Okay, thought Hikaru Sulu, bemused by the mystery of the entire situation. It wasn’t often that an unannounced, unidentified shuttle approached a Federation starship, offering no communication except a request for docking.
As it was a Starfleet, vessel, Hikaru had little choice but to grant clearance.
He had sent for a security force, which stood behind him now, ready in case this was a commandeered shuttle preparing an attack against the Fleet’s newest, proudest vessel. Hikaru, however, found this possibility ludicrous, to say the least. He wasn’t concerned so much as unbearably curious.
“Release lock,” he ordered the computer, “open docking bay hatch.”
As requested, the computerized motors pulled the door aside to reveal the contents of the warp shuttle. There were two personnel. He knew both of them, and the secrecy suddenly became even stranger.
“Permission to come aboard, sir?” Terry Metcalfe asked with all due officiousness.
“Permission granted.” Hikaru grinned. “What the hell is going on?”
Standing next to Terry somewhat stiffly, Saavik produced a tape from her jacket.
“Our orders from Admiral Kirk, Captain. You may scan them at your convenience.”
Accepting the tape, Hikaru gave a brief “thank you,” and asked, “What’s on them?”
Terry shrugged in what appeared to be an attempt at casuality. “Simple, really. You’re to take the two of us to the coordinates on the tape and leave us there. Enterprise will be back later to pick us up. It’ll give us time to finish our research.”
Hikaru didn’t like the way Terry looked. He seemed—well, nervous; and that wasn’t normal for him. He was too cocky to appear nervous unless something were really wrong. Saavik, too, seemed quieter than usual. What was up? “Why didn’t the Admiral alert me beforehand? I didn’t receive any message. He’d usually—”
After trading conspiratorial glances with Saavik, Terry explained, “It’s a rather… sensitive matter, and it came up suddenly. You see, these are the coordinates for a restricted planet—”
Hikaru didn’t miss Terry’s eyes travelling quickly to meet Saavik’s before answering.
The gesture was so quick it might have been unconscious. “The Time Planet.”
The Time Planet? They knew about the Time Planet? It was odd for junior officers to know of it, considering its strategic importance and the danger of the Klingon and Romulan empires discovering it. It was odder still for two junior officers to be sent there by themselves. Jim must have a good reason, though. He had authorized it… He nodded, pretending understanding—partly because he hated to see them so uptight.
“Is something important going on?”
Terry again smiled casually. “I’m afraid I can’t really tell you any more than
that, Hikaru. You understand?”
He seemed open enough now—still the same old friend he’d served with over the past year aboard the border-patrol ship Phoenix, but… but what? “Yeah, sure,” he said, smiling. “Top secret.” Picking up Saavik’s single piece of luggage in an archaically chivalrous gesture and hitting Terry playfully on the shoulder, he said, “C’mon. I’ll buy you both a drink.”
Later, he’d have to remember to give Jim a call, just to see if everything was all right.
* * *
Captain’s log, Stardate: 8149.7
My assignment to the USS Enterprise is permanent now. After a month’s shore leave and some much-needed maintenance for the ship, we are preparing to warp out of orbit on our first deep-space exploratory mission in over five years. All is going smoothly, save for the behavior of my chief navigator, Lt. Saavik. She has requested an additional month’s leave, which I have granted, but she will not explain what is troubling her. By a strange coincidence—perhaps too strange—Chief Helmsman Metcalfe has also taken a personal leave, effective immediately.
And Dr. McCoy has been acting in a manner which is troubling, yet which cannot be put into words. He is more… brusque than usual. I have regained my command, but some of my crew appear to be falling apart before my very eyes.
Just as Jim Kirk had filed his log entry in the computer, Uhura entered his quarters, looking a bit confused and not a little angry.
He stood. “I was just on my way to the bridge. Is there a problem?”
“Sir,” Uhura said in a very restrained tone—she was trying to hold something back. “It is standard procedure to alert the executive officer of any and all crew changes made before launch.”
Kirk was lost. Was Uhura mad at him? “What crew changes?”
She was somewhat startled, as if she expected him to know exactly what she was talking about. “Saavik and Terry Metcalfe.”
“I informed you of their leaves,” Kirk said defensively, “two days ago.”
Uhura raised an eyebrow. “I received your memo, Admiral; but it didn’t say a word about transfers—even temporary ones.”
“Transfers?” Kirk demanded, “what transfers?”
She began to look unsure of herself. “Didn’t you give authorization for Saavik and Metcalfe to transfer to Excelsior and go to the Time Planet?”
Kirk felt his jaw drop stupidly. “The Time Planet? I—”
“I got suspicious that both of them were taking a leave at the same time, so I asked the computer for their stated destinations. Instead of leave itineraries, it gave me their orders to board Excelsior and go to the Time Planet. You. issued those orders.”
Kirk sat heavily on the edge of his desk. “Uhura, I did nothing of the kind!”
No longer angry, but thoroughly puzzled, Uhura came to sit next to him. “Admiral, the computer doesn’t lie. Your signature was on the orders.”
“That’s impossible,” Kirk responded flatly.
Uhura held out a tape cartridge. “It is in the computer.”
“As you are well aware, Commander, there are a lot of things that never happened logged in that computer lately.” He immediately regretted the anger in his voice. It wasn’t her fault if the machines weren’t working.
Uhura, as ever, overlooked it. “What did the maintenance crew at Starfleet find?”
“Nothing,” he said with great irony. “It’s working perfectly. I think I’ll have Scotty’s people take another look at it.” He sighed, taking his glasses off and toying with them momentarily. “I’ll be on the bridge in a few minutes. I’ll want to talk to Sulu.”
She nodded wearily and left.
* * *
The subtle, restrained tones of the Vulcan Sirl’s Kassahl, a form of music resembling what would be called a canon on Earth, somehow did not have the effect on her concentration that Saavik had hoped they would. Ordinarily, the methodical, ordered sound helped her to organize her thoughts and keep the Romulan side of her nature under control while she meditated.
After the events of the past days, she badly needed to meditate. After the “escape” from the Enterprise, signing out a warp shuttle without proper authorization, and the harried flight to the Excelsior, her thoughts were a mass of confusion.
To think that she would be travelling using forged orders to a planet which was
off limits to her. That she had deceived her commanding officer, as well as the captain of the Excelsior. And, strangest of all, that Spock had helped her plan it! There had been a time when he would not have approved. What, she wondered, made him approve now?
With more violence than she should display, even when she was alone, Saavik slapped the control pad and stopped the tape. The music had done little more than annoy her.
Its excessively subdued tones served to push her thoughts into a greater frenzy. As a matter of fact, she could feel a touch of pain immediately behind her temple. She realized that she was about to develop a headache—an embarrassingly human ailment. Vulcans, due to their control over their emotions and their ability to keep stress from taking control of them, only suffered from them when they were genuinely ill. Saavik had not often been ill, as she hadn’t been able to afford it on Hellguard.
It didn’t seem to help when the door buzzer went off. Naturally, it would be Terry Metcalfe. She knew no one else aboard the Excelsior save Captain Sulu—and she didn’t know him well. After her somewhat skimpy explanation of their problem aboard the Enterprise, she knew that Terry would have many questions.
Actually, she was glad of the opportunity to talk. Despite her headache—she felt vulnerable around humans when she was sick—she wasn’t enjoying being alone. She could only think of David. And though she didn’t really wish to stop thinking of David, she knew that she could only function if she put him out of her mind. Perhaps Terry could keep her mind from thoughts of David—if anything could.
It was hard not to think about the one thing that often seemed the most important to her.
Seeming surprisingly pleasant, Terry came in at her acknowledgement. He surveyed her guest quarters quietly. She could tell that he had changed and showered—he probably hadn’t had a chance to do so since leaving North America. For a fugitive, he looked strangely relaxed. Saavik wondered if she looked as bad as she felt, and the thought made her uncomfortable.
Around humans, she didn’t like to appear tired or haggard. Emotional creatures that they were, they couldn’t help placing high value on appearance, and Saavik had made a point of learning how to “look good.” Now, she must certainly appear to be tired and worn—and somewhat unattractive. Terry, on the other hand, looked quite… appealing. He usually did, when she took time to notice. She didn’t know why she noticed now.
His face was quite handsome, his eyes intense and expressive, and his body lean and hard as Spock’s was. He was not so tall, though. He was about her height, in fact. Saavik wondered if his skin was cool like that of other humans with their low body temperatures…
What nonsense! He was a fellow officer and his physical attributes were therefore irrelevant. Saavik wondered where she had developed this annoying tendency to pay attention to such things as the appearance of human males. She would have to stop; it wasn’t logical—especially when there was work to be done.
Terry noticed that the computer playback console was activated. He went to look at the sound unit. “Been listening to music?”
“I was playing a Vulcan arrangement intended to aid in creating a proper atmosphere for recreational meditation,” she explained.
“Oh,” he nodded and smiled, looking at her. She felt uncomfortable again. “You don’t look as if it helped.”
How strange that he should surmise that immediately. Humans often surprised her with their perception. “No… I am unable to relax, for some reason. I believe I am suffering from a… headache.”
A laugh escaped him briefly. “I’m not surprised.” He held up a finger, indicating for her to wait, and went into her bathroom, extracting a small container from the shelf on the wall and filling a glass with water. He came back and held out several tablets. “Pain killers,” he explained. “I believe Vulcans are supposed to take three. One is human dosage.” He handed her the glass.
Saavik took the tablets, but hesitated to swallow them. “The proper method for relieving mental stress is meditation. Vulcans do not usually—
“Vulcans do not usually have to save the universe on a moment’s notice,” he finished sharply. Patting her hand, he said, “Go on. I won’t tell anyone.”
Slowly, she placed the three pills in her mouth and swallowed them. “You’ll feel better soon,” Terry assured her. He set the glass of water on her desk and settled himself into the chair facing her with a sigh. “And now it’s time for you to explain a few things—if it won’t make your headache worse.”
“No, it won’t. What are your questions?”
“What haven’t you told me? We have plenty of time to go over it all now.”
“I have given you the pertinent facts—if in a somewhat brief account—however,
there are some details I should go over with you. When we arrive at the Time Planet…” she paused. How was she to say this? “Spock will be there waiting for us.”
Terry shot forward in his seat, his features suddenly animated. “Spock? Alive?”
“Not ‘our’ Spock,” she told him, “but the one from the alternate universe I spoke of. He has been waiting since Dr. McCoy and I left the Guardian.”
“He crossed through into our universe by using the Guardian.”
“Then it also acts as a gateway into other universes?” he asked.
“Ordinarily, no, but in this case, it is one of the focal points of the interphase.”
Accepting that explanation for the moment, Terry asked, “That theory you were talking about—T’Gara’s—does that mean that there are… endless numbers of other universes?”
Saavik nodded as if congratulating a bright student. “For each different effect of a cause, a new universe comes into being. One universe exists for each answer to any question.” She smiled, remembering the first day they had met on the bridge of the Enterprise. Terry had quoted Tarbolde’s poetic description of the infinity of creation: “A galaxy for every creature, a universe for every galaxy.”
“Perhaps not so pleasing an expression of infinity as that of Tarbolde, but much more accurate, don’t you agree?”
Terry nodded, appreciating the reference, but still filled with curiosity. “Yeah. And the paradox you referred to keeps the two universes from becoming separate?”
“Correct, because they were never intended to be. Our job, therefore, is to see that the two are rejoined.”
He grimaced sarcastically. “Great. Now for the big question: How we gonna do that?”
“By using the Guardian,” she replied, “we will, the three of us, travel to certain parts of this universe’s past and re-alter those factors which were originally tampered with to create the anomaly.”
Terry nodded, digesting it all. Saavik had to admit it was a difficult concept for a human to deal with. He seemed to be handling it well. “And my job?” he asked.
“Since Spock would be somewhat conspicuous in those areas into which you will have to travel, you must help him gain access unnoticed and see to it that he has sufficient time to carry out his mission.”
He looked suspicious. “What areas?”
“Those where, at that point in time, he couldn’t be logically expected to appear. Admiral Morrow’s office, for instance—”
“Morrow?” he interrupted loudly. “Harry Morrow? Commander, Starfleet?”
“I assume you are familiar with Admiral Morrow’s status and identity, so I do not understand your question.”
“Saavik,” he explained impatiently, “you do not just walk in on Harry Morrow.”
“No,” she agreed. “That is why Spock will be counting on you. You have already proven your talent for getting into those places where entry is difficult. We are on our way to the Time Planet, are we not?”
“Oh sure,” he admitted. “But do you know how long it’ll be before Kirk realizes he’s been had by a couple of junior officers?”
“I would estimate 3.76 hours from now.”
“Fortunately,” she added, “he will not be able to catch us in time.”
“No,” she said frankly, “I am not. But Dr. McCoy will be doing his utmost to prevent the Admiral’s finding out about our plan.”
“Let’s hope so,” Terry said with a humorless laugh. “Is there anything else I should know?”
Was there? There was much more that could be told, but did he need to know it? More importantly, did she want to tell it? “Not really,” she answered finally. “All will be clear to you at the proper time.”
Terry regarded her seriously, scrutinizing her answer. Did he suspect that something was troubling her? That there was something she wasn’t saying? She wished he would look away. “And after this mission is over,” he asked meaningfully, “all will be well with the universe?”
For a long moment, she waited. She didn’t believe in lying, much as she had done so recently. She found it difficult. “No,” she admitted, “but we must do what we can.” Almost against her will, she looked away from his penetrating gaze.
“Is something wrong?” he asked.
“No,” she lied.
“Saavik,” he said in the same needling tone McCoy would have used, “I’ve known only two Vulcans in my life, but they were both lousy liars. Let me tell you, you’re no different.”
There was no point in lying further. They both knew, as Terry had just made quite clear, that something was wrong. Saavik knew that she had two options now: remain silent or speak. Refusing to speak would only create further curiosity in a human, she had seen that already. “In reconciling the two universes,” she explained, “we will lose many things. People will die. Events will be different.”
Terry’s face drained. “Who will die, Saavik?”
“Many,” she said quietly. “The crew of a starship, a handful of Klingons,” her answer was given as dispassionately as any list of data she might be reading off on the bridge of the Enterprise, but her voice faltered when she came to one particular name.
“And?” he urged gently.
“There are… other factors which may alarm you. The Enterprise will be destroyed.”
His face registered quiet horror. “My God—”
“None of the crew will be lost,” she told him quickly. “Do not worry about them. But you will not be assigned to the Enterprise as there will be no Enterprise to be assigned to.”
His features dropped even further. Slowly, he asked, “Does that mean you and I will never meet?”
“I do not know. From what I have witnessed of the other universe, we may. That is assuming, of course, that the course of the events I witnessed is not significantly altered. I must warn you, however, that we may not meet in the manner which you might expect. “
“As long as we do,” he said, reassured.
Saavik felt bitterness, well up within her. She couldn’t help but release it. “With all that will be lost, is that important?”
His eyes met with hers; she had never looked into them so deeply before. Nor had she ever quite realized what a complex creature a human being could be. Their faces—their eyes especially—reflected their feelings even when their words did not. “It’s very important to me,” he said.
Saavik felt immediately ashamed. By allowing her own bitterness and unhappiness to surface, she had hurt his feelings. He was attempting to express a positive emotion, and she had answered with self-pity. It was a highly improper response even where emotion was concerned. “That was not an appropriate remark for me to make. Please forgive me. I am being selfish.”
Strangely enough, Terry disregarded the apology rather than accepting it. Was this proper? Never mind. He leaned forward, maintaining their eye contact. “There’s something you’re not telling me.”
Interesting. She had insulted him, and he had responded with concern. “Yes,” she admitted, “there is.”
He smiled, reached forward and took one of her hands gently. Yes, his skin was much cooler than a Vulcan’s. “Well, I’ve gotten you this far, and it appears we’re going to be partners in crime. Why don’t you tell me everything?”
“It is not something I find easy to discuss.”
He squeezed her hand. “That’s a very good reason to do so anyway.”
Despite the illogic of his statement, Saavik decided suddenly that she wanted to tell him the rest of what she knew. To talk about it seemed as if it might make it easier to withstand. “You are aware that Admiral Kirk has a son?”
“I’ve… heard, yes,” he replied, perhaps a bit mystified by this new turn in the conversation. He would understand soon.
“His name is David Marcus. He is one of the designers of the Genesis project of which you have heard so much recently. He is… a friend of mine.”
“I have not often had friends,” she explained, knowing that, as a human, he had probably had many. She hoped he would understand the importance of friends to her. “I am not sufficiently knowledgeable in the ways of emotion yet—”
Terry laughed. “You make it sound like a science.”
“Do I? I take it that is an incorrect approach.” It occured to her that he had been laughing at her ignorance of emotional relations. A flash of anger went through her. She did not like to be laughed at.
But his response was as soft as ever. She saw that he was not losing patience with her at all, nor was he laughing. Her anger faded, but she still didn’t understand why he had laughed. Humans, of course, did so often without provocation.
“I’m not sure there is an incorrect approach,” he said, shrugging. “But it’s not something you study for.” He brought his other hand up to stroke the wrist of the one he already held. “Anyone can have friends.”
“I see. I am… gratified to know that. I have found them to be beneficial. You see, Spock could not teach me competently how to make friends—and deal with humans, in particular. Perhaps he lacked experience. Others have helped me, however, in recent months,” she halted only a moment as she thought of Peter Preston, the first friend she had ever made. He too, was dead now, and buried in the soil of a planet hundreds of parsecs away. “In recent months I have learned a great deal about friendship. It is a valuable thing.”
Terry smiled. “Very.”
“It is not,” she continued quietly, “an easy thing to lose.”
His smile faded as he put together all the things she had said and drew a conclusion. ”My God, Saavik. Is David—”
“He will not survive,” she said stiffly.
He released her hand and sat back hard, not knowing what to say. “I’m… I’m sorry, Saavik.”
It wasn’t easy to fight the emotions that tried to bring themselves to the surface now. The tears that had taken possession of her at Regula were on the verge of returning, but she couldn’t afford to give in to emotion this close to the upcoming mission. Nor did she wish to lose control in front of Terry. Shame was only part of it. If she went too far, or he behaved unpredictab1y—as humans often did—she might injure him. “I am also,” she said in a dead tone. “David has… ” she couldn’t find the words. “He means… “
“You love him.”
“Yes,” she said slowly. “I believe I do.”
Terry shook his head. “And yet you’re going through with this?”
“I must, there is no other way.” She didn’t know if she had said that for his benefit or her own.
“But why do you have to do it? Who chose you?” His tone displayed anger—not directed at her—but anger. Who, she wondered, was it directed at? Perhaps even Terry didn’t know. That was an interesting concept—that a human could be angry without even knowing who or what his anger was directed at.
“I do not know,” she said simply.
Terry accepted that and considered it. “If you need any help,” he said gently. “I mean, if there’s anything I can do… “
“There is,” she told him. “You have already done part of it. If you will continue to assist me—”
“I will,” he said immediately.
“And,” she went on tentatively, “if you will be my friend?”
He smiled warmly, and his hand again reached for hers. “I would be honored, Saavik.”
“Thank you. I… I believe I will need a friend.” She squeezed back at his cool hand, drawing what comfort she could from the feeling. After a moment’s silence, she asked, “And you?”
“Me?” he asked. “What about me?”
“It is very likely that you will not meet Commander Teller in the other universe. You will not be assigned to the Enterprise.“
He nodded. “I figured as much.”
“Does that trouble you?”
“Do you love her?” she asked, unsure whether she had any right to or not. It was an extremely personal question. Ordinarily, she would not have presumed to ask it of another. Logic, however, seemed to suggest that, since Terry had asked it of her, she was entitled to return the favor.
“I’m… ” He shook his head, troubled by the question. “I’m not sure. I might. I guess I’ll never know.”
“And the thought of not knowing me troubles you as much as the thought of not knowing her?”
Her questions seemed to cause him considerable discomfort. She hadn’t forgotten the first time she had discovered that humans were also uncomfortable with their emotions—it had been during a conversation with Admiral Kirk. Now, Terry seemed to be displaying the same symptoms of embarrassment. “I’m not sure how the two of you compare,” he said uneasily. “I… I like both of you. I don’t know if it’s right to… “
When he didn’t continue, Saavik prompted him. “To what?”
He removed his hand from hers and held them both together in front of him, tapping them against his belt buckle. “Is love a thing that can be shared with more than one person?” he asked finally.
Saavik raised her eyebrow in dismay. To be asked a question about love—by Terry Metcalfe, of all people—was not something she had expected. “I’m afraid I know little of love,” she said apologetically. “I have felt it, but I do not understand it. Many of your human authors,” she explained, hoping that literature was an adequate source of information for such a discussion, “seemed to believe that it should be restricted to a single individual—others, however, disagreed.”
Terry was regarding her now with an expression that was somewhere between delight and dismay. “You really have studied the subject, haven’t you?”
He carefully emphasized the word “studied.” Saavik referred again to their first meeting and their discussion of the ceremony of mating. “That was your recommendation.”
Terry nodded his agreement. He had, after all, told her that it was essential to study the field and its related areas. He smiled—a rather embarrassed smile, if Saavik was as adept at reading human expressions as she thought she was. “I’m afraid I wasn’t referring to books,” he explained somewhat awkwardly. “I was making a bit of a joke.”
“I see,” Saavik said slowly, considering the “joke” and trying to pick out the inherent humor. “I have trouble with jokes.”
“How many books did you read?” Terry now asked, as if troubled by the subject.
“I believe I scanned some 217 novels and quite an amount of poetry as well—all on the subject of ‘love.'” Terry appeared almost to be in pain. Saavik explained further, hoping to ease his discomfort. “I used the library computer to scan for that specific heading. On the subject of affections shared among various numbers, your Earth’s ‘science fiction’ authors· made quite a few statements. The essays of H.G. Wells, for instance, and the fiction of Robert Heinlein—”
“How did a study of love cause the computer to select Heinlein?”
“An inappropriate choice?” she asked, thinking, perhaps, that she had been studying an individual whose views were not well thought of on Earth—although she had been fascinated by them.
“Oh no. I’d have directed you to him immediately, but the computer—”
“The computer,” she explained, “gave me a title including the word ‘love.'”
“Yes,” he said. “Of course. I remember the book now. Did you find it useful?”
“I found it… fascinating, to say the least. Its description of travels in time and the complications involved—”
“Speaking of relevant information,” Terry observed with a grin.
“Indeed. I found quite a bit of fiction involving both the subjects of time travel and love.”
“Fiction fast becoming reality. Did you happen to read The Number of the Beast?“
Saavik allowed herself to grimace. “I did not. An odd title for a work involving love, is it not? The computer did not recommend it.”
Terry sighed. “Machines,” he said, shaking his head.
“Are always subject to the limitations of their programmers,” she pointed out.
“What exactly did the work involve?”
“It described travels in time and through alternate universes. It even speculated on an upper limit to the number of possible existing universes.”
Saavik was immediately curious. “And that was?”
“The number of the beast,” he explained. “Six raised to the sixth power, the quantity raised to the sixth.”
“I see. And how was this limit calculated?”
“I don’t remember. Saavik, the story was only fiction.”
“Fiction fast becoming reality,” she reminded him.
He smiled. “True. It’s easy to forget that we’re about to go on a trip through time—into other universes.”
“Universes which are constantly subdividing and forming new ones,” she agreed.
“It would be interesting to calculate that limit you mentioned.”
He laughed. “We only have a month’s leave, you know.”
“On the contrary,” she said seriously. “As of now, we quite literally have all the time in the world.”
I’m leaving “casuality.” It is not a word, except in the Urban Dictionary. But at least that source agrees with my definition of it!
“The music had done little more than annoy her.” One of the reasons I liked Saavik so much, as McIntyre portrayed her, was her temper. I grew up very concerned about my temper. Indeed, my college entrance essay was all about learning to control my temper. I now realize that at least part of my fear was fueled by a lifetime of emotional abuse. But it made me feel a strong bond with Saavik, who sometimes could not control her temper. And getting annoyed by music is a Steve signature move.
Tarbolde — the poet Gary Mitchell quoted in “Where No Man has Gone Before,” as being from “The Canopus Planet”
No Enteprise to be assigned to… But there was one, three months later.
“The Genesis Project of which you have heard so much recently…” It never occurred to me that it would be a secret
Peter Preston’s burial was not mentioned in the movies, but Scotty brings his body home in the opening chapters of the novelization, where he confronts Peter’s sister Dannan, who was mentioned in the previous novelization, but not seen.
“Machines,” he said, shaking his head.Metcalfe is lamenting the limitations of the search algorithm of the Enterprise computer. I would, too, since it clearly wasn’t as advanced as Google was centuries earlier! In 1985, we had no idea how fast change would happen!
I made Saavik and Metcalfe Heinlein fans. Appropriate, as McIntyre, whom I consider he co-creator, was one of only a handful of authors in the mainstream to play with the idea of polyamory, as Heinlein did. Certainly it wasn’t explored in any other Trek fiction I ever came across.