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This is no good. I'm not killing anybody. YOU MUST CO-OPERATE!



When the four finally settle by the waterfall in Dex's room, it's uneasy, with glances to check each others' movement as they fold themselves down onto the stone. Dex speaks slowly above the thrash and spray of the water, taking care of what she says and omits. "Okay. These Jokers. We don't know more than what you know. Who they are, what they want, nothing. One of 'em can suck Improbability out of a place, it seems.

"The reason you've been noticin' me actin' different is 'cuz Z and I managed to piss off the Netjerks, yeh. Got ugly for a bit, and then seemed to get quiet, and we donno if these Jokers'r related or what. While back we found a way to disappear off-cams for good long stretches. No one knows how but Z and me, and I don't think they like it much -- they sent some goons to the mods' place to knock Z out. Took her out to the edge of the bubble where Improb's low so she couldn't disappear or defend herself, 'n they did tests'n shit on 'er 'til she got me there to get her out. And then, well, it's been quiet 'cept for that bill for a bunch of wrecked cams, which we're plannin' to pay when we can. Guy knows none of this, Eben. He and I were talkin' code 'bout other unrelated shit, jus' reminiscing, 'n taught Z a few words, as you heard. That's the gist of it. If there are any details I'm leavin' out s'only so cameras can't hear. Didn't want to ..exclude people or make'em suspicious, just tryin' to keep the Netfuckers off everyone."

Ebenezer's weary nerves are too overworked to keep him jittering now. He's been left with a headache behind his eyes and a nausea that's a mix of burned-through adrenaline, terror, and abject disgust at what Dex has been saying. With deep, slow breaths, he tries to will sickness away. Setting his spectacles down on the rock floor leaves both his hands free to scrub at his face and brush back through his hair.

"Ngh. God," he says to his knees. "Knew it had to be-had to be something, but-" The sentence is left unfinished. He shakes his head. No words.

"Merrrrry Christmas," Z says, making Dex chuckle. She passes him a cup of vodka.

"That's why you were so paranoid about me bein' Network, then?" Haccadine rubs a hand along his chin, a little more subdued after his earlier burst of anger.

"I'm not paranoid, just.. yeh." Leaning against Z, and looking at Ebenezer and Haccadine, she feels as if she's been just let out of a cage. "Either of you met any of 'em Netjerks? I mean, besides the techs'n boaters?"

"Define 'meet'," replies Haccadine darkly, making Dex smile again. "Been into a couple of their buildings before, bumped into the odd suit on a night shift. Not really much time for talkin', though."

Miserable, Ebenezer nods an affirmative to Dex's question. His drink's lifted to his lips and he takes as big a gulp as he can stand, pulling a truly awful face. Tastes like cleaning fluid. "M-met lots b-be-before I was on this Island," he mumbles. It takes courage to add, "At work."

Zolotisty draws her head back. One ear twitches. She checks Haccadine for movement -- shoulders tense, fists balled, staring intently at Eben but unmoving. Then, "What did you do to get put here." She pauses, tries with a lopsided grin, "Break a cambras?"

Eben's left his glasses off for a reason, but he can still feel the others' sharp eyes on him. "Accoun-counting. Erm. C-clever accounting." He's quiet, hoping the water-noise will keep his voice out of the microphones and that his hung head and the cup in his hands will hide his mouth from camera lenses. "Mn. No. Stupid, n-not-not clever," he regrettably corrects himself. In his own defence, though, he insists, "Prob-obably, everyone does it. All-all the accountants there, I mean."

It's as if the wind's knocked out of her, and as Eben switches from arrogant to pathetic, Dex realises how they're really the same thing. "They threw you here for -- Christ. How bad was your mistake?"

Good timing, he finds, for another scratching gulp from his cup. "W-was a mistake, but wasn't an-an accident." Is that shame or vodka burning in his cheeks and ears. "Mn. Very bad."

Z adjusts herself under Dex to lean forward, all interest-lit. "How much did you take," she asks.

His mouth opens, but closes again before managing to spit out a number. A glance to Zolotisty makes him reconsider. She's got little concept of off-island currency. Hesitant, he answers, "En-enough t-to-to live on. Erm. Very well. F-for the rest-the rest of my life. W-with a small family. P-put all the kids through university. T-ta-take a trip every now and then. Erm. And a l-little bit left over, for j-just in case."

"S'how you could afford cats!" Dex says, snapping her fingers. "Knew it."

"How do we know you're not still on their payroll." Haccadine's question is flat, devoid of accusation.

Scowling, he bends for his glasses. "How d-do I-do I know you're not on their p-payroll?" He rubs his nose across the back of one hand and sets his spectacles in place on his nose. "How's an-anyone know anything?"

"I'd sooner be dead than takin' orders from them," Haccadine snaps. "An' if what Dex says is right, then I'm pretty damn sure neither she nor Z are."

"He's right, though, in his way," Z says. "S'not like we've got anything to go by but each others' word, and you already say you don't trust him, Haccadine. So." She shrugs.

She can't see Z's face, but Haccadine and Eben look stressed, weary. Dex grabs the vodka to refill her glass and finds it still full. "Why you tellin' us now, Eben?"

"G-got to," he answers. Considering his own drink, he explains, "You said-you said we all have to. If I d-don't, maybe it looks worse than it is."

"Got actions to go by," Haccadine shoots back at Z, his latest glassful going untouched. "If what he says is right, fine. But you'll forgive me fer bein' a little bit cautious 'till I see some sorta proof, of his sob story or of his loyalties."

"Aye," Z agrees mildly, lifting her glass.

Ebenezer's nostrils flare. "P-plenty of actions to go by. Plenty." He rounds on Z. "You've known me for-forever. M-met me when I was new." Turning to Dex, he carries on, "And I-I met you when you were new. You know me. B-better-better than you b-both know him."

"Everyone on their own actions, Ebenezer, not an attackusation."

Haccadine watches him closely, expression still hard. "You remember a lot about your work? Details, what money went where, deals, things like that?"

"R'mem-member lots," he replies, scrubbing at his nose with his cuff.

Z's set down her cup and sandwiches her fingers into the fold behind Dex's knee. "What was your job."

"Acc-accounting clerk. Erm--" How to explain this for Zolotisty. "S-small accountant. Put-putting in-putting in lots of numbers. Manual work." Ebenezer holds out his cup for more of that disgusting drink, but Dex only moves the bottle closer to him. He shrugs and pours for himself, sloppily.

She narrows her eyes. "I am not daft, Eben. Numbers for what."

"Bank r-reconcil-rec-reconcili-iliation. Mn. Income. Inv-voices. Payroll."

"Say something on camera they'd hate you to," Dex blurts.

Ebenezer shuts his mouth and shakes his head, refusing. "Mn-mn."

Zolotisty shifts her weight restlessly, lifting her head. "Why."

"M'not drunk enough. And I don't-I don't know what to say."

"He's legit," Dex says, jostling Z as she leans back laughing. "Who's up next then?"

"Only got two," Z says. "One's easy. Dex'n'me, we're married. Second." She hesitates, reaching for her drink. "Reckon people came close to figuring out how we've been off-cam, but didn't get it."

"What!" Dex twists to face her with hurt shock. "How?" she asks quieter, guarding her expression from the others.

"M'sorry, Spandex. Ionno, was a while back, might not've been what I think, even. Late. You were asleep. Didn't say cos I was scared, n'didn't want to make you more scared, too, and they came close but didn't figure it out, so. Just kept quiet--"

"Not bloody scared. And besides, I meant about the marryin', forget it." Static, again.

Zolotisty hesitates for a long moment as Dex turns her cheek, then she drains half of her own glass. "M'outta secrets," she announces, looking to Haccadine.

Haccadine shrugs as it comes his turn to speak. "Don't know about secrets, but. I'm London Crew. Did salvage work, if you know what I mean -- not everythin' we brought back was just lyin' about, yeh? Nicked a fair bit of stuff from government an' Network offices. Smoked a few towards the end, too."

Ebenezer shifts, scrubs at his nose again. "An'-an' you all wondered why I sound-ounded like deaths."

They study each other or their drinks. Z's carefully set her hand on Dex's leg again, and after a moment she says, "Eben, when they came to talk to you -- the people who rolled us, mean -- did it seem to you like they would've hurt you to make you answer."

"Mn. Don't know," he answers, fidgeting as he tugs his necktie looser. "Thought-thought they might, but I don't know."

"Thanks for not tellin'em shit." Dex pushes herself straighter. "I can't sit here anymore. What we do 'bout rest of clan, Z?"

"S'why I'm asking. Cos if they would, then people need to know somma."

"Maybe. If we find 'em fast, we don't need to." Dex grabs the goggles and stands, leaning against the rock cliff. "I can't figure out how they knew about your plane. 'N why there, we've not been for months. Ebs, if you've got any mates or contacts maybe you could ask if Network's behind this." She looks down at each of them. "In case it is a Network job, watch what you say on camera, yeh. Like, don't make it easy for them to set up traps by sayin' where you're goin', don't talk about plans." She holds her hand out to Z. "You're exhausted, com'on. Think we all should stay in halls tonight."



"I'll have the sound from Stripes' room cleaned up by end of play tomorrow," Simpert says, clearing his throat. "And a working transcript will be in your inbox tomorrow morning."

"Of course you will," Ogilvy says, eyeing the two men. "But that's not what's on your mind at all, is it."

You have no idea, Cooper thinks, wondering what the fuck this means for his problems with portraying Haccadine as heroic martyr. Ogilvy's stare bears down on him, so he tries to guess what's on her mind. "Ebenezer, ma'am? His big reveal?"

"Half-expected to hear Terry reverberating through the halls," Simpert mutters. "Must be off-duty. Are -- oh, are we consolidating her into the suite? Or Catherine Lacey?"

Ogilvy's irritation is audible in the sharp sigh through her nose. She's been privy to the several increasingly angry emails Terry sent to her own producer and to Godard, and as a concession, Ogilvy invited her to 'join the team'."They've surrendered creative control of their contestants to us. I'm sure as a gesture of goodwill and cooperation we can bring them in. Remember what they say about keeping your enemies close."

"She can take the station right next to you, Mattie," Cooper teases, nervously checking for Ogilvy's reaction.

She grins. "You and Queen Eva Von Bangs, Simpert?" As the two men both laugh in shock, she adds, "You thought your coffee room gossip doesn't reach our floor? " All sorts of rumors -- the time Terry hired a sub that looked just like Ebenezer, suspenders and all. That Eben's her nephew, or ex-son-in-law, or that she cougared him into bed and out of the accounting department during an international company retreat. "Ebenezer hadn't even told his wife about his past." She pauses here, testing if either of Cooper or Simpert will pick up the thread of her plan.

"But he told Spandex?" Cooper says. "She's the one that broke him." As Ogilvy almost imperceptibly lowers her head in interest, he allows his musings to pick up tempo. "In fact, she held it together more than any of them today. Even Zolotisty looked like she could have struck him. Spandex dragged them to safety, doctored them, brokered the deal which got them all talking."

"She also asks him all-sorts if you want a recap. His fidgeting, retrospectively, works well with the 'punk sniffs out the truth and doggedly pursues it' angle, and it's a way to own the story before Terry tries to spin it her way." Simpert knuckles the hollow of his eye, then leans back into his chair. "Should pounce fast though, she's been waiting for this kind of thing."

There's no sign of a reaction from Ogilvy. "I predict our Ebenezer will be tagging close to Zolotisty and Spandex for the next while, and since the reveal was from our storyline, it's ours. Don't you worry." She looks down at her page full of notes. "Couple of things before we break, though. Cut as much of Ebenezer's drinking as you can," she says without checking her page. "Don't want it to look like that was what got him talking. Keep the focus on Zolotisty and Spandex throughout, we're looking at some interesting new dynamic between those two. Cut out Haccadine's shots and his altercation with Idris. Idris' injuries can be blamed on the lack of Improbability. Follow that through, I've got Zolotisty saying 'leggo' at 53:12." Simpert puts two fingers up. "In fact, just keep--"

"Sorry, but what do we do with Idris after the Haccadine portion has been cut. He begins the confrontation with them, then the Improbability drops, he goes Dorian Gray, shots are fired -- and he does nothing, now? That leaves me cold on the two of them, not intimidated." He shifts his weight. "We could have him disappear, ala Zolotisty, before the shots are fired."

Cooper watches Ogilvy take a step toward Simpert's chair, and finds himself growing jealous again.

"I agree that the hunters seem a bit bumbling, but let's give them a break, it's their first attempt," she says, with an unusual note of hesitation. "But think of it this way: Ed's anti-Improbability attack was strong enough to knock Idris right out and Zolotisty is rolling around on the ground. We've got Idris doubled over and gasping, then we have him on the ground. Haccadine's stumbling from a tranquilizer dart, and follows Zolotisty and Spandex, to be saved by the teleport. Idris is our dark horse in this, Simpert. Give him time, you'll get your intimidation."

Simpert nods after a moment. "Supports Stripesy as Rosie the Riveter here, too, I suppose. Sorry -- Spandex."

"Yes. Look how confident she's feeling right now. It works to our advantage to not have them so frightened they never leave their hiding spot. In a sense it was sharp that Idris didn't reveal any of his abilities."

"Sharp to limit them to one hiding spot, as well."

"Haccadine won't stay put in Halls, ma'am," Cooper says, leaning toward them. "He'll be hunting them himself, or at least insisting Zolotisty and Spandex take him with them."

"Cooper, stop worrying about other employees. This storyline's ours. You've been here long enough to know we annex all their viewers -- not that Haccadine has attracted many yet. But downplay all you can with him. I'm not in the slightest interested in getting us caught up in any sort of politicking, and the last thing we need is our global PR department getting their hands on this."

Cooper does his best to look chided and changes the subject. "The linguist we contacted about the codetalking emailed back a basic formula for syllable substitution. Says with another seven or eight scenes of them talking cant, they should have enough data to run through a rudimentary on-the-fly decoder," he says. "It's faster for now to transcribe it and rework it by hand."

"Keep the translations in-house only. Use your head, Cooper. How's our audience going to react when they hear the cant?"

"Scrambling for pens and paper to try and decode." His fingers tighten into fists in his lap. "Sharing ideas at lunch breaks. Shall I get our marketing department working on a contest, ma'am?" There's no point in leaving it unsaid, it's exactly what she'd do. It'll draw more attention to Crew members speaking it in public, but, he figures, they'll just rotate in new slang bastardized from underlying dialects, and leaders like Durbin can cash in on increased animosity toward the Network in the ranks.

"Yes, Cooper," she says as if speaking to a child. She consults her notes. "I trust you two caught Zolotisty talking about the marriage. Cut the other thing too, the part where she mentions we almost found them.We don't want to look like we were that close and somehow managed to miss them." She looks up at the two men. "That information narrow the location down for you?"

Simpert shrugs. "I'll look at my maps and records again."

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