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

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Digging a hole.
To bury his child alive.
So that he could buy food for his aged mother.
One day.
A man struck gold.


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SECURITY CLASSIFICATION: RESTRICTED | DATE OF REVIEW: 19.02.2098 |
AUTHORITY: NETWORK COMPLIANCE COMMISSION | AUTHOR: NETWORK COMPLIANCE COMMISSION |
DOCUMENT STATUS: FINAL VERSION | VERSION: 1.0 |

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Simpert's gaze roams to Cooper's open inbox and freezes on an unread message.

"What?" He turns and opens the email.

"Is that addressed to us?" Simpert says incredulously.

"Timestamped five am, Simpert. From Ms. Godard. You didn't read it?"

"Fuck me dead, Stasi Godard never writes. I didn't see it! I've been phoning Maddie. That's addressed to us, it's not one of the regular security briefs?" He wants Cooper to correct him with his usual white-gloved disdain. He wants to be wrong, but Cooper just leans forward and reads.

It's short. Like Godard.

"'All associated cam-ops are being issued an all-eyes order in compliance with an upgrade to the threat levels of Contestants Zolotisty and Spandex. Every second to be accounted for by end of shifts. Any discrepancies logged and reported immediately to' ..ooh.. 'Mssrs Simpert and Cooper, Ms Ogilvy, Ms Axelsson, and Ms Godard herself. All tapes of activity with these contestants are to be sent to our share-boxes before end of shifts. No overtime is permitted without prior consent. Warm regards'." He turns to face Simpert. "Well then. Imagine if our little ragamuffins had any idea how they've just raised the ire of two floors full of already overworked staff."

"How we have just raised the ire of two floors full of already overworked staff," Simpert groans, slumping in his chair.

Cooper says nothing, dusting the front of his jacket with his palm.

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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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"You know how you do that thing when we're gettin' it on with your ears, twist?" They're on their second bottle of red wine and second steaks. Dex could probably eat another.

"You get on with my ears but not me?"

"Yeh, Zolotisty, I sneak out back with them while you're busy. I stuff them in my bra while you're sleeping." Dex lifts up onto her knees, manhandles her own tits and slides her tongue along her fangs. "Ouh baby yehhh listen'a this. You like it when I talk dirty."

Z snorfs wine, coughs, and laughs. "Stuff? Line, I reckon." She reaches up for the tips of her ears to pull them back and forth, waggling them in little circles, then molds her hands behind them to fashion them into cups. "I bet they could be a bra."

They both almost fall over as Dex pounces to try them on. "Get a knife!" she calls. "The rest'a you's gotta go. S'cramping my style, yeh."

It's the warm-press weight of her that keeps Z from twinging. Her ears flick anyway, half-deafened. "On'jokebouknives," she says mashed into Dex's belly. "Stygrampsmeee. ..ioulbe'thgoziesbras."

Dex drops lower to replace her boobs with her nose. "C'mon was jokin." She pulls away and holds Z's face in her hands like Z does to her. "Concentrate."

"mrr."

"We need two-way radio so I can check on you when you're away. 'n remember what we said, avoid predictable locations and anywhere too solitary. Right?"

"..righ'." Z's hands, earless, concentrate on the backs of Dex's thighs.

"What's the easiest thing to hear without me makin' actual sounds? Feelings, like." Intent, she frees herself and stands to back up a few steps from Z.

Z props herself up on her elbows, half-lidded as she watches Dex. "..mn.. u'set'r'scared or ahmn.. .. ..hot."

"The first two we'll use only if actual problem, k? So. Hot. This is easy 'cuz I- - Shit, I got'ta watch Improbability ain't listening too." She backs up until they're the length of the tunnel apart, and then closes her eyes. It's an easy recollection, her thighs have barely cooled. Z's ears lean over the longstretch concrete bartop between them with an easy 'lemme buy you a drink' slant. She watches, silent.

"DID YOU HEAR THAT?" Dex swats away Improbability which is reddening her chest.

Z jerks her head sideways, wincing, then blinks. "WHICH PART," she roars back.

Fortunately, Z can't hear the look Dex just shot her. "SEND IT BACK."

"I LIKED THE END."

Dex snorts, then slams her hand over her mouth and turns her ear to face in the direction of Z.

Sitting up, Z folds herself over her lap. She gazes around at the strewn plates and glasses, the rumpled bedsheets, the books dogeared, the ideas scribbled on pieces of scrap. She imagines a Dex from two hours ago, all revolutionary stride and - -

"NOTHING YET."

- -impatient words stumbling over each other, book in hand. This, we gotta do it like this, twist. And Z smiles slow, the way she did then, feels the pounce first at the base of her tail, and - -

"STILL NOTHING."

- -slams it back at her, like a last inning pinch hit against the clock.

On her ass, "GOT IT." A pause. "BIT SLOW THOUGH. LIKE AN OLD MAN."

Z's laughter echoes off the arches - - "LIKE BERNARD?" - - and Dex's eyes close. She shoos any thoughts of B into more appropriate places and concentrates on a banyan-colored memory that she knows is one of Z's favourites. Her eyes open to only be slammed shut again. "Woah," she smiles. At least she braced herself this time. "GOT IT."

They practice ten more times at Dex's insistence before she bridges the distance to scoop Z, one-armed. "Cleverest ears in the world," Dex says, still smiling.

"Brases now, com'ere."

 
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