An Ofem falls from her ninth-floor roof and becomes a grease spot on the pavement. Nanochines consume an Imale as he's leaving work. Investigating these deaths, Detective Maris Peterson uncovers a conspiracy to doom humanity to extinction, some agency or individual trying to sterilize humanity.
Liene Ozolin swept her gaze across the city below, the wind tugging at her clothes, buffeting her as if to cast her off her perch.
It wouldn't be a bad thing if I were to fall and die, she thought, a stain on the sidewalk, a smudge of grease on pavement. She often came here after a liaison, hoping the wind might take away the stain of what she did, the smudge of shame on her soul.
It wasn't as if she were treated disrespectfully. In fact, they accorded her the deference given to the messenger of God. And the pay was bountiful enough that she could afford the luxurious penthouse aglow below her. A glimpse inside was all someone needed to see the ostentation, to luxuriate in envy at the privilege she enjoyed.
Cold fingers of wind reached into the hot, shame-filled chambers in her heart, annealing and anointing, taking some of the sting from what she'd done. Up here, Liene could sometimes forget what she did and block from her mind the fact that when they called again, she'd do their bidding just as she'd always done, and deliver to her employer one of the two most precious commodities to be found in the galaxy.
An Ofem engineered with specialized vesicles in both mouth and vagina, Liene was a collector. A suave manner and impeccable breeding complemented a seductive beauty and a perfect body. She was equipped to do one thing and one thing well: Gather semen.
"Liene?" called a voice from below.
The Ofem sighed, wanting to be left alone.
"You've been up there an awful long time."
She's right, Liene thought, her despair more pervasive this time. Reprieve elusive, she climbed down from the roof and dropped nimbly to the balcony.
Iveta wrapped her with a waiting sweater, as usual, and escorted her inside.
The aroma of freshly brewed tea wafted to Liene as she stepped in the door. Curtains made from Forlis tafeta fell back in place as the door slid closed behind them. Real Ilurak rugs covered the Tinglit-parquet floor. Works from last century's masters of abstraction graced the walls. The furniture was a coordinated Zulamin segmented design, the couch pieced together in a u-shape around the immersie.
Lying down, Liene gave herself over to the ministrations of her wife, hot tea and warm caresses chasing away chill night.
"Tonight was a bad one, wasn't it?" Iveta asked.
She almost never asks, Liene thought. Sometimes the encounter was like this, when the memories were seared into her brain, her customer making a lasting impression on her, either for his utter indifference to her person or his gentle, reluctant demeanor. The Bremales nearly always found her alluring, and they often requested her again. Some she'd been with for years.
Today's liaison had been someone she'd never met, an older Bremale, his Ifem wife hovering nearby, his face and manner reeking with guilt and shame. For this liaison, she'd left her clothes on, exposing just enough of her body to give him access. Once he'd delivered, she'd straightened her clothes and had departed without another word, the Bremale in tears, his wife white with fury.
Liene rarely felt so sullied. An act once regarded as a sacred joy was now reduced to the mechanics of delivery, its sanctity replaced with mortification. She didn't blame the wife for remaining close by, as if to insure not a moment of intimacy occurred between them. Nor did she blame the Bremale for the brevity of his intercourse, the older man delivering within moments.
It was one of the few occasions when the perfection of her beauty had worked against her. Her admirable, nearly perfect appearance had magnified the Bremale's degradation and the Ifem's jealousy. Their despair and torture, these two, a Bremale husband and an Ifem wife enamored of each other, perturbed Liene.
"I suspect I won't go back," Liene said, realizing she'd been silent for a long time. "They'll probably ask that I not come back."
"Did something happen?"
Liene shook her head, indicating she didn't want to talk about it. All she wanted to do was forget.
"What can I do?"
"Lie down beside me, let me hold you."
Iveta took her tea and set it aside, and then did as Liene bade her.
Holding her wife, Liene drew comfort from the feel of Iveta against her, but only briefly.
Her mind soon returned to the awful scene from earlier in the day, the Ifem treating her with barely-contained disdain, her gaze raking Liene's body, so provocative in the skin-tight formalls, every perfect curve emphasized.
Iveta, she realized, was shaking. "What is it, love? What's going on?"
"I hate it!" her wife hissed through gritted teeth. When she brought her face up from Liene's shoulder, it was streaked with tears. "I hate the way they take you away from me. It's not right! You'll be preoccupied for weeks! Cold, aloof, distant. You might as well not even be here!" Iveta rose and stepped toward the balcony, her shoulders hunched and shaking.
Her soft sobbing sounds sank into Liene's chambers of shame. The room blurred, and heat rushed through her face like flame through bone-dry tinder. I had no idea! Liene thought, aghast, her wife's reaction a complete surprise. But when she looked back across the years, Liene realized that the signs had been there all along. The worried, furtive glances, the slight strain in the voice, the line of tension in the shoulders. She simply hadn't seen the signs, so wrapped up in her own misery that she hadn't noticed her wife's despair.
Liene went to her, the light through the curtains glinting off Iveta's tears. "I'm so sorry."
"Get away from me, bitch! I hate you when you're like this!"
Stung, Liene backed up to the glasma, which slid aside, the taffeta curtains bunching up. The wind swirled vigorously around her through the open door. Liene looked past her wife at their luxurious penthouse, not seeing the ostentation, seeing only the despair it was derived from. "What would you have me do?"
"Go brood on your roof, you jerking whore! Just get the hell out of my sight!" And Iveta ran from the room into the corridor. A door slammed, but even around the corner and through the door, her strangled sobs clutched at Liene's heart.
She's right, the Ofem thought, turning to look out over the cold city.
The wind drew Liene outside, its chill fingers finding their way under her clothes.
She glanced at the ladder to the roof, where she was wont to go after each liaison, where it seemed her time alone, shielded from humanity and its degrading demands, was her only relief from the terrible toll taken by the function for which she'd been grown.
A Bremale sperm receptacle, that's all I am.
She found herself climbing the fire escape, her body taking her up the ladder without her volition.
Iveta was right. It was why she came up here, to spare her wife the profound depths of her shame and humiliation, to keep the horrors of what she did out of her relationship.
If only that were possible, Liene thought, the wind tugging at her clothes.
It wouldn't be a bad thing if I were to fall and die.
A stain on the sidewalk, a smudge of grease on pavement.