Jeremy decided to call this period of his life "Rip Van Winkle Syndrome", because it was that damn boring. Like every other day of the past month and a half, Jeremy was slumped over the wood desk, listening to the near nonsensical drone of the radio over the completely nonsensical drone of the electric generator that was powering the radio.
It really was an annoying month. First, the generator was pure Black Tech, since magic generation and power worked on an entirely different level that seemed like electricity, except that Jeremy would never understand any of it, except it would probably blow up the radio if he attached it to such generator. Either way, Colt's generator used gas. This in itself was no problem; Colt had plenty of gasoline stored away. But using it nonstop was starting to get wasteful, and at this rate, if he didn't get a result soon, he'll probably keep waiting for one until he ran out of gas. That wasn't really a good thing.
Jeremy glowered at the mental image of the steadily growing pile of empty fuel cartons bunched against the vibrating generator.
Also, there was the whole thing about the bounty on his head. The stakes rose everyday he was missing, and more than one bounty hunter passed through Jeremy's town in search of him. True enough to their words though; the townspeople kept his residency here a secret. Still, the Ex-Knight was practically imprisoned in his room, while listening nonstop about the reports of the targets of the Post War Administration Bureau, and what they were doing in the mean time. More than once, Dizzy was mentioned.
But damnit! All she's doing it flying around the fucking planet! Does that thing have no need for gasoline? Jeremy finished the thought with more frustrated mumbles and noises in his throat.
The Post War Admin…they really are an interesting bunch…this organization, which keeps track of magic users all over the world. But what do they want with all these people?
They sound like bug-catchers hunting down specimens…
Will I be a specimen?
Colt hated the sound of that last thought. To live in fear of being captured again by these… scientists…
The boy sniffed away the last of his tears as he watched the man in the white coat swab the inside of his elbow with a cotton ball wet with alcohol.
I want my mom…
Don't worry, I'm sure we can arrange something soon enough.
W-Where are we?
Hospital? I'm not sick, am I?
No. But this isn't your regular hospital. This hospital is for making people stronger.
But…I still want mom…
Don't worry, I'm sure we'll let your see your mother again soon.
I don't like this hospital. Why am I the only one seeing doctors here?
Because you're special.
I have to be special to see doctors here?
Yes. Only special people get to be stronger here. Step on here please.
What are you doing?
We're going to make you stronger now. It's just a few shots.
O-okay…Hey doctor, wait! What are you doing? I can't get out now!
…Remember to target the major veins for injection, and arteries for removal. I want enough blood to be removed so there will be space for the compounds.
Doctor? I want to get out! Let me out!
(Needles…needles everywhere. They're stabbing me everywhere. Why is everything so quiet? I'm screaming, aren't I? Why is nobody looking at me? It hurts. I'm bleeding. I don't want to die. What's that black and yellow stuff they're putting into me? It hurts so much. I don't want to die. Where's mom? Mom, help me…)
(…My head hurts…)
Agh, headaches again. Jeremy grabbed one of the aspirin bottles near by, and after a few rattles, was satisfied it was at full enough to work. Pouring the all of the remaining contents into his mouth, he listened again to the Post War Administration Bureau's talks.
"Intelligence, this is Fuzhou, China. I think I'm seeing an Airship landing with that matches the description of the one that is harboring the Second Self Reliant Gear. I'm moving in to make a positive." Garbled an electronic, but still Asian accented voice.
"Affirmative. Continue with your movements." Returned the same monotone female.
You better positive it. It's been over a month already. I'm just about ready to take any opportunity to get at Dizzy again. Jeremy thought to himself. He pulled himself closer to the radio in anticipation of the news.
"Intelligence, this is Fuzhou again. I've identified the Airship as positive. The Mayship has landed in Fuzhou, China. I'm going to check how long it's going to be here. Send me men just in-."
Jeremy jumped up with a start "YES! THEY'RE DOWN AGAIN!" The Ex-Knight reached for another Aspirin bottle.
The price of shouting in joy usually was two Aspirin bottles.
Jeremy's flight took weeks to cross from Europe all the way into Asia. It was unlikely that they would still be there; in fact it was down right stupid for Jeremy to try and catch them from this distance. But they had finally landed again, and Jeremy was getting tired of sitting and listening, and he was going to take any chance to take any action.
Violet wings flapped.
I remember the days where I had to fly low to the ground to avoid the radar…Now that there is no radar; I have to fly high, so that when somebody sees me, I'm just a bird in the sky.
I suppose that a giant purple bird is the norm in this age of magic. Jeremy chuckled at the thought.
Sure enough, just past the Asian mist, Jeremy saw the city in all it's glory settled in the deep green hills, and like so many other prosperous cities, a river ran by it, with boats and airships landing in its waters.
Now just to find an orange one… Jeremy thought to himself as his sharp and pointed wings, constructed of his blades, pushed him under the cover of the trees outside the city, so that he could emerge a man on the other side.
Figures, I should have known this was a stupid plan after all… Jeremy thought to himself as he stared into the grassland that served as an airfield. There were blue airships, red ones, yellow ones, even orange ones, but not one could hold a light to the description of the almost shameful collection of spray-painted scrap metal with preadolescent girls hanging off every-which-where of the hull, dressed in only sailor uniforms that looked like something out of a porn movie.
A visit to the wood shanty that was called an 'airport' by its owner revealed to Jeremy that such a ship of the following description had arrived on the same day Jeremy heard on his radio, stayed a week to restock, and left a long while back.
The Bounty Hunter was of course upset by the following, but grunted away the thoughts as he left the shanty-airport and trudged back to the city like the sick old man he should be.
Tch, whatever, I knew this was going to happen in the back of my head anyways. Jeremy sourly thought, as he pulled free another aspirin bottle when the pounding of the trudging finally reached his head.
A thick European accent from behind answered for him, "My, my, judging by your clothing, you must be Jeremy Col-"
As a bounty hunter by professional trade, Jeremy already knew this was about to end in another showdown against some idiot wanting the price on his head. He was already dropping the aspirin bottle and whirling around as his hand reached for the magnum, pulling it out, cocking the hammer, aiming it at the stupid bounty hunter's-
Jeremy found himself whirling into the face of bearded man, a thick and strong wrist grabbing Jeremy's own and raising the gun out of aim. Instinct had Jeremy have his other free arm grab his remaining firearm to jam it into the assaulting bounty hunter's side, but the European's own countered in the same fashion of grabbing the gun and holding it away from him.
Wh-what the fuck? He should have been at least ten feet back, from his voice, how the hell did he get in front of my face?
The bearded jaw curled in amusement while dragging in fumes from the aged wooden pipe attached to the mouth as the rest of the face stared through a monocle back at Jeremy's bewildered own, still trying to comprehend a human of such speed.
"Now, now, now. What need is there to be hostile?" Came a joking crack. Jeremy just tried to pull and pry his arms free of the grip, but the aged gentleman's grip held.
What the hell! He's like fifty or something, where's this grip coming from? "Fuck you! Don't think I'm helpless!"
"I know. But if I guess right, you're not to keen on showing those knives of yours in public?"
Jeremy froze at those words. "How do you know about that?"
"I've been watching you for a long time. Jeremy."
"…Are you with the Post War group?"
The gentleman chuckled at that. "If anything, if I ever offered my company to those, they'd have me locked up in a cage like an animal in no time."
"Either way, you're still a bounty hunter… I can still kill you without ever having to show my blades…" Jeremy sneered back.
The man blinked in surprise, but quickly flickered out of view, as if all Jeremy was talking to was just a hologram. Where the European's foot was, the beginning of a purple blade jutted out of the ground momentarily before retreating back under.
"So that's the secret, hmmm? You burrow your weapon under the earth and have it travel up the opponent's leg to attack the vital organs? How brutal." The gentleman noted from beside Jeremy.
"Whatever works, bounty hunter." Jeremy spat with a glare. No use pointing a gun at him if he can move like that
Now that his vision was no longer taken up completely by his face that was jammed in the middle of it, Jeremy could see this man was…
Way too gentlemanly. What kind of bounty hunter bothers to wear a dinner suit like that?
"How childish for a man like you to look only in black and white… I am not a bounty hunter." He stated simply as he breathed out smoke and sucked in more through his pipe.
"What do you want from me then?" Jeremy asked, tucking his face under the shadow of his hat and collar of his jacket.
"I just wish to point out something that could be in your best interest."
"Don't you mean your better own?" Jeremy snorted. There were no such things as good Samaritans.
"An acquaintance of yours is residing in a building, miles west in that direction." The pipe-smoking gentleman pointed in the direction, completely ignoring Jeremy's last statement.
"And how does this relate to you?" Jeremy muttered coldly.
"Hardly. I'm just interested in seeing what results of your meeting…" With that, the suited European gentleman blinked out again like a hologram, and didn't reappear at all.
Tch, nosy bastard. An acquaintance, huh? Jeremy could feel a sneer form inside his head, but covered the whole motion over by consuming more aspirin. Jeremy knew full well the sheer stupidity of meeting "acquaintances", but curiosity was welling up inside of him.
In the end, Bounty Hunter rationalized him going as simply heading over to kick an ass and tell it off for trying to do something as stupid as trying to take on Jeremy Colt. Yes, that was all he was doing.
Dropping the medicine bottle by his feet, Jeremy slowly made his way through the field bound west.
The only building in the west of the area was a large decaying black tower. It looked very old for sure, probably a survivor of the Holy War. It was obviously something made by humans, no Gear outside of Justice, who itself probably did nothing but sit on its lazy ass, could have made something this carefully. It was too large to be a simple fort though; it could have probably been headquarters of some sort.
This was probably razed by Gears or something. Jeremy concluded, judging by the black coloring the structure. Thought the larger concern was whether he could traverse a building like that without it breaking apart halfway up, killing him in the process. He could see large chunks of the out walls missing, and the steel skeleton of the massive pillar was groaning rather too uncomfortably for Jeremy to wonder whether this was still a smart thing to do or not.
Jeremy just gave a frustrated sigh before throwing up his arms and marching forward to kick him out of his indecisiveness.
If I die, I win. If I don't I'll just kick that person's ass and still win. There!
It took a few short minutes of walking to find an entrance in, a pair of black and fairly large gates side by side, most likely the front door or an unimportant cargo entrance. Placing his hands of both gates, he pushed and found himself forcing the barriers away with little difficulty.
The next thing Jeremy never expected to be in a building. Nothing.
There weren't even floors inside the building. Apart from the dusty cement beneath his feet, the sides of the spire stretched up above him, but nothing inside. The building was nothing but a hollow concrete tube, scorched black and gray inside and out, and the sunlight illuminating the inside in a gothic gloom.
Jesus! If Gears did this, this was one hell of a razing! Colt didn't have enough appreciation of what Gears could do. Still, Jeremy had the hopes that Dizzy would be different than those other brutes. She was called "Second Justice"…
Hmmm… so where's this acquaintance of mine? Jeremy turned his head around, scanning for anything that looked remotely more intelligent than the shards of concrete rubble scattered around. He quickly found roughly shaped pillar of rectangular concrete driven lengthways by force into the side of the building's wall. Another piece, sharing the same rough shaping was driven into same wall next to the first, albeit slightly higher. Then came the next, and so forth until a rude staircase chased up the insides of the tower in a spiral, reaching up to…
Maybe the top… I suppose that's where I'm supposed be off to… The sickly psychic slowly made his way to the first step, easily thumbing open the lid of an aspirin bottle to nurse.
The "stairs" led to network of rather narrow, aged, metal beams that crisscrossed each other in an attempt to support… something that probably wasn't there anymore. Above was the roof, and section of it had caved in and onto the metal beams that managed to hold. Thus Jeremy could see out into the clouded gloom outside, and the cement rubble became a ramp to the roof.
The roof, in Jeremy's opinion, would have been completely fucked up looking, if it were not the age of Magic. Therefore, it was just short of it.
Upon standing on the top of the world, the sky turned a deep pink/read like idealized blood. In extreme contrast to the sparsely decorated ruins below Colt, the area here was scattered full of crumbling columns and roman arched arcades. Proud statues were cracked and lay in pieces like so many casualties. A rotting velvet red carpet stretched from the bounty hunter's feet to across the barren chamber, up steps to tall double gate, one of them broken and hanging by one hinge.
Up above destroyed Gears frozen in floating ice served as audience for what was about to become of this place.
"Oh? I didn't expect you to come here, now that that slut Gear is gone." A sultry voice commented as she came out from the rubble beside Jeremy. If he remembered, this voice was interlaced with a quick acting poison.
Jeremy swiveled his head so only his cold brown eyes would reveal itself to the emerging Musician in Red, same as the last time he saw her, right down to the guitar on her back. "I was told somebody of interest outside of Dizzy would be here."
"Oh? By who?"
"Some weird-ass." Jeremy responded as he moved to the center of the roof, then swiveling on one foot to face the woman.
"However, now that you're here, you know what's going to happen now… right?" The musician sneered with a haughty tone.
"I do. It seems your getting desperate to have me dead. I'd like a few answers before we start, though."
"You'll be dead before you put those answers to any use, you know."
"Whatever. First, what are you doing here?"
"The bastard-child was here a while back. Looks like we both arrived a little late. I was hoping you'd get here sooner."
"I see… but why have you been sending people after me? Is it for the bounty on my head? Or are you still after Dizzy, and need the competition out of the way?"
"Neither. I'm not a bounty hunter. I'm just following orders."
"Orders? So you are with the Post War Administration-"
"Oh God, please! Like I'd associate myself with those bunch of prudes."
"Then how did you know the location of those robots in the forest?"
"It was just something I found one day. I figured it'd be useful to keep them around, just in case…"
"Hmmm…" was the only response given that showed Jeremy heard.
"I got a question for you now. What do you want with that half-breed?" She sounded like she had trouble just mentioning the existence of the Innocent Gear.
"I search for the strongest to help me finish the phrase." Colt decided to input artistically.
Jeremy quickly opened a medicine bottle and consumed as much as he could take in before throwing it away roughly. A violent energy had entered him again.
"However, if you're strong enough, yourself, you might finish the phrase for me instead." The bounty hunter smirked, as he pulled out the two guns from behind him, and aiming them at the Musician.
She gave a deliciously feral smile as she reached behind her back and slid her blue-green guitar into her arms. "Not the type for foreplay, huh? Not even interested in a name?"
"Jeremy Colt." The bounty hunter identified first.
With that the musician attacked first, a simple leap turning her into an arrow headed straight for the bounty hunter's chest. Jeremy easily countered by firing his magnum, thunder and a burning golden streak flying to meet I-no head on. Amazingly, the musician completely changed directions, her forward propulsion stopping as she dove sideway behind the cover of shattered stone.
Jeremy snorted. "Amateur." He aimed his Berretta at a rather tall statue behind I-no's cover and squeezed off another shot. The bullet sank deep into an already dangerously sized gash across the stone giant's chest, the sudden force against the aged and damaged gray rock causing the top half of the statue to fall off from the rest and crush everything under it, preferably including the half-naked guitarist Jeremy was fighting.
"AND YOU'RE TOO SLOW!" Came the banshee shriek from above, and Jeremy quickly looked up in shock to see the Musician several feet above him, her 'Axe' firmly held by the neck in both hands above her head. While she fell, Jeremy quickly refocused his aim and fired whatever ammo he could spare. I-no easily twisted her body with inhuman speed and dodged each flying lead piece.
I-no swung her Marlene down and contacted purple. The force of the blow cracked the roof around them, and the ground beneath them broke away completely, and the two for a moment fell into towards the bottom of the empty tower with the rest of the rubble.
For a moment.
Several flat violet tendrils snaked through the air and buried themselves into the sides of the tower, the other sides of the blades magically (in a loose term) anchored to Jeremy's back. Using such, he easily avoided the falling ruin and landed against the side of the building, letting the chaos settle below.
Colt found I-no on the other side of the tower at the same height. Floating.
Jeremy though, for some reason didn't feel surprised. He just snorted when he saw the red sparkles by her feet like so much fairy dust.
I-no herself was giving off a bit of a vicious giggle. "I should have known. Only another freak of nature would bother looking after something like that half-breed shit."
I don't have enough ammo to keep this fight up. Colt pushed his guns away into the band of his jeans against his back as he retorted.
"Tch, and what about you? I suppose you got your powers after catching an S.T.D from fucking around like whore."
The Musician seemed immensely insulted by the comment, as her face darkened. Strumming a note on her guitar, her hat began to shift strangely. Soon enough, the skull design on her red hat quickly opened up to reveal a sharp-toothed jaw, with a speaker built inside. Before Jeremy could make a comment or facial expression, a gelatinous looking orb shaped suspiciously like a green musical note popped out of the speaker-hat, flying at a dangerous speed towards the bounty hunter.
Jeremy's psychic appendages immediately went into work, flinging Jeremy upwards from the apparent trajectory of the green projectile. It was too late when he noticed I-no's knowing sneer, while the orb swung upward, catching Jeremy straight in his shocked and gasping chest. The jelly-like explosion blew Jeremy back into the gray and decaying walls with just enough force to crack the stone surrounding him, eliciting a grimace before spitting up blood.
Jeremy's head swam with the headache acting up again, though he tried his best to think tactically.
So…ugh…she likes playing long range…and aerial attacks? I can…m-urhg!-match her!
Colt quickly slapped an open palm into the stone beside him, which began cracking and splitting in a straight line across the wall to I-no on the adjacent. The Musician kicked away just in time for the stone behind her to bloom with purple blades.
I-no's opponent had already thrown away another empty aspirin bottle and made the blades on his back continually grow in length, and since the blades were firmly entrenched in the building side, it forced Colt through the air towards the Woman in Red.
Said Musician dodged out of the way easily, avoiding the grasping white-sleeved arms that bristled purple with blades. But the maneuverability and speed of the man who normally moved so sickly like was underestimated. Jeremy easily had his tendrils twist him around almost ninety degrees from his initial miss almost immediately, and caught I-no head on, ramming her into the building side with an explosion of dust. Right after Colt appeared from the smoke, his body crushed against his quarry as he pushed them both up the side of the wall at high speed.
To Colt's amusement, his blades for some reason would not penetrate I-no's guitar, which she used as a shield between their bodies. It was no matter though; her pained face while her back was being torn up against the stone proved at least something Jeremy was doing got to that bitch.
WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!
WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!
WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!
What the- Jeremy's eyes widened as he watched the world seem to phase out from his vision, leaving only himself and the Musician behind along with the "Warning!" signs that swarmed the psychic's vision. Suddenly out of nowhere, something flashed into existence and began flanking I-no's side. They looked like wings, all right, full and feathery, white, soft and alluring. The two angelic props also were attached to what looked like round white speakers, true to the musical nature of Jeremy's foe. The speakers glowed and charged up.
Jeremy didn't really know what to make of this situation. He couldn't really think about it anyways. His headache was raging out of control as his head, along with the rest of his body was being pummeled to pieces by a barrage of orbs decorated with cracked pink hearts.
By the time his vision had stopped spinning every which way and being crowded in by broken hearts, he finally saw he was falling. He figured as much: it was hard to concentrate when it hurt.
A single tendril shot out and clung fast to the inside of the building, stopping Colt's decent enough so that after he bashed into wall from following physics, it didn't hurt nearly as much when he flopped onto the bottom floor a meter or so below him while his line of salvation misted away.
He didn't get up.
Ow. Probable bruising. Should be something broken.
Another tendril sprang out from under Jeremy's back to drag him away in time to narrowly avoid a bright red spinning comet that crashed into his last position. The force was still enough to knock him out of his sliding, leaving him to bounce a few times across the ground before he finally got himself to stop in a kneeling position, ready to evade any further attacks.
"Yeah! That's it! Run away, you rat piece of shit! I'll have fun tearing your scurrying ass apart!" I-no was practically shrieking in delight like a witch out of lore.
Jeremy gave a hated, wide-eyed and animalistic growl as he clutched his side. Narrowing his eyes he began to concentrate. I-no managed to grunt in surprise before jumping away again, dozens of purple blades slicing up through the ground as more sprouted everywhere along the Musician's path. As she flew along, narrowly dodging the quickly sprouting forest of blades around her, she managed to turn her floating body upside down, splitting her legs in the most provocative and compromising of positions as she strummed another note.
Black panties? Jeremy wondered what caused his brain to register that particular fact while he was in the middle of sidestepping a lance of orange energy that extended from I-no's form.
Whatever. Jeremy quickly shrugged it off while snapping out his right arm in a motion. A torrential side-pour of purple exploded out his back and slammed into his opponent's form as she just righted herself, before she disappeared under the river of pointed psychic energy that slammed into the far wall as more came in an attempt to skewer what was left of her. It all eventually stopped in time, leaving a mass of psychic tendrils embedded in the wall that stretched all the way back to its origin. So many, that there was not a trace of gray wall or the red woman that was supposed to be in front of it.
…Is she actually dead?
Jeremy suddenly felt a tremor waver through the mass that connected him to the stone like some twisted umbilical cord. The Bounty Hunter's expressions darkened before he began to continue the barrage of his weapons into the wall.
A red hand smashed through the river in front of Jeremy before it covered Jeremy's vision. And gripped hard.
Jeremy screamed in pain as the normal dull throb of the pain expand, turning what normally left his head and his senses floating on a string above his body like a helium balloon, into white hot needles that stabbed everywhere in the inside of his head.
Jeremy staggered back and fell, the hand gripped hard as ever. The torrential purple umbilical cord lost its concentration and blew apart into oblivion, revealing the rest of I-no's bloodied form. On his back with a completely red musician straddling him, his hands desperately scrabbled for his firearms amidst his sea of pain, only find something like wire wrap his arms together and raise it above his body and out of reach of his guns. The hand over Jeremy's face continued to squeeze, forcing out of the man whatever sounds he could eek out to signify the lose of control over the pain in his head.
"So that's it! That's the scream button! I heard about you having some migraines, pitiful bastard." I-no's voice gleamed in her psychotic tone borne of bloodlust and anger of what the man managed to do to her.
I-no listened to the screaming for a little while longer before snorting, "You really are pathetic. Look at what you did to my body. I'm not even crying. But you, a little squeeze and you're on a ground screaming like a half-assed pussy. Not only that, your weapons need the concentration that you don't have right now. Keep your arms from getting your guns and the only thing left you can do is be a damn piñata!"
Jeremy felt something slam into his gut at that word, forcing him to instinctively jerk up as he felt something warm and salty come out of his mouth. The moment he rose of the ground, the hand over his eye immediately slammed the back of his head down into the stone. A lightning bolt of pain jumped from the top of his head, down through the sea of molten steel pins in his head, and back up again.
"You really are nothing but an amateur piece of shit that needs to be wiped of the shoes of the big players. And people are actually interested in you?" I-no laughed at the thought.
"Better…rat…than god…" Colt heard himself manage to gasp out.
"Spoken like a true idiot."
"Rats at least have ambition-" Jeremy stopped as the pain overwhelmed him "- and the will to survive… what can you do as a god?-UGH! -Conquer? Rule? …and after heaven and hell… bows to you… what can you do? Sit in sterility… and watch…your trophies collect dust…"
"What's with all the smart talk? Think you're philosophical or something?"
"Well, either way looks like this fight is mine. Nice knowing you, now just to flatten your brain across this floor…"
Through the pain, Jeremy could feel the pressure applied to his head increase. The molten sea of pins in his head now had the lightning bolt as a permanent resident, and his head felt like it was going to split open at several angles.
Naturally, Jeremy screamed some more. Struggled as he could, his arms remained wholly bound, and though minor hints of purple were conjured, they so frail they were of little use.
There's… only one thing left I can do…but I have to do it right…
"One more ace…" was the last thing Jeremy uttered.
I-no gave a look of surprise before quickly comprehending. Colt, from his blocked vision, could still feel something attached to whatever wrapped his arms move. She was most likely going for the killing blow.
A single tendril flicked out of Jeremy's side, the energy barely held together to pull the Colt Cavalier free and throw it through the air before the whole thing dissipated under the weight.
Colt could hear a gunshot and the sound of flesh being punctured in a wet, dull tone. The sheer pain on his head immediately almost disappeared, while his vision returned as the hand fell away, along with the rest of the body.
Turning his head Jeremy could see the completely red musician on her side, her shocked face gasping for air as her eyes glazed over. A sizable enough hole penetrated the side of her chest. His arms, from what he could see were tied together from the strings of I-no's guitar, which lay in her limp hands. On the other side was the Colt Cavalier, completely drained of its six shots. Thrown through the air, the weapon hit the ground with enough force to fire, and was aimed at the woman at that point.
And so the three of them lay on the ground. I-no bled to death, the Colt Cavalier was empty, and Jeremy Colt was as well. The headaches were still quickly overwhelming him, and with exhaustion and the threat gone, all Jeremy could do was watch his vision involuntarily fade away from the pain.
A/N: With this, I shall search out for greener pastures. I shall continue with this, but other fics will be started as well.