So; he was radiating a lot of “Divine Power”? Well, he was getting quite a lot of power flowing in from the Thralls – even if almost all of it went right back out again – and that might count as “worshipers”.
Wait, hadn’t Ryan said something about “Divine Power” or something? Maybe he ought to remember to look into it; Evanescence’s concealment spell was pinching most uncomfortably – and maybe it really DID mean something important.
Marty felt kind of sorry for Kevin at the moment; he looked so tense!
He couldn’t help wondering though… What would happen if Kevin spontaneously combusted while that spell was on him?
Anyway, Evanescence was giving them the summary; they were most likely to encounter Dream Spirits, the Schrodinger Elemental, Blank Phantasms, and the Golem.
Schrodinger Elemental? That set off a spate of speculation. It had an equal chance of either being present or being nonexistent when you looked at it? It killed you, but you didn’t find out about it until you tried to open a gate and found that – while you could go elsewhere too – part of you would still be trapped in Necropolis?
Evanescence spoiled the game by continuing to provide actual information:
(Evanescence ) “Dream Spirits are figments of dream given will and a presence in reality. Able to read the minds of those they come across, they frequently will take the form of whatever nightmare the victim fears.”
Well, that was insidious. Might there be a relationship to Hoxin?
(Evanescence) “The Schrodinger Elemental changes form and power whenever it is not observed. While it might seem like a rabbit one moment, a quick blink will find you facing a dragon. Very dangerous as it will attempt to change form to suit the abilities of it’s enemies.
Well, that sounded like fun.
(Evanescence) “Blank phantasms are phantasms stripped of personality and memories. Little more than barely recognizable humanoid shapes, they will take on any prevalent psychic energies and change form accordingly. Expect to face variations of yourself, or parts of yourself you may be repressing.”
Oh dear! Their good, repressed sides! The ones who don’t do whatever they feel like! Marty would be like Gelman, but with a crucifix instead of a yarmulke!
(Evanescence) “The golem is made up of various materials depending upon what the latest experiment was. Built sturdy and strong, this thing is largely immune to most magics and psionics. It does have a spirit of some sort guiding it and giving it intelligence. Expect to either be pummeled senseless or be in for a long hard fight… Any questions regarding this creatures?”
(Kevin) “Well, they sound straightforward enough.”
(Marty “How quick is the Schrodinger elemental?”
(Evanescence) “That largely depends on it’s form. In the form of a tortoise, it is extremely slow. In the form of a mithril golem, expect it to run down a horse.”
(Marty) “Well, that’s a hassle. If it takes a maneuverable form, it will be free to get out of our field of vision and shift.”
(Evanescence) “Quite true, the thing can be cunning at times. Now, if there are no more questions, shall we be off? Necrosis is eager to find those who allowed some of his subjects to leave without his approval.”
(Marty) “I think so.”
(Kevin, somewhat distractedly) “Why not?”
(Evanescence) “Good, now you will need to put these collars on. They will show that you’re captives, and allow me to bring you into the laboratory without as many questions. Once imprisoned, the collars will come off and the cell doors will be unlocked. Do note that the safeguards will be active until then”
Hm. It looked like the collars gave an intense magical shock to the wearer when they were externally triggered. It looked to be quite painful, but not very damaging. Prolonged exposure to shocks could eventually cause nervous system irregularities, weird uncontrollable talents manifesting, complete shutdown of magical talent, and unusual mental illnesses – among rarer things.
Well, Marty figured that they didn’t need that; they were screwed up enough as it was already.
Kevin figured that – unless they were far more impressive than they seemed – they could probably get them off before the problems got too big.
They went along with it.
(Evanescence, watching) “Good, that should allow you to enter without too many questions. Now follow me, act subjugated and do not speak unless spoken to. I will have to activate the collars should you act too free-spirited. I DO have to keep up appearances.”
She led them off into the streets, seemingly parading them in front of the phantasmal crowds. They caught glimpses of people trying to get a look at them through cracks and drapes, but no one dared the streets while Evanescence was present. They heard veiled whispers from the alleys and windows around them, but were unable to make them out.
Creepy special effects, check. With the departure of the ensouled residents, the place was getting to be pretty heavy on the haunted-city cliches.
Shortly after they left the Living Canton, they found themselves before a massive towering citadel which radiated anguish and madness that threatened to spill forth and consume the surrounding city.
Too bad there really wasn’t anyone there to impress any longer.
The gates – at the end f a bridge extending over an apparently-bottomless abyss full of darkness – were gigantic, and were flanked by two sixty-foot tall statues in recesses. As they approached, the statues eyes glowed with dark illumination, and they stepped forth onto the walkway.
(Statues, in unison) “Who dares enter the laboratory of Necrosis unbidden?”
(Evanescence, looking highly annoyed) “It is I, Evanescence, apprentice of Necrosis himself, and you dare to challenge my entrance?”
Kevin made a mental note: this obviously impressed people! He would have to install something like this somewhere in Kadia, although he’d have to make it twice as big because he would never be able to get one twice as tasteless!
Although Marty was entirely willing to help him try.
(Statues) “You have returned quickly, were you not tasked with retrieving the ones that escaped? Or have you already failed in your duties as assigned by the Master?”
(Evanescence) “You would do well to hold your magical tongues you stupid lumps of stone. I have captured the ones that allowed them to escape. While I have not been able to pursue the escapees to their dimension, interrogating this bunch on how to do so would prove most invaluable. Or are you too dense for that to make sense? I am certain I could help lighten the load between your ears should you desire.”
(Statues) “You speak boldly for a mere apprentice. Too boldly in fact, and one day that will be the end of you and we shall enjoy watching it. However, your efforts are satisfactory enough to enter the lab. Pray that your interrogation goes well.”
The door began to open as the statues stepped aside.
(Evanescence) “Oh it will, I shall put them in Necrosis’s own dungeon to make sure they don’t escape.”
The lab itself was filled with primitive elevators, twisting mazes of corridors, haunting sounds, and distorted shapes, barely glimpsed from the corner of the eye. It probably stood upon the fringes of the local realm of dreams, thus allowing Necrosis to manifest himself there without wasting precious power.
They eventually reached a string of cages, hanging over a vast and apparently bottomless pit – probably a direct link to the realm of nightmares. Evidently Necrosis’s personal dungeon.
One of the cages moved over to the platform they were standing on, and a guard opened the door. (Evanescence, gesturing to the cages) “The nullification cages should hold you nicely until it is time for my interrogation. Unfortunately I must retrieve some materials from my personal study before we can begin. You may sit there and imagine the horrors that await you.”
Kevin tried to look apprehensive, while Marty feigned tears. It looked like the cages would nullify… psionics, arcane magic, and divine magic – at least if the door was locked. Impressive, if not enough to hold them anyway. Thye drew on a LOT of power sources.
The door swung shut behind them, and the guard went to lock it – then looked confused for a moment and pantomimed locking the door before the cage swung back out over the abyss again – leaving them hanging in the darkness, hundreds of feet from the platform – although only about ten feet from the nearest other cage. They were hung in roughly hexagonal pattern…
Once they were “safely” stowed, the guards departed.
Somehow Kevin got the feeling that flying magic might be watched for – or nullified at inopportune moments – so a force-bridge was in order. The collars came off easily, and they went to see if anyone else in the cages had a soul. After all, it didn’t seem likely that anyone who did would want to stay.
Only one fellow did. He was in a cage six rows down. The rest of the cages were either empty or appeared to be filled with degected remains of humanity, too broken to even notice their passing. The fellow with a soul was sitting in a meditative pose, clean shaven, bald, skin as white as snow, and red eyes set against black. He was currently wearing cargo pants, a tank top, and thick boots.
They wandered up and waved – although it took the fellow a few moments to become aware of them.
(Baldy) “Is it experiment time again already? Or have you come to try and break my will again through small talk?”
(Marty) “I’m not THAT boring! So how’d you get in here?”
(Baldy, cocking his head and opening an eye) “Apparently not – and you do not look like one of Necrosis’s incarnations. I was captured after stumbling into this world some time ago. I am not sure how long ago that was now.”
(Kevin) “Well, actually we were leaving. Would you care to leave as well?”
(Baldy) “I would say nothing would make me happier, but then I would be lying. However, being able to leave would be quite satisfying. Tell me, did you release yourselves at your own discretion or did you have help?”
(Kevin) “Oh, in our own way we represent some substantial groups; we always have help.”
As they opened Baldy’s cell, they felt a formidable wash of psionic energy flow over them…
(Baldy) “Fair enough. Well then shall we get moving then? I imagine our time will be short before someone catches on to our presence… Ah it is good to be out of that damned cage again!
Baldy’s collar gave him a shock when they tried to take it off – and he gave THEM an annoyed look. Still, it was simple enough to drain it’s enchantment. It wasn’t protected against that, although an alarm-spell would go off if it was broken.
(Baldy held the collar in his hands for a moment before breaking it) “I am so glad to be rid of that thing.”
(Kevin) “Well, I’m glad we could oblige. Our exit should be in this direction…”
They made a high-speed beeline for the gate. That wasn’t precisely the “simplest route” that Evanescence’s map had shown, but it was certainly plausible enough given the ability to detect the gate and neither Kevin nor Marty wanted to be in Necrosis’s lab any longer than that had to be.
They came face to face with ten gray humanoids. Within moments, each of them morphed into a twisted parody – seven of Thralls, one of Kevin, and one of Marty. Evidently even drenching the Thralls in shields wasn’t enough to stop it.
Perhaps sadly, both Kevin and Marty were throughly inclined to do what they wanted, and were not at all intimidated to see morally upstanding versions of themselves.
(Marty) “Hey, what’s with the crucifix, pal? And why isn’t your tie rakishly knotted? And gah, you’re skinny!”
(Kevin, more directly) “Hah Hah! Dumb Asses!”
Marty thought that Kevin should – perhaps – take this a little more seriously; whether he admitted it to himself or not, Kevin tended to find evil excuses for doing the right things. Would a morally-upright opposing doppleganger be a light-wielder who did evil things for morally upright reasons? Oh dear God, a well-intentioned extremist?
Kevin really wasn’t all that worried. A phantasm might – just possibly – be able to duplicate a lot of his local power, but it wouldn’t be able to copy the powers he drew from other sources.
(Templar Kevin) “I shall defeat you even if I have to destroy the whole city to do it!”
(Parody Marty) “Wouldn’t you like to lead the quiet life back home with the wife and kids? It would be a lot less troublesome!”
(Marty) “YOU’RE A MADMAN! AND GET THAT AA HANDOUT AWAY FROM ME!”
(Parody Marty) “Now that isn’t the proper attitude to be taking Marty, so much aggression and anger will only lead to things getting out of hand. You just need to sit down and admit to yourself that you have a problem before the healing can begin.”
(Marty) “Aggression is my life!”
He sized up himself, ready to hit himself where it would hurt, battler style!
(Kevin) “Well, we wouldn’t want to fight here! Lets get out of this dimension first!”
He was willing to bet that any parody based on him would still do it’s best to arrange matters to it’s best advantage – and it would be hard to find a place where the Powers of Light were weaker than in Necropolis!
Besides, if his doppleganger was his opposite, it was probably weak at scheming, negotiation, and magic – if a bloody good fighter.
(Parodies in unison) “Agreed then, we shall get out of this place first, then settle our score!”
With the group now twenty strong, they headed for the gate.
The Dream Spirit flickered into being and swirled wildly, attempting to manifest some terrible nightmare from the depths of the groups minds. It continued to swirl, with ever-increasing frustration, as it attempted to pull a form from twenty minds; half of them shielded and half of them inverse mirrors of the others on the surface and blank underneath.
For a moment it boiled with a thousand ill-defined forms – then it faded back into the realms of dream to seek easier prey.
They weren’t far from the gate when they ran across the Golem – a twenty-foot colossus of mirror-finished metal blocking their path. Luminous green eyes peered down at the bunch of them.
(Golem) “Return to confinement immediately. Any further independence will be put down with unnecessary force. You now have to the count of ten to comply…”
(Kevin, privately, to Marty) “Hm… Disintegrate the floor under it to a good depth I think. Then drop a plug on top?”
(Marty, also privately) “Sounds amusing.”
(Kevin, still privately) “Well, it may not work, but it’s worth a try.”
(Marty) “I want a drink. Do you make drinks?”
(Kevin) “Well all right. One! I can never get past three though, so this may take some time!”
Oh well. The “we do the counting routine” NEVER worked.
Kevin shrugged, drew on the energies of annihilation – his speciality! – and the energies of the Thralls to turn the area where the golem was standing into a mighty pit.
The golem flailed wildly as it fell, portions of the floor begin to give way as it’s hands impacted against the sides of the pit, and the walls and ceiling begin to creak ominously. From beneath the floor, there came a rapid series of crashes and the sound of breaking stone – and pieces of the ceiling and walls began to fall as the loss of structural integrity spread ever further.
Stupid golem! At this rate it might bring down the entire place!
They threw a force-bridge across the hole and made a mad dash for the gate – which took on a classical dramatic tone as the golem leapt out of the floor behind them and took off in pursuit.
(Marty) “Come and get us, you hunk of scrap metal!”
What the heck, if they could get it to follow them through the gate, it might be made of something really valuable! Or it might become a mecha! Either way, possible profit!
The gate looked like a swirling mass of smoke and soot. Ash was falling to the ground in little piles and the faint smell of burning wood could be detected.
(One of the parodies) “Come on, open it, open it, open it!!!!”
The gateway opened up in a billow of smoke – and they found themselves in what seemed to be an industrial facility. Fires burned in large pits, buckets of some black powder were being hauled all around them, and they could see an enormous spool of cable being wound out of some sort of furnace assembly at high speed.
Back in Necropolis, in the laboratory of Necrosis, Evanescence smiled chillingly. If it worked out, she would have a reliable source of extra-dimensional shipments, Opener and a Deity who owed her some favors, and potential access to all the powers of the otherworlds. If it did not, and she had to explain to Necrosis – well, she had judged it better to allow an Opener and a Deity with more power than they were even aware of to “escape” than to risk such a battle.
Somewhat disappointingly, the golem hadn’t come through and the parodies all appeared to have become local businessmen. Overridden by local influences. It wasn’t like they really had any kind of identities. Oh well, they probably hadn’t been able to copy any major percentage of their powers anyway.
(Guide) “As you can see gentlemen, the production of the Mars tether is proceeding well. We expect to finish fabrication by the end of next month. Production of the second tether will begin next week and the third is scheduled for the week after that. We should be able to finish well before the contract date, despite early difficulties in fabrication.”
Ah, so they – and Baldy, who was still with them – had joined some sort of tour group.
(Guide) “Now if you follow me this way, we can so you the finishing and packaging line. None of your order is there yet of course, but we should be able to see the Titan shipment getting packed for transit to orbit. Are there any questions?”
(Kevin, in an aside to Baldy) “Well, we have now left Necropolis. We were in a rush there; I’m Kevin, and this is Marty.”
(Marty, to Guide) “Nice facility you have here.”
(Guide, beaming) “Why thank you, we take pride in our nanomanufacturing facilities. Best in the world for high speed fabrication of bulk materials.
(Baldy) “Well I am glad to be out of there. My name is Klass.”
(Kevin) “How did you get stuck there anyway? Worldwalking gone bad?”
(Klass) “Something like that, I was experimenting with a set of techniques I had just learned from a set of aliens from the Outer Rim. I never got the hang of how to aim though and got lost quickly.”
(Kevin) “Interesting. I’ve never met any genuine aliens. So the Manifold may really border on those of alien races…”
Ryan and Company had carefully concealed the existence of Primal Umal to prevent them from getting in – but a few other aliens had been reported.
(Klass) “There are a few out there, mainly there are specific points of contact between our Manifold and theirs. As to what lies beyond the edge of our Manifold is anybody’s guess. No one I have talked to has ever been that far and come back.”
(Marty) “So where are you from Klass?”
(Klass) “One of the Core Worlds originally. I spent a lot of time in Star Wars learning what I could there. I still have a ship back there somewhere I bet. I’ve been traveling around for the last three decades though. I have to say though, things are getting pretty hectic across the Manifold in the last few years.”
The tour ended shortly thereafter – and Marty asked for directions to the Terminal Café. That was easy enough to get – the guide just pulled up a holodisplay (evidently wondering why Marty didn’t just do it himself, but too busy being the obliging tour guide to ask).
(Guide) “Sure, here you go, I hope you have a good time there.”
(Kevin, to Klass) “Now, if you like, I’ll see if I can’t find you a navigator for a bit. It should help you avoid getting stuck any more.”
(Klass) “That would be appreciated. You’d best be careful yourself, something ugly is brewing out there and it is going to cause quite a mess.”
(Marty) “What’s going on?
(Klass) “Things are becoming more active, more aware. More and more realms are becoming conscious of the Manifold. Minor wars have already broken out along some of the border regions. I think they are a prelude to something larger. I also think this is not the first time this has happened.”
Kevin sighed. He’d been hoping for something either more original or more definite. They’d received that message a couple of times, but they never got enough data on anything to actually figure out what it meant. Besides… It wasn’t like the Manifold had EVER been stable. It was it’s nature to change and warp all the time – and it was full of trails and travelers even without the availability of an Opener. Maybe he should start varying the Thrall-package to include something like “Intelligence Analysis”. Perhaps THEN the ones on “putting the bits together” duty would start coming up with some details!
They headed out for the Terminal café. Marty wanted to talk to his contact, and it had been a really long trip!
They told Klass the he was welcome to come along if he liked – at least until they could get him a guide.
Manhattan was both strangely familiar and yet strangely different. Things were cleaner than Marty was used to, and the place showed a great deal more wealth too. The vehicles ran the gamut from ultra-futuristic electrics to animatronic dragons. The buildings were covered with large screens dominated by ads and weather reports.
Variants of New York always made Marty happy, and he needed it after Necropolis. He took Limey out to let him have a look around – and realized that he STILL hadn’t gotten to get a shower after all that mud.
People crowded the street and the variation was startling after Necropolis. People with more than two arms, skin every color of the rainbow, fur, diamond studded scalps, and more could be seen here. Kind of homey really, even if there weren’t very many cartoon animals! It just looked like there was a pharmaceuticals sale on!
Kevin sighed. Oh dear. The locals had gotten genetweaking and nanotech body-restructuring BEFORE they got effective childhood logic-teaching. He started testing… He was betting on no local magic at all and basic psychic functions only – and that was pretty much what it turned out to be. Even the basic psychic stuff that worked in Core was rather diluted in potency sometimes. He’d have to conserve the magic.
There were a lot of shops that specialized in all sorts of body modifications. One was advertising various “Space-Ready” designs – usually including replacing the legs with an extra pair of arms and a tail for better mobility. Another major theme running on the ads was something called “Death Insurance”.
Well, that would be an easy way to get restored and avoid being indentured if you were middle-class but foresighted. The rich, of course, generally didn’t have to worry.
The Terminal Cafe itself was located in a section of Manhattan clearly labeled as “Necropolis”. Conspicuous warning signs prohibited the entry of the living between the hours of 7 pm and 7 am for their own safety. The dead were to return to the Necropolis during those same hours unless they had special authorization to be elsewhere.
Hm… Kevin started looking to see if there was a hidden underclass beyond the dead who couldn’t afford to pay for the treatment. Not too surprisingly, there was – but it mostly wasn’t too bad; life as a living member of society was relatively pleasant. Most things are readily handled on the various healthcare programs. The biggest issue was if someone caught a nano-disease and needed to be restructured but couldn’t afford it. Most insurance plans did not cover that. One particular nano disease that had been making the rounds recently slowly turned the body’s cells into crystals as the errant nanomachines ran amuck.
And yes, they indentured kids. It was frequently done by parents who were unable to pay for some medically-necessary restructuring – and was legal because restructuring was legally equivalent to a “Death” unless it was paid. Of course, in a world with nigh-infinite resources, going to such extremes was rarely necessary.
Well, Marty would be taking some time talking to his contact, so Kevin got to work on another of his oratorical summonings – directed at ensouled kids who needed treatment and couldn’t afford to get it and remain free, or who were currently free but would like the powers and the ability to travel the dimensions. He limited it to the immediate area though – both for speed, as a test, and to make sure that it was within easy walking distance for kids.
It was four PM when Marty arrived at the Terminal Cafe.
It was in one of the busier sections of town. There were frequent explosions and numerous cries of “Oh yeah?” Sirens were blaring along one street, along with speakers loudly announcing that the area was unsafe for the living. The cafe was smoking like it was on fire, and people were outside drinking various things with total disregard to the chaos going on around them.
Kevin was a bit torn… He felt obligated to recognize locally-valid indentures, even if they were involuntary – but the realm had the potential to be as well-run as Core, and the locals were not doing it.
He consulted Marty – but Marty recommended against breaking the local contracts. Besides, the neighborhood felt homey!
Inside the cafe was not much different, with monkeys in the rafters flinging unspeakable things at patrons, the kitchen permanently on fire, and patrons playing russian roulette using fully loaded guns. He saw his potential contact at one of the tables – mixing drinks and then putting drops of them onto the wooden table to see how much it ate away.
Marty sat down at the bar.
(Marty) “One dirty martini, please!”
(Bartender, looking at him for a moment) “Living or dead?”
(Marty) “I’m living.”
Within moments a glass appeared in front of him – from nowhere that he could detect.
(Marty) “Somebody said I should talk to you, by the way.”
(Bartender) “Ah, what would you be wanting then? Lots of things to be had here. Or maybe it is the other way around and I should be asking what you do?”
(Marty) “I’m a businessman in the Manifold
(Bartender) “Ah, a trader then?”
(Marty) “Yeah. I’m dealing mostly in staples right now.”
(Bartender) “Well let me tell ya, most of what we have to sell here can’t compete with the Manifold in bulk. Nor can the Manifold compete with us locally due to shipment issues. So that leaves the things worthwhile to ship that cannot be readily mass produced anywhere else am I right?”
(Marty) “I believe so, Mr. Columbar. What did you have in mind?”
(Bartender) “Well I have a large collection of art that is lying around going to waste. And the reconstruction technology, while it only works here, has numerous applications outside of here. I have been told of some interesting research involving Phantasms that you might be interested in as well. You see, one of the limiting factors of phantasms is the fact they are usually limited to only one realm right? Otherwise they take on a local role and cease the be who they were moments ago. I am sure you have witnessed this.”
(Marty) “Yeah, with this little guy in my lap.”
Limey was pretty much a normal laptop or close to it right now – even if he was running a good expert system. Oddly, not with Sophie, Ruth, Isaac, Arxus, and a lot of others.
(Bartender) “That is all because what makes up a phantasm is too fluid and is easily overwhelmed by local influences. You can get away with this if they move between very similar realms where the role translates well. You can also get around it if they latch onto an archetype of some sort external to the setting. But what we have found is that if you can make a record of what the person is, and give them an enduring “manifestation” of this sense of self, then they can be self-sustaining in the long term in Manifold travel. They can even use Identities if they want to; like people with souls, those identities become a layer on top of the core “self” at the root of their being. In many ways, it’s a lot like manufacturing an artificial soul.”
Kevin had been listening in, and sighed; that was the basic routine with the Death Knights. Build a physical body with an appropriate pattern, and you could stabilize a phantasm – as long as you stuck to realms that didn’t cause major physical transformations. It still wouldn’t beat attaching them to someone with an actual soul. It was the only way so far to guarantee eternity for them… Nanotech might allow a better level of detail to that pattern – enough to allow a soul to remain bonded, just like the Praetorians – but there were a lot of realms it wouldn’t work in. It wasn’t like most phantasms didn’t have physical bodies anyway. It might be Vekxin’s trick though – although he’d been hoping for something more fundamental.
(Bartender) “Now one of the limiting factors in such a technique is the inability to form a complete copy or image of the person involved. Magic usually has to par down the “pattern” into something simpler and more stereotypical to work well. Psionics have the same issue although it works with impressions. Now, I have at my disposal that is able to completely deconstruct a full nervous system and reduce it down to it’s basic software and hardware patterns. (Leans in close) We can get the entire personality of a phantasm into an image.”
(Marty) “Has it been tested?”
(Bartender) “Yes, although ability to test on Manifold travel has been limited due to the obvious difficulties. The five experiments were one failure, a partial, and three successes, in that order.”
Marty missed Limey when he was in non-magical realms – and it wouldn’t be much risk for him; he could always reset!
(Marty) “What does the procedure involve? I’m not sure Limey HAS a nervous system around here.”
(Bartender) “Mostly it involves a complete deconstruction of the subject into base molecules while storing away the pattern in a Jesus tank. This does not necessarily require the destruction of the original though as the newer nanoassemblers are able to retrieve that data without disassembling. Large supercomputers then process the data and compile a consolidated real-time simulation of the original. Supercomputer then spits out blueprints for an artifact that contains the essence of that person. I will admit the form the artifact takes is rather hard to predict ahead of time.”
(Marty) “Well, let’s test it out. If the original’s still fine, what’s the worst that could happen?”
Hopefully those weren’t going to be famous last words!