A Scythe in Time: Part 1
Recipe for Disaster:
Take a scientific genius, a pair of cops, and a covey of private investigators.
Add the head of a local crime syndicate, an intergalactic squeak toy, and a set of murderously desperate criminals, stirring vigorously.
Toss in a short-range ship, a collapsing sun, and an inter-dimensional wormhole generator. Shake for good measure, and heat to boiling point.
Then get the heck out of Dodge.
It was a bright, summery day in San Viano. The sun hung high in a perfect, robin's egg blue sky dappled with white cottony clouds, a light breeze gently stirring the trees lining the quiet street of Walnut drive. Songbirds warbled happily as they winged their way across the sky, and tree lizards chattered from the boughs as the citizenry went about their business.
The building at the end of the street was subdued and unassuming, tucked back out of the way of the residences nearby. Its large, awkward shape the product of many additions, explosions, and extensive repairs, it was nonetheless a humble edifice of plaster, brick, and thrice-reinforced steel and concrete. Indeed, Newt's laboratory was quiet as could be.
Which only goes to show how soundproofed and well insulated it really was, considering all Hell had broken loose inside.
The plan had been a simple one: get in, relieve the scientist of his intergalactic transporter, get out. In deference to Jesmynne, a fair amount of leeway in terms of random bloodshed and wanton destruction had been allowed - with the provision the scientist remain unharmed until after they determined just exactly how this "Intergalactic Kiwi Network" functioned. There had naturally been contingency plans, including one in case the gizmo turned out, as it had, to be too large to transport. Coordinates had been brought along, and their ship hovered cloaked not ten feet above the laboratory, ready to blast into the device's range at a moment's notice.
The Magi was the first chink in their plan. Followers of the Great BaNAna were not unknown along Duck borders, and whispers of the abilities of some of the more dedicated acolytes had occasionally reached Vyceria's ears from refugee ships before the planet fell but hearing tales of the lightning-fast, precognitive, telekinetic Magi and actually coming face-to-face with one are two completely different things. They hadn't planned on a chance encounter with a Magi any more than they had foreseen that the stuffed-shirt scientist would sound the alarm instead of simply quaking in terror. And they certainly hadn't expected the response to this cavalry call to come equipped with enough firepower to pin them down.
But the last remaining Black Knights hadn't survived this long by chance; no, their military mindset and sense of strategy had carried them this far and was determined to see them through now. The Magi's initial offensive had driven them away from the transporter; they now sought to fall back to it. A tactical withdrawal was possible, but combining it with an intergalactic jump was far more desirable - and while there were still coordinates and calibrations that needed to be entered, it was nevertheless worth attempting.
If they could keep the heroes at bay long enough to reach the blasted thing...
It happened as Squeaks was darting to a more defendable vantage point a stray bullet, singeing a patch of fur as it clipped yet another notch into the thin membrane of skin at the base of his ear. The force of impact sent the mouse tumbling to the ground, aborting the maneuver almost before it had begun.
"Squeaks!" Ferdia shrieked, emptying her clip in cover fire as her partner staggered back from the impact. One of her shots split open a bundle of wires running along the floor between power outlets and electronic gizmos, and she used the sudden shower of sparks to cover her retreat, lunging behind the wall of shelved inventions her wounded partner now crouched behind.
"I'm fine," the mouse reassured her, rubbing the burn as a growing patch of red stained the fur around his ear, "Friction burns and a surface cut, nothing more. Caught me by surprise, that's all."
"Arcadia!" a voice boomed across the battlegrounds and over the gunfire echoing around them. D'Gal was just visible behind a cluster of fallen shelves and violently sparking electronics. "Stay out of this, or so help me, the next one will kill you!"
Ferdia blinked, baffled. "He gave you a warning shot?!?"
"Can't say I don't appreciate the gesture," the mouse winced as trickling blood hit burned skin, "I got careless, forgot who we were up against. That could have been my head."
She scowled, cutting a sidelong glare towards the villains' location. "All the more reason to-"
"No," he shook his head, glancing over at her, "We need to be careful here. Don't go running out into this one, eh? D'Gal means business, whatever he's here for -- and even if he's feeling charitable, if the duck next to him is who I think it is, she won't hesitate to drop us if we get in her way. We're better off letting them have whatever they're after."
"And let them loose it on the city?!" Ferdia squawked, gaping.
"Not these two," Squeaks shook his head. "They could care less about the city, and everyone in it. According to Drake, they already have a ship and believe me, they'd already be gone if that was all they required. Odds are they're homeward bound and just stopping in for one of Newt's more apocalyptic gadgets."
"Where is the feathered nuisance, anyway?" Ferdia queried, cautiously peering around the corner as the chaos and heavy arms fire slowly made its way to the far end of the lab, "Drake, I mean. He ducked into one of the storage alcoves a few minutes ago, and I haven't seen him si-"
A battle cry cut over her words, and as the two glanced about for its source, Drake burst out from behind a bookshelf, lobbing beakers of steaming, strangely colored liquid in the general direction of the Vycerians' current cover. Gunfire and phaser bursts erupted with renewed fury as the shattered beakers sent multicolored plumes of thick, opaque smoke pouring over the shelves, and Ferdia had barely glimpsed the object in Drake's hand before Squeaks hauled her to her feet and bolted for the safety of a sheltered corner office.
The grenade went off half a second later.
Bob leapt for cover behind a desk piled high with half-completed gizmos and smoldering blueprints, scrambling out of harm's way as bullets and phaser blasts bounded every which way. Taking a minute to catch his breath, Bob cast about for a weapon, only to come face-to-face with-
"What?!" the Evil Sir Ivan Kiwi snapped, slamming another set of clips into the pair of Magnums he carried.
"What are you doing here?!?"
"What does it look like I'm doing?!" the crime boss yelled, ducking around a corner of the desk as he emptied the newly-loaded clips in the direction of the phaser-fire, "I'm protecting my assets!"
"Newt is not your asset, he's my genius inventor!" Bob fumed.
"Oh yeah? Who do you think funds half this lab?!?" his nemesis shot back.
Bob blinked. It was, in truth, something he'd never given any thought to before. Like most independent scientists, Newt was always looking for more investors' money for his lab; it had never occurred to our hero that the brown kiwi, like many brilliant men before him, might simply accept funding without first giving thought to where it was coming from and what the donor was likely to do with the fruits of his surprisingly nave creative genius.
"But...but..." Bob fumbled.
"Just shut up and give me a hand here!" Ivan snapped. "Those idiots are shooting up my investment!"
The nemeses paused in their argument as a teenaged rabbit vaulted over the desk, somersaulting to the floor as the firefight climbed to new levels of intensity behind her. Projectile-and-laser volleys surged in the background, smoke erupting in thick pillars that quickly obscured everything beyond the desk from view. No sooner had the rabbit landed than a small brown kiwi toting a slow-burning sign bolted into view, diving beneath the desk just in time to escape a huge, fiery blast of shrapnel and smoke.
"Dammit, Farlane!" Ivan swore, "I told you not to destroy anything!"
"It wasn't me!" the rabbit protested, "I know better than to mess with those two!" A second series of blasts punctuated her statement, followed by the sounds of crashing equipment and crackling electrical fires. "Drake grabbed the things off the shelves before going after the beakers!"
"Oh, well that just figures!" Ivan grumbled.
Beak waded cautiously through the mass of smoke, taking care to make as little noise as possible. It was imperative that he not run into fallen or burning debris or his friends, for that matter. He might have the Great BaNAna to guide him through this impenetrable wall of blinding smoke, but they certainly did not, and it didn't take a grand strategist to realize that Bob and Ferdie and the detectives would most likely fire in the direction of whatever seemed to move. Granted, Beak could simply use the power of the Great BaNAna to shield himself from harm but he felt his abilities would be of most use right now dispersing the smoke and apprehending the fiends behind this attack.
To his credit, Beak was doing a good job channeling power to both these tasks. However, most of the lab's vents had been decimated by the battle, and while the chemical smoke choked out some of the hotter fires, many more still burned unhampered, spitting black smoke back into the lab. Moreover, as he was clearing smoke before him to aid his progress by lessening the obstructions left unseen in his path, half-occupied with the task of locating the two ducks behind the attack, he was also unknowingly making it easier for D'Gal and Jesmynne to see what they themselves were doing.
Which might not have been too much of a problem, had Beak been running at a slightly faster or slower - speed. For while the current incarnation of the Intergalactic Kiwi Network's control panel had backlit displays and touch-screen input fields, the button that set it in motion was (in typical mad scientist fashion) small, unlit, and hidden amongst a cadre of other small, unremarkable buttons. Had the Magi cleared the air just a bit sooner, the two black-feathered fiends would have escaped to whatever destination they had entered, free to wreak whatever havoc they had in store. Had he been a bit slower, a swiftly-flying bullet would have passed through the machine's brain before any computation could take place at all, stranding the fiends with naught to do but retreat to their ship. Both of these possibilities would have doubtlessly lent themselves to all sorts of mischief and morals.
But the Great and Powerful Jennies, being a fickle and easily distracted deity, chose this exact moment to enquire as to whether or not the Great BaNAna had ever met the All-Knowing Leaf. And in this second of divine introduction, the Great BaNAna's attention was diverted just enough to interrupt the power flowing to a Tokoekan Magi by the name of Beak. This shot the previously listed options completely to hell.
The smoke lifted, revealing the activation button to the searching Vycerians - and them, in turn, to the multitude of heroes currently in the vicinity. D'Gal took aim at these new targets, and Jesmynne lunged for the button - just as the errant bullet screaming towards the main CPU crossed the panel. The bullet ripped into the ebony beauty's hand, bouncing off bone as she recoiled, jerking her arm back in a move that did nothing to counter the pain but diverted the projectile's flight into the screens overhead. Liquid crystal burst from the shattered screens, given speed and bite by the newest outburst of electronic sparks, and the wounded duck staggered back from the damaged panel only to be spun clear of the action by her beau, who was by this time angrily exchanging heavy phaser-fire with the white-feathered Platyrian across the bay. Bullets tore every which way, many of them burying themselves in the network's sensitive and increasingly stressed - circuitry.
For its part, the Intergalactic Kiwi Network (Version 1.3.6) had been quite tolerant of the abuse hammering about its outer circuits. It had been shot, set afire, rammed, bled on, broken, soaked by the continual mist drifting down from the sprinkler system, and as a charging Drake lost his balance, sliding along his belly as several of his phaser-bursts were obligingly conducted through the chemicals wantonly electrocuted by a chemical-laden sack of feathers. The phaser burst that followed was the icing on the cake the casing grounded the Duck, channeling the charge down the paneling and into the oozing broken LCD screen, along the wires, and straight on to the long-suffering, fragile CPU, which threw up its bits, screamed, and promptly shorted out. The machine's half-formed portal obligingly followed suit: it flared out in a sudden burst of multicolored brilliance, a thin, blindingly bright horizontal disc streamed out from its point of origin even as its inner edges abandoned said point, taking those caught in its fleeting path with it as it sped off into nothingness, leaving only the smoldering remains of the Intergalactic Kiwi Network, an unconscious scientist, and one very, very pissed off duck...
Individuals unfamiliar with the thought patterns of scientific geniuses might be interested to learn that, though the new and improved Intergalactic Kiwi Network could actually transport - not simply link - not just one but several living creatures of any species to practically any point along the time-space continuum, unfailingly rematerialize them on solid ground instead of less-desirable locations like quicksand, solid rock, open ocean, or the vacuum of space, calculate at several thousand teraflops a second, and had, since its first prototype, shrunk from an eight-by-twelve-foot monstrosity to a device scarcely larger than the modern ATM, it was its ability to convert degrees to radians that Newt considered his greatest improvement over the original.
Most people, you see, might be more inclined to award that distinction to the network's unparalleled ability to instantaneously transport its charges so swiftly, so seamlessly, and so flawlessly, that the process was easy to miss if you weren't paying attention. This is all well and good for comfort and convenience, but it does carry the risk of being caught off-guard upon arrival.
Case in point: despite the malfunctions and subsequent electrical failure of the Intergalactic Kiwi Network, naught but a bright flash of light occurred out of the ordinary. A violent burst of light in the midst of a melee taking part amongst sparking electronics and electrical fires is nothing unusual, and it is worthy of even less attention when said melee is jam-packed with hurtling projectiles, laser beams, ricochets, and the odd charging comrade.
To their credit, Ferdie and the sign holder picked up on the scenery change after about a minute or two of blinking sunlight out of their eyes (though only Ferdie reacted to this information by tumbling into a fit of hysterics). Lita caught on a moment later, cutting her heel on a jagged rock while charging into the fray.
It took a horseman in full medieval regalia galloping through their midst to catch the eye of the rest of the group, and a contingent of pursuing soldiers to actually halt the fighting.
The first clue any of them had that something was amiss was when the heavy equine charger burst through the fray, trampling those not quick enough to leap out of the way. An armored figure clung to the animal's reins as it bolted for the cover of the trees half a mile away. As the new arrivals stared after horse and rider in shock, a motley crew of filth-encrusted infantry charged after the fleeing figure, menacingly waving a variety of blood-encrusted weapons. They paid the dumbfounded strangers no heed as they passed by, plunging into the forest after the rider. Their incomprehensible war cries echoed off the hills and through the crashing underbrush long after vanishing from view.
Understandably, it took the group a few moments of dumbstruck staring at the trees to remember that they were supposed to be in the middle of a battle. Even then, there was a lull in the fighting.
"T'ach," D'Gal swore, taking in the verdant hills and thick stands of forest that had taken the place of the ruined walls and crackling electronic debris of the scientist's lab.
"Ah," Drake observed, dusting the hoof prints off his uniform while reminding himself he really didn't need a spleen, after all, "This would be the side of Vyceria kept hidden from the universe."
Needless to say, the fighting immediately started up again.
D'Gal hadn't survived as long as he had on planning and luck alone. Vyceria had always been outnumbered and outgunned, and the Black Knights had stumbled into their share of ambushes as well. Battle plans and strategies were fine things when you had the luxury of time to come up with them, but it was one's ability to react to unexpected twists quickly that governed one's survival at the end of the day, and it was here that D'Gal excelled.
He was alone and outgunned, true. But he was no more disoriented than the others, and he had no safety to preserve but his own which would run out the instant the heroes regained their bearings. There was no shelter to seek here on open ground, and even if the nearby trees had been reachable, running was not D'Gal's style. He lunged instead for the bird nearest him, pinning their arms behind them even as they squawked in surprise and alarm.
Before the fight had been interrupted, they'd been moving to flank D'Gal on the left, as Drake was drawing his attention to the right. But when the charger appeared, flattening Drake and scattering the combatants, she'd leapt left; Squeaks, right. A charging warhorse was as bad as an out-of-control automobile, in her mind; she backed out of its way as it careened through the field, stumbling back further and yielding even more ground to the pursuing soldiers. The sight of the soldiers and the sudden transformation of Newt's lab into a rolling prairie caught her off guard, and indeed it was just as Ferdia's rattled senses began to register her current position as exposed to attack that a hand closed on her left upper arm.
She whirled with a hawk's shriek of surprise, darting away from the circling duck in an attempt to escape whatever hold he had intended. But the grip on her arm tightened like a vise, and D'Gal kept their circling momentum going, jerking her back and off-balance even as she attempted to round on him enough to fire a shot. As she stumbled to regain her balance, a second hand closed over her right wrist, grip tightening at the carpal pressure point until she dropped her gun with a squeak as her wrist spasmed. Pain seized control of her thoughts just long enough to allow D'Gal to draw his catch's right arm across her throat. Ferdia stirred as feeling returned to her wrist, struggling to loosen the chokehold around her neck as she searched her memory for a technique to break the hold. But D'Gal held her firmly in place, loosening the pressure on her neck just enough to allow his captive unencumbered shallow breathing provided, of course, she stopped struggling.
It happened in an instant. One of those terrible, drawn-out instants that seem to stretch far past their allotted time limits but an instant, nonetheless. D'Gal sprang at Ferdia, catching her as she turned in alarm and wrestling her into a hold faster than the rest of them could react.
Squeaks' yell of alarm came a split second behind Ferdia's shriek of surprise, and then bird and duck were too close together and moving too swiftly for the mouse to risk a shot. The rest of the crew voiced their protests equally loudly, and numerous weapons were drawn and trained on D'Gal - but even Iiwi's attack dive proved too late to derail the attack, leaving D'Gal safely sheltered behind his hostage as the crew around him glowered and bristled.
Beak made what looked like an attempt at controlling the black-feathered duck with MindSpeak, but staggered back with no apparent results. An evil mind can go a long way towards thwarting mind control simply by tossing heinous thoughts at the Speaker, and judging by the shade of pale green tinting the Magi's features, that is precisely what had occurred.
As Ferdia struggled in search of a weak point in the hold, D'Gal ignoring the shouted protests and demands of the clustered heroes, Iiwi resorted to dropping loose rocks at the fiend. Ferdie, on the other hand, made a show of standing around in a catatonic state while Bob ran the gauntlet of insults and threatening poses before resorting to simply fluffing himself up to a bright yellow puffball. As Beak, still reeling from his attempts to hack into the Vycerian's mind, stumbled off in search of a convenient patch of grass to be sick in, Lita vented her frustrations by kicking the trampled Drake, passed out from pain and a stray shot, back into consciousness. The battered Duck groaned, pushing himself to his feet and muttering about inconsiderate louts while dusting himself off.
It took Drake a moment to become aware of their situation, grousing, as he was, at the teenage rabbit who continued angrily kicking at him as a nearby brown kiwi kept trying to trip him up with a sign. Distracted from this activity by a falling stone gone awry, Drake turned to locate the source of the rock, finally realizing what the commotion about him was about. At which point he promptly drew his phaser and lunged at D'Gal.
Squeaks plowed into the charging Duck as the Platyrian brought his phaser into firing position, sending the shot arcing past Ferdia's ear as the duck using her as a shield dodged out of the way.
"Idiot!" Ferdia screeched, squirming until enough of her fist was free to rub the ringing out of her ear, "Are you trying to kill me?!?"
The Platyrian, however, was a bit too preoccupied to hear her. "Ace, let go!" he yelled, shaking his arm in an attempt to dislodge the mouse currently latched onto it and grappling for the phaser, "You messed up my shot!"
"Which would have hit her even if D'Gal had managed to dodge away," the mouse countered. "You won't get a good shot here. Put the gun away."
Drake glanced over at D'Gal and his hostage. "So I'll set it to stun," he shrugged, "It's worth the risk if it means we bag D'Gal-" he broke off, interrupted from that train of thought by a swift sign-thwack upside the head. "Ow..."
"Damn straight," a rather irate Ferdie growled, calmly returning aforementioned sign to the small brown kiwi urgently booting his shins, "My sister is not an 'acceptable risk'."
"So what are you suggesting?" Drake scowled down at the bluebird, "It's not as if negotiation is an option."
"Not with you, anyways."
The argument faltered as the group turned to the source of that last statement. D'Gal was slowly edging away from the assembled party, and while he still had a good grip on his captive, Ferdia's squirming had begun eroding the hold. The arm previously pinned behind her back was now held firmly across her middle still immobilized, but in a way that made it a lot easier to inconvenience her captor. It was getting more and more difficult to keep the detective's feet anchored to the ground without losing his own balance.
"Arcadia!" the Vycerian called again, "Let's be reasonable here, eh?"
"Reasonable?!?" Drake snorted, "You?!? Be reasonable?"
"Shut up, Drake!" Ferdia spat, as Squeaks rounded on the duck with similar sentiments. Ferdie did his best to look intimidating, coming up with a stance more along the lines of a kid trying to face down a schoolyard bully after running out of room to run, but defiant nonetheless. Drake, suddenly aware of being on the receiving end of far more angry glares than the fiend with the hostage, noticeably deflated, and fell silent.
Squeaks turned to D'Gal, suspicion etched in his features. "I'm listening."
D'Gal grinned darkly. "Glad to see a cooler head prevail," he remarked. "Though you'd take the shot if you thought you'd make it, wouldn't you now?"
The mouse swept his ears back, tail swishing angrily as his hands balled into fists at his side. Ferdia attempted to go limp, but her hollow bones failed to give her enough dead weight to put any more of a strain on her captor than active struggling.
"Let's think this through, shall we?" D'Gal purred, "There's no reason to continue this fight."
"Sure there is," Drake growled, "You'd lose. That's all the reason I need."
D'Gal rolled his eyes. "Oh, indeed. You'd shoot at me, I'd kill you, they'd shoot at me, and when all was said and done, the survivors would be marooned here for the rest of their lives."
"A lifetime in exile here is a small price to pay for ridding the universe of you," Drake hissed.
"Says you," Lita growled, stamping her foot. "The rest of us beg to differ."
"Damn straight!" Ivan nodded, "I've got an empire to tend to!"
"Ma would have a heart attack!" Ferdie cried. "Possibly two," he amended.
"Bobetta would miss me!" Bob worried, "And I'd have to live without *coffee*!"
"And we can't leave Newt in danger," Beak pointed out.
"I'm not about to make a deal with the Devil just because a handful of primitives can't bear the thought of never going home again!" Drake snarled.
"And I'm currently debating the merits of shooting you as a peace offering," Squeaks snapped, earning a hurt look from his old friend. "We need him alive, Drake, or Newt is as good as dead."
"That's right," the black-feathered duck grinned, "That scientist's probably the only one who can figure out where we are and how to get us back. Jesmynne's a bright girl; she'll know that. And if I'm not around when they find us..."
"...Newt won't live long enough to bring us back," Squeaks finished. D'Gal nodded. "So you're proposing a truce?"
"More of a ceasefire," the duck clarified. "I have no quarrel with you and your lot, Arcadia; if you stop firing on me, I shall do the same for you."
"And Dumas," the mouse stated.
D'Gal inclined his head in a half-bow. "If those are your terms."
Squeaks considered his options. "No killing," he stated.
"No killing," D'Gal nodded.
"And no maiming." Ferdia added, glaring up at him.
"And no maiming," the Black Knight agreed.
"Of anyone in the party, for the duration of our stay here," Squeaks continued.
"You have my word," D'Gal bowed as best he could while keeping hold of Ferdia.
"That's it??? His word?!?" Drake fumed, "Ace, you can't trust his word!"
"Oh? Can't you now, Arcadia?" the ebony duck queried, arching and eyebrow in the mouse's direction, "This truce benefits me as much as it benefits you. More, probably. I've no reason to betray it."
The mouse hesitated. "Here now, how about a gesture of good faith, eh?" D'Gal added, releasing his grip on Ferdia, who wasted no time in leaping into a somersault, putting several feet of distance between them while recovering her weapon.
As the bluebird rejoined her partner, D'Gal lifted his arms in a shrug. "So?" he asked, "What will it be? Shall we be civil, or would you prefer we start shooting at each other again?"
"I vote civil," Ferdie waved from the safety of the back of the group, "I've kinda grown addicted to living, and would like to continue doing so." Save Drake, the rest of the group nodded their assent.
Squeaks scowled, none too thrilled with being put on the spot. "Fine. Deal. But if I so much as see you *consider* going for a weapon..."
D'Gal shrugged. "Fair enough."
"Ace!" the Platyrian yelled, "You can't trust him! 'Civil' isn't in his vocabulary! We'll be dead the minute we drop our guard!"
"And that'll be the least of your worries," Ferdia growled, "if you don't shut up, Dumas." She glanced over at her partner, adding, "If Squeaks is willing to take him at his word, then I am too. D'Gal needs us alive too otherwise, Newt's likely to sabotage any rescue attempts."
"Indeed," D'Gal grinned, clasping his hands behind his back and slowly strolling up to the group, which subtly drew back. The two cops stood their ground, warily watching the approach; to his credit, while Drake glared angrily at the fiend, he did nothing else.
For the moment, the truce held, and an awkward silence descended upon the assembled group.
Jesmynne glanced furiously about the smoldering lab, pinning the frazzled scientist with a deadly glare. "Where are they?"
"I don't know."
"Where are they!?" she demanded.
"I don't know!"
"How can you *not* *know*?!?"
"The machine was never meant to transport people across galaxies," Newt yelped, "Simply to create physical links between worlds! I never got the chance to test the transportation process, much less troubleshoot it! Between what you two did to it and the damage it sustained in the fight-"
"Find them! Bring them back!"
"I don't know if I-"
"Yes, you do!"
The bespectacled kiwi gulped. "I don't even know where to start looking!"
"Well, you're the genius!" the ebony beauty before him screeched, hauling him up by his lab coat lapels and slamming him into a convenient wall of shelves, "Figure it out!"
"...Um...er..." he stuttered.
"Now!" she screamed, heaving him at the still-smoldering inter-dimensional transport device.
Newt attempted to recoup some small amount of his professional dignity. "I think better when my life's not being threatened, you know," he coughed, brushing bits of glass off his ruined lab coat.
"And I act nicer when my Charles isn't in danger," the duck before him seethed, smiling menacingly, "Now MOVE!"
| Onwards to Part 2 |