fault for being so, lazy.” Ilo said.
Velto shook her head, “My part-, my friend says that no citizen should have to die because of lack proper hygiene units.”
“Your partner-friend, the Hizzah?” Ilo asked with a smile.
Velto’s lips twisted in distaste, “Ugh, no! She’s not Hizak, she’s Subak.”
“Of course she is,” said Ilo. “Why wouldn’t she be?”
“What does that mean?” Velto demanded.
“All the good Bizzies end up with Subs,” said Ilo.
“I’m going to talk to the CR of Toxis,” Velto said then. “That sort of thing’s unacceptable.”
Ilo stepped to her, “When you’re indignant, it makes you taller.”
“That’s funny,” Velto wasn’t laughing.
Ilo reached the rounder stop and caught Velto eying her back-swell.
“You hungry, Bizzy?”
“I am. You want to eat me?”
“Do you want to eat with me?”
Velto tugged the front of her suit, “When we first met, you called me an annoying little spec.”
“You were being an annoying little spec,” Ilo stepped close enough so that her frontal-swell was again Velto’s face. “Now, not so much.”
“I think it would be inappropriate,” said Velto.
Ilo said, “I don’t even know what that word means.”
“Can you stop playing dumb, it makes you ugly?”
“I don’t know what that word means, either.”
Velto shook her head, “My kerma just tried to take advantage of you,”
“Aw, she really is your kerma, huh?” Ilo frowned.
“That was my room that you hid out in,” Velto confessed. “Please tell me you didn’t leave my schematic-spheres in display mode. They take a long time to recharge.”
When Velto walked on it was Ilo’s turn to follow.
“No I turned them off,” she said. “Then I got busy going through all your things.”
“You did what?” Velto turned to face her.
“Your donat-size under suits are so cute!” Ilo hugged herself, pushing her swell together for Velto to see.
“They’re not donat size!” Velto’s eyes drifted down to where Ilo wanted them to. “They’re a Bizaki size zero.”
Ilo laughed, “I didn’t even know Bizaki wear had a size zero!”
“You can go ride yourself,” Velto said with a smile.
“I owe you some eats,” Ilo grabbed her hand, “Let’s hit the morning place down the street.”
“Hit the what?”
“You’re coming to eat, with me.”
Ilo walked Velto briskly into West Toxis Square, letting go when they reached the first café on the corner.
Inside they were seated and Velto became quiet, examining the eatery, studying it with a purpose. The waitress, a Bizak with hair pulled back like Velto’s, stepped to their table and smiled at Ilo.
“Hi there,” Ilo said. “I want flat sweetbreads, with extra syrup, and a large glass of puxo juice.”
“You’re Ilo Cux,” the waitress said.
“You found me.” Ilo grinned.
The waitress nodded, “I voted for you, in all the categories.”
“Aw, thank you.” Ilo said sweetly.
Velto looked up from the menu screen on the tabletop’s surface.
“Excuse me, what brand of processor are you using?” she asked.
“It’s a Wram model.”
“Do you like it?”
“It’s better than anything we had before,” the waitress nodded.
Velto asked, “Do you think you’d like it if was small enough to use at your residence?”
“That would be amazing,” said the waitress.
“If all the Citizens ate at home, you wouldn’t have a job,” as Ilo spoke, both Bizak regarded her as if they’d forgotten she was there. Ilo added, “I’d never eat at home, I like going out, and being with other citizens.”
“Not all of us do,” Velto said. “-or can.”
“Veltowram, you’re such a polar fox,” Ilo grinned. “Digging your hole in the ice, and hiding.”
When Ilo used Velto’s name, the waitresses eyes went wide.
“How can you say that about me?” Velto hadn’t noticed.
“I’ve seen your private room,” Ilo said, “You’re in it way too much.”
The waiter’s eyes had shifted from Ilo to Velto.
“You’ve met Lekada,” Velto said. “If you lived there, wouldn’t you hide?”
“You got me there, Velts.” Ilo nodded.
“I’ll have what she’s having, but I want milk,” Velto said then.
The Waitress cleared her throat, “Bear, wolf, or faxuto?”
“Bear’s milk, please,” Velto smiled at Ilo when she laughed. “What? What’s wrong with bear’s milk?”
“It’s bitter,” said Ilo.
“It’s supposed to be,” Velto shook her head at the waitress. “That why you drink it at day-rise. It gives you a kick.”
“I spent the night in your room,” Ilo said, “I don’t need a kick.”
“I’ll be right back,” the waitress dismissed herself. Ilo watched her walk to the other wait staff and begin whispering. Pleased with herself, she looked at Velto again, and noticed the delightful little bark was staring at her frontals.
“What’s a Wram Atmospheric Assembler?” Ilo got Velto’s attention back up to her face. “I’ve seen those words on the little drainage grills, near park fountains.”
“An ancestor of mine,” said Velto, “-she developed it, back when we were living on the floater, Vosk.”
“The Wram name’s on a lot of things,” Ilo said.
“Don’t remind me,” said Velto.
“Have you designed things?” Ilo said.
Velto was uncomfortable.
“What makes you think I’m responsible for anything?”
“When I saw you in Mynu with all those brainer snots, you were one of them, and not the hired help.” Ilo said.
“Some of those snots are my friends,” Velto tried to change the subject, “About Lekada, I’m sorry…”
“Forget it, I already have.”
“I haven’t, and I’m sorry you had to deal with that.”
Ilo reached over the table and took hold of Velto’s hands, “Forget about it, she’s a Polluted. They’re entitled and desperate, and have no boundaries. They’re shits and they know it.”
Velto’s seemed dazed, and Ilo realized that playing dumb would never work with Velto Wram. If she was riding a Subbie at Mynu, she liked her breeders to be clever.
The waitress returned with their drinks, and Ilo kept quiet; she’d already given the waitress enough ammunition to think they were riding each other.
Ilo said, “You don’t get along with your kerma, do you?”
“I don’t hate her…I just…” Velto focused on her milk.
“It’s hard with kerma’s. They’re not the first citizen you see, they never let you sleep on, or touch, their swell. There’s never a physical connection.” Ilo found Velto staring at her, as if she’d just passed gas. “What’s wrong with you?”
Velto looked around before whispering, “Can you please not talk about donational-swell play, in public.”
“Are you serious?” Ilo couldn’t believe it. “What donations do with their Subbies swell, is not play.”
“You can stop now,” Velto pushed her glass of milk away.
“It’s not sexual, Velto. It’s why we Zaxiri don’t do it.” Ilo grinned, “Maybe you should invent a machine that does it, so your view of Subbie frontals doesn’t get hindered by those annoying donats.”
“Sure, just make a machine,” Velto said, “So the Hizzah’s can incorporate it in their freaky riding habits…”
Ilo laughed at this, “Alter it so it can shoot milk, like human women’s breasts!” When Velto began to laugh Ilo said, “Bear’s milk! So it can get you going at day-rise!”
Velto Wram laughed so hard, the entire restaurant was now watching them. Ilo felt her face going cold and tears in her eyes.
“Your Subbie mak didn’t let you play with her swell?” Ilo asked.
Velto became serious, “She did, she loved me.”
The waitress returned to refill their glasses, and the pair became quiet. Ilo looked up to find Velto staring at her. Ilo looked back at her boldly, then smiled at the waitress as she departed.
Velto said, “She’s always been a predator.”
“Your kerma?” asked Ilo.
Velto nodded, then sipped her milk, “My maker, her name was Hal. She was a nurse, or that’s what she wanted to be.”
“Let’s stop talking about your kerma,” Ilo said. “Tell me about Hal.”
“She was happy, before she met my kerma.” Velto’s took off her jacket, and Ilo took in her creamy smooth arms. “She’d been a makodonic nurse at a local ZHC in Toxis, she got her degree in Mynu.”
Ilo didn’t say what she was thinking, but Velto being involved with a nursing student in Mynu that just happened to be a Subak, was rather telling.
“I’ve been told that being a Subak in Mynu is tough,” said Ilo. “You have to pass all those written tests before you can intern in Toxis-”
Velto agreed with a nod, “It’s true. My friend, my partner, her name is Ozbi, she’s got less than a year left, before she can come to Toxis.”
“You’re waiting for her?” Ilo asked.
“I wouldn’t be living with Lekada on purpose,” said Velto.
“Did Hal get assigned in Toxis?” Ilo asked.
Velto looked at her then, as if thinking about what she wanted to say.
“My mak was a first-year attendant at a ZHC in Utama, the Hizak doctor she worked for treated the Primary’s partner,” as Velto went on, Ilo remained silent on the subject of Fee Banto, a long dead belly whose sexual exploits were more legend than her contributions to the citizenry.
Velto said, “She got invited to a meal at her residence, in Utama. Hal said she actually felt honored because an elite among the Zaxiri wanted to get to know her.”
“What happened?” Ilo said.
“When Hal got there, she had only one drink,” Velto said.
“It was spiked with something, right?” Ilo said.
Velto was shocked, “Is it that prevalent?”
“Some bellies are predators too,” Ilo said. “It’s not just the bruisers and brainers you got to look out for, Subbies call it the-”
“The three-B’s, I know.” Velto nodded. “My maker woke up with Lekada on top of her. Like you, she punched and ran. She left, the way you did this morning, out the back entrance.”
Velto shifted her gaze down to her hands.
“She transferred to a ZHC in Pikalit, moved back in with her makers. A few years passed, Fee found her. She said that she filmed the encounter, and that Lekada got hold of it, and was going to put it out on the stream.”
Ilo didn’t know what to say.
Velto sipped her milk, “There was an election coming up in Toxis, and my kerma needed a bond-partner. So many elder gens still voted, they didn’t like Hizak politicians bonded only to belly’s.”
“Even the Polluted just see Zaxir as sex objects.” Ilo wanted to change the subject, but didn’t know how.
“The Wram line’s prone to makoduxilopas,” said Velto.
Ilo knew it well. It was a condition passed on from a Hizak that affected the Zaxir implanted with her zygote. Donations affected formed to their natural pre-born size too quickly, and their facial plugs grew into the thinnest portion of the makodux, the portion of the womb that tore naturally during delivery.
Ilo shivered at the thought of bleeding out post-birth.
“My sibs killed their birthers,” Velto said. “So Lekada insisted that my mak give birth to me. It damaged her, physically.” Velto nodded with pride, “She did it though, and when I was born, her makodux came out with me.”
“Is that what killed her?” Ilo felt her eyes tearing up.
“No. No. She was in my life, until I left for caste-training.” Velto said.
Ilo smiled, “Oh that’s a relief.”
“My mak used to say, her best days were with me,” Velto’s eyes became wet, but no tear fell, “I never forgot that, even if sometimes, I forget her.”
Ilo had decided to let the subject of Hal’s fate, pass.
“Were you her only donation?”
“You say that, like the alternative’s bad.”
“I didn’t mean to.”
“So scheduled Wram, what have you made for the Citizenry?”
Velto leaned in and whispered, “…the Wram Processor.”
“That thing that makes food, in this place?” Ilo was loud.
Velto furrowed her brow, “Yes, that thing…”