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By Matthew "Badger" Rossi

The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who were at their hearts the fire's centre.
Born of the sun, they traveled a short while toward the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.
Stephen Spender, I think continually of those who were truly great.

New god kills machine and man
Say Lord of the Engines - Yeah!
White Zombie, Creature of the Wheel

10:47 EST, Atlanta, Georgia - SIRECOM Plaza

The figure shot through the air with the screaming of micro-turbines. Blue and gold, with a featureless helmet that shone like the sun and a huge weapon, square and blocky, in its left fist. The fist only had three fingers, yet it manipulated the prototype DX-11 Modular Phase Cannon with stunning ease.

The armor was cool inside, due to the special hyper-freon units that allowed many of the components to reach superconductivity. The micro musculature inside the suit was a special advance, originally intended for use by those who could no longer get their own muscles to work properly. It responded to neural output like the natural muscles would.

Jacob had tweaked it, using the data he'd snagged from the Tristan study the UN had founded on the Harrakin armor sample they'd been given (and how Jacob would have loved to get his hands on a suit of that!) to design his own primitive nanotech robots. Now, the musculature was self-repairing, and could lift eighty-five tons without strain. Heather'd been impressed by that.

The armor locked on an active EM scan and probed the building with both microwaves and radar, oscillating the frequencies every .00067 seconds so that the SIRECOM defense systems couldn't detect it. As for any Omegas waiting for him...

He hefted the DX-11 and smiled inside his armor.

The scan revealed a schematic of the building that matched the blueprint Jacob had downloaded off of the NIC net, save for two discrepancies. He'd expected that much. In fact, he'd been hoping for them, because this building was constructed in 1986.

When Dynamax had still been a corporate entity of its own, rather than fractured into seventeen or so pieces, and when SIRECOM had committed every crime in the book to keep Dynamax happy.

The first discrepancy was dead, as far as wiring was concerned, save for a highly shielded computer terminal that used a microwave satellite link to connect to a network outside the building. It was probably the infamous 'secure line' that every spy in the movies and on TV seems to need. Jacob wasn't interested in that.

The second discrepancy was a sub-basement buried a thousand meters under the building, constructed with a very rapid elevator system. He knew it was rapid because of the electrical rail inside the tube, which was conducting on the megawatt range.

The Atlanta skyline glowed around him. Jacob knew that SIRECOM was nervous enough in this area, what with the Atlanta bombing at that clinic and also the attempted Omega attack on the Olympics they'd managed to squash stillborn. The fact that some feebs then planted a bomb in the park had embarrassed them. They were charging hard, trying to solve these cases.

That left only ten people in the building.

Jacob pointed the DX-11 at the retaining wall, targeting the main power relay that would supply the power to the automated defense system. He didn't want to destroy it. That would just trigger the alarms and set the backup generator to generating. But th e DX-11 was a lot more than a weapons system, if the designer said so himself.

At a thought, a small capsule fired from the blocky, three foot barrel and attached itself to the relay with a magnetic adhesion system. It then injected a small steel needle into the power coupling, and injected it with more of Jacob's nanites.

Ten seconds later, the onboard computer in Jacob's armor informed him that he had absolute control of the SIRECOM defense grid.

He smiled again, his face glowing with the knowledge that it had worked. Most kids his age were out getting drunk and laid right now. He was raiding a US Government facility.

Agent Mirabell Dylaist was up extremely late, looking over a series of bizarre reports that had begun crossing her desk the week before. From Boston to Tallahassee, strange break ins were occurring all over the East Coast.

Taking a sip from her coffee mug, she reviewed the files, storing their contents in her absolutely flawless memory. That memory, and her degree in psychology, had been what caused her to end up as a SIRECOM agent. There were a lot of cases where straight detective work had to be combined with an understanding of human nature, and the new SIRECOM was especially committed to that philosophy.

Unfortunately, that means I can't be in Aspen with Susan, doesn't it?

The robberies had begun in November of 96, in Boston. On Nov 12, Tristan Research Labs, specializing in applying the Omega to practical technology and a former subsidiary of good old Dynamax, had been broken into. Unlike usual industrial espionage, no files were tampered with and no schematics stolen. Instead, an obsolete (by Dynamax standards) TX-70 computer was stolen. While the TX-70 was obsolete, the parts inside it are still at the cutting edge of technology, but that hardly justified the theft. Tristan had the extreme security that all Dynamax facilities were known for.

Hell, they rival this place. She finished her coffee, feeling the beginnings of her sour stomach kicking up on her.

A week later, this time in Providence, RI, Nov 20. OVERTECH Processors was also broken into. This time, the thief was not targeting a Dynamax company, but a new firm started by a James DeLeon. DeLeon's SIRECOM file was a foot thick. He was a former terrorist with the Colony, an associate of Daniel Anderson, and an Omega with the ability to design intuitively. Wes Hickman had described him in his initial report as 'able to make machines defy physics' and while it was inaccurate, it did sum him up.

DeLeon had been designing a new Trinary Processing Chip, one that 'thought' in a base three code, or rather 0,1, and 2 rather than Binary 0 and 1. This is an entirely new leap in technology, and was the subject of a lawsuit by the US Attorney on behalf of SIRECOM itself, ironically enough. The suit was over whether or not DeLeon's chip was based on the Classified alien technology of the Shiva Entity. DeLeon was winning when the break in occurred. This time, schematics were stolen, or more accurately copied, from DeLeon's computer files. Which explained the theft of the TX-70. Part of its component is the 'Megacompression Protocol' that Dynamax developed to allow for the better understanding of Omega Genetics, which took up vast amounts of disk space. The thief used this protocol to copy the entirety of DeLeon's files in two seconds, and then escaped. Somehow. From the office of a man who had been able to attack Dynamax offices with impunity.

And then it gets interesting, doesn't it, Mira?

The thefts continued down the seaboard. December 1st, Long Island Technics. December 5th, Oberon Labs in Passaic, NJ. December 6th, MIT, which meant that somehow the thief had gotten from New Jersey back to Mass and managed to execute another break in. December 15th, Laser Optics Helix, in Philadelphia. December 22nd, Makan Industrial, where an entire warehouse of robotics parts and supplies went missing, in the middle of the day, in Charleston. December 31st, while the world was celebrating, the thief was actually breaking into Tallahassee Avionics, which shared with the several of the other sites the dubious distinction of being a former Dynamax subsidiary. And it had a prototype micro-turbine stolen from a three foot thick safe...which had been found neatly removed from its hinges and laid down with delicacy in the lobby.

Someone's getting pretty bold. But where's the mistakes? If I had to venture a guess, I'd say that the person behind this would have to be at once meticulous and daring to recklessness. Which indicates that maybe more than one thief is involved.

Just then, SIRECOM Atlanta suddenly sealed off. The bacteriological warfare protocol activated, and every door and window, every type of egress slammed shut. At the same time the computer system locked the people inside out of access. This protocol had been programmed in case people infected with a 'hot' plague attempted to access the computers so that they could escape. To Mira, it came out of nowhere. Mainly because there was no danger of contamination.

"What the hell?" She looked over her cubicle to Bill Moulder, an old-time SIRECOM hand who'd been assigned this case from the time of the Providence break-in, due to his being the section chief of the small yet influential Rhode Island chapterhouse. He stood up and looked at his terminal, his brooding dark eyes suddenly alive.

"According to this, the computer system will no longer accept any input from this station."

"Mine neither. What's going on?"

"Oh Christ." Billy felt memory hit him in the back of the head like a bomb. "The Viral Contamination subset of the Bacteriological Warfare Protocols. No one in an infected area is allowed access."

"Jesus, you aren't telling me that there's some kind of warfare agent in here?" Mira was now standing up as well, staring at her screen in horror.

Before he could answer her, which is just as well, as he had no idea, the walls of the building shook.

Jacob blasted through the wall, knowing full well he could have ordered one of the windows to open and not caring especially. The feeling of power the armor gave him was a high, and the more he used it, the more he wanted to.

There were three agents in the room, and they were actually drawing pistols and aiming them at him. Jacob found this intensely amusing. He thought, and another impulse translated into a tremendous magnetic surge that tore the guns out of their hands and stuck them to the shield-doors. One of the men, the shortest one in fact, managed to get his voice back first.

"Who the fuck..."

Jacob had been waiting for someone to ask.

"I'm Jarvin Tazakles, back from the dead. NOT!" His hands glowed with crackling sparks, and he directed them in a wave that grabbed hold of the three of them and pressed them up against the wall. The featureless armor walked up and looked at them. "That's a static charge. It should hold you there for the next ten minutes or so. Don't mind me."

They didn't respond, because the static was jangling their nervous systems enough to make speech painful. Jacob walked to a pillar in the center of the room, one that dozens of SIRECOM agents walked past every day without knowing what it was. Three people still alive knew about it. One was Cornelius Owen, one was Daniel Carter, and one was Jacob Chevalier. He thought a command, and his linkage to the SIRECOM computer system opened the column up, revealing the elevator inside it.

Which meant that more people were going to know about it. But by then, Jacob would have what he came for.

He tore the elevator car out of the tube with a wave of magnetic force, flinging it out the hole he'd already made in the wall. Then he simply jumped into the tube.

Three thousand feet later, he floated to a stop. The good thing about wearing five hundred pounds of metal was that he could magnetically control it. He drove a three-fingered metal fist into the door, slamming it open, and he walked into the hidden room.

It was better than he'd hoped. There sat the ultimate accomplishment of Dynamax technology, the TX-200, still linked to a secret telecommunications cable. Also, on racks lining the walls, were examples of the creme-de-la-creme of Dynamax weapons, as well as a strange cylindrical tube that resembled some of the Wrexxakt technology Jacob'd seen when he raided DeLeon's computer. The Trinary technology, to be exact.

He smiled like a wolf feeding and bent to the console. The boot-up procedure was just as he'd expected, a simplified version of the TX-70. When it was gone uploading the SIRECOM Logo, it requested his security code. Thankfully, Hickman had since left SIRECOM for the UN, so he wasn't worried about countermeasures. A probe extruded from his palm, and inserted into the secondary Com. access port.

And then he was in. The whole SIRECOM directory, all of their computers in the entire United States. The only other way to have done this would have been to stage a suicide attack on Washington. Jacob found himself thanking Heather profusely under his breath. Using the probe as his input device, he began cycling through their files, ignoring most of their directories but instructing the Megacomp Protocol in his suit to copy everything it could. With DeLeon's Trinary technology, his suit had more than enough memory to copy the entire database. But Jacob needed to make sure they had what he was looking for.

And then he found it. Personnel file #239912, Chevalier, David Paul.

His eyes opened in shock as he read it.

Moulder kept typing away even though the computer swore up and down that there was no way he was getting access. At least, that's how it appeared to Mira.

"Why are you bothering?"

"I know some tricks you don' I'm in."

"What? How'd you do that?" She bent over his shoulder, putting her hand unconsciously on his back. She noted him quiver at the touch, and removed it quickly. "I thought that was supposed to be impossible."

"I knew the old man. There was no way Owen was going to allow a computer program to trap him anywhere, so I knew there had to be a backdoor. All it took was typing in the right password."

"What was it?"

"That'd be telling." Billy smiled. Despite herself, Mira felt her hair go up at the sight of it, somehow unappealingly feral. She hoped he didn't notice, but suspected that he did. "Anyway, I think I can cycle the doors open...hello, what's this?"

"What's what? If there's some virus in here with us, should we open the doors?"

"The computers...someone with Superuser privileges activated the Protocols. There's no virus. And the south wall on floor seven's been breached."

"Oh my God..." Mira realized in a rush what was happening. "I don't believe this."

"Don't believe what?"

"The techno-thief...Bill, he's robbing us! He's robbing SIRECOM."

"Well...if I can get these doors open, we'll go turn the tables on him..." Even as he was speaking, Billy was activating the security system, but even as the doors cycled open, his terminal suddenly went dead, as did the lights. He drew his gun. "Motherfucker."

"Now what's happening?" Mira drew her .45 as well, really wishing that they'd been closer to the armory when this started. Not that she knew much about the kind of weapons they had down there, but this was looking more and more like a job for a very big gun, instead of a brainy psychiatrist with a knack for puzzles.

"Somehow, he cut all the power, including the Emergency Generator, as soon as I began cycling the Security System. He must have programmed it to damp down if anyone tried to re-establish control over the internal armaments. Which means we have to rely on our own...special talents. No big armaments. The armory door will be impossible to open without hydraulics."

"Who could do this?" "I know a few. The most likely would be DeLeon and Hickman, except that I left five of my agents tailing DeLeon, and Hickman's mister morality. Besides, he wouldn't be doing this...he'd keep the computers active so that he could use them against us. Whoever this is isn't quite as confident as that. Let's get going." Moulder walked for the half-open door, Mira following. Even as she did, though, she couldn't keep one thought out of her mind.

What do we do when we catch this guy?

Jacob disconnected once his armor told him it had achieved complete download, but not before inserting a viral surprise into the SIRECOM network. Then he stepped away from the console and pointed the DX-11 at the computer.

A surge of electrons sheared the air between him and the TX-200, and then tore into it. Only someone like Jacob could have seen the flash. It didn't even melt, but was torn into fragments as the electrons stripped the bonded atoms of the console's molecules apart, breaking it into its component elements and leaving them bubbling on the floor. Jacob reached out and sent an EMG pulse that caused the Wrexxakt tube to fly into his right hand and then secured it via clamping to the back of his armor.

He wasn't smiling anymore. Instead, the thrill of fooling Uncle Sam had given way to hard, cold, rage. He flung himself up the tube at nearly two hundred miles an hour, and rocketed all the way to the top. Just as he prepared to slam through the ceiling, he directed a burst of ball lightning back down into the secret chamber.

He blasted out into the night and away, increasing speed to a supersonic 977 MPH, even as the basement room detonated, the munitions secretly stored there going up like you would expect munitions to explode, transforming the tube into a Roman candle that jetted fragments of metal, plastic and even concrete up and out. A tongue of fire.

Jacob knew it was petty, but he felt better anyway.

Heather woke him up the next day, sweaty and exhausted, still in the armor.

"Jesus, Jake! Didn't you even bother to get out overnight?"

"No." He peeled the helmet off with unresponsive hands. "I was charging the capacitors." A few release catches snapped automatically, and the front of the blue and gold chestplate swung open, letting his step out, his whole body sore from sleeping inside armor. "I was afraid we'd have another of know."

"Why?" Heather checked the oval disks on the inside of the armor that laid in contact with his exposed skin when he wore it. Her hair was long and black, the same color as the lipstick and nail polish she wore. "Are you having problems in the suit?"

"No. It's just the opposite." Jacob sat down on the old back seat from their father's GMC Jimmy, his own black hair now close cropped so the pad could easily contact the back of his neck. "Inside the armor everything's fine. Outside of it, though, I'm getting them more often when I sleep. I can still control them when I'm awake, though."

"Good. Mom's away for the weekend, thankfully, so you and I can stay in the garage until she gets back." Heather walked over to the tarpaulin in the corner of the room and removed it, revealing a rather intricate combination of a Dynamax TX-70 and various home-modified parts, including a Macintosh LCII and a Panasonic CD Player. Inside that monstrosity lay a Trinary Processor, built by Jacob and Heather last month. Heather withdrew a cable from the console and plugged it into the armor.

Jacob looked out at the cobalt blue of the slowly awakening morning and felt sick. Heather'd access the SIRECOM files, and then...

"Did you get them?"

"Yeah. All of them, actually. And I left that Virus I was telling you about. Now all I have to do is broadcast on those specific frequencies, and I'm in."

"Did you read Dad's files?" Heather was like a dog with a bone when she wanted something.

"Yeah, I did. They weren't keeping him under surveillance, Heath."

"They weren't?" She plugged the cable into a port on the inside of the armor.

"He was working for them. Chevalier, David Paul, SIRECOM agent, volunteer guinea pig for Dynamax."

"He was an Omega?"

"Nope. Read the file yourself, Heather. I want to get some sleep." He stretched out on the car seat, desperately trying to keep her from seeing his face. Annoyed, she walked over to the computer and downloaded the memory core, searching for her father's files.

Brenda Washington, SIRECOM's director of operations had sent Theresa Ballingeare to Atlanta to oversee the investigation. Theresa was a bull of a woman, so Irish that she practically glowed green, and she took no bullshit from anyone. Not many people liked her, and even fewer considered her a friend.

Fortunately for him, William Moulder was one of those friends.

"Billy, do you think we could go over this one more time?" Theresa was five foot five inches and weighed 195 pounds, all of it workout muscle. She had less than 2% body fat, and hair like a sunset which she kept in a strict military cut. Unlike Mirabell, she'd known Billy Moulder a long time, long enough to know exactly who...and what...he was.

"Look, I couldn't do anything. She was standing right there, I couldn't just change shape and tear the damn door off! That's even assuming I could tear the door down, which is a pretty big assumption. We weren't even down on the floor when it blew up."

"I know that, Bill. What I'm asking you is what happened? Who broke in, how'd they do it...we can't keep from talking to the press much longer. What do I tell them?"

Billy tented his fingers. "Look, keep Dylaist and me on the case. We're pretty sure that it was another one of those break ins, targeting one of the old men's old secret depots. Meanwhile, why don't we make up some cover story about terrorists?"

"And tell the press that terrorists blew up a SIRECOM office? If we can't even protect ourselves, how are they supposed to believe we can protect them from this?" Theresa eyed Billy from the corner of the room. "How close are you two to finding out who's behind this?"

Billy looked up at the ceiling. "Not very."

"So he was the SIRECOM officer Owen entrusted with procuring Omega test subjects for the Dynamax experiments. And he was also present for some of the vivisections, he eliminated people on Owen's personal say so." Heather's voice had no inflection in it at all. She sounded almost as robotic as the TX-70 would have.

"Yeah. I know. Read gets more interesting."

"He isn't dead!?! They faked it!?"

"Yeah. Gave him a new life, a new identity, which wasn't in the computer either, because I checked...and left us thinking he was dead." Jacob was holding on to the metal arm of the seat when he felt it begin to warm up under his palm. Which probably mean the was discharging again. "That son of a bitch."

"What do we do now?"

"I don't know, Heather. As it is, I've made enemies of SIRECOM, who've seen me in the armor now, as well as several international technology conglomerates. Oh, and we're no closer to finding out where dad is, and even if we want to look, it will take months to go through all those files. Plus, sooner or later, mom's going to notice the suit of armor in the garage."

"We have to do something."

"Yeah, I know." Jacob felt voltage crawling up his forearms, the stinging pain that made the skin crawl around, and he stood up. "I think I should put the suit back on."

"You what? We're sitting here with no idea what to do, and you want to go play Tin Soldiers again!"

"No...I need it." As he spoke a blue flash inside his mouth lighted up his teeth, and voltage began to play from inside his eyes. The shuddering in his limbs became uncontrollable. "I can't...can't contain me, Heath."

She ran over and disconnected the feed from the TX-70, and he crawled inside. As he drove his arms down into the armatures and sealed them, Heather linked and closed the chestplate. Unlike many suits of armor, the Battery suit acted more like a robot you rode in than an exoskeleton, as the suit arms and legs don't contain the wearer. He sits inside the torso, with the contact pads drawing neural impulses from his brain...and power from his overloaded nervous system. The armor's arms reached down and lifted the helmet onto Jacob, and he was inside the armor again.

"Are you all right in there?" Heather felt a degree of raw panic, but the scientific method their mother had imparted to her overwhelmed it. Child Prodigies must learn to control their emotions. How many times had she said it?

"Yeah." Jacob's voice sounded completely different in the suit, and not just because of the VOX compression system that garbled his voiceprint. His speech patterns became more rapid, less contemplative. Outside of the suit, Jacob was a fifteen year old genius, a master theorist into the nature of Particle Physics. His sister Heather was a computer programmer, a master technician, a robotics engineer and if anything brighter than Jacob. But inside the suit he sounded like he was on speed.

"I was losing it."

"Hold on a minute. I need to run your scanning diagnostic." She opened a port on the right gauntlet of the suit and re-inserted the black computer cable. Even as she heard the computer uplink being established she was constructing in her head a theory about what was happening, and the computer confirmed it.


"What is it?"

"Your power output is up %277. Your entire nervous system is superconductive even beyond what the Anderson curve told us it should be." She turned and looked at the armored faceplate so that Jacob could see her face. "You are officially a solar power plant, Jake. And I don't know if you can come out of that suit now."

"We'd better tell mom." Now the icicle of panic was cutting into his voice.

Billy Moulder sat in the cubicle next to Mirabell as she continued laying out her thoughts to him. Her private laptop was up and running, unlike the building's terminals, all of which had crashed when the explosion shook the structure nearly off its foun dation.

"So it's pretty simple. All of the targets hit were either high-tech thefts, or computer data sites. I've created a chart of the targets. You can see that several of them were former Dynamax subsidiaries purchased during the great sell off when the Dynam axboard needed cash to settle that class-action suit. Five of them were specializing in either advanced computer processors, like DeLeon was, or in micro-power systems, like Tallahassee Avionics. And...besides us, three of them had files dating back to the old Dynamax days. I think our 'thief' isn't just a thief, Bill."

"Then what do you think he or she is after?" Billy had to keep his mood even. It was often a problem for him. If he lost it, he could end a hairy situation.

"This is where I have to speculate. I don't have any reason to believe this, or at least none I can give you. But it occurred to me when you mentioned Owen that SIRECOM and Dynamax were pretty close bedfellows for a while...and why would someone target old Dynamax plants and SIRECOM Atlanta? There was no reason. Until we found out about that concealed basement."

"With all of those stockpiled weapons..."

"Which were more cutting-edge than the stuff we've got now, and they were made in the late 80's. Definitely fruit from the Dynamax alliance. Whoever's doing these raids knows about the Dynamax/SIRECOM connection, he knows where Owen concealed his bases, and he knows our patterns of operation enough to hit us through the BW Protocols. You said that it didn't seem to be Hickman's style, and I agree with you. I checked with your people in Providence, and save for a couple of days last month, they've known where he was during every single attack. For instance, DeLeon was having sex with three women, possibly students at Brown, during the attack. And no sign of a robot returning since. So he's a back-list suspect. I think whoever's doing this has a grudge with the big boys during the 80's. The way the attacker mentioned Tazakles reveals to me an obsession with the man." Mirabell began typing again. "And the coming in through the cement wall rather than using his control over our systems makes me think he's impulsive. I don't think that the person who attacked is necessarily the person who planned the attack."

"You talk a lot, Mirabell. Boil this down for me, would you?"

"I uplinked with SIRECOM central, playing off a hunch. Sure enough, the thief did somehow access the archives. And he duplicated them. All of them, just like he did to DeLeon. Whoever it was, they've copied our entire computer system. They know everything SIRECOM knew as of fourteen hours ago."

"And knowing this, save that it makes me cringe, helps us how?"

"For starters, it means that whoever it was needed those files. He didn't already have them. That leaves out Owen, who would have known about the room, and who probably would have just sent flunkies to retrieve any new information. Plus, Owen would have only needed files from the past couple years."

"True enough."

"It also leaves out Dan Carter. Similar reasons. Carter also wouldn't have used a computer system to do his dirty work. He'd have stormed the place."

Not if he knew I was here. Billy looked down at her console, wondering. Is she right about Carter? Probably. He had little patience for the antics the thief displayed, and he certainly wouldn't have let those men survive their meeting with him. Plus, he is dead.

"Any of the original strike forces who knew Carter were already out of SIRECOM when that room was built. In fact, only three men apart from Carter were active high echelon agents at the time. Brenda Washington hadn't been appointed yet, so she wouldn't have been told. My search of the system logs told me that the file of one of those men was being searched at around the time of the break in here."


"Personnel file #239912, Chevalier, David Paul."

"Jesus!" Billy couldn't help reacting. He barely had time to prevent hair from covering the backs of his hands, and he felt his canine teeth lengthening.

"You knew him?"

"Hell yes! David "Straightedge" Chevalier. He and Carter were buddies up until he got himself killed. He liked to 'talk' to suspects privately, and Carter used to let him. Carried an old shaving razor from the turn of the century everywhere he went. Guy was a psychopath, one of the worst bullies SIRECOM had, a former Marine who'd found the ATF too tame for him."

Mirabell looked down at the screen. "How'd he die?"

"He got blown up in Denver. May of 86."

"Well, then he certainly found things to do in Denver while he was dead, then, because the file here contains active reports from a Dynamax facility out there. Aegis International. They manufacture anti-Omega munitions. The last report is March 31, 1991. During the Bush Administration..."

"When Owen was still in charge." Moulder looked at her. "I think we know what the next target is going to be."

Battery vs. Aegis International vs. SIRECOM vs. Battery. Heather builds herself a suit. And exactly where is David Chevalier? All this, and James DeLeon too! (Not to mention Mom finally comes home...I think.)

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