August 26th,4:40 pm
Atrium, The Diamagnet.
As Mikoto took a few deep breaths to calm herself down, the Professor walked into the Atrium looking thoroughly annoyed. Her gaze fell upon Mikoto, and then upon the blown out lights around her.
"What happened?" she asked, scowling. "I thought I asked you to stay within my office?"
"What was the source of that compulsion?" Mikoto asked, ignoring the Professor's question.
"Compulsion?" she asked, confused. Her face then lit up with understanding. "The people clearing field. The mage set up a magical field that directs all the targets away from an area." she said.
"Just how strong is that compulsion?! I almost walked out of here, regardless of the consequences of me revealing my presence to those two" Mikoto snapped, quite deeply shaken.
The Professor's eyebrows shot up. "That you were able to break the compulsion without any prior exposure to it is quite the impressive feat." she said.
Mikoto stared at the Professor incredulously. "Professor. Ever since reaching level five, I have never been affected by any esper's mental compulsions. It just doesn't happen. How was this able to affect me?" she asked.
"That is because the nature of the compulsion is different." she replied. Her scowl deepened, and she then said, "We will have to continue this later. I have to be present to mitigate the fallout from this incident, and you are nowhere near calm enough for us to continue today. "
Mikoto glared at her. "What fallout?"
"The churches are aware of my presence here. It has to be addressed. Now go. I don't have the time to explain to you now." she said, and turned back into the facility, ignoring the glare that Mikoto threw at her retreating back.
Tokiwadai Middle School Dorms
Mikoto found herself climbing through the window to her dorm, half an hour past curfew, despite being released by the Professor about four hours ahead of schedule.
After being unceremoniously being kicked out of the Diamagnet by the Professor with no answers, she had found herself roaming around the city, trying to walk off her frustration.
A few arcades (and a pocket full of stolen coins) later, somewhere around eight, as she was walking through one of the several small alleys that littered the city, she was accosted by a group of high school kids looking for an easy mark. While she would usually just give them a (relatively) mild shock and keep walking, today she was in the mood for a fight to work off her head of steam, and thus fought using only her iron sand to see what she could do without the more overt parts of her power. Besides, she didn't want them to identify her from her powers and run away, and pulling sand out of the ground made it look like she had some sort of mass or particle manipulation power.
Fifteen minutes and half a dozen unconscious bodies later, she walked out of the alley to find she had missed her bus, which ended up in her climbing through the window once more. She wasn't too worried though, Kuroko would generally-
"Onee-Sama" Came Kuroko's voice as she put a foot through the window, climbing in.
"Speak of the Devil" Mikoto thought with a small smirk. She then noted the dark tone of Kuroko's call.
She looked up to see Kuroko glaring up a storm at her.
"What happened, Kuroko?" she asked, mildly confused.
"What happened she asks.." Kuroko said, letting out a slightly hysterical giggle at the end of the sentence.
"Kuroko?" Mikoto asked again, feeling slightly worried.
"Let me tell you a story, Onee-sama, a story of devotion and sacrifice, a story of unsatiated curiosity, a story of patience, and a story of betrayal." She said, still glaring at Mikoto.
She gulped, feeling a sense of dread come over her, though she didn't know why.
"In a certain city lived young girl, a girl so powerful that her powers could not even be measured. She attended a school in the city, and lived with her faithful sidekick in one of the hostels that littered the city."
"The city however, had a strict curfew, and the curfew in our hero's hostel was enforced by one of the most fearsome of guardians and keepers- a dragon!"
Mikoto winced, both at Kuroko's grandiose narration, and imagining what sort of trouble they were now in with the dorm mistress.
"Our hero, however, felt stifled by the unnecessary restrictions, and often stayed out past this curfew to do who knows what. Thus, her faithful sidekick took up the job of fooling the dragon into believing that our hero was where she was supposed to be."
"A few months later, our hero gained the permission to stay out of the hostel past the normal curfew for some reason. She did not think to inform her faithful sidekick of this development, the one who had covered for her absences with no questions asked, swallowing her curiosity about these late night shenanigans, patiently waiting for her Onee-sama to pour her heart out to her when she felt that she could be trusted."
At this point, Kuroko refocused her gaze upon Mikoto, who squeaked at the sheer amount of venom held in it, unconsciously letting out a few blue sparks.
"So, as usual, she tried to cover for her senpai, only for the Dorm Dragon to find out, and now has to clean the toilets again...for a month!" Kuroko finished.
"I'm Sorry!" Mikoto squeaked.
"You had better be" Kuroko said scowling. "And why are you climbing in through the window, you idiot?!"
Mikoto gave her a confused look, at which Kuroko face-palmed.
"You have permission to be out. Don't you think you need to inform the dorm mistress that you are back?"
"Umm...yeah...Yes I do! Yes, I shall be going now" Mikoto said, thoroughly flustered and embarrassed.
"I am going to be demanding reparations!" Kuroko shouted at Mikoto's retreating back.
Mikoto gulped. This was going to be ugly on so many fronts...
Tokiwadai Middle School Dorms
An hour later, she found herself back in her room and on her bed. There had been a nerve-wracking interrogation by the Dorm Mistress about Kuroko's subterfuge on her part, though she had escaped without any real punishment. By the time she had gotten back, Kuroko had cooled down, though she extracted a promise for a day to be spent with her by Mikoto, something she didn't really begrudge the girl
Mikoto was just about to fall asleep, when Kuroko said, "The Dorm Mistress said you were part of a research group which was what allowed you to stay out after curfew..."
Mikoto turned to face Kuroko, and raised a questioning eyebrow at her.
Kuroko sighed. "I never got the impression that you were fond of the tests that the city threw at you. in the few months I have known you..." she said.
"To be fair, I have been a part of a lot of small experiments, but the last few months have been relatively uneventful in that regard. Also, we had a lot of other stuff going on, so I never really gave it much thought.." Mikoto said.
"I know that. But you don't go out of your way to participate in those experiments. I know that a lot has been going on, but I expected you to come to me if you ever needed anything. But you didn't even tell me about your new project..." Kuroko said.
Mikoto swallowed thickly at that. "I really can't tell you much, Kuroko. I can tell you this much though, whatever was bothering me these past two months have been resolved, at least for the moment" she said.
"And your new project?" Kuroko asked.
Mikoto gave a short laugh. "I can't tell you even if I wanted to. Secrecy clauses."
"You know that is just to prevent people from stealing their research. It's not as though I can do anything with what you tell me. Besides, what will they do, file a case against you? I doubt the City administration would stand for it, you are one of their precious Level 5s after all" Kuroko wheedled.
Mikoto sat up on the bed, and looked into her eyes."Kuroko"
"Please, don't ever ask me about my current project. Don't try to investigate it. It's both for my own good and yours. While I am not in any danger, the same doesn't apply to you" Mikoto said in a flat tone.
Kuroko flinched at the seriousness in her voice, swallowed, and gave a short nod. Her Onee-sama was being unnaturally serious about this, and she would respect her wishes, for now at least.
"Thank you" Mikoto said, sagging in relief. She then lay back down on the bed, ready to be done with this day.
A few minutes later, as she was on the verge of drifting of, Kuroko said "Onee-sama?"
"Just so you know. I will always be there for you." Kuroko said.
Mikoto drifted off with a smile on her face, too tired to reply.
"We will defeat you, Accelerator!" A boy said from behind him. He was surrounded on all sides by different Espers. He didn't care enough to count how many. His eyebrow twitched in annoyance though.
"Will they ever leave me alone?!" He thought.
"I heard that you were defeated by a level 0" another one taunted, prompting another twitch from his eye.
With two fingers he pressed on the bridge of his nose. He then started walking in the direction of his apartment, completely ignoring the espers surrounding him.
"Where do you think you are going!" One of them snarled, a female by the sounds of it.
He ignored her.
"Don't you dare ignore me!" the girl snarled, and threw a spike of water at him.
He didn't even bother to turn around, allowing the water to fall on his auto reflect. With one finger, he casually flicked an esper barring his way, and continued to walk away from the situation.
"You bastard" another one snarled, and that was the signal for all of them to attack.
Accelerator scowled as the variety of mass and energy came from the espers trying to fight him. There were too many for him to allow to just fall on his auto-reflect.
He didn't want to cause collateral damage after all.
Sighing, he recalculated the trajectories for the attacks coming towards him, changing their directions such that they hit each other without causing too much damage to the buildings around him.
"Arghhhhh!" one of them screamed as he launched himself towards him.
"Goddamit, it's all your fault hero boy!" He thought as he finally deigned to shut these idiots down. "You are so going to pay for this!" He raged internally, as he flicked the stupid boy away.
Ten minutes and who knows how many unconscious bodies later, Accelerator was on his way, his general state of mild irritation with the world now heightened to extremely annoyed.
"This is getting out of hand! It's not even been a week since the incident at the storage depot, and the rumor has spread so far?!" he thought to himself as he walked through a park on the way home.
As he fumed along, his eyes fell upon the source of his irritation, trudging along the path.
Touma...was having a good day, and it creeped him out.
He had had no falls, no bites, and no unfortunate encounters with either magic or powerful espers, and it was already almost twelve in the afternoon.
"There you are, hero boy!" A voice called out.
Touma turned around, and his gaze fell upon the white haired boy trying to burn a hole through him with his eyes.
"Ah Ha! I knew it!" He said, a finger pointed at Accelerator.
"You know what?" Accelerator asked, bewildered at his reaction. Most people shat their pants when he looked at them...
"My day was going far too well upto now, and you are my daily dose of misfortune" he said, sounding oddly...relieved?
Accelerator massaged the bridge of his nose with two fingers. "Nope, I am not going to try to figure that out.." he thought, before addressing Touma.
"We need to talk." he said.
"About what?" Touma asked, eyes narrowed.
Accelerator scowled. "About several things, one of them being your complete lack of fear for me. You do know I can kill you right now, freaky negation power or no?"
"Is that what you want to talk about? Beating some fear into me?" he asked.
Accelerator's scowl deepened. "Despite how tempting that sounds, that is not it." He then glanced around. "Do you know a place close by where we can sit and talk in at least a semi private setting?" he asked.
Touma cocked an eyebrow, and then said, "Yeah, I do. Follow me."
Close to 12:00 pm
A Certain Vending Machine
Kuroko sighed as she teleported herself and Mikoto away from the machine she had just kicked with a sigh of resignation.
"You really should stop doing that. It's undignified" she chastised.
"Shut up! This machine swallowed ten thousand yen of mine" Mikoto countered.
"And you have been stealing from it for how many years now?" Kuroko asked
"I am still a few hundred drinks short. I am taking back with interest" she replied.
Kuroko rolled her eyes at her Onee-sama's stubbornness as they took a seat at their usual bench a safe distance away from said machine. Mikoto popped the lid of her can, closed her eyes, and took a deep draught of soda. Setting the can down, she let her head fall back against the bench while Kuroko took a sip from her own pilfered can of soda.
"Oh hey there, Biri Biri" A voice called, causing Kuroko to choke on her drink, and then proceed to succumb to a violent coughing fit. "Biri-biri? Who dares call my Onee-sama in such an insulting manner?!" Kuroko thought as she tried to get her coughs to subside.
"What have I told you about calling me that?" Mikoto growled out as she recognized the voice as that belonging to one Kamijou Touma, eyes still closed, a vein popping on her head, and sparks playing amongst her bangs.
"Biri-Biri? Huh, that is far better than Third-Rate as far as infuriating nicknames go..." another voice mused.
Mikoto's eyes flew open, and she sprung off the bench, glaring at the contemplative visage of Accelerator.
"You" she spat. "What are you doing here?"
Accelerator looked Mikoto's face going redder and redder with anger, and smirked.
"Honestly, I was following hero boy here." He said. "Keep that up, and you are going to have a stroke" he added.
"SHUT UP" Mikoto said, struggling to rein in the sparks threatening to spill from her body. While neither Touma nor Accelerator would be hurt, Kuroko was still coughing her lungs out beside her...
"Calm down BiriBi... I mean, Misaka!" Touma said, trying to defuse the situation "Crap, I forgot that I was with Accelerator…. And that cocky bastard is probably enjoying riling her up" Touma thought
"AND YOU! WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH HIM!?" Mikoto shouted, turning her attention on to him.
"He needed to talk to me it seems, so we were headed to Joseph's" Touma said
Mikoto stared at him incredulously.
"What… how… DIDN'T YOU JUST PUNCH HIS FACE IN A BIT MORE THAN A WEEK AGO!" Misaka shouted.
"Keep your voice down about that, would you" Accelerator growled "That rumor has already spread around too much, don't want people knowing it was him"
"Yeah, I have enough misfortune without that" Touma agreed.
"Of course, wouldn't want your perfect record to be tarnished " Misaka said in a sickly sweet voice.
Accelerator rolled his eyes "That's one part of it. I don't want to surrounded by those puppies." he said.
"Huh?" Misaka and Touma asked in confusion.
"It's what I call the idiots who try to challenge me based on this 'rumor'" Accelerator clarified.
"Why puppies?" Touma asks.
"Because I can't kill them despite them being irritating" Accelerator sighed. "it's apparently wrong"
Both Mikoto and Touma gaped at him, causing him to roll his eyes. He then turned to Touma. "As amusing as it is to rile up Biri-Biri-" Accelerator snorted, causing Mikoto to spit a few more sparks, "We need to talk, and I want to be done with this as soon as possible" he said.
Touma nodded. "Right." he said as continued to walk past the incredulous Mikoto and now almost recovered Kuroko. "See you later, Misaka-san!" he said as he waved a hand at them.
Mikoto watched, frozen in disbelief as they walked away from her.
"Who was the white haired guy?" Kuroko asked, face slightly red from her near-choking. "And how dare the ape call you Biri-biri of all things?!"
Mikoto broke out of her stupor, and said, "The white haired guy was Accelerator."
"Accelerator? The most powerful vector manipulator in the city?" Kuroko asked.
Mikoto nodded, and then grabbed Kuroko's hand.
"We need to see what they are up to." she said, dragging Kuroko along with her.
"We are being followed" Accelerator commented.
Accelerator sighed "Just how clueless are you? Anyway, we are going to turn into the next narrow alley that we come across, and I am going to launch us into the air, so don't scream when I do that, alright?"
"How do you know we are being followed? Who is following us?" Touma asked, not fully parsing Accelerator's words.
"It's called being observant" Accelerator sighed. "Now, follow my lead" he said
He pulled Touma into the closest alley he could find, and then launched them up to the third floor fire escape.
A few seconds later, Misaka and Kuroko walk into the alley
"Where did they go?" Kuroko asked
Accelerator allowed them to walk ahead a bit, and then flicked a pebble at Kuroko's head with just enough force to cause her to faint
"KUROKO!" Misaka shouted.
"Relax!" Accelerator called out as he brought himself and Touma down "she has just fainted, though she will have a killer headache when she gets up"
"What do you want?" Misaka demanded
"What I want is for the two of you to stop following me. You are lucky that I am in a good mood now, else your friend wouldn't have survived this encounter" Accelerator drawled. "Now if you will excuse us" He said, clamping a hand on Touma's shoulder and steering both of them out of the alley.
"If you continue to follow us, Hero boy's chivalry won't be enough to prevent me from doing something more drastic than a warning." he called over his shoulder as they exited the alley
"Wait! Why are you with him? You know what he has done!" Misaka said, addressing Touma.
Accelerator growled "None of your business. Now, I believe that you have an injured friend to take care of, that should be your priority. Don't worry, I am not going to hurt your boyfriend here, we are just going to talk about a certain problem of mine that he can hopefully help me to solve." He said, pulling Touma away before he could reply, Leaving Misaka and the unconscious Kuroko in the alley.
Half an hour later
Outside Joseph's Diner
"Owwww" Kuroko groaned, holding her head "That really hurts. Let's find a place to sit quickly"
Misaka nodded, and entered the diner, looking around for an empty booth. Her eyes fell upon a head of spiky hair she was intimately familiar with.
"Kuroko, let's sit there" Misaka said, pointing to the booth directly behind the spiky head, which was luckily open.
"Eh? Wait! I want to get some ice for my head!" Kuroko said.
"We can ask the waitress for some. Come quickly, our targets are close!" Misaka said.
Misaka took a seat in the booth directly behind Touma, and as such could hear everything in his booth if she strained her senses a bit. Kuroko took the seat opposite to her, and leant forward in curiosity.
Misaka made a sign to Kuroko to tell her to keep her questions until later, and focused on the conversation behind her
"- To talk about?" Touma was saying when she started eavesdropping on the conversation.
A person, which Misaka assumed was Accelerator, sighed, and then said "I am sure you have heard of the rumors that are going around."
"What rumors?" Touma asked.
"That I was defeated by a level 0" Accelerator said with a snarl.
"Huh? How do people know about that?" Touma asked, confused "I certainly didn't spread it around, I have enough misfortune without my life being brought into the limelight!" he said, the beginnings of panic coloring his tone
"Oh calm down!" Accelerator snapped. " I know that neither you nor the third rate had anything to do with this, and it's irrelevant. I need to combat these rumors, they are having a very bad side-effect." Accelerator said "Besides, that rumor is not true, I wasn't defeated by a level 0." he muttered
Accelerator snorts "If you think of yourself as a level zero with your power, I will fucking punch your teeth out, with or without my ability. Just because the tinkerers can't measure your power doesn't mean you are powerless. I refuse to acknowledge that someone marked as powerless defeated me in the way that you did."
An audible gulp is heard, and Touma replied "Alright then"
"Moving on, the problem is that people with no chance of touching me are challenging me based on this rumor, and it is proving to be an irritating problem. While I generally don't really even have to pay attention to those idiots given that my automatic reflection calculations take care of it, I have to ensure that bystanders aren't hurt because of them. Those fools just attack me everywhere without even checking to see if there are others around, and I cannot always be on guard. Even the people in charge of the SISTERS project ensured that the fights took place where there wouldn't be collateral damage. It's fucking pissing me off" Accelerator said.
"So what do you want me to do?" Touma asked.
"I want you to demonstrate you ability publically" Accelerator said
There was a pause in which Mikoto could imagine the Idiot gaping like a fish at Accelerator.
"What the hell? That is not going to happen!" Touma exclaimed.
"I am not yet done. Let me finish before rejecting what I have to say." Accelerator said.
"I want you to do this demonstration without revealing your identity" Accelerator said.
"You should publically fight some medium level esper, prominently displaying your ability, and claim the honors for my loss under that persona." Accelerator clarified.
"And that will help how?..." Touma asks
"Just how dense are you! If people see that you are powerful, then all these powerless shits who endanger everybody around me trying recreate my fabled defeat to a level 0 will stop coming after me!" Accelerator exclaimed "If you do this, I can safely acknowledge my loss to you without losing too much face"
There was silence for a bit.
Touma then sighed. "I can see how that will help, but the battle will need to draw a large crowd, and large crowds mean more chances of casualties. Also, you will need to tell another esper about the secret, at least partially, and I sure as hell don't know any medium level espers, and I doubt that you have any friends.." he said
"Of course you know a medium level esper. You know the third rate, for example" Accelerator countered, causing Mikoto to choke over her drink.
"She is not a medium level esper, she's a Level 5! She will kill me!" Touma sputtered.
"No she won't, and from what I hear, you have defeated her before." Accelerator said, causing Mikoto's eyes to widen. "How does he know about that?" she thought, bewildered.
"How do you know about that?" Touma asked.
"The rumor going around is that a level zero defeated both the third and first ranked espers in the city." Accelerator said. "You actually defeated her?" he then asked, amusement coloring his tone.
"Ah? Yes? Maybe? She was holding back I think..." Touma said, flustered.
Accelerator snorted. "More like she underestimated you, much like I did." he said.
"Anyway, what do you think? Purposeless fighting just frustrates me, and I am in no mood to run away from the city with accusations of first degree murder to my name." he continued.
"I doubt that you are really bothered by the concept of murder..." Touma muttered.
"Of course not. I just don't want to deal with the fallout of one." he replied.
There was a pause in the conversation.
"You really have no qualms about taking a life?" Touma asked, curiosity lacing his tone.
"Not really." Accelerator replied.
Another pause. "You really are despicable" Touma said in disgust.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I am a horrible human being and yada yada yada, will you help me or not?" he asked impatiently.
"Why would you even want my help? Why would you want to acknowledge your defeat in the first place?" Touma asked.
"Because it is the easiest way to force people to leave me alone. Because of you, the notion of invulnerability that being the number one esper gave is now gone. The main problem is that people think that it is a level zero that defeated me, and rectifying that would discourage most." Accelerator replied.
"Wait, so you became the most powerful esper...so that people would leave you alone?" Touma asked.
"More or less." Accelerator replied nonchalantly.
Once again, the conversation halted while Touma mulled over Accelerator's proposal.
Touma then sighed. "Alright, I will take part in this scheme of yours."
"Thank you" Accelerator said, relief apparent in his voice. "That is one headache solved."
"I am curious though. Why do you want people to leave you alone? Doesn't the fight make you stronger?" Touma asked.
Accelerator snorted. "After fighting ten thousand electromasters with military training, none of those even register as fights. All of those kids think they are hot shit because they have a little power. Any person with even a modicum of military training will be able to take most of them down. I don't want to deal with it when I don't have to." he said
Silence reigns again. Then Touma exclaimed"I forgot to get food for Index! Damn it! I have to leave, I am sorry!" and dashes out of the diner.
Misaka heard Accelerator chuckle, and then turned her attention onto Kuroko, who was holding an ice pack to her head, the curiosity showing on her face.
However, before Kuroko could voice her questions, a voice came from Misaka's left "Enjoying yourself, Third rate?"
Misaka turned, to be greeted by Accelerator's face inches away from her own
Misaka let out an undignified squeak, rapidly distancing herself from Accelerators menacing visage.
"I am sure you heard my entire conversation with Hero boy back there." Accelerator continued. " To be honest, I could've made a scene earlier, but couldn't bring myself to care whether or not you heard this particular conversation. But let me make this clear"
"If you or your friends butt into my affairs in this manner again, you will wish that you were dead by the time I am done with you" Accelerator stated with a growl.
Mikoto glared in response, causing Accelerator to raise an eyebrow. "Well, I have warned you. What you do with the warning is out of my hands." Having finished his piece, He saunters out of the restaurant, leaving a confused Mikoto behind.
"Onee-sama?" Kuroko asked, breaking Misaka out of her reverie "If what I heard just now is true, that means the ape was the –"
"Not here" Miska said, cutting Kuroko off "Later, when we are back at the rooms. For now, let's stick to the initial plan of meeting up with Saten-san and Uiharu-san. I haven't been able to spend time with them for far too long."
Swallowing her questions for the moment, Kuroko settled down to wait for the arrival of their friends, resolving to make sure that she got her questions answered before the day ended.
Tokiwadai Middle School Dorms
Misaka flopped onto her bed, tired from the day's activities, at the same time feeling rejuvenated mentally
"Ahhhh…. Today was fun!" Mikoto said, a smile on her face "It's been far too long since I have been able to have a day with girls.."
On the other bed, Kuroko cleared her throat pointedly.
Misaka turned to face her, and noted her grim visage, causing her own grin to fade
"Well, the hope that she forgot the early morning excitement is now up in flames, remote as it was" Misaka thought, mentally grimacing
"So…..The ape is the level zero of the rumor?" Kuroko asked
"The moment of truth….. do I drag Kuroko into my problems, or do I continue to protect her from it…." Misaka pondered
On one hand, Kuroko was probably the person she trusted and valued the most. She was brave, smart, and her ability made her invaluable in a variety of tight situations. On the other hand, the enemies Misaka faced were not even fully tangible, and she was extremely reluctant to drag someone into a mess that she herself didn't fully understand. Also, if she did choose to involve her, she couldn't explain the entirety of the situation to her because of the oaths made when she joined the UNIFICATION project, a prospect which she found exceptionally distasteful.
Misaka took a deep breath, She made her decision.
"I cannot explain the situation to you, at least not now. There are various reasons for this, one of them being the oath of secrecy I had to swear when I joined the research project that keeps me out past curfew. If I try to explain it to you while respecting those oaths, it will place you in the dangerous situation of having to make decisions without having all the information, and will have to rely on me to make sense of it, a responsibility I am not prepared to take. The responsibility of a friends life. So please, trust me when I say that you should clamp down on your curiosity about what you have heard today. The only reason I am still here is combination of luck and overconfidence from the other side." Mikoto said.
Kuroko stared intently into Mikoto's serious gaze, then nodded "For now, I accept your decision. But this is not a permanent solution. I expect you to actively find a way to make sure I have all the information I might need to help you in the future."
Swallowing past a lump in her throat, Misaka said "Thank you Kuroko. For everything"
Kuroko flashes a soft smile "What else are friends for?"
AN: I hate exam season. And it is still ongoing. Fuck exams,
On an unrelated note, It's now one year since I started writing this. I feel ashamed that I haven't even broken the 60k word count in my master draft...