I said I would maybe post a mid-week blog to get you the next three chapters and here it is!
Of course, it’s last Friday and I’m scheduling this blog so I don’t forget. 😉
In these three chapters, we meet Delilah, Savannah and Dennis as adults. I like the two women. I am not Dennis’s biggest fan. Though, as it turns out, he’s definitely more weasel than devious. Bird’s nest, indeed.
Oh wait, that doesn’t come up yet. 😉 You’ll see.
2100, Delilah, 30 years old, 2 years, 3 months, 24 days left on timer
The woman in question sighs as her assistant’s voice comes over the headset. It’s the fourth time he’s contacted her in the last hour. “I’m fine, Tom.” Sometimes her assistant got on her nerves. He is a little clingy. However, he knows the equipment, he makes sure she has everything she needs and understands that she gets lost in her work. This week they are in what used to be Reykjavik, Iceland.
The entire country had been flash frozen and buried under several meters of snow in a freak storm in 2037. She was here with an archeological team, photographing their finds and helping date them. True to the vow she’d made as a teenager she was a photographer, one of the best in the world. She’d discovered a love of history and made archeology her minor in college. Today, she’s in a tent guiding a well-insulated camera on a track over a residential street.
“Shauneen says you’ve been out there too long.” There is some rustling. “The sun will go down in twenty-three minutes. The temperature is already dropping; it’s gone from minus twenty-eight to minus thirty-five in the last five minutes and the wind is picking up.” His voice turns cajoling. “I have hot chocolate here, made with real Aztec chocolate and the infrared sauna is ready to go.”
There’s a muffled conversation then another voice comes on, this one is melodious and one of Delilah’s favourites. “I have some caribou stew here for you too with a loaf of soft bread.”
Delilah laughs. “You sure do know how to sweet talk a girl, Shauneen.”
“It’s in celebration, darling. You’re up for the Lucie again.”
“Really? That’s fantastic! For which photos?” Delilah is thrilled. The Lucie is the biggest photography award out there. It would give her bank account some nice padding. She makes a note to herself to talk to her manager again about investments if she wins.
“Really really.” Shauneen’s voice is full of humour. She is Delilah’s best friend and, while she has a happy life with her own soulmate, she doesn’t judge Delilah for trying to avoid the meeting. She’s all about live and let live. “For the work you did in Bhutan. They loved the pictures of the elders. Come on in, we’ll talk about it. Oh, and there’s something else here for you too but you gotta come in to find out what it is.”
The mic clicks off. Delilah chuckles as she starts bringing the camera back in order to pack it away for the night. All the electronics would go into specially insulated cases. She tries to both hurry and be careful as curiousity gets to her. Finally, it’s her turn to bundle up. She wraps herself in layers of clothing, puts on the mask and goggles that will allow her to see and breathe in the cold, steps out the driving wind. She clips her safety line to the rope leading from the small tent to the main buildings and trudges towards food and warmth.
Tom greets Delilah as she comes through the airlock minus two layers of clothing. He hands her the promised hot chocolate and starts talking. “The pictures you took today already look good. They are showing Shauneen some things she wasn’t expected and confirming some other theories. She says two more days of filming in that spot and then she’s going to want to move you south-southwest about a kilometer. She suspects there’s a temple there, based on the things you’ve shown her today.”
Delilah sighs with pleasure as the sip of hot chocolate she took while he talked spreads warmth through her belly. “That’s good. When does she plan on starting to dig?” She takes another sip of the spicy, sweet chocolate drink. It’s made almost the same way as Xocolatl, the ancient Aztec’s spicy and bitter chocolate drink. The only real differences that she prefers it sweet and, while she’s in this icy clime, warm.
“She’ll start here as soon as you move to the new location. She plans on clearing the snow down to roof level with excavators and dump it into the big pool to slowly melt it. She’ll have a couple students watching to make sure nothing gets missed or damaged.”
As they round the corner into the common room Delilah spies a tall man dressed in the Janus uniform talking to Shauneen. She stops cold and blinks. Her brain kicks in and she shrieks with pleasure. She hands her cup to Tom as she takes off running across the room. “Sam!”
Tom looks furious for a second then his face smooths out into a pleased smile.
The man in question turns around and catches Delilah just as she launches herself at him. He gives a mock-grunt then laughs. “Hello, darling! I had some leave so I thought I’d come out to visit.” He kisses her soundly.
Delilah hugs him tightly and has a second to think that she wishes his kisses did more for her. She wasn’t unattracted to him but she wasn’t as into him as she would like to be. “I’ve missed you! Where have you been?” She leans back and starts patting him down. “Are you alright? What parts of the world have you seen?”
Sam laughs. “I just got in. Why don’t we take some of this gorgeous smelling stew and some wine back to your quarters?”
Shauneen smiles. “Here I was all set for a romantic dinner for the three of us.” She winks at Delilah. “Take the stew and one of the bread loaves and go. Tom and I will watch a vid. Maybe one of Brad Pitt’s movies.” Because of Janus’s founders were movie stars, their movies were still often thrown into the mainstream media.
Tom grinds his teeth and forces another smile. “Absolutely. But I’d prefer Damon.” He moves forward and presses the hot chocolate into Delilah’s hands. “Drink this up, we can’t be wasteful up here. You two kids go have fun.” He hopes no one notices the strain in his voice. He’d been looking forward to getting Delilah all to himself this evening. Having Sam arrive had been a shock.
Sam takes the cup from Delilah and sniffs it. He had seen the strain in Tom and how angry the man had been when he opened the airlock for him. “Aztec chocolate, eh? My favourite.” He deliberately takes a sip from the cup and sighs happily as the thick drink slides down his throat. “That’s all I need, darling, take it back.”
Delilah takes the cup back as Shauneen hands Sam the tray of food. It’s covered and insulated for they only bother with minimum heat in the corridors between the main living/working pod and the ones that make up the private quarters. Plus, she figures they probably won’t get to dinner until much later. “I cranked up the heat in your room about an hour ago, Lilypad,” Shauneen says.
“Thanks, Neener. Tom, we’ll discuss tomorrow’s schedule at 06:00. Have a good night.”
As they move from the room Sam leans down and says quietly, a smirk playing around his lips. “Lilypad?”
Delilah bumps him with her shoulder. “Shut up. They’re old nicknames from school.”
It’s a short walk to her room and she opens the door to let Sam through then closes and locks it behind them. She waits only until he puts the tray down before throwing herself at him.
He’s ready for her this time and kisses her hungrily, his hands roaming all over her as she starts to unzip his jacket. She slides her arms around his waist and presses herself against him. Then she groans with annoyance and steps away from him.
“What?” he says hoarsely.
“Too many clothes,” she mutters as she starts tearing at his outer clothes.
“Agreed.” Sam puts impatient hands to the task of removing his own clothes and a moment later they’re diving into the thick, insulated bedding on her bed.
Delilah shudders with pleasure at the skin contact. It’s something she needs, something she craves, this skin on skin touching. And when he puts his mouth to her neck to nibble there she happily tips her head back and lightly scrapes her nails over his back and shoulders. When she moves his mouth lower she arches into him.
Later, when Sam is pleased with himself for having brought her to three orgasms and greatly satisfied for his own, Delilah is wondering what it’s like to have stars explode in your mind, to have that tingling, electric all the way to her toes. She wonders what it’s like to have those orgasms she reads about in the book-files that make up her guilty pleasure.
Sam nuzzles her neck then kisses her. “Hungry?”
“Famished. I’ll get the food.” Delilah smiles at him. She really is very fond of him, could be happy with him. She glances at the timer as slithers from the heated bed into the chillier air. His timer is set for five years or so away. Maybe she could manage to spend that time with him. The soul-sickness doesn’t start right away. It takes a little time. She could stick it out for a couple more years, they’ve been together three already.
Immediately, Delilah’s conscience slaps her upside the head. Selfish of you, it whispers.
I know, she thinks back at it. She sighs sadly as she watches Sam’s flesh disappear under thick long johns. She knows what she has to do.
The next morning, Sam’s face is stoic as he says good bye to Shauneen and whispers in her ear. She glances at Delilah and nods before giving him a last hug.
Tears shimmer in Delilah’s eyes as she looks up at him. “Bye Sam. I’m…” her voice cracks so she clears her throat and starts again. “I’m sorry, Sam. I do love you and I want to stay with you but it’s not right.”
He lays his hand her cheek and she leans against it. “I know, darling. It’s okay. I am going to miss you, though. You’re a good person, never forget that.” He lays a final kiss on her lips then heads for the airlock. He pauses beside Tom, he didn’t miss the look of satisfaction in Tom’s eyes. He puts his hand out and whispers, “Make this look nice and friendly, Tom.”
Tom reluctantly puts his hand in Sam’s then tries not to wince as Sam takes a nice tight grip.
“If you hurt her, in any way,” Sam says, “I will hunt you down. Understand?” When Tom nods, Sam speaks louder. “Nice to know you, Tom. Be good!” He chuckles as he releases Tom’s hand.
Tom hesitates then smiles. “Nice to know you too, Sam.” He injects humour into his voice. “Don’t crash in the storm, we wouldn’t want to have to excavate you.”
“What was that about?” Delilah asks as she rubs her chest.
“Oh, he just wanted to make sure I was going to continue taking care of you. I assured him I was.” Tom smiles at her then turns her attention to the work of the day.
2100 Savannah, 30 years old, 2 years, 3 months, 24 days left on timer
“Loup! We’re set to go here.” Sydney’s voice crackles in her ear. Savanah smiles, pleased to have her team together. She is “Roger that, Ghost. Reaper and I are in position.” Her voice is barely more than a whisper but the mic on her throat catches everything. George is just behind her. “Team, check-in.” She listens to the rest of her team respond, letting her know they are in place. “Go, go, go!”
They were in Canmerico, that continent that used to be three countries called Canada, America and Mexico before Janus helped Canada invade and conquer the other two countries. The American and Mexican governments were dismantled and a dictatorship, (a really nice one, Savannah thought), put in place.
Janus had learned that there was an uprising starting in Oklahoma. There was a man preaching about a return to the ‘good ol’ U S of A’, as it says on the background of his vid spots. It caught Janus’s attention because the movement was now almost two hundred people strong and they were living in this little village.
This was unacceptable. Cults were against the world law.
Savannah was now running a black ops team in a secret sect of Janus that deals with just this kind of problem. Savannah isn’t one to sit in the command center and watch her team take the chances and face the danger. She earned her nickname Loup by running into a burning building to rescue George. He’d been shot and was bleeding out. He’d shouted for the team to run and then lit the fuse to burn the place down. His goal was to finish the mission, no matter what the cost.
Savannah’s goal was, and is always, to bring her team home whole. So she’d run into the building, packed his wound with the organic foam bandage they carried on their belts, then threw him over her shoulder and ran for their lives, including through a wall of fire, straight into the arms of their team.
After that, George had become Reaper. They all figured only Death could cheat Death. He’d become even more devoted to her than ever. His timer had gone off shortly after that and his soulmate, when she learned what happened, had become just as devoted to their Lieutenant Loup as George.
“We’re in, Ghost.” Savannah spoke quietly as she dismantled the alarm, three steps below state of the art, and stepped into the cult leader’s house. The rest of her team followed, slipping in doors and windows along the ground floor and through the door on the second floor balcony. The team swept the house, subduing and removing the people they found until Savannah came to be standing over the sleeping Noah Smythe. She put the barrel of her gun in front of his eyes. “Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey.”
The man jolts awake, smacking his head on the gun before he’s fully aware it’s there. His hand automatically goes below the pillow.
“If you touch that weapon, I will shoot you.” Savannah moves her weapon to point at his elbow.
He slowly pulls his hand back and raises both of them to show they’re empty.
“We’re going to sit up now, Noah. Nice and slow. Place your hands on the mattress and push yourself up to lean against the headboard,” Savannah orders, keeping her gun apace with his movements. Once the man is in position she speaks again. “Reaper, get that woman out of here,” she says of Noah’s now hysterical bed partner. The woman had finally woken all the way up and realized the shadows in her room were people with guns.
Reaper gladly manhandles the nearly naked woman out of the room and into someone else’s headache. He’s back a moment later.
“Now, Noah. You know who we are and why we’re here.” She doesn’t make it a question, she’s sure he’s been waiting for her to show up.
Noah appears to consider his options for his behaviour. In the end, he decides to go with mature and dignified. He folds his hands together in his lap, keeping them in plain view, and nods. “Janus. And I know your face, Savannah Lopez. You’ve been decorated several times, including the Platinum Cross for that mission in the Alps.” He looks to Reaper. “And you, George LePriex, you’ve been right with her. I bet that Sydney Walsh is in your ears.”
Savannah doesn’t show her alarm. The Alps mission was top secret, buried under layers upon layers of shadow. Her division is top secret, even their awards are top secret. They don’t exist. Instead, she gives Noah a sunny smile. “Always nice to meet an admirer.” She straightens and holsters her weapon, knowing that if Noah even breathed wrong, Reaper would take him out. “What are you doing here? You knew you were doomed to failure from the get go.”
Noah chuckles. “George Washington, the first president of the once glorious United States, once said, ‘Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.’”
“If you had as much discipline as you’d like us to think, we wouldn’t have found guards sleeping at their posts,” Reaper says with a great deal of scorn.
“You didn’t!” Noah hisses.
“But we did,” Savannah confirms. “Your ‘troops’,” the quotes were obvious in her voice, “were asleep on the job. A couple of them were drunk.” Noah throws the covers back, growling, and Savannah chuckles. “There’s the real Noah Smythe. Come now, did you think we’d fallen for the smooth, charismatic leader schtick?”
Noah relaxes and smiles charmingly. “Every man has a moment of frustration. Even you, Savannah, I’m sure.”
In spite of herself, the inference that she is something less than a woman stings. However, letting her emotions get in the way is not her style. She, unlike his men, has discipline. She can’t help a single cutting comment though. “I do but I don’t growl like a dog.” She leans back and crosses her arms and gives him a considering look. “Did you really think that you could get anywhere with this?”
“I did get to two hundred strong in a matter of weeks.” Noah looks smug.
“Twenty-four weeks isn’t ‘weeks,’” this time she does the air quotes, “it’s six months.”
“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” Noah says, still smug.
“You don’t expect me to believe you said that.” Savannah rolls her eyes.
“Tolstoy,” chimes in Reaper. “It definitely wasn’t this tool.”
Savannah grins as fury fills Noah’s face for a second. “What’s the matter, Noah?”
“I am a brilliant man! You will not treat me with such disrespect.”
“Brilliant? You’re overselling yourself there, buddy.” Savannah gestures at their surroundings. “You’re living in a hundred year old house that I’m sure has mold.” She sniffs. “Yep, mold. And a slight hint of urine and sex.”
Reaper makes a noise of disgust. “Please tell me that you’re not so backward that you combined urine with your sex.”
Noah’s face darkens with fury again, this time it’s a bigger struggle to suppress it. “What I do in the privacy of my home is my business.”
Savannah holds up her hands. “Okay, okay. You’re absolutely right. Who are we to judge? I like women and Reaper here, he likes giraffes.”
It takes Noah a moment to realize she’s joking about Reaper. He shakes his head and takes the moment to regain his composure. He takes a deep breath then smiles. “No one has ever mentioned your sense of humour, Captain.”
Suddenly, the woman Reaper had taken out of the room comes running back in, screaming and waving a machete. She’s headed for Savannah. There is the sound of suppressed air. At the same time, a hole appears in her forehead and her brains splatter against the wall behind her. She dies with the look of a maniac on her face and Noah screams in anguish. He scrambles across the bed and scoops up her body.
Savannah sighs. “It’s time. Sedate and transport.” She turns away as Reaper approaches the wailing man and speaks into her mic. “Time to load ‘em up and take ‘em to the Center. Let’s go.” The Center is a facility for the retraining of misguided souls like Noah’s followers. She doubts that Noah would ever see the light of day; she could almost hear his mind snap when Reaper blew his lover’s brains all over the wall.
Three days later Savannah, George and Sydney are sitting in her office in Edinburgh, Scotland. The office is part of a private security company she runs as a front for her black ops team. “We are assigned to the king of Iraqistan. We will be protecting him and his daughter as they travel their country to check on their people.”
Sydney grinned. “Heat, at last!”
George groaned. “It’s Hell. It really is.”
“Actually, according to the Christians, and the Muslims, the Middle East is the cradle of life. It’s where the Garden of Eden lay, where Adam and Eve got kicked out. It’s where, and archeologists have proven this, the first society where trade, learning and getting along was. We were all birthed from there, according to their histories and theology.” Savannah lectured. “There is no reason not to go.”
And few days later, Savannah is escorting the king and princess around a bazaar, annoyed because security is difficult in a place like this. It is crowded and a rabbit’s warren of streets, alleys, shops and stalls. There are so many smells, sights and sounds that Savannah is getting a headache. A small child jostles against her and runs off. Savannah takes a step and realizes she’s not balanced right.
She slaps a hand to her hip and finds her weapon is missing. It can’t be used by anyone but her, it’s keyed to her finger prints, but the loss is annoying and it immediately puts her on alert. “Your Highness, Princess, we must leave. Now.” She starts trying to herd them into an alley and away from the general crush of people. A car will come to wherever they are.
“But Papa! I want to say,” the nineteen year old whines.
“Surely we can stay a few more minutes, Ms. Lopez.” The man’s deep voice rolls over Savannah and she almost gives in. She’s noticed that he uses his voice like that a lot and has learned to ignore it.
“No. We must leave, NOW. Move!” She grabs the girl by the arm and shoves her a little, making the spoiled brat shriek in outrage. People turn towards them and Savannah groans, swearing under her breath. Whispers of outrage start. “Just move it, Your Majesty. We can’t dawdle, someone is coming.”
Reaper comes over to Savannah and helps her move the two royals into an alley. “There’s a car coming, two minutes.”
Savannah checks her timepiece then looks around. She’s got that itch on the back of her neck that’s warned her of danger and saved her team many times in the past. “We may not have that long.” She looks around then drags everyone towards a pair of dumpsters that are standing side by side. “Help me move one of these a little, Reaper.”
As they’re making a hole to stuff their protectees into there is a lot of shouting in Persian, an old language that is nearly dead. The king shouts back as he pushes his daughter behind him. He misinterprets the look on her face as fear. Savannah and Reaper run towards them, they’re only a few meters away but it’s too late. Shots are fired and the king falls, taking his daughter down with him. Savannah and Reaper fire at the assassins but only manage to hit one. The other two flee.
The princess is sitting beside her father, watching him die. The look on her face is something Savannah can only call satisfaction. She smiles when he whispers something at her then speaks clearly, “Oh yes. I arranged this. I am Queen now. Something you never intended to let happen.”
Savannah and Reaper stand dumbfounded for a moment before Savannah’s training kicks in. She straightens, makes a statement. “Princess Lana Rahal, you are under arrest for patricide, colluding with assassins and whatever else I can come up with.”
Reaper groans to himself. This is going to cause months of paperwork and appearances before the World Justice Panel – a band of seven of the top judges in the world who decide and mete out punishment for crimes of this magnitude – and he really doesn’t want to do it. He turns away slightly, confident is Loup has it under control and speaks quietly into his radio.
Only Savannah sees what the princess does next – she pulls out Savannah’s own weapon and shoots her point blank. The impact of the 9mm slug on the body armour over Savannah’s heart is enough to stop its beating.
Elsewhere, someone’s timer stops, stutters, then resumes counting down. The person rubs their chest, trying to ease the ache leftover from a moment of searing pain.
2100, Dennis,32 years old, timer still stopped
Dennis growls and almost throws his camera at his agent. “What do you mean I’m up against D.D. for the Lucie again?”
“D.D. is one of the foremost photographers in the world, it shouldn’t be a shock.” After years of dealing with Dennis, and Rush before him, the aging agent wasn’t afraid of the temper tantrums. Anything thrown at him had a way of missing anyway, so he wasn’t too concerned.
“That…person…” Dennis spit the word “…has won the last five years in a row!” He prowls around the job site. He is photographing what was left of Bhumipol Dam in what is now Thailand Province for the Japanese government. Japan had taken over China and everything south to Malaysia, east to Indonesia and west to the Xinjiang province. They were still north of the Himalayans and no further west than Thailand as far as south of the mountains goes because, for some reason the Japanese government could never figure out, Janus was backing those countries and had mountain warfare down pat. Japan had lost thousands of soldiers in those mounts.
“I am well aware of that fact,” Robert says. He finds a chair and lowers himself into it, telling himself he’ll retire soon. He knows, however, that he will never willingly give this particular client to anyone else. It would be bad Karma. Besides, the teachings of Aphrodite do not allow him to deliberately inflict torment on anyone.
And looking after Dennis can certainly be a torment.
“Why do they keep winning!? Just who is D.D. anyway?” Dennis’s eyes narrow speculatively.
Robert shrugs. “No one knows. D.D.’s agent keeps a tight rein on her client’s identity. Apparently, D.D. wants it that way.”
“I will find out.” Dennis points his light meter at Robert. “Mark my words, I will find out who they are and then I will destroy them.”
Robert sighs, afraid that Dennis will do just that. “You can’t do that. Live and let live. Put a little more passion into your work. It’s very nearly textbook perfect, you’re just lacking in passion.” It’s a lecture he’s given many times.
“You just said it’s perfect, why do I need to change anything?” Dennis’s tone is conversational. “D.D. doesn’t have anything on me. I’ve seen their work. Their work with light and shadow falls flat and what are they thinking playing with the hue saturation like that all the time? Most of their subjects are lacking in emotion.”
Robert sighs to himself and drums his fingers on the head of his cane. None of what Dennis is saying is true. D.D.’s work with light and colour was exceptional. The emotion Dennis finds lacking is joy. D.D. has a habit of catching unfettered joy and showing the love their subjects have for one another. He has a suspicion he knows who D.D. is; he’s seen some photographs of archeological digs that have that same quality about them that captures the heart and imagination. He’ll never tell Dennis his idea though.
Dennis makes a minute adjustment to the camera position then uses his remote to take photos without looking at the small screen to see what’s going on. “I will find out, I swear it!”
“If you say so, Dennis.” Robert heaves himself to his feet again thinking that what Dennis has just done is the reason he doesn’t win many awards, and even then, they’re ones D.D. doesn’t compete for. “I need to be going. Raquel is waiting for me.” Instantly, Robert curses himself. Bringing up his soulmate was a bad idea.
“Sure.” Dennis sneers. “Leave me alone as usual.”
“You’re not alone, you have Steven here.” Robert waves his free had at the assistant.
“Not for long, Steven’s vacation is about to start.”
Steven nods briefly. He hasn’t told Dennis but his timer is about to go off. He has thirty-eight hours to go and he feels pulled to the west. He’ll be going to Paris. He had let his instinct guide his choice in destination and prayed to Aphrodite that he’d chosen correctly. Right now, he tries to stay out of the conversation.
“Well,” says Robert dismissively, “someone is always here. Enjoy the rest of your time here. Thailand is a beautiful country.”
Dennis shrugs and turns away from Robert to see what pictures had come out. It isn’t that he doesn’t see the beauty, he does, it’s his job. It’s more that he doesn’t appreciate it. It’s hard to appreciate anything like that when your heart is stone.
Several days later, Dennis is in his office shuffling of photographs of the last few years of Lucie Award banquets and the gallery openings of other photographers. He’s not supposed to have taken them but Rush taught him that sometimes, you have to do what you need to do to get ahead. Rush had had his limits there too but Dennis had no such qualms. His camera for award shows is in the glasses he wears as an affectation. It constantly takes photographs and transmits them directly to a phone in his pocket.
So now, he has thousands of photos to look through. He also has the software to make it go faster and the patience to see it through. The software is one that catalogues faces and then searches the web to put names to the faces. He dumps all the photos in the software then watches as a column of faces starts to appear on the right while the pictures get displayed then removed in the space of a second or two, depending on the number of faces in picture, in the box on the left side of the screen. Each face in the right hand column gets a number attached and a code for the places it’s been seen.
He watches as a few of the same faces start showing up multiple times. He notices that one woman shows up at all the big award shows and almost all the gallery openings. He stops the photo flipping and clicks on the picture of brunette with blonde highlights. He studies the list of award shows and galleries. He discovers that she is at all of D.D.’s openings and is always sitting at D.D.’s table for the shows.
“Hmmm…” He clicks on the command for a web search.
Several minutes later, he finds out her name is Delilah DuMarchand, she’s a brilliant photographer who documents archeological finds with photographs but has never entered a contest. The angles and the way she uses light reminds him of D.D.’s photographs. Dennis drums his fingers on his desk. “She has got to be D.D..” He growls and makes a rude gesture at his laptop as it freezes when he tries to get more information. He ponders upgrading it but he just upgraded his editing computer and doesn’t have the money for anything else.
It finally chugs along and he suddenly smiles.