Later that afternoon...
Balancing on one of the support beams for the wind-pump, Rex was the first to see the tell-tale cloud of dust from Jensine Damaris' speeder as the vehicle wound its way up the dirt driveway that led to the main house. Due to "technical difficulties" with the speeder – as Bren had put it – the sight of the approaching vehicle greeted Rex several hours after the others been expected back.
After alerting the rest of his brothers and Caith over the comm, Rex began to collect his tools and prepare to clamber down the slender, durasteel structure. Because the top-most portion of the pump was more narrow than the bottom, only one person at a time was able to safely work there, so Jesse had opted to wait below while Rex acted as his "second pair of eyes."
At the sight of the speeder, a thrill of happiness moved through him because it heralded Bren and Iri's return, though even as he carefully made his way down the latticed, metallic sides of the wind-pump, he also felt apprehensive, because of what the doctor might have said. Shortly after the appointment was scheduled to have ended, he'd gotten a message from Brenna indicating that Iri was fine – no anomalies with her aging – but Rex couldn't help his anxiety. How much did the pediatrician know about clones, anyway? How much of his own genetics would find their way into the little girl, and to what extent?
The thought entered his mind again: he should have gone with them.
It was what a father was supposed to do, wasn't it? But each time he thought he had a handle on what that word meant – father – the universe would remind him just how much of a rookie he was at this business. Most of his new roles he'd taken to with aplomb because they were extensions of those he'd held in his old life with the GAR: ranch-hand and provider – in a sense – protector of his new family, and his new charges, like Nova.
But raising a child? Teaching her what she needed to know to be a healthy and happy adult? Hell, he'd only been alive for just over thirteen years, and up until the last six months had only interacted with children a handful of times. What in the void did he know about being a father?
Brenna had tried to ease his mind, saying that no one really knew what they were doing when they first had a kid. Caith, her brother, who had a six year-old son, had said much the same thing.
But Rex couldn't stop the worry from consuming his mind. Every time he looked at Iri and saw his own eyes looking back at him, he was afraid of what his ignorance and his inexperience would do to her, because at the end of the day, the only reason that he was even alive was to serve the whim of a power-hungry Sith Lord, to fight and die in a war that was simply another footnote in the history of the Sith and the Jedi. His life, his very being, was a construct of formerly-held beliefs and empty convictions, none of which were things to raise a child with.
And that, more than anything else, made him think that perhaps it was better if he kept his distance from the little girl, at least until he knew he wouldn't cause her any irreparable damage.
None of these thoughts were pleasant, but he refused to set them aside. Rex was well-aware that he thought a great deal – perhaps too much, sometimes – but Iri's well-being was just too important to not think about; as his boots touched the dirt around the base of the wind-pump, he felt the anxiety again, only this time it was centered less on Iri and more on himself.
She deserves a real father, he thought as he nodded to Jesse, who'd been watching his progress down the wind-pump carefully. Not an ex-soldier suffering an identity crisis.
"Well?" Jesse asked, shading his eyes from the sun with the flat of his hand.
Rex shrugged, his eyes flickering to the direction of the approaching speeder and the little trailer hovering behind it. Most of the Damaris' property was made up of pastures and fields, with the house, barn and collection of sheds placed relatively close together, so it was a short walk from the location of the wind-pump in the main courtyard before the stables to the home itself. "Everything in the rotor shaft looked fine to me, Jess. But I'm not expert on this kind of stuff."
The tattooed clone's face shifted into a scowl, but it wasn't at his brother; the wind-pump had been giving him no end of trouble, but with typical clone efficiency, he was determined to find victory against the machine. "I don't know why it's not generating as much power as it needs to," he mused, hand moving to his chin. "Maybe the pitch of the blades isn't right?"
"Maybe," Rex replied, but he was already making his way back to the main house. "Leave it for today; you can pick it up tomorrow."
He missed his brother's reply, as the speeder was pulling into the gravely driveway that curved before the main house, the repulsors kicking up dust as the vehicle slowed to a halt. As the passengers began to disembark, Rex found his steps growing a little quicker in anticipation, because a part of him – the ex-soldier, ex-captain – never quite believed that the ones he cared about would be safe without him, despite the fact that he wasn't sure they'd be safe with him, either.
Jensine and Kix greeted him as they stepped out of the vehicle and moved towards the house, but his eyes were only for the brown-haired woman who was leaning over the child's speeder-seat in the backseat of the vehicle as she fussed with the buckles that secured the little girl into the chair. As he approached she didn't turn, and he took a breath, feeling very worried all of a sudden.
At the sound of her daughter's exclamation, Brenna did turn, and when her eyes fell on him the knot of anxiety in his chest loosened just a bit. There were smudges of dirt on her cheeks, her jacket was streaked with dust and her hair was messy, but she was smiling at him like there was no one else in the galaxy she wanted to see, and in the back of his mind, behind all of the worries and agitation, he thought: yes, it will be okay, as long as we're together.
"Welcome back," he said as he came to stand at Bren's side; as much as he wanted to take her in his arms, he knew that she had to focus on getting Iri out of the speeder-seat, so he refrained from embracing her as he desired. Instead, he slid his body into modified parade-rest – a habit he figured he'd never be able to get over – and tried to stay out of her way.
For a moment, her smile wavered, but she gave him a nod and then looked back at her daughter. "We're just glad we made it in one piece, aren't we, Iri?" As Brenna pulled the toddler from the seat, Rex noted that the child's eyes were red and puffy, and her face was flushed. When Bren righted herself, she shot Rex a tight smile. "It wasn't exactly a pleasant trip."
"I can tell," Rex replied, feeling his forehead creasing with worry as he studied the child. "Is she okay?"
"Mama mean," Iri said in response, her lips set in a pout. "Mean."
At this, Brenna sighed and hefted Iri on her hip, then indicated the house. "She's cranky and tired, but she's healthy, otherwise." As they began to walk, she gave Rex another look. "Perfectly healthy, in every way."
"The doctor's certain?"
A gust of wind, cooler now that evening was approaching, lifted the loose ends of Brenna's hair around her face as she replied. "Fairly certain, but-"
The pause made Rex's pulse leap with apprehension. He knew it. Iri was aging fast – too fast – and her life would be unnaturally shortened; that, or there was some defect, some issue with clone children that no one had anticipated or prepared for...
But Brenna was speaking again, her voice slightly cautious. "Dr. Bores is aware of Iri's parentage, and would like a sample of your blood to compare to hers, just in case."
"My blood." Rex paused, then nodded a moment later. "You mean her father's blood."
At his words, something shifted on Bren's face, a trace of sorrow, but before he could ask if she was okay it disappeared.
"Kix said it should be alright," she replied, hefting the little girl again. Rex considered taking Iri, but held himself back; she was so little, and he was always worried he'd break something. "Rex, I know you and Tucker aren't the same, but genetically..."
They'd reached the house, and after they'd climbed the steps that led up the front porch, Rex held the old-fashioned swinging door open for her as he spoke. "Genetically we are the same. Kix is right, and I'd be glad to give Iri's doctor a sample if you think it will help."
"It can't hurt to be extra-certain," she replied as they stepped into the interior of the house. As always, Rex found it a little too cluttered here for his tastes, but since he didn't own the place, he didn't think it was his call to comment on the fact that Brenna's mother seemed determined to cover every available surface with bits of tack for the quaggas or other, random bits of ranch-related miscellany.
"No, it can't," he said, bending to move a saddle that had fallen to the floor out of Brenna's path. "You can't take any chances when it comes to Iri's health."
As he hefted the object, Iri's head lifted and she gave Rex a hopeful look. "Rex ride pony?"
Before he could reply, a delicious scent met his nostrils, and his stomach gave a growl; looking up, Rex could see that Caith was checking on something in the oven, Jensine standing behind him while they spoke quietly. Although they owned their own house not terribly far from Jensine's, Caith and his wife, Edme, had chosen to stay on the ranch for a little while, helping out when they could; Rex got the impression that both Caith and Edme loved it out here, so it didn't appear to be much of a hardship, despite the fact that Edme had to commute into the city for her work.
"Welcome back," Caith said, looking up and nodding to Brenna. "Dinner should be ready in about an hour."
"An hour?" Jensine asked, putting her hands on her hips and looking up at her adult son. "We were late...how is it going to take an hour?"
Caith sighed and shook his head, but Rex missed his next words, as Brenna was speaking to Iri. "Just enough time to get you a bath."
"No!" Iri's reply was loud and very firm.
However, Brenna was firm as well, albeit much calmer and quieter. "It's not up for debate, Iri. You need a bath. Come on, I'll make it quick-"
As she made to carry the little girl upstairs, Iri's face scrunched up and she shook her head from side-to-side and screamed. "No! No bath! See ponies!"
"Later," Brenna replied, hefting her daughter and stepping on the bottom step of the stairs, Rex following. "You can visit the quagga after your bath."
The resulting shriek that Iri made was loud and sharp enough to split right through Rex's skull, and for one instant he longed for the sound of blaster-fire, because that noise would have preferable to the wail of the child. It was a sound that he'd heard before, of course, but it shook him a little every time, because Irini sounded like she was being tortured, yet as far as he could tell, nothing was truly wrong. Additionally, Iri's face was bright red, contorted with fury and misery as if this moment, right now, was truly the end of the world, and he couldn't even begin to understand why she felt this way.
But Brenna was calm. She'd continued up the stairs as if nothing was wrong, even though Rex knew there was no way she didn't hear the screaming, and he was struck with the feeling of helplessness again as he followed her up the stairs, to the children's 'fresher. The entire situation was always so far out of his realm of expertise, that he was at a complete loss as to how to handle it. During the first few months of his and his brothers' time on Alderaan, Iri had been remarkably – as Brenna and Caith said – even tempered, but in recent weeks the tantrums had begun to arrive with more frequency, and more force.
He didn't know why. The parenting manuals he'd read said that such a thing happened with kids Iri's age, because they desired more independence but didn't yet have the skills to express how they felt. He supposed that made sense, but it was in a purely academic way that his brain couldn't quantify when faced with the reality of a screeching toddler.
When they arrived in the small room, Iri had not stopped screaming; if anything, the sound had only grown more shrill and horrible, and Rex didn't know how Brenna could be so calm.
"Iri, I know you don't want to take a bath," Brenna said as she set the little girl down on the rug that was spread over the tiled floor. "I know you're tired and upset with me, but it's bath-time right now. When you're all clean, you can visit the quagga, and then we can all get some dinner together. Doesn't that sound nice?"
Suddenly, there was blessed silence. Astonished, Rex watched as Iri's face smoothed even as tears continued to leak out of her eyes. Irini gave a single, despondent sniff, then nodded once, slowly, as if accepting the terms she'd been offered, and he gave a sigh of relief.
Perhaps Bren heard him, for she shot him a glance; again, he saw how tired she was, and he was struck with a desire to do something. Ill-prepared as he was for this role, certain as he was that he was going to somehow do irreparable damage to Iri, he had to help the woman he loved, somehow.
But he was at a loss. However, Brenna made the choice for both of them. "Will you take her to see Nova when we're done here?"
"Of course," he replied at once, quietly relieved she'd asked him, because he hadn't known what he could do. Even though he'd thought that his words would be appreciated, again he noted disappointment within her eyes.
However, before he could ask her about it, she nodded and then looked back at Iri. "What do you think, sweetheart? Would you like to visit Nova with Rex?"
Iri beamed. It was such a change from her earlier, stricken expression that Rex had to smile as well. Sometimes Brenna made it look so easy to make the child happy. As Bren activated the bath and the tub began to fill with warm water, she started to undress the little girl. "I wanted to get on the HoloNet a little bit before dinner," she said as she pulled Iri out of the dusty coveralls the child had been wearing. "Thank you."
"She'll be fine," he said as much to Bren as to himself. "I won't let anything happen to her."
As Bren made to put her daughter in the warm water, she shot him a strange look. "I know, Rex. You'll both be fine."
"Rex, pony!" Iri added, splashing her mother with a dollop of sudsy bath-water.
Brenna's eyes squinted shut as she was pelted with the liquid, but when they opened, she gave Iri a stern look. "That's not nice, Iri."
There were a few moments of quiet, during which Rex debated what he should do; normally he was off with the other clones, doing chores around the ranch, and hadn't been faced with this dilemma too much. Should he remain here? It always felt odd to stand by and watch, but he didn't know the first thing about bathing kids, and he didn't want to get in Brenna's way. Finally he turned and went to the dresser where Bren kept the child's clothing; he selected a few, warm options and brought them back to the 'fresher.
"Here," he said, holding them up. "I got the sweater she likes."
In the middle of rubbing shampoo in Iri's hair, Brenna cast a brief glance his way. "Not that one – she's outgrown it. Try the purple one that Mom got last week."
"She's outgrown it?" Rex looked at the little red sweater in his hand, then back at Iri, whose eyes and mouth were squeezed shut as Brenna carefully washed her hair. "Already?"
Brenna made a noise of amusement. "That's what kids do, Rex. They grow."
Right. Of course. He felt a little annoyed, but did as she'd suggested and returned with the new garment. There was quiet for a moment – well, relative quiet, as Iri had started singing to herself and lightly splashing at the water – then Brenna cleared her throat. "She's growing, but it's at a normal rate, Rex. She's fine. I promise you."
He wanted to believe her. "For now."
"Rex," she said, shaking her head and soaping up Iri's back. "She's fine. Trust me. I've done everything I can do to make certain of it. At some point, you're going to have to accept the fact."
"There are no other children of clones, as far as I know," he replied with a frown. He'd taken to leaning against the sink, watching her and Iri, who was still playing with the water. "Even if the rapid-aging didn't get passed to her, there's no telling what other effects she might feel from the Kaminoan's meddling."
Brenna took a breath and he got the sense that she was trying very hard to keep her voice calm. "Hopefully we'll find out when we compare your blood to Iri's. Until then...there's nothing we can do about it, so it's silly to worry."
At this, she turned to him, her expression apologetic. "Not silly, Rex. It's just...we don't know, so we shouldn't worry unless we have something to worry about. Does that make sense?"
He bit back a flare of apprehension at her words and the accompanying, rising annoyance. Silly. He was not being silly by worrying about the health of her daughter, just like he wasn't being silly by thinking that he could do real harm to the child, unprepared as he was to step into the role of father. Rex exhaled, but found that his arms had crossed before his chest, anyway. He didn't uncross them. "Yeah, it does. I guess."
There was more quiet; he watched as Brenna rinsed off Iri, then removed her from the tub to dry the little girl. As Brenna wrapped Iri in a towel, some of the tiredness had faded from her face and he had to smile as she cooed and tickled Iri's nose with her own before rubbing gently at Iri's blonde hair to dry it, all while murmuring to the little girl.
Iri seemed pleased with the attention, and grinned at her mother as well, though after a moment she looked at Rex and spoke. "Un' Kix pony!"
Rex shot Brenna a perplexed glance, and the brown-haired woman gave him a wan smile as she began to head into the bedroom to dress the child. "At the auction; Kix helped out a little bit while I looked around the fair. He showed Iri some of the other quagga for sale."
"Kix nice," Iri added, clearly pleased with herself, even though she pouted when her mother set her on the bed to dress her.
"Yes, he is," Brenna replied. To Rex, she said: "Mom's really impressed with how you guys have been handling the quagga. She made a point of it to let me know that she thinks you have a knack with them."
"They're easy," Rex said with a shrug. "Simple."
He didn't think about the word when he said it, but he saw at once that it had been the wrong thing to say, for Brenna's mouth grew tight and she blinked rapidly. "I know they are," she said after a moment as she urged Iri to hold still so that she could put her socks on. "I'm glad you've taken to them so well, too."
"Mama...see ponies now?"
Brenna exhaled and smiled down at her daughter, who was sitting on the edge of the bed, looking up at her with a face that suggested she was on her best behavior. Post-bath, in clean clothes, Iri was practically glowing, and Rex couldn't help but smile as well; she really was a beautiful kid, and for a moment he felt it again, the longing for this, but more.
It had never left him, only grown stronger when in the presence of Bren and Iri.
"Will you take her?" Bren asked, getting to her feet with the little girl. Rex hesitated, then nodded and stepped forward; as she was about to pass the little girl over to him, Iri grabbed at Brenna's shirt and pulled.
"No Rex! Stay Mama!"
Rex bit back the feeling of disappointment, and he raised his hands. "If she doesn't want me, I don't have to-"
"Iri, it's okay," Brenna broke in, looking at the little girl, then back at him. "I'm sorry...she's just cranky right now." But before he could respond, Iri tugged at Brenna's shirt again, and a small package fell out of the pocket at the front of the shirt, landing on the floor with a soft dink.
As he bent to retrieve it, Rex heard Brenna's sharp inhale, and immediately felt a sense of warning. It was a small plastic bag, inside of which he could see that something was wrapped in flimsi. "What's this? Something you picked up at the fair?"
He looked at Brenna and frowned at the somewhat guilty look on her face. "Bren?"
She seemed to hesitate, then sighed and held Iri close to her side. "Open it."
Within the tiny bag, wrapped within a piece of thin flimsi, were two slender, silver rings. They were plain bands; one was significantly large than the other and he knew without trying that it would fit his ring-finger. "Wedding rings."
When he met Brenna's eyes, he noted again that she looked guilty. "Yeah. I saw them and...I mean...it was a good deal, and I didn't know if we'd have a chance to look for any...later."
She trailed off and studied him, but his attention had shifted to the pieces of jewelry in his hand. They glinted in the lights of Iri's room, and they were warm from being close to Bren's body for so long. "Later?"
Iri, having grown bored with the conversation of the adults, was starting to squirm with anxiousness in her mother's arms; upon hearing Rex say the word "later," she twisted around and met Brenna's eyes hopefully. "Mama? Iri see ponies now?"
"In a minute, honey," she replied. At the words, Iri's face scrunched up and began to turn bright red, signaling yet another tantrum, so Brenna exhaled and began to rummage through her pocket with one hand. As Rex watched, Bren withdrew her comlink and began speaking. "Kix? Can I ask you a favor?"
The former medic's voice was calm, as it always was. "Sure. What's up?"
Rex saw her eyes flicker to him, but she continued speaking into the comlink. "I need you to come up and take Iri for...a few minutes. She's dying to visit the quagga and I...can't take her, right now."
Kix agreed at once, and Rex felt something inside of him bristle at the idea, though it was not with annoyance at his brother. It should be his job, not Kix's, to take care of the child, and the fact that Bren had even asked his brother to do so struck that part of Rex that was convinced he was simply not cut out for the whole fatherhood thing.
When Bren set her comlink back in her pocket, she took a deep breath and met his eyes, but neither of them said anything. However, he could tell that something between them that had been growing during the past three months was preparing to bubble to the surface, and a part of him thought back to his time in the army, when he'd have to steel himself for a particularly dangerous or unpleasant mission.
It felt like forever before Kix came, but it was probably only a minute or so. The former medic took Iri without a word, though he did shoot Rex a somewhat nervous glance; Rex nodded to his brother, but said nothing.
Conversely, Iri seemed pleased both to see her uncle and to know that she was getting her way, so she giggled happily in Kix's arms. "Iri see ponies!"
"That's right, adi'ka," Kix said as they slipped out of the room and down the stairs. "Hey, you know what? I think they missed you."
After Kix and Iri were out of earshot, Brenna took a deep breath and looked back at Rex. "I want to marry you," she said in an even, controlled voice. "Not right this moment, but one day."
Rather than respond immediately, he glanced back down at the rings. He knew her well enough to have heard what she had not added: If you want to marry me.
Did he want to marry her? It was a simple question whose answer he had once known. He could remember being on the Resolute and thinking that yes, he did want to marry her, he did want to be Iri's father. But that had been before everything had changed, before he'd been shown that his true purpose was little more than that of a blaster; while he knew, rationally, that his value was greater than that of a weapon, it was difficult to have such a stark reality shoved in his face and not question every decision, every thought, he'd ever had.
Right now, Rex had an answer to the question. He just knew it wasn't one that she was going to like.
As she watched him study the rings, Brenna wondered how badly she'd screwed up.
He wasn't supposed to find them; she'd had every intention of putting them in a safe place and bringing the subject up later, when she thought that he was in a more stable place, more comfortable with himself and his new life.
Rex looked up at Brenna again, and shook his head. "Brenna...I can't." Her throat grew tight and her lips parted to reply, but he continued. "It's...not right, not now." He paused, took a breath. "Maybe not ever."
The words struck her with more force than a fist. She blinked once and tried to push away the sudden constriction in her chest, which turned out to be an impossible task as long as she looked at him. "Never?"
Rex's brow furrowed and he glanced back down at the rings in his hand. "I don't know right now, Bren. All I know is that I can't be what you both need...I've only got what, another ten, fifteen years, at most? That's not enough for Iri."
"I don't care about that," she replied, glancing behind her; she debated about sitting on one of the kids' beds, as her legs felt strange and wobbly, but chose to remain standing. "I knew about your lifespan and fell in love with you, anyway, because it doesn't matter to me."
"But it's not fair to her," he said, straightening, his fist closing around the rings. "Irini needs more than I can give. Yes, you knew about my lifespan when we met, but she's an innocent...it isn't right for me to agree to raise her when I know that I won't be around much longer."
As she listened, all of the frustration that she'd tried to keep at bay during the last three months began to ripple to the surface of her mind, and she was hard-pressed to keep her voice calm as she replied. "You're not raising her at all, Rex. You're avoiding raising her; you're avoiding having pretty much anything to do with her unless I ask you outright to take a role in her life."
"That's not true," he replied sharply. "Bren, that's not true and you know it. There have been plenty of times where I've helped you."
She took a breath to steady herself. "It feels like I'm twisting your arm, no matter what. I know you care about her and I know you like being with her, but it feels like you're not letting yourself be as much a part of her life as I need you to be."
A shadow crossed his face, but she could see that he was trying to fight it back. Even so, when he spoke his voice was like granite. "She doesn't need me."
"She does, Rex," Brenna replied quietly. "We both do."
There was a beat of silence while she tried to collect herself again, though she felt more of her calm dissipating. It was upsetting to think that, after what they'd been through, he didn't want to marry her, but it was more so – infinitely more so – to think that he didn't want to even try to make things work with her daughter.
"I've tried to be patient, because I know you've gone through a huge upheaval these last few months," she said at last, fighting back the emotion that threatened to break her voice. "I know that it's been difficult for you and your brothers. And honestly, you can marry me or not; that doesn't matter so much, as long as we're together-"
"What about these?" he broke in, holding up the rings. "Why did you buy them, if it doesn't matter to you?"
Her mouth opened but no sound came out for a long moment; she wanted to look away, but his eyes on her were intense and he refused to break his gaze. Finally she managed to reply. "It was just a spur-of-the moment purchase. It doesn't mean anything."
Rex's hand tightened over the rings again. "That's not true, either."
"Okay," she admitted, closing her eyes, briefly. "It does matter to me. When you say you don't want to marry me, it feels like you're rejecting...not just me, but Iri, too."
"Iri's my whole life," Brenna continued, looking back at him. "She's my everything, and right now it feels like you're using your rapid-aging as an excuse not to get close to her."
His face darkened again and she watched his jaw tighten. "My accelerated-aging is not an excuse for me to shirk my responsibility. It's a valid concern."
"But you can't do anything about it," she pointed out. "So why let it control your life?"
Rex exhaled sharply; the sound was too harsh and bitter to be a laugh, but she got the sense that he felt a dark sense of amusement at her words. "My life has been controlled since well before I took my first breath."
Brenna felt her stomach drop to her knees. "I understand that, Rex, but-"
But his head was shaking again. "No, Bren. You don't." He held out the package with the rings and met her eyes. "Here. You should take these back."
She crossed her arms before her chest and held his gaze, thinking that if she moved – or spoke, for that matter – she would lose her tenuous calm.
"What you're asking of me...it's too much," he added, his own voice growing sharper with each word. "I wasn't made for this. That's what I'm trying to tell you."
"I know," she said after a beat. "But I'm trying to tell you that if you and I are going to continue, you need to be her father. You need to step into that role."
Still clutching the rings, Rex's hand fell to his side as he began shaking his head. "An ultimatum, Brenna? I thought you couldn't raise a child on absolutes. Isn't that what you told Tucker?"
There was ire in his voice, barely controlled, and she felt herself automatically responding in kind. "If you feel that way, does that mean you're going to leave, too?"
For a moment they only stared at each other, then he scowled and dropped the rings on the ground right before he turned away from her and slipped out the door. She listened to his booted steps as he hurried down the stairs, then heard the sound of the door closing behind him as he escaped outside.
Sigh. This was *so* hard to write. I want all my characters to get along, so it's difficult when they fight, even a little bit like this. I'm also wary of making moments like these overly dramatic, as that takes away from the impact. Rex and Bren aren't really the "shouting" type, but they can't always get along, and the argument was meant to be the result of several months of brooding on Rex's part...anyway, let me know what you think. :)
Thank you for reading!
Next time: Rex goes on an impromptu anooba hunt.