Twin Cities, Gemini
“Curse the Organization for stealing my wallet. Now I can’t get the sustenance I need to truly get to the bottom of their nefarious deeds.”
They were standing outside a cafe. It was dark out and the light from the café window was warm.
Jericho stared at Talib before pulling out a handful of common currency from his uniform pocket. He extended his hand out to Talib, who reached out his in confused correspondence. Jericho dropped the common-coins into his partner’s hands.
Talib startled and pushed the money back. “My friend, I was merely—”
Jericho pushed it back toward Talib. “Is it not customary to do this for colleagues?”
A minute later, and they were sitting at a small table inside the café. Talib had ordered them both black coffee. He had asked for them to be served in paper cups and claimed that styrofoam was laden with a chemical designed to control the masses. The barista, who was already vocally miffed about having to take common-coin instead of Geminian Cens, glared at them as she brought their drinks.
“How does it taste?”
“Like dirt,” Jericho replied, moving his suitcase on the floor to the side and out of the way of the barista.
Talib nodded thoughtfully. He took a sip of his drink and jerked away with a yelp. “Hot!”
“This does not seem relevant to… ” Jericho began. After he received an odd look in turn, he amended: “Would you like me to ask the barista for a glass of ice?”
“No, no, I will live through this.” Talib blew on the surface of the liquid before taking another tentative sip. He gave a nod of approval before pulling out a small journal from his front pocket. He flipped through it before speaking: “So we have an abandoned warehouse occupied by what I reckon are orphaned children. And an apparent ELPIS sect targeting them.”
“They were not ELPIS,” Jericho interjected.
“Right,” Talib agreed. “That much was clear from the reports of their vitae color. Most likely, they were hired hands. And—” He paused, reaching into his pocket again. He pulled out a yellow sheet of paper that had been folded into the shape of a butterfly. “I planted one of these on one of the Foxmans during our meeting and overheard that they were preparing an infiltration operation at the warehouse. The hired fake ELPIS fits into the equation somewhere. With the way they were executed, perhaps it’s a matter of internal betrayal. But it’s still an internal affair.” He took a moment to catch his breath and leaned back in his chair. He stared at the ceiling with a frown. “Those children…” He pinched the bridge of his nose.
Talib seemed to have lost the exuberance he’d shown earlier. There was a chance that Talib’s conversation with Cadence Morello had something to do with it. Jericho paused at the thought. Talib’s conversation with Cadence—how did he know about that? Most likely the same way he knew about the warehouse.
“I have to ask—how did you know about the warehouse?”
“You called it intuition,” Jericho replied.
“I did.” Talib stroked his non-existent beard. “With that sort of intuition, perhaps you will be the one to finally bring down the Organization.” He folded away the origami and his journal back into his pocket. “But first thing’s first. Since the warehouse seems out of our jurisdiction, I say we head to the docks we were going to investigate prior to our warehouse detour.”
“The ELPIS members inside the warehouse were fakes,” Jericho said. “But that doesn’t mean that ELPIS is not involved.” After receiving an arched brow, he clarified, “As you said. Intuition.”
Talib leaned forward, his expression softening. “Yes, but if we suspect ELPIS involvement, we should report it to the ELPIS Department. We’re not equipped to handle them. We should focus on our Leona case. I understand you’re concerned about the children as well, but that is not our jurisdiction. The best we can do is send in a report and see if anything comes of it.”
“This is not about the children,” Jericho clarified with a slight tilt of his head. “This is about ELPIS.”
Talib froze before regarding him. “It seems as if you have quite the fixation on ELPIS.”
“Yes, I would like to work for the ELPIS Department.”
“I see. How gusty. Have you applied?”
Talib choked on his drink and cleared his throat. “I see. Well, now I’m curious. Despite the numerous roadblocks the Organization has put in your way, you seem to be very steadfast at your goal. May I ask exactly what is behind your remarkable determination?”
“They need to be exterminated.”
“Completely exterminated,” Jericho clarified. After a pause, he added, “Hope. In the original Ophiuchian language. Before the War ended. That’s what it means.”
“Excuse me?” Talib scratched his hair beneath his hat. “Hope?”
“That is what the world ‘elpis’ means,” Jericho answered. “What ELPIS thinks they are… it’s that. Pure white hope.”
“White…” Talib folded his hands. “Yes… I’d heard rumors about it. About how they are somehow able to bleach out the color of their vitae.” He shivered. “To purge the color of your vitae—that’s akin to erasing the color of your soul, don’t you agree? I didn’t believe it until I encountered my first ELPIS member. I can’t imagine what that must feel like.”
“They trick people.” Jericho stared into his reflection in the coffee cup. “Convince people they are the only hope left. Desperation to preserve the last hope. ‘If I do this, then everything will be okay. If I don’t do this, there won’t be any hope left.’ That hope. Desperation to do anything. Self-justification.” He looked up from his cup. “False hope. The cause of war and suffering. If ELPIS is eliminated, false hope will be eliminated. No more war and suffering. Peace.”
Talib remained silent for a long while before he asked, “Do you really believe eliminating ELPIS will lead to peace?”
Jericho met his eyes. A strange question. “Of course. It’s why I joined Ophiuchus.”
* * *
“As much as I trust your intuition, I think it’s best if we check out the docks first. Many things come in and out from Pollux Bay. Perhaps even people.”
“We go back to the warehouse afterwards?”
A sigh. “If you really believe there are leads to Leona there.”
They had left the café fifteen minutes ago for the long walk to the bay. The intercity trams were still closed at this time, and there were very few v-ehicles dotting the road. Getting a ride would be extremely difficult, so they traveled on foot. The cobblestone walkways were slick from the drizzle half an hour earlier, and Jericho had already had to catch Talib from slipping on the walkway five times. Each time ended with Talib declaring that the Organization had set traps for them.
A series of metallic bangs from an alleyway to his left caught his attention. He stopped short and turned toward the sound, ignoring Talib as the man ranted about how the State Conducting Exam was actually some ‘diabolical’ test to track Conductors.
The bangs continued, and Jericho stepped into the mouth of the alley—
Bad idea. Bad idea. Not a good gamble, especially in this city.
—and continued forward.
It took a second for his eyes to adjust to the darkness away from the lit streets, and he could barely make out the dead-end of the alley and the dumpster that occupied its left wall. A body was just emerging from the trash bin. Small. Short. Something was cradled in its arms. Food.
He took another step forward quietly. And then another—
—right into a puddle. The splash that followed caused whoever was huddled in the darkness to freeze. It was too dark to see any semblance of color. Only shades of black and white. But Jericho could still make out the features of the girl who stood in front of him. Nothing about her stood out to him except—
A splotch of paler skin took up half of her face. It resembled the shape of a butterfly.
Jericho felt something click in his head, and he advanced toward her. “You—”
The girl’s eyes hardened, and she bared her teeth at him. She glanced over her shoulder and seemed to take note of the dead-end before she let out a snarl and dashed toward him.
Intimidation as a distraction in order to escape. Concealed weapon. Immobilizing her before she reaches that point would be the best option.
The thought came suddenly, but the thoughts had never failed him before.
Gripping his suitcase, Jericho swung his leg out and caught the girl in the stomach with his knee. She let out a wheezing gasp as something clattered onto the floor beneath her. A shard of glass wrapped with cloth at one end. A makeshift knife.
Before she could even make for it again, Jericho kicked the object to the side while reaching forward and grabbing the girl by the wrist. He held her up a couple centimeters above the ground watching as she kicked her feet.
“You were there. At the warehouse,” Jericho stated as he pulled the girl closer. “Why? What do you have to do with ELPIS?” There was a slight throb at his temple, and he found himself asking after a pause, “Why are you attacking the Foxmans and the Romanos?”
The girl’s eyes widened in the darkness, but she said nothing and continued to squirm in his hold. He tightened his grip.
She spat something in what seemed to be Geminian.
“My Geminian is rusty,” he said in Common. “I’m not from around these parts. I’m from Ophiuchus. Do you know Common?”
The girl ceased her struggling. “O-Ophiuchus? You are peacekeeper then?” Broken Common.
“Yes,” Jericho supplied. “What do you have to do with ELPIS?”
“Nothing!” the girl shouted. “Nothing! Romano and Foxmans! Their fault! Help us—you must! Peacekeeper!”
He noticed the tears streaming from her eyes. “Am I hurting you?”
“Yes!” she hissed.
“I’m sorry,” he said, releasing her from his grasp. She stumbled to the ground, but he reached out to stop her from falling. “Don’t run away, or I’ll catch you again.” He paused thinking before he added, “Without hurting you.”
The girl gave him an odd look as she wiped the tears away from her eyes. She rubbed her wrists with an almost glare but nodded.
It was Talib, running toward them, waving wildly. When he reached them, he bent over, heaving.
“Partner, you really need to stop disappearing without telling me!” Talib gasped. It took him another minute to catch his breath, and Jericho and the girl watched him in silence. Only after he collected himself did he notice the girl. “Oh, and who might you be?”
“She was at the warehouse. She was one of the children involved. I recognize her. She knows something. Intuition.”
Talib lifted the brim of his hat as he crouched down to the girl’s eye level. He extended a hand to her. “I am Agent Talib al-Jarrah of Ophiuchus at your service. And what would your name be?”
“Matilda,” she said, lifting her chin and accepting the gesture. She then squinted at him in the darkness, before she whispered, “Ophiuchian peacekeeper—you, really?”
“Yes, yes, would you like to see my ID?” Talib pulled out his badge from his coat pocket and handed it over to her before she answered.
Matilda took into her hands almost reverently. Like all other Ophiuchian ID badges, it came in a bifold. The bottom half contained the usual State Conducting License watermarked with the Ophiuchian symbol while the top half held a circular silver badge. The badge had an image of a snake with wings wrapped around the continent of Signum. She ran her fingers over the plastic that covered the license and then the badge.
“Now, I have a couple of questions for you and after I ask them you can ask your questions, all right?”
Matilda nodded as she handed back the badge.
“You were at the warehouse a couple of hours ago, were you not?”
The girl nodded.
“Are you injured?”
The girl shook her head.
“Good. Now, do you know why you were attacked by the people in white cloaks?”
Matilda shook her head with a tremble. “We do nothing to ELPIS, but…”
“They were not actually ELPIS members, Matilda,” Talib said slowly. “It seems as if they were impersonators.”
Her eyes widened, and the fear was replaced with an emotion Jericho could identify immediately. Rage. Her fists balled, her teeth bared. “Them! Romano! Foxmans—”
Talib raised his hand placatingly before he put a hand on her shoulder and said slowly, “Listen to me, Matilda. It is taken as a serious offense to promote anything related to ELPIS. Even simply masquerading as them. Position, power, and status cannot protect you when you commit this offense. Even if you are a footstone of this city, you will be taken into our custody. Do you understand, Matilda?”
Matilda glanced at Jericho for a moment before nodding firmly.
“Good, so will you answer my questions honestly?”
Matilda nodded again.
“You are behind the recent attacks on buildings that are owned by the Foxmans?”
Matilda hesitated and then nodded.
“Do you understand that you have hurt innocent people in your act?”
Matilda lowered her gaze.
“You do realize that I will have to report your confession to local authorities, correct?”
Matilda bit her lip, eyes widening.
“At least that’s what I’m supposed to do,” Talib continued. “But at the moment, I can’t help but think that this whole murderous revenge plot is not something that someone as sweet as you could come up with. Why did you do it? No. What made you act in the first place? What was the catalyst?”
Matilda’s brows furrowed. “Don’t know ‘catalyst,’ but her. She tourist. Pretty. Help save from thieves. She brave. She told us pride. ‘Don’t let our pride and family pride be trampled on.’ Lose pride, lose everything. ‘Fight back,’ she said. Not ant. Yes.”
“She?” Talib pressed. “Someone saved you and then told you to pick a fight? Well, that’s rather convoluted.” He rubbed his chin. “Did you happen to catch her name?”
“Never forget. Leona.”
Jericho straightened himself, but Talib remained impassive.
“What did she look like?”
Matilda flushed as she looked to the side. “Pretty. Gold hair and eyes. Strong. Like magazine girls.”
Talib pulled out his journal and jotted down details before he nodded firmly and stood. He put the journal back into his pocket and pulled out something else. A key. “This here is a key to our suite. The Abaccio Hotel on Decoco Street. You know it, yes?”
The girl nodded slowly.
“My friend and I probably won’t be heading back to our hotel tonight if this checks out, but we rented it out for the entire week. Even if this doesn’t turn out to be anything, my friend here doesn’t sleep, you see. It would be a waste if the room just sits like that so…” Talib dropped the keys into her hands. “You may use it tonight. These streets aren’t good to be running around late at night.”
The girl stared at him.
“I know you probably don’t trust me, but—”
“Yes, trust!” Matilda urged, wrapping her fingers around the key. “You Ophiuchians. Peacekeepers. Help us. The one, Leona Ophiuchian. Help us. Encourage us. Trust.”
Talib half-sighed, half-chuckled, “Right, right. Run along now. Leave this to us.”
Jericho waited for the girl to disappear from the alley before he addressed Talib: “You are good with children. You must like them.”
Talib wrinkled his nose and shook his head. “Oh, saint’s no! I despise them. In fact, I break out in hives every time I come near one.”
“Yes, in fact, I believe that the Organization—”
“I see what you mean now.”
“I see what you mean about the children.”
* * *
They arrived at the bay ten minutes later. The slippery cobblestone streets had become gradually replaced with cement walkways as they drew nearer to their destination.
It was foggier here than at the warehouses, and Jericho could see less than a meter in front of him. The sun was just beginning to rise on the horizon and the heat it brought with it saturated the air with a heavy humidity.
“I’ll go this way.” Jericho pointed to the left.
Talib stared. “Splitting up? That never ends well. Besides, I could use my conductor to look around instead of wandering around like geese.”
“I don’t like sitting around,” Jericho replied. “We can cover more ground. All reconnaissance plans need to take into account not only persons, but also location.” Jericho pointed to the fog.
Talib scratched his nonexistent beard again before nodding. “All right, if you put it that way, I’ll trust your intuition.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a slip of white origami paper which proceeded to fold itself into a frog. The paper frog shivered to life before hopping right out of Talib’s palm into the fold of Jericho’s uniform. “I didn’t imbue it with much, but it should be enough for communication. If you find something or come across trouble, just give it a tear, and I’ll come to you.”
“What about you?”
Talib looked somewhat surprised but then straightened his trench coat and hat. “Well, I will send my own messenger if anything occurs, but that frog there will unfold if anything happens to me.”
“How will I know where you are if something happens to you?”
“I will yell very loudly. I did win the National Screaming Competition of ’28.”
Something tickled Jericho’s chest.
Talib stared at him.
“I’ll take the west side,” Jericho said.
* * *
As it turned out, Jericho had chosen the direction where the cargo holding facility was located. He had known this, of course. The entire layout of the bay was familiar to him. Somehow.
Metal cargo containers surrounded the main buildings of the facility, and stacks of wooden crates lined the edges of docks extending out into the mist.
Strange. The lights to the buildings were off. It was silent. No gulls.
Jericho tightened his grip on his suitcase and approached the closest building. He peered into the dark of the windows and inspected within. Nothing out of the ordinary. At least, he didn’t think so. He wasn’t sure what constituted as normal for a dock building.
Quickly, Jericho turned on his heels and extended his hand. “Hello, are you—please stop screaming, sir.”
The man who approached Jericho from behind while he had been inspecting the building swallowed his yelp and wiped his sweaty hands on his overalls. His overalls were damp, and his hair was matted down. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows. He had dark blonde hair and hazel eyes—eyes that darted to Jericho’s Ophiuchian sash and then to his still-extended hand.
“I am Jericho. I am from Ophiuchus.” Jericho flashed his badge with his free hand. “I would like to ask you some questions. Do you speak Common?”
The man hesitated for a moment before accepting Jericho’s gesture. Uncalloused hands.
“Well, I can’t say no to an Ophiuchian Agent,” the man answered in Common, quickly yanking his hand away. “What can I do for you, sir?”
“I’m here investigating the disappearance of another agent. Leona.”
The man glanced at the building. “Well, do you have a picture? A lot of people come around these parts.”
“I don’t see any people at the moment. And no, I don’t have a photo. But that’s not needed. You would be able to identify her by her uniform.”
“Well, if you put it that way.” The man wrinkled his nose, causing Jericho to pause.
“I’m sorry if I came off as rude,” Jericho amended. “This is a serious case.”
Now the man looked interested. “You a newbie or something?”
Jericho thought on it. “Or something.” After thinking on it some more, he placed a hand on the man’s shoulder and tried, “Anything will be appreciated.” Realizing that the man was uncomfortable with the gesture, Jericho removed his hand. He wondered why Talib had done it more effectively. “We believe this may involve ELPIS, so time is important.”
“ELPIS, huh? That does sound pretty serious.” He then rubbed his chin. “Now that you mention it, I think my friend mentioned seeing someone odd.”
“Yeah, he’s inside right now on break.” The man nodded toward the building. “I can take you to him.”
Jericho stared at him, and he seemed to squirm under his gaze. Finally, Jericho nodded.
The man dug into his overalls and pulled out a ring of keys. He fumbled around for a couple of seconds before selecting a rusty key and fitting it into the keyhole of the door to Jericho’s right. With a grunt, he pushed the steel door open and jerked his head toward the interior.
Jericho followed the man inside and watched the faint sliver of light cast by the open door behind him thin into nothing. Complete blackness. The sound of footsteps. A soft click.
The v-lights flickered on. It didn’t take long for Jericho’s eyes to adjust, and he studied the interior. It was large and mostly empty with just several bare metal shelves lining the wall and a handful of steel beams rolling along the floor.
“Where is your friend?” Jericho asked as he turned around.
A flash of silver, and then a shout. “Right here!”
A soft thud echoed.
The man stumbled backward, panting heavily.
Jericho spun around his suitcase which he had lifted to his chest moments before. He inspected the knife that was now embedded a couple of centimeters deep into its surface. He looked at the man.
“Why did you do that?”
The man was visibly sweating now, but his fists were clenched. His eyes were hard.
“I may have to bring you in for further questioning,” said Jericho, removing the knife from his suitcase. “Attacking an Ophiuchian Agent is a crime.”
“All you Ophiuchians are so damn arrogant. You and that woman. Attacking an Ophiuchian Agent? Attacking anyone should be a crime! But you only give a damn about what you think is right.”
Jericho stared at him. “You seem angry.” He paused. “That woman?”
“You’re damned right I’m angry!” The man reached into his back pocket and glowered. A conductor, probably, Jericho deduced. “Using those damned conductors on us and saying that it’s for peace when we can’t even defend ourselves! Forcing us to use these things to protect ourselves and then throwing us behind bars for it!”
“Are you a licensed Conductor? If you use any more force against me, I will have to retaliate—”
Letting out a blood-curdling scream, the man pulled out his conductor and ignited it in a flash of bright light. He swung it wildly across Jericho’s chest, and Jericho felt the heat radiate even as he ducked backward. Jericho was forced to push him back with a well-aimed kick to the chest. The man stumbled back, gripping his conductor as if it were a lifeline.
A Projector. Melee-type. Sword. Long sword? Vitae color: green. Not well-trained. Illegal conducting. Jericho stated his observations to the man calmly.
“Untrained?” The man spat. “I’ll show you just how much they taught me.”
The man flicked his wrist. For a second, there was nothing. But then slowly, from where the vitae-formed blade met the tip of its conductor, it began to pale. From a deep blue to a sky blue to—
There was a ringing in Jericho’s ears as the white bled into his vision. White. White. White. The world twisted, taking on a stark monochrome gradient.
There was a deafening crack followed by a splatter of red. The man collapsed to the ground. He was probably screaming. His cheek was leaking red. The liquid on the corner of Jericho’s suitcase dripped the same color.
Good. Good. Good. Anything but that white.
“That color. This changes things.”
The man scrambled back, reached for his conductor. It ignited again. A blinding white.
No. No. No.
It wasn’t enough.
Jericho lifted up his suitcase and brought it down. Lifted it up, brought it down. He did it again. And again. And again. And again. Die. Die. Die
The conductor rolled out of the man’s hands, losing its blade of white vitae as it left its wielder’s hands. The white was gone. There was only red and black.
Abruptly, color returned to Jericho’s world. The gray bricks of the building. The yellow of the flickering v-lights. The off-white of his Ophiuchian armband.
The ringing in his ears faded.
Jericho paused and set down his suitcase. He reached for what he believed was the man’s throat and checked his pulse. Still alive. Unconscious. He grabbed the man’s face in his hands and shook it hard. The man stirred.
The man whimpered. “Please…I… missing agent… tell…know…”
“I see.” Jericho glanced at him before he rose to a stand. “Their training was too much for you, after all. Thank you for your cooperation. But after you tell me, you still have to die.”
An inhuman sound escaped from the man’s throat.
“There can be no hope for peace as long as even a hint of ELPIS remains,” Jericho informed him. “Even if you turn away from them, a part of it still remains in you. And you need to be eliminated—”
Jericho jumped backward just as a ray of light hurtled past where his head had been. That color—
Jericho righted himself. A man and a woman stood there, wearing overalls similar to the man who now lay motionless on the ground. The man held a handgun conductor still billowing out smoke. In the woman’s hands was a close-ranged conductor which spilled out a vitae whip that flickered from a pale yellow to a painful white.
But the thought was drowned out by a familiar high-pitched ringing that resounded in his ears. The world spun, taking on a monochrome hue once more.
Black and white. White. Sounds. Shouts. Movements. Blurs. Die. Die. Die.
People like this didn’t deserve to live.
When the world came into focus, the white glows of the man’s and the woman’s conductors were gone. Both were laying in a puddle of red. Jericho’s suitcase was in his hands. It was no longer black.
The world remained monochrome with splashes of red. The ringing still resounded.
Not enough, Jericho thought, watching the red spill in-between his boots. Not enough.
“Beating down our new recruits with just a suitcase. I can’t tell whether you’re crazy or talented. You’re scarier than that woman. Haven’t you heard about love and peace?”
“O-Omicron,” the woman on the floor sputtered.
Jericho turned his head. For a moment, he caught a glimpse of a pale face. A pale face marked on the left half by a tattoo inked in white. From this distance it looked like the letter S with a line drawn straight down the center of it. But Jericho knew that the symbol was not as simple as that. He knew even from this distance that the S was in fact an intricately designed snake and that the line was in fact made of letters spelling out a word. ελπίς. ELPIS.
He had seen that tattoo for the first time on that hot summer day. The sun had been beating down on the sand, parching it and forcing it to soak up all liquids—including the blood. The heat had even dried up his tears before they hit the ground. He supposed that was why the woman in the white cloak had reached out to him kindly. Perhaps she had thought that he had been so strong that he didn’t cry. As she had cupped his cheek in her hands, he had seen it. The tattoo that glowed white on the right half of her face. The same tattoo worn by all the people in the white cloaks who stood over the corpses of his neighbors and his—
It was the same. The same.
Jericho’s monochrome world fragmented. The black in the world thinned out into nothing. There was only white.
His head buzzed. His chest seized as his heart thundered. There was the taste of iron in his mouth. He felt his grip tighten on the handle of his suitcase. He needed to do it. It was time. If he didn’t do it, every part of him would explode—implode—with this feeling.
Jericho clicked open his suitcase, and a silver, thin cylinder no longer than his palm fell into his hand. He gripped it tightly in his hands. Finally. Finally. Finally. After all these years finally. One of them was right in front of him.
“I forgot to bring my shovel,” Jericho murmured absentmindedly to himself.
The tattooed figure whistled in response.
The door to the warehouse was suddenly thrown open, and a lone figure stumbled in.
It was Talib. Why was he here?
There was a high-pitched whine followed by a squelching sound. A splatter of red.
But Talib was fine. Although he looked horrified.
A wetness emanating from Jericho’s abdomen and shoulder caught his attention. He brought a hand to the area. Wet. Red. How?
Jericho turned his head around and saw it. Twin metal poles covered in faint, pure white light were sticking out of his back. The poles quivered before moving forward, guided by an unknown force.
The pain was burning hot like someone was pouring hot embers down his throat.
Jericho forced himself to glare up at the tattooed figure who stood there with a metallic gloved hand lazily extended outward. The poles followed the pull and continued their course, ripping themselves right through and out of Jericho’s abdomen and shoulder and into the figure’s waiting hands.
From behind. A Manipulator.
“Conductors are people who are licensed to kill,” the figure said. “And yet the founders of your peacekeeping organization were those kinds of people. It’s scary to think that you peacekeepers think you’re the epitome of just with that kind of background.”
But Jericho wasn’t listening because he was already rushing toward the figure while his conductor sparked to life in his hand. There was a flash of light, and the figure shouted in alarm. With a flick of their gloved hand, they brought the twin poles back up to defend themselves.
There was a blinding burst of white against white.
And then there was only black. A void. Emptiness. A place where time and space did not exist. But then—
“Enough already! You’re all going to listen to me. Here. Now.”