He's Just That Talented
"Oh... please no," Laura whispered as they listened to the ominous footsteps (which only she could identify) slowly coming down the tower. She shot from Henry's bedside and shoved her way past her group, pushing Douglas out of the way as she stumbled into the second floor atrium. "No, no, no...!
A thoroughly bloodstained spear emerged from the staircase, held upright like a walking staff; And Sergei Jakubiec, High Priest of Valtiel, stepped down into view whilst leaning upon it. He was drenched in blood and surely would have been clinging to the handrail for support as well had he not had the foresight keep a forearm clenched tight against the grimy hole in his belly. How he was on his feet at all was a mystery for the ages.
"What are you doing!?" she shouted at him. And behind her, shot exclamation rippled through the crowd and she could hear the click of gun parts. There were no words to adequately describe Laura's feelings in that moment. Especially not when Sergei took that final step down onto the second floor and all but collapsed forward into her arms. She caught him under the shoulders and pressed him back into the wall, as much to shield him from firearms as to keep him upright. "W-what are you doing!?"
Coming down here had been a terrible idea. He sagged in her hold and she knew he was about to fold in half where he stood. She tried to ease him to a seat against the wall, and then nearly broke down crying at the result: He'd left the wall with an almost comically thick blood trail upon it as he'd slid to the ground.
"That's the cultist who was doing the blood magic!" Eileen shouted. "He pulled the stunt with George Sewell and took out Travis! Samael didn't kill him!?"
Samael sounded ready to rectify the matter, if the low growl and the scrap of a helmet against drywall were any indication.
Laura, kneeling before her 'patient' and investigating a stomach injury that was probably well and truly lethal, didn't even know where to begin. Though, "How the fuck did you unimpale yourself from a roof!?" did seem a fairly prudent place.
Sergei's typically blank expression formed a wistful smirk. "I didn't." Blood bubbled on his lips and down his chin.
"You knew he was up there!?" Douglas asked. "Laura!"
Laura whirled to look at the others. "Someone is to hand me a stitching needle," she snarled. "NOW."
Sergei tugged her sleeve. "He did."
"What are you-?" Then she released she could hear more sounds overhead: skittering, hissing, gurgling. She looked up in alarm, listening. Eileen shouted something else, but she held up a hand to silence them. "Shh-ssh. Do you hear that?"
The ceiling opened up. Slowly, at first, and then in a twisting wormhole of barbed wire and sandbags and humanoid remains. A long, low growl oozed out from the darkness within. "Back up," Eileen could be heard to whisper. "Back up! Laura!"
Samael bellowed a challenge and stepped forward, spear raised. As if in answer to him, a humanoid creature with two additional arms in asymmetric places along the back slithered out of the ceiling hole, fingers all fused together and gloved in red. It wore boots and a smock that wore away to tatters at the ankles. It's snout was elongated and shaped like a dog's, but the yellow-colored head lacked any facial features such as a nose or eyes, all except for broad cheekbones and large, triangular, bug-like teeth. The mouth opened, and the whole ovoid head deformed to allow it a terrifying wide and physically impossible gape as it roared.
Laura pointed. "Yellow God," she whimpered with regards to The New Thing That Was Clearly Valtiel And Yet Also Not. "Yellow God!"
Samael boomed back a violently loud rejoinder, and that was the last thing that happened before The-Valtiel-Thing leaped at him from the ceiling, and the two giants went crashing back into the wall of the building. They hit the drywall so hard that they nearly went straight through it, and they broke off exterior wall siding and punched a sizable hole out into the cold exterior.
Samael and the Valtiel Thing struggled violently over the former's ceremonial spear, with Samael seeming on the defensive as the Valtiel Thing tried to clamber under and over a stern block. They wrestled and smashed into another wall. The Valtiel thing retreated to the ceiling, kicked off the corner wall, and then leaped at him again. ROAR. Humans scattered in alarm with Murphy hiking up Elle to get her out of the way. This time the two giants smashing into the side of the downstairs stairwell.
"Downstairs!" Eileen pleaded more out of desperation than out of any hope they'd obey her.
But either one of the two monster listened, or—more likely—luck was on the mortals' side: The violent struggle overbalanced itself atop the staircase, and both monsters toppled down with a matching pair of war-screams. The tremendous BAM at they hit the ground did not signal the end of the fight. If anything, the roars grew louder.
"I left you next to a gigantic Seal of the Metatron," Laura mumbled dumbly.
Eileen regained her senses first and reached them, and swung up her Uzi such that the barrel was but three feet from the cultist's head. Sergei only looked quietly away in unprotesting resignation, but Laura shouldered into the barrel and then stood there, hands flat against the wall on either side of him, back turned towards the others.
"Laura, get out of the way."
Murphy set Elle down in the safety of the room and then, surprisingly, bolted for the staircase. He was the first of them to remember they needed Samael, or to realize that The Valtiel Thing might be able to kill him if the fight went sour. Laura didn't move, but also didn't say anything, because there was little justification for trying to save the life of someone so critically injured who had just jeopardized their only Ace-in-the-Hole. She couldn't even suggest Sergei was harmless. He probably wasn't harmless.
"Laura." Eileen grabbed her arm and pulled.
"It won't help," Laura mumbled blearily. "It won't make it disappear. The monster thinks its protecting him."
"That is not a monster," Sergei murmured, all but confirming that he'd summoned Valtiel—an angel, and not a demon. "And they are both Red..."
"I've had enough of people arguing God Colors! Why did you do this!?" Laura demanded, although—to be fair—a desire to become no-longer-impaled would have been reason enough for anybody. The utter decimation of the furniture downstairs made for a tremendous cacophony. Gunshots signified that Murphy (or Douglas? Laura couldn't turn around to see who was here and who had left) was trying to help.
"So much you do not understand..." Sergei replied, though his words were slurred and broken up by blood.
A high-pitched squeal, like the sound of a stuck pig, told them that someone downstairs might be on the verge of losing. Eileen spun about and then, with one last angry glare at Laura, she tried to get down the broken staircase to help.
This fight was over-the-top in its proportions. The two monsters all but leveled the first floor of the house, destroying the atrium couches and most of the fireplace, and crushing every table and lamp. They busted out several windows, slashing and grabbing at one another in grapple after grapple.
Samael grabbed the smaller monster off himself at last, and flung it so hard into the kitchen that cabinets crumpled and dishes went shattered to the floor in a thousand white pieces. But no sooner had The Valtiel Thing hit the cabinets that it got up and flung itself at the Pyramid Monster again, and reached him before he could lift up his spear tip.
The Valtiel Thing played Samael's heavy weight against him. It leaped on him repeatedly, pulled at the helmet, and then dove low to bite and swipe at his legs. Samael nearly succeeded at impaling it to the ground or ceiling, and took slashes out of its back with the spear, but Valtiel kept up the harassment until finally it tumbled the Pyramid Monster into the fireplace. It leaped upon the larger monster, grabbed the spear and yanked it free. Then it retreated and danced about the room as Samael righted himself. Samael lunged after the smaller creature, but Valtiel continued to elude him, apparently waiting for a more specific opportunity to present itself.
Douglas balanced a handgun on his arm and—though he found everyone's 'side' to be as clear as gravy—he took two shots at the Valtiel Thing. Murphy hurried up from the basement, carrying a maul Douglas hadn't presumed any mortal man could move, much less carry around.
The Valtiel Thing winced at each hit and temporarily lifted a arm to shield itself. It turned and hissed at the two of them, sounding displeased but not incredibly wounded. Then it (or he?) leaped away from an enraged Samael, who grabbed for the spear but missed.
Jump, jump, jump, gunshot, roar, jump, outstep-
-Pounce. The Valtiel Thing lunged for their Demon, spear-tip leading. Valtiel got the weapon past Samael's outstretched hands, and the tip made contact with the abdominal wall just below the sternum. It impaled him, and the force of it shoved Samael backwards and sent him crashing into the wall. The tip pushed deeper, deeper, burst out of the back, and exploded through the front wall of the house.
Samael looked stunned for a brief moment as Valtiel ground the weapon deeper and twisted it; but then the demon recovered his senses and started grabbing for his smaller 'twin' in an effort to disengage it. Murphy followed them hesitantly, not really sure what he could do and lacking for a precision melee weapon. Douglas wasn't sure how best to spend the rest of his ammo. The Valtiel Thing climbed Samael, stepping onto the spear and digging claws into one hip, and wrestling with the Demon's arms. Murphy watched, trying to figure out what the creature's aim was.
The Valtiel Thing fastened its arms about the massive helmet and start to forcibly rotate it.
Was it- was he going to twist off Samael's entire head?
Samael must have come to the same conclusion because he grabbed at the other monster's arms, and a great deal of huffing and shaking ensued as two sets of enormous muscles—one leaner looking but apparently no less strong—struggled over the orientation of the helmet.
Murphy gathered up the maul and waved to Douglas, "We have to-"
The front door of the Lighthouse opened with a bang. Orange eyes glowed through the foggy pallor of the room. Literally: glowed. Heather? She twisted about on entering, looking up at this battle of rather epic proportions. Then she bolted up to both giants, fearless of how enormous they were or of how a single kick or strike might debilitate her. She lifted a hand to the Valtiel Thing, and placed her palm flat against its back.
"Stop," she said, simply.
And the universe—simply—obeyed her. The room fell silent and all heaving motion from the two monsters abruptly ceased. The Valtiel Thing remained perched there, arms bunched tightly about the helmet, holding it at an extreme angle in preparation for a quick snap. Both monsters breathed heavily in and out.
Then the Valtiel Thing quivered, and recoiled. It hissed and spat and thrashed. The Pyramid Monster released it and shoved at it, and the Valtiel Thing retreated to the ceiling to shriek, mutter, and spit. It looked at Samael, and it looked at Heather. It paced back and forward across the ceiling like a lion. It lunged forward, but then recoiled as if frightened, or spooked; as if giving her a wide berth.
Samael sagged slightly on the realization the fight was over. He took several long shuddering breaths and grabbed at the spear that had been rammed clear between his lungs. Muscles bulged. He tried to pull out the spear, but was perpetually winded. Murphy slowly lowered his maul to the ground, and then grabbed hold of the haft to help.
"Heather!" Eileen called from the staircase, and then shrieked and ducked as the Valtiel Thing suddenly bolted towards her. But it passed her, passed by overhead, and scurried back up to the second floor instead.
"That monster was summoned by a cultist!" Douglas explained. "Upstairs!"
Heather looked between the two of them and then back to Samael, who was having a rough time of things but whom looked quite ready to survive the encounter. Then she wordlessly hurried across the trashed atrium, and climbed the damaged staircase.
Lisa Garland had come out to Laura with a threaded sewing needle.
Anne had tried to stop her, but the cop was an instant too late. Lisa stretched out the requested needle, and Laura took it, and Laura made no bones about using every spare second she'd stolen in a productive manner.
"You need to lay down," she instructed the man.
"I am not going to survive," the very polite cultist had already assessed.
"Shut up and do what I tell you."
There was so much red, everywhere, though much of it had been spilled earlier in the day. As Laura tore the fabric of the priest smock and exposed the leaking injury, she found the wound was not bleeding badly. Rather, Sergei was in much greater danger of having all his intestines fall out, and had been prudent to keep pressure on the injury. Lisa recoiled and put both hands over her mouth at the sight of the injury. Then she looked away and trembled.
Laura got Sergei to set down the spear, and then manhandled and renegotiated his position until she could get at his injuries. She couldn't do a good job. She had to do a quick job. There was an equally bad exit wound on the other side she'd yet to get to, and that had likely dislodged at least one of his ribs. She pulled him up on his side once the belly injury was sealed, and draped his arm over her back for balance so she could lean over and kept working.
Stitch stitch stitch stitch. She felt fingers curl into the back of her shirt.
Anne muttered something that was not exactly a compliment: "You'd have made a good Red Cross Medic in World War Two. They'd have seduced you out of hiding with an injured body, and shot you for pain relievers and cigarettes."
Laura grit her teeth, not in the mood to ask about what the relationship between Red Cross Medics and cigarettes was. She eased her patient back down, and his silence suggested he wasn't incredibly cognizant. He'd lost a lot of blood in all this. "Are you going to shoot him?"
"We're out of guns," Anne answered. "I could brain him to death with a wrench, would you like that?"
"Lisa can you bring me a glass of water and a blanket?"
A shriek tore up the staircase, and Laura spun about to find herself face-to face with a dog-spider-Valtiel-Monster that clambered from the ceiling onto the ground and straight towards her. Laura had a brief moment to remember that Valtiel was probably protecting Sergei and not explicitly attacking Samael, and Samael had only been the biggest danger. Probably just as significant: Laura was presently hovering over Sergei's body, and Laura was not 'a Faithful.'
Then Valtiel had leaped upon her, and her back hit the wall with such force that the whole world teetered. Spread teeth filled her vision: but not for the purpose of roaring at her.
He was going to bite her head off.
She felt the first fangs hit; and then she sat there, trembling violently, because a muscle spasm had stilled the downward snap. The Valtiel Thing hovered there for a moment, teeth partially embedded in the flesh of her temple and jawline. Had time frozen? Had she died and imagined her own survival? No. He'd really stopped.
Only when he pulled back and turned away did Laura see Sergei had grabbed Valtiel's arm, and realized that the God-Thing had stopped only for that reason. She cringed there, trembling, blood leaking down the front of her face and neck, and maybe through her hair where she'd been shoved into the wall.
She watched numbly as the Valtiel Thing spun about and hovered protectively there over the body of his conjurer, snarling, teeth pointed first in Anne's direction and then in the direction of the staircase.
Laura looked down to see bruised human fingers pawing weakling at her forearm. Sergei was trying to find out if she was alive.
At some point she'd started crying. She wondered if this level of disorientation and confusion was how other people felt about trusting or helping Monsters. She was so scared she wanted to puke, but instead she reached out to scoop the injured cultist off the floor, that he might know she was okay, because that was the only thing that made sense in the moment.
Heather reached the second-floor to find a seriously wounded and adrenaline-drunk woman—probably 'Anne Cunningham'—guarding the entrance to a bedroom with little more than her body and a wrench. She hadn't had to fight off any trespassers just yet, but she was clearly ready to die doing so if need be.
The sound of skittering drew Heather's attention across the hall, to where the 'Not-Valtiel' stood on all fours, back arched, snarling at her.
Heather watched him for a moment, noticing the familiar twitches and shudders of his body movements. His head stayed fixed in one place, and was the only part of him that didn't jitter and sway. It made him look a bit like a cobra. She stepped slowly forward and his back arched higher. He hissed a long stream of air, warning her that he'd not let her pass, but Heather took another step.
She'd called a bluff. The avatar fell to his stomach, cowed, his mouth closing to a tight line. He whined. She took another step. In wanting to escape her he first skittered to the left, then to the right, before realizing he was unable to get farther back from her without giving up access to whatever cultist he was guarding. He whimpered and hissed and mumbled, unhappy and confused and sounding strangely desperate.
Heather looked past his Seal-marked shoulder, to where a bloodied and traumatized-looking Laura Sunderland was crouched beside the cultist's body. By the white and red linens, he was likely from the Sect of Valtiel.
And this was Valtiel.
No, of course he wasn't the avatar that had sought Heather out and befriended her half a year ago, but still he shrank back from her with a baffled recognition that hadn't even required a taste of her hair. He had some convoluted idea of who she was, and it seemed he couldn't bring himself to attack her. Couldn't even bring himself to try.
She stopped advancing for a moment, watching him with pain and uncertainty in the pit of her stomach. Laura leaned over, gathering up the head and shoulders of the cultist either to comfort him or else so that he could see what was going on, and he blinked vacantly in the avatar's direction.
"Valtiel," Heather murmured finally. Not her Valtiel, not her avatar, but still, definitely: Valtiel.
Valtiel gave a loud, trembling whine. Then, all but crawling upon his belly, he slunk hesitantly towards her. He reached out a hand towards her, but then snatched the fingers back. He shook, and trembled indecisively. He skittered forward another inch, and reached out again. Hesitantly, repeatedly retreating, he reached out towards where she stood. Advance two steps; Retreat one. He finally touched her foot, no more, and then perched there in contact with her like he'd been frozen in place.
He shrieked and recoiled form her with a snap, retreating all the way to the far side of the hall. He paced back and forward, and a mouth upon the back of his head peeled open to loose a collection of black tongues. She stepped towards him, and—as he had nowhere else to back up, he clambered backwards to stand over the body of his summoner. When Heather drew closer still, he scampered backwards up the wall. He hissed, whimpered, pleaded with her.
"I'm not going to hurt your conjurer," Heather rasped, watching him. Valtiel first fell silent, and then shrank up against the ceiling to observe.
"You're not?" Laura mumbled.
"No." Heather looked down at her, and at the blood-soaked cultist she was cradling to her bosom. Her clothing was disheveled again, and her shirt was sagging such that plenty of frilly bra was visible. If the cultist had any idea that this was the case, he gave no indication; He didn't try to say a word. "Do I want to know how you two met?"
"W-what?" Laura sputtered, sounding hysterical, and Heather regretted teasing her. "Why does everyone think I'm dating everyone!? I had a totally adorable bromance with Walter—who just died in front of me!—and I literally 'met' this idiot an hour ago, and that's cause he was staked to a roof and still alive it looked horrible!"
Heather reflected on that. "Laura, I raided the Alchemilla blood bank and obviously didn't know Henry's blood type. You weren't answering your phone, so I grabbed a few bags of every letter I could find. I brought more than one transfusion needle because I didn't know who else was hurt." She paused a moment, that Laura might register the implications of this. "And if you promise not to ask any strange questions about Samael's skirts ever again, you can use some of them for your new... friend."
Shakily, Laura settled the cultist down and stumbled up to her feet. "I promise," Laura said, and then gave Heather a quick hug. Then she dashed down the damaged staircase (and nearly sprained her ankle in doing so).
Heather watched her go and then back looked down to the cultist. He didn't say anything to her, whether because he was too confused or else perhaps too near to death. She'd seen very few people survive in Silent Hill after sustaining such serious injuries, and she'd certainly never seen another person who could invoke the direct protection of Valtiel. Hmm.
Eileen came up the staircase behind her, and Valtiel became agitated again and began to hiss and gurgle from the ceiling. Heather looked back up to him.
"If you stay here, you're going to end up hurting someone I don't want to see hurt," she told him. He whimpered. "Go wait on the roof until you're called back down here." Horrified squeak! "Go on." Valtiel stared at her blindly for a long moment. Then, cowed and whimpering, he turned about and shuffled up the lighthouse staircase.
Eileen swallowed. "You can just do that?" she asked. "Say something and he'll listen? He wasn't- he isn't- is he?"
"Mine?" Heather asked quietly, still a little dazed by the idea that Valtiel had more than one manifestation. "No. Very obviously not. So don't touch his cultist, or he'll come shrieking back down here and snap you in half for it, and there probably won't be much anything anyone can do to stop him."
"O... okay. Roger." A thunderous roar shook its way up the staircase, and Eileen jumped and shuffled out of the way. "Heath, your boyfriend is calling you."
Heather broke out laughing before she could stop herself. And then, because laughing felt good, she smiled more authentically and turned away from the cultist and sauntered back to the broken stairway to peer down at Samael.
He was standing at the bottom of the case, glaring at steps that probably could no longer support his weight. The spear-hole in his abdomen was still dripping. "Hey handsome," she greeted. He straightened slightly and bumped his helmet against the ceiling. She winked at him. "Don't worry. I chased the yellow spider off."
He growled, not certain if this was a good enough reason to calm down. He was still trying to figure out if he could get up the stairs.
She grinned and leaned against the thoroughly gouged threshold molding. "How many times is this now? You know. Times you've needed me to rescue you from dying horribly."
He leaned back an inch and then yowled incredulously at her, insulted.
"What? Name one time you've successfully rescued me from anything."
He thought about it and then snarled demonstratively.
"You mean that time you knocked me into a coma and I woke up with Xipe strangling me and I had to summon you to the location just to get your ass between her and me, and then she dumped a tower on you?"
He fell awkwardly silent, helmet listing to the side as he tried to recall a time when he'd rescued her that hadn't immediately followed up on the heels of a point at which he'd put her in danger.
Eileen looked from him to Heather. "You can hear him talking to you in your head?" she suddenly realized. "Like I could hear Walter?"
"Yeah, but Samael doesn't actually say very much with words. Mostly it's pictures and feelings. When he's mad it just feels like Satan made a baby with a volcano and the result is vomiting angry magma on me. I could talk to Walter too, but he wasn't particularly helpful. Mostly just regurgitated ominous cult drivel while I tried to get him to settle down or give me a straight answer on something."
Samael looked up at her.
"Ah!" Heather leaned back and snapped her fingers. "He's right. He flipped a speeding car that was trying to mow me down. You win this round, Mr. Shepherd." She tipped her hat to him. Her hat, which was Travis' hat. Travis, who was missing. Fuck Edwin.
Samael made a smugly content noise. If he/Alex/Xuchilbara knew or cared that Heather had just successfully diffused his temper and redirected his attention through all this ridiculous banter, he gave no sign of it.
Heather looked to Eileen. "Who did we lose? I saw a... body on the porch."
"Kaufmann," Eileen murmured. Heather winced and then folded up with crossed arms and a hand across the bridge of her nose to grieve internally. "I'm so sorry. We have Anne, Elle, Murphy, Douglas, Henry, myself. Laura. Lisa."
Footsteps hurried up to the stairwell; Laura had returned with the box of medical supplies Heather had scavenged together at Alchemilla. "Excuse me He-Whose-Skirts-I-am-Not-Allowed-To-Mention," Laura mumbled politely. "Can I get past you?"
"Laura, you're bleeding," Douglas shouted to her.
"Yeah forehead head wounds bleed a lot," Laura agreed as she shimmied past an oblivious Samael's side and then carefully picked her way up the staircase. She had blood curtaining an entire half of her face. Heather and Eileen blinked and reached out to steady her as she reached the top of the staircase. "Do you know Henry's blood type?" she asked of Eileen as Heather reached out to wipe blood off her face with her hand.
"What? Mine's A Negative, and his is the opposite; That's how I remember it."
"Henry's blood type would be the punny one," Laura muttered as she settled the box down and dug about in it for a bag of blood. She glanced over at Sergei as she worked, but kept her priorities on the straight and narrow to keep anyone from trying to kill him. Henry first. Then... maybe... if he could hold on long enough...
"Oh Heather," Eileen gushed as she saw what the Mason girl had brought them. "How the hell did you find a working blood bank?" At the bottom of the stairs, Murphy sheepishly came up to Samael and offered him the discarded spear. Samael looked down at him and then slowly took it. And then pointed him up the staircase. Murphy took the hint, and crept past to go supervise the safety of several rather important blonde women.
"I'm magical," Heather reported as she gathered up Laura's hair. "Do we at least have something to tie her hair up with or a towel to give her or something until she finally notices how bad she looks?" Lisa ran up with just such a towel, and Eileen and Heather leaned over and dabbed Laura's head.
"I need a hanger and some duct tape!" Laura announced as she staggered to her feet and nearly knocked Eileen over. "Wait, that sounded unexpectedly ominous. The hanger is for holding up the blood pack. They have to be upside down."
Eileen just nodded and pushed a distracted but highly important Laura Sunderland along to where Henry was.
"Wait, where is Elle?" Heather abruptly demanded. "If she's dead, Alex'll pull my spine out." A monster yowled to let everyone know that Elle sure as hell better not be dead, but he would not be pulling Heather's spine out and she wasn't to joke like that.
"Over here. Murphy gallantly swooped in to get her out of the way of the monster attack and then hid her behind the door," Anne Cunningham answered. Murphy paused in walking past and squinted at her for a moment before shaking his head and kneeling down to see to Elle.
"I have a concussion," Elle added. "And I think I blacked out somewhere in there. Hi Heather. Hi Murphy."
"Have I mentioned how much I like Murphy?" Heather asked rhetorically. "I've said a grand total of three words to the man, and he's already my new favorite. Next to Henry, of course. I mean, don't take it personally: There's an unspoken family rule that I'm never allowed to like anyone quite as much as I like Henry." Henry who was pale and unconscious.
"I take it your week was rough," Anne decided.
"Suppose it's been rough on all of us. I had a nice break for like an hour in there before everything went to hell again," Heather agreed. "Was my fault; Silent Hill was clearly punishing me for trying to sleep in. Nice to meet you. Miss Cunningham, right?"
"Anne, please. And if I were you, I wouldn't take any offense to Murphy's silence." Anne glanced at the man. "As I haven't seen or heard from him in a year and am dying to hear how he's been, and... I don't think he's even noticed I'm in the building yet."
"Okay, I like you too," Heather laughed as Murphy turned to them in startlement. "Let me help you over to a chair, it doesn't look like you should be walking on that leg..."
Yeah, just ignore that slowly dying cultist in the background. Not like this is the first time that's happened to him. He's used to it by now, really. Hell, he's probably unconscious anyway, and that's a vast improvement on last time!