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They set off half-an-hour later, leaving only the remains of the fire to mark their stay. Kieran was loath to depart from the ruined church. He suspected that it was the last place for a while where he could simply be Kieran Flannery, and no one else. His own identity, which he had previously never thought about too much, suddenly became very dear to him. From henceforth, or at least until Angel was defeated, he would be an entity, one of nature's forces, an elemental. His existence would revolve around Angel, tied inextricably up with his, until one of them ceased to breathe. From now on until the fight was over he would be just one side of a coin.
He had little chance to think for the rest of the journey, which was a very hair-raising affair. He was left alone in the litter whilst Adam walked with a cowed Lonts behind. Joby sat up front with Hillyard, who tried to give him a crash-course in cart-driving whilst they were heading down a sharp mountain pass. At times it seemed dangerously as though the litter would overtake the bullock! In the back Kieran was thrown about like a pancake. He was seriously beginning to regret not taking Reuton up on his offer of a lift.
"They'll kill him", said Lonts, after the litter had disappeared from sight round a bend "I know they will, they'll kill him. We walked into their trap. Mind you, I suppose you let me walk into it, as you're on their side too".
"Lonts, just shut up and walk".
"Why? Will you kill me if I don't?"
Joby meanwhile was exhilarated.
"Back home, in my time", he yelled at Hillyard "People would pay to go on virtual reality rides like this".
"That's what I like about it", Hillyard roared back "Gets the old adrenalin going. It's almost as good as sex".
Reuton was watching and waiting as they thundered into the Restricted Area. He had been sitting in one of the watchmen's huts, ready to ring the emergency Klaxon as soon as the litter appeared. To Hillyard's relief the bullock did not react unduly distressed at the horrendous noise the Klaxon made. In fact the animal had been so docile throughout the entire journey that Hillyard was beginning to think it had been lobotomised like Resz.
Joby jumped down as soon as they came to a halt, and poked his head through the drapes to check on Kieran. He found his friend in a filthy temper.
"I must be black and focking blue. Haven't you got any brakes on this thing?"
"No, nor low gear either", Joby pulled him upright "It was great. I wouldn't mind doing it again".
"Not with me in the back you don't! You could've thrown me out".
"That's alright. Adam would've scooped you up as he went past".
"Very funny. Where is Adam anyway?"
"Not far behind. I suppose we'd better wait around here until they show".
This was bad news for Reuton, who was desperately impatient to take them below and show them to everyone else. Up until that morning morale at the Valley of Freaks had been very low indeed. They were deep in the depths of another winter, with several months yet before a thaw would set in. The City was ignoring them, and the vampires had appeared to be playing games with them once more. Added to that the Virus had broken out in a highly-secure part of the freak colony. This was the foetus bank which had already been hit by the Virus earlier in the year, subsequently causing many valuable stocks of embryos to be destroyed. Now even more would have to be culled. It was very bad news indeed. Reuton suspected that Caln had been playing tricks on his last visit, although he didn't know what the vampire hoped to gain from poisoning his own future supply of meat.
The subsequent news that the vampires had been defeated, and the Vanquisher was now on his way to them, prior to his final conflict with the Devil, would have been deemed too preposterous in normal times. And yet the omens all pointed to it being the truth. The timing was right for one thing. They were in the closing weeks of the Fourth Millennium, when according to all the ancient prophecies the Vanquisher would appear. Added to that all contact with the Winter Palace had been impossible for some time.
Now Reuton waited impatiently in the crisp sunshine as Adam and Lonts walked down the mountain as though enjoying a Sunday afternoon nature ramble. Lonts had been stunned into complete silence by Adam's threat to kill him, and on hearing that they were about to go underground became convinced he was taking him into Hell.
"You've got to be good Lonts", said Kieran "For me at least".
"You won't leave me down there will you?" said Lonts "Please don't".
"If you're good there'll be no reason to leave you in Hell", said Adam, wearily.
"No. I-I suppose not".
"Talk to him as though you were a fellow loon", said Adam to Kieran "It's the only way to make him understand".
Hillyard wasn't happy about leaving the bullock and litter above ground, and had to be vociferously reassured by one of the watchmen that the beast would be well taken care of in his absence.
"I'll come back occasionally to check", said Hillyard, which sounded more like a threat than a promise.
One of the huts housed the entrance to the elevator. It was large enough to take them all at once, and Reuton explained that there were two bigger elevators in the mountains to take buggies, equipment and "other cargo". The elevator took them down several levels. As Adam watched the red light above the door he was uncomfortably reminded of the day they had arrived at the Henang penal colony, barely minutes after crossing over the time-cusp. Behind him Lonts was muttering nervously, in that strange almost wordless monotone that he liked to use sometimes. It occurred to Adam that many times during this whole trip they had been just as bewildered as the boy.
The doors slid open noiselessly and they found themselves in a dimly-lit underground tunnel. Adam had expected a great deal of clinical whiteness with wide, open areas, like an ultra-efficient hospital. Instead they emerged into a narrow, dank tunnel, with thick hot water pipes covering the ceiling, which looked unnervingly as though the giant worm had come back with a vengeance. Adam had to practically drag Lonts along by his elbow.
"Don't you dare tell me you've got claustrophobia as well", he hissed at the boy.
"This is Hell", said Lonts "I dreamed about it once, and it had tunnels just like this, full of dead bodies stuffed in plastic bags".
"He's not well", Kieran explained to Reuton, who was looking rather startled "In fact, we were hoping you might be able to help us with him, if you have any medication I mean".
"I can get a therapist to check him over", said Reuton.
"That would help".
"Is it purely mental?" Reuton blushed as he spoke, he was so delighted to be of such use to the Vanquisher.
"Yes it is. There's nothing wrong with him physically, not as far as I can see. He needs a lot of help though. He never has a sane moment".
"Never? Poor boy".
There was a system in place which enabled buggies to be used like tram-cars, running along metal grids in some of the tunnel floors. It was hard to gauge how they could possibly see where they were going in the general gloom, and the whole journey had the feeling of a ride on the ghost-train. This was emphasised further when a light flashed red, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and a glass and metal barrier came crashing down in front of them. They were now at a cross junction, where three tunnels met.
It was a particularly grim level-crossing. Through the thick glass barrier they could just make out a large buggy containing several huddled shapes. The driver wore an all-enveloping protective suit, and a breathing apparatus over his face.
"Were they freaks?" said Joby.
"We prefer to call them Victims Of The Virus Disorder", said Reuton, rather pompously.
"How badly deformed do they get?" said Adam.
"It varies from person to person. A lot depends on their genetic make-up, DNA, all the rest of it. Some people have a better immunity system than others. The most vulnerable do to tend to get terrible deformities which look simply horrific. But I can assure you security is excellent here".
"Does it affect the mind?" said Adam.
"Again it varies on the strength of mind of the person concerned. Some can rise above their physical afflictions, others ... well I'm afraid they go into a zombified state".
A distant bell rang, the red light flicked off, and the barrier was slowly raised.
"What does it feel like to live with all this around you?" said Joby "It must be like sitting on a bomb sometimes".
"One doesn't think about it too much", said Reuton, crisply.
The tunnels seemed endless. They passed the entrances to other ones, some of which appeared more brightly-lit, others had barriers across and signs warning of An Area Of High Risk Contamination. The heavy silence that lay everywhere made it all seem even more grim somehow.
"I don't know how you work here", said Joby "Not without going mad anyway".
"It has been known", said Reuton "For others to go mad, not me. That is why we have an excellent therapist on the staff. But I don't believe we have as high a level of cabin-fever as you might expect".
The low-ceilinged tunnel eventually opened out into a large, square area with high walls. These had originally been painted with detailed scenes, like the doors at the Winter Palace, but time had blurred them into indistinguishable blocks of faded colour.
"I can hear a bell ringing somewhere", said Kieran, who was wedged uncomfortably in the back of the buggy between Joby and Hillyard. Adam sat in the front, with Lonts between himself and Reuton. "A great clanging thing in the far distance".
"The whole Colony is being alerted that you are amongst us", said Reuton, stopping the buggy and stepping out of it "Before I leave I must just say that I am so proud that it was I who found you and led you here".
"Are you off somewhere then?" said Joby.
"I have done my part. Now I must hand you over to our deputy director, Yentzi. He will make you welcome here, no doubt there are many questions he will wish to ask you", Reuton hesitated, reluctant to move on so soon "I'm not certain if we shall meet again but please..."
Reuton hung on the side of the buggy and gazed with a desperate longing at Kieran. Kieran then leaned across Joby and kissed Reuton lightly on the forehead. Reuton looked as though he might explode like a firecracker.
"I knew you would come one day", he whispered "I just knew".
"And he'll probably never wash again", Joby sneered, after Reuton had disappeared through a door in the coloured panelling.
"You can shut up", said Kieran "Or I'll start charging for them".
"Then you really will have found your true vocation!"
Kieran slapped Joby hard around the face, and Joby slapped him back. This ritual looked as though it could have gone on indefinitely if Adam hadn't intervened.
"You two had better start learning to behave in a civilised fashion", he snapped, clambering out of the buggy "I know it's difficult, as neither of you are housetrained but ..."
"He started it", Joby pouted.
"I don't care! You have a status to live up to now. For God's sake, what will it look like if any of this lot can see the Vanquisher having a punch-up with one of his disciples!"
"Disciple?" Joby exclaimed "I'm not his frigging disciple!"
"It's a figure of speech Joby".
"Well I'm not his disciple", Joby showed dangerous signs of going into a sulk.
Adam grabbed Joby's coat in both hands and hauled him into an upright position.
"Don't you dare give me any trouble Joby", he said, staring him squarely in the eye "I'm counting on you. From now on you've got to learn to separate your public life from your private one. Even if you absolutely hate Patsy's guts, you don't show it to anyone but us".
"I don't hate him", said Joby "He just really gets on my tits sometimes that's all".
"They might be watching us now", said Lonts.
"Exactly!" Adam squawked "Out of the mouths of babes and lunatics! They might be secretly watching us as though expecting a profound religious experience, and all they get is you two slapping each other!"
"I have two queries", said Hillyard, folding his arms in an imposing fashion "First, why are we being kept waiting here like this, and second, why if Kieran is as important as they say, are we being fobbed off with the deputy director?"
"I was wondering that myself", said Joby "And we have been sat here a long time".
"I told you", said Lonts "They're watching us. Take my word on it".
Another door opened in the panelling and a pallid youth emerged, wearing a long dark monkish-style gown. This was the general uniform of the domestic staff at the Colony.
"I think he wants us to follow him", said Joby, as the silent youth stood waiting by the door.
"Right, you two must be on your best behaviour", said Adam, in a hectoring tone "Come along Lonts, and bring your bag with you. I'm not carrying it".
They passed through a much smaller, inner foyer that was painted entirely in white. This seemed to serve as a security check, because the pallid youth made them halt under a bright light briefly before moving on. They then came to a set of double doors which the pallid youth rapped on. These were opened from the inside by an equally bland creature who ushered them in with a cursory wave of his hand. Neither youth looked at any of them directly.
The room inside was large and tastefully decorated, with well-upholstered sofas, paintings on the walls, and large bowls of silk flowers strategically placed for maximum effect. It felt disorientating to come across such an elegant place after the heavy gloom of the underground tunnels. The only sign that they were in the same Colony was the complete absence of any windows.
Yentzi, deputy director at the Colony, emerged from behind a polished desk. The man fitted the room like a glove. He was the same age as Adam, and had an air of prissy elegance about him. His dark, wavy hair was neatly combed, his skin and nails scrubbed free of any imperfections. His full lips were the only outward sign that this was a man who didn't mentally keep his penis tucked between his legs at all times.
Adam felt uncomfortable. The man was looking at him rather kindly, but in his soiled road-tested state Adam felt like a bag of coal that had been accidentally tipped over the deep, white carpet. He didn't realise that Yentzi may appear the epitome of scrubbed elegance himself, but he looked for rather earthier qualities in his lovers.
"I am so sorry for the delay", Yentzi walked ('minced' was how Adam would have described it) across to them "But Reuton, in his understandable excitement at your arrival, did not inform me straight away that he had deposited you outside my door".
He noticed Kieran eventually, who had been nervously trying to disappear behind Hillyard. The Vanquisher was beautiful, Yentzi acknowledged that Reuton hadn't exaggerated there, his presence did cast a certain glow. But in Yentzi's eyes he was suffering an eclipse. Yentzi had felt an instant attraction for Adam who, with his tall figure, uncut hair and scruffy clothes, exuded the kind of animal sensuality that Yentzi had never been able to resist. He was nothing if not professional though, and didn't let his baser feelings intrude on his duty. After all, the Vanquisher had to be greeted in the correct manner, so Yentzi bowed low.
Kieran wanted to die. Or at least scream that it was all a mistake. Why such obeisance to him of all people? It was all too peculiar. To a Catholic boy, however lapsed in recent years, it all bordered on the sacrilegious. For the first time in years he was grateful for his religion. It would keep him on a level. He realised that to these people he might represent in human form a force for good in the Universe (although he would never understand how that had come about), but he felt he couldn't take credit for being the force itself.
He came out of his thoughts to find that everyone else was waiting to sit down. Yentzi had offered them seats, only to look simply scandalised when Joby went to sit down before the Vanquisher had done so. Kieran took the proffered armchair, outwardly looking composed, but inwardly feeling that if a window had been available nearby he would have climbed out of it and ran.
The other four arranged themselves comfortably on a sofa. It all looked very cosy, even Lonts appeared relaxed, and Kieran longed to join them, but he was to be excluded whilst anyone outside their group was around.
"I feel that our rather low-key welcome of you", Yentzi was saying "is inappropriate, but your appearance has rather caught us by surprise here at the Colony, and we have been unable to initiate the proper show of greeting and respect that we feel you merit".
Kieran wasn't sure if Yentzi was addressing him personally, or the group as a whole. He smiled at him uncertainly, as though offering encouragement to a nervous actor at an audition.
"We also had to contact the Winter Palace and check that the vampires have indeed gone as you say. But there has been no response there for some time. The Ministry in the City have confirmed that communications are down. If this truly means that the vampires' long and gruesome reign is over then ... well then no mere words can express our humble gratitude".
"I have yet to fight the Devil", Kieran pointed out "And I have a feeling he may come for me here. You do realise that could throw the whole Colony at risk?"
"Yes that is indeed a potential problem, but that is OUR problem. We would not wish you to take it on yourself".
"The fact remains", Kieran went on "We're not out of the woods yet. Whilst Angel ... the Devil is still at large we are none of us safe".
"Yes it is a sobering thought", Yentzi touched a flower arrangement in a distracted way "For so many years now we have awaited your arrival. For so many years the vampires have held sway. I cannot take it in that it may all soon be at an end ... If only you'd come sooner!"
Kieran looked astonished at his outburst, but Yentzi hadn't finished.
"Why didn't you come at the time of the Massacre?" he said, looking as though he was about to cry "Prevented all that destruction. So many of us will want to know the reason for that. Or sixty years ago when the vampires first took over and developed the Virus".
Yentzi put his head in his hands and collected himself.
"I'm sorry", he said "Please forgive me. But there has been so much destruction. And now this new century that is about to dawn may well be our very last. Why did you leave it until the end to come?"
"Because I didn't know", said Kieran, softly "I simply didn't know. I never believed there could be an end to the human race. I thought it would simply keep evolving as it had always done. And now that one half is gone for good it can't survive, but to be frank there is no reason why it should. Every form of life that has ever been known has had it's limited span. The human race did well to come as far as it has, but when it starts annihilating its other half it doesn't deserve to survive".
"Then why come now?"
"Because everyone has a right to die with dignity. That is why the vampires had to be destroyed, and why the Devil must be contained. For the sake of all its past achievements, and all the good people who have gone before, the human race must bow out gracefully and peacefully, not be reduced to mere vampire fodder".
"Now I know it is truly you", said Yentzi "I had to be sure".
"Why can't we see the kingpin?" Joby blurted out "I mean, you're only his deputy".
"You will see him in due course. He is indisposed at the present time".
As if on cue there was a mild bleeping from a handset on a nearby table. Yentzi picked it up and pressed the 'MESSAGE REVEAL' button.
"It seems I spoke prematurely", he said "He is ready to see us now".
Up in another elevator for two floors, and along a maze of yet more tunnels in another buggy they eventually came to a pair of double doors, guarded by two hefty-looking men wearing fur turbans. They opened the doors immediately on seeing Yentzi, and the small group were shown into a marble foyer, which contained a fountain spurting bright blue water.
"Amazing what's hidden behind all these grim tunnels", said Adam.
"Yes", Yentzi laughed, his voice sounding like velvet. Now that the Director was about to do his share he felt he could relax a little "Small pockets of brightness in an oasis of gloom, is how I like to see it".
He led them down a small flight of stairs, carpeted in deep scarlet, knocked tentatively on the door at the bottom and went in. They were shown into a large, spacious room panelled throughout in dark wood, and carpeted in more of the ubiquitous deep scarlet. Low, squishy sofas abounded. There was a drinks cabinet the size of a small ship, and one wall was covered in television screens. When activated these showed different parts of the Colony, particularly the areas where the "freaks" were housed. The screens were all currently blank, and there was no sign of their host at all. Yentzi had gone through another door on the far side of the room, and had re-emerged again pretty sharpish.
"He will be out shortly", he said, looking chastened "I'm sure you would all like a drink whilst you're waiting".
Getting everyone's order sorted out took some time, and marginally helped to compensate for the continued non-appearance of the Director. Adam was miffed to find that coffee wasn't being offered, and declined anything else rather abruptly. A slight quivering of Yentzi's bottom lip revealed how distraught this had made him.
"This isn't good enough", said Joby, suddenly slamming his drink on the glass table.
"Joby", Adam began, in a warning voice.
"Well it isn't! I mean, we've been through one hell of a lot to get here. We've risked starvation, hypothermia, being turned to stone, crushed by giant worms and eaten by fucking vampires. Flannery was nearly reduced to vegetable status at the Winter Palace, and this fucking poxy Director can't get his arse out here to see us!"
"Joby's very tired", Adam explained to Yentzi.
"Yea, fucking tired of being pratted about", said Joby "If he isn't going to show then I'm leaving, and I'm fucking well taking Flannery with me".
Yentzi looked as though he had been stuffed in a bag and punched. He normally delighted in such earthy language, partly because he could never bring himself to use it, and partly because it reminded him of the sort of men who turned him on. At this moment though he was shocked, such language was offensive in the presence of the Vanquisher.
"W-Who's Flannery?" he asked, eventually.
"Pats ... I mean, the Vanquisher", said Adam "You must excuse Joby. This is his set speech, we have it on a periodic basis. You can almost set your watch by him".
"This isn't funny Adam", said Joby.
"No, and I'm not laughing", Adam went on "Really Yentzi, the boy does have a point. This is a bit much".
"I can only apologise once again. More drinks anyone?"
A loud groan of anguish went up from the next room. It was the kind of groan that denoted one type of activity only. It was followed by a succession of shorter groans as the Director reached his energetic climax. Yentzi was surprised yet relieved to see that the Vanquisher found it mildly amusing, which was more than could be said of his colleagues. Adam looked bored and resigned, Joby and Hillyard wore expressions of disapproval, and Lonts just appeared to be bewildered.
"All I can say", Kieran remarked "Is that you can hardly be surprised I didn't make the effort to get here sooner!"
"You're going to apologise again aren't you?" Adam said to Yentzi, sarcastically.
"No I'm afraid I am", said Kieran, suddenly rising to his feet "I'm sorry Yentzi, but I agree with Joby. I'm leaving. This is all too hideous".
"But Patsy", Adam hissed "The Virus. We have to destroy the Virus".
"Oh no we don't. It is their problem, and from what I've seen and heard of this cheesy place they're welcome to it. We are not scientists or ecologists Adam, we wouldn't know where to begin in destroying a Virus. We're going to the City, and I'm telling you not asking you. Angel can find me as well there as anywhere else".
The doors at the other end of the room opened and a figure appeared. The Director was tall and thin, with a sickly complexion that suggested he rarely saw daylight. His head was completely bald, and his eyes were unfocused. Yentzi was relieved to see that he had remembered to do up his flies though.
"The Vanquisher and his colleagues Your Excellency", Yentzi found that the title had never sounded as hollow as it did now "They have been waiting for you".
The Director walked over to Kieran and then burst into a fit of giggles.
"I'm not sure who's supposed to bow to whom", he said, in a lazy drawl.
"You don't look capable of it", Kieran snapped "And I'm not in the mood".
"Shut up Adam, I'm talking to this idiot", said Kieran "I never was one for being civilised to eejuts who don't deserve it. I don't know what's happened to this world, when men like you can get such positions of power. How dare they appoint a smackhead like you to be in charge of the welfare of dangerously sick people!"
The Director would have glared at him, if he'd been capable of seeing straight. He groped for Yentzi blindly, like a drowning man clutching at a slippery rock.
"There is nothing I can say", said Yentzi, helplessly.
"How did he get this job?" said Kieran "Did he provide vital services to the vampires is that it?"
"No. He wasn't always like this", Yentzi helped the Director into a vacant chair, fearing that he would fall over if he didn't "But you must understand that working in a place like this can affect a man so badly. The drug-taking didn't start until some time after he'd come here".
"Then why wasn't he replaced?"
"The same old story you'll find all over I'm afraid. No one else will do the job. Whilst the vampires held sway no one of any great calibre wished to work for the Ministry. Many potentially great men of promise left the City to become nomads, or to live on their own amongst the deserts, beaches and mountains of the south".
"I will stay on one condition. We work with you, not him".
The Director had picked up a handset and was punching buttons on it at random. Some of the t.v screens flickered into life. They showed small cells, like a cross-section of a honeycomb. In each cell a victim of the Virus was highlighted, all of them were in varying stages of decay.
"The Virus", said Adam "But that is what Caln had! What causes it?"
"Exposure to green blood", said Yentzi.
"Then we have it!" Joby yelled "We were exposed to Caln".
"No, you're safe", said Yentzi "If it was only Caln you saw with the disease you're in the clear, as vampires cannot be carriers in the way that humans can. It is the only thing in their favour".
"But Angel took in green blood at the deserted inn, remember?" said Joby to Kieran "It made him sick".
"And he deteriorated quite sharply after that", said Kieran "And after he'd died, he always looked so gruesome whenever we saw him. I put it down to a corpse rotting, but it wasn't, it's because that is what the green blood does to you. And it will kill him again if he doesn't regularly take in fresh meat. Somehow I've got to starve him".
"Stombal!" Hillyard cried "We were exposed to Stombal. He had the green blood when he died".
"If you have only been exposed to small doses you will still be fine", said Yentzi "The disease is highly contagious, of that there is no doubt. But to really get it severely, you have to be with a carrier frequently and often, share the same food, or ... or make love to them. That sort of thing".
"Did you have sex with Stombal after he was attacked?" said Joby.
"How the bloody hell could I have done!" Hillyard protested "He was very ill, paralysed during the last hours of his life".
"I would have expected you to exhibit signs of the disease fairly soon after protracted exposure anyway", said Yentzi "The incubation period is very short, a matter of days, like a common cold really. Has any of you touched green blood directly, or absorbed it into your body in some way? Some people like to eat it or inject it. The danger element gives them a perverse thrill".
"There has been nothing like that", said Adam.
"I can request Reuton to give you all a checkover if you wish. Have you noticed any scorch-marks on your bodies, or felt a peculiar burning sensation inside?"
Everyone answered in the negative.
"Then I would assume you were clear, although Reuton could confirm it".
Lonts screamed. The Director had zoomed in on one of the screens, which showed a Virus victim in the advance stages of the disease. He had exposed himself to the camera, revealing the pitiful sight of his pubic area, where his genitals had burnt away completely.
"I can show you to your quarters now if you wish", said Yentzi "I'm hoping that you would be prepared to stay and help us?"
Yentzi showed them back into the marble foyer, but not before the Director had started sobbing and pathetically demanding their co-operation. Kieran felt sickened and embarrassed by the whole scene. He didn't like what he had heard and seen of the "great and the good" in this crazy new world. His earlier speech about allowing the human race to die with dignity now rang hopelessly hollow. The idea of the likes of the Director doing anything with dignity was a complete mockery.
"It's pointless, all of it", Kieran broke away from them and went to stand by the fountain "If the Virus is caused by green blood, then it will die out anyway with the destruction of the vampires. As long as its remaining victims are effectively quarantined, it can be contained".
"Not with Angel still around it can't", said Joby.
"Then all I have to do is destroy him, that's all. No viruses need be destroyed".
Yentzi was relieved to find Adam hanging back from the rest of the group, and approached him timidly.
"I would like to invite you to supper in my rooms later", said Yentzi, his forehead furrowing in his customary worried expression.
"I didn't expect you to be so direct", said Adam.
"The worst you can do is refuse".
"Even if I took you up on it, I could still do that".
"Yes, you could".
"I want some answers", said Adam "To a number of questions. Things that I think you know".
"If I get relaxed enough, I can talk about most things".
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