by Cecil Fenn
Cecil is this month’s winner of $570.00 for a story on how many choices we really have available to us.
Bio: Cecil Fenn is a writer and designer. Originally from New York, he worked in music studios and funeral homes before settling his creative practice in London. His fiction has appeared in The Dread Machine, Canthius, and elsewhere. Find more at cecilfenn.com.
Without further ado, “SIDESHOW” by Cecil Fenn.
It was cold inside the big top, and there was a faint tang of diesel in the air from the last gasps of an ancient gas heater. Reza watched the circus acts from the back row, the warming coils in his coat turned up to their highest setting.
The mentalists he’d come to see had not been billed in the sideshow tents or appeared on the stage. Before coming, he loaded photos of them into his computer, and his AR contacts were set to scan deep bone structure; he was confident he hadn’t missed them beneath makeup or new haircuts. The algorithm identified one as a mediocre unicyclist providing some filler during an intermission. The match had a 97% confidence rating, but it did Reza no good without a demonstration of the young man’s supposed mind-reading ability.
There were a few other augmented acts, hinting at the kind of talent being employed or made. A faux-mermaid was on display in a tank of water, performing her airless water dance during a sailor-themed aerial act. The girl must have been enhanced with a PFC blood replacement that held oxygen for hours at a clip; she had an off-milk, pasty look from the uncolored blood. There were prosthetic contortionists without any original limbs and a compact acrobat capable of a fall out of the three-story big top. He let go of a bar and spun straight into a tumbling routine. Reza could see the springing in his legs and keloidal surgical scars over his knees. Sloppy work. Reza thought it unlikely the circus had produced any unique mind-hackers—if their orthopedics were slack, what could you expect from their neurosurgeons?— but he trusted the research fellow who gave him the tip.
After almost two hours of tired acts, the whole ragged company poured on stage to sing a goodbye song. Reza couldn’t bear another second of it and stood to slide out of the row. No one moved to let him by, but he kicked through knees until he reached the aisle and could shoulder past an usher to the exit.
It was quiet around the main tent, dark except for a path of lanterns, alight with holographic flame, leading back to the car park. Reza turned in the opposite direction and ducked under the cordon blocking off the performers’ camp. Back inside the big top, the crowd cheered the stage full of patchwork runaways; Reza heard them start to leave. Behind him, someone shouted, “Hey! Hey, you! Where are you going? Hey!” but he didn’t turn to look.
The performers’ tents were small, striped canvas affairs huddled behind the main ring, campfires lit at regular intervals between them. Acrobats and half-dressed clowns stood around congratulating each other or drifted toward their tents. Some of them looked at Reza, but no one said anything. He felt a ripple of unease, hushed voices behind his back.
The fake mermaid was sitting near a fire at the edge of the camp, shivering in a foil shock blanket. Reza put a hand on her shoulder, and she jumped.
“Can you tell me where Connor and Elric are?” he asked, but she didn’t say anything, just stared. “They’re still here, aren’t they?”
“Yes, still here.” Speaking seemed to take an enormous effort. She looked towards a tent at the end of the row. There was a boy standing outside it, vaping with compulsive urgency. It was the unicyclist, still dressed in full costume, a red velour waistcoat, and gold buckled boots. When he saw Reza staring, he ducked inside.
Reza looked at the mermaid girl closely; her complexion was distinctly unhealthy, not just pale from the blood replacement. Her eyes were sunken and glassy, and pearly bruises marbled her arms. Reza recognized the marks of bad maintenance. “When’s the last time your blood was re-emulsified?” he asked.
“Emulsified?” she repeated, like the word was new to her.
“Yes. You have PFC blood, right? The white stuff?” She nodded at that. “When was it cleaned last?”
She didn’t say anything.
Reza became aware, then, that the dissatisfied murmur around him had changed timbre. Someone yelled, “Excuse me.” It was a woman’s voice, pitched high and sharp. “You! What do you think you’re doing? You’re trespassing. Go back to the cars.”
Reza was still looking at the mermaid girl. “You should have been told about this,” he said, but she only blinked slowly, face expressionless.
“I’m talking to you.” The woman reached Reza, hurrying over from the main tent. He turned to frown down at her.
“I realize,” he said.
She was small, with tear troughs swollen by filler, cheekbones too wide and high. Facial reconstruction surgery had distorted her features, probably to mask her identity; Reza’s AR scan couldn’t match her with much accuracy but suggested a missing nurse with outstanding warrants for filching pharmaceuticals and missing court dates. The match had a useless 39% confidence rating.
“You’re trespassing,” she repeated. “Go back to the cars.”
“I’m here to see one of your acts. The mentalists. Connor and Elric.”
“Did you not understand me?” she barked.
“I understand perfectly.” Reza took out an ID card that showed his name and qualifications, the company funding his augmentation research, and a government endorsement foil-embossed next to their logo. In his hand, responding to his implants, its edging glowed green. “And I will have an inspector here to look at each and every one of your performers if you don’t show me where those boys are. Right now.”
The woman pointed towards the tent the unicyclist had gone into. “Go have your chat. I want you off the grounds in fifteen minutes. Do you understand?”
Reza made a show of his annoyance but agreed, and the woman stalked off.
"You need to see a doctor about your blood," Reza said to the shivering mermaid. She looked up at him blankly, no recognition or alarm in her eyes, and he squeezed her shoulder. "Right away. As soon as you can.”
Connor met Reza standing just outside the canvas door of the tent he shared with El. Well over six feet tall, Reza towered over Connor, and his face—bronze skin de-aged, haloed by the glow of his coat's warming coils, eyes alight with AR ghosts—was eerily handsome, uncanny and angelic.
"Connor?" he asked. His voice was lightly Anglicized, mid-Atlantic. "Or Elric?"
"What do you want?" Connor asked, not quite able to spit it, voice half-broken by fear.
"Are you Connor or Elric?" Reza repeated calmly.
"Connor. I'm Connor."
"A pleasure." Reza extended a gloved hand that Connor shook numbly. "I'm Dr. Reza Ansari. May I?" he indicated the interior of the tent. "I'd like to talk to you and Elric. I came to see your act tonight."
"We weren't on."
Reza's smile pulled tight. "I'm aware. But seeing as I’ve gone through the trouble of coming out here, I thought I could at least meet you."
Reza's voice landed heavily on the word “trouble,” but his stylish clothes and strained manners didn't read like enforcement to Connor. "Why do you want to see us?"
“I work in neural extension. Implant development research.” Reza once again took out his identification. Connor blinked at it, uncomprehending. When he took it out of Reza’s hand to look closer, its soft green light turned red. “A friend of mine with very excellent neural security said you read his thoughts two days ago."
Connor flushed and handed back the card. "So we're in trouble."
"No," Reza sighed. "If he's right, I'll actually be very impressed. I'm talent scouting. I have residential research placements available for the right candidate. Or candidates, if that’s the case."
"So I want a demonstration," Reza said, the patience in his voice stretched thin.
The request changed the pitch of Connor's anxiety. He paled. "Can't," he said. "Sorry."
Connor started to go back into the tent, but Reza stopped him with a hand on his shoulder, firm enough to put the fear back in him. "Why not?" Reza asked, voice still calm.
Connor swallowed. He wished he knew what was in Reza’s mind, what danger he was in. Without El at his side, he felt unmoored, vulnerable to his worst fears: the potential inspectors appearing at his door, and the uncertainty of Elric’s breath, stuttering still in the dark of the tent. Unsure what else to do, Connor let Reza follow him inside.
The tent was warm and close, lit by artificial tungsten that washed everything in a sickly orange. It was hot enough that the coils in Reza's coat went instantly dark. He was aware of a sharp, sick smell in the room: the musky smell of teenage boys and, under that, something rotten and sweet. When his eyes adjusted, Reza could tell the shivering lump in the bed was a young man. He was coughing desperately, the sound of it raw and weak and wet.
"El is sick," Connor said. "He's really sick. We can't show you anything tonight."
Reza nodded, trying to take in the shock-numb look on Connor's face and the pneumoniac dampness of the other boy's choking. "Is he being treated?"
Connor made a face, non-committal. "The Director gave him antibiotics, but he's not any better."
"How long has he been ill?"
"Not long. Last night there was an accident. He inhaled something he shouldn’t’ve when he was fire-breathing for the sideshow. He seemed okay, but he woke up like this."
Reza was not a licensed medical doctor, though he had earned his M.D. decades ago, before he'd supplemented it with a Ph.D. in statistical ethics and found himself a niche in the medical-adjacent field of enhancement management. He still remembered enough to be alarmed by the possibility of aspiration pneumonia. "Can I?" Reza gestured towards the bed.
Connor hesitated. "You said you were a doctor?"
"By training but not practice." Reza went to look closely at Elric, feeling for his temperature, checking his pulse. Reza's manner was composed and impersonal, and enough like a doctor’s that Connor didn't interrupt him.
The boy in the bed was so thin his face looked hollowed, eye sockets dark in the dim light; his fleshless hands were limp on the bedspread, the bones of his wrist fragile and exposed. If he'd only been sick a day, he was in poor physical condition. Reza guessed he was hypermetabolic, in catabolic crisis; it was a common side effect of poorly managed augmentation. Regardless of the cause, he was in no state to fight any serious illness, and he was running a high fever. Reza's rudimentary medical AR warned the boy’s blood oxygen was low, too. Elric, the posters called him: a made-up name, taken from TwenCen pulps. Reza ran his face against missing persons. Nothing showed up. If he was a runaway, nobody back home missed him enough to report it to the authorities.
"Elric?" Reza called. The boy opened his eyes for Reza, then closed them again. “Connor tells me you inhaled something while you were fire-breathing yesterday. The fuel, is that right?”
"Was it lit? Do you have any burns?" Elric shook his head. "Okay. That's good. Can you tell me what you were using?"
The boy took a breath that turned into wet coughing. Reza tried to help him up into a sitting position to ease his breathing, but Elric was weak and unhelpful, gasping and choking.
“It was paraffin," Connor said, once Elric’s coughing had gone quiet. "Lamp oil.”
Reza frowned at this new information Connor had apparently remembered. He knew such a primitive choice was bad news, but he clapped Elric on the shoulder to try and reassure him. “We’re going to get you some help, okay? We’ll get you sorted out.”
Elric didn't answer, just heaved in a wheezing breath, his hand scrabbling at the pain in his chest.
Reza stood then and spoke to Connor, trying to keep his voice low enough that Elric wouldn't hear. "You have to take him to a hospital. Now, okay? Do you need me to call you an ambulance?”
Connor just shook his head, pupils blown wide. “Is he going to die?”
"He won’t if he gets help.”
“We agreed never to—”
“This is not a joke, Connor. He will die if he's not treated. Look at him. He weighs practically nothing. The flu could kill him. A bad cold."
“I know it’s not a joke,” Connor snapped. In the silence that followed his outburst, he took a slow breath, tugged at his curls. “Our implants are not licensed.”
"He is in danger. He could deteriorate very quickly."
"Don’t you get it? We'll be arrested,” Connor told him, voice rising, real terror in it.
Elric was barely awake but huffed an agreeing noise, reaching for Connor’s hand.
“Elric is the only one that needs to be seen,” Reza said. “I’ll take him, if you won’t.”
“I’m not leaving him,” Connor insisted. “We’d lose our jobs, anyway. The circus would have to move on. And we’d never pay off the hospital bills.”
Reza sighed, looked at the two boys with bewilderment. “Let me make a call.”
Connor stayed with Elric, who tipped back into a boneless blackout sleep while Reza walked across the tent, pacing in perfect silence, connecting subvocally to his apartment in town. I’m scouting in the Old Harbor, and I have a case of probable lipoid pneumonia. Firebreather, inhaled paraffin. Can you treat it in the house? Reza asked without words.
In his ear, his husband Lowry’s voice came through to him, sounding tired and unhappy about this unexpected request, even though he was confident in his ability to handle the situation. If it’s your only option, he agreed.
Then I’ll be waiting. Lowry sighed and closed their connection.
Reza came back and sat next to Connor on the bed. “My husband is a doctor, with an internist’s license and all. He’ll look at Elric. If you agree to test for me.”
“I’ll take you to mine. Lowry will take care of Elric. You’ll show me your act in the morning. Think of it as an audition.”
For a moment, Connor looked like he would refuse, but then a stillness came over him, a sudden calm. He tilted his head, like he was listening for the right answer. "Okay," he said finally. "Thanks."
Connor managed to get El out of bed and into Reza’s driverless coupe. Reza had it drive straight over the field to the tent, its wheels churning up the grass, before speeding them silently onto the highway. Reza, irritated by the turn the evening had taken, didn’t make conversation; he wanted to reprimand Connor, but it wasn’t the time. He was worried about Elric; they both were. The only noise came from the sick boy’s whistling lungs.
They pulled up outside a tall building in the heart of the city, all glass and light. Lowry was waiting at the curb and opened the car door as soon as the vehicle came to a stop. He stepped back to let Reza unfold from inside.
"Can he walk?" Lowry asked, not bothering with pleasantries.
"I think not," Reza answered, watching Connor trying to wake his partner. Elric just made a small, pained noise, coughing into Connor's lap. Lowry ducked into the car to see for himself; he curled a hand around Elric’s wrist, and the medical sensors in the pads of his fingers pushed a series of alerts to his internal AR.
Lowry clicked his tongue, calmly annoyed. “He’s worse off than I thought. You should’ve brought him to a hospital.”
Reza nodded but didn’t open the discussion. “Connor, this is Dr Lowry. Lowry, Connor.”
"Hi," Connor whispered.
"Hi. Now, help me get him out.” Lowry was already maneuvering Elric out of the backseat. Even though Lowry was a small man, barely reaching Reza's chin, he could carry Elric without any difficulty. The doctor's tied-back hair was completely white, but his lean musculature was that of a young man.
When they reached the apartment, Lowry swept ahead. Still carrying Elric like he weighed nothing at all, he disappeared up a spiral staircase. Connor started to follow, but Reza held him back with a hand on his shoulder. “Let Lowry work,” he said, allowing Connor to shake off the physical contact. “Can I take your coat?”
“What will he do to El?” Connor asked, pulling off his anorak, a military surplus green that was warm but bulky.
“I don’t know. Whatever needs doing, I’d imagine. He’s a very good doctor. You don’t need to worry. He'll ping me if there's a problem. Tea? Coffee?” Reza shooed him into the living room. “At least sit down. Lowry doesn’t need you fretting while he works. There’s not enough space upstairs. Have you eaten?”
“I’m okay,” Connor said, taking in the apartment. There were walls made of dark wood and interactive light panels, furniture manufactured from near-transparent microfoam and polished teak. The two-story living room was glass on one side; the city lit up below them. The view had impressed Reza, too, when he and Lowry had first been assigned those rooms, but that had been a long time ago. “You have real coffee?” Connor asked.
Reza nodded. “Yes. Do you take cream? Sugar?”
“I’ve never had real coffee.”
“Probably both, then.”
Connor followed Reza into the kitchen instead of sitting down. In the good light, Reza saw Connor’s stage makeup was smudged and collected in acne scars. Gold paint was flaking off his belt and boots.
“Where do you get it?” Connor asked, watching Reza grind beans.
“The coffee? It’s a job perk. High-quality diet is part of the package.”
“Because our work requires optimal use of expensive implants. If our bodies don’t work, our implants won’t either. It’s brought down whole research programs. And you see what’s happened to Elric.”
“What do you mean?”
“I bet he was healthier before he was augmented. Weighed a fair bit more. Is that not the case?”
Connor didn’t say anything, and for a moment Reza thought he must have made a mistake, that Elric’s poor condition was the late stage of anorexia nervosa or some rarer wasting disease. “Am I wrong?” He pressed. “I need to tell Lowry if there’s something else going on. He eats, doesn’t he? He’s not starving himself?”
“He eats, but it goes nowhere. Right through him.”
“For how long?”
“Since I took him out here and he got the surgery. You’re right. And it’s my fault.”
Reza put an espresso in front of Connor. There was a chocolate in gold foil on the saucer, a pot of cream, and a matching sugar bowl. “Lowry will help him, alright? Don’t worry.”
When Connor finished his coffee, Reza sent him to the bathroom to wash his face. Lowry pinged Reza an update while he was putting the dishes away.
“Good news,” Reza said when Connor came back in. “Lowry’s stabilized Elric. You can go see him if you want.”
Connor wasted no time, heading for the spiral stairs, ignoring Reza’s call for patience. Reza caught him by the elbow before he could make it to the second floor. Connor froze like Reza had slapped him, suddenly limp. He was afraid, Reza understood. Not just for Elric but for the two of them together under some strangers’ roof.
“Don’t try and crack Lowry,” Reza said. He turned Connor to look at him, not letting go of his arm. “None of your mind-reading tricks. I mean that."
“Thick ice? Like you?” Connor asked.
Reza did have serious cryptography across his networked implants, overlaying comprehensive intrusion countermeasures. He didn’t think that Connor had tried to crack it, but he couldn’t be sure. To attempt over-riding the protections on Lowry’s more powerful enhancements could damage flimsier technology, though, and kill uninsulated brain tissue. Reza was not confident Connor and Elric’s cowboy implants would protect them from misadventure.
“Black ice. Entirely legal black ice,” Reza warned, using the slang he thought Connor would understand best. “You know what that means?”
“Yeah.” Connor tugged his arm out of Reza’s grip. “I’ll be careful.”
Connor jogged the rest of the way up the stairs and burst into Reza and Lowry’s guest room, slamming the door into the wall. Reza, coming up behind him, clicked his tongue in annoyance, but Lowry didn’t even look up. He was passing a thin scanner over Elric’s chest; Reza could see an image of pink and yellow tissue ghosting through the glass. Elric’s lungs, inflamed and infected. Lowry had started an IV, the tube medi-taped to Elric’s hand. An oxygen concentrator was strapped over his face. Lowry had unfastened Elric’s shirt. Healed but still-livid scars, the result of a messy top surgery a year before, stretched across Elric’s ribs. The sight stopped Connor in his tracks. Reza considered putting a reassuring hand on his shoulder, but let it drop.
“Is he going to be okay?” Connor asked.
Lowry raised an eyebrow. “He’ll be fine. But only because I had a biologic inhibitor for his inflammation, and I’m pumping him full of broad-spectrum antibiotics. If this happens again, you need to get help. Another 8 hours and—well, let's not think about it. He’ll be coughing for weeks as it is; you waited too long.”
“Will it happen again?”
“Might do. It’s fire eater’s pneumonia. If you inhale paraffin, this is more or less the guaranteed clinical outcome,” Lowry said, adjusting the drip. Connor nodded, still frozen and staring at Elric. “You can sit with him if you want. The inflammation’s going down already, but he’s sedated.”
Connor went and sat next to Elric. He didn't say anything, but tugged Elric's shirt back across his chest, tucked his long hair behind his ears. Lowry looked at Reza, his face blank and grim. Garbage plastic surgeon, Lowry thought, sending a feeling like a grimace to Reza before turning back to Connor.
“I’m sure you know, but I’m going to say it anyway: you need to be careful with unlicensed implants.” Lowry spoke gently, but firmly. “And unlicensed doctors.”
Connor tensed, his fingers digging into the edge of the mattress, a muscle in his jaw jumping. “Tell me where we could have seen licensed ones for a reasonable price. No coverage. And Elric needed—he needed to have some control over his body. It was important.”
“That’s not the point,” Reza snapped.
“It’s not the implants, anyway,” Connor spit back, rising to anger in a breath. “He was fire-breathing.”
Lowry nodded, and went back to scanning Elric’s lungs. He spoke quietly, uninterested in an argument. “Elric has very severe AIHM. Have you heard of that? Augmentation-induced hyper-metabolism. You’ve noticed the weight loss. And night sweats, right? That is because of the implants. And it means he’s in particular danger, especially when he’s sick. He needs to be treated. I’d like to check your implants tomorrow, as well.”
“He’ll be okay though?”
“Yes. But he won’t feel well for a while, and he won’t recover fully until he’s properly medicated. Regularly seen. AIHM is treatable, but it is chronic. It doesn’t go away.” Lowry looked as tired as his patient and very pale. When he concentrated, a line appeared between his eyebrows, and two more pulled at the corners of his mouth: tiny, isolated signs of age in an otherwise blankly smooth visage. He clicked off the scanner with a sigh. “I can make you something up on the couch if you want,” Lowry offered Connor, “but I’m guessing you’ll stay with Elric?”
Connor nodded, suddenly wound tight by Lowry’s assessment of their relationship. “If that’s okay.”
Lowry looked over to Reza, who was still watching from the door. “Of course it is.” The doctor sighed, passed a hand over his eyes, his incongruously young face drawn. “I’m monitoring him, and if he gets worse, I’ll know. Don’t keep yourself up worrying. Reza and I will be across the hall if you need anything, but I’m cached out. I’m going to bed.”
Connor smiled a little at the slang. “Okay. Bona nochy.”
Reza let Lowry go past him, frowning when Lowry touched a hand to the doorframe, swaying like he was dead on his feet. He ignored Reza’s hand on his arm.
“Get some sleep, if you can,” Reza told Connor, turning to go after Lowry. “I’m looking forward to seeing your trick tomorrow.”
It was early when Connor woke up, just turned six and still dark. He had been so deeply asleep—exhausted or just lulled by the comfort of an expensive mattress—that for a moment, he could not remember where he was. Then the memory came back and he reached out for El, felt his own heart stutter in the half-second it took for El to inhale.
But El was alive. He seemed better, too: no longer gasping or hot to the touch. His chest continued to rise and fall soundlessly. He was still deep asleep, and they were safe and undisturbed in the guest room. It would be a long time, Connor thought, before he could take their safety for granted again. Last night, he’d been too relieved to absorb Lowry’s reprimand, but holding El’s hand now in the comfort of an expensive bed, the danger El had been in was suddenly clear. How close had Connor come to letting El die? Would he have let him suffocate in their tent because they were afraid of trouble? No punishment could have been worth that. It seemed obvious, then, when there was a real roof over their heads for the first time in months, and El was getting the care he needed. When anything, it seemed, was possible.
Connor pulled his clothes on, desperate for the toilet, and knowing he wouldn’t get back to sleep. When he opened the door, though, he heard a low, whining moan from downstairs. It sounded like someone in pain. Connor went to the top of the spiral stairs and froze. Below him, he could see Lowry contorted in an armchair, surrounded by medical equipment. There were two bags of white PFC blood on an IV stand, a rack of machinery on wheels, a canister of oxygen, all connected to Lowry by clear tubing that ran into his nose, his arm, a port in his chest. Reza sat on the floor next to a machine full of churning white blood, looking at its displays and running a hand soothingly over Lowry’s leg.
Reza heard Connor on the stairs and looked up. “The bathroom is down the hall.”
“I know.” Connor’s throat was dry and hardly any sound came out. “Is Lowry okay?”
Reza waved him away. “Lowry’s fine. Give us fifteen minutes, okay? Then good as new.”
Lowry turned his face up and pulled his lips tight, not quite able to muster a reassuring smile. Connor could see how bad off he was: sweating, gray-skinned, shaking, face tear-tracked. He might have been going into shock. Connor had seen that once—an acrobat fallen so badly the bone of his leg pushed right out through the skin, and his face had turned the same corpse color before he lost consciousness.
Connor turned around and went to the bathroom, but he could hear Lowry panting and moaning still when he came out. Crouching just out of sight in the hall, he heard Reza say, “Are you going to be sick?” and Lowry answered with a grunt.
“How much longer?” he asked through chattering teeth.
“Four minutes,” Reza told him. “Almost there.”
Lowry groaned, but within five minutes, he had quieted and was breathing deeply again. It happened suddenly, surprisingly, and then he was sniffing and laughing at his own tears. “It’s worse than I remembered.”
“You say that every month. Go get cleaned up,” Reza said. “I’ll tidy things here.”
“Do you think I scared Connor?” Lowry asked. “I wish he hadn’t seen that.”
Reza kissed him. If he said more to answer Lowry’s question, Connor couldn’t hear it.
Not expecting Lowry to recover so quickly, Connor didn’t think to move from his place in the hallway. He was still sitting there when Lowry appeared at the top of the stairs.
“Didn’t anyone teach you it’s rude to eavesdrop?” Lowry said. He looked well again, better even than he had the night before.
“Sorry,” Connor said.
“It’s okay. I thought I’d be done by the time you woke up. Blood replacements are a pain. I only have to filter it once a month, but it always seems like I need to do it at just the wrong moment.”
“I have artificial blood. Very efficient. If you skip a cleaning, though, you start to feel quite fluish.”
“So you are, what? Some kind of super athlete?”
“Well, I can run faster. Faster than I could before, anyway, but that’s not why I have it. It’s safer. There’s less of a chance of oxygen starvation in surgery. If Elric had it, he could have waited out this pneumonia.”
“It’s safer as long as you have all that equipment,” Connor said, thinking of the churning machine with its blinking lights and the IV bags of blood.
“Exactly so. It’s a trade-off. And I’m lucky to be able to make the trade.”
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