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SECURITY CLASSIFICATION: RELEASED TO PUBLIC | DATE OF REVIEW: 19.02.2098 |
AUTHORITY: WIPO | AUTHOR: WH AUDEN |
DOCUMENT STATUS: FINAL VERSION | VERSION: 1.0 |

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Private faces in public places
Are wiser and nicer
Than public faces in private places


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SECURITY CLASSIFICATION: RESTRICTED| DATE OF REVIEW: 01.04.2098 |
AUTHORITY: NETWORK | AUTHOR: NETWORK COMPLIANCE COMMISSION |
DOCUMENT STATUS: FINAL VERSION | VERSION: 1.0 |

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Despite being of average height and thin frame, Ogilvy's shadow haunts almost the entire office. "Gentlemen," she says, her gaze dropping to the trashbin full of wrappers, crushed creamers and wilted bits of lettuce. She's used to seeing cam-op cubbyholes looking and smelling like twelfth sector hovels. With the crazy hours, stress and tight-fit conditions they're subjected to, it's surprising it's not worse, but normally when a producer's coming in for a meeting, the shit disappears very quickly.

Snow, on all their screens. "What have you got?"

"Two likely Jokers. They've their independent strengths and weaknesses, no prior association with one another." Gannet offers her a folder with print-outs of their files, with screen-captures of their faces paperclipped on top. "However, I think with the right incentive, they would be compatible as a team, or if it's more appropriate, we can give them the same challenge." He tilts his gaze toward the mess, all I do not exaggerate in my emails eyebrowed.

"Go on." She doesn't move.

"Female Joker, name of Edith Tijoux. Male Joker, name of Idris Stanfield. Tijoux is- -"

"Gannet." He falls silent. "I'm sure you hear this from your wife every night, but I'm bored already. Your instructions were clear." Lucky for him, it's Monroe that she's aching to fire. On her way here she fantasized it- - her cool instructions to stand outside his office door while she calls security to escort him out. Her hatred for this man is beyond reason and it's barely contained when she turns on him. "Monroe. Outline the capabilities of Zolotisty and Spandex." She knows both Contestants better than her own mother, and she's counting on him failing this test.

Monroe tries to organize the last few weeks of spotty coverage in the archives that Gannet made him watch with the hours and hours of closet footage he's been staying up all night to watch for the past two years. Longer than that, even- - his obsession with Zolotisty started even before she married Sessine.

"Zolotisty's got them cokum ears, her hearing's flummot, yeh- -"

"Any one-eyed moron wouldn't miss those hammock-ears, Monroe, but please, do go on."

"Com'on, ma'am, not only can she hear someone slipping out one of them silent-killer' airfarts across the island, which makes'er hard as shit to sneak up on, but she can drown you in'er sounds. Was on the late channel months back, remember when she had that stukkend shnoz? She opened that shit on Spandex when they's pressin', poor punk'all didn't know if it was true love or a killin', ekse ." He takes another breath, "An'er teleportin' makes her gaam to follow or grab. I figure that fuzzy bludger could do about anything she wants with that Improb'lity. Seen her make a fishin' hole out'a nothing and giant swing that hangs from the cumulus and then turn space on its ear. Agman, she'd magic your eyes into buttons and kecks into rot if she saw fit. And, that's just her jokerin' in-it. She's a buffer, too. Tight ass 'n rock, she is. Aweh! She jungles with her teef 'n claws too." He tilts his head back and howls.

"This isn't the Dating Game, Monroe. Build me the ultimate weapon against her."

"Agman, suck out her Improbility, is all. Easy as that. Or flood them ears and sneak up with a gun 'n BAM. Or if you want it psycho-logic just snatch one of them baby DICE, or that daddy of 'ers, old man Elias. Fwaah, piece of piss. I'd do it."

There's a quirk at the left side of Ogilvy's lips. "The puppy will obey then?" Her gaze slides to Gannet, who hasn't moved from his arms-folded-behind-his-back military pose. She returns, all eyes on Monroe.

He snorts. "She'll flat-tail if it suits 'er, and I seen 'er obey Spandex once or twice, but you know she's a deft bitch. She's got them guilt complexes built tight but I figure you best go for a capitulate not obey, likes."

She smirks. Psychological - - that's her speciality. "Now then, catch me a Spandex, next. Alive."

"Fuckme, s'like playdough. Just shoot her in the knees or guts, likes. Z's there faster 'n you can inhale, so grab 'er quick. Spandex don't care if she's stukken, but she'll do anything for Z. Play'em off'a th'other. It's a moegoe move, but will gettem nibbed. Agman, her lobes leak like a split hose if you suck out the Improbility, too. She turns in'a one of them rookie dramas, all blue'nshit, nahmean. You got'a watch'er ass, now, though with the nosee'em dodg'em and teleportin' and- -"

Suddenly Ogilvy steps into their office. "Spandex has been teleporting? What evidence do you have of this?"

Monroe yanks on the knees of his trousers, and his voice falls to a whisper. "Don'mean to appear all jemmy-like, but she put that scarf on 'er like, she knew she'd get on the boat to get Z. Was planned. Been figurin' it, and- -"

"What proof do you have that Z didn't pull that off? In fact," Ogilvy takes another step towards him. "The only time we have actually seen her disappear from one place and instantly appear from another is when Z's involved. My theory it's collaborative." There's a hint of a dare in her assertion, wanting him to prove her wrong.

"Agman, no-lie, I laid up all screwface wondering same-same. Z was lashed as a teen, nahmean, and brain-suck of Improb, so I mathed it being Spandex that orchestrated that beauty."

A rare smile of approval. "Listen, ultimately Zolotisty and Spandex will lose, but our viewers don't know that." She taps her chin and stares past Monroe's head to the static on the screens lining the wall. There's a moment of self-awareness in the noise, a recognition that perhaps by striving to carefully script every situation she's drained the risk out of plots. She's bored, and it's her own damn fault. And here, faced with two men- - one an old-timer with well-worn technical expertise and instinct, and two, a fanboy with his private bedroom fantasies who represents her ideal audience - - she decides that for once she'll take a gamble.

"Build it up, drag it out, leave me gasping. Surprise me, boys. If you can do that, you'll be the first, nahmean."

There's no talk of the cost-benefit bullshit that Godard laid on her. No leaning on them about the thousands of gold-standards per minute they're losing with blank screens.Their constraints are limited only by their imaginations and the antagonists they can draft into the plot. "Gannet? These Jokers of yours?"

"I've looked over the candidates from the ground crews. I've selected three. I'll forward you the profiles. We'll pick, send them out, and see what happens." He's given up on looking between Ogilvy and the shit strewn around the office. She's not going to fire him. Fuckin' stuck with this cock-up for the rest of time, he thinks.

"Good. Should be ready and rolling by the end of the week." There's an almost imperceptible dip of her chin to them both before she spins on her toes and leaves their office.

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SECURITY CLASSIFICATION: UNCLASSIFIED| DATE OF REVIEW: N/A |
AUTHORITY: N/A | AUTHOR: UNKNOWN |
DOCUMENT STATUS: FINAL VERSION | VERSION: 1.0 |

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They catch Ebenezer off-guard, wearing fuzzy slippers as he reads the Enquirer. He serves tea and the kittens announce themselves before Z or Dex can. They clamber over each other to escape the basket and within moments, they've colonized the room and taken Ebenezer prisoner. All of them except the runt, anyway, who stays huddled in Z's lap.

Dex does her best to conduct a high-calibre interview, the kind she thinks her foster families should have received before she was pushed by adult hands - - large enough to fill the space between her shoulderblades - - across unfamiliar thresholds into unfamiliar houses. Though she's aware of her parody, there's an undertone of regret and sadness that she and Z can't keep the kittens themselves. They gambol and fight and explore, and every time Dex suggests something that Eben needs to do to keep them healthy and happy, he insists that he's owned cats before. Where, she wonders. They're not pets off-Island. Not unless you've got serious dosh.

And though they're not acknowledging it, maybe all three of them hear it- - the in-between silence of having to let loved ones go, of having to trust others to take up the guard.

Ebenezer passes the test when he doesn't swat the big grey tiger away when she gnaws on his slippers. He gets a gold star for remaining calm when the calico puts tiny pockmarks in his couch. Zolotisty, sitting quietly by the empty basket, takes advantage of the distraction in the room to pull a minor feat of misdirection and sleight of hand. She rises, brushing her hands down her trousers, and takes a seat on the edge of Dex's armchair. It's a convenient place from which to rub her girl's back when Dex's sound goes all wobbly - - teetering and spinning even before they've said goodbye to the kittens.

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SECURITY CLASSIFICATION: UNCLASSIFIED| DATE OF REVIEW: N/A |
AUTHORITY: N/A | AUTHOR: UNKNOWN |
DOCUMENT STATUS: FINAL VERSION | VERSION: 1.0 |

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Z nuzzles into Dex as they return empty-handed.

Dex, teleported quicker than she's used to, catches her breath. Then she finds herself surprised to be back here, in their tunnel, so she stands held, a bit dumb and blinking.

"Spandex."

"Twist? What's it?"

"I am bad." Z's jacket pocket wroggles impatiently.

"Z!"

"Ebenezer did not even notice he was missing, Spandex."

"He will! He'll worry. And 'sides, he.. she..- -"

"Gets beat on," Z interrupts.

Dex opens her mouth to argue again, but changes her mind. "Damn. I didn't even see- - you're good." Z extracts the runt from her pocket. He's rumpled and looking peevish, but he settles when she rubs him under Dex's chin. "Likes you, twist."

"Our loft is big."

"Okay." She pushes herself up close against Z and stuffs her fingers in her back pocket. "Got'a stop 'n tell Ebsy or he'll be turnin' his place upside down." Even though there's a part of her still pissed at the way Eben jumped her at the beach, she's not vengeful. Never has been.

"Okay." She looks down at the kitten and cast between them. "Can we go see Elias too."

"What. Don't need to bug'im, I'll give you one of my knives, they're sharp as you."

"Mn." She nods and hands Dex the runt. "Hangon." Gone.

Dex holds it up at eye-level. "I was picked on when I was little too. I'll teach you some things." He mewls a complaint and she tucks him to her chest and chin, where he draws his hindfeet up to his whiskers to play at being a ball. "Com'on let's see what Z brought in that pack," she says, tickling his belly, letting him chew on her knuckle.

A few unmarked brown paper bags of dry kibble, along with a bottle of cream, and another big brown paper bag full of gravel. Judging by the skein of yarn tucked at the bottom, it's all from an experienced pet owner. Dex pulls the kitten into her arm and carries him to the kitchen where she finds two small white ceramic bowls. She sets them neatly side-by-side, then fills one with water, and the other with a small handful of kibble. The kitten wriggles mercilessly to escape her grasp, so she sets him down.

Zolotisty comes back, carrying a tin. "I told him," she calls, heading toward the kitchen as the kitten tentatively dunks a paw into its water dish. "And I have fishes for it. Him. Her."

"I'm goin' to check up on that Ebenezer in a few days. If he's got those kittens all in a row or cage or someshit, I'm taking them. He really liked'em though- - all that insisting on tellin' me 'bout having cats before." She leans up on her toes to kiss Z on the cheek before wandering off to hunt for her jacket. "Eben hides himself a lot, wonder what his deal is."

Z wags the tin. "They were following him around because of this. Get your knifes so I can cut your arm off."

"Yeh, you got'a open it. Smell of fish to cats is like when you get close to those gambling tables." Z's eyes widen and she pockets the tin immediately as Dex crouches at her jacket to sort through her knives. "Balisong," she mumbles to herself. Improbably sharp and yet almost dainty in appearance- - a good choice for Z who is admittedly afraid of blades.

Z reaches to tug the cast to the center of the table, taking the balisong with her other hand. She shows Dex the blade. "Shouldn't it have teeth." As with all of her blagging, Z's projected confidence is absolute. She inspects the balisong then goes over to the kitchenette to rummage through their drawers, looking for alternatives. Aware of Dex's close scrutiny, she thinks about the handheld circular saws Elias has used to cut off her casts in the past and what she can use to turn the balisong into one - - but they don't have much that she can use to reliably fix something to something else, even if she can figure out a way to set it spinning.

Giving up after a minute or two, she brings back a handtowel to pad under Dex's forearm. "I am gonna go slow," she says. "So you have to be patient." She draws the other chair closer to Dex's.

"Done yet?" she smirks as Z settles close enough to begin working from the top of her arm down toward her wrist, scoring the fiberglass lightly.

"You are bad." Dex presses her lips together in response, and Z adds, "Like me."

It takes more than two hours to slit the fiberglass on the top and bottom of the cast. Dex backseat-drives for the first hour, not from mistrust but impatience. She starts by insisting that Z cut harder, straighter, with a fist, to try chipping, scoring, hole-punching. Then come the demands that she just hand her the stupid knife. When Z finally barks at her to be still, she relents for a few minutes, content with watching the way Z's muscles in her forearm move as she works, the way her jaw sets, firm with concentration, and the way her long lashes, low-lidded from looking downwards, blink from plaster dust. Her lips maintain their good-humoured curve at their corners despite the tedious work and Dex's constant interruptions and inability to sit still. The kitten, long bored of Dex's lap, is under the bed and pouncing on sheet edges.

Another hour passes until Z finally pries the cast off. The smell's overpowering as the cotton bandages get cut off, too. Rotten. Dex's face has gone as white as the bandages. "Stinks! Look, it's skinny and has no colour and, and Z it is not rotten, they're always like that after casts," she insists, staring at it suspiciously as she flexes and balls her fingers.

"Maybe you will always smell of death now," Z says cheerfully, all 'i told you not to get it wet.' Dex just looks pitiful, covering her nose and mouth with her good hand.

"Ouh, s'freezing," she says as she lifts it off the table slowly. Feeble, too, she thinks, frowning at it.

Z's hands are warm. Wrist to elbow, she tests its feel, then leans forward to press a kiss to the palm of her hand. "Yeh feels like jellies. Lemme give you baths."

"All'a hairs are standing, it's not dead. S'tickling." She works her hand and fingers and rotates her wrist slowly. "Bit rusty, too, but won't take long. I've been working it in the cast."

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SECURITY CLASSIFICATION: RESTRICTED| DATE OF REVIEW: 01.04.2098 |
AUTHORITY: NETWORK | AUTHOR: NETWORK COMPLIANCE COMMISSION |
DOCUMENT STATUS: FINAL VERSION | VERSION: 1.0 |

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to: clacey@s1.cop.network.cc
from: acooper@s3.cop.network.cc
subj: Haccadine - request for current highlights / storyboard

Miss Lacey:

At your earliest convenience, would you be so kind as to forward your most current storyboard for Contestant Haccadine's anti-Network / property damaging activity and dramatic embroilment(s) with DICE members.

In addition, please upload footage highlights since our last meeting. Details of our interest include how the Contestant spends his day, and who he is spending his time with.

Thank you.

A. Cooper



to: tbabcock@s2.cop.network.cc
from: msimpert@s3.cop.network.cc
subj: Ebenezer - highlights, request for collab

Terry - -

Interested in collaboration re. recent confrontation on beach (E/T/S). Can share edited PSK reels (S/H/Z) to complement E/T's discovery of the fact in DCH. Likewise interested in collab on recent Warehouse, DCH disappearance, and kitten reels.

Interested in seeing recent highlight reels for E generally.

Pts of interest:

how E is spending his day
- who E is spending his day with
- etc.

How's the E/T storyline progressing??

mc



to: jmincks@s2.cop.network.cc
from: msimpert@s3.cop.network.cc
subj: Tyr - highlights, request for collab

Jinx - -

Interested in collaboration re. recent confrontation on beach (T/E/S). Can share edited PSK reels (S/H/Z) to complement T/E's discovery of the fact in DCH. Likewise interested in collab on recent SH and barn scene.

Interested in seeing recent highlight reels for T generally.

Pts of interest:

- how T is spending his day
- who T is spending his day with
- etc.

How's the T/E storyline progressing??

mc



to: msimpert@s3.cop.network.cc
from: jmincks@s2.cop.network.cc
subj: re: Tyr - highlights, request for collab

Matt,

Sure thing, I'll send you what I have. I'm guessing you don't want all the footage of him building or cooking - and to tell the truth, that's most of it. Good ol' Tyr.

He's been working on a backgammon board for Eb. Ter and I will probably be using that for the T/E plot. Which is going nicely, thank you. They've been giving us plenty of material lately - hell, even the beach scene.

He's been spending some time in NH, and has been meeting the new additions to the flock.

I'll send you the T/Hac SH footage. H is a weird one. Have to say, with all the trouble your girl's been in lately, can't say I fancy the idea of them hanging out much.


Jules


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SECURITY CLASSIFICATION: RESTRICTED| DATE OF REVIEW: 01.04.2098 |
AUTHORITY: NETWORK | AUTHOR: NETWORK COMPLIANCE COMMISSION |
DOCUMENT STATUS: FINAL VERSION | VERSION: 1.0 |

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The moment that Zolotisty and Dex left his cottage, Ebenezer was on the floor, playing with kittens. The moment he noticed one missing, he was searching the place from end to end. The moment Zolotisty confessed her crime and left with a tin of tuna, Ebenezer was on the floor again, playing with those damned kittens.

Terry Babcock's interest ran out some time ago. "Yes. Kittens. They're still here. Look, and that one's sleeping. How abso-fucking-lutely adorable," she murmurs, lazily turning her attention to her email.

Sudden, her spirits lift, along with her sharp-stenciled eyebrows. "Ooh-hoo! What's this? Mattie, Mattie. What are you up to?"

She leaves Ebenezer to his cats. Like a wigged velociraptor confronted with a keyboard, she slowly types out her reply, punching each key with one of her neon-painted nails.

to: msimpert@s3.cop.network.cc
from: tbabcock@s2.cop.network.cc
subj: re: Ebenezer - highlights, request for collab

Mattie-dear,

You do know I'm always very interested in collaboration. There's a nice tone emerging in this, isn't there? I'd be glad to work with you and your boiler buddy to make the most of that wonderful footage.

I am beginning to wonder why you might be interested in how my lad's spending his day and who with. What's so interesting about any of that? I don't think you need my highlights. Not unless you can do better to explain why.

I'll send the relevant footage and you can both expect a phone call from me soon, to clear this up.

xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

T. Babcock


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SECURITY CLASSIFICATION: UNCLASSIFIED| DATE OF REVIEW: N/A |
AUTHORITY: N/A | AUTHOR: UNKNOWN |
DOCUMENT STATUS: FINAL VERSION | VERSION: 1.0 |

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Zolotisty and Tyr have been joking in DICE's barn. Beads of light peek through the wide rough-hewn boards of the roof, illuminating swirls of dust in spears of light. "That's true," Tyr says. I don't give a hoot."

At this, Zolotisty flinches all over as if she's been shot. Twirling on one foot, she claps a hand dramatically to her heart. "Oh death. Death. Death pun," she says, as she falls, flomphing into a pile of straw. He's at her side in a flash.

"No! Too young, too young! And by my hand!" He drops to his knees, cradles her in his arms. She lolls, limp and pointy. "Alas, poor Z. Done in by punnery. O leader, my leader!"

"Tell Spandex I love her," she wheezes, clutching her shirt. "You are leaderified now. Give.. Eben.. his.. pehhh.."

He lets her floomph back into the straw. "No! No! Stay with me! Eb's what? His peh? His pehhht monkey? His pehhhregrin? His pehhhtrified rock collection? Z? Z!"

"ph."

"I.." He's choking over his words. "I'll give you a good burial." Armfuls of straw shower down on her. One of Z's ears refuses to be buried, and he turns solemn-faced to the row of garden gnomes lined up on a bench. "Dearly beloved, we gather here to pay our respects to Zolotisty, leader of DICE, musician, gambler, and beloved mother of Sam and Josephine." He nods at the two smallest gnomes. Josephine is glassy-eyed with shock. Sam refuses to look.

"But though this day is a sad one, let us not dwell on how we have lost a friend, a colleague, a clanmate - no, let us instead reflect on what we have gained: a clean kitchen." Z's corpse kicks him in the shin. His eyes widen with shock. "What's this?" He frantically clears away straw. "Buried alive? Who would do such a terrible thing?"

Her gaze is unfocused and feverish. She paws at Tyr's arm. "Bruh.." she slurs as he searches her face. "brr.." For a moment, she falters. The other day in the meadow, Spandex was so careful not to name names when she finally confessed why she was upset - - promise me you won't get involved, twist, let people sort out their own shit.

"Z? What? What is it?"

So Dex had told her about the beach, in a circumspect way, but it wouldn't have mattered if she'd named names or not. Z already knew. She'd heard Eben reverberating like a smashed pinky toe, Tyr roiling with past bites. She doesn't want to resent them.

Her grip works up to his shirt collar. She promised, and she picks up the act again. "brr.. bra.. braaaiiiinnnnns.."

Tyr jerks back in shock. "Z! No! Think of your children!" Then he inhales a bit of straw and begins coughing, and Z drops the act until he's spit it out - - then they just laugh. Z claws to her feet to shake off. The camera's rusty motors whine as they follow her down the length of the barn to a crate. She pauses to stare at it. Only one bastard camera in this barn, and of course it's keen to watch her.

His eyes follow the camera, too. His forehead creases, and a frown flickers and then is gone. "What are you looking for?" he calls, climbing to his feet. She extracts a remote control and waves it at him. He ducks immediately behind a dusty dress form. "Please tell me that's not a universal remote." Z just grins, and he groans. "What are you planning?"

The grin widens. He takes a step back. "Ah, are you sure it has batteries?"

"It does! I won them." She cracks the remote open, whacking them into her palm. The remote she discards, the batteries she pockets.

"Do they work?"

"Oh. Hm. .. I do not know." She pads for the elevator.

The camera follows her, and Tyr's gaze flickers toward it again. He swallows. "Hey, Z? Wait up." She pauses, looking over her shoulder. He thuds over. "Ah, I met Haccadine."

"Oh, aye?"

"Yeah. Seems to be a nice guy. Hungry." He flashes a quick smile, then bites his lip. "A little, ah, a little odd, though."

Z shifts her weight to her other hip and waits. Her chin dips slightly. She thinks of her girl all tangled up and out of tune and the resentment comes creeping back. She waits for Tyr to narc on Dex and hates herself for expecting it.

Tyr rubs his neck. "Saw him in Squat Hole, throwing rocks and stuff at cameras. Busted the lens on a couple of them. He said he was just trying to get cigs out of them, but - I don't know. For bad aim, it was pretty consistent." He frowns. "And he didn't look like he'd missed." He shrugs. "I don't know. Maybe it's nothing. But it was weird."

Blinking, Z straightens. "Oh. Huh. I'll.." She frowns. "Talk to him."

"Maybe it was nothing," Tyr rushes.

"S'just a cambra. But aye, I'll ask why he was doin' that."

"All right. Thanks. I, ah, I'd better get my book." He steps back. "See you later, then?"

Zolotisty cocks her head. "You've gone all funny. Whatsit."

"Nothing," he smiles. "But thanks for thinking I'm funny."

 
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