Book: Man-Kzin Wars X : The Wunder War (Man-Kzin Wars)

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Chapter 3

Jocelyn van der Stratt, like many of Wunderland's top administration, had a spacious apartment, once the property of a wealthy collaborationist, located, like Rykermann's Parliamentary office, in a tower high over the city.

Its decorations included the body of Peter Brennan, a fighter in the early days of the Invasion who even the Kzinti had referred to by full name, enclosed in a translucent block. Jocelyn had liberated it on the day of the Kzin surrender. The Kzin had let him keep his trophy-belt of kzinti ears, and this could still be seen on him, along with, on the remains of his jacket, the small cogged wheel of the Rotary Club badge he had worn in memory of peaceful days. There were also, about the walls, the earless heads of various kzinti and of human collaborators, weapons, photographs and holos of certain other dead humans, china from old Neue Dresden, and, in a niche, an inlaid jar of kzinti workmanship which had once held Planetary Governor Chuut-Riit's urine, kzinti symbol of Conquest and once gift to a sergeants' mess of Heroes.

Jocelyn reclined at ease on a couch covered in kzin fur. She was smoking a cigarette of mildly narcotic Wunderland chew-bacca and she had chosen the details of her dress with great care. Ulf Reichstein-Markham sat upright on a chair with the same material. He smoked nothing.

"Privately," she was saying, "I'm on your side. The Kzin were honorable enemies. Many like Tratt-Admiral and Hroth could acknowledge and respect human courage. And could be reasoned with. 'Enlightenment' is no empty word. Chuut-Riit wished to understand us. Perhaps the passage of a little time was necessary for us to see their more positive qualities. Thanks to the hyperdrive we are secure militarily and can afford to be more active in exploring avenues to a lasting peace."

"It is time to become friends," said Markham. His English was still careful, and Wunderland sentence-structure came and went awkwardly in it. "I do not pretend it will be easy. Sacrifices we may have to make. They must be convinced of our good intentions. But infinitely worthwhile the effort. At the end of the journey ennobled may both races be. I did not, however, think that you shared my views."

"I must tread warily," said Jocelyn. "You should know, for example, that Rykermann is a secret Exterminationist. I cannot break openly with him yet."

"He was a brave fighter," said Markham. "He has much-deserved prestige. It would be a good thing if he could be shown the longer view."

And you have chivalrous instincts,thought Jocelyn. I could love you very easily if fate had not made me love Rykermann. But Rykermann has your courage and leadership combined with a wound, a vulnerability, that together make women love him easily. He is not of your hollow-ground steel. Still, you are physically attractive and I will, I think, have no problems about seducing you. Rykermann may have called you a cold, sexless creature, but I know men better than any man does. You are not sexless, you are just frightened of losing control, and of an instinct that makes you lose control. 

"A pity about his wife," she said.

"What do you mean? Leonie I know quite well. We have worked together."

"Then you know what I mean. She shares our feelings that it is—or soon will be—time to be friends. But married to an influential man like Rykermann .  .  . And she a Resistance hero in her own right as important as he—if not as great as you .  .  ."

"No," said Markham. "We all served as we might. I was fortunate to have wealth and connection, and the valiant spirit of my mother to inspire me. I got into space, where many born planetside had no such opportunity. You are flattering, but I cannot rank myself ahead of those whose part it was to fight here in such difficulty and danger."

"I have the honor to know, humbly and afar, of your mother's greatness," she told him. "Humanity's greatest heroine in this war, whose name, with your own, will never be forgotten. But you speak of danger? You, whose name even Chuut-Riit took cognizance of? But it would be good if she could be detached from him somehow. Good for her, I mean. She is a great and good woman."

"To interfere between man and wife is unscrupulous, surely?"

"Unscrupulous? Did we not all learn to dispense with scruples? What had Nietzsche to say of scruples?"

"You know Nietzsche? He kept my spirit aflame for Men during the darkest days!"

"Another bond between us!" Of course, the little facts that I have studied your profile in every detail, or that you called your so-called flagship Nietzsche are not relevant to the spontaneous nature of this happy coincidence, she thought.

"Nietzsche knew scruples—all scruples—as weakness, as unworthy of the Overman," she went on. "And you, I know, have no weakness." That may help fix the ratcat-loving bitch's wagon. Detached from Nils Rykermann, Leonie could be picked off. The details of how would present themselves in due course. Kzin-lovers might, with a little discreet prodding, shed their ideas on one another, each find justification with the other, each push the other into a more extreme position. Give him the ego gratification she knew he needed desperately, and Markham could be made into an instrument as pliable as it was useful.

She had been moving toward him as she spoke. Now she sank on her knees and kissed him, projecting humility, adoration, worship. The band of kzin-leather about her neck she had chosen for associations with a dog or kzinrret collar. Her perfume had the smallest hint of kzinrret-derived pheromones. There was a carefully chosen hint of kzinrret too, in the watered-silk pattern of her skin-tight trousers (there were costumes available with hints of tails, but that, she had decided, would have been definitely over-egging the pudding). Even for a mother-fixated man she did not think her breasts needed enhancement, but she made sure her posture, as she had previously made sure her costume, presented the best view of them. The circles of non-toxic luminous paint round her nipples did no harm as she dimmed the lights.

"Hero," she whispered, feeling him respond.


Colonel Cumpston, Raargh thought, should be told what he was doing. For him to return and find both Raargh and Vaemar gone without notice would certainly cause him to alert the human authorities prematurely, and perhaps drastically diminish Raargh's freedom of action.

He called him on the car's Internet but was unable to reach him. The car's IT facilities were fairly basic, lacking access to a translator, and he was not sure if a human mailbox would store his voice message understandably. To back it up he typed a message with Vaemar's and the spellcheck's help in the odd human script.







He hoped that was clear. He added:






Raargh closed the cave. He had invested in modern door-seals, and he thought they should be secure.

He left the aircar inside. Flying it to Munchen would have been quicker than trekking but would have attracted far too much attention, including that of the UNSN, who were still its legal owners. He had stealthed it during his escape with Vaemar in the confused conditions of the Kzin surrender, but any flight in a stealthed car now, with Wunderland's defenses fully in place and with sleepless machines on hair-trigger alert for Kzin raids from space, would be short and fatal.

In any event, he had no objection to going on foot. The old wounds in his legs pained him sometimes, but no kzintosh would deign to notice such things. Besides, he was in no hurry to receive counsel that he thought he was not going to like. If Rykermann agreed with Cumpston that Vaemar must begin specialized training, then perhaps this would be one of the last hunts Vaemar and he enjoyed together. Though I hope they will give him some furloughs with me still, he thought. My liver cannot part with him forever.  

They carried their w'tsais , meat and salt with a few delicacies, flasks of water and bourbon, Raargh's military belt with its utility pouches, small bows and arrows, and an antique bullet-projecting rifle, plainly hunting weapons only. On liberated Wunderland kzinti with a cache of modern beam rifles did not advertise the fact. They had sun hats and ponchos. They had evolved on a colder world than Wunderland, and what clothes they took were for coolness rather than warmth. Vaemar packed a folding chessboard.

Munchen lay southwest, in a direct line beyond the scarp of the Hohe Kalkstein, and then with many miles of dry plains and mesas, supporting little life, before one came to farming territory again. The crater of Manstein's Folly, where a human force had made a stand and engaged the Kzinti in a set-piece battle early in the war, was still radioactive, and the farms closer to Munchen had suffered a great deal from war, neglect and dispossession.

There, near the city, things had been intense. Though there had been a strained, fraught, peace of a sort during the Occupation, no human venturing abroad had had a moment's security for his or her life who encountered a bored, angry or simply hungry kzin. Sheltering a single Resistance fighter had meant not merely farmsteads and hamlets but whole districts wiped out in reprisal. A child herding animals with the aid of a pointed stick might, with its animals, suddenly be the object of a lethal hunt by high-spirited kzin youngsters or sportive adult kzinti who decided the stick counted as a weapon. Ktrodni-Stkaa had had some of his vast estates in that area. .  .  . Now there was little game there, and the farmers rehabilitating some of the land would probably take less kindly to kzinti visitors than did those in these relatively untouched backwoods. It was decorous and sensible to take an indirect route, heading at first south, cutting across to the west later. There would be more game and fewer humans. That it would take longer was also, for Raargh, good. It would, he told himself with what he knew was a rather thin rationalization, help Vaemar's education to see more territory.

They loped along with the mile-eating kzinti stride, leaping and scrambling over rocky outcrops and other obstacles with the reflex that, long ago under Father Sun, which humans called 61 Ursa Majoris, had helped develop their ancestors' claws into hands. Game ran from them, but, when they wished to hunt, did not run fast enough.

They ate well the first night. They had killed again as it was fitting for kzintosh to kill, with fangs and claws. They had also built a small fire. They did not need it for cooking, warmth or light, but Raargh knew there were humans in the forest also and he wished to advertise their presence: A fire would not be made by stalking Kzin and was, he hoped, a sign of innocent intent.

They heard the human's footfalls long before it came in sight. Raargh had Vaemar take the rifle and his bow and hide from the night-blind creature beyond the circle of firelight in tall grass. He himself sat by the fire, w'tsai to hand but not obviously so, until the human appeared.

He relaxed when it did so. It was Emma, the human female whom he and Vaemar had encountered on hunts before. She appeared to live alone somewhere in the vicinity, presumably in one of the forest glades that dotted this rolling, largely open country. She was dressed warmly against the night air, even her hands covered in bulky gloves.

"Friend!" she called. Raargh took no particular notice of the fact that she called it in the Female Tongue of the Kzin (the Heroes' Tongue used the term "friend" very sparingly and with complex connotations) and pronounced it as correctly as a human throat might.

Raargh watched her unspeaking, save for an ambiguous "Urrr" in his throat as she approached. As she strode into the firelight before him she went down in the prostration of a human slave before its master. It was not something he had seen for five years.

"What do you want?" Raargh was certainly on speaking terms with some humans, and for Vaemar's sake as well as for the jobs he picked up he made an effort to be more outgoing in that direction than most, but very few Kzinti admitted humans to conversation easily. Since she had spoken in the Female Tongue he replied in the Heroes' Tongue. Naturally and without thought he employed the Dominant Tense. She switched to Wunderlander—the Female Tongue was not good for complicated conversation, but her posture, and, as he could now tell, her voice, remained humble.

"Noble Hero, please call your companion out."


She raised a nitesite.

"Noble Hero, I am aware from this device that there is another Hero ensconced in the tall grass not far away. I think it is Vaemar. I mean you no harm. And what harm could a single manrret do to two Heroes?"

She had a point there. And she seemed truly alone. Raargh had heard no other footsteps or mechanisms. He called and Vaemar bounded back towards the light.

"What do you want?" he said again.

"You!" She opened her gloved hands and fired the guns they concealed, spinning on her heel from Raargh to Vaemar. Kzin are inhumanly fast in battle, and it was a very near thing, but with the guns already in her hands she was fractionally faster. When they fell and had ceased to move she called an eight of Kzinti out of hiding and loaded them onto a sled.


Leonie emerged from the great mouth of the Drachenholen as Nils Rykermann landed. She was smeared with mud and had a strakkaker slung over her shoulder. They embraced.

"Another dirty day for you." Nils Rykermann was wearing a modern fabric jacket. The wet soil fell from it.

"We've penetrated the old 19-K tunnel complex," she answered. "Plenty of mess to clean up."

They walked together under the scarred and blasted cliffs through the cave entrance and into the great ballroom of the Drachenholen's twilight zone. Rykermann cast an odd look for a moment at an old habitat module, stripped and plundered long ago by the desperate scavengers of the Resistance, now refitted. He seldom passed it without making a small gesture which Leonie never commented on. The limestone formations, once an incredible fantasy of flowering stone, were blackened and broken above them. The cave floors had been cleared down to bedrock. Bright lights had been strung here and there. There seemed to be no crepuscular life left to disturb.

"Remember our first trips here?" asked Leonie.

"Yes. And the others."

"We thought the caves would be here forever, unchanged. A great biological treasure house. I remember the weeks I took to excavate my first fossil .  .  . then we chucked fossils aside as we shoveled out the guano."

"Guano meant bombs," said Rykermann. "Bombs meant dead kzin. Water under the bridge. We'll restore it. What have you done with the students?"

She gestured to lights emerging from one of the tunnels beyond. Several young men and women, wearing masks and breathing apparatus, were trooping out of the cave carrying litters. They bore loads of bones and rags and a few partly mummified bodies and body-parts, human and kzin.

"Decent burial," she said. "I've wanted to give it to them for a long time."

"One might say they had decent burial already," said Rykermann.

"They were our comrades. I think some would have wanted their bodies to go home. I found Argyle von Saar. He loved the caves, of course. I left him where he was. He'd be happy his body went into the Drachenholen's food-chain. But some of the others .  .  . they'd like prayers and headstones, I think, and grass and sun and the flutterbys."

"You speak as if they were still alive."

"Of course. This ugly rubbish isn't the people we knew. What about these?" She gestured. Another group of students was emerging around a small sledge, purring loudly as it was lifted by a Kzin-derived gravity-motor. It was piled with weapons: kzinti beam rifles and plasma guns, heavier tripod-mounted squad weapons, gas canisters, old human Lewis guns and smart guns, all manner of detritus. Someone had set another mummified kzin on top of the pile, in parody of a conqueror's triumph.

"Some of those may still be charged. Get them into one of the outside modules and lock it. I'll keep the key. We'll have to take them to the city as soon as possible. I don't want to lose any more students .  .  . Come to think of it," Rykermann went on, "I was talking to a fellow yesterday who began as a museum guard on Earth. UNSN Brigadier now. There should be a museum of the Resistance. He might be able to give us advice in setting it up. Let future generations look at those Lewis guns and wonder at what we were forced to fight with."

"I don't like all these mummies," Leonie said.

"They're hardly very aesthetically pleasant. But they're not the people we knew. Just organic matter going back to nature a bit more slowly. As you say, ugly rubbish."

"I mean, if the skin and tissues haven't been eaten, it shows how little life is left in the caves, where they once crawled with scavengers."

"I knew those scavengers well." They leaned together and he slipped his arm around her.

"So did I. So much of the biosystems have been destroyed."

"It was to be expected," said Rykermann. "Plasma guns, gas, biologicals .  .  . There are other caves. We'll find the lost species and reintroduce them here."

"No sign of live morlocks yet. I think we and the kzinti may have killed them all between us."

"Then be sure to get all the dead material you can. It might make a good graduate student project to clone them."

"I feel guilty about them," said Leonie.

"You killed a good few yourself, my dear. You and me and our furry friend together at one stage."

"I know. But we invaded their habitat. And .  .  . we have no right to wipe out species."

"Not even near-brainless predators of atrocious habits?"

She was silent a moment before replying. Then she answered:

"Not even them .  .  . Not even, I think, predators of atrocious habits whose brains are comparable to our own."

"I don't know any creatures whose brains are comparable to our own," he said.

There was a slight stiffening of her body, imperceptible to a casual observer.

"Not even one who saved our lives?"

An edge of iron entered his voice. "I paid that debt in a currency that was understood."

Leonie had known terror in these caves during the wars. The Resistance had decorated her and the Free Wunderland government had rewarded her for heroism. She had fought monsters and horrors in the hills of Wunderland and in this stone jungle and beaten them. But now she looked at her husband with a new kind of fear in her eyes.


Raargh recovered consciousness in a police web. Turning his head cautiously, he saw Vaemar similarly restrained a few feet away. There was no sky above them. Their packs had been laid on a small stand in front of them.

The light was reddish, and somehow familiar, as were the high sandstone walls. He remembered: Some outstanding NCO's, himself among them, had been lectured by senior officers of the General Staff. It was like the palace of a kzinti noble, a replica of the noble architecture of Old Kzin.

Once, rage would have exploded in him and if he could not have torn the web apart he would have torn himself apart in his efforts to do so. But his years as an NCO, and even more the five years since the Liberation, had taught Raargh self-control. He did not even scream. He remained still and watched Vaemar slowly open his eyes and raise his head.

Footsteps. Human and kzin. A door opening. The human female Emma entered, accompanied by another female he did not know, a male human and a young adult kzin, all armed with nerve-disrupters. The humans were wearing bizarre costumes of orange with variegated stripes. It was almost as if they were trying to imitate the markings of a kzin pelt. The human male bore on the pale skin of its forehead the tattoo of Chuut-Riit's house service. Since tattoos could be removed, Raargh knew it must have retained this voluntarily. Its pallor, and that of the second female, suggested to him that they had long lived away from the sun. The humans went down in the prostration before them, and the second female began to speak in the Slaves' Patois.

"Noble Hero, this slave craves your indulgence to hear her. My daughter and I have done great discourtesy, to you and to He whose blood is the most glorious on this planet. I beg you, stay your wrath while I speak. It is for the sake of the Patriarchy that I have acted so.

"I was Henrietta, once executive secretary, chief and proudest human slave of Chuut-Riit. I now act to fulfill his legacy. This is my daughter Emma; Andre, who was house-slave also; and Ensign, who helps us. Behold!" She held up a sign that every Kzin knew as the Sigril of the Patriarchy, emblazoned with the cadet claw of Chuut-Riit.

"You do not remember, perhaps," she told Vaemar, "but you were once a guest at my house in the happy times. Your Honored Sire Chuut-Riit honored my home by attending my children's naming-days. Once he brought you .  .  . You enjoyed playing, I remember, with a ball of fiber .  .  ." Her voice shook for a moment, and she made a sound of grief.

"I know Heroes do not lie," she went on. "I ask you to give me your Names as your Words, upon this Sigil, that you will not harm me or any human of mine this day if I release you, that you will allow me to show you certain things that the Heroes of this planet, and this Hero above all"—she gestured at Vaemar—"need to know. It may be that the survival of the Heroic Race is at stake, and not on Ka'ashi only, but under Father Sun himself."

Raargh glared. He hardly trusted himself to speak to this monkey who had dared lay hands on him—and on Vaemar, who was his charge, given by the Fanged God to replace his own dead son, and a Prince of the Blood. Yet the male's tattoo compelled attention.

The manrret was abasing herself before Vaemar now. Most young male kzin had even less self-control than their elders, but Vaemar, as Raargh had long known, was different. Chuut-Riit, his blood-sire, had been a genius and a thinker, and on the day they met, Vaemar, still a kitten, had shown he was his Sire's true son, possibly saving Raargh's life and a clawful of other Kzin lives in the process. Vaemar was still very young—he was not even adolescent, but remained brilliant beyond his years, with the insight and control of a superior adult.

Further, Raargh had taught him to enhance that control and patience day by day, instead of dwelling on the screaming attack which a conventional combat-master would have drilled into him, and which play with siblings—always potentially ready to turn in a lethal pack upon any individual suspected of weakness or oddity—would have made into a virtually unbreakable imprint. Vaemar had said nothing yet. He was watching and waiting. He turned his eyes toward Raargh, ears lifted in question.

The old kzin's ears were so torn and scarred as to be virtually useless for signaling anything but the most basic emotions. He growled out an assent, Vaemar following suit. Henrietta killed the web and they stepped onto the floor of the fortress. Looking about him, Raargh saw tunnels running off into dimness. The roof was very high, and there was machinery and scaffolding. His nose brought him a complex mixture of hydrocarbons, plastics, chemicals, foodstuffs and living rock.


Colonel Cumpston read the kzin's message: seek rykermann advice. The kzintis' dwelling was closed and sealed. Their tracks showed they had left on foot, not long before. He checked with the telltale of his car's locator and confirmed that they had already made some way south.

Chasing after them would be pointless. It would be easy to catch up with them but it would probably only anger the old kzin, who, if he had wanted another companion, would have said so. "Never force your company on a kzin" was a pretty basic maxim for any human. And if two male kzinti could not look after themselves, who on Wunderland could?

Well, Cumpston knew, Raargh and Nils and Leonie Rykermann had a curious bond between them. Raargh had told him of how they had saved each other in the caves when surrounded by morlocks and when all hope seemed lost. But .  .  . his training had been to rule out assumptions. He settled himself in the car, closed the canopy to avoid the attentions of the flutterbys, and clicked the computer. The map with its two blinking smears of red light disappeared. Rykermann, like all Wunderland politicians and other prominent citizens, was the subject of an ARM dossier.

Before the invasion he had had some celebrity as a biologist and explorer but had steered clear of politics outside the University, apart from being appointed to one of the defense committees set up in haste shortly before the Invasion. He had married Leonie Hansen, his former student, in the hills. Their Resistance records were heroic, and after the Liberation he had been elected to the Parliament's lower house. Since then his politics had been fairly mainstream. He had a place on several committees now.

Wunderland electors, having weakened the grip of the Herrenmanner of the Families, did not want a caste of professional politicians developing to replace them, and, like most Wunderland politicians, Rykermann had kept up his day job: professor of biology at the Munchen University. That, Cumpston thought, would also give him more television exposure than an ordinary Deputy.

There was a list of his community activities and clubs. He was president and organizer of a foundation to commemorate the university's Special Professor of Mathematics and Astrometaphysics, the discoverer of Carmody's Transform, who had died in the Invasion, and apparently he worked hard for it, raising funds for commemorative projects and scholarships. In his own field he and Leonie had made the rehabilitation of the caves one of their major professional projects.

There was also a list of his associates and meetings, always a high priority for profiling with ARM dossiers.

He didn't have a lot to do with Ulf Reichstein-Markham, a Resistance hero of the first rank, and now a major spokesman for tolerance and rehabilitation of the remaining Kzin on Wunderland. Cumpston had met Markham several times. Leonie Rykermann seemed to have had more to do with him on professional bodies than did her husband. She, Cumpston noticed, had even tried to set up a small nonprofit employment agency to use kzin talents with Markham on the board of governors. There was a record of a speech at the opening in which she referred to the kzin soldier who had saved her from the morlocks. As with her husband, the cave project took up a lot of her time.

There were also meetings between Rykermann and Jocelyn van der Stratt. Rather a lot of them. That name was flagged in hypertext on the dossier. He jumped to it. She was, as he knew, a very senior police officer. Former member of the Collaborationist police, exonerated and decorated for her secret services to the Resistance. And flagged notices: She had a number of associates in the Exterminationist Party.

Certainly, it seemed, she did not like kzinti. There had been several reports, and she had been reprimanded for "excessive zeal" in dealing with them since the Liberation. Cumpston thought to himself that any officer who, on Wunderland, got into trouble for excessive zeal in dealing with kzinti must be excessive indeed.

The dates of the meetings scrolled up. There was a pattern, but it took time to see: the meetings between Nils Rykermann and Jocelyn van der Stratt has nearly all occurred when Leonie Rykermann was working at the caves.

That might, of course, mean nothing. But .  .  . a clandestine love affair? That didn't fit the psychological profiling of Rykermann anyway, but such profiling wasn't infallible, and Cumpston knew well enough that there was, to use a very old phrase, nowt so queer as folk. And the profiling of Jocelyn van der Stratt indicated more ambiguity. Which added up to no more than guesswork. Circumstantial hints of sexual liaisons were a field rich in misdirection. By the Black Swan , he thought, I hope I guess right! He remembered one of the old books ARM had resurrected for its hastily-contrived course of military psychology: Slide Rule, by an early designer of flying machines named Nevil Shute:


With the ending of the war, considerable mental adjustments were necessary for all young men. For four years of my adolescence I had lived in a world that was growing steadily bleaker and grimmer, and in that four years I had grown to accept the fact that in a very short time I should probably be dead. I cannot remember any particular resentment at the prospect; indeed, in some ways it was even stimulating. It has puzzled many people to imagine how the Japanese produced their Kamikazes in the last war. It has never been much of a puzzle to me, however; in 1918 anybody could have made a Kamikaze pilot out of me.


The war and Occupation on Wunderland had gone on for not four years, but more than fifty, growing bleaker and grimmer in every one of them. Could I have lived fifty years under the Kzin and stayed sane? he wondered. Under a sometimes desperately maintained veneer of normality, madness was rife in many circles. Not that Earth and Sol were free of such problems. Few people knew how close collapse had been when the Crashlanders had arrived from We Made It with the hyperdrive.

He looked back at Leonie's mention of the incident in the caves battle, then put in a couple of keywords and searched Rykermann's speeches inside and outside the Parliament. There was nothing comparable, no mention of the time, however brief and however secondary to the main campaigns, when the two humans and the kzin had fought as allies. No mention of Leonie's experience. There were, however, several references to the deceased Professor Carmody, "murdered by the Kzin."

Colonel Cumpston activated a higher security clearance. Buford Early's square dark face appeared on the screen. Cumpston wondered for a second if the general ever went off duty. Early turned toward him and removed a cigar from his mouth. It was an invitation to speak. Early expressed no surprise at Cumpston's request. He just nodded, heavy, impassive, a little frightening even to those who thought they knew him well.

Raargh and Vaemar were still heading south. Cumpston took off and headed southwest, toward Munchen.



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