Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Bk2-6c up 20180524)

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Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 3a up 20141221)

Post by brythain » Sun Dec 21, 2014 9:32 am

This begins the third episode from the Suzuki files.
Everything seems to be falling apart; can Suzu survive?



Suzu 3a: Inertia (T -7)
2017


Big Sam and I, locked in a warm embrace from which there is no release. We are Mr and Mrs Takagi. In 2014, we go to clinics. We visit doctors. They are recommended by my eldest sister. Married, no children, we have tried a lot of things. I can only believe there is one remaining reason and that is pharmaceutical—or at least that is what Number One Sister, Manami, says to me, and I believe her.

To have children, no drugs. After all, we don’t have conditions that will kill us if we stop the drugs, we are not the tragic type that some of our classmates were. I can afford to sleep, and Sam can probably afford to bleed although he really shouldn’t. The words, they come and go, and the decision must be made.

And so it is. We will try a year without drugs.

*****

“It must be a mistake,” I say dully. This is what people say when they cannot believe what they hear and yet are sure that they have heard, this is what you say when you receive droppings from a little bird.

“I asked them again,” he says, dully too. This is a man who is literal and very serious, this is a man whose word is always true. “And they looked at each other, that way, and they said it was true.”

All the papers I am reading now have foreign names. They’re Italians, or Americans, or people from funny places like the Carolinas, wherever those are. They write about the relationship between sickle-cell anaemia and cancer. They say that sickle cells will starve and kill a tumour, but only sickle cells. They say that sickle cell disease makes people prone to other kinds of cancer. They say many things, and my Big Sam, Sam the Lizard, is suffering from some of them.

“Are you going to die, are you going to leave me?” I sing to him, not knowing that I sing.

He looks marginally perturbed, like a lizard in an illuminated manuscript limned finely next to some medieval text. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Die, or leave?”

“Errm, both? They say it’s all controllable. More meds though.”

“The children? Our children?”

The look on his face must mirror mine, the looks on our faces mirror each other. I turn a little and look in a mirror, and now there are four faces and we all look the same. There is no future wherever we look, there will be no children for us, no baby Lizards, no baby Suzus.

Sam, you’re strong, but I’m not. Sam, can I cry a bit? All that is in my mind when I lean forward into him. I don’t know what’s on his mind, because suddenly there’s nothing.

*****

Evil, evil Shiori. Evil, my third sister. She smiles at me, “Ah, what’s the problem, you can just adopt a child, you know.”

Ah, ah, Shiori, Ah, my third sister. How is it you can have blood of mine, how can it be we have the same parents?

Wakana looks at me, concerned. Maybe my disgust is showing on my face, my revulsion, my upheaval inside spilling out like daggers towards the cruelty of my other sister.

“It’s not such an easy thing, Shiori. How can you say that? There are many things to work out before you do it. You must find the right match, you must do the genetic assay to make sure there are no hidden surprises…”

Second Sister is missing the point. The child will not be Sam’s and mine, except by law and whatever binds it to us. My sisters, one cruel, one practical. I have two more. Manami is the eldest, and she is talking to Sam about drugs and diseases, because that’s what she does all day.

And I go to my old room, and Suki comes in, because it is her room now, and my little sister hugs me, and everything feels good because that is what blood is all about. I only have one sister for now. The other three, they seem weird to me.

*****

“Maybe we should go back to Okinawa,” he says. Back? What is this ‘back’? I have only lived in his family home a handful of days, when we were married, does he not remember this?

“Why should we do this, husband?” I do not know why, so I ask.

“Suzu, maybe it’s easier without your sisters around. They are always looking at me, judging me. I’m not good enough for your family.”

What? Where does this come from? No! That’s not good.

We do go back to Okinawa in the end. But they won’t transfer me anywhere near that place, so I’m still working in Tokyo, and things are difficult and I can’t see, I can’t understand. So I sleep a lot. And when I wake, Sam is gone.

*****

“I just need to be alone for a while, Su.”

No, it’s a nightmare, my knight is gone, the sun is rising and taking away my shield, my thoughts they are all lying scattered like pawns in pieces on a battlefield. The king must castle or the queen must yield. I don’t know what this is all about, but Sam, big trustworthy dependable Sam who should be next to me when I awake, he’s not.

I don’t know when I stop crying. I don’t know when I stop trying.

*****

It’s early summer in 2015 when Wakana gets married. He is a slim fellow, very mellow, pleasant and present. He wears suits and plays the cellphone in an orchestra, or so he says, but it’s actually a cello, rhymes with hello. He figures out how I think, and he’s one of the rare people that do that, but he’s marrying Wakana, who has always been straight with me, my serious second sister whom I love—although not as much as others, and maybe I should.

“Su-chan,” she says in her serious Wakana way, “Things will be fine. I am only moving to Taiwan. We will not be so far apart. Besides, Manami will be around to take care of you, and she was always better at it than I.”

“But I’ll miss you, my sister,” I say to her, humming under my breath a tiny song of sadness. “I never thought about it, but you’ve always been the constant one, the one who was always at home and took me seriously.”

She is all beautiful and glamorous in her corseted white-silk wedding dress. She doesn’t look like pinch-faced slightly-frowning Wakana, always anxious for her sisters, always planning ahead for disasters.

She is just smoothly foundationed in the face, her makeup perfect, her eyebrows like slashes of darkness above her eyes. She has marvelous cheekbones, far more stunning than mine; now highlighted with blusher, she is almost not my sister at all.

But she is, she is, she is. Because she says a very Wakana thing: “I will always check on you, and if you like, I’ll call you specially once a week. I’ll miss you too, Su-chan, I always talked to you more than anyone else.”

She did? We did? I hadn’t noticed, and yet it must be true, because Wakana will be missed. She isn’t weird after all; she’s just the way she is.

*****

In October, I do my work. I do my work because it is all I have. I can see things in the data that nobody else can see. I look at the images and they come alive. It makes me happy that I can do something that people appreciate me for. I cannot name the people I work with, but one day, a new name appears on the roster. It’s a familiar name. I cannot believe it. Surely they would not let a mad person work in this kind of job? But they let me do this, so maybe this person is cured and they let him do it too.

One day, he asks to meet me. We work different shifts. I don’t want to meet him, but my colleagues think that is strange. So I stick my head out of the Quiet Room and I see him, and I know it is him, and then I go back into hiding again. He looks a bit different; he has the look of one who has gone into madness and come out again.

As 2015 comes to an end, I suppose he becomes more of a friend. It is strange to see someone you used to know in school, even if now he is so normal and back then he was a fool.

Thus do the Fates play games with us.

*****

I wanted to say something, but nothing could be said. I did something that wasn’t me, I let my colleague do something that wasn’t him. His family has survived. I don’t know if mine will. What I’m writing now is a couple of years after what I wrote then. It’s 2017 now, and things have changed a bit.

My sisters still talk to me. I still work in the same organization. But I have a debt to everyone, and people who used to mean a lot to me won’t talk to me anymore.

I’m Suzu Suzuki, fourth daughter of five. I’ve done good things and bad. But I remember that you can always pick up the pieces and keep going. It was like that when I was half-asleep, tripped over my school bag and bust my knee. I was never totally asleep; I was only in a position where I could not see.

I miss Sam. I miss his warm embrace, and I am sorry that I ever sought release from it. But I will find my way, sooner or later, to what I’m supposed to do. I pick up Inari—all warm, white/grey fur and questioning amber eyes. She meows a little. We, yes, we will find our way.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Fri Mar 23, 2018 12:31 am, edited 5 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 3a up 20141221)

Post by Serviam » Tue Mar 24, 2015 12:50 pm

The Widow Takagi...I'm sure there's still hope for her yet.
"What the government is good at is collecting taxes, taking away your freedoms and killing people. It’s not good at much else."
- Tom Clancy summing up l'état in a nutshell

In order of completion:
Lilly > Hanako > Rin > Emi
Currently on: Shizune

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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 3a up 20141221)

Post by brythain » Tue Mar 24, 2015 11:22 pm

Serviam wrote:The Widow Takagi...I'm sure there's still hope for her yet.
Widow? :)
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 3b up 20150327)

Post by brythain » Fri Mar 27, 2015 4:33 am

This is all that can be salvaged of the remainder of the third episode of the Suzuki files.


Suzu 3b: Inactive (T -4)
2020


Sapporo is both cold and warm. It is like the lover whose hands are always chilly, but whose embrace makes your blood sing. It’s the nearest city to where I am posted, is near to the place where I am ghosted and put away. I don’t mind, I sing my sad songs and my bad songs and look at the Bear’s troop movements to the north and west and northwest. I think they are drunk on vodka, not whisky. And then I think of someone I know who drinks whisky, and someone else I know who doesn’t drink at all—and I am undone, sobbing without tears over the paperless photographs in my secret room.

But Suzu is made of sterner stuff, and Suzu knows what she needs to do. She protects people, whether awake or asleep, makes safe the secrets that the children want to keep.

*****

My life turns on a hinge, and a strange door opens which I never thought existed in the house of my life. It begins with a call, at a time when I have no friends and I think that my family is too far away. I am bored, which is unusual, and it is a terrible feeling. I wish it were not so.

“Hello! This is Keiko Yamaguchi. May I speak with Miss Suzuki please?”

There are only two people I know with this name. One is a violinist that my sister Wakana likes, one is a person I used to know. They are not the same. For one, the name the violinist uses is real.

“Hello, Keiko! Suzu here; how can I help you?”

“Hey, Suzu! Nobu and I have missed you, and fishing season is about to begin in the North.”

“Ah, yes. It has been a while but I am up to date. Also, learning wetsuit skills for some firsthand use of bait.”

“Ha! Always with the rhymes. How about it?”

“Are the fishing boats ready?”

“The nets are loaded.”

It is a call to arms, it is an answer to my wish. The world is now a stranger place, and I can smell the fish.

*****

We sit like retirees in the cold wind on the deck of a small sailing vessel. In the distance is the cry of the gulls and the rusty scent of old hulls religiously preserved. I wonder what dream I am in, and why.

“So…” I begin delicately, thinking of my sister Wakana again for no particular reason, “… what is it that we really need to do?” I am feeling sleepy, or perhaps dreamy, but I can stay awake as long as I want on such a pleasant day.

“We…” begins the youthful-looking woman, who is older than I if you look carefully into the lines of her face around her eyes, “… ah, Nobu here and I, that is, have a little proposition that has already been cleared with the relevant authorities as long as you agree.”

Dear readers, sometimes I remember conversations as if I were reading them to myself. If you think that Nobu and Keiko sounded like I describe them, it is largely true, but also not.

“Indeed,” says the big man who has been her friend as long as we have known each other, “we have a little proposition. As to whether clear or not, it is not so clear. And whatever it is, Kenji must not know, even if he does.”

I feel a bitter little sensation in the root of myself. “I’ve not spoken to him for a long while. Three years, perhaps, and all the days in between.”

“It’s possible that you will see him again if you accept this mission. We’ve asked you to be seconded to us, but your boss would rather make it a full transfer,” Keiko says steadily, her words more level than the rippling ocean’s face.

I’m angry and agreeable. I’m Suzu of the sea-green hair, the mermaid lover, the dream of water and sleep, and I have broken down so many things that all I want to do is weep. But I am tough and disagreeable as well, as hell. Because we all signed up to protect the children, strange as it might sound.

“Join the mindfuck brigade? Sure. Whose minds are you playing with today?” In my own mind, I have just signed up for the next episode of a long-running manga where everything is thrown up in the air once in a while so that nothing will be the same again.

“How would you like to have your brain fixed so that your sleeping hours are like everybody else’s?”

Trust the big man to be blunt. “I don’t want anything fixed that will make me not Suzu again.”

“We don’t know if it will work, but someone’s developing the technology that will allow limited rebalancing of that thing in your skull. We don’t want our Suzu changed, we want her mind the same way it has always been.”

‘Our Suzu’ she has said, a blatant way to worm gratitude out from my heart. And yet we once were friends until the team exploded and blew us all apart. My mind is valued now again, I want to scream into thunderclouded air, but the winter silence still enfolds me coldly in something like despair.

*****

I laughed when they told me what would happen. Now, I have a little office in a high tower. It’s unlikely that Kenji Setou will find me here, that old acquaintance whose life I broke, and with whom I broke my own. The path of the princess, I think to myself, is the path of love and sadness. I can look out from my office across stone and forest, water and shadow, imagining the flight of a great white heron across a world that’s almost lost.

In this small room, I look at pictures, the photographs and videographs of the doings of mortals, made small and large by lens and filter. I scour the optical domain for actionable intelligence, and remember that whatever acts cannot be destroyed. Once in a while I draft a short note, and I send it into the hidden world, and things happen.

I wear mourning colours, and morning colours. The people I meet think I am a tourist guide perhaps, or an odd person who loves an enormous garden or two. My sisters are thrilled to visit, because it is a lovely place, and the small apartment that I am entitled to is just nice for Wakana or Suki to spend a few days.

My sleeping is different now, it is normal. The awful thing I feared has not come to pass, but something even more terrifying has come into being. My dreams are no longer dreams; rather, I am awake when half my mind is seeing something else. But that is not the terrifying thing at all; what is so beautiful that is fills me with dread is that my craft is made better by all this.

Yes, here I sit, Suzu Suzuki who has four sisters and a cat, and I see the world as it is. I see what people think, from what they do. And I don’t know who I am, because I cannot see myself.

This is what I do for two years. And then things change again.

=====
prev | next
Last edited by brythain on Fri Mar 23, 2018 12:31 am, edited 4 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 4 up 20150421)

Post by brythain » Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:14 am

This is the fourth episode of the Suzuki files.
Large portions were redacted, but the story remains.



Suzu 4: Mortality (T -2)
2022


Sendai’s an old glove you don’t want to wear; its texture is rough, its scent is despair. But Sendai was home, and Sendai was where the heart that was single thought it could share.

And once you put the glove back on…

My hair is like a helmet. I have spent this year making armour of myself. The transfer went through in January, and with it, the old professional Suzu became a different kind of professional. Search and retrieval, lost and found. I am a treasure-hunter, but blood is sometimes the price, as I found out in March.

Monkeys saved my life. Or maybe the Old Man of the Mountain. I can’t remember and the details are hazy. But whatever I was looking for, other people were looking for as well. It’s a mirror game we play, and the mirror people that we are sometimes break into glass pieces.

*****

When I woke up at the end of March, unlovely sharp-faced Manami first-sister was there to greet me, and she had never looked more beautiful. She was in a rage.

“Suzu, where did you get butchered?” she said, controlling her volume because this was her hospital and she was supposed to be a role-model.

“In the sea,” I replied, because I was still drugged, or so I supposed, and everything seemed pleasant.

“We were very worried! I was told that a woman had been brought in, condition stable but asking for me while delirious! You have a huge ugly abdominal wound! You’re lucky it isn’t septic!”

“You got me the job,” I whispered, slurring my words because my lips were stiff, with drugs or thirst I didn’t know. “You knew something like this might happen.”

“You’re not some anime heroine! You’re not Bayonetta or whatever her name is!”

I was tired, so tired. When next I looked, my eldest sister was gone.

*****

I opened my eyes some time later. The big man was there, with his shadow at the door making sure nobody else was. They were legends, history erased by time. I could imagine them in colourful garments, heroes from my favourite games and stories. It made me laugh. That’s when I realized something had changed in my head.

The big man wasn’t Sam—my dear, faithful, delightful Sam. And his shadow, she wasn’t me. She wasn’t my old friend Mori either, whom I hadn’t thought about for years, and who probably wasn’t my friend any more.

I hurt in many places. I was stiff and the warm roughness of the pale blue blanket was like a chainmail swimsuit. I looked at the big man because he was big and he was looking at me.

“Well, welcome back, well done,” he seemed to say. His voice seemed to come from so far away. His shadow stirred—I knew she had a name. I could not fix a label to her frame.

*****

When next I awoke, I knew they had changed my drugs: what I was seeing was sharper and brighter. Outside there were voices, contending. Inside, there was a slim, small woman who looked deadlier than he, but much lighter.

“Keiko,” I whispered. Her name came back to me, together with the salty memory of the sea. Her name was common; I knew at least of three. I also knew she was not what she seemed to be. “But that’s not your real name, and neither is his, right?”

“Of course they are our names for now, although not quite.”

“Mission. Did it work?”

“You did what you had to do. It seems you do not remember what you did. You were almost intercepted. You were wounded badly, and you hid.”

Her words are jarring. They shift me. My words stall. My name is Suzu. I write reviews of… something. Books, games, anime. Manga. My last review, it was about this story… a boy who likes to build complex dioramas in his desk, and the girl who is sometimes his accomplice and sometimes just watches in amazement. His name was Kenji… No, it wasn’t. No, I didn’t. That was a long time ago. What year is it?

I’m gripped by fear, but I don’t know what I’m frightened about, or even whether I should be frightened at all. Maybe I’m living in a visual novel.

*****

“My name is Manami. I am your eldest sister, first of five.”

I know that. Why is she telling me this?

“This is Suki, she is our youngest sister, five of five.”

“Five by five, Sune!” says the pretty young lady. Five by five? Sune? Who is this? I gaze at her, like a cat scrabbling on the edge of ice, unbalanced, losing her grip.

My eldest sister looks sad. She writes something down. Oh. Yes. I have a cat, her name is…

“Inari!” I say, happy to have a name in my fist. “I have a cat! Has anyone fed her, oh dear, she must be hungry!”

Now they both look sad. The younger woman turns away, wiping her eyes or something.

“No, you don’t have a cat.”

“I do! She’s mostly white, she has grey stripes on her legs and face. Amber eyes, very adorable, where is she?”

“She’s gone,” my hatchet of a big sister says, her features somehow softened.

“Gone?”

“Yes. You don’t remember?”

Suki, or whatever her name is, runs out of the room, mumbling an apology. My brain isn’t processing things the way it normally does. I have a mind for images, but the images aren’t coming. I have a way with words, but the words are dry.

Then I hear something in my mind. Hearing’s not my strong suit. Wetsuit. I’m in a wetsuit. Hiding under the house. I hear an alarmed yowling, a hiss and muffled shouting. There’s the sound of… air, loud air… like the crack of a whip silenced in a tunnel of steel. I taste the taste of salt as I bite my cheek and weep within the coffin of the sea.

They… shot my cat. My mind shatters under the fist of memory returned. I went back later, I had to, she was my cat, Inari… oh, Inari! Her… teeth scattered around her in a pool of blood and fur. And they were waiting for me.

*****

Weeks have passed. I’m sitting alone in a café. The big man eases silently into the booth opposite me, with his shadow, slim and shrouded. Nobu, Keiko, I have their names firmly in the right hand of my head. In its left hand is my book of the dead.

My leave is up, and in June this year, I am free to go. There’s no point leaving earlier, since I have to give three months’ notice and it’s already April. Nothing they say will persuade me to stay.

“S, will you continue with us?” he asks, hopeful but with the sense that he’ll get the negative answer that I’m about to give. And I would give it too, right now, except that I suddenly need to tell them both a story.

Keiko looks at my face, then looks at her partner. She too knows what my answer will be. I never signed up for grief. Pain I can take, my body has been tortured before and I’ve survived. I got through all that training, once upon a time, just like they did.

I stare at both of them. “Listen to me,” I say softly, the cadence of childhood tales beginning to entrain my words. Nobu looks surprised, starts to speak, but is silenced by her gentle hand on his arm.

“There were once five kittens trapped in a storm drain. Oh no, what are they doing there?! It was filling with water, and quickly. Their mother tried to keep them afloat, and in the end they climbed up on her, but even when she had drowned, it was not enough.

“My sister Asuka found them. They were all dead, and she mourned, because that’s the way she is. But then she heard a tiny squeaky sound, and discovered the smallest one was still alive. One, one out of five, and no mother!

I have to breathe for a while. Nobu and Keiko sit like dark statues, listening. I have cast a spell on them, it seems.

“She brought the last one home. What shall we name her? She’s so cute! Look how friendly her smile, how pink her paws! We named her Inari, which can mean so many things, and doesn’t mean anything now.”

I won’t cry now. I’m all cried out. The storm has gone, the water’s out.

“Inari used to sit patiently and watch us play video games. She would rub against us and lie down with her chin on her paws if the anime or visual novel got too long or soppy. Her fur was very white, except where she had light grey markings. Beautiful Inari! Faithful little friend! Her eyes were golden, like a yellow moon.”

I’ve made Keiko tear up. That’s unusual, because she doesn’t.

“That was Inari, who was taken too soon. That was Inari, and that is the end.”

I get up, intending to go away from them forever. But then I remember one thing: whenever I walked away from Inari, she would chase after me and slap me on the ankle. She would ask for one more scritch, one more game. And then she’d let me go.

I turn back to them. Nobu is leaning forward slightly, both arms on the table, his big hands cradling his small grey-green teacup. Keiko is sitting with her back pressed against the seat, looking at me with a pale, pale face.

You can do this, Suzu, I tell myself. It’s all these things, like five kittens piling on top of each other and their mother, until only one lives. There’s always one. One survivor. God takes away, God gives.

“I’ll take one more mission. And then I’m gone. There’s nothing left to build my life upon.”

*****

It’s in May 2022, just a couple of months after my ordeal, that my last mission is begun. It is launched at very short notice. The active phase is on the night of Greenery Day, the holiday on which we Japanese celebrate the beauty of nature. The next day is Children’s Day, and that always strikes a bitter note within me, deprives me of words.

That night, I look up and see it’s almost moonless. A good night, for this kind of thing. It had to be short notice, because they’ve only just wheeled the subject into life-support, pending evaluation.

Machines, damned machines. In this case, Hisao Nakai literally cannot live without the machine, or so I’m given to believe. But there are THREE machines where there should only be one. Trouble comes in threes, it always has. My job is to make it two again, by vanishing one.

“Black Knight is free,” I subvocalize.

“Chessboard is up,” comes the reply. Immediately, my special lenses see the faint blue-green dots of a normally invisible security grid come up, flagging all data inputs and outputs in the area around Miyagi General Hospital.

It’s a simple show, tonight. I’m in, and then I’m out. The cast of characters is fascinating; some of them are old classmates, and there are some suspicious black spots in my grid. But there is indeed a third machine, and I have it out and packaged for delivery within minutes, unseen.

My last mission. The taste is sweetness in the rain. Some distance away from the hospital, I open communications again. “Black Knight is gold,” is what I send. In minutes, my career will end.

I hear the firm deep voice reply, “Black Chariot accepts promotion.” This irony does not escape me—such a name hides in plain sight, even in this darkest night.

I let my hair down, once I am safe. The hiding hood had begun to chafe. Visible, innocent, Suzu will stand—no more a finger of a hidden hand.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Fri Mar 23, 2018 12:31 am, edited 2 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 4 up 20150421)

Post by Serviam » Tue Apr 21, 2015 3:36 am

"Old Man of the Mountain."

I'm tempted to make a reference to either Rashid ad-Din Sinan or the Great Stone Face of New Hampshire, but I know it is neither.
"What the government is good at is collecting taxes, taking away your freedoms and killing people. It’s not good at much else."
- Tom Clancy summing up l'état in a nutshell

In order of completion:
Lilly > Hanako > Rin > Emi
Currently on: Shizune

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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 4 up 20150421)

Post by brythain » Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:43 pm

Serviam wrote:"Old Man of the Mountain."

I'm tempted to make a reference to either Rashid ad-Din Sinan or the Great Stone Face of New Hampshire, but I know it is neither.
Some day I will write an Axeblade saga. :D
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 4 up 20150421)

Post by Oscar Wildecat » Thu Apr 23, 2015 9:02 am

My last review, it was about this story… a boy who likes to build complex dioramas in his desk, and the girl who is sometimes his accomplice and sometimes just watches in amazement. His name was Kenji… No, it wasn’t. No, I didn’t. That was a long time ago.
The amazing thing about that series, from my KS headcanon perspective, is that Rumi looks and acts sort of like what I would think Hisao and Rika's daughter would act like, while Seki looks and acts sort of like what I would think Hisao and Rika's son would act like. :)
I like all the girls in KS, but empathize with Hanako the most.
"Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience." - Mark Twain
“Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions.” - Winston Churchill
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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 4 up 20150421)

Post by brythain » Thu Apr 23, 2015 10:13 am

Oscar Wildecat wrote:
My last review, it was about this story… a boy who likes to build complex dioramas in his desk, and the girl who is sometimes his accomplice and sometimes just watches in amazement. His name was Kenji… No, it wasn’t. No, I didn’t. That was a long time ago.
The amazing thing about that series, from my KS headcanon perspective, is that Rumi looks and acts sort of like what I would think Hisao and Rika's daughter would act like, while Seki looks and acts sort of like what I would think Hisao and Rika's son would act like. :)
Ha! In the 3-3 class yearbook picture, I'd swap Ritsu and Taro for Rumi and Seki. However, you have a point... except that in the AtD-verse, it wouldn't be Hisao and Rika, right? :)
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 4 up 20150421)

Post by Oscar Wildecat » Thu Apr 23, 2015 10:19 am

brythain wrote:
Oscar Wildecat wrote:
My last review, it was about this story… a boy who likes to build complex dioramas in his desk, and the girl who is sometimes his accomplice and sometimes just watches in amazement. His name was Kenji… No, it wasn’t. No, I didn’t. That was a long time ago.
The amazing thing about that series, from my KS headcanon perspective, is that Rumi looks and acts sort of like what I would think Hisao and Rika's daughter would act like, while Seki looks and acts sort of like what I would think Hisao and Rika's son would act like. :)
Ha! In the 3-3 class yearbook picture, I'd swap Ritsu and Taro for Rumi and Seki. However, you have a point... except that in the AtD-verse, it wouldn't be Hisao and Rika, right? :)
Correct!

And in my copy/paste to construct my post above, I made an error. I meant to say... Seki looks and acts sort of like what I would think Hisao and Rin's son would act like...
I like all the girls in KS, but empathize with Hanako the most.
"Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience." - Mark Twain
“Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions.” - Winston Churchill
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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 4 up 20150421)

Post by brythain » Thu Apr 23, 2015 10:21 am

Oscar Wildecat wrote:I meant to say... Seki looks and acts sort of like what I would think Hisao and Rin's son would act like...
H x R = Seki, M x R = Rumi, that's an idea for another big fanfic already... :D
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 4b up 20151021)

Post by brythain » Tue Oct 20, 2015 9:25 pm

It turns out that a fragment remained untold of this fourth part of the Suzuki files.
Make of it what you will.



Suzu 4b: Morbidity (T -0)
2024


Never guessed that ’24 would be a central year, for all I knew was Suzu—who had to disappear. Through the Axeblade and the gate that takes you down to Hell; up into the North Sea’s Road and past the grey sea’s swell. This, the journey of my life, the cold and iron way; silent sounds of old regret and shadows of dismay.

My sisters never knew where I went, but I was almost always somewhere between Aomori and Hokkaido. There were times in Kansai, clearing up business and tying up loose ends. But this is the story of 2024.

*****

I am a free agent. But my mind is stifled. Dead. Robotic.

My co-conspirator sits at the other end of the world, and he sends me messages. Check this out. Do nothing. Check that out. Do nothing again. It is an easy life. The poetry has left me because I’m no longer on my meds. I don’t need my meds, where I am.

It’s a beautiful place, on a ridge away from the nearest city. I mourn my lost cat, she who will never trustingly place her paws in my hands again. My heart has been broken once too many times. Now I am given over to violence, and computers.

Shall we play a game of chess? Across the board in my little false-room, I move the pieces. I see the shining paths. I keep watch over my neighbour Miko, because she is important. She is older than I am, but her five decades are light upon her petite frame. Sometimes we greet each other. We bow and I wish her a good day, and she responds in kind. She is small and pretty, I am a mess. I could play a game of mess.

What did he see in her, I sometimes wonder. Any pretty girl would have done; he was not so good-looking himself. But I have to watch her, and I wonder sometimes how this web of nights and days traps us all and makes us related one to another by all kinds of weird events.

It’s in 2024 that the black signal goes up, and I know what’s coming. I am ready to move when the head of my faction calls. There were three devices. I will be hunting the last one down now. I wonder if I’ll see the school as I pass by.

*****

I’m dozing when the spark in my fist wakes me up. We’re about to land in Sendai Airport, a familiar sight to me. After the 2011 rebuilding, the old grey waves of the main building’s roof still remained the same. It’s larger now, of course; the new industries that have sprung up in the wake of the devastation require more capacity.

I scratch idly at my wrist, where the pain of the spark manifests even though it is only a nerve-impulse. These days, I can remain awake by neuroregulation. In fact, I can remain awake for a long time and compensate for that faster than most people can.

Anyone looking at me will see a neat little girl, probably not suspecting a woman in her mid-thirties. My hair is toned down a bit from the aquatint of my schooldays, but it’s short and artfully messy. I’m wearing a collared navy-blue jacket over a plain white t-shirt, and black denim trousers, for now. Nobody gives me a second look.

I’ll be in Sendai for not more than three days. The subject will probably have a short wake, and if I know Shizune Hakamichi, she’ll have him at Yamaku. I’ll have to work before that, though. Fortunately, it’s familiar ground. I remember it from two years ago.

I am not opposed. Security is very lax. Perhaps some unknown agency has had a laxative effect. It is as if every door is open, and in the past when I was merely Suzu, it sometimes felt that way. Somewhere in between, they shut all the doors on me, they told me what I could not be. And yet here I am today, in mourning colours, black from head to toe.

I sigh without a noise, and then in one concerted routine, a dance of camera-avoidance and mesh-network synchronization, I reach the place where it is kept. His heart, of course, the finely-polished mechanism that contained his life; it’s not the fleshy muscle that betrayed him early, but the prototype that kept him going for a time. There’s sadness and compassion, ambitious striving and noble failure, all in this story. But I’m not here for the story.

I vanish the ruthenium-riddled regulator, the invaluable circuitry now cleaned and sterilized of all his life—Hisao’s life, Hisao’s death. I release just one respectful breath: he was my classmate after all, and now he’s gone, his body lies waiting in the other room.

On the way out, I know I’ve brushed by someone’s net. It doesn’t bother me—this job is dry, not wet. The dragon takes his due, this mortal life is done; my wings will bring me south, into a setting sun.

*****

There are drones at his funeral. I can’t see them, but I can sense them. I too have eyes in place. I see Lilly Satou flee the scene, undone. I hear Shizune Hakamichi make the most unnatural speech, electronically narrated by a voice that seems oddly familiar and yet untrue. At the edges, I sense other observers. I see other eyes. I ponder the living and the dead, and wonder what things will be like, decades or centuries from now.

Deeply buried is the Suzu of the Literature Club. When I learnt English, I made the joke that a literary club is evidence that words can break bones. They can raise bones too, and hackles, and we all loved Murakami. But I don’t read Murakami any more, because he loved cats, and I… I can’t talk, don’t want to think about such things. I am Suzu, fourth of five, I have family still alive.

And thus, I turn away from this with quiet regret for what has been. The dragon’s eyes look into me; we dream of futures yet unseen.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Fri Mar 23, 2018 12:31 am, edited 2 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 5a up 20151118)

Post by brythain » Wed Nov 18, 2015 9:19 pm

This is the first part of the fifth(?) episode of the Suzuki files.
About sixteen years have elapsed since the fourth episode ended.
Some files might be presumed missing.



Suzu 5a: Fatality (T +16)
2040


I am Suzumiya Suzuki, fourth of five, and I am not always happy to be alive. One life of mine ended sixteen distant years past, but another began and continues to last.

Picture this: I am sitting with sisters around, like the eye of a cyclone all droning with sound. Manami, first sister, is fiery and thin—like a stork that dictates all the wages of sin. Second sister Wakana is anxious and wise; she is more like an owl with day-dazzled eyes. Third sister Shiori’s like a shrike with a prize. We are all narcoleptic and sleepy as hell—except last sister Suki, whose genes turned out well.

I need to stop my obsession with rhyme. My therapist recommends blank verse instead. It hasn’t quite worked. I’m not right in my head, most of the time.

*****

It’s hard to tell the story of 2040 because my life was difficult, and then I found a place to be, and friends who would help me grow a new life. They called themselves Nobu and Kei, but those were the names they’d grown into, not names they were born with.

I’ve worked with them for many years now. The thing people must understand about Japan is that people try not to interfere with each other. Sometimes, we work together, if we’re in the same company; at other times, we don’t know if that’s true. For a while it became personal, when our enemies killed Inari. And then part of me died, and all of them died, and it was okay again.

We had a joke. We called ourselves the Avengers, because if we couldn’t save the world, we’d avenge it. This was a rip-off from an old movie. You had to be a certain age to appreciate the joke. It was more of a joke when you realized that we were all people with sub-powers, people who were in some way lacking.

Then it became not a joke at all, because we didn’t save what we could have saved. So I’ve wasted enough of your time, which is an unforgiveable literary sin, and now I must tell the story.

*****

It’s always about rooftops and basements, I reflect. Rifles on rooftops and bombs blown in basements. I shudder reflexively because these are not at all my favourite things and yet there is a certain song playing in my head about brown paper packages tied up with string.

The Avengers have been briefed. We crippled few are now living in a new world. It has been so ever since the Black Dragon and his team released, one by one, precious vial by precious vial, the idea made real—that some people with disorders could be repaired by molecular engineering. Worse, he made some of those people even better than ‘normal’ people. It’s as if my blood became caffeine and glucose and glutamate and all the things I should have remembered if I’d paid greater attention to Mutou-sensei in class so many years ago.

There’s always a backlash. We’re mutated, or inhuman, or some other demeaning word. When we were cripples it was not so bad. Now it’s as if we’re not only a lower class of human, we’re a disgusting class of alien. Some of us from the different Yamaku Foundation academies were volunteers for such programmes. There’ll be no names mentioned here, but you can probably guess at some of them. It was fine when the only candidates who were ‘outed’ were not nationally important. And then came the exposé of Natsume Ooe.

The worst part was that it was untrue. Natsume, an old classmate of mine, stayed true to her disability and refused the magic potion. She’d get by, as she often said, on the drugs that she’d lived with for so many decades. She was now effectively head of ASN, one of the largest information networks in the world—and she was one of the alien superbeings, according to the insane extremists who used the networks to spout their filth.

A security cordon moved with her now, her life interwoven with theirs. She hated it, and people hated her more for it. She was a sign that we cripples received unequal and superior treatment. She was the evil mainstream media. She was a freak, a monster. I could have cried for her; but then there’d be too many of us to cry for, to be fair, and so I didn’t.

Beyond that cordon were other rings. Electronics. Photonics. And because all these things were simple physics controlled by simple cybernetics, they’d only slow down a truly determined assailant. That’s where the mundane work came in. Bullets. Knives. Wetsuits.

I’m finding it hard to say this. In the highest levels of the government, at the highest levels of the world, there were people who hated. It was their entire life’s duty to hate those who were different, it seemed to me. Sometimes, I have found myself doing that because I’m broken. It doesn’t seem fair that others aren’t.

*****

This is what I remember. I don’t have a digital archive of those minutes, for reasons that you will appreciate.

So here I am, not quite on a rooftop. I have the finest instruments, because Japan is proud again of what it can do in engineering and technology. I am one with the wind, and the light, and the invisible breath of the radio frequency spectrum. But you can’t trust what you can’t see. So I take a quick look through my Zeiss-Hakamichi lenses, smart glass and intelligent metal.

There she is, looking much the same as she did when she used to sit at the back of my class. She still dyes her hair some colour between ash-blonde and honey-blonde. Naomi no longer has epileptic fits, but time has taken its toll anyway. She’s with my other friend, whose eyes are as different-coloured as ever. Natsume still has arthritis, but she lives with pain control, and it works for her.

They’ve been friends for a very long time now. They are both very close to Director-General Setou as well. I wonder if he has indeed got two hearts. My intel places him somewhere between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. If anything were to happen now, he’d not make it back in time.

The same intel tells me today’s the day. Nobu is fretting in the overnet. Kei is confident we can do this. Why do we do what we do? Because we must.

Down below, on that balcony, shielded only by the invisible and the inadequate, my two ex-classmates have breakfast, as they have done so many times before. Natsume with the fruit juice, deliberately torturing herself with the scent of Naomi’s coffee, Naomi nibbling at a croissant. They’re both pretty, in different ways—Naomi’s neat, Natsume’s shaggy.

Breathe, Suzumiya, breathe. You’re a mermaid, a dolphin in the gentle warmth of an imaginary ocean paradise. You are one with everything, and the metal in your hands is an extension of your will.

*****

I can remember everything, including the faint scent of oil and the distant tang of the sea. If I had planned to crush Kenji Setou’s heart, I could not have chosen a better way of doing so.

But it is no accident, what happens on the morning of the fourth day of December in 2040. A crisp west wind is blowing in, like a scythe working unseasonably late in the year. I am angled towards it, and away from the sun, and Nobu’s overnet is rumbling in the background of our minds.

Here is a little tale of how it’s possible to fail. In the earlier part of our century, the man-portable electromagnetic cloak was conceptualized. That is why eyes on target and boots on ground are so prized. You can’t trust drones or satellites so much; people had been hiding from them for decades by the time I found myself in my Osaka nest.

I scan my quadrant with my fine optics again. We wouldn’t want to inconvenience the fine residents of this part of the Osaka waterfront by false alarms and excessive window-cleaning.

One can’t see very well through an optical cloak. The balcony I watch with half an eye is all fuzzy with optical cloaking, the price of security for the head of ASN. Natsume has such a good view, I remember thinking when I first assessed the position. To cloak a large position takes energy, and energy can almost always be disrupted.

Znnnnnngggggggg.

I twitch in sudden white-hot pain as my hardened augments shut themselves down to preserve integrity. A very focused short range EMP has just gone off in the neighbourhood. The overnet is scrambled. I can imagine Nobu swearing. An active sniper is compromised, weak against the one who’s had time to prepare for a killing shot. So many thoughts in my head, at that one moment.

The optical cloak around the balcony has vanished. I glance sideways, see movement, and instinctively fire.


*****

Time passes somehow, even when it seems frozen. The living move on, while the dead are locked in their last moment of evanescent life.

In the end, Naomi returned to Kyoto. It was there that I kept watch over Kenji, my penance for failure. I could tell that he wanted to die as well.

*****

“Naomi Inoue was a…” the repeating cycle of news ran on, a tireless athlete bearing a burden of impersonal agony. “She… she… she…”—again and again, detailing her life, her accomplishments. I could not imagine how Natsume felt.

I watched Kenji one day at the cemetery. It was as if he wanted to tear the ashes from the earth, embrace them, be buried himself with them. I can barely remember having loved anyone like that, if ever I did.

What I do remember is the moment of pulling the trigger, like stroking a latch shut so that a door closes silently. As the assassin decloaked I saw the tiny nuances of movement that you can’t see without training. I put a bullet through her head, but her bullet was already heading towards Natsume Ooe.

I didn’t save Natsume, and yet Natsume survived. Naomi moved faster than some would say any human had a right to move. As I watched Kenji, I knew that at some point, he had wished that Naomi had not moved at all.

*****

Picture this: I am sitting with sisters around, when a tiny buzz says that I’ve been found. All four of my sisters, three married, one not, two with the offspring their relationships got—they chitter and chatter; they do that a lot.

I subvocalize my report to Kei. I conclude: [The Director-General is compromised. He won’t be able to do his job for a while.]

She sighs, and I wonder where Nobu is. [That’s bad. We’ll need him soon. The acting DG isn’t the person we need.]

[Am I exposed? Will I be?] I don’t want to lose another of my lives.

[No. We don’t do that. Besides, in DG’s present state, he’ll blame you for not shooting first, whether that’s reasonable or not.]

[I couldn’t have known.]

[You couldn’t have seen. It was our other people who failed to clear the area properly.] Kei says it so firmly that I know it to be true.

[What next, then?]

[Take two weeks off. If you can check on DG once in a while, do it. Otherwise, be human again. Spend time with family or something.]

[That’s what I plan to do. Thanks.]

Suki, my sister, looks sharply at me. Of all my siblings, only she can see: I’m a sad Suzu I’d rather not be. From her perch on the armrest, she gives me a wink. “Suzumiya Suzuki, let’s go get a drink.”

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Fri Mar 23, 2018 12:32 am, edited 4 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Interlude (20151207)

Post by brythain » Mon Dec 07, 2015 9:00 pm

"Here I'm sitting, wondering why my life has always seemed a lie."

It's the pitch that gets to me. Miss Suzuki, fourth in a family of five, has always seemed like a woodwind, a flute of some sort that can be both high and low. I sigh and turn to face her. She's sitting where Natsume normally sits when my redoubtable editor of editors deigns to visit.

"Why do you always speak in rhyme?"

"Not always, but I started young and it's a pattern." Her lips smile gently, but her eyes are deep and hungry. Strands of her blue-green hair flutter slowly in the airstream of my ventilator fans.

"Point taken. To what do I owe this rare visit?"

"I've seen the draft of Kenji's account of 2044. He left out all the bombings and shootings and that stuff about his uncle. He left me out too."

"Didn't all that happen in the years before 2044?"

She lets her gaze sweep slowly over me, like water. "You know what I'm talking about."

"Did you expect him to include all of that other material?"

"You know, author-san, sometimes you hope to be remembered because there's so little else that's left?"

I look at her silently. She seldom exposes her inner frailty. Suzu is a very tough character in her own way. She looks back, sensing that I have something more to say. To my surprise, I do.

"He's authorised Book Six. I think he mentions you in flashbacks to the 2040s."

"Really." She says it with the deliberate cynicism of one who's been hurt too often and too much.

"Really."

A ghost of a shadow of a smile forms, and then she's gone, leaving nothing but a faint scent of sandalwood and regret.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 5 up 20151118)

Post by Oddball » Thu Dec 10, 2015 9:24 am

It suffers a bit from the fact that you wrote in in places as thought it wasn't completely translated right, that combines with some overly flowery and melodramatic prose and switching point of view characters made me have to go back and re-read some sections a few times to make sure I got what was going on.

While it does develop a good strong mood, I feel that it muddles the clarity of the story and at times prevents the characters from developing a strong voice of their own.

Still, over all it was fairly entertaining and interesting.
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