MOONGATE Part I: Ancient MoonChapter 1: The Woman in the MoonDisclaimer:
Sailor Moon created by Naoko Takeuchi and owned by Naoko Takeuchi and Kodansha. Stargate is property of MGMSpoilers:
Sailor Moon to the end of the Dreams arc in the manga (that means, for those who only know Sailor Moon from the anime, to roughly the sixth episode of Sailor Moon Stars, although I'm following (mostly) manga continuity). Stargate to early 5th Season.Author note:
I'm going to pick elements from the anime, the live action series and even the musicals and the games to fill holes in the timeline, as well as to try to fit Sailor Moon in Stargate, so be warned about that.Author note 2:
I wish to thank Noxturne90 for betaing the story, Abyssal Daemon, Barret, Seiya and other posters in the Spacebattles thread that I don't remember just now for their contributions.
The Moon'It's no use. Today I am not able to focus in the flow of the time stream.'
Thought Sailor Pluto as she got up from the place where she had been trying to meditate.
She looked around, remembering the last time that she had been in the grounds of the Palace before the fall of the Silver Millenium, and remembered the words of one American astronaut, 'Buzz Aldrin, I think'
, about the Moon.
'Magnificent desolation, indeed'
But it hadn't always been that way. When their people had come to this Galaxy, fleeing from their home, they had made this system the center of their domains. Over time, all the planets in the Solar System would have been colonized, and the first steps had been. She closed her eyes, remembering the marvels of what had truly been a Golden Age. But as the Bard wrote, all good things must come to an end.
And to an end they came.
The first sign of it was to come were the problems in the Golden Kingdom of Earth. There had always been people on Earth who resented that the Moon Kingdom was more advanced, but it wasn't until a minor noblewoman called Beryl become their spokeswoman, that they became more than a nuisance. The fact that Prince Endymion had fallen in love with Princess Serenity, instead of some Earth woman, also played into the fears of people who otherwise would not have given Beryl's faction a second thought.
The Atlantis Council tried to play as a mediator between the factions, but they failed. In the end, Beryl and her followers self-exiled to the North, where she started to call herself Queen Beryl. Other than some eye-rolling and mumbling in Avalon and Elysium for her presumption, it seemed that the peace had been restored on Earth, until the news of the Plague spreading in the Galaxy came to the Solar System.
Nobody knew where the first case had been diagnosed, or rather there had been so many first cases near simultaneously on many worlds over the Galaxy. When the first cases were diagnosed on Earth and the Moon, the Atlantis Council panicked and fled the Galaxy. This news led to unrest and riots, fostered by the agents that Beryl had left behind or recruited, some times against their will, afterwards. When that unrest reached its cusp, the Dark Kingdom struck and destroyed the Golden Kingdom. Some people managed to escape the attack and reach the Moon, and it was then when the Queen heard for the first time the name of Queen Metalia, the infernal power that had been whispering to Beryl's ear for a long time, and was seen as a dark shadow over Beryl's army in the assault to Avalon.
Without real time for the Silver Millenium to prepare, the Dark Kingdom followed with an all-out assault into the Moon, helped by that infernal abomination, the same power that had aided Beryl in her plans. And it was the end of the Silver Millenium.
Shortly afterwards, Uranus, Neptune and herself reunited to discuss what to do, but into doing so they accidentally invoked Sailor Saturn, the Senshi of Ruin and Birth, who had killed everything that remained alive in the Solar System. At least, for the scarce survivors had been a blessing in disguise, giving them a gentle death, instead of a slow, painful death by asphyxia, starvation, or worse.
Afterwards, she had reappeared at the Spacetime door, beginning her lonely vigil that would last for millions of years. Fortunately, she had always been a loner, which was the reason why the Queen chose her to be its guardian. Her loneliness over the aeons had only been interrupted by the infrequent visit of those of her people that had Ascended, ever curious about their past, although they had become more and more stand-offish as time passed. And somehow, after her death stopping time to save the Small Lady and the Princess, she found that she was still there, in the pocket dimension where the Door was placed, as well as outside, reincarnated as Setsuna Meioh.
Her thoughts were interrupted by voices coming from a nearby place, one of the camouflaged observation posts, that were all over the old gardens. When she looked there she saw two people, standing with their backs to her, wearing some kind of uniform. They seemed transfixed looking at the Earth, which was full at that time. She approached in silence, noticing the flag on the uniforms as she got nearer.
'How have those Americans come here?'
thought Pluto, pursing her lips. Objectively she knew that eventually, the remains from the Silver Millenium would be discovered, but she thought that it would be quite in the future, and she couldn't avoid feeling worried. She doubted that Humanity as it was today had the maturity to discover their tech without blowing themselves up, and the underground levels under the Palace included research labs, armories, the old Command Bunker in the lowest level, and...'Of course, the prototype Astria Porta in the first level. That's how they arrived here.'
She thought, mentally slapping herself for having forgotten about it. This also explained something that she had overheard as Setsuna Meioh, the physics student, before her awakening 'Yes, that would explain the American government sudden interest in wormhole experts a few years ago, they probably found the Atlantis Porta back then.'
Unfortunately, she was so focused in the two women that she stepped on a small stone, without noticing, losing her footing and falling on one knee. Worse still, the noise had attracted the attention of both women.
When Mason turned, her eyes were still adapted to the light and only saw a crouched figure with a long staff, seemingly pointed towards them. She reacted on instinct, emptying the clip on the figure, before throwing herself to the ground.
Against a normal human, or even a run-of-the-mill Jaffa, that would have been all. But the Senshi reflexes were much quicker than that, and the first bullet was barely clearing the mouth of the barrel of the P-90 when Pluto summoned a garnet colored barrier without uttering a word.
Karen was slower reacting than her friend, so her sight had already returned by the point she had her weapon trained in the figure, and saw a tall, dark-skinned woman clad in a white leotard with a black sailor collar, a black miniskirt, a dark garnet ribbon in the chest with a heart shaped brooch, weird looking short sleeves, opera gloves with some weird black thing in the end, and black low-heeled knee-high boots with a white band in the upper side. The metallic staff in her left hand resembled a giant skeleton key, with a garnet colored sphere in the bow. It seemed somewhat familiar to her, but she...'Oh, God. It's her.'
She thought. The uniform was somewhat different from the grainy pictures the she had seen in the boards, but the woman was undoubtedly one of the unknown Senshi that had appeared in the last months. "You're a Sailor Senshi." She blurted out.
"Sailor Pluto, to be precise." Stated the woman in a calm voice, speaking in slightly accented English. "We seem to have started on the wrong footing, though. What with your friend shooting me and that."
Karen didn't answer, as she felt very out of her depth just now. 'I'm a physicist with archeology as a hobby, not a diplomat, for Pete's sake.'
"It seems a show of good will is needed." said Pluto as the barrier deactivated and she dropped the key-staff, and stood there with her arm crossed and waiting.
"Get up, she had lowered the barrier, and dropped the staff." Said Karen, nudging Mason with her feet
The Major complied slowly and carefully, trying to remain under cover until she ascertained the situation. When she saw that the woman wasn't making any aggressive movement, she got up, keeping her weapon trained at her, while she examined the supposed 'Sailor Pluto' in detail. It looked genuine, as she recalled from that images that Karen had shown her in her periodic bouts of fangirlism, but she had always thought that the group of supposed Japanese superheroines were either a hoax or a publicity stunt for some cartoon.
Seeing the expression on her friend's face, Karen rolled up her eyes. Even after she had told how Sailor Moon, and the other Senshi had saved her butt when she was visiting her mother's family in Tokyo, the other people in the SGC remained skeptical about the Senshi existence.
'I suppose that for a lot of people what they don't see in the CNN, or other news network, is not real'
"Look, Karen, I have heard you gushing about the 'Sailor Senshi' enough times to know that you are fan, but how do you know that it's not a shape shifting or telepathic alien messing with your head?" said Mason.
"I think that in that case, Mason, it would have used a Senshi that I would have seen in person, not in grainy pictures, and one that would be more natural to find here, like Sailor Moon
." retorted Karen, glaring at her friend, and Mason glaring back.
Pluto sighed. 'They are worse than Haruka and Michiru'
she thought. "Look, Major, you don't really have reasons to trust me." said Pluto "After all, I sneaked on you, after getting a real shock of having ended on the Moon, and the only word that I'm in the good side is the word of a self-professed fan."
"Hmmmm... You are right. But a point in your favor is that you aren't trying putting the usual 'a god am I' or 'die, unbeliever' crap that we are used to find in our enemies" She said, releasing her grip on her weapon. "I'll give you the benefit of the doubt... by now."
That merited an arched eyebrow as a reaction from Pluto. That sounded decidedly odd...'Just on what did they run out there? Did the Ori start to invade? No, I don't think that Earth forces would be able to disrupt an Ori conquest of the Galaxy, so it has to be something else.'
she thought. 'I need more information.'
"Now, If you don't mind, I'll make a few educated guesses, about how did you arrived here." She cleared her throat and started to speak "Some time ago, your people found a ring of what looked like stone, with strange glyphs. Probably on Antarctica, I'd say."'Shit! How does she know?'
thought Karen, as she was aware of the discovery of the Beta gate. Hell, before getting assigned to a SG team she was in the team that studied its DHD.
Seeing Karen's reaction, Pluto congratulated herself 'It seems that I was right'
She didn't show it, though and continued speaking as if she hadn't noticed
"Upon further study you realized that it wasn't what it seemed and eventually you devised a way to activate it, opening wormholes back and forth. You started to explore using the Astria Porta, probably to get access to alien technology, but you stepped on some toes doing so. Something bad happened during one of those explorations and you accidentally ended here."'Fuck!'
thought Mason. While a very general outline, she had hit most of the important points of the Stargate program. 'Although, why does she think we are using the Beta Gate?.''Astria Porta? That sound like Ancient... it could be simply Latin, though.'
thought Karen 'I wonder...'
"Even if it was true, something that I'm not admitting, by the way, I couldn't discuss it with a foreign national... or anybody who didn't got enough clearance." said Mason
"It's not that, Major " said Pluto, cocking her head "What I'm saying you is that I have a certain knowledge of how to operate the Porta..."
"It's no use, the console is dead..." said Karen, shaking her head
"We'll see." Answered Pluto smiling mysteriously
Tsukino residence. Juuban district, Tokyo
Usagi Small Lady Serenity Tsukino, Crown Princess of Crystal Tokyo, Sailor Senshi in training, and known in the present era as Chibiusa Tsukino (or not so nicely as "the pink spore of doom") couldn't sleep. She deeply missed her family in the future. She missed going to her parents' bed when she was afraid, feeling that reassuring warmth, and sleeping without a care in the world. She missed the Senshi of her time, not that hanging out with them in this time wasn't fun, especially Saturn, but...
She yawned, she really was sleepy, she realized. She really missed mommy and daddy, but she'd settle for the next best thing. She found Usagi sleeping peacefully, with her face softly illuminated by the moonlight. She smiled, remembering how she had found her mother many times the same way, and did the same that she had done many times before. She kissed her in the forehead, where the Moon mark would stand in the future, and quietly, trying not to awaken her, she laid into Usagi's bed, curling just between Usagi's arms.
In her sleep Usagi felt her future daughter and unconsciously hugged her, enveloping the little girl in a warm embrace. Chibiusa smiled, falling asleep without a care in the world.
A NID secret base. Somewhere in the USA
The Colonel stepped out of the lift, returned the salute of the guard, and went toward the lab section where a fifty-ish blonde scientist, the woman who he had handpicked to be the head of the project, was running toward him.
"Colonel Simmons!" said the scientist, slightly out of breath, as her superior got near enough "We didn't expected you this soon."
"I wanted to know the progress of the project, doctor, and if it could be accelerated." Said Simmons curtly. Seeing the quizzical expression in the doctor's face, he added in a low enough voice that only the doctor could heard him "There had been some problematic developments, and we may need your work earlier than we anticipated."
The doctor nodded, understanding that he was referring to the SGC, and guided the colonel to one office, with a big crystal window, from where they could overview the work that they were doing in the lab below. Simmons looked briefly as one technician passed between the equipment with a container full of some kind of pink goop, which seemed to move on its own accord inside the container. His attention returned to the doctor as she coughed to call his attention.
"Let's start with the easier part, doctor. Cybernetic enhancements." Said Simmons "From your last report I understand that the result have been promising."
"Yes, sir. But we seem to have hit a snag. Apparently the type of cybernetics developed by the professor, tend to cause some kind of neural feedback that result in brain damage." Said Walsh "From his notes, apparently he was aware of this, but he was somehow sure that his test subject would not suffer that problem." She added, with a hopeful look in her eyes.
"And you want to get your hands on her, to see what makes her tick." he sighed "Doctor, while I agree those aliens need to be studied, this is not the right time yet. In a couple months, maybe, but just right now is not possible. Let that matter rest for now, doctor."
Recognizing her defeat, she nodded and asked.
"I suppose that the next item are the biological constructs, aren't they?"
"Yes, what have happened with them?" said Simmons "You said that you had hit a wall in your last report, but apparently you seem to have that part of the project underway."
"Oh, that?" she said smiling, and with a small note of pride in her voice "We had a stroke of luck, for a change. As you said, we had hit a wall, but checking old notes, we discovered that he based the biological constructs in his previous genetic research. Once that we knew that, and his obvious lunacy notwithstanding, we were able to work with his notes and what we managed to recover from the destroyed lab, managing to replicate the creation process."
"How advanced is the production process?" asked Simmons
"We have already produced one hundred and twenty specimens already, and we are looking at ways to automate the process, so we could be doing a few hundreds a week." said the doctor, smiling broadly.
"Good work, doctor." Said Simmons and the asked the question that the scientist had been fearing "And the bonding process?"
"That is still a work in progress, and our luck have been worse in that regard." she honestly admitted, though the smile was gone now "Apparently the few successes that the Professor had in a perfect bonding were a matter of luck, rather than any particular process that he used. There are some notes that talked about psychological and physiological preparation of the subjects, but by that point..."
"Yes, I have seen the report." he interrupted her, grimacing as he remembered what had been done by the man's underlings had done to the man that he had send to investigate what have been done with the money that the NID had provided, through cutouts, to the Professor. "Could we use the result of imperfect bonding in any way, at least?"
"In my opinion, they would make excellent cannon fodder, sir." said the doctor, passing her hand through her short hair "They're dumb as a post, but extremely resilient and aggressive. The problem would be to get them not to attack our own people."
"That is our problem, not yours." said the Colonel, who then added "In your opinion, could we use one of the test subjects of the cybernetic implants in the bonding process?"
"It is possible, we speculated that the physiological preparation referred to the cybernetic implants, but according to the notes only one of his experimental subjects needed that process, due to prior injury." said the doctor "It would be worth a try, though."
"I'll leave now, I have to be in Washington in a few hours, doctor Walsh." Said Simmons, going toward the door "I expect a full report in my table tomorrow morning."
"You'll have it, sir." Said the scientist. "I'll include the possible ways that we have devised to automate the production, as well as possible ways to control the imperfect bonding specimens, and if we have it the first result of the bonding in a cybernetically augmented subject... "
Simmons curtly nodded and went through the corridor, leaving Maggie Walsh to her thoughts.'Soon, Souichi, soon."
thought Walsh "You'll be vindicated, as the genius that you were.'
Simmons stepped out of the lift to the decrepit Air Force installations that served as a cover for the NID base. It was a very "black" operation, so, fortunately, not even his superiors knew where this installation was located, and they didn't know, in detail, what was being done here. And, of course, no paper trail anywhere that pointed to this location, or so he hoped. If he had learned something of the Maybourne debacle, was to not leave a paper trail in his more controversial operations.
Once back in his plane, he mentally checked the operations in course, and silently cursed Maybourne. Not many people knew that there were two sides in the NID: the people who, like him, were not afraid to do what was necessary, and the pussies who were. Just now his side was in control of the Agency, but Maybourne's exposure had given weapons to the other side to attempt to wrestle control from his people. Fortunately Maybourne failures hadn't exposed his own operations, although his failure to capture the alien who had followed that blonde bitch through the gate had cost him some points.
'But those Senshi in Japan are going to be a good replacement.'
He chuckled darkly 'Since we started with this project, doctor Walsh had wanted to get her hands on them, for what she calls 'a thorough study'. And if the negotiations with Conrad go ahead, that bitch will follow the same road."Under the Moon Palace.
While they were walking through the corridors of the upper underground level, Pluto's mind was firing all cylinders trying to decide what to do, about the obvious danger that the off-world sojourns of the Americans had unleashed. She knew how the princess would see it, signing in without thinking... No, that wasn't fair to her. She would think about it, but she would do what her heart would dictate, trying to help, while scolding the Americans for having ended in that mess.
And that's why she was wavering. They needed to know more about this operation. Judging by the people that they had here, they were good people, but she knew from bitter experience that good people could do bad things if they though that it was worth it. And she had the uncomfortable feeling that to some people, try to gain access to the power that they wielded would enter that definition.
"Well, here are we, Miss..." Said Mason as they entered the Gate room.
"Pluto, call me Pluto." Said Pluto.
"You know, you are hitting a good deal of the points of the superhero genre. Aloof, mysterious, an obvious alias..." teased Karen, while Mason rolled up her eyes, suppressing ruthlessly a bit of irrational jealously.
Giving her a brief smile, Pluto got ahead of them, a gesture that made Mason train her weapon on her.
"What are you doing?" asked Mason, a bit alarmed
"What I told you earlier, I hope to get the Porta in working order and that way you can be in your way." Said Pluto, very calm. "And while are on this, we can talk."
"I can't..." started to say Mason, but she stopped as Pluto reached the console, and put her hand on it, bringing it back to live.
"How...?" started to say Karen, when all the pieces fit in a big picture "Oh, my God, you are an Ancient!." Said Karen
"Ancient? Hmmm, well I could see how we could have been called that, given that we predate current Humanity by several million years." said Pluto, as she read the error code that the console was giving. She frowned and knelt, opening a hatch on its base "Damn, one of the control crystals is gone. "
Karen looked to Sailor Pluto in awe. Since she started to work in the SGC she had assumed that the Senshi were a group of advanced humans, Hok'tar as the Goauld called them, but seeing that at least one of them was an Ancient make her question how it could be possible.
'Damn, I'm gonna have to pay fifty bucks to Wills.'
thought Karen, her mind going back to the only other fan of the Senshi that she knew on the SGC, a civilian computer specialist with whom she had bet fifty dollars about the nature of the Senshi.
Together, they had sent several memos about contacting them in order to get their help against the Goa'uld, but there hadn't been any answer, probably having been punted into the paper basked by some hidebound bureaucrat. As if sensing her thoughts about her, Sailor Pluto looked back at the Japanese-American scientist.
"I know that you have many questions, but I can't answer them just now." Said Pluto, making an apologetic gesture "I have to consult with my partners, the other Senshi, in this matter." She paused, and sighed again "And we can't call with this Porta, somebody removed one of the control crystals."
"And why don't you give us a ride back on your spaceship?" said Mason, and seeing her expression, she asked "You have an spaceship, right?".
"Because I don't have an spaceship, Major." Said Pluto
"Then how in the hell did you come here?" asked Mason, clearly more than a bit suspicious
"I... teleported here, and unfortunately, I can't carry anybody with me, it's a pretty limited affair." That was not strictly true, but only other Senshis could come with her through her portals. Normal humans couldn't be exposed without protection of the energies that ran through the Time Vortex.
"You teleported here, all by yourself? How does that work?" said Karen, clearly excited about the possibilities before reining herself in "I mean... one moment"
She stopped talking, as an idea had started to take form in her mind. She looked at the crystals and thought about what she knew about them, and concluded that according to what she knew, it was indeed possible. Time to ask for a second opinion from somebody with more hands-on experience with Ancient tech, though.
"Pluto, do you think that we could use the other crystals in the console to make a signal booster for the radio?" said Karen "I think that we could, but I'm not Sam... I mean, I'm just a Physicist whose hobby is Archeology and joined... the program almost by accident, not an multidisciplinary genius who have been playing with alien tech for years."
Pluto looked at the panels, musing about what the young woman had let out about the program, before focusing on what Karen had asked her, remembering what she knew about their old tech.
"I think that it's possible, Doctor Takahashi." She said slowly "But it's going to be difficult, and my field of expertise lies in a different direction."
"We'll never know if we don't try it." Said Karen, as she produced the toolkit that she always carried on her "And we can talk about the Senshi, and about our Project, meanwhile."
"KAREN! What the Hell do you think you are doing?" said Mason, angrily. She was proposing to tell this stranger about one of the most guarded secrets of the U.S.
Karen looked at her with an exasperated expression, and then back to the Senshi.
"If you excuse us a moment, Pluto, I have to talk with my friend here." She said, as she picked Martha by one sleeve and carried her to the corridor.
"I'll be here, and I won't eavesdrop." Said Pluto, suppressing a startled reaction as she felt the timeline in flux again. 'Oh, shit. I have call the others, NOW!'
Keeping an eye on the other women, she sat on the platform where the Gate was placed and activated her communicator silently.
"Pluto here, don't answer, it is not secure." Said Pluto in a voice low enough to not be heard outside the room "Assemble all of the Senshi, including Chibi Moon and Saturn, and use Sailor Teleport to come to the Moon Palace, as soon as you can. If you have heard it, press two times the alarm button." She breathed in relief as the symbols of Uranus, Neptune, and surprisingly Mars appeared, acknowledging the message. "See you." she said and cut communication. 'Now to wait.'
Karen and Mason entered one of the empty rooms in the corridor, and as soon as she entered, leaving the door open to keep an eye on Pluto, while talking in hushed tones.
"Look, Martha, we need all the help that we can get." Said Karen, with a very serious expression "And we are talking about comic-book superhero power level here."
"But how can you be sure that..." started to say Mason, trying to argue her case.
"Martha." Said Karen patiently, "Who was the one that said to me that 'sometimes you got to have faith'?"
Mason, reflexively put her hand on the cross that was hanging from her neck, remembering the circumstances that had made her say that, which made her blush.
"I did." Said Mason, still looking for an argument "But this is different. It's not a matter of heart, it's a matter of..."
"National Security, I know." Said Karen "I'm not an idiot, Martha, clearly I'm not going to tell her everything, only enough to give her an outline of our problems with the Goa'uld, so she will be better disposed to us. And while she is not the leader, I'm pretty sure that Sailor Moon values her advice"
Martha wanted to argue against that, but all the reasons that she could muster...There was one reason that she could use.
"Why don't we wait until we make contact with the SGC to ask permission? I can't shake the feeling that we are very out of our depth"
"Do you think that I don't know that?" said Karen "This is the crap that is usually managed by the SG-1, but they aren't here, we are." she sighed and looked away, before starting to speak again "Look, let's make a deal. I'll tell her some very general things, things that she had probably already realized, and as you have said when we contact the SGC we ask for permission to tell her in more detail."
Martha thought about what Karen had just said and nodded. She was not happy with this, but it was something that she could live with.
"We have a deal." Said Mason "Now, let's go to talk with her."Cheyenne mountain, a few hours later.
Jacob Carter, wearing his Air Force uniform, strode through the corridors of the base. He was thinking about what Major Davies, the officer who had come to collect him in Wright-Patterson, after managing to squeeze a bit more speed from her old Al'kesh hyperdrive, and arriving earlier than planned, had told him. Basically, it had been a briefing about the situation that had made Samantha unable to collect him. After Davies had finished, he considered the unasked question in the briefing and assured Major Davies that if the missing personnel turned to be unable to reach the Stargate, he would use the Al-Kesh to assist any rescue operation that would be mounted.
After a quarter hour walking through the corridors he finally arrived at his destiny, his daughter's lab. He stayed on the doorway, looking as she was checking something in the computer, while taking a glass of water, pretty absorbed in her work. Curious, he tried to see what she was looking in the screen.'Hmm..., it looks like seismic records... odd'
he thought, but decided that it was probably related to the current crisis.
"Sam?" he said, knowing from long experience that she hadn't noticed his entry
Sam looked back, startled, which prompted a smile in his father's face. It was the same expression that she had when she had been eight and had caught her with the hand in the cookie jar.
"Dad!" she exclaimed, smiling and running to hug her father. "I'm sorry for not having been able to go to get you at Patterson, but with all this mess..."
"I understand, kiddo. A few ops went pear-shaped in my time." Said Jacob, grimacing at those memories "In fact..."
A phone ring interrupted him. With an apologetic smile, Sam answered it.
"Major Carter answering...Yes, sir...Wonderful! Where are they?...THE MOON!? How is that fu.. I mean, how is that possible?...Oh...Yes, he is here..." said Carter to the phone and then passed the phone to his father "It's General Hammond, they have found them, we have just received an encrypted radio call from..."
"The Moon, I heard. I suppose that I'm going back to space shortly." Said her father taking the phone, and noticing the Tylenol blister in the table "Hi, George...I have heard...You have my full collaboration in this matter...So when do we take off?"TO BE CONTINUED...