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Phosphorescent hexadecimal crawls the web of wires.

Kirrily’s holding her with a tight grip on her hair. Celesque tries to keep her mouth shut but the bluetooth’s murmuring to her, a seductive sequence of piping numbers that tugs at her mind. Her lips want to follow. She can hear the ecstasy in the voices of the others around her, and hypnagoges boil out of the depth of the pit.

They pause, together, to inhale.

Ashlock steps out of the door, a thick black band tied across her eyes and ears. She bends to touch the trembling floor; and then she smiles.


There are five of them, in sackcloth and a star pattern, rocking endlessly on a floorlike mesh of taut steel cables. The star’s missing a point. The taller suit applies pressure to Celesque’s joints until she kneels at the vertex.

Below her stretches sickening space.

Kirrily grabs her chin and Celesque sees that her head is half-shaved, one eye milky, ear a twisted keloid. “You tipped those two amateurs to my dirty laundry, didn’t you?” she asks in that beautiful, husky voice, and holds up a bluetooth. “You owe me some time.”

Celesque is terrified.

She really, really should be.


They’ve counted twelve bodies so far. The neater ones merely blew their own heads off.

“There’s nothing here but death,” says Tach. “If we find the generator, we can unshield it, and a magnet that strong should kill the drive–”

“All that will do is kick the number into our heads and you know it,” says Ashlock. “Fuck and damn it. Kirrily. Why would Kirrily have come here?”

“Something secret,” says Tach, who’s trying to ignore the hexadecimal edging at his vision.

“And where do you put a secret in Antarctica?”

They find the ragged tunnel entrance in the loading bay.


Kirrily’s money laundromat has no physical location, but her penthouse does.  They case it for hours before deciding it’s empty.  Tach does unspeakable things to the lock.

Inside it’s messily well-appointed, with a distinct shortage of blueprints marked “Screw Over Tach and Ashlock, Start Here.”  Tach peels a banana and starts gingerly sorting her trash; Ashlock looks for the office.

There’s a desktop PC in there, retro relic, a beautiful beige box with a bulbous VGA monitor.  Ashlock strokes it admiringly, then tries the keyboard.  One of its little legs collapses.  She flips it over.

“Adélie,” says the note stickied underneath.