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But seeing the way you cut into your sausages, I understood that you were someone who got hungry too.



The gramophone's speaker is tinny and not meant for loud volume, but Z's cranked it anyway. "La rage gravee depuis bien loin en arriere," it barks as she leans over a yellowed instruction manual, stretch-legged on the floor next to a scrappy-looking subwoofer. "La rage d'avoir grandi trop vite quand des adultes volent ton enfance.." She scratches the side of her nose, sweeps her tail out of Fog's reach, and pricks her ears as Dex becomes suddenly audible on the ladder.

"Hi twist," Dex calls, as always, to lessen the impact of the surprise. Even though they left the same place only about fifteen minutes apart, Dex is here two hours after Z. She'd still prefer to walk, rather than let those watching know she can teleport. Boots in hand, she jumps down from the ladder and makes her way past the bed to the gramophone.

One of the nice things about having a wife with supersonic ears, she thinks, is not having to shout over loud music. "I can speak a bit of French you know," she says, feeling again the joy of talking freely. "Where'd you get the subwoofer?" she asks after kissing Z's cheek.

Z's got to yell. "S'what it is?" She leans over to turn the gramophone down.

"Oui ma cherie," Dex says, turning it back up and lying on the ground with her head in Z's lap. Z pets her forelock back before reaching to snag the instructions. She waves them over Dex's nose, who groans and turns to face Z's stomach in response.

"You do the techie shit. Gives me a temper if it doesn't work right away," Dex says, rolling to face upwards.

Z turns the volume down again. "M'bad at it. N'you're pretty, what you been doing."

Dex jabs her finger in the air towards Z's chin. "That doesn't work with me!" She sits up anyway. "What language are these-- Chinese. Where'd you get this?"

"Scrapyard. Was in the fabricky bit, look." She gestures toward the subwoofer's torn cloth grill. "Ionno. Been following the pictures but they don't make sense."

"That's just the enclosure to protect and hold the thingmie, because it's really fragile." Dex goes on to explain how the speaker works as best she can. They mess around with it for awhile until they realise they're missing the right leads to hook it up to the old gramophone. Dex isn't sure the woofer and the gramophone were made to be compatible in the first place, but she doesn't tell Z, mostly because she believes they can somehow rejig it.

Technology, it turns out, gives Zolotisty a temper, too. She nnnnhs in the pit of her throat and knocks temples with Dex. "Spandex."

"Said I'd try, Z. I'll go hunt for the fuckin' cables tomorrow. It's dark now."

"No, s'okay. I can look. Spandex."

Dex climbs into her lap, putting herself between Z and the goddamn mess of tools, instructions and kit scattered on the floor around them. Fog's found a bolt to bat and chase around, and there's no music anymore -- just the persistent lo-fi crackle of the waiting gramophone. She reaches up and rubs Z's tensed neck and shoulders as Z pulls her hips closer. "What's wrong. We'll fix it."

"I am terrible."

"I know, s'why I married you." A smile, from Z. She waits a beat to deliver the punchline. "Mean, no one else would, yeh." And now a crooked grin. Dex leans over to look in Z's pockets for stolen kittens anyway. Nothing but the usual kitchensink of weird shit.

Z noses Dex's cheek. "Yeh. Thought to look at files inna Grotto this morning. After I talked to Eben 'bout the bill. Didn't look. But I thought to."

Dex's hands slow. She looks at Z's face and wonders when she became used to Z's stress. "S'okay, s'okay," she says softly. "Tell me everythin', twist. What'd Eben say and what files."

"Eben says pay it and they're not cheating and he's scared of them. N'files on Haccadine and him probably."

"Yeh? I think we should just bloody pay so they don't come after clan. How's he know they're not jackin' prices or makin' shit up?"

"I said Ionno prices for cameras, to him. 'Cos you can't go into eBoy's, mean. And he said they're not cheating and I pushed him a little and he just said not cheating and didn't want to talk about it. He's still sore from the hall the other day, I think. His door was shut when I went to see him."

Dex massages her girl in silence while she considers the possible explanations for Eben's reaction. "That sounds like him to me," she says, finally. "I mean, he loves following rules. What'd you hear, twist?"

Zolotisty exhales through her nose, reluctant to add any unnecessary fuel to the firebox of Dex's paranoia. "Scared. Really scared. Like the other day. N'usually he likes numbers, thought maybe he'd like touching the bills. He did not want to hold the papers, I do not think."

"Huh. Weird. Don't know what he's got to worry about. Network must love his ass, with all his welcome-wagoning the rooks, trying to take their minds off being ripped out of their homes 'n families 'n shit. I donno, twist, maybe.. authority just scares the shit out of some people." Somehow, though, she doesn't quite buy her own explanations.

"Yeh." She works her hands under Dex's shirt and sets her palms on her hips, settling at the feel of familiar skin under her fingers.

As they each settle silent with their own thoughts, Dex is reminded of something she's not thought of in months -- Ogilvy in her loft (probably, she had a concussion) telling her 'it'd never work.' That she had no business falling for a moderator and clanboss. As they sit there on the floor wrapped in each other, as Dex looks at her with worry and the desire to fix whatever it is.. there it is. She realises there's a part of Z that she hasn't resolved. When she thinks of her there in the moderators-only grotto, with moderators-only access to Network-supplied personal files on every contestant, when she considers the what-ifs, she feels sick. But at the center of it, she knows that her girl is good, and that both of them would do anything for the other. With that, she's able to let the doubt go.

"Twist, what you think you'd find in the files?"

"Ionno." Z's chin drops. "Reason for the other day. Either to get rolled or roll somebody."

"Was thinking last night about that," she says after another few long moments of silence. In fact, she laid in bed most of the night thinking about it all, over and again. "We didn't stumble on Eben spying behind the door. He.. uhhh.. like.." She mimics his startled sound. "Like that. He must have heard us speaking Crewslang, right. And he's from London too, so maybe he knows what it is. Maybe that's what freaked him out.. though, don't know why, I mean, he's not.. Maybe he's not wanting to be associated--"

"Thought you said Crew people in London were just minding their own businesses and being full of resources."

"They were, but it's been ages since I've been on the island, yeh. Shit can change, and there were always some small groups that got impatient or angry. Though.." She finds that her hands have stopped moving and she resumes, digging her thumbs into Z's shoulders. "Guy must'a been up to something that pissed 'em off enough to toss him here. Fuck, I donno, twist. Maybe Eben's just afraid of being mixed up with a criminal. Bad for his rep, like."

"Who them. Pissed who off."

"Network! Who else puts us here."

"Ionno, Crew." She shrugs.

"What." Her hands fall.

"Still sounds like a clan to me. Network's a big clan, Crew's its own clan. F'yer bad, then you get kicked out. Aye?"

"Of course, but how they going to get someone here? Network controls everything."

"Network doesn't like Crew, you say, so if Crew reckons someone who was Crew was bad, then they just put them where the Network can take them. Aye?"

"No. Crew'd never get in bed with Network like that, Z. Never." Z thins her lips skeptically -- seems to her any clan bigger than twenty or thirty can get to be bad like the Network -- but the expression smooths as Dex says, "Just like I'd never read their files. I'm glad you didn't."

Zolotisty can hear the understatement in Dex's voice. She pins her ears back tighter. "Yeh."

A deep breath, then, "S'natural to be tempted to look when you're feelin' stuck and frustrated, but we'll figure it other ways. Could be nothin' about Crew or Network or us, you know. Maybe Esc has a crush on Guy or some personal shit we don't know."

"Stuck'n'frustrated," Z echoes quietly.

Weariness overwhelms her again, and she tilts her forehead into Z's. "Jus' lemme fix it. Tell me how."

"I donno how to tell you so you understand what to fix, Spandex." She slides her hands up to Dex's ribs. "S'go be on the bed."

"Try again, please, then we will."

"Easier there. Want to rub your backs, com'on."

Dex leads her there and undresses them both, but Z catches her wrist gently as Dex moves to lie on her belly. "You don'want it." This, cock-eared and looking for confirmation.

"I love you rubbin' my back. S'just.. uhh.. I need to keep my eyes on you. I mean, not suspicious just worried. Here, massage my boobs instead," she offers, trying to lighten the mood again.

Z's eyes crease. "Yeh, com'ere." But she just pulls Dex close, settling backward onto the bed with her girl on her belly and chest. They rearrange themselves, and Z's hands find Dex's back anyway.

"Tell me," Dex orders between kisses.

"Feelin' like you trust Haccadine more'n me or somma."

"I don't," Dex tells her, but she knows she needs to prove it.

"Yeh but."


"Feeling it."

"Give me time, twist, I'll make it better."

"Gimme kisses."



Ebenezer's been ironing for nearly an hour now and he's still not through all his shirts. He has quite a lot of shirts and he likes them very, very crisp. Not many people would call ironing a hobby, but Ebenezer does. It's his second-favourite hobby, with accounting in first place and laundry a close third. It takes work to keep up appearances in the sweltering jungles.

Worth it, though. The world's watching.

The sound of footsteps in the hallway intrudes on his work, followed by a rap at the door. He flinches to attention and abandons his ironing. Cracking the door open, he peeks around the gap. Haccadine stares at him.

"Got a minute." It should be a question, but the intonation's dead and flat, bordering on a command.

"Erm." His posture couldn't be any more rigid.

"Good. Mind if I come in?" He doesn't bother waiting for an answer, pushing inside against Ebenezer.

"What's this all-all-all--?" He gives up the question and tries another, too hopeful, "Erm. Tea?"

"Sure." Haccadine moves into the middle of the room, casting a glance around. His gaze lingers momentarily on the ironing. "Just wanted to have a little talk, is all. Set a coupla things straight."

There's a full tea service on the corner table. Ebenezer takes a wide arc of a route towards it, to avoid putting his back directly to Haccadine. Jittering hands struggle to fill two cups without spilling. "Little-little talk," he repeats, glancing sharp between the cups and his unexpected guest. "How d-d'you--? Cream? Sugar?"

"No." Perching on the footboard of the bed, Haccadine watches him closely as he goes about preparing the tea. "The other day. You were outside the Library. Why?"

Ebenezer moves just close enough to offer a quaking teacup at arm's length. "I-I-I live here," he answers.

The cup steadies as it changes hands. "Yeah. You do. So what was all that bullshit about slippers?"

Ebenezer's excuse to retreat backwards is the teacup he left behind on the table. He answers first with a choked noise, then a twitchy shrug. "D-don't know. Don't know why-why I-don't know why."

A moment's silence. "Let's try another question, then. Why'd you run."

He winces. "C-cornered me. Why-why wouldn't I run? Why not?"

Haccadine eyes him, cold. "Coulda just explained yourself. Instead, you ran, you bit Dex. Screamed for help like there was a knife at yer throat. Reckon you were afraid for a reason."

"'Mn-no-no good at ex-explaining myself," he spits, scowling. "And you had-had a--" He mimes turning key in a lock. "And you b-both grabbed me. What'm I suppose-pose-supposed to think?"

"You were listenin' at doors, lying about it, acting like a man who's got somethin' serious to hide. Doesn't look good, mate, an' I don't like bein' spied on." He stands, setting his teacup down on the ironing board. It slops, rivulets streaming down the porcelain and soaking into the sleeve of a shirt. "I'd best give up lurkin' around corners if I were you. Dangerous habit."

Ebenezer is pale. His eyes flicker to the spill and back to Haccadine. He gulps a breath. "J-just heard words, is all," he tries. "Odd words. Is-is all."

Haccadine steps towards him, hands disappearing into his pockets. "I do hope you're tellin' me the truth."



Zolotisty's stomach goes rock-hard under Dex's cheek as she sucks in a breath and pushes herself up onto her elbows. Dex immediately lifts her knee, expecting she's crushed Z's tail, but Z doesn't wriggle or whine. She's turned to look toward the southwest, silent and still. "Shit! Who is it?" Dex is up, winging Z's clothes at her and pulling on her own.

"Eben," she says, snatching her shirt.

Dex stops. "Again? Could be a trap." She pulls her t-shirt down around her waist. "I'm coming with you."

"Trap?" Z looks puzzled as she buttons her shirt. Wriggling free of the sheets, she kicks her way into her trousers, hikes them up, and snatches for one of Dex's belts. "Hear Haccadine too, I think." Half of Dex's gasp disappears with her, and she barrels into Z, knocking them both into clan hall. Even later, with time to reflect, she won't realise it was a good guess.

Tightening her stolen belt as she heads from the Dome up the stairs, Z listens intently. She can't check Dex's reaction, doesn't know that Dex has torn ahead to search for trouble -- but she, herself, doesn't like what she's hearing.



Eben cringes back, miserable noise in the back of his throat. After a moment, he manages, strangled, "S-sorr-sorry. M-mistake. S'why I didn't-didn't--you know? When Zol-olotis-tisty came. Mistake. S-stupid mistake."

"Yeh. S'what Dex said." His lip curls. "Calm down, mate. I ain't gonna gut you or nothin'."

"I'm-I'm-I'm calm!" He isn't.

"I dunno what your game is," he says, low and leaning in too close, "but you stink of guilt. Weasel all you like, I'm watching you."

Ebenezer can't blink. His voice is barely there. "I hate-I hate games."

"I guess that makes two of us."

Haccadine's holds Ebenezer's gaze for a moment longer than is comfortable and then steps away. He reaches for his teacup.

Ebenezer's expression is beseeching. Unsure of what else to do, he grabs up his own cup in both hands and takes a tremorous sip. Haccadine drains his cup and smacks his lips, drawing a sleeve across his mouth. "If that's everythin' for today?" The suggestion meets very eager nodding. Haccadine sets the cup down again, cracks his fingers. "I'm glad we had this chat. Have to do it again sometime."

Ebenezer spills his drink down his sleeve in his hurry to get to open up the door and see Haccadine out. If Dex were visible, she'd have bowled both men over, but whatever is was, it's over, and she leaves the room as quickly as she can, unhappy to watch them while unseen. Dex reappears trotting down the hallway, veering for the silhouette of Z at the end of the corridor. Haccadine, expelled from the room, catches movement out of the corner of his eye. He turns.

Lacing fingers with her, Z noses Dex's neck and pulls her away. The hallway is left empty but for Haccadine, fists curled tight.



All of them watching the scene unfold that shift -- the camera operators all in their tiny offices, and Ogilvy, alone at home while eating her chef-prepared meal -- are glued to their screens. Terry, the most senior cam op, has taken control of the scene, but the moment Z arrives, she knows it's futile. Ogilvy, via the weight of an official email from Godard, has ordered nothing of either Zolotisty or Spandex to be broadcast.

Monroe lifts his hands in celebratory vindication as Zolotisty lands roughly in the hall and minutes later Spandex appears running from Ebenezer's room towards her. "Told you she could teleport!" he shouts, though Gannet's off work. "Even my bloody mother could tell you the coyo can't carry something invisible. That's Dex's doing that is," he says, kissing the tips of his fingers and pressing them to Dex's mouth onscreen.

Ogilvy sees it too. Still not proof that Dex can teleport alone, but there's been enough evidence lately she can at least use Z's ability. They'll give those hunters a run for their money, she figures, and give their audience something worth watching. Smirking, she reaches down and feeds Kubrick a piece of her beef.

Cooper caught it, but he's replaying the short interaction between Haccadine and Ebenezer for the fourth time. There's no way Haccadine can know Ebenezer's past, he figures. Despite the fact that most of the senior staff know, the Network's got such a gag order and implicit threat on leaking the information no one who likes their job dares peep. No way. Not unless the London Crew's have infiltrated the Network pretty deep. Tonight's his Xingyiquan training with Durbin, who will be expecting some information. Cooper figures maybe it's time to get some of his own in return.



"Ears," says Ed patiently, for what is perhaps the thousandth time today. "Tail. Suit, or maybe ripped threads."

"Like a dog, yeh. Yeah, she steady sharpin' up the end the camp. Roll up every night for the last week around dark, stay 'til the pot runs deep. Seen more of her mangy ass in the last month than we have all Season, least since she been pussy-whipped. She comin' round playin' tight. Clearin' off crowds, 'cept those what think they can fuck her at the river. No-Nose Arnold, he emptied her out th'other night."

"How much did he win."

The other mercenary barks a laugh, glowing green eyes flashing. "Sheeeit, man, he richer than a motherfucker! People sayin' five hundred big."

"I see. Where is he."

"Dead!" The man shakes with laughter. "Some rookie find his foot washed up on the lake this morning then the rest of him come floatin' in after, all bloated and broke. Gots to spread the wealth around, this island ain't a capitalist venture, nahmean. Dog bitch'd be cadaverous, too, if she wasn't moderator."

"She comes around regularly."

"Yeah, yeah, she come round like clockwork after it get dark. You gon'play her?"


He grins at her, huge and white-toothed. "Maybe your foot come bobbin' around tomorrow too, if you too lucky. Seen her in AceHigh this morning though -- she probably come around tomorrow night."

"AceHigh," Ed repeats. She reaches for her rifle and stands.



"Stefano Wiscovitch, promotion to Clan Officer," Julia murmurs to herself as she glances between a handwritten form and her typewriter. Its keys have been worn from constant use and though the letters are long faded to a buttery black sheen, her fingers hover over them confidently. It's her spelling she's less certain of, and she hates making more work for herself with corrections.

The air conditioner thrums along with occasional muffled penny-in-a-can noises. Need a tech to look into that, she supposes. The door jingles. She doesn't look up. "W-I-S.."

It's been blessedly quiet this afternoon -- no explosions, no dirty contestants thronging through doorways to track footprints and blood all along the new carpeting. It was laid just last month and though it doesn't smell new anymore, she's hoping that it looks new until the end of the Season. Small wishes. It won't work out that way, she knows, but it's nice to work in a place that doesn't seem as though it's been reclaimed from the rats. She potted a new plant to celebrate.

Idris approves of the carpeting. A little detail that speaks of some measure of pride in the appearance of the place, a pride that he can understand only all too well; it's evident in the neat trim of his waistcoat, the fastidious arrangement of his coiffure -- not a hair out of place, you'll kindly notice -- and the sleek lines of his glasses, minimalist and elegant. He notices these details in other people, too. The particular soft curve of a jaw, perhaps, or the graceful motion of a hand at work. Julia, he thinks, has lovely hands. His smile is wide as he strolls up to her desk.

"Good afternoon."

"Good afternoon," she agrees. "Just one moment." She looks over her line again, W-I-S-C-O-V-I-T-C-H, then looks up at him with a smile. "What can I do for you?"

"I was wondering if you could help me with an enquiry? I'm looking for someone, you see. An old friend." His hands frame the edge of the desk.

Though it's not official policy to divulge clan rosters or the like without written consent from either the contestant in question or their clan leader, it never works out in practice. Too many newcomers wander in looking forlorn and confused as they deal with their first bouts of amnesia, too many people lark off into the jungle and go half-mad with it. Julia, for all her attention to standard procedure, has a soft-spot for anyone who asks pleasantly and there are so many people who do. "Certainly. Whom?"

"A Miss Spandex, please." His gaze drifts slowly downward, snapping back up to meet her eyes before becoming impolite. The smile increases just a little in warmth. A faint flush colors her breastbone and she exhales, averting her eyes.

"Of course. I know the name," because of all of the paperwork. "She's a member of the Aleatory Ensemble. The door's just down that way. Green one on your right, you can't miss it."

"Thank you." He inclines his head with a flash of white teeth and straightens, leaving her with a lingering glance as he turns away. The door's easy enough to find, and he hesitates only a moment to run through possible scenarios in his head before knocking. He taps quietly three times and waits. After a suitable length of time, he turns away from the door, shaking his head as he returns to the desk. "It appears there's no-one home. Do you know where I might find her otherwise?"

"Oh, mmn.." Julia taps at her spacebar thoughtfully, then turns from her typewriter to pull open the second-to-bottom drawer of an overstuffed filing cabinet. She walks her fingers quickly along the tops of folders before pulling one out. "Do you have a map?" she asks, shuffling the papers inside until she turns up one labeled LAND REGISTRY. "Or, no -- I suppose you wouldn't need one, I think this is just outside of AceHigh. Let me check."

He bows his head, his smile quiet and patient. "Of course."

She consults a map, shuffs it toward him, then leans to mark the spot with her finger. "Yes. See here? Just east of the Outpost. She has one other in her name, though that was a title transfer. It's right here."

He leans forward too, hand gently brushing hers as he smooths a wrinkle out of the map. "Yes, I see. That's quite close, isn't it?"

"Quite close," she agrees, quickly drawing her hand back to fiddle with her necklace.

He glances at her over the rim of his glasses at her, quiet for a moment. "Thank you. You've been ever so much help."

Julia smiles faintly, then says, "Oh! Oh. Ah.." She turns back to the filing cabinet. "She spends a great deal of time with Zolotisty and I'm fairly certain Zolo has more property to her name. Would that be useful?" She's already digging for the file.

Laughter, soft and pleasant. "Most useful, yes."

More files, more locations. She marks them for him on the map as if she's the desk rep at a tourist information center, then insists he keep it. He accepts it with gratitude and another smile before glancing at his watch and making apologies. "Must be going, I'm afraid. Business matters." The map is folded up and tucked under his arm, and he leaves with one last glance over his shoulder.



The off-shift handler in her booth is unfamiliar. Her glasses sit crooked on her face, and she swivels hurriedly in her chair when Lacey taps at the door. "Hi, sorry," she says, rising to offer Lacey her hand. "Alex. Your guy -- Guido? Haccadine? I dunno -- uh, you're gonna maybe want to review footage. I did my best with the cams but Ogilvy's team was pulling rank."

Lacey shakes, ignoring the tacky end-of-shift mixture of sweat and grime coating the woman's palm. "Don't worry about it," she says, giving a half-smile; it hasn't been so long since she was filling in on graveyard duty herself. "I'll see what I can do. I'm Catherine."

Alex grins, self-consciously scrubbing her hand down her skirt. "Nice to meet you. You must be rep kanged about all of this -- he's got some ball hustle on him! I usually don't give a shit but I was like on my seat's edge."

"He tends not to faff about, no," she replies cautiously, eyes flicking across to scrutinise the screens. Haccadine from two different angles, asleep in a small room. She recognises it as the one Zolotisty made for him in DICE halls -- the damned recursive scenery outside always makes her eyes swim. "Anything I should know about?"

"Uh, he was like hard on yakuza. He blocked Ebenezer into his room. Definitely no faffing. I think he almost got narced out but nothing happened. Sorry, uh -- I mean that Zolo and Dex showed up, then deked out without saying aught to him or Ebenezer. He noticed I think. Got a nice shot of that."

"Good." Lacey watches Alex turn to begin collecting wrappers and her purse. She doesn't say it, but she's impressed. It took her a good while to get the hang of subtleties like that. "I'll take it from here, then. Thanks."

"Yeah, thank you. This was great fun." They smile again at each other. Alex stuffs trash into her purse, then edges past Lacey out into the hallway. "See you, good luck. I'll keep an eye out for him on the closecasts."

Lacey shuts the door after her, dropping into the chair and turning to the console. She flexes her fingers, pulls herself a little closer and switches the second screen over to begin reviewing the night's footage. Alex was right -- it's good stuff. Tense. Dramatic. Hinting at something, but no concrete accusations or admissions, so easy enough to add pretty much any subtext she pleases. In short, it's excellent material. Her mind flashes back to her gag order: nothing involving Zolotisty, Spandex and Haccadine goes to air without going through Ogilvy first. She could easily cut out Zolotisty and Spandex, but without those earlier scenes, she's got no reason for Haccadine being in Ebenezer's face like this. Thinning her lips, she flips to the footage of Haccadine with his new love interest. The romance is running a lot more slower than most viewers like, but it's all she's got for now.

I'm so screwed, she thinks.

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