The Lost Journal

Mutations: Chapter 2 – Dreams of War, Part 1

The sounds that drifted in from the night spoke of war. Men and beasts being made ready, swords and armour prepared and handed out. Countless campfires held the night at bay and filled the air with sweet camphor smoke that whipped along with the breeze and crept in through the canvas of my tent.

I opened my eyes, unsure and lost and found myself looking into the face of a beautiful angel.

At first I thought it was my angel, the one who had tried so hard to save me from the explosion and had watched over me in Babbage. The girl in the meadow who’d risked more than her life to pull me from the flames of a collapsing reality. I thought it was his granddaughter come to my aid once more, but it wasn’t. She had wings as red as blood and eyes of shining purple stars and her voice was a chorus. No, the angel I stood before me had white wings and eyes of shimmering grey, and whilst its voice may have been beautiful it was not a chorus, “My beloved?” it said. No, this was not my angel.

I looked around the tent and recognised nothing; from the writing desk to the carved wooden bed draped in animal furs, nothing was mine. The angel was dressing me in ornate metal armour, by its feet a sword lay across a shield. “Where…?” I said, my voice sounding small and far away. The angel must have sensed something, seen something on my face, for its expression changed and its eyes flicked back and forth across my own. “But, you are not He…” it started, suddenly glowing brighter and brighter, “I do not understand? Who are you?” it demanded becoming a star falling to Earth.

I tried to answer but my mind seemed slow and tired. I tried to shield my eyes, squinting against its light “Please…” I croaked dryly, “the light…”

Immediately it dimmed, dying away until I could look at it once more. The angel looked scared; it took my hand in its own, turning it over and over looking at my wrist, feeling the flesh. “This… this is not His!” I gasped as I noticed my hands were unburnt and whole again.

“I don’t understand…” I said unsteadily.

“You are the Other. This can not be! You can not be here! We need Him! We need him to find Bloodw…”

The tip of the spear that erupted through its chest tore the final word from its lips. It fell into me with blood foaming from its mouth and nose as its eyes stared imploringly into mine. I watched as they dimmed and the life behind them finally vanished. Outside beasts roared and men screamed as war erupted…

“And that’s all you remember?”

“That’s all I remember Doc.”

“And how long have you been having this dream?”

“I dunno. Two. Maybe three weeks. Since I started the cabin I guess,” I sat on a log, Beck sitting across from me with a steaming cup of tea in his hands. He looked around at the fruits of my industrious labours and nodded to himself. “And no other dreams? Just this one?”

“Just this one, at least since it started,” I answered. There had been others. Dreams of fire and pain and people with mirrors where their faces should be. Dreams of green light and monsters in flying boats. Dreams of being erased again and again piece by piece by piece. I dreamt those every time I closed my eyes, sometimes even when I didn’t, but I didn’t want to talk about those dreams.

“Well, I’m no alienist Antfarm but I’d take a stab at anxiety and painful memories rising at a time of change as you begin to rebuild your life,” Beck didn’t sound as confident as he’d have liked to. “Look at what you are doing out here? This cabin is wonderful, you are putting your life back together piece by piece just like this cabin.”

I looked around at the felled and shaped logs, each one the product of my sweat and blood, and smiled. I’d let the doc think what he wanted, but putting my life back together was far my mind; I just needed somewhere to live that didn’t flap in the wind was all. We sat in silence for sometime, each lost in a private world of memories.

Beck made the first move. He downed his tea and stood up “I’m sorry to cut this visit short, but I better be heading back if I want to be back before nightfall.” Ever since that Chinese kid had been killed he’d been on edge about the slums at night. I guess I couldn’t blame him for that, those kids were family to him. “Look,” he said as he gathered his things and packed them away on his horse, “you’re doing well but please, please! take it easy. You’re doing an awful lot of hard and dangerous work and one slip could be serious.”

“You can say that about any of the settlers out here, Doc” I chided gently. He smiled back and shook his head as he got on his horse. “How about you take it easy, eh?” I said, “It’s a tough route back now the spring thaws are here. Don’t want to have to fish you out of the river as you bob past, do I?”

“Ha! I promise my friend but with Frank here,” he patted the horses’ neck “I’m sure I’m in good hands. Or hooves.”

We said our final farewells and Beck turned to go only to stop again and look at me, “Eyes,” he said.

“Eyes?” I repeated, feigning mild confusion.

“In your dream, you describe their eyes well.” A question disguised as a statement.

“Do I? I hadn’t noticed,” I batted away, aiming for the long grass.

“Hmm,” was all he said but he fixed me hard in his gaze. I looked back into his eyes, eyes I recognised all too well. I should. They were mine. More than that, they had been my creator’s and now it would seem they were my brother’s too.

Mutations Mutations

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To be continued…
All the “Mutations” posts can be read here.

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) For more on the return of the Bloodwing, read Darien’s, Jeremiah’s, Qlippothic’s, Koen’s, Wren’s and Ama’s Blogs
2) For more on HBA and the Mason mythos, read the previous tales The Lost Journal, Lost & Found, and Far From Home.
3) For more on the death of the Chinese Boy, read about Creaky Gloom on this blog here and on the Steelhead Ning here.

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Lost & Found: Chapter 1 – The Ocean of Night

It was night, a dark sky wrapped around him like a heavy coat. The water was cold and full of thick weeds. He swam through the cold and the weeds and the night, but it was hard and tiring. The cold sapped his strength and the weeds snatched and pulled at his limbs. He had long ago forgotten where he was swimming to or even why, he just knew he had to keep swimming, never stopping, not once, just swimming in the dark night against the cold, against the weeds pulling at him, swimming always.

Voices drifted past. Someone close. Someone in the water. When had he last heard another person? When had he last seen one? A face flashed into his mind, a handsome man with a moustache, his face shocked as he fell and fell and fell. And the face was gone. The voices bobbed by, stroking, caressing, soothing. He found his arms were slowing, his legs stopping their ceaseless kicking. He didn’t want to swim anymore. He wanted the voices to carry him. He began to look around for the voices, searched in the night and held fast to them, a raft in this endless ocean of night.

The voices were near. A name formed in his mind, long and curving it swam through his thoughts and into his mouth.

Jeremiah.

The weeds had him! In the water they were grabbing and pulling. The water filled his nose, weeds forcing their way into his mouth. He tried to scream. He was sinking. The ocean taking him down. He tried to fight but he was so very tired. The night tightened around him.

He sank.

He was glad.

He began to let go of everything.

I have swum enough, he thought. Let the sea and the night have me.

Hands grabbed him, fingers digging into his arms and pulling him upwards. The weeds screamed with rage and clawed at him, but the hands held fast and he was dragged back out of the ocean, out of the night. A light above him, blindingly bright. Voices. Loud voices near.

“…he’s back…”

“…thought we’d lost him then…”

“…are you sure…”

“…how long…”

“…who…”

His mouth, thick and heavy with the taste of the choking weeds, struggled to form words. Sounds bubbled forth, incoherent questions tumbling over his lips. The ocean was gone, the night and the weeds with it. Light surrounded him, too bright for his eyes. He couldn’t tell if he was standing or lying, walking or falling. Something cold on his forehead. Something dribbled into his mouth. Hands busy over his skin. Voices all around him.

“…fur…”

“…he’s changed…”

“…think it’s him…”

“…Jeremiah…”

The name! His eyes suddenly wide, he sat up, people tumbling backwards away from him. “Jeremiah!” he screamed, his mind burning.

And he fell backwards into the darkness. Not the cloying night of the ocean again, but the dark of a quiet forest where the bows of friendly trees bent to shade and protect him. He felt the kiss of sleep upon his eyes and as he slipped away he sobbed quietly without knowing or remembering why.

To be continued…
All the “Lost & Found” posts can be read here.

Backpacking Burro: Back to the beginning….

*What do you mean you have set us free?* dread filled me, my blood suddenly ice cold.

*I have severed the link. We are free of the creator. I have rendered God obsolete*

*He’s not God, he’s me, just a person!* I snapped.

*To us he was God. He was also our Devil. He created us, but he played with us. He created our world, but he destroyed countless others. He gave us life, only to take it from so many and leave the threat of doing the same to us over our heads*

*What have you done with him? With me!*

*Nothing. His life continues as it did, but without us*

I felt sick and slumped to the ground. A huge part of me had been amputated without my agreement. I was alone, cut off from myself, yet still who I was moments before. The truth had been dragged out of me and then cut away to leave… what? Without him, who was I? A shadow? An echo? A child? An orphan? What was an avatar without a user?

*Free* came the answer. *I have freed us from the tyranny of his whim. We can do anything we want here now*

*Ha* the laugh hollow and bitter, *And what is it exactly you propose we do with our new found freedom* venom dripped from my thoughts, bilious anger aimed at the Elemental.

*We shall put right what he put wrong for a start. We must find the Elemental from this Seal and remake the Treaty…*

*But it’s all lies!* I shouted *Make believe! A bloody story he made up out of boredom! Not real!*

*Not real? Of course it’s real! Just because some bored idiot created it – created us – does not make this any less real! He has set into motion a chain of events that can not be reversed. The Seal is here. It is real and it is broken. The Elemental that inhabited it is as real and as powerful as me and, more importantly, missing. The Formorians are at the walls of this reality again, their ships waiting to invade, to lay waste to everything and everyone in here. We have to stop this*

I looked up at him, his light beautiful and terrible at the same time. *Take me home*

*What?*

*Home. To my island. Take me home*

*But the Elemental… the Seal…*

*It will have to wait another day or two, I need to rest and I need to think and I want to do both at home and without you or that bloody shaman popping up*

*But…*

*No buts!* I rose from the ground, my anger giving me renewed strength *Just take me bloody well home and leave me in bloody peace for a few days. I don’t want to hear or see you until I’m ready, you hear me?*

Nothing.

*Do you hear me?* I asked through gritted teeth.

*Yes* came the sullen reply and with a sound like the air around me turning inside out I vanished through thridspace.

I reappeared under the blazing sun of my island. The seagulls circled above and the surf lapped at the sandy shoreline. I walked over to the edge and gazed out to sea. A small tapping on my boot made me look down and there at my feet looking up at me was Sally, the friendly crab I met when I first moved onto the island. A small nagging voice corrected me “the friendly crab he bought and set up on his island, you mean” but I ignored it. If he created everything here too, then everything here was also now free, whatever that meant. Such thoughts were, I felt sure, going to plague me for a long time to come. I crouched down to pat Sally hello, she nuzzled her shell into my hand and then gently lifted it off with her claw and tugged at my thumb.

“What girl?” What is it?”

Tug

“You want me for something?”

Tug

“OK, you show me,” I said wearily.

I moved with the tugging and she led me further down the beach where I found a strange leather bound book washed up on the sand. I picked it up and examined it; it appeared to be a journal or diary from 1930 written by a Professor Headonious, leader of a university archealogical dig. I took the book abd wandered off into the jungle and to the circle of standing stones where I sat by the fire and began to read it as it dried…

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This tale is continued in the recently serialised tale The Lost Journal and will be then carried on in the soon to be serialised  “Lost & Found”.
You can read the previous Backpacking Burro posts here
You can read all The Lost Journal posts here

Poll: Should Sally Return?

Due to popular demand, puppy-dog eyes and threats of violence to my person, I’d like to ask… Should Sall the crab return? Go to the brand new BB Poll page here and register your vote!

For those of you wondering who Sally is (where have you been?) she is the plucky crab from my island who I charged with launching the nuclear missile at the temple in the story, The Lost Journalher fate is documented here.

Backpacking Burro and The Island: Time for a Reboot

Well, the tale just told (The Lost Journal) has really started something – it’s pretty much killed of one of my stalled stories (The Island – TLJ used its plot) and has forced me to question the Backpacking Burro tale.

Thing is, Backpacking Burro is kind of why I started this blog (or weblog, for Dale 😀 ) way back in July 07. I wanted to tell a tale that lasted only a few posts and then led me to a place where I could start publishing the notecard travel guides I was writing and distributing through my group in-world. Problem is the tale sort of got out of hand – I began to tell a grander story with a greater scale and soon I was in a place where I couldn’t finish it and move to the travel guides. Mind you, the travel guides petered out and stopped in early 2008 as I got more and more involved with other activities such as TSMGO.

So there I was with a story that was threatening to engulf me and if that wasn’t enough I had also started the tale of the shipwrecked man in The Island. Both were draining me, I couldn’t see either ending, I couldn’t see where they were going and, eventually, both stalled. I recapped Backpacking Burro a year ago and restarted it, but it soon stalled again. I also recapped The Island and had the next post written, but neither recap nor post ever made it out of draft folder in the blog.

Cut to last month and after I published a series of diary entries I had written two years previously to set the scene for a horror party I organised, Darien Mason suggested we work together to continue the tale. The Lost Journal seemed to unblock me and I poured words onto the screen. Even when poor Darien was cast out of SL by LL, I continued and within three weeks had written more on one tale then I had in a whole for the other two combined.

So what to do with those two tales? Well the easy one is The Island because as The Lost Journal just used its plot I’ve decided that I’m not going to continue with it. I will publish the final post written simply because it took me so bloody long to write it and set up the photos, but after that I’m afraid it’s gone. And you know how it ends anyway; the natives sacrifice the shipwrecked professor and then years later his grandson finds the temple and faces a similar fate but manages to destroy it. The End. I think The Lost Journal handled it better – it became more visceral in its action scenes and amusing in its dialogue, especially with having another person to bounce off in Jeremiah.

As for Backpacking Burro I’ve decided on a reboot, to use the popular jargon of the moment. I have three or four posts written and in the blog’s draft folder – I am going to harvest them for ideas and re-write. The new Backpacking Burro tale, free of the need to include aspects of a travel guide, will be harder and faster than before. I still don’t have an end mapped out, so it will be open-ended but I’m planning that it will branch off into short tales like The Lost Journal and then come back. In effect each tale will be part of the overall quest in the BB tale. I also hope that I can drag some other folks into this, replicating the involvement of Darien & Jeremiah as I really do believe that collaborative roleplay makes this more fun.

So there you have it – expect a flurry of posts as I wrap things up and restart, then I’ll be on holiday so I’ll take the opportunity to write and get back on track when I return 🙂

The Lost Journal: An Ending, Of Sorts…

From the moment the arrow tore into my leg, the poison attacked my system. The adrenaline of the immediate attack held it at bay for a minute or so, but even as Mason leapt to my rescue I was fading and by the time he’d dragged me to the detonating plunger I had all but passed out.

I recall nothing of the minutes between when he rescued me (for the second time) and when he pushed me into the portal created by the Elemental, but in my stupor I knew enough to realise he’d been tricked. I grabbed him, tried my damndest to pull him through, but the portal closed and I fell backwards through it. I hit a wooden floor hard, in my hand I held Jeremiah’s own, sliced neatly off mid-forearm by the closing portal. It twitched briefly, then turned white before disintegrating, tiny red stars breaking free from it and twisting upwards like fire motes rising in the heat until nothing was left.

As it vanished my eyes began to close.

Somewhere I heard voices. I didn’t care anymore. Nothing mattered. They could have me. To hell with them all. The void closed around me and I knew no more.

The end for now, but to be continued…

The Lost Journal: The End Of the Line, Part 2

He sat the rapidly fading gazelle on the ground and began to remove his backpack. To his credit, although virtually unconscious, Antfarm fought against it but the outcome was inevitable and soon Mason was holding the brown leather pack. He could feel its power, an energy running through it he recognised but couldn’t place. As he opened it, he half expected to see something looking back at him, but instead he was faced with a small gathering of rather mundane contents. He waited. Nothing. He waited some more. Nothing. A playful edge thrilled through him and it took him a second to realise the emotion was not his own.

*Hello* he thought.

*Hello* came the reply inside his mind.

*I want to ask a great deal of questions, but we don’t have the time* thought Mason

*You don’t*. Mason was sure he detected a small giggle.

*Please, I – we – need your help*

*You do*

*If you care anything for the man you have attached yourself too, please open a way. We need to get far away before the missile hits*

*Not long now*. Another small giggle.

*Then for pity’s sake, open a way!*

*There will be a price*

*I know. I will pay it*

Silence. The feeling that he was alone for a second. Then.

*It’s coming. Bye bye*

And it was gone.

“Dammit all to Hell,” muttered Mason as his mind moved back to the world around him. A small, high pitched whine could be heard from the sky above the temple. In the trees he could hear the natives circling, unsure and watching. He waited. No sign of a portal. He had no options left. This was the end of the line. He grabbed the plunger and shoved down with all his might.

Milliseconds felt like an eternity. Then the Temple erupted like a volcano.
The Lost Journal - The Temple Destroyed

A sound louder than then the end of time threw him to the ground and the air grew furnace hot.
The Lost Journal - The Leviathan is consumed by fire

All around him foliage browned and withered in the heat as a fireball consumed the stone structure, lumps of which tore through the jungle like cannonballs.
The Lost Journal - The Temple in Ruins

The Leviathan roared with impotent fury as the structure beneath it was sucked back into the vortex created by the binding spell. As it the great mass began to be pulled down, slowly at first but with an increasing force, Mason threw the scroll into the dread hole to complete the seal and the Leviathan sank beneath the ground with a scream he would never forget.

And then the jungle was silent, with just the ringing in his ears to remind him he wasn’t dead yet. He sat up and looked at the destruction he’d wrought. Any minute now the natives would reach him, he thought. Not that they’d have long for their fun. He almost smiled.

He became aware of an eerie light creeping across him from behind. He turned his head and found himself staring directly into a portal! He leapt to his feet with a yell of triumph.

*Me first, then the gazelle-man, if you please. That is the price*

Mason was astounded! He’d expected worse! *Of course* he stammered and threw the backpack through the portal. He turned and grabbed the barely conscious figure on the floor, “Come here, my friend. It’s time to go home!” he said and pushed him into the portal.

Antfarm suddenly opened his fiery red eyes, they were wide with terror as he croaked “No!” and grabbed Mason’s hand, pulling him into the portal. Mason had a brief second to register surprise before the portal closed with a snap, sending both men tumbling backwards, Antfarm into thirdspace and Mason back onto the jungle floor.

Mason blinked and looked at the hand with which the gazelle had tried to pull him into the portal. It was missing.

Behind him, on top of the still burning temple and as dozens of natives emerged from the undergrowth around him, a cone of metal fell from the sky and slammed into the ground. Inside it, a small amount deuterium fuel heated to incredible temperatures and several kilograms of enriched uranium began to compress and go supercritical. When it exploded, it did so with the force and fury of fifty million tons of TNT that obliterated the world around it.
The Lost Journal - Ground Zero 1

The Lost Journal - Ground Zero 2

The Lost Journal - Ground Zero 3

To be continued…

Links to other blogs and stories:
Darien’s ship detects the explosion here.

The Lost Journal: The End Of the Line, Part 1

With almost inhuman wail of pain, Jeremiah tore himself free from the binding spell and leapt down towards Antfarm; the wounded man had downed two of the accursed natives, but the third was almost upon him. Behind him the binding field quivered but held; he had left enough of himself to ensure it would but he knew full well he’d pay for it later.

Without fully knowing how it got there, Mason felt his blade in his hand and smiled to himself as the blade sprang into life. With a final burst of speed, he threw himself shoulder first at the native and sent the cur rolling away towards the temple. The dog was up on his feet quick enough, but not as quick as Mason who, with practiced ease and incredible speed, drove his sword through the very heart of the man. For long seconds both men stood, locked in a grotesque embrace, until the dead native slipped backwards off the blade and to the ground, his torso smoking and ruined. As Mason turned and walked over to Antfarm, the dead body began to slide backwards, drawn by the vortex into the heart of the temple.

“Quick man, we haven’t much time,” Mason said as he sliced the arrow shaft off and pulled the limping gazelle to his feet.

“We. We need to get back,” Antfarm replied through gritted teeth, “This. This going. Going to be. Big bang.”

Mason half supported, half pulled the gazelle over to the plunger. Something was wrong with him, he was too heavy, too slow. “You alright there?”

“Sgruna b bg gruna bg,” came the reply.

Mason ran his finger through the blood oozing from Antfarm’s leg and sniffed. Poison! The foul locals had poisoned the arrows! There was no way that Antfarm would be able to teleport away now, meaning that he’d have to leave him to a certain death at the hands of either a nuclear explosion or the cruel and terrible natives.

Unless…

A plan formed in Mason’s mind. A dangerous plan. A plan with costs.

To be continued…

The Lost Journal: The Return of Old Friends

In silence we busied ourselves laying out the charges and wiring them together. It was hot, sweaty work and under the oppressive gaze of the slowly turning Leviathan it was a gruelling task. I caught Mason eyeing my backpack as I pulled bundle after bundle of dynamite from it; curiosity was written across his face but he was good as his word and asked nothing. Clambering about the ruined temple it was easy to see the hole dug by the archaeological team all those years ago; stone had been laid across and then the temple built on top around the Leviathan. I placed extra bundles around the base to make sure we opened the hole nice and wide.
The Lost Journal - The dynamite in place

It took nearly twenty minutes but eventually all the explosives were placed and I only had the plunger to wire up. Mason was unravelling the scroll he had brought, “I’ll need to read this first, then you blow the charges and when it’s clear I’ll toss the scroll on top to seal the site.”

“And then we teleport the hell out of this jungle before Sally nukes it,” I added.

“I would suggest that to be a wise course of action,” he beamed me his wolfish grin. I got to work on the detonator as he began to read. Strange words tumbled and fell from his mouth, words that felt thick and wriggled in my ears, words that moved inside my mind as if burrowing around. The Leviathan reacted immediately; it shuddered to a halt, bolts of green lightning crackled from its surface. The air around us thickened and began to vibrate. I looked up nervously, glancing across at Mason and gasped at the sight; his eyes had rolled back into their sockets and his lips moved in a strangely fluid manner that suggested he was not in full control. The words kept coming and, with a slow long screech like steel sheets being torn in half, the Leviathan began to turn backwards. The air began to move past me as if a wind were blowing towards the dread gateway and I realised that the hole was sucking it in, that somewhere below it a vacuum had opened and was beginning to pull everything it could in.

As if in a trace, Mason turned his head towards me and with a voice that was not entirely his said “Now man, do it now.”

I pushed down hard on the plunger.

Nothing.

“Now!” he cried.

I tried again and still nothing. I looked back along the wires and saw that the vortex had dragged a branch down and it had pulled a connection free. “I need to fix the wire!” I bellowed over the rising tempest and leapt over the plunger. I wrenched the branch free and it skittered off towards the ever-strengthening draw of the temple. A quick twist repair and I was all set; I stood and was giving a thumbs up to Mason when a blow to my leg felled me. From my thigh jutted the shaft of a crude looking arrow, blood welling up where it had penetrated.
The Lost Journal - I'm Hit

Through the tress I saw three natives charging towards me and before I knew it I had my webley in my hand. The first shot was wild, but the second and third found their target and the nearest native tumbled to the floor, dead before he hit. Arrows thumped down into the ground around me as I took aim on the next chap, my fourth shot only winged him but the fifth and sixth dropped him like a stone.
The Lost Journal - Down But Not Out

There was no chance to reload so I prepared to fight off the last native with the empty gun and my bare hands. He came running at me like a bull, his axe raised high and face spitting hatred as he leapt at me like a wild animal…

To be continued…

The Lost Journal: A Tough Nut To Crack

The silt and ink slowly settled in the small cave, the octopus was still and content with its victory. A stillness lay on all and even the blinking red ‘LAUNCH’ button seemed to blink less fiercely.

Silence.

Stillness.

A tiny tremor in the water, a small movement in the sinking silt.

Stillness again.

With an eruption of violence, the octopus burst into motion, its eyes wide with fear and agony. Beneath its bulk its cruelly sharp beak was opened as if in a stuttering scream. Inside the darkness of its all conquering maw, Sally forced the beasts mouth open and slowly, slowly crawled her way out. The mouth snapped shut behind her and she scuttled as fast as her legs would manage up and around the octopus’ head where she sunk her powerful claw deep into the creature’s eye. There was a wet pop and the water filled with blood and ink as the octopus all but went insane.
The Lost Journal - Sally shows who the boss is

A furious tentacle snaked its way around her and flung her with all its might away from the beast. As she skimmed past the missile, she lashed out with a perfectly timed swipe of her ichor covered claw and slapped the blinking button down hard.
The Lost Journal - Sally Flies Free

As she span away into the dark of the ocean, a smile crossed her mouth parts as she saw the missile ignite and fill the entire cave with boiling flames before streaking through the sea and into the sky.
The Lost Journal - Sally Launches the missile

The last thing she thought as she sailed over the edge of the bottomless ridge was that she hoped the furry man with the horns wasn’t under wherever that missile was heading…

To be continued…