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The Cage of Zeus
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The Cage of Zeus

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Author: Sayuri Ueda
Publisher: Haikasoru, 2011
Original Japanese publication, 2004
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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Human Development
Soft SF
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Synopsis

The future of sex and the future of terrorism collide.

The "rounds" are humans with the sex organs of both genders. Artificially created to test the limits of the human body in space, they are now a minority, despised and hunted by the terrorist group Vessel of Life. Aboard Zeus I, a space station orbiting the planet Jupiter, the "rounds" have created their own society with a radically different view of gender and of life itself. Security chief Shirosaki keeps the peace between the "rounds" and the typically gendered "mono," but when a terrorist strike hits the station, the balance of power and tolerance is at risk, and an entire people is targeted for genocide.


Excerpt

Fortia sat before the computer terminal and endured Dan Preda's barrage of instructions for several moments.

"There's been an incident in the docking bay. It's likely the terrorists are behind it. The infirmary and lab were hit as well. I have a feeling the terrorists may have infiltrated the station during the commotion. I want you to keep the access door to the special district secure. Even if someone on the staff requests access, I want you to check with control first."

"How many of them are there?"

"We don't know."

"Just what was the security staff doing?"

"Let's just say they dropped the ball."

"Utterly useless," said Fortia. "We would have fared better if we'd been the ones carrying the guns."

"What's done is done. Just stay alert."

Fortia ended the transmission and went into the next room.

Album was sleeping in the double bed with the covers pulled over eir head.

"Wake up," said Fortia, patting Album on the cheek several times. "Nap time is over. We have to issue an alert."

Album tossed languidly beneath the covers and opened eir eyes a sliver. "Do it without me. I'm feeling tired. I might be pregnant. What about you, Fortia?"

"I don't recall doing anything that'd get us pregnant, do you? Come on, hurry up and put some clothes on. The terrorists are somewhere on this station."

Album lowered the covers a bit and eyed em suspiciously. "Really?"

"Unless Preda's gone completely batty from the daily boredom, I think he's telling the truth."

"Do you think they're coming here?"

"That depends on our intrepid security team."

Album rolled out of bed and began to pick up the clothes strewn across the floor. "I swear these Monaurals are a pain in the ass. We're forced to live here because they want us out of plain sight and at arm's length. And still they barge into our territory."

"They can't help themselves. That's just their way."

"Fools. They come all the way out here and to do what? Murder people. If they have time enough for that, they should help maintain the station for a while."

While Album fixed the collar on eir tunic in front of the mirror, the intruder alarm sounded. Fortia knitted eir brows. Album quickly reached for the utility knife on the table.

The living room door blew open. A man and woman stormed in with their guns raised.

"Don't move," said the woman coolly. "Try anything funny and you're dead."

"Who are you?" asked Fortia bravely.

"We're with the Vessel of Life."

"I'm asking what your name is."

"Karina Majella. You must be Fortia."

"Yes."

"If you want to live, you'll round up all of your associates in the assembly hall. Every last one of them."

"And what if I refuse?" Fortia said.

"That boy growling next to you like a guard dog--I'll blow his pretty little head off."

Fortia looked Album in the eye and gestured for em to lower the knife.

"But why?" Album protested.

"I don't want any bloodshed here. We can at least talk in the assembly hall."

"She called me a boy. The bitch."

Karina snickered. "You move and I'll shoot you dead."

She produced some wrist ties from her pocket and tied Fortia's hands behind eir back. As she moved to restrain Album, ey twisted away and swung an elbow at Karina's face. Karina dodged the attack without any difficulty. Wringing the Round's arm up behind em, she threw em down on the floor, drew the gun from her waist, and pumped a bullet into Album's right leg in one fluid move.

Album screamed. Twisting eir face in agony, ey balled eir body on the carpet with both hands squeezing eir leg. Fortia let out a bestial cry. Ey charged head first at Karina, but Lobe hit em with the butt of his gun, and ey landed on eir back.

Fortia spat out blood at the floor where ey lay. "You murderer."

"I told you I'd shoot if you moved. You were given fair warning."

Copyright © 2004 by Sayuri Ueda


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