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A lot of holes in the desert, and a lot of problems are buried in those holes. But you gotta do it right. I mean, you gotta have the hole already dug before you show up with a package in the trunk. Otherwise, you're talking about a half-hour to forty-five minutes worth of digging. And who knows who's gonna come along in that time? Pretty soon, you gotta dig a few more holes. You could be there all fuckin' night.



Just things, Dex reminds herself as she sets the goggles down gently on the counter next to her uneaten breakfast. Just places, everyone's safe. It's not just sympathy either, because despite her lifelong refusal to feel attachment to objects and places, seeing the intricately handcarved relics of Z's winding so carefully desecrated brings her to tears. Old as the island, older than its wars. The fact that the goggles don't permit her past thresholds almost makes it more horrible -- seeing the entrance to the banyan den blown wide, the trunk scarred and splintered was enough.

"M'sorry, twist, sorry. Donno how I missed them. Must'a went there last night, though I kept.. Twisty."

Zolotisty doesn't respond, cheek laid on the counter. She is staring hard at the kettle on the stove.

Dex slides off the counter and presses close, but doesn't hold her. "Okay, a plan, but carefully, right." She points to the camera barely disguised as a pot-light in the kitchen ceiling. "Anyone have a good idea how we find'em? Or, meled naif suh." Let'em find us.

Ebenezer's gazing down into his coffee. The monocle beside his plate on the table has already shown him the front door to his cottage and the garden. Everything's as it should be. He didn't expect those two Jokers would touch his home -- they're after Dex -- but he had to check.

"Zvig meh eeth jatvandah. Vahot tez meppuh vih iwud." Gives 'em the advantage. Have to set 'em up if we do. Haccadine swills dregs around in the bottom of his mug, brow furrowed. "They been everywhere?"

"Fuck," Z says, sitting straight suddenly. She goes.

"Z!" Dex slaps the counter. If she's not back by the time my hand stops stinging --

"What do we know about these two?" Haccadine asks, staring mildly at Z's vacated spot. His gaze ups to Dex, then turns on Ebenezer.

"Names." Eben looks up from his coffee. "Where'd she-where'd she go?"

"Sweet fuck-all. Same as yesterday." Her plate clatters loudly as she drops it into the sink and faces away from the men. "Plane, winding, tree, loft, what I miss?" she says, her neck hot. It takes two slow breaths to reshape betrayal into need for Z's sound, and the echo comes back fast -- frantic and purposeful.

Ebenezer feels the pulse in Improbability when Dex sends that echo. "Oh." Posture shifting, he stares into her, but doesn't ask about what she's just done. He doesn't have to ask again.

"Eben," Dex says, wheeling to face him."Your goggles. Can you find her fast somehow?" Shame heats her neck again.

He flinches straighter, snatching up his monocle and shaking his head. "No. C-can't find anyone fast. Have to look-to just look everywhere." He pulls off his glasses. It's like trying to find a flake of dandruff in a blizzard, but he can try.

"Nevermind. Thought maybe.. cuz moderators." She looks down at her palm, the redness almost faded. "Fuck. Maybe they found another clannie." Surely not, she tells herself. Z's not foolish enough to run into a trap.

He's still searching, in spite of the unlikelihood that he'll actually find her. If that's all he can do, that's what he'll do. "D-didn't-they didn't hurt me..," he reminds Dex.

"Came to you first, might not've wanted to get the cat amongst the pigeons too soon. Can't say for certain they won't hurt somebody else." There's a loud clunk as Haccadine sets his mug down on the countertop. "Alright, we got their names. Can't we, I don't know.. Fuck, there's gotta be--"

"No one runs off without sayin' where they're goin' from now on," Dex says, sharp, taking a step towards the hallway to grab her jacket and weapons, to realise she'd have no clue where to go. "Sorry, Guy, what?"

He waves a hand. "Just thinkin'. Ain't there somewhere we can go to look 'em up? Maybe they're in a clan, or registered with somebody."

"Grotto," Ebenezer suggests. "C-could look up their files in the Grotto."

"Wait! I mean, okay, good idea, jus' wait for Z to get back." She bunches her hand to pinch her nails into her palm, but there's a scrabbling in the Dome before she can break the skin. Claws, drowned after a moment by hooves as Gidget flails loose. Z catches one in the chin and shakes off as Dex runs in and grabs for her.

"Don't do that to me again," she says pulling her tight. "Don't do that. Don't do that. Where's--"

Z worms her arms free to wrap them around Dex, rubbing circles between her shoulderblades. "I couldn't find him. Didn't hear him."

"Are you fuckin' nuts?!" Dex jerks away, sending Gidget skittering off to the other side of the Dome. "What the fuck, Z, that's exactly the -- it could have been a setup! We didn't know where you were!" She hears footsteps approaching them, but despite her obsession with privacy, she can't stop. "Exactly what I was tellin' myself you were smart enough not to do. Can't believe it."

"Wrecked. Like the others." Z's ears remain upright and alert, unapologetic.

"Why didn't you say where you went! So stupid!"

"Yeh," she agrees, and Dex ducks back when she tries to kiss the underside of her chin.


Z's careful poker face shatters. "Because I couldn't do anything about the rest of it!"

Dex presses her lips together as they stare at each other. She doesn't tell Z the horrible thing she's thinking-- that if she'd let her go last night, they'd not have this mess today. "You left me," she says finally. "Think, Zolotisty. They're playin' us. You need to-- Everyone needs to start thinkin' before they act for a fuckin' change.. fuck. I waited when you asked me to." But she shakes her head before more words of blame escape, and strides across the Dome. "Gidget?"

Zolotisty stands in place, chin low and eyes huge. She turns her head toward the lounge. Eben's pretending to be deaf, totally engrossed in picking lint off the arm of the couch. Haccadine meets her gaze for a moment, then shrugs and looks towards Ebenezer with the same blank expression. Drawing a shallow breath in through her nostrils, Z sighs out deep through her fangs. She looks away and does not blink.

If I move, she thinks, the only drifting piece of language in a raging of sound and color, I will break something. It occurs to her to check the corridors to see if they've woken anyone. If they have, no one's coming.

The Dome is very still. Several minutes go by.

Mechanical, Z finally turns to follow Dex.

"Leave me alone," Dex says as Z enters one of the greenhouse towers. She can't see her. Z hesitates for a moment in the doorway then pads up the sloping ramp. Dex isn't far inside. She stands unmoving, watching Gidget trotting up and down the narrow tiled alleys between rows of plants and grasses. "Said leave me alone," she says quietly to not rouse the filly. She doesn't turn around. "Won't ask again."

Zolotisty stops. She turns her wrist, palm slack as though to reach for Dex's when they're walking next to each other, and does not move. It's a signal they agreed upon a few months after they first started dating: I need you.

Her head is still pounding by the time filly feels safe enough to nibble at some sweetgrass and it subsides a little as Gidget's ear-flicking and tail-twitching gradually slows. Dex walks around her, checking for marks or wounds. Nothing.

"Forgot Lelila left the vineyard in my name." It's hushed enough she could be telling Gidget. "Horse probably ducked the fence." She knows, though, he'd not stray far from Gidget. "Or he's gone. No point in riskin' goin' back." He'll come to my whistle, she thinks, or whinny if he's hurt. She turns, walking past Z. "Cait em ot uth draevin." Take me to the vineyard.

There's no reply.

Dex's gaze lowers to Z's open hand as she waits at the door. "You coming?"

A tendon stands straight along Z's jaw then relaxes slowly. She curls the tips of her fingers. Doesn't close her hand. Doesn't move.

Dex shuts the door. A pot shatters in the greenhouse behind her.

"Put the kettle on," she tells Eben and Haccadine as she passes them in the lounge, where they've been staring at each other in tense silence. She pulls on her jacket, digs her cards from the pocket and shuffles them while trying to forget what just happened and focus on the vineyard. She's learned that the trick's remembering the details -- the lock-mechanism on the gate, the colour of the hay twine tied into figure eights around the fence rails, the hoof-pocked mud around the water trough. As soon as she has the place imagined well enough to smell the tang of horses and geosmin, she lets two cards fly. They stick in mid-air, just shy of the icebox door.

As he slouches around the kitchen, seeing to tea, Ebenezer gives the cards a wide berth. Without looking towards Dex, he asks her, "What're you doing?"

"Oh. Getting advice." She hesitates, looking up from frowning at her cards-- Kuan: contemplation and self reflection of actions. "Tell me how those fuckers knew all our spaces if not Network-- ohfuck, The Darjeeling." She rubs her eyes. "Look, I need to disappear for a bit. If I'm not back by the time your tea's ready, tell Z. Okay? Draevin," she says when Haccadine returns to the kitchen. He stares at her blankly for a moment, then frowns. "Where?"

Ebenezer turns, offering Dex his monocle at arm's length. "Show us. Works j-just like Zolotisty's goggles."

Watching Haccadine as she takes it, she figures she doesn't need to tell him to keep his eye on Eben while she's gone. "Good thinking, Ebs." She's not exactly sure where she'll teleport to the first time, but the view she finds after a few minutes of fumbling is a good wide survey of the vineyard. "Okay. There."

Lifting his spectacles to his forehead, Ebenezer checks the image first. He presses his lips thin, offering the monocle to Haccadine, who takes it with a wary narrowing of the eyes.

There's a violent crashing from the direction of the Dome seconds after Dex vanishes.

Haccadine exchanges a look with Ebenezer before bringing the monocle up to his face, scrunching one eye and peering into a wide view of the vineyard with the other. There's no sign of her at first; he resists the temptation to fiddle with the dial, not wanting to lose the feed. The seconds tick by, and on the stove the kettle begins to rumble. He shoots it a glance, then jerks his head at Ebenezer. "See to it." His gaze turns back on the feed, and a moment later Dex pops abruptly into view with two fingers to her mouth to whistle. She waits, and when nothing seems to happen she tries again. Still nothing. There's a long, still pause and then she disappears again, wiped from view.

He lowers the monocle to glance across at Ebenezer, filling the cups with not-quite-boiling water. "Should be back soon. How's that gettin' on?"

"It's alm-most tea," he answers. Expectant, he holds out a hand for his monocle. Haccadine passes it over with a curt nod, eyes flicking down to it just briefly as it drops into Ebenezer's hand. "You're w-welcome."

Eben nearly drops it when Dex stumbles into the kitchen counter, almost exactly where she left. "Horse's gone," she says, immediately hiding her face from the two men. She heads for the greenhouse. "Thanks for watchin', gonna get Z now so we can plan next move."

"I'm sorry," Eben says after her. "G-good-good luck." The first cup of tea's held out towards Haccadine -- another peace offering. He takes it and sips, ignoring the scalding of too-hot water on his tongue. Not bad. After a second, he grunts thanks.

Dex can't hear anything in the greenhouse except the clacking of small hooves on stone. She steels herself to be tackled or find it empty as she she opens the door, but it's Gidget who bullrushes her, skittering out into the Dome and then in a stupid circle before tearing off down one of the corridors. "Z?" She's not surprised to see that a table of seedlings has been overturned. "Z?" she tries again, stepping inside. The floor's loamy, punctuated by crumpled green shoots and shards of terracotta. Z's nowhere in view. "Jus'say something."

"Fuck off."

"Okay." Dex leaves her be, closing the door softly behind herself. She takes a deep breath and returns to the kitchen. "Z suggested we spend a bit more time apart," she tells them, not caring if they see her red eyes. Instead of speaking, Ebenezer puts a cup of tea in her hands. "Hundred to anyone brave enough to go in there." She fakes a wry grin and sips her tea.

"How long she gonna be?" Haccadine asks quietly. "Longer we wait, more time we give those bastards."

"How long..? Christ, he's been single awhile, hey Ebs. You two find 'em or something?"

"Haven't found them," Ebenezer replies, shaking his head. "Erm. B-bout-about Zolot-tisty: I'll try it," Ebenezer mumbles into his teacup. "If you m-make-m-make it five hundred."

She pats herself down one-handed though she's as broke as ever. "Five if you make it out unscathed."

"Another hundred from me if you do it quickly," Haccadine adds. "Consolation prize in case she takes yer arm off."

"Not a fuckin' monster," Dex snaps, hypocritical as any lover hearing their own complaints on someone else's lips. His chin dips, expression smoothing, but he offers no apology. "Shit. I better go." She sets her teacup down. "I'm skint anyway."

Eben gives her a nod. "T-tell her there's tea," he says, as if that might make a world of difference. "Think I'll g-go on ahead to the Grotto," he adds, standing straighter, putting his empty cup in the sink. "Look f-for files on those Jokers."

Dex hesitates. "Be fuckin' quick and careful, Ebs. Anything happens, just scream like ..you do." Her grin's genuine but brief, and she leaves the two men alone.

Ebenezer sneers good-naturedly after Dex, then turns to bow his head to Haccadine. "Off to m-make myself useful," he says. With that, he strides away for the stairs.

Haccadine watches him go, gives it to the count of thirty and then begins to stroll in the same direction, sparing the greenhouses a glance as he goes. An idea's been rolling around in the back of his head since Ebenezer's little revelation. Time to give it an airing.



Matthew Simpert rests his forehead in his palms. He wonders if he can feel his hairline receding. His mother's coughing again. An accounting officer's meant to come by for a "quick face-to-face" later this morning and he's the only one on shift until they come together as a suite this afternoon. Elise is icy, doesn't want to hear anything about the show, and Zolotisty and Spandex are having their first proper fight -- all the rest seem puppy-scrapping by comparison. Seems like the whole world's coming to pieces around him.

Straightening, he reaches for his mobile to call Ogilvy, then folds his fingers in again as Dex crosses the Dome.



Dex works her way up the spiraling ramp until she finds Z looking small, tucked into the nook between two juvenile mug trees potted in very large urns. She sits on the floor in front of her, feeling overcome by weariness. Eventually, she tries, "Not mad anymore. Are you?"


"Want to yell at me?"

"Don't know."

"Okay." She rolls a tiny piece of clay around on the ground with her finger.

Z stares at her from behind the barrier of her knees. "Yes," she decides after a moment.

She straightens her back to face her. "Okay, ready."


"Z." Dex slumps forward until her forehead rests on Z's knees and finds her headrest taken away just as quickly. Surprised, she jerks her head up as her girl scoots forward and stretches her legs around her hips. They hold onto each other, legs and arms looped.

"You're a hypocrite, Ann Beatrice," Z says softly, turning her nose to Dex's shoulder.

"S'at what we're doin'? Dex leans back and tucks her fingers into Z's hair. "You started it. That's what I'm s'posed to say, yeh."

"No." They study each other's faces -- red-eyed from exhaustion and tears. "Punks don't do s'pose to."

"Had to turn in my punk-card when I married you."

"Fuck that."

"S'what I said, but they said rules are rules. I had to choose."

"They who. Rules nothing." She thumbs the circles under Dex's eyes.

"I know. Fuckin' hypocrites."

"Never been so mad at you, Spandex."

She takes a breath, then, "What I do? Tell me."

Z shakes her head. "That's where you say, 'me too.'"

"You left."

"So did you."

"Said where, and asked you to come with me first."

"Twice." When Dex looks confused, she shows her the palm of her hand. "You left twice."

"Oh." She doesn't lower her gaze from Z's. "Yeh. I -- shouldn't have."

"Should've said where I was going."

"Why didn't you take me?"

"Same reason you took my goggles first this morning."

"What? I didn't take-- Z, I was up most the night searching with them. What's that to do with it?"

"Oh." Dex leans forward, puzzled again. Z shakes her head. "Nevermind. Thought -- Ionno, reckon I thought you'd figured out they'd wreck the other things and wanted to see first."

"No. No, I try not to hide anything from you. Like hearin' those scramblers. I'd have told you." She swallows hard as her throat threatens to tighten. Z's jaw sets but she doesn't look away. "Com'on. What."

"Didn't mean it hiding," Z says softly. "Meant it guarding. Both times."

They find each other's hands and lace them together. "Z, I'd want you with me if I had to find him dead, but I'd want to see for myself too. You know?"

"Yeh. S'why you went."

"I whistled, twice. He'd have come if he heard." For a moment her expression is beseeching, as if asking Z to fix what she's imagining. She blinks it away. "We'll clean up your places. Get rid of any traces of them."

Z works her hands free to soothe one down the nape of Dex's neck. "Com'ere, darlin'. Com'ere."

Dex rests her check on Z's shoulder, but it's short-lived. "Enough of this," she whispers, straightening. "Let's tell Network what they want, assumin' it's them, or go find those two bastards. Com'on, Eben's gone to get their files."

"Got to feed Fog. And you. You didn't eat."

Watching Z's lips as she talks, Dex just wants to forget all this, and go home with her, feed their kitten, and pull the duvet over their goosefleshed bodies as they wrap close and kiss until they fall asleep. "I'll go," she says, resigned. "You should listen for Eben."

"I can listen for him with you."

"I don't feel right leaving them here alone, since I -- we," she corrects before Z does, "got them into this bloody mess."

"He's already left. Haccadine's still nearby. It's fine."

She hesitates. "Okay. Quick, then."



"..so of course Finance can't find her and I've got an e-mail saying I'm to expect company in a bit. It's not a good time. We have actual saleable camwork to cut right now, Ears and Stripes were at each other's throats earlier. And Frills said you dodged them but I don't know.. what I'm really meant to be doing if I don't have someone with rank pulling for me, and you can't."

"Of course I dodged them. They reach for their Anxio if profits fall during their lunch breaks. Meanwhile, they're happy to claim their spouses as a legit business expense. Just tell them you're working on a major thing with Godard's support. Act surprised they're there at all. You've not heard from Madeline?"

"All right. No, I haven't. Last I heard, she's in New Zealand."

"Count your blessings, Simpert. My pet fennec has more creativity and foresight than Madeline. ..bad scrap, was it? I've been stuck in planning meetings with Marketing again."

"I've not seen them fight that way before, no. I'll commit the highlights for you."

"No, no, you're busy. Anything else, Simpert?"

"They're off-screen right now. That's it, though. Thank you."

"Simpert, you're one of the best. Try exhaling. " She hangs up.

"Christ, she can give compliments, even," he mutters, closing his phone.



"We're not fixing anything or putting it to rights," Z says as she lets Fog down, just before they go. "I'll find new places."

Dex shakes the tiger radio, just once, as if that will encourage it to tell her something other than static. Fog gazes up at her intently. The other channels are busy with the infinite chatter of techs and retraining personnel, and she's learned there's nothing really of interest there. The silent third channel is taunting her. If she wasn't careful to hide it from cameras, she'd probably carry the radio everywhere.

"First kiss was Marly's place, but I still didn't know. First kiss in your den, I knew." She looks Z over, trying to see if there's a difference between then and now. More still, perhaps. Solid. Though, Dex figures that might be her own perception. "First sex was in your den too. You still owe me a corset!" She drops her gaze to herself, all business-dress - well-worn boots, tough trousers, slim-fit shirt and her zip-it, all full of hidden pockets for her weapons. "Used to wear allsort of things to see if you'd notice, if it made a difference, I mean." She pulls off her shirt and swaps it for one of her old corsets. "Help, please," she says and stands still while Z laces it up with practiced fingers.

"Outside the den," she corrects as she ties off the ribbons in a bow -- Dex likes unexpected flourishes like that. Sweet things near her tanto sheathes.

"Yeh," she says, kissing Z's cheek. "Was pullin' fir needles outta my mitten for days."

"Liar, s'a banyan. Gimme that." She takes the shirt Dex's just taken off, trading out her own for it. "Where my cards."

"I donno! Can't even keep track of my --" Her voice cracks as she chokes back a sob. Z flails her arms through the shirt's sleeves and catches her close, cotton bunched above her chest. "I knew it. I knew I'd forget, but how fucked up you gotta be to take an animal?"

"They were in a safe place, Spandex. You didn't forget. Put them there to keep them safe and --"

"Stop it. I forgot. Forgot the Darjeeling too. Maybe could have caught them there."

"Dex I couldn't breathe, really, until this morning."

"Yeh, but," but she stops, not wanting to start their argument again.

"But you were fine, I know -- Horse and all our places except this one, Spandex. Don't want one of us to be on the list too. Together or not at all, s'how we been doin' all of this. 'Cept this morning."

They stay like this, pressed warm and breathing into each other's necks, even when Dex feels herself becoming impatient and guilty again. "Eben's like a new person," she says, pulling away and straightening Z's shirt. "Feel bad talkin' code 'round him. Ready?"

"Sec," Z says. She finds a vest, her cards, her dice, then rumples Fog's ears before tucking him into a pile of blankets. "Spandex, when you came and got me from the boat, how did you.. how'd you keep your thoughts together?"

"What?" Dex says, puzzled for a moment. "Oh, you mean not lose my shit? Held my breath." She demonstrates, exaggeratedly pufferfish-cheeked, nudging Z with her elbow. "Remember how I kicked your ass at it underwater when you were still wanting to smooch me? Practiced like crazy, since I learned to swim really."

Z hms thoughtfully. "Yeh," she nods. "Okay, ready. Lesgo."



Ogilvy stands in front of six big wall screens as though she's an award-winning director introducing her latest film. "I've got us the best editing suite in the country. This kit's worth a lot more to us than you are, Monroe, so keep your filthy paws off of it." She walks around the room, easily the size of one of the conference rooms, and details all the equipment at their disposal, earning appreciative nods from Simpert, Cooper and Gannet every time she points out a top-end Raikon or Penn-Werner. Then she returns to her place in front of the screens. "We'll see how it falls into place, but I'm expecting the hunters with Spandex in one location, and Zolotisty in another. Looks like we'll have Ebenezer and Haccadine tagging along. Keep focused, I don't want our themes to get lost."

Cooper has made a point of not acknowledging Monroe and Gannet since they were introduced over an hour ago. He's strategically placed his chair so that he's in Ogilvy's direct view, with his back to the two men. He and Simpert gossiped their way through the men's files -- Monroe's good for guffaws, but the longevity of Gannet's career deserves respect, no matter their opinions of KK Victoria.

"You have your schedules, but I suspect you'll be camping here for the next few weeks." They all know that by 'suspect', she means 'expect'. "And, if I'm not here, you will call me the instant anything significant breaks on this story."

Monroe leans forward and slaps Cooper on the shoulder. "Ponytail and me be reppin' this endz, baas. An'if it deadzones in 'ere he'll teach my mans how he got to be so befok." Leaning in close to Cooper's ear, he whispers,"Mean you'll share your private Dex stash with your blud Monroe, won't you sweetheart."

Expecting Ogilvy to order Monroe to shut up, Cooper leans away and takes a deep breath to relax, and his only reprieve comes from a knock at the door. Gannet lets in Lacey, hands full with her cardboard box of supplies and personal effects she's carried from her own room.

She looks around the room, aware she's interrupting something. "Oh. Am I late? My memo said two o'clock." What the hell, she thinks, I'm even twenty minutes early.

"Take a seat there," Ogilvy orders, pointing to a chair near Simpert. "As I was saying, Simpert's leading all group scenes and with me, has creative direction on everything for all the characters until this story's done. Any questions?"

Cooper keeps his eyes trained on her, and works his face expressionless, but he feels a cold rush of panic. She knows something. Why else would she give Spandex to him.

Simpert distracts himself from the sudden political pressure of having been named point person -- unjustifiably, everyone here except perhaps Monroe and Lacey should know it ought've gone to Cooper -- by leaning to nudge Lacey. "Terry behind you in the halls?" he murmurs, expecting the door to open at any moment. She shakes her head, tight.

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