Read Part I here.
“Do we try for a jump?” Boreus asked. The Captain shook his head.
“It’d only follow us through it. We fight.”
Four faces looked up to the Captain’s, the same thought in every one. The thing on the veiwscreen was not the kind of thing you fought. It was the kind of thing you ran from, the kind of thing you heard stories about and prayed would never find you.
Well, it had found them. Fighting was as hopeless as running, and the Captain knew which one he’d rather go out doing.
“We fight,” he said again, and the four faces nodded, expressions molding into something harder, something darker. The Captain felt his heart sink to see them. He’d led them into this. They deserved so much better.
Well, a voice that was not a voice rumbled. If it isn’t a little band of thieves and killers. How charming.
“It’s almost on us, Captain,” Tara said, and he closed his eyes against the ache the voice had left in his temples.
“Power up our defenses. Lasers at the ready,” he said after a moment, eyes snapping open. The thing loomed in the veiwscreen, eyes black, tentacles curling, as slow, as inevitable as death. The Captain’s voice sounded like an act in his own ears, the bravado pitching false, the assuredness a paper-thin shield to hide his fear.
“It’s time for a little dragon-slaying.”
* * *
Earlier that day.
Brevian didn’t say anything. There wasn’t anything to say. He hunched deeper into the worn leather of the hoverchair and stared aimlessly at the equally worn faux wood of Captain Clazan’s desk, studying the scars and stains that marred its surface. He wondered who was supposed to speak first. It was probably him.
But again, not much to be said. He wasn’t sure if he could trust his voice, anyway.
Another moment of silence went by. Clazan started tapping the top of his desk. Finally, he said:
“You’re a prince.”
There wasn’t much to say to that. It had been a fact for some time. Recently, it had become an undeniable one. He nodded, instead.
“Not just any prince, either,” Clazan continued, and Brevian wasn’t imagining the exasperation in his voice this time. “the Emperor’s son.”
“Second son,” Brevian clarified, because the distinction was more important than the Captain could know. He glanced up, and found Clazan giving him an odd look. Frustrated, but…oddly not so very different from the look he’d given him when Brevian had claimed to be a street rat. He looked down again, returning to his study of the desk. After another moment of silence. The Captain sighed.
Brevian looked up again, and found Clazan fingering the comm-scroll that lay, recently gone blank, on the desk. He winced, remembering the message that had played on it. A swiveling image of himself. A voice declaring him a missing prince of the galaxy in the same way one might announce a new flavor of grain-o-flecks, and at the end, a reward placed on his head that he knew would keep the Stingray in fuel for a hundred cycles, at the very least.
“It was your…older brother, who sent this?”
Brevian nodded. He still didn’t know why his brother had done it. Brevian the elder hadn’t looked for him at Starport One, hadn’t looked for him for the last four–no, five cycles. He’d finally been crowned emperor of the Fourth Quadrant, after their father. Surely there were more important things for him to worry about than long-lost little brothers.
Unless, of course, Brevian was to be considered a threat now, a contender for the throne, and the intent behind that message was something far less friendly than the hope of a family reunion.
“You could have told us, you know. Anytime you wanted.”
Brevian looked up at Clazan’s tone.
“You’d have taken me back,” he said, by way of explanation.
“Yes. Probably. Don’t see what kind of choice I’d have; kidnapping a royal’s a crime worthy of dissection, or worse.”
Brevian’s stomach twisted at the image.
“You didn’t kidnap me!”
“I know that,” Clazan said. “But I’d have a bloody hard time convincing anyone else of that.”
Brevian fell silent, the protest that he wouldn’t let anything happen to the crew of the Stingray, not if he could help it, silenced by the crushing fact that he probably couldn’t help it. No one had listened to him five cycles ago, and he doubted that they’d start now.
“Why’d you want to stay, anyway?” Clazan asked, the calm that usually tempered his voice gone. “You’re a prince.why would you want to give up a palace and a title to–to scrub floors on a rust-bucket of a ship that runs on half-rations whenever we’re between jobs?”
The Stingray wasn’t a rust-bucket, Brevian thought indignantly. The food was fine, even if there wasn’t always enough of it. They ate together, and talked together. Scrubbing floors wasn’t bad. It beat being alone.
Before he could answer, a knock sounded on the captain’s door.
“Come in,” Clazan said, sounding relieved at the intrusion.
The door zithered open halfway before stalling. Tara slipped past it, and took the time to give Brevian a slim smile before she looked up to the Captain. Brevian’s stomach dropped at the look on her face; it was–well, Tara would never look panicked. But she was paler than usual, and the hand that usually rested on one hip with a kind of easy grace was hooked into her belt, tense, as though it would very much like to be holding something sharp.
“On the bridge, captain,” she said. Clazan frowned.
“Imperial troops?” he guessed, and she shook her head, attempting a wry smile that flattened out all too quickly.
* * *
The thing that curled and coiled, contentedly occupying the void that the Stingray had occupied not a minute earlier, could have dwarfed a planet. Its eyes were black pits, empty and warm; its skin smooth and shining with as many colors as all the nebulas of open space.
The dull obsidian eyes were staring lazily at him, and Brevian could hear his own breath echoing in the confines of his helmet, over-loud with uninvited panic.
The StarDrake was the most beautiful thing Brevian had ever seen.
He hated it with all his soul.
My, my. What is this?
It had a voice that crackled like a solar storm.
Are you really trying to flee…from me?
Brevian looked up at the thing that was looming gigantic as a wayward galaxy over him, and clenched his fists tighter.
“You killed them,” he said. “I’ll kill you.”
Heavens around us, the dragon said, its tentacles coiling in tight little curls that released as soon as they formed–an odd, spasmodic motion that Brevian recognized as laughter. So, you will kill me, for the sake of a few thieves who have abandoned you? Well. The wisdom of your chosen course of action aside, how will you go about it–slaying the beast? The dragon said, sounding hellishly amused as some of its silky, snakish bulk began to drift around Brevian, caging him in like an animal in a bio-research lab.
“I don’t know.” Brevian said. “But I will.”
Again that silent spasm of laughter.
Classic human, it said lightly. Don’t know how, but you will. I don’t doubt you shall, if you survive long enough. I shall leave you to it, shall I? Come and find me, when the mood for vengeance strikes.
With that, it began to uncoil, ready to carry itself and the remains of the Stingray inside its belly away.
“Wait!” Brevian shouted at it, and the great head turned again, fixing him with a curious expression.
“You have to give–give my friends back.” He stuttered over the sentence, hating how it sounded. Words so weak and fragile, thrown against the bulk and brawn of the cosmic beast.
The ones who left you to die? Whyever would you want them?
“They didn’t leave me to die,” Brevian retorted. “They were trying to save me. From you.”
That worked out well, the dragon commented, coiling itself again. Your friends must have been very intelligent.
“Give them back,” Brevian demanded, even though he knew the creature couldn’t, not really.
He had been alone before, so it was not as though the cold leaching into his bones was anything new. It was just as unbearable now as it ever had been in his old nursery. Breaker had laughed and chatted that cold away, but–Breaker was gone.
They were all gone.
“You have to,” he heard himself saying. “They’re all I have.”
* * *
“Brevian!” Clazan’s voice snapped like a whip. The bridge was a mess of confusion with the StarDrake lingering huge and terrifying on the Stingray’s viewscreen and everyone rushing to prepare a defense that, to Brevian’s ears, sounded pitifully inadequate.
“Yes, sir?” He was a crewman, he reminded himself, and Clazan was Captain. The Captain would get them through this. He always did.
Clazan shoved something small and heavy into his arms, and he looked at the thing in surprise–an emergency spacesuit, light and leathery. As far as Brevian knew, utterly useless in the dragon-slaying department.
“Go to the cargo bay.” Clazan was holding Brevian’s shoulders as though he might start floating away. “You know how to work around the airlock’s safety?”
“Put the suit on and do it.” Every word had a harsh edge to it–harsh and half-fearful. Brev winced. He’d have bruises on his shoulders by tomorrow. “You understand? Get out of here.”
Brev didn’t understand, but he nodded. He didn’t move. He wanted to, but his feet weren’t cooperating.
Clazan gave him a brief, too-bright smile, and the chill sunk into Brev’s bones like an anchor.
“We’ll be fine, Brev. Just go.”
* * *
Had, the dragon corrected. All you had. You should have put your trust in steadier things, little worm. One swallow, and all you have is gone.
It had the nerve to sound pleased. Brevian clenched his fists tight in the oversized plastic of the suit–the idiotic last-ditch attempt at saving his life, even when the Captain had given himself and everyone else up for lost–and willed his eyes to stay dry.
Does it hurt?
The dragon’s voice was almost soft. Its head drifted closer to him, looming huge, but Brevian was too enraged to be afraid. He didn’t dignify the question with a reply.
“Why?” he asked, instead.
There was a flicker in the dark eyes, and the mane of bristles rattled.
Why is a dangerous question, little worm. For every why there is a because.
Brevian was slowly beginning to drift upside-down, but he did so silently, arms crossed, with expectant dignity, and after a moment of mutual staring, the dragon capitulated.
They stole from me. Stole everything from me, the dragon said. They stole my very heart.
Brev was drifting right-side up again, but he kept his arms crossed. The dragon’s arguments were leaving him distinctly unimpressed.
“Elaborate,” he demanded, and the tentacles coiled tight again–but not, this time, in amusement.
They killed my daughter.
Brevian blinked. He hadn’t thought that cosmic monsters had children. Or cared about having children. But it seemed this cosmic monster did care. Or had, once.
She was barely a millennium old. Its voice crackled a little less, now; a flickering candle-flame as opposed to a blazing fire. I was just weaning her off asteroids and small moons. I took her to watch the birth of a star, and she–a spasm of laughter–asked if she could eat it.
The tentacles gathered in soft curves, as though to caress a thing that was no longer there.
She would have been a devourer of worlds, in time. A drake without equal in beauty or appetite.
The thick mane rattled, every spot of glowing light along the dragon’s huge body flashed up like lightning.
But then your friends came while she was sleeping. She was young–so young–and I was not there to protect her–and they killed her. Sliced through her belly and took her skin, her teeth, her bones, her eyes…they harvested her, fed upon her, like…like…
The dragon seemed to despair of a word, and fell silent.
That was a story that Breaker had not told him. Possibly for good reason. Perhaps, he thought, he should have responded with feeling, with compassion–but his memories of the Stingray’s last moments were too vivid still in his mind, and he found nothing in the dragon’s speech but hypocrisy.
* * *
“Captain! It’s getting closer,” Tara shouted from the bridge, and the fear that was flickering somewhere behind Clazan’s smile was there, clean and unhidden, in her voice.
Brev took a step back, looking up into Clazan’s face for any kind of assurance, but got only the repeated order: go.
“It’ll swallow us in a minute,” Liz said helpfully, the second Brev’s back was turned. He started to hurry down the hall, stumbling a little; his legs felt numb. Hurry or no, he was still within range of Clazan’s quiet reply.
“Well, then. Let’s give this StarDrake a taste of stingray.”
The airlock was thick with the scent of rubber. Brevian took a deep breath of it before he struggled into the emergency suit, letting the double-sealed doors close behind him with a soft whush. The Stingray smelled like adventure, even now.
An alarm was blaring, and Brevian tapped a quick, well-memorized sequence into the keypad to open the second set of doors. He stepped back, taking a steadying breath.
The final set of doors shot open, revealing the star-dotted ink and indigo of the open space beyond. The void gripped him like the hand of a giant, and he was torn out of the Stingray, no air in his lungs for even a scream. All was rushing noise and flashing lights and then–
It was silent. Silent and cold. The emergency suit fed him stale-smelling oxygen. He sucked it in greedily. For a few moments, that was all that mattered.
His heart slowed its panicked beat, and his mind began the picky business of thinking. The Stingray was above him, and he stared up at her scarred belly, at the shining orange paint on her fins, with awe. She was huge, he thought.
Then he saw the thing that loomed beyond her.
It was moving slowly, but lithely, with deadly purpose. Its dark eyes were fixed on the Stingray, with no emotion evident in them. No malice, but no compassion, either. And plenty of teeth.
The Stingray, in a display of utter stubborn idiocy, opened fire on it.
The ship’s defenses were sub-par at the best of times, built for running off small-time shipjackers or the occasional herd of galaxy mites. They never stood a chance against the StarDrake. They sparked and fizzled with all the efficacy of water guns, and the dragon paused if only regard the ship with plain distaste.
When it opened its mouth again, it was clear that all the lasers in the world would have been useless. The Stingray kept firing its tiny, futile flashes of light anyway. The StarDrake’s mouth closed.
Then she was gone, and Brevian was alone.
The StarDrake shook out its tentacles contentedly as it swallowed.
* * *
Brevian’s stomach twisted, but his voice was even.
“Like you feed upon us?”
All caution had gone out the airlock, in a much less metaphorical sense than the phrase usually described.
“You talk of eating us as though it’s nothing. Of devouring planets whole, as though it does not matter.”
Does it not? Your lives are but a day to my kind, human. Your planets but a snack. It is the way of things.
“Our short lives and our little planets matter a great deal to us. And if you think you can take them–just snatch them up without a second thought–then you had better not be surprised when we fight back. Think of us as little more than insects? Then to us you’ll be little more than monsters to be killed.” Brevian was shaking, and it wasn’t from fear. “It’s the way of things.”
The dragon was still, considering him. Quite possibly wondering whether he was worth gulping down. Brevian didn’t care if the creature did swallow him; the emergency suit was already flashing a mild ten-minute oxygen warning at the corner of his vision, and he doubted that anyone was going to magically come by and rescue him in the next ten minutes. Being swallowed was at least a little more interesting than suffocating to death.
So, it said, finally, and its tone was…thoughtful. The way of things has overtaken us both.
There was something in its quietness that drained all the anger out of Brevian’s bones, which was unfortunate, because the anger was all he’d had left. He breathed hard, and stared up at the dragon, and ignored the flashing warning on his helmet because it didn’t matter anymore. Nothing did.
My daughter is dead. Her killers will soon join her. And like stars you and I will burn in the dark–alone. It is the Way Of Things, the dragon said.
What did he mean, ‘soon?’
“You might burn in the dark. I think I’m going to die in it.” the warning had gone from orange to red, and it was blinking faster.
The dragon was not listening. It seemed to be having an existential crisis.
I have lived for years uncountable. I have swallowed suns and moons, kings and queens and would-be gods; I have counted myself the greatest creature the universe holds, and, to spite the wisdom of ages, in the space of a second I have learned the name of my master: the Way Of Things. HA!
Brevian did not care, much, how long the dragon had lived or what it had swallowed while it did; but he cared a great deal about that one word, so casually cast out: ‘Soon.’ ‘Soon be dead’–not ‘dead,’ but ‘soon’, which was a world away from ‘dead’, almost as good as ‘alive’, if only the dragon had meant it–
The dragon’s voice rose in time with Brevian’s heartbeat.
Well, Way Of Things, I defy you. You shall be my master no longer!
And with that, the Dragon’s mouth opened once more, and Brevian’s heart leapt into his throat.
For, spat out into the black of space–drifting aimlessly, with dead thrusters and a battered, half-digested shell, true, but there–was the Stingray.
There, the dragon said, coiling itself in apparent carelessness. The Way Of Things has been defeated.
The audio link crackled to uncertain life, and someone groaned into Brevian’s ear.
“Brevian to the Stingray! Is everyone all right?”
“Brev.” someone said, sounding groggy, and Brevian had never expected his heart to leap with joy at the sound of Liz’s voice, but here they were — “What–Ungh. What in’a heck just happened?”
* * *
As it turned out, being swallowed by a dragon was an unpleasant and dangerous experience, even if by some unforeseen miracle it did not turn out to be a deadly one. Liz had a broken arm from being thrown against an unsuspecting Breaker, and Breaker had a gash across his forehead from knocking his head into a doorway. Boreus had declared that the damages to the ship were more important than either wound, and had taken Tara away to the engine room, leaving them both in the medbay with Brevian. Brevian assumed he was supposed to take care of them.
Breaker assumed just the opposite.
“I’m fine, really,” Brev insisted, dodging another one of Breaker’s attempted comforting hugs.
“Please sit still, I need to stitch that cut.”
“Just let him hug you, Brev. It’s easier,” Liz advised, half-asleep on one of the cots.
Brevian did not let Breaker do anything. He was snatched off his feet and squeezed until he feared he’d join Liz in the company of broken bones.
“It’s all right,” Breaker rumbled as he crushed the air from Brevian’s lungs. “it was frightening, but it will be all right now.”
“I know.” Brevian wheezed. “Breaker, I know. Please just put me down.”
Liz groaned from her cot.
“Let the kid go, Break. You’re gonna squash him.”
Grumbling, Breaker did as he was told. Brevian crumpled to the ground in a heap and shot Liz a grateful look. He laid on the floor, staring at the ceiling, and wondered if it would be all right if he just took a nap here for a while.
With a sudden thought, he bolted upright.
“Where’d the captain go?” he asked. Clazan had been there, when Brevian had been admitted back onto the ship; had joined in the joyful reunion, listened to Brevian’s tale of what had happened while they were inside the beast’s belly. But he’d been quiet–so quiet, that no one seemed to have noticed when he disappeared.
“Bridge, I think.” Liz said, her eyes still closed.
Brevian’s stomach sank. Oh, no. The dragon had let them go, all was well enough and ripe for being left alone, but no, the captain was going to go and talk to it. As if the dragon would ever listen. He could feel trouble brewing from here.
He jumped to his feet and rushed to the bridge.
“…Sorry,” he was in time to hear. Sure enough, Clazan stood in the middle of the ruined room, focused on a veiwscreen that was entirely taken up by StarDrake. Brevian halted, caught in a paradox of wanting the conversation to end, and not daring to interrupt.
Sorry, the dragon said, as though testing the word and finding it wanting. Is that the kind of payment you offer for a stolen life, Thief? Is a half-meant word supposed to be enough, among your kind?
Brev took a step forward, not entirely sure what he intended to do but certain that this was the point at which he should do something, when a hand was laid softly on his shoulder. He looked up into Liz’s face. She was pale and sweating, her injured arm held close to her side like a hurt wing. Her eyes were on the captain, and the veiwscreen beyond him, but when she shook her head, Brevian knew the gesture was meant for him. He stopped.
“No,” Clazan said, softly. “No, sorry’s not enough. Me and my kind are well aware of the fact, believe me. But when nothing would be enough, it’s…well, it’s all we’ve got.”
Your kind is very strange.
Clazan chuckled. “You’re not wrong.”
I am sorry too.
Brevian’s eyes went wide. Dragons didn’t apologize, did they?
Sorry I was not with her, the dragon clarified, and the graphics on the Stingray’s veiwscreen had not improved since their immersion in the StarDrake’s belly, but Brevian could have sworn that the dragon’s pit-black eyes had gone a shade darker. Sorry I did not save her. Sometimes, I am sorry…that I cannot join her. I have tried. But…my kind does not die easily.
There was no way to see the Captain’s expression, but Brevian caught the sudden silence of the man, the way one of his hands fluttered softly as though to make some gesture of help before landing limply at his side again.
“What are you going to do, now?” Clazan asked, finally, and the dragon’s head drifted slowly, looking away from the ship, focusing on some distant star or planet who knew how many light-years away.
I do not know. Consume a planet, perhaps. It did not sound excited at the prospect. Be alone.
Again that careful silence.
“You don’t have to be, you know.” Clazan stepped back, crossed his arms. “Alone.”
“Captain!” Liz interjected, causing Brevian to startle. “You promised. No more adopting strays.”
Stray? The dragon repeated, sounding insulted, while Clazan spun around to face them both.
“We’re not adopting him, Liz, it’s just–well–we can’t exactly just leave him here, all alone.”
“Yes, Captain. Yes, we can,” Liz said, but she sounded defeated already.
I am no stray, the dragon boomed, petulant. But. I…am very tired, of being alone.
“See, Liz?” Clazan said, but Liz had a hand planted over her eyes, pointedly refusing to see anything at all.
Brevian Ecklesworth II, Emperor of the Fourth Quadrant, was staring at the ceiling. His Majesty chewed absently on the end of a pen, ignoring the papers cluttering his desk and using one booted foot to shove off from the desk legs every few minutes, causing his chair to rock wildly in its hover-cycle.
The emperor was not thinking about the papers on his desk. He was not thinking about Grand Admiral Jorgenson and his proposals of new military outposts; or indeed anything that had been talked about in the latest meeting of his council.
He was not thinking about the ceiling, either, for all he stared at it.
He was thinking about a bland platform on Starport One, a boring school assignment, and a little brother who had been there one moment, and…gone the next.
Brevian II had gone into a panic when he’d looked up and realized that the boy was missing. He’d searched the whole Starport, and returned home sick with fear–afraid to break the news to the old emperor, afraid of the blame and anger he couldn’t help but feel he deserved.
Their father had only blinked at the news, then shrugged and ordered a few search parties be sent out the next morning.
After that, it seemed that everyone besides himself had forgotten that the second prince had even existed.
That had been the day he had realized that being the son of an emperor meant nothing at all. It did not make you mean anything to anyone in any way that mattered.
He’d spent the years since then making very sure that he meant something, that he mattered. He supposed he should take the crown upon his head as proof that he’d succeeded; but he had his suspicions that that did not mean anything either.
It had occurred to him, more than once, that his little brother was probably long gone. Kidnapped, or dead. But the emperor was tired of cynicism, and allowed himself this little sliver of foolish hope.
“Your majesty?” a disembodied voice said from underneath the cluttered papers on Brevian II’s desk. The Emperor jumped, dropping his pen–ah. Yes. The intercom system. He was…still getting used to it. He fished for the pen, replacing it on his desk.
“Yes, Miss Schu?”
“The Department of Imperial Investigations has accepted a comm in reply to the case of the missing prince, your Majesty. Shall I send it in?”
The Emperor’s hoverchair wavered wildly as he sat up.
“Has Prackett sent any message with it?”
“The detective general said, and I quote, ‘I’ve been reviewing comms all day and this one seems slightly less likely to be a fraud, please tell me it isn’t so I can go back to doing by bloody job.’ My own apologies for his lack of tact, your majesty.”
The emperor did not have to hide the flicker of amusement that crossed his face, for once.
“Have the connection relayed to my desk, please, Miss Schu.”
The emperor sat back as the center plate of the desk raised itself up with a pneumatic hiss and flickered uncertainly to life. He frowned at first, wondering if the screen was malfunctioning; but no, it was the quality of the comm link itself. The skittering pictures resolved into the image of a scarred, one-eyed face, who was frowning at something offscreen. Facial recognition scanned the profile, and the emperor scanned the identity it popped up with, making his judgements quickly. A small-time pirate and occasional mercenary. Judging by the state of the ship behind him, not a very successful one.
“–bad idea.” the audio link crackled to life in time for Brevian II to hear.
“I’m not saying we actually lock him up, captain, but to return him without even trying to bargain for a little more reward money is–well, suspicious, for one thing. I’d suspect us.”
“Liz,” the one-eyed man said, with slumped shoulders. “We’re not holding him for ransom.”
“Why not? Brev’s on board with it. Aren’t you, Brev?”
“I wouldn’t mind.”
The voice was not exactly familiar. Less familiar, in any case, than it should have been. The Emperor sat up straight at it, all the same.
The movement drew the attention of the man on the other side of the screen, and he startled slightly, drawing a flick of a smile from the Emperor. He would never tire of unsettling people.
The pirate, on the other hand, looked tired of just about everything.
“So,” he said, “are you really the Emperor, or is this just another security screening?”
Brevian II raised his eyebrows.
“I am the Emperor.”
The one-eyed man considered him for a moment, his face cold and calculating. The Emperor curled his fingers into his palms under the desk, preparing for threats or ransom demands or whatever else this pirate had planned.
The captain merely studied him for a moment, then nodded, and the Emperor had the unsettling feeling that he’d just been through a security screening of his own.
“Well, then. I’ve got someone who wants to speak with you,” he said, and moved aside. The screen was a pixelated glitch of leather coat and overloaded weapons belt for a moment, and then someone else stepped up to it. Shorter than the Captain, but not half as small as the Emperor remembered them.
His little brother looked different. Very different. Thinner and taller and with sharper edges to his face. But the facial recognition scanners confirmed what the Emperor already know.
“Brother,” he said, feeling the cycles-old beginning to slip away. He was alive. He was unhurt. Brevian II’s mind was already whirling with questions and plans–what was Brev doing on a pirate ship, how had he gotten there, he had to come home at once–he’d send the whole Imperial guard to get him if he had to.
The boy on the screen responded with a flash of surprise, a nervous flick of a smile, and then looked to someone offscreen as though asking for guidance. Finding familiarity in a group of strangers. And the words–I’ve found you, come home, stuck in Brevian II’s throat, because–perhaps home was not home anymore. Not to his little brother.
But the younger Brevian’s eyes found his again.
“Brother,” he responded. Cautious. Guarded. (But alive, and there).
It was a beginning.
And at the moment, a beginning was enough.
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