CHAPTER FIFTY ONE
Written by: Susanne Beck and Okasha
Grinning, Koda pulls away from Manny, giving his short braid a little tug. "Get back safe, and good luck."
"You too, shic’eshi. Be careful. Be safe."
Stepping around her lover, Kirsten smiles at Manny. There is a trace of uncertainty in the expression. Though things between them have warmed considerably over the months, there is still a subtle distance between the two that, quite suddenly, Kirsten doesn’t want to be there anymore. "You’re a brave man, Manny. Good luck. Fight well."
Reaching for her stiffly extended hand, he gives her an ‘aw, what the hell’ grin and pulls her against him in a tight embrace, kissing both of her cheeks soundly before pulling away. "You take good care of my shic’eshi, understand?" he teases.
"I swear it," Kirsten replies, deadly serious. "And you take good care of yourself, and Tacoma, and Maggie, and everyone else. I expect you all to be there, and happy, when we get back."
"Count on it. I’m a Rivers." He thumps his chest proudly. "We wear away mountains, given enough time."
"That I don’t doubt," Kirsten returns, finally breaking into a smile. "I mean it, Manny. Be careful, alright?"
"Will do, Ms. Prez." He sketches a cocky bow, grins, winks at his cousin, and, in the blink of an eye, disappears back into the cockpit of his Picasso-nightmare inspired ‘copter. A second later, the thing is airborne and over the horizon.
In its wake, a silence so profound that not even the ever-present wind soughing through the boughs of the large pines surrounding them can penetrate, descends, and Kirsten shivers.
"You alright?" Koda asks, stepping closer and slipping an arm around her lover’s shoulders.
Leaning her head against her lover’s strong chest, Kirsten takes in the world that surrounds her. Trees, trees, and more trees, as far as the eye can see. The wind, now coming to her, carries with it the sweet scent of life, underlined with a darker, richer, almost secret scent that she can only identify as decay. And amidst this, she stands alone, save for the strong body at her back, promising her protection and comfort. And love beyond measure.
Not so alone now, she thinks. The thought brings with it a small, secret smile, and a tiny thrill of joy suffuses her chest, warming her from within even as Koda’s radiant head warms her from without.
"Yeah," she says finally. "I think I am."
They stand that way, body pressed to body, for a long span of moments, content to allow the forest carry its secrets to them, one at a time, absorbing the peace and contentment that seems to be theirs for the wishing. She can almost…almost…forget what lies ahead, and behind, and resolves to take full advantage of this small slice of peace for as long as it is gifted unto them.
Finally, though, the words push forth from their place in her chest. "So, what now?"
Koda smiles and slips her arm away, digging her hands deep into the pockets of her jeans. "How do you feel about camping?"
Kirsten pretends to give the question serious thought. "The Beverly-Hills-‘cabin’-with-all-amenities-and-you’ll-never-see-so-much-as-a-mouse-dropping kind of camping, or the ‘let’s grab us a pup tent and a couple cases of beer and shoot us up something to mount on the wall’ kind of camping?"
"I’d say the second," Koda responds, chuckling, "minus the beer, unless you’re suddenly partial to the stuff."
"Nah. Never developed much of a taste for it. A little of Maggie’s sipping whiskey might go down real nice on a cool night, though."
Koda’s grin broadens. "I’ll see what I can come up with, then." She looks around, getting her bearings. "I’m pretty familiar with this area. My grandfather used to take us out here sometimes when the woods around our place got a little too easy for us kids to figure out. Unless it’s been torn down in the interim, there should be a pretty good camping and hunting shop not too far to the north of here. We can stock up on the supplies we’ll need and start off from there."
"How will we get around?"
"Walking seems the best bet, for now at least. I want us off the main roads as much as possible. We don’t know how many unfriendlies are still around patrolling, and we’re prime candidates for a trip to the local rape ward if they don’t recognize you. And if they do…."
Kirsten doesn’t need Dakota to finish that particular sentence for her. She well knows the size and shape of the axe hanging over her head, but is determined to push through, no matter how thin the thread holding it up there might be. "That’ll be pretty slow going, though," she muses.
"We might be able to rustle up a couple of mountain bikes. Horses, if we’re lucky. That should speed things up some, but for now, our feet are our best bet."
"Lead on, then, MacDuff," Kirsten jokes, passing the leadership of this particular part of their quest on with a sweeping hand gesture that earns her a fond swat on the backside. Her happy laughter is answered by the chirping of birds, and for this one second in time, all is right in Kirsten King’s world.
"Wow," Kirsten remarks to the woman standing before her, grinning. "If we were playing ‘Cowboys and Indians’ right now, I’d be mighty confused."
"Good thing we’re not, then," Koda replies, chuckling and looking past Kirsten into the mirror that hangs along one wall. A soft flannel in red and black hangs open over a tight, white ribbed tank top, which in turn is tucked into soft bluejeans whose cuffs are, in their turn, tucked into calf high moccasins with thick treads. A gun is holstered and hanging low on her right hip, a hunting knife at her left. A rifle strap crisscrosses her chest with the strap that holds her arrow quiver over her back. Her black Stetson is in its customary position atop her head, though a hank of braided hair hangs down, twined with the two hawk feathers she’s yet to remove. Her medicine bag lays close against the hollow of her neck, completing the picture. Leaning against one leg is a vacu-sack, all the rage in hiking equipment before the androids had made such a pleasure an outright necessity for so many. Clothes and sundries are stored in the roomy sack, then vacuum sealed, cutting their total bulk down to almost nil. The pack would fit easily over her hips and lower back, leaving her easy room to reach her weapons, should she have need for them. The tent is similarly stored.
Kirsten is dressed a bit more conservatively, in jeans and a T-shirt with a Gore-Tex jacket rolled in her pack. "Hey, look what I found back there!" She grins as she holds up her prize: a fully loaded solar laptop with all the amenities. "Damn thing’s about five pounds lighter than my old one and damn, it’s fast!!"
"Only you," Koda grins, shaking her head.
"Yeah, well, get used to it, Vet. You’re marrying a geek. Our toys come with the territory."
"Just as long as you’re the one carrying ‘em," Koda jokes.
"Don’t you worry about that. I always carry my weight."
Already dressed in her flight suit, Maggie runs out to greet Manny as he swings out of the copter, instinctively ducking low to avoid decapitation by the still slowly spinning blades, thought in this particular model, that really isn’t much of a danger. The roters are high above her head. "You get em down safe?" she shouts.
"And sound," Manny returns, giving her shoulder a quick, calming pat. "For better or worse, they’re on their way."
"Good. One less thing to worry about." Turning, she begins to walk back toward the command post, Manny at her left heel like a well trained dog at a show.
"How are things on this end?"
"Ten minutes to the deadline. We still can’t read em on radar or GPS. Line of sight only, and it’s not good."
"Has anyone figured out where the hell they came from?" he asks. "I mean, where the fuck were they when the rest of their little friends were getting shredded?"
"Don’t know, and at this point, I don’t care," the General retorts, dragging a hand through her hair. "We’ve gotta take em down as fast as they put em up. It’s the only way."
"Got a plan for that?" Manny asks slyly.
"Don’t I always? C’mon."
"You hungry yet?"
"Is supper gonna be MRE’s?"
"’Fraid so. Unless you want to stop and fish. I haven’t seen a whole lot of small game around here, yet, and I’m not too keen on lugging around sixty pounds of venison from killing one of those big bucks you keep scaring."
Kirsten’s face brightens for a moment. Then the smile fades. "It was a nice thought. We’d better keep going as long as we have light, though."
‘That won’t be long. Better start looking for a place to camp."
Around them the shadows of pine and aspen lie long upon the ground. The low sun strikes glints of gold and silver from the rippling current of the Little Medicine Bow, visible here and there through the trees where the river bends west. Asi runs alongside, snuffling happily at fox scrapes, occasionally pausing to inspect the tangled roots that hump their way across their path. They have been walking steadily for almost eight hours, pausing only to take compass readings and refer to the Ordinance map Manny had stowed among their gear. Their course angles south and west from the clearing where they set down an hour after leaving Ellsworth, past the historic town of Medicine Bow and the Medicine Bow Range beyond. Here the land lies in sharp folds, rising gradually toward the higher peaks of the Sierra Madre, interspersed with streams and alpine meadows. They have seen no sign of humans. The woods and the river are as they might have been a thousand years ago, five hundred years ago, when her people first moved west into the plains, following the buffalo.
"It all seems so far away," Kirsten says quietly, echoing her thoughts. "Almost like none of it ever happened."
"This is Ina Maka’s place. Her time, not ours." Above them, a dark speck appears against the sky where the gold sheen of the westering sun meets the deepening blue of the east. It circles above them, growing larger as it spirals downward. A cry floats down to them, high and wild and triumphant.
Koda stops in her tracks, staring upward. As the speck comes nearer, it takes on the shape of wings, a bright copper tail fanned out to the beating light, its feathers sheened like hammered bronze. The cry comes again, and the broad wings cup the air to slow the hawk’s descent. "My God," Kirsten breathes. "My God."
Koda does not speak, only stretches out her arm. Wiyo lights delicately on her wrist, protected only by the thin fabric of her shirt, and walks sideways up her arm to rest on her shoulder. She ruffles her feathers once, gives a small, incongruous chirp of greeting, and settles, ducking her head to preen under a wing. Koda strokes her lightly under the throat, drawing a finger across the white breast feathers and the dark belly-band below. Around them dusk thickens as they move west, toward the mountains, the sea beyond, the crimson sky.
The midday sun beats down on the tarmac in front of the main gate, making rippling the air above it. From where she stands in the watchtower, Maggie can see metallic glints here and there that must be either droids or armed humans, but they are scattered among the tumbled buildings across the road and in the open fields beyond. She has not been able to get good instrument readings on their number or their placement. All she knows is that there are too goddammed many of the goddammed things for her depleted forces to hold off. All she can do is keep their attention on the Base and stall them for as long as she can.
And give Dakota and Kirsten as much time as she can, measured out now in minutes, in hours at best.
Next to her, Andrews settles the muzzle of his rifle against the edge of the wall slit, squinting for perhaps the dozenth time through the scope. "Nothing there, Ma’am."
Maggie sets down her own binoculars. "I know. They’re keeping under cover until the last minute."
"But Hart’ll have to show himself."
"Oh, yeah. And when he does . . .." Maggie lets the words trail off. They both know what will happen when he has outlived his usefulness. To both sides.
The early summer heat settles about them, a stillness in the air that has nothing to do with the impending conflict. It is not so much the calm before a storm as it is the earth settling into its season despite the human goings-on that scrabble along its surface. The planet, for the first time in decades, is no longer at risk from its inhabitants. Only one species stands to vanish now, eradicated by its own hand. A bee, drawn by the scent of soap, buzzes lazily in front of Maggie’s nose, and she bats it away gently. On the road, nothing moves.
Then, "Here he comes," Andrews says quietly.
Hart moves out from between the remains of a McDonald’s and an auto parts store, his blue shirt open at the collar, head bare. He no longer carries a flag of truce, only the bullhorn swinging from one hand. A snap and whine of feedback breaks the silence as it powers up. "Colonel Allen," says the flat, amplified voice. "Do you have an answer? Open the gates and surrender your so-called ‘President,’ and we will leave you in peace."
"Cover me," Maggie says, and steps out of the guardroom onto the catwalk that circles the tower. Below her, Hart stands alone in the middle of the road, the breeze ruffling his grey hair and the beginnings of a patriarchal beard. She stands in the sun, letting him see the stars on her shoulders and the one on her helmet. Letting him see, too, that her hand rests on the butt of the pistol at her waist. With five generations of gospel singers and twenty years in command of troops behind her, she has no need for a megaphone. "Hart!" she shouts. "I have a deal to make you!"
"No deals, Colonel. Meet our demand or not: that is the only choice you have."
Maggie smiles grimly. It is no more than she expects. But she says, "It’s not the only choice you have, though. What do you think your little metalhead pals out there are going to do with you when you’ve outlived your usefulness to them? Which is—" she glances ostentatiously at her watch—"right about now."
Hart shakes his head, a gesture meant to convey a response more in sorrow than in anger. "Wise humans have allied themselves with these good beings, Colonel. I am not alone, I assure you, nor am I in any danger. Nor are you or the troops under your command, if you surrender Dr. King. Your answer, if you please."
Crunch time. "Then you have it, and it is this." She pauses, letting the moments draw out, in case any other human collaborators are listening. "President King has authorized me to allow you, and any other human who has had second thoughts about cooperation with the enemy, to return to the Base to face charges of desertion in time of war and treason. If you give yourselves up, your lives will be spared. If you don’t, you will face the full penalty of the law when you are captured."
The expression on Hart’s face might almost be a smile. "And I offer you and your people the same amnesty, Colonel, provided that you hand the good Doctor over. Now."
The parley, Maggie knows, is essentially useless. The best she can do is buy a few minutes’ more time to prepare, give Koda and Kirsten a few more moments to get that much further away. Once, long ago, she had seen a film in which the hero, about to be hanged, requested time to make his confession. After half an hour, he was still owning up to affairs with "Maisie, and Gertrude, and Lollie, four times with Wilhelmina, and twice with Tom." And of course, rescue had arrived just as his captors’ patience ran out. Her own list, alas, is not nearly long enough to inspire either patience or awe. And what time she has is running out, with no help in sight. "Withdraw your android troops as a sign of your good faith, General. Then we can talk seriously."
"Bring Dr. King outside the gates where we can see her—as a sign of your good faith, Colonel--and we can talk seriously."
And that time has just run out. Hart and his cohorts have to have seen the Cheyenne take off; they have to have seen it return. They must at least suspect that Kirsten is no longer on the Base. They hope for an easy conquest, no more. Maggie steps away from the slit in the wall behind her. "Now, Andrews."
The crack of his rifle shocks the bright afternoon air. Almost simultaneously, Hart’s head jerks back violently, spraying blood and brain matter in a cloud of droplets that catch the sun, sparkling like summer rain. The bullhorn drops to rattle along the pavement as he falls. There is no sound, no movement, from the buildings across the road, nothing to give away the enemy that she knows is there.
"Ma’am! Inside!" The door behind her jerks open, and Andrews pulls her bodily back into the guardroom by the straps of the Kevlar vest she has buckled over her flight suit.
"Out! Now!" she snaps, giving him a shove toward the stairs and pounding down behind him, two steps at a time. Pulling a walkie-talkie from her belt, she thumbs on the transmit button and yell "Fire!" into the speaker just as they sprint out of the tower at ground level and into the waiting Jeep. Andrews guns the engine, zero to sixty in what seems less than a breath. A shell from one of the big guns hastily dug into makeshift bunkers that morning arcs whistling overhead to land beyond the gate with a burst of fire and a roar. The concussion sends a shudder through the Jeep and rocks them against their seats.
"With luck, that got a few of ‘em," Maggie shouts. And into her com, "Hold your fire until we have the enemy in sight or incoming! Don’t waste our ammo!"
"At least we got that son-of-a-bitch traitor," Andrews says, satisfaction in the straight set
of his mouth as they speed down the Base’s main drag toward Wing Headquarters and the guns arrayed around it. "That ought at least to send a message to any other collaborators out there."
"Yeah," Maggie says, her voice grim in her own ears. "But the message they’re gonna get real quick now is that we can’t hold out against them for more than a couple hours, maybe not that, if they launch a massed attack."
"Remember the Alamo, huh?"
"Remember the Alamo," she agrees. "But remember something else. We’ve still got a few Tomcats with some fight left in ‘em."
A small fire is blazing cheerily in the center of a tiny clearing just west of the river. Next to it, coals lie in a ring of stones, and on those coals, two plump chukar roast away; lucky finds that Koda was able to take with a bow after Asi had accidentally flushed them from their hiding place while sniffing around in search of a good place to mark his territory.
The hero of the food getting venture is sprawled on his back near the fire, eyes open and alert to every movement, hoping beyond hope that his hard earned work will earn him some of the catch.
The savory scent of cooking partridge sets Kirsten’s belly to grumbling, and she covers it with a hand as Dakota looks up from her work and grins at her. "Won’t be much longer."
"Thank god for that. I’m starved!"
"Did you finish setting up what you needed on that thing?"
Kirsten’s blush is luckily hidden by the glare from the computer’s large screen. "Um…yeah, just now," she replies, quickly clicking off the solitaire game, mid-hand. The computer beeps out a mechanical sigh—it had been winning—and obligingly shuts down.
"Good." Nodding, Dakota returns to her task of sharpening the hunting knife she’s used on the birds. As Kirsten looks on, she experiences a sense of déjà vu so strong that she wonders, albeit briefly, if she’s undergoing an actual time transfer. The woman sitting next to her looks exactly the same, minus the hawk feathers and much of the clothing Koda now wears. The weapon she sharpens so carefully by the firelight is not a knife, but a sword, well used, and well loved. She looks down at herself, noting absently the similar lack of clothing, and sees, not a computer, but a flattened piece of parchment. A quill and small inkpot sit to her right.
The dark, glossy head looks up from its work, deep blue eyes meeting hers with the same look of total adoration and devotion, and Kirsten can’t help but smile until it feels as if her face is about to split in two.
A dark eyebrow lifts. "Are you alright?"
Kirsten blinks, and the déjà vu, or time travel, or whatever it is that she has experienced, is gone, and a perfectly normal looking Dakota Rivers looks back at her, a question in her eyes.
Taking off her glasses, Kirsten rubs her eyes. "Just…processing the day, I guess."
Taking a quick peek, she sees that Koda is already back to her sharpening, and lets go a small sigh of relief. Closing her laptop completely, she sets it to the side and stands, stretching out muscles pleasantly tired from their long hike. Simple physical tiredness, of late, has been replaced by bouts of emotional overload shot though with darts of adrenaline, keeping her on hair-trigger edge. Her body, though tired, thanks her for the respite, and she, in turn, thanks it for bearing up remarkably well under these changed circumstances. Her belly grumbles again, and she laughs, watching as her lover puts down her work and fishes the game birds from the coals, setting them on two camp plates already garnished with the fresh herbs she’s picked from the forest.
Not even using the spork provided, Kirsten rips into the stuffed bird with her bare hands, shoveling the food into her mouth as fast as it will go, and groaning, eyes rolling in ecstasy as the spicy flavor coats her palate with ambrosia. "Jesus!" she exclaims around a bulging mouthful, "this is fantastic!!"
Koda looks on in awe, decimating her own bird with more delicate motions while feeding several morsels to the raptly attentive Asimov. "Glad you like it."
"Like it? I never had something so good in my life! You should have been a chef!"
"Exercise and fresh mountain air," Koda replies, tossing another morsel to Asi. "Does it every time."
"Huh uh," Kirsten disagrees, still shoveling as fast as her hands can move, her mouth and chin liberally coated with grease. "You’ve got talent, woman. Ever think of opening up a Vet clinic with a restaurant on the side?"
"I…think that would give customers the wrong idea, don’t you?"
Kirsten thinks about it for a moment, then realizes the outcome of her suggestion. "Ew."
"Ew is right."
The rest of dinner is finished in silence, and after the leavings are buried and the dishes cleaned, Dakota sits back against an overturned log, Kirsten comfortably ensconced between her legs holding the arms crossed over her belly. Both are lost in the contemplation of the stars above. With no streetlights, no cars, no sirens, and only the wind for company, the night is profoundly silent. After a moment, Kirsten sighs.
"What’s wrong, sweetheart?" Koda asks, pressing her cheek atop the soft blond hair of her lover.
"I…don’t know, really." She laughs a little. "Maybe I’m getting an attack of the guilts or something. I mean, here I am…here we are…in…well…in paradise, while our friends are back home fighting for their lives, getting hurt, maybe getting killed." She turns a little, meeting Dakota’s eyes. "What right do I have to feel so at peace, so happy, when people I care about are dying? Because of me?"
Dakota tightens her grip around her lover, settling Kirsten more comfortably against her and pressing a kiss into the crown of her hair. "It’s their freedom they’re fighting for, canteskuye. Theirs, ours, everyone’s." She pauses for a second, then resumes. "Do you think, really think, that if Maggie had given you to Hart on a silver platter, he would have let everyone on the base just walk away?"
Koda remains silent, letting Kirsten think it through.
"I guess not. I mean, he’s lied about everything else, so why would he suddenly be telling the truth about that?"
"Exactly. Hart’s an opportunist. The androids cut him a deal, and he’s keeping up his end of that bargain. You might be the ‘prize’ at the moment, but every single man, woman and child outside of the control of Westerhaus and his gang is the ultimate target and he won’t stop until he has every single one of us under his thumb, one way or the other."
"I know this," Kirsten says, shifting a little. "In my head, I know this. It’s just…."
"Your heart. You feel because you’re human, because you’re a compassionate person, and because you love."
"This being human stuff is hard," Kirsten mumbles, snuggling further into Koda’s warm embrace.
"But worth it, don’t you think?"
Kirsten’s grin is hidden in the folds of Dakota’s shirt. "Oh yeah."
"Isaac Asimov King, you get your furry, flea bitten behind out here this instant!"
Chuckling, Dakota opens the smallish two-man tent’s flap a bit wider and spies Asi lounging in royal splendor over their sleeping bags, his head daintily placed on Kirsten’s camp pillow. His tongue lolls as his tail beats a tattoo against the side of the tent.
"I mean it! Right now! I built a nice blanket nest out here for you to lie on, so get out here and use it! Now!"
Asi’s tail beats harder against the fabric of the tent, putting on his best ‘ain’t I lovable?’act.
"Don’t make me come in there and pull you out by your ears, son."
Dark, doggie eyes roll over to Dakota, who smirks. "I think she means it," she says, sotto voce.
"Oh, believe me," Kirsten replies sarcastically, "she does."
With an Emmy-worthy groan, Asi rolls over and stands, then begins to slink, tail and ears drooping, toward the exit, like a convict on his way to the Chair.
"Save that load of bull for the fertilizer salesman and get your hairy butt moving."
With a last, mournful look at them both, he exits the tent and sniffs at the blankets Kirsten has set up for him right outside the entrance. In a quiet flutter of wings, Wiyo glides down from her perch on a nearby tree to land on the tent’s support post.
"Look," Kirsten says, "Wiyo’s here to keep you company."
That gets an interested look from Asi, who, on the spur of the moment, decides to try out his newly acquired partridge flushing skills on the newcomer. Wiyo, who isn’t anything close to even resembling a partridge, is particularly unimpressed. Asi barks softly and noses the tent again. Wiyo ruffles her feathers and hisses at him, making him take a step back in surprise and growl low in his throat.
"Play nice," Koda orders softly, eyeing both of them as she urges Kirsten inside the tent.
She receives two supremely innocent looks in return.
The tent is just tall enough for Kirsten to stand up straight, and she does, hands clamped to the small of her back as she stretches it, groaning unhappily. "Dear god I’m stiff."
"I’ve got just the cure for that."
Kirsten looks over her shoulder, a smile forming. "You do, do you?"
"Mm. Take off your clothes and lie down."
Kirsten chuckles. "Honey, you know I love you, but I’m about as sore as one person can be and not require large doses of Morphine. I don’t know how much I can contribute to--."
"Just take off your clothes and lie down, please."
"Well…if you insist."
Slowly and stiffly, Kirsten removes her clothes, then slowly kneels down atop the opened and connected sleeping bags, stretching out on her belly with a loud groan. "I think it’s gonna be a toss-up as to whether I can ever get back up again."
"Oh," comes Koda’s smooth voice from above and behind her, "you’ll get up. Now just close your eyes and relax."
Doing as she’s bade, Kirsten jumps just a little as something warm and heavy is laid across her shoulders. "Mm. What’s that?"
"Warm packs. Just stay relaxed and let me do all the work."
Several more packs find their way across her back and legs, their warmth immediately penetrating her overstressed muscles and coaxing them into gradual, and welcome, relaxation. "Oh," she moans, "this is bliss."
Something faintly spicy scents the air just then, and Kirsten wakes up from a half-doze to feel her right foot cradled gently in Dakota’s large hands. One strong thumb comes down on her instep, making her hiss with pain, then groan with pleasure as heated oil and gentle pressure soothes its way into the tender sole of her foot. "I’m in Heaven," Kirsten croons off-key, her voice slurred against the incredible pleasure she’s feeling. "God, what hands you have, my love."
Dakota’s laugh is soft as she continues to tend to every muscle, every pore, every inch of skin on Kirsten’s foot, soothing the aches with deft strokes of her strong, gentle fingers. Then she lays the limp appendage down on the sleeping bag and lifts the other, repeating the process until Kirsten’s blissful snores fill the tent.
"That’s it, cante mitawa," she whispers lovingly. "Let it go for tonight. Just let it go." Brushing a kiss against the foot she’s holding, she places it down with its mate, languidly removes her own clothing, and slips into the sleeping bag next to her partner. Removing the warm packs, she presses her length against Kirsten’s naked side, places the palm of her hand on the small of her partner’s back, and falls quickly asleep, a small smile on her face.
Well, we’re back, and the Quest, at last, has begun. Hope all of you enjoyed our offering, and we’ll see you next week! Drop a line, if you’re up to it. email@example.com . See ya!
Continued - Chapter 52
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