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

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The moon, cracked every which-way.
pushes steadily on.


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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: hogilvy@p3.prd.network.cc
from: jmarsden@f3.fin.network.cc
subj: Request for Meeting

A meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday) at 8am to further discuss the financial reports attached. Anna Arrowsmith, Head of Sales, Adult Entertainment; John Stagliano, Controller; Stasi Godard, Sector 2 Security Operator; and myself will be in attendance.

You will be expected to provide detailed solutions to the recent substantial downturn in net profit from your team, and in particular, the ongoing loss of revenue streams for the Adult Only Channels.

Warm regards,

Jessica Marsden
Senior Financial Analyst, Network Entertainment Division



She picks up her phone to call Simpert and Cooper's office line before she's even finished reading the email.

"Cooper, it's Ogilvy. Do we have any sex footage in the archives that hasn't been screened yet?"

"Okay, Plan B. Go back to unedited footage and re-make me three or so scenes using different angles and edits so they look new. For tomorrow morning, thank you."

She knows it's a chewing gum on leaky pipe solution, but it'll buy her time.

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SECURITY CLASSIFICATION: NOT RELEASED TO PUBLIC| DATE OF REVIEW: 01.04.2098 |
AUTHORITY: NETWORK CLOSECASTING | AUTHOR: NETWORK CLOSECASTING |
DOCUMENT STATUS: FINAL VERSION | VERSION: 1.0 |

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Guido Haccadine's progress through the hall is easy enough to track if you just follow the trail of muddy footprints and light brown dust that arcs out from the door through the upper hall, only to disappear with some small confusion into the Library. There, he may be found arranged in an armchair down one of the aisles, a thick stack of books on the precarious little side-table drawn up next to him. He flicks through a beaten volume professing to be The Handyman's Bible, Vol. III - - volumes I and II of the same having been searched through and discarded.

Other titles include back-issues of Insulation & Heating Weekly, Fundaments of Chemistry (Intermediate) and, strikingly floral amidst the rest, Bodkin's Needlecraft Compendium. He licks his finger and turns the page. Time passes.

Elsewhere in the library, Zolotisty has found a book to bring home and some of it goes like this:

October 18:
Something I am wondering: if you cannot hear, what happens when you read purr purr purr or gurgle or chocolate chalk?

Can you somehow feel the purr purr purr the gurgle the chocolate chalk?

Do you feel the sounds instead of hear them?


Zolotisty finds this kind of poetry, which is what she supposes it must be, to be infinitely more satisfying than Whitman or Dickinson or Crane. But Angelou and Rilke and Cummings are accessible, each in their own way, and so is Don Marquis - - it's just that none of them talk about sound as tactile. Not so plainly. Zolotisty passes a gap in the shelves and catches a shock of dusty hair from the corner of her eye. She backsteps, slips the thin little book in her pocket, and parts books like a curtain to peer at what he's got. "Bodkwhat."

Haccadine startles, twisting almost entirely out of his seat before he recognises Zolotisty. He settles uneasily back down on the edge of the chair, withdrawing his hand from his jacket. "Bodkin. S'a kind of needle, apparently. Also somebody's name, by the looks of it."

Zolotisty twists an ear, setting her chin on the shelf. "That is a convenient name." She almost adds, probably you should not shoot me, but thinks better of it.

Haccadine looks down at the elegantly scripted title and shrugs. "Maybe it isn't their real name. Sometimes people use a.. false name, yeah, for writin' books. Coulda just picked one that tied in with the subject."

"Convenient lie," she amends. "Do you sews."

Haccadine screws up his nose. "Not pretty stuff, none of that shit. Practical, yeh - - enough to keep my stuff from fallin' apart." He sets the book back on the side table, having lost his place by now.

Darcy, a new DICE member, is lured by their voices and peers down the aisle where Haccadine has set up camp. "Hullo," she tries, a bit shyly.

Zolotisty hmhs. She flicks her ear, whacking it against the edge of Ninety-Nine Sock Folding Techniques For The Modern Man: A Pocket Manual, and gives Darcy a nod of greeting as she comes into view. "What are you making?"

"Puttin' up a- - house, but not that big. Jus' somewhere to stay."

"D'you need cigarettes?"

Haccadine tugs at the scruff accumulating on his chin. "Wouldn't want to put anyone out, yeh," he says carefully. "I'll get some, right enough."

"I have extras. Do you have a plot yet?"

"Found a nice place up north, bit west of Jokerton." He doesn't seem brilliantly happy, though.

"Oh. I have a place out that way, it is good. There are not many peoples. But also still they find wherever you have and put the cameras in anyway." She shrugs slightly, watching him closely.

His hands have ceased their constant, restless fidgeting. "Yeh. S'abitch, that," he says, dry.

Darcy looks sharply at Zolotisty. "What! They.. they find your home and put cameras inside it?"

Z seems puzzled, as though Darcy's asking whether plants grow outside. "Oh aye, everywhere. Here, look." She extracts herself from the shelf and pads 'round to loop down the aisle that Haccadine and Darcy are in. She points up at a tiny red light just visible in gearworks of the tremendous ceiling clock overhead. "There's one. And there are more over there." Zolotisty gestures toward the tall, book-filled shelves around the circumference of the room. Looking hard, it's possible to catch the glassy wink of camera lenses in small niches between books. "High up."

"B-.. But.." Darcy stammers, covering her mouth. "Shit."

Haccadine snorts, though there's no amusement on his face. "What, did you think they just stopped watchin' you 'cause there aren't any monsters about the place?"

"No! Of course not! I knew there were cameras.. e-.. everywhere.. the whole time."

Zolotisty scratches at the base of her ear as she watches Darcy. "Mmn," she says, then glances at Haccadine to study him too. "S'it bother you?" she asks the both of them.

Of course it fucking well does, he wants to reply, just not for the same reasons as her - - but it never gets further than a thought, the burgeoning snarl easily shaped into a wry smile. "If a buncha saddos want to watch me washin' my arse in the mornin'," he says, spreading his hands, "who'm I to deprive 'em of their sole comfort an' joy?" Zolotisty and Darcy laugh, though Darcy's grin is a little strained.

"Y-.. Yeah! I'm not bothered! Not at all! Not by millions of strangers having access to the private moments of my life, whether they be emotional or physical or mental- -"

Haccadine leans forward in his seat, eyes suddenly hard and narrow. "Don't be. Fuck 'em all. If you don't care, they can't take anything from you. No such thing as privacy around here, so the minute you stop thinkin' of anywhere as 'private' is the minute you start winnin'." He doesn't notice the way Z's ear has leaned toward him, intent. "If it's any consolation, m'fairly sure the cameras in the showers get too steamed up to see yer properly."

Darcy keeps bobbing her head, managing to force the rest of the panic in her eyes, clamping down tightly upon it. Her face smooths out as she smiles wryly. "I'll have to keep that in mind, then."

"Dex says television's like someone writing a book about all of the bits of your life, then going at it with scissors to take out only a couple words they like. And then pasting those up together in whatever order they want to make a new story. So if it's the audience knowing you that's got you unset, I think probably do not worries. They don't."

Darcy's smile wanes slightly. "It's not that. It's.." She shakes her head. "Doesn't matter, you're right. Stop caring and you'll be the better for it."

"S'what." Z's voice is gentle.

Darcy runs her fingers through her hair and peers at the floor. "Just. 'm a private person. I don't- -" Words stumble. "Life in a fish bowl," she mumbles, recalling. "D-.. Doesn't matter."

Zolotisty smiles back, lopsided. "It matters," she says, and disappears.

"Jokers," Darcy sighs wearily without bitterness.

Haccadine chews his lip. "Yeh," he agrees. "What'cha gonna do with 'em." Then, apparently tiring of being seated, he gets to his feet and stretches, several vertebrae griping audibly as he does so. "Reckon that's my cue to leave, too."

Darcy blinks as the library is vacated, fingers fumbling at her skirt. "Oh. Uh. Okay then. Bye?"

Haccadine stops as he draws level with Darcy and gives her an odd look - - odd for him, anyway. "Listen. I know what it's like, alright? Took me a while to adjust to havin' them bastards spyin' on me every hour of the day, too. You'll get there." Haccadine hesitates, as though he's run out of words already. "You'll get there," he repeats, and claps her on the shoulder with a smile. She flinches slightly. "Chin up." Advice dispensed, he nods his regards and leaves, disappearing off into the main hall and out altogether.

"Yep, yep.." she says, watching him leave. Her eyes flit back to the clock, lingering on the persistent little red light in the gearworks.

After a moment, she fumbles in her pocket and out comes a little paint pot. She sets it on the bookshelf, wedging it between two books jutting from the rest so she can unscrew the cap. Dipping her index finger in the paint, she pads to the edge of the room to climb one of the long rolling ladders that stand around the perimeter of the circular room. At the very top, she's just able to reach one of the camera, tucked there among the books. She smears the front lens and the recording light, trying to snuff out the red glow entirely. One fingertip isn't enough, so she returns and coats her finger once more. Climbing down, she picks up the paint pot again, then combs the library with her eyes, seeking.

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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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Whenever she's left alone in their tunnel Dex takes out the box that Z brought her from Elias' Lucky Dip. She never peels back either of the tiny squares of clear tape to peek under the perfect triangular folds in the rose-pink tissue paper. She never shakes or squeezes it, doesn't even press the soft box with her thumbs to feel for shape. She just turns it around and around and smooths any papered edges that may have crinkled in her pocket.

The small kettle begins to spout steam and both Dex and the kitten lift their heads; he to drift asleep again and she to get up and make herself a coffee. Distracted by the kettle's whine, she doesn't notice when Z slips back into the tunnel.

Padding toward the bed with a thin book jammed in her back pocket, Z leans to scoop the kitten with two hands. Dex whirls, heart-jumping as Z thrusts the kitten in her general direction. "The little cat found you poemtries," she says, shifting one hand to support his feet as he slinkies drowsily toward the floor. "S'alright, Spandex."

Smiling now, Dex turns her back on them both. "Did he? Want coffee? I got the rest of that Irish cream I made ages ago. Still good." She shakes the bottle and half-fills two mugs, topping each with coffee.

Z nuzzles her nose into the kitten's scruff before letting him back onto the blankets. Padding across their little room, she collects her coffee. "What. No kisses yet, I taste like teas."

"Don't need your kisses, I've got this," she teases, raising her mug. "Where you been?"

"I am braggartly, I am better than coffees. Ahmn, NewHome with new people then the library in clan hall. I saw Hhhchhchh," she rolls it around the back of her throat 'til she gets bored, "accadine in the library too. And ahmn, whasser.. Darcy. He's got books on how to build and make things. Says he's building a place. We talked cambras a bit."

"Why you talkin' cameras?" She takes her time to ask, trying to keep any hint of suspicion out of her voice.

"Wanted to see if he was breaking them for cigs, first off." Z scoots to take a seat on the edge of the counter, slopping only a bit of her drink on her thigh as she climbs up. "Like you thought. But I donno. He sounds like you do, Spandex. When he talks, mean."

"Ratfuckmarybastard?" She leans her waist into Z's knee and gets legs around her hips and a laugh for her troubles.

"No," she says, shaking her head. "Only you obscene like that."

"You like it?" Her expression is obvious in its coyness. Z's eyes crease over the rim of her mug; she shakes her head again. "I'll stop cussin' then. For you." Her own eyes widen as she looks down at her drink. This promise is going to be fucking impossible to keep.

"Not even in sexes?"

"You just said you don't like it!"

"I did not say I did not like it."

"Did too." Her drink's gumming to the roof of her mouth, so she twists around in Z's leg trap to add more coffee to the mixture.

"S'it always that if you don't like something you have to dislike it, can't you like it better than likes. Ow ow tail, don'pinch."

Dex's reaction is immediate. She strokes the leaned-on part apologetically as the kitten looks up to see what the fuss is all about. "Sorry, tail, you're a mere innocent attached to a smartass."

Z's eyes narrow. "Forever bound in matrimonies," she flips it.

While she exaggerates her bend and reach for the coffee, Dex asks, "Where were we- - oh yeh, you were more-than-liking Haccadine."

Cocking her head, Z puzzles for a moment before her eyes light. "You are jealous. You do not even know what I was going to say about him except that he sounds like you and you are jealous."

"Am not. Your ears are liars. I'm jus' curious. Why you care what he does with cameras?"

She frowns backward with her mug as she rests her shoulders against the wall. "I don't. Mean, I do, but. Ionno, he doesn't like Network anymore'n you do and you say he is from where you were so maybe he would have good ideas."

She takes a long drink, and swallows slow, as if with difficulty. "Still don'trust'im," she says quietly.

"Okay," Z says, and that's that. She takes another mouthful of her own drink before resettling her feet. "Kisses now?"

"What you mean more than I do? You like the Network, Z? Is this just about me?" It's like picking an itchy wound before it has a chance to heal. Z's heels press sharp and impatient into the small of her back for just a moment.

"Spandex." Her tone's gentler than her feet.

"You said it," and she leans up on her toes to punctuate her claim with a kiss on the corner of Z's lips. She almost doesn't land it, the way Z corkscrews her head. "You did."

"You hear what you want when you listen for it."

"S'what you said just before you kissed me first time. You had me up against the counters then." Dex sets her mug down as Z's expression softens.

"Yeh? What else I say? I don't remember, I only remember drums."

Dex reaches around Z'a hips to slide her closer. "You taught better me how your hearing works, and told me I sound like ..uhh.. sharp.. sharpthings? And you, I'll never forget this ever, said you sounded like how chain sings when drawn too tight. And the whole time seemed we were on this thin ice and it felt like everything might crack and shatter and you kept saying 'I can go', and more'n anything I wanted you to but didn't just as much." She hears herself speaking, virginal-breathless almost, and finds the sound quite foreign.. exotic.

"Sharpening," Z remembers. "Not sharp things, like.. like getting yourself ready to do a thing, or making something better than it was to do a thing. Like training, or ahmn. Decisioning. For a purpose. Why'd you want me to go."

"Huh. You first: why did you want to go?"

"Case you din't want me there. And cos I could. Go, mean."

"Oh." She knows the question coming, she promised an answer, and it's one she didn't answer months ago when she tried to apologize for pushing Z away again. "I wasn't sure if kissing you was a good idea," she says, hesitating.

But it's a different question now. "How come you never said anything about G."

Months ago Dex would snatch this gift to avoid telling one of her own secrets, but things are different, with Z and here, in a place she feels is completely private. "For awhile it was just a game of chase between us, but then I think I had a huge-ass crush on you, even though I didn't want to. Not yet anyway, you were just divorced. And part of me knew if I kissed you, I'd never be able to want anything else. So." Quieter, "Called that shit like a pro, didn't I."

Z puts her mug aside to pet Dex's forelock back. "D'you know back when we still did not know each other really, I mentioned you when I was carding at the camps. And somebody knew you 'cos you were still going rageful around the pub at all hours with your tequilas, and they said I should not want to kiss you 'cos you'd go and kiss someone else soon. And it surprised me that they said that because I hadn't even thought kissing you then, but it made me think about it."

Hearing these rumours makes Dex smile. "Yeh well, the thing was you should'a gone off kissing loads of people after getting divorced. That's what I thought. So I wanted to wait 'til you did."

"You're only allowed to make up my mind for me now that you are my wifes, Spandex, and that is only sometimes."

Dex's forehead leans against Z's arm as she laughs. It dissipates and her brow creases as she lifts her head. "I didn't tell you about G?"

"No."

"Huh. How'd you find out then? I- - I should have told you, that's terrible, that's one of my rules. Bein' straight with people 'bout that shit. Maybe I was really trying not to fall for you. Maybe I forgot.. sometimes with you 's like bein' in a vacuum." Tunnel vision, she thinks, as she looks past her girl to their surroundings.

"Found out when you brought me with you to Dunbernarding." She resettles her feet. "It's over. You got other rules I donno about?"

"Prob'ly, but marriage is about finding out the rules only when you break them."

Zolotisty laughs and almost cracks their teeth together as she leans to kiss her. Dex's fingers manage to find her shirt buttons and just as she's pushing fabric over the crest of her shoulders, the softest brush of fur tickles around her ankles. Then, a steady alarmbell of hungry miaous, impossibly loud for such a tiny animal, interrupt them.

"Worst cat," Z says, peeking over Dex's shoulder. The kitten cranes his neck up at her and screws up his whole face with the force of his next mew. "You have had foods sooner than we have had sexes." He talks back again and Z wrinkles her nose, unhooking her ankles. "Gimme him, Spandex, please - - thank you. What are words for intrusives. And unexpecteds." Kissing her girl on the curve of her neck, she bumps off the counter and goes to fill his dish.

"Uhh, brazen? No, hrmn. Presumptuous? Brash. No, none of those are quite both."

"Bad names." She shifts the kitten down to the ground and he settles immediately, crunching dainty at his kibble.

Dex scrunches her face and holds her palm to her forehead. "Z, those are terrible names!"

"Brash's alright maybe," she says as she straightens.

Kitten content, Dex cups her hands on either side of Z's face and pulls her to herself, falling back against the counter-edge. It nips at the small of her back as Z drives her hips close. She bends her head to Dex's collarbone, following it with lips and tongue to the hollow of her throat as she pushes up her t-shirt.

"Know what you mean when you say vacuum," she murmurs, greedy for skin. She presses closer, fitting her belly to Dex's and finding the furrow of her spine with her fingertips. "'Cos when I said all I remember is drumming, mean that's all there was to hear and feel, felt it in my bones n'my claws n'my cunt and n'my throat. Teeth. Teeth tips. And it was so loud, Spandex. Thought maybe everyone would get to hearing it, thought you would. Couldn't tell whether it was you, or me, or me bouncin' off you like an echo, or." She follows the muscles of Dex's belly downward with Dex's fingers digging into her scalp, loses herself in the dip of her navel, then peels her knickers off and uses the excuse to feel the whole of Dex's bare legs.

Z raises gooseflesh as she tastes her way back up Dex's thighs. "Or," she breathes into the v of her girl's legs, leaving Dex's hands grabbing for the edge of the counter. "Ionno. Still hear it. N'feel it. First time I'd ever felt somma like that so strong, drunk on it. Hear it now."

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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 kitchen's clean, there are fresh custard apples in the refrigerator, and the cat's dishes have been washed and filled. Robert's even cleanshaven. Wonders, Lacey observes as she scans the contents of the fridge, never cease. "You wouldn't believe some of the arseholes they've got working in that place," she calls over her shoulder. "I'm serious. Can't get the time of day from a body without a snide little remark bundled along with it. It's like they put something in the coffee that turns ordinary people into unqualified wankers."

"Is that going to happen to you?" Rob calls from the living room. "Say, I'm flush." She can hear the sofa creak as he stands, padding toward the kitchen. "D'you want to go out for dinner tonight. Make it a date?"

She shoots him a sideways glance, lips pursing slightly. "What's brought this on, then? Get hired on for decent work today?"

"Had a good day or two, mhm." He leans in the doorway.

Her chin tilts up at him, but she doesn't say anything for a moment or two. Eventually, she pushes the fridge door closed again and nods. He promised he wasn't going to run with the Crew anymore, and she's got to learn to trust him. "Alright. You'll have to wear something nice, though, if we're making it a date."

"Don't like my jeans?" He glances down at himself. "Who was picking on you today if they're all wankers? Surprised you've not knocked someone's teeth in yet."

"It's nice to make an effort once in a while," she replies, and then shrugs. "I don't know. Some faceless Finance jerk firing off messages, telling people how to do their jobs. Trying to get me to sabotage my own contestant, can you believe that?" She snorts. "Well, it didn't come from my boss, so they can go fuck themselves."

"Sabotage?"

"Yeah. I have to make him unlikeable." She pauses, watching for his reaction. "Told you before, Rob. He's Crew. Self-declared number one enemy of my employers."

He doesn't flinch. "Aren't they shooting themselves in the foot? And christ, they spent. What." He rolls his eyes toward the ceiling as he thinks. "Nine months? Nine months on training you, right?"

"Mm. Not counting the interviews and that whole review process."

"What a fucking waste. Could have a baby in that amount of time. Waste of money, waste of your talents, waste of- -"

"Rob." She smiles thinly. "I've only got one job, far as I see it: make good TV."

"Then we can buy a flat." He winks. "How's Moshi Moshi sound for tonight if I doll up?"

Lacey's eyebrows shoot up. "Are you kidding? That's- - Jesus, a meal at that place could bankrupt a small country! A big one, even! Just what sort of work did you pick- - nevermind. Nevermind."

"Nothing you should worry about. And - - act the part, be the part, right? When's the last time you had a piece of real meat, anyway. C'mon, babe."

"Yeah, but- - Christ. Okay." She laughs, more than a little incredulous. "Okay. But you're definitely not wearing those jeans out now."

He sniffs, pretending to be offended. "Something about me tocks? It's the telly. Knew it. Which trousers, then. Let's dress me up like one of those Network wankers."

Another laugh, but genuine this time. "That, I'd like to see."

 
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