Chapter Twenty Five

Travis groaned and slipped into bed. The sun was just slipping over the horizon as he nodded off. As the boy slept his alters argued over who was going to wake him. After the others ganged up on him Number Four shook Travis awake. Travis gave one look at him and placed a pillow over his face.

"This is serious Boss. I kind of lost three large last night."

Travis rolled over and mumbled a few thousand was nothing to worry about.

"No, I mean three...million."

Travis shot out of bed and pressed him against the wall.

"How did you lose that much? Reich would have never approved such a transaction."

Number Four began laughing nervously as he tried to talk his way out of the situation.

"Well, you see it's kind of a funny story. I ganked the ring and was doing shoots with some of my Wall Street friends, right? Well, my boy Spencer tells me about this merger that's about to go down. So, I say to myself, I gotta get me a piece of that."

"And?" Travis said tightening his grip around Four's neck.

"I called up Mark pretending to be you and had him bypass the usual safeguards. I'll get the money back."

"Do you have any idea what you've done? That money was already earmarked and now I'll have to pull it out of thin air. You're demoted to spar dummy and I'll be handling all business from here on out."

Four pleaded with Travis to give him another chance but his mind was made up. He managed to get a few hours' sleep be it was time to get up and do damage control. First he had Reich do a series of strategic releases of gold and other precious metals. With the money wired into the proper accounts he had Mark alter the records to show no discrepancies in funds.

Next he checked into the stock Four invested in saw it rebounded but he still wound up losing $1.5 million. Travis made sure this incident never repeated itself by adding a code only he knew that could be used to override the protocols in place.

He broke for lunch then took Four for a little quality time on Delta 4.9.72, War. Just outside the dead zone, he took up residence on the desolate planet and had it terraformed. When it was done the planet was where he spent most of time training and coming up with new techniques without fear of being discovered or injuring anyone but himself. At present he had a gravity amplifier, food replicator and sleeping quarters installed, but due to the extreme energy he put out the technology had the habit of shutting down, so he kept things simple.

Most of his experimental devices were housed on Newton, an uninhabited dwarf planet near Clark. Two was in charge of overseeing the progress of the devices housed there. He'd taken the name Hugo and Travis knew he should have put a stop to it right then. Give them an inch and they'll take a light year. The others followed suite. One went by Q, Three was Mack (after Machiavelli), and Four named himself after his idol, Gordon Gekko.

"What are you gonna do?"

"Teach you a little respect."

Travis cranked up the gravity to 1800Gs and thoroughly pummeled Gordon. When he was done they checked in on Hugo. He was running the latest batch of data through the quantum computer. No good. They were still miles from a working prototype and they'd used up all the test samples Mack had harvested for them.

"I can't keep working under these conditions. Give me a live test subject and maybe we'll come up with some results."

"Spare me the lecture, Hugo. You know it's near impossible to take a fur ball in alive. The best you can hope for is a fresh kill."

Hugo grumbled about slave labor and striking. One look from Travis and he got back to work. Travis changed into Hugo's spare lab uniform and got to work on a side project of his. He tinkered with the circuitry until he was satisfied and strapped the band on his wrist. Music blared and he winced. The volume lowered to a pleasant level and Travis tapped his foot to the beat.

"I'm a fucking genius."

"You only got it to work after I told you to reverse the polarity of the flux capacitor."

"Minor details peasant. Besides you're a part of me so it still counts."

Travis stuck out his tongue at Hugo and did a victory dance. He tapped on the face of the band and sure enough it projected a 3-D interactive hologram of his thoughts.

"Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the Psipod. Just think about it, and it'll play it. And the crowd goes wild, yeah!"

Hugo busted a gut laughing.

"I see you didn't get enough sleep again."

Travis yawned and nodded his head. He curled up on his work desk and rested. Hugo made a screw ball motion and teleported him back to Earth. He clued in Gordon who was sitting in the living room watching a marathon of The Jersey Shore with Amber and Bobby.

Yeah I got this. I'll dip in the cut soon as I see my girl Snookie get tore up from the floor up.

As Travis snored away Gorgon merged with him. At a quarter to six Q came back from the soup kitchen and ran into Josh.

"Hey, um I want to talk about last night."

"Uh, give me a second to get cleaned up and I'll be right with you."

Q went around back and popped into the room.

"Boss, get up,"

Q shook Travis for several minutes before he got up. After filling him in they merged and Travis went out front.

"Why'd you change your clothes?" Bobby said when he saw Travis.

"When did you become a fashion Nazi?"

"Just saying I liked that Timberland shirt and those air force ones you were rocking. Let me barrow them sometime son."

"As if you could fit them with your pontoons."

"Whatever Tinkerbell."

Josh asked what took him so long when he opened the door. Travis gave a noncommittal answer and they went to his room. Josh sat down on the unmade bed and kicked off his sandals. They talked about nothing in particular until Travis broached the subject at hand.

"You hurt me and I still haven't forgiven you for that."

"Can you blame me? You were gone all the time, never told me anything, and treated me like a guinea pig."

"Well excuse me if I don't share every detail of my life. You act like we're married or something."

"I didn't say you had to tell me everything, just something so I know you're safe and you care about me."

Travis let out an over dramatic sigh, groaned and wrapped his arm around Josh.

"I can't sit around talking about my emotions like I'm on Oprah. I'm not you."

"I didn't say you were. Now did I?"

Josh pulled away from Travis and wrapped his arms around his legs, pulling them to his chest. Travis kissed Josh's cheek and his skin flushed.

"I do care about you. Just have a different way of showing it. Here," he said and handed Josh the Psipod prototype.

"Don't try to buy my affections. I'm not a whore."

"Consider it a peace offering. Now put it on. Please?"

Josh complied and the room was filled with the sappiest love song Travis ever heard. Josh laughed and pulled Travis to his feet and they danced around the room. Travis stepped on Josh's toes once too many and they stopped.

"Sorry, never got the hang of ball room dancing."

"Good effort though."

Josh ruffled Travis's shaggy fro and kissed him on the forehead. They retired to the bed and talked about starting school next week. The red head offered to drive him until he got his license, but Travis had to chip in for gas money. He thanked Josh but declined.

"Come on babe. Please?"

"Alright, but only because you begged me like a good slave."

"Hey! If anyone's the slave here, it's you."

"Not on your life, kid. You take me as the submissive type."

"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" "Chillax. I'm just saying you look like a bottom is all."

Josh opened his mouth to reply but nothing came out. He sputtered, and then got out, "Asshole."

"Wait, I was joking," Travis said but Josh slipped on his sandals and left.

***

Walter grimaced when Travis passed by the check in desk. He grabbed the name badge waiting for him and proceeded to the conference room. Damien greeted him at the door and ushered him to his seat. Once again two seats were empty. When Travis asked who they belonged to Damien changed the subject to the meeting's agenda.

Once everyone save Josh's parents had arrived they read the minutes from the last meeting and brought up old business.

"Lady Juno you have the floor," Damien said.

"Thank you Lord Damien. As you're all aware we still haven't settled the matter of our newest member. He maybe Lord Marshall's heir, but can he be trusted? I say we test the boy's allegiance. Fifty souls by sun rise sounds reasonable to me. Second?"

"Seconded!" came the reply from everyone at the table. Travis stood and spoke when Damien the recognized him.

"Request for information, does it matter which souls I collect?"

Juno smiled darkly and stood.

"Given the magnitude of this organization I believe the souls you collect should be the most prized ones, children."

Travis gritted his teeth and glared daggers at her.

"Second?" she said affecting a grandmotherly smile.

"I move to reconsider the previous motion."

"Point of order. Once a motion has passed it can only be reconsidered with a majority vote. As the motion passed unanimously it's a waste of the council's time."

Travis schooled his emotions but the temperature in the room surged and they were soon wiping sweat from their faces.

"Thank you for informing me, Lady Juno. I move the question be put before the committee. Seconded?"

No one dared raise their voice except for Martin Murakami. The vote was close but the motion carried and they debated until Damien tabled the question and called for a vote. It passed by a narrow margin and Damien presented Travis with a suitcase to store the souls in until he finished the task.

"Point of order. If Master Travis has no business before the council he is to yield the floor and take his seat," a bald East Asian man with a grey beard down to his feet said.

"With all due respect Lord Martin, I wasn't finished yet. I move to recess for ten minutes so I can carry out my task."

"Preposterous, child," Juno said and fanned herself.

"Second?"

The council broke out into debate until Damien called them to order. The recess was granted and Travis disappeared in a burst of embers .He returned with three minutes to spare and presented the suitcase to Damien. The room was bathed in the light from the glowing balls of milky perfection.

"Is something the matter?" Travis said when he saw the curious expression on Damien's face.

"These are animal souls."

"Your point?"

"You were to gather human souls."

"Point of order. Human souls were never specified."

"You dare make a mockery of this council?"

Travis smirked at Juno and then spoke.

"My dear lady, it is not my fault that you in your advanced state of age forgot to define the terms of my task in plain language. I motion to table the matter and move on to the next order of business. Second?"

From across the room came a gruff voice.

"Seconded!"

Everyone turned to see the entrance of Lord Cain and Lady Lilith. Travis looked on as he saw Josh's parents take their seats. They nodded at him and he returned the gesture in kind. Lilith learned over and whispered into his ear.

"I do hope you're taking care of my son. It would be awful if this next vote turned out against you."

"Council business is separate from what I do in my personal life. Remember that or I'll crush you."

Mr. Giovanni laughed.

"You got moxy kid."

Travis inclined his head ever so slightly and returned the man's smile. Damien called the meeting back to order and brought Travis's membership up for a vote. The nays and yeas were tied until Cain Giovanni raised his hand with a sheepish expression on his face. Lilith's face contorted in a mix of surprise and anger, along with Juno who thought for sure that he would have voted in line with them.

Once the vote took place and he was declared a full member Travis felt a surge of demonic energy rush into him as he inherited all of Marshall's power. Gramps was no light weight, that's sure, he thought to himself. Juno petitioned the council to reconsider the previous motion, but it failed to reach two-thirds majority and Damien killed the motion.

Moving on to new business Travis was given access to Marshall's share of the Midnight Society Trust and told he was expected to contribute one third of his earnings to the group once he established himself. As he went over the assets Travis thought of all the things he could do with half a billion dollars.

His smile faded when he remembered he was still a minor, and such wealth would draw too much attention. As it stood now he had several dummy accounts set up under aliases to avoid detection.

"With the permission of the chair I wish all but 50 million of Marshall's share be reinvested in the organization until such time I'm able to better utilize it."

The motion carried as the bulk of the funds had been allocated to the other members' side projects and had yet to be repaid. The meeting ended after Travis proposed a motion barring the harvesting of children's souls. The matter was tabled until they could debate it further.

Travis caught up with Josh's parents before they left. He cornered them in the lobby and then pulled them into a side room where he warded it for privacy.

"Mind telling me why Josh never mentioned you were demonic power brokers?"

"Because he has no idea and we'd appreciate it if you didn't tell him," Lilith said with her arms crossed around her petite frame. She exuded a haughty air about her.

"We thought it best to keep him out of this world since he was born without any demonic abilities."

Cain Giovanni was a bear of man. At six-foot-eleven and close to three hundred pounds Travis didn't even want think about how he and the four- foot- ten women got it on.

"I'll do what I think is best. If that means telling Josh about you, so be it."

Travis walked away but Lilith grabbed his arm and pulled him back to her.

"Now you listen here. I don't care who your grandfather was. You will not tell him anything about the Midnight Society or demons, or I will make your life a living hell. Is that understood?"

"You underestimate me. Don't."

Travis released his aura and every demon within a thirty mile radius felt it.

***

"Oh God," Michael said when he felt the demonic energy wash over him. He and the others were awaiting the decision of the Elders on what to do about Travis and what their punishment would be for associating with him. Conner, Dylan and Chow felt the aura too and dry heaved. The sensation passed but they were beyond exhausted.

The door opened and Joan walked past them like they were strangers. Gideon informed them they were to be taken off active duty and rejoin the convent until they learned the error of their ways.

"And what of the boy?"

"The Elders have decided for the safety of humanity he will be exterminated. Now pack your things. You leave for Rome in the morning."

"Wait! You can't go be serious. He's too strong to take head on."

Gideon paused and turned around, his cloak fanned out like the wings of a bat.

"You would do well to begin your vows of silence now." He continued onward.

A short time later guards came and escorted them to their cells. The three by three feet rooms were bare except for lumpy mattresses made of straw and moss, a pitcher of water, and a bucket to relieve themselves in.

The only light shined through a hole in the ceiling. The floors and the walls were warded to prevent them from escaping. The cells were close enough they could talk to each other, but it proved little solace to them.

Michael peered through the bars of his door and saw Conner in the cell across from him.

"We really got ourselves in some grade A manure this time."

"Yeah man, but I'm not going down without a fight. Soon as we're outside I'm making a run for it."

"Why bother? They'll just send an extermination squad after us too."

"Well I don't see you coming up with anything?"

"If we were to run where would we go anyways? The Order of Light provided everything for us. With no food or cash we wouldn't get far."

Dylan banged on the wall to get their attention.

"What if we asked Torin for help? Even if he says no it's worth a shot right?"

"He's the reason we're in this mess in the first place."

"Yeah," Conner said jumping to Michael's defense, "how do we know he can be trusted after what he did to Joan?"

Chow got up and rattled his tin cup against the bars of his door.

"Listen, let's think about this from his perspective for a second. A stranger shows up and pulls a sword on you. Tell me you wouldn't at the least be on edge."

"Granted but he still went too far."

"Michael, I know you care about Joan but put your emotions aside for a second. We know or suspect Torin is the Antichrist. Yet he's only murdered a handful of people--"

"That we know of you mean," Michael said cutting him off before Chow could complete his thought.

"My point is he's like us. He didn't ask to be born into this war and maybe, if we help him see another way, he'll choose good over evil."

"That's a pretty big maybe there partner. Are you willing to risk the fate of the entire world on it?"

"Why not? If there's one thing Gideon has always told us, it's that salvation is a gift given to everyone. Whether you accept it, is another matter."

The Wildlings agreed that as soon as they were free of the wards they'd make a run for it and contact Torin. Whether he'd help them was still a mystery. All they could was hope he would.

***

Tommy rolled over and checked his phone. With one look at the caller ID He sprang out of bed and got dressed. Jenny stirred and called him back to bed. He gave one look at the vision of feminine perfection before him and pouted.

"Believe me I'd give my left nut to spend another second with you, but duty calls."

They shared a passionate kissed, and then Tommy disentangled from her when his cell vibrated again. On the way to the field office he wondered what he'd get chowed a new one for this time. He snagged a bear claw from Agent Pendanski's desk, wolfed it down and chased it with a can of Red Bull. The breakfast of champions, he thought and chuckled to himself.

"Agent Anderson mind telling me what's so funny when we got a level five threat running killing civilians at will?

"Nothing sir, sorry sir. It won't happen again," he stuttered out and tried to regain his composure.

"As I was saying, I don't care how you do it, but Subject Prometheus can't be allowed to remain at large any longer."

"But sir, the last time we tried to apprehend him he wound up massacring most of the guards at the check in station."

"Yes I read your report. However, thanks to the blood sample we managed to get before things turned into a shit storm the techs managed to work up a serum that boosts metahuman abilities. They call it Agent M and we want you and your errand boy to use it to bring him in. Is that clear?"

"Let me get this straight? You want me to give an experimental drug to Kyle without knowing what side effects it has, or even if it works. All so you can bring in Travis?"

"You're paid to do your job, not to be a bleeding heart for these creatures. If you don't comply you will be replaced."

"Save your breath, because I quit."

The Deputy Director reminded Agent Anderson he was still under contract and must do as ordered until the government had no further use for him.

"We protect our own. I'd hate for that pretty gal of yours to have an accident."

"Lay one finger on her and you're dead."

"Temper, temper Tommy boy. Get the job done and there'll be no need to worry."

Agent Anderson told his boss to go screw himself and stormed out of the office and headed straight for Travis.

The boy had just finished a round of day trading and was going over plans with Dr. Reich when Mark called him out of the blue. The hacker told him his house had been ransacked and his computer stolen.

"Did you hide the files pertaining to the project?'

"Yeah. I always make sure to back them up on the external drive you gave me. So what are we going to?"

"Don't worry. You'll have it back by the end of the day. In the meantime, we need to meet up to discuss the plans for setting up computer labs at Kettering, McKenzie, and Henry Ford before the school year starts."

"That's gonna be tight man. I'll call the fellas and get them on it ASAP."

"Good I'll see you at three in the usual sport."

As soon as Travis hung up his phone rang again. It was Michael and his voice sounded strained as he labored to breathe.

"Look man. I know the last time we met we parted on bad terms. But I wouldn't call you if we had anywhere else to turn."

"And why should I help you?"

"The Elders mean to take you out and will be sending their strongest soldiers after you. Take it from me you'll need back up."

Michael paused and retched on the side of the street. Conner, Dylan and Chow weren't in much better shape.

When the guards came to escort them to the airport they waited until they were well outside the perimeter of the wards to strike. Chow fired a paralysis spell at the driver. Dylan used his Aspect to rust the chains binding them, while Conner overpowered the guards. Michael tossed the driver outside, took the wheel and they sped out of there.

Gideon sent an extermination squad after them when the guards failed to check in on the hour. The quartet made it another mile before they were beset upon. The car exploded. They made it out alive thanks to the barrier spell Travis taught them.

Their injuries slowed them down and the squad used this to their advantage. Michael held his own best as he could, but he was no match in his weakened state .Thanks to some quick thinking from Conner, they were able to buy enough time for Dylan to heal them.

The worst part about it though, wasn't being outmatched. It was that Joan was among the soldiers and showed them no mercy. When Michael saw her he thought she was there to help them and dropped his guard. Joan stabbed him through the gut without a trace of emotion on her face. He didn't know what hurt more, his stomach or his heart.

They tried to reason with her but she wouldn't listen. So it was heavy hearts they said goodbye to their former friend and ran for their lives. It was Dylan who spotted the pay phone. The decrepit exterior was covered in graffiti and held no outward promise it still worked. They rummaged through their pockets and came up a quarter short.

Michael checked the change tray and it too was empty. He said a little prayer, hit the return lever, and a little clink sounded. A small cheer went up from the group as Michael dialed Travis.

"You said you could use our talents. Well what good are they if we're died?"

"Fine." Travis hung up and the next instant stood before them.

"Where the hell did you come from?"

"No time for questions, come with me," he said and the five of them teleported back to his room. Travis activated his privacy wards and altered the room so it was large enough to accommodate the Wildlings. Each of them was given a suite, complete with a kitchen and rest rooms.

"Sweet! I didn't know you could that," Conner said as he took in the alterations to the room.

"Had you stayed on with me, I would have taught how to do upper level spells. This is temporary so don't get too comfortable. I have business to attend to so later boys."

"Wait, what do we do if someone comes in here while you're gone?"

Travis told them in the event that happened it would appear like an ordinary room.

"So they won't like see or hear us then?"

"No Michael, for all purposes you are in another dimension. They'll pass through like you weren't there."

Dylan healed the rest of their wounds, while Travis snuck out and stocked up on supplies to tide them over until he found a permanent housing solution. He could have Adam look into purchasing a property nearby for them or he could set them up in the house he had for his dealings as Torin Prince. On second thought it would best to set them up in their own place.

After conferring with Adam and Dr. Reich it would be a few months before the purchase went through. How he longed for the day he didn't have to go through such subterfuge to get things done, but he must be patient. Rushing his plans would backfire in the long run.

***

Travis spotted Mark coming up the elevator into the food court. He had three triple cheeseburgers and was on his fourth when the hacker sat down next to him. Mark reached for some fries and Travis offered to buy him lunch.

"Thanks man, by the way keep eating like that and your ass is gonna weigh a ton."

"Not hardly. I use up ten times the energy of a normal person. And on heavy training days I can burn through 50,000 calories."

"Jesus dude. How do you not like go broke buying food?"

"Half of everything I eat gets directly converted into energy. So I rarely need to pig out like this."

The boys finished lunch and discussed plans for the work week. Mark would be in charge of the Kettering and Mackenzie crew while Travis handled Henry ford himself. If they ran into trouble they were to call Travis on their company cell. The crew would arrive first thing in the morning and would go until 8 at night until they finished the job. It was basic grunt work until it came time for networking the computers and setting up a WiFi system.

Mark assembled a bunch of his computer comrades and they did the work without issue, for the most part. Occasionally they'd pull a prank like redirecting a school's webpage to a porn site, or the time they loaded all the computers with a program that changed the mouse pointer into a GIF of a stripper taking her clothes off. After that incident they knew not to cross that line.

"So about the project," Travis said as he scanned the room.

"Yeah, I got big news. Thanks to your help it should be done in six months, a year tops!"

"Good. Now about your computer..."

Travis paused when he sensed Agent Anderson approaching. Anger was pouring of the man in waves and one thought kept screaming in his mind. Dead or alive Travis was coming back with him.

Travis told Mark to go. He pulled the computer from its location in the Pentagon's lab and placed it in the pocket dimension for now.

"YOU!" Tommy said when he saw Travis relaxing in the food court without a care.

"Nice to see you too. She let you hit that yet?"

Tommy pulled Travis to his feet and yelled right into his face.

"Can the crap. Either you come with me or they're going to hurt Jenny. And I'm not about to let that happen."

Tommy stuck him with an industrial sized injection of Neutralizer. The boy's eyes glazed over for a second but otherwise he was fine. Travis pulled the massive epidural from his shoulder and crushed it into a ball.

"Don't try that again. Come on."

The ride back to field office was quiet until Tommy broke the silence by asking Travis why he was helping him.

"I'm doing this because Jenny was the only one who treated me like I mattered before my powers awakened."

"So this is just about paying her back?"

"Your words, not mine. I'm not a total mercenary, you know."

"You could have fooled me."

"That was the point. I came back a harden warrior, bent on punishing all those who wronged me."

Tommy shifted his gaze to Travis and looked at him out of the corner of his eyes.

"So what changed?"

"Don't take my kindness as weakness. I'll burn down anyone who stands in my way. But that doesn't mean I don't care about her too."

The conversation ended when they pulled into the parking lot. Tommy signed them in and they went straight to his boss's office. The Deputy Director grinned until he noticed Travis wasn't restrained.

"What is the meaning of this Agent Anderson?"

Travis summoned a plasma ball and approached the man.

"Let me break it down for you. Mess with him or Jenny and I collect your head."

Travis threw the plasma ball at the desk and it exploded.

The Deputy Director drew his gun from the holster, but before he could fire, Travis had striped it from his hand, unloaded it, and preceded to pistol whip him with it. Lip busted and right eye swelled shut Tommy's boss laughed.

"You just assaulted a federal agent. You're going away for a long time."

"No I'm not."

Travis let him in on his little secret. Mark slipped a worm into their systems months ago and they knew about every skeleton in the DMRC's closet.

Moreover he was intimately connected to the senators who sat on the board that controlled their funding. One call from him and the purse strings were cut. And if that didn't stop them he'd expose the program and see how the general public liked being lied to about the existence of super powered human.

"You seem to have everything figured out except for two things. First, the metas aren't human and will never be accepted as such. Second, how do you plan to leave? You're naive if you think we'll let you waltz right out of here."

"You're the naive one."

A spark of light gathered at the tip of his index finger and grew to the size of a golf ball.

"What in the Sam Hill is that?"

"Our ticket out of here. Enjoy."

Travis flicked the ball to the ground and teleported them outside. The front of the building blew apart, showering debris into the air along with thick smoke. Tommy looked at the damage and was rooted to the spot. Travis reached over and smacked him.

"Get you head in the game and drive."

"Do you realize what you've just done, you terrorist?"

"The damage was mainly to the exterior and the smoke was for cover. Technically speaking, I'm not a terrorist. Now do get in the car and drive before they find out it was a ruse."

"Kid you're fucking crazy."

"You say crazy, I say pragmatic. Besides it worked didn't it?"

"We'll see."

Tommy drove to Jenny's place and after a rushed explanation they went into hiding. Travis suggested someplace close so he could keep an eye on them. After much debate they took up residence in the abandoned house around the corner from Travis.

A few days passed without incident until Tommy's boss showed up at Travis's house. A deal was struck. For the time being Tommy would be assigned Travis's handler. They were free to come and go as long as Travis didn't cause trouble and agreed not to reveal the existence of metahumans.

"Deal."

"Not so fast. What about Kyle?"

"Agent Anderson, be thankful you're getting off this light."

"No he's right. Kyle comes too, or no deal."

The deputy Director mulled it over then agreed.

"You know the moment you no longer have the upper hand this truce is over."

"Yes, but a wounded scorpion can still kill."

 

Author's note: Well how will Michael and the Wildlings adjust to life outside the Order of Light and what will they do next time they meet Joan? Find out next chapter. Send question and comments to silentbutcudly@hotmail.com and remember to donate what you can to keep nifty.org free.