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SECURITY CLASSIFICATION: RELEASED TO PUBLIC | DATE OF REVIEW: 05.04.2098 |
AUTHORITY: WIPO | AUTHOR: M WAID |
DOCUMENT STATUS: FINAL VERSION | VERSION: 1.0 |

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SUPERMAN: I'm Superman. I can do anything.

WONDER WOMAN: Except, apparently, face your fear.

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SECURITY CLASSIFICATION: RESTRICTED| DATE OF REVIEW: 05.04.2098 |
AUTHORITY: NETWORK | AUTHOR: NETWORK COMPLIANCE COMMISSION |
DOCUMENT STATUS: FINAL VERSION | VERSION: 1.0 |

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"Sorry, Master Durbin's not available right now." The woman doesn't look up from the chessboard as she speaks. The defeated marble pawn in her hand makes a steady clicking sound as she taps it against another.

It's not as if Cooper has dropped in unexpectedly. Tonight's his weekly training session and for the last two hours, he's been pacing around his bedsit, waiting to leave. In the two years they've been training, Durbin's missed exactly one session, and that was for a funeral of a well-liked and respected Crew member.

"Can you please pass him my regrets, and a message," Cooper asks, squinting up to the window of his old flat, gaze swooping past the CCTV cam on the building. He keeps his hands, with their shredded fingertips, deep inside his jacket pockets. "Tell Master I've been doing my job. Our fellow's not been on for a good reason. It's much better for us that he's not on." It's a desperate tactic -- he can't provide Durbin proof that whatever he claims to be keeping from public view will make Haccadine hated, and Crew by extension -- but it's all he's got.

"Happy to give him your message, but you know the Master-- he prefers action over words." The tapping halts; he has been dismissed.

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SECURITY CLASSIFICATION: NOT RELEASED TO PUBLIC| DATE OF REVIEW: 05.04.2098 |
AUTHORITY: NETWORK CLOSECASTING | AUTHOR: NETWORK CLOSECASTING |
DOCUMENT STATUS: FINAL VERSION | VERSION: 1.0 |

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They find Haccadine face down amid a picnic and a group of completely unperturbed Jokers. He's ruined their tea sandwiches with his weight and blood. One of the Jokers politely offers them a tray of lemon-glazed scones as they approach. "They've currants all inside," he says enticingly, frowning peevishly when both Zolotisty and Elias ignore the offer. The bloody gentleman didn't want one either; dreadful luck he's having with this today. "I shan't see anyone implode at all," he murmurs as Z crouches awkwardly to nudge Haccadine.

"Com'on," she says. "Elias is going to help."

The older man leans down to get both hands under Guy's arms, ignoring the snarl of pain as he hikes him up to his feet. He stoops. "Use me as a crutch if you can't bear weight on it, there's a lad. Talk to me. Who shot you?"

"Elias," Z says urgently. He glances sidelong at her, reading the question in her face, and nods. She disappears.

"Knew I was comin'," Haccadine slurs, one arm slung around Elias' shoulders, the other hanging limp by his side. "Neh'work."

"I see," Elias says, guiding him slowly clear of the picnic blanket. "Did you see who? What did they look like?"

"Di'n't see 'em. Hidin' in th' trees." His grip tightens. "They knew I w's comin'."

"I suppose they did. What would you have done if they hadn't known?" It wouldn't be terribly apropos, Elias muses, to change the topic to something less grim. It's more important to keep Guy talking.

"Kill 'm," comes the automatic response. "S'only way." Haccadine's face is pale, his eyes not quite focused. Blood drips onto the cobbles and leaves a bright red trail behind them.

"The only way to what?"

"Make'm pay."

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SECURITY CLASSIFICATION: RESTRICTED| DATE OF REVIEW: 05.04.2098 |
AUTHORITY: NETWORK | AUTHOR: NETWORK COMPLIANCE COMMISSION |
DOCUMENT STATUS: FINAL VERSION | VERSION: 1.0 |

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"Sir?" the suit at the entrance says, stepping in front of Monroe and looking him up and down with obvious disapproval.

Monroe's instinct is to shove him away, but he remembers where he is. "Excuse me," he says, stepping left.

"Sir's membership card?"

The doorman's at least 60, rough-faced and with the lightest blue eyes Monroe's ever seen. He blames the man's eyes for making him feel so nervous. "Have a date," he confides, leaning in close, as if the man might give him a break in the interest of romance.

"And your date's name, sir?"

'Terry Babcock?"

A look of derisive amusement passes over the man's face and disappears. "Booth in the back corner. May I take your bag and jacket?"

Monroe's stripped down to his tshirt and being frisked before he can even consider objecting. He walks through the redecorated railroad station bar, past the worn wood booths lined along the wall, dimly lit by the oily light through antique metal lampshades. Not recognizing her, Monroe walks by Terry three times before she spots him.

"Oh, there you are, dearest!" She's almost another person. The saucy flip has been washed out of her white hair, her clothes are neutral shades, and her gaudy plastic glasses have been replaced by wire-frames. Her grin, though, is just as blinding as ever. "Come and have a seat, won't you?"

He stands there blinking like an idiot, wondering if it's the low light or his general sense of displacement that's upturned his vision of Terry. "Fuckme, Babs, you all Clark Kenting." He slides into the booth to sit across from her.

A waiter arrives almost immediately and Monroe's gaze shoots past him to the bar, then to the table for a menu. Smirking, Terry mercifully orders for them both. "Caipirinha for the gent," she can't help but giggle, "and a double Cosmo for me. Keep'em coming all night, Gerald."

Monroe smirks along as if he understands whatever the hell is funny, but as soon as the waiter disappears, he drops the act. "You're a member?!" He leans over the table, trying to keep his voice down, and as he studies her, it's not just seeing her differently in her civvies, it's the fact of her second pair of glasses, her professionally styled and dyed hair, her natural linen shirt. Even in 'dressing down' to avoid getting attacked, her wealth is far beyond his. It was always there in front of him, and now that he sees it, he realises more than anything that he wants it too.

"I'm a star," she answers.

"Fuckme," is all he can manage, and finds two drinks placed between them. He grabs for his, but waits for her lead.

"You had questions for me, Michael-dear," she prompts him. After a sip from her glass, she softens a touch. "You came to fetch me back to the suite. Do you recall? You had questions, but I didn't answer them then."

He gulps at his drink. "Woah, this beats my min-ral." And he gulps again. "Beats pressin' a gal... no offence." He takes one more long drink and licks his lips. "We busted? Mean, God was in. Made my man's manlies hide so far inside could feel'em here." He touches his throat.

Terry decides to take a gulp from her drink too, before answering, "Oh, probably. I bet we're all sacked. This may very well be the last night of drinks Gerald brings me." It's as if she's discussing the weather, rather than her own life.

Monroe stares into his glass. "You're not-- Can't I-- can you do something?"

Her laugh's sharp around the edges. He downs his drink. Two more arrive.

After a moment, Terry muses into her fresh beverage, "Maybe we'll all wind up like Ebenezer -- shipped off to that dreaded Island."

"Agman, serious?" He's thought it all through -- how he'd become the most popular, how he'd save up for the toughest looking weapons and how he, single-handedly, would be the one that'd finally bring an end to the war. "Then my man's never be lackin' pomp-pomp", he utters aloud. "They won't be giving Terry the sack, Grampa Neezy's too 'boom', nawmean. How'd you rig that? Man's screwed tighter than Gannet."

She traces her smile with a fingernail, considering before she answers. "He wasn't supposed to be a regular character, you know. My job was only ever meant to be temporary -- film him until he dies. Make an example for everyone, a cautionary tale to all other naughty Network employees. Surprise, surprise, he didn't die." She laughs, a bit quieter than usual. Now, she runs her finger in slow circles along the rim of her glass. "At first, I thought I'd get sacked. Isn't that funny? Didn't take me long to realize that if he didn't die, I'd still have a job of filming him. I kept my fingers crossed, Michael-doll, and my lad stuck it through long enough to become a Kittymorph."

A swig of her Cosmo washes down another laugh and Terry claps her glass down against the tabletop again. "When he applied to DICE clan, it sure surprised the ever-loving fuck out of everyone. Everyone but me, that is. I was ready for it. And when there was a sudden rush to make a character out of him, there I was with the storylines all blocked out. I had a love story with Escemfer -- a secret marriage, a seething rivalry with Adder Moray. I even had the beginnings of a cute little Christmas plot in the works. Suddenly, I'm getting ratings and all I've got to do is climb my way towards the top."

They lean close and keep their voices down, even though anti-Network types don't normally frequent private bars like this. "Babs," he says, his smile faltering as he pats his chest and realises Security took his jacket. "I have the pen. One of the original limited editions."

She doesn't laugh in his face. She beams and he returns the smile.

"Serial, innit. Steals a pen from the bank to write a marriage proposal to his lass. Now she needs a real man, like Monroe."

This time, she does laugh, though it's good-natured. Her giggles fade away into her glass, but her shoulders still shake and her grin doesn't diminish.

His grin widens with her attention and sound of her laughter. "I watch, nawmean. My man's learned. Your Neezy? Everyone all bettin' on him slippin' in the jungle, but, naw, he pulled it out. Know how, Babs? Connections." Relaxing into the comfort of a topic he knows so much about, he takes a long drink and continues, "Psssht. Neezy's now bank as fuck. Him and that Warehouse, his bot-army protectin' it. Connections got 'im there." He lifts his glass to her. "Like you. Everyone kens Babs."

She waves away his praise of Ebenezer with a flap of the hand. "Not by accident either, Mikey-chicken. I make sure they all know me." At his cue, she lifts her glass too. "Not much good it'll do me if we're all sacked." She drinks.

There's a rare silence between them while he peers at her, wondering if she's teasing him or not. Not, he decides. "Agman, Babs be dialin' her friends upstairs. They all, 'we got you covered', and you be cool." With a wink, he adds, "And you'll remember my man?"

Her giggle escapes through her nose and echoes in her glass, and Monroe laughs along with her. "Oh, yes," she answers. "You're doing a fine job of making yourself memorable."

Monroe's smile drops. "Don'be merksin' my mans here." He leans even further forward on the table and drops his voice. "'Fess why you be calling Monroe? Babs has plans, right?"

"No plans," she replies, sing-song. "No plan apart from having a bit of fun with my money for what may be the last time." He looks lost while she she downs the rest of her drink, and when she stands, he scrambles to stand too.

"This has been a nice little distraction, Michael-love. Thank you for that." She shoulders her handbag and waves a toodle-loo, leaving him scanning the room for someone who will know where his things are.

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SECURITY CLASSIFICATION: NOT RELEASED TO PUBLIC| DATE OF REVIEW: 05.04.2098 |
AUTHORITY: NETWORK CLOSECASTING | AUTHOR: NETWORK CLOSECASTING |
DOCUMENT STATUS: FINAL VERSION | VERSION: 1.0 |

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Dex is at 212 when she hears Z's claws on the polished concrete floor. She's too relieved to wonder why she didn't feel her Improbability first like she normally does. Jerking her head toward the sound, she finds herself even more relieved to see Z not looking worse than when she left. "Wha'happened?" she blurts, but a big part of her doesn't fuckin' care. She just wants to hear Z's voice again, wants her close.

"He got shot," Z says. She tips awkwardly onto her knees and scoots over to the bed. "Elias will fix him."

Dex lifts the covers. "An'Eben? Wha's going on?" She has a weird premonition of Eben at her bedside telling her he got shot. But again, a huge wave of weariness threatens to pull her under, and all she wants is Z's breath on her neck.

Crawling in as best she can, Z glues herself to Dex's side. "Eben went to clan hall, he's okay."

Slurred, "So everyone's okay?"

Z hesitates. "Yeh." Desperately, selfishly, she wants to keep Dex up. She settles her chin and cheek on her forearm instead, trying to ignore her foot, her belly, her ear, as Dex falls asleep.

 
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