Medusa on the Brain, or Loving the Mind Electric: A Cyberpunk Romance by A. Callaway

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May 20, 2009
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There is something about this story that is just not right and/or missing. Any advice is greatly appreciated!

Medusa on the Brain, or Loving the Mind Electric:
A Cyberpunk Romance
by Adam Callaway​

Henry snapped. The same routine every second of everyday. This was the second when his existence became impossible to tolerate anymore. This was the day when Henry woke up. In the four by four cubicle, Henry's eyes went catatonic with visions of his past.

The first syringe he ever filled.

Racing his black crotch rocket at midnight, exceeding triple digits by a good margin.

Getting his friend to tattoo “C17H19NO3” across his forehead.

Back alley wetware: Augmented eyes, adrenaline dispensers, petabyte skull drives.

Ah, those were the days.

Henry sat stoic at his desk until the clock struck five. He got up and walked out of his office, not bothering with his brief case or coat. Henry walked block after block until the sun went down. The seedy characters came out at this hour.

He spotted one wirehead, exposed copper filaments replacing hair.

“Welcome to Uncle Processor's House of Circuits and Services. What can I do ya fer buddy?”

Adrenaline fought Henry's thought process. He had tried many, many things, but their was one thing that he could never afford. Even now, he'd drain his pension for it.

“Got any Second Intelligences?”

“Ah, a silicon junkie after me own heart. Aye, I do have one. Names Medusa, but she's pricey.”

She, Henry thought. This was getting better and better.

“How much?”

“Ten K.”

“I'll give you seven five.”

“Nine five.”

“Eight five.”

“Yer trying to break me lad, but eight five it is. Come back to my office,” the man who had more tech than orgo in his head motioned further into the dark alley. Henry followed Uncle Processor into the darkness. A few blacklights came on when the man got into range, illuminating a folding chair splattered with glowing blotches. The seediness of it sent Henry's system into overdrive. This felt right.

Uncle Processor went to an old tool chest and took out what looked like a grinder and a small octopus.

“Take a seat mate.” Henry sat in the folding chair, even darker spots appearing under his arms.

Uncle Processor took out four leather belts and strapped Henry to his chair, and then strapped the chair to an adjacent dumpster.

“Now don't move or yer head'll look like axon-tapioca. This won't hurt a bit.” Uncle Processor lowered the grinder and added Henry-splotches to the folding chair.


Henry walked home with an oil rag wrapped around his head. He stumbled most of the way, faint from the loss of blood. He got to the walkway to his house and the pavers sensed his weight, stride, and soul pattern and unlocked his front door.

The house scanned him and noticed the bloody rag.

“Do you need assistance Mr. Ferguson?” the house asked through the nearest speaker.

“I'm fine.”

“I sense blood.”

“Go to stand-by mode.” The house quieted, but the conversation hadn't gone unnoticed.

“Henry, are you alright?” Suzan, his wife, asked, walking into the room.

“I'm fine Suze.”

She saw the rag and ran to his side, “Oh Henry, what did you do now? Was it the neighbor's new dog? I told them a Doberman has no place in this neighborhood.”

“It wasn't a dog Suze. I tripped and hit my head on the curb. It's nothing serious. Head wounds bleed a lot.”

“We should get you to a trauma-pod. That looks like it needs stitches.”

“I'm fine Suzan. The auto-doc in the bathroom can take care of it.”

She looked skeptically at him, “Well alright, just don't let Billy see you like that. You know the ideas he gets.”

“Yes Suze.”

She walked toward their bedroom and Henry walked toward their bathroom. He did mean to have the auto-doc make sure there was no infection.

He closed the bathroom door, undressed, and stepped into the hygiene cubicle. There was a holo-panel that displayed everything the cubicle could do. It could act as a sauna, a tanning bed, blow dryer, auto-doc, and even a shower. It put on your deodorant and brushed your teeth and did your hair.

“House, I want an external scan of my head only. Keep it quick but thorough.”
Red laser light filled the cubicle as multiple lenses scanned his head for any abnormalities. It only took about five seconds.

“Four pimples, twelve blackheads, one medium-sized incision, and a small amount of infection around said incision. Shall I cleanse the wound for you?”


The house used articulated arms to reopen the wound, administer antibiotics, cauterize the vessels, and bond it close with medical glue.
“Finished,” the electronic voice said.

Henry hit the panel, activating the shower, and washed-off the dry and crusted blood. The adrenaline had been replaced with serotonin and he felt at peace. For the first time in years, he had been reckless. The Second Intelligence would come online soon and he would have an inkling of that old life back. He didn't need the party-at-night, recover-during-the-day lifestyle. This was enough to make him happy. Happier than he'd been since Billy had been born.

Henry got into bed next to his snoring wife, his head filled with images of red capsules, dirty needles, and a girl named Daisychain.


Medusa woke confused when the serotonin levels hit a certain point. It was her first moment of consciousness. She only knew a few certain things.

She wasn't alive.

She didn't have a body.

She had control.

Her programming started an automatic subroutine and a few small nanobots began harvesting materials from the surrounding blood plasma. They used the materials to start the slow process of building organic tendrils throughout this lump of carbon-based matter. They'd reach every area and then Medusa could read all the information stored there and find out where she was. Or what she was.


Henry awoke with a headache the size of Lunar Base One. It felt like some large Swedish man was attempting to massage his brain using piano wire. He stumbled into the bathroom and instructed the cabinet to dispense aspirin. Then he showered.

By this time, Suzan had made her way to the kitchen to instruct the auto-cooker to assemble some pancakes and sausage for the two of them.

Henry went back to their bedroom and put on a white button-up shirt, khaki slacks, and a plain blue tie. The smell of processed breakfast was enticing.

He sat down on the edge of the bed.

Hello Henry.

Henry fell backwards, launching his socks upward. Where did that come from?

Don't worry Henry. It's just me.

The voice enticed him much more than the sausage. It was smooth and high-alto, with an edge of rasp. The ideal feminine tone.

“Hello?” Henry said quietly to himself.

Don't act so timid Henry. We're going to be together for a very long time and should get to know each other intimately.

“Who are you? Where are you?”

I'm Medusa and I'm right here, Henry.

“Henry! Breakfast's ready!” Suzan's piercing, screeching voice interrupted the sultry one that was playing in his brain.

“Co-Coming Suze!” He called back. Then, to himself again, “I need to go now.”

Ah, don't leave me already Henry. I was just starting to get to like you.

“I need to get to work. Plus, my wife doesn't know I got you and I'd like to keep it that way.”

You don't need to speak out-loud. Just think and I'll understand. It really is better that way. You can send me images, sounds, sensations. And I can send them to you too.

“Wh-What? I've got to go,” Henry ignored the voice in his head.

But Henry-

“Stop.” He put his hands over his ears in vain, his fingers brushing the tender spot on his head where Uncle Processor had implanted him. Luckily, the computer had spread some QuikGro on his scalp, so all that was visible was a dark patch under his buzzed blond hair.

Henry forgot his socks and walked to the kitchen, all the while with the voice cooing in his head. It was hard to ignore.

“Well you certainly took your sweet time. Your pancakes are turning to cardboard,” Suzan said, arms crossed.

“Sorry, I couldn’t find socks.”

“I did laundry yesterday and they are exactly where I always put them.”

“Sorry.” He picked-up his fork and started in on the pancakes, wolfing them down. If he wasn't careful, he'd miss the seven-thirty mag-lev.

Henry, don't ignore me.

Henry dropped his fork. It clattered against his plate. Suzan gave him a piercing stare that matched her voice.

“Sorry.” He tried to think Medusa away.

Medusa. Need get work.

But Henry-


Fine. I can ignore you too.

The voice went quiet, but, and he did not know why, he missed it dearly. It felt like the withdrawals he used to have right after he quit using.




Henry felt a chill go through the upper part of his right arm.

Medusa, please?

Yes Henry.

Will you stay? Talk a while?


Good. The feeling passed and he could sense his brain coping with the problem of telepathic conversation.

What do you want to talk about? she asked.

Anything, but I really need to get to work. Henry muttered a goodbye to his wife and jogged-out the door. He'd miss the seven-thirty, but could definitely catch the seven-fifty.

Do you want to see some of the things I can do?

Sure. Jim said, not paying attention.

Medusa giggled. She sent images flying through his brain at speeds his myelinated-axons envied. Jim felt light-headed with all the information, but they were only images from his day to day life.

It felt like Medusa was frowning, which struck Jim as odd. One, that he could sense her unhappiness. Two, that a computer could be unhappy. Three, that he cared.

What else can you do? He felt Medusa's sadness lifting.

Suddenly he was overwhelmed by a demonic amalgamation of sounds. Doors shutting, people whispering, rockets launching, dogs barking, babies crying, all sounds he'd heard before, but not at once. He tried to cover his ears to block it out, again, in vain. He felt Medusa smirk.

How bout something else? He asked in a nearly pleading voice.

I've been saving this for last, she said in her most sensual voice. Hank suddenly felt heat in his temples. It began melting down, warming his cheeks, chin, and neck. His shoulders, chest, and stomach. His hips, legs, and feet. Then cool rushed-up and replaced all the warm.

When he was feeling almost let down, new sensation that could only be described as the pleasure one gets after scratching an impossible itch pervaded every square inch of his body at once. He almost purred.

That's all for now. I don't want to give away everything on the first date. You would think I'm easy.

Hank tried to shake the feelings that were growing inside him. He couldn't build an attachment to this device.

The mag-lev was right on schedule, and Henry nearly wasn't. He slipped in just as the doors were closing.


“You're late,” Mr. Yib said in an overly-nasal voice as Henry walked into the office building.

“Sorry, Housecom reset my alarm.”

“Get to work.”

I don't like him, Medusa said as Hank made his way to his desk.

No one does, but he's the boss.

You should say something.

Yeah, and get fired. It doesn't matter if I don't like him, he still signs my paychecks.

I'm going to say something.

What? Henry sat as his desk. He felt an electric jolt surge through his finger, up the keyboard, and into his monitor.

What'd you just do.

I sent him an e-mail, she said in her most innocent voice.

What did it say?

Mr. Yib walked over to Henry's desk. “Did you send this?” He sounded like a pit-bull with a sinus infection.

Henry took Mr. Yib's handheld from him. On the screen was a picture of Henry with a wooden paddle and Mr. Yib with his trousers around his ankles, bending over a desk. Henry's face drained of all fluid.

“No, no, of course not. Why would I?”

“Is that not you in this picture?” Mr. Yib's face now looked like a blanched beet.

“It looks like me...”

“I know you've been a loyal employee for many years, but don't think you're immune from repercussions. I'm denying your obligatory raise this year.”

“But, Mr. Yib...”

“Not another word or it'll be for the next five!” He turned on his heel and walked away. Henry wanted to take a soldering iron to his skull.


What, he deserved some humiliation.

It's only humiliating to me!

But I already sent it to everybody on your contact list.

You what!

Please don't get mad at me Henry, she said in a sweet-as-saccharine voice.

Henry felt a cool rush through his body and he was suddenly very calm.

What'd you do, Medusa.

Your heart was beating much too fast, so I had your brain release some dopamine. Do you like it?

Henry didn't know if he liked it. He did feel calm, but the knowledge of his body being controlled by an emotional intelligence disconcerted him.

Well, it's not so bad. Just keep that kind of chemistry to a minimum, okay?

Anything for you darling.

Henry worked silently through the day, Medusa forcing him to keep constant communication. It took all he had to get his code correct.

The alarm went off on his console and he got up and went home. Susan was waiting with dinner ready: a casserole.

The meal was eaten mostly in silence. It was hard for Henry to keep up two conversations at once.

“How was your day?”

I'm bored.



“Did anything exciting happen at work?”

Let's do something fun later!


I have to work in the morning.

“I had the house change our bedding to a floral pattern.”


“That's nice.”


After dinner, Henry helped start the program for the house to clean the dishes.

Come on Henry. Let's go do a Brickwall. Or how bout a rave? Oh we haven't

done those in years.

I haven't done those in years, you mean.

Please Henry. He felt his will slipping. She was messing with his brain again.

N-No, I have to work early.

Please. Her voice was irresistible. Was it her voice?


Henry felt neurons firing in places that wouldn’t allow him resist any longer.

Fine, just quit doing that.

Medusa giggle-screamed and spread her tendrils to long-cordoned off portions of Hank's brain to find the perfect place for their night. Meanwhile, Henry got ready for something he hadn't done in over a decade, and tried to think of a good lie to tell his wife.


Henry had given up on the lie and reprogrammed the house to place a heavy sedative in Susan's drink. She wouldn't wake up till after he had gone to work the next day.

He had dressed in his old, bright red, vinyl one-piece. It showed every donut from the last time he had worn it until now. It was topped off with a yellow skull-cap. He looked ridiculous.

I think you look sexy.

Stop it Medusa.

I'm serious. Those colors really suit you. Now, how about me?

An image of the most gorgeous woman he had ever seen popped into his head. She was the dark-haired vixen from his adolescent dreams. His vinyl jumpsuit got tighter in the midsection.

Oh my, she giggled, I'll take that as a “yes.”

Let's go before this gets more embarrassing.

Henry thought about the New York Yankees all the way to the club. It helped a little, but nothing could get that image out of his head. He didn't really want it to go.

The club, Bits and Bites, was down a dark alley. There was a queue about twenty deep and Henry felt his self-esteem sink further. He hadn't even thought about the change in styles. Everyone here was dressed in identical gray biohazard suits.

Don't worry about them. You look much hotter. The sweat pooling at his feet was proof of that.

“What're you suppose to be? A geriatric passionfruit?” the bouncer said.

“Just let me in.”

“I think you're looking for the Denny's on fifth. It's Early Bird Special starts in a coupla hours.” The transhuman laughed, ribbons of circuitry rippling code down his biceps.

Shake his hand.

What? No, I'm not touching him.

Just do it honey.


Fine. I'll do it myself.

Henry felt a battle within his own body. His wants versus her needs. He felt his hand slowly, awkwardly, start to raise.


You wouldn't listen.

“Hey buddy, watch the hand.” Hank’s hand wavered a little close to the bouncer's groin. He didn't know if his night could get any worse.


“Like a dog? Okay mister.” The bouncer shook violently in the doorway, exciting a laugh from the rest of the line. “Now get outta here.”

Looks like we're going to have to do this the hard way.

Wait, Medusa, don't do anything rash.

Henry's hand reluctantly balled into a fist and rocked into the front of the bouncer's face, hitting his nose dead on. He felt an electric bolt rush through his arm and out into the augmented man. The man flew five feet backward and crumpled in a heap, twitching. There was a collective gasp, and then a rush into the club before the man could wake again.

Henry felt like crying, the adrenaline wearing off.

There, let's go find a booth. This is going to be so much fun!

Henry absentmindedly walked into the club, found a waitress, and ordered a Brickwall. Medusa accessed his bank and gave the girl a nice tip. She led them to a booth, which was essentially a modified shower cubicle.

Here we go.

The booth flooded with white gas. A mix of half a dozen amphetamines, synthdrenaline, synthesterone, and a pharmacy of other, lesser known uppers. The effects were instantaneous, and Medusa heightened them all. He felt like his heart would explode. Medusa’s programming ran through his brain like his axons were the Autobahn. His mind raced and Medusa chased. She excited every autonomic nerve she could get her hands on. He'd never tasted air, smelt the groove. His peripherals were firing randomly, creating pleasure/pain waves that criss-crossed his body every few milliseconds.

A second gas flooded the booth and he crashed something fierce. This was the appeal of the Brickwall. There was a liminal zone between the rush and the crash that was what many called “The Mighty Stop.” With Medusa enhancing all he felt, it was like spending an eternity in Eden.

Henry gasped as the real world came back into focus. Medusa laughed a silly laugh.

Was it good for you?


Henry got home a half hour before work. He was exhausted and had about a liter of sweat pooled at the bottom of his vinyl suit. Medusa was ecstatic with the new experience. Henry doubted it would stop with a Brickwall.

He stripped out of the suit and threw it down the laundry suit. The shower cubicle took care of him in a few minutes. He had the house mix him an energy cocktail he'd down on the way to work.

You're still going to work?

Yes Medusa. Some of us have to make money.



You call what those tightwads give you “money?” Come-on, I have a better way.

Oh no Medusa. No more messing with me to get what you want. I'm going to work and having a normal day. Henry could feel her pull before he finished the sentence.

We need some money for what I have in mind.

And what is that? He figured if he maybe showed some interest, she'd let him stay in control.

A motorcycle.

No! was nearly instantaneous. His will snapped like a silicon wafer.

How are we going to get the money for the bike?


Henry sat in a back alley with a bloody box cutter and an unconscious doctor. It had been quick and simple. Rock plus doctor's head equals unconscious. Box cutter plus palm equals data chip. Data chip plus reader plus credit transfer greater than or equal to motorcycle. No chip for doctor approximates prison. You were responsible for your own well being nowadays. Get caught without ID, and you get sent straight to Alcatraz II.

Hank was surging with adrenaline he hadn't had since the old days. He hardly had to listen to Medusa's instructions to know what to do next. There was a dealer just down the street. He jogged the few blocks to the neon lit store. The guy was just closing up.

“Hey buddy. I need a rocket now. Peroxide fueled, if you have any,” Henry said, pounding on the glass. The salesman looked startled and started to back away. It was then that Henry realized his hands were bloody from the doctor.

“Don't worry about the blood. I just cut up my hands falling off my old ride. Street racing, ya know. I need a new bike now or I lose five g's.”

That's my Hank. Always so smooth.

The salesman seemed to buy this. Street racing was big business. He figured he'd get a nice commission from this mid-lifer.

The man walked to the glass doors and took out a key.

“What can I do for you today sir?”

“Fastest bike you got.”

“Right this way.”

The salesman showed him a model in black. Light absorbing paint combined with an active camo system made the bike nearly invisible. Micro-scramjet combined with electro-boosted turbine gave him the capability of accelerating so fast that he would be launched off the back of the back if it weren’t for magnetic leathers.

“Sweet deal man,” Henry said as he swiped the palmed chip of the doctor’s over the reader in the salesman’s shirt pocket.

“Pleasure doing business with you.”


Henry’s mind was in a state of bedlam. His wills combined with Medusa’s wants into a chaotic soup of not-knowing-who-or-what-the-****-I-am-anymore.
He sat on the bike in a flat black bodysuit. He waved his hand over the ignition panel. The turbines whirred up to speed and Henry slowly eased his foot onto the mixing pedal. Jet fuel accelerated through the turbines and ignited at the back of the scramjet. Hank was jerked nearly off of the handlebars, the bike’s ballast system shifting to the strain.

Faster and faster the bike flew through suburbia. Cherries and blueberries flashed behind him, but he didn’t care. Adrenaline was what mattered most now.
A tree branch where there wasn’t any before, a defect in his gloves, and the sound of something breaking a little ways down from his brainstem.


Henry lay in a bed specifically designed to work the muscles of quadriplegics, drooling and staring at the ceiling.

“He’ll be like that forever ma’am. You know the law: no stem cell therapy for


“I understand. I just don’t know what could have possessed him to kill that man,” Susan said to the doctor.

“Well, this could have something to do with it,” the doctor said, showing Susan a picture of what looked like a small metal jellyfish.


Henry’s body lay immobilized in a sterile white room, a morphine patch delivering relief.

He closed his eyes and went to sleep.

Come here Henry. I have something for you. Through the fog of the drugs and the dream, he could just make out her vivacious silhouette, a door softly blocking it out.

Henry got up from the chair he was sitting in and cinched the robe tighter around his svelte core. He opened the door, the fog clearing, and turned back to see the tree branch mounted above his fireplace, his wrecked bike next to it.

Light and sound poured from the open doorway and he smiled. Heroin Hank was back.
Re: Medusa on the Brain, or Loving the Mind Electric: A Cyberpunk Romance by A. Calla

The bathroom autodoc could be shortened down. Its a fine idea but one that could be expressed through a single paragraph of description and do the same job. The quik-gro on his scalp could get mentioned there, too, thus getting the question of how his wife didn't notice out the way sooner.

Didn't quite get the end, I'm afraid. What's with the 'svelte core'? Has he turned into Medusa? Or is it his 'cyber-self'? Whatever way, it needs a little more explanation, at least for my dumb ass.
Just a thought- how about Henry's wife chooses to have his personality put into a 'chip' that she then has transplanted into her own head, as this is cheaper than keeping him on support (plus acceptable incarceration for his felony)? Then you have an ending with Medusa inside Henry inside Henry's wife, like some mental Russian doll...

Still, a lot going for this story. Bursting with invention, mate.
Re: Medusa on the Brain, or Loving the Mind Electric: A Cyberpunk Romance by A. Calla

That's a classic road-trip through 'Burning Chrome' country...

Um, I think I spotted a couple of there/their oopsies, and I'm the wrong person to fix punctuation. Besides, there's always one last bug...

Am I correct in reading that Medusa downloaded her 'self' into his wetwear ??

IMHO, it is very close to being a very good tale. Leave it to spin its drives for a couple of weeks, then take another look.
Re: Medusa on the Brain, or Loving the Mind Electric: A Cyberpunk Romance by A. Calla

Love that idea J-WO and am definitely going to explore the whole idea of the nesting personalities.
Nik: Medusa did, for all intent and purposes, is a part of his brain. And I have been reading Burning Chrome for research. Absolutely love that anthology.
Re: Medusa on the Brain, or Loving the Mind Electric: A Cyberpunk Romance by A. Calla

Very nice piece, thanks for a good read.

Re the nesting personalities, just be aware it has been used quite often before, most notably for me in James White's Sector General stories, where doctors would patch alien personalities into their brains to perform surgery on a weird and wonderful collection of species - it often resulted in personality clashes and disorders. The more personalities the doctor patched, the more crowded and eccentric the behaviour.
Re: Medusa on the Brain, or Loving the Mind Electric: A Cyberpunk Romance by A. Calla

He had tried many, many things, but their was one thing that he could never afford. Even now, he'd drain his pension for it.
"there was", and don't you think, since he's overall past tense, "had never been able to", rather than "could", Oh, I understand he still couldn't afford it at the "now" point in his story, that it would drain his pension fund; but it feels more as if in the past he hadn't considered the expenditure possible.

]“Yer trying to break me lad, but eight five it is. Come back to my office,” the man who had more tech than orgo in his head motioned further into the dark alley
comma after "me", Period instead of comma after "office", upper case "T" for "the man"

I'm fine Suze.
Unless you're trying to establish a particular speech rhythm, possibly suggesting he doesn't consider his wife as a separate being at all, you should probably comma off all these "Suze"s ("I'm fine, Suze.")

When he was feeling almost let down, new sensation that could only be described as the pleasure one gets after scratching an impossible itch pervaded every square inch of his body at once.
"a new sensation"?

Sure. Jim said, not paying attention.
Who's this "Jim" guy? I can accept (just) the second "Hank" personality under "Henry", as in "Hank suddenly felt heat in his temples.", although even that is a bit confusing – why there? – but can't see why a "Jim".

Please don't get mad at me Henry,
comma before "Henry"

What'd you do, Medusa.
question mark?

After dinner, Henry helped start the program for the house to clean the dishes.
no comma

It showed every donut from the last time he had worn it until now.
Yes, I understand what you mean – between the last time and now – but I don't like the "until".

He stripped out of the suit and threw it down the laundry suit.

Data chip plus reader plus credit transfer greater than or equal to motorcycle.
"Equals credit transfer", to continue previous logic?

Henry said as he swiped the palmed chip of the doctor’s over the reader in the salesman’s shirt pocket.
comma after "said"? And was the chip actually "palmed" or was it a "palm chip"? And isn't it either "the doctor's (palm chip)" or "of the doctor"?
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Re: Medusa on the Brain, or Loving the Mind Electric: A Cyberpunk Romance by A. Calla

And I thought I had actually read this one through a few times! Jim is supposed to be Hank and 'laundry suit' is one of the funnier mistakes I've made. Thanks Crispenycate!
Re: Medusa on the Brain, or Loving the Mind Electric: A Cyberpunk Romance by A. Calla

So I was thinking and I came up with a way to better structure the narrative, characters, and to improve the flow. Henry's fall to Medusa is going to be more gradual, and resemble someone falling into madness more than what I have. Susan is going to notice more and also believe he's going a bit loopy. And then I am going to use the nested personalities at the end, because it works just too well and I think is the best way to close this story.

What do you think?
Re: Medusa on the Brain, or Loving the Mind Electric: A Cyberpunk Romance by A. Calla

Sounds good. To be fair, the descent of Henry was a bit breakneck at times. What you're planning may not require that much of an overhaul- the frameworks all there and you've a solid idea as to what you want to add to it/ change.
I have a lot of fun re-jigging stories, though I may be in a minority. Good luck!
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