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Was it possible, that at every gathering - concert, peace rally, love-in, be-in, and freak-in, here, up north, back East, wherever - those dark crews had been busy all along, reclaiming the music, the resistance to power, the sexual desire from epic to everyday, all they could sweep up, for the ancient forces of greed and fear?


Dex wakes before Zolotisty, as usual, and untangles herself slowly from her to get distance enough to watch her sleeping. If something ever happened to her girl, she'd paint her like this and keep it for herself, showing no one, so she spends time memorizing her and testing herself. Closing her eyes and recalling her mouth, say, the way her philtrum angles slightly right. There's the usual playful battle with the nosy ear, but really Dex figures they have an agreement - she lets it listen and it promises to keep the secret of her watching.

Today Dex recites the lines, shapes and angles from her chin to where the jaw muscles disappear into her hair, and although she already knows that Z's jawline is a bit longer than most people's, today she's also looking for signs of its strength and wondering about her own, newly rebuilt. I'm bionic maybe, and she pictures the two of them snarling and growling, wreaking havoc on rooks. Her mouth and face still feel slightly swollen but the dull ache is more memory than presence, so she opens her mouth-and opens and opens and holyfuckinsnakemaw it definitely gapes wider than before and she can't believe her lips haven't split. Her torn obsessive tongue pokes again at the four sharpened points. She opens and closes her mouth a few times and pulls it side to side and decides it's limber enough to talk and eat now, at least, but there's something essentially different about everything-her tongue, jaw, face, mouth, everything - but she can't quite tell what it is.

Z's tail thomps a sudden unasked opinion into her thigh.

She keeps her promises. Z yawps awake as something gouges into her shoulder, claw-machining her rough out of a sea-dream. They'd been swimming, racing. Kelp in the water. Bad for tails. Instinct shoves her head first into the tiger trap and she twistsnamps onto Dex's upper arm with unfriendly cub-punishing pressure. The first startled reaction is to clench, bearing down harder into Z's flesh, now taut with frightened muscles; and then second is to pull away fast, and Dex does, new fangs scraping two red roads as she pulls away. She slams her hand over her bloody mouth and barks a laugh.

Huffing, Z sits up to cock-eye at her shoulder. She peels back the edge of one gash, wincing, then fixes Dex with a look of admiration. "Om'ere," she says, smearing her fingers against her belly. Dex's fingers sneakily reach to prod her jaw muscles before dropping to roll on top of her girl and kiss the underside of her chin.

"Sex?" she offers, conciliatory.

"Not 'til you figure out how to bite nice. Do it again. Other shoulder."

Dex tilts her hips into Z's and moves recalcitrant teen slow, smearing belly blood. Z remains stubbornly unmoved - no tailtwinge, no grabby fingers. 'Cept her tits - but those are always traitorous. She takes Z's chin and turns it away, exposing the whole stretch from shoulder to jaw like a sweet slice of melon (before she turned predator-fanged-vegetarian, she'd liken it to a long bowed barbeque rib), opens her mouth (and again is a bit weirded out by its span) and closes so-so-slowly around her shoulder-ball as if it is a bubble and her challenge is to not let it burst. As soon as she feels contact, she freezes.

Z waits, squirming more comfortably under Dex. A goddamn drip of drool escapes from her mouth, slides down the stalactite fang and rolls off Z's shoulder to pool on the bedsheet. Clearly, her tooth-job's gonna take getting used to. She opens her mouth much wider than she needs to pull away. "Now sex?" she offers again, wet lips already making their way for Z's nipples.

"That wasn't biauhmn, Dex- .."

A minute, tops, and she has to lift her head. "How the hell d'you- these'r distracting, twist," she says, her tongue pointing to the culprits.

"yeh. isdractin'," Z says, lacing her fingers behind Dex's head.

While the sun bends further to reach their skylights, Z doesn't let Dex any lower than her belly button, wanting a whining kind of ache, and when it's unbearable she wrestles Dex onto her back to pet her forelock flat against the sheets. "Why you need big teeth if you're gonna be like a bunny."

"Mmn? Was I? What, too soft?"


"Sounded like you- I thought you liked that." Her brows crease.

Zolotisty scrunches her eyebrows together. "What? No, not sexes - wait - Spandex, why did you give me a dead bunny. Did you think that was a good idea? I thought maybe you did but -"

This. This needs sitting up for. "What! I did what? What's that mean? You callin' me a bunny boiler? Z?" Her hand reaches for her mouth as if somehow the new teeth have somehow started to spoil. Everything.

"..well you did. What you mean, boiler."

They've been here so many times before and there's only one way out of this mess: start from the beginning. "Just.. jus'tell me what being a bunny is, Zolotisty." Why is she offended. She's offended.

"Eating only the vegetables. You said no meats. Why you need big teeth."

"BUNNIES AREN'T VEGETARIAN. I mean, they are, they- ARRGGGH."

"Then you gave me a dead one," Z pipes up insistently, "on a frisabee."

"I did?" Dex stares hard into Z's head, as if whatever it is she's seeing will be screened on her forehead. "Ohhh! Oh.. fuck. Yeh. I did." She relaxes into the memory and retelling of it. " You came in to the Bingo Hall and I was all 'fuck want'a give her somethin' because you were all 'oh no I'm wretched oh woe!' over bitin' me, and ran into the kitchen because Bernard always kept great food in stock, and I panicked, 'Bruce help,what'a coyotes eat?' and he said rabbit. ..Z, you do eat fresh game all'a'time. And this was ages ago!"

"Bruce?" Z's eyebrows squiggle like the first slash of paint on a Pollock canvas. "Oh - him. ..hrn."


Z kisses Dex's belly and tries to push her back down. "Nawh, s'arright. You were sweet. Why you need big teeth."

"Stopitstopit. Tell me. Don't'joo eat rabbit?"

With her shoulderblades reaching toward each other, Z grunts against the sudden iron in Dex's belly then goes flat along her legs. She sets one hand on each hipbone and her chin on Dex's pubic bone, eyes tipped up. "Mrr. It was sweet. You are sweet. Just unset me at the time. Like, 'why you givin' me this on account of how I look.'"

Iron melts. Quiet, earnest, "S'it diff'rent than givin' me somma' on 'count of how I sound? I was upset too, soundin' like violence, I thought."

"Violence?" Z can almost see her own distress form mercurial on her clawtips as they press into Dex's warm skin, like the faint dimpling is puncturing, like it's seeping quicksilver from her girl to stain her hands. She lifts her head. "Why'd you - tha'sno'.." And she knows they feel the same thing, the two of them.

A chuckle. "So you don'eat rabbit or what?"

Z half-smiles. "So you don'like your balisong or what."

Dex hooks her arms under Z's shoulders and heaves her up off the bed with her. "C'mon. Take me to a meadow. Jus' for a minute or two. You'll have to stand guard. Tune your satellite ears to fuck-heads with hard-ons for us, yeh? C'mon."

Z has no idea what satellite means, but she reckons it one of the prettier words she's encountered in a long while. They go.


It's a bloody nudist hippie free love rally, with Z squinching at a distant camera, wondering if she can hear enough of it from here to kill it, and Dex hopping around the meadow on dewed feet, picking daisies, blackeyed susans, bluebells, campions, wild lilies, paintbrush and clover. A one-handed bouquet's enough, Dex decides, though she's tempted to dawdle to spend more time in the buzzybee morning sunshine.

"Done, thanks," Dex says folding herself 'round her girl so the flowers tickle her backribs.

Z snuffs deep of the grass-scented air before nuzzling into Dex to bring them back to the tunnel.

"Don'eat them," Dex grins, stepping away to hold the flowers out for Z proper date-like.

"Spandex," Z says, and it means everything - all of the things.


Ogilvy catches her driver staring at her in her rearview mirror and she doesn't even mind, her production meeting went so well. They secured the sponsorship of Heijing Munitions for at least the rest of Season 2, and she could practically hear the clear glass table creak as they all leaned forward when she hinted at what they had in mind for Season 3.

Four filthy children in ill-fitting scrapheap jackets, feathers spewing out of long-ago unglued duct tape, assault the car with their faces hidden behind woolen balaclavas. Almost every child in the rough Sectors has them, reportedly donated by anti-corporate Craft Crew members. Her driver is forced to slow amidst the sardined throng, and now she's going to yell, for everyone knows it's Water Demonstration Tuesday and her driver should have known to stick to the Fifth Sector, but her mobile device pings 'Simpert', so she takes it.

"Ogilvy," she says, staring past the bony fist pounding on her window, past the solid mass of people moving-always-moving, past the impossible puzzle of the Twelfth Sector street market-crosslegged vendors with their tiny square fabric offering found (and stolen) goods, to the blue-tarped and oil-canvased favela inside the enormous pockmarked fake marble of the once office-tower, every floor to the last-the fifty-third-with blown-out windows.

"I'm thinking we can sell a holiday marriage proposal if we're careful. Don't want to re-cover old ground, but. ..How do you feel about Spandex with fangs."

Ogilvy smells misdirection a mile away. "Simpert, did you find where they've been off-screen?"

"We're still working on it."

"You don't have a proposal unless you're guaranteed it's on-air. In the meantime, you and Cooper work to cover your asses with story that won't fuck up continuity, and find them. Anything on the Christmas gift?"

There's a sharp inhale on the other end of the line, and then Simpert speaks very quickly. "Fangs, maybe, we had them on cam for a bit before they went again-"

"Fangs?" She tilts her head as if assessing a Spandex-with-fangs and gives a slight nod. "What do you actually have, Simpert?"

"Spandex requested fangs. We have footage of them leaving to get Zolotisty's viola, presumably, to perform unlicensed dentistry."

"And if Spandex decides to grace us with her presence and is sporting these teeth, Simpert?" She interrupts, answering for him. "You'll have a proposal on my desk on how to clean up the discontinuity within three days."

"Yes, ma'am."

"And Simpert, does Spandex ask for gifts? You are collaborating with Cooper on this, I trust." She shakes her head in disbelief.


"In the vernacular of our beloved ladies, Simpert, your ass has been grifted. The fangs are a decoy. But get me all coverage of whatever you've got on it anyway." She lowers the phone and says to the desperate eyes in the balaclava, "Want a job as a camera operator?" As if the child could hear, he cups one palm while continuing to bang on the window with the other.

The line crackles harshly as Simpert finally exhales. He takes another breath. "We've already put the footage of the request on our share drive."

Ogilvy lifts her palm to mirror the child's and leans forward to smile at him through the window. Send us your CV, kid. "What you got on this alleged marriage proposal? They joked about this months ago." She leans forward to pull some invisible fluff from her black tights.

She can hear the sweat coming out of his pores. "Joked, yes. The most recent discussion was, however, fairly sober - as they go, anyway - and they've decided no, one of them is to ask romantically if it's to happen at all. I don't - I would - it's possible they're not serious, but -"

Ogilvy isn't listening. She taps the driver's shoulder with the corner of her phone then gestures right with it. "Fifth Sector exit, FIFTH-Just send me the footage, Simpert," she sighs, falling back into the leather seat.

"It's on our share drive," he repeats, frazzled. "I think we should chip Zolotisty."

"Chip.." It takes two taps of her chin to work out the implications. "This is ..exceptional," she says, grinning. "What's the usual protocol?"

"For applications or execution?"

"Execution," she sighs. Why is everything with these idiots like pulling teeth.

"During standard implant upgrade or changeover. Zolotisty hasn't hit the Drive in years. Auxiliary procedures suggest simply pulling the contestant in for the procedure at any convenient postprocessing center."

"If your mutt finds out she's chipped, she'll just chew it out. Any precedent on this, Simpert? I don't recall anyone getting a tracker since I've been Network." She almost sounds cheerfully chatty.

"It's slim, but we can make the argument on basis of established clauses in the best practices manual -"

"I mean anything in the archives? Do you have footage of anyone else getting this done? It must be a horrible thing to watch.."

"Season One, nothing this Season. I don't know if it even made it to air."

Ogilvy leans forward again and smiles out the window as if she's looking at a beautiful sunrise. "Let's hope not. Send me the surgery, and anything worth watching leading up to it.. whether they were dragged or knocked out or ambushed or whatever the fuck the Groundsmorons do."

"You'll have it in five."

"Good. And don't waste your time on any fucking paperwork. I've got this handled." She hangs up, sends a Contestant Visitation Req message to HQ, and sits back to watch the logs Simpert's left in her shared folder.


Zolotisty sweeps her tail back and forth between Dex's ankles. She's slit-eyed with cat-full-of-cream satisfaction, pleased to keep her fingers stretched toward her girl's ribs, glad of the smooth concrete warm beneath her belly. She tips her cheek up from Dex's thigh moments later with prick-eared curiosity. "Tell me secrets."

Dex's stomach grumbles. She lifts up on her elbows and stares down at it as if waiting for an alien to tear itself free. "I want meats," she tells Z, incredulous. She finds Z smirking and Z finds herself lying only on the concrete. "You..what you put in my teeths? Teeth."

"Big teeth are for meats," Z says, almost prim in her smuggery. Dex snarls and lunges for her leg, earning a chortle and half-squirm. "You can have it, but it is not good to eat." Dex falls back on her arse, hffftting, and crossing her arms.


"This would be better," Z says, proffering her thigh. "You would be smarter if you made me fat first though. All over."

Dex hams open-mouthed, drool pooling in her bottom lip, "faaaaat."

Z raises her hand solemnly. "Only cookies always. Com'on," she grunts as she rolls to her feet on still shaky legs, "we should eat steaks. Well. You should. I will eat cookies."

"S'a date then," Dex says, cutting her act and following Z up. Softer she adds, "and I still can't teleport."

She turns curiously. "You moved us before."

A sigh, and her stomach grumbles in terrible harmony. "Only drove you again, and had'ta imagine you're in danger."


"Yeh, uhh.." Dex almost looks sheepish. "..I need to be all wah-wah-emotional 'cuz Improb's bein' a stubborn ass."

Z looks proud. "Ionno anyone else who works Improbability like you," she says, and wheels to find trousers for the both of them.

"I don'like doin'it, twist," Dex says, pulling on clothes. "What if Improbability's pissed at me one day and pulls shit and the danger comes true."

"It doesn't have feelings, it is not a thing any more than the Drives. I like your these." She scuffs the floor, peering at her ankles.

"Trousers. Yeh, you gotta hot ass, twist. But Improbability does.. it feels..well, I feel it. You don't think it's alive?"

"No. You did so not make it hot, Spandex," she complains, corkscrewing around to try to peer at her arse. Dex watches her, and is amused as she briefly contemplates not explaining.

"Hot, twist. Hot is sexy. Close your eyes and think of whatever you think of when you DIY." Z's eyebrows scrunch. "Jack off?" The furrow deepens. "Masturbate?"

"When I what."

"Sexing yourself?"

"Oh! Ahmn." She considers, then agreeably does as she was told. A half-minute passes; Dex watches closely, dying to ask.

"Is your body hotter or colder?"

Z cracks a distracted eye open. "Hotter."

"Bingo," Dex says, snapping her fingers. "So that's why I think of your ass and ask Improbability to warm up soup, or when you do that dragging thing with your teeth on my lips it melts butter, or when you tilt your head back and half-close your eyes like this it bakes potatoes. Could warm people's toes'n shit but that's risky 'cuz what if I go overboard in my feelings, yeh?"

"Aye," Z nods wisely, enlightened. She smooths her hands down her belly before padding to scoop up the DEBASER tee, wriggling into it.

"Jus' surprised everything's not melting when you're 'round, really."

"M'I bringing us?"

Dex loops her arms around Z's waist and kisses her cheek. "Yeh, guess'so."

"Kittania, maybe, or - nmrr, Ionnwanna sort out seasoning. Kittania?" Dex noses her cheek in agreement.


Simpert whoops as he catches them on-screen in Kittania. Stripes' hair is the tip-off; he wouldn't've caught Earsy so easily in the crowd, especially not dressed as she is. He fights with other remote operators for control of the cameras, tracking them toward Cool Springs, then preempts the poor bastard on rookie duty. Everybody starts there. You just hope the person you're following turns out to be TV-worthy, and if they're not, whatever you get on them just ends up junked and your new job gets junked with it. Some footage gets recycled in aptitude tests for new post-production and editing personnel. See if you can make shit shine, as they say.

Gotta pick the freaky lookin' motherfuckers, Simpert figures, setting up his shots.

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