DarkHorse Vendetta by Orin Drake
Chapter 28 - And it Just
Keeps Piling Up
more than a standard transportation ship." Pheta continued
when the captains seemed to have nothing to say. "According to
the scans and the information I can get hold of, it's some kind of...
classified medical vessel."
She'd left with a kiss and the promise of meeting up with him later. That was... kinda weird, in hindsight. She'd kissed Julian?
Well, yeah. It was a peck, really. Too many nerves to put much thought into the action... and she was starting to regret that as she pulled her mattress open. It's shouldn't have been... like that. It should have been... more. Longer, or with passion, or with... with thought to it. Dammit. That was... bad.
Too late to go back on things, though. These... were already decided. She was riding instinct so strong that she suddenly understood why some animals did utterly weird things that they certainly must have known couldn't have lead to much more than death. Instinct gone awry, she supposed... but she was a little more hopeful of the situation. Or so she told herself.
Pressing the thoughts away, she checked on Doxy. One gleaming eye opened sleepily, so she walked in to give him a scratch on the head. Satisfied... she simply walked out of her quarters.
Spectre, fully loaded. Additional bullets in her jacket. Hair back. Breath steady. Heartbeat normal. No words. Nothing to track her. Nothing to hold her back. She stepped in the lift.
No one was in the dock, and she was incredibly glad for that. This whole thing was stupid. Insanely, absolutely moronic... but necessary. If there really was no one on board that all too mysteriously placed ship, then there was nothing to worry about. And if it was a trap... then it was a trap. Maybe she could fool herself into believing that she had luck on her side. Or some mysterious powers. Yeah.
Straight to her old vessel. Seemed that something akin to fate had worked out in this case; The Sefirot won the bomb lottery that The Durago seemed to have lost in a spray of fire. But it had been helpful... and very cool looking. Not really quite the thing she wanted to think about at the moment she was boarding, however...
It felt so empty. Too quiet, too metal and electronic and... dead. That made the bridge even more intolerable.
Outside communications disabled. Tracking by friendly vessels disabled. She made herself sick.
It was a surprising thought, even in the rising heat of a possible confrontation. She made herself sick by going alone. By telling no one... not even Julian. But she worried, honestly. If the Pordethre had gotten to him before, then... they could again. Even if they didn't manage that particular bit again, he may be overwhelmed by the guilt of it at the improper moment, dropping his guard or his skills--that was no way to die. She didn't want to see anyone else die.
Not that she was so happy about the possibilities of her own mortality, either. But she could rest in peace if she, herself alone, died on that ship. Trying to get to the truth. Trying to save...
Ugh, Domani. What would Domani think of--no, that thought needed to be stopped there and then. Domani had Julian. He could handle it... and that was the other reason she hadn't told him what she planned to do.
And this... this was stupid. This would be interpreted as running away. As breaking her word.
She pulled her hand back from the control panel, uncertain. It didn't feel right... because it wasn't right. But then, neither was waiting it out. Nor calling upon anyone else. What she'd have given just then for a black and white world.
Teeth firmly buried in her bottom lip, she enabled communications and tracking again. She swallowed back the sickness that a part of her hardly admitted to: she hadn't finished the job she'd set out on. Really, she hadn't even started. But she would simply have to break some of those learned assassin traits and rely more on the instinct.
Even then... she couldn't leave so easily. There were other thoughts to work out. Could it be that by not going it alone, right then and there, she was actually doing wrong by the universe? It seemed a ridiculous thought, but... she'd have gone without pause in any other situation. She would be out there, on her way to the ship to explore and kill, if need be--if she didn't have someone to be so attached to. That was killing her. Love was weakness. One she accepted, because of the strange strengths it offered. But... there were duties to be considered.
In a curious sort of controlled frustration, she walked up to the battered old captain's seat and kicked it. Repeatedly. Felt pretty damn good, actually. It was her nature to go, alone, an finish something with personal undertones. Both out of curiosity and whatever warped sense of "duty" she seemed to be deluding herself with.
But, then... there were others to think of. And that's why her kicks gained in intensity. The metal pins began to shriek with them, dislodging from the floor. It was... just damn confusing. Aggravating. And less than satisfying when the chair finally keeled over with a dull tha-whump.
Should she behave as she always had? Was there some... rule against it? Or worse, would not behaving by her nature be like surrender? And how the hell was she supposed to have the answers to any of this?! She wished she hadn't kicked the chair over, suddenly. Domani wasn't online to bounce ideas off of... and she had no intentions of revealing her plan to anyone else.
The situation sucked. Hard. She sat instead in the navigator's chair, one hand on the ignition panel... and thought.
"The dock is opening." Pheta announced quietly.
Julian sighed to himself, stomach instantly tightening. Yeah, he'd known what she had to do. It was just... in her. But it was still hard. He knew in a worst case situation that one of the fleet ships could follow her for backup... but that wasn't quite enough.
"I wouldn't worry too much." The woman suggested, taking a look at the security files.
Well, at least that was some good news for his frail nerves. "Why's that?"
"She's not alone on that ship..."
If she wouldn't be able to live with herself regardless of her decision, then she thought she may as well go all the way with it. She'd somewhat reached an agreement with both sides of her own argument: the communication and tracking systems were left enabled, but silent. At least then, if something did happen... well, they'd know where to go. Maybe even who to kill to avenge her death.
Ah, humor even in the darkness. Strange thoughts, to say the least. The journey to the abandoned ship wasn't a long one--but it was just long enough to get the nervousness pulsing through her. It would be easy enough to set aside when she was actually distracted with her self-imposed duty, but... until then, it was just a bitch.
The ship had the look of abandonment about it; no lights, all docks open and empty, and the way it had gotten trapped in a slight spin by the gravitational pull of the nearest planet and its moon all seemed to point to the fact that the vessel had either been left for dead or... Well, the possibilities were usually grim. No need to over-think it--she just needed to board.
Approaching carefully, she attempted to line herself up with a bay tunnel manually. Well, hey, she used to be able to do it... but perhaps that wasn't quite the time to see if she still had the ability. She let the Sefirot's controls pick up the closest one, instead, the tunnel of her ship and the abandoned one's carefully coming together and locking automatically. That was a good sign; the ship still had power.
Though... she couldn't ignore the subtle shiver in the back of her neck. A trap was more than merely likely... and still she went on. Maybe she was fooling herself to believe that she was ready for whatever came... but it was a little late to be going back. And even if it weren't... she couldn't. What seemed even more horrifically wrong than going by herself was to bring anyone else into it. For what it was worth, instinct said that this was personal. And who was one to deny instinct?
Not I. Bit sardonically at the back of her thoughts. Damn but this was stupid, wasn't it. Moronic. Insane.
Something that has to be done. She wondered, though, how many times she'd fooled herself with that one. No matter, in the end--she was already on her way to walk over to the other ship.
Abandoned, indeed. But clean. A little too clean. It wasn't sparkling or anything, but... there was no sign of anyone having lived there. Or worked there. Granted, she hadn't wandered many of the side halls. Enough to know, though. Enough to be ready. Damn, she should have brought more bullets.
Little though it mattered. She was incredibly tempted to pull up a map on one of the occasional panels in the hallways, but it wasn't as if the ship were that big. She'd no doubt find what she was looking for sooner or later. Besides, a little wandering would do her good. To gather her thoughts, work out scenarios in her head--that's what she needed. To concentrate not on the dangers, but the task at hand.
Not that she'd honestly had much time to ponder. And imagine that, on a central deck and headed more or less straight for the center of the ship, she'd encountered just what she was certain she'd been looking for. The massively sized room itself was encased within steel walls, but inside that were several smaller rooms divided only by glass panels and open door spaces. A strange configuration by her experience, but the very small area of file cabinets rather than the layers upon layers of hard drives made themselves the focus of her world.
Paper. This place kept... paper. That seemed so... utterly out of place... unless, of course, it was as Pheta had thought. A somewhat secretive medical vessel would likely keep nothing but paper records when it came to real information. Easier to destroy completely, that way.
Swallowing, that small row of file cabinets near the inner-most room was where she headed first. If anything would tell her what was going on... or at least lead to more clues...
From top to bottom, she quite literally dug through the first one. Some boring stuff, really. Arranged like anything else, dull medical equipment forms, reorder dates... eh. The second one was also a bust in a flurry of pages scattered over the floor. It was the third one in that caught her undivided attention.
Logs, records... most of them had blacked-out pages, but there was a single drawer at the bottom... Locked with a very advanced number code, of course. Not after a nice little Spectre blast, though. With very little need to dig, none of the logs proved to be classified with black strips and missing pages--but all of them should have been. Names, dates... and experiments. Not your standard scientific sorts, either. She skimmed quickly, knowing that her time was likely growing shorter. Notable among the list of horrors was melding metal with flesh...
That was all she'd needed. Grasping the whole folder and the one after it (just in case), she tucked the papers under her arm and turned--
Dammit. Just... dammit. Those weren't the sounds of a ship settling. Nor hitting something, even. Those were, pretty too goddamned clearly, footsteps.
With a quiet sigh, she stopped, letting that moment fall over her in the calmest of fashions. No reason to run; she wouldn't have gotten away. How she knew that was unimportant... but ultimately logical, she decided.
And so. Here she was. It was quite likely that no one would be coming for her. No one would know. It was too soon for anyone to worry, if they'd been tracking her... and she was pretty damn certain Pheta could do nothing but. Turning, she saw the movement through the panes of glass.
She took a deep breath as she watched the approaching figures, keeping her thoughts raging but calm. Five bullets in the chamber. Twelve more available within reach. After that... it was all blade and body. Blood and glory. It was almost enough to give her a horribly bitter smile were she not all too aware of everything that she had to lose. Domani was not there to save her. Nor was Julian, nor Pheta. No one. She was completely alone in this for the first time in years.
And yet... she was comfortable. If reflected upon later (if there were a later), she may not be able to remember the insane, careful calmness of the situation. It was total, stupid idiocy under the veil of all-knowing omnipotence. Whatever "it" was, she was going to use it.
Two figures. One totally unfamiliar... and the other one undoubtedly that creature that had invaded the ship and caused Domani a bit of damage. Old Silver Eyes. Bastard.
That other guy walking beside him, though... She narrowed her eyes, glad they were walking rather than running--the pace would give her more time to search her memory for the guy. He was so disturbingly plain that it was unlikely she would be able to recall him anyway. Ah well, worth a shot.
Around the glass wall they came, and she hardly moved more than to merely face them. No point in running, nor hiding; and certainly not hiding the documents she'd stolen.
The blah-looking man spoke first, moving forward to show himself as any mild-mannered, middle-aged psychopath. "An honor to finally meet you, Jack."
Well, shit. Not like this wasn't expected, she supposed... She just hated to be at a complete disadvantage. "I couldn't say the same."
"No, I'm sure you couldn't." He seemed far too satisfied with himself, arms crossed behind his back. "I don't suppose it matters now. Is there a fight to be had, then?"
As if she had any real choice in that regard. With no additional hurry, she pulled the Spectre from its place with all the reverence of a sacred relic in the hands of its worshipper. Cool, clean, heavy. It felt good. It felt... final. Were she entirely in a logical mindset, that would have scared her. Maybe even turned her away from the whole situation. As it was, however... she kept one eye on the man and the other on the silent, unmoving freak.
"Very good." The man chuckled almost pleasantly. "Any last prayers?"
Well, that was an interesting question. She'd never really prayed before... It was something new. So, she tried her hand at it. Spectre in an almost lazy grip, she looked upward and spoke dramatically, "Lord... have pity on the fuckers who are gonna get theirs."
"Wonderful." The plain one seemed almost sincere.
"And what are you here for?" Jack called out the all too quiet creature watching. "Bodyguard? Historian?"
Silver Eyes met her question with contempt. "I am to watch. And make certain."
"Yeah, that's helpful." She let her mouth run wild. "So what the fuck are you, anyway?"
The freak almost seemed to take a moment to be offended before he responded, hatefully. "A being capable of illusion, I suppose you could say."
Having none of her questions answered in a satisfactory way, she only sighed. "Okay, let's get this over with."
"And deny me the absolute... savor of the moment?" the plain man chided.
She was getting quite sick of this, quite quickly. "Whoever you are, buddy, is not impressive. So let's cut the shit and end it."
"Not the wisest decision." The plain man taunted. "Neither was coming here alone, however..." He seemed all too satisfied with himself, reveling in the taste of his own words. "You thought you--"
"Shut up and draw, jackass." If she had to die this time, so be it. But she'd be damned if she was going to listen to this bullshit any longer. Yeah yeah, they were smarter than she'd thought. Maybe even smarter than her. But fuck them. That didn't give them the right to waste any more of her time.
"As you wish." He relented, delicately waving off Silver Eyes. The freak seemed only happy to follow orders, back-stepping several yards away to enjoy the action.
Great. She barely bit back. This situation can only get better... right? Not that she really believed that, she supposed...
And then something very surprising occurred. Unexpected, to say the least; a third figure, moving quickly. She heard the shuffle of feet far behind her, casting a glance as quickly as she could afford to take her attention away from the other two. Familiarity hit a second before the actual appearance of the man made sense--and even then. It was--Dr. Carn? Oh, this was just too weir--
Instinct instantly seized that line of thought to focus solely on ducking the bullets of a gun she hadn't even seen. All but the most basic thoughts ceased as she ran to the other side of a glass wall, then skidded and rolled, slamming into the nearest corner in the fastest possible way she could. Corners were important--didn't have to watch your back so much that way... unless you were dealing with glass walls. Fuck.
There was actually one tiny sliver of a second where she felt horrific dread crack against her chest from the inside. It was pushed away with no effort in favor of the here and now. Slick and easy, just like it used to be when her skills were still fresh. Her fingers seemed to think on their own as she pulled the bullets from her pocket, carefully but swiftly refilling, snapping, aiming--
BLAM came before the horrifying KRISSSSH of the glass behind her, collapsing. Unreal, that feeling; almost too sharp to cause pain, but certainly not numbed to the desperation as the blood paused a moment before spilling. She looked a little bit like a bladed porcupine as she stumbled up and over to seek shelter behind some hard drive units, the glass in her back resembling spines. The substance was not bullet-proof, it seemed--not that it mattered. The pain kick-started the adrenaline, and that was all she'd needed to squeeze off every available round in the chamber at the two dicks playing this stupid one-sided game.
Only when she was "safe enough" in a satisfactory light did she manage to note that the plain bastard had made a grunt as she squeezed out that last bullet. He'd been hit... and that was very much in her favor. Glass ground into her back with searing frequency as she tried to back up as far as she could stand. This was it. This was life or death, right here. She just hoped the doctor had found a good place to hide, 'cause this may not be pretty. She reloaded with the rest of the loose bullets in her pocket, slowing her down because of their placement and her extra pain-induced adrenaline. No matter--she was still quick, keeping all senses open. Slap, click, spin.
Throwing caution to the wind and a hopeful sense of fate to whatever powers existed, she stood up, Spectre strong in both hands and ready to kill. Silver Eyes didn't make an appearance... but her more important (for the moment, according to her internal hate meter) bulls eye was waiting.
He was bleeding. And he was less than cordial when he was bleeding. "You bitch. It wasn't supposed to happen this wa--"
A quick shot. She couldn't resist--and this time, it was in the chest. There was splatter. A little spray--of a black substance, rather than red. No matter, for the moment. "Yeah. I've heard it all before." The pain ceased to exist as she gingerly stepped closer, keeping the freak's unknown location in mind.
The plain man (was he a man?) was foaming a little, in tones of gray. From her angle, she saw them through the torn flesh--wires. Metal bone structure. And no muscle, nothing organic to be seen. Frankly, she'd have loved to have spent all day right there, watching the thing twitch and die... but there was other business to attend to. Hardly a thought went into aiming for the head--the body squirmed around a little, but there wasn't much left to survive on. Just to be sure, though... no. She couldn't waste any bullets. She did take a moment to jump up and down on a few metal ribs, though. They wound up being a lot less strong than she'd have thought they should be.
Uck. The mess of a head shot was never something she could entirely get used to, even if it wasn't real blood. Stuff just went everywhere...
A skitter. She turned quickly, Spectre poised for another beautiful ending--hm. Behind the hard drives, perhaps. She was almost salivating with the imagined look on Silver Eyes' face as he realized he was dying. She was quiet, listening to silenced rustlings of paper (Damn, I dropped the files... but I was busy surviving. I guess that's okay.) with every perfectly padded step she made. At last close enough for a dash, she tore around the side--and sighed a little with relief, dropping her aim slightly. "Doctor." Exactly how and why he'd wound up there... would have to wait.
A decent enough greeting, he supposed. Without a word, he gathered the folders and handed them right to her. No need to argue with the armed captain.
"Be more careful, huh?" she joked breathlessly.
That was just... puzzling to the point of being nearly infuriating. "You can't be fucking serious."
"Ya trustworthy this time, Doc?" She was really more making conversation than trying to find out the truth... but it didn't hurt to ask, tucking the files safely under her arm again.
"Does it matter when you're the only one with a weapon?"
"You'd be surprised at just how many ways you can kill a person." She responded with a touch of humor. "Or, well... being a doctor, maybe you wouldn't."
"A gun, especially a Spectre, tends to be faster and more efficient with that task than most objects." He informed her softly.
Good man. She grinned, giving her sore back a bit of a stretch--regretting it instantly. "Oh. Right. I've got an issue, here."
"I noticed." He tossed back. "There should be tools enough to take care of that here..."
"I'm thinking we should try to find the scaly freak first, actually." She diverted his spoken thought. Much as she'd really have liked to be rid of the glass... there was a need to know where Silver Eyes had gone. And then what he was.
"I'm not sure if it would help," he began slowly, trying to form his ideas into thoughts, "But, you did shoot that... thing. From where I was, I saw it rather... ripple and disappear."
Well, that little observation gave her a long moment to think about just what the hell could have been going on. "A... hologram, maybe?" But how could a hologram have hurt Pheta..?
The doctor shrugged, not exactly helpfully. "I'm assuming that we'll be finding out, won't we?"
"What's this 'we' about?" she found it in her to tease, quickly realizing that any distraction from the pain was a good thing. Even with the humor, she was careful to listen. All senses needed to be open, watching for anything else that may come along and try to screw up her chances to end this thing.
Once again he shrugged--but a little less than before. It was more a momentary avoidance of the question than it was an answer.
That was good enough, she supposed. Without feeling the need to signal him to follow, she took off past the shattered wall and to the area from where the figures had initially come. Chances were...
Beyond the information storage room, there was a long hall. A really, really long hall. A hall so long, and wide, and void of any distinct markings save tiny glowing bars every few meters, that the two of them were really starting to wonder if it was a medical vessel, or some kind of freak ship that was made entirely of a ridiculously oversized hallway.
It was nearly by pure luck that a door was discovered, hidden easily amongst the panels. Interesting in itself... but moreso was the general lack of any means to open it. Jack stood in front of it for a few seconds, looking for an opening console. A keypad, a button, a knocker, a handle, anything. It went on into minutes as she was tempted to knock on the damn door.
Dr. Carn didn't seem to find that a bad idea as he stepped forward and tried it out for himself. Unfortunately, the action seemed to do nothing more than assure him that the door was utterly solid.
The captain mumbled a line of incoherent cursing. She was bleeding, and her back ached, and she was pissed about nearly having been killed again, being forced to stand in front of the only door they'd found so far and yet without having any way to get into it. So, she did what any sane person did under stress... she kicked the wall next to it in frustration.
And the door opened. Mockingly. Irritatingly. The doctor snorted with the simplicity of it all. Maybe it paid to travel around her, after all.
Of course, what waited for them behind that door stopped them dead in their tracks. It was "normal" enough at first, for a medical vessel. Some heart rate screens here, brain scans there, shelves of liquids and solids and who-the-hell-knew-what.
And a big tank full of brain in the center, barely recognizable from the dull light the other machinery emitted. There must have been thousands of hair-thin wires coming out of the oddly shaped, floating organ and trailing along the floor, into the various machines.
Even through the (grotesque) shock, Jack knew the basics. It must be... And it was a little bit weirder than she'd at first thought it might be. In fact, far weirder... If old Silver Eyes was merely a hologram coming from a brain, in a sense... and the ship was set up like a trap... then... well, okay, maybe that didn't explain everything. At all, really. Why would he have disappeared after she'd shot a hologram? She turned to the doctor, thoughts very nearly expressed through her eyes alone.
"It's dying." He responded with hardly a prod. "Those brain waves, the blood pressure... it's going downhill pretty fast."
"At least that's some good news." She commented. Although... "Are you sure?"
He nodded, slowly. "I think it might have to do with the power on this ship. The door... it shouldn't have opened at all. And the lights in here aren't on."
Her eyes narrowed. This seemed a little... too convenient.
And he damn well knew it. He raised his hands slightly, a sign of no bullshit in the current situation "Hey, I'm allowed to have a past, too."
While that was amusing, she had to admit... there was too much nagging at her. "You know about this kind of stuff?"
Despite thinking better of it... he nodded. "I'd never had any real connection to the Pordethre... but they knew of my independent work in cybernetics. Which could easily lead to... everything seen here."
Oh, was she suddenly pissed. "You worked in cybernetics?! And you never told me?! Even after Julian--"
"Wouldn't you agree it was smarter that way?"
She'd never heard him raise his voice like that before. And it was probably a good thing he chose that moment to do so, seeing as how her hand was reaching for the Spectre. She chided herself viciously--she knew better never to kill in anger alone. Not that she would have killed him... no matter. "Dammit, Doc."
"Sorry." Possibly the stupidest thing he'd ever said...
"No." She sighed to herself. "I'm apparently the stupidest person alive."
Now that was... different. "Why's that?"
"I should have asked why you never flinched. Why you seemed to know just how to take care of everything." She really was incredibly annoyed with herself over that one. How... stupid. Really, truly stupid.
"We all make mistakes, Captain." No, what had been really stupid, was the grin on his face just then.
"Fucking prick." Though... she was grinning back. Just a little. "Well... now what?"
"Get back and blow this ship up?" he suggested, innocently enough.
"Good idea..." she agreed. "But... I have a feeling we might be needing some operations logs. Of the whole ship."
Interesting. "And why is that?"
"Instinct." She responded easily.
The main computer was an easy find, as it had most of the wires going to it directly from the brain. As power drained out of the ship itself, there were small electric arcs across the surface of whatever liquid that godforsaken thing was resting in... and it was remarkably disgusting. She hoped that wasn't what the heart of Domani's system looked like. That was just... not right. She reminded herself never to ask.
Doctor Carn made work of detaching the major memory drive that constantly compiled the last week's worth of information before storing it on a separate drive, constantly building a history. As interesting as that would be... she simply didn't have the feeling she'd need those. A weird instinct, but of the sort that she knew better than to ignore.
It had been insisted to her that she wait while the doctor did things himself, seeing as how she was injured and probably not going to be walking around without trembles for much longer. But it was taking him so damn long... "Need any help there, Doc?"
"Yes." He answered, yanking his hand back after the mild shock from accidentally making a connection through his body. "You can be quiet."
"Hiss hiss, Mr. I Have a Big Fucking Secret." She threw back, amused.
Moments later, they were again sitting in the Sefirot (both on the bridge, that time), plotting the return trip. Probably better to do so before all of the hatches were denied power enough to open. Only a single second clear of the ship and aimed toward relative safety, Jack made sure to sit as far to the front of the navigator chair as possible to cut through all the bullshit. "Okay, fess up."
Ah. What he was doing on the ship in the first place was a subject bound to come up... he just wasn't expecting it quite so soon. Silly him. "We had the same idea, actually."
She stared down for a moment at the folders she still clutched. "You were coming to get the logs?"
He nodded, slightly. "I had a feeling there might be something here, in medical terminology, that I could decipher. It was curiosity more than anything... for a purpose."
"Just couldn't wait for a formal search party, could ya?" she joked.
"I'd say the same for you."
"Yeah. I'm a fucking moron that way."
She... did not respond. Not verbally, anyway. An awful lot of mental words popped up, though... But then, there was the act itself. "I thought you'd be the first to leave before the 'big battle'." He'd simply never stricken her as a person that would have stuck around under the threat of death.
Dr. Carn shrugged. "Me, too."
Hm. "You made for a good distraction, though." She admitted, looking off in another direction on purpose. "For me, I mean. So I never saw the bullets coming."
How... rude. "Yeah. Thanks."
And still fun. "No, seriously. How'd you learn to run away like that?"
His tone caught a more serious edge than he's been willing to show. "I'd have thought you may have been grateful--"
She immediately cut him off with a deep sincerity. "Thank you, Kulth--"
"Just call me Doctor, would you?"
She grinned through the dizziness, offering an introductory handshake. "Jack."
"Pleased to meet you, Jack. Now stay out of sickbay for a little while, hm?"
"You mean, after I get this shit dislodged from my back?"
"If that's what it's going to take." He agreed with no humor on his face, but plenty behind his eyes. Hey, it was a... start. Or something.