Book 1: Warriors: The Shadow Outcast

I am human, or I was. I was fine, and now I'm cursed with insanity. They say I can do great things, but all I've done so far is kill. Sacrifice can only get me so far, and the feeling of exile and outcast isn't new to me. Is this what you wanted StarClan?


3. Chapter 1

Chapter One

Matthew lay in bed, wondering absently if any other members of his family were awake yet. His blue eyes gazed absently at the ceiling as he waited for his alarm to go off. It was around six thirty, though he had been sitting in bed for a while, staring at the blank ceiling which was just another painful reminder of why he hated his life.

Just another morning, he thought, the same old thing, every single day: walk Daniel to school; go to school myself; come home; watch Daniel play and help him with his homework; eat dinner; go to sleep. Could life be any more boring? It wasn't this way when Alfie was here...

Matthew closed his eyes, forcing away the thousands of memories that tried to break through his perfect barrier. His twin brother, Alfie, was gone and the only thing he could do now was accept it and move on. The only way he found that he could do that, however, was to basically build a wall in his mind and make himself forget Alfie completely. The more he pushed away the memories, the stronger the imaginary wall got. No matter how strong it got, however, he still managed to remember, making the ocean of grief and depression return, not to mention the guilt.

Matthew sighed as he heard the loud beeping of his alarm clock, and then turned it off with a push of a button. He sat up and got dressed for school.

Even my uniform is terrible! Thought Matthew as he put on the grey shirt and dark grey pants.

As he did, he tried to avoid looking at the large star-shaped scar that had been there since he was nine. It only made him remember, once again, that it was his fault that Alfie was gone.

After getting ready to go, Matthew made his way down stairs and into the kitchen for Breakfast, tying his green and red, striped tie as he picked out the most favourable cereal he could find. Since his father's car was gone, Matthew knew that he had gone to work, as he always did. This meant that Matthew had to once again take care of his little brother Daniel, and that was the way he liked it. To Matthew, his brother was his only family and so it was his job to protect him. It was the only way he could make up for what he did.

"Matt?" asked Daniel, still in his spotted pyjamas. "Why are you up so early?"

"It's not that early," said Matthew, laughing a bit. "It's already seven fifteen." Daniel's green eyes widened, and then he sped back up into his bedroom. Matthew sighed, still trying not to laugh, and then made breakfast. Hopefully Daniel would be down on time. He was already going to be late to school.

After eating a bowl of coco-pops and waiting for Daniel to get ready, they were off. Kelvin Grove wasn't that far from their house, but they did have to cross a few roads. Today seemed busy for some reason; perhaps there had been an accident somewhere close by? Matthew walked beside Daniel, not holding his hand, but still walking close to him.

Winter was drawing nearer and the coldness was already showing. The bare trees, the dead grass and the light grey clouds above made him shiver. Why was his life so gloomy all of the time?

It wasn't like this when Alfie was here, he thought, it always seemed sunny to me.

Alfie's death had brought a whole new meaning to the word 'change'. Matthew had spent most of his days in the forest near the lake, His mother had divorced his father and then left. Matthew's father had gotten a job that made him work all day, and Daniel, poor little three year old Daniel, at the time, was left with no one to take care of him. Matthew hadn't really thought of protecting his little brother until Daniel was five because at that point he thought he was going crazy. He'd lost his best friend and twin brother, his mother, and almost had lost his sanity. This had surely been proved when he had seen the same orange cat with black spots several days in a row. It just seemed to watch him, and then he knew that he was going insane. However, after he built the imaginary wall in his mind and started worrying about Daniel more, he seemed to grab a hold of himself.

"Hey, Harry!" Daniel suddenly called, drawing Matthew's attention back to reality and leaving him to wonder what was going on. Harry, one of Daniel's many friends, was on the other side of the street, waving to them. Daniel suddenly darted forward across onto the road. Matthew tried to grab him, but he didn't get there in time.

Matthew instinctively looked around to see if a car was coming—a car was coming,and it was going too fast to see Daniel. Matthew knew what was going to happen if he just stood there trying to think quickly, and so he didn't. Instead, he sprinted forward toward his brother.

"Daniel!" Matthew yelled at his brother, trying to get his attention. Daniel looked over his shoulder and then at the car that was coming straight towards him. Instead of running faster like Matthew had hoped, his brother stopped and froze, eyes wide. Matthew was running faster than he ever had now, trying to get to his brother. He didn't know what he was going to do; he just knew that he was going to do something. He would not lose another brother, not when he finally managed to recover from the first accident.

From that point onward, everything seemed to happen too quickly:

Matthew pushed Daniel over and then tried to run. It was too late. The driver of the car hadn't seen Matthew or Daniel and had continued to drive. With a screech from the car, it hit him. Matthew heard Daniel yell something, but it was drowned out the pounding of his heart and the blood rushing through his ears. His mind was trying to warn him of the danger, but he wasn't listening. There was nothing he could do. Matthew's body was submerged in pain, he couldn't move at all. The car pushed him forward, and when his body hit the ground he could hear a few cracks that brought him more pain in his stomach and back.

Distant yells and sirens were approaching him, now, as he lay there, and his vision was getting blurrier by the second. Darkness was taking over his mind, but he was protesting. No. I refuse to die! Not now! Not while Daniel needs me!

However, no matter how many times he protested, it only slowed the process down, forcing him to live and feel the overwhelming pain coming from his chest. He needed to live, but he was giving up. Darkness took him, and he forced himself to say something, anything, to poor Daniel, who he knew was above him at that moment.

"Good bye," he muttered, before taking in his last breath.

The darkness, which Matthew had been in for what seemed like hours, suddenly lightened up a bit. In the distance he could see a bright light, like a star. It was coming closer, and soft female voice was singing from it. Matthew went towards it, wondering if this was death. If it was, he thought it was boring, and that the 'don't go toward the light' saying was actually true.

But then, just as he was about to be engulfed in white, the star disappeared, and the same orange cat, that had been watching him earlier in his life stood above him, her dark blue eyes looking at him with a kind smile on her face. He had to say, for not really liking cats, she was a pretty cat. Her fur shined and her eyes pierced through him. Her sleek fur was glossy, and her black spots stood out against her bright orange coat. It was as if she were royalty, to be honest, which made Matthew suppress the urge to bow.

"Welcome, Twoleg," said the cat. "We have been expecting you."

"Is this some kind of joke?" asked Matthew, confused. "You can talk, and I can hear you. But cats can't talk!"The cat chuckled a bit, her kindness showing through now.

"You can hear me because you are turning into a cat yourself." explained the cat. "After your death in the Twoleg world, my world has decided to make you a cat, giving you a second chance to actually live your life rather than spending it like you did your last life: protecting your brother."

"I'm turning into a cat?" asked Matthew, his eyes widening. "But that's not possible! This has to be a dream. It has to be! How can I be turning into a cat? And what if I don't want to live again? I failed at protecting my twin brother, and I died when Daniel needed me most. I don't have a reason to live again!"

The cat shook her head, looking as if she'd expected this. "This is exactly why we are doing it, Twoleg. You need to live again, for what you did back in your old life was not truly living. No, you just sold your soul to your brother, and your death today proved it."

"But I don't want another life!" Matthew protested, hoping that these cats would at least respect his decision. They didn't, he found out, as the cat shook her head.

"It isn't your choice," said the cat. "The four leaders have all forced you into this, knowing that you wouldn't want this life. Don't worry, we StarClan cats aren't bad, we're just going to make you do this so that you can see that not all life is sad and depressing. You will find that love, friendship, and loyalty is much more than protecting those you love. Good luck on your journey to life." Then she stood, looking blankly above his head. Four more cats then walked up beside her, all of them looking equally as powerful as the pretty orange cat.

"I, Cheetahfur of StarClan, call upon the Destiny that brings us hope to give this Twoleg another chance at life." Said Cheetahfur, "His original life wasn't enough to show him the powers of love and friendship. I wish that he become a cat, learn our ways, and learn the ways of life." Whatever she did, it hurt. A lot. A burning pain came from within Matthew, making him drop to his knees. The other cats didn't seem to notice, however, because they kept staring blankly ahead.

"I, Thunderstar of StarClan and the First Leader of ThunderClan, call upon the Destiny that brings us hope to give this Twoleg another chance at life." Said Thunderstar. "From what I've heard, his heart is full of grey clouds and a wall of stone that pushes out his love. I wish to let him break free and learn our ways." Another burning pain shot at him, but this time on his left, he tried his best not to scream, but he did whimper a bit. He sounded pathetic.

"I, Riverstar of StarClan and the first leader of RiverClan, call upon the destiny that brings us hope to give this Twoleg another chance at life." Said Riverstar. "Without the care of his family, he hasn't gotten the love he needs. I wish that he become a cat, learn our ways, and learn what it means to have a family."

Now unable to see again, Matthew chocked out a little sob of pain as a burning sensation once again erupted from his chest. It felt as if three burning balls of fire were lodged into his lungs, restraining him. Changing him.

"I, Windstar of StarClan and the first leader of WindClan, call upon the destiny that brings us hope to give this Twoleg a chance to be normal, to be what he was meant to be before depression and guilt took over him. I wish that he learns the meaning of loyalty, but not that of protection. Learn what it means to be the one protected, other than be the one that protects. I wish him to learn our ways, and learn what it means to be a true warrior." Matthew cried out loud, his eyes watering up with tears. This was the first time he'd cried in years, and he was trying not to let more than he already had. There was no way this was actually happening. It was just not possible!

"I, Shadowstar of StarClan and the first leader of ShadowClan, call upon the destiny that brings us hope to give this Twoleg a chance to be what fate has brought him here to do. Justify his thoughts, and learn what it means to love. I wish for him to break the wall in his mind and accept the fact that he failed and live with it. I wish for him to grow stronger, so that when he is needed he will not fail again."

And then, the pain became unbearable. Matthew screamed when the fifth burning ball of fire entered his chest, making him wonder if this was what a heart-attack felt like. Then the burning seemed to join together, spreading throughout his body. Then he was once again pulled into an eerie darkness.

Matthew's eyes flickered open, trying hard not to remember what had just happened. He didn't want to remember the intense burning pain, the five cats, the whole thing about love and loyalty and friendship and the fact that he was a cat and...

Matthew looked at his hands and feet. They were no longer hands, nor were they feet. They were paws: grey and white paws. He suddenly realised he had a tail, and that when he stood, he was on all fours. He fell, not used to that feeling at all, and increased the headache that was in his mind. He had fur, he had whiskers, he had fangs, and he had—

It was too much. This couldn't be happening. He didn't want another life, not when he failed so badly at his last one. Didn't they know that it was his fault that his brother was dead? They seemed to know everything else about him, yet they forget that one detail! And what was that StarClanThunderClan and WindClan nonsense? Thunderstar, first leader of ThunderClan? What was happening? What was going on? Why was this happening to him of all people? And what was a Twoleg?

Matthew looked over to his shoulder, realising that it still had the star-shaped scar that he'd gotten from the first accident. If they wanted him to live a new life, why did they make him carry the scar? Why was this so hard to understand? Why could he scent so many forest things, like that mouse that smelled so delicious—

No! Thought Matthew, rejecting the scent of the mouse. I will not eat a mouse, I am not a cat, and I am not alive! I am dead, I am no-longer-living!

Matthew looked around. It was so unnatural, the way he saw things now: the trees were no longer big, they were huge! Even the fern in front of him was a few feet taller than him, and everything just seemed too big. The bare trees, the murky grey sky that seemed so far away, and the lake that also smelled delicious. It was so strange, so different, and yet, though he still wanted to die like he was supposed to, he was interested in what every smell, sight and sound belonged to. He had excellent senses, and he wanted to use them, just not right now while he knew this was a dream.

Figuring that he might as well get up, he tried to stand. Unfortunately for him, however, standing up wasn't going to be easy. He tried, but then ended up falling again. After about four more falls, he was able to stand, though he still wobbled. Matthew stood there for a few minutes before taking a step forward.

He seemed to be somewhere between a moor and a forest, which was strange. Everything seemed somewhat familiar, but not enough to know exactly where he was. He walked for a while, finding the lake quickly. He lapped up the clear water, feeling very odd, and then looked at his reflection.

He was indeed a cat, and a small, too. He was a bluish-grey tom with white paws. His eyes were a lightning bolt blue, and his build was abnormal to him. He was very small but had a long body. He just seemed so different, so strange. It was just so weird seeing his reflection as a cat rather than a human. He just wanted to be normal, but after this, that didn't seem likely.

Matthew looked up at the murky sky, it seemed as if a storm was coming. Deciding that he needed to find shelter, he walked away from the lake and onto the moor. If he was going to be in this cat body, he might as well do what he was asked to do. Cheetahfur said something about a ThunderClan, so all he had to do was—

"Hey! What are you doing?"

Matthew's head turned to see who – or what – was yelling at him. Five cats were quickly running in his direction, hissing and yowling in rage. Matthew turned and ran, but he wasn't nearly as fast as the cats. They caught up with him quickly, and attacked. One leaped on him, forcing him down. Matthew instinctively kicked at the tom's stomach with his hind legs, making the tom yowl. Matthew got up, but didn't run. He was surrounded, of course, by the five cats, all of which were ready to fight and much, bigger than him.

"Who are you?" hissed the tom that had attacked him. "You don't smell like any of the Clans; you must be a loner or a kittypet! Why are you here?"

Matthew growled lowly after regaining his balance. He still couldn't stand without wobbling, and running seemed like a stupid idea now. His new body was still not familiar, making his situation twice as difficult.

"I'm Matthew," he replied, thinking quickly. A loner is probably my best shot. "I am a loner, and I didn't know that this was your territory," Matthew could feel his fur bristling and his tail lashing with anger, and he wanted it to stop. He was trying to sound calm, but between his tail lashing and his voice wavering, he hardly sounded calm.

"Well then, Matthew, you must have a very terrible sense of smell," the tom hissed. "The dawn patrol marked those borders today."

"Haretail!" said a silvery grey she-cat. "Stop asking for a fight! Look at him, he's barely six moons old, and even smaller than any of our new apprentices. He has probably just lost his family."

"I don't have a family," Matthew said quickly, though a little softer than he had intended. "I'm just trying find a place to settle down. I didn't know this place was taken. I'm sorry," he dipped his head.

The five cats looked at him, looking as if they were all trying to decide something. Then suddenly the silvery grey she-cat walked up to him, looking at the scar on his shoulder.

"That star," she said before pausing, bringing the other cats to see it. All of them seemed shocked and amazed. "Have you always had it, or is it just a scar?" Matthew took a step back, his eyes narrowing in confusion. Why were they all so interested in his scar?

"It's just a scar," Matthew replied, easing their interest. "I didn't think it was that important, though."

"It is the mark of our ancestors," said the silvery she-cat. "It is very important." Another she-cat hissed at her, making her turn around. The she-cat who hissed had glossy black fur and sharp amber eyes. As the other cats made a path for her, Matthew suddenly knew that the she-cat was high in the rankings, if there were rankings.

"This is a loner, Silvershine, not one of the Clan cats," the black she-cat said to Silvershine. "You mustn't tell him everything about us." Silvershine dipped her head apologetically.

"Yes, Blackpelt," Silvershine said. "I am sorry."

The black she-cat, whose name was now identified as Blackpelt, which suited her very well, then turned to him, her amber eyes looking him up and down until they settledon his scar. She was quiet for a few moments, but then she turned her gaze back to the other cats.

"Rosestar will want to know of this," said Blackpelt. "This kit is either a sign from StarClan, or he is what he says he is: a loner, who should try asking ThunderClan for help instead of WindClan." From the laughs that came from the cats other than Silvershine, Matthew knew that what Blackpelt had said was an insult. However, at the moment, he didn't care. He was in the right place, he just needed to get out of WindClan territory and move to ThunderClan territory, wherever that was.

Matthew then followed the other cats, his head low. For some reason, these cats scared him and he hated it. Silvershine was the only one not giving him glares, and she seemed like a nice cat. Silvershine dropped her pace and fell beside him with a kind smile on her face.

"Don't mind Blackpelt," said Silvershine. "She's only doing her job as deputy. Haretail, on the other hand, is just mean all around. He's always asking for a fight, which he proved to you today. Now, Swiftstrike, the golden tabby over there, is always rushing everyone to do something. Sometimes he acts like deputy, too. He used to act that way too, when we were kits."

Matthew nodded, taking in everything she said. "Firesoul the pale ginger tom, is another problem. Instead of being a proud deputy act-alike, he's almost never serious. He's only a few moons younger than I am, but he's been that way for a while now… However, he's smart. Don't underestimate him when he looks like a fool. It's just how he wants everyone to see him as, just so he can prove them wrong many times over."

"Wow," said Matthew. "Those are some weird names." Silvershine giggled at that.

"Yes, they might be strange," she agreed. "However, it's a name that lets everyone by the lake know that we're Warriors. Our ancestors have named each generation like that, and if it's a Warrior tradition, it's hard to get rid of."

Matthew was opened his mouth to speak, but before he could get it out he realised that they were entering some sort of secret hide-out.

Many cat scents lingered around him as they entered the hide-out. He was lead right into the very centre. Cats seemed to be everywhere, and as he went in, they all stopped and stared. He kept his head low, but he couldn't help taking in everything around him.

"Who is that?" he heard one cat say.

"He doesn't smell like any Clan cat!" yelled another.

"Yes, but look at the star on his shoulder! It's a sign from StarClan!"

"Silence!" Matthew turned his head toward the voice and saw a light, grey she-cat with bright yellow eyes, which were narrowed at him. "I will deal with this loner in my den. Yellowstreak will come with me." The she-cat then turned and made her way toward a den looking thing. A pale golden tom with yellow eyes followed behind.

"Follow her, loner," Blackpelt ordered. "Rosestar will decide your fate." Matthew took a second to look around before catching up to the two cats and following them inside the large den. All he hoped was that Rosestar decided to do anything but kill him, because then the whole 'second chance at life' thing really wouldn't work out.

As Rosestar sat, so did the other tom Matthew assumed was Yellowstreak. Matthew did the same, hoping to look at least a little more formal. Rosestar then started circling him, stopping at his scar. After she looked at it for a few moments, she turned to Yellowstreak.

"Has StarClan told you of a cat with a star-shaped scar, Yellowstreak?" Rosestar asked. Yellowstreak shook his head.

"StarClan has not spoken to me about anything but the Prophecy, in which I believe only a real Clan-born cat can be chosen. This cat is just a regular loner with an irregular scar." Said Yellowstreak. Rosestar then began circling him again, her yellow eyes looking venomous.

"Tell me, loner, where did you get this almost perfect scar?" Rosestar asked. "I would be delighted to know." Matthew sighed, lowering his head again. He was afraid she was going to ask that, because he knew he couldn't answer. He had been human when he had gotten it, after all.

"I can't remember," Matthew lied. "I got it when I was younger." Thank God for his good lying skills, because Rosestar seemed to buy it. However, she still looked interested, which he knew was a bad thing.

"Do you remember anything about ancient cats?" she asked. "Has anything strange happened to you lately?"

"No," Matthew lied again. Oh no, not at all, he thought, I only died and managed to turn into a cat. That's not strange at all.

"Well then you are obviously not the cat we were hoping for," said Rosestar. "I don't think the cats out there will like a loner in their Clan, so I have no choice but to send you elsewhere."

"To be honest, I've actually been looking for a place called ThunderClan," said Matthew slowly, choosing his words carefully. "When I was travelling here, someone told me that they would give me a place to stay for a few days." Rosestar laughed.

"Yes, they will take you in, that's for sure." said Rosestar. "Because you requested it, I will send a patrol to escort you to the ThunderClan border. It is nearly dusk so their patrol should be out soon. You will leave immediately." Matthew nodded and followed Yellowstreak out of the den. Yellowstreak stopped and looked at Blackpelt, telling her of Rosestar's response.

"Morningbreeze, Leopardspot, Cedarflame, Hawkpaw I shall join the patrol," she announced. "As Rosestar said, we must leave immediately." After the cats got together, they left. Matthew kept his head low again, hoping that it would show the other cats that he didn't want to fight, he just wanted to know more about these Clans. Like what a deputy was, or how many cats lived around this lake.

It didn't take the patrol long to get there, and after dropping Matthew off at the border, the WindClan patrol left. Matthew sighed in relief, but then turned toward the forest. He smiled, letting the memories of his brother return. He remembered playing in this forest with Alfie, chasing each other and playing tag while their parents stayed and waited for them. Every time they'd come he'd always spot a cat, and now he knew why: he had been invading their territory.

Matthew stopped as he caught the scent of another cat. He tensed up and waited for them to come. However, instead of it being a patrol like last time, it was a she-cat that was only a little taller than him it seemed. She was a bluish grey she-cat with jade-green eyes. He just wanted to tell her that he was supposed to be there, to avoid a fight.

"Who are you?" she snapped, baring her long fangs.

"I'm just a loner," Matthew replied, his voice wavering a bit. "My name is Matthew." The she-cat relaxed a bit as he introduced himself, but she was still looking cautious.

"What are you doing in ThunderClan territory?" she asked, her eyes searching him as if he had weapons on him. Matthew sighed, wishing that these Clan cats weren't so hostile.

"I don't know," he lied. "I came here looking for a home but ended up being taken into this WindClan place. They kicked me out and sent me here. So, uh, yeah. I really don't know what's going on, or why you're so hostile towards me right now." Confused, the she-cat relaxed entirely.

"Robinpaw!" someone yelled from further into the forest. "What are you doing? It's a rogue!"

Just like he had expected, there was the patrol, except this time there was only four cats. Well five, including the grey she-cat he'd been talking to, whose name was Robinpaw.

"Yelloweye, he's just a loner that's been dumped over here by WindClan," Robinpaw explained. "He's not a threat."

"What he says may not be true," Yelloweye pointed out. Robinpaw lowered her head. Matthew kept quiet, letting the silence stay. Just as Matthew thought that it was safe to speak, however, a reddish brown tabby with intense yellow eyes attacked.

The tom lunged, leaving Matthew no time to dodge the attack. He was pinned down quickly, and this time he couldn't move at all. The tom laughed aloud, with his eyes narrowed tightly.

"Not so tough now, are you, loner?" the tom whispered to him. Matthew screeched with anger, refusing to die again. Not to this idiot. Not now when he was so close.

Matthew tried his best to think quickly, trying to find a way to attack. He knew how to defend himself as a human, but as a cat he had no idea how to get this idiot off him—what he did before in WindClan was just instinct. Finally he decided on something and hoped he wouldn't kill the cat. He lifted his head off the ground with his teeth bared, hoping to catch onto the tom's neck. Lucky for him, it did. The tom screeched, and as Matthew let go, the tom got off him and backed away.

"Sharpfang!" Yelloweye growled at the tom who had attacked Matthew. "This kit is barely six moons old! You should not have attacked it!"

"Don't underestimate him!" Sharpfang snapped. "He could have killed me, attacking like that!"

"And whose fault was that?" Matthew hissed, his blue eyes narrowing. "If you hadn't attacked me, I wouldn't have needed to defend myself!" Matthew sat up, not even daring to stand yet. His body was already shaking, and he was trying his best to keep back the memories that, once again, wanted to close in on him.

"How dare you—"

"Sharpfang, stop it right now or I will tell Jayflight and Ravenstar!" Yelloweye warned as he got in front of the angry tom.

"You're just happy to see one of your loner friends, aren't you, rogue!" Sharpfang hissed at Yelloweye. "Finally able to see someone that's not Clan-born!" As they continued arguing, Robinpaw sat down beside Matthew and began to lick her paws. Matthew mimicked her, assuming that it was normal cat behaviour.

"They're always like this," she explained. "Sharpfang has never really liked loners, which is probably why he attacked you. Sorry about that. Are you okay?" Matthew nodded, trying to look as okay as he hoped he was. He stood up, still a little shaky, but he could walk. Then Robinpaw gasped, looking straight at his scar. Why is it so important to these cats?He wondered.

"What's that?" she asked, her eyes wide. Yelloweye and Sharpfang had stopped and walked over, as did the other two cats he had yet to meet.

"It's just a scar," Matthew replied. "Something I got a while ago."

"It's star-shaped, though," a long-furred black she-cat pointed out. "Doesn't that mean something?"

"It doesn't always mean something, Thorntail," said a tortoiseshell she cat. "But sometimes it does."

"I think we should take him into camp to see Ravenstar and Jayflight," Yelloweye decided finally. "Even if it doesn't mean anything, we can still offer him a home. After how he fought today, I'd say he's got potential."

"That's what they said when you came along," Sharpfang muttered. "And look how you turned out." Yelloweye gave a low growl before flicking his tail onward. The other cats followed, like last time Matthew fell behind all of the cats, Robinpaw beside him. At least now he was going into the right Clan, and hopefully he was going to stay there. Maybe life here wasn't so bad, but he still didn't like it. It was just too weird.

Join MovellasFind out what all the buzz is about. Join now to start sharing your creativity and passion
Loading ...