Hot Latitudes, Cool Attitudes
rating: +26+x

FIRST: Static In My Attic

I'm in line for Space Mountain when the hole starts screaming. 23 skidoo! Oh, mama, mama, mama! I slide under the handrail and start walking. Then Henry, Henry, Frankie you didn't even meet me. The glove will fit what I say oh, Kayiyi, oh Kayiyi! I see them out of the corner of my eye. Four-man box formation. One behind me, one ahead, one on each side. Dressed like tourists, but they've got tactical sneakers and jackets that aren't quite appropriate for the California sunshine. Cut that out, we don't owe a nickel; hold it; instead, hold it against him; I am a pretty good pretzler. I pull off my mouse ears and break into a jog.

The one in front moves to block me. Built like a linebacker, with a sun-bleached Marine Corps neck tattoo and a gnarly facial scar. I snag a toddler from a passing stroller and throw it at him. He catches the kid, and I slip past. Please I had nothing with him he was a cowboy in one of the seven days a week fight. No business; no hangout; no friends; nothing; just what you pick up and what you need. The crowd in front of me scatters. One of them's pulled a gun. Security tackles him before he can make the shot; someone forgot to clear the op with the locals. I sprint the last hundred meters, and I'm inside the Hall of Presidents. I pull a knife on the attendant, and he lets me in the service entrance.

There's a few die-hard patriots and their hyperactive children inside, but it's thankfully mostly deserted. I hop up onstage midway through Washington's speech, and a meathead dad calls me a communist. He sees my knife and shuts the hell up. I cut open my palm and give Kennedy the secret handshake; he winks, and opens a door in the air straight to Camelot. I've been there before, in transit; Arthur is gone, sleeping beneath the hill, but his castle sets a banquet on the Round Table every night, waiting for his triumphant return. This way will get me to the master bedroom, and from there I've got escape options.

There are five men waiting for me on the other side. The first swings a telescoping baton at my midsection; I use his momentum against him, and he falls headfirst through the closing Way back to Disneyland. I hope he has fun. The second and third come at me simultaneously with stun guns. They're Foundation, then. GOC always goes for the lethal option. The electricity surges across my skin and grounds itself harmlessly. I pull another knife out of my belt; one gets it in the throat, the other in the eye. The fourth has his gun out. I close my fist; when I open it, his bullets stream out onto the ground. He goes for his knife and I repeat the trick with the air in his lungs. The fifth gets me in a bear hug from behind; I headbutt him. The hole takes part of his skull, and he was stillborn.

Kourēs eukomoio, tēn ek Lyrnessou exeileto polla mogēsas. The hole is unusually coherent today. I find the fourth-floor garderobe, and say a quick prayer to Venus Cloacina before doing a swan dive straight through the privy. I land in the Hudson, and swim to shore in West Harlem. When I'm no longer dripping wet, I get some fresh clothes from a thrift store and change in an alley. The 1 takes me straight to Times Square. I push my way through the crowds of tourists, and reach my final destination.

"Welcome to Olive Garden! Is anybody going to be joining us today?" She's obnoxiously chipper. If this fast-casual Italian hellhole allowed flair, I am sure she would be sufficiently adorned as to resist knives and small arms fire. I shake my head, and ask to be seated at the bar. "Sure thing! Here's the menu, we've got drinks on here, and your server will tell you all about our specials!" She heads off to process the next inmate, and I take a moment to peruse the menu. My waitress is Delta-Briseis; she arrives as I'm scanning the wine list, and freezes. I ask her about the daily specials.

She does not tell me about the specials. "What are you doing here? How do you know where I work? Is something-" I interrupt her and ask about the specials again. Slowly, and calmly. "Uh. Yes. You're just in time for the early dinner duo, that's 8.99 unlimited soup or salad and breadsticks plus one of these entrees, and we've also got the giant Italian classics, a super-sized version of some classic specialties for just 12.99. Do you need some more time, or are you ready to go?" I am impressed with how quickly she shifts back into her customer service voice. I order the early dinner duo with Caesar salad and chicken parmesan; she nods, and flees to the safety of the kitchen. Another waiter brings out my breadsticks. I briefly worry that she's left the restaurant, but she returns with my salad; she doesn't say anything, in flagrant violation of Olive Garden's customer service policy. I hope her manager isn't watching.

The salad is tolerable, and the chicken parmesan mediocre. The breadsticks, however, are perfection. I flag down a bartender and order a Shirley Temple. When my check comes, I pay in cash; three crisp hundreds, straight from the mint in Washington. In my best handwriting, right across Ben's forehead, I instruct Briseis to meet me by the dumpsters in fifteen minutes; she gets out there in ten. She starts to speak, but I hold up a hand and silence her. I tell her about the tail at Disneyland. Then, as she's about to brush it off as chance, I tell her about the Camelot ambush. She is silent for a moment, clearly calculating the possibilities.

"We've got a traitor, then." I agree. "Has to be a Delta. One who's familiar with your go-to escape routes, and who knew you'd be in California today. That narrows it down to me, Ganymede, Iris, Cassandra, Laocoön, and Menelaus. It's not me, and you clearly agree or you wouldn't be here. Ganymede is the most loyal to the Plan and always has been, so it's probably not them. Iris is transparently in love with you—don't deny it, I know you've seen the looks she gives you—so it's not her. The Foundation wouldn't believe Cassandra if she walked into 19 and told everyone. That leaves Laocoön and Menelaus."

Her logic matches my own. Along with Briseis and Iris, they were the only remaining founders; the other eight had been removed from their positions, by death or other misfortune, since we defected from the Foundation. But I didn't want to believe it. Laocoön and Menelaus had been with me since the beginning—since before the beginning, before I knew the truth of the hole and the Pattern it revealed through me, before we began to doubt the Foundation and plan our counter-conspiracy. They were my friends before they were my disciples; and to accuse them of treason felt like a betrayal of our history.

"So do we have a plan?" Briseis stares at me apprehensively, though there's trust under her worry. I don't explain my misgivings, but she sees through my expression. She sighs. "Go talk to her. It'll help." She doesn't need to explain who she's talking about. I nod, and take my leave.

It is time for me to go see Delta-Iris. The only Way in her home is one-way; she values her privacy, and does not want unexpected visitors. She also lives deep in the Amazon. This makes going to visit her difficult, to say the least; nevertheless, I need her help if I am to excise the traitor from Delta Command, so I must make the trek. I could go down to Brazil via the Library, or one of several other pocket-dimensions and branch-universes, but the traitor will no doubt be expecting this. So, in the interest of safety, I must take a more mundane method of transport: commercial aviation.

I take a cab to JFK and buy a one-way ticket to Manaus, via Miami. Once I get there I'll have to charter a boat up the river, but that can wait. I check the news as I wait for the plane. A Disneyland fan-blog tells me what I want to hear: my intervention at Space Mountain was interrupted by the Foundation, but the Haunted Mansion and Small World broke down on schedule. The appropriate people were delayed for the appropriate amount of time; there is no longer any wiggle room, but I trust our operatives will be able to carry out the next phase regardless. Within six months, at least two more of Google's board members will be ours.

The flight to Miami is uneventful, but as I am about to board the second leg, the hole starts whispering. Negotiable American currency. I take its advice, and cancel my boarding pass. There is a flight to Santiago de Chile boarding in two hours; the flight path is only slightly inconvenient. While I am in the air, I check the news again. My old flight had an equipment malfunction and had to make an emergency landing in Maracaibo. Whoever is waiting at the airport must be disappointed. I check the flight path again, and set an alarm on my phone; then I take a nap.

The alarm wakes me up, and I walk forward to the galley. The stewardesses are very helpful, especially after I produce a pistol from the internal compartment where my liver should be. The pilot is stubborn, but when I shoot him in the leg, his copilot is much more accommodating. The plane descends, a stewardess opens the emergency exit, and I jump out 15,000 feet above the Amazon rainforest.

Halfway to the ground, I realize I have forgotten my parachute. The hole gives me an entire treatise on Erikeshan kinesiurgy; before the hundreds of pages leave my short-term memory, I find the glyph that will slow my fall. I curl my fingers into the proper shapes, and begin; several painful stretches later, and I am no longer traveling at terminal velocity. I may have done this too early; I'm still a mile up, and at this rate it'll take me another fifteen minutes to hit the ground. I take a paperback out of my carry-on, and allow myself to relax.

I land in a tree, and climb to the ground with only minor scraping and bruising. I have no idea where I am, but that should not matter; Iris' home is not a physical location, in the traditional sense. I pick a direction, and start walking. Hours pass. I stop to drink some water and eat a protein bar I picked up in the airport, and resume my trek. The sun begins to set, and eventually it is completely dark. This is, of course, no obstacle, but it does mean the nocturnal predators will emerge - both the mundane and the anomalous. I speed up my pace, and before I am assaulted by any jaguars or caiporas I see a light in the distance. I'm lucky - the last time I visited Iris, it took me three whole days of traveling to find her.

As I draw closer, the details of Iris' house resolve. It is built into the lower branches of the tallest tree in the Amazon, wherever that tree may be; it relies on human perception rather than objective measurements to determine where it manifests, and you can't find it if Iris doesn't want you to. I think Theseus helped her build it, before he disappeared. The steps up are carved into the trunk, winding around in a loose spiral up to a Pueblo-revival ranch house, perched precariously in the fork between branches. It clashes horribly with its surroundings; but it's a copy of Iris' childhood home, or so she claims.

As soon as my foot touches the first step, I feel a hand around my neck. Just pressure, not a vice-grip, but a clear warning not to go any further. "Does the black moon howl?" The voice is right in my ear. I swallow hard—I was expecting a warmer welcome. The hand tightens, its owner clearly not appreciating how long it's taking me to answer.

"Only on midwinter's eve," I respond. It is the first time I have heard my own voice in months; but Iris deserves better than having a memory of my speech impressed into her mind. "Going to invite me up?"

The hand releases my throat, and I begin my climb. It is shorter than it should be, but longer than I want. When I reach the top, I stand nervously on the front porch, not sure if I should knock or simply let myself in; before I can decide, the door swings open.

It's been a long time since I've seen her real face. When we meet in an official capacity, we all wear disguises, masks or distortion fields or light-absorbing facepaint. But this is as much personal as professional, and neither of us wants to hide. Her camera is around her neck, of course; it's a part of her, and I doubt she's been without it for more than an hour since we broke her out of containment a decade ago.

"Angela." I haven't heard my name in years, and it takes me a moment to realize who she's talking to.

"Iris." She never picked a codename, despite our best efforts.

"You should come inside." She steps back from the door, holding it open, and waves me inside. The hole isn't screaming—or if it is, I can't hear it. I follow her in.

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