Foreword: Since everyone has been pestering me at the message board... I'm posting this little monster of mine. Keep in mind this was written about two years ago, back when I still didn't know how to write. Okay, with that little warning in mind, feel free to subject yourself to...


"The Beasts Within"
by Greywolf Lupous

Disclaimer: The Magician characters, names, situations and the Magician universe are the property of Gaumont Entertainment. I nor this script are connected with Gaumont in any way, shape or form. This document may not be publicized or reproduced in any way, shape or form. It must remain fully intact and may not be altered in anyway. It is strictly used for not-for-profit entertainment purposes and is not intended to infringe on any Copyrights. Wraith/Theodore Draper is a character of my creation, copyright Greywolf Lupous (trunks-locke@softhome.net), 1999.

Damn it was boring.

That's all that Cosmo could really think of, sitting in Ace's car while the magician was talking with the supplier of their props. It seemed to be taking longer than usual to get the deal set straight. Yeesh, he could hack a heavily guarded security system faster than this. What was taking so long anways?

As if to answer his thoughts, Ace began to walk back to the car with his lips pressed tightly together, and a scowl on his face. A look he'd seen all too often. Cosmo shifted himself in his seat and peered up at his friend, waiting for him to explain the situation. Instead, Ace just jumped in and started the car. After a few minutes of silence, Cosmo had just about enough.

"So what's wrong?" he asked impatiently.

"What? Uh, nothing, just thinking."

"Well you've been thinking for about ten minutes straight, what's going on? What's wrong with the props?" he *hated* being left in the dark.

"There was a break-in last night, some vandals destroyed our entire shipment."

Now that was odd, "Ours as in just ours?" He wasn't sure but he thought he saw Ace nod.

A few more seconds ticked by before Ace continued, "Looks like we're going to have to plan another itinerary for Thursday's show."

"New?! But we've been planning this show for months! Everyone and Paparazzo's mother is gonna be there! They're expecting something entirely new!"

"Looks like we've got our work cut out for us."

Cosmo didn't suppress the groan that escaped him, looks like he'd be missing that date with Ailene tonight after all. The car lapsed into silence again, and an uneasy feeling began to settle in his stomach. It wasn't like Ace to be this quiet, maybe there was something the magician wasn't telling Cosmo about. He immediately dismissed the idea and just decided that Ace was worried over having to re-do the entire show.

Ace dropped Cosmo off at the Express without saying much, except to start going over their old tricks and try to improve on them. Cosmo shrugged and trudged into the train. Ace felt a momentary twinge of guilt, knowing the teen had plans tonight. But it was only for a moment, and then his thoughts returned to the vandalism. Everything had been smashed to pieces, except for one of their boxes, which had been broken in two, with a symbol almost in the shape of a yin yang painted on each half. One half had the body of a dragon, while the other had an elongated gryphon.

Seldom things scared him at just the thought of it, but that symbol was one of them. If it was who he thought it was, this was something more than just a simple vandalistic act. It was a warning.

Ace sighed and fingered his cape nervously as Derek Vega entered the room. Behind him his secretary Ms. Lasage trailed after him, holding two thin files.

"Friedrichs is wanting you to check into this too," she said, finishing up some previous conversation of theirs, and then smiled, "As always, lunch was lovely."

He returned the smile and took the files, "Thanks, tell him I'll get right on it." She left the room, and Vega turned to face Ace, "So what's up?"

Ace looked up at his old friend filled with concern, "I think he's back."

Vega give him a quizzical look as he sat down in his chair, "Who's back?"

"Wraith."

"Wraith? How, he's been dead for years, you and I both saw his copter crash into that cliff. There's no way he could have survived."

"I remember Derek," Ace couldn't keep the annoyance creeping into his voice.

"Yeah, we both do. So why do you think this? Has he contacted you?"

"Sort of," Ace said, and repeated the story of his vandalized props.

"I don't know Ace, it could just be someone playing a trick on you, or a copy cat," Vega said carefully after Ace had finished.

Ace nodded slowly, he didn't want to, but he'd have to wait for whoever it was to strike again, "Well, thanks anyway. I guess I should let you get back to your work... me and Cosmo have a lot to do."

Vega nodded slightly, "Good luck Ace, and don't worry, I'll keep you posted."

It had taken several long hours, but they had finally figured out a way to continue the planned show without the much needed props. Cosmo had hounded out a program that would create a hologram of the necessary items, similar to the one he had planned to use before the incident with Raptor XII. The only problem was that it would have to be controlled backstage the entire time, but that was doable. They'd recycle old props that were on their last legs for the rest of the show.

Cosmo had already fallen asleep at the console, and Ace was feeling fatigued himself. Idly he turned onto the television to the news. Paparazzo addressed the camera with his usual enthusiasm, as he popped up on the screen in front of the Electro City Museum. Ace yawned and listened with half interest as he gently shook Cosmo to wake up.

"-and this break-in has left several exhibits unrepairable," the reporter's voiced continued with extreme excitement.

Ace was gently steering him towards the door, still only listening partly.

"The only clues the police have at this moment is the strange symbol painted on the floor in front of the twentieth century exhibit."

Ace sharply turned around to face the TV, knocking his half-sleeping assistant off balance, he fell to the floor with a dull thud. Ace didn't even turn to see if he was okay, his eyes were locked on the screen. The exact same yin-yang that was painted on the boxes was again neatly drawn on the floor in black and red spray paint.

He felt his breathing quicken as the rest of the world faded away. The entire saga replayed itself in his mind. At the time he was just starting his career as a Magician, and Vega was just a detective. A head case by the name of Theodore Draper was terrorizing the city, and the police had been unable to arrest him. His crimes
ranged from petty vandalism to murder. His trademark was the odd yin-yang he drew at the scene of each crime.

Ace had stumbled on him accidentally during one of his raids on city hall, and kept him from setting off an explosive. Infuriated, Draper began to direct his efforts directly on Ace. With the help of Vega, he was unsuccessful at all of his attempts, but they were still unable to catch him. The tip of the iceberg was when he had assaulted Mona while she was on stage. Filled with rage, Ace helped the police set up a trap for Draper, who had now dubbed himself Wraith, after some mythological what or another.

It was set close to the edge of the desert, where Ace had faked putting on a last minute show with a new stunt. Wraith had of course showed up, but found himself surrounded by a SWAT team. Through sheer luck, or stupidity (Ace wasn't quite sure which one it was), he had managed to flee to one of the police helicopters. Vega and Ace had given chase in another. Vega had opened fire and managed to cripple one of the rotor blades. The copter lost control and crashed into a cliff in front of them. The crash had set off a series of explosions with the instruments and cargo, by the time it crashed into the sand, there were only small scraps of metal left. The body was never found, even though he was pronounced dead to the media, Ace knew that Wraith had just slipped through their fingers again.

"ACE!" he heard someone shout into his ear, reality quickly set back in. He blinked away his confusion and turned to face Cosmo.

"Hey dude, you okay? You look a bit pale."

"Just tired. I think I'm going to go to bed," he replied and quickly exited the room.

"Yeesh, who's yanked his chain?" Cosmo wondered aloud as he flipped off the television. He yawned and picked up his jacket from the back of the chair he'd been sitting in all afternoon. Ace was acting awful strange lately, especially after that newscast. He sighed to himself as he slowly made his way towards his room. Ace would tell him when he was ready, he reassured himself, he always did.

The same odd silence that had filled the car the morning before seemed to continue as he and Ace reviewed over the opening sequence. Using all the will power he could muster, he managed to keep his frustration to a minimum. By the time they had finished with the opening sequence, it was all he could do but to keep from
shouting.

"Dude, what's your problem?" he managed to say, keeping his voice at it's normal level.

Ace gave him a confused look and began to set up for the next trick.

"All right, don't even try to give me that! You either actually say something to me or I'm walking!" he'd been told by several people that he was a little too headstrong at times, but the silence was just driving him nuts.

"Sorry, I've just got a lot on my mind," Ace said almost absent mindedly, taking some fire powder out of a pouch.

"And it never occurred to you to maybe share a little bit of it?!"

Ace shrugged and a flame sparked up on his hand. Cosmo cried out in frustration and stormed over to the door, pulling his jacket on.

"I don't have to take this! Just finish practicing yourself, and come get me when you're through giving me the silent treatment!" with that he stomped out the door.

Ace was stunned by the "sudden outburst" and glanced down at his pet panther Zina, she glared up at him and lifted her lip to reveal a tooth. Like Cosmo, she was fed up with her master's silence. He sighed in defeat; for some reason, she was always right. He put out the flame in his hand and followed Cosmo out.

He had to quicken his pace, but he caught up with him after about a minute.

"Sorry," he said softly, looking straight ahead.

Cosmo glanced at him, obviously still peeved, and remained silent.

"Look, it's really complicated --"

"Explain it to me anyways," he interrupted.

"All right it..." he started, but trailed off in mid-sentence.

Cosmo turned to shoot him another glare, but stopped when he saw Ace frozen dead in his tracks, staring up at something ahead of them, his eyes wide with fear. Alarmed he whipped his head around, and saw a large yin yang painted on the building in front of them. The red paint on the dragon slid down the wall, giving the impression of blood, while the navy blue gryphon was neatly painted with elegant strokes.

He kept his voice low, "Uh, Ace, is that what you were about to tell me about?"

Ace stood as if in a trance, again reliving his past. Cosmo roughly shook his shoulder, and he focused his attention on the present.

"Listen bro," Cosmo continued, the anger completely gone from his tone, "let's just get back to the express."

Ace shook his head and started to march off down the street, "I have to check it out."

Cosmo shrugged and followed, "If you say so."

The interior of the building was intact, not much disturbed from it's resting place. Ace and Vega murmured to each other as they surveyed around, while Cosmo followed from a distance, utterly confused by his friends' behavior. Once again, he assured himself he'd get the story in a small while, and decided to hang back and stay out of everyone's way.

By the time they had finished, they discovered all that had been stolen were blueprints to the company's latest flight pack. The three walked outside, the eldest two still speaking softly between themselves. They both nodded and turned to Cosmo.

"Go back to the Express, I'll be back in a couple of hours."

"You mean you're not even going to tell me what's going on?!" he was getting REAL sick of being left out.

"I said," Ace repeated sterner, his face contorting into a deep frown, his lips pressed tightly together, clearly enunciating each word, "go back to the Express."

Cosmo gulped nervously and edged around them, slowly walking backwards the way they had come earlier, "I think I'll just go back to the Express. Uhh... see you in a couple of hours?"

He turned on his heel, and stalked back towards the Express. Vega turned to the magician, "You are going to tell him about Draper right?"

"Eventually, but right now we have to see exactly who we're up against, and their motive."

Vega nodded, "Yeah, the operation in here seemed a bit out of his pattern, the entire office was left in one piece."

Ace rubbed his chin thoughtfully, "Maybe he just ran out of time and couldn't finish the job."

"I doubt it, he's dedicated his entire life to perfecting his raids, the timing is always perfect."

"Right... so where do you think he'll strike next?"

Vega patted some folders he'd been holding onto the entire time, "Not sure, but maybe these will give us a more definite pattern."

"Well, it's better than just waiting for him to make his next move."

"Okay, so what do we have?" Ace paced Vega's office.

"Two vandalisms, your shipment and the museum. The robbery this morning, and a break-in at the Croesus Palace."

"Black Jack?"

Vega nodded, "All that was taken was some scrap metal from some old slot machines they were ready to melt down."

"And at all the sites it had the yin-yang?"

"Yeah, but I really don't think this is our guy, it's too odd, even for Wraith."

Ace leaned against the wall, bowing down his head in thought, "You have a list of the items stolen?"

"Yeah," Vega said pulling out two sheets of paper with notes hastily scratched on it, "why?"

"Just a hunch, can you fax that information to Angel?"

"Sure, what's up?"

"I'm going to go look at my shipment again, I think I might've overlooked something. I'll call you when I'm done."

"All right," he said a bit apprehensively, something wasn't right about this situation. It seemed too... familiar.

His hunch had played off right. After reviewing over the list of his shipment, and surveying the destroyed props, he found that the fire powder was missing. Also some tubing and wiring that was to be used for the handling of the equipment wasn't among the wreckage. He also checked over the remains of the twentieth century exhibit, he and the curator discovered a chip that was once responsible for operating several devices at once was missing.

He leapt into the car and accessed the information Vega had faxed him. It fit. The wiring, the tubing, the metal, and the circuitry. It all went into the making of the jetpack.

"What's so special about a jetpack?" Vega asked him after Ace had relayed the information.

"I'm not sure, maybe you could go talk to the company some more."

"And you?"

"I've got another hunch."

Vega sighed, "All right, just be careful, and don't hesitate to call me in for backup."

"I won't."

If all the doors on the Express weren't automated, he would have slammed them as he came in. How could Ace just shut him out like that, Vega too! It wasn't like either of them to be this tight-lipped with him. Well, if they weren't going to tell him what was going on, he'd find out himself. He was fed up with being the only one who had absolutely NO idea what was going on.

He stormed into the computer room and flung his jacket off on the chair before sitting down in it rather haughtily. Angel sparked up in front of him.

"Hey Angel," he kept his voice even, "what information can you give me on this weird yin-yang like symbol, it's like half dragon, and half uhh, gryphon I think."

The computer paused a second to process the information, and displayed a hologram in front of him, exactly like what he'd seen painted on the building.

"Yeah, that's the one, whatcha got on it?"

"It was a symbol used in a crime wave a few years ago, orchestrated by an individual by the name of Theodore Draper, also known as Wraith."

The name sounded sort of familiar to him, but he really couldn't place it. He never was big on catching the news, especially earlier on in his life, "So what happened to him?"

"He was killed in a helicopter crash when the police and Ace tried to capture him."

"Ace? What'd he have to do with the guy?"

"Apparently he held a grudge with Ace after he foiled a bombing attempt on city hall."

"A little off his rocker if you ask me."

"Extremely. Before he turned to crime he had been fired from his job for threatening his employer."

Typical nut case, "What was he before he went bonkers?"

"A researcher for the Knowledge Foundation."

Figures, "Why'd he threaten his boss?"

"The details are a bit fuzzy, but apparently they were going to terminate the current project he was on, and reassign him elsewhere."

A real wack. "What was the project anyways?"

"Ancient beasts, more specifically, dragons and gryphons."

He should have been able to guess that one. So the guy was nuts for make believe monsters, he couldn't resist a horror flick every now and then either, "So are these new crimes anything like the ones a few years ago?"

"With the exception of the sign being drawn at each crime, none."

"And he's dead, so either we have a really bad copycat, or just another nut case who just so happens to use the same sign," his head was beginning to hurt from all this reasoning. "Can you give me some information about these, uh, 'beasts'."

"Of course," the machine replied, replacing the hologram of the yin-yang with one of a gryphon. "The gryphon is a quadruped with the tail and hindquarters of a lion, and wings, head, and forelimbs of an eagle. It is a symbol of vigilance, courage, and strength. It was once portrayed as an evil creature who trapped the souls of humans, but was later on compared to the gods of several religions, for it's combined mastery of the Earth and Sky."

"The name dragon comes from the Greek word for snake, and was often referred to a wyrm or worm in medieval times. It has the head of a wolf, the body of a snake, wings of a bat, eagle-like claws and a snake-like tongue. According to certain legends, a particular dragon can turn it's hair into spikes to stun or kill it's prey. In the Lambton Worm story a snake-like dragon was able to regenerate after dying. In most folklore it represents destruction and evil --"

He felt like he was stuck in a mythology class, "That's all very interesting Angel, but I get the feeling if you share all your information with me we'll lapse into next week."

"Understood," she replied patiently.

This wasn't getting him anywhere, it was just extra information as far as he was concerned, "Hold on, can you run a quick scan on the city and find anything that might be in reference to it?"

"Certainly," she said while carrying out the request, and then began to list off all the references and statues in the city on dragons and gryphons.

Cosmo groaned and sunk down in the chair, this was going to take longer than he had hoped. Well, at least he knew what was going on, sort of. It still made him mad that Ace hadn't even bothered to tell him about it. It was the first time ever he really remembered the magician purposefully shutting him out. Well, whoever it
was sure knew how to wreck his plans with his friends. And the show coming up was going to be near impossible with all their props destroyed. He stopped.

Destruction.

"Hold it right there Angel," he said suddenly, "exactly what were all the crimes that have been committed lately?"

"The destruction of Ace's shipment, the vandalism of an exhibit at the Electro City Museum, a break-in at Croesus Palace, and the robbery at the Aerotech Enterprises."

"Our shipment was completely destroyed, wouldn't you say that's kind of like a dragon?" he knew it sounded off, but there might've been more to this.

"Maybe. Although I really don't see a pattern. The museum exhibit was also completely destroyed, and all that happened at the other two places was some stolen trash metal, and the stolen plans."

Theft. Well, that didn't have anything to do with symbolism, maybe there was another angle to it, "What about the scrap metal? Was it special?"

"Only in the fact that it was made from a titanium-like metal, extremely light, but tough enough to withstand most weapons."

Light and tough... uhh, bat wings? This really wasn't going anywhere, "And I don't know what the plans could represent at all."

"Intelligence?"

This was ridiculous, they were pulling stuff out of the air, "And then there's the museum. Uh, gryphons weren't known for meaningless destruction were they?"

"No," Angel replied evenly.

"Thought so," well there went that line of thought. Why would he hit the museum anyway? The only way they'd have anything relating to either thing was if it was a... "What about companies? Was there anything on display that might have had a reference to one?"

"Well there was a product on display from the Al Griffinth Corporation reported missing just a little while ago."

"That's it!" A bit odd, but then again, there was a pattern. Alternating between beasts at each crime. No wonder Ace left him behind on this, it barely made sense to him. It was all he had to go on for now though, until Ace decided to let him in, "While I'm connecting all the wrong dots, there anything that might relate to a dragon, excluding statues and name references?"

"They have a large exhibit at the museum..."

"Nah, too obvious, 'sides, he already hit the museum. Like I dunno, anything like eagle claws or like a snake's body worth stealing?"

"Nothing worth stealing."

"But there is something?"

"Yes, there is a project at the Surge Research Center..."

"Good enough. I'll be back in a couple of hours Angel, if you see Ace before I do, tell him, I'm, uh, researching."

The Surge Research Center, one of the most run down of its kind. For some reason Sonnyboy kept it open, even though he had a much larger one near his headquarters. It was closed for Jonathan Surge's birthday, so that left it easy to get into and out of. Cosmo casually closed in the rest of the distance, having made
the decision that he needed his own transportation around this city other than his feet.

As he expected, the door was locked, with a minimal security system. It only took him a minute to crack it, and he dashed in. The interior of the building wasn't even lit, save for the sole dim light in the center of the ceiling. He squinted in the darkness, and made out two stories, the entrance, and one below it. The second story was lined with bookshelves, probably filled with dozens of boring novels on quantum physics or something. The lab, the first floor, was visible due to the lack of ceiling, and several stair cases connected the two floors.

As his eyes focused to the darkness he made out the shape of a man in front of him, holding a large gun mounted on his shoulder. He backed up into the wall and felt his heart skip a beat. It was one of those times where he really wished he wasn't right. He squelched the butterflies in his stomach and silently got closer to the stranger. He didn't seem to notice Cosmo at all, his attention was focused on something below them. He glanced to the first floor and made out the figure of a man in a cape. He had a good feeling he knew who it was, and he wasn't about to let any nut with a gun - no matter how big - kill him.

He continued his silent approach, mentally crossed his fingers, and lunged in at the shadow.

Ace whirled around hearing a thud from above. He wasn't alone in here. He made a mad dash for the stairs, hoping to catch whoever it was off guard. He skidded to a halt as he reached the source of the sound. In the darkness he could make out two figures struggling with each other, and a large gun that had been knocked
away. He took his staff and twisted it, turning the light on the smaller of the two fighters.

Cosmo didn't even look at him as he struggled with the other attacker, "Hi Ace, guess we had similar hunches."

Ace groaned aloud and rushed forward to help him. He lifted the other aggressor away from Cosmo, an arm held firmly to his throat. The youth rubbed his cheek and got to his feet, Ace tightened his hold on the stranger.

"Who are you?" Ace demanded sternly, struggling to keep his hold. Whoever it was, was strong.

"Don't tell me you've forgotten me already Cooper," the stranger hissed in a low voice.

Ace felt his heart tighten at hearing that voice. It was all the other needed and elbowed him in the gut harshly. As Ace's grip loosened he wriggled free and kicked the magician onto his back.

"I've waited a long time for this," He was about to continue his assault when he felt something knock him to the side. That stupid brat again. He let his attention leave Ace again and focused his rage on the interfering teenager. That was twice already, and he wasn't going to allow a third time.

"Guess you're going to have to wait a bit longer," Cosmo's crystal blue eyes glared coldly at his opponent. To Cosmo's surprise, the man grabbed him by the throat and began forcing him towards the edge. Damn, he thought while choking for air, this guy was strong.

And Ace was on him again, in a slightly different throat hold. This time he didn't hesitate to choke his adversary. They both staggered back, giving the teen a chance to breath again. Wraith grabbed Ace by the shoulders and tried to heave him over his shoulders, but the magician centered his weight, keeping himself balanced. They needed backup, and fast, "Cosmo, call Vega! Tell him to get here immediately!"

The youth nodded and reached for his wrist-comm. Again using Ace's distraction, Wraith flung him off, sending him flying to the wall. He lunged at Cosmo again and began shoving him back over the railing. All he had to do was get rid of one, then the other would be too busy handling him to call the police. With a final hard shove he sent the boy toppling over the side.

The impact of hitting the wall had only stunned him, and he was up on his feet again. He felt rage burn deep within him as Wraith assaulted his friend, and dove in again. Everything seemed to move in slow motion as he shoved Cosmo over the side, and Ace felt he couldn't get his body to move fast enough. Without any thought on Wraith, he tore his cape from his shoulders and flung it over the side of the railing, the world returned to it's normal speed of motion only when he felt a tug from the other end.

With all the strength he could muster, he began to pull his cape up, after a few strong tugs, Cosmo was back on the right side of the railing. They both breathed heavily and looked around for Wraith. He was gone, probably out the way Cosmo came in.

"Before you start the lecture," he said between breaths, "I want you to know that: one, I had no idea this was going to happen. And two, this incident might've been avoided if someone had actually told me what was going on."

Ace helped him to his feet, "True that neither of us could have predicted this, but I told you to stay at the Express."

Cosmo finally caught his breath, "You said go, not stay. Besides, when you act all strange like you've been doing lately, it's kind of hard not to wonder what's going on."

He let it drop, they'd be at it the entire night if he didn't, "Well, I think we stopped him from taking whatever he was after."

"Some gizmo that looks like eagle claws, or uh, a snake body... I didn't let angel finish telling me."

"Huh?"

"That's what he was after, I don't know, he's on this weird pattern, stealing stuff that relates to gryphons and dragons," he paused for a second, "that's why you were here right? You *did* know that, correct?"

"No, I was following a trail of stolen items. He didn't just destroy our shipment, he took some wiring, tubing, and fire powder."

"Big deal, we've got that stuff anyway."

"You remember the Aerotech robbery this morning?"

"Ahh yes, this morning, it seems so long ago now," sarcasm was practically dripping from his voice.

Ace shot him a look before he continued, "He's trying to construct the jet pack, that's where the scrap metal and wiring comes in."

"I think you're wrong there Ace-adinni, the scrap metal has nothing to do with the jetpack, it's for wings."

"Wings?"

"Yeah, I did a little detective work of my own back at the Express, it looks like he's trying to construct something like a gryphon-dragon mutt or something."

"How do you know that?"

"It fits, fire powder, fire breath, dragon. Wings, dragon. Eagle claws, gryphon."

"No no, I mean this gryphon/dragon thing."

"Oh, the guy is obsessed with them or something. - Don't tell me you've chased this guys for years and you hadn't even known that?"

Now that he thought about it, it did make sense, "Remind me to not keep this from you next time."

"I tried this time and it got me thrown over a railing."

Ace cracked a smile, the first one since this entire thing had started, "Let's contact Derek, this might just be our lucky break."

Vega had his own theory to share with them, and it didn't have anything to do with theft or beasts, "He's repeating what he did the first time."

"But Angel said they weren't anything at all like the ones a few years ago," Cosmo interjected.

"That's because they aren't."

"Say what?"

"It's a pattern of who, not what."

"Come again?" his gryphon/dragon theory was less complicated than this.

"Comparing his first four crimes to the recent ones, they're all targeting the same type of people."

"Uhh, magicians, curators, casinos, researchers, and, uh Surge?" well HE certainly didn't pick up on the pattern here.

"More like storage, history, casinos, scientists... and Surge," Vega retorted.

"So what's the next one then?" Ace inquired.

"Well, seeing as he already hit the Surge center, the next would be," he paused to search through his files, "a shopping center."

"Where he could get an energy source for his... thing."

"And has to do with a gryphon!" Cosmo put in excitedly.

Vega gave them both a strange look, "What'd I miss?"

Ace Cooper! How he hated that man! He had once again interfered with his plans, and who was that kid helping him?! He was almost as annoying as Ace himself. He'd have to double back later to get the claws for his masterpiece, stupid Cooper. Wraith shook away the thoughts of his adversary and focused on the task at hand. It was a simple break-in, the guards would be a piece of cake.

He approached the Electro City Mall, already shut down for the night, feeling excitement stir within him. It was just like a few years ago, the cops were still a joke, and the magician had no clue what he was up to. He slowed down his car at passing to get a good look of everything going on, and felt his blood boil. The
Magician's car was parked in the darkness, behind that was the car of that annoying Vega.

They must've been expecting him on foot, since they didn't even give him a second look as he continued on. If this was the way they were going to have it, fine. There was nothing saying he couldn't change the rules of the game himself.

"Guess we were wrong," Cosmo mumbled as he was setting up the props for their opening sequence, starting in just a few hours.

"I'm not quite sure," Ace said, surveying the stage, making sure everything was the way it was suppose to be.

Cosmo yawned, he'd been awake for most of the stakeout last night, and was obviously suffering from lack of sleep, "Why don't you get some sleep, the stagemen can handle the rest."

Cosmo waved him off, "Nah, I'll be all right, we still got a lot of stuff to do, right?"

"The last thing we need is for you falling asleep at the controls tonight, come on, I'll give you a ride back to the Express."

Cosmo sighed, he REALLY hated it when Ace got all motherly on him, "Fine mother hen, but first we gotta stop by city hall, they haven't given us the permit for the fire act yet."

"What happened?" he asked, locking up the doors.

"Ghost-boy's little escapades have slowed them down."

They pulled up to city hall, suprisingly uncrowded for this time of day. Ace jumped out, wanting to handle the politics himself. That was fine with Cosmo, he was so tired he'd probably fall asleep while waiting for the paperwork. He was almost asleep when he saw something moving up the side of the building. He studied it for a moment, and then shook it off as his tired mind playing tricks on him.

He tried falling asleep again, but couldn't. Dammit, now he had to make sure for himself. Ace wouldn't be out for a few minutes again, what would it hurt to look? He climbed out of the car rather groggily and slowly walked up to the side of the building. He rubbed his eyes and looked up again, with a bit clearer of vision. The man looked down at him, holding something under one of his arms, his long black hair tied neatly back into a ponytail. Something about that seemed familiar to him.

The man opened fire, and he scrambled back around the corner of the building, immediately contacting Ace on the wrist-comm, "Uhh, Ace, you busy?"

"A little, why?"

"I think Ghost-boy's decided to show himself again."

He heard Ace curse softly, "I'm on my way out, just get away from him!"

"Don't have to tell me twice. But uh, Ace?"

"What?"

"You remember what happened last time he was at city hall?"

Ace burst through the front doors, and saw Cosmo pressed up against the corner as blasts rained down from above. The blasts began to take aim at him, and he quickly scaled along the wall over to Cosmo, "He's got the bomb?"

"Yeah, I saw him carrying it up, I'm not sure, but I don't think we have too much time."

"He's insane, not suicidal. I'm going up there."

"Right, I'll draw his fire for you."

Ace gave him a sharp look.

"Listen, if that bomb goes off we'll both go with it. I'll be careful."

Ace clenched his teeth and nodded with extreme reluctance, "If I don't get to the bomb in time, I want you to get out of here anyway."

"Deal."

Ace scaled the wall around the side, while Cosmo jumped out into the open. Confused, Wraith concentrated his fire on the boy, hoping to draw Cooper out. After about half a minute, his suspicions got to him and he stopped firing on Cosmo and began to look around on the ground for Ace. A sharp rock hit him in the cheek, he felt something warm and moist slide down his cheek.

That stupid kid had hit him with a rock. To add insult to injury, he had drawn blood. He forgot about Ace and began to fire wildly down on the teenager. He managed to avoid all the blasts with extreme agility, despite his fatigue. The gun suddenly grew too hot for him to hold, he dropped it with a yelp. What the heck had just happened?!

He whirled around to face his much hated nemesis, he cradled his burnt hand and glared at Ace, "I don't know how you keep doing this Cooper --" he lunged forward at him, "but this is the LAST time, I swear!"

Ace merely stepped to the side, and Wraith stumbled to the ground, "Strange, I was going to say something to the same effect."

Wraith recovered his footing and scooped up the canister in his hands, "Looks like history is repeating itself my dear Magician."

Ace held his arms loosely at his sides, "Put down the bomb Wraith."

"If you say so," he replied nonchalantly and pressed a button on it, and flung it over the side.

Ace heard someone shout his name as he dove after it. With all his concentration he focused on the handle meeting his hand, at the same time he caught the side of the roof with his other hand. He closed his hand around the handle of the bomb and allowed himself to breath again. Pain shot through his hand, and he looked up to see Wraith stomping on it. All at once the pressure stopped. Something else had gained Wraith's attention.

Cosmo hadn't realized he shouted Ace's name until after he did, but thankfully the magician had caught himself, and the bomb. His panic rose again as Wraith began to try to make Ace lose his grip. His mind in a rush, he began to fling anything he found on the ground up at him. It worked and Wraith backed off and glared down at him, "Don't worry boy, you're next!"

"Then stop talking and come and get me!" he flung another nicely sized rock up at the psychopath. It wasn't exactly what he WANTED to happen, but he had to buy Ace some time... some how. The rock hit it's mark, bringing a satisfying yelp to Cosmo's ears. He looked around on the ground and picked up a small odd piece of metal that had been discarded.

Hate burned in Wraith's eyes, "Maybe I will."

Definitely NOT the reply he wanted to hear, he chunked the piece of metal up at Wraith again, "I'm waitin' for ya! Come on!"

Satisfied with the Magician's fate of clinging to the edge of City Hall, he began scaling down the side of the building to deal with his assistant.

Cosmo felt sweat roll down his forehead, now he had done it. At least he had bought Ace his time, now he had to buy himself some.

Ace pulled himself back up on top of the roof and glanced at the timer, it read one minute. He cursed again and fished around in his pockets, he *HAD* to have something to dismantle it with. Precious seconds ticked away as he fished in his clothing, and he came up with nothing.

He didn't have any of his equipment to handle securing the bomb, and his best friend was meanwhile battling with a deranged madman on the streets below. He felt his heart sink in despair, Wraith had truly won this time. More seconds ticked by, Ace glanced down at the timer, ten seconds. Nine. Eight. He glanced up at the sky, saying a silent prayer to himself.

Seven. Ace glanced up again, and a thought occurred to him. He crouched low, keeping the bomb held securely in his hands. Five. Four. He waited another second before he stood up and tossed it as high as he could. The last two seconds ticked off, and it exploded in mid-air. What was left of the bomb came raining down on him, he covered himself with his cape as it plinked off, after a few more seconds he collapsed onto the roof.

Uh, crap, was all Cosmo could think as Wraith came charging towards him. He glanced up and saw that Ace had managed to pull himself up onto the roof. He trusted his friend to handle the bomb, all he had to do was keep himself away from Wraith. He knew he was no match for lunatic in hand to hand combat.

He backed up into the car as Wraith approached him with gaining speed. The car, thank god for the car, he scrambled in and quickly typed in the command for the canopy to shut. Wraith almost had his hand in before it slid shut with a soft click.

He smirked through the glass at the maniac. He knew for a fact Wraith couldn't get in, Ace had made it where the car was practically a moving shield. Nothing except maybe rockets or bombs could penetrate the covering. Half a minute passed by and he began to grow worried, Ace was usually able to disarm a bomb in
about this much time. Another half a minute ticked by, with Wraith pounding on the siding of the car, trying to find a way in, while Cosmo stared up at the roof, not daring to breath, and unable to see anything. He was about ready to open the canopy and risk conflict with Wraith, just to see what was wrong, when an explosion rocked through the air.

He thought he heard someone scream, then realized it was him calling his friend's name in despair. Wraith grinned down at him, taking extreme delight in Cosmo's anguish. Cosmo didn't even see him, he felt as though he was locked into a trance. Sirens sounded in the distance, coming closer at as each second passed by. Wraith slipped away into the darkness, and Cosmo dully punched in the command for the canopy to open, his mind completely numb.

He climbed out, using the side of the car as support to keep himself standing. A head poked itself over the side of the building, and Cosmo felt himself slide down to the ground, filled with relief. When was he going to learn, no one -- no thing -- got the best of Ace Cooper.

The police arrived and Vega took both of their statements, himself relieved that both of them were unharmed. Wraith was skipping over a lot of crimes, city hall was like his twentieth raid. Vega didn't like it, the rules were changing, and the game was getting even more dangerous than before. In the end he had to force himself to go back to the station to fill out the reports.

Ace and Cosmo climbed into the car, both completely drained. As Ace started up the car, Cosmo remembered something, "Uh, Ace?"

"Huh?"

"Did you get the permit?"

The hours passed even quicker after they returned from City Hall. Cosmo had collapsed onto the couch, while Ace talked with Vega over the day's incident.

"I don't like it," the lieutenant stated.

"Neither do I, it looks like we're going to have to find out what his new pattern is," Ace said, trying to stifle a yawn. He really hadn't gotten much sleep the night before either.

"Freidrichs is going nuts, he wants to shut the case even faster now, the press is breathing down our necks for answers that we just can't give them."

"After tonight's show, I think I might be canceling a few of my appearances. I want him off the streets as fast as you do," he had a bad feeling he knew exactly what the pattern was going to be.

He walked out on stage, feeling the same rush he got at every performance. It was several emotions running together, fear, anxiety, confidence, doubt. He smiled at the audience, bringing some gathered shouts from the female portion. Glancing out of the corner of his eye, he saw Cosmo give him a thumbs up, the signal to start.

The first few acts ran smoothly, but as intermission drew closer, uncertainty began to nag at him. Something was wrong, he could feel it. He shoved those thoughts aside as he finished the final act of the half, then turned to his assistant after the curtain fell.

"What's up?" with the nap and a lot of cappuccino, he was more or less fully awake now.

"I'm not sure, are you sure all the equipment is in order?"

"Yeah, triple-checked it before we started the show. It's been running real good."

The magician glanced around before heading to his dressing room. Zina purred and leapt off the chair she'd been draped over to greet her master. Ace smiled momentarily to pet her, then glanced around the room. A wilted black rose with a note attached caught his attention. He picked it up curiously and read the note:


'Hello Cooper, it looks like history is repeating itself again.
First City Hall, and I'm pretty sure you know what's next.
Oh, and, break a leg. - Wraith'



He said history was repeating itself. Ace strained to remember back a few years before, one of his shows, Wraith had sabotaged the... He ran out quickly, with a confused Zina at his heels. Cosmo gave him a quizzical look as he set the controls up for the next act.

"The rafters!" he managed to sputter before he started to climb up a tech's ladder.

Cosmo scratched his head, still confused, "What about `em?"

Ace carefully scaled the rafters as he made his way before the stage lights. He heard a cable snap and quickened his pace. Last time Ace had been under the light when it fell, luckily Derek was close by and pulled him out of the way before it crashed into the stage. Below the audience began to take their seats again as the second half of the show was suppose to start.

He cursed to himself again and grabbed the huge light. He heard more wires snap and tightened his grip, as long as the hinges attaching it to the rafters held, it would stay. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Cosmo peek his head up. At the same time, he heard something almost like metal bending.

"Oh my --"

"Cosmo, get down there and clear out the area! It's not going to hold much longer!"

His head popped back out of sight, and Ace refocused his attention on the light. The crowd below began to file out in a less than orderly manner, and he barely heard Cosmo barking out orders to the stage crew. The remaining wiring helping the rafter hold up the light snapped, the entire structure groaned and gave way, he
felt himself let go of the light, he stumbled for a second, but then caught his balance.

The light crashed into the stage below, he forced himself to look over the edge. Only Paparazzo remained in the audience with his TV crew, who recorded the entire thing. Great, he thought, as the lights of cameras flashed around him. He picked himself up and joined Cosmo down on the stage, who was looking at something on the light.

"What is it?" Ace asked tiredly.

Cosmo turned around to show him a small sign painted on the light, "Ghost-boy's up to his old tricks again."

"I know," he muttered softly before the media swarmed them, buzzing with questions.

Ace paced in the living room of the Express, while Vega and Cosmo watched in silence on the couch, "He said history was going to repeat itself again."

"And it did, the light still crashed on stage, and it still didn't hit you," Vega put in.

"That's not what he meant."

"Since when do you know how he thinks? I mean *I'm* the one who figured out his little fetish," Cosmo was still proud of himself for that accomplishment.

"History is going to repeat itself *again*," he muttered again taking a seat.

"But it already did --"

"And it will again," he bowed his head down.

"But you're not going to put on any more shows," Vega added, "So I can't see how he can continue to do it that way."

Ace's head snapped up in realization, "That's because he's not!"

"Then how --" Cosmo started again.

"You mean...?" Vega began to catch on to Ace's train of thought.

He was already halfway to the door, "We have to warn her!"

Vega joined him, Cosmo followed a little slower, "Hey, you guys are going to tell me what's going on this time, right?"

Vega had told Freidrichs of his suspicions while Ace explained it to Mona. She flat out refused to cancel any of her concerts, but gave in to letting the police protect her. Her first experience with Wraith still haunted her, and she really didn't want to have another.

The following night, Vega's entire unit had Croesus Palace locked completely tight, guards were posted at every entry. Black Jack doubled his security, annoyed by the police's presence. His men could protect his daughter, but then again, he didn't want any psychopath to waltz into his casino and attack her either.

Ace's car was parked outside of the casino's parking lot in a dimly lit alley. He wanted to catch Wraith as he was approaching, that way he could keep him as far from Mona as possible. Cosmo had already fallen asleep in the backseat, and Ace was intently watching the streets. There was no sign of him, and it was almost midnight. Suddenly Ace's wrist-comm bleeped with a call. He turned it on.

It was Vega, "Ace, I think we've got him! We're in the parking lot, get on over here!"

Ace leapt out of the front seat and looked back at Cosmo for a moment, then decided not to wake him. He took off for the parking lot, and skidded to a halt just as the police were picking up something that looked like the limp form of a man. Ace clenched his fist and approached, Vega looked up at him, "It's a dummy."

"A decoy's more like it! Quick, he might already be inside!"

Both men took off for the casino, Vega on his CB, ordering his men to make sure no one else got in. Ace raced up to the stage where Mona was performing and quickly scanned the audience, Wraith wasn't any of them. He quickly made a sweep of the area surrounding it, and still didn't find his target. Vega was searching the other part of the casino, so he took an empty seat, keeping a close eye on everyone passing by. His wrist-comm beeped for a second, but then stopped. He disregarded it and continued watching the crowd. Wraith wasn't going to get away this time.

Cosmo had fallen asleep sometime around eleven, Ace had this stake out covered, he really didn't feel like he had to be awake for it. A soft breeze blowing against his face had woken him up, the canopy had been left open, and Ace was gone. He guessed they had spotted Wraith. Good, he'd had enough of that psycho. He stretched and climbed out, guess he'd go see what he could do to help.

Something roughly grabbed him by the collar of his jacket, he craned his neck to see the all too familiar cold grin frozen on Wraith's face. Fear pumped through him, he slipped out of his jacket and punched in Ace's frequency on his wrist-comm. But before he could say anything Wraith had grabbed his hand and shut it off.

He flung Cosmo into the wall, and rushed over and picked him up by the throat before he could recover, all the while with the same demonic grin plastered on his face. His head ached from the blow, but his mind finally set in, and he thought to attack. With his hands trying to keep Wraith from choking the life out of him, he swung his legs wildly at his attacker. It hit him in the thigh, and he moved one hand to grasp the wound.

Cosmo summoned all of his strength and freed himself from the death grip and scrambled towards the edge of the alley. Just as he was almost to the street he felt Wraith tackle his legs from behind. He hit the pavement hard, and all the air rushed out of his lungs. Too dizzy to resist at the moment, he frantically gulped in breaths, feeling as though he was suffocating.

He felt himself being hauled up by his arms, but his mind was still in a panic, so he didn't resist. Pain suddenly shot through his head, and he finally was able to gain control of his other senses. He managed to open his eyes right before Wraith slammed his skull into the wall again. At least there weren't any railings he could be thrown over this time.

Something wasn't right. He didn't know what it was, but he could feel it in his gut. He glanced up at Mona again, with the police -- and Black Jack's guards -- he knew she wasn't in any danger. He looked down at his watch, it was midnight, and they hadn't found Wraith. Frustrated he stood up and left the lounge.

An icy feeling suddenly crept over him, and he then remembered Cosmo. He punched in the frequency on his wrist-comm, and didn't get an answer. He tried again, with the same results. He ran out of the casino, his mind in a rush. He skidded into the alley just in time to see Wraith drop Cosmo to the ground. Ace's heart
stopped as he stared down in horror at his seemingly lifeless friend.

Wraith smiled cruelly at Ace, "So what was he to you? Obviously more than a friend, maybe a surrogate brother. WAS being the keyword here."

Ace slowly looked up at Wraith, his eyes burning in hatred, his hands tightly clenched into fists.

Wraith shrugged innocently, "I did give you fair warning. It's not MY fault you interpreted it wrong."

Ace let out a scream of rage and lunged at Wraith, surprising the villain. Rage flowed through him as he closed his hands around the other man's throat, and he squeezed as hard as he could. Wraith looked up at him in pure terror, but it only drove Ace to tighten his grip more. Finally self preservation kicked in, and he threw the magician off of him.

His head cleared in time to avoid another lunge. He glared at Ace, rubbing his throat, "Okay, so maybe I exaggerated a little..."

Ace tackled him again, but he threw the rage-crazed magician off easily and scrambled up over the alley's fence and into the next one. Ace thought about going after him, but dismissed the idea and rushed back over to his fallen friend.

He sank to his knees, the same ice cold feeling sank in again as he looked over the still form. A small movement caught his eye, and he watched as Comso's chest heaved slightly. Dumbly he fumbled for his wrist-comm, and dialed the emergency number. He explained the situation as best as he could, not aware how high-strung his voice was. They assured him it would be all right and they were getting there as fast as possible.

He scooped Cosmo's upper body into his arms and let his head fall. It was his fault this happened, nothing was going to change that. He didn't even notice when Vega appeared, or when a hand was placed on his shoulder to reassure him. He swore to himself that next time he met Wraith it was going to be different, next time there would be not escape for the madman.

Ace sighed deeply as he watched the moonlight spill over the ground from his perch on the window twenty stories up. He glanced back over at Cosmo, sleeping peacefully in a hospital bed, and felt another stab of guilt. He was alive, which Ace was extremely glad for, but he still felt guilty. It was his fault after all.

He heard the door creak and glanced up as someone walked in. He tensed up for a second, but relaxed when he saw that it was Vega, "I thought visiting hours were over."

"They are, but I managed to convince them to let me in."

"So what's happening?"

"More like what's not, no word from our man."

Ace frowned, it was odd, "It won't last."

"Yeah, but I came to relieve you of this self-appointed guard duty. You've been here all day."

"The doctors said he's got some skull fractures, they're going to let me take him home tomorrow, but they wanted to keep him here tonight, just in case any complications show up."

"The panther's pacing," the officer tried.

Ace shook his head, "No thanks Derek, but I'd just feel better staying here for now. It's only until morning."

"You need some rest Ace, have you gotten any sleep since last night?"

"No," he replied softly, leaning his head against the window.

"It's not going to do either of you any good if you're stumbling over your feet next time Wraith pops up."

"I know, I'll get some sleep."

"Fine," he said a little annoyed and walked back over to the door, "See you in the morning then."

Ace nodded slightly, already slipping into a light sleep.

The look on Cooper's face was classic. Nothing felt better to him than seeing his most hated enemy stare at his handiwork in horror. So there was that little choking thing, but it still was worth it. He'd killed the damned kid, which was sweet revenge for him in two ways. He idly wondered if Cooper was going to try to set a trap
up for him this time. He toyed with the thought for a while and ran his hand over a coin in the shape of his yin-yang.

Glancing up at his partially built masterpiece, and a thought occurred to him. He didn't have to wait for Cooper to draw him out, when he could make the magician come to him.

Cosmo didn't argue when Ace ordered him to bed, he was exhausted from everything that had happened to him in the past few days. Ace had settled down on the couch, feeling a bit less guilty than before, after Cosmo had insisted for about ten minutes straight on the ride home he couldn't have known. He was lightly dozing when the beeping of his phone woke him up.

When he answered it, he felt the sudden urge to tear it apart, just to get Wraith's ugly sneer off of it.

"What do you want?" he demanded loudly, waking Zina up from her nap on the floor below him.

"I was just wondering if you'd like to have a final face-off with me, just the two of us."

"You know I do."

"Good, meet me at the old Knowledge Foundation Center tomorrow at four PM. No cops."

"I'll be there," Ace growled.

"Oh, and Cooper?"

"What?!"

"Sorry about your brat, I'll send some flowers to his funeral," the screen turned off when he hung up from the other end.

Ace stood glaring at the screen for a few moments until another voice spoke up from the door, "So, when'd I die?"

Ace took in a deep breath, taking in everything. The old center was on the bad side of town, not many people hung around it, there was nothing worth stealing in it anyway. He took one last look around before going in.

The inside of the building was pitch black. He quickly twisted the light on his cane and began to shine it around the room, "I thought we were going to have a `face-off' Wraith!"

"Oh we are," the harsh voice seemed to come from above him.

"It looks like we're just staring around in the dark to me," he turned the light above him, but only caught the sight of something metal. The lights suddenly flashed on, momentarily blinding him, his instincts cried out in alarm and he dove to the side as something came crashing to the floor where he had just been.

He leapt to his feet, and saw Wraith standing in front of him, a long pair of bat-like wings attached to his back, he wore a helmet that resembled an eagle's head, mounted on his arms were two large guns, grasping around his arms like claws. If it was anyone other than Wraith, he might've burst out laughing.

"You like my masterpiece?" he grinned ruefully, "I had to change the designs a bit, make a few stops last night and this morning, no thanks to you, but it still works."

"I see, and exactly what do you plan to do with it?"

"I thought that one was quite obvious," he said leveling a gun at Ace, "kill you."

He let out a burst of blasts from the gun, Ace barely rolled out of the way in time. Another flurry of blasts followed, he again dove to the side and sought cover behind book case.

"Hiding will do you no good Cooper!" he shouted as he flew up above the case, "My masterpiece gives me the mastery of all the elements!"

Ace had to run to keep from being fried by the blasts, he had to get Wraith on the ground somehow. He grabbed onto a banister of the stairs and vaulted himself over it, running up, blaster fire close behind him the entire time.

A feeling of excitement rushed through him as Cooper ran for dear life. A smile crept to his face, it was finally time to end this. He took careful aim as the magician stopped at the top of the staircase to reach into his cape. Suddenly a flurry of cards were in his face, one sunk into his right cannon, it sparked for a moment, then died out.

Blasted Cooper! No matter, he calmed himself, he still had the left one. He was about to pull the trigger when a burst of heat exploded behind them. He spun around in mid-air to see a wall of flame burst high, then it seemed to suddenly disperse as a figure walked out.

"It's time for you to meet the real wraith Ghost-boy."

He froze. The brat... but how...?

"Risen from the ashes, reborn, like a phoenix, kinda kooky isn't it?"

"I KILLED YOU ONCE AND I CAN DO IT AGAIN!" he was about to let off another volley of blasts when something heavy dropped onto him. The jetpack groaned and began to sink towards the floor. He twisted his neck as far as he could and saw that Cooper had jumped on him.

He struggled to aim his other gun at him, but he just kept spinning around in mid-air, they sunk to the ground together. The flames seemed to dissipate into nothingness as the police broke through the door, their guns all trained on him.

Ace smiled and backed off, giving Vega his much deserved arrest. He wandered over to Cosmo, leaning against the wall and looking rather proud of himself.

"You're *suppose* to be resting."

"Yeah, but I didn't want you to hog all the fun."

"There's a reason I told you not to come."

"And it's a good thing I did, looks like he almost had you skewered."

"Cosmo --"

"Well I didn't come alone, unlike *someone* I know."

He sighed, Cosmo was right, THIS time anyway, "The wall of flames was a nice touch."

"Amazing what a bunch of fire powder thrown on the floor can do."

Ace smiled and rested his hand on Cosmo's shoulder, "Thanks partner."

"No problem, but can I make one teensy request?"

"Name it."

"Next time something like this happens - tell me. Diving over railings is not my idea of a lesiure sport."

Authors Notes: I have to say I think I had way too much fun writing this thing. It's my second Magician Fan Fic, so, if you have any questions, comments, or anything else, just send me a mail over at cosmo_obsessee@usa.net. ^^ Well, until I write my next one, toodlies! Oh yeah, I have to give a lot of thanks to my buddy Georgie for helping me research dragons and gryphons, and his constant encouragement and suggestions throughout the entire writing of this.