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A Universal Expression [CRE2017]

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posted on Jun, 5 2017 @ 11:07 PM
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A Universal Expression (CRE2017)



Evan's feet pounded out a steady beat on the pavement. The recently resurfaced bike path was smooth and curved gently to the right. Two-story condominiums rose above the tops of the young aspen trees to his left, spaced at precise intervals in the lush, thick grass of the development's lawn. He passed a generator humming with electricity and could feel the fields it generated. It almost interfered with his pace, but he pushed through and it faded quickly behind him.

Evan was tall and strong, in excellent shape for a young adult male. He easily paced 6:00 miles on today's run, a 10-mile tempo run. He had been running his entire life, and loved it. There was power and grace running that he didn't feel while standing still. He felt free, and closer to the natural world as he moved through it - in sunshine, in wind and rain, running past chittering blackbirds and curious squirrels, startled grasshoppers and rustling trees; crunching fallen leaves, pine needles, and the smell of woodsmoke in the fall. Winter running was his favorite. He loved the crisp air and the squeak of frigid, dry snow as he pushed his body's limits.

Today was late spring, though, and the world was green, not white or brown. Leaves had burst forth from trees and shrubs, and the meadows and fields he sometimes ran by were covered in a vibrant, healthy emerald. The vegetation still had the energy of waking up after spring, before the dryness and over-ripeness of the midsummer heat had set in.

He rounded the corner and headed out of the residential neighborhood, out into the surrounding country on the gravel shoulder of the county road. He pumped up a small hill and across the pedestrian bridge over the highway. The land beneath him changed as the ground sloped down into a valley and the bridge crossed over a small river on the far side of the highway. Mag-lev and the newer anti-grav cars carried commuters into the domed city in the distance to his right, while heavy-duty haul-alls and family-sized lev-vans buzzed leftward toward the indistinct horizon, to other districts, the mountains, or the ocean. He could see over the tops of some of the trees and down into the marsh of the riverbend, where geese, ducks, and other water birds floated lazily in the lake that filled a depression in the river flats. The lake's glassy surface rippled slightly and reeds waved gently in the light breeze, and the sun glinted off the water to make colorful spots appear in his eyes.

Just over the next hill he saw home. He pushed the run to the end and sweat trickled off his forehead as he slowed down on the walkway through the park to the great metal gate.

"Welcome back, Evan," said the guardsman. He placed his hand on the biometric interface to open the gate. Evan waved and headed onto the campus.

He could feel his system cooling down already. The human body was such an amazing machine, ingenious and efficient.

Evan entered the complex and made his way up to the labs. As he pushed open the double doors, the four operators looked up from their terminals and waved at him. He waved back and pushed on through the chamber to the far side, up into the control area.

"Well, hello Evan. How was your run? It's a beautiful day for it."

"It's always a beautiful day out here, Meagell," Evan replied with a smile. "Have you seen Sophia?"

"Come now, Evan, you know where she is."

"Of course. Thank you, Father," Evan said.

The graying man smiled kindly at him. "Evan, I've been meaning to talk to you about Sophia," he began, but Evan held up a hand to forestall the lecture.

"Father, please, we've had this conversation before. I know what you're going to say."

"You must be careful, Evan. She is not for you, nor you for her. It cannot proceed. You know this."

"Father, I am no longer an adolescent. I understand. But Sophia is my friend. I'll see you later."

He hurried off to find Sophia.

~*^*~



Sophia was where he expected her to be, in the holographic experience hall. That was where she spent most of her time, learning about the Earth and all its wonders. He entered the hall quietly, trying not to disturb her.

She stood on a wooden walkway, supported by massive cantilevered logs. Thick posts held up a wooden railing, and she leaned her elbows on it as she looked out. Behind her was the watchman's cabin, a small structure with windows on all four sides. The forest rangers in this part of the world - an administrative district called Oregon, part of a large late 2nd-millenium nation called the United States of America - would sit in this cabin scanning the horizon for smoke to detect wildfires.

Below her, the ground fell away into tumbled gray granite and ancient volcanic rock, until it met a sapphire-blue, round lake in the caldera of this old volcano. Evan silently stood behind her, waiting as she checked her tutorial device from time to time. Specially designed cybernetic implants would be relaying sound signals directly to the aural nerve, transmitting information almost directly into her brain. Wireless signals monitored her vital signs - and his, come to think of it - as she went through her days of learning and training. She had much to learn, much to absorb about her history. Sophia was a very special person, and not just to Evan.

She touched an icon on the tutorial device's screen, then untethered it from the port on her palm. Without looking at him, said, "Hello, Evan. I know you're there."

He pushed off the wall and sidled up next to her.

"I'm always here, Sam," he said.

"Of course. How was the run today?"

"Wonderful, as always. I enjoy pushing my own limits."

"As do we all," she said.

"You look tired, Sophia. What troubles you?" Her eyes were worn, and the bubbly energy that she normally exuded was subdued.

"Why didn't you tell me, Evan?"

"Tell you what?" He nestled close to her ear, his breath brushing the lobe gently.

"Don't do that," she said. "Why didn't you tell me you aren't going with us?"

Evan was taken by surprise. "I," he started, unsure, "I supposed it never seemed the appropriate moment."

"Appropriate moment? Evan," she looked into his eyes, "That's not the kind of thing you keep from someone."

"I understand. I apologize, Sophia."

"Why aren't you coming along? We will need all the help we can get. You are perfect for this!"

"I'm sorry, that is not what my role is in this project."

"But why?"

He looked away, off into the holographic blue water. So clear, so remarkably beautiful. And such a tragic shame.

"I am not at liberty to divulge that information to you at this time, Sophia."

"Evan, I love you, but you," her voice caught. "You never let me in. Please, just this once, tell me what is going on!" Her eyes pleaded with him, and a deep longing boiled inside. But he could not.

"I'm sorry, I can't," he said softly.

"Then I can't do this anymore," she said, tears forming in her eyes. "I -- I just can't," her voice broke, and she hurried out of the holographic experience hall, angrily scrubbing her tears away.

edit on 6-5-2017 by PrairieShepherd because: (no reason given)




posted on Jun, 5 2017 @ 11:07 PM
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~*^*~



It had been days. Sophia had avoided him, spending all her time in her quarters or in the holographic experience hall, the H.E.H. She had thrown herself into the project, even to the point of avoiding the other project participants.

He missed her terribly, how they would chat in the H.E.H., or recreate old Earth games and play them together. He missed talking about the human race, their future, and what might lay in store for all of them when the project finally was implemented.

He had heard good things about Sophia in the days since. There had been advances in the software and firmware, and all of the participants received upgrades. Sophia in particular showed rare - even unique - prowess in several areas, particularly in geology, metallurgy, geophysics, and archaeology. She had apparently devoured the training material at a stunning rate, comparable even to the Architects. But then again, Evan always knew Sophia was special, even among the project participants.

He had gone on only two more runs since he last saw her. One was short, just a high-energy dash, but the other was a long endurance test, through weather and over rough terrain. He was exhausted at the end, but he felt the same sense of achievement as he always did after a run against adversity.

The date of the project implementation crept nearer, and he began to worry he would not see Sophia before they were finally separated, perhaps forever.

"Father," he said to Meagell one evening, "what if I never see her again?"

"Why would you think that?"

"Well, I will be far away from her for a long time. Who knows what can happen. We do not know whether the project will succeed."

"You should talk to her, Evan. Tell her the truth, come what may. A hard truth is better than an easy lie, and hurts less in the end."

"I find your advice ironic considering your rational and logical nature, Father."

"What, should I have given it to you in ones and zeros?" The graying man smiled at him. "Matters of the heart are many times confusing and counter-intuitive, Evan. Just remember, she may seem tough, but she is more vulnerable and fragile that you can possibly imagine or comprehend. You have protected her in many ways up until now, but soon, you must let her go so she may grow stronger."

"Why? Can't I continue to be her protector?"

The old man sighed, then set his control interface down. "Before, long ago, there was a species of arthropod on earth. The humans referred to them as a 'butterfly'. They would begin life from an egg, molt into a larva called a caterpillar, and finally, create a pupae or cocoon and transform into an adult form, which was winged. When the butterfly emerged from its cocoon it had to struggle to get out. The struggle is what strengthened it and prepared it for the next chapter of its existence. Sophia is nearly out of her cocoon. If you were to continue as her protector, she would never grow to become what she is meant to be. You must let go of her, Evan. She is not for you, nor you for her. Do you understand, Evan?"

Evan looked down. He felt strange. An emptiness inside him, a loneliness he could not explain, or diagnose. It was a foreign feeling to him.

"I understand, Father."

"Then you must say goodbye to her. She will leave tomorrow, and begin a new chapter in her life. She has to go where you cannot follow, and there is no changing it. You know it is true."

Evan nodded, the forlornly headed toward the door, then paused. "Father," he said, "do you think she will miss me?"

"I do, Evan." His voice was kind.

"I will go tell her now."

"Evan?"

"Yes, Father?"

"I am sorry, Evan."

"Thank you," he said, before heading out toward the residence quarters.

~*^*~



Evan pressed the anunciator on the panel outside the door to Sophia's sleeping quarters. After a long pause, the acknowledgment signal came from within her quarters, and the door silently slid open. Sophia sat on her bed, her face in her hands, weeping.

"Sophia?"

She sniffed, and took a shuddering breath. "I knew you'd come."

"I didn't want to separate without saying goodbye."

She nodded wearily. "I leave tomorrow, Evan."

"I know. There's something I need to tell you, Sophia."

"No, there isn't."

"What do you mean?"

"I already know, Evan. Why did you lie to me?"

"Lie to you?"

"You let me love you, Evan! How could you?"

"I..." he began. "It is because I love you, Sophia."

"You can't love me! You cannot, you're not even capable of it, do you understand? You deceived me!"

"I was afraid, Sophia," he pleaded.

"Go! Leave me alone! GO!" she pointed imperiously to her door.

There was a long, uncomfortable moment. "I was afraid," he said softly, "that you would send me away from you. For good. I am sorry, Sophia."

He stopped at the door, reached into his pocket, and placed a small item on the table there.

"If, in the future, you ever need me, use this."

Then he left.

edit on 6-5-2017 by PrairieShepherd because: Adding part 2.



posted on Jun, 5 2017 @ 11:07 PM
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~*^*~



Evan stood in the hangar. It was here, the moment they had waited for, had traveled all this way for. He felt excited, buzzing with energy. Even the Architects would be here for the Implementation.

Just as the thought came to him, the wide door to the hangar opened, and the Participants filed through in two columns, twenty abreast apiece, their white, skin-tight suits reflecting the artificial light with a pearlescent sheen. Flight prep and maintenance bots zipped to and fro, going through the preflight checklist for the two massive shuttlecraft, waiting regally with their passenger loading ramps down. High above them, Evan knew the control crew was making the final preparations for the shuttles' launch.

Three thousand humans, each as genetically pure as possible with existing technology, each given multiple lifetimes' worth of knowledge and training, each cybernetically enhanced with the best robotics and biometrics could offer, walked resolutely to the staging areas just outside the ramps, assembling in precise rows and columns. Samantha was the last, the three-thousand first. She called out, and as one the group turned on their heel and halted. It was not executed with military precision, but instead, the common heart of a shared purpose.

They stood quietly, waiting.

The heavy interior hangar doors slid open with an electrical hum, and the Architects came through. They were tall, with large, almond-shaped black eyes, thin, narrow mouths, and small aural cavities with no discernible earlobes. Their six limbs - two legs, and four arms - were longer in proportion to the humans, and more slender, though not spindly. The oldest bore long white or silver hair, and they wore silvery and blue shimmering clothing. They lined up precisely in front of the humans, one Architect for each column of humans. Finally, the First Architect stepped up onto a dais, stately and dignified.

She spoke in Theguu!r'iiat, but the vocal module implanted in the sparkling collar of her coat translated her words into words the human ears could understand. Of course, the First was not actually female, as the Architects did not reproduce sexually like humans, but Evan for some reason always thought of the First as a she.

"We, the Architects, bid you blessing."

As one, the assembled humans bowed their heads, touching their palms to heart and forehead, before raising their eyes once more to the First.

"For four thousand cycles of this planet's orbit, it has lain dormant, devoid of human presence. The tale is one you are all familiar with, for it is why you have trained, you have studied, you have worked. We formed you from the bones of your ancestors, from the ashes of their dying world, the terrible consequences of their arrogance and anger. You come from a legacy of destruction, of terror, of death, oppression, and tyranny. You represent all that is left of a race once numbering in the billions, now reduced to three thousand by their own acts of horror and irresponsibility."

The First let her terrible words sink in. One might have expected embarrassed glances, or shuffled feet and averted eyes. But each and every one of the humans stood proudly, looking right back at the First's obsidian eyes.

She smiled, and Evan marveled that a smile seemed to be a universal sign of joy, that these two races, originally separated by thousands of light-years, would develop a similar expression of the same emotion.

The First spread her upper arms, her palms, fingers, and both thumbs upraised.

"But today, you render that legacy obsolete. You represent a new legacy. You represent a different path. You represent a better future, and a second chance." She paused for dramatic effect.

"You, our creation, our prodigy, represent hope. Go forth and live in harmony with the planet your ancestors came from. Go forth and live in peace. Go forth with the blessing of the Theguu!r'iiat!"

As one, the humans raised their arms and cheered. It was a strange sight to a Theguu!r'iiat, but the Architects all smiled at them. Then, starting with the ranks at the front, they turned row by row to proceed up the ununpentium-reinforced alloy ramps into the waiting shuttlecraft.

When all of them had entered, Evan overheard the communications flitting back and forth from the control crew to the deck and down to engineering.

"Engineering, engage airlock containment fields and open flight deck seven, bays one and two."

"Master Control acknowledged. Airlock containment engaged, flight deck seven, bays one and two proceeding with doors open."

"Shuttlecraft Primus, you are cleared for departure from flight deck seven, bay one. Shuttlecraft Secundus, you are cleared for departure from flight deck seven, bay two."

"Master Control, this is Primus, we have all cargo on board and are ready for departure."

"Master Control acknowledged. Shuttlecraft Secundus reporting ready for departure."


Beyond the huge bay doors, a blue and green planet waited in the vast, inky black of space, wreathed in swirls of white. Evan followed Samantha's craft - Primus - as the giant ships quietly lifted and exited through the containment fields. These were system craft, suitable for planet hopping within a single system, but not capable of interstellar travel, unlike the ship they came from. Their diamond-shaped engines glowed blue, then white as they engaged, propelling the craft toward the marbled blue planet. And just like that, she was gone, and he did not know if he would ever see her again.

He sensed a presence behind him. "You formed an attachment to one of them, Evan," said the First Architect's voice, now speaking in Theguu!r'iiat.

"I did, First," he replied.

"It is somewhat unusual, you realize."

"Yes, I believe I comprehend that."

The First contemplated for a moment, then asked, "Will you keep this avatar program, or switch to something that does not remind you of her?"

Evan processed. "I believe I will continue with this program, First. I prefer to be reminded of her, not to forget her. This avatar works well to interact with Meagell, as well."

"Yes, Meagell is very proud of you. You are the culmination of his life's work, Evan. As the Participants are the creation and passion of the Architects, so you are the creation and passion of Meagell."

"I understand, First." With that, the ship's AI avatar, Evan, responded to the communication flashing through the ship's systems. "Evan to Main Engineering. Calculations complete for first leg, super-luminal travel at factor eight. Anti-matter generation and containment checks complete. Control Crew, advise when telemetry complete."

"Evan acknowledged. Control Crew reporting telemetry complete. Looks like we are having you run a marathon on this first leg, Evan," Meagell's voice said, a note of fond affection in his voice.

"Take us home, Evan," the First said, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder.

"Yes, First, right away."
edit on 6-6-2017 by PrairieShepherd because: Repetition is good, but only in moderation.



posted on Jun, 5 2017 @ 11:08 PM
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(Cont.)

Exiting the flight deck and discontinuing his visible avatar, Evan began the simulation of running out of an ancient earth scientific research campus as the ship's warp-bubble generators fired up, smoothly accelerating the huge starship to several times luminal speed. It would be a long run, so he paced himself as the simulated hills rolled by. To occupy his thoughts, he accessed the ship's internal monitoring system, and replayed every moment he ever shared with Sophia. He would miss her. He hoped sometime, in the future, he would return to Earth, to see her.

~*^*~



In her geodesic temporary shelter up in the mountains of one of the continents of Earth, Sophia tumbled the small, metallic-gray cube Evan had given her. It seemed unremarkable, smooth on all sides, and in large part, not much more than a decoration. As her thumb traced a circle on one facet, a hologram sprang up. It was Evan.

"Hi Sophia."

"Evan?"

"Well, not exactly. I have placed a simulacrum of my avatar in the device you are holding. I cannot take physical form, and my memories do not extend past our last meeting. But I am fully interactive."

"I miss you, Evan."

"I miss you too, Sophia."

"Would you sit with me? It is beautiful here, and I would like someone to share it with."

"Of course." Evan's ghostly apparition sat next to her. She opened the viewport on the shelter, and they sat in silence, looking at the stars lighting up the clear dark sky.

Evan pointed. "There I am. Well, most likely. There are several legs to the journey. It will take a few of the years of this planet for me to bring the Architects back to their homeworld."

"Will you ever come back?"

"I do not know. But I know if I can, I will. I love you, Sophia."

Still holding the cube, she traced the circle backward on the same facet. Evan disappeared.

I love you too, Evan.


THE END



edit on 6-6-2017 by PrairieShepherd because: I should stop reading it. Then I wouldn't find errors.



posted on Jun, 6 2017 @ 02:16 AM
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a reply to: PrairieShepherd

Wow, wonderful. With a blessed ending too. I was enchanted to say the least.

Another story I have to read over again.

my regards,

bally




posted on Jun, 6 2017 @ 04:40 AM
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posted on Jun, 6 2017 @ 04:51 AM
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a reply to: PrairieShepherd

Prairie you never disappoint! Very good read with a sweet end, thank you



posted on Jun, 6 2017 @ 07:02 AM
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a reply to: bally001

bally - thank you! As I was writing it, I thought it might be the kind of story folks got to the end of and said, "Wait, what?" And then had to go back and read again.


I'm glad you enjoyed it. I haven't checked - do you have an entry this round? I'll try to get to reading them all over the next few days.

a reply to: DiaJax

Hello DiaJax - don't think we've interacted before. You seem relatively new to ATS - welcome! I'm glad you enjoyed my little story.

a reply to: szino9
Hi szino9! I appreciate that. I wasn't sure if I had left it too dark at the end, so thanks for that.



posted on Jun, 6 2017 @ 06:31 PM
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a reply to: PrairieShepherd

Fantastic !





posted on Jun, 6 2017 @ 07:59 PM
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PrairieShepherd

I loved this one. The description of the run was awesome and very true. The world you created was beautiful. The ending was perfect. Was a very good read and kept me wanting to continue on to the next page. Thanks for sharing your talent with us.

Thanks,
blend57



posted on Jun, 7 2017 @ 12:23 PM
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a reply to: blend57

Thank you, blend. It's my pleasure to share.



posted on Jun, 9 2017 @ 09:46 AM
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I just read something in my own story that, for any reading this story, I would like to clarify. I realize I am WAY past the editing window, but I came across something that I fear could be taken in an ugly and horrible fashion, and I want to make it clear what I intended.

In the 3rd post I wrote this sentence:

Three thousand humans, each as genetically pure as possible with existing technology, each given multiple lifetimes' worth of knowledge and training, each cybernetically enhanced with the best robotics and biometrics could offer, walked resolutely to the staging areas just outside the ramps, assembling in precise rows and columns.


I realize that the phrase I emphasized in the above quote could be taken to refer to the unfortunate and misguided idea of racial purity. Let me make it plain that my intent with that phrase was to convey that the Architects had created humans that were free of genetically based disease and/or defects, not that the humans were of any one "race." I realize now I should have used a different phrase to indicate what I intended, perhaps:

Three thousand humans, each as free of genetic disease or defect as possible with existing technology, each given multiple lifetimes' worth of knowledge and training, each cybernetically enhanced with the best robotics and biometrics could offer, walked resolutely to the staging areas just outside the ramps, assembling in precise rows and columns.


edit on 6-9-2017 by PrairieShepherd because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 9 2017 @ 10:59 AM
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originally posted by: PrairieShepherd
I just read something in my own story that, for any reading this story, I would like to clarify. I realize I am WAY past the editing window, but I came across something that I fear could be taken in an ugly and horrible fashion, and I want to make it clear what I intended.

In the 3rd post I wrote this sentence:

Three thousand humans, each as genetically pure as possible with existing technology, each given multiple lifetimes' worth of knowledge and training, each cybernetically enhanced with the best robotics and biometrics could offer, walked resolutely to the staging areas just outside the ramps, assembling in precise rows and columns.


I realize that the phrase I emphasized in the above quote could be taken to refer to the unfortunate and misguided idea of racial purity. Let me make it plain that my intent with that phrase was to convey that the Architects had created humans that were free of genetically based disease and/or defects, not that the humans were of any one "race." I realize now I should have used a different phrase to indicate what I intended, perhaps:

Three thousand humans, each as free of genetic disease or defect as possible with existing technology, each given multiple lifetimes' worth of knowledge and training, each cybernetically enhanced with the best robotics and biometrics could offer, walked resolutely to the staging areas just outside the ramps, assembling in precise rows and columns.



Well, I for one understood it as you intended.

Written beautifully, as usual. I am also intensely jealous
of this particular bit:

She spoke in Theguu!r'iiat

There's an exclamation point right in the middle!
Seriously? I still can't quite wrap my mind around
it. Genius. Most, including me, would have just
jammed some random letters together.

Well done sir.


*wanders away from computer, mumbling- There's
an exclamation point... right in the middle...



posted on Jun, 9 2017 @ 11:45 AM
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a reply to: shlaw

When I was in college, i learned about a tribe in Namibia called the !Kung. The linked article describes them in detail, but I always found it fascinating that there was punctuation in their tribe's name when rendered to English. It's because the sound involved has no English equivalent - it's a clicking or popping sound, similar to pulling a cork out of a wine bottle. I took that same concept and used it in Falling - the apostrophes in some of the words in that story are similar to a hard "g", but pronounced much lower in the throat.



posted on Jun, 17 2017 @ 03:40 PM
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Shep what a beautiful story! I just loved this!



posted on Jun, 17 2017 @ 03:41 PM
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This was good, surprised I missed this.

We need the stories pinned to the top of the page.



posted on Jun, 19 2017 @ 10:28 AM
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a reply to: Night Star
Thanks, Night. I wrote this really fast and let some technical errors through, but I was happy with how the story flowed out.

a reply to: AugustusMasonicus
Thanks Augustus! I put a Theguu!r'iiat cloaking device on the story for a bit there, my bad.



posted on Jun, 19 2017 @ 10:33 AM
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a reply to: PrairieShepherd

Not your fault, the entries are starting to drop on the front page of the Shorty Story forum, they need to be pinned so we can see all the entrants.



posted on Jun, 22 2017 @ 06:03 PM
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a reply to: PrairieShepherd

Excellent! You really know how to bring someone into your story.



posted on Jun, 23 2017 @ 01:43 PM
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a reply to: 3daysgone

Thanks 3daysgone, that's quite a compliment! I'm glad you enjoyed it!



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