She was one of the prettiest girls in the orphanage. She knew that because Mrs. Hill had told her so. She was a small Black girl with short, curly hair; unusually small for a five-year-old. But she was prettier than the other girls and smarter, too. Yet, no one could tell her why her parents had not come for her. She never learned that her parents had perished in a burning hotel, or the reason the fire couldn't be quenched because of a recent water shortage that year in Monument City. Being a five-year-old, the latest in news was not as much her concern as was playing games and coloring with crayons.
Mrs. Hill watched Trisha Fate playing with building blocks with some of the other children. Trisha seemed to be directing things like a construction foreman.
Forewoman, Mrs. Hill corrected to herself. A natural born leader.
Mrs. Hill considered Trisha's last name and thought about the child's past experiences. Perhaps, she thought, Fate is more than just a name.
When Trisha had first come to the orphanage a month ago, she was crying. Her parents had been taken away from her, her baby brother Trevor was missing, and she couldn't understand why. The decision not to tell her about her parents until they felt she could understand was a difficult one. That job would fall upon her foster parents. What had happened to her brother, no one seemed to know. It was as if he had disappeared without a trace.
Now, it seemed as if Trisha didn't remember her previous family life; as if she didn't care why she was here. She had made friends with the other children rather quickly, and ironically enough, she seemed to have a kind of magical effect on some of the children. Those that were previously melancholy and antisocial were now as if they didn't have a care in the world. All brooding made way for laughing and giggling. In fact, the volunteers in the orphanage seemed to be affected by the dramatic change in the moods of the children. Even Mrs. Hill herself no longer complained to her husband as much as she used to. Lately, their nights had been more passionate. To her it seemed as if they were happier now than when they were newlyweds; happier even than when they had been dating.
There is definitely something special about this child, mused Mrs. Hill.
* * *
It all started when the kids were going on a field trip to the Monument City Children's Museum. Trisha had fallen behind the group. What had caught her attention was a short, plump little man with strange squinting eyes. He wore several diamond rings on his fingers, and he was smiling at her and gesturing with his hands to follow him. She wasn't quite sure whether or not to follow, yet her interest was piqued by the flashing diamonds on the man's hands. They were enticing, almost hypnotic. Finally, she took a step in his general direction. Then, she took another step, and another.
Realizing that his rings held her interest, the man used them to his advantage. Making sure that they were constantly in the little girl's view, he undulated his fingers like serpents dancing to a fakir's flute. The fat, little man led her down an alley to the back of a van. He jumped into the open doors, and, after much contemplation, the little girl followed.
Suddenly, the doors slammed shut behind her sending her into total darkness. She was grabbed by several hands which bound her before she could so much as twitch; gagged her before she could so much as whimper. Once her eyes had adjusted to the darkness, Trisha could make out three figures near her.
"You see," said a rasping voice, "the perfect specimen for my experiments. Young and resilient, she will become the woman of the future. When we return with this one, I'll give you the location of two others that I want."
* * *
It had been two days since Trisha had been abducted. She hungered for food since she had last eaten at breakfast on the day of her abduction. All that the men in the van gave her was water to drink and time to relieve herself when she needed to do so. The gag had been removed after the men had threatened to hurt her if she screamed. She agreed to their terms and stayed silent except when she required a rest stop, which was always in a secluded, brush-filled area. Fear had gripped Trisha the entire time, and she could feel the trickling of tears running down her cheeks. She recalled what had brought her to this point and became angry at herself for following a stranger. She began to wonder what these men planned to do with her, and, once again, fear held her in its vice-like grip. All she could do now was wait.
* * *
The following morning, the van came to a halt. She hadn't asked to make a rest stop, so Trisha assumed that this was her final destination. When she was let out of the van, Trisha found herself in a large, underground garage full of vans similar to the one she had been riding in. There were four men standing around her. There was the fat, little man with the diamond rings who seemed more sinister, now, than jovial. There were two big, burly men with blonde hair who looked exactly alike except for their clothes. They had been the ones who sat in the back of the van with her during the entire trip. The fat man had moved to the front with the driver during the first rest stop. Then, there was the driver. A short man with a small frame and a scruffy beard. He reminded Trisha of a skinny Santa Claus.
One of the twins picked Trisha up and carried her, dangling to one side, down a long corridor and into a large white room with an operating table in the center. He, then, crossed the room into a smaller room where a small, frightened-looking young woman in a lab coat sat at a desk.
"Dr. Soho wants this kid cleaned and ready for the first experiment," said the man to the woman.
"Why must he use children for his genetic experiments? Why can't he use animals?" cried the woman.
"You should worry less about the brat and more about what will happen to you if you don't cooperate," the man stated flatly.
He put Trisha down and walked out of the door, closing it behind him. The woman stared at the door for a long while. Then, she turned to Trisha and gave her a weak smile. Trisha could feel a warmth in her smile, something she couldn't feel in the smile of the fat man with the diamond rings.
"What's your name?" asked the woman.
"Trisha," replied the girl meekly.
"Well, Trisha, my name is Geraldine. You can call me Geri."
Geri studied Trisha. She wondered which of them was more frightened. "I want to be your friend."
Trisha nodded but said nothing more. Geri had to find a way to reach this child, a way to connect with her. She looked at the paper flower sitting on her desk. It was given to her by a nun who was passing them out in the maternity ward the day her daughter was born. They had apparently been made by orphan children as a special gift to the new mothers. It was a gift of some particular significance for the children, and Geri treasured it, especially since now her daughter was no longer with her.
Forgive me, Sara she prayed to herself.
Geri picked up the flower and held it out to Trisha. Trisha stared at the flower for a long time.
"It's for you, dear," said Geri smiling. "This is a symbol of our friendship. It means that we will always be friends. Go ahead. Take it."
Trisha reached up and carefully took the flower. It was a bright pink color with a green, wire stem and a red satin ribbon tied around it in a bow. Trisha looked at the flower and then look up at Geri. She began to cry and grabbed Geri around the neck. Geri picked Trisha up into her arms and returned the hug.
* * *
Five years had passed since Trisha had been brought to the hidden eugenics laboratory of Dr. Soho. Most of the experiments that he had planned for Trisha had been completed by this time. Now, Dr. Soho was concentrating more on the other two captives who had been brought here. Trisha had become close to one of the other eugenics projects. She was a Japanese American girl named Kim Kido.
Trisha was in the gymnasium working on her strength training. She could already lift two thousand pounds in each hand. As she becomes older, she would no doubt become stronger. After putting down the weights, Trisha heard footsteps coming toward the gym. A normal person would not have heard such faint sounds as these, but Trisha was far from normal, now.
The door to the gym opened and Kim walked in. Trisha was glad to see her friend and went to greet her. She could no longer speak because an error in one of Soho's experiment had rendered her mute. As she came closer, Trisha stopped and gasped involuntarily as she noticed the drastic change that had come over her friend.
Kim's face sparkled like glitter. Her skin had taken on a sheen of golden specks. Tears streamed from her eyes when she noticed Trisha's reaction. Trisha could say nothing to console her, so she hugged her instead. They were convinced that their lives would be filled with similar horrors for the rest of their days. One of the twins entered the gym. It was Swensen.
"Alright, you two. Dr. Soho wants me to start training you in martial arts. I'll be teaching you the ins and outs of Tae Kwon Do, Ninjitsu, and Kata. You already have the moves programmed into the ROM chips implanted in your brains. I am basically going to teach you how to access them. Let us begin."
Swensen began teaching the girls the proper way to access the information on the implants. It wasn't very difficult for them as Dr. Soho had developed a way to give them the ability to use a larger percentage of their brains. Information was now stored and accessed like a computer, therefore their brains could not tell the difference between itself and an artificial chip. Also, the chip was of a very special construction. Instead of being electronic, it was electrochemical in nature. The circuit board had organic patterns and a thin coat of neurochemical fluid. It was an invention of Soho's which he called CellTech.
After three hours of a grueling workout the two were sent to the mess hall for dinner. There they ran into Dr. Page. She greeted them warmly and invited them to sit with her. None of the other workers at the lab ate with the girls including Dr. Soho. Geri was the only one who spent time with them, and they loved her.
"I see that Dr. Soho's cell adaptation experiment was a success," she said softly to Kim.
"I hate it!" Kim yelled on the verge of tears. "It makes me look ugly!"
"No, it doesn't," said Geri. "You look beautiful."
"Do you really think so?" asked Kim brushing away a tear from her cheek that had already escaped.
"Of course I do," said Geri.
Kim turned to her young companion.
"What about you, Trish? Do you think I look beautiful this way?"
Trisha cocked her to one side and studied Kim's face and hands. She had to admit that the gold specks were breathtaking as they sparkled like stars in the light of the overhead lamps. Finally, she nodded at Kim with a very broad smile.
"I don't want to stay here any more," sighed Kim.
"I know," said Geri. "I don't want to stay here either, but there's no way to leave."
She looked from one girl to the next. "Now, promise me you won't ever say anything about leaving here again. If Dr. Soho heard you, he would be very angry, and he would punish you severely. I don't want that to happen to you."
The two girls nodded their agreement.
"Remember," continued Geri, "no matter what happens, we'll always have each other. Perhaps one day I'll be able to find a way to get you all out of here. Until then, you must bear this."
From then, the three ate in silence, each holding private thoughts about escape.
* * *
A short stocky Chinese man sat behind the giant mahogany desk and drummed his fingers. During the psychological examination of his charges, Dr. Soho had discovered the young Japanese girl had a latent ESP ability. Soho decided that he would force this ability to develop fully. A telekinetic would make an excellent addition to his new line of eugenic soldiers which he called Mega-Females. But there was a risk. Just as teaching them over twenty different forms of hand-to-hand combat was a risk. Soho didn't want to put limiters in their CellTech implants. There was the possibility of reducing the effectiveness of the technology. No, there had to be another way. A better way.
* * *
It was ten years ago today, Trisha thought looking out of the window of her room through bars she knew she could bend had they been made with ordinary iron. She had changed from a pretty little girl of five to a beautiful young lady of fifteen. And, with no special thanks to Dr. Soho, she had changed a lot more than she cared to know. Ever since she came to this place, she had developed a small family consisting of Dr. Geraldine Page, whom she looked upon as her surrogate mother, and her friend Kim Kido. Kim was actually more of a sister to Trisha than a friend.
There was another Black girl in the laboratory complex. She was slightly older than Kim and Trisha. Her name was Charisse Jackson. For some reason, she had always steered clear of Kim and Trisha. Dr. Soho had been spending most of his time with her as of late.
A knock came at the door. Trisha attempted to call to whomever it was to enter. When no sound escaped her lips, she remembered that she no longer had any vocal cords. Trisha walked to the door and opened it. She recognized Kim, even before the door was fully open, from the reflections of the hall lights on her metallic gold skin. By this time, the specks had spread to become a solid metallic gold luster which covered her entire body. Some of her natural pigment still showed through, but in another year it would be completely hidden.
Kim beamed a smile at Trisha. It seemed she was always smiling despite her plight as one of Dr. Soho's guinea pigs. The two girls sat down on Trisha's bed, which lay beneath the room's only window.
"I got here as soon as I could without raising any suspicion," she whispered excitedly. "I've found it!"
A perplexed look crossed Trisha's face followed by one of comprehension and, finally, disbelief. Kim had discovered what they both had been vainly searching for in the last five years - a way to escape! Kim quickly began to relate her discovery of a weak point in the security of the lab through the waste disposal system. Normally, escape via this route was impossible due to the incinerators. However, one of the incinerators had been shut down for repairs, which wouldn't begin until tomorrow afternoon. A plan had to be swiftly, but carefully, created for a late night departure.
* * *
Trisha eased the door to her room open and peered out into the hallway. It was early morning and darkness still loomed outside. Trisha stayed by the door and waited. It wasn't long before a small figure appeared in the shadows. A slight glimmer in the darkness betrayed the figure's identity. Silently, Trisha crept down the hallway to join Kim. Neither of them carried any belongs that might hamper their escape except that Trisha did hold in her hand a flower made of crepe paper and decorated with ribbon. Kim understood why. The flower was a gift from Geri when Trisha had first arrived at the laboratory. Trisha had kept and cherished the flower for the past ten years. She was not about to give it up now.
The two traversed through a veritable maze of corridors now familiar to them even in darkness or the lack thereof. Neither Trisha nor Kim could really tell if it was dark anymore. One of Dr. Soho's successes was the enhancement or their senses. Night Vision was an advantage for them in their endeavor. Their increase hearing gave them forewarning of any approaching adversaries. Their keen senses of smell, better than any bloodhound, told of recent passes by others.
Kim had one particular advantage over Trisha - her specially developed ESPer powers. This was one success that would prove to be Dr. Soho's undoing. During her training in telekinesis, which had failed, Kim discovered she could read the minds of others. It was then that Kim discovered the ultimate fate of Trisha, Charisse and herself. They were to become mindless killing machines in a plot to destroy the government of the United States of America. If the experiments performed upon the three girls prove successful and permanent, others would be brought in to undergo similar treatments. They would become an army of unstoppable super soldiers. Another advantage of Kim's telepathic skills was open communication without the fear of being overheard. It also allowed Trisha to communicate her ideas directly to her friend. The very idea of it excited Trisha.
Kim told what she had discovered to Trisha, and their plans for escape were immediately stepped up. They had always known a sinister fate awaited them in the future, but they never knew what. Now, their fears had substance. Kim had learned that Charisse was already undergoing the conditioning procedures which would put her under Dr. Soho's complete control. No doubt her reluctance to associate with Trisha and Kim had made her an easy target for programming.
Finally, the pair of garbage chutes in the far end of the lab came into view. Kim indicated the chute which lead to the nonfunctional incinerator. After a final look around for danger, the girls jumped feet first into the chute. It was a ride that neither would forget. The passage went almost straight down before angling out thirty degrees and dropping them off into the incinerator chamber. With a crunch they landed on pile upon pile of bagged garbage. One of the bags had burst open from the force of their landing. It was obviously throwaways from the kitchen. The rancid stench of coffee grounds and rotting fruit and vegetable peelings filled the chamber. The two girls clamored out of the nonfunctional incinerator and gratefully breathed in the fresh mountain air. Mountains?
The two looked about at their surroundings truly for the first time. They had never seen anything so beautiful. Kim suggested that they find a place to conceal themselves. It wouldn't be long before the refuse truck came to carry out the accumulating garbage in the chute. They would use that to make their escape. Soon afterwards, the trash truck had arrived. The two men on board were contracted, so they were not members of the laboratory complex. After hauling the bags into the compressor, and cursing the the idiot who let one of the bags break open, the men climbed into the cab and started up the engine.
This was the moment Trisha and Kim had been waiting for. With a quick dash the two girls ran for the truck. With precision timing, they leapt straight upwards and landed on the roof of the bin which held the garbage. The truck then accelerated at a modest rate toward the gate of the laboratory complex. Trisha and Kim willed themselves to be a flat as they possibly could as the truck stopped at the main gate to be signed out.
After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, but was in fact only a few seconds, the truck made progress out of the complex and down the road. The path the truck took curved severely several times before entering a tunnel which ran through the base of one of the mountains. The tunnel was very long. Near the midpoint, neither Trisha nor Kim could see an opening to either end. The tunnel took almost half an hour to pass through. Eventually, they could see daylight streaming in through the exit. As the truck passed through the exit, Trisha instinctively looked back to see...a sheer rock wall. The tunnel entrance was gone. Sensing her confusion Kim looked back at what Trisha was watching.
"How do you suppose they did that?" asked Kim.
Trisha shrugged her shoulders. It wasn't important, really. Trisha looked up at the sky and saw the sun shining in all it's glory as it rose above a distant range of small mountains.
Free, she thought. We're finally free!
Kim smiled at her companion and nodded. Still, a sad feeling had colored Trisha's exultation. Kim then transmitted a thought to Trisha informing her of the note she had left on Geri's night table. Trisha reached over and clasped Kim's hand. She wanted to hug her, but feared being thrown from the roof of the truck by an unexpected turn.
* * *
The garbage truck pulled into a truck stop and the two sanitation workers went into a small diner to get something to eat. Trisha and Kim jumped down from the truck and ducked into the diner as well. As the two stood inside, they looked around. The smells of food cooking was making their mouths water. They knew that with their genetically enhanced metabolisms they didn't really have to eat, but old habits die hard. Trisha spotted an empty table and pointed it out to Kim. As they walked over to the empty spot, Kim heard a grunting sound. One of the garbage men was staring at her with a disdainful frown on his face.
"Look at that, Eddie. What kind of parents would let their kid paint themselves like that."
The other man turned and stared at Kim as well.
"I tell ya, her folks oughta be ashamed o' themselves."
Kim tensed at being ridiculed. She stared hard at the men and thought angry thoughts at them. What happened surprised her. The soup bowls in front of both men suddenly tilted back and dumped their piping hot contents into their laps. The result was immediate. Both men jumped up screaming from soup burns on their trouser fronts. Realizing what had happened, Kim quickly grabbed Trisha and dragged her the rest of the way to their table and tried to look as inconspicuous as a Japanese girl with metallic gold skin possibly could. Trisha quirked an inquiring eyebrow.
"Did you see what just happened?" asked Kim in a harsh whisper.
Trisha realized that her friend was upset, otherwise she would have thought to use her telepathy to communicate something she didn't want overheard. As if hearing Trisha's thought, Kim continued in the disembodied voice that spoke within Trisha's mind.
I used telekinesis on those two trash men, she broadcasted. I just thought that their soup should fall in their laps and it happened.
Trisha smiled. She was impressed. This meant that she had learned on her own what Dr. Soho could not teach her. Kim, however, was not very happy about this development.
Don't you understand? I did it out of anger! What if I had thought about something really dangerous?
Trisha could now understand why Kim was upset. She reached over and patted Kim's hand.
You didn't think of something dangerous, thought Trisha. That is because of who you are in as much as the discipline you have learned.
Kim did not readily accept this reasoning, but she realized that Trisha was trying to comfort her.
* * *
Nancy Yaeger had started working in the diner as a stepping stone to moving on to better things. Now, the job hung around her neck like the stone anchor of an ancient sailing ship. She was stuck here and there seemed to be no way out. The day hadn't been going so well, either. Things weren't really bad, but she was in a mood to be intolerant of the little annoying things that normally wouldn't have bothered her. When two truck drivers had made a mess by spilling their soup in their laps, she didn't even consider the pain that they were suffering from. All she could think of was the fact that Nancy was the one who had to clean up the mess. Fortunately, they had left in a hurry. One of them was mumbling about witches. Nancy believed that they'd probably been steeping inside of a bottle all night except she noticed no alcohol fumes emanating from either of them. It didn't matter, none of it was her business. The mess wasn't as bad as she first had assumed, and she had it cleaned up in almost no time. She still wasn't happy about it.
"Nancy!" called the manager. "Hurry it up. You've got customers waiting." The manager indicated two teenage girls sitting in the far corner table of the diner.
Decrepit old cow, thought Nancy darkly. Why doesn't she wait on them. All she ever does is stand behind the till and make coffee all day.
Nancy put away the wash bucket and cloth and pulled out her order pad. She walked over to the two girls and had to do a double take when she realized that one of the girls was shining like a brass bell, literally. Huh, she thought, there's something you don't see everyday. Must be groupies or something. She was able to size the girls up before she reached their table. Both were wearing a queer kind of uniform. It reminded Nancy of hospital garb that the surgeons wore in the daytime soaps. Except these outfits were a bit more practical looking and somewhat form fitting. The golden girl was Asian. The other one was Black
Pulling out a pen from her apron pocket, Nancy stood next to the table. On closer inspection, she realized that they were very young to be here by themselves.
"What would like, sweetie?"
"Excuse me?" asked Goldie in a perplexed voice.
Nancy sighed. "What would you like to eat?"
The golden girl looked at the Black one. She turned back to Nancy. "What do you have?"
Nancy couldn't believe what she was hearing. Not too bright, these girls, thought Nancy. Probably pot-smoked their brains into oblivion.
"Look at the menu, darlin'," said Nancy a little hotly. "It's all there in black and white."
The girl looked at the plastic laminated menu on the table as if she saw it for the first time. "Ah, a list." She picked it up and looked at it for a second, flipped it over and looked at it again then set it down.
Nancy put her hands on her hips. She barely looked at the thing, she thought. "What's the matter darlin'? Can't read?"
"Oh, no," said Golden. "I read it just fine. Very elementary language really."
"I'll have the cheddar and mushroom hamburger with French fries and water."
"You don't want a Coke or sumpthin'? We got that."
The girl's brow creased. "Aren't narcotics an illegal substance?"
Cute, thought Nancy, I almost believed her for a second there. "Tell you what, Einstein. How about I get you a Coca-cola and you see if you like it."
"Um, okay?" said the Asian girl. Nancy could tell she was genuinely confused. She turned to the other girl. Maybe she'd have better luck there.
"What about you darlin'? What would you like?"
Immediately, the Asian girl spoke up, "She would like the..."
"Did I ask you?" snapped Nancy.
Out the corner of her eye, Nancy could see the manager frowning one of her "dangerous" frowns. It was going to get ugly by closing time. She took a deep breath and was about to start again.
"Um, she can't talk, Nancy."
Nancy rounded on the Asian girl. "She can point, can't she?"
Trisha picked up her menu and carefully pointed to what she wanted while Nancy wrote it down. "I'll be back with your order." Nancy walked off in a huff.
Kim looked at Trisha. "I don't think she likes me."
Trisha shrugged. So what? We're just staying long enough to eat.
* * *
When they had finished their meal, Trisha and Kim were offered dessert. Kim was astonished to find that she liked Coca-cola very much. When she tasted the beverage, her taste buds combined with her computer like brain were able to determine the ingredients and the quantity of each. Never thought such an odd collection of chemicals would make such an interesting drink. Trisha in the meantime was enjoying her ice cream; though Trisha didn't quite understand the name since there was no ice actually in it. Nancy returned to the table and placed a piece of paper on the table. Kim picked up the paper.
"That's the bad news, Kiddo," said Nancy with a smirk.
Kim turned the paper this way and that. She handed it to Trisha. "What do you make of this?" Trisha stared at the writing on the paper shrugged and handed it back to Kim. Nancy couldn't believe what was going on. Kim looked at her.
"Is this some kind of code? There are all these numbers and an 'S' with a vertical line through it."
Nancy shook her head. She couldn't believe the gall of these kids. Did they really think they were going to pull a fast one on her? They were imaginative, she'd give them that, but they weren't very bright.
"It's time to pay for the meal, darlin'. Let's see your money."
The two girls looked at each other with confused looks. Nancy had pretty much expected this, but she wanted to see how far they would take their little scam. "You know. Money. Moolah, greenbacks. Little slips of paper with pictures of dead presidents on 'em."
The two still looked confused. "Who killed them?" asked Kim.
Nancy blinked. This was an unexpected tack. "Beg pardon?"
"The dead presidents. Who killed them?"
At this point Nancy had decided enough was enough. "Look you little tramps, you're gonna pay for this one way or another!" She reached for both of them. The move turned out to be a mistake.
Like light switches the two girls suddenly changed. They suddenly jumped up, tossed aside their chairs and took karate stances. Ordinarily, this would have amused Nancy, except that the professionalism of the movements and the severe faces on the girls made it clear that they were not bluffing. Without really knowing why, Nancy was terrified.
"L-look now. You stop this or...or I'll call the cops," shouted Nancy somewhat tremulously. The manager had already picked up the phone and was preparing to dial. Trisha saw this action and picked up a knife that was on the table and with absolute precision hurled the knife into the wall below the phone, severing the cord. The manager blanched white and passed out. As the knife vibrated from its place embedded in the wall, Nancy didn't know what scared her more: that the Black girl had so accurately thrown the knife or the fact that she had used a decidedly blunt butter knife to do the job.
"Wh-who the hell are you?"
"You threatened us. We will defend ourselves at any cost." The voice from the Asian girl was chilling, dispassionate, mechanical.
"I just wanted you to pay for the food," pleaded Nancy. "You know, with money."
The light switches flicked off again. The two girls seemed to deflate before Nancy's eyes. "We're sorry," said Kim meekly. "We thought you were going to hurt us." Trisha began to sniffle.
"I wouldn't do that," said Nancy quietly. Who were these girls? Where did they come from? "But really, you have to pay for things you get from other folks with money. I mean, you know that." Nancy, however was beginning to believe that they didn't.
The two looked at one another rather miserably. "We have none of these...dead presidents," said Kim. "Perhaps we can pay through some form of barter."
"We have no possessions, but we can work for our meal," said Kim. "Provided you show us how to do the work."
Nancy glanced back to where the manager was last seen standing. Obviously, she was still out cold on the floor. Apparently, this was going to be a decision for Nancy alone to make. She looked at the knife, now still, protruding from the wall and smiled. "How are you girls at waitressing?"
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