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A Carolina Millennial in a Prehistoric Tribe, Chapter Ten

by MaybeAndrew


Chapter Ten

The Champion

As a general rule, people, even the wicked, are much more naive and simple-hearted than we suppose.

-Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov 

Never had my life changed so much in one week. The week started with me lying in bed wallowing in self-pity after a girl had broken up with me, eating food that I ordered to my apartment, so I didn't have to get out of bed. Then, out of nowhere, Charlie called me, and the next day, I was flying out to France. I arrived in France the morning of my third day. I spent that day driving out of Paris to inside Project Athena, where I spent the rest of my day at the chateau, embarrassingly meeting Doctor Skizan. I interviewed for the job on the fourth day, and as the vastest fear loomed ahead of me, I was able to release the beast of my ambition.

As a consequence, I underwent Destiny's Touch. After that, I'd gotten the job and gone to countless meetings where I met people whose job was to serve me. I spent two more glorious days with these people. They were training me for Destiny's Touch or preparing me for fame. After some extensive mental exercises, I was allowed to try Destiny's Touch again. I had gone from a man who thought that breaking up with a girl meant nobody loved him to be one of the most significant people in modern history. Moreover, I was one of the first people who could peek behind the curtain.

"Matt," Charlie repeated. I blinked and realized I had been smiling dumbly, daydreaming about how cool I now was… That wasn't history book material.

"Sorry, was thinking," I said. Charlie and I were in the Room of Ra. Before I was allowed to go under, Charlie had to turn on the machine and take measurements of Ethos. With three days of training and one experience, I wasn't as nervous as I had been before, but I still looked at the booth and the control panel covered in blinking lights with apprehension.

"It's ready when you are." He said, clicking the last button, and the door to the booth clicked and slid open.

I took a deep breath and looked at the helmet on the back wall with some apprehension. The day before they shaved my head for the helmet, I didn't like how I looked bald, and more, I still wasn't one hundred percent comfortable with Ethos being pumped directly into my brain, no matter how much training I'd had.

"Are you sure you want to do this? I know Josh can be pushy, and it's an honorable thing to do, but doing it once a day could be disastrous to your mind." Charlie asked. Thanks, Charlie, that helps a lot. I feel a lot better now. I thought

I nodded, too afraid to speak because it might betray how terrified I still was. My hands held behind me were now sweating, and my entire body was quivering as I realized there was now no delay. Daydreaming about it was one thing, but now I had to go back in.

He's Charlie, good ol' Charlie. He wouldn't judge me. He knows how hard it is in there. If I admitted to him, I was terrified and wanted advice or just another minute to prepare. He wouldn't think less of me. Some part of me pleaded.

"We have no idea what's going on. You are testing the very edges of reality, and we don't know what that could do to you mentally or physically. It was hard enough for me to do it a couple of times, and I don't think that anyone, no matter how prepared, could withstand it for days on end. Not even Dr. Skizan did it every day, he tried, but we had to pull him out after a couple of days because he almost had a seizure." He paused and sighed, "I don't want to discourage you. I just want to make sure you know what you're risking."

I nodded, but then the other voice spoke up. He doesn't think you're good enough. He thinks you're weak. You're not weak, are you? I cleared my throat. "I'm not worried. Josh thinks I can do it, and so do I."

Charlie bit his lip, closed his eyes like he was considering something, and then spoke, "I think Josh may be jumping to conclusions."

"What do you mean?" I asked. Josh was jumping to conclusions about how well you'll do? Charlie doesn't think you have it in you.

Charlie paused, "Josh doesn't want me to tell you this, but there is more than one reason I called you that day."

"There are?" I asked. More secrets? How much do I not know?

"Yes, and big ones. Back when I did Destiny's Touch, I was terrible at it, but the few times I managed to surf it right, I would almost always end up at you." Charlie said slowly, obviously choosing his words very carefully.

"What do you mean?" I asked, confused by his wording.

"After stumbling and wading through the infinity, the only thing I could find which was finite enough to remember was you. My old friend from college, with who I had written a paper on naked singularities. Mathew Meyers." I could tell he was cracking, the joy of truth was breaking him, and he was beginning to talk faster and more breathlessly. When you got Charlie going about some new science, it was hard to stop him.

"Why me?" I asked, nearly whispering, leaning forward over the table towards him. The spirit had caught me too.

"I don't know. I wasn't looking for you. I was trying to figure out what was going on, but I always got back to you. And it felt important somehow. At first, I saw the idea of you more than an actual picture of you, if you know what I mean. We barely understood Destiny's Touch at this time, but we decided to keep an eye on you. But you didn't seem to be doing anything that would affect the project, so we mostly chalked it up to be a flook. Dr. Skizan didn't see much of you, but I went under a couple more times after he quit. I wanted to see if we could use Ethos to find someone to replace the Doctor. This time I was a little better at navigating, still not good, but Ethos showed me you again. But this time, I saw in this room, I saw you with the helmet on undergoing Destiny's Touch. When Josh heard that, he decided that you really were important somehow.

"So we investigated more. We discovered you rarely left your apartment and definitely didn't seem to be communicating with an enemy of the project." Charlie continued. I felt a pang of embarrassment as I realized they had been watching me in my two weeks of wretched self-pity. "We decided it was one of two things, one, maybe something physical about your body was somehow wrapped up in Ethos. We were just confused and grasping at straws. But what seemed more likely is that something about one of your possible futures was important to the project.

"So that's when he had me call you. He wanted to interview you, but equally important was all the testing he wanted to do on you. Josh wanted to see how your body might react to being exposed to minimal amounts of Destiny's Touch. That's why he invited you out here before you even had the job. Josh wanted to perform some tests on you and get his own eyes on you. Once you were hired, he was still unsure, but after you discovered something your first time in Destiny's Touch, he convinced himself that you are literally perfect for the job. He thinks the reason I had seen you is that out of all possible futures in free will, the one where Athena hired you is the one where we succeed the most. Like you are the ideal candidate, genetically, mentally, and experience-wise, for Destiny's Touch. So now he's willing to put you in absurdly dangerous unknown situations because he thinks you're invincible.

"But I think he's jumping to conclusions. He doesn't want to admit that though we've gone far, we're still mostly stumbling around in the dark. Josh wants to succeed so bad he's willing to risk everything for it."

I barely heard the second part of what he said. I was still reeling from the idea that had exploded in my mind. Not only had Athena picked me as its champion, but reality itself had. This supported everything I had been hoping for. There was no doubt now. You are special. You are successful. Reality chose you. The seductive voice whispered in my ear.

"Thanks for telling me, Charlie. I'll keep that in mind." I said as I stepped into the booth. Why do I need to fear? I was invincible. I wasn't the new Neal Armstrong. Neal Armstrong was the old Mathew Meyers. Because I was something much greater, and I couldn't be stopped.

***

My eyes locked onto it, up ahead, the truck—a looming semi with an enormous grey shipping container on the back.

I was on a bright freeway. I was speeding past the sea of cars over a smooth plane of light grey concrete. It was night, but harsh white light from the towering streetlights lit everything, and then a river of white headlamps and red brake lights filled the eyes to the brim. My fingers and toes tingled against the pedals and wheel. I felt my feet sweating and smelled the oils released from all corners of my body. But I slammed the gas pedal against the ground. I was shoved back against the seat as I came up next to the truck. The truck was just ahead of me, in the lane to my right and five feet ahead of me. I braced myself against the wheel, pushing deep into my chair. Taking on my last deep breath, I tightened my hand around the wheel and then jerked to the right, swerving towards the truck's back corner. Just before I met it, I awoke with a gasp.

I sat up. I was in the chateau, my window was open, letting a summer breeze in, the room was dark and quiet.

I let my breathing slow down and swallowed. I was soaked in sweat. I'd hate nightmares, but never ones that vivid. It hadn't just been vivid. It had been more real than reality. But the pit of terror that did come with most nightmares wasn't even in my stomach. I just had this tense feeling of expectation. Something was coming, something that would shatter everything I'd planned.

I was not invincible. I was not a champion. The inevitability was coming.

I rolled over, trying to get away from the part of the bed soaked in my sweat. It is much easier to believe something that aligns with your current view of yourself than the one that shatters that, so as I fell asleep, I pushed that one away. Nothing to worry about, just a dream. Soon, I was asleep again.

Lies are always most dangerous when told to the self. 


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Tue Nov 02, 2021 12:58 pm
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MailicedeNamedy wrote a review...



Hi MaybeAndrew,

Mailice here with a short review! :D

That was an exciting chapter. Not only did we get a brief life summary from Matt, but Charlie also spills the beans. I find it very refreshing to read that the ice is (finally) breaking a little and the characters are becoming more open. Especially since I always thought Charlie was hiding something. We're also at a point now where I like that we're learning about this "fate" of Matt, that he was always seen in Destiny's Touch. As opposed to an immediate reveal, I like this development to this point.

I liked the conversation between Matt and Charlie, and as I said, I think this transition from Matt's last week to this is quite good. I am therefore a little surprised that the last major section was separated by a timeskip. Especially with the length at the end, I think you could have managed to create a more "elegant" transition, with a short section on what Matt was doing before the self-reflection.

In terms of structure, I like the chapter and it gives you a bit more of a committee about the characters and their motives, rather than moving the plot forward. I think that's well structured to give the reader a little bit of a sense of looking up for themselves what they think of each character before it gets to a deeper idea - in this case - of what they think of each other.

Charlie, after all, never struck me directly as someone who believes in something as he described it, but more of the blank theoretician who only believes what he himself reads or has seen with his own eyes. I thought that was a great revelation and definitely made me like him more than before.

In summary, it was a great chapter. But with the little intro quote, I'm still a bit peeking to see what it will bring. Who do you think is described as naïve here? Matt or Charlie?

One other point I noticed while reading:

Then, out of nowhere, Charlie called me, and the next day, I was flying out to France. I arrived in France the morning of my third day.

I can understand the repetition of "bed" in the previous sentence, but I think you could be a bit more direct and perhaps mention that Matt landed at "Charles de Gaulle Airport" (or an other airport, this is the only one that I know in Paris) instead of repeating yourself with "France".

Have fun writing!

Mailice




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Sat Oct 30, 2021 9:53 am
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ForeverYoung299 wrote a review...



Hey! Forever here with a review!!

After a looong while we got a chapter that is kind of devoid of complex science matters. This was a very interesting chapter which clarifies a lot of things along with setting another bunch of mysteries.

I liked the short summary that you gave at the beginning of the chapter. It helps to sum up whatever happened in that entire week and also gives the reader quite a clear picture of how Matt's life changed for this week and how different it would have been if they had not gotten the offer.

Matt's emotions are something which he has seriously got to control or he would be in an inevitable trouble. At least I think so. Like he can be so very self-concerned at times. If we see the beginning of the present when Matt was talking with Charlie, he was thinking. What Charlie was saying wasn't very important but if he does the same thing elsewhere, that can land him in trouble which might be inescapable. Matt has terrible mood swings too and honestly, not in the best manner. Like in Charlie and Matt's conversation, first he thought that Charlie didn't judge him and seconds later, he thought that Charlie judged him. It's actually a bit strange if we see from the fact that they know each other for quite some years. Another one we saw was in the dream scene. One moment he was horrified and the next moment, he was relaxed.

Okay so we got the clarification of why he was chosen by them. It's indeed very mysterious. The most interesting thing here was the fact that Charlie saw future too. I thought they could only see past from all the information you provided but now it seems like they can see past as well as future. Time travel in both the directions. I seriously don't know why Charlie was Matt all the times he underwent Destiny's touch. I was a bit clueless there. Hoping for some clarifications but hm... I don't think we will get clarifications before some while. Maybe Destiny's touch has something to do with people's emotions. I mean Charlie loved those moments when they used to discuss about naked singularity. Talking about Matt, the moments he saw were a bit emotional too. Can't deny that. We will discover what the real cause was. That was fortunate though.

I did want to know what happened in that particular destiny's touch. At least one or two lines but it was skipped over. I don't know if that was for a particular reason. Probably it was. Now we obviously have the side effects of good things. If I am not wrong, that nightmare was for Destiny's touch. The incident did feel a bit rough which signifies how terrible things can be. I assume it was a foreboding of some sort of incoming danger. Preparing myself for that.

Keep Writing!!!

~Forever




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Thu Oct 28, 2021 7:05 am
HarryHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm here to leave a quick review!!

First Impression: Okayyy...I think this has to be one of my favorite somewhat less sciency chapters of the lot. This one has so much promise to it while it also builds on some of the previous chapters and plugs a few plothole. There was on teensy, tiny part I would change, but otherwise, really solid chapter.

Anyway let's get right to it,

Chapter Ten

The Champion

Never had my life changed so much in one week. The week started with me lying in bed wallowing in self-pity after a girl had broken up with me, eating food that I ordered to my apartment, so I didn't have to get out of bed. Then, out of nowhere, Charlie called me, and the next day, I was flying out to France. I arrived in France the morning of my third day. I spent that day driving out of Paris to inside Project Athena, where I spent the rest of my day at the chateau, embarrassingly meeting Doctor Skizan. I interviewed for the job on the fourth day, and as the vastest fear loomed ahead of me, I was able to release the beast of my ambition.

As a consequence, I underwent Destiny's Touch. After that, I'd gotten the job and gone to countless meetings where I met people whose job was to serve me. I spent two more glorious days with these people. They were training me for Destiny's Touch or preparing me for fame. After some extensive mental exercises, I was allowed to try Destiny's Touch again. I had gone from a man who thought that breaking up with a girl meant nobody loved him to be one of the most significant people in modern history. Moreover, I was one of the first people who could peek behind the curtain.


Well...this is a solid start. We can see that change you were mentioning earlier and on top of that, chapter ten is a very good point to sort of have this almost plot summary of sorts happening at the start just to recap where this whole thing began. It has been long enough that some of the finer details of where Matt was at the start would've started to become fuzzy in a reader's memory.

"Matt," Charlie repeated. I blinked and realized I had been smiling dumbly, daydreaming about how cool I now was… That wasn't history book material.

"Sorry, was thinking," I said. Charlie and I were in the Room of Ra. Before I was allowed to go under, Charlie had to turn on the machine and take measurements of Ethos. With three days of training and one experience, I wasn't as nervous as I had been before, but I still looked at the booth and the control panel covered in blinking lights with apprehension.

"It's ready when you are." He said, clicking the last button, and the door to the booth clicked and slid open.

I took a deep breath and looked at the helmet on the back wall with some apprehension. The day before they shaved my head for the helmet, I didn't like how I looked bald, and more, I still wasn't one hundred percent comfortable with Ethos being pumped directly into my brain, no matter how much training I'd had.


Okayy...so he's bald now, that's a pretty fun development. I don't think its going to affect anything, but its a fun little trope of sci fi where you've gotta be bald in order to use advanced brain things and its pretty funny. I also see that we find ourselves in a state where Matt has now become very much fully committed to this whole thing.

"Are you sure you want to do this? I know Josh can be pushy, and it's an honorable thing to do, but doing it once a day could be disastrous to your mind." Charlie asked. Thanks, Charlie, that helps a lot. I feel a lot better now. I thought

I nodded, too afraid to speak because it might betray how terrified I still was. My hands held behind me were now sweating, and my entire body was quivering as I realized there was now no delay. Daydreaming about it was one thing, but now I had to go back in.

He's Charlie, good ol' Charlie. He wouldn't judge me. He knows how hard it is in there. If I admitted to him, I was terrified and wanted advice or just another minute to prepare. He wouldn't think less of me. Some part of me pleaded.


Hmm, I feel like this is trying to build up to an important moment here. I can sort of sense this is a kind of mental warning that's being given out to him by his mind that things could and let's face it, they almost certainly will start going a bit wrong for him with the side effects kick in. Its a nice little extra reminder of this sort of journey that he seems to be about to fully commit himself to with the whole haircut and everything.

"We have no idea what's going on. You are testing the very edges of reality, and we don't know what that could do to you mentally or physically. It was hard enough for me to do it a couple of times, and I don't think that anyone, no matter how prepared, could withstand it for days on end. Not even Dr. Skizan did it every day, he tried, but we had to pull him out after a couple of days because he almost had a seizure." He paused and sighed, "I don't want to discourage you. I just want to make sure you know what you're risking."

I nodded, but then the other voice spoke up. He doesn't think you're good enough. He thinks you're weak. You're not weak, are you? I cleared my throat. "I'm not worried. Josh thinks I can do it, and so do I."


Okayy....loving the clash in his mind there. I really like how both sides of his mind that are arguing this point here were introduced to us well in advance much earlier when we were starting things out at Athena and with the interviews and whatnot. So now, when this all happens to convince him to take this leap, we expect that and its natural. Its a lot better than if this voice in his head only showed up today. :D

Charlie bit his lip, closed his eyes like he was considering something, and then spoke, "I think Josh may be jumping to conclusions."

"What do you mean?" I asked. Josh was jumping to conclusions about how well you'll do? Charlie doesn't think you have it in you.

Charlie paused, "Josh doesn't want me to tell you this, but there is more than one reason I called you that day."

"There are?" I asked. More secrets? How much do I not know?


Of course there is a big secret that was never told to Matt. It wouldn't be a story involving a secret government project where a random person gets summoned if there was no extra secret...or maybe this just happens in Dan Brown novels and I've read a lot of those recently..but anyway, these are almost always pretty interesting extra details, so let's see if it matches up with the behavior that we've seen so far or if this secret even ends up being revealed.

"Yes, and big ones. Back when I did Destiny's Touch, I was terrible at it, but the few times I managed to surf it right, I would almost always end up at you." Charlie said slowly, obviously choosing his words very carefully.

"What do you mean?" I asked, confused by his wording.

"After stumbling and wading through the infinity, the only thing I could find which was finite enough to remember was you. My old friend from college, with who I had written a paper on naked singularities. Mathew Meyers." I could tell he was cracking, the joy of truth was breaking him, and he was beginning to talk faster and more breathlessly. When you got Charlie going about some new science, it was hard to stop him.


Oh big confession time coming up, this could be interesting, and it could help make the case a little better for why Matt of all people were picked up. By this point I think the reasons you gave and some conclusions I was able to draw means I'm very convinced that despite that job interview thing being a bit of an unnecessary move, them picking Matt at least makes a lot of sense logically. But of course having a bit of extra confirmation like this never hurt anybody.

"Why me?" I asked, nearly whispering, leaning forward over the table towards him. The spirit had caught me too.

"I don't know. I wasn't looking for you. I was trying to figure out what was going on, but I always got back to you. And it felt important somehow. At first, I saw the idea of you more than an actual picture of you, if you know what I mean. We barely understood Destiny's Touch at this time, but we decided to keep an eye on you. But you didn't seem to be doing anything that would affect the project, so we mostly chalked it up to be a flook. Dr. Skizan didn't see much of you, but I went under a couple more times after he quit. I wanted to see if we could use Ethos to find someone to replace the Doctor. This time I was a little better at navigating, still not good, but Ethos showed me you again. But this time, I saw in this room, I saw you with the helmet on undergoing Destiny's Touch. When Josh heard that, he decided that you really were important somehow.


Interesting, so that suggests a bit of a circle of time almost. Its as if Charlie saw the future somehow and then took action to make that future happen. Its as an old friend of mine put it. A "Causal nexus" I believe...although that's from a tv show so that could be a made up word. That's definitely adding some very interesting extra points into this.

"So we investigated more. We discovered you rarely left your apartment and definitely didn't seem to be communicating with an enemy of the project." Charlie continued. I felt a pang of embarrassment as I realized they had been watching me in my two weeks of wretched self-pity. "We decided it was one of two things, one, maybe something physical about your body was somehow wrapped up in Ethos. We were just confused and grasping at straws. But what seemed more likely is that something about one of your possible futures was important to the project.

"So that's when he had me call you. He wanted to interview you, but equally important was all the testing he wanted to do on you. Josh wanted to see how your body might react to being exposed to minimal amounts of Destiny's Touch. That's why he invited you out here before you even had the job. Josh wanted to perform some tests on you and get his own eyes on you. Once you were hired, he was still unsure, but after you discovered something your first time in Destiny's Touch, he convinced himself that you are literally perfect for the job. He thinks the reason I had seen you is that out of all possible futures in free will, the one where Athena hired you is the one where we succeed the most. Like you are the ideal candidate, genetically, mentally, and experience-wise, for Destiny's Touch. So now he's willing to put you in absurdly dangerous unknown situations because he thinks you're invincible.


Okay...so that plugs some of those plot holes about the interview from earlier. I don't know if this was done after the reviews from earlier, or if this was the plan all along, but either way, this fixes that problem nicely, I just think maybe hinting at this earlier would perhaps help in that case cause otherwise everyone is going to wonder why he was dragged out there before getting the job. But uhh, I'd believe this excuse and I think there was decent enough foreshadowing to suggest this. Sure Josh was a bit hostile and dismissive of Matt at first, but the speed at which he warmed up to Matt suggests this secret was also true so that's great. Its pretty good for a first draft to have that much coherence especially cause you're writing this stuff up week by week. :D The amount of continuity errors that Survival had in its first draft...phew...

"But I think he's jumping to conclusions. He doesn't want to admit that though we've gone far, we're still mostly stumbling around in the dark. Josh wants to succeed so bad he's willing to risk everything for it."

I barely heard the second part of what he said. I was still reeling from the idea that had exploded in my mind. Not only had Athena picked me as its champion, but reality itself had. This supported everything I had been hoping for. There was no doubt now. You are special. You are successful. Reality chose you. The seductive voice whispered in my ear.

"Thanks for telling me, Charlie. I'll keep that in mind." I said as I stepped into the booth. Why do I need to fear? I was invincible. I wasn't the new Neal Armstrong. Neal Armstrong was the old Mathew Meyers. Because I was something much greater, and I couldn't be stopped.


OKayy....a little fast on the pickup there Matt...but I think here it manages to be believable enough. When we see a conversation like that immediately after we are reminded of just how low Matt's self esteem was at the start of this, we can easily bridge why he'd latch onto things like this so strongly and go so far down this route of convincing himself he's invincible.

My eyes locked onto it, up ahead, the truck—a looming semi with an enormous grey shipping container on the back.

I was on a bright freeway. I was speeding past the sea of cars over a smooth plane of light grey concrete. It was night, but harsh white light from the towering streetlights lit everything, and then a river of white headlamps and red brake lights filled the eyes to the brim. My fingers and toes tingled against the pedals and wheel. I felt my feet sweating and smelled the oils released from all corners of my body. But I slammed the gas pedal against the ground. I was shoved back against the seat as I came up next to the truck. The truck was just ahead of me, in the lane to my right and five feet ahead of me. I braced myself against the wheel, pushing deep into my chair. Taking on my last deep breath, I tightened my hand around the wheel and then jerked to the right, swerving towards the truck's back corner. Just before I met it, I awoke with a gasp.


Ahh, so here come those dreams you mentioned. I see the connection to the "cold open' if you call it that for a book. That is indeed very interesting. This has been a really fun chapter so far. So much fun stuff being revealed and now this wonderful part to look forward to in the future getting hinted at pretty prominently here.

I sat up. I was in the chateau, my window was open, letting a summer breeze in, the room was dark and quiet.

I let my breathing slow down and swallowed. I was soaked in sweat. I'd hate nightmares, but never ones that vivid. It hadn't just been vivid. It had been more real than reality. But the pit of terror that did come with most nightmares wasn't even in my stomach. I just had this tense feeling of expectation. Something was coming, something that would shatter everything I'd planned.

I was not invincible. I was not a champion. The inevitability was coming.

I rolled over, trying to get away from the part of the bed soaked in my sweat. It is much easier to believe something that aligns with your current view of yourself than the one that shatters that, so as I fell asleep, I pushed that one away. Nothing to worry about, just a dream. Soon, I was asleep again.

In the end, my week finished the same it had started. Falling off to sleep, surrounding myself with lies and false senses of self.


Okayy...a little bit too far I think on that last part. It almost seems like the author took over for a bit and was like 'I have so much torture planned for you'. It seems a little too self aware. I would tone that down a bit unless you wanted to switch that part to like a neutral narrator or something. Otherwise, a good bit of foreshadowing, and I like where this is headed. :D

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, this is really priming itself to jump into whatever Mysterious Plot Points™ that you have planned in the near future and I am very excited to see where this heads off to next. I've become pretty invested in our poor friend Matt here. :D

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry





In the past I would definitely say who you would find inside. Not so much today. Place is bonkers …. As is everywhere
— Greg Specter