Murphy had been my best friend since I was ten years old. He had helped me through more scrapes than I could remember, and he was the most loyal friend a guy could have.
I had just tried to crush him.
Around me, the other Adapted were trying to mount a defense as I turned to the tenement beside me. I let my vision fan out and looked through dozens of windows, noticing a horror-struck family looking out their window at me. It didn’t really matter how they felt though, I needed their mass. My right arm’s remains merged with my left, extending my reach.
Mizu tried his best to interrupt me, but was too slow. By the time he’d gotten his massive whirlpool to slam into me, my arm had split into a network of tentacles that ripped into the apartment building.
A total of twelve occupants were fished out by the tendrils and yanked towards the edge of the building.
Spectre tried to halt my meal with a flash of lighting but she could only deny me three sources of mass.
The other nine were dragged into my body as if it was some kind of meat grinder. While among the Neklim growths, their bodies were contorted and broken before being fed to my power, rapidly producing more mass.
Seven hundred and thirty kilograms turned into another twenty-two tonnes of Neklim tendrils. From fifteen to thirty-seven.
Even with all their effort to stop me, I was growing faster than they were ripping me apart. And as I felt my power engage without my consent, I felt my tether to reality slip away.
I knew I was a human in the mass of all this Neklim, but I could feel so many other impulses and instinctual relays of information calling out to me. There were so many ‘voices’ for lack of a better term, so many beings I was connected to. It was getting hard to tell where they stopped and where I truly started.
But…did it matter? The more I thought about it, one thing became clear: I needed to feed, I needed to get larger so I could keep fighting these Adapted who would see me dead and buried.
As I inflated, metallic binds ensnared the stump of my right arm, trying to hold back any new growths. On the ground, Razorwire was intently focused on trying to wrap up my arm, essentially spinning a web over the stump to hold back the tide of mass that was trying to expand out.
Agitated, I ripped a chunk of the apartment building free and threw it; he was saved by the kid with the headphones running by, his aura blue now. He seemed to have traded his force field and telekinetic destruction for speed as he whisked Razorwire to safety. No sooner had they cleared the blast radius than another missile slammed into my torso, knocking me back a step.
The helicopter that Interface had possessed had landed on a rooftop not too far away and was still operational.
Reaching back, I grabbed another mound of debris and went to throw it at the chopper, but Spectre blasted my arm with lightning and made my throw go wild, giving Interface the chance to fire off the last rocket into my chest. As soon as that was done, the vehicle powered down, keeping Interface safe from any further harm I might inflict on the contraption.
Finally, Razorwire’s mesh over my stump gave way and growth exploded as a second arm unfurled. With my balance corrected, I stomped forward at Spectre and Mizu, the last two who were really posing any kind of threat.
Something invisible slammed into the side of my leg and made it buckle. Two more impacts drilled into my side and shoved me against the apartment, the building starting to fold under my weight. Expanding my vision, I saw a familiar figure in a crimson suit with a golden mask strutting forward, confident despite the hell around me.
“You’ve gotten a lot bigger kid!” he shouted up at me, “But I think it’s time we call it a day.”
A little voice in the back of my mind chimed in unexpectedly:
Please, Shockwave, get me out of here.
If anyone could do any real damage to me, Shockwave was a damn good candidate. Unlike Beleth, he wasn’t injured, and he could keep me at a much farther range. Despite my size, he was a decided threat to my survival. I lurched forward and took a step towards Shockwave, the ground shaking under me. From the side, Mizu slammed me with a huge blast of water, and Spectre continued to use her mimicry of Shock’s gift to jolt the surface of my suit.
Losing four hundred kilograms didn’t seem so damning now that I had such a vast reserve.
Another step was impeded by Mizu as his immense supply of water slammed into my torso, preventing me from moving forward, from getting quite close enough to reach Shockwave.
Tree roots erupted from the road and wove around my legs, but Kudzu didn’t have enough influence here to do more than add half a second to my step. I ripped forward and Mizu couldn’t hit me fast enough to stop my momentum from building in the direction of Shockwave.
I was over twenty feet tall now, and each step covered an incredible amount of ground. It would only take a few steps for me to reach the man, to crush him against the concrete and add him to my mass.
Except he had been patiently waiting, building a charge in his hands.
I wouldn’t have thought anything could knock me off my feet given how immense I was and Shockwave proved me very wrong. My whole upper body was shoved backwards by a blast strong enough to put a crater in my chest; I couldn’t correct nearly fast enough and fell back, landing with a resounding boom as the ground shook.
As powerful as it was, he didn’t really do much damage. I was built to absorb hits and shrug them off.
“Kudzu, wrap the legs!” Shockwave shouted as he stalked forward, charging his hands as I started sitting up.
Behind me, someone shuffling around; on instinct my arm swiped in that direction and tendrils jammed back into the building, searching for another source of mass to burn.
Shockwave clapped his hands together and a more sharp impact cleaved through the lengths of growth I was probing with. “Mizu, Spectre, light him up!”
Another coating of water followed by another massive dose of electric energy. Trying to get up, another blast from Shockwave knocked my back down. Enraged, I swiped an arm and launched a pair of growths his way and let fly globs of acid at Spectre and Mizu, wanting to buy myself a little space.
As long as he could keep knocking me down, Shockwave could make sure I couldn’t eat.
He needs to win.
I went against that damn voice again and rose, immediately staggering backwards as Shockwave hit me center of mass and crushed another seventy kilograms of mass.
I was hoping the growths I had sent his direction would have forced him to use the next round of blasts he would cultivate, but instead he had help from a bunch of strange monsters and a girl in power armor.
Dragoon and Menagerie had joined the fight against me. It hurt to know my friends had turned on me, but in the end it didn’t matter: everyone was food for me.
Staggering forward, I reached down to crush them, only to be repelled by Shockwave once again. As fast as I could make myself move forward, he could push back. While he wasn’t doing tremendous damage, he was keeping me from moving around and getting new food to keep my massive body fueled. Shockwave was known for being tenacious and being one of those who could wear someone down and purposefully take a war of attrition. He was determined enough and had the stamina to see it through.
My body went to run and didn’t turn around; instead it simply changed which direction the limbs should be moving. I was only given two steps before a leg was blasted out from under me, forcing me down onto all fours.
It was for the best though as being knocked over called attention to a cluster of shoddy apartment buildings. Shockwave would need an extra second to charge up another blast to derail me and then I’d have made it to more food. At a certain point, he would be unable to knock me around, he’d be unable to stop me.
I don’t want that!
As I gained speed, a sudden cold ripped across my arms, actually slowing me down; a lone figure in cobalt colored armor hovered in front of me, one hand glowing red, the other glowing blue.
Clemency. Hero of the people and the patron Adapted of Manda. A Projector who could channel emotional energy like Rat had done in the past. Instead of horrifying mutations though, Clemency could make projectible manifestations of emotions: jealousy became caustic gas, grief turned to a dust that put people to sleep, hope was something akin to a laser, and there were dozens more depending on the scenario. Generally speaking, he could harness of these two emotions at a time.
The red was fire being created by anger from those around me, the cold he had been supplying were powered by despair.
Clemency raised the frosted hand and blasted me with a sheet of debilitating cold, slowing metabolic processes for my outer layer of Neklim to a crawl. But this didn’t just feel like standard cold, but like it was draining the energy from the affected areas.
Like he was inflicting a crippling despondency over a swath of my growths.
Irritated, my other arm swiped forward and was met with a torrent of flame, evaporating the acid I tried to splash him with. His column of flame expanded and covered my arm, suffocating and charring the outer layer of one arm entirely. His hand closed and the flames snuffed out as he flew away, avoiding an entity I had lobbed his way.
As it hit the ground, Dragoon ran forward with her sword and cut into the thing, stunning it for Razorwire to ensnare and pull his network of cords tight. Dragoon took the wires from him and yanked, dicing the entity into chunks that dissolved to dust.
Stepping forward, another sheet of cold slammed into my shoulder and spread halfway across my chest and arm, slowing motor movement and seeming to almost disconnect me from some of the growths there. His other hand lit up and a coating of flame encircled my right leg, devouring dozens of kilograms as the area started to buckle.
And then my adrenaline came back. The arm that had been slowed was suddenly refueled with energy and swiped forward; quick reaction time and his ability to fly kept Clemency free from harm as I stepped forward. But with him out of the way, I spotted another building, likely teeming with terrified occupants. A single step was all I was granted though. Behind me, Shockwave blasted the back of one leg with a more focused sphere of energy that expanded on impact; it literally split my leg in half. While it didn’t die, it did make me fall onto my side, crushing a pair of cars in the process.
Quickly allocating growths around my body, I willed the two tonnes that Shockwave had knocked clear to animate into a pair of single tonne monsters that rushed forward, trying to get a hold of the bastard knocking me around; Parasite and Dragoon got in the way as well as that kid with the headphones, this time with a green aura around him.
An attempt was made to splash them with acid, but Mizu used his whirlpool to catch the globes of caustic compound and disperse it. From above, Clemency blasted down with another sheet of frost, slowly stifling my adrenaline as he layered it across my torso, the life-draining chill trying to permeate to my core.
With a leg reconstituted, I rose to my feet and lumbered forward another four steps before Shockwave blasted out a chunk of my side and sent me reeling. From thirty seven tonnes I had taken a ten percent hit in just a few moments. Too many people were gathered against me, too many people here to deal with any kind of threat I could pose.
All that the others needed to do was keep people out of my reach while Shockwave and Clemency whittled away at my mass. I didn’t have anything left in my storage to feed my existing mass with.
I flicked my arm and sent a quartet of four-hundred kilogram entities with a different and more complicated instruction that simply to devour; these were sent to go bring mass back to me. If I couldn’t break away to get my own food, I’d make my own agents to help me.
“Stop those! He’s trying to get more food!” Dragoon shouted, immediately sure of their purpose. Her cray was a call for Razorwire and Goliath to spring to action.
Enduring the frigid blast from Clemency, I swiped my arm and let fly a volley of acid to interrupt them and let my entities get clear of the band opposing me. Mizu’s wall of water intercepted, but some found a way through and chewed into Goliath’s excess muscle and caused a moment of pause for Dragoon and Rarowire.
Enough time for the strange aberrations to run and seek out mass for me to consume.
Lightning arced down the road and clipped one of the entities I had spawned as Spectre flew closer. Clemency turned and flew after them since he was one of the fastest people present, buying me a moment without being accosted.
Reaching down, I snagged a car and let it fly at the cobalt-clad Projector, forcing him to take evasive maneuvers and spend a few extra seconds to catch up to my entities. Turning the opposite direction, I rounded the corner of a building, trying to get out of Shockwave’s line of sight. I still endured another blast of concussive force to the torso, but I stayed on my feet and managed to pick up some speed and make distance from the pack.
Behind me, Clemency coated the two abberant growths in a sheet of frost, giving time for Razorwire, Dragoon and Goliath to catch up and subdue them, removing any threat of continued havoc. Just as soon as he had left, Clemency took back to the air and began to zip back to me, tireless in his hunt.
Mutation: Vital senses.
I already saw a lot of the world around me, and it suddenly became more detailed. Traces of organic life lit up like a beacon. I could see little trails of scents and organic compounds that came from sources of animal mass as well as a strange sort of thermal imaging that betrayed nearby hiding spots.
Like a Zari hiding in a car beside me, too afraid to get out and try to make it to better cover.
My right arm dropped and engulfed the vehicle, my tendrils smothering and ripping him apart for consumption.
From about thirty tonnes to thirty-four.
Around me I could see traces of people who hadn’t evacuated and were instead hiding, hoping that they wouldn’t be found or caught in the crossfire. People were reluctant to abandon their home, hoping that somehow their presence would deter any negative consequences.
They need to run. They need to get away from me.
Biting cold washed over me as Clemency flew overhead, and a blast fire hit my opposite side, the initial blast of heat burning away nearly two hundred kilograms. I raised an arm to splash him with acid, but he answered with a constant stream of flame that evaporate the acid away as well as another three hundred kilos. Angry, I roared at the persistent Projector, almost surprised at how much damage it seemed to do.
Clemency hadn’t come with something to protect his ears and immediately fell sideways, discombobulated.
While he was vulnerable, I tried to rush forward and crush him, remove the threat to my continued existence; tires squealed as a convertible whipped around the corner with Shockwave standing in the passenger seat, his hands aglow. Both charges hit me in the side and toppled me, a few small shops collapsing under my fall.
“Toolkit, give him the plugs!”
Driving the car was a woman in strangely plain wear for as many costumed Adapted were fighting me. They pulled up beside the dazed Clemency and Toolkit quickly handed him something he slid under his helmet; I attempted to rush forward, but both Spectre and Shockwave blasted me backwards.
My newfound sense of life betrayed a pair of people hiding in a storefront behind me.
Turning, my arm slammed down, crushed the pair of humans and immediately pulling them into my mass of tendrils, dissolving them and adding them to my supply. It was only one-hundred and twenty kilograms of material to burn, only enough to make four tonnes that could sustain for twenty five minutes.
Shifting back to face the main juggernauts, I saw Spectre turn ethereal and lay a hand on Clemency; she shuddered and then took to the air, her hands lightning up with a white energy for one hand and green on the other side. With a shout of exertion, she let fly a radiant chain of energy that wrapped around my legs, squeezing and biting into my limbs as it tried to cinch tighter. From her green tinted hand, a cloud of toxic wind directed itself my way. The originator of the powers added to her assault, coating my legs in depressing chill to reduce their struggle against her power; flames circled around my shoulder and spun in a blazing ring, biting in and weakening the joint.
Shockwave clapped and let a guillotine of kinetic energy rip the limb from my body. While it survived thanks to my mutation, they had removed the limb I could use to break the chains with.
Dumping all the adrenaline I had stored, I pushed through the crippling chill that Clemency was inflicting, fighting against the pristine tether from Spectre…which was not easy for her or for me. The Lunatic screamed as she fought to overpower me in my adrenalized state; Spectre heaved on the chain animated from the emotion of terror, fighting as I relocated mass to add to the struggle.
Nearly a full tonne of mass was shredded against the unrelenting fetters, but they eventually broke and she had to catch her breath, landing atop a four story office building.
“Mizu, douse him!”
The Projector obeyed Shockwave’s demand and doused me in water, exacerbating the chill as Clemency coated me in a layer of his crippling frost, slowing me dramatically as I tried to grab my arm and reintegrate it to my body. There was a cry as Clemency braced his arm, heaping more cold against me, literally freezing several layers of growth.
From the passenger seat of the convertible, Shockwave let fly another blast of kinetic force, shattering nearly two tonnes of brittle mass. The force knocked me onto my side, but not before I could finally get a hold of my arm and pull it back into my body. As it integrated, it brought with it much needed heat for my frozen tissues.
I pushed myself up, hardly noticing the roots that Kudzu tried to snare me with, taking advantage of the moment between barrages to seek out more stragglers nearby.
The people who had been near me were gone now, all quickly being shepherded away by other Adapted whose power would demand they get too close to me. People like Parasite, Goliath, and Siphon were clearing the area out, ensuring that I would be deprived of food. Someone had figured out that I could sense anyone nearby. If I was going to get any more mass to weather the storm, I needed to get myself away from them entirely.
I would have to wait for my next surge of adrenaline though. As it stood, I could barely move with the intense chill that Clemency and Mizu and inflicted, Shockwave was waiting to blast my legs out from under me again if I bolted, and if Spectre caught me in another terror chain, there was no way I was breaking free without the extra burst of speed.
Instead, I opted to reach forward and rip a section of building free, flinging it at Clemency to drive him back; Shockwave retaliated and blasted off the end of my arm, demolishing where my hand was and scattering the tendrils to the wind. Above me, Clemency retaliated with his flames of anger burning away at the stump that Shockwave had left.
A new chain of energy snaked out from Spectre’s hand and wrapped around my arms, cinching down and dragging my limbs down. To cause confusion, I let much of the mass from my arm fall free, making eight half-tonne soldiers with the command to obtain food for me. Even though other civilians had been evacuated and pulled away from me, there was still more I could find before the growths starved. While there were plenty of other Adapted present to help fight my new entities, having eight of them running different directions helped remove some of the supporting members.
Spectre heaved against the chain, tugging me backwards while the original owner of her power continued to ice my legs, undoubtedly planning for my attempt to flee with the next surge of adrenaline I was granted.
As it came on and I pulled against the chain, the Lunatic anchoring me pulled back, the fetter of pure energy cutting into my chest. Shockwave blasted my brittle legs out from under me, and Clemency added his furious flame to her tether, seeming to bolster its hold over me.
Shifting my contents around, I let the chain slice clean through me.
Spectre threw herself backwards, caught off guard by the sudden lack of resistance while I created new legs. Clemency’s chill was offset enough by my adrenaline and Shockwave had already expended his potent charge, giving me enough time to create legs and run. Mid stride, I swept up a car and threw it back at Shockwave and Toolkit, clipping the back end of their vehicle and buying myself a moment where they weren’t mobile.
Though it had cost me a huge chunk of mass, I was free and had enough speed to escape their oppressive influence, if only for a moment.
Even though I was only twenty tonnes now, I kept myself massively tall to maintain my speed, sacrificing much of the protection for my core. All that mattered now was I obtain more material to consume.
Ahead of me, life signs from a massive run-down apartment complex. Three six story buildings filled to the brim with grim survivors of the harsh Ciel environment. They had seen Adapted fights rage on and they wouldn’t be shaken from their home by this one. I was grateful to the Zari and their stubborn nature; it would allow me to survive.
Right before I could reach the side of the build, right before I could begin carving out the walls and consuming them for the mass I so desperately needed, something grabbed my legs.
Tree roots. Kudzu wasn’t anywhere close to me, and I’d run several hundred meters with my adrenalized speed pushing me through the infuriating chill that Clemency was using to keep me from getting too far away. I pulled but found the roots expanding, way faster than anything Kudzu was possible capable of.
“That’s enough, Eldritch,” a soft voice said from beside my foot. It was a little girl who had the voice of a teenager and her feet seemed merged with the mass of roots that was expanding up the side of my leg. In less than three seconds it had encased a leg and was starting to literally grow into my torso, like it was trying to fish my heart out.
Free me. Please. Get me out!
I dumped every last bit of acid through my outer layer to burn away the hold it was getting, buying myself another step closed to the veritable buffet, but more growth snaked up and seized my left arm and leg, anchoring me.
Who the hell was this person? How had I never heard of someone this strong before?
The wood began twisting around my arm, crushing the tendrils beneath; to preserve what I could, I relocated the mass to my right arm and did my damndest to reach, just short of the building and much needed food to keep fighting against someone so strong. I fought to take another step, but the girl herself dissolved into another source of this rampant growth that seemed to almost erupt from the ground.
Unlike Kudzu’s attempts to ensnare me, whoever this was could hold me in place. Three limbs were anchored and Clemency rejoined the conflict, using both hands to burn through my shoulder, aiming to remove what was left of my reach. If he succeeded, I would die. That would be it. I lacked the adrenaline to toil, and the acid had only eaten through some of the wood growing around me; whoever my assailant was had simply produced more to supplement.
I stretched my arm out at the building, not quite able to reach.
Drawing my arm back like a piston, I shot it forward and let my hand split apart and stretch, sending dozens of tendrils into the side of the slum, all seeking whatever mass they could sink their teeth into. True to form, several people had to watch from their window and were easy to grab, three of them instantly dying from the hardened tendrils turning them into a pin cushion. Other growths sought out someone who thought they could hide from my vital sense and yanked them back to the mass of frenzied tentacles that composed my hand; four more people were reduced to shreds in that meat grinder.
“Shockwave, break the arm!” Clemency shouted.
The Projector clapped and a kinetic guillotine severed the end of my arm…but he hadn’t stopped me fast enough. I’d still managed to add seven people to my mass; all that needed to happen was for the food to be absorbed into my system. After that, my core would do the rest.
With six-hundred kilos burned, my body began shifting and growing despite the prison of wood. Twenty new tonnes of growth sought escape and fought against my incarceration; a surge of adrenaline and another dump of acid against the snares made them give way, releasing my reforged left arm. Swiping down, I smashed the mess of roots that held my right leg and took a step closer to the building.
Spectre tried to wrap a chain around my right arm, but she couldn’t hold me with the adrenaline flowing. My right arm shot forward and found new victims, my mess of tendrils almost acting like a shotgun blast against the side of the building. Another eight individuals had failed to run fast enough and were caught up in the mess of grasping tentacles that pulled them into their doom.
Six-hundred and fifty kilograms turned to another twenty tonnes of Neklim muscle. Where I hadn’t been able to fight the hold of whoever this plant-based Adapted was, I ripped through her attempts to anchor me as I continued to swell with new life. Clemency did his best to burn a hole straight into my chest, but he was forced away as I threw chunks of the building I had ransacked. Spectre let fly another cloud of fumes and then I saw her land on a roof, gasping for air.
She had been fighting me non-stop since this had all started, and she’d borrowed multiple powers to do it. As powerful as her gift might have made her, she had limitations.
Towering at nearly thirty feet tall now, she wasn’t even able to look down on me.
A hand swiped down to crush her and add her to the stockpile, but a figure clad in red and grey scooped her up and leapt away, the building caving behind him as he turned to face me.
“We’ll get you out of there Nick, don’t you worry! Help is coming!”
I roared and swiped apart the rest of the building, my elastic appendages now tough enough to reduce the brick and stone to rubble with ease. Parasite launched himself away with Spectre in hand. Gripping a handful of debris, I raised my arm to fling them and instead had a combination of heat and concussive force blast the end of my hand off my body.
Shockwave was still in the car with Toolkit, Clemency was still flying around me, and whoever the person was controlling the tree was collecting more of the twisted roots to try and restrain me.
Clemency was quick to dodge the first spray of acid as the tree burst forward in an avalanche of living wood. I raised my arms and it met my hands before growing beyond them. It wasn’t bound by the same rules of retaining shape like most things were. From behind it, I could hear that girl yelling at Shockwave and Clemency. “Get out of here!”
As if I would let them escape after what they had put me through.
Acid seeped through the surface of my outer layer and a new hit of adrenaline surged through my body as I dug into the tree and heaved; an ear splitting groan and subsequent tear of wood boomed over the evacuated precinct as I pulled half of the growths apart and tossed it to the side. Without a connection to its source, the gnarled mess turned to dust and blew away.
Car wheels screeched as Toolkit hit the gas; a barrage of building debris ruined their vehicle and saw a brick slam into Shockwave’s chest, throwing him into the backseat in a heap. I moved to follow up, but a sheet of frost slowed me down and drew my attention to the ever obnoxious Clemency and his chilling touch. I swiped again and let acid fly, but this time while utilizing the elasticity of my limbs to slingshot the caustic compound.
He cried out and his flying almost seemed to go haywire as he crashed into a single story rooftop and skidded to a halt, multiple points of contact letting the acid chew into him.
For a moment, simply looking up at his doom looming over him distracted him from the pain he was enduring. As my hand came down to crush him and add him to my food supply, a network of roots sprang forth and intercepted my arm.
The suggestion didn’t need repeating and the Projector in cobalt armor took flight as quickly as he could, shaken.
Behind me, I saw Toolkit dragging Shockwave to another car and quickly hotwiring it with some little device. Refusing to let my adversary go, I tried to throw another splash of acid but found a new spire of wood intercepting me, grabbing the center of my arm and constricting, pulling me down to the ground. As I pulled against her, Toolkit got the car running and frantically drove her boss somewhere safe.
Windows shook as I let out a ferocious roar, enraged at being thwarted again by this damnable tree.
Acid weakened the bonds and I ripped through them again, swiping my arms to obliterate the remaining growths of wood. I was tired of this intruder denying me what was rightfully mine.
In a moment of calm, I reached out with my vital sense and probed for life nearby. Despite their best efforts, the Adapted rescue parties hadn’t gotten to every building; a cheap hotel had numerous denizens hiding, hoping that they would go unnoticed if they hunkered down. It was a foolish notion, but not unwelcome.
“Eldritch, no!” I heard shouted by that same girl as a few more paltry attempts were made to stop me, but it seemed she had used what strength she had. Just like the apartment, I swiped my limbs and let the tendrils extend and carve into the building, ensnaring and pulling the two-dozen occupants out and into my arm where they were ground up and devoured, adding to my mass.
I had been fifty-five tonnes before that meal; my size doubled afterward.
Finally, after the toiling, after the gauntlet of Adapted trying to remove me, to starve me and strip me of my mass, I was undisputed and free of their hassle.
I was free to consume and grow as much as I wanted without restraint. I reached out with my vital sense and was agitated to find nothing remaining nearby; the Adapted had actively moved my food away from me, hoping that I would starve.
While an inconvenience, I had given myself an hour of time before the growths began to expire without nutrition. There was plenty of time to find new food and supply myself.
This time as I stalked down the road and deeper into the city of Ciel, no one dared fight me. They had all given up, run away. I had finally become too much for them to handle.
But still, there was a strange nagging at the back of my mind:
Someone, anyone, please…stop me.