"Citizens of Biel-tan. Our job has yet to finish. It is time to take up arms once more. The previous successful Orogami campaign has had some spillovers, and the Orks are migrating en mass to neighboring systems at an alarming rate. In response to this, I hereby declare the initiation of operation Brave Phoenix. May the bloody hand of Khaela Mensha Khaine guide our way."

Autarch Sadeki Mikijima.

Gulagg hated his job. He was a cart puller, and so his duty was pulling carts. The carts he had been pulling for three days contained scraps salvaged from destroyed Battlewagons, and his mob was currently heading towards the nearest Mek town to hand them in.

So far his experience on Marinesh had been abysmal. He did not take part in action. He was given no weapons. He never saw the enemy, except for the dead ones which he was not allowed to loot. The food here stank. His bosses were lousy. And adding to his misery, he was pulling a zogging cart against his will, for no zogging reason.

The cart was heavy. Lots of stuff on it. Gulagg was exhausted. Even Orks' physiology had its limits. Three zogging days. No rest and no food. His companion, Zegg, looked the same, albeit a little bit greener. Occasionally, they would slow down, and when they did, Boss Zagogg would give them motivation in the form of a harsh whip. Gulagg knew he would die. He knew Zegg would die as well. Only a matter of time. Without ever seeing the foe. Without ever feeling the joy of combat.

Death was their only destination.

It was the manner of which he had not expected.

Zegg fell, lying prone on the muddy ground, as dead as a dead humie git. The first thing that sprang up on Gulagg's primitive mind was the question: who was going to help him pull the cart now? Two Orks pulling was hard enough, how was he going to carry on all by himself? Then, it happened to Gulagg too and he died. It took him a while to register the small particle embedded into his tiny brain. The last thought he had before leaving the world was: he wished whoever killed him would kill the irksome cart too.

Sparkling projectiles resembling hundreds shooting stars cut down the remaining Orks. It only took seconds. When the last of the foe had been dispatched, the lithe figures moved from their firing position.

They were the Eldar, an ancient race constantly plagued by the Orks since the inception of their civilization, one that had, only recently, settled the score due to a massively successful campaign. There were nine of them, 3 Guardians with one bearing the icon of the Storm elite, a Banshee, a Striking Scorpion, a Fire Dragon, a Dark Reaper, a Ranger and a Warlock. The Guardians and Warlock were dresses in bleach-colored armor with green helmet and gauntlets. The Warlock had a dark robe bearing icons and mystic runes. The others wore the distinctive armor pattern of their aspect, Reaper black, Scorpion green, Banshee white and Dragon red. All of them, with the exception of the Ranger bore the red heart with gold outline insignia of Craftworld Biel-tan. He had an azure and green sword of Alaitoc instead.

Shizuka Miyamoto looked at the fallen opponents. Although none of the shots fired were hers, Fire Dragon Fusion gun hardly the type of weapon for eliminating enemy from afar, she was elated. Back on Polyzon, she served on the rear echelon and did not see any action, except the disposing piles of Ork bodies that littered the battlefield after the fight had been won. Here, she truly felt being part of the fight, part of the killing, part of the victory. And that was all she could ever hope for.

"Got those pig," whooped Aya, the youngest member of the group; Biel-tan has no age limits when it comes to conscription, though basic knowledge and philosophy were required, forcing its people to go through all the pre-Path education before entering the army. She joined the Swordwind and serve as a Storm Guardian just for the hope that she would travel the galaxy.

"Don't get too excited," said Saito Kishinuma soberly. "There are more where they came from. Always be ready."

Saito Kishinuma was head of a flourishing company which produced and sold accessories made from the hides of slain Tyranids. This kind of business only arose less than one hundred passes ago, and it had become an immediate attraction for companies and consumers alike. Thanks to close contact with Rogue Traders, Outcasts, even some Imperial authorities who could be bribed, Kishinuma's firm gained access to large amount of material and established itself as the largest of all manufacturers. he was filthy rich. While others in his shoes would stay home and get fat and live their happy lives before resigning and joining the Infinity Circuit at very high age, Saito made the decision that some family members assumed he had drunk too much: take up the Path of Khaine. When being asked, he responded, "All of my low level needs are satisfied. Physics? I have all the money I need, and so much more. Safety? All my rivals are either out of the market or in position to compete. Love? I have a wife and a son who I adore more than anything in this universe. Esteem? My partners love me, even my competitors show me respect. I have everything. Now, it's time for self-actualization. And I will find that, in war." Kishinuma turned out an excellent disciple in the art of killing from range, and had no difficulty following the path of the Dark Reaper.

"Dispose of the bodies," said Ritsuko Natashi, the Banshee of the team. She used to be a famous model until another, younger and more beautiful, outshone her. In a fit of rage, she dreamed a sea of blood and ended up being drawn to the Path of the Warrior. "That will impede their infestation on this world. Then, we move out."

"And the cart," declared Warlock Akashi Tesuko. His rank indicated he was first in command, but that wasn't the case. Saito Kishinuma was in charge here. There were several reasons for this. First of all, the team was asked to "sort it out" here on Marinesh without proper information as to what to do exactly, and Kishinuma was the only person to have come up with a plausible, ingenuous plan: forget about planning and just go for it. Shizuka wondered if he used to run business like that, not putting forward objectives and simple sitting and waiting for opportunities to arise. Second, he was well known and respected. On the Craftworld, every command he made was carried out immediately, and no one here had the nerve to challenge that. Finally, his secretary Saki Uishi and his bodyguard Raizen Godoka were also in the team, signing up encouraged by the apparent selflessness of their boss. With a third of the group made up of him and his lackeys, Kishinuma's leadership was inevitable. Akashi didn't seem to mind, or at least he looked like he didn't mind. Knowing him from his childhood, Shizuka knew he didn't mind. Being second in command of a group of nine was good enough. "We should destroy the cart too."

Ranger Aveneth had a check at its contents. "All junks to me," he concluded.

"Just do it," Akashi insisted. "We must deny every resource accessible to the enemy. Any stone, no matter how smooth, can be made sharp enough to cut with a bit of effort, but nothing can be done when all you have in your hand are leaves. And…I just have a sudden urge to do so. Don't know why. Don't ask why."

At length, the Eldar came to a road. It was both good and bad. Good in that they now had a destination to go, as roads always lead to towns and villages. Bad in that the Orks would be thinking the same. Given their simple mindset, it was a sure thing. After some discussion, the Eldar agreed it was better to take chances than wandering nowhere. They went along the road, but staying out of the middle and covering both flanks, vigilant against any sign of ambush. There were Orks all plenty around. Luckily, all of them were in no condition to fight. In fact, they were in no condition to live, scattering in a gratifying number of pieces. Some were still twitching, abandoned by their nonchalant comrades. The Eldar put shuriken into anything that still moved. There were too many corpses to dispose; the humans would have to deal with this once it was over, hopefully with them on the winning side.

By the time Shizuka and her companions reached a town, the sun was already waning, and night was on its way. A battle clearly had taken place here, with hundreds of casualties, humans and Greenskins alike, lying all over. There was no sign of any survivor, although the manner in which the corpses were stripped of their weapons and armors indicated that the humans were the one victorious. A combined force of PDF, militias and irregulars had put up a valiant defense here, but was forced to withdraw afterwards.

"Looks like we missed something," said Aveneth. "These dead are still fresh, the smoke still warm, and I see no maggots in the carcass."

"Aww," pouted Aya. "The humans got all the fun from us. No fair. If only we were here sooner/"

"There is nothing for us here, move on," Akashi announced.

"Course there is," Kishinuma argued. "If anything, there should be a map of the region somewhere here. It might be helpful to know where we are heading after this. It is a good place to test our scavenging skills, too. As a former Striking Scorpion, you should know what I mean." He made a gesture his two henchmen. "Godoka, Uishi, with me."

"I hope they have some good ale," said Aveneth. The Ranger made it the purpose of his life to taste every type of booze in the galaxy. Every single one of them. Some foolish humans followed his quest. In the end, he outlived them all, literally.

"Let's spread out," Akashi conceded. He stole a glance at Shizuka for a second, which made her blush. "Meet at town center two hours later. If you find hostiles, don't engage unless it is necessary. Stay hidden and contact the rest of the team."

As they separated, Shizuka knew only Kishinuma and Akashi would be mature enough to actually search for something helpful. The others, including her, would be too engrossed in this new environment to focus on the matter at hand. Shizuka began with the residential block. When she entered the first house, she felt sensations she had never experienced before. It was just like going into a house on the Craftworld,, but at the same time, so different from. The tiles were broken, tables and chairs without legs scattering, and there was bloodstain of the wall. Shizuka could not help but feel a tinge of sadness. If an Eldar family had dwelt in this place,... Shizuka shook the idea away from her head. She prayed whoever lived here had made it to safety. There were magazines and a handful of strange looking artifacts, but otherwise nothing helpful.

The picture was rewritten in the second house. This time, she found three bodies lying on the floor, a couple of humans - one male, one female - and the one of the invaders. The male human had a crude pistol thing in his hand, no doubt the one he used to kill the Ork, but that didn't save his life. An axe blow almost severed his neck. His wife, as Shizuka realized they were married, was killed in the same way. Her belly had been split open and intestine laid on the floor. Shizuka bent down to check their bodies, out of curiosity instead of pragmatism, when she heard noises coming from the cupboard. It could have been a little rat. She could have ignored it. There were more important things to do. The Aspect of the Fire Dragon told her that details were insignificant, and only the result counted.

But she was very curious. Shizuka opened the cupboard. Canned food flew at her face.

The human child was patently female, about thirteen to fifteen years old in their pitifully short life cycle. It seemed rather bewildered by Shizuka, but throwing cans at a Fire Dragon was like throwing eggs at a mountain. Shizuka had a sudden reckoning that this child here must be the offspring of the couple who died here. Its parents gave their lives to protect it from the Orks.

Shizuka began, but a supersonic screech halted her. Ritsuko had encountered something. The Banshee was never discreet in anything. The next thing she knew, an Ork came in abruptly and smacked her with a brutal fist.

Saito and his lackeys made a beeline to the Town Hall where the scream came from. He cursed at this inconvenience. They were supposed to stay silent and contact the group through the Warlock using telepathy, not shouting aloud like this. Ritsuko would have to be reprimanded later.

"They are here," said Godoka disdainfully. "Those Greenskins bastards. I could smell them before they start shooting."

+Ritsuko blew our cover,+ said Akashi via telepathy. +Ork raiders are coming. Slay them all. Show them the wrath of the Eldar.+

There were at least fifty Orks massing in the same direction, towards where the scream was coming from. Within seconds, Ritsuko had become the magnet of all Orks in the area. Luckily, she was not alone. The Dark Reaper and two Guardians took cover behind a brick fence and opened fire, raking the enemy from the rear. A dozen dropped to the initial salvo, and more fell as they clumsily turned to meet the threat. In all respects, the Orks held the absolute advantage of number and fire power. However, they lacked the accuracy, and more importantly, most were still shooting out of cover, making themselves easy targets for the Eldar.

Aya joined the fight in the nick of time, taking up position inside an office building and pouring fire into the Orks from the flanks. Her Storm Guardian weapon was the Shuriken Carbine, the equivalent of a light machine gun, allowing massive rate of fire with better accuracy, though the vehement burst would have to be properly controlled.

A mob of Slugga boyz and Choppa boyz charged Kishinuma's position from the left, only to be stopped on their track by the Banshee and the Striking Scorpion. Mirror blades and chainsword whirring, they cut a wedge through the Orks in a splatter of blood and body chunks. The Warlock had arrived as well, not wanting to miss all the fun. He decapitated a creature five times his size with the Witchblade and blew another two to smithereens with a destructor bolt.

"Push them back," cried Akashi. "Drive these bastards back to their misery hole!"

Despite a complete lack of planning and overall strategy, the Eldar were the one gaining ground.

The Ork was perhaps as tall as Shizuka, but only because it was so stooped. If it were to stand straight (which these primitive beasts weren't capable of), it would no doubt tower her a head or more, its body like a mass of slab-like muscle and ropey sinew. The head was huge, a bulking bucket of skull as large as a man's ribcage, dozerblade lower jaw jutting forward menacingly, lined with bladed fangs, ropes of drool streaming between them. A pair of tiny red eyes glared with malice.

Shizuka was thrown on the floor by the savage blow. She tasted the warm blood in her mouth. Her stabilizer unit kicked in, bringing her up to her feet in an instance. Still holding the Fusion gun, Shizuka had a moment's thought about using it against the Greenskin. The weapon was potent. In an enclosed position like this, her armor would definitely withstand the heat, but then, the human child might not. It would be necessary casualty, like the Eldar using Astra Militarum forces as meat shield all the time. Quick and easy.

Tempting, but not quite.

Discarding the idea, Shizuka drew her blade and flung herself against her opponent. The Ork was caught off guarded, expecting the puny Eldar to stay down a little longer. As they taught her in close combat against the Orks, Shizuka stabbed it in the neck.

The Greenskins howled in pain, so Shizuka knew she had hit the right spot. The Orks were extremely resilient, but the Eldar had found their weakness - a clump of nerve wire connecting the brain and the heart which could cause serious trouble if damaged. This discovery led to a hefty 40% increase in melee efficiency, as small teams of Banshee and Striking Scorpion were able duke it out easily against mobs of giant Nobz. As awesome as it sounded, Shizuka's plan had one setback - her blade wasn't designed to stab an Ork, or anything for that matter. She was, after all, a Fire Dragon.

It took the Ork a few seconds to gather its wit and threw Shizuka to the floor. Again, the stabilizer unit worker its miracle, and Shizuka was back on her feet, to the creature's surprise and dismay. The beast raised its firearm, a primitive pistol that looked like child's play, and pulled the trigger. The distance omitted the need to aim, but bullet after bullet simply bounced off from the Fire Dragon's Heavy Aspect Armor.

Stupid Ork never learns.

Shizuka leaped once more with sword in hand, aiming for the wound she opened up earlier. The doomed beast let out a final shriek and laid down, dead. Its suffering was not long.

The human child looked dumbfounded by what just took place. It - Shizuka corrected herself - she shivered at the sight of the blood soaked xenos woman, her eyes wet with tears.

"I mean no harm," Shizuka assured her as she bent down and reached with an arm.

Another tin can to the face.

"You probably know by now your means of defense is useless against me," the Fire Dragon said. "Not that you ever needed it."

"Please," the human sobbed. "Don't hurt me."

"I won't," Shizuka promised. "I am here to help, little one. You need to trust me with all your heart's content. Now, come on, let's get you out."

"OK," the human girl replied shakily, and grabbed Shizuka's hand. It felt so warm to touch, for both of them. "Who…what are you?"

"I am Eldar," Shizuka explained. "Whatever you might have heard about us, they are not true, except the part about the Dark Eldar."

+Shizuka, where are you?+ Akashi's voice banged on her head. All Eldar had certain telepathic capacity, but only the ones travelling the witch path would be able to deliver the message and allow others to do so. +We are in combat here. Orks are everywhere.+

+I will be there in a moment,+ Shizuka replied.

The girl still looked very confused, so Shizuka took off her helmet and let her see her face. The human child was awed by the unnatural beauty of the Eldar. Her hair was as blond as the wheat in autumn, her eyes as blue as the cloudless sky, her skin white like the snow. She looked utterly alien, all parts of her out of proportion, but also utterly pretty. Shizuka laid a kiss on the human's forehead. The little girl began to cry. The Eldar woman embraced her gently.

"Don't worry," Shizuka said, her voice much warmer without the amplifier. "No matter what happens, I will be there for you. With me around, nothing will harm you. I shall be your guardian angel, your shield."

"What…should…I…call…you?" asked the human girl between hiccups, presumably because addressing people by their race was not considered very nice. Shizuka wiped the tears off the little one's face.

"Shizuka Miyamoto. And you?"

"Caroline…Darkfest. Nice…to…meet…you."

"Lootas!" Uishi's dismal cry could be heard over the rapturous battlefield. "Boss, they are bringing heavy weapons against us."

Two Orks, each carrying a gigantic firing tube on their shoulder and a crap load of munitions belts on their chest, appeared at the rear, and every warrior on Biel-tan knew exactly what they were capable of. On Salenza, a horde of Tyranids was stamped by just a handful of these grunts.

"Damn, we are fucked," Kishinuma shouted. "Everybody, scatter!"

His warning did not come a second too soon. It took time for the Lootas to set up, but once they did, the effect was horrendous. Hundreds, if not thousands scrap bullets were fired in a matter of seconds, vaporizing the remaining Orks in melee. Akashi, Ritsuko and the Striking Scorpion Kohaku managed to get out of the firing arc at the eleventh hour. Saito and his men ducked and were pinned down behind cover which was depleting at an alarming rate.

The two Orks with heavy weapon fired exuberantly, the earsplitting noise they made furthermore encouraging them. Everything, absolutely everything seemed to fall apart or melt in good Orky fashion under massive firepower.

Then, one of the Lootas fell. It must have squeezed the trigger too enthusiastically because even in its death, the gun still fired. Shots went wide, killing off the other Lootas alongside half a dozen other Orks. Powerful these weapons were, they provided a threat to anyone near the users and not just the enemy. Ranger Aveneth had taken the shot, and just about time, too. Akashi was beginning to think he was too drunk for that. Aveneth was a poor marksman. He could shoot, but that was it. It took him twice as long to aim compared to a normal Ranger, and he still had difficulty finding the right spot to fire.

The battle waged for another ten minutes without much excitement. The Eldar mopped up any Greenskin they could find in town. Shizuka showed up in the end, killing a couple of Orks who were smart enough to take cover. Fusion Blaster had made short work of that. The nine Eldar stood in a small circle as soon as the dust settled and the last of the Greenskins ceased to move.

"Orks are dead, yay!" whooped Aya cheerfully as always. "They stood no chance against the might of Biel-tan."

"Hah! Hardly a surprise," remarked Godoka. Even though all enemies of the Craftworld were hated and despised by the Eldar, the Orks fell to a special category of contempt. Part of Shizuka hated Orks with a passion for their culture and technology which were the anathema of the Eldar. Another part was afraid should the Orks ever unite as a whole race, something unlikely but not impossible, they would sweep through all opposition and become the one ruler of the galaxy. A third part of her simply wanted to blast them to bits because that was what she existed for, as an Aspect Warrior, to protect her people and bring death upon the foe and restore balance to the universe. For Godoka, it was as though some Ork had punched his mother in her face. "I suppose if they were very likely, they could give us a headache with those primitive firearms."

"How did they get here? Are those leftovers from the previous fight, or another group altogether?" asked Ritsuko. Unlike the Fire Dragon, the Banshee shrines taught its disciples to be as meticulous as possible. Always looking for reasons, always for solutions, always for better ways of killing the opponent.

"Doesn't matter," Akashi responded dismissively, handing out a large scroll of paper. "I found the map of the region in the office of a transportation company. Apparently they have many branches in this province. The format and icons are…dubious to say the least."

"I can read those," said Aveneth. "I found good beer, too. The humans may be dumb, but they have good taste. This journey won't be a waste after all."

"Good," the Warlock said. "Anyone else? What did you find?"

"I found a cheeseburger," Uishi chimed in. "Look, boss. I can share half with you if you want."

"No thanks," said Kishunuma. "Too much fat for my likings. Human cheap junk fast foods are not in my good book. We checked the supermarket. I have here some fresh vegetables: carrots, spinach, cabbages, and the ever-glorious bell peppers."

"Some meat in a container," said Godoka. "I don't understand the Machine-spirit, but that's OK. As long as it doesn't go haywire."

"Magazines and comics," said Ritsuko. "Got to say this, the humans are terrible artists. All of these published materials look like poor sketches to me. The contents, however, are quite good."

"It almost feel that we are the ones pillaging this place," Uishi commented.

"Better falling to us then the Orks," Godoka countered.

Kohaku didn't reply. In fact, Shizuka had never heard him speak a word ever since they met. The Striking Scorpions were warrior that brought death in its silent and unexpected form, which Kohaku seemed to excel in, but this was just too far. Even Akashi, who had spent time himself as a Striking Scorpion back in the old day until a grievous wound from fighting the Necron put an end to that, defined him as an enigma.

Akashi turned to Shizuka. "Did you find….WHAT THE HECK IS THAT THING?"

The others were shocked to find out they had let the human girl slipped in without noticing. They were too concerned about Orks that they completely forgot about the humans on Marinesh. It was a human world, an Imperial world, and they overlooked that.

"It's not a thing," Shizuka sighed. The little girl cowed behind her, scared by Akashi's overreaction. Being around a bunch of xenos with gun was frightening indeed. "It's a she."

"Don't underestimate my ability to discern human genders," Akashi admonished. "I asked, WHAT THE HECK IS THAT THING?"

"Our new companions, of course," said Shizuka as though she was commenting on the weather. "Her family is gone now. I promise to take her with us."

"Why is it here?" asked Akashi. "Shouldn't they have already evacuated every living person from this place?"

"Putting the blame on humans for recklessness is tantamount to accusing the next person of breathing your air," said Aveneth, giggling. "Their entire species cannot be trusted. Bet those dumbasses just wanted to get out as soon as possible."

"Get rid of it," Akashi proclaimed. "It will only slow us down. Do not forget our duty to the Craftworld. Besides, there are plenty of humans here. Chances are, it will find some of its kinsmen and make it to safety."

"But what if the Orks find her first?" Shizuka retorted. She had not had an argument with the Warlock since high school, which was a quarter of a millennium ago. "What is going to happen to her then?"

"The life or a single human, or the fate of an entire world, your choice," said Akashi. Shizuka wished nothing more than to kick him in the dick for saying. If this were high school, she probably would.

"I shall refrain from that," said Shizuka, determined. "You cannot protect a world and just forget about its people. Kill me if you want, I am not leaving her here all by herself."

"How about we make this discussion a democratic model," Kishinuma interrupted. "It vexes me this kind of stuff does not happen much on our Craftworld. Let me get this straight, Miyamoto wants to adopt this human child, while Tesuko says we should leave it... I mean, her. Raise your hand if you think we should take the human with us."

There was a moment of silent, and Shizuka was dreaded to see herself in a bad position with no leg to stand. Then, Ritsuko put up her hand.

"I agree with you," she said. "We are not Orks. We don't leave the undefended behind for our own sake. His Highness Lord Craddol spoke of our duty to unite all forces of Order for the Restoration War. Small things like this matter."

Aveneth was the second to contend. "We can always use some meat shield. And if we run into some less-than-welcoming humans with guns, we can hold her as hostage. The soft-hearted bastards would cut us some slack." Caroline was clearly intimidated by his comment. She hid behind Shizuka with teary eyes.

"That's cruel," the Fire Dragon complained.

Aveneth chuckled. "Just joking. No offence. But I am with you on this one." Carolina was more comfortable now, but Shizuka wasn't. She still needed at least two more votes, otherwise...

Kishinuma raised his hand. "I love children. And she reminds me of the son I have, the one I left behind to follow the Path of the Warrior." A mere second later, Uishi and Godoka followed suite. They did not state their reasons, but Shizuka knew the obvious. Aya, seeing her comrades raise their hands, assumed it was fun, and so raised her hand as well. Only Kohaku remained impassive. But that hardly mattered anymore. Seven against two. Now Akashi was the one without legs to stand, to his chagrin.

"Alright," the Warlock resigned. "Take her with us. But I am not the babysitter here. Especially not with human. If she causes any trouble, then it's your fault."

"Thank you very much," said the little girl happily. For the first time since the death of her parents, she felt really belonging. "I will try my best not to get in your way. If you need anything, just ask. I am a really good cook."

"A good cook?" asked Aveneth. "Awesome. Hope you can teach Uishi here a thing or two about prepare g food. My stomach still remembers the excruciation from that day. The pain, the horror. Now I know exactly what Isha had suffered at the hand of Khaine."

"Hey, what does that suppose to mean?" Uishi retorted, but he was blushing violently. "I did my best, OK?" There was laughter coming from everyone except Akashi who was too embarrassed, and Kohaku who was as patch as a log in the middle of the desert. Even Carolina was laughing. Seeing the human child cheered up like that made Shizuka feel invigorated.

My dear, you are one of us now. You soul is among our souls, your mind among our minds, your joy brings us joy.

+How are you going to continue this?+ asked Akashi telepathically, linking directly to Shizuka.

+What do you mean?+ asked Shizuka, worried.

+You know what I mean. She is young now. But she will grow old as any other human and die as of any human. How long does it take? A century? You, on the other hand, will live on. How will you bear that?"

Shizuka wished she could punch the Warlock in the face right now. But he was right. Compared to the ageless Eldar, the humans were ephemeral beings, bred and dying in droves. It was a thing of nature, of the very balance that held this galaxy together, and arguably, the most powerful source of the humanity's overwhelming success across the stars.

+I will try,+ said Shizuka simply. She looked back at Carolina. The human girl was happy being in the group. But for how long?

As long as time allows, Shizuka answered herself. And she would make every second of it count.