Decades prior the foretold events there once lived a genius who devoted his life to help humanity— Professor Gerald Robotnik. He was responsible for a number of scientific discoveries that helped the world. But perhaps his greatest creation was that of the ultimate life form. With funding from the United Nations the professor began his experiments aboard the space colony ARK, hoping that the creation of the ultimate life form would help him find a cure for NIDS (Neuro-Immuno Deficiency Syndrome). The main motivation for this goal was his grandchild, Maria Robotnik, who suffered from the terminal disease.
After various failed attempts Robotnik finally succeeded in creating the ultimate being. However, seeing the potential for chaos and destruction that the doctor's creation possessed and the danger it posed for human kind, G.U.N. took extreme action and ambushed the space colony ARK in an effort to eradicate it. The soldiers were ordered to destroy 'Project Shadow' at any cost. In attempt they, instead, killed Maria—an innocent soul— and the notorious Project Shadow disappeared from the colony.
Fifty years passed until the ultimate life form reappeared, this time on planet Earth. Dr. Ivo Robotnik—better known as Dr. Eggman—, sought Project Shadow after reading about it in his diseased grandfather's diary. Eggman successfully infiltrated Prison Island, the location where the ultimate life form was being held in suspended animation, and awakened the creature. The ultimate life form was a dark hedgehog with red streaks named Shadow. Grateful, the hedgehog promised to grant him one wish if he brought all seven Chaos Emeralds to him at the Space Colony ARK. Eggman agreed, however, he knew nothing about the hedgehog's true intentions.
After succeeding in collecting six of the seven Chaos Emeralds, Shadow showed the mad doctor the power of a weapon capable of mass destruction— the Eclipse Cannon— which depended on the power of the emeralds to function. Eggman saw the weapon as a chance to force the government to surrender to him, thus giving way for the Eggman Empire. He fired the Eclipse Cannon at the moon to show the power he possessed and gave the United Nations twenty-four hours to surrender.
In an effort to stop Eggman and save Earth, the renowned Sonic Heroes confronted the evil doctor but failed and lost the final Chaos Emerald to him. Eggman used the final emerald to power-up the cannon, determined to continue with his evil plan; however, his plan backfired. Driven mad by the death of his granddaughter, the late Professor Robotnik had programmed for the ARK to set itself on a crash course to destroy Earth once the seven Chaos Emeralds were placed on the cannon, all in an attempt to avenge Maria's death. This did not work to Eggman's advantage; for he rationalized that he needed the world in order to conquer it. The Sonic Heroes tried to find a way to stop the space colony, but Shadow told the group that there was nothing that they could do to stop it. The dark hedgehog had been aware of what would happen once the seven Chaos Emeralds were placed on the canon, revealing his true motive. When all seemed lost, the pink hedgehog Amy Rose was able to stir an important memory inside Shadow's mind with her innocent and pure words, making him realize his dear friend did not want him to avenge her but to save and help humanity. With a newfound drive, the dark hedgehog then set out to help the others to somehow stop the ARK from destroying the planet.
Shadow's first mission consisted of destroying the prototype that would lead to him, the Biolizard, in order for Sonic and Knuckles to stop the Chaos Emeralds by neutralizing their power with the Master Emerald. The heroes were able to stop the ARK but the Biolizard used Chaos Control and merged with the space colony, setting it on a crash course once again. Fixed on saving the Earth, Sonic and Shadow harnessed the power of the Chaos Emeralds in order to stop the ARK from destroying the planet. With their combined strength, they defeated the Finalhazard and teleported the space colony to a safe location; however, Shadow had lost far too much energy during the battle and fell to Earth, leaving a single glove ring behind. Since then everyone presumed him dead…
A society hungry for technological and medical advancements gave birth to a strange and remarkable creature— a being with power beyond human comprehension. This creature, clearly far beyond its time, proved to be a great hero… as well as a threat to those who misunderstood its power.
Don't Let Me Fall
Chapter One: Dangerous Alliance
1:08 pm – G.U.N. Headquarters
Bright lights illuminated the corridors of the main building at G.U.N. headquarters. Various soldiers and workers observed as a man ran frantically with a stack of papers in his hands. The loud tapping of his shoes came to a stop as he bust open a door, "Sir!" The man entered the office and addressed the military officer that sat behind a desk with his back to him, "Sir! Sorry to interrupt but this is important!"
The man slowly turned, his bicolor eyes piercing through the soldier.
The unnamed soldier regained his composure and said in a solemn tone, "We've found him!"
"Found who?" the Commander inquired.
"Project Shadow," he responded laying a pile of papers on the desk.
Various pictures, statistics, coordinates, and documents laid motionless on the wooden surface until the dark man took them into his hands. His eyes moved quickly through the paper, reading the information and analyzing the documents. A malicious grin appeared on his face. They had, indeed, found Project Shadow. After a few minutes of silence the Commander's grin quickly disappeared after reading the information further, "What is the meaning of this?"
"I am sorry to inform you that although we've found Project Shadow, we cannot capture him due to unfortunate circumstances," the man stammered.
The grim man slammed his desk with his fist, "Why can't we do anything?" His temper rose, angered by the fact that after two years of search they had found the dangerous weapon and were not able to destroy it.
"The Space Colony ARK still contains functional weapons and I'm afraid trying to get close to it is risky with our current defense system. Before we can do anything we need to take into consideration the well-being of our soldiers and their safety. In order to take action we need better space crafts with stronger shields," the overtaken soldier responded.
"We are G.U.N., and you are telling me that we cannot build anything capable of taking gunfire from ARK?" said the man, his dark voice sounding annoyed.
"Although we have the resources to build the new shield system, none of the engineers have been able to make a fully-functional shield for the space crafts," said the man with a gulp, scared to see the man's response.
The Commander furrowed his eyebrows in discontent, "I'm assuming you have a solution… or did you just come here to waste my time?!"
"There's one person who can help us, Sir," the worker answered.
The young man handed a second file to military officer which he quickly took. As he opened the file, his eyes came across the picture of an over-sized man with a messy mustache. He knew, at that moment, that it was a risky move. But he could not lose sight of Project Shadow for he believed that the good of the nation rested on his eradication. He had to get his hands on Shadow before he was once again used against his military and the United Nations.
The Commander released the file and placed his interlocked hands in front of his face, examining the situation. Turning to him would prove to be a hassle; however, having the over-sized man on the same side could prove to be effective. It would also eliminate the competition for his target. His dark eyes remained on the photograph, "Bring him to me."
1:16 pm - Station Square Downtown
The sun shone in the blue sky and the wind blew gently through Station Square. The sound of cars, people walking on the streets, and the sigh of a certain pink hedgehog were all part of the dazzling city.
Amy's arms rested on a small table in an ice cream shop. She gazed up at the sky outside as she ate her giant cup of ice cream; the empty rim of glass that surrounded her was lacking company and caused all but a sigh to escape her lips a second time. She dipped her spoon into the cold dessert and then scooped a bit of melting chocolate ice cream into her mouth. Solitude never really was a lovely thing. More than anything, Amy Rose felt herself craving company— in particular, a certain male's company.
'If only Sonic would go out with me, I'm sure he would be enjoying himself,' thought the small girl as her spoon made its way to her mouth again. A scream was heard in the corner of the avenue, interrupting her thoughts. Emerald eyes trailed to the scene where she saw a woman being attacked by a robot, 'A robot? Wait... it must be Eggman!' She jumped from her seat, ran out of the shop and to the dame in distress. She pulled out her Piko-Piko hammer proceeding to smash the robot; an all-out success!
"Thank you!" the lady stammered, quickly and surprisingly regaining her composure.
"You're welcome!" Amy happily splattered, smiling cheerfully. The woman scurried off along with other passer-bys in the lane as more robots appeared on the streets. The girl's smiled quickly vanished, only to be replaced by a self-assured smirk, "It's time to work!"
The rose hedgehog ran around the city smashing robots as they appeared. She got rid of a number of metallic henchmen, until two big armored ones appeared; one in front of her, the other one behind her. She tried running from side to side, but the two robots stopped her by extending their arms, making it so there was no way out. She jumped on top of one of them, and hit it as hard as she could on the head, only to find nothing happened to it. To her, however, was a different story. The hit was reflected and the force knocked her down, rendering her of her own movement temporarily. One of the robots took her in its metal grip, holding her tightly. Her attempts to hit it back were all in vain; every single whack she tried to deliver was only sent right back to her.
"Ugh!" the pink hedgehog cringed as the robot's grip got tighter. The pain of it all was just starting to catch up to her... There was a moment, a faint moment when it suddenly struck her that she was captured again; kidnapped, sentenced to a possible death. If she died right there, what would Sonic think—?
"Let her go!" a blue blur attacked both of the robots and destroyed them with ease. Amy flew out of the robot's metallic grip with the explosion. She was about to hit the floor but was caught by the one and only, Sonic the Hedgehog. The irony of the moment was priceless and the girl herself, in a state of minor infatuation, was flustered. "Don't try to take on what you can't handle!" the charming hedgehog said as he held her firmly in his arms.
That voice— that dreamy voice! Trying to find words to make up for her gap in thinking, the girl stuttered, "I- I-"
"There's no time to talk, Tails found Eggman's ship," the cerulean hedgehog put her down and started running south. The romantic moment in Amy's mind shattered. So much for an ice cream date...
"Should I go...?" she questioned herself in the middle of the road, disentangled robot parts stood to both sides of her. As overjoyed as Amy was to see him, she could not help but get the sad impression that he did not seem to care. He was ignoring her just like always; playing it cool, savvy, charismatic, and it was killing her on the inside. If maybe there was a way to impress him, to make him know that she was there, she would take that chance to steal his heart.
With sudden motivation upon these thoughts, she stood upright, grinning. "I'll prove myself to him!" she stated to herself, her smile widening. "Sonic Hedgehog, you will be mine!" she giggled and took off in her usual fashion; playing the role of just a girl crazily in love with danger himself; flirting with it and craving the action that would come from it.
3:48 pm - Mystic Jungle
The duo entered a mysterious jungle; the pink hedgehog far behind the blue hero. Both of them kept their eyes open for any traps as they ran through the jungle. There were exotic plants and flowers galore that decorated the marsh floor nicely; blossoms of all colors were seen, purples, pinks, reds, and mixed; it was all endearing to Amy. Many different trees had vines hanging from them and protected the little damp forest. Little sun made it through the canopy layer of the land, making it more shady than typical.
Overall, it was a peaceful place with only the sounds of bugs and birds heard. Sonic stopped running and began to walk slowly. He looked around the jungle and came to a halt. After being sure that he was clear, he pulled out a communicator. The rose hedgehog ran faster once he stopped, hoping that she would catch up to him. The male turned around and saw her running towards him; he narrowed his eyes and stared in disapproval.
"What are you doing here, Amy?" the blue hedgehog's voice sounded irritated. He did not notice her following him before, and was clearly surprised to see her.
The girl stopped dead in her tracks. "I came here to help you!" she declared, reassured of her actions; a determined smile was planted on her face.
Sonic crossed his arms and his emerald eyes observed the happy girl standing before him; he knew that she only meant good. "Now that you are here, I suppose you can help…" he let out a sigh and signaled the pink hedgehog to come close enough to hear the communicator he held in his hand.
"Thank you," emerald eyes smiled and shone brightly. 'Perhaps he does care... in his own way!' she thought as she eagerly approached the male.
The blue hedgehog turned to the communicator, "Tails, can you hear me?" He nearly yelled into the speaker, there being nothing but static on the other end.
"L-Loud and clear!" the voice of a child replied, seeming a little overtaken. "A little bit too loud..." the two-tailed fox mumbled loud enough for them to hear. Amy giggled and the cerulean hedgehog just stared at her in vexation.
"We're at the location you told me," Sonic continued, looking around at his surroundings with sharp eyes. The foliage was beginning to clear in the dense jungle; those were the clear signs his friend had told him to look for.
"We?" the small fox inquired, puzzled by what the hedgehog said.
"Yes, Amy joined me not long ago," his emerald eyes moved to the pink hedgehog that was standing close to him.
"Okay..." there was silence for a moment, as if to indicate the hedgehog's best friend was in the process of thinking, "Eggman's base must be cloaked somewhere around that area. I'm passing by with the Tornado to make a scan and find the exact location."
"So where's Knuckles?" Amy asked noticing the lost partner. Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles...were they not the usual trio?
"He'll be dropping by when Tails passes through here," Sonic declared and just as he stated those words, the Tornado appeared in the sky, dropping a red echidna as it passed by.
Knuckles glided to the ground and landed safely before them. "Alright, it's time to party!" he said as he punched the air, the rose hedgehog rolled her eyes.
"Alright guys," Tails called from the communicator, "the base is located three miles northwest of your current location."
"We're on it!" the three heroes responded and ran to the next location. The trio passed various threes and exotic plants on their way to the hidden base. They moved quickly, with the blue hero leading the way. After a few minutes of running, they stopped at a strange clearing and they assumed that it had to be Eggman's hidden base.
Sonic took the communicator into his hands once again and contacted the two-tailed fox, "Tails, we're here."
"Good. Knuckles and Amy," the static from the communicator was cut off again, "there are two cloaking devices hidden by the trees, they should look like metal disks; find them and destroy them. Sonic, when they find the devices you run inside the base and destroy the main control panel."
"Alright, let's do this!" Amy excitedly pulled out her Piko-Piko hammer and headed to the right side of the clearing and Knuckles took the left. Looking carefully for the device through the bushes and trees, her emerald eyes finally spotted the disk hidden in between the tree leaves. 'This is for you, Sonic!' the pink hedgehog jumped and smashed the metal object as hard as she could, for a moment the base was seen, only to disappear again straight after.
The echidna saw the reaction and looked for the device faster. Once he found it, he smashed it against the floor and punched it. The base was revealed for good; it turning out to be a big airship, covered with red and black paint. It had many cannons, lasers, and other weapons. The traditional Eggman logo was stamped over the red paint at the front of the ship. Sonic ran inside the base, Knuckles and Amy trailed behind.
4:06 pm - Inside Eggman's Base
The base was clear at first with no robots protecting it. During a typical raid, Eggman would give them a warm welcome by throwing some metallic fiends for them to battle, but this time, everything was empty and quiet; even to the point of desertion. The heroes noted this and moved slowly through the base, awaiting a trap at every corner.
The base had strange machines in every room and hall. There were also dozens of doors that led further inside. The trio decided to take one of the many doors and headed in, but as soon as they entered the door closed shut and robots appeared. The triad fought the robots with ease and as soon as they defeated them another door inside the room opened. They took the new door and once again got attacked by robots. As they walked further inside the base every door that opened held a new attack from another group of 'bots. The three worked their way through by destroying the metallic henchmen and advancing to the next door; a typical and repeated routine. Sonic always advanced first and stood in front of the three, making sure everything was safe for them to continue further inside. The battle was no struggle whatsoever; all the robots were weak and beaten with little effort on the three's part.
"I don't like this, Eggman must be planning something," Sonic remarked as he got spun into a beetle.
"I agree, Eggman would've sent the big baddies after us by now," Knuckles replied as he smashed another beetle against the floor.
"Do you think it's a trap?" Amy inquired innocently as she smashed yet another beetle with her oversized hammer.
"There's only one way to find out," the cerulean hedgehog affirmed eagerly, beginning to walk through the newly opened door, "We need to find the control panel, he must be there waiting for us!"
Knuckles and Amy nodded, as they stalked the egotistic hero's lead. They passed through ten more doors before finally reaching the control panel. They expected Eggman to be there and tell them it was a trap of some sort, but he wasn't there. They searched the room but no one was there— Robotnik was missing!
"What's going on?" Sonic said as he ran out the door and searched the whole base for the crazed doctor. He found some scatted robot parts through some doors they hadn't walked through, causing him to wonder what had happened there before their arrival. He returned to the control panel, where Amy and Knuckles were waiting for him.
"Eggman is nowhere to be found," the pink hedgehog announced as she took a seat on the main chair of the control panel. She started typing in some random things out of idle boredom and started switching through the screens that showed everything around, in, and out of the ship. There were no signs of the mad scientist anywhere in the ship.
"Do you think he wants to trap us inside here and make the ship explode?" an indifferent question, the blue hedgehog tapped his foot impatiently.
"I don't think so," Amy answered as she searched through the controls of the ship, "The security is down to minimal and I don't see any other traps here."
"Why would he attack the city and then run away?" the red echidna asked as he sat on top of a machine.
"He was probably scared that I would kick his butt again," the cerulean hedgehog boasted with a smirk on his face.
"I found something!" Amy squealed; Sonic and Knuckles switched their attention to the screens. "This was taken one hour ago," she pressed a button to reveal the past events inside the ship.
Eggman was sitting on the main chair of the control room, picking his nose without a care in the world; the three assumed he was possibly waiting for Sonic to arrive. Suddenly he saw something on the screen; an array of troops that were surrounding the ship. He started typing some buttons in the control panel, firing some lasers. However, the troops successfully dodged them and placed a metallic object on the ship which stopped the cloaking devices and lasers. The men made their way inside the ship. Seeing this, Eggman sent big robots after them but the soldiers eliminated them easily.
"Seems Eggman is losing his touch," Sonic retorted as he watched the troops destroy the robots with ease.
They walked through the metallic doors, eliminating everything in their paths and proceeding further inside. When they finally made it to the control panel, Robotnik tried to escape, but they stopped him before he could approach his carrier. One of the soldiers looked around the room and spotted a camera recording the events. He shot the object and everything turned to static.
"That's the end of it," the small girl reported as she replayed the video.
"Stop it right there, Amy." Sonic pointed at the soldier that had shot the camera, "You see that? It's them..."
4:06 pm – G.U.N. Headquarters
"What do you want from me?" Eggman yelled at the soldiers behind him in anger, "Haven't you had enough from me by stealing my blueprints to build some of your robots?!"
"And were appreciate those contributions, Doctor," a tall man with dark skin replied sarcastically, walking inside the room.
"Commander...!" the over-sized man looked at the military officer angrily, his black specks darkening as he spoke once again, "What's your business with me?"
"Did you already forget your recent attack in Station Square?" the tall man pulled a chair from across the empty table that separated the opposing powers and sat down, "You are under arrest, Doctor. However, I do have a proposition for you." He put his hands together and continued, "There's something I want but I cannot get. It is unfortunate, but I need your help."
"And how does that benefit me?" Eggman's tone of voice did not change.
Silence took over the room and a few seconds passed before the Commander signaled for the soldiers to leave. He waited for the men to exit the room and then spoke, "If you help me with this goal I'll let you free of any charges you have. You will be able to, for the first time in a long time Doctor, live amongst everyone as a civilian without fear of prosecution. "
The egg shaped man turned his head to one side and retorted, "I have no interest to live as a civilian."
The malicious man laughed briefly and then answered dryly, "I assumed as much… In that case, how would you like to have access to our technological resources— temporarily of course— but I'm sure a genius like yourself only needs a brief moment to take advantage of good materials."
The disproportionate man thought about the offer and a grin appeared on his face. After countless raids, recycling his materials became problematic and at times the scraps were not good enough to work with anymore; not to mention that obtaining materials in the black market after many unsuccessful and unprofitable raids was proving to be costly. Free materials and top quality too— it did not sound bad at all. A shine reflected off his specks, "And what do I have to do exactly?"
The Commander avoided the topic of Project Shadow and instead told him about the shields, "We need a new defense system for our space crafts, capable of taking laser and bullet fire that is long-lasting and that will not have any adverse effects on the ships themselves. We also need your help working on a special project, but we will talk about that later. What's your answer, Doctor?"
"Hmm…?" the genius curiously inquired, knowing there was more to what the man was letting on to. The puzzling lack of information intrigued him… It had to be that! An evil grin made his way to his face and he answered, "I see. Well, what if you don't do what you promised me?"
"Only time will tell," said the man in a dark tone.
The egg-shaped man thought about the offer; there was only so much they could limit him to! If they wanted their new technology some of their resources would make his way to him eventually. Once he had enough materials— "You got a deal," he answered. His dark glasses revealed a small shine once again, reflecting his brain at work.
Next Day: 5:23 am - Space Colony ARK
The sun appeared on the horizon of Earth, the warm oranges and yellows made the cool blues and greens stand out. Even though the sun was out, the stars could still be seen around the ARK. Inside the space colony, Shadow the Hedgehog stared at the beautiful and picturesque sight. He felt at peace and relaxed; everything was quiet and no one was around. After the events that happened two years prior, he had chosen a life of solitude because he believed the world was better off without him.
After fighting alongside Sonic and defeating the Finalhazard he had fallen to Earth and got lost in a jungle. Luckily, after a few days he found the green Chaos Emerald, which had apparently also fallen to Earth. He used the jewel to warp back to the ARK and had since lived aboard it. He stayed there living each day alone, rarely warping back to earth to look around and explore.
The ebony hedgehog recalled parts of his past such as losing his friend, Maria, and spending time with her. He remembered the things they did together; the times they laughed and the times they cried. He could still remember the pain he felt when he saw her die and the anger that almost drove him to insanity. A sigh escaped his lips before he continued thinking about the events that took place fifty years after her death. He was going to avenge his friend but thanks to a certain pink hedgehog the final memory inside of him revealed that Maria did not want him to avenge her, but to give the people on Earth a chance to be happy.
The dark hedgehog smiled to himself, 'Maria was a very kind person...' He still missed her, every day without her was eternal itself. Long hours, long minutes, long seconds; every day had no end. He knew he was the Ultimate Life Form, but at what cost? Losing his best friend and living his eternal life without her... that was the cost of his immortality.
The male still observed the sun in the horizon of Earth, it being a breathtaking sight. Suddenly, he saw a space ship coming towards the space colony. Two more appeared, then three... then four. Getting suspicious, he continued to watch until the ships got close enough for him to read the acronym 'G.U.N.' stretched on the side of them. As the ships grew closer the communicators from the ARK picked up the signal from the G.U.N.'s ships. The speakers played a message asking for his surrender. The dark hedgehog's eyes widened in disbelief and then narrowed in anger.
Shadow skated to the control panel of the ARK. He typed and pushed a series of buttons to reveal the defense weapons and attempted to fire lasers at the coming invaders. However, the ships continued heading his way. He zoomed in to see his targets closer and realized that they had strong shields protecting them from the lasers, making the attack a near mockery on his part.
The ebony hedgehog almost lost his footing as the ARK began to shake; it was becoming increasingly obvious that they were attacking the ship from the outside. The space colony no longer had any defense shields since the Finalhazard incident causing the hedgehog to be, on the most part, doomed.
The dark hedgehog skated out of the control panel and headed to one of the ARK's rooms. Inside the room, the green Chaos Emerald was resting on a pillow. The colony continued shaking with the attacks and steps could be heard outside the room. A group of G.U.N. soldiers infiltrated the base and knocked down the door to the room he was in and began shooting at Shadow; he, however, easily dodged the bullets by chaos controlling around the room. He appeared above in the air from where the soldiers stood and kicked them out of the way. He then left the room and skated through the halls. On his way to the control room he got rid of a number of soldiers that attempted to kill him. When he thought he had gotten rid of all the cronies and all was safe, he heard a robotic voice coming from the ship:
"Self-destruct sequence starting: 30 seconds until self-destruction."
"Damn it all!" growled Shadow. Without enough time to save the colony, he took the Chaos Emerald firmly in his hand and made a critical decision— leaving part of his past behind forever. His eyes narrowed as he took a last look around the space colony, "CHAOS CONTROL!"
G.U.N. ships remained outside as the ARK exploded shaking everything around it. The space crafts protected themselves against the explosion using the new shield system, taking little damage. Inside a soldier talked to a communicator, "Sir, we believe Project Shadow has warped out of the ARK."
Back at the G.U.N. headquarters the Commander grinned. The mission was a success! It was all going according to plan.
Meanwhile Shadow headed to Earth, hoping to find a place to hide from G.U.N. and plan a counter attack. Little did he know that his plan would lead him straight to their trap.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Sonic characters/universe, they belong to their respective owners Sega/Sonic Team, etc.
Author's Note: Thanks for reading the first chapter of Don't Let Me Fall; this story takes place after Sonic Adventure 2 and is completely irrelevant to Shadow the Hedgehog and any other games that follow after. The story is going to contain future chapters related to the pairing of Shadow and Amy (ShadAmy). If you have any comments, ideas, or suggestions feel free to review the story. Every review is greatly appreciated!
I would also like to dedicate a very special thanks to Miss Inadequate, who helped me edit the chapter and gave me good suggestions.
Chapter 2 Preview: Unwanted Help
With the ARK destroyed, Shadow has no choice but to flee to Earth. While there he encounters the Sonic Heroes, who offer him lending hand. Amidst the unwanted gathering, G.U.N. launches a surprise attack and the heroes find themselves in a tough situation. Finally, due to unprecedented circumstances, Shadow finds himself running from G.U.N. with a pink companion.
Until Next Time!