Second Sun

Second Sun
#1
Second Sun
They warned you that you'd see things your mind wouldn't understand.

You're in a dead forest, in a never-ending winter. The trees are black from past fire and encased in ice, several of their trunks fallen, a lattice of burnt sticks.

You've been climbing across the field of dead wood for hours, but your space suit keeps you warm. It's a lightweight, slim-profile suit that allows you the range of motion to keep moving. Your space suit is orange, the color marking you as a trainee. It's your first excursion to an Earth of the far future.

Everywhere you look, in all directions, you see the frost-blasted sky and the snow-covered ground, criss-crossed by toppled trees. There are two sources of light: The pale circle of the star you know and the harsh white radiance of the phenomenon your instructor called the Second Sun.

You've travelled far from base camp, and you're starting to get worried about finding your way back to the quadcopter in time for extraction. A colored blotch on your wrist measures your amount of exposure. Over the past few hours, it's progressively dimmed from bright green to a more pond-scummy look. You've become infected by this place, the air and soil polluted by a metal vapor, particles microscopic enough to pass through your suit and into your body. HUPs, your instructor had called them - Heisenberg uncertainty particles. You had asked him if HUPs were sort of like a swarm of tiny robots, but he said that they're more like cancer. They'd make homes for themselves inside the tunnels of your cells, and once enough of them had moved in, it would be over for you. Not death, he elaborated, not really - he told you that you'd probably see what HUPs did to human bodies, but that your gut would probably reject your own eyes, your brain would feel revulsion, and you'd be filled with a violent need to unsee.

What do you do?

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#2
RE: Second Sun
Do better next time
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#3
RE: Second Sun
>Check your map and comms.

Hot damn diggity another Douglasventure!
Vivian Quest
Tale of a small lizard, crime, and weird biology!
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#4
RE: Second Sun
Lie on the ground and contemplate your uncertain future.
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#5
RE: Second Sun
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#6
RE: Second Sun
(03-01-2018, 07:53 PM)tronn Wrote: »>Check your map and comms.

You tap the side of your suit's helmet, engaging the built-in walkie. "Theseus, come in," you say, hailing the quadcopter you're meant to rendezvous with. No response. "Theseus?" They had mentioned that communications could be difficult here, but now is a bad time for things to stop working.

You pull out a small map of Durham Region, Ontario. You should be north-east of Beaverton. At least, what used to be Beaverton. It's not much immediate help, given that you're in the middle of the woods now, but maybe if you can head west towards the highway you'll be able to get your bearings.

One of the burnt trees still stands, a naked pine whitened by an ashen skin; when you pass the tree, the landscape changes around you. It's still the forest, still winter, but the trees are no longer burnt and collapsed. The pines are verdant now, though snow-covered. Ice bends the branches of distant pines, vague through the haze of snow.

How did I get here? You look behind you. No tracks, not even your own. I'm lost. You push through branches, needles, exhausted from the effort of forcing your feet through the drifts. You pass another torched white tree, identical to the first: Dead, its charred limbs skeletal. Or is it the same tree? I'm turned around, you think. Pulling yourself over roots and stones, sliding down snow, trying to latch onto something familiar, some feature of the landscape that you recognize, you push through a gap between pines and come to a clearing. Before you stretches a black river. You scream when you see the crucified woman.

The woman has been crucified upside down, but there is no cross. She hangs suspended in midair, hovering over the rushing black water below. Fire crackles at her wrists and ankles. Her rib cage is protruding, her body emaciated, thinned to starvation; her legs marbled black with gangrene. Her face is lurid, purple, blood pooling, and her hair, platinum blonde, dangles low enough to brush the surface of the water.

You recognize this woman. It's you. You fall to your knees at the black river's shore.
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#7
RE: Second Sun
>Well, most likely scenario here is that you are hallucinating the hell outa your mind. you uh may want to take a breath and maybe splash some water on your face, see if you can return to reality or at least calm down.
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#8
RE: Second Sun
>How are you crucified if there is no cross? Therefore, you are levitating on air, not crucified on a non-existent cross.
>Ignore. You're too lost to panic. You can't afford to lose calmness.
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#9
RE: Second Sun
>Pull her off the air and take her with you. If that's the future you then you might just as well get rescued by the past you in this crazy kooky time loopy.
Vivian Quest
Tale of a small lizard, crime, and weird biology!
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#10
RE: Second Sun
Put her out of her misery
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#11
RE: Second Sun
(03-02-2018, 04:33 AM)FlanDab Wrote: »>How are you crucified if there is no cross? Therefore, you are levitating on air, not crucified on a non-existent cross.
>Ignore. You're too lost to panic. You can't afford to lose calmness.

(03-01-2018, 11:41 PM)smuchmuch Wrote: »>Well, most likely scenario here is that you are hallucinating the hell outa your mind. you uh may want to take a breath and maybe splash some water on your face, see if you can return to reality or at least calm down.

A trick of the HUPs, you think. It's disgusting. Absurd. Crucified, without a cross. They're inside me, making me see things-

Panic wells up inside you at the thought of HUPs accumulating in your cells and your brain - but even now you're realizing that this is no hallucination, that this crucified woman is real, as real as you are, as real as the trees and the ice and the river. In a way this realization is almost calming, centering. At least you're on solid ground.

And then you look at the woman again and the horror comes rushing back.

(03-02-2018, 08:28 AM)tronn Wrote: »>Pull her off the air and take her with you. If that's the future you then you might just as well get rescued by the past you in this crazy kooky time loopy.

(03-02-2018, 09:04 AM)Schazer Wrote: »Put her out of her misery

You reach for her, thoughts alternating between pulling her down or ending her suffering. But you freeze: it's too bizarre, too horrifying. You find yourself unable to touch her.

The meter on your outstretched arm catches your eye. It's changed from pond scum to mustard.

You're running out of time.
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#12
RE: Second Sun
>Your lost, and quickly running out of time. Least you can do is get them down from there before that time's up. Beyond that, they're on their own. You have a road to find, and hauling them with you is only going to slow you down.
Quiet. Good for an unusual opinion. Doesn't talk much.
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#13
RE: Second Sun
(03-02-2018, 02:04 PM)Arcanuse Wrote: »>Your lost, and quickly running out of time. Least you can do is get them down from there before that time's up. Beyond that, they're on their own. You have a road to find, and hauling them with you is only going to slow you down.

Swallowing your revulsion, you hook your gloved hands over your duplicate's outstretched arms and pull her to the ground. After some resistance, she crumples to the snow, unmoving. Dead? You're not sure. There's no time to find out.

You run, trying to remember your extraction point - but the forest around the river is unfamiliar, and you're lost. You backtrack the way you thought you came, battered by icy wind, slipping through snow. You pass another white tree, identical to the others - or no, it has to be the same... a charred pine, its bark a shell of ash. The yellow on your meter darkens to a shade of red clay. No, no, no, you think, running again, ducking through a hedge of branches. The meter flashes bright red. Nausea sweeps over you and you fall, brought down by the weight of your blood. You crawl ahead through a break in the trees and see that once again you've arrived at the clearing at the black river's shore, to the scene of your crucifixion, and there you are, suspended inverted once more, only now there are crucifixions without number, thousands of bodies floating upside down along the river's length, naked men and women screaming in the pale light of two suns.

"What is happening?" you say out loud, to nobody.

Your vision dims and you gasp for breath. When you see the flashing lights in the sky, you think you're losing consciousness, but it's the lights of the Theseus.

I'm saved.

The quadcopter lands roughly in the clearing. "Here," you say, your voice weak. You try to scream. "I'm over here."

Two men in slim-fit olive-colored space suits, the ones worn by the Navy, rush out of the hatch, and you see them approaching the river. "I'm here," you say, but they are too far away to hear you. You try to crawl closer, away from the tree line, you want to run to them, but you don't have the strength to stand. You see the two men pull the crucified woman from the air and cradle her. They wrap her in heavy blankets.

"No, I'm here, I'm here," you say, but watch them carry the crucified woman, that other version of you, onto the quadcopter.

"I'm here," you say, "please." Your dosimeter darkens to dark brown. The next shade will be the lethal color black. You close your eyes and wait.

---

The shotgun kick of the thrusters shocks you into consciousness, and you recognize where you are. You're in one of the quadcopter's pods, you realize, your ankles and wrists strapped tightly to a cot, your head and neck secured between padded blocks. You're numb, shaking, immersed in blankets tied down at the sides. The liftoff g-force eases off, and you feel weightless.

"Please," you say, "go back. Go back, I'm down there, don't leave me-"

"We've got you now, you're alright," says your instructor, floating through the air to the side of your bed. He's an older man, his hair silver, though his blue eyes have a youthfulness to them. His hands are leather as he checks your pulse. "Your wrists and ankles will be in severe pain," he says. "I don't know how you were tied up there, but you've got some burns. You're also suffering from exposure, a lot of frostbite. Hypothermia."

"You have the wrong me," you say, a vision rushing into your head. Somehow, you saw yourself in the trainee-orange space suit crawling along the tree line. "Please, you have to believe me, I'm still down there. Please don't leave me-"

"No, you're back on the Theseus," your instructor says. "We found you in the forest." He's wearing blue athletic shorts, white socks pulled to his knees, a grey CFNIS T-shirt. "You're confused," he says. "The HUPs are confusing you. You've got dangerous levels of them in you, they're in your blood. Can you state your name? Do you remember your name?"
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#14
RE: Second Sun
Jeanette?? Genet???
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#15
RE: Second Sun
>no!!!!! I dont because im not the right one!
>please, just check, please look down there. I beg you. For my peace of mind, please
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[Image: 8L9RKuo.png] [Image: tnkzT4L.png]
\☆/
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#16
RE: Second Sun
>Don't you remember?
>Names are for people, not mayflies.
>...
>Sorry, bad joke.
>Really though, can't remember.
>I.. need some time to get my thoughts together. And questions, lots of... Lots of questions.
Quiet. Good for an unusual opinion. Doesn't talk much.
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#17
RE: Second Sun
>Uhh... I think it was... Diana. Diana Newmann.
>Can I have some water?
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#18
RE: Second Sun
This me doesn't have my watch or trainee jumpsuit. I would never take them off. I'm really close to where you picked me up!
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#19
RE: Second Sun
Before you arrived, someone else let me down. But I got pulled up into the air again.

I remember that other person being me. But maybe that's just the HUPs. Maybe I imagined the whole thing. But if I didn't, then whoever that was is still down there.
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#20
RE: Second Sun
>Start to suspect that they named your ship Theseus as a warped joke.
Vivian Quest
Tale of a small lizard, crime, and weird biology!
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#21
RE: Second Sun
>Angela
>This is the Theseus, and what I remember were charred trees coated in ice. The forest became alive again, and I found myself crucified near a tar black river.
>I know that I have HUP poisoning, but there were two me's.
>Could I have really been experiencing a hypothetical alternate version of myself coming upon my corpse that is rescued instead of me?
[LIVE] - AliCat2020's modded dlc playthrough, like and subscribe if you enjoyed

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#22
RE: Second Sun
black
orange
white
green
pond scum
white
black
black
purple
platinum blonde
black
pond scum
mustard
white
yellow
red
red
black
olive
brown
black
silver
blue
orange
blue
white
grey

[Image: R4WuIys.jpg]
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#23
RE: Second Sun
(03-02-2018, 08:25 PM)Schazer Wrote: »Jeanette?? Genet???

(03-02-2018, 10:50 PM)FlanDab Wrote: »>Uhh... I think it was... Diana. Diana Newmann.
>Can I have some water?

"Jeanette Newmann," you say, trying to remember, but your mind feels slow. "I don't understand... what's inside of me? I don't know what HUPs are. I'm so thirsty... can I have some water?" Your teeth are chattering, your body shaking. Excruciating pain rakes up and down your limbs, bright lightning bolts of nerve pain, but your fingers and toes are like blank space. Someone brings a wet cloth and tells you to suck on it - without gravity, it's difficult to drink normally.

(03-02-2018, 08:25 PM)Myeth Wrote: »>no!!!!! I dont because im not the right one!
>please, just check, please look down there. I beg you. For my peace of mind, please

(03-03-2018, 12:40 AM)Smurfton Wrote: »This me doesn't have my watch or trainee jumpsuit. I would never take them off. I'm really close to where you picked me up!

(03-03-2018, 01:03 AM)Dragon Fogel Wrote: »Before you arrived, someone else let me down. But I got pulled up into the air again.

I remember that other person being me. But maybe that's just the HUPs. Maybe I imagined the whole thing. But if I didn't, then whoever that was is still down there.


You spit out the cloth. "I'm telling you, please, you have the wrong person. I don't have my watch, my trainee jumpsuit, I'd never take that off-" And then you remember, you did take it off, didn't you? You remember stepping from your suit by the river, shedding your clothes. You remember ice blistering your shoulders. You remember fire at your ankles and wrists. You remember hanging upside down over that rushing black water for hours, for days maybe. You were praying to die when you saw yourself appear through the pines. "I don't understand," you say, crying through the pain.

"Our main concern at this moment is your frostbite and hypothermia," says your instructor, floating closer to your feet and peeling back the corner of the blanket to check on you. "Oh, Jean," he says. "Oh-"

You lift your head and see that your feet are swollen and purple-black, the skin surrounding them flaky and yellowed. "God. No. Oh, God no," you say, and in your shock you almost feel like these feet belong to someone else, that they're anyone's but yours. Someone's placed pieces of cotton between your toes. Dark lines stretch up your left leg. Your instructor rubs your feet with a moist cloth, but it's like it's not even happening - you can't feel the water even as it slides from the cloth over your toes and spins away like glass beads in the air.

"Your mind's been affected, probably your memory too, from the hypothermia," he says. "Sub-Lieutenant Maurois and Petty Officer Kordel rescued you, stabilized you here. You aren't there anymore, you're here, on the Theseus. You're safe now."

Their names are unfamiliar. "I don't know who they are," you say. Sub-Lieutenant Garner is the pilot for the quadcopter, along with Petty Officer Garretson - there is no Maurois, as far as you know. The bay window frames a view of Earth, distant now, marbled with ice and mists. You imagine your own body dying far below in the forest, still in her space suit, but you can see that your space suit is locked in one of the closets, bright orange like hunting gear. What the hell is happening to me? Although your ankles and wrists are covered with bandages reeking of ointment, you feel your skin burning like it's been drowned in acid.

"This hurts," you say. "I hurt so much."

"We've let the medics know you're on your way," says your instructor. "As soon as we dock with the ship, they'll be ready to treat you."

(03-02-2018, 08:38 PM)Arcanuse Wrote: »>I.. need some time to get my thoughts together. And questions, lots of... Lots of questions.

"What... what happened to me? What was down there?" you ask. "I was hanging. They all were-"

"You saw crucified people, along the river," he says. "I've seen them too when I've traveled to study the Demarcation, many times - we call them the 'hanged men'. The HUPs crucify those people. They crucified you."

"You said they're in my blood. Get them out of me, get them out-"

"Jean, we've been through this - we can't get them out. Training covered this. I warned you about them, I thought you were ready."

"No, no, you never did," you say, struggling to concentrate through the pain, the pulsing burn in your wrists. Your memories are jumbled... you remember you traveled to Ulterior Time on the HMCS Alexander Mackenzie - to the year 2199 - well, one of an infinite number of possible 2199s - a distance of around two hundred years. A pale spotlight hung over the Earth when you got there, shining like a second sun - the entire crew had been shocked. Nobody knew what the light was. No one warned you about HUPs or the hanged men. "You said you were taking me home, that's all you said."

"Jean," says your instructor, helpless. He rubs your feet again with the washcloth. "I don't know what to tell you. The hypothermia can cause amnesia... maybe as you recover-"

"Rendezvous with Alexander Mackenzie. Prepare for docking," says a voice over the loudspeaker - a voice you don't recognize. You remember black water rushing underneath you. You look again at your feet. Some color has come back to your right foot, but the toes on the left are still dark, and the lines reaching up your left leg have gotten darker. The sight sickens you.

"What are they? What are Hups - what's in me?" you ask, fighting your confusion. "I don't care if you think we've been over this already."

"We don't know where they come from, what they want," says your instructor. "Maybe they don't want anything. Heisenberg uncertainty particles. We think they're extradimensional. They come through the Second Sun, that light you saw. At some point in our future. They cause the event we call the Demarcation."

"The crucifixions."

"The moment humanity ends," he says. "Nobody is left alive. Well, not alive in the conventional sense, at any rate. There's the hanged men, but there's runners, too. Millions of people running in massive packs until their bodies just disintegrate, or they run into the ocean to drown. Some of them dig holes and then lie inside. Some of them stand with their faces pointed at the sky, mouths open, silver liquid spilling out. On beaches, people line up and contort their bodies like yoga or something."

"Why?"

"We don't know why, or what the purpose is. Maybe there isn't one."

"But this is just one version of the future," you say, imagining the HUPs crawling through your arteries like parasites. "This is just one of an infinite number of possibilities. So there are other futures. The Demarcation doesn't have to happen."

"The Demarcation is like a shadow that falls across the future of humanity," your instructor says. "Every single timeline we've visited ends in the Demarcation. And it's moving closer. We first clocked it at 2666 - but the next travelers to witness it found it closer, in 2456. And now it's moved closer still, to 2121. See, the Demarcation is like a guillotine bade slicing towards us. Our Navy and its fleet has been charged to find a way out from under that shadow, and our job is to support them in this. Everything I'm going to teach you, everything that you'll see, is to help humanity avoid the Demarcation. We have to get out from under the shadow."

"What else am I going to see?"

"The end of everything."

---

1997

---

"Hello?"

"Agent Jeanette Newmann?"

You don't recognize the man's voice. "This is Newmann," you say.

"A family's been killed." His voice wavers. "Durham County dispatch logged the 911 a little after midnight. There's a missing girl."

2 AM, but this wakes you up like an ice bath. You're awake now. "Who am I speaking with?"

"Ken Whicker, criminal analyst," he says. "RCMP."

You turn on your bedisde lamp. Wallpaper patterned with vines covers your bedroom walls. You trace the lines with your eyes, thinking. "Why my involvement?"

"My understanding's that the officer in charge communicated with HQ and they instructed him to involve you," says Whicker. "They want CFNIS assistance. Our primary is with JTF2."

Joint Task Force 2. Canada's Navy SEALs. "Where?"

"Beaverton, on Colyer Street," he says.

You know Colyer Street. Your best friend growing up had lived on that street - Nancy Wright. The image of Nancy's face floats up in your memory like ice surfacing through water. "How many victims are we dealing with?"

"Triple homicide," says Whicker. "It's bad. I've never-"

"Slow down."

"I've seen some kids hit by a train once, but nothing like this."

"Okay," you say. "You said the call came in after midnight?"

"A little after," says Whicker. "A neighbour heard a racket, finally called the police-"

"Do you have someone speaking with the neighbour?"

"One of our guys is with her now," he says.

"I'll be there in a little over an hour."

You gather your balance before attempting to stand - your right leg still the lean leg of an athlete, but your left ends in a conical mid-thigh stump. You lost your leg years ago when you were crucified in the infinite winter of the Demarcation - a transfemoral amputation, the Navy surgeons having cut away the gangrenous remainder of your leg. When you stand, you perch on your single foot like a shore bird, rocking on the pads of your toes for balance. Your crutches are within reach, propped in the gap between the bed and nightstand. You slip your arms through the cuffs and grab the handles, propelling yourself through the bedroom, a mess of clothes and magazines, loose CDs, empty jewel cases... slipping hazards your occupational therapist was always on your case about.

Colyer Street...

A shiver runs through you at the thought of returning. You and Nancy were like sisters through middle school and freshman year - closer than sisters, really, inseparable. Your memories of Nancy were of the best parts of childhood summers - seemingly endless days spent at the poolside, roller coasters at Wonderland, splitting cigarettes down at the locks. Nancy had died your second year of high school, murdered in a parking lot for the few dollars she had in her purse.

You flip the news on your bedroom TV while you dress. You apply antiperspirant to your residual limb, then tuck your polyurethane liner against the blunt edge of your thigh, rolling it to your hip like pulling on a nylon stocking. The prosthesis is an Ottobock C-Leg, a prototype - computerized, designed for wounded soldiers. You slide your thigh into the socket and stand, the colume of your thigh forcing out air from the cuff, vaccuum-sealing you into the prosthesis. The C-Leg makes you feel like your skeleton is exposed - a steel rod instead of a shin. You throw on slacks and a blouse. You holster your service weapon and throw a tailored suede jacket overtop. One last glance at the TV: Dolly skulking around in a hay-strewn pen, Clinton talking up the newly signed human-cloning ban, promos for Jordan versus Ewing.

---

Colyer Street is a cul-de-sac, siren lights flaring against the houses and lawns. A quarter after 3 AM - neighbours probably know that something's happened, but might not know what just yet - if they peek out their windows, they'd find a confusion of patrol units, RCMP vehicles and Ontario Police, investigations now a web of jurisdiction with the federal agents involved. Your cases tend to concern Naval Space Command sailors home on shore leave from "Distant Shores", the top secret black-ops missions to Sidereal Space and Ulterior Time. Bar fights, domestic violence, drug charges, homicides. You've worked cases where NSC sailors snapped and beat their girlfriends or wives to death - tragic, some sailors spiraling after seeing the terrors of the Demarcation or the light of alien suns. You wonder what you'll find here. The township's coroner van is parked nearby. Ambulances and fire engines idle. The RCMP mobile crime lab sits backed over the curb and into the front lawn of your old friend's house.

"Jesus Christ..."

The house you remember from your childhood is as if it's superimposed over the house as it stands now - two films playing simultaneously, your memory and your crime scene. Nancy's family has long since moved away, and you never thought you'd set foot in your friend's house again, definitely not under these circumstances. A split-level, two-car garage. Growing up, you spent more time here than at your own house, it seemed like. You still remember the Wright's old phone number. You feel an oily sensation of one reality oozing into the next, like a yolk squeezing through a crack in its shell. You take a swig of coffee from your thermos and rub your eyes like you're trying to wake yourself up, to convince yourself that this coincidence is real, that you haven't been caught dreaming. A coincidence, you tell yourself. There used to be a flowering dogwood tree in the front yard - it's since been cut down.

You slow your pickup at the blockade, and a deputy approaches your window, a middle-aged gut and Chaplin moustache that would have been funny except for the exhaustion weighing down his eyes.

Time to go to work. How do you proceed?
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#24
RE: Second Sun
Quote: The HUPs crucify those people. They crucified you.

...Thehell ? ...Even factoring time and space and some sort of dual sensing through time sci fi weirdness in, ...how exacty do /particles/, very small objects varying from subatomic to granular scale crucify people ?
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#25
RE: Second Sun
The missing girl is the top priority, but the Mounties surely are on top of that. Get to the agent in charge and figure out why they want you, in particular, on the case. Get what they have on the primary.
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