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And for a time he lays down his pistol, again..


Firestorm
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Bob is royally pissed off at the world. Some men have war in their blood. They thrive on the killing, blood, the viscera, and the stench of the field of war. Pain is what drives them on and inflicting it makes them complete. In their darkest moments these sorts of men are the kind of people who are probably associated with some of the grimmest chapters of human history. Others take their pleasure in art, while these types find their solace in the way their handle the tools of war like a maestro who has perfected their craft. Without war they are lost, and if anything they are a danger to those around them.

Bob isn't one of these screwballs. He's a violent sort of fellow when he needs to be, but for the most part he uses violence to to forward his personal agenda. The occasional, well multiple, executions that transpired by his own hand in the last few months in Somal could be construed ad the actions of a raving sociopath. Behind closed doors after each and every killing Bob had thrown up repeatedly and spent the rest of the day behind closed curtains taking apart his pistol and putting it back together. Bob's anger has very little to do with the act of making war, but more so everything to do with the non-act of not making war.

Dedicating himself to the act of making war upon his fellow man takes a great deal of resolution that isn't always easily summoned. War for the sheer sake of war doesn't happen for Bob. Every battle, campaign, skirmish, ambush, stabbing, shooting, bayoneting, 'strenuous interrogation *cough* torture session', and other acts of violence first has to be internalized before it is committed. To others he seems quick to act, but inside he's a very deliberate person. Once he has made up his mind to act in a violent manner, a decision supported by the need to further his own goals, he acts without hesitation.

Being forced to hesitate chafes him in the worst way possible. The empty hours of waiting, questioning, and mindless routine hasn't ever suited Bob well. The recent aborted campaign in Stigia, followed by the noncampaign in Italy, and the ride home by ship had drawn Bob's nerves out like a string being pulled on by two bulldozers. He isn't quite at the snapping point, but to call him a bit testy is a horrendous understatement. Bob's a wise enough guy to know when he has to blow off some steam, and it didn't take him very long after arriving home to hope on the first plane out of the Republic.

The plane ride did Bob a world of good. Something about the mile high club and gallons of free drinks in first class takes the edge off a man when he's frazzled. Having a good buzz when getting off the plane and a stewardess's number in his pocket didn't quite do it for Bob. He aimlessly wanders the streets of the Western African capital looking for trouble, and it should be no surprise to all that Bob is going to find it right quickly. However, before we get to that small detail it is important to note that Bob is dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, polo shorts, flip flops, and a hat that looks like it sustained a shotgun blast at close range (actually it wasn't a shotgun it was a flechette round from a 90 mm Recoiless Rifle).

Bob, not expecting trouble, wanders his behind into a small store. He's promptly punched in the face by someone trying to rob it. The person trying to rob it is promptly terrified by Bob's awful hat and feels Bob's hands grabbing his shirt. While the robber tries to rip himself out of Bob's hands he feels the stinging pain of Bob's teeth clenching down on his shoulder. About a half a second of though evaporates between the thug's ears when he realizes he is being bitten. Now most folks might have tried something different, but it is important to recognize that thugs are idiots.

This particular idiot reaches down to his belt for a pistol, accidentally discharges the pistol, and promptly performs a radical self-circumcision. Bob merely looks down and says, "God damn I bet that has to hurt."

The robber says, "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

RRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHH

HHHHHHHHHH

HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Bob, being the gentleman he is, extracts the blood covered pistol and slaps the man unconscious with it. He then looks to the store owner and asks, "You don't happen to have any beer do you?"

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Bob is in jail. Not that he is surprised given that he was just found at the scene of a crime where someone had shot their own penis off with a high caliber pistol. It makes sense to Bob that they at least detain him for a period of time to sort out the specifics. He hasn't said much in the way of anything about his particulars. For the most part he's happy enough sitting quietly looking at the assorted riff raff cluttering up the West Africa Judicial system. The atmosphere of the place, dark and humid, brings a memory to the surface of his mind.

The Sudan, 15 years ago...

"So you want to be a gunfighter," asks Gerald?

"Yeah, I wanna be a damn gunfighter," says Bob.

"A nice boy like you from New York City wanting to be a gunfighter. No one would have ever guessed," retorts Gerald.

"Look, you are the best and I want to learn from the best. Will you show me how to do what you do," asks Bob?

"I kill for money, you aren't like me. I can't teach you how to do what I do," Gerald says as he absently fingers his drink that is sitting on the table in front of him.

"I'm not asking to be like you, I just want to learn how to shoot straight enough to get the job done."

"That is the problem, now isn't it? A job implies a certain dedication and emotional blankness on your part. I can see your rage from here," snorts Gerald.

"What is the damn difference," screams Bob as he asks?

"Son, first of all you need to settle down. Don't take that as a polite request either. You settle down or I'll settle you down myself."

Bob breathes, breathes again, and breathes a third time before saying, "Look, I'm angry, I'm very angry, and I haven't slept properly since last month. Just show me how to shoot."

"I don't sympathize, and frankly I don't give a damn what you saw at that little sty of a village you were helping out at," hisses Gerald as he comes to his feet and unclasps the leather strap holding down his .45 autoloader that is strapped to his hip.

Bob stands, reaches down for his own pistol in a hot race of fury, and feels his body disconnect with his mind as he drops to the floor. Some hours later he wakes up in a dark room on a soft bed. On his head is a cold cloth, and nearby him he can smell the sweet perfume of a woman in the darkness. He hears her breathes come and go as she sits quietly. It isn't long before he hears the woman say,"I know you are awake."

"Yeah I'm awake," replies Bob.

"Gerald says he'll be back later to start your lessons in gunfighting."

"After he laid me out," asks Bob?

"He says you have potential," replies the woman.

Later on...

Gerald and Bob stand at the end of the firing line, both are facing a line of targets, and both are armed. The buzzer whines and they draw their side arms. The similarities end there as Gerald fires a fast ripple of shots that knocks down each of his targets one after the other. Bob manages about two shots in about the same time period. He feels disappointment and his face shows it. After holstering his pistol he turns to Gerald and says, "This is taking to damn long."

"You think Gun Fighting is some sort of science. It isn't," Gerald says as he replaces the targets.

"The mechanics of it ought to make it one."

"You can't break gunfighting down into some simple checklist. Military organizations do that sort of thing to make their soldiers competent. It works, but in a pistol on pistol confrontation they wouldn't stand a chance against a passable gunfighter. Though don't let that go to your head as there will always be far more soldiers, police officers, and other sorts than gunfighters."

Bob looks downrange before asking, "Go another round or two?"

Gerald smiles as he nods and takes his place again. Before nodding to the Range Safety Officer he says to Bob, "Knock down all of your targets this time and don't stop firing till they are down. It's a good habit to learn ahead of time."

Later On...

The streets are dark and quiet. In the darker shadows things lurk that most proper folks wouldn't take the time to play around with. The occasional hungry vagrant might take a chance on snaring one of the bottom dwellers, but most tend to find easier things to feed on. If this city were a person it's face would be a hard one. No emotions, no humor, no nothing to show any sort of redeeming human qualities. It is this city Bob has chosen to exercise his newly learned gunfighting skills.

Unlike Gerald, he isn't going to kill for money, Bob is going to kill for the sake of settling a debt. A debt that needs paying in the form of blood, lots of blood. A debt incurred by the torture, $%&@, and murder of nearly two hundred civilians at the hands of a pack of howling savages that are currently squatting nearby. The tools of his new trade are securely strapped to his body and he walks quietly towards the dirty looking building at the end of the street and he has no hesitations about what he is about to do.

Bob doesn't take to killing as a sport. Now that he's armed, dangerous, and determined the decision to kill came to him after some serious time alone doing some thinking. The variables of the act ran through his mind as he had to weigh his own commitment with the relief organization that he had volunteered with to help bring light to the dark continent of Africa. Other issues such as the morality of killing another person were quickly cast aside by the memories of the massacre that he couldn't stop or prevent. Bob, as of now, is a loaded weapon aimed right at the heart of the People's Resistance Militia of the Sudan.

He still doesn't know how they came up with a name like the People's Resistance Militia. They certainly didn't have any desire to represent the people and nor did the people have any any desire to be represented by them. The Militia, and calling them that is being generous on Bob's part, consists of a rabble of killers, pimps, rapists, and other lowlife scum. Bob's first encounter with them had ended up with him being drug off into the jungle by his host family to protect him from the cruel ways of the People's Resistance Militia.

It was from the jungle, as he was being held down with his mouth gagged by one of his own socks, Bob had watched the $%&@, torture, and murder of the people he pledged himself to help. He couldn't do much other than cry silent tears of rage and futility. The blood flowed from early night till well into the afternoon and all the while Bob watched. It took another three days before the local army showed up to drive off the Militia. Inside, deep inside, on a level unseen by modern science, Bob had hardened.

The hardness has nothing to do with his foot either. However, the hard steel shanks of his boots more than make up for any softness of his feet. Splinters, screams, and the thundering boom of Bob's pistol fills the room. He works the room like it is his very own as he sights, acquires, breathes, steadies, squeezes, and fires repeatedly as he lines up new targets to exterminate. In a matter of moments the quiet returns and Bob finds himself left in a room of dead or dying men. He walks up to one of them, pumps a slug into his forehead, and then moves onto the next miserable wreck of a human as he repeats the process. It isn't mercy Bob is showing these low life scum, but practicality.

Back in the slammer in West Africa, present day..

Bob smiles as he says, "Yeah no point in leaving one alive to shoot me in the back," to no one in particular.

Edited by Firestorm
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West Africa

Bob is out of jail, for the time being, and enjoying himself. His stay in the durance vile hadn't gone longer than five or six hours before two large burly West African Police officers tossed him off the front step of the Police station and left him in a heap. Which probably was a good thing a Bob had managed to roll over in time to extend both of his middle fingers at their backs as they walked back into the building. After peeling himself off the concrete Bob decided to get showered and to change his clothes for a night of carousing before getting out of town on a more permanent basis.

A quick trip to the shower at his hostel takes care of the stench of spending a few hours in the drunk tank. The raised eyebrows of the proprietors are only raised even more when Bob returns wearing a bright green pair of dayglo board shorts and another Hawaiian shirt. He winks at the grandmother manning the front desk, tosses her his key, and says, "Luv, I'm going to be out till down. Have a bit of greasy waiting?"

"Hurrrmmph," replies the Grandmother.

"I'll take that as a yes," he replies as he walks out.

Edited by Firestorm
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OOC: Heh heh. The thing that happened in the first post...I've actually heard a news story beofre about something like that actually happening... Ouch... :blink:

I believe it was a bank robber, though I can't remember for certain.

Edited by Subtleknifewielder
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Sudan, 15 years ago.

Bob clears the chamber of his pistol, drives a new magazine of hollow points into the butt, slips the pistol back into its holster, and walks out of the room. Behind him are the bodies of five People's Resistance Militia and in front of him are three very confused live ones as they run at him. His options are limited as his pistol is holstered and they are carrying AK-47s in their hands. However, the element of confusion, the dark of the night, the lateness of the hour, and the inebriated state of the three militiamen play well into Bob's hands.

Bob screams, "Hurry, hurry! They need your help as he stumbles away from the doorway. It might be important to note that Bob is always wearing a pair of green fatigue pants, and a ratty looking t-shirt that tends to pass as the uniform of the day in the militia. The three Militia men charge the doorway, kick the door in, and move to enter inside as Bob turns around to face their backs. Bob has a small, feral looking smile, on his face as he raises his pistol. Three rapid shots crack out mowing down the militia men as they are caught unaware.

The same can't be said for the other two who open fire on Bob from the other side of the street. He turns and fires back in two swift double taps of orange explosions as his pistol hammers out four heavy slugs. One of the men is flung to the ground, dead, while the other flees to cover. Bob reloads his pistol as the surviving man ineffectively pops away at Bob. With AK-47 bullets whistling over head he tucks away his pistol and picks up one of the dead men's rifles and ignores the blood all over it. He raises the rifle to his shoulder and advances across the street as he fires three round bursts.

The surviving militiaman leaps to his own feet and is hit in the shoulder by one of Bob's bullets. It isn't long before the rapist/murderer is staring up the gaping chasm of Bob's .45 pistol, but he doesn't stare for long as Bob wastes no time in pumping a slug in the man's forehead. The dull boom of the pistol report drowns out the shouts, screams, and crashing of men as they fumble to their feet all around Bob. A short time later they begin to pour into the streets with their weapons in hands. Bob fades into the darkness as he moves away from the scene.

Modern Day, West Africa

Bob is on the stage dancing. His shirt is tied around some girl's head and her cell number has long since been stuffed down the front of his pants. Bob's not much of a dancer, but he puts all of his drunken effort into it as the crowd of drunken revelers cheer him on. He manages a particularly adept move of not falling headfirst off the stage after tripping over his own feet. Not that it would matter as Bob would have not felt a thing due to the sheer quantity of alcohol he had consumed prior to attempting to launch a brilliance fueled career in dance.

After another song comes to its grim techno charged conclusion Bob hops off the stage and makes his way over to his table that is occupied by a rather seedy looking pimp. Bob smiles, grabs the man by the ears, and throws him out of his chair. After he sits, has his beer refreshed, and has his indecent proposal rejected by the waitress Bob takes the time to take out his small digital camera. With uncertain eyes and technique he snaps a picture or two of the stage and puts the camera away. No point in having it out just now as the girl who is wearing his shirt for a hat is giving Bob those kind of eyes that say, "Hey, let's fornicate like Baboons".

It is a few days later that Bob looks over the pictures he took from that memorable night. Not only did he take the girl back to his hostel, he performed a feat of sexual athleticism in the showers with her, and then to polish it off he drove the eight sleeping people in his ten bed dorm room fleeing into the night by attempting to repeat the feet in his bed up in the top bunk. Bob smiles to himself as he looks over the pictures and smiles even more remembering the grandmother, who tends the front desk, chasing him out of the hostel with a broom.

Such are the memories that last a life time.

P1000051.jpg

Edited by Firestorm
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Brisbane International Airport (ooc note: Waiting on permission from Sarah before proceeding with any more posts, considering I am waltzing right through her airport.)

"Anything to declare," asks the Security Guard at Brisbane International Airport?

"No sir," replies Mad Dog Bob Denard as he finishes with, "Just here to take in the sights and maybe help out where I can."

"I'm sure you'll find plenty of opprotunities to help out," replies the Security Guard with eyes loaded with a deep sadness that Bob really can understand.

He reaches across the table and places his hand on the Security Guard's hand and says, "Look mate, things will get better and I know this sounds hollow coming from some guy in line at the airport, but what happened here will never be forgotten."

"Hard to forget my entire family dying," mutters the Security Guard as he passes Bob's Passport through the Immigration Control Computer.

"Here, take this," says Bob as he slides over a slip of paper that has his new cell phone number on it. He had picked up a new international sim card before leaving West Africa to avoid having to change sim cards in every country. He looks at the man and says, "Call me if you can't find anyone to talk to. I'll buy you a few beers and we'll see what trouble we can get into."

The Security Guard nods his head, takes the slip of paper, and hands Bob his passport back. "Have a nice stay in Brisbane sir," replies the security guard as he misses the small notice at the bottom requesting that Mad Dog Bob Denard be detained by customs.

"No problem mate, and remember call me anytime you want to talk or go tear up the neighborhood," as he walks away to find himself transportation into the city. Bob doesn't smile, doesn't frown, and particularly he doesn't cry as he walks through the mostly empty passenger terminal. The death of four million people hardly would promote tourism of any sort, and certainly Bob isn't here to sight see. He's here to help out in a quiet manner that allows him to avoid the absurdities of politics.

Politics started this mess with Brisbane and he wants no part of them. In his pocket he has a list of contact numbers for local aid organizations that he plans on contacting to lend his assistance. After stepping onto a bus and making himself comfortable he drifts off to sleep to play with his own inner demons for awhile.

Sudan, 15 years ago

From the shadows Bob watches the gathering militiamen as they assemble. It wouldn't be assembling as much as it would be a mob of men looking disorganized and ill-equipped to deal with this situation. Bob extracts a green metal orb commonly recognized as a fragmentation grenade. With a hard lob he hurls the grenade into the center of the mob and watches as instant pandemonium breaks out before it detonates with a brilliant flash in the dark night. Bob misses the part where it explodes as he is already lying face down in the dirt hoping not to catch any shards from the device.

He also misses the shredding of nearly a dozen more militiamen as the grenade catches them in the open with no cover. It isn't long before Bob comes back to his feet and he draws his .45 pistol out of its holster. He fills his free hand with a second pistol of the same caliber before beginning his advance on the panicked rabble of militiamen. The twin booms of his pistols echo and hammer the ears of anyone in range. The heavy bullets leave broken men in their wake as they tear bodies apart. Bob's surprise is complete as he chops down five more of the militiamen in his opening volley.

Of course, what is a surprise for them, can also come as a surprise for Bob as he feels a burning pain in his left arm. He feels his left hand loose grip on one of his pistols, but isn't at all deterred as he turns his attention on the person who shot him. He swings the right handed pistol into line and empties the rest of the magazine into the shooter's body. He watches with a grim fascination as the man is tossed around like a bloody rag doll under the heavy impacts of the bullets. As the shooter falls silence returns to the streets.

Bob looks around, reloads his pistols, tucks them away in their holsters, and walks away after using a neckerchief off one of the dead men to bandage his arm.

Edited by Firestorm
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Brisbane

Bob looks over the sea of dirty faces and says, "Now look, I appreciate you've all been playing soccer, sorry, I mean football all day long, but you know I can't let you back inside until you wash your hands and faces."

This of course is all the invitation the mob of young boys need to hurl themselves into a nearby swimming pool. Bob just sort of scratches his head before laughing to himself. His laugh is cut short by a small voice, "Mister Bob, can I go in the pool also?"

Bob looks down at young Daphne and says, "Well I wouldn't suggest it. A girl your size might end up getting eaten by that hungry mob."

"Mister Bob," exclaims Daphne!

"Hey, don't say I didn't warn you," replies Bob.

"I'm going to tell Mother Superior," says Daphne as she runs off.

Bob says, "OH SHI-," and quickly cuts it off as the mob of boys seems to be returning.

"Mister Bob we have cleaned up for supper! Can we go eat now," they ask?

"Well boys far be it for me to suggest that you might not want to go trample Mother Superior's floors with your wet clothes," he replies.

"Mister Bob we are hungry," they whine.

"Oh f.... god... son of... mot....," replies Bob as he remembers that he isn't addressing a rifle squad. He places one of his hands on the side of his face and collects himself before saying, "Look, you boys slip around back. Get changed, and scoot right around and we'll eat."

"Mister Bob, if I don't eat I'll simply perish of hunger!"

"Yes, and if I let you inside soaking wet you'll perish of something far worst," snorts Bob as he extends his finger in the direction the boys need to go.

The wet mob scurries away with an energy that only the very young possess as Bob watches. Behind him he hears, "Yes Mister Bob, would you care to tell me how young Daphne seems to think there are sharks in the pool?"

"Well ma'am, umm, yes, about that, yes, err, well, you know, it's complicated, ummm," stammers Bob as he turns to face Mother Superior.

"Mister Bob need I remind you that these are impressionable young children and orphans each one of them. Their entire families were wiped out by the plague. They need firmness and love in equal measures. I do truly appreciate your efforts here, but you'd be wise to learn how to give precise directions to these young ones," replies the stern faced Catholic nun.

"Yes, Mother Superior," replies Bob who has taken on the appearance of a naughty school boy.

"Bob, try not to look to crestfallen. Not many volunteers have come forward to work with these young ones. It is difficult to find good help that cares. I'd be lost without you, but at the same token you do have a lot to learn about children."

"Yes, Mother Superior."

"It shouldn't be hard to learn given you seem perpetually trapped in an adolescent state yourself. Just remember that here we need firmness, fairness, and love all in equal measures," remarks the Mother Superior as she walks away.

Daphne sticks her little pixie head around the corner and Bob has a violent image of him chopping it off with a machete before pitching it into the swimming pool. He looks at her, thinks for a second, and then says in a deep voice, "Daphne, go get your hands washed and sit down for dinner. I'll be along shortly with the boys. After dinner you'll help me clean up the dishes and then we'll read before bed."

"Really Mister Bob," asks Daphne?

"Really Miss Daphne," replies Bob.

"That's the bestest thing ever," she says as she runs back into the house.

Bob smiles right up until he sees the mob of boys thundering back around the corner of the house in dry clothes. After seeing them he only sighs and lets loose with another deep voice, parade ground quality, and says, "Line up, hands to your sides, and prepare to exit the aircraft!"

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Bob is sleeping in a reclining chair. He's not alone as Daphne is using him for a pillow. The both of them snore their way through the afternoon while the rest of the children are in class with Mother Superior. Daphne being four years old is let out of class after half a day and has taken to following Bob around for the other half of the day. After spending an hour reading with Daphne the night before Bob had decided to spend an hour or two teaching her to read every afternoon. Today was the first day and while the young girl had made good progress both of them had fallen fast asleep for very different reasons.

Bob was just exhausted from spending the night helping crying children deal with their nightmares. Each night since the plague the young one's nightmares have seemed to get progressively worst. Their emotional outbursts at times seem inexplicable, but somewhat familiar to Bob as the reactions to fear and anger. During the day these traits have manifested them in the form of fighting, bullying, and other aggressive youthful behaviors that have been patiently confronted and corrected by Bob and the Mother Superior. At night the facade of macho youthfulness falls away and the nightmares, bed wetting, and night terrors creep in.

This has forced both Bob and the Mother Superior to spend long hours at night helping the boys. Daphne on the other hand being four years old sleeps from dusk till dawn with a long afternoon nap. Bob finds this reassuring to some extent, but worries that what she doesn't register now will only come to haunt her later. Still, trying to get a four year old girl who believes in fairies and princesses to understand how a man made disaster wantonly slaughtered four million people is a bit beyond Bob's expertise with children. However, Bob is of the opinion that given time Daphne will figure it out for herself and make her own conclusions, and Bob sincerely hopes these conclusions don't lead her to a hate filled life wanting only retribution.

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The rain came down on the cobblestone streets of the Old City in sheets. So hard in fact that the droplets shot back up into the sky like stinging bullets. Especially painful for someone wearing a dress with stockings, where her shoes sunk down in the puddles and the water ran down her legs, into her socks making the entire walk through the city absolutely miserable. This, combined with the sight of bio hazard quarantine signs blinking orange lights around the city, made the Lady Protector of the Hanseatic Commonwealth in a truly depressing mood. But, there of course was hope, which was what Sarah was looking for when she took night walks like this. She would take a day out of the week and walk through the town, getting the feel of where her citizen's mindsets were. For the most part it was an enjoyable experience, but since the attack, her mood and the mood of the city in general was less then uplifting.

She had spent most of the day outside, browsing the medical camps, the hospitals, and a few residential communities. People were thankful, but many did not feel that they felt that they could go on and sometimes she doubted that as well. But hope was important now and as much as she could she refused to give up on these people. Which brought her to the end of this ruined cobblestone road in the outskirts of the city. The orphanage of St. Catherine of Siena, had been overlooked by her for many of her tours of the city, but the children of the city had suffered the worse and Sarah's heart bled more for the orphans than anyone else. So after trudging through the mud and puddles of the ruined walkway up to the chapel, she banged hard on the door and waited for a response.

A large nun opened the large wooden door and her eyes widened at who was staring back at her, soaking wet. "Your Ladyship?! Goodness Gracious, I wasn't expecting such a visit." She bowed her head. "Please, please, come in from the rain."

"Thanks." Sarah smiled as she walked into the stone entrance hall. It was stuffy in the chapel, but there was a strange charm to it, dashed away after a small boy ran up to the robe of the Mother Superior and tugged, begging her for attention.

"Mother, please tuck me into bed."

Sarah's heart nearly broke at the sight as she bent down towards the boy. He looked up and drew back at the sight of someone who he had only seen on the television prior to the war. He smiled. "Hello Miss Sarah, did you come her to say goodnight?"

She nodded and picked up the boy in her wet arms. "Yes, yes I am." She turned back to the Mother Superior. "I came to check on the orphanage to see if you need anything, anything at all. The government will give as much funding as you need."

"No Your Ladyship, you have taken care of us before and we're doing fine. Send the money to people that need it. People without homes, or people that are still suffering and sick. The children are in good hands."

"I'm still rebuilding the orphanage. The crews will be here tomorrow to repair the roads and anything else in the courtyard and chapel. Also, I'll send my personal chef to give the children a great meal tomorrow." She smiled. "A meal for thanksgiving. Thanks that we are all still here and healthy."

"God bless you Your Ladyship, I can't thank you enough." As they passed a room, the Mother Superior spied Bob, quietly snoring in a chair in one of the enclaves. "Bob! Wake up!" She said walking into the room. "There's someone I'd like you to meet. The Lady Protector of our country." She turned back to Sarah. "This is Bob Denard, he recently came as a volunteer to help in the city, I forget where though."

Sarah bowed her head, still holding onto the young boy's hand. "Its an honor Mr. Denard. If not one welcomed you, please, welcome to the Commonwealth and I am in your debt for what you are doing for my people."

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Bob looks embarrassed and suddenly realized his days of anonymity are over. He leans close to Ms. Tingtagyl and whispers, "Please, I'm begging you, don't tell any of them who I really am." His face is a mess of emotions as he waits for her answer. From his first day here he has been Mister Bob and nothing else. Should his real identity get out he'll be known as Mad Dog Bob Denard "The Bloody Butcher of Africa".

The name might not be entirely deserved, but none the less it carries a huge burden of weight with it. It isn't something he wants to saddle the Mother Superior with either. She did take him in a few weeks ago after he had taken the wrong turn and found her playing, or trying to play, football with a gang of boys in a raggedly looking back lot. After joining in with the game and running the boys until they were exhausted he learned story behind the orphanage. The Mother Superior had noticed his backpack on the ground and put two plus two together and invited him to spend the night.

That night had turned into a week, the week had turned into a month, and the month had turned out to be a fruitful one for both Bob and the children. Bob is certain that if he if Ms. Tingtagyl gives up his identity either on accident or on purpose the Mother Superior won't have much of a choice but to rethink her decision to let him stay and help. Bob would survive, the children would grow and prosper, but deep inside of Bob something would break.

Could the Mad Dog himself be developing something more as a person?

He certainly hopes not.

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Sarah winked at Bob as she bowed again, having finished their introductions. His secret was safe with her. After all, in a Christian setting that they were in, 'Mad Dog' Denard, well he just wouldn't fit in correctly, that was all. "Again Mr. Denard, I am in your debt for what you are doing for my people. The influx of volunteers is really more than what we could ever ask for, so I hope to see you around the city and if you need anything, please do not hesitate to come to the Diet. The government will take special responsibility for anything that you might require."

The little boy tugged on Sarah's dress and looked up at her. "Miss Sarah I'm tired. Are you going to take me to bed?"

"Right away sweetheart." She turned back to Bob and bowed. "It was a pleasure Mr. Denard. Please, keep in touch." Sarah winked again as she followed the Mother Superior out of the room thanking the little boy in her hands.

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Bob nods his head at Ms. Tingtagyl's reply. He certainly will be seeing her again he decides as he scoots himself behind the Mother Superior's desk. Taking a pen he writes out a quick letter in his neat handwriting:

Ms Tingtagyl,

I'm much obliged for you keeping my secret. I thank you for this and in the spirit of your offer of support I make the following requests on the behalf of the orphanage:

1) Not more than a half a mile away is a large dump. I've noticed dozens of wild dogs prowling through it. I suspect during the aftermath of the biological attack that human bodies may have been disposed in the dump during the confusion and chaos. I'm greatly concerned that the kids might get sideways of one of these animals and get themselves badly bitten or killed.

2) The Orphanage is being ran and staffed by myself and the Mother Superior. Her entire holy order was wiped out by the plague. We badly need a couple of strong backs around here, but not just anyone. I suggest a couple of kindly older people who are good cooks and are good with children. It would ease the load for both Mother Superior and I greatly and improve the quality of the cooking. Though I still insist you haven't lived until you've suffered through a bowl of my 'Whatchagot Stew'.

3) We badly need three large passenger vans. The ones the Orphanage had before were destroyed or stolen. With this we will need gas and repairs as the Orphanage's budget is absurdly minimalistic in nature.

4) Last the children here are suffering from a variety of psychological issues stemming from witnessing their parents die from anthrax or smallpox. We desperately need the assistance of a qualified child psychologist. I do suggest though that it be remembered that the Mother Superior is not one for spoiling children no matter what their circumstances. This child psychologist best be the sort that is a strong believer in compassion, love, and firmness.

Thanks,

Bob

Bob notices Daphne's head poking around the doorframe and he says to her, "Hey Daphne would you go give this to Ms. Tingtagyl?"

"Yes Mister Bob," she says as she takes the letter from Bob and runs off to deliver it.

Bob smiles, slips out the back door, and wanders away into the darkness to take a few minutes of silent reflection before returning to work.

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After laying the young boy down to sleep Sarah was escorted by the Mother Superior back towards the entrance as they made small idle talk between themselves. Reaching the door, they both exchanged a small bow between each other as Sarah grasped the bronze handle of the door. "Again, Mother, if there is anything, anything at all that can be done to help. You know where to ask."

"Of course Lady Tintagyl, I thank you for your help. Please have a safe night and God Bless you."

Sarah nodded and opened the door. She looked out into the darkened night, the rain still reflecting off the orange street lamps that ran down the cobblestone street. The puddles and the weeds growing out of the bricks could just barely be seen, giving off the sense of grim depression for the reasons that Sarah had to have visited the orphanage. "Have a good night Moth-"

"Ms. Tintagyl! Ms. Tintagyl!" Yelled a small voice from down the corridor. Daphne appeared with a small piece of paper in her hands.

"Daphne! Its past eleven o'clock, you should be in bed right now. Didn't Bob put you to bed?"

"He wanted me to give this to Lady Sarah first." She handed the paper into Sarah's hand.

The Mother Superior smiled. "Well Your Ladyship, it would appear you have a bit of an admirer."

Sarah chuckled uneasily at the joke. She had enough admirers and if this was a letter about her beauty, her wisdom, or her strength it would find itself stewing in a puddle outside the courtyard gates. Unfolding the paper, she read quickly through and smiled getting to the end. "No, no, not an admirer at all. Just thanking me for my concern really." She folded the paper back up and placed it in her pocket. "But I must be going now. Have a good night Mother and you to Daphne." Sarah smiled as she turned and walked down the stairs leading out in to the courtyard, the sounds of Daphne being dragged to bed filled in behind her.

The rain sprinkled down heavily on Sarah's head as she walked back towards Solidor Manor. Her feet hurt and her mind hurt, but as she walked, the thought of how happy the kids at the orphanage seemed to be even in such terrible times brought a smile to her face. How could they as adults be so stuck up, so miserable at themselves, when these children who had lost everything still wear smiles across their faces. Slowly Sarah pulled down her hood and let the rain dance on her scalp. It was cold at first and she even yelped a bit, but soon it feel enjoyable as she relaxed more and more and arrived home in an extremely good mood. Contrast to how she had started her day. If there was anyone who could give this country the hope it needed, it was the children.

---

The next day around six o'clock, the sounds of trucks and machines filled the courtyard of the orphanage. Sarah would answer Bob's request in stunning time. Chefs that worked in the most high-class restaurants of Brisbane, other clergymen from around the city, and the famed Doctor Tomas Pons came out of the various vans that had parked themselves in the vicinity. In addition to that, a road work crew was to arrive within the hour, as well as local animal shelters to find the stray dogs in the dump, as well as clean up crews to get rid of garbage. Out of the drivers side of the first van, Sarah walked out herself. A red bandanna tied around her head, along with old cut up clothes and dirty blue jeans.

"We're ready to do what ever needs done here."

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Bob watches from the darkness, because by nature he's a creature of the dark. Dealing with the dual natures of his soul is troubling at times for him. Two massive competing forces exist inside of him in a state of perpetual war. One his gentle nature guided and nurtured into him by his own father until the age of twelve and the other the dark malignant hunger of a much darker sort. For the last month Bob has kept the darker half under control and he'll keep doing so for as long as he chooses to keep it under control. However, there are times when it is difficult.

Times like this when he's suddenly finds himself at the mercy of another. To go from being the most lethal predator in your circle to being just another prey is an unsettling experience. The balance of Bob's power had shifted with the vanishing of his anonymity. He had expected it to happen, but had not been prepared for it to happen. The surprise of the moment had been controlled for the most part, but the real story had been disguised behind Bob's plea for anonymity. Just now, when Ms. Tintagyl had agreed to keep his secret that darker half of himself had whispered something into the back of his mind.

His first glimpse of Ms. Tintagyl had raised that killer instinct in him. The back of his mind had screamed, "KILL" and it had taken most of Bob's self-control to quash that initial instinct. Despite the month of service to others the recent incident readily reminds Bob that he isn't out of the woods in terms of cutting the ties to his darker bloodier past. He aimlessly wanders through the dark mulling over this in silence before he realizes he is following standard African Legion patrol protocol of quietly circling the target before attacking.

With a grunt of annoyance he comes to a stop and he mutters to himself, "Christ, I can't even go one month without setting up something for the kill."

"I see you still have it in you," comes a voice from the dark.

Bob turns, drops to one knee to present a reduce profile, and drops his hands to the ground to collect a weapon. His eyes move in short jerks to optimize his peripheral vision, his heart hammers at a high but measured pace, the adrenaline begins to flow into his veins, and he prepares to himself to move by clenching the muscles in his legs. A second, a very long second in the world of Bob, passes before he notices the Mother Superior sitting on a bench in the darkness. Bob calms himself, returns to his feet, and replies, "It depends on what you think I still have in me."

"The skills of a killer," replies Mother Superior.

"What do you know of it," asks Bob?

"Fifteen years ago in the Sudan the People's Resistance Militia captured four young nuns of my order. They were about to be savagely !@#$%*^ and probably murdered when a lone gunman attacked and wiped out most of the militia. You wouldn't know anything about that would you," asks the Mother Superior?

"No ma'am," replies Bob.

"How about ten years ago when a man looking just like you but ten years younger dropped a helicopter full of volunters into the middle of a village to fight off a party of raiders?"

"That might have been me."

"I recall the helicopter being out of fuel and the men having to walk over three hundred miles back to their base after spending two days running those raiders to the ground."

"More like four hundred miles ma'am."

"I know of you Bob, I know who you are, I know what you are, and I know what you are capable off," says the Mother Superior.

"Then I'll pack my things and leave tonight," replies Bob.

"You certainly will not."

"I'm confused Ma'am, if you know who I am and what I can do then why would you want me around," asks Bob?

"Because while you are strung tighter than a piano wire at times you aren't a danger to me or the children. These young ones benefit from having you around. The feel safer at night when Mister Bob is around. The respect you and I dare say some like Daphne have even come to love you. In my world Bob you can't fool a child for very long. If you were a real danger they'd know sooner or later and I'd be able to see it in the way they behaved around you," replies the Mother Superior.

"So you don't want me to go," replies Bob?

"Absolutely not," the Mother Superior replies.

"What do you want me to do then," asks Bob?

"I want you to keep doing what you are doing. Also I want you to find your way to something more greater than yourself," says the Mother Superior.

"Mother Superior, with all due respect I lost my faith years ago."

"I regained my faith one night 15 years ago in Sudan."

Bob doesn't have much to say about this as it dawns on him exactly what the Mother Superior is saying. Fifteen years ago Bob had not only killed a slew of rapists and murderers in one bloody night he had also saved the Mother Superior from being !@#$%*^ and murdered. He looks at her quietly and in the blackness of the night he views her in a different light than before. After a few moments he says, "I wasn't serving god that night."

"I didn't say you were, but after you did what you did my faith in god was renewed. I don't condone your actions either, but I will say you saved me, my fellow sisters, and a dozen young men and women a terrible fate. God acts in mysterious ways and because of you others lived."

"Because of me far to many have died," replied Bob.

"Bob we both know you've a burden of sins on your soul unlike very few others in this world. You've killed, fornicated, lusted, and committed a bounty of sins. You'll probably be the rest of your life trying to atone in one way or another. I don't envy the road you are on, but it is a good one. Just remember that for all your sins you've done some great things. These great things don't forgive your sins, but you can't loose sight of the fact that in your heart you have always tried to do the right thing in your own misguided way."

"Who can possibly forgive some of the things that I have done or ordered done?"

"God and god alone," replies the Mother Superior.

"Where do I find god,' asks Bob?

"In the work you do with these children, because it is a godly thing you do with these young ones."

"Do you pray?"

"Every single day," replies the Mother Superior.

"Does God talk back," Bob asks?

"Not once has god uttered a word to me, but I believe I see him around me in the good deeds of others."

Bob frowns, says nothing, and walks away as he finds himself with a great deal more to think about now. The confusion in him has nicely pushed aside his darker urgings for a time. With those pushed aside he finds himself able to think more constructively about his emotions. Without realizing it he falls out of the habit of sneaking furtively through the darkness in order to circle his prey and he aimlessly walks with no particularly destination in mind as he thinks.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bob looks down from the roof at Ms. Tintagyl and says, "Been up for a few hours already mending the roof. Why don't you pass me some shingles and grab a hammer," as he points to a small pile of shingles, tools, and a ladder before he turns his attention back trying to to smash his fingers, again.

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Bob looks down from the roof at Ms. Tintagyl and says, "Been up for a few hours already mending the roof. Why don't you pass me some shingles and grab a hammer," as he points to a small pile of shingles, tools, and a ladder before he turns his attention back trying to to smash his fingers, again.

Sarah walked over and climbed up the ladder after fixing the hammer to her belt and made it to the roof. It was in a horrible shape at the moment, but Bob had already made great ends on the corroding rooftop. For a long time, they were both silent, only exchanging remarks about the weather, or hard the work was. Or at least that's what Sarah had been saying. She wasn't really much of the laborer, but it felt good to get outside for a time. Looking up at Bob, she frowned for a moment and picked up another shingle.

"What made you come to Brisbane Bob? Why did you leave your home to come here? Just for the goodwill or is there something else?" Something in his stature made her feel doubt.

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"I started out as a volunteer in Africa. With Somal up and running more or less on its own I wanted to get out of Africa for awhile and to see the world a bit more. Something more than through the sight of a rifle and definitely with an armed mob behind me. I heard about the attack here in Brisbane and decided to come to see if I could help out. About eight hours after getting through customs the Mother Superior asked me to stay the night. I'm still here a month later," replies Bob as he bangs another nail through a shingle and into the roof.

He'd rather not elaborate on his real purpose given his unearthly visitation the night before. After thinking a few minutes he stops banging away with his hammer and asks, "Are you a religious person?"

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Sarah looked down at the cross dangling on her neck and moved her hand to cover it on her chest. "Yes, I am." She frowned. "Or at least I try. I will say that I am no where near where the perfect devout Catholic should be. But I try to be as hard as I can." She pounded another nail into the roof. "Why?"

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Bob is a bit hesitant as he doesn't really know Ms. Tintagyl. He suspects if he tells her he was visited by the Archangel Gabriel last night and that he kicked him in the testicles that she'd probably think he's a bit of a nutter. In his mind he can see her leaping off the roof screaming for the nearest medical orderlies to put him in a straight jacket. He frowns, ponders, sighs, grunts, and shifts his face through at least four other contortions before saying, "I've never been a religious man myself. Though of late I think I've begun to see something more in it."

After he bangs another nail or two and managed to whack his thumb he drops the hammer, grabs his thumb, and says "God fu.... err..," and stops himself as he reminds himself that cursing like a drunken sailor on the roof of an orphanage is hardly role modeling for young children. He blushes a little before saying, "I think I've expanded the kids vocabulary enough with the whole hand in the door incident last week. But as I was saying I've had time to think lately rather than merely respond to the world around me as I was forced to do in Africa for so many years. Most of these thoughts have lead me to begin to question my own beliefs about the non-existence of a higher power. Last night I think I finally made the break from atheism to full believer status."

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She looked at him curiously. "You became a true believer in one night?" Sarah had heard of some of the crimes that Bob had committed in his life, brutal would be describing them lightly. But wasn't that was what Christianity was all about? Being able to see the good in people no matter what crimes they had committed? Sarah could admit to herself that she was much more liberal than most Catholics in the world. But it was that attitude that had made her a popular leader in her country and around the world. Mind you, not saying that she wasn't above revenge, for she definitely had done things that had been considered questionable. Politically, socially, intellectually. But Bob was clearly trying to reconcile himself for his sins of the past and while she was not a religious, she felt that he was open to be pried on.

"What happened that would make you change so much?"

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"I wouldn't say I became a believer in one night. More like I completed the journey from nonbeliever to believer last night. It was a journey set into motion quite some time ago. I suspect it started about the time I became disenfranchised with my role in the establishment of a Somal government," he replies as he continues to work.

He motions for a small bag of nails and after it is handed to him he extracts one, drives it through a shingle, and sets down his hammer before saying, "Somal was in bad shape when I invaded it with the African Legion. We had to make far to many compromises to our own internal values to complete the mission. The journey from nonbeliever to believer started in a moment of introspection about how things went in Somal and has since evolved."

Pointing to a tree growing out in the yard he continues to vocalize his thoughts by saying, "The Legion is a lot like that runt of a tree. It isn't much to look at from the outside, but the tree itself is anchored with roots that go down nearly thirty to forty yards. Setting aside much of the rumor, gossip, and other legends the Legion itself has always held itself to a higher standard. Our values are the roots that holds us firmly to the course. We lived to serve the African people and many of us were crippled or killed so that others could live safely without fear. Probably one of the greatest atrocities attributed to the Legion is known to most of the Western world as Chingali. This next to nothing little town is considered by us to be one of our finest hours in where we were nearly wiped out defending a village from renegade militia men intent on $%&@ and murder. Their propaganda machine painted us as butchers, but it really doesn't matter because we did what we set out to do that day."

He sits on the roof and looks out over the city for a moment as he says, "In Somal though we had to play hard, dirty, and fast to knock out the Warlords before they could gain sufficient strength to push us out. We had to do some things I have regretted and probably will regret for the rest of my life," while thinking about the assassinations, bombings, and other dirty black bag jobs that were performed to eliminate the opposing Warlords.

"So yeah, nothing major pushed me over the edge," he blatantly lies as he finishes with,"I just came to the conclusions I needed to come to on my own."

Edited by Firestorm
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She stopped what she was doing after he finished his story and she contemplated her own story about her beginnings and what had brought her to that point. Sarah sighed and dropped her hammer. "You aren't alone Bob. You aren't alone. But I wish I had been closer to my faith at times. You saved people from criminals and in the process watched people die." Turning out towards the city, Sarah put her head in her hands. "I know what its like to see death Bob, face to face. I've seen it too many times for being how young I am. But I guess that's the life of leaders these days. I've killed men before and I still regret it, either by my words or by my own pulling of a trigger."

She took off her bandanna and used it to wipe her eyes where tears were starting to form. "I know people are there for me, but sometimes I can't trust anyone anymore. I've tried to turn to God, I've tried to do what is right in the eyes of the religious, but I always feel like I fail and fail miserably at that. All those people that died...its my fault at the end of the day. And I know that I will have to repent for those sins in the future. Its that reason that I've tried to dedicate so much to peace, so much to love, so much to cooperation. So what has happened to my country and my citizens, twice now. Will never happen again."

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"Two hundred and fourteen," he replies after listening to Sarah. The number that constantly haunts him late at night. It is the number that has defined him in someways in the journey to climb so high. "I've killed two hundred and fourteen men and women, face to face, in gun battles over the last fifteen years. I'm tired of it all," he concludes.

Walking over to the edge of roof he turns, steps off the roof, catches the edge with his hands on the way down, halts his progress for a moment, and then lets himself drop to the ground. He walks inside the orphanage and finds the Mother Superior in her office. She has her head cradled in her hands and she is weeping. After tilting his head to the side and watching her for a second he quietly enters the room and sits down in front of her desk. He waits for a bit before asking, "Something wrong Mother Superior?"

"Oh I'm sorry Bob," says the Mother Superior as she collects her wits.

"No need for that we all have our moments."

"Probably not like this moment Bob."

"Try me Mother Superior," Bob replies as he gives her a look tends to imply that he has seen plenty enough for the both of them.

"Father Joesph Flannery was killed last week," the Mother Superior replies.

"Here in Brisbane," Bob asks?

"No, in the Rebel Army Protectorate in Afghanistan, he was delivering medical supplies to a few small rural clinics he supports through his missionary work. They found his body on the side of the road badly mutilated," the Mother Superior replies.

Bob gives her a hard look before asking, "What needs to be done Mother Superior?"

"Not what you are thinking Bob."

"You'd be surprised what I am thinking, so again what needs to be done?"

The Mother Superior looking at Bob suddenly realizes he is being earnest and not in that deadly way she's heard about in the past. She looks at Bob for a few long seconds before saying, "I'm worried about those clinics. The locals in those areas depend on them for basic medical care. Outside of the major cities the level of technological expertise tends to drop quickly in Afghanistan."

"You need someone to go check on those clinics?"

"Yes, but I'm not sure it needs to be you Bob. I'd rather keep you here."

"I'd rather stay here, but if something like this needs doing its only a few weeks away. The new staff can pick up my share of the work for a bit while I go tend to this chore."

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Sarah followed Bob into the Mother Superior's office silently. He was closer to the old woman than she was, so she watched at Bob tried his hardest to console her and the terrible story of the priest's death in Afghanistan. Of course, the priest was a Hanseatic citizen so in a way he was her responsibility in a way. Though it didn't feel like she was a part of that.

"Mother Superior, Mr. Denard. If I may make a proposal. Bob, you can go to Afghanistan. We'll take care of things back here. We have tons of crews that could come into be with the children and to continue to repair and rebuild the abbey and chapel. Also, if you want any of our marines or agents to go with you to Afghanistan that could be arranged as well. Father Flannery is a Hanseatic citizen and his death is an assault to the state as a whole. Those clinics are part of our responsibility to the world and I will not allow, criminals to harass and murder innocent people. If you need anything, please. The government will take care of it."

She looked at Bob in the eyes. "If there is anything I can do. You been through so much. I want to help."

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