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Every Purpose Under Heaven - Part 1 of 5

Disclaimers and Information are in the Master Post.

~~~~~ 

Prologue

 

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.

     Ecclesiastes 3:1 (World English Bible)

 

~~~~~

 

The battle raged.

 

As always, Tony Stark - Iron Man - was in the middle of it all.

 

Missiles exploded within inches as he danced almost delicately through the air. He swooped, he swerved, he dodged, and tried to lead Dr. Doom's army of Hammerdrones into the Avengers' carefully planned trap.

 

He talked rapidly to his teammates, giving them his location and his ETA. Teammates? Hell, his friends - for all intents and purposes, new members of his family that had once only seemed to have room for him and Pepper, Rhodey and Happy. Now there was Bruce and Steve, Thor and Natasha and Clint - he even had a soft spot for Fury and Coulson.

 

A very small soft spot.

 

Now Tony was leading what was left of the Hammerdrones towards them, where they were attacking Dr. Doom's last stronghold, where Tony planned on using Dr. Doom's own weapons against him by driving them into the bunker where the supervillain was hiding, buried in the depths of the Maine countryside.

 

The coward.

 

At least Doom was only using drones and not people, Tony thought, twisting and dodging another three missiles and destroying another drone in the process.

 

"Sir, there's an anomaly manifesting up ahead," Jarvis said.

 

"A what? Where?"

 

"Here."

 

And the world went black for Tony Stark.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

"Big man - in a suit of armor. Take that away, what are you?"

"Uh, genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist."

Steve Rogers/Tony Stark - The Avengers (movieverse)

 

~~~~~

 

"Look, all I'm saying is, you didn't have to be quite so rough back on the Cape Rouge. Just because you can't feel any pain doesn't mean I can't."

 

Nathan rolled his eyes and shot an exasperated glare over his shoulder at Duke as they trudged their way through the thick Maine forest.

 

"Will you give it a rest, already?" he muttered, swiping viciously at a tree branch and letting it snap back into Duke's face.

 

"Hey!"

 

"Would you be quiet? We can't be sure no one is following us. If they are, do you want everyone to know our plans?"

 

"Like they don't already?"

 

Nathan stopped abruptly and turned to confront Duke.

 

"Shut up!" Nathan hissed. "If they know our plans, then they're going to hurt Audrey. You know that."

 

"I don't think they're going to hurt her," Duke replied slowly.

 

Nathan tucked his hands beneath his arms in his all-too familiar defensive posture, and lifted an eyebrow. He tried to keep his face stoic, but his clear blue eyes showed the depths of his fear, uncertainty and pain. Not for the first time Duke marvelled at this man who felt no physical pain but who all too often felt far too deeply.

 

"No," Nathan said now, his voice clipped and cold. "They want you to hurt her."

 

Duke threw up his hands in exasperation at Nathan's obstinate naivete. "They want me to kill her! Come on, Nathan! You know that as well as I do! Stop - stop pussyfooting around!"

 

The air crackled with familiar tension as they glared at each other before Duke's eyes fell to Nathan's left forearm, which now showed no sign of the maze tattoo that had frozen Duke in his tracks during their faux struggle on his ship. The maze tattoo that would mark the man who would kill Duke. The maze tattoo that Nathan hadn't seemed to notice at the time, and which Duke had yet to mention.

 

Duke took a deep breath and opened his mouth to speak when Nathan abruptly looked to his right and made a hushing motion. Duke's eyes widened as he glanced around, and quickly and quietly grabbed the gun nestled in the small of his back.

 

The two men stood silent and still, listening intently to the sounds which seemed muted by the forest all around them.

 

Then Duke heard it too.

 

A low, guttural moan, definitely off to Nathan's right.

 

Nathan already had his own gun in his hand and with a quick glance at Duke, they stealthily edged their way towards the sound.

 

Silly, really, Duke thought, amused but grimly focused. They hadn't exactly been keeping their voices down as they argued earlier.

 

Of course, they actually had been almost sure they'd made it off the Cape Rouge without being seen, and without being followed. Now, suddenly, there was the possibility they'd been wrong.

 

They crept through the woods, two tall, lanky men, one dark, one fair, who in a different world might have been friends. Close friends, even. But in this world they were uneasy allies, the cop and the...not-cop, united in a desperate search for the woman who could save the two of them, save the Troubled, save their town.

 

They stopped, partially hidden in the shadows of the trees, and peered into a small clearing.

 

In the centre of it was a man, face down on the ground, battered and bruised, apparently unconscious, and definitely naked.

 

"Well," Duke said slowly. "There's something you don't see every day."

 

Nathan and Duke shared a glance, then moved as one towards the stranger. Duke knelt on one side while Nathan dropped to his knees on the other side of the man.

 

Duke quickly checked the man for broken bones.

 

"He's freezing cold," he said, shaking his head as he carefully rolled the man onto his back. Both Nathan and Duke froze when they saw the glowing disc embedded in the man's chest.

 

"What the hell?" Nathan breathed. He peered closer at the disc, then gently tried to lift the disc's edge from where it rested against the man's skin. The tips of his fingers brushed against the man's chest, and Nathan drew in a sharp breath as he snatched his hand away.

 

"What?" Duke demanded.

 

"I - I felt that," Nathan whispered. The blood drained from his face and his skin turned grey. He swayed slightly.

 

Duke shook his head, watching Nathan with a puzzled frown. "I understand the shock," he said, "but your reaction seems rather extreme -"

 

"Don't you get it?" Nathan forced out. "If I can feel him - if my Trouble is gone - if the Troubles are gone -"

 

Duke sucked in his breath and reeled back, stunned.

 

"Then...that means Audrey's gone, too," Duke whispered through numb lips.

 

Nathan squeezed his eyes shut and nodded.

 

"One way or the other," Nathan muttered, his voice thick with emotion.

 

Duke put a comforting hand on Nathan's forearm.

 

Nathan didn't react.

 

Duke frowned, and squeezed a little tighter.

 

Nothing.

 

"Look at your arm," Duke demanded.

 

Nathan forced his eyes open and blinked, frowning, then at Duke's urging, he looked down at Duke's hand gripping his forearm.

 

Nathan was perfectly still for a long, silent moment before his colour began to slowly return, and his face relaxed with relief.

 

"I never thought I'd be so grateful to feel nothing," Nathan muttered.

 

Duke grinned and clapped him on the shoulder.

 

"Now what are we going to do with this guy?" Duke asked, turning his attention back to the stranger between them.

 

"We can't leave him here," Nathan sighed. "And," he delicately pressed one finger against the man's shoulder, "I can feel him. Maybe he's somehow related to Audrey. Maybe he's connected to the Troubles."

 

"Well, he can't go back to Haven with me," Duke sighed. "I mean, what? I struggled with you, left you for dead and - by the way - I found a guy in the woods with a glowing thing stuck in his chest. Yeah. That'll make whoever took Audrey think I'm ready to join their side."

 

"We need reinforcements," Nathan said, and pulled out his cell phone. He shook his head at the no signal symbol as he rose to his feet.

 

"I'm going to go back towards the road, see if I can get a signal. Why don't you..." Nathan gestured vaguely, "cover him up with something."

 

Duke glanced around at the trees and underbrush.

 

"Sure," he said sardonically to Nathan's retreating back. "No problem."

 

Duke huffed a sigh, then looked warily at the surrounding woods that suddenly seemed closer and more ominous than a few moments earlier. He was almost sure he was safe. In spite of what he'd said to Nathan earlier, he was positive they hadn't been followed from the Cape Rouge, so he didn't really have to worry that whoever had framed him for Audrey's kidnapping was going to leap out at him at any moment. And Dwight had stashed the three girls - the Wendigo - in a slaughterhouse somewhere. And as far as Duke knew, there weren't any more stuffed animals coming back to life and attacking their killers - and besides, Duke hadn't gone hunting in years. Well. Not for animals, anyway.

 

Duke shook off his unease and frowned as he considered the stranger.

 

Dark, unruly hair. Boyish face not quite hidden or hardened by the goatee he sported. Duke stroked his own goatee and ran a hand through his own shock of unruly dark hair, then shook his head and continued with his obversations.

 

Late-thirties - early-forties. About five-nine or -ten; both he and Nathan would tower over him. Slender but muscular; the guy worked out.

 

And he had that glowing disc...thing in the middle of his chest. Inside his chest.

 

It made Duke's stomach squirm thinking about it.

 

"Whoever you are," Duke muttered, glancing again at the woods, "and wherever you came from - I'm not sure you're going to be glad to wake up in Haven, Maine right now with that thing in your chest. There are a whole lotta people willing to kill for a whole lot less reason than that."

 

He shook his head and got to work.

~~~~~

The first thing Tony noticed was the pain.

 

Every bone in his body hurt and every inch of his skin felt like it had gone through a cheese grater.

 

Then he noticed he was cold. Which simply seemed to be another type of pain.

 

Then he heard the voices.

 

"I know rudimentary first aid, but that thing in his chest is way outside anything I've ever seen before."

 

"Do we have any doctors among the Troubled?"

 

"Yeah. A couple," said a third voice.

 

"Then we just call them to take a look at him," said the first voice. "That - that - whatever it is doesn't seem to be hurting him. We need to have him checked out by somebody we can trust not to spread the news all over Haven."

 

"Sure," said the second voice, "but how are we going to keep this quiet?"

 

There was a snort, and the third voice said, "It's Haven. If there's one thing we're good at, it's keeping secrets."

 

There was a moment of silence, and Tony almost felt curious enough to open his eyes, but the thought alone pained him.

 

The first voice observed drily, "Good job with getting him warm, Duke. Those branches and leaves look really comfortable, especially when he's naked."

 

"Hey," the second voice protested, "we're in the middle of the damn forest! It's not like there are extra pants or blankets growing from the trees around here!"

 

"It's Haven," repeated the third voice, with a trace of wry humor. "Give it a minute."

 

Naked, Tony thought dimly. Huh. That at least explained why he was so cold. He must have really tied one on last night if he was naked...out here...in the woods...

 

It was too much effort to think.

 

He slipped gratefully back into the darkness.

 

~~~~~

 

Tony opened his eyes and frowned at the unfamiliar ceiling and the ache in his bones. It felt like he'd been asleep for a long time while it also felt like no time at all had passed.

 

It wasn't the first time he'd woken up somewhere with no memory of how he'd gotten there. It was, however, only the second time he wasn't hungover.

 

He cautiously let his gaze travel around the room. Rustic wood walls; no decorations; a small window with a plain white curtain under which stood a plain pine dresser. The floor was the same rustic wood as the walls except smoothed and beautifully stained, although just as bare. The bed he was in was narrow with an iron frame, and he was covered with a thick comforter, which was a cheery bright orange, the only splash of strong colour in the room.

 

While the room was spartan, it also spoke of solitude and peace, but Tony saw nothing that twigged his memory about how he'd gotten here from -

 

He frowned furiously as memory began to flood back.

 

He'd been leading the Hammerdrones to Dr. Doom's stronghold and the other Avengers. Jarvis had said something -

 

The door opened and a sharp-featured man with light brown hair poked his head around the door. The man was handsome in a boy-next-door kind of way, tall and thin, all arms and legs and sharp angles that could slice paper, with bright blue eyes that were unnervingly direct, calm, and clear.

 

He stilled when he met Tony's eyes, then he nodded in greeting, and said to someone behind him, "He's awake."

 

"Great!"

 

The first man came further into the room followed closely by a dark-haired man. This second man was also handsome, but with a slightly dangerous edge. He had a long face, dark brown eyes and a goatee, and for a moment Tony wondered if they were somehow related, or if he was some sort of Tony Stark wannabe.

 

The two men stood side-by-side at the foot of the bed, and Tony saw they were the same height. They both crossed their arms and stared expectantly at him.

 

Tony said the first thing that came to mind.

 

"Where's Pepper?" he croaked, and only then realized how thirsty he was.

 

The two men glanced at each other, then the dark-haired man said, "In the...kitchen?"

 

Tony relaxed. "She's safe, then?"

 

"Pepper's a person?" the brown-haired man asked sharply. "You were the only one we found."

 

"Found?"

 

The brown-haired man shook his head. He glanced at the dark-haired man and tilted his head towards the door. The dark-haired man nodded, and left the bedroom while the brown-haired man turned his attention back to Tony.

 

"I'm sorry," the brown-haired man said. "Things around here have been a little...bizarre -"

 

He spoke slowly and deliberately, as if speaking went against his nature. He stood with his hands tucked beneath his arms, and Tony didn't think he'd ever seen anyone who held himself as deliberately still, as alone, as the stranger in front of him.

 

"Yeah, even more bizarre than usual," the dark-haired man said as he returned to the bedroom with a glass and a pitcher of water. He poured Tony some water and handed it to him before putting the pitcher on the table beside the bed.

 

Tony gratefully drank as slowly as possible. He still vividly remembered his first glass of water after Rhodey found him in Afghanistan. He remembered how good it felt going down, but he especially remembered how horrible it felt coming up.

 

The brown-haired man shot Duke a fondly irritated look, then said to Tony, "Regardless. We should have introduced ourselves. I'm Nathan Wuornos. I'm the Acting Chief of Police of Haven, Maine. This is Duke Crocker. He's..." Nathan hesitated.

 

Duke gave Tony a grin as wide as a crocodile's and about as trustworthy. "I'm a local businessman. A pillar of the community. Indispensable to the future of Haven, you might say." Duke spoke quickly, and Tony immediately recognized a kindred spirit in the fast-talking charmer in front of him.

 

"To at least a certain segment of the community," Nathan agreed, a thread of warning in his voice. He turned back to Tony. "Anyway. We found you in the woods around Haven. You were alone. Are you saying you were with someone? There's somebody else out there?"

 

Tony shook his head with a frown, lowering the glass. "No, I'm pretty sure I was alone." His frown deepened. "How'd you get me out of the suit?"

 

Now it was Nathan and Duke's turn to frown.

 

"The suit?" Nathan asked.

 

Tony nodded. "Yeah. The Iron Man suit. There are enough failsafes in that thing that you shouldn't have been able to get me out of it without - well, causing yourself and pretty much everything around you a lot of damage."

 

"The what suit?" Duke asked.

 

Tony stared at him. "The Iron Man suit. You know - Iron Man?"

 

Duke slanted a puzzled and concerned look at Nathan. "Do you know what the hell he's talking about?"

 

Nathan shook his head.

 

Duke turned back to Tony. "Man, the only suit you had on when we found you was your birthday suit."

 

Tony rocked back slightly, his face drawn.

 

"No suit?" he repeated.

 

Nathan shook his head.

 

"And you have no idea what I'm talking about when I say it's the Iron Man suit?"

 

Both Nathan and Duke shook their heads.

 

Tony stared.

 

"I'm a freakin' superhero!" he said.

 

"A superhero," Duke repeated flatly. "What? You dress up in a fancy outfit and fight supervillains out to take over the world?"

 

"Yes! I mean - no. I mean - I'm Iron Man! You must have heard of Iron Man! I privatized world peace!"

 

Duke shrugged. "Never heard of him." He leaned closer to Nathan and murmured, "Friend of yours?"

 

Nathan shot him a puzzled glance.

 

"You know - man of iron. Maybe he can't feel anything either."

 

"But I can feel him," Nathan replied with an irritated roll of his eyes and turned his attention back to Tony. "Let's start at the beginning. What's your name?"

 

Tony closed his mouth with a snap.

 

"I'm Tony Stark!" Even Tony almost winced at how affronted he sounded.

 

Nathan's and Duke's expressions of polite bewilderment didn't change.

 

"Is that supposed to mean something to us?" Nathan finally asked when it became apparent that for once in his life, Tony didn't know what else to say.

 

Tony took a deep, calming breath, and spoke very slowly, as if they were particularly obtuse children. "I am Tony Stark. Of Stark Industries. Also known as Iron Man, one of several superheroes who together are known as the Avengers."

 

Nathan and Duke stared at him expressionlessly, with no indication of dawning recognition.

 

"I'm one of the richest men in the world because of Stark Industries! You know - Stark Industries?" Tony prompted. "Previously the largest defense contractor in the country?"

 

Nathan and Duke both frowned.

 

"That would be Bishop Industries," Nathan said slowly. "I've never heard of Stark Industries." He glanced a question at Duke, who shook his head.

 

Tony's eyes widened and he felt a frisson of fear snake down his spine.

 

Where, exactly, was he?

 

He rubbed his face and muttered more to himself than to the other men, "We were fighting Dr. Doom's Hammerdrones -" He stopped abruptly at Duke's loud bark of laughter.

 

"Dr. Doom?" Duke asked, grinning broadly. "Seriously? What - are you living in a comic book?"

 

Nathan couldn't fight his own grin.

 

Tony gaped, his mouth opening and closing without a sound.

 

"Listen," Nathan soothed, "why don't you get some rest, and we'll figure things out in the morning." He nodded towards the dresser that stood opposite the bed. "There are some clothes in there; they won't fit very well, but at least they're clothes. The bathroom's down the hall, last door on your right. I'll bring in a plate of sandwiches and some more water, although you're welcome to whatever's in the kitchen. Duke has to head back into Haven, but -"

 

"I'll be back tomorrow morning, after I'm seen opening the Grey Gull," Duke said, more to Nathan than to Tony.

 

Nathan nodded and said again, "We'll figure everything out tomorrow."

 

Tony stared blindly at nothing, and barely noticed as the two men left the room.

 

~~~~~

 

As soon as they were back in the living room, Duke lowered his voice and murmured, "Stark Industries? Iron Man? I've never heard of any of those things he was talking about. Superheroes? Really?"

 

"Me, neither," Nathan agreed. "Then again, this is Haven. We could just be having a Haven Moment."

 

"Good point," Duke conceded. "Damn, I wish Audrey was here."

 

"Me, too," Nathan said fervently.

 

Duke clapped a hand on Nathan's shoulder. "We're going to find her. Safe and sound. And when we do, we're going to turn the tables on this whole damn town."

 

~~~~~

 

Nathan looked up as the bedroom door opened the next morning, and his guest limped out, swathed in clothes that were several sizes too large for him.

 

Nathan gave him a slight smile. "There's coffee in the kitchen," he said, "and I put extra towels in the bathroom if you want to take a bath. No shower," he added at Tony's raised eyebrows.

 

Tony nodded, then limped down the short hall to the bathroom.

 

Nathan frowned at his own coffee, then stood and paced to the window and stood, staring out at the trees that grew right up to the doors.

 

Dwight had told him about this cabin, that it had been the Chief's. A cabin Nathan had known nothing about. Not for the first time since his father had...died, Nathan wondered about the man he'd never really known, and not just because of all the secrets the Chief had taken with him to the grave.

 

Like this cabin. It had obviously been built by hand, with love, and with the intention of sharing it with others. It was small and sturdy, but it had two bedrooms, and the bedroom Nathan was using had a king-size, hand-made bed in it.

 

Who had he built this cabin for, Nathan wondered. Nathan's mother? Someone else? Why had he built the extra bedroom? Nathan shook his head. So many mysteries, he thought bitterly. So many secrets. And now the Chief was gone, and Nathan was left trying to muddle through the Troubles and the mystery of Audrey, and keep Haven safe. His father had told him it was his, Nathan's, responsibility to hold Haven together now.

 

He couldn't do it without Audrey.

 

And, okay. As much as it pained him to admit it...he maybe needed Duke, too.

 

Damn it.

 

He listened to the water flowing in the bathroom.

 

And now this stranger, talking about being a superhero, with that...thing in his chest. And Nathan could feel him...

 

As the sound of running water stopped, Nathan wondered if this stranger was connected to Audrey or her kidnapping.

 

He wondered if this stranger was just another secret his father had never bothered to tell him.

 

~~~~~

 

Duke walked into the cabin and glanced at Nathan, who was standing silent and still at the window, his hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans. Duke glanced around the living room.

 

"Where's our guest?"

 

"Taking a nap," Nathan replied without looking at him. "What happened in town?"

 

"Everybody's freaking out, searching for you and Audrey. I've been interviewed by the cops three times so far this morning, and the Teagues have phoned four. But nothing helpful. So far."

 

Nathan nodded, still staring out the window.

 

Duke moved to stand beside him.

 

"This will work, Nathan," he said softly, "but it's gonna take time."

 

"Time Audrey may not have," Nathan bit out. "I should be in Haven, beating heads in."

 

Duke put his hand on Nathan's shoulder. "And where, exactly, are you going to start? Besides, we both know it would be more dangerous for Audrey if you push too hard to find her."

 

Nathan nodded. "I know. What I don't know, though, is why they framed you for it."

 

Duke smirked. "That's a question I'm going to be asking, as soon as I find somebody to ask." He gently pushed at Nathan's shoulder. "Now, come on. We have another mystery to solve."

 

~~~~~

 

 


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Quotes

"All right," said Susan. "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need...fantasies to make life bearable."

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

"Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little --"

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

"So we can believe the big ones?"

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

-- Susan and Death in Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

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"And no practical definition of freedom would be complete without the freedom to take the consequences. Indeed, it is the freedom upon which all the others are based."

-- Lord Vetinari in Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

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They thought the Library was a dangerous place because of all the magical books, which was true enough, but what made it really one of the most dangerous places there could ever be was the simple fact that it was a library.

-- Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

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As a wizard, it was something that Ponder had only before encountered in acorns: a tiny soundless voice which said, yes, I am but a small, green, simple object - but I dream about forests.

-- Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett

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In the 24th century, there will be no hunger. There will be no greed. And every child will know how to read.

-- Gene Roddenberry, as repeated by Jonathan Frakes in the documentary How William Shatner Changed the World

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We've got two lives, one we're given and the other one we make
And the world won't stop, and actions speak louder
Listen to your heart, and what your heart might say
Everything we got, we got the hard way.

-- Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Hard Way from the album Come On, Come On

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Cause when they own the information, oh
They can bend it all they want.

-- John Mayer, Waiting on the World to Change from the album Continuum

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Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, "I'll try again tomorrow."

-- Mary Anne Radmacher, as seen in Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Tales to Inspire

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I never loved the soldier
Until there was a war.
Or thought about tomorrow
'til my baby hit the floor.
I only talk to God
When somebody's about to die.
I never cherished freedom
Freedom never cries.

-- Five for Fighting, Freedom Never Cries from the album Two Lights

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It may sound absurd: but don't be naive
Even heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed: but won't you concede
Even heroes have the right to dream

-- Five for Fighting, Superman (It's Not Easy) from the album American Town

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Had a dream last night took a time travellin' ride
Back to my childhood where those monsters reside
They snack on innocence and dine on self-esteem
But I like to be in touch with what makes me scream
Vampires, mummies and the Holy Ghost
These are the things that terrify me the most.
No alien, psychopath or MTV host
Scares me like vampires,mummies and the Holy Ghost.

-- Jimmy Buffett, Vampires, Mummies and the Holy Ghost from the album Fruitcakes

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"I want to believe that... the dead are not lost to us. That they speak to us... as part of something greater than us - greater than any alien force. And if you and I are powerless now, I want to believe that if we listen, to what's speaking, it can give us the power to save ourselves."

-- Fox Mulder, The X-Files from the episode The Truth, pt. 2
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