The Butterfly Dragon: Night Boat - Episode 02 (First Draft)

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Changes: The Major Harris character has been renamed to Vice Admiral Harris, seeing as the United States Navy does not include the rank of Major. My first plan was to have the signals intelligence unit be a detachment of the United States Marines, though eventually I determined that it wouldn't make sense for the context of this storyline. Hence, Major Harris is not Vice Admiral Harris.

Excerpts From The Butterfly Dragon: Night Boat Episode 01

Captain George Steadman of the heavily modified Gearing Class Destroyer Many Faced Maiden has been informed of the presence of an American Naval fleet in the waters just north of the Marshall Islands. He quickly summons Alomera Zek to the bridge of the ship:

"That's the third fleet, isn't it?" asked Steadman.

"Correct sir. A Nimitz class aircraft carrier, two Aegis class destroyers and two fast attack craft. Missile Boat Drones. PHM2 Class. Completely unmanned, with stealth capabilities and armed with four harpoon missiles, and eight fifth generation HARM radar homing missiles. Undoubtedly they'll have the assistance of the coast guard of any country whose shores we get close to if they've identified us yet," Norman informed Steadman whose face seemed to pale as Norman spoke.

"Activate the veil if it isn't already!" Steadman ordered.

"Already done sir. I activated it an hour before sunrise as you ordered," Norman responded.

"So in all likelihood they haven't spotted us yet," Steadman asked his first Officer.

"Correct sir. All indications are that they're still in the dark about us," Norman replied.

"We need a distraction. Something to get their attention away from us," Steadman spoke his thoughts aloud.

"We need to use the blackmail database again," Steadman requested of Zek, who looked at him cautiously.

"Tell me who, and what do we need done?" asked Zek.

"We need the third naval fleet of the United States Navy recalled back to port. It appears they might be on an intercept course, and we can't afford a run in with the Navy," Steadman ordered.

"You want me to blackmail a politician into an order of that magnitude? That's going to take some weight, but I think I have just the man for the job. A Navy Admiral himself approaching retirement. A man implicated in an illegal arms deal with Iraq during the early nineteen nineties. He'd likely rather avert a court marshal and lengthy sentence, especially with retirement so close..." Zek offered.

"Ensure that nobody is harmed in the process," Steadman ordered Zek.

"Am I to understand that you're acquiring a conscience after all this time?" Zek asked in amazement.

"No. I just want to ensure that if we're apprehended, that my sentence is shorter than yours," Steadman replied honestly.

"Good, because a conscience in our business can be a liability you know," Zek responded, already growing comfortable with the weight shifting in his favour.

"My lack of a conscience is only a liability for you at this point. Do this, and I'll extend your decryption deadline another week. Don't do it, and I'll shoot you in the foot and throw you overboard into these shark infested waters," Steadman wasn't ready to give up his power so easily, but in the eyes of the crew, that weight was already dwindling.

"Aye Aye, my Captain," Zek gave a mock salute to Steadman as the guard led him to the communications room.


Meanwhile, sometime later, Steadman has discovered something affixed to the side of the top secret stealth technology that he had installed in the Many Faced Maiden before he left port with it. He summons a technician to help him troubleshoot the situation:

"I was hoping you could tell me. It appears to be a magnet. An industrial strength magnet," Steadman said as he attempted to pry it off of the veil.

"If that's true, that would really mess it up," the tech informed Steadman.

"Why's that? I thought this thing was super advanced," asked Steadman.

"Its basically a supermagnet so powerful that it bends radio and light waves at a convergence point about a hundred meters from the hull of the ship, so that they wrap around the opposite side. To anyone looking with visual or radio instrumentation, they'd essentially see nothing," the tech explained.

"So how would an industrial magnet stuck on the side of it affect it?" asked Steadman, who tried again with all his might to pry the magnet off.

"First of all, it would deform the convergence field so that parts of the ship might be exposed and visible on radar. Secondly, the metal parts of the veil would become magnetized and would give false readings on the data display, and once again deform the convergence field, further exposing the ship," the tech summed up the risks posed by the magnet.

"How do we demagnetize the metal siding?" asked Steadman.

"The veil is grounded to the hull of the ship, and would naturally demagnetize over the course of a few weeks," the tech explained.

"Any way to speed that process up?" Steadman asked as he took a third attempt at breaking the hold the magnet had on the siding.

"Not really. We're just going to have to wait it out and hope that its not so bad that the ship is visible on radar and satellites," the tech told him as he managed to free the magnet.


In another location on the ship, Alomera Zek has managed to procure a mobile phone which is usable thanks to the cellular towers on the nearby city of Enubirr on the Kwajalein Atoll. Unbeknownst to Steadman, Zek uses the phone to call Dantos, an old contact from Columbia during Zek's days as the most powerful criminal industrialist and ruler of the world:

"What is it. What can I do for our revolutionary messiah?" asked Dantos.

"I need you. I need a reputable crew. I need a frigate. You know the one I'm referring to, right?" asked Zek.

"She's safe in port, as we speak, but she may be deployed again soon. I can get the crew together in a day. We've been waiting for your signal. However, we're going to need a little help from above. Someone to coax the port authority to look the other way?" asked Dantos.

"Consider it done. I'll make the arrangements so that you'll have a window of opportunity tomorrow in the evening. About seven Columbia time. Are we clear on this request?" asked Zek.

"We are, but without a destination, we're as good as dead in the water," Dantos insisted of Zek.

"Within three days, we'll be south of Puerto Ayora, on the west side of the Panama Canal. I'd like for you to intercept us about a hundred nautical miles due south of that point, at -2.1690 degrees South by -90.2868 degrees West," Zek told Dantos, checking the coordinates he'd scrawled with a pen on his right forearm.

"If you take care of the Port Authority for us, you can count on my arrival," Dantos assured Zek.

"You'll need an armed boarding party if we're to procure control of situation, if you understand my meaning," Zek asked him discretely.

"Oh, I most certainly do. That brings me to another topic. You are aware that something has overtaken the Americas. North America especially. It is as if evil spirits have inhabited the people and is driving them crazy one by one..." Dantos explained to Zek.

"My allies here have mentioned that something strange is happening in society American and Canadian society, but they couldn't explain it to me in any meaningful way. You say that it is driving people mad?" confirmed Zek.

"It is like a communicable disease of the mind. It is driving some mad, while others become automatons, as if without a will of their own. These are obviously the end times and a sign that the time is right for a revolution! Who better to lead the people than our own messiah! Alomera Zek! Viva Revolution!" Dantos exclaimed over the phone.

"Perhaps it is best to to know whiskers from teeth first, before we leap directly into the jaws of the Jaguar. We first will deal with our obstacles at my location, then we'll uncover the mystery about which you speak, from the safety of our own little fleet," Zek assured him.

The Butterfly Dragon: Night Boat - Episode 02


The late evening sun was perched on the crest of the horizon, shimmering in the distance as it was magnified through the curvature of the Earth's atmosphere. The waters just south of Wake Island were remarkably calm, disturbed only by the advance of a small fleet American ships. Centered amongst them an aircraft carrier which was flanked on its port and starboard by two destroyers, who in turn were flanked by two autonomous fast attack missile craft. Of the five ships, only three of them were manned.

Vice Admiral Harris walked the deck of the Nimitz Class Aircraft Carrier Warren G. Harding, returning from a flight deck inspection when a communications officer approached him.

"Sir! This just came in. It's hot. Very hot!" the communications officer reported to Major Harris at attention.

"Thank you Lieutenant. Dismissed," Vice Admiral Harris accepted the package and maintained his pace  on his way back to the control tower.

He examined the package, which was marked SECRET, meaning that it was likely orders from Naval Command. He opened the package and pulled forth a single document which he stopped and read before he arrived at the door to the control tower:

United States Pacific Fleet
Joint Base Pearl Harbor - Hickam

Attn: Vice Admiral Alexander Harris, United States Navy 3rd Provisional Fleet


Dear Vice Admiral,

The 3rd Provisional Fleet is to be recalled to Joint Base Pearl Harbour - Hickman, effective immediately upon your having read this document.

Admiral Davis Wyneman
United States Pacific Fleet

"Damn! They can't just recall us when we're in the middle of a huge investigation like this!" he said aloud.

He opened the door to the control tower made his way up to the bridge.

"Vice Admiral on the bridge!" one of the Ensigns announced as Harris arrived.

"As you were. I've got some grim news. We're being recalled back to Joint Base Pearl Harbour - Hickman effective immediately," Vice Admiral Harris informed the crew of the bridge.

"We're in the middle of investigating a serious matter. They can't just recall us like that!" Lieutenant Otsman, a tall sturdy office glared over to Vice Admiral Harris, obviously frustrated.

"Son, they just did. Now I'm not so keen on these orders, but I take my duty very seriously. Now the way I see it is if we could come up with a scenario under which these orders would be null and void, I'd be willing to entertain that possibility, though I might remind you all that I never suggested such a thing if the topic should ever come up in any other company. Do you understand?" confirmed Vice Admiral Harris.

"Sir," Otsman and the other bridge officers nodded in agreement.

"That goes double for you Ensign! This is your big chance to impress me. Don't blow it," the Vice Admiral turned to face the young ensign.

"Sir, yes sir!" the Ensign saluted.

"Now that we've got that out of the way, are there any ideas?" asked the Vice Admiral of his crew.

"I say we send a copy of that satellite image directly to Pacific Fleet Command and maintain course," Lieutenant Otsman.

"Son, they've already seen that intel and probably discussed the matter thoroughly before coming to this decision. Maybe we spotted something we're not supposed to know about. Maybe not. That course of action is not the kind of outright defiance of orders that I'd like to pursue. Any other suggestions?" Vice Admiral looked to the other officers on the bridge.

"Sir, the United States Coast Guard has been known from time to time to request support, especially when it involves intercepting larger ships suspected of trafficking along the west coast. I say we maintain an open line to the Coast Guard operating frequency, and treat any interceptions on their part as a direct request to the Navy? That way, we'd have an effective excuse at least and we could continue our search after responding to such a call," Lieutenant Gavies suggested.

"That's workable, though we're still going to need to throw Pacific Command a bone for them to accept it. We'll split the fleet. The Warren G. Harding and one destroyers and missile boat will return to port. The remaining destroyer and missile boat will continue the investigation from there," Vice Admiral Harris informed his crew.

"No offense sir, but the intel gathering capabilities of a destroyer versus a carrier are two very different things. On a destroyer, we might as they be searching with a crow's nest spyglass, sir," Lieutenant Otsman responded.

"Son, I know that the eye sight of a destroyer in the immediate theatre is like that of a driver in a Kansas rain shower compared to our carrier here, but that's the best shot we've got, and I'll take the best over none at all. Helm, set course immediately for Pearl Harbour - Hickman. I'll radio the Nicolas Walmer and let Captain Torran know they're taking over and that they've got the command token on drone missile boat two. Alright, let's all make this happen," Vice Admiral Harris.


As the midday pacific sun shone down upon their ship, the crew of the Many Faced Maiden went about their duties maintaining the ship, while others took a few moments to get some heat. Despite the low morale of the crew, they still went on making sure their meal ticket stayed afloat and in good working order, though only a third of the two-hundred and seventy crewmen had experience as seamen aboard a navy class vessel.

Down in the hold of the ship, in what most of the crew called the tech room, Steadman imposed his menacing presence as he watched Zek and the team of technicians attempt to unlock Zek's encryption of the SY349. In an array of drive bays, sat the hard disk drives Steadman and his crew had recovered at the various secret locations Zek had stashed them. They were now spinning rapidly and as the recovery team accessed the data through their own database schema they'd written in python and compiled into machine code. Most of the code was designed to parse large chunks of the files on the drive, looking for any pattern that was consistent with the information content of written language.

The computer systems installed in the tech room were top of the line about a year earlier. In a small partitioned artificially cooled room, the servers were mounted within a rack. There were eight Intel based servers, each with sixty-four cores and the same gigabytes of ram. There were eight AMD servers, each with the same core and ram count. There were also an array of eight NVidia based AI servers, which assisted with complex pattern matching operates on large datasets like the one they were working with currently.

"I've been standing here watching you for the last three hours. Now, have you made any progress with the decryption?" asked Steadman impatiently.

"Its those last two digits I simply cannot remember, so this is going to take some time..." Zek said unimpressed by Steadman's interruption.

"Can't you just have these techs write a program to try every combination of those two digits? I mean with the hardware we have, surely it could do this very quickly," Steadman insisted to the decryption team, knowing very little about what was involved.

"Sir, he doesn't know which of the two digits he forgot. So it could be any one of the eight, and don't forget that digit doesn't necessarily mean only checking from zero to nine. I think Zek meant that he forgot two characters, which could be any one of a hundred and twenty-eight different symbols. It could be a letter. It could be a number. It could be a punctuation. Not to mention that every time we try a new combination, we have to check it against the data, and that takes about three minutes," one of the techs advised him.

"Then why the hell did I pay all that money for this hardware then!" Steadman raised his voice, frustrated by the lack of progress.

"Because if you didn't, it would be impossible. With it, we're looking at another month at the longest," the tech informed Steadman, though they were not the words that he wanted to hear.

"A damned month?!" Steadman's frustration level was rising.

"Sir, we're checking every combination. That's one hundred and twenty-eight raised to the power of eight, combinations. That's 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 combinations. If we'd have tried brute forcing it, it would have taken five years. Thankfully, with Zek's input, we were able to optimize the search for the key and get that number down to a month. Don't forget, that we might find it a minute from now or next week. We could get it early and that chance increases the more numbers we crunch," the tech explained to Steadman, trying to calm him.

"If this whole process is automated, then why are you even here supervising it? You could be somewhere else on the ship working on other things! Can't you just hit the run key and let it do its thing?" asked Steadman, frustrated at his lack of understanding or  seemingly so.

"Every time we try a combination, there's a chance we'll get short consistency matches, which we can then use to optimize the search even further. Each short match shortens the search time by about an hour. We've already found fifty-nine short matches since we began decryption. That's more than two days cut off the search time over the course of three days. At nine days, we'll have cut the search time down by six days total. That's almost a week. This is worth doing and this equipment is worth doing it with," the tech stood by their process.

As he finished his sentence, the alarms on the ship came on. Sirens and klaxons began to blare throughout the Many Faced Maiden as confusion mounted.

Steadman immediately left the tech room, running for the stairs. When he arrived at an intercom, he grabbed the hand unit and spoke into it firmly:

"All crew! Get to your stations immediately! This is not a drill!" he yelled into the hand unit, depositing it in its cradle when he'd finished.

He then ran up the stairs and down another length of corridor where he stepped through another metal door out onto the deck. He quickly scanned the horizon on the port side first, and then the starboard. He nearly froze in terror when he saw another approaching ship. It was a smaller craft, however it was military in nature and he could clearly see its deck guns pointed at the Many Faced Maiden.

He quickly ran for the tower and the stairs to the bridge.

He emerged onto the bridge, where First Officer Norman was shouting orders to the rest of the crew.

"Sir, we're in the middle of an engagement with an unidentified enemy frigate off the starboard!" Norman shouted in the heat of possible conflict.

"I know, I saw it from the deck..." Steadman responded, clearly out of breath.

"I don't know how they spotted us through the veil. They seemed to have known our position and gotten close enough to spot us by visual reckoning. Once they'd breeched the inner shell of the veil, that's when I raised the alarm, sir!" Norman told Steadman.

"Good job, officer. So. You're the navy man here. What do we do next?" asked Steadman of his First Officer, though Steadman was shaking with battle fever in anticipation of what was to come next.

"We try to make communication with the frigate anonymously by radio first, masking our unique radio id, and then by loudspeaker if they don't respond to the radio. If we haven't made contact, we'll fire a warning shot with our forward Bofors cannon, just off their port bow, but not before advising them through the loudspeaker first. If they don't recede and retreat after three warning shots, we open fire and sink their ship," Norman informed his Captain.

"Very well. Alright, let's do it. I just hope the men remember their training," Steadman responded.

"So do I sir, so do I," Norman replied as he picked up the radio handset and tried the international frequency to make contact with the frigate.

"This is the unnamed destroyer on your port side. You're trolling our starboard. We are advising you that if you do not make contact or respond to this communication, we will be forced to fire upon your ship. Please acknowledge, and if you are having equipment problems, then send up a marine flare immediately in the direction of your bow," Norman spoke over the radio.

"Now what?" asked Steadman of one of the few real navy men on board the Many Faced Maiden.

"We wait for a response," Norman replied cautiously.

The other smaller ship closed in along the starboard, coming to within a hundred meters of the Many Faced Maiden before aligning its course. The two ships traveled side by side for three minutes of unsettling silence until those aboard the mysterious ship responded.

"We are low on fuel and medical supplies and we have injured aboard. We need to use the services of your larger and well equipped ship. Is this not the custom of good seamanship?" a man with a thick Spanish accent spoke over the smaller ship's loudspeaker.

"What in the blazes? They want our help?" Steadman confirmed what he'd heard.

"Sir, its customary to after necessary precautions have been taken, render assistance unto fellow vessels on the sea. Its an unwritten courtesy that's been in place for a very long time," Norman explained.

"Tell them our supplies are low and that we're on our way to Panama City to resupply. Also, ask them why they haven't radioed Puerto Ayora on the emergency channel. A ship that size should have a some satellite communications," Steadman observed, knowing enough to apply some of his own common sense.

"Very well sir," Norman replied.

"Unknown vessel, our supplies are precariously low and we're en route to resupply at Panama City. We'll escort you into radio range of Puerto Ayora, where you should be able to make contact with their port authority and request emergency services given the fact I can clearly see several satellite dishes on your vessel," Norman said, looking out of the window on the bridge to check on the smaller boat.

The sound of small arms fire erupted from somewhere on the deck of the Many Faced Maiden.

Steadman quickly grabbed another handset and switched the radio channel to local network wide communications.

"Who the hell is that?! What's going on?!" he asked his crew.

"Sir, we're so short handed that we don't have enough guards on deck. That's where the gunfire appears to be coming from," one of the crew replied.

"Well then send some men up to deck! Where's my tactical team?! They should be handling this!" he yelled into the radio, panic setting in.

"They're split up assisting the operators of the main cannons on the ship," the crewman replied.

"Well get them onto the deck and send somebody else to replace them!" Steadman responded angrily.

Steadman slammed the handset into its cradle and wiped his forehead.

"Sir? They've boarded and are attempting an incursion!" the radio came to life as Steadman and Norman heard the sound of gunfire in the background amidst the radio squelch.

"Engage them and hold your positions until the tactical team..." Steadman was cut off when a large caliber shell from the deck guns on the smaller ship impacted the Many Faced Maiden.

"What was that?!" asked Steadman, now livid.

"All cannon stations. Return fire immediately! Sink that vessel!" Norman raised his voice while giving the orders.

"Good call sailor!" Steadman had by that time got a hold of himself, his heart pounding heavily.

At that moment, he spied the gun rack on the bridge and grabbed an SMG and several magazines.

"I'll be back! The bridge is in good hands," Steadman said as he stepped out of the door.

From the top of the stairs, he could clearly see where the firefight was taking place. It appeared that a small force had boarded the Many Faced Maiden at the starboard quarter (near the rear of the ship) and were mounting a full scale invasion.

As he made his way quickly down the stairs, one of the 127mm cannons came to life, firing a round, though Steadman could not tell where it impacted for he was covering his ears with his hands. He quickly reached into his pockets, searching for his ear plugs. When he'd found them, he inserted one into the ear without his radio headset and continued down the stairs.

The cannon fired again, which was followed by another cannon further down towards the mid section, near where the fire fight was taking place. He heard the sound of clanging metal, which he assumed was one of the rounds impacting the other ship. Surprisingly, this energized him and he found the momentum to move much quicker.

When he arrived on the deck, he ran along the length of the ship, relying on cover where he could until he arrived at a position held by his own armed guards who were staving off the attack.

"Is the tactical team here yet?" asked Steadman, yelling over the sound of gunfire and warfare around him.

"Not yet!" the guard replied.

"What's the situation?" asked Steadman.

"They're holding three emplacements, using the vent, and two tool containers for cover.

"How many of them?" Steadman moved in closer to hear the man's answer.

"I don't know... about thirty?" the guard replied as a round ricocheted off one of the nearby railings.

Steadman peeked out from behind the cover they were using and when he saw the five pointed star pattern of a muzzle flash, he ducked behind the cover.

"I just spotted one!" he yelled.

He counted to three, and then peeked out from behind cover, his SMG aimed in the direction he'd seen the muzzle flash moments earlier. When he pulled the trigger, nothing happened. He quickly cocked the SMG and tried again. Nothing. He suddenly remembered the safety of the firearm and switched it, pulling the trigger again.

A stream of rounds erupted the SMG, causing the muzzle of the weapon to rise. He struggled against the force, firing in short, well aimed bursts. When the same position that had fired upon earlier attempted to return fire, he fired back. The rounds plunged into his target, and the man fell lifelessly to the deck.

"That's one down!" Steadman yelled to the guard.

"I figure we've got at least five already. Six with yours," the guard responded, reloading his SMG before he peered out from the opposite side of the cover they were using.

The suddenly careened as a shell from the other ship impacted the Many Faced Maiden's hull.

At that moment, two of the larger cannons fired at the smaller vessel, hitting its fuel stores. The ship erupted in fire as a series of explosions spanned the rear quarter of the vessel.

The tactical team arrived just as the enemy force attempted an advance. Two of the tactical team members quickly flanked the enemy force on their right as the rest of the tactical team setup a quick ambush. As the enemy force advanced into the ambush the tactical team emerged from their cover, cutting more than half of the remaining force down. 

"Looks like the tide of the battle is turning!" the guard informed Steadman.

"That it..." Steadman didn't have time to finish his sentence as the guard he was speaking with was shot in the dead center of his forehead. His eyes rolled and he fell to the deck, dead as the metal beneath him.

Steadman looked for the direction in which the shot came and saw nothing but a group of five of his own crew walking cautiously towards him, their guns leveled in his direction.

"Its me! Steadman! Hold your fire!" Steadman yelled.

A burst of rounds erupted from the SMG of the first of his crew, just missing his head.

"Zek wants him alive!" yelled one of the five crew advancing on him.

Steadman quickly got up and ran for alternate cover. As he sprinted, the five man team fired upon, just barely missing his legs. He continued along the length of the ship towards the bow along the starboard side. Three hundred meters away, the frigate had slowed to a crawl, its read quarter immersed in a raging fire whose flames crept high into the air. The smoke alone had already risen a great distance, and Steadman surmised that if it was spotted, there would soon be an intervention by the American Navy.

When Zek found a suitable place to return fire on the five guards who'd obviously mutinied against him under Zek's leadership, he radioed the rest of his crew.

"All hands! We have a full scale mutiny on our hands! Repeat, Zek is leading a mutiny! I want the tactical team to retreat to the bridge immediately while all other guards are to report to the mid section deck to protect the ship at all costs!" Steadman ordered his crew.

Steadman was chilled to the bone when he heard another voice over the radio.

"To the rest of the crew. If you join my mutiny, I promise you each a million dollars up front and a high paying position in my new organization. If you bring me Steadman alive, I will up that payment to ten million dollars and promise you a position on my board of directors. You see, his leadership has failed to produce the kind of results to which you're entitled, especially my pendejo brothers and sisters. Join my team and you'll be rewarded and respected for your effort for my organization. If however, you'd rather remain loyal to a man that on his way out, I can only promise you a quick death. The choice is yours," Zek's voice cut through the static of battle, catching everyone's attention.

"Don't listen to him! Remember all of those thousand bodies littering the harbour of Treadwater Island? A thousand of them they pulled from the water. If you join his organization, there's a good chance your fate will end the same way. He plays by his own rules, and if you don't fit into his plan, you're as good as dead, and he'll try to push you in that direction just to cut down on his costs after he's enlisted you. I'm prepared to offer every one of you the same exact same deal. Bring me Zek alive, and you'll be paid ten million. Those of you who mutiny against my leadership and the rest of the crew will be thrown overboard. As simple as that," Steadman responded to Zek's gambit.

As the five mutineers found Steadman, he turned with his SMG, ready to mow them all down if he had to. Instead, the tactical team cut down two of them quickly, the three remaining ran for cover, regrouping with the remaining members of the boarding party. Although Steadman did not see it, they used a hidden hand signal to let them know they were friendly to their cause.

"Let's get you to the bridge sir!" the leader of the tactical team said to Steadman, who got to his feet and ran for the stairs.

From that point on, the crew of the Many Faced Maiden was split in two.

To be continued in... The Butterfly Dragon: Night Boat -  Episode 03

Credits and attribution:

Artwork: Amy WongWendy PuseyGhastly, Brian Joseph Johns, Daz3DUnreal Engine...

Tools: Daz3DCorel PainterAdobe PhotoshopLightwave 3DBlender, Borderline Obsession...