Chapter 14: Plan
When they got back to the flat, Veggie immediately whizzed over to the table, snatched up his crayon and started scribbling all over the Bedsheet-Tablecloth-Whiteboard.
‘What are you doing?’ TM asked, watching Veggie’s hand zipping around. He picked up Michel Furcoat, who was cleaning his fur on the table, and put him down again out of reach of the flying crayon, lest Veggie draw on him.
‘I’m making a plan, obviously,’ said Veggie, adding a few stick figures to his diagrams.
’You’ve just written FUCK YEAH HEIST and drawn what looks like a flying burglar pointing a dildo at a hippo,’ TM pointed out.
‘Well, yeah,’ said Veggie. ‘I’ll get to the actual planning stuff in a mo, but there’s no point getting started until it’s all looking slick.’
Ziggy wandered to the table, looking over Veggie’s drawings. ‘I like it,’ she hummed. ‘Very avante-garde.’
‘Do you know what that means?’ TM asked her.
Ziggy stuck her tongue out. ‘Something arty, probably.’
’Do you know what it means?’ Veggie countered, to which TM could only walk away mumbling.
‘Okey-dokey,’ said Veggie, putting the finishing touches to his masterpiece. ‘Visual excellence achieved, now to start the real work.’
He scrawled the words SUPER PREPARATIONING in messy bubble letters and underlined them three times. Then, under that informative heading, he made a list: 1) learn parkour; 2) get good at how to burglar.
‘That is the best and most detailed heist plan I’ve ever seen,’ said TM, which owing to his lack of experience with heist plans was not technically inaccurate.
‘I think we need more… steps,’ said Ziggy. ‘Not that this isn’t brilliant, obviously. Just not totally sure it’ll be sufficient.’
‘Point taken,’ said Veggie, rolling his crayon between his teeth. ‘Brilliant but insufficient.’
‘You’ll have heard that one before,’ TM said.
Veggie spluttered his objections and threw Michel Furcoat at TM. ‘Let’s try this,’ he said, adding a few points underneath his existing schematics: 2a) play stealth games; 2b) watch heist movies; 2c) play Hero’s Adventure campaign about stealing shit.
’Now that is more like is,’ said Ziggy happily, giving Veggie a firm pat on the head.
‘Too damn right,’ said Veggie; TM nodded, having accepted that this was as good as it was likely to get. ’I’ll call the guys. We gotta get on this.’
Less than an hour later, six people were gathered around the table once more. TM passed around the character sheets; Derrida, Marty and Dominika took their places while Ziggy pored over her stats. Veggie, meanwhile, sat furiously making amendments to his campaign papers.
‘Where have you guys been the last few days, anyway?’ Marty asked, settling down with a sigh.
’We took a nap for days,’ Ziggy explained. Marty nodded in appreciation; Derrida coughed in a way that said ‘each to their own’, and Dominika gazed wistfully at the pile of cushions under which Veggie had until recently been comatose.
‘That sounds like the best thing ever,’ Marty said.
‘What about you?’ TM asked. The trio exchanged amused glances.
‘We totally went on a coach trip,’ Marty said, grinning irreverently.
‘Oh, yeah, we went around with a tour guide and looked at historic buildings and shit.’
Veggie scoffed. ‘Why?’
Derrida pulled out his phone, held the screen out to Veggie and flicked through a series of pictures. ‘We took a load of selfies with all these elderly peeps and told them misleading stuff about antiquity and history and whatnot,’ he explained proudly.
‘So,’ said Ziggy, leaning forwards with an eager rub of the palms. ‘Where were we?’
Veggie bent over his campaign sheets, running a pencil along the lines until he found the spot at which they had left off. ‘Aha.’
Last time, in the epic and astonishing campaign and adventure of the most amazing and efficient heroes of all time ever:
Our protagonists were attacked in the forest by a Hunter of Men, who royally fucked Barry up. Iveline got herself a falcon, of all things. L joined the group, and remains both mysterious and enigmatic.
‘That’s tautological,’ said Derrida.
‘Shut up, Derrida,’ said Marty.
The heroes were heading in the direction of Lanriel, the famous hub city for adventurers the world over. Our adventure resumes as they regroup in the forest, taking a few deep breaths after slaying the Hunter.
‘Can we just roll a navigation check and skip the journey?’ said TM, scanning the reverse of his character sheet for any items or skills that might save Barry from certain peril. ‘I sort of don’t want any more low-level encounters until Barry’s back on his feet.’
‘Also, role-playing just walking through a forest is seriously dull,’ Marty added. ‘Unless you had something specific to spice things up on the way, obvs.’
‘Nah, you’re good,’ Veggie said, passing sets of dice around to each player. ‘Everybody just roll to make sure nothing major happens on the way, and we’ll just gloss over the walking part.’
Each player rolled, and Ziggy huffed with dismay.
‘I don’t think I passed that one,’ she said, as the others leaned in to see what score she’d rolled.
‘A natural one,’ said Veggie, whistling. ‘Well, that’s not the best.’
‘Hold up,’ said TM. ‘L’s mean to know the forest and the route pretty well, she must get some sort of background modifier for that.’
Veggie stuck his pencil between his teeth, thinking. ‘True,’ he said. ‘Gotta have some sort of punishment for rolling a one, though…’ He scratched a few lines on his campaign sheet.
Our heroes make their way heroically through the forest, evading traps set by hunters and marauding orcs and whatnot. Iveline’s falcon proves itself useful, flying ahead to scout for any impending bandits or such like. All of our courageous wanderers find their way through the trees without incident – except for L, who injures her leg and ribs taking the brunt of a rolling boulder trap accidentally triggered by the limping Barry.
‘Aw, cheers,’ said TM.
‘Didn’t have much of a choice, apparently,’ Ziggy said. ‘But you’re welcome anyway.’
L and Barry are in stable conditions, hurt seriously but not critically. The others are able to help them traverse the final stages of the path, and by first light, the group emerges together into the shadow of the great city of Lanriel.
‘Woo-hoo,’ Marty said, exhaling with relief.
‘We need to find some sort of tavern or something,’ Derrida mused, tapping his pencil to his skull.
‘How comes?’ Ziggy asked, to which Derrida gave an incredulous bark of laughter.
’Because that’s just what every hero does when they first make it to a new city, Z-ster,’ he explained; Ziggy nodded in understanding.
‘Gotcha,’ she said, winking and pointing finger guns at him. ‘Let’s tavern it up.’
‘Hold up a sec,’ Veggie said quickly, tapping Ziggy on the shoulder. She shuffled over and they exchanged huddled whispers for a moment. Then they nodded and split, knowing looks passing between them.
‘I know a safe place,’ L tells the group. Atgard, who’s supporting the weakened rogue by the armpit, nods –
‘Hang on a sec,’ Derrida interrupted. ‘I think I wanna roll for something here.’
‘What do you want to roll for?’ Veggie asked, looking at him exasperatedly.
‘Judgement, perception, knowledge, something-or-other. I need to make sure we can trust this so-called safe place of hers.’
‘You’re so paranoid,’ Marty groaned, to which Derrida rolled his eyes.
‘It’s saved all of you more than once,’ he pointed out. Marty could only fold his arms and grumble.
‘Fine,’ he said, ‘do your roll.’
Derrida threw the dice, sending them bouncing across the table. Veggie rubbed some lines out on his sheet and scribbled some more in its place.
Atgard senses that L is telling the truth. Not the whole truth, but she’s not lying about anything as such.
‘That’ll do,’ Derrida said indifferently.
‘We will follow you to this safe place,’ Atgard hisses to L. She nods, grateful.
‘We do need to recover before getting along with anything else, I suppose,’ Malachi concurs, and Iveline’s falcon squawks in agreement. ‘Then we’ll have to search for a new quest.’
‘How do we do that?’ Ziggy asked.
‘Eh, it’s not too hard if he’s doing his job right,’ said Marty, jerking a thumb in Veggie’s direction. ‘Hopefully he’s got some sort of plan to direct us to wherever the important stuff is, or maybe some random guy’s just gonna run up to us in the street and hand us a royal decree or something.’
‘So unimaginative,’ Derrida said.
‘Yet effective,’ Veggie finished for him.
L leads the heroes into the midst of the city hubbub, sidling down quiet alleyways and avoiding the ever-watchful eye of the city guard.
Dominika tapped her pencil on the table, a finger pressed to her chin in thought.
Iveline senses something suspicious about L’s behaviour. Why is she so keen to avoid being seen? she wonders.
‘Always avoid the guard,’ said TM. ‘They’re either corrupt or useless, like, ninety percent of the time, so it’s best practice just to stay out of their way.’ He held up his character sheet. ‘Also, Barry is wanted in four different imperial jurisdictions for crimes he didn’t commit. Mostly didn’t commit.’
The heroes scuttle through the city’s underbelly, keeping to the most sheltered routes. It’s not easy staying out of the way, meandering as they are through bustling market districts and densely populated residential streets. Atgard holds up L, who’s still limping; Malachi supports Barry, whose leg is pretty messed up. They’re a fairly noticeable bunch, all things considered: you’ve got a giant serpent-headed warrior monk carrying a woman who’s obviously a rogue – who else would wear that cloak-and-hood combo out to the market? – and a man clad in sorcerer’s robes heaving the weight of a shadow-skinned, assassin-armoured prince of the Ascended Men. Plus a blind woman with a falcon. You guys all sort of stick out, to be honest. Sneak check.
‘All of us?’ bemoaned TM.
‘All of ya,’ Veggie declared happily. ‘I mean, come on. You’re in a busy city here, you’re not the most inconspicuous.’
Each of them rolled; Ziggy threw her hands in the air, groaning with exasperation. ‘I got a crit,’ she grumbled.
‘You rolled a twenty?’ TM said, looking over. ‘What’s wrong with that?’
‘I could just really have done with that earlier, when I was getting hit with boulders on Barry’s behalf,’ Ziggy lamented.
‘Just roll with it,’ TM said, then chuckled at himself. ‘Roll. Heh.’
The majority of the party get… pretty mediocre scores, but L’s critical twenty – plus her class bonuses, plus her history with the place – all combine to make the most excellent sneak through a city that was ever sneaked. Annoyingly. I had a cool encounter planned, there was this merchant who would have sold you a magic dagger and then turned out to be evil and cursed all your souls. But whatever.
‘Just stick it in later,’ Derrida said.
‘I’ve heard that before,’ Veggie said quietly, eliciting sniggers.
‘Oh, get on with it,’ Derrida muttered, then quickly added, ‘The story, you twats,’ as Marty and Dominika burst out laughing.
The party sneak in spectacular fashion through the city streets, narrowly avoiding detection, and eventually find themselves in front of a building adorned with a wooden sign reading ‘Rooms Available’. L leads the group inside, still supported by Atgard; they head to a door near the back, in front of which stands a large man with a half-mask and folded arms.
‘Perception,’ Derrida barked.
Atgard spots the telltale outline of knives in the man’s boots, and a hidden blade at his wrist. Also, I hadn’t got around to describing the obviously visible stuff yet, but this guy also has an enormous scimitar hanging from his hip and a repeater crossbow strung over his back. And a hat with a skull on it.
‘Ah,’ said Derrida.
‘Smartass,’ Marty said. ‘I’ll wait back out here by the door with Barry. If L knows what’s up, I’ll let Ziggy handle it – and if it goes south, we’re out of here.’
‘You’d abandon us?’ gasped Derrida.
‘Pretty much, yeah,’ said Marty. ‘I’d come back for you later, maybe.’
Malachi leans Barry against the doorframe, readying his magical strength in case he should need to fight or flee in a hurry. L presents herself to the doorman, lowering her hood and mask. He nods in recognition, and lets them pass.
‘So are you coming in or not?’ Derrida asked Marty and TM.
‘We probably should,’ TM said, thinking it over. ‘I know you wanted to wait out here, Marty, but if anything goes wrong in there, they’ll need our help. Besides, I can’t move fast, so if it does go tits up we’ll probably be stabbed in the back out here before we know it. What’s Dominika doing, anyway?’
Dominika pushed an ability card to the centre of the table.
‘Ahh, Hunter’s Representative,’ said Veggie. ‘I take it you’re sending your bird in there to sneak about in the rafters while you lurk outside, ready to shoot in through the window?’
The four-strong band of Atgard, L, Malachi and Barry trudges through the inn and into a back room, guided by the doorman. Iveline’s falcon flits through the open door just before it slams shut and soars up to a shadowed perch in the ceiling. Inside, sitting at a wooden desk, is a man aged perhaps forty. His hair and beard are starting to grey, but his eyes are gleaming with a young, healthy vitality and grace.
‘Gay,’ said Marty.
‘He’s an attractive guy,’ said Veggie. ‘Silver fox.’
The man looks up at the party as they enter his room, and gets to his feet when he recognises L at its head.
‘It’s been a while,’ he says, looking half-surprised to see her.
‘Perception!’ declared Derrida.
‘Again?’ Marty moaned.
Atgard notices that the man definitely seems to know who L is.
‘That’s it?!’ demanded Derrida.
Veggie threw up his hands. ‘What do you want me to say? You wanted a perception check, there’s nothing to perceive!’
Derrida folded his arms stubbornly.
Fine: Atgard sees that the man seems to be half-bowing to L, gesturing in deference or respect or perhaps just welcome, but he glances around at the assembly and stops himself.
‘I am Rusk of the Leaf,’ he says, deftly turning his gesture to L into a bow of introduction encompassing the whole group. ‘I sincerely hope that none of you has ever heard of me.’
‘Nopely dopely,’ says Malachi.
‘Oh, come on, Marty,’ said TM, ‘at least stay in character.’
‘Malachi’s the sort of guy who says nopely dopely,’ Marty said.
’Nobody is the kind of guy who says… nopely dopely,’ TM pointed out.
‘I hath not perheardened of thee, O Rusk of the Leaf, of whom I reiterate that I have not heard,’ Malachi intones ceremoniously.
‘Not perfect, but better,’ TM said.
‘The Leaf is as ancient as the city of Lanriel itself,’ Rusk says. ‘We are the thieves who keep the city pure. If it were common knowledge that we existed… well, there would be no point in us existing.’
‘What does that mean?’ Barry says, curious.
Rusk looks him over with interest. ‘You’re an Ascended Human,’ he says.
‘That I am,’ Barry agrees.
‘A Shadowguard, no less,’ Rusk observes.
‘Then you’re like me, in a way. We of the Leaf vow to undertake those tasks that everybody knows must be done, but that nobody wants to admit need doing.’
‘You’re the noble underbelly,’ Barry says, comprehending.
Rusk nods. ‘We keep the city safe and clean, which more often than not entails that we do the most unsafe, unclean things.’
‘We need sanctuary,’ says L, and Rusk nods.
‘Of course,’ he accedes.
‘Soooooo,’ says Malachi. ‘How do you two know each other?’ Rusk glances at L, as if checking for her approval.
‘I was part of the Leaf for a time,’ L says. ‘Rusk took me in, and taught me to be who I am.’
‘Ooooh,’ said Marty. ‘Fancy that.’
Rusk strides to a bookshelf in the corner of the room, and pulls it open.
’Oh, that’s very original,’ said Derrida.
‘Secret bookshelf doors are an ancient tradition, one of the most extremely effective and most sacred holy laws of thiefdom,’ Rusk says.
As he gestures them down the stairs revealed behind the secret door, Rusk turns and points straight at Iveline’s falcon, perching in the rafters.
‘I see you there, by the way,’ he says. ‘You can enter.’
Moments later, the doorman opens the door and Iveline slides in.
‘I respect your skills, by the way,’ Rusk tells her as the falcon swoops down and settles on her shoulder. Then he leads the group down the stairs.
In the basement of the inn that plays host to the Leaf’s headquarters, a few thieves-in-training mill about. Some are sleeping, some clambering around the beams in the walls and roof of the large room, or training on the many practice dummies lining the far wall. Rusk points at each feature in turn as he guides the party around the hideout.
‘There are facilities here to train every skill you might need,’ he tells them. ‘Frames for climbing, bell-trapped floors for sneaking, targets for shooting.’
Iveline nods appreciatively, the falcon soaring from her shoulder to make a quick recon flight around the space.
‘Wait,’ says Malachi. ‘Train every skill we might need for… what?’
Rusk stops, sighs, looks at each of their faces in turn. ‘The city needs heroes now,’ he tells them. ‘We of the Leaf can’t do it. We have to remain secret. But we can train you, you ragtag yet accomplished-looking band of adventurers, in our ways. Then, perhaps, you can be the figurehead the city needs.’
‘Why would we agree to do that?’ Atgard says with his trademark hiss.
Rusk looks almost taken aback. ‘Because you’re adventurers,’ he says, as if it’s the most obvious thing in the whole universe. ’You lot live to go on quests and heroic journeys and whatnot. It’s your thing.’
‘He has a point,’ Malachi admits; Iveline nods, apparently accepting the quest.
‘So what’s the job?’ Barry says.
‘Well,’ Rusk begins. ‘We have a problem here in Lanriel. An aristocracy problem.’
‘What sort of aristocracy problem?’ L asks quickly, sounding concerned.
Rusk sighs, looking down. ‘Lanriel used to be a capital of sorts, so it has a high-class… ruling family, for want of a better term. But all the direct descendants of the original rulers are either missing or dead, killed by their corrupted line of cousins who seek to take the power for themselves. The true Lanriel family are all scattered now, supplanted by unrighteous power thieves.’ He clenches his fist, staring at his own knuckles as they turn white.
‘So you want us to… what, exactly?’ says Barry. ‘Take out the usurpers? That sounds like more of an assassination than a heroic quest.’
‘Hey,’ said Veggie, wagging his pencil at TM. ‘All heroic quests are… heroic quests.’
‘Tautological,’ Derrida said again, without looking up. Marty punched him in the arm.
’Just ‘cos it’s kind of sneaky murder doesn’t mean it’s not an excellent adventure,’ Veggie said.
TM groaned. ‘Fine. As long as we’re not cutting their throats while they sleep or anything.’
‘Oh, no,’ said Veggie, blinking down at his sheets. ‘They’ll make it pretty tough.’
‘Well, that’s alright, then.’
‘It’ll be heroic enough,’ Rusk promises. ‘Somebody needs to remove these corrupt power-snatchers, before they can drag this city’s prosperity and good name through any more dirt. Then we’ll… replace them.’
‘With whom?’ Atgard asks.
‘We have a true Lanriel within our walls,’ says Rusk with a small smile. ‘Possibly the last.’
‘So what’s in it for us?’ Malachi asks. ‘If we’re going to do all the work and take out this corrupted line, then you Leaf lot are going to put your own ruler in their place… what’s the incentive for us to do the job?’
‘Gold,’ says Rusk. ‘Experience points.’
‘Don’t break the fourth wall, Veg,’ TM said reproachingly.
‘I mean, gold and the good fame of having restored the rightful regent of Lanriel,’ Rusk corrects himself hurriedly. ‘Also, the city will return to its former glory, which will mean that its economy flourishes once more. Then all the citizens will need lots of quests doing and have the cash to pay you for it, so you’ll be in work pretty much for ever.’
Malachi considers this. ‘Good answer,’ he says. ‘I’m in.’
Iveline nods; Atgard holds his fist out, in the Blood Monks’ ritual gesture of respect, and nods his weird snakey head. Barry presses his hand to the emblem of the Shadowguard he bears on his chest, signalling his approval. L says nothing, but a look passes between her and Rusk.
‘Good,’ says Rusk. ‘Then let me tell you of your objectives.’
Veggie burst into a fit of coughing. ‘Sorry,’ he said, emerging from under the table a few moments later. ‘Doing Rusk’s voice is kind of hard on the old vocal cords.’ He hawked and spat on the floor; Ziggy shuffled her chair away from the glob of phlegm. ‘Right.’
Rusk holds up five fingers. ‘There are two resident… imperial cousins. Between them, they retain three bodyguards. That’s one person for each of you, no?’
Marty did a quick head count.
‘Yes,’ says Malachi.
‘An easy task, then,’ Rusk says. Then he does a big, booming laugh, then a totally serious face. ‘I jest. Don’t be fooled. They may have their warriors protecting them, but the two cousins regent are each more than a match for most heroes in their own right.’
‘Oh, good,’ said Marty. ‘We’re going to need to spend… like, a hundred in-game days just training for this bollocks.’
‘Something like that, yup,’ Veggie said, grinning widely. ‘Luckily, this place has pretty decent facilities, so y’all can just roll each time you train and get a bunch of EXP.’
‘Well, that’s going to be insanely dull,’ said TM.
‘Which is why,’ Veggie announced, raising a finger, ‘I have devised a training plan. The best training plan.’
‘Yup.’ Veggie stood, sidled over to the sofa and pulled out a games console from underneath. It was still in the box.
‘When did we get one of those?’ TM demanded.
‘When Ziggy made us a buttload of cash,’ Veggie said proudly. Ziggy blushed.
‘You know we’re going to need to come up with something else before too long,’ TM pointed out. ’We can’t keep living off the profits from the Puncture Repair Kit much longer. Hey, I should probably get started on the Octobike while we still have the funds.’
‘Why don’t you just get real jobs?’ Derrida asked, looking on with total disinterest.
‘Because we’re disenfranchised Generation Y millennial biznitches who live by the American dream,’ Veggie told him. ‘Besides, none of you have real jobs.’
‘I’m in a band,’ Marty said indignantly.
‘I write walkthroughs for some well-known sites, you know,’ Derrida pointed out.
Dominika reached in her pocket, pulled out a badge and flashed it at them.
‘Senior Financial Consultant?’ Marty read. ‘Well, shit.’
‘We’re coming to your house next time,’ TM told her, to which she folded her arms and shrugged.
‘I wouldn’t mind a real job, though,’ Veggie said absently, setting up the console. ‘I mean, I’d hate the hours, and the work, and everything about it would just suck so many balls that I can’t even think about it without wanting to buy a ball pit.’
‘But… you wouldn’t mind it?’ Ziggy asked, eyebrows furrowed.
’Dude, have you ever been to an office where they do… like, low-to-medium-level administration? The sheer number of absolute next-level hot peole straight out of uni, it’s…’ He gave a wistful sigh, then kissed his fingertips and held his hand up in an OK sign.
‘I don’t know what that means,’ said Ziggy.
‘You were saying something about a plan…?’ Derrida interrupted, an unmistakeable twang of scepticism cutting through Veggie’s fantasies.
‘Aha,’ said Veggie, finalising the console setup with a knowing flourish. ‘Here we go: rotating montage of video gaming-slash-tabletop gaming.’
A blink of mild confusion made the rounds.
‘I don’t follow,’ Marty said.
‘I fail to understand,’ TM said simultaneously.
‘Yeah,’ Ziggy added, bringing the backup; TM and Marty fist-bumped her in unison, somehow.
‘Three-way fist bump,’ Veggie lamented, shooting a betrayed glare at them.
‘We’ll set one up for you later,’ TM said, flapping his hands at his partner to hurry him along. ‘Just explain the flipping plan.’
‘Right, yes,’ Veggie said, with an apologetic scratch of an ear. ‘Well, to carry off this most epic of campaigns you’ll all need plenty of thief-and-thieving-related skills, such as sneaking. Er, hiding. Burglaring. That sort of thing. So, to really up the immersion, I’m setting up stations.’ He pointed to the table. ‘We’ll be splitting into pairs, rotating around each activity in turn. Over there, two people will be rolling for stat increases, training to raise their characters’ skills until the whole party’s good and ready to take on the indubitable greatest quest of all time. Over here –’ he made theatrical gestures to present the gaming setup, like a model demonstrating the top prize in an eighties game show ‘– another team of two will be blasting through some of the classics of the stealth genre to top up their knowledge of the basic tropes of thievery. And finally, in the Great Land of Outside, pair number three will be training their awesome parkour skills around the city.’
TM gave him a look.
’That’s a really dumb idea, but it sounds fun as heck, so I’m game,’ said Marty, vaulting the table. ‘I call first shot on the stealth games.’
Derrida made to stand and join him, but the back of Dominika’s hand hit him in the chest. There was no sound as her tensed fingers made contact, but he instantly froze and resumed his seat.
‘Fine,’ Derrida said, leaning away from Dominika. ‘You and me –’ he nodded at Veggie ’– are parkouring it up first, then. ‘Kay?’
‘Deal,’ said Veggie, then turned to TM and Ziggy. ‘That makes you two first on super training stat grind duty, then. I’m trusting you not to just add a million points to everything without actually doing the rolls, so don’t let me down.’
With that, Veggie and Derrida were gone, Veggie tightening the belt of his jeans as they made to slip down his rear on the way out.
‘Are they not going to get changed or anything?’ Marty asked without turning around. He flicked the tiny TV on and shuffled himself into supreme comfort on the sofa.
‘Nah,’ said TM. ‘I think they’re just gonna go try to be ninjas in Converses and skinny jeans. Or, in Veggie’s case, knock-off Converses and jeans that used to be skinny but have stretched a bit.’
‘Awesome,’ said Marty.