THE PRINCE OF HOUSE VLADD
Copyright © 2011, 2015 by Arthur
Copyright © 2011, 2015 by Arthur
For the rest of the night, the small group of friends sat, talked, drank and laughed, most of the watchers down in the cellar had not known who Peter was until the end of the savage fight and even fewer thought he had much of a chance, the Twins finally revealed that they had bet heavily on Peter and had made a lot of cash from the win, while he could understand their confidence in his ability, Peter felt a little ashamed about them making money from those who had not known who he was.
As they made their way home after their night out, Peter checked to make sure he had the time and date correct for a meeting with Jake and his pack, they had a lot of rebuilding to do and needed a little more financial support to continue, most of what they had done so far was still awaiting payment so for now he was caught short of cash, too Peter it was not really a problem, Jake and his pack had stuck with them through good times and bad, they had become like a second family too Peter.
With the Twins heading to bed, Peter went up to his own rooms, he was not expecting Swiftwing to return for another day or so, as he walked into the office, he instantly recognised the faint smell of fresh flowers and sage, Swiftwing had got home early, he found his lover asleep in bed, a faint smile on his youthful lips, Peter's reaction was instant, using all his many abilities, Peter found himself naked in the bed in less than a second, as his weight hit the mattress, Swiftwing opened his eyes and smiled.
"I couldn't wait for the plane; I've been away from you for too long."
Peter sank into the open arms and let nature take its course, there were days of making up to do and, after his fight, he felt the need to get rid of any excess energy and Swiftwing was the best outlet for that, that he could think of.
It was a week later that Swiftwing was called to his first official council meeting, when he returned two days later, Peter could see he was worried over something, giving Swiftwing time to settle after the long flight, Peter waited for him to start talking about what was worrying him, what he was too hear sent chills down his spine.
Peter became more and more alarmed as Swiftwing disclosed what he found out, there had been a large number of raids on outlying areas of many of the isolated farming communities, while the raids may have looked to be for cash or goods, there was one thing that really alarmed all concerned, at each raid, numbers of young men had disappeared, for most of them there was only a small patch of blood left with no bodies to be seen, at the last count it was revealed that there were now forty young men missing or dead but no bodies.
Peter and Swiftwing called for the others that were still awake to join them for a meeting to try and solve this new development, something was going on and they needed to know as soon as possible, if there were ferals around they had to find them before too much damage was done, Peter sent out messages to the heads of the House Vaga and all the other folks representatives, if they were in for something like a few years ago then they would need everyone involved.
Michael Strong looked around the site set aside as his basement in the old silo, he had had it redesigned into small holding cells that would accommodate four people at a time, he was happy at what he saw, forty young men were fast asleep and would begin to awaken in another day or two, he now had the beginnings of his new army, with the added numbers coming from overseas he would soon be strong enough to make his first move on the Vaga Houses that were a little more isolated than others.
Michael reasoned that if he could bring down the Vaga one at a time he would stand a good chance of taking over from the young upstart that ruled over the Folk in the new America, not only would he rid himself of the so called Prince, but he would certainly put a stick in the eye of his Father, for over three hundred years, Michael had been no more than an underling to Peter's father, now that the country was in flux, he saw his chance to take over what he felt was rightfully his.
Michael was confident that, with the killers he had coming from Asia and those he was now turning, he would have an army that the Prince would never be able to overcome and, if the Asians thought they would then take over his country just for supplying a few soldiers, they had another think coming, once he had got rid of the so called Prince, he would soon be able to send the imports home with their tail between their legs.
Michael smiled as he made his way towards the last cell, in here were the first four boys he had turned, by now they should be coming out of their death sleep and ready for his training, he was well aware that they would at first fight him over being turned but, as soon as he both showed them and trained them, he would have willing soldiers of his own, he now had less than three weeks to get his boys ready.
Michael checked on the four boys, they would soon be awakening and the first night of their new lives would begin, he still felt he would have to turn more boys yet as, after defeating the Prince he would then have to repel the imports, he would use his raids on the unprotected towns as one of his training tools for his new bloods.
Michael heard the first of the four boys begin to moan as his sleep came to an end, he was followed quickly by the other three and, as they sat up on the cots, Michael unlocked the door and stepped inside, the sight he saw was, after all the long years of his existence, nothing unexpected, the filth and odour of the change had filled the cell with a noxious smell, Michael smiled at the memory of his first wakening so long ago.
The four boys looked around with both fear and anger in their eyes, the last all four of them could remember was the walk home after a late night of partying at their small town dance hall, they had been drinking stolen rum out the back of the hall as the music blared inside, one minute they were feeling merry and free like soon to be adult boys, the next they were waking up in some dark cell, except it wasn't dark, everywhere they looked was tinged with red, their hearing was so acute they could hear something scampering up the cold cement brick walls.
The boys saw the young looking figure of a teenage boy standing in the now open door, for some reason they felt a pull towards him but they were not about to trust a strange teen after waking up in this unknown place, their first instinct was to attack the boy and escape from this place, as they rose to their feet, the teen spoke.
"Don't even think about it boys, you're not ready to take me on yet, in fact you never will be, even after the training I'll give you, you can call me either Sire or Master, it's up too you but I won't take any shit from any of you, now you must have some questions, just remember who I am and who you are."
The older looking of the four was the one who began the questions.
"Uhm, Sir, what's happened to us, why are we here?"
"You are what we call, New Bloods, I am the one who turned you and am now your Sire, if you wait for a few minutes you will feel your fangs extend for the first time, it's a little painful but it only happens the first time, after that it will be easy for you to lower them when you have to feed, you my young friends, are now part of the people of the night, you are Vampires."
Michael watched as the four boys looked at him as though he was insane, everyone knew that Vampires and other creatures were just figments of a writers imagination, they were soon disabused of that idea as their fangs forced their way through their gums for the first time, Michael watched as the four new bloods fell to their knees as the pain hit them, their hands over their mouths as they tried to stop the sharp agonising pain, Michael smiled at the four boys on the floor.
As the four came back to their senses and the pain slowly disappeared, the anger in them came to the fore, with open hatred on their faces they turned to Michael, he could easily read their thoughts of vengeance for what they had had to go through and what they had now been turned into, it took Michael only a few minutes to put them all on the floor and in their places, the beat down had been fast and the point made in no uncertain terms.
Now that Michael had their full attention and, as he watched as their many bruises slowly disappeared, he began to teach them all they would know, for the next four hours he spent with them in teaching how to use their new gifts and what they would need to know to be good Vampires for his cause.
Once he felt they were ready, Michael saw that they were now at the stage they would have to feed very soon, they showed little control over their fangs and their eyes were now blood red all the time, he was well aware that the first feeding would be hard for them as it would go against their former natures but, he was also sure that their new blood lust would take over and, sooner or later they would have to take notice of the growing need for blood.
Michael told the boys that it was time for them too feed, he would take them far enough away to a small town for this, it was also his idea to use the boys victims for new recruits, while they were too new to turn anyone, he could easily go around after them and give the victim the needed blood from his own veins, his new army would quickly enlarge as he used his present boys for more recruitment.
By this time Michael had the boys under control, they now knew for certain that they would have to follow him or die, it was an easy, if unwelcome, option.
Michael led his small band of four out into the night, he used this time to teach them how to move in the dark at speed and in total silence, two hours later they were on the edge of a small township, it was now 2am. And all of the houses were dark, in these small farm communities the people went to their beds early, while the stories told of a vampire having to be invited into a home was widely believed, in truth it was a lie, Michael stopped the boys on the edge of the town and showed them how to listen to the sounds of humans in the still night.
Michael had told the boys too select only young teens as their blood was full of youthful testosterone and the vitality of life, they would also be ideal for his new army but he did not tell them that, at this stage he had to have them believe they were only here to feed, Michael watched the four boys as the first hint of new fresh young blood began to fill their nostrils, the tension in the air built quickly as the vampire instincts took over the boys natural inhibitions, Michael almost broke into a soft laughter as he watched the need overtake the boys better judgement.
Michaels lessons were not only about feeding but also on how to use all their new senses, for this reason he got all four boys to stand back in the shadows of the clock tower in the centre of the town, he then took up a place close by and let his mind wander through the houses of the town, with his age he was well versed in finding victims, most times he liked to have young teens much like himself but, on occasions of need, he would take a female, their blood was not as vital as a males but it was good enough for a small top up or to aid in healing if needed.
Michael selected the first boy, he was about fourteen or fifteen, using most of his considerable ability in compulsion, Michael had the teen rise from his bed and move towards the door of the house, to anyone else looking on it would seem as though the boy was sleep walking, Michael noticed the boy was only wearing boxers and they were pushed out in the front like any teen would be at his age.
Michael had the boy walk silently towards the clock tower, he had selected the older of his boys to have the first feeding, he had told them all that they must learn to control their need for blood and stop feeding when he told them too, he also warned them of dire consequences if they did not listen to him.
Michael brought the boy to the foot of the clock tower, with a gesture to the older teen he watched carefully as the boy sprang silently onto his victim, his new sharp fangs burying deeply into the boys soft neck just above his shoulder, Michael watched as the teen drank deeply, the only sounds in the dead of the night were the soft sucking noises of the predator.
Michael watched as the boy was drained close to oblivion, he called for the teen to stop but had to use a swift punch to the teens head to make him leave the nearly dead boy, quickly Michael opened his own wrist and let a small amount of his own blood to dribble into the boys mouth, he would stay unconscious now for the next five days while his system went though the needed changes.
Michael looked at the older teen, there was a new fire in the boys eyes now that he had had his first taste of the power of young blood, Michael looked at him with a fire in his own eyes as he whispered to all of the four.
"That is the first and last time any of you disobey me, when I tell you to stop, you damn well stop, next one to disobey me will be chained out and left for the sun."
Michael looked at all four boys; his message had been received and taken note of.
"Now, you other three have seen how easy it was, you will each take your turn, when you have fed you will carry each boy with you back to our centre, it will be good training for you and help develop your strength abilities."
Michael turned back to the town, for the next half an hour, he selected a sleeping boy for each of his new bloods, as he had told them, they took notice and stopped their drinking as soon as they were told to, Michael quickly fed his blood to each victim, once they had all been fed, Michael led them on the run for home, their new recruits slung over the shoulders of his new vampires.
As Peter was setting up the needed conference calls, Swiftwing went to his small private room he had set up for his own use in communing with the Creator, the walls were covered in natural wood and the floor had been replaced with living stone, above his head the ceiling had been made into a dome that could be opened up so the night air could enter and he could see the stars above him, it was almost as good as being outdoors.
Swiftwing went into his first obeisance of giving thanks to Creator, once this was done and he felt the distant touch of his ancestors, Swiftwing went into the realms between the worlds, this was the place of dreams and where he could communicate with the other Medicine Elders of the council, it was a foolproof way of communication as no others except for those who knew the secrets could listen in.
Swiftwing waited for each of the members to join him in the between realm, if outsiders could have seen them, they would have noticed that they no, longer looked as they did in real life, now they took on the persona of past ancestors, all were sitting cross legged around a central spectral fire, it was Swiftwing who had the honour, as the convener, too fill, light and pass the medicine calumet around the circle, the meeting would be in the old language of the tribes.
Once the calumet had been passed to each of the Elders and they had given thanks to Creator in the smoke of the pipe, Swiftwing began to tell them about the disappearance of the young men, when he had finished, each of the Elders sat and thought about the event, it took time in the realm and yet only minutes passed in the real world.
Once all had had their say, they began to look for reasons and ways to find out more information, it was finally agreed that they would return to their worlds and look further into this new happening, once they had something too report they would contact Swiftwing and pass on everything they knew, they were all of the same mind in that they owed a lot to the Day Walker Prince and, as that same Prince was also the brother spirit of Swiftwing added only weight to their decision.
Swiftwing rejoined Peter just as the first of the leaders of the folk connected along with the leaders of the various Vaga houses, Peter started the meeting with the news he had to hand, as the disappearances were revealed, the others began to put two and two together, slowly the size of the problem was revealed as one after another told of the same strange disappearances in their own areas.
After everyone had reported what they knew or suspected, it was found that over forty young teens and boys had been taken, it did not take a genius to realise that, as no bodies were found, the missing must have been subverted to another course and that course could only be the recruiting and turning of humans for another purpose but, no one could come up with a reason for it.
As the first light of the new day began to make itself known, many of the members had to go to their beds, those that were left decided to wait for the next night and to begin early as well as gather as much new information as they could during the day, the meeting broke up and everyone left with a thoughtful if not worried look on their faces, something was a foot and they had no idea what it was.
Over the next week, Peter kept watch on the incoming information, while most of the missing youths were taken in ones or twos, the larger numbers were taken from five main towns, Creede, Walden, Cortez, Wray and the last three from Meeker, all of these towns were once thriving communities but had, after the troubles of ten years ago, become more like small towns as the people moved out to find new homes.
To Peter's eyes there was no apparent pattern to the disappearances or their location, it seemed totally random, Peter began to wonder if it was just odd Ferals that were doing it, it did not seem possible that it was only one man as the distances were wide and varied, even after the first week there was nothing to indicate anything other than random attacks.
The one thing that confused Peter and the others the most was the number of boys missing and the lack of any bodies, in the back of Peter's mind was a tingle of suspicion but he had nothing apart from a feeling that this was not what it seemed, even for a group of Ferals, forty odd boys was a lot too disappear in such a short time.
Most of the information they got was second hand and, as no one had actually seen the boys taken, the only clue that Peter had was the fact they had all been taken during the night, this led him to only one conclusion, it had to be vampires, any of the other Folk would not need to worry about the sunlight and could take their targets at any time, day or night.
On the eighth day they got the biggest surprise they had had so far, from the old city of Denver, in one single night, fourteen boys had disappeared, after a lot of questions by the police it was found that no one heard or saw anything, the boys had gone to bed at the time set by their parents and, by morning they had disappeared, no sight or sound was heard or seen by any parent or neighbour.
Peter now felt that it had to be vampires but, if it were he should have heard something about it, with all of his own people and those of the Folk all out looking, he should have had something but, there was no sign or sight of anything, the dark feeling of dread came over Peter as Swiftwing walked into the room, his lover tried to smile but there was something very heavy on his mind.
"What is it Love?"
"I've just had a report from the reservation at Pine Ridge, six young boys have disappeared overnight, the Elders are trying to find them now by using the in-between but their signatures seem to have totally faded, the boys are not even old enough to be trained as warriors yet, they have barely begun puberty, why would anyone want young boys like those?"
"I don't know Love but I think we have a real rogue vampire on our hands, at least that's what I think started it all, the numbers missing now are growing too fast for it to be only one though, I have a bad feeling the rogue is trying to build up his house, but why so many, that's what disturbs me."
"I just don't know, Peter, I also have a bad feeling about this, but who was left after the destruction, we accounted for everyone that could have been a part of what was happening."
"Perhaps we missed someone or something, most of the lead up to the troubles were acts thought out by someone that knew who and what we were, they had an intimate knowledge of everything we could do, it was only our two boys that made the difference in the end."
"There has to be a reason for all this, I just can't put my finger on it, between the peoples of the First Nation and those who decided to stay and rebuild the country, we have no one we can think of that would want to disrupt the re-growth, all of the Folk are mainly happy and content, apart from the usual local scrap now and again, I can see no earthly reason for this sudden attack on the population."
"There has to be a deeper reason that we're not seeing, well we can no longer presume that it's just random attacks, I still have this feeling we are in for some bad times, lets get the word out to everyone to keep an eye over their shoulders, sooner or later there will be something that will lead us in the right direction."
Michael was now happy his new plan was coming together; his first forty Siring's were now active and although there had been a few who were in no way happy about their new lives, he had soon brought them into the fold by using a refusal of fresh blood until they changed their minds, the only thing he was not happy about were the five boys that had held out so long they went quite insane with blood lust and he had to kill them before they attacked some of the other boys, their deaths served as a good example to the others, he had made their deaths as gruesome as he could as a lesson.
He was hoping that his six latest captures would make the difference, the young Indian boys would have skills the others did not and he had a special use for them, once again he looked through the small window in the door of the cell to watch the six slender young boys in their death sleep, they would make very good bait for what he had in mind.
Michael turned away from the cell to go to the large space that he had set up as a training room, there he watched his growing army of young men and boys go through the practices he had set up, he had less than two weeks before the first of his borrowed army would arrive, his young Asian servant boys were filling every expectation he had had.
As far as Michael could see, his only big problem was bringing in some of the other Folk species, when the young Prince had formed the now famous House Vaga, the chances of finding any stray wolves or cats was a lot less than pre Prince, he still needed more cannon fodder for the great battles yet too come.
There was little left of the old bureaucracy and Michael had found it difficult to find someone still in any position of authority to issue the visas for his incoming help, finally he had resorted to his favourite means, finding one man with a family, he had taken his eldest son and held the boy until his demands had been met, the boy was still with him, although not in the same condition as when he was taken but the Father was as yet none the wiser, the boys Father was now held in check by the promise of seeing his son once again as soon as Michael's help arrived, that of course was not going to happen but the Father would not find that fact out until too late.
While waiting for the extra troops from the Tong and Yakuza, Michael continued to search for any stray Folk, somewhere there had too be some that were disaffected by the present situation, it was just a matter of time before he found those he was searching for but, time was at a premium just now, at the most he had only two weeks after the arrivals to set his major plan into action, he had to work harder and faster.
Peter sat and looked over what had so far been accomplished since the upheaval, Jake now ran the largest construction company in the country, many of his pack friends now worked for him as well as many packs from other areas, the redevelopment of some of the coastal cities was well under way although they would never be recognised as the same cities now, there had been a ban on any buildings above five floors, the day of the skyscraper was over, there was now a movement to let as much fresh air and sunlight into the new cities as possible, no one had the intention of reproducing the tower blocks and dark alleys of the past.
Over the last ten years there had been a slow return by some of the people to the old cities, those who found it hard to live a life in the open lands, slowly gravitated back to what they had been raised in although the rebuilding was still going on, the new look cities began to be a welcome change from the old ways.
Swiftwing wrapped his bare arms around Peters shoulders and lay his head beside Peters as they both read the reports coming in from all over, there had not been any more disappearances for the last three days, on the borders they saw that there was now a few tourists beginning to make the trip to the once mighty America, Peter and Swiftwing barely noticed the notation of another fact finding mission from China, it had happened last year and this was a possible opening of new channels of trade.
Further down the report was another acceptance of three school groups from Japan, this was a first for them although Peter could remember that before the upheaval school tours by Japan had been quite common, it was good to see that things were beginning to return to normal, Peter did not want a society cut off from the rest of the world, there was too much to be gained by reopening the borders now that things had settled down.
At the end of his report reading, Peter and Swiftwing saw one last email from the Yucatan, it could only be one thing, opening it they saw the whole page was taken up by a picture of a bright yellow rising sun with a smiley face drawn in the centre, there were no words or writing but then the two lovers did not need any, they well knew who this was from, their two adopted sons had the habit of sending similar emails over the last ten years, some of them were also down right pornographic and others, like this one, were just hello's.
The two lovers laughed, they acknowledged that their two adopted sons had changed little, while they had the knowledge of the ages, underneath they were still the same young boys the two of them had found all those years ago, some things never change and Peter along with Swiftwing did not want it any other way.
The disappearance of six Indian boys still rankled both Peter and Swiftwing, while the missing boys of the small towns had been upsetting, the six young Indian boys was more so, it was thought that all of the First Nation people were protected by the magic of their two sons, too have six boys go missing without anyone having knowledge of them was very disturbing and, as yet they could see no rhyme or reason for their disappearance.
Four of the Medicine Elders had spent days trying to find some indication of the six, they had travelled to the place of dreams but found nothing, this alone started to raise questions as, in the between realms, the Elders had the ability to see most things, this was one of the indications to the others that something was going on, but what it was still mystified all of them.
Peter could easily tell that Swiftwing was trying to keep a brave face on things, but underneath the Shaman was seething with displeasure, someone or something had taken six young boys from right under their noses, why, was any bodies guess but Swiftwing did not like the connotations, the feelings of disaster still weighed heavily on the young Shaman, even using everything he had, he could not find what it was.
Another week passed and still there was no sign of the six boys or for that matter, any of the other missing, the only thing that had been noticed was a sudden increase in attacks on small towns, sometimes a boy or two would disappear but, more often it was an obvious attack by feral vampires, where they came from no one could detect, slowly the general population began to get wind of what was happening, rumours and theories were starting to make people scared to go out at night, it was like a return to the old days and Peter along with his people could do little to stop it.
When the first attack came, it was not only a surprise but also very bloody and gruesome, the Vaga House in what was left of the old city of Atlanta, barely survived the onslaught, had it not been for the emergency exits installed by Jake's people, there would have been a total massacre.
Peter sat at his desk along with Swiftwing as Feldon, the leader of the Atlanta House was giving his report, the results were not good as Feldon related what had happened and how many young lives had been lost, when they had returned to look at their sanctuary, there was little but smouldering ruins, they had had to move to other Houses to have somewhere to stay.
"My Lord, it was just after sundown, most of us were getting ready to go out, as we opened the main doors, we were attacked by a large army of black clad figures, from their aura I saw that they were all vampires, most of the attackers were dressed in strange black clothes while others were dressed like us and were easily recognisable as American, the others all had their faces covered but I got a distinct feeling they were Asian, they reminded me of the Japanese Samurai from the old movies."
Feldon paused to catch his breath before he continued.
"None of us were armed in any way so the first attack caused a lot of deaths, the Avians, Felines and Canines did what they could but in the end I had to send them off before we lost them all, of the vampires we did what we could to hold them off, even with all the security devices in the basement we had trouble, of the two hundred and fifty six we had living there, we only managed to get seventy three out alive, I'm sorry My Lord, there was little we could do without weapons."
Peter saw the bloody tears run down Feldon's cheeks, the boy had lost a lot of friends and felt he was responsible, Swiftwing went to the boys side and tried to sooth him a little while Peter got onto the Vampnet and began to send out warnings for all the Vaga Houses to make ready for attacks, they now had the answer as to why all the boys were missing, someone, somewhere, was starting a new war, Peter well knew this was only the first of many salvoes yet too come.
They did not have long too wait, on the next night they got a report that one of the Vaga Houses in the old city once known as Chicago was attacked much in the same manner but, with the advanced warning they had beaten off the attack but at a great loss of Folk, one of the attackers had been captured by a very brave Feline boy, while the captive would not say anything, Saxton, the leader of the house got the distinct feeling the man was Chinese, they had him well restrained but wanted Peter to send someone to question the man, Saxton reported he had lost over two hundred of his Vaga Folk but the house was secure for now.
Peter had no need to say anything, just a glance too Sin Yu was enough to have his number one man head for the airport and their private jet, he would be in Chicago before midnight, he promised Peter he would have a full report before sunrise, Peter nodded and turned back to the conference call with Saxton.
"I have someone coming now, can you have him met at the airport, he will soon find out what is going on?"
"Yes My Lord, I will have one of my men waiting for him, thank you for the help."
"No need for thanks Saxton, you did well just holding the house together, we lost one last night in Atlanta by the same method so you did well to hold out, I'll call and let you know what we find out about your guest, Sin Yu is very good at asking questions."
"Thank you once again, My Lord, I'll wait for your reply."
Peter watched as the monitor went blank then back to the screen saver, if this was a sign of things too come then they had a major fight on their hands, two houses in two nights and from wildly different locations could only mean one thing, whomever was at the bottom of this was well placed and well financed, he also had a large army too call on, it was time for Peter to start to gather his own forces, many of whom had returned to a normal life over the last ten years, it would take time and that was something he did not have a lot of.
The sun had just disappeared when Peter's computer lit up with an incoming call on the vampnet, once he had opened the window, Peter saw the familiar face of Sin Yu, his head guard did not look happy and there was a haunted look in his eyes, what ever had upset Sin Yu was now giving Peter a feeling of dread.
"Peter, we have a real problem, the guy they captured is one of the Japanese Yakuza, he didn't know who was behind this but said there is more to come and we could not stop it, he did tell me that there were also some Chinese involved but didn't know who or where they came from, my guess is its one of the Tongs, we may have to call my Father to get more on them, he would know everything that's going on over there."
"Yes, Sin Yu, I agree, I'll get right onto it and contact your Father, did the Yakuza say how many men were involved?"
"He didn't have the exact numbers but said they were in the hundreds and, as far as he knew there were a number of new bloods showing up, he has no idea who is organising it all."
"Ok, thank you, where is he now, and what do you want to do with him?"
"I've already taken care of him, we can't afford to have any enemies left behind only to come back at some time in the future, the sun took care of him this morning, I'll be on my way back shortly."
"Good, I'll wait until you're here before calling your Father, besides he won't be out of his sleep yet if he's still in Asia."
"Ok, see you just before sun rise."
Peter turned off his computer as Swiftwing joined him, together they went over what Sin Yu had just reported, it looked like a troubling time was ahead of them if the attacks were going to continue to get worse and there was no doubt in their minds that they were, then there was a lot of work needed to be done and quickly.
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