today i made an escape.
an escape far far away.
not once did i look back
because i didn't want to stay.
but something creeps behind me
something fearfully blue.
the further i ran, the bigger it grew.
its familiar, sad to say,
but i guess its really true
that you can't run away
from that something big and blue.
she fell in love
with a perfect frame.
adored by all till
a monster she became.
broken and cursed,
once a beautiful allure.
head hissing with serpents,
a princess no more.
she shouldn’t have
let her heart decide.
from a foolish desire
came a gruesome bride.
look straight in her eyes
and then you’ll see
her longing and grief
tangled, our souls, our hearts
Write us in red lines;
bold, vibrant and sharp but
make it soft where our hand folds together, make it soft where I kiss your cheek
and where I laugh and you laugh harder and louder and bright and when the stars are
dancing for us and I’m trying to copy them (and failing) and you’re cheering for me on either way and the warmth is overflowing and our cheeks are flushed and the red is strongest and brightest and sharpest here but still somehow
the most gentle
Alliance ch 23: Pieces of a Puzzle
Aalee Sirvette clung to the last of her courage, chin held level as she pretended to stare out a wall of windows in an unfinished room high in the new Aylata Tower. In ten years of life, she had never been more offended or terrified. It was an odd mix, and she didn’t like it.
At least it wasn’t the only stench assaulting her Mental senses.
“You worry,” she told her kidnapper. When he whirled toward her, she fought not to turn in kind, but she couldn’t hold back a small hop, hands grasping one another in front of her chest. “No offense. I was only stating facts.”
“Keep your under-researched facts to yourself.” He grunted and rolled his attention back to scrolling through his datapad.
He was scared, though. Aalee’s Mental senses were as keen as a mykuro’s eyes, and she was rarely wrong once she had latched onto a particular emotion, even if she didn’t know what had caused it.
Perhaps the meanie had a secret. The Second Ravi had ordered her kidnapping, and he was known to be an excellent discoverer of things one wished to keep buried.
Now the same shade of fear flashed through Aalee, and she ran through her own secrets. She had a crush on Xlack Ekymé, but everyone already knew that.
About two years ago when she had, against her mother’s wishes, practiced applying mascara, she had found her mother’s stash of sweets and still regularly snitched some. Surely, a Ravi illegally turned emperor had more important things to worry about.
Once on vacation, her friend had convinced her to sneak from their rooms at midnight and meet in a glorious game of war in the training room. They had great fun with the mock weapons, or what they thought were mock weapons. She had believed the kanaber’s blade holographic, but it had sliced a wide gash in her friend’s arm. They blamed it on the pet.
For the protection of the High Defender’s daughter, the pet had spent the rest of her week-long visit locked in a crate. Despite the inevitable scar, her friend had forgiven her. The pet had not.
“What’s that look for?” her kidnapper asked, and she let her face fall into her hands, fingers smoothing her eyebrows before curling in front of her mouth. Fear made it easy to tear up, and she usually got her way when tears were involved.
“Let me go, please. I won’t be any use to you.”
“Useful can be defined in many ways.”
Whoever said Yakru Aylata were the most handsome clearly didn’t have this Lorm Spycykle in mind. His broad features and sunken eyes added to the cruel set of his mouth. So did his wild hair, dull as dry charcoal and jagged as if he had tried to cut it with his own Ier.
Would someone’s Ier cut their own hair? It wouldn’t cut their skin, but she wasn’t sure about their hair.
The smallest of smiles cracked his face, and a dangerous glint danced in his leaden gaze. He stepped toward her.
She scrambled back, but there wasn’t much room on this stage-like platform in the corner, and a still-draped desk and chairs took up most of the space. What kind of Defender did he think he was, threatening a Lady? Why did he have so many legion symbols scribbled all over his jacket and no cape defining his exact rank? Her father would not have approved.
Her shoulders hit something warm, and he was behind her when she was certain he had been across the platform before she blinked. She reversed, eyes wide and determined not to close again. “You’re insane!”
“I’m offended, Lady Aalee. My inhibitions might seem different, but I’m far from insane.” His Ier unfolded in his hand, dull tendrils appearing more solid than luminous against the rays that streamed through the window.
She drew a deep breath, but the scream she intended would not come. Fingers wrapped her throat, stiff as stone and fever warm, but no one stood near her. She allowed her eyes to close, and the Ier’s static hum filled her ears. It sounded so close. Its heat picked at her arms.
She backpedaled, and the invisible hand released her into a topple. The carpet had yet to be set, rolled and piled in a corner, and the metal floor rang hard and hollow.
Terror was venom edging her voice. “My father will come for me!”
“I am more interested in your oldest brother, Lady Aalee.”
She opened her eyes, and from this vantage point on the floor of the raised corner, her face was level with that of Revel K’alaqk, Second Ravi and disputed ruler of this empire. He knelt on the stairs. Spycykle had completely vanished, Ier and all.
“Ravi Sirvette hides from the world, but I intend to find him.”
“He won’t come for me.” The scene blurred behind a veil of tears. “He hates me.”
“Why do you believe so?” Ravi K’alaqk seemed so kind, brows drooping beneath the weight of genuine concern. Why? He had ordered her abduction. He controlled Spycykle’s meanness. This illegal emperor was not as she had pictured, and he was very handsome.
“He told me he hated me. He whispered it, suggested it.” She gathered herself and sat, legs tucked beneath her like a proper lady. “I doubt he’s really my brother. He looks nothing like us, and I was only repeating Father. If he’s a Ravi so outranking the rest of us, then he should at least have chrysolite eyes, like you and the other Ravi.”
“Do you question his heritage or his Ravi status?”
She nervously collected her hair over one shoulder and combed her fingers through its coarse strands. A stubborn curve made every layer painfully apparent, just like a filthy rebalo’s, another brother claimed. Ject was the only one of seven children to inherit their mother’s dark hair. They had no idea where the dark eyes came from. Her five other brothers were Defenders or Messengers. There were no Ravi in the Sirvette family line. So, either he wasn’t one or he wasn’t really her father’s son.
Everyone thought that. Just, no one but her had been silly enough to say it where Ject could hear.
She wiped her eyes. “He told me if I was going to have such warped opinions, I wouldn’t be allowed to keep his company. That was a year ago, the last I spoke to him. Now he’s dead. Father still searches, and we haven’t had an Honoring, but we know he is.”
Ravi K’alaqk rose. “Lady Aalee, you have yet to ask an important question.”
“I’m not supposed to ask questions.”
He reached the top of the stairs, head shaking, and his piked bangs waved with the movement. “One does not learn what one does not ask. So, what question is foremost in your mind?”
She sniffed. “Why am I here?”
“The answer to that depends on you.” He extended a hand, but she didn’t accept it. No matter how the metal floor’s seam dug into her knees, she wouldn’t give in to half answers like that.
He turned. “Spycykle, you seem ready to burst. You have something to report?”
Aalee swiveled in the same direction and squinted at the furthest, darkest corner.
Barely visible, the deranged Defender lounged atop crates of construction supplies. “Threnian Station is one of the best guarded places in the empire. It wasn’t easy to get in.”
Ravi K’laqk sighed. “Do not make this a long-winded point.”
“I only slipped in because of a distraction. A pair of foreign Oha had a run-in with those useless auto-patrollers.”
“They outmatched the auto-patrollers, I presume?”
Despite a veneer of patience, amusement glistened in the air. This shouldn’t have been amusing news. The auto-patrollers were supposed to protect Napix and Zalerit. The media praised them almost as often as it reminded everyone that without Aylata, monsters from Tradafin would invade and eat everyone.
Spycykle snorted. “They landed on Zalerit.”
Ravi K’alaqk tapped the stiff, square Ier sheath on his right hip. How odd a thing to see attached to an emperor’s belt. She supposed it reminded everyone that he was also Aylata.
“How do you know that’s where he went?” Spycykle demanded, but Ravi K’alaqk already pivoted back to Aalee.
“Would you like to prove yourself worthy of your Sereh title?”
She gulped. “Not by dying.”
“Of course not.” His amusement glistened brighter, like rain kissed by the daystar’s strongest rays. “I have a task for you.”
“But I’m not on your side.”
“Think not about on whose side you stand or whose words you heed. Instead, think of how you want this empire to be and what you can do to make it happen.”
She scrunched up her face. “I’m just a little girl. I can’t make that big of a difference.”
“Change starts small. Big change is smaller changes fitting together like the pieces of a puzzle.”
That sounded very wise, and she gave it a slow nod. “Can I ask another question?”
She lowered her hands to her lap, fingers curling beneath the hem of her shorts. “The esteemed, highly honorable, most recent Ravida, he was your father.” She added extra favorable adjectives for good measure. Her mother often warned it was a grievous offense to not show proper respect for the dead. “Did you cry for his loss?”
“Yes.” Truth. Even if her Mind Talents hadn’t said so, a soft mist glazed his eyes.
She huffed. “Aylata are not supposed to cry, and if they fail in that, they are not supposed to admit it.” Or so her mother always said.
The seriousness in his gaze had the scent of an oven full of pies, all about to burn. “Yet, you would have thought ill of me had I said no.”
That was true, too, though she wouldn’t have guessed so before he said it. If she truly believed in her mother’s rules, it should have been the other way around. Yet, the image of a stoic son did not make her think him honorable. It marked him as either distant or deceitful, flawed either way. Whereas the thought of tears drew up her sympathy.
“I do not speak lies, Lady Aalee. I shed tears for the loss of my father, though I barely knew him. Perhaps because of that fact.”
This time when he offered her his hand, she took it and let him pull her to her feet. “What can I do?”
He turned back to Spycykle. “Go to Imura District on Zalerit. Bring me Ekymé. Twi, too. Kill the others. Take Lady Aalee with you.”
“What was that last part?” He slid off the crates, and Aalee nearly echoed him, but Ravi K’alaqk faced her again.
“Lady Aalee, separate Xlack Ekymé from his group.”
She returned her hands to her hair, eyes on her toes. “You won’t hurt him, will you?”
He held up a finger. “Like your answer depended on you, that answer depends on him, but if you fail, Lady Aalee, he will be hurt. You can prevent that.”
She could save him? These others Xlack was with, were they somehow holding him hostage? Impossible. He was invincible. But so was Ject, and he had gotten blown up, probably.
If she saved Xlack Ekymé, he would have to recognize her, praise her. She rocked back and forth. Ravi K’alaqk might not be so bad, but Spycykle was a madman with the emperor’s blessing and a ship he’d stolen from the Tsira fleet.
Why did choices have to be so hard? Rare was the occasion where she decided for herself. Could she change that by choosing to obey one more time?
“Obedience is the lifeblood of society. On the battlefield, it’s the difference between sleeping in a bed or a grave.” Defender Nyoki paced in front of the row of trainees, each one standing straight, arms rigid at their sides. “So, if I order you to jump, Nine-One-Three-Two-Five-Eight-Three-Seven, what do you do?”
“Jump, Sir,” Trickshot replied.
Nyoki stopped in front of him, voice almost too low for Neezon in the back row to hear. “And when I tell you to stand absolutely still?”
“Stand still, Sir.”
“Explain, then, why you broke formation the moment my attention diverted.”
Neezon let out a slow breath. After demonstrating how to stand so still not even a Sensory Aylata could hear one’s heart, the Defender had left them in this blank room with the command to hold that motionless state until he returned. After eleven hours, most figured they had been forgotten. Some had sagged against the walls or sat, grumbling about their empty bellies. Trickshot had started a game of ‘who can punch Neezon the hardest.’
Trickshot lifted his chin. “You said we would learn to defeat a Watcher, but so far, you’ve only—”
He flew across the room and crumpled against the back wall. Defender Nyoki’s kick had been too swift for Neezon’s eyes, but his foot returned to the ground at a more reasonable pace.
“I said you would be transferred to my legion. What does that mean, Nine-One-Three-Two-Five-Eight-Three-Eight?”
To the right of Trickshot’s empty place, Scan saluted. “We obey you as if our lives depend on it whether we understand why or not, Sir.”
“No ‘as if.’ Your lives do depend on it.” Nyoki tucked his hands behind his back, dark gaze sliding over the group until it landed on Neezon. “You are sacrifices. Expendable. Designated acceptable loss. That is why they call you Unwanted.”
Neezon lowered his head in the barest of nods. The others were Unwanted born without permits, but he wasn’t. Even if the famine that had made those birth-restrictions necessary so many centuries ago had still been a concern, his family had the means to buy whatever they wanted, and they had wanted him.
Holding his side, Trickshot slowly got to his feet, voice strained. “Emperor Gera Kys knew every one of our names, even us trainees. He called us his right arm.”
“An arm must still obey the head. All of you sit except Trickshot and the nobleman’s boy.”
As the others complied, Trickshot limped back to his place, a grin attempting to hide his wince. “You do know our names, then.”
“Yet you deliberately omit mine,” Neezon added through a clenched jaw.
Nyoki tilted his head. “I assumed you did not want to be called after a mykuro’s rear.”
Heat flooded Neezon’s face, but before he could object, a door in the back wall slid open to admit a Messenger.
“Sir, I’m here to escort One-O-One-Two-Nine-Seven-Seven-Five-O-Three to heed the emperor’s summons.”
Nyoki’s charcoal eyes found Neezon again, narrowed on the line between laughter and question. “Does he need a babysitter?”
“The Tower’s still unfinished. We’d rather he didn’t wander into any construction zones.”
“Fair. Follow your guide, Mykuro Cheeks. I doubt these thick skulls will have progressed too much before you get back.”
That last sentence cut off any snickers, and a determined silence fell over the troop as Neezon walked out. His sore heels and stiff knees protested the Messenger’s hurried pace, but he locked his jaw and kept up. What irony to be in Aylata Tower but not as a noble guard. He and his friends had talked about it as a goal, picturing themselves in the fur-lined jackets of official service. He had thought it would be cool to be around so many Aylata all the time.
A tiny part of him still thought that.
Only once they had left the first corridor did the Messenger slow, spiked hair billowing as he looked back and forth a few times before choosing the path to the right.
“Are you sure you know where we’re going?” Neezon asked, fingers running along the inside of his itchy collar. If he failed to show before the emperor, they would track him down. He could rightly pin it on the Messenger, so why did the thought of following him to the wrong destination fill him with unease?
The Messenger flung his pale scarf over one shoulder. “Did the former emperor really know all their names?”
Neezon shrugged. “Seems impossible, but they say he had an infallible memory.”
“You didn’t meet him?” He stopped just long enough to throw Neezon a dubious glance. “Weren’t you a nobleman?”
The walkway spiraled up the edges of a wide rotunda. With the next door several dozen paces ahead, Neezon stepped alongside the Messenger, nose in the air. “I met the third prince and saw his older brothers.”
“What were they like?”
Left-handed and backward, and his gut had told him not to trust them any more than he trusted stinky cheese not to give him indigestion, but those weren’t things to say about the dead.
The Messenger stopped again, lips pursed as he nodded. His features had a feral, almost feline sharpness, skin fair, hair dark, and slim build slightly taller than Neezon. “Do you find it ironic that Ravida Sen Aznir’s ploy in creating the concept of Unwanted backfired on him?”
Neezon jumped through mental hoops, trying to recall how far back Ravida Aznir had been. Before Ravida Ski, who had been before Ravida K’alaqk.
“He didn’t create the Unwanted. Emperor Gera Kys did.”
The Messenger chuckled and shook his head in a way that seemed too familiar. “The Great Famine was his conspiracy, and he pressured Gera Kys’ predecessor into setting the strict regulations we know today. Those born without a permit back then were killed, though, even Aylata.”
Neezon had heard something like that, though when he had gone over this in school, he hadn’t thought any of it would ever matter to him. The details were fuzzy. “The Aylata of Tsira revolted when a newborn Menagerie was killed?”
“There can’t ever be two of them that have all the Aylata Talents, right? They fight until there’s only one. Ravida Aznir was a Menagerie, too.” Tsking, the Messenger darted through a door.
Neezon followed him into an even larger room with an unfinished floor. Scaffolding littered the space, and welding sparks flashed from every direction. “You’re saying he did all that just to kill that baby?”
The Messenger shrugged. “He quelled the revolt easily enough, labeling the Tradafin Empire as the bad guys. And while the Aylata were distracted, many Napix children were born in secret and raised with the identities of deceased relatives. There were enough of them to form an army, which is exactly what a very discerning Sereh suggested to a newly-crowned Emperor Gera Kys when he wanted to get rid of Ravida Aznir.”
“So, essentially, his conspiracy created the army that overthrew him.” Neezon liked the idea. It had a nice roundness to it. It was probably treason to be talking about this, though.
“Now one of the Ravida’s heirs has become emperor. Any comment on that?”
That would definitely veer into treasonous territory, but something in how the Messenger looked at him askance made Neezon feel his thoughts were on full display anyway.
He knew what was so familiar about this Messenger.
“Are you related to Crao?” he whispered.
The Messenger grinned. “Took you forever to recognize me.”
Neezon furrowed his brow. Though the two Aylata greatly resembled one another, they weren’t identical. He blinked, trying to reconcile the face here with the one from his memory, and the features in question snapped into focus. This was Crao, exactly the same as before: large eyes glistening with chrysolite, nose slanted to the right, perfect smile, narrow chin.
“I thought you died!”
Crao shushed him. “Such little confidence. Don’t underestimate Aylata if you want to live.” He glanced back and forth, then clapped a hand on Neezon’s shoulder. “Learn anything useful from Nyoki yet?”
“Just how to stand absolutely still.”
Crao’s face crumpled. “He thinks that’ll defeat a Watcher?”
Neezon nodded half-heartedly. Watchers were commanders, strategists, spies, and assassins. It would be awesome to defeat one, but having one for an enemy wouldn’t be a good idea.
“Have you ever fought a Watcher, Crao?”
His, “Yes,” came reluctantly, hand retreating to his side, but Neezon pressed on.
“How did you survive falling over the rail? What’s your Talent?”
All façade of friendliness vanished. “Be quiet, Neezon.”
Neezon crossed his arms and spoke louder. “Does it embarrass you?”
“I said quiet.”
His throat seized up. He could barely breathe, and even his stomp back to catch his balance refused to hit the floor with any force. He couldn’t make a sound.
He knew this feeling. Six months ago, Emperor K’alaqk had used a suggestion on him, and his limbs had become those of a puppet. Deeper than that, any choice other than obedience had flown to the darkest corners of his mind, compliance the only thing left to him.
“Mind Talents,” he mouthed.
An Ier’s endpoints flashed past his nose, ripping through air where Crao had been.
Hands on Neezon’s shoulders, the Messenger soared over him. He caught a glimpse of the Skaelao crest on the attacker’s collar before Crao shoved him aside. Neezon hit a column, hugged it to stay upright, and looked back as Crao fired a small shooter.
Atok Quanko dodged the shot, and his Ier’s chrome tendrils vaporized Crao’s weapon. The Messenger dove over a second swipe and pounced. Quanko spun around all his kicks, but Crao caught his arm, slid over his shoulder, and landed behind him.
Why would Watcher Quanko attack an innocent Messenger, and where was Crao’s Ier? Did this have anything to do with why Defender Nyoki was training them? Neezon wasn’t ready yet.
He wasn’t supposed to carry any weapons, but one transferred to the Unwanted could never be too careful. He pulled a mini-kanaber from his boot.
Watcher Quanko’s eyes narrowed in a grimace. “Still.”
Right, it was safer to be still. The Watcher would handle it. If he moved, it would hurt.
Somewhere deep inside, another part of him screamed, but he couldn’t understand it.
Quanko’s Ier twisted behind him in pursuit of Crao. What a beautiful dance. A bright flash. A net ran between Crao’s gloved hands, burning even brighter than the Ier. What was that? How could such a pretty thing exist without him having heard of it?
The web of energy draped across Quanko’s shoulders like a cape and seeped into him. His grimace twisted, then faded, eyes squeezing closed as he dropped.
The screaming in Neezon’s head grew louder. He couldn’t stand here. He had to move, to help his friend. Turn on the kanaber and—
Chrysolite tendrils ripped through Crao’s chest and slashed down, exiting his side. He fell alongside the downed Watcher. The emperor stood behind him, Ier pulsing.
Neezon had grown up around these laser staves and seen their testing often, even on life-like dummies. He thought they were awesome. He had never seen one used on a living thing. A person. A friend.
He dropped his tiny weapon and scrambled back, eyes wide no matter how much he told them to close, heart pounding.
Crao didn’t stay down. He rolled to his feet, steaming and slow, but not dead.
Rising to his knees, Watcher Quanko swung at him, but he dodged, falling, rolling over the edge of the unfinished floor.
Neezon raced to the artificial precipice but found no trace of his friend. His eyes still wouldn’t close. Behind him, the pair of Watchers spoke, words bouncing over his head, barely making sense. They were Ravi or almost Ravi, so far above a lowly Messenger. Why should Crao have even mattered to them?
Crao had almost won. He had taken down one Watcher.
He caught one sentence, and it burned all the way from his ears to his heart. “Please tell me it disturbs you how far that creature infiltrated this Tower before anyone noticed it.”
Neezon whirled, the scene a blur behind his tears. “He was my friend! My only friend.”
“That was a gremlin of the Tradafin,” Quanko corrected, “not a friend.”
Blinking, Neezon stood and looked from the Watchers to the hole in the floor and back. “No, he used a suggestion. He’s a Mind Aylata, and you attacked and killed him for no reason.”
“He will likely be fine,” the emperor said.
“Your Ier went right through him!”
The emperor’s brows lowered, silver eyes as sharp as the endpoints of his Ier. “Neezon, why are you here?”
“You summoned me.”
“I did not.” He looked at Watcher Quanko. They probably communicated in whispers.
Neezon stomped toward them. He wasn’t sure what he intended, but his hands clenched in sweaty fists, and his breaths came in ragged gasps. They were both Mind Aylata. They knew exactly how he felt even if he didn’t have the words to express it. He didn’t want to express it in words. He wanted to scream and tell them with his fists. More than that, he wanted an Ier and the training Nyoki had promised.
“Return to your troop,” the emperor commanded, and Neezon’s feet changed course before he realized why. Yes, he needed to get away from these scheming, evil Watchers. His back was already turned before the second half of the order reached him. “If this individual finds you again, report it immediately.”
Neezon hoped Crao would find him again, and when next they met, he had no intention of telling anyone.
Continued in Chapter 24: Between Truth and Falsehood
Thank you for reading!
A Story by Lea Sheryn
5th Grade Class
April 27, 1952
By Billy Harris
My hero is Edward “Butch” O’Hare.
The only son of Edward and Selma Ann O’Hare, Edward was born on March 13, 1914 in St. Louis, Missouri. His mother and father got a divorce in 1927. Butch lived with his mother and sisters in St. Louis but his father moved to Chicago.
Can you believe his father worked for Al Capone? Gee Willikers, Miss Flynn, can you imagine actually working for Scarface? Well, Butch’s father did and he was a lawyer and everything. Mr. O’Hare was a good guy and, when he realized Capone was breaking the law by not paying his taxes, he helped the government put him away. I guess even bad things happen to good guys because Mr. O’Hare was shot dead in his car in November of 1939, right before Al Capone got out of jail.
Well, back to Butch O’Hare because he really is my hero and you asked the class to write a composition about a hero. So I have to write about him now.
At first, Butch went to Western Military Academy. When he graduated in 1932, he went on to the Naval Academy in Annapolis until 1937. Annapolis is in Maryland, in case you didn’t know, Miss Flynn. Next he went for flight training in Pensacola, Florida at NAS. NAS means Naval Air Station. He learned how to do aerobatics and gunnery. His training was completed on May 2, 1940.
Edward O’Hare married a wife in Phoenix, Arizona on September 6, 1941. Her name was Rita Wooster. Their honeymoon was in Hawaii but it was cut short when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Butch was called to duty.
On February 20th, 1942, Lieutenant Commander Edward “Butch” O’Hare became the Navy’s first Flying Ace. He single-handedly shot down several enemy bombers with limited ammunition. He was the first Naval recipient of the Medal of Honor. That made him a genuine War Hero. There was a reception at the White House for him (President Franklin Roosevelt was there and everything) and a parade in his hometown of St. Louis AND he got to go on a War Bond tour around the country. People loved him because he was a young, handsome and a hero.
Lieutenant Commander Edward “Butch” O’Hare flew in many successful missions until, on November 26, 1943, he gave his life while fighting for our country. The Japanese shot down his Grumman F6F Hellcat over the Pacific. His body was never found. He died a World War II hero. One year later, his widow, Rita O’Hare, accepted a Purple Heart and Navy Cross in his honor.
Other awards were presented later on. The Navy named in his honor, “USS O’Hare”, a Gearing-class Destroyer in January of 1945. Most memorable of all, in Chicago, the Orchard Depot Airport was renamed O’Hare.
And do you know what, Miss Flynn? As soon as I’m old enough, I’m going to join the Navy and become a pilot just like Butch O’Hare.