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1967 - - US: 69 armed men, plus three CBS cameramen, arrested in Florida Keys as they complete preparations for an invasion of Haiti. It is later revealed that CBS had paid the prospective invaders for exclusive rights to film the landing. In Haiti, Alejo Carpentier learns that there is no magic more prodigious & delightful than the voyage that leads through experience, through the body, to the depths of America. In Europe, magicians have become bureaucrats, & wonder, exhausted, has dwindled to a conjuring trick. But in America, surrealism is as natural as rain or madness.



Zolotisty is steel trap-still when she is recalled unexpectedly to the tunnel. The runty grey kitten pokes his head up from a pile of blankets and miaows a complaint at her for having been left so rudely. She doesn't turn, and he forgets his belligerence with a start when Dex materializes holding tight to her. Peeping once more, he hunkers like a mouse to peek out at them with wide eyes. Z's pulse rages at the walls of her throat, all kick-and-scream violence, thumping into Dex's relaxed jaw. They stand like that while the kitten grows bored and falls back asleep with a sigh that balloons his babyround belly.

Dex watched exactly where Z stuffed that bill, and while one hand distracts by swirling and scritching and smoothing the back of Z's hair, the other slips low to pickpocket and tuck it into her own.

Shifting finally, sluggishly, it's like Z's coming out of a fever dream. "Reckon they finally did something," she says.

"Want us to go back?" Dex lets her go and sits on the edge of the bed, but Z turns to knock her onto her back, blanketing her aggressively. Bounced, the kitten rouses again and gives them a bewildered look of affront before moving to the edge of the mattress. He sizes up the jump to the floor.

"Donno what I'd do. Let me see it, you took it. Let me see."

"In my right pocket," Dex says, massaging Z's neck and shoulders. Each squeeze against stiff muscle sends a twinge of pain from her right wrist to her elbow. Z rolls half off of her to snatch the paper free, then straight back to her full body pin. She sets the papers above Dex's head and tucks her nose to her neck. They lay just like that for a while - - not moving but for Dex's hands which work their way down Z's back. The kitten plods back over to them, struggles over the mountain ranges of their legs, then jams himself under Z's tail in the v of Dex's legs.

Then Z pushes her elbows out by Dex's ears and lifts her weight onto her forearms as she draws her knees even with the bottom of Dex's ribs. She sits up, reaches for her hands, and laces their fingers together. "Sorry."

"What for?"

"I donno."

"Who you apologizin' to then?"

"You, I guess. Me. The clan. I donno."

"Don'understand, twist."

"I don't want to do it anymore."

"Okay," she says, then, "Do what exactly?"

"Should be able to have babies if you want babies. And run with me if you want to run with me. N'we should be able to go back out if I forget we need a food, and you should not be grounding your teeth when you sleep and I should not be waking up from dreams and I don't want to do it anymore."

"Okay, twist, okay. Let's go tell'em where the tunnel is," Z's ears go back, "and we'll stop bustin' cameras. And, donno how you'll stop Hacca or that Darcy bustin' 'em, but that's your job not mine."

"Not telling them where this place is."

"What are we doin' then exactly, twist? Tell me." Exasperation creeps into her voice, and they both hear it.

Z lets go of her hands, pulling away. The kitten grumpily readjusts himself, headbutting the inside of Dex's thigh as he sets both hindfeet on the opposite.

"Com'on Z, what's wrong."

"What do you want, Dex. Don't tell me 'okay'. Tell me what you want."

"I've been grindin' my teeth since I was little, and you know this. Ask that ear, it knows," Dex adds, jutting her chin towards the left, insomniac one. "I want to not follow rules if they're wrong, but don't want'a take anyone else unless they're willin'. It is me that's given you the nightmares though, but if you want out, choose it yourself." Her lower half trapped on the bed by a kitten, she lifts up on her elbows. Z's chin is dipped almost to the hollow of her throat. "Sick of fuckin' talkin' about this though. Stop bustin' their cameras if you don't want techs comin' round to fix them. What you think they were gon'a do?"

Zolotisty slides off the bed and skulks for the footbridge the crosses the canal.

"Twisty," Dex calls, "I don't understand. What did you expect? Every time we bust a camera, it's takin' a swing at 'em."

No reply. Z disappears from view, obscured by the wall that runs parallel to the water on the living side of the tunnel.

Dex sits up, picking up the kitten and rearranging him in her lap. She scratches behind his ears and neck, checking frequently to see if Z reappears. Roused to wakefulness yet again, the kitten arches into Dex's fingers and turns in little claw-pocked circles before peering up at her. He screws up his face when he mewls. "Com'on," she answers, swinging her legs off the bed and carrying him to the kitchen to feed him. He sets on his dish greedily when she fills it, eating with the too-fast air of someone used to being bulled out of the way. After she cleans and refills his water bowl, Dex goes to find Zolotisty wedged into the corner below the lightswitch at the very far end of the tunnel.

"Donno if you want me to go away or com'ere, but I want to do the right thing, so you'll have to tell me which it is.

"Talking to me like I'm a rookie, Spandex."

"Oh. Sorry." Dex stays where she is, a few steps away.

"Talkin'a me like a martyr, talkin'a me like we're not two."

"Not a fuckin' martyr and yeh, we're two but not one mind. You want to disagree, fine. Let's hear it."

Zolotisty unfolds herself, standing straight to meet Dex eye to eye. "Yeh? Not a martyr but you gave me the nightmares. Not a martyr but you'll take it alone, alright, Dex. All right- -"

"No, Z. A martyr would be all ohmygod ohno I'm the bad one, but I'm not that. I'm the one that filled you in about homophobia, 'bout people eatin' dogs, 'bout the Network, 'bout how things could be different - -"

"And what, you broke me?"

"Didn't say that."

"Didn't make any of it either, Dex."

Dex rubs the heel of her palm across her forehead. "No. I don't feel responsible anymore, Z. I did at first, don't now."

"Then why the fuck you saying it! Why you martyring if you say that's not true either."

"What. God, listen, ever since the old networks discovered reality tv, they been mopping up profits with it - - was just a cheap-ass way to make a show. Don't got'a pay actors. And they got more than they bargained for - - people got obsessed with the fame and the so-called real people on tv. It took over people's lives, their communities. They'd sooner miss best friend's funeral than miss a show. And after EMP when Network took over everything, they realised this and more- - they could control people with it. They're warring with people out there, Zolotisty, but distracting them with war in here, and making it look normal. Get'em used to the gore and killing. Driving home message that we can't win. Can't ever beat the drive, it's 'just the way it is'. They're selling that to everyone, and someone's got to turn that off. Someone's got'a tell those kids it ain't real, that it's all making profits off people who didn't ask. What's that make us, Z? Slaves, is what. And they're starting young, I bet. Mark my word, the Network's sellin' people like Harris to the kids out there. All'a voices and bouncing' off the walls with his mis-wired signals. They're probably all bouncin' their bellies with laughin' at 'im."

The quiet that fills the space between them as she finishes ranting is thin enough to uncover Z's subthroat growling.

"We're not understanding each other, I give up." Dex throws her hands in the air and Z flinches backward instinctively. "Th'fuck? You'd think I'd ever.. Don't fuckin' believe it." She turns to walk back toward their bed. It's three steps before she's knocked off her feet.

They land heavily with Z on top. She leans close, lip curled to expose the cream white curve of her eyetooth. "Nawh I don't think you'd ever but when it's all I can think to do, it doesn't sit so easy with me, Spandex, and I read it in you because that's what my blood wants. You didn't do anything to me. Didn't give me those dreams. They did, and they did it because I broked their cambras, and you can say you told me about the cambras, but if we're going to play that game, then I kissed you first, so shut the fuck up about knowing. Day you stop telling me your truths is the day I don't come home to you."

Dex doesn't move. "Get off me."


Dex just lays there limp until finally Z shifts her weight, rolling it from Dex to her forearms and then her left forearm and knee - - off. She sits, staring at the far wall. "Donno what to do about clan. I'm sorry."

Dex still doesn't move, her cheek pressed to the ground."You'll know this," she says quietly, "but Kai taught me to wait for weaknesses. Bide your time, sooner or later they'll show a weakness." She rolls up to stand, her right forearm hanging like something foreign or dead grafted to her elbow. She feels herself disconnect - - like that floating above a dream, watching herself and mildly wondering if she'll recall today as the first ever time Z, in one fell swoop, made both splitting up and violence between them thinkable. Z turns her head to look at her slowly blinking heavy-lids as if barely able to stay awake.

The sound of Dex hurt is sometimes indistinguishable from the sound of Dex herself - - it took Z weeks to figure the patterns out when they were still acquaintances, and though she didn't theorize much about it then, she's impressed by it now. Dex is the only person Z knows who can willfully change their sound to block, or guard, or disappear. There must be others, she's sure. She doesn't know them.

The way she sounds now is a close facsimile of herself - - the right themes and notes, everything in the right place. The tuning's off, though, and it's just barely loud enough to drown an undercurrent of static.

Dex hasn't sounded like this in months, Z realizes with a jolt. Months and months. Not since she found her outside Jardin Surleau with a brass spiderkitty and a little rock in her hands. Dex's trusted her enough, grown to trust her enough, that since then it's the static Z usually hears when she is hurt or hiding. Not the shield.

"Spandex," Z says urgently, scrobbling up.

"Mmn? I donno Z, not good at this.. uhh," The tiredness fades as she starts thinking strategy again, and she turns to face Z. "I guess someone should talk to Darcy and Guy. Maybe they should know the Network don' fuck around."

"Spandex, I'm sorry, look at me."

"Twist, you jus' keep sayin' sorry and I don' understand why you're sorry."

"Rest doesn't matter right now, I hurt you. Sorry for that and I mean it. Tell me what I did."

"Hit a girl from behind ain't a fair fight." Her lips quirk into their usual amused half-grin, but there's no audience for it. "I deserve better."

Zolotisty doesn't often look frightened - - mostly only ever in moments where the foreign language of introspection breaks through, becomes comprehensible. She thinks Dex has said it wrong. Hit your girl from behind. "Yes," she says. "You do."

"Still wouldn't hit you back." She lifts her arm and beckons her closer. "Com'ere 'n explain why you're so tight-wound anyway."

If realization is a rainstorm, then Dex's arm makes a poor umbrella. Z huddles under anyway, trying to puzzle out whether it's her or the skittish violence of the jungle in her that's wound her, whether it's been her all along and the mewling complaints about not being people were some kind of con. Dex laid wide that defense. Maybe it's appropriate she be the victim of it. "Donno I can," she hears herself say. "I'll try."

They're back where they were - - pressed close, Dex rubbing Z's back and shoulders, and Z only feeling able to mumble stupid apologies for things Dex can't see. "Don' think you're a rookie, but I must be missin' somma' cuz all I can see is Network hittin' back, and not even that hard, you know, don' know if that's what's got you upset so much is all. Tryin' to understand it."

The prompt helps. "Hate people in my places that I don't ask to be there," Z says. "Not theirs to go to. Don't even want to set the banyans right since that tech was there. N'clan hall, I wanted to kill them but there was no reason. S'what I'd have done if I were them too. Didn't break those cambras though. Didn't know they were broke."

"Twist, we're all their hostages here," Dex starts, then hesitates. "I mean, I don't feel like any of this is mine, not really."

"Same as someone touching you. Or touching my ears. Not theirs to go to."

"Yeh," Dex exhales, tucking her hand in Z's. "Don't even own our own bodies."

"What - - fuck that, Dex, what's owning a body. Wasn't even talking about that."

"Meant, they think ours is theirs to go to. We're not people, we're property. Theirs."

Showing her fangs, Z pulls her hand away but finds she has nowhere to put it. Her ugly expression smooths and she sighs heavily as she tips her forehead against Dex's shoulder. "Disagree."

Guard-dog, Dex thinks. "Com'on tell me what you think it is then."

"I just don't want people in my places, Dex."

Dex is stuck here again- - wanting to make things right for her girl, yet desperate for her to understand the way things really are. "Okay," she says, instead of 'that's impossible'. "If Hacca 'n them are bustin' cameras too, Netjerks might be assuming it's a clan thing now. S'at what you're thinkin?"

"Yeh. Maybe. I don't.. if I get hit 'cos I've been breaking cambras, okay. I hit them. But if someone else does because of me, no. N'I donno, we've thought about that. But we think about a lot of things, Spandex. Most of them are fictions."

"Fictions!" It feels like a suckerpunch, but she works herself static again. "Like what?"

"What if they do this, what if we do that. Doesn't mean anything unless it happens."

"Jus' tell me what you want me to do. I don' want anyone else having to fight my fights either, jus' like you said."

"No, different. Mean if they get hit 'cos of our fight. Not 'cos they decide they're going to fight, too. Was just.." Z thumbs hair away from Dex's temple. "One of the maybes stopped being a fiction, aye? I donno. Want you to rest. Want you to forgive me. I want to say I'd never hurt you but I donno that anymore and I- -"

"No one can guarantee not to hurt another person. Wish you'd stop bloody apologizin' though, startin' to poke at my temper."

"Didn't say sorry!" She kisses Dex's chin and pulls away to judge her face.

She doesn't budge but to hook her left index finger into Z's beltloop.

Z peers down at Dex's finger. "Ohoh you are safety rigged."

"Car-a-bin-er," Dex drawls. "Don'no how safe it is, hookin' onto someone that wants to rip throats out of bunch of stupid-asses that just want to change lightbulbs."

Z forgets mocking the word Dex has just made up. "Not throats," she says, shaking her head. "Mprobility. Was that what they were doing."

"I figure sending a team into your space is deliberately pokin' your bees, so I figure their biggest worry is missing shit for their show. Notice how fuckin' fast they send techs out? They've got shit-loads of them fuckers hired. S'not cheap." Dex rocks up onto the balls of her feet to unhook from hanging off Z's waist.

"Lightbulbs," Z echoes, then she startles and scoops Dex off of her feet to whirl her. "Spandexyouarethecleverest."

"Nonono," Dex says, letting her arms drape wide. "S'not lightbulbs, don't.. aurgh. They were cleanin' the lenses s'far's I could tell."

"Cleverest." Hefting her better, Z troops with her back toward the living area and their bed. "Because you can be unseeable and we aren't supposed to whack them in the bees anymore. Cleverest-cleverest-cleverness-cleverest."

"What." Dex says, unintentionally working to disprove Z's assertion about her intelligence. "We're not s'posed to.. who says.. what?"

Z sizes up the bed with the same air the kitten did, except she's measuring the step up instead of the jump down. "Techs have got to live somewhere," she says, deciding to risk it. They wobble dangerously as she shifts her weight, but then they're up, and Z's planted them in the center of the mattress. "And you could find where their places are. And we could watch to kick them. Or decoy as them."

"What. Hang on," Dex says, stretching her arms and legs out across the bed. "First of all, you're the cleverest 'cuz you thought of this not me, and second of all, who says we're not s'posed to whack'em?"

"I'm not pulling more cameras down, not for a while."

"Why. Who says."

"Me says." She lowers herself after Dex, taking her forearm into her lap to work her thumbs gently into tendons and wasted muscle. "Because I don't want them to hit my clan."

"Okay. Owch. Then I'll behave too."

"You been behaving. Sorry, lemme kiss. Be still."

Dex frowns at her arm before peering over Z's shoulder. "Kitten's in your coat, look."

The sleeve is flailing around like an animated jungle monster. The distraction's enough for Dex to reclaim her arm, but she's busted. Z glances back, tipping her head, so Dex shows her the problem by lifting her arm and letting it flop-wrist. "Still pathetic," and she tucks it close to her side, out of sight. "He needs a name, Z."

"Give machines names, not little cats." She rescues him and he thrashes fiercely, waving his claws at her. "Maybe he already has one."

"Twist? Why do you refuse to call him a kitten?"

Z grins sideways at her. "Cos it kept making you frown before. Christ it's a fuckin' kitten."

"So what, 'cuz you've decided you're not torturin' Network you got'a take it out on me?" She rolls her shoulders. "Two can play that," and she vanishes.

"Wut." Z stares at the spot where Dex was before lifting the kitten to her face to nuzzle his forehead with her nose. He squints his eyes closed and pulls his bottom feet up. "Dexes are the most Improbable of all of the Improbable girlf- - wiiiifes.." she tells him, before, "Are you mad."

I am mad, she realises then, but hiding and running away are things she promised herself she'd not pull on Z, so she reappears. "Yeh, still a little."

"Am I torturing you."

"No, Z, was exaggeratin'."

"It's okay if you're mad still, I was awful."

She's not sure that she wasn't awful too. "How much is the bill, Z. No fuckin'round just say."

"I donno how to say it when it's that big."

Dex chuckles like someone's hit their head on the ground. "Let me see."

"Here." She stretches one-handed for the papers to pass them to Dex, who bugs her eyes at the total before going back to the top to take her time to read them.

"You see this part about lost revenue? We should ask for a more detailed accounting of it. Who, what they're worth per hour, what percentage is being allocated to us, the fuckin' actors." Dex laughs. "Let's let Ebsy write them a thorough letter ..maybe he could audit this shit."


Dex shoves the bill back into Z's pocket. "Don't. Jus' don't start."

"Start what."

"You're takin' the piss outta me. M'sick of all this though, let's listen to music again?"

Z starts to come back with a, 'i said okay, dex,' thinks better of it, and sets the kitten on the bed before going to drag the crate of records closer. "You pick this time."



Dex believes you can tell a lot about a person by how they wake up. She shoulders the door open and steps into the bright morning rectangle of light it makes on the floor. Standing there a moment, not yet in or out, she scans the landing for activity. It's quiet, so she steps in until the floor shape disappears, and heads straight for the maroon couch where she last saw Haccadine. Not tip-toeing or trying to hide the thud of her boots on the floor - - no point in scaring the bejesus out'a someone that may sleep rough, half-wake in case of enemies. She's still studying him. Has been since they first met.

He surfaces rapidly from the depths of sleep, breathless and bobbing, woken by the sound of footfalls. Clattery ones; boots, his mind tells him, but not heavy. Decent strides. It takes his brain a minute to adjust, and then he is alert. Motionless.

Veering to the side of the couch where his jacket hangs neatly over its arm, she notes how it's laid carefully so that one pocket (rightside, from what she saw yesterday) is just at the crest of the arm's curve, for quick reach. She lifts her eyes to his. She smiles, shrugs, it's nice outside. She wishes she brought coffee.

"Mornin'," he slurs, pushing himself groggily up into a sitting position, and rubbing at his face with both hands. "What c'n I do for you." What're you here for, is what he means.

She backs up a step, then, and slowly and obviously unsheathes her tanto - - the same she held at his throat two weeks back. She offers it to him, handle first. "S'pretty out. Take you somewhere?" They both know it's a merely symbolic gesture - - both know that the other carries more than one weapon.

Cautious, he reaches out and wraps his fingers around the handle of the knife, lifting it gently from her grasp. "Is it?" He looks the knife over, feeling its heft in his hands, turning it this way and that. After a pause, he turns the blade around again and holds it out to her. "S'good," he says. "S'a nice weapon. Well-kept." He smiles. "Where'd you have in mind?"

"Bring a jacket," she says, smiling. Whether for the cold or because he'll need his gun, she doesn't say. Despite recent admonishments from Z, she's still careful not to give anyone watching through cameras advance notice of her trajectories.



They don't say a word the entire journey.

Haccadine fits in well on the beach. Between his hair, the neutral sepia shades of his clothing and the constant layer of dust 'n' dirt, you could almost lose him amidst the dunes and the pebbles if you weren't watching carefully enough. He shuffles along, scuffing sand and kicking rocks as he goes, gazing out to sea for long periods and then back around to make sure he hasn't lost Dex. Hard to, really, with that hair.

Dex's long strides eat ground. Her head swivels constantly, alert, sometimes just to check how good the sets coming in are.

It's still early and the low morning sun reflects obtuse angles off the sea when they reach their destination - - a pretty beach in the Northeast of the island, long gentle dunes with tufts of windbent marran that overlooks a stretch of water that blurs into the horizon. Zolotisty's chosen this place for one of the puzzles she's made for the clan. This one has one hundred of her bent and battered cards scattered in the sand.

"What's this all about, then, anyway? These important?"

"What's important?"

His face twitches at the question, a slight flash of exasperation. "I don't know, do I. What matters to you?"

She drops this line of questioning as the two of them sit together in the sand, to gather and sort cards to try to decipher their meaning. The cards seem random, and they discover that many are missing, many duplicated, and they both offer theories why."You don't like people?"

He nearly gets whiplash from the sudden change in direction. "What? When did I say that?"

"You're quiet and keep apart from the others."

"Like I said in the bar; I like people fine, but I don't need 'em. 'Sides, I can't be the only one. Haven't seen hide nor hair of 'bout half the people on the roster."

"Who you lookin' for?"

He throws his hands up, exasperated, the flash of irritation returning in force. "Not lookin' for anyone. Not everythin's got a double bloody meanin' behind it, Christ."

"Okay." She jerks back.

He rubs his forehead and then collects the cards, subdued, and shuffles them into a rough stack before handing it to her. "That's them, then." He makes a half-hearted attempt to brush the worst of the sand off himself.

"It's not stupid, Haccadine," she says, now that he's calmer, "to look for deeper meanings. To listen and think beyond just the words." Standing, she steps into her boots and crouches to tie them. "Maybe I was wrong. But one thing's for sure." She straightens, smiles at him. "You're one of the few that talk back to me. I like that."

"Yeh. Well. Spend enough time fightin' buggers out in th' jungle; sometimes I'd like to not have to fight my way through a conversation too, y'know?" But he smiles back, if not quite as wide and sharp, but she is facing the sea in order to hide her disappointment.

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