—from Suffocation, a little snippet of the “the bad guys”. It’s the first time we meet them in Suffocation, and some of you may recall my posting of the original cover art for the book (the one I’m certain the publisher will reject…). It features Cao-Cy, and spoiler alert, reveals the theoretical nature of the Vai and Cy (though they’re not mer-people in the book, sorry.)
Dr. Vai Zhang stood in her white lab coat and black boots, testing the water temperature in pool fourteen, trying to determine what killed the latest clutch of cloned long-finned char, a salmon once native to the Siberian waters of 20th century Russia.
Vai was a rotund woman of modest looks. At first glance, she appeared approachable, until she spoke. A detached woman, she was fond of eye contact when spoken to, and disposed to verbally reprimanding anyone that needed it. If Vai Zhang left a room without saying a word, her staff got nervous.
Many feared her, even her little adopted brother, Cao-Cy.
Cy recalled toddling around these lab pools in only his diaper, chasing after his partner in crime, Vai, as she raced around frantic, attracted to the schools of moving fish. As they matured, Vai remained tied to the pools, developing new life, while Cy became a soldier in the Kamatchka Regional Defense Force.
When he came upon Vai, knee deep in the water and eyeing the temperature gauges on her hand-held thermometer, he stepped loud enough for his boots to signal his arrival. The other workers eyed him as they whispered, watching him wait silently for permission to speak.
“What’s happened?” she asked in old Viet.
Cy struggled with most dialects, but Tiếng Việt was one that came easy to him. He took a breath and said, “Takagi is dead.”
She looked up at him, alarm in her eyes.
He was succinct, because she already knew that Takagi to be injured, but no one anticipated him dying from his injuries. It had to be unsettling, because there was nothing she didn’t anticipate.
“He encountered hostile sea life in the Southern Atlantic, and—”
Vai clenched her teeth.
“—what possessed him to attack a pod of killer whales?”
“His actions of late were…unpredictable,” Cy said.
She turned, and in her native Hamgyong said, “—yes I know!”
Cy struggled then, the common tongue wasn’t his strong suit.
In Viet she asked, “Where’s he now?”
“His body’s been collected by local fisherman, in Santa Rosa Bay.” Cy took a breath, “The local boat put out a call to the Brasilia coastal guard, but we intercepted the transmission.”
“Good. I want Takagi removed without incident. We can’t have another situation like this,” she reached out for him as she climbed from the water. “We mustn’t compromise the others in bringing him home.”
“Yes, Dr. Zhang.” Cy gave her room to wrap up her thermographs.
“What else is there, Cy?” she asked.
“There’s something I must relay to you,” he said.
She slipped on dry shoes, “What is it? I’m busy.”
Cy stepped close.
“Someone entered his corporate offices, without authority.”
When Vai took off her coat, Cy took it from her.
“Genika’s corporate espionage has nothing to do with this project.”
“The intruder was detected trying to enter your office, at the same time an Antarctican Ensign arrived claiming to have information for… him… This information was revealed to be only a blank disk.”
Vai’s lower jaw thrust out moment.
“You think the intruder was from the Sorority of Defense?”
“It’s possible,” Cy went silent when another lab technician passed by them on his way to another pool, “Has your father attempted to contact you?”
Vai turned on him quick.
“Why do you refer to him as my father? Do you not have a father now, Cy?” He tossed her folded lab coat onto a chair. He hated when she spoke down to this way. She walked to him and got close enough that her nose almost touched his, “Have you found him yet?”
“Would I be asking if we had?” Cy snapped.
Vai moved too fast for him. Taking him by the arm, she pushed her fingers into just the right spot, causing him to wince in pain.
“Don’t get wise with me, ‘key. I won’t tolerate disrespect from you, no matter what position the CPC elevates you to.” She let go of him, and with her hands at her sides said, “If you haven’t found him yet, then I have no idea where he is.”
“What if he’s gone to them?” Cy whispered.
“Then our father’s likely dead. You know what they’re willing to do to ensure that humanity never knows they have males,” she said, “You know, if it turns out there is no such thing as a farc-male, I’d have hard time believing anything father said.”
Cy lost his composure.
“Said? We don’t know if he’s dead!”
“Says! Does that tense make you feel better?”
Cy watched her walk on before following.
“I’ve made inquiries. The Consulate at Kuril verified that they sent an Ensign to Hong Kong. If she was there to meet with father,” he struggled to find the right words.
“—then that’s proof he’s gone to Antarctica,” she said for him.
Cy felt as if she’d punched him in the gut.
“If he’s truly gone to them, why would they send an Ensign here to bring him something?” she turned about and narrowed her eyes, “Cy, sometimes I think you’re quite substandard.”
As he watched her walk on, he called out, “Sometimes I think that you’re too sure he’s not returning!”
Vai smoothly pivoted and marched back to him, then stood into him again, this time with her nose touching his. Cy remained planted where he stood, staring her in the eyes.
Her eyes smiled then, “Gained some courage, ‘key?”
Cy was frightened, but refused to show it.
“We’re not in the water, Vai.”
“It only takes a moment, brother,” she said.
“Not for you,” Cy said, glaring at her. “Why is that?”
“I fixed myself.” Vai said.
“The way you fixed Takagi?” said Cy.
Vai kept her composure and stepped away.
“Arrange for us to retrieve him,” she said with a smile. “—and if you ever verbally challenge me the way you just did, I will end you, little brother. Do you understand?”