Psychedelic Electrons (Part 3 of 4)
By Will Greenway
She climbed, letting Apollo step ahead with the key in case there was camera at the door. As she ascended, Kath suppressed an urge to giggle. She found the sensation unsettling. What was happening to her?
The Mortallis hummed in her mind. It must be the endorphins dumped in her blood to combat the shock. That might account for the odd urges and the colors.
One minute to the window. She could tell Apollo knew it by the way he charged out the door with M22A2 leveled. It appeared he intended to stay on schedule. Two sec-men saw them. They pulled their guns. Each got off two shots.
One moment Kath was running, a flash and in the next, she spun and found herself on her back looking up at the ceiling fixtures. A ringing ran up and down her left arm and calf. The heavy slugs hit like hammers.
Doesn’t even leave a bruise. Maybe not, but it hurt like hell. When the shells hit the armor, the metal gave off a whine and an electric rasp. She guessed the mesh ‘skin’ converted the bullet impacts into electrical energy.
She rose in time to see Apollo turning to check on her. Both guards were down. She signed okay. Apollo plunged toward the comm center. Kath ran after him. For a pro, she’d acted pretty green tonight; first one to hug the ground, and last one to fire.
They knew where the communications center lay in the structure because nearly everything in the wiring diagrams led back to it.
Apollo turned a corner and ran right into four more security men. The big shadow runner didn’t even slow, he dove at them. Shots whined off his armored body. The stock and barrel of his rifle caught two men in the midriff. His weight and momentum slammed them onto their backs. He rolled to his feet electricity arcing off his armor into everything metallic in the vicinity.
This time she was ready. Kath focused the red HWI crosshair in her eye on one man’s gun then the next. Bursts of Quicksilver cracked from her pistol, shredding each weapon and sending the men to the floor clawing at slivers of hot metal. Kath ripped the comm-links off their necks as she ran past.
The blare of alarms went off. Apollo leaned into a full sprint. Rushing down the corridor Kath saw why. The armored doors of the comm/sat room were grinding closed.
Apollo creased the doors with his M22A2. Some went inside ripping through a guard at a console. The others left smoking indentations, but the shells didn’t penetrate.
“Frag!” Apollo threw himself into the narrow opening and tried to brace it open. “Blow the mains!” he yelled.
Kath switched the comm to channel three and sent the code. A rumble reverberated through the building. The lights flickered and went out.
Apollo cursed. The doors hadn’t stopped. She still heard the chug of the hydraulics. Shots whined off her back in a flare of pain that knocked her off balance; another detail of security. Gun-fire erupted from the sec-room pelting Apollo. He yelled. Electricity flashed and licked around his armor.
All coming apart. Colors danced and played in her vision. Kath thrust her rifle into the room and sprayed bullets until the gunfire stopped. Apollo let out a gagging sound as the doors bit into the armor.
She dropped low and braced feet and hands against the opening, and heaved. They didn’t budge, must be a ratchet system of some kind.
“Forget that,” Apollo groaned. “Set the AP-6’s and toss them in. Auggh! Now!”
More bullets staggered her. She fired a burst that leveled the guards. The Mortallis had revved her heart so fast her whole body vibrated. She yanked, set, and tossed three charges past Apollo into room. The square loads of explosives bounced up under vital consoles and connection scramblers.
“Give— count,” he yelled. Right elbow and hand levered against the door, Apollo fired inside.
“Nine seconds!” she called. What was he doing?
He fired higher up. He must be shooting at the hydraulics. If she could get an angle she could assist. She switched clips in her Guardian pistol.
“Six seconds.” She handed him her full pistol anticipating his need.
At half the clip, the hydraulics gave out a screeching wheeze. She threw her weight against the door.
“Three!” she called. The door didn’t budge. Apollo kept firing.
In the armor, the concussion wouldn’t hurt him but the incendiary’s heat would cook him like a Christmas turkey.
Her heart beat three times for each second. She braced and threw all her strength into levering enough space for him to escape.
“One!” Something snapped and the door gave.
Kath yanked Apollo out the opening and dove for cover. The AP-6’s erupted phosphor white while they were still mid dive. Shockwaves cart-wheeled them end over end, blast heat seared her skin even through the armor.
Kath hit the carpeting, all the clothing worn over the armor a blazing like a torch. Apollo let out agonized bellows.
She tore away the clothing and tossed it. Her stomach twisted as she saw hunks of her hair smoldering on the floor. The meter of ebony hair she cherished had been turned to char, another casualty of this conflict.
“Augh. Is it bad? Is it bad?” Apollo groaned.
Kath ripped the burning cloth off the writhing man and found the source of his pain.
“Still!” she ordered. Immobilizing his leg, she examined the burn-through. A patch of flesh behind the left knee appeared cooked. Severe, but nothing a chop shop couldn’t fix. Apollo’s pack was a smoking ruin but most of the contents including the medikit were either ceramic or metal. She grabbed a dermal burn patch and slapped it on the wound. The local anesthetic impregnated in the graft would kill most of the pain.
The hiss of overhead flame retarders cutting in preceded a rain of thick white mist. Kath heard the armor’s recyclers hum, filtering out toxic deoxygenating substances.
“Drek. Drek. Drek,” Apollo groaned. “Messed it up. Thought I’d get the fraggin door open faster.”
“Worked though, they didn’t get time to signal out.”
Kath helped him stand and supported him as he staggered to the wall. Grabbing his rifle she tossed it to him. She shoved Apollo’s equipment into the folds of a guard’s unburned jacket to make a satchel. After knotting the arms into a loop she hung it over his shoulder. A guard’s utility belt cinched around her waist gave her a place to hang her last surviving AP-6.
Apollo leaned against the concrete, pain evident in his body language. He clutched the rifle. His attention focused on her. “Kat, your hair, it’s gone.”
“Yeah.” She tried to keep emotion out of her voice. “Gone like every other fraggin thing in my life.” She clenched her fists. “I gotta go for him. Can you get out?”
He winced, testing his damaged leg on the ground. “When the PKs take effect I’ll make it.” He gestured down the hall. “Go for it.”
Kath squeezed his shoulder. She wished Apollo’s face wasn’t covered with armor. She wanted to see it one last time. With power down, the elevators wouldn’t work until the auxiliaries cut in. She headed for the stairs.
Alarms blared, red emergency beacons flashed, and flame retardant hissed. Kath climbed steadily. If she rushed, the Mortallis might psych out on her again. Apollo wouldn’t be with her this time. The colors that flicked and danced at the edges of her vision were a reminder that a neural overload might be only be a heartbeat away. Kath Hershel, a scorched, bald, military death target, without a family and potentially brain-dead all at the age of twenty-nine. Better to burn out than to fade away; or so they said.
Burn. Brackham would do that— among other things. Take away everything someone has and all they have left is anger. Unlike others, Kath didn’t see revenge as a dish hot or cold. Vengeance was karma working through a human tool. It didn’t matter to the uncaring cosmos whether its harbingers were themselves destroyed in the conflagration. Every act had its price; even being born.
On the seventh level landing, three armored guards burst through the entry, heavy weapons leveled. The hail of lead from machine guns slammed her into the steps. She reflexively clamped her finger on the trigger of the M22A2 and swung it around. The first burst of Quicksilver punched three holes in the lead man’s chest piece. She didn’t see his dying expression behind the mirrored visor.
With belts feeding their weapons from backpacks Kath knew the remaining men didn’t lack for ammo. She dove and scrambled to stay clear of their aim, determined not to be hit by any more of those thousands of shells than necessary. Like her, the armor could only withstand a finite amount of punishment— she wasn’t eager to learn its limits. Bullets ricocheted in the tiny space. The ones that scored sent flares of pain cascading through her body.
Reaching the next landing, she chambered a round in the underslung grenade launcher, turned and fired. The gun boomed and kicked as a grenade shrieked to target. A hundred gram explosive warhead detonated at a guard’s feet.
Explosive force knocked both men through the door and tore away the landing. Kath slumped against the wall, her breaths coming in gasps. She felt battered and exhausted. The image of her mother’s face called to her; demanding an answer be taken to Brackham. Visions of Rick’s scorched corpse and Dawn’s crumpled body put hot metal in her veins. Kath forged on. This bastard had an appointment with karma; she’d ensure he reaped what he sowed.
Each step seemed to take forever. The armor turned fatal bullet hits into bruises, but it was like being on the canvas with prize fighter bashing away. Stay in the ring long enough and eventually the K.O. punch would come.
On the ninth floor, she kept the M22A2 leveled on the door in case someone else tried to surprise her. None came. Upward. Kath’s legs trembled and the rifle grew heavier in her hands.
On her way to the tenth floor, she heard the footsteps of several people coming down from above.
Kath chambered a grenade. Four men in blue technical coveralls came tripping down the steps.
“Ice it! Now!” She yelled, aiming the rifle at the lead man; an overweight codger with graying red hair.
The men behind him, all younger, fell over themselves trying to stop. They looked scared and sweat covered their faces.
“How many on the twelfth level?” she demanded.
“We don’t know; five, maybe eight,” the eldest said.
“Special Forces,” someone in the back mumbled.
“Where’s the insignia?”
“Black op, we’re dead, oh God, we’re dead.”
“Get out,” she ordered. “All the way to the bottom.” She poked one of the younger men with the tip of her rifle. “Don’t talk to anyone. Scan?”
He nodded vigorously. She knew better and that was fine. Their misinformation would confuse investigators and street people who tried to follow up on this run.
“Jet!” She grabbed him by the collar and half-threw him down the steps. “Rev it. Rev it! Get out of here!” She gestured with the gun as the men retreated.
When she could no longer see them she continued her climb. One floor and six or seven men between her and Brackham. Those obstacles weren’t much compared to what she’d already come through. The last hurdle was always the toughest though.
The entry on floor eleven started to open but Kath kicked it closed so hard that the cement around the doorframe cracked. Through the soles of her feet, she felt the vibration of a body hitting the concrete. The door didn’t open again while Kath was in hearing range.
She paused at the twelfth story access. Top of the hill. Auxiliary power hadn’t been restored yet, so unless he’d gone out a window, been flown out, or simply had never been there to begin with, Brackham was here someplace.
His bodyguards would have secured the one available access. She smiled to herself. If she was going out with a blaze of glory, coming in the same way seemed fitting. Kath pulled the last AP-6 off the belt, set the timer, tossed it up by the door and retreated out of blast range.
The grenade roared and Kath charged up the steps. She dove through the ruptured door feeling the flames. Bullets pinged off the wall, fired through the smoke. Kath rolled and came up, gun ready. The only light in the hall came from battery powered floor-lighting that ran in narrow strips along the bases of the walls. Coats flaming, four sec men were already retreating. In semidarkness, the flash of the AP-6 would cause blindness. The heat could scald over twenty meters away.
Through the haze of flame retardant raining from the ceiling, she put a shot through the back of the trailing man’s knee. He went down bawling. Kath didn’t get a second shot before the remaining three guards got out of range.
The burly gunman they abandoned turned and aimed at her. Switching the armor lenses to star-light sensitivity she could make out more details. The skin of his blocky face looked bright sun-burn red. The melted remains of a mustache hung askew on his upper lip. She shot his gun out of his hand before he pulled the trigger. He clutched his shrapnel damaged fingers and cursed.
Kath approached. “Stay still, you live,” she said in a level voice. “Only here to kill one man. Give me grief, you die. Simple as that. Scan me?”
He nodded, wincing and cradling his hand. “Who the hell are you, anyway?”
“The Easter fraggin bunny. Where’s Brackham?”
The guard pointed. “The living quarters.” He wiped his sweaty brow. “Lady your software has a serious glitch if you think you can whack Brackham and live.”
“Yeah?” She prodded him with the rifle. “Up.” After he fought his way to stand on his one good leg, she checked him and found a concealed pistol and a knife. Tossing them aside, she pointed to the stairwell. “Jet. I see you again I’ll put a Quicksilver round right here.” She poked her index finger against the middle of his forehead. “Rev it.”
He didn’t argue but stagger/hopped to the stairwell using the wall as support. He coughed and choked on the fumes and poor air but made it through.
She headed deeper into Brackham’s domain. If they were smart or experienced the guards she’d injured would try to lead her away from Brackham.
She took the hall the guards had avoided. Kath noted the lavish appointments of the offices, marble slated walls in the conference areas, custom grown flowers, real teak and mahogany furniture; megabucks. She passed through a set of double doors and the decor turned sterile, pristine white walls. Stopping at a split, she looked both ways. Down one side were suites that looked like clinic waiting rooms. In the other direction, the rooms appeared larger. A pair of wide blue doors ended that hall.
Kath went toward the doors. She wished she could smell through this suit, but the breather was still purifying her air. As she prepared to go through the doors voices talking on the other side stopped her.
She retreated into the darkness of one of the large rooms. Floor lighting was not provided so she was forced to switch to infra-red to make out anything in the room. Everything flickered into shades of red, the coldest objects black and the hottest crimson. Three large cylinders set horizontally on stands glowed bright. A faint hiss came from them. Activity lights blinked; equipment backed up on uninterruptible power supplies.
The voices drew closer. Her armor deadened sound making it difficult to discern their conversation. She recognized the words, ‘evacuate’, ‘risk’, and ‘lunatic’. Kath suppressed the urge to giggle. Since the implants, odd things struck her funny at times when they shouldn’t.
The clanging of metal on the other side of the door indicated the security bolts had been thrown. From the sound of the other voices they didn’t like being locked in. Kath drew back further in the room, if this was Brackham, and instinct said it was, she wanted to have the drop on them. She wanted him—
In the corner, the hissing sounded louder as cold air blew from the grills of heat exchangers. She ran a hand along the rounded edge of the cylinder. From its smoothness she guessed it must be crystal or plastic.
The commotion at the door continued. Someone was determined to come through while others resisted. Kath remained patient, the chaos would only assist her. Judging by the sounds at that door, she would have had problems getting through it anyway.
Colors continued to flit at the edges of her vision. Her hands tingled. She was conscious of the thrumming in her chest and the itchiness of her scalp. She rubbed the top of her head. Only curled and shriveled filaments remained after the blast of the AP-6.
A gnawing curiosity worried at her. What could these two meter containers be that the contents needed to be kept warm and sustained on uninterruptible power supplies? She put her ear to the material. Something bubbled within, and she heard the quiet chug of pumps.
The hall doors finally opened. Two monster bodyguards peered through the opening. They were dressed in full rigid body armor. Her stomach twisted as she recognized one was carrying a AS-7 automatic shotgun. The deadliest close quarters weapon made, it could fire 3 ten gauge shells with a single pull of a trigger. Few men could use them because of the weapon’s monster kick. She felt the armor mesh covering her body. Even if the Achilles stopped the attack, the concussion would turn her bones to pulp.
The other man carried an AK-97 assault rifle, the Russian equivalent of her M22A2. Two to one, they were better armed. She had the Quicksilver ammo and the Mortallis augmentations as compensating factors.
The men paused in the doorway. Brackham or whoever they escorted stayed hidden by darkness and their armored bulks.
One guard spoke into his throat mike then apparently listened to the answer. He looked behind him. “Boss, they ain’t heard nothing since the stairwell access got blown three minutes ago. They lost Smith when they bugged.”
“How many they think are on the premises?” The voice asked, level and stern. It sounded familiar.
The guard relayed the question. “They only saw one, but nobody down below is answering.”
“I can’t afford to take any chances. We need to secure these pods and get them to safety.”
“Boss, it takes four men to move one of those things. There ain’t but the two of us, and the three second stringers.”
The voice dropped and spoke in a rasp, sounding more familiar than ever. “We’ll move these things if you have to carry them out on your backs. Scan? Find a way. Jet. Jack, stay with me, we have to prep the pods for transport.”
The guard with the AK-97 nodded back to the shadowy figure and jogged off.
Kath shook her head. Why couldn’t he have sent off the guy with the shotgun? The guard turned and entered the room. Kath pulled back behind a cylinder. The last thing she wanted was to draw on that guard. Even if she fired first, that cannon-sized shotgun could go off and both of them would be dead. Not an option in her playbook.
“There’s some chemical lights in the cabinet on the left,” Brackham said. “We’ll set those up until the auxiliaries cut in.”
Where had she heard that voice before? Kath clutched the rifle. If she could disarm the guard before he could raise the weapon.
Brackham was close. One leap and she would be on top of him, choking the murdering life from his worthless body. Karma. What went around came around. Rainbows danced at the edges of her vision, and her heart zoomed. The end of this debacle was an instant away.
Something splashed. Kath jerked, then held herself still. The contents of the cylinder had moved. What the frag was being kept warm in a liquid and— alive? Icy fingers tickled their way down Kath’s back.
She felt the two men in the room stiffen at the sound.
“What was that?” the guard asked.
“Damn,” Brackham said. “They’ve reached threshold. A trauma to them now could be very bad. Get those lights on.”
They? Kath drew a breath. Trauma wouldn’t begin to describe what she planned to inflict on that bastard.
Kath heard the squeak of cabinets, and the clunk of heavy synth objects on hard countertop. Chemical lights weren’t bright like electricals, but they provided more than enough light to force Kath to make her one and only move. Her stomach tightened.
When she heard the fizz of catalytic bars hitting phosphor solution, she leaped for the sound. The guard would have his hands occupied. The surge of light would also temporarily impair his vision.
Kath vaulted over the cylinder. Both feet hit the guard in the back, slamming his giant armored bulk into the wooden cabinetry. The thin material shattered as the man crashed into it. Time froze as the Mortallis launched in response to something she barely even registered in her vision.
The guard had spun as she hurdled through the air. Incredible reflexes.
The shotgun came around. Kath stepped in and hugged the man, taking the impact of the gun-barrel on her side. Two places for her to be in this room, in front of the trigger or behind it. She looped her arm around the loader and hung on as the AS-7 let off a gigantic triple boom. The recoil hammered through her body. Wall and ceiling plasteen rained, the two of them fell to the floor struggling over possession of the shotgun. The AS-7’s drum loader whined three more shells into the chamber.
Brackham screamed, “Not here! Not here!” over and over.
The chemical light bathed the room in a green radiance. It tinted the guard’s bearded grimacing face in shades of emerald. His cosmetically altered eyes glittered with rainbows of color. A fiery red reaper’s scythe tattoo glowed on his broad cheek; the indoctrinating mark of the Apocalypse elite forces regiment.
Kath treated the red insignia like a target, ramming an armored elbow into it. The man’s helmeted head smacked the floor. He snarled and levered her off his gun.
The strike didn’t slow him. Lunging, she shoved the gun aside as it roared again and ripped the wall asunder.
Brackham cried out again, entreating them to stop. Not fraggin likely. Kath knew, armor or not, that weapon could make a hole in her the same as that wall.
The colors in her vision flickered. Either she won or died trying; no retreat, no surrender. The last obstacle between her and Brackham was a 150 kilos of flesh and armor.
Feinting for his head, she snapped a kick to the inside of his knee. His armor took the brunt but the shock knocked the big man to floor. She dodged as he blasted again.
A flare of white-hot pain erupted from her side. Warning messages flashed across her eye lens. Kath screamed and electricity crackled like lightning. The arcs grounded into the armored guard.
He let out an ululating bellow as the kinetic force of the shotgun blast lashed back at him as electricity. He clutched his chest. Fists clenched together Kath slammed the top of the guard’s head driving the helmet down against the armor’s shoulder toggles with a metallic crunch.
The man dropped.
She staggered against the cylinder nearby and clutched her side. Hadn’t nailed her solid, but the blast tore a chunk out of her like a bite from an apple. Blood pumped across her fingers. Her vision flickered and rainbows cut swaths through everything.
Kath staggered. She must stay upright and finish this. One word echoed through her mind.
Supporting herself on the cylinder, she turned. The snap-click of a round being chambered in her M22A2 made her stop.
Brackham’s voice. “Move away from the pod; back against the wall.”
It took all her will to stay on her feet. She obeyed. The agony of her ripped side decreased to a sharp throbbing. The Mortallis was drowning her pain receptors in endorphins. If a truck ran her over she wouldn’t feel it now. She wouldn’t know it was time to die until she crossed the line.
Supported by the wall she stared at the enemy. His indistinct outline looked familiar. The fuzziness of her sight made him difficult to make out.
Brackham stepped closer. “Who are you?”
She snorted. “Can’t you guess?” Her voice sounded slurred.
He took another step. The way he clutched the rifle told her he didn’t often handle weapons. Relays snapped overhead. Ceiling lights buzzed, then brightened as auxiliary power came on-line.
Her blurred vision must be playing tricks. The added light made Brackham visible. It couldn’t be. Nausea swept through her. “Dad?”
His eyes widened. “Kathryn—?” The barrel dropped. “You’re dead! Temmes McGarren killed you!”
“McGarren?” She blinked and rubbed her eyes. Veils of color danced before her eyes. She needed a medikit. “McGarren couldn’t find his fraggin ass with both hands.” She rubbed at her forehead uselessly, trying to wipe the sweat away in the helmet. “Dad— you’re Brackham?”
“Richard Brackham.” He nodded. “Kathryn you’re dead. You simply don’t know it. You died on an operating table twenty years ago when you rejected a cloned spleen. A shot from an assassin’s rifle knocked you off a roof.”
“What?” Confusion rocked her. It sounded like her father. It must be a trick. It couldn’t be.
“Living a lie, Pet. All of you, Anna, Dawn, Rick, were my first attempt at restoring a family that the Yakuza murdered. Using experimental identity recreation wetware I generated complete personalities and memories from the patterns taken from the originals. It didn’t work as hoped. The personalities that arose were quite different from those of the wife and children I knew. Synthetic people patterned after, but unlike the Brackhams who lived ten years before.”
He looked out the doorway, apparently wondering why the other guard hadn’t returned. She wondered too. Everything had been manageable until this moment. What to do? It all sounded so confusing; so impossible.
Brackham sighed, apparently feeling obligated to explain while she bled to death. “Somehow the four of you escaped right after one of the memory grafts. I assume that you wandered around traumatized. Eventually, the identity wetware must have adapted and filled in enough of the gaps for you to function. Anna reclaimed her maiden name, Hershel. She and Rick rebuilt the family business from scratch in a matter of months; amazing. It’s all very unfortunate. I’m sorry it happened this way.”
“Sorry?” The nausea became a burning in her throat. “Sorry? Some loser shoots my mother in the head and all you can say is sorry!” Tension vibrated through her, she felt tears trickling down her cheeks. Her vision grew hazy. “She wasn’t some divergence! She was alive! We were alive!” She held up an armored hand covered with blood. “I’m not a machine you can dismantle if I don’t turn out the way you want!”
“Couldn’t help it,” he said in a flat voice. The muzzle of the rifle he held wavered. “You were aberrations, mistakes— untruths.” A splashing in the cylinder next to Brackham made his body go rigid for a moment. She saw his desire to turn and look. He resisted it. Instead, he continued. “You had to be unmade.”
Kath’s hands opened and closed. “My father wouldn’t have murdered anyone; especially his wife and children.” She moved forward. “What will you do, father? Unmake your mistake?” She glanced at the fallen guard and the shotgun lying beside him. “Pretty fraggin big one, leaving me for last.” She took another step.
“Don’t,” he raised the gun. A tapping came on the plastic by his hip. Brackham winced but stayed focused. Beads of sweat formed on his face.
The blurriness in Kath’s world vanished, leaving a brilliant clarity. “Can’t expect me to be afraid of dying. I resigned myself to that before I came.” She bored her eyes into his. “If I’m going to meet my maker, I want to look him in the eye as he pulls the trigger.” Kath went closer.
His finger twitched on the trigger. “Stay there!”
“Don’t you want to embrace your daughter as she bleeds to death?” She held out her bloody hands.
He gritted his teeth. “You’re not my daughter.”
The tapping by him became more insistent. Sweat rolled down his forehead.
“I’m your blood,” she growled.
A drop of sweat rolled off his brow into his eye. Brackham blinked.
Kath flicked her hands. She dodged as the pooled crimson hit him in the face.
Brackham yelled, cringing reflexively from the blood. The M22A2 went off, chattering a burst of Quicksilver that punched smoking holes in the concrete wall.
She dove under the platform the cylinder sat on as he swung the gun, spraying a line of hissing bullets. Even through the Mortallis, Kath felt the jolt of pain as she belly-flopped on the floor.
The target was in sight.
She grabbed his leg and yanked. Brackham toppled, she heard his head smack the adjacent cylinder. The rifle clattered on the floor. She swarmed over his prone body, grabbing the weapon before her dazed father could reach it.
If he was her father.
“Be still!” She ordered as he struggled. A backhand across his face made him obey. The jolt made pain shoot through her body.
Colors flicked through her vision in a torrent. The clarity had vanished. Her heart hammered erratically. She grabbed his shirt and ripped the fabric off his chest.
She ignored him, folding the cloth and pressing it into the wound. She grabbed his belt off and cinched the cloth into place to keep pressure on it. At best, it might keep her conscious a few minutes more.
Enough time to decide how to finish this.
(… concluded in part 4)