Welcome To The Harem

Longer Gone by Jintian
Summary: Deslea's rec: "A fascinating Sixth Extinction mid-ep seen through Samantha's eyes. Jintian pulls together the skeletons of Samantha and Kurt and fleshes them out wonderfully. This story has great characterisation, and it satisfied the canon queen, as well!" R, Biogenesis.

This story was originally a remote link at the author's request, and was replaced when that link went down. If you are the author and this story is now available in your preferred layout at another URL, please let us know.

Longer Gone
by Jintian

Archive: Gossamer, XFC, Ephemeral ok. Others, please ask.
Story also at http://www.geocities.com/thedoublehelix/jintian/
Rating: R for situation.
Keywords: Samantha, angst.
Spoilers: Paper Clip, One Son, Biogenesis.
Summary: Mulder gets the last thing he could ever hope to find.

Disclaimer: If you don't know the drill by now, you need to read
some more fanfic.


Shorter lived and longer gone,
Can you figure out?
Have you seen your sister girl?
She's all but blown away.

-- "Pretty Penny," Stone Temple Pilots


Longer Gone
by Jintian


On the morning her plane takes off for the Ivory Coast, I go to see
my brother.

The nurse at the front desk has a list of names, people allowed to
visit the man in room eleven. Mine is not one of them.

I place my hands palm-down on the spotless counter and look the
woman in the eye. "Please," I tell her. "My name is Samantha
Mulder. He's my brother."

She shakes her head, taps the list with her pen. "The only family
member listed for Fox Mulder is his mother." The look she gives
me says, *And you're definitely not her.*

I have to search my head for the words. I never talk to anyone
except for Kurt, really. And only when he expects me to answer.
First I have to swallow around the lump in my throat. "Fox.... Fox
doesn't know I'm alive. But he's been looking for me, and -- "

I know that expression, limited as my experiences are. Disbelief.

"Look, I'm sorry, but the only way you can see him is to contact
his personal physician. You need to get permission from Doctor
Dana Scully to be added to the list."

"But she's just left for Africa."

The nurse shrugs, and the shadow of her sympathy disappears.
"You're out of luck, then."

The automatic door to the psychiatric ward is just past the desk,
but it only opens when she flips a switch on the wall behind her.
The door has one window, and through it I can see the white
corridor stretching away like a beacon of light.

It reminds me of the white place.

I shiver and turn away without saying anything. My brother is on
the other side of that door, but I cannot get in.


Sometimes the urge to be outside becomes unbearable, and at those
times if Kurt is asleep or away, I leave the apartment. I walk the
streets of America's capital, observing scenery and activity, taking
mental notes on a world still new to me.

When I first started exploring, there were occasions I barely
recognized the things I saw. I would stop and stare until my
memory reminded me. It would be something simple, like traffic
lights or parking meters, or someone walking a dog. Once a man
had leaped out of his car to scream at me, because I had crossed
the street at the wrong time. "I could have killed you!" he yelled,
and his face was red and sweaty.

Kurt does not like it when I leave without him. "I wish you
wouldn't go out by yourself," he says. "It's dangerous."

I only look at him.

"You should wait for me, or call one of my brothers."

I say nothing. He sighs and shakes his head.

"I can't lock you in. That would be cruel." His eyes are worried,
his brow furrowed. "But please, you have to be careful."

I always nod, promising. Because Kurt is the only reason I am

Here, instead of the white place.

My memory's timeline becomes cohesive at the moment when,
four months before, he pulled me out of the cold brightness and
into the sound and fury of the world. I had recognized him then
because he was often in the white place, working on me with the
others. He was the only one who would meet my eyes and not
look away.

The night we escaped, I awakened to find him leaning over me. I
thought he was there to start another test, but instead he pulled me
to my feet. He removed my wires and tubes, apologizing when I
winced. Then he took off his white lab coat and shoved my arms
through the sleeves, buttoning it to cover my body.

"I'm trying to help you," he breathed into my ear. "But we have to
hurry. This is our only chance to get away."

*Away?* When he pulled back, I stared at him. His face was pale
and shiny, his cheekbones hollow. And his eyes darted about
before locking with mine.

Did he mean it? Was he telling the truth?

"If you come with me," he said, looking deep into me, "there will
be no more tests."

I opened my mouth, spoke around a throat dry from screaming.

He nodded. "I promise. No more."

He pulled my arm, and I stumbled after him. We ran.

Everything around us was so strange -- metal doors that beeped
and hissed open, the walls a pale blue and hung with unintelligible
signs. They seemed to close in like a trap whenever we stopped to
hide. After spending all of my waking hours in the white place,
where I never saw walls of any kind, I was not used to being in
such bounded spaces.

And then, I was not used to being outside, surrounded by the
darkness that I later recognized as night.

Much later, Kurt explained to me, "I was so scared then. We had
that one window of opportunity, with the Group falling apart and
the leaders all dead. But so many others like us, the workers and
the test subjects, were left behind. We were lucky," he said. "My
brothers have found out the remaining members think we were
terminated by some rebel faction. Do you know what that means?"

I said nothing, watching as he kneeled in front of me. His red hair
caught glints of light.

"It means we're free." He repeated it: "We're free."

Although he had worked so extensively on me in the white place,
for a long time neither Kurt nor his brothers knew my name.

For a long time, I didn't know it either.


When I arrive back at the apartment he is awake, pacing the floor
of the living room. Somehow, he figures out from my expression
and the slump of my shoulders what I have done.

"You went without me?" he asks.

I turn my back in acknowledgement and walk into my room, toeing
off my shoes and unbuttoning my jeans. He follows.

"Why? I thought we agreed to go together."

Jeans down and off, thrown over the rumpled bedspread. My shirt,
pulled over my head.

"Well, did you get in? Did you see him?"

My hands are at the waistband of my panties, ready to remove
them, but I stop. I look up to see Kurt's eyes, so concerned, and I
can't hold that gaze longer than a second. I shake my head, finish
undressing and go into the bathroom.

Kurt stops at the doorway, watching as I turn on the shower and
adjust the water. I like it just barely on the blue side of the
not hot enough to steam the mirror but not cold enough to give me
goosebumps, either. "I'm sorry," he says, and the feeling colors his
voice. "Would you tell me why not?"

I choose my words with a careful breath. "Dana Scully made a list.
She didn't know about me."

Kurt cocks his head, face carved in serious lines. "Can you get
added on?"

I nod.

"Maybe I can help. I have a sample of her writing. It was in the
last file from my brothers."

I shrug, trying not to show my hurt. Even though it must be so
obvious, the pain knifing me in the chest. "I should have just done
like you said. Introduced myself to her."

He studies me. "Why didn't you?"

And I think of Scully then, her small form, her movements so
graceful and efficient. Like those animals on TV, on the wildlife
show. She's a lioness. I have only ever seen her from a distance,
and in the surveillance videos of her with Fox that the other Kurts
had found.

Kurt lowers his head when I don't answer. "Okay," he says. "I'll
think of something to do." He rubs a tired hand on his brow. He is
always tired. Always searching, slipping in and out of the
laboratory where he and his brothers hide their work. Always
chasing something down, some bit of information. I wonder if he
or Dana Scully is better at it. "Don't worry," he says. "You'll see
him soon."

I glance up at him then, but I still don't answer.

He looks like he wants to say something more, but instead he nods,
leaves. Fades from the doorway in that quiet manner he gets from
deep thinking.

I step into the shower, letting the water wash away the morning.


Memory for me is like sunlight over a forest canopy, a brief shine
flickering only when wind parts the leaves and moves the shadows.
I think I have been in the dark of the white place so long that the
light would be blinding all at once.

There are flashes. I remember a clouded beach, sky and gray
ocean blurring through tears. My mother's hands were cool,
soothing as they examined the jellyfish welts on my legs.

Another. My father sitting at his desk with head in hands. I rested
my cheek on the smooth glossy wood, waited until he looked over
at me. "Are you hiding, Daddy?"

He shook his head. "No, Sam Ann, I'm not hiding." And his eyes
were bleary and sad.

Another. Rain trickling down the windows as Fox carefully spread
a deck of cards on the floor. "Watch," he said, and lifted the end.

The entire line flipped over like dominoes, the patterned backs
disappearing to reveal faces and shapes. Then he lifted the other
end, and the patterned backs reappeared, a wave of blue on white.


By the time my shower finishes, a bit of steam streaks the mirror
anyway. I wipe it off with my hand and study my reflection.

I was always naked in the white place, but I never saw my mirror
image there. I do not remember what I looked like as a child, only
that my skin got sunburned in the summer, and that my bathing
suit left white lines.

My skin is all one color now. The mirror is not full-length, but it
rectangular and large enough that I can see my head and torso. I
stare at my breasts, even though I memorized them the first time I
ever saw my body like this. The view from above is different from
the view straight across. When I was eight years old, breasts were
foreign things, soft protruding places on my mother and other
women that I did not have. I run my hands across them now,
palms brushing the nipples and cupping the curved undersides.

I have curves in my hips, too, and in the softness of my belly. My
pubic hair is dark and wet from the shower. Kurt showed me a
video once, to teach me what sexual intercourse was. A man and a
woman, naked in a bed. I had never seen a man without clothes
before. I sat up straight and curious at the sight of his penis,
flushed red and standing out from his body. He had pushed it
between the woman's legs. It had disappeared into her, again and
again, and they had made strange moaning noises that made me
feel warm and queasy.

There is a scar on my abdomen, just below my belly button. I have
others, on the back of my hand and at the crook of my elbow. But
this one is very thin, almost as long as my middle finger. The skin
is white and smooth, hairless. When I asked Kurt about it, he said,
"They did it in the white place. They gave you something, but
very soon after they took it away." He paused, watching me.

I did not let him continue. I do not like to talk with him about the
white place. Kurt says that I should, that I should know why I was
there and what happened to me during the times I was
unconscious. But I...can't. I can only talk about the night we
escaped. Otherwise, I begin to shiver, and then I can't think or
breathe or see anything but the light, the white light....

I shake my head, passing my hand over the scar as if to erase it. I
keep moving, downward, fingering the folds of flesh between my
own legs, and wondering if some man will one day push his penis
into me. It is moist down there. I explore for a moment, mapping
the area through touch alone, but like memorizing my breasts I
have done this before as well. Soon I withdraw my hand and stand
up straight, looking in the mirror.

Sometimes I still do not recognize this face. I will walk the city's
streets, glancing in windows, and stop in surprise at the strange
woman reflected in the glass. It will take me a while to realize the
connection, the fact that we are the same.

My hand, the one that had touched myself below, lifts to the mirror
now. My finger leaves streaks of wetness on the glass. I trace my
eyebrows, the line of my nose. I meet the hazel eyes.

That person is me.



My memories had begun to come back a few days after we left the
white place. The drugs were wearing off, Kurt explained. We had
traveled in the meantime, crossing borders of states. Kurt had told
me their names as we passed, and I ticked each one off on the list
that had suddenly appeared in my memory, fifty names chalked on
an elementary school blackboard.

We arrived in DC, where Kurt located his brothers, rented an
apartment with their help and money. And all the while, I kept
remembering. Flashes, sunlight through the trees.

A month ago, after I had re-learned to read and write and perform
most necessary functions, I had collected enough to illuminate
something. My brother's name: Fox.

Kurt had told me, after doing some research, that Fox had been
searching for me for a long time.

My surfacing memories had started a process. They had begun to
make me *someone*. They provided for me a foundation other
than the white place, where until Kurt woke me there was only
pain and incoherence.

The fact that Fox had been looking for me only solidified that
foundation. I had knowledge that the entire time I was lost in the
white place, someone had *wanted* me. Someone who was my
family and who had never doubted I might be found. I knew that
he, more than anyone, could tell me the history of the person in the

There was the issue of Dana Scully, my brother's partner. The
Kurts had told me she was the most important presence in his life,
although I knew from reading their files that they were not
married, or having sexual intercourse, or doing anything other than
working together.

She had been abducted by the Group as well, at a far older age than
eight years. I even knew a little of what had been done to her,
because Kurt had explained the procedures he was familiar with.
But when I looked at her, whether on video or photographic paper
or in the distant flesh, I saw only one thing. Three months.

Three months, compared to over twenty-five years. She had been
returned to her self and her life before she could lose any of it.

Kurt had advised me to be cautious and wait until we knew more
about my brother and his partner, but in the end I waited too long.
A few days ago, Fox had a mental breakdown and was committed
to a psychiatric hospital. Before leaving for Africa, she had moved
him to a facility of her own choosing.

And now, her list of names is keeping me from him.

I do not know what I feel towards Dana Scully.


Over lunch Kurt outlines his plan. "I'll forge a letter in her
handwriting, use her signature." He looks at me. "It will be less
credible if we write it saying you're his long lost sister. I think
should just say we're cousins or something, pose as husband and

I nod understanding, but there is that knife in my chest again.

He shakes his head slightly. "Are you sure you don't want to wait?
He may be released when she comes back, and we won't need to
do all of this. It might be safer for us anyway if we had Dana
Scully's protection, in case the Group finds out we're alive."

He knows my answer. "I've waited long enough." I give him a
pointed look. "And so has Fox."

I take a sip of iced tea, feeling the cool bitter slide down my

Kurt is still looking at me. "You'll probably only be able to do
once. She'll have reached Africa by the time I get the letter made,
and she'll be in contact with the hospital. She'll find out we were
added to the list, and she'll tell them not to let us in anymore."

I nod. So much power, to say who may or may not enter my
brother's life.

Kurt does not often touch me. He knows I don't like it, that I shy
away from physical contact. But now he lays a gentle, tentative
finger on my wrist. "You understand. Just once. Otherwise we
might get in trouble. We'll have to wait for her to come back and
introduce ourselves if you want more contact."

I look at the table, at my tea. Take another sip to avoid meeting

He taps the finger on my wrist, a fleeting pressure on the fragile
skin there. "She's only doing it to keep him from harm."

"I wouldn't harm him," I say to the floor. "I'm his sister."

He removes his hand, sighing. "I know that."


There were no dreams in the white place. When I began to have
them I had to ask Kurt what they were, and then I remembered. I
dream different things now from the mysteries of my childhood.
Now, I dream only memories. Sometimes they make me afraid to
go back to sleep, like when I dream of the light or the pain or the
men who worked on me.

But unlike the others, this memory is a good one.

My mother's hands stroke through my hair, untangling the strands.
She separates three parts for a braid, saying, "Little girls should
always have long hair."

I do not agree. When the waves knock me down my hair falls out
of arrangement and I always end up with knots, sand and salt.

The dusk breeze whispers through the open back doorway of the
house in Quonochontaug. Fox lies sprawled on the davenport,
asleep with a book open on his chest. Dad is somewhere, a
business trip maybe. My mother hums as she braids my hair, still
wet from my bath.

Something lands on my hand, and I look down. It is a ladybug.
The red shell is rounded and shiny, spotted with black dots. I lift
my hand for my mother to inspect over my shoulder.

She counts the spots out loud. "This ladybug is six years old."

"Younger than me," I say.

There is a rhyme I know from nursery school, a rhyme with my
middle name. I say it out loud for her in the wash of sunset
through the windows. My voice is high and clear.

"Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home. Your house is on fire, your
children all gone."

My mother clucks her tongue, yanking gently on my braid.

I think a moment, remembering. "All except one, and that's little
Ann, and she has crept under the warming pan."

Mom half-laughs. "My Sam Ann," she says, fingers counting the
coils of my hair.


Six in the morning, the day we have planned to see my brother.

I am an early riser, and after spending a night sleeping in my dark
bedroom, I want nothing more than to be out in the sun. Out in the
air where there is a sky flushed with color. Where there are
people, buildings, cars. Noise and motion.

I dress in a hurry and tiptoe past Kurt's closed door. He always
sleeps until the last possible moment.

The letter is on the kitchen table. The emblem at the top is from
the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and at the bottom is the all-
important signature. I study the strokes of ink, and the other
papers on the table where Kurt had practiced her handwriting. Her
penmanship is simple, no-nonsense. Graceful and efficient like the
way her body moves.

Kurt will not like it if I go again without him. But I feel -- I
-- that this is something I must do alone. I take the letter and
it inside my purse.

The streets outside are quiet. It is too early yet to go to the
hospital, and I need something to soothe my nerves. I buy a bagel
and coffee at the corner cafe, take them to a window table so I can
watch the neighborhood come awake.

It does so without my influence, just as the world has done
everyday for over three quarters of my life. At least now I am in a
position to observe it happening.

The people pass by on the street outside, unaware of me sitting
here. The sky above them is cloudy, bits of blue peeking out
through the breaks. The life of this city is fascinating, and I
most of my meager breakfast untouched.

When the coffee matches the room temperature I stand, leaving
enough money for a tip. I remember when Kurt first explained that
to me.

For a while I wander the streets with the people on the sidewalks,
trying to control my nervousness. And finally a distant clock at
one of the universities rings eight times over the sound of traffic.
When the chimes stop, I take a breath and make my way toward
the Metro.


Thankfully the nurse at the front desk is a different one from last
time. Like the other, she is doubtful of me, but the word of Doctor
Dana Scully is law for Fox Mulder. At least, the signature is. She
clips the letter to the list of names and flips the switch on the
The door hisses open.

My heels click on the cold tile of the corridor, the numbers beside
the rooms increasing as I walk. This place is not a hospital
exactly, but the smell of disinfectant permeates the air.

Finally I stand just outside number eleven, two vertical slashes on
the sign.

An orderly has already been paged to let me in, and as I approach
he begins to unlock the door. My heartbeat is a thunder crashing in
my chest, and I have to concentrate to breathe. I had not
considered what it would be like, the moment just before stepping

"I'll be right outside if you need me, ma'am," the orderly says, and
for a moment I wonder who he is talking to.

Crossing the threshold feels like entering another era, as if I am
turning a page to a new chapter.

And I'm there. Now.

My brother sits on a thin white cot, head turned away to stare out
the window. He does not move, even as I walk into the room on
nerveless feet, even as the orderly shuts the door behind me.

I try to speak, but my throat is a desert, and I have to clear it.
"Fox," I manage, and then louder, so that it rings against the

And at last he turns around.


As a boy his face had been smooth, of course, unmarked by age or
stubble. That is why it is jarring to see him now, like an almost-
memory not quite right. To see him sitting there, altered by all the
years and events that I was not present for, that I may never know
about except through his own recollections.

Our resemblance is something even I can see. The area around the
eyes, the slope of the cheeks. Nothing obvious, but enough that
recognition is a sledgehammer to the gut.

It's him.

It's really him.


I step closer, legs trembling. My body feels like tissue paper,
insubstantial white squares I have learned to use and throw away
as trash.

Fox does not rise from the cot, but he shivers, and his eyes go
wide. Takes a breath, but does not say anything.

I clear my throat again. Try to swallow. "Fox. Do you recognize

He nods. His face is pale. I remember it being brown from the
New England summers. "Samantha?" he says, in a voice
scratchier than mine.

"Yes," I say. And I am trembling all over, even my words. "I'm
your sister."

I don't know what I expected, in all of my wonderings about what
it might be like. I had not known whether to be frightened or
joyful at the moment I said those words to him. But I know I did
not expect this.

Something flickers across his face, and he starts to shake his head.

"No, no...." He is mumbling, so that I must strain to hear. "I've
been fooled before."


His eyes narrow to dark slits, and now his voice is clear, ringing.
"I know what you are."

"What?" I manage.

"Why don't you just tell me who sent you?"

I look at him through eyes gone wide with shock. What is he
talking about? "No one *sent* me, Fox. I came by myself. I
wanted to see -- "

"See what? See me in the loony bin? See if their goddamn artifact
had finally sent me off the deep end?"

"What are you..."

His words are harsh, coming from a face twisted by anger. "Go
back. Tell them I said to have another group barbecue. And don't
save any leftovers."

I gulp for words. My mind has just begun a long, dizzying tailspin.

He rakes his eyes over me. "Maybe you don't even know. Maybe
there's too many of you now to explain things when you come out
of the test tube."

"Fox, it's me, Sam -- "

"Stop it," he says, and his eyes narrow even further. "Stop lying."

No. He didn't say that. No. "You think I'm.... Fox, no --"

He laughs, a bark like broken glass in my ears. "After all I've been
through? Why the hell did they send you now anyway? I can't do
anything about it from in here."

"Fox, why are you saying -- "

"Don't call me that!" he roars.

I jump, my body almost falling apart with the shock. "Please..." I

And then he leaps up, moving close to me and grabbing my
shoulders. I smell him, sweat and some dark man-scent that Kurt
does not have. His fingers are like clamps of steel digging into
muscle and bone.

"You're not her!" I can see the color of his eyes now, hazel and
familiar through the sunlight flare of memory. His face is red and
sweaty, like the man in the street who yelled at me. The cords of
his throat stand out as he raises his voice even more, and now he is
screaming. "You're not her!"

The cry breaks from my throat. "I am! I'm your sister!"

That only enrages him further. He shakes me, and I feel bones in
my neck making tiny pops with the force of it.

Suddenly there are other arms, circling Fox's neck and shoulders.
Two orderlies, pulling, muscles corded in stark relief. We struggle
back and forth, trying to make him let go.

But he is too strong. "Stop it!" His breath is hot fire on my
"Stop it, stop it, stop it." He is taller than I am, bigger and

There is another flash of memory -- him as a boy, looming over me
because I had wanted to change the channel on TV. *"The
Magician's coming on," he said.*

Even though I feel my throat closing with tears, even though I can
hardly catch a breath through all of the struggling, I force myself
speak. "Why won't you believe me? I remember things, the night
I was taken, you have to believe me Fox -- "

But all of a sudden he lets go of me and clutches his arm. One of
the orderlies darts around him to pull me away. The other holds a
just-depressed needle in his hand, thumb still mashed on the

The sight of that long, gleaming instrument brings back all the
searing light and pain of the white place, and I struggle against the
orderly's grip. No. Not my brother.

"Ma'am," the orderly says, "the tranquilizer will subdue most of his
muscle function, but you should leave -- "

I tune him out, seeing only Fox.

His expression is losing clarity and he stumbles away, backwards.
"Ohgod..." he wheezes. "Fuckfuck*fuck*!"

There is not much space in this room, but even so he veers away
from the cot like some unseeing wanderer, eyes fixed on the floor.
His shoulder hits the wall and he slumps against it, huddling and
unable to stand straight.

*ohplease...my brother*

My breath is hiccupy from tears, and the orderly keeps trying to
pull me away. "Fox..." I sob, "Fox...."

He jerks and slides his head along the wall, moaning. "Please.
Please go away."

Again, I speak. "Why can't you -- " Why can't he realize, why
can't he *see* --

"Stop." He sounds like a child.

And I remember, so many times in the white place I had said the
same thing, over and over. *Stop, stop, stop hurting me...stop....*

I feel my heart caving in on itself, a house of cards crumbling to
the floor.

"Okay," I whisper. "Okay."

He is whimpering in his huddle, breath coming fast and short.
"Scully," he says, "Scully. Scully. Scully."

I shiver, hearing her name. Why is this happening?

My brother moans in answer.

The orderly is still pulling me, and now the one with the needle has
taken my shoulder and is turning me towards the door.

I take one long, last look. Just once, Kurt had said. One chance.

My words are too quiet to carry. "I wish..."

But I don't finish it.


The clouds have dissipated in the sky outside the hospital, leaving
only thin white smears against the blue. The sun is too bright, for
some reason, the streets too busy, and I have to walk with my head

In my mind, Fox repeats, "Please, go away." And then, "Scully.

I stop in the middle of the sidewalk, staring at my reflection in a
store window. People brush past me, go on without a word. Soon
the image begins to blur through my tears.

"He'll get better," I whisper, and a breeze carries my voice away.
"He'll get better and he'll believe me."

But all I want now is to find some place dark and small, hide
myself in there and never come out.

The only place I have to go, of course, is home. So I wish for Kurt
to still be asleep, or in the shower, or out. Anything so that I can
lock myself inside my room, away from other people's eyes.

I do not get what I want. When I arrive back at the apartment,
Kurt is not alone. A man sits at the kitchen table tapping a
cigarette onto the floor. A dark-haired woman sits beside him. All
three swing their gazes to me as I step inside, letting the door shut.

My eyes dart to Kurt's, and I can read the fear there.

The man with the cigarette stands, holding out his other hand.
"Samantha," he says. "It's been a long time."



Notes: Well, I wrote another post-Biogenesis fic. I had originally
intended this as a companion piece to my story Lights Go Out, so I
could show CSM's other pre-Colonization activities. But blame
Samantha -- she felt she wasn't getting enough screen time on the
show, and since my keyboard is just the next step below that (yeah,
right) she conducted a little coup de Jintian.

Thanks to: Bonnie, for an awesome beta despite the email hassles,
for the house of cards, and for doing a math major's duty by
pointing out the all-important difference between 16 and 26.
*sheepish grateful grin*

Feedback is much appreciated, of course. Praise or constructive
criticism accepted with equal amounts of gratitude.