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Raven rose and went. Dark and thin and made for destruction, he wasn't at ease among the little tables, among the bright fruit drinks. The shop windows maddened him, the sentiment of it. His hands clenched in his pockets.



Sprawled in an armchair towards the back of the Library, Haccadine is halfway through another book (Adhesives and You -- A Primer), one arm propping up his head and the other engaged in leafing to the end of the section. He's interrupted by footsteps, just audible above the background thrum of the hall and getting louder; he glances up.

She's been looking for him. Dex pulls a random book from the stacks as she passes and stands close, leaning against the end of the bookshelf and thumbing open the book to a random page. Graham Greene's Gun for Sale.

"Heya," she says finally. "Settlin' into your new room okay?"

He folds his book slowly shut and stands, setting it onto the shelf again. "It's.. nice, yeh," he replies, slow.

"You don'like it?"

"Nah, it's not that-- Just kinda weird. Looks like a city, but it don't feel right. Not enough noise, not enough people, nobody pukin' up their guts on yer doorstep at four in the mornin'."

Dex laughs. "Ah hell, I used to pass out on the bench aroun'the side of the Spiderkitty for my first while here, moved to the jungle soon as I learned how to sleep in trees -- yeh, jungle's'got its own din. When they dump you here?"

"Fuck knows. Feels like ages. Haven't been keepin' track; tried, but I gave up after maybe the first coupla weeks. Don't really get weeks out in the jungle, do yer?"

"No, but I've always been like that anyway. Never seemed to have those things to pin time on like most people do."

"Don't you get a bit lost if y'don't know what day it is, or what month? How d'you remember when stuff happened if you can't give it a rough date, at least?"

"Oh! I mean, there's rough order of stuff, but hell, I don't even know when I was born or how old I am." She steps back to push the book back into the shelf. Her smile remains. "Do I seem lost?"

"Don't seem it, no. But then, who'm I to judge? I could be even more lost'n you."

"Lost 'a found, merci these fascist fucknits." She thumbs over her right shoulder to the camera trained on them, its tiny red light flashing. "Na buzwa nitac tana." She knows her cant's way out of date and probably been cracked by now, so even though she's dying to hear word on her old friends, she daren't ask about them yet.

Haccadine thinks quickly. "Chanenoc?" He's been expecting this for a while, now. He jerks his head, casual, and begins to walk around the bookshelf.

"Chanenoc?" She follows. "Uhhh, dinnec, shittock, dinnec.. chanenoc? Don't understand. Uhh, Christ, na us geezey." I'm old.

"No shit? Never really neckered about it; still, if you're erlinedo ladbas'mid, then sure." Nod twice.

She nods once, slowly, watching him stop and face her. When he stuff his hands in his pockets and leaves the last two fingers out on his right hand, she nods again. "Been here ladbasemid or so, then? Ladbasemid i ladba?" Two times from two? Dex is a very fast speaker normally, and she knows the formula for shifting the words so well it's still second nature, but the underlying words have all changed and he's going to have to teach her them one-by-one without tipping off anyone watching. The clues are in the context. Guy's clever, quick, and she figures he's had to teach people before.

"Itve zu Digicore Building on Surrey Road." There's no point in hiding these names, Network knows where Dex lived -- it's where they picked her up. "Tana nec.. uhh.. nonec..nenoc?"



When Ebenezer settles himself outside the library doors, Terry Babcock ceases re-touching her fingernail polish straight away. "Oh-ho-ho-ho! What've we stumbled in on today, my lad?" He's being cat-careful, she knows -- slight-slouched jungle posture, sharp eyes alert. There's danger behind those double-doors.

With a gentle chak-chak, she opens a feed in the library. "Oh.. yeh, shit, Nenoc, rings a bell or two, right enough," Haccadine is saying. "Hah! Fuck, tha's weird. Here, you ever met Ezko-- you musta done, always hangs around with 'em? Mouthy little shit, couldn't miss'im."

Terry's eyes sharpen. Danger behind that feed screen. "That's Crew cant," she whispers. A hard switch back to Ebenezer. "Don't stay and listen to it." He defies her, planting his palms on the table-top, leaning towards the library doors. "They'll tear you apart. You know that. Don't be stupid. Get away from there."



"Ezko? Talk? Yeh, way back when I was downtown, yeh, but s'been awhile." Despite their regional similarities, Dex's cant is a good seven cycles out of date from Haccadine's, and whereas the London Crews of her time used a lot of Welsh, French and Arabic, his source language seems completely unfamiliar. It speaks of an increase in covert and dangerous Crew activity. "Yeh, weird, weird. Heard he was bangin'round with staec, his brother, yeh? Not Crew, though."

"'Course he wasn't, stupid bastard couldn't Rellock to save 'is bleedin' life. Coulda learnt a thing or two from bapka Nenoc, I tell yer."

Rellock, she thinks. Crew. It's a good start. "Ezko still shittin' anti-Network or din.. na.. cha-Skocaj?" We need a place to talk without the Network hearing, she's trying to say.

A nearly inaudible noise of alarm sounds from outside the Library's double doors.

Haccadine's head snaps around, and in two strides he crosses over to the doors and heaves them open. Ebenezer, gripping the edge of the table in the hall. For a sharp, splinter of a second, he's still, every muscle tense. In a beat, he's clearing his throat, fussing with his spectacles. He taps at the table's map surface, mumbling, "Erm! Where'd I put my-my-my-my slippers?" The customary blueprint of clan hall fades from the paper in favor of a sketch of the second floor corridor. Ebenezer's room is highlighted there. Another sketch of his door pinpoints the general location, and then there's a sketch of the slippers tucked neatly under the head of his bed.



"Oh! Oh!" Terry gives a wild laugh. "This moment'll be prime-time telly! You made me wait too long for this, my lad! I thought I'd never get to use this material! So bloody secretive! We'll be at the top of the ratings now, if only you don't get yourself murdered!"



Dex gasps and opens her mouth to shout accusations at Eben, but stops herself. Still testing him, she wants to see how Guy's going to handle this.

Haccadine lets his hands drop from the handles. They disappear into his pockets once again as he circles Ebenezer to peer over his shoulder, studying the map intently. "Ah. Always in the last place you look, aren't they?" he comments.

Ebenezer's shoulders can't be any more stiff. He barely resists the urge to drape himself over the table to hide the map from Haccadine. "S-suppose-suppose so," he answers, fingers twitching to adjust his spectacles again. His gaze darts to Dex, who he sees enjoying both his discomfort and Hacca's teasing. "A ver-a very useful table, you know! I've found all-all sorts of things with this, erm, thing. Now, it-it's not like me to lose things, really, but people somet-times do take my things as-as-as a joke."

Haccadine looks at Dex, too, ignoring his spluttering. "What should we do with him, then? Looks like a squealer to me; might wanna zirko his abnets, stop 'im from carkin' all over the bleedin' place."

Taking the cue to talk nonsense, she strides forward to the table. "Yeh, but let's fleemsat him first." She taps her finger on the table. "Don't bullshit us, Eben."
His voice's a few notes higher now, "Now-n-now-now! Nobody's g-got to be, err, zir-zirking or fleeming anything now." When Dex moves closer, his eyes jerk around again, quick-searching for escape-routes. His shoes, however, stay rooted to the floor.

Metal glints in Haccadine's hand, the tip of something thin and pointed just protruding from his closed fist. He picks idly at his fingernails with it. "Reckon? Wouldn't want to have things over with too quickly. Still, you know best. Fleemsat it is." He sidles absently as he talks, putting himself, Dex and the table at the corners of a triangle with Ebenezer dead in the middle.

"You certainly do spend a lot of your time watchin' me, Ebenezer. You got'a crush or somethin'?" She holds her position and her smirk, but there's something contrived in the latter.

In a jolt, Ebenezer wheels and ducks by Dex's shoulder. She spins to let him pass, and gasps again as Haccadine drops the yale key he's been cradling and sprints after the fleeing accountant. Ebenezer's quick and he's got a slight head start but Haccadine gains fast enough and tackles him hard to the ground, pinning his legs. Eben's spectacles go skidding down the slate floor and all the air rushes out of his chest at once. There's a terrible silence and then an even more terrible wheeze, as he wills his lungs to just start working. Save for the shaking that comes naturally alongside struggling for breath, he's still.

"Guy!" Dex finds herself in a very unfamiliar role of the observer. Even so, she's all-wired to jump, to pull them apart if she needs to.

Haccadine recovers quickly and rolls off of Ebenezer, hoisting him up and onto his feet with one hand clamped firmly around his arm and the other on his collar. Dex dives, snatching up Eben's glasses, while Eben gags on a cough and attempts to jerk out of Haccadine's grasp, to no avail. Normally, Haccadine would shove the other bloke up against a wall at this point and shout at him a bit, but seeing as his captive's only just got a handle on breathing again, he decides against it. "People with reasonable explanations don't, in my experience, bolt. Why were you outside the door, mate?"

Dex holds out her hand, offering Eben his glasses.

Eben croaks out, "Zolotisty." He gasps a deeper breath. Louder, "Zolomph--!" Dex covers his mouth with her free hand.

"Shhh! Th'fuck, Eben?" she hisses, gently placing his glasses back on his face. "Com'on, chill out. We can handle this." Over Ebenezer's shoulder, Haccadine looks murderous for a second before bringing his face under control. His fingers curl tighter, unstarching the collar of Eben's shirt. "We good now? I'm going to let go and--" She jerks her hand back as she feels the sharp pain of his bite. Immediately she shakes her fingers and takes a deep breath to quiet her own nerves, which could be as loud to Zolotisty as Eben's shouting.

He screams, "Zolotist--!" Her hand clamps over his mouth again. Haccadine, unwilling to have another repeat of that little incident, lets go of Ebenezer's collar to wind his arm about the man's neck. The pressure is not choking, not yet, but it is an insistent warning.

"Shut the fuck up," he hisses.

"Guy, no." Dex looks from one man to the other, both equally enraged. "Eben, don't make this a clan thing. No Z."

Too late. She's just rounded the landing wall. "Why are you killing Ebenezer," she calls, padding toward them. Her shirt's on inside out and backwards; her trousers are half-buttoned and sagging. "Eben, what did you do to make them kill you."

"Fuck's sake," Dex spits, glaring at them both. She draws back and swipes blood and slather on her thighs.

Haccadine releases Ebenezer. Pointless to try and silence him any longer. He steps away, temper cooling rapidly, and nods to Zolotisty. "Not killin' anyone. He's fine. Just tryin' to keep him from hurtin' anyone." This is not a lie.

Trembling head to toe, Ebenezer shrugs away from Haccadine and leans a forearm to the wall to steady himself. His voice comes out rattled and urgent, "Did-didn't do anything-didn't do anything!"

"Bit of a chase is all, Z, you know how it is. What's this talk of killin' anyway, Christ, no one's even hurt."

"You are." She comes to a careful stop a few feet from them, hiking up her trousers. Looking from Dex's hand to Haccadine to Ebenezer, Z cocks her head.

Dex tucks her tattletale hand into her pocket. "Am not. Well Eben? You called her."

He struggles through cringing false starts before managing, "B-blocked me at-at-at the table and-and he knocked me down. And th-they-they threatened and--" He cups his own hand over his mouth, demonstrative. "And--" His arm wraps his neck.

"That is scary," Z agrees, watching him. "What didn't you do to make them trap you and knock you down. Also why did you bite Spandex." She glances at Haccadine, Dex. "He sounded like deaths."

"I wasn't going to kill him," Haccadine restates. "I wouldn't."

Dex feels sick with guilt, and pissed that Eben's caused it. "Everyone jus' bumped into each other, like, Z, got a shock is all. That's what you heard." She stares hard at Ebenezer and adds, "And no one bit anyone. Let's all go have a drink in the kitchen and calm down, yeh."

"Aye. Or maybe Eben wants to go see his little cats." The cottage is miles and miles from clan hall. If, on the off-chance, Eben is dangerous then it's a good place for him to be. Z doesn't believe it, though. "I can take you if you want, Eben."

"S'bullshit, Zolotisty." Dex snaps. "Everyone can say their piece here'n now. I'm not goin'a been tellin' you anything alone after."

Ebenezer hesitates, eyes dancing between Haccadine and Dex. Gaze landing on Z again, he gulps a breath and answers her, "M-must've been a mistake-just-just a mistake."

"Don't mean for it to be a place for him to tell me things, Dex. Mean for him to pet his little cats." She twists her mouth.

"Yeh, what 'bout Guy?" Dex exhales sharp through her nose and looks away briefly. Haccadine remains silent.

The twist smooths; Z's ears go back. "Drinks inna kitchen, like you said. Not fighting you, Spandex. Ebenezer bit you. Haccadine scared Ebenezer. Eben's done somma to make Hacca scare him. Nobody's bad, nobody's good."

"Yeh well, we're fuckin' adults, Z," Dex argues, with her distaste for moderation. "Don't need to get in'a middle."

"I come when I'm called."

Z's right. "Yeh, sorry, jus' doin' your job. Off y'go then. I'm goin' to get that drink, if that's all." She looks to the three.

Zolotisty has to bite back a fuck you dex. Uncomfortable in her skin, she flirts with the momentary notion of simply leaving alone. "Haccadine."

"Yes?" he replies, even.

"Hurt how."

"Lots of ways to hurt someone," he says, after a careful silence. "Was trying to avoid all of them."

Dex jumps in quick. "He jus' means the danger of catchin' people offguard, like, you know how people get jumpy after bein' in the jungle." It's an example they all can relate to, and one that will sound loud and clear to Z especially, with a near miss not too long ago that left her palm sliced open, Z's nose broken and Tyr's arm fang-scarred.

"Asked Haccadine," she says quietly. "D'you want to go or not, Eben?"

He snuffs, draws his nose down his arm, then nods his answer to Z. "Cats."

"Going to drop you off, then. Do either of you need anything."

"No, thanks," comes Haccadine's answer.

Dex looks puzzled for a moment. "No. Sorry for scarin' you, Eben. Sorry for barkin', Z."

Ebenezer shakes his head at Dex. "M'fine." Expectant, he turns to Z.

"See you, then. Let's go, Eben."



At their appointed time, Naija returns to the the pub to find Stanfield waiting in a booth by the door, fingers laced in front of him, already smiling pleasantly. Without lingering, she motions for him to follow her to the mercenary camp, where she arranged Ed to expect them both. Ed is sitting cross-legged in front of her tent, forehead resting against the stock of the rifle jammed into the muck in front of her. For all the world she looks asleep until they are nearly on top of her and her eyes snap open, flicking over to Idris; down, up, then to Naija.

"Is this it."

Any concerns Naija had that Ed could fall prey to Idris' desires disappear when she sees the two in proximity. "Sure is. Idris, this is Edith. Edith, this is Idris. Here. I bought a couple of these." She hands him one of a set of two walkie-talkies. "Contact me when you're ready, or if you need anything." The other goes to Ed.

"Where do we bring her."

"I can come to you guys. Just give me a heads-up. I'll check in if I don't hear from you first."

"What about capabilities," Idris interrupts. "We all know about Zolotisty's ears, yes, familiar with her teleportation tricks. What about Spandex. Where are her fangs?"

Naija improvises from the abridged list she was provided. "There's gossip she's pretty good, but no one's seen her skills with Improbability much. Heard she.. mmn.. she can change the states of stuff, like make things hot or cold. Seen her running across air, like Zolotisty can. Friend of mine says she used to train with that military freak, KK Victoria?"

"Victoria." There's a crck of vertebrae as Ed slowly straightens from her slouch; her eyes aren't quite so hooded anymore, and it's not clear if she's been listening past that one word.

"Oh? He's retired off-island, it's said, if you're worried about some sort of retaliation."

Idris first surveys Naija and then, glancing down, Ed. "I'm afraid I'm not familiar with that name. Is it really that important who she's been playing soldiers with?"

"No," says Ed, sinking back into herself again.

Naija pushes her chair back. "I take it that's my cue to leave you two, unless there's anything else?" As she looks from one to the other, she half-expects they'll kill each other before they even lay eyes on Spandex. "Oh. If there's any sort of specialised equipment you need, or.." Her chin dips as if she's reluctant to be talking about the crass notion of money. "Or if you need some req for anything, just ask, I'll see what I can do. There's no panic to get this done quickly, I'd prefer it done right, you know?" It's part of her script, but mentioning it is very much in self-interest -- she's figured the longer she can buy time and prove she's been integral to pulling this off, she may just save her ass from the bitch producer on the other end of her headset. It's a longshot, but better than none.

"Of course," Idris replies, crisp, as Ed shoves herself to her feet. "You'd have to be a special breed of idiot to go to such pains to get a job done wrong." He throws a gesture in Ed's direction, accompanied by the ghost of a sneer. "I can't speak for my compatriot here, but I won't be requiring any aid. Please, don't let us keep you."

As she stands and looks at them, Naija wonders just how the hell the Networks shories believe she'll have any modicum of control over these two. "I look forward to seeing you in two days then," she says before leaving.

"Head directly for your flat and await my instructions," Ogilvy commands as soon as Naija is clear of the camp. Behind her, Ed shoulders her pack with a grunt and begins to tromp in the other direction.

"Off so soon, Edith?" Idris calls out after her, getting up from the table and brushing himself down.

"Ed," she says, squinting into the sunlight to get her bearings. Taking a pack of cigarettes and a matchbook from her bandolier, she pauses to strike a light and take a drag.

"Ed?" He repeats the word thoughtfully, tongue clicking against the roof of his mouth. "Simple. Ugly. How appropriate." His glasses come off again, undergoing a cursory inspection, and any offending particles are rubbed off against his sleeve. "Well, Ed, if we're going to be working together, I'd like to know what it is we are working with. I sincerely hope you're not going to be relying on popguns and firecrackers; this isn't one of your gung-ho little jungle hikes."

She turns in place. "What is it."

He lifts his eyes from his glasses to fix her with a cold stare. "A hunt. The quarry won't just throw itself into your sights. Actual thought will, I'm afraid, be required."

Ed sets her cigarette in a notch in one of her chipped teeth, pursing her lips around it as she unbuckles a small leather case attached to her belt. She slides out a tin and a nylon pouch, the latter of which has another small tin inside it. Opening the first tin, she shows him a vial of liquid. From the second, a syringe and a number of empty darts. "Popguns," she echoes. "Trap a member of the clan, extract the information, leave them sedated and bound while we complete our job. Alternatively, immobilize a group if we happen to find Spandex accompanied in public before we have a lead. I'm effective at up to four hundred meters."

Reaching out with a delicate finger, Idris plucks the syringe from the tin and holds it up, examining it first and then the rest of the equipment with an air of lazy interest. "How long would this particular concoction need to take effect?"

"Inserted directly into a major artery, under ten seconds. Shot from a distance, through clothing, if it pierces skin in a non-ideal location.. under a minute. A minute and a half at very most."

"I see." He sets the syringe back, fingers rubbing as though attempting to remove some contagion from his skin. "Any other toys you'd like to exhibit?"

She packs the tranquilizers away, aware of the throb of Improbability around him. "Just firecrackers."

"Very well. Now, unless you have any objections, I'd like to get going as soon as possible. No point in standing around any further."

Grunting, she turns in the direction she'd meant to leave, shoulders her pack, and sets off at a tromp. Before she's taken three steps, Idris' voice calls out sharply behind her.

"Where are you going?"


"Dear me, no. We're going to the mountains, Edith. We have a new friend to make."



The breakroom on the fourth floor of the Network's Canberra branch is one of the stops on the tour that all prospective employees are given. "And here's where you'll relax between shifts and at meal times," the guides will say, smiling as they gesture to the nicely upholstered chairs, the air conditioning unit, the full kitchen with the uniformed sous chef standing attentively by his register. Everyone goggles at the amenities, the privileges, the luxury.

But when you've got the job, you know the chef's name. He's Stephen, an actor, comes in on tour days, can't actually cook. The refrigerators are never stocked and the monitor on duty who checks you in and out will give you shit for using stove or oven to make yourself a meal. The upholstered chairs are stuffed with unforgiving industrial foam. Usually, you're better off with one of the laminated cardboard types.

Lacey's not in the mood for sitting today, not when she's missing out on footage that could define her career. Her station's being covered, sure, but the dead-eyed chap who tagged her out looked more interested in picking the dirt out of his nails than keeping an eye on the cameras. She's stuck milling about the showroom, trying not to pace, trying to avoid direct eye-contact with any of her colleagues.

Terry Babcock's spotted her. She carries her baggie of baby carrots over -- there's no time for anything more during the mandatory fifteen minute lunch break. Nothing worth eating, anyway. She's eaten two carrots. The rest, she'll throw into the mini-fridge in her booth and forget about them until they've shriveled to a pale white. Real meals are reserved for Ebenezer's bathtimes -- it's her tradition.

"Why hellooooo there, dear. You're -- oh, what's the name -- Haccadine's operator?"

Lacey's teeth grit and when she turns, her fears are graphically confirmed. Jesus wept, who let dayglo Barbie out of her box? She forces a pleasant smile and nods, extending a hand. "Catherine Lacey. And you are..?"

"Terry Babcock. My lad's Ebenezer, but of course, you already knew that." She crowds close as they shake. "That was really something, wasn't it!"

"It was something, alright," Lacey replies, clocking those fingernails, my god. Did she mean to match the carrots.. "Get some good ratings out of it, with any luck. Assuming nobody dies while we're away." She rolls her eyes.

"Oh, you're so funny." Terry laughs. "You know, if this is going where I think it's going, then you and I will be seeing much more of each other, Cathy-dear."

"I look forward to it," she replies through her teeth.

"Oh, and me too, love. Me too. Your lad's got a hell of an arse on him, hasn't he?" Terry winks, nudging Lacey with her elbow. "I bet you love looking at that all day. Lucky lady, you are."

Lacey's smile takes on a distinctly glassy aspect. "Am I? I honestly hadn't noticed.." She risks a glance at the clock.

Terry's glance follows. "Eager to get back? Oh, so am I. We're missing the good stuff now. The aftermath. The audience'll love it. You'll eventually get a hang of that sort of thing too, dear -- knowing what the people want. Don't you worry about that at all. It'll come with experience."

Lacey's jaw stiffens. "Ah. I see. You must have an awful lot, then? Being such an old hand."

Another laugh. "You really are too funny." Terry's grin is wolfish, eyes sharp. "I'm sure we'll work well together."

"I'm sure."

This time, Terry's looks down at her own gaudy, jangly charm-bracelet watch. "About that time," she says, looking up to meet Lacey's eyes again. "It's been lovely."

Lacey bolsters her ailing smile, but it fails to reach beyond her cheeks. "A pleasure. Nice meeting you-- Terry."

"Miss Babcock?" the monitor at the door calls, checking her clipboard against the clock.

"Likewise." The woman strides off, wiggling her fingernails in a wave over her shoulder. "Coming, Chantelle! Toodles, Cathy-dear!"

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